Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Highly impressed

Just sat through W crushing a 199 field to finish 2nd in a, get this, Limit HORSE tourney. Turned $24+$2 into ~$870.

W. In a LIMIT HORSE tourney. Just goes to show what hours and hours of practice will do for ya.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mississippi blues traveling

Unlike past trips, I didn't have it in me to blog about every night of my trip, so I'll just post a few brief recollections of my recent poker trip to Mississippi.

Tunica is pretty cool, as far as poker goes, but there's not much else to do apart from the casinos. There's a biggish strip mall (like an outlet mall) that I passed but didn't visit. Tunica itself is broken up into three distinct areas, separated by about 1-2 miles in between. The poker rooms are Harrah's, The Gold Strike, The Horseshoe, Hollywood Casino and Sam's Town. The best were definitely the Gold Strike and the Horseshoe, which were situated next to each other in the center section of town. The Gold Strike and Harrah's were very nice casinos, as far as these things go, and the good poker rooms had as many as a dozen or more tables in them. Not a HUGE amount of action here, but you could find any hold'em game you wanted up to 2-5 NL. Players were generally pretty bad, too. I did well at Tunica, making money at the cash games and then giving it back on tournament buyins. My favorite tourney was the Friday HO-HO-HO tourney at the Horseshoe. For $125, you got 8000 in chips, with 40 minute blinds and levels starting at 25/50! The game was HO, half NLHE, half PLO. Sick. I made the final table, but busted out two from the bubble with 55 participants. Grrrr.... My last hand, which would have probably put me into the money, was my QQ vs. 66 with a 6 spiking on the turn.

I went to two other poker rooms during the trip, one called Harlow's Casino in Greenville (nothing special to report, just a locals casino) and one in Choctaw called the Golden Moon Casino. The Golden Moon is a super nice building with a really cool globe restaurant on the top which has a super high tech looking poker room. No big action in it, just really cool looking. As far as pure aesthetics are concerned, it's one of the nicest looking I've ever seen. Unfortunately, it's in the middle of Mississippi. The manager used to work at the Taj in AC for 13 years. She told me, and I quote, that the "worst poker players in AC are the 5-10 Omaha Hi-Lo players". Just nice to have corroboration. I ground out about $200 playing 4-8 LHE in that room against some pretty bad players. The room attracts players from Alabama, because of it's proximity, and the players are just what you'd expect. Lots of Southern Drawl.

That's all the poker action to report. Other memories of the trip:
  1. Walking in a raw cotton field in Mississippi.
  2. Walking the train tracks of Helena, Arkansas.
  3. Eating BBQ Brisket at the Paula Dean buffet (with Paula Dean actually in attendance!) in Tunica.
  4. Watching Robert "Wolfman" Belfour, on the very bad side of the tracks, play old country blues to a crowd of 7 in a dive bar in Clarksdale.
  5. Having a beer in Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero Blues Club.
  6. Watching the steam rise up from the bayou and spill over onto the roadway like a mass of white cotton candy.
  7. Feeling the warm breeze of Central Mississippi blow through my hair as I stood on the gravesite of Robert Johnson.
A short trip, but worth every second.

Brief life update

I haven't been in much of a mood to blog lately. A combination of being extremely busy and fighting off a late Christmas season stomach flu. Since I spent Christmas over at Ali's place in Connecticut, they were gracious enough to allow me to recover on the couch for as long as I needed. I needed today to recover in addition to Monday so my day has more or less been spent in a bathrobe, watching TV and playing some online poker.

I funded my account with $100 a few days back in an effort to practice some bankroll management. Chris Ferguson's now famous $0 to $10,000 challenge had the following rules attached to it, which I am going to experiment with. Here are the rules:
  1. Never buy into a cash game or SnG with more than 5% of your bankroll.
  2. Never buy into a MTT with more than 2% of your bankroll.
  3. If at any time in a no-limit or pot-limit game the money on the table represents more than 10% of your bankroll, leave the game when the blinds come to you.
The last week or so, I've been playing micro-limit Omaha/8 and doing fairly well, building up my $100 in about $130. But in the past 24 hours, I tore up two tourneys. In the first, a $5.50 buyin O/8 limit tourney, I placed 8th out of 197 for a $29 payout. The amount of the payout isn't as important as the percentage of my bankroll. I played that particular tourney very very well, being very patient and not getting mixed up with sub-par starting hands.

The only reason I busted out in 8th was that I got distracted and accidentally called a raise and a re-raise with something like A3KT, with the Ace suited. Then, I got pot-committed when the flush draw flopped and I whiffed the river. Bad play on my part and very representative of how a 4 hour tourney can get ruined by a 3 second lapse of concentration.

The second tourney, played today, I chopped for 1st out of 87 participants. It was a $3.30 buyin Stud High tourney and I cashed for $65. I was close to going out near the bubble when I managed to get rolled up 5's paid off to the river. The very next hand, I got rolled up 10's, but everyone folded by 5th street. Still, the cushion put me into the money and then I was able to capitalize on position over a fewer shorter stacks. I accepted the chop offer of my heads up opponent, Gwar666, who was basically even with me at the time.

So now my balance is just over $200. I'll feel very accomplished if I can grind it to $1000.

In the meantime, it's been hard playing poker at the Wall Street club because it's been hard to get participants. I'm hoping it's strictly because of the holidays, though I know that part of the reason is a serious loss of bodies in the past few months. It seems as if the entire Crackhouse crew has gone incognito. Slayer is more or less engaged in Jersey City, Darko is kinda whipped, Tae and Sean have given up on downtown, F-Train and CK have gone to the dark side, Abbie's found love (Weeeee!) and W has turned pro and can't be quite bothered with "bowling time" (though to be fair, she's still active). Yes, most of the old crew has gone their separate ways, but that doesn't necessarily mean the end of Wall Street Poker as we know it.

Perhaps it was ambitious to set up two tables. I still have the option, but in the meantime, I think I'm going to stick with a single table and only open up the second if I feel the overflow warrants it. In addition, after this season, I'm going to abandon the rankings system and stick with freelance tourneys and cash games as the whim dictates. This will allow me to be more cavalier in my scheduling which, let's face it, is needed as my relationship with Ali grows. I can't do this forever you know....

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sucks to be someone else

I got my bonus numbers on Friday and I was NOT happy. 60% down from last year (that's my bonus number, not my total comp). And yet, I'm serenely at peace at the same time. I still have a job, something a lot of other people in the industry can't say. Plus, I got actually got some sort of bonus, small as it was, while many others in my own company got the big donut.

But no matter how bad I feel about my situation, NOTHING is as insulting as what happened to the guys at Credit Suisse. Instead of cash bonuses (you know, something you can actually spend), they got CDO's. That would be Collateralized Debt Obligations. These would be shares of pools of bad mortgages that were the very reason that Credit Suisse and the other banks went down to begin with!!!! This is the equivalent of a Chinese toy factory giving it's workers lead-paint tainted toys for their kids. Or a restaurant shutting down because of tainted food and then giving their employees a picnic with the same food! It's deviously brilliant too beause it gets the bad debt off the company books while also giving a possibly valuable (in the far future) security as a bonus.

But damn if it isn't insulting to everyone involved. How fucked up do you have to be to come up with that?!?

Christmas Wrapping

"Bah humbug, but that's too strong, 'cause it is my favorite holiday."

I just finished wrapping all the gifts I got for Ali and her family members for my first ever bonafide Christmas celebration. I'm super psyched to spend Christmas with her and her family and I'm overwhelmed by reception I'm told I'll receive. Let's just say this; I have my own stocking over their fireplace.


So while it's 3:45AM and I have to be up for work in less than 5 hours, it's completely worth it.

The season is upon me.

And if you didn't get a gift from me this year, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have any money left!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Major Douche Alert

I wrote a post a little while back about my old camp friend, Roger Madoff, who died a few years ago.

Turns out, his father uncle might be the biggest douchebag in the world right now.

What a sad legacy to leave for your children family.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I had some posts saved up that I was waiting to finish, so don't be shy about reading them all. I have 5 large new posts up!

You’re damned right I got the blues

No, not really. Actually, things are pretty peachy in Jamie-land these days. I still have a job (bonus!), I’ve got the best girlfriend I could ever have hoped for and I still have time to play poker more nights a week than is probably normal or good for me. Also, I started practicing with the band again, and the juices are starting to flow. Seriously, if you had asked me three years ago if I would be this healthy again, I would have said not a chance, Lance. But something funny happened along the way. I got over my blues and life moved on. Through some incredibly lucky happenstance and a few missteps along the way, I met Ali and things have just been better all around since. So why title this blog entry like this? Because I’m going to Mississippi again this coming Thursday on a long awaited Blues/Poker trip and I wanted to get down, on virtual paper, what my obsession is with Blues music.

I suppose it has to do with authenticity. I mean that’s what it boils down to. There’s not too many ways that a Jewish boy from Long Island, educated and brought up in an upper middle class neighborhood, can connect body and soul with Delta Blues. That music, born of sons of former slaves and sharecroppers in the harsh land of cotton, is very specific to a culture and a time. It speaks of experiences that were real and true to that land and time period (generally 1880 – 1950, approx.). My background doesn’t lend itself to that in any way, shape or form (save for the tenuous Jewish cultural connection of slavery in Egypt). So why spend so much time on it and why the fascination? It starts with my older brother Eric, who picked up a guitar, like so many before him, after growing up in the early 70’s on the music of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and other English musicians who decided to meld rock and country blues into what we now know as “Classic Rock”. Eric’s record collection (Vinyl, cassettes, 8-track and Reel-to-Reel) formed all of my early musical influences and I found myself on many a summer afternoon playing tracks on his super cool stereo set and versing myself in the strange sounds. It was a far cry from the pop tunes of the time I “should” have been listening to. It was the late 70’s and Billy Joel, The BeeGees, Donna Summer and The Police were big attractions. Being from Long Island, Billy Joel was inescapable, but I was adamantly against those other acts, though I had never heard them. I was just “for” whatever my brother listened to and I developed a lifelong fascination with classic rock and their mainstays. It limited my critical abilities for years because I avoided all other kinds of music, until I started to consciously expand myself in the last ten years.

As a result of my classic rock schooling, I developed an appreciation for blues and roots music even though I didn’t know it! So many of the songs I heard from The Stones, Zeppelin, The Who, Clapton, etc… were actually covers of old blues songs and I became familiar with the originals only many years later when my adult curiosity (and enhanced income) afforded me the opportunity to get to the root of the history of this music I loved. In addition, I took up the guitar myself at 19 and naturally tried to emulate the guitar heroes I’d grown up with. That meant that I learned chords and lick phrasings that had actually been invented decades earlier not by Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton but musicians like Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charley Patton.

Back to authenticity. As a result of my research, I discovered that most of the white English musicians who had revived the Blues in the mid 60’s were products of lower middle class working people of post war England. They had lived through, or their parents had lived through, horrific conditions as a result of World War II; food rationing, shortages, bombed out villages, unemployment, etc…. The blues that the English were playing weren’t born of their own troubles, but they could sing about them in a true enough way. The interpretation seemed to be true to their nature. Which made it even more shocking to me when I heard the first strains of the Robert Johnson boxed set, “The Complete Recordings”, when I bought it on CD in 1990. I had heard of Robert Johnson through old interviews with Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, both of whom covered his songs and spoke of Johnson as a huge influence. I had chosen well in my introuctory foray into the roots of American Blues. Johnson was indeed a prodigy, of songwriting and performing, and his haunting strained voice mixed with his perfect blues mythology lyrics, were a real eye opener to me. Here was a man who was born on an honest-to-goodness Mississippi plantation and traveled around to various cities in the south being chased by his own demons and wanderlust. His music is pure and authentic in every sense and it hit me like a ton of bricks. All good art is a pure expression of the artists’ experience and the closer you get to the root, the better the art becomes. This was the source. The fountain. The English musicians were interpreting this music through their own experiences, but this was even more authentic and true. Compared to this, contemporary groups of the time seemed like so much fluff and commercial crap. I was hooked. I suppose it was escapism for me to latch onto this music. I was comfortable in my suburban lifestyle but even then I had the inkling that it wasn’t quite ‘real’. That there was more to life than the school play and the corner pizza joint. That there was more to the world than the idyllic white picket movie I was living in. That there was real pain and loss in the world and it touched me somewhere primitive and spiritual.

As I delved deeper into back catalogs of blues, I developed a sense of the timeline that this music took. Deep country blues of the 30’s and 40’s influenced guitarists and pianists of the south into the 50’s. Guys like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ike Turner and, yes, even Elvis Presley, took these 12-bar blues from their childhood and gave them a backbeat. From there, the music split into rock and roll as we know it today, and Soul Music, as exemplified by Aretha Franklin and the artists at Stax Records. Traditional and electrified Chicago blues was still recorded (the new movie Cadillac Records will illuminate this part), but it never again was quite as relevant to contemporary music. Rock split again into it’s various modern sub-genres and Soul morphed into modern R&B and rap/hip hop.

All through today, the question of authenticity drives what I listen to and what the tastemakers of the present elevate as good examples of a genre. It really doesn’t matter what the music is either. Whether it’s blues, rock, metal or disco, the authentic artist is one who immerses themselves (or is born into) a particular style and lives it so thoroughly that it seeps out into what they create. You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the truth of their experiences. Guns and Roses is authentic L.A. rock/metal, born of the party scene of Sunset Boulevard. Donna Summer is authentic disco, born of the coke fueled excess of New York City in the mid to late 70’s. Charley Patton is authentic blues, born of the racism of Jim Crow and the backbreaking work of the fields.

This is what I’m looking for in Mississippi. This is what I’m looking for in my life.
And a few hands of poker....

The perils of being the house AND the dealer

Last week, I had my first official open invite Wall Street Poker cash session. It went really really well, with 11 players playing strong through 12:30a and lots of loose action. With the stakes at $1/$2 NLHE, there were at least 6 pots over $400 including a $900 monster which featured a unique ending, to say the least.

Two players (who shall remain nameless but I will refer to as P#1 and P#2) were involved. Both players had tangled earlier, with P#2 taking a $350 pot after sucking out a higher two pair on the river, so P#1 was itching, vocally, for revenge. In this pot, P#2 had raised PF to about $16 and got two callers, including P#1. The flop was something like 8c-3s-2s. P#1 checks, the middle player checks and P#2 bets about $75 into the pot. P#1 raises about $125 on top. The middle player gets out of the way and P#2 calls. Turn is something like 9d (9d-8c-3s-2s on board). The board itself is not terribly important to the story other than to show there was a spade flush draw and a relatively uncoordinated board. P#1 bets out another $125 and P#2 calls. (Also, the bets are not exact but that’s not the point of the story other than to show there was a lot of money splashing around). The river is Kh. P#1 thinks for a bit and goes all in for $325. The pot is the biggest of the night and it’s up to P#2.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Remember that I’m playing the role of dedicated dealer AND the house. P#2 goes into the tank and starts to talk out loud about what P#1 could possibly have. P#2 then opens his cards in front of himself, showing Ad-As. This was CLEARLY meant to draw a reaction from P#1 and was DEFINITELY not a fold as it was most certainly behind P#2’s chips and there was no forward motion towards the muck. Before anyone could say anything, P#1 said, “Good hand” and mucked his cards, throwing them face down towards the muck, though they didn’t actually touch the muck yet.

Here’s my interpretation of these events:
P#1 wasn’t aware that P#2 had opened his cards trying to get information. He thought P#2 had called the all-in, and therefore folded to the obviously superior hand. Since no one had asked the dealer about the action, the fold constituted a fold out of turn and therefore P#2 didn’t technically HAVE to call to win the pot. Either way, if P#1 had realized his mistake and taken his cards back and continued with the hand, there is NO way P#2 doesn’t now make the call since P#1 had, in all earnestness, folded. So I decided to say nothing about it and award the pot to P#2. My feeling is that bringing up the uniqueness of the situation over the table would have caused P#1 unnecessary torment. In any case, I believe I handled this correctly. Do you think otherwise? Tell me about how you would have done it.

Plantations and Po-boys (Trip report, part 6-Final)

After a great night’s sleep, Ali and I awoke early for a trip out to a real southern plantation. Or rather, a former plantation. Oak Alley Plantation is about 45 minutes outside of the city on tranquil grounds a few hundred yards from the Mississippi river. The house, featured in Interview With A Vampire, and countless photo spreads and real estate magazines, is probably the best surviving example of an anti-bellum (Pre-Civil War) plantation house in the country.

Ok, you got me. I have nearly no basis of comparison. But I can’t imagine other houses being any better than this. A perfectly wrought example of Greek Revivalism, the house features a second floor veranda which wraps 360 degrees around the home, huge columns and most spectacularly, 30 separate oak trees, 300 years old, perfectly spaced to form a romantic canopy leading from the front door of the house to the river. The oaks, for which the plantation derives its name, were actually in place before the plantation was built, planted by the former land owner. The property was purchased by a wealthy man from New Orleans after seeing the trees and the house was built to showcase the beauty of the land. Sugar cane fields lie to one side of the house and beautiful park-like grounds are on another side. Ali and I drove up to this magnificent plantation, took a tour and then relaxed on the grounds sipping Mint Juleps, which were made for us just outside. The strong bourbon, mint and simple syrup concoction, coupled with the unusual 80 degree heat we were experiencing, made me feel very much like a plantation owner. You know, without the slaves and stuff. Incidentally, this plantation was a slave owning plantation, though the slave’s quarters had long since been destroyed by time, weather and floods. There was a large placard on the grounds which detailed the inventory of slaves that had gone through this plantation, along with the prices paid for each slave and their particular uses/skills. Not surprisingly, skilled tradesmen, like blacksmiths and carpenters, fetched the highest price if they were young and in good health. Also prized were young mothers of child bearing age and their young children. One family, consisting of a mother, aged 26 and 3 children, went for $1300. This would have been around 1850 or so, and it was a considerable sum. A modest middle class house could be had for that amount! On the low end of the totem pole were older unskilled workers, old ladies who cooked and disabled men. Joseph, a man of 69 who was listed as having one arm and having the skills of a laborer, was purchased for $25.

After window shopping the prices of slaves and taking a walk along the Mississippi (where we saw an authentic riverboat dropping off tourists), we made our way back into the city. It was time for lunch and we were very very hungry. We made our way up to Bourbon street and walked a few blocks east to Felix’s. My brother Darren had turned me on to this the last time I was in New Orleans. Felix’s is a smallish shop which makes excellent po-boys out of fresh shucked shellfish that they open right in front of you. It has a great bar counter where Ali and I sat and ate. I had a Shrimp and Oyster po-boy while Ali opted just for the shrimp. We also had a plate of fresh onion rings and two beers and the whole meal was outstanding. Just what the doctor ordered.

We spent the rest of the afternoon roaming through the French Quarter. Ali, who’d never been to New Orleans, was endlessly fascinated by the unique architecture of the quarter, with it’s ramshackle shabbiness and ornate wrought iron balconies. We took lots of pictures and we even ended up walking through the French Market and past Jackson Square and Café du Monde. We didn’t have time for any beignets though since we had a 7:00pm dinner reservation at Nola’s, Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant in the Quarter.

We hurried back to the hotel, changed into better outfits, and hightailed it back to Nola’s, arriving precisely on time. Our table was ready for us and we were seated on the second floor. The restaurant itself is perfect for the town. Nestled in a converted warehouse, the restaurant features a glass elevator right in the center to ferry customers to the three exposed floors where seating is arranged tastefully. The noise is at a deafening pitch as the conversations of the patrons bounce around on wooden floors and exposed brick walls. The kitchen, on the first floor, is fully exposed and the high flames and whirling activity can’t hide the wonderful aromas that penetrate the space. We were seated on the second floor, overlooking the balcony, and feasted our eyes on the menu. We opted for the stuffed chicken wing appetizers (WAY better than it sounds), a bowl of Reggiano-Parmesean soup and two separate entrees. I had the barbecued shrimp and grits and Ali had the filet mignon. Both were insanely good and the meal was heavenly. Desert was a slice of the absolute best pecan pie I’ve EVER had.

Sated and stuffed (like those amazing chicken wings), we stumbled from the Nola’s like two satisfied foxes who’d been let loose for an evening in the henhouse. The night was young and we still had a ways to go before retiring. Ali wanted to hear some authentic jazz and I was about to take her walking to a club I knew about when it hit me. Preservation Hall. For those of you not in the know, Preservation Hall is a small little club in the quarter that is literally dedicated to preserving the music and musical culture of old New Orleans. The ‘club’ is nothing more than a single room, maybe 20 feet by 15 feet, with a few old benches in it and few chairs for the performers. You come into an alleyway after buying your ticket and sit (if you can get a seat) just a few feet away. There is no stage and no microphones. The performers come shuffling in, a rotating cast of local New Orleans professional musicians and the show is underway. On the night we went, there were five old guys sitting in on drums, trombone, saxophone, piano and upright bass. The lead vocalist and trumpeter was a younger guy whose father had been a famous local musician. After the introductions, the group went into their first number, a jumpy jazz tune and I looked over at Ali. She had a smile ten feet wide on her face and I was very happy. I wasn’t sure if the authentic jazz stuff would be her style but she loved every minute of it. Halfway through the third number, a somber saxophone version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, Ali leaned over and kissed me. It was the best kiss of my life. Full of good food and wine and surrounded by incredible music in one of the most romantic cities in America, I was as happy as I’ve ever been.

After the show, we called Matty Ebs, who was in town visiting college friends to see if he’s want to go out for a drink. We ended up hooking up with him and two of his friends and driving out to a bar that the locals go to, about 15 minutes away. It was a somewhat hectic scene, with an outdoor fountain featuring about 45 beer taps flowing with water, but the beer was good and the company was better. We stayed, getting our drink on, until nearly 2AM when we broke it up and went home.

The next day, we got up early again to hit a cemetery tour I had booked. But we were a little late getting out the door and we ended up missing the tour by a few minutes. As luck would have it, though, another tour was starting in a few minutes which worked out even better for us. It was a Garden District/Cemetery tour and combined the two things I wanted to see that day. The tickets were transferable and we were on our way shortly. The tour featured a two hour walk through the Garden District, which is a 30-40 block neighborhood of the most ridiculously awesome mansions you’ve ever seen. The tour guide had thoughtfully brought price listings of quite a few of the homes and I wasn’t shocked to hear they homes listed for anywhere between 2 and 6 million dollars each. A bunch of the houses had famous residents as well, like Nicholas Cage, Trent Reznor, Anne Rice (though she sold hers), and Archie Manning (father to Peyton and Eli). The tour also featured a walk through the Garden district cemetery, which is directly adjacent to the famous Commander’s Palace restaurant. The cemetery was fascinating and the tour guide did a good job explaining the whys and wherefores of New Orleans famous above-ground burial system. It turns out, there were two equally valid reasons for burying citizens above ground in crypts, both of which remain in effect today. The first was cultural. The French Creole citizens were used to this burial system, though I never understood why. The second is New Orleans high water table, which precludes most below ground burials, unless you like the thought of your loved ones’ arm popping up occasionally. For religions that require in-ground burial, like Judaism, they simply build a mound on the ground, surround it with concrete, and bury the person in the mound!

After the tour, we took a trolley car back to the Quarter and walked around a bit more. We ate beignets at Café Du Monde (a must), drank chicory coffee, and did a longer walk of the rest of the French Quarter. I bought Ali a beautiful red dress for her birthday that she had seen in a shop window the day before and we also purchased a few yards of pretty knitting cloth for her mother for Christmas. After returning to the hotel, we met up again wit Matty and his friends for dinner at Port of Call, a bar and restaurant on the east end of the Quarter on Esplanade Avenue.

Port of Call is not your average bar/restaurant. For one thing, there’s a wait of nearly TWO HOURS for a table. I asked what they could possibly serve to justify this wait and I was told, “Burgers and Baked Potatoes”. What? Are you shitting me? WTF?!?! “Seriously, you will *not* be disappointed”. I figured all those people can’t be wrong and after a very long and crowded wait, we ordered our burgers and baked potatoes. Ali decided on a drink which was the equivalent of New Orleans famed ‘Hurricane’. I forget the name but I saw the bartender take a big plastic cup out (so you can walk outside with it, if you choose), take three bottles of hard liquor and turn them over, for like 15 seconds. Then two seconds of some various fruit juices and voila! A drink is born. A scary drink, though. Ali was all like, “I can’t taste the alcohol at all!”. I’ve been down this road though and I warned her of the potency but she ignored me, taking hits on her straw like that cup had *the* medicine. To make a long story short, she was completely wasted before the burgers were finished. Oh yeah, about those burgers. They came and they were monstrously good. Perfectly medium rare and insanely delicious. But honestly, the baked potatoes are the real draw. It was like eating carb candy. After an hour of gorging on this goodness, we stumbled outside like wayward children, fat and happy and drunk.

We wandered outside a bit, heading over to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, a bar nearby which was Jean Lafitte’s actual blacksmith shop way back in the late 1700’s and converted into a bar, with the original blacksmith furnace still intact. Matty, Ali and I had a few quiet drinks before calling it a night. Ali and I stumbled home and passed out.

We got up Sunday morning, sad that our trip was nearing an end. But before we left, we had one more delicious meal to ingest; a Jazz Brunch at Mr. B’s Bistro. We arrived for our noon reservation at the very stately Mr. B’s and were treated to brunch drinks (Bloody Mary for me) and a really really good brunch meal, New Orleans style. That meant eggs benedict served over fried eggplant rounds with an Oyster sauce for me. Insanely decadent. Ali had never had a Bloody Mary before and she took to it quickly. A nip of the dog, I say, heals morning blues. We munched on our eggy goodness and listened to the fabulous Jazz quartet playing in the restaurant as we took in our last hours in the Big Easy.

The flight home was easy as pie and we went home with a fabulous weekend in the books. {Sigh}. I wish I was still there.

Bring on the beads (Trip Report, part 5)

After my adventures in Biloxi, I was eager to get cracking in New Orleans for the remainder of my vacation. Ali was flying down that night to meet me for the long weekend and I had two more poker rooms to visit in the Big Easy. I left relatively early Thursday morning and hit the road for the hour and fifteen minute drive to the city. After a boring drive, stuck behind a tractor trailer who just wouldn’t give way, I spotted the skyline of the Business District and the Skydome to the right of the French Quarter. It’s a respectable skyline for a city that doesn’t really pride itself on the height of it’s office buildings. Not like Charlotte, NC, with its building (singular). Instead of heading into the city, I took a roundabout interstate to head south to the Boomtown casino, located about 10 minutes south of the city.

True to my theory that all western themed casinos suck, the Boomtown was a strictly locals casino that was smoky and dirty. The poker room was pretty hard to find, upstairs in a small area that was completely cut off from the casino floor, though it was overlooking it all the same. This gave it very much a ‘skybox’ feel to it with it’s small 5 tables. Only one table of action was going at the time, but they were full so rather than waiting, I collected my chip and left. Nothing much going on here and I was anxious to check into my hotel.

The Country Suites and Inn (or something like that) at 315 Magazine street, was very conveniently located two blocks from the French Quarter in the no-man’s land between the Quarter and the Warehouse district. The building was a converted warehouse with a lot of exposed brick and original wooden beams on the ceiling and the effect was very airy. As a consequence of being a converted warehouse and a few other buildings joined in, in true haphazard New Orleans style, the rooms were laid out on differing levels that required a map to find. I checked in, dropped my bags off, and immediately walked to the New Orleans Harrahs casino, three blocks away.

The New Orleans Harrah’s is the best poker room I visited on my trip, even if it’s also one of the loudest. One of the key qualities of a good poker room is the action you can get (translated as the number of players who are playing at any one time), combined with the ratio of tourists to locals. Too many locals doesn’t make for a good game because locals tend to play very tight and give little action. Conversely, a small number of players at a room limits the number of games that are running which can make getting a game excruciating, or worse make the game you want unavailable. Harrah’s, being the only real poker room in the immediate area, not only enjoys a monopoly but also the advantage of being smack in the middle of one of the biggest tourist destinations in America. This makes for a steady flow of good traffic, both locals and tourists alike. You will ALWAYS get your game here (provided it’s hold’em). Consequently, the comps kind of suck but that’s not a big issue if you’re playing and you’re happy.

I spent a few hours playing 1-2 NLHE in the very loud Mardi-Gras themed casino and was having a blast. Ali called right in the middle with a good story about how she was chatting it up with Ali and Dina Lohan in JFK airport. To her this was fascinating. To me, not so much, but I dutifully listened and was happy for her that she was happy. I asked if Lindsay was there, because I was only really interested if hot crack whores are involved. But alas, Lindsay was off somewhere else.

The excitement of the celebrity encounter having passed, I played some more until the sun went down and I walked through the Quarter to get dinner. I found a great new restaurant on Royal street called, appropriately, Royal House, and was treated to a very very good Oyster Po-Boy along with a half dozen fresh shucked Oysters. I discovered the joys of Crystal hot sauce, a locally made delicacy, which has a much milder vinegar content than Tobasco, and delivers the hotness and sweetness without overpowering the Oyster. I was a believer. Thanks to Mike, the Oyster shucker at the bar, for turning me on to that. I walked back towards the hotel to pick up my car to pick up Ali from the airport when I got sidetracked by the Jets/Pats game blaring from a local Irish bar. I watch the last few minutes of the 4th quarter, just long enough to see Randy Moss make one of the best catches I’ve ever seen to tie the game with one second left. I cursed the Jets ability to give their games away and scurried off to the airport. Happily, while I wasn’t watching, the Jets won the coinflip for first possession in overtime and won the game on their first drive.

Suck it Pats!

Ali and I got back to the hotel room and promptly fell asleep, tired from poker and travel and the long weekend ahead of us.

Biloxi Blues (Trip report, part 4)

After I left the Belle of Baton Rouge, it was one last long drive left for me on the trip. This time to Biloxi, Mississippi. I hopped in my car early in the morning, after taking a few minutes to take a few pics of the Baton Rouge water line from the casino, and painted Hermes towards Biloxi. When I pulled up the map, I was happy to see that Hermes was taking me on a Southerly route along the water rather than the inland route north of New Orleans. It took nearly an hour to get to the water via some rather boring landscape, but the water drive along the Gulf was eye opening. It turns out that the Gulf shores of Louisiana and Mississippi are *really* nice. The views are long and pretty and there is only a hundred feet or so between the water and the road, which makes for a nice drive. My first casino stop was en route, the Silver Slipper in Bay St. Louis, MS.

I pulled down an access road amidst some very rural bay-type homes and was saddened to see some of the damage that the recent hurricanes had wrought. Some homes had been stripped down to nothing more than a few beams and a stairwell. Trees had been stripped bare of all branches. Perhaps most depressingly of all, a single home on stilts (most of the homes in the area are on stilts) with the words “DO NOT TEAR DOWN” spray painted on the front. This is an area that’s been hit hard by hurricane damage and it’s impossible not to feel for the locals.

I pulled into the driveway of the Silver Slipper, which sits directly on the water in the middle of nowhere. Next to the casino is a marina with some honest to goodness shrimping boats, straight out of Forrest Gump. I took a few pictures, taking care not to attract the attention of the salty looking workers who were on the boats in the lazy sunny morning. Inside the casino, which was exceedingly clean and friendly, was a small 5 table poker room with very nice people who were playing 1-4-8 spread limit Hold’em. I played for an hour, jawing with the crowd and getting a nice feel of the place before hitting the road again.

Just down the road from the Silver Slipper is the Hollywood Casino. Not quite as nice as the Silver Slipper with another small 5 table toom, this one stuck in a corner. I played 30 minutes of more spread limit poker (hey it’s on a weekday in the afternoon) and got out of there.

An hour later, I was in Gulfport, Mississippi and at the Isle View casino. The Isle View is a large-ish and nice place with a 9 table room in a spacious area with high ceilings. I would have played longer there had I had the time. As is, once again, I was stuck playing Limit poker. I could have waited for a No Limit table but there was only one going and it was full. I had a fun time at this table and I heard one of the funniest lines of the trip. When I showed down a hand for the win, I said, “Third Nuts”. My opponent said, “Bird Nuts?”. It was good for a laugh.

The drive from Gulfport to Biloxi, about an hour, was especially memorable along the water. This area, known as the ‘Redneck Riviera’ in some circles, had especially beautiful antebellum mansions built all along the coast and viewable from the road. These large old southern homes, gazing out on the water with unobstructed views, were simply magnificent. One of them, as I found out when I took a closer look, was known as the “Southern White House”, as it was a popular getaway for the Trumans when they took vacation on the Gulf.

I finally made it to Biloxi and pulled up to the garage of the Imperial Palace, where I would be staying for the next 3 days. The IP bears absolutely NO resemblance to the IP in Vegas. The Vegas IP, while centrally located, is an old and smoky dump of a place (no matter how many mixed games they play in the poker room!). The IP in Biloxi, on the other hand, is new and magnificent and clean and beautiful and chic. Kind of like the Borgata, except smaller and multiple levels. The restaurants were chic, including an asian place that had a unique entrance-way. There was a constant shroud of fog being blown down like a curtain and a laser would etch the name of the restaurant on the fog surface like a floating sign. You would walk *through* the fog to get inside, which made it seem very mysterious and cool. The food, unfortunately, didn’t match the décor. While it was perfectly fine, the prices made it seem like it would be much better. But when you’re deep in Mississippi, Pad Thai passes for REALLY exotic cuisine. The joys of New York, I suppose.

I checked into my room and immediately found an issue when there was a big ozone machine going full blast. Turns out my room had been smoked in and the ozone was how they got rid of the smell. A quick trip down to the front desk and I was put into another fine room with a great view of the city of Biloxi.

Biloxi is set up like a grid, with the IP standing tall on the north end, by the inland bay, and the Beau Rivage standing on the Gulf Coast on the south end, maybe a mile away. Along the edges of the bay and the gulf were a few other casinos, but the Beau Rivage and the IP are definitely the two brothers of the city. The Beau is actually more like the glamorous older brother and the IP is kind of like the scrappy younger brother. In between, in the city, is absolutely nothing but residences for a whole square mile. I mean there is NOTHING to do in Biloxi other than the casinos. Not recommended for a long trip, for sure.

I high-tailed it to the poker room where I found a nice setup of about a dozen tables with a few of them in action. They spread the general 1-2NL and 4-8 LHE with an Omaha table going twice a week (more on that later). I played a little NL and then my curiosity got the better of me. It was time to go looking at the other poker rooms.

I managed to see all the poker rooms in the city in about 3 hours. Sams Town, which has a western theme, was the worst one. 5 tables and smoking allowed. Blech. This continues to support my theory that western themed casinos are by far the worst kind. The Isle of Capri had 9 tables and a nice local vibe though there wasn’t much action going. In any city I’ve been to, incidentally, I’ve always like the Isle of Capri casino chain. They run a good operation. The Hard Rock, next to the Beau Rivage, was like all Hard Rocks. Smallish, loud and catering the the youngun’s. From what I heard, the small 5 table poker room has some of the biggest action in town but it’s one of the worst locations I’ve ever seen for a poker room. There’s a long-ish corridor leading to the entrance of the casino and when you get to the entrance, a wave of noise hits you like a slap in the face. That’s where the poker room is, almost at the end of a funnel of noise. And very small on top of it. I hear the Hard Rock room in Vegas sucks too, continuing a trend. It’s odd too, that the best Hard Rock poker room I’ve seen is in Hollywood, FL, where they don’t even play real No Limit!

By far, the best poker room, and hotel, in Biloxi is the Beau Rivage. This is certainly the Grande Dame of Biloxi hotels and it was modeled on the Bellagio in Vegas (same owners). The room is about 18 tables and has plenty of action, day or night. Everyone was nice, from the players to the dealers to the waitresses, and the chairs were the absolute best I’ve ever sat in after 120 poker rooms. They were similar to Aeron chairs, if they were padded, and they had pneumatic action on them for a comfortable shock absorbtion. Outstanding.

A word about the comps in Mississippi: Fantastic. For the three days I stayed in Biloxi, I didn’t pay for any food in the poker room. Twice, I had $15 meals that were comped after I had only been playing for about an hour. They didn’t even check my card. They just took my order and when I asked how much they said, “don’t worry, it’s comped”. Crazy. The food was pretty good too. For one of my meals, at the Beau, I had a really decent Pastrami on Rye with a chocolate covered strawberry (huge and delish) for desert. All gratis. Also, at the IP, if you played 4-8 O/8 for two hours, you got $25 in cash! Wow. Considering a starting stack in that game is $125, that’s a serious profit motivator. Not to be outdone, the IP had a thing where if you played any regular raked poker game prior to a tournament, you would get an additional 250 in chips for every hour you played up to 1000 in chips. This for a tourney with a starting stack of 2500. Sweet advantage. Not to be outdone, the Beau had a free $500 drawing promotion where you’d get a free ticket every hour you played. You just had to be there for the drawings, which happened every few hours. These are insanely good comps compared to the measly $1 an hour you get in Atlantic City.

As far as poker went, I did pretty well in Biloxi. It’s a small town and there are a lot of locals, so I got to see most of the same people over the next three nights. My highlights were a $250 win at 1-2 NLHE (a set of 3’s doubled me up) and chopping for first in a 40 player tourney. It was actually a 5 way chop for first, but I wasn’t complaining. After being first in chips most of the way through, I doubled up two opponents on bad beats (my QQ vs. JT and my AK vs. KQ). At that point, everyone was about even so we decided to chop it. I made about $300 in profit on that one.

Biloxi was a fine place to visit, and I really liked the Beau Rivage, but I doubt I’d go back. Just not enough to do between poker sessions.

My next and final stop on my southern tour was New Orleans, which featured two poker rooms and a visit from Ali who would spend the rest of the weekend with me in the grand city.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser

And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

We ran our third super satellite tonight and I feel like such a donkey for losing it. Never mind that I was out in 5th place, far from the winning spot. The fact is, I gave away the tourney with one of the worst plays I ever made.

I had been playing monstrously well up to that point. Darko was sweating most of the hands with me and he can attest that I was putting good pressure both with and without hands. I accumulated chips at a very steady pace and I busted one or two short stacks to put myself in the chip leader position. I felt confident and good in my reads. Everything was clicking. Until…

I was UTG with AKo. Blinds were 200/400. I was about to make a raise on the blinds when Paul W. (‘Big Paul’) announced a raise to 1200 out of turn. I reminded him that I was first to act since he clearly didn’t see me. 1200 sounds standard, but it was actually more than the standard PF raises had been, so it threw me off. I was sitting here with a big hand and someone raised behind me. My hackles went up and I put him on a good hand. So what to do? The rule is that being out of position and announcing a raise, he’s held to that raise. So if I just flat call here, he’ll be held to the 1200 and I can call behind him and see a flop with AKo, hoping to hit. But that would be too logical. Instead, my dopey brain decided to make his raise for him. I announced the same raise to 1200 and Paul W. instantly moved all in. I had 7300 in my stack and he had 5500 total so I’d be left with just 1800 chips if I called. It folded to me and I *still* couldn’t take the hint. Instead, I debated in my head that he could have AK and I made the dumbest call of my life. He showed QQ and I was racing, which was miraculously better than I deserved. Nothing came for me and I doubled up a big stack while simultaneously putting myself in last place and then busting out a few hands later. Unreal.

There was NO reason at all for me to blow all my chips out of position like that. I was lucky just to be racing with him. It was the worst tournament play of my life to date and a lesson I won’t easily forget. It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment like that, but I did and I paid the price. Paul W., incidentally, went on to win the satellite, so at least I felt good about that.

The second tourney started late, at 9:40p, with 11 players. This time around, I wasn’t as good at accumulating chips and I lost a chunk of my stack early on when I called a small PF raise from Paul W. (on my right) and two other callers in the pot. I had 78s and the flop was good for me with 844. Two players checked to me and I bet 400 into a 600 pot. Christine, the last player to my left, raised to 1000 and I let it go. I reasoned that she had called a PF raise in position but didn’t raise so I could put her on 99, TT, JJ or 89s, A8. I couldn’t put her on a four but there were still too many hands that beat me so I gave it up.

A few hands later, an interesting situation occurred and it was one of the more memorable hands I’ve played at my table recently. I was in middle position with QdTd. Blinds were still early at 50/100 and I had 2150 in front of me, down from a starting stack of 2500. There were two limpers in front of me and I decided to try and see a cheap flop in last position, calling for 100. It got to David R. in the SB, who completed to 100. There were now five people in the pot and Thomas G., in the BB, raised to 300. This struck me as a really really small raise into such a big limpy pot. So small in fact that I was sure everyone was going to call it. So when everyone did indeed call, I called as well. I even turned to Darko and said, “pot sweetener”. And here’s where it got interesting. When it got to David R. in the SB, he said “raise” and made it 1350 on top of the 300. Immediately, I put David R. on a move. Remember, he had LIMPED in the SB into a 5 handed pot. My feeling was that if he had a monster, he wouldn’t have wanted 5 freaking people to be in the pot when he knows full well that AA, KK, AK, etc… shrink up multi-way. To be honest, I put him on suited connectors or the like. I thought that he saw so many limps, twice, that he was just going to price everyone out. He did, indeed, have the big stack at the table and he was going to use it to chase all this dead money. It didn’t matter, I thought, because I suspect Thomas G. has a real hand and is going to call all-in. But Thomas G. tanked for a bit and folded. And then the next person folded. And the next as well. And then it was down to me and David. I hit the table in frustration, not wanting to play the role of table police chief with just QdTd. But my read was that David was much weaker than his raise indicated. I was absolutely sure that if he had a strong hand, he would have raised the first time around. I was also sure that if I moved all in (my only move for 500 more), David would be sure to call with any two cards. I had no fold equity, but the play was reading like I had a really good chance of being ahead here. I did the math in my head: There was 2850 in the pot already (Everyone’s 300 plus David’s 1350 raise) and David was definitely going to call my 500 raise. That meant that I would be spending 1850 to win 3350. That meant I was getting close to 2-1 to make the all in. Was I better than 2-1 to win? It was hard to say but my gut made the decision for me.

“All in,” I said.

David R. called, of course, and showed AsJs. I was surprised to see a hand of that strength. It looked to me like instead of taking the opportunity to raise when he had the chance, he second guessed himself but then got the opportunity from Thomas’ raise. When the door opened again, he pounced. Personally, I think it was an awful move on his part. I believe the right move would have been to raise PF and take down the pot right there and then. By re-raising Thomas’ raise after already having signaled he was willing to limp into a multi-way pot, he was telegraphing weakness. So I was right in a sense (he didn’t have a monster) but wrong in another sense (he was still leading). The flop came down with two spades that didn’t pair me up and some of my outs were taken away. I bricked the turn and river and busted out in 10th place. But oddly, I was totally OK with it. I got the pot odds I needed to make that call and even though I wasn’t anemic in the tourney yet, winning that pot was a gamble I was willing to make given all the dead money in there. It just didn’t work out.

And that’s the lesson of the day. Sometimes, in a fast structure, you need to take calculated gambles. This one didn’t hit me…but that doesn’t mean it was a bad bet.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A happy day

I'll post the rest of my trip report to Louisiana and Biloxi when I get a chance to type it up. But for now, I just want to send out a Happy Birthday to Ali, who was beautiful and radiant on her special day.

And I want to also send out a word of warning to those who play football for a living. The JETS are on the rise. With the absolute ass whooping they gave the Titans, and following on the heels of their victory over the Pats last week, the JETS are now the team to beat in the NFL. No question, if they play at this level, they can beat any team in the league and they proved it today.

Drew, if you're reading this, 100-1 on the JETS winning the Superbowl. Your $1000 against my $10.

Best. Bet. Ever.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Busted flat in Baton Rouge (Trip Report part 3)

Heading for the rooms, feeling near as faded as my jeans. Jamie filled the gas tank up, just before it rained and headed all the way to New Orleans.

(My apologies to Kris Kristofferson)

I’ve seen some great things on the road. I saw guys working the fields on plantations. I saw a huge stork fly across the road and miss my car by about 30 feet. Seriously, that thing must have been about 5 feet long. I saw a huge brush fire a few hundred feet off the road that I could actually feel the heat from in my car and smell a few miles away (it smelled sweet).

I even got to see a little of the southern ‘hood’.

One of the addresses I had gotten for one of the casinos was listed as 832 Martin Luther King Blvd. the Poker Atlas website I use to track these poker rooms. When Hermes took me there (unerringly as usual), it dumped me right in the middle of a neighborhood that was poorer than poor. Ramshackle trailers with rusted roofs and modest ranch homes no bigger than my apartment lined the streets. Kids were playing on the street and riding bicycles and everyone seemed happy. That didn’t stop me from being scared though. I really didn’t know anything about the neighborhood and it felt a touch sketch to me. I turned around and went back the way I came, and saw an amazing sight. Amidst the crushing poverty around me (to be fair only evidenced by the residences and vehicles), four kids came riding down the street on horses. Horses! In the big city where we live, horses are a sign of wealth but down here, it’s just a way to get around. I had passed lots of horse and cattle ranches on my here but couldn’t make the mental connection that some people might actually *use* horses. Anyway, the juxtaposition of the horses and the neighborhood was jarring.

Back to my trip…

After leaving the Grand Coushatta casino, my next destination was Baton Rouge via a few poker rooms in between. It was about 2 hours south to get to Lake Charles, which is a very pretty corner of Louisiana maybe 30 minutes from the Texas border. As advertised, there was a nice lake and the casino was a riverboat job. As far as riverboats go, this one was pretty standard but the poker room is somewhat nicer than some of the others I’ve seen. Not extravagant by any standard but they had 22 tables (!) and they were all nicely spaced out in a really big space. The tables were really crappy, covered by purple velvet which I’ve never seen before. But the room had a feature which made it very nice. There were doors in the room which led out to balconies overlooking the lake. I kind of love water and the idea of being able to just walk out for a rest on the balcony and a beautiful water view is enticing. It’s the same reason why I liked the move downstairs that the Showboat in Atlantic City made by the boardwalk. Anyhow, I made a hundred bucks playing 2-4 NLHE with some friendly locals. Two of them were young lawyers (Vanderbilt graduates as it turns out) and one of them was describing a uniquely southern story which started with the greatest quote I’ve ever heard to start a story:

“I once broke my neck with an alligator in the car. It wasn’t a big alligator though, maybe four and a half feet” -Redneck Lawyer

I’ll spare you the details as to why a fucking ALLIGATOR was loose in this guy’s car that caused him to get into an accident and break his neck, but suffice it to say that the story started with:

“We got drunk and wanted to see if we could catch a ‘gator”. ‘Nuff said.

After leaving Lake Charles, I drove down the road about 40 minutes to the Cypress Bayou, which was out again in the middle of nowhere and played some 5-5 NLHE. It’s odd that some games play big and some play small. Though this was a 5-5 game, it played smaller than my .50/1 game at Wall Street Poker! I played for two hours and lost about 50 bucks but booked the trip with happiness and went on the road again.

My next stop was *supposed* to be Baton Rouge, and it was 6pm already, but one of the players at the table at the Cypress Bayou mentioned that there was a poker room in the city of Amelia. This room hadn’t been in the Poker Atlas and even other players had never heard of it. I called ahead and discovered they really did have a room so I had to make a 30 minute detour and pick up the chip. One of the risks of these trips is that there is imperfect information out there on where the poker rooms are so it’s possible I may miss some when I’m traveling. But if good information falls in my lap, I can’t ignore it.

The Amelia Belle is a truly crappy riverboat casino which had, on a Saturday night, exactly one table of limit poker running and even that wasn’t full. I donked off a rack of white sitting there bored and got up after 30 minutes to finish off my trip to baton Rouge, which was still nearly 2 hours East.

The drive to Baton Rouge took me through some backroads which were fun to drive and I got to see a good bit of local flora and fauna. Huge oak trees with hanging moss, porch swings and even some swarms of black birds, swooping in the sky in a balletic dance. When I pulled into the city, I was truly tired and was not looking forward to playing at all. When I pulled into the hotel parking lot though (I was going to check in first and then go out to play) I found out that completely by coincidence, the hotel I chose to stay at was actually PART of the one poker room in the city! The Sheraton Convention Center is joined to the Belle of Baton Rouge casino. An incredible stroke of luck that pepped me right up. I got into my room and went downstairs to the room.

The Belle of Baton Rouge, unlike some riverboat casinos, is an actual functioning boat (albeit now permanently moored) and it has a touch more romance than the other casinos. That is until you walk inside, where it is dirty and smoky like all others. The poker room is just five tables stuck right into the middle of the gaming floor, but being the only room in town it was completely full. I got a seat at an Omaha High Limit game (4-4-8-12 structure) and had a good time playing until the game broke up at about 1am. I was pretty hungry and when I asked about food, the dealer told me that if I signed up for a players card, new signups get a $10 food credit! He also suggested getting a muffaletta (a local southern sandwich) which I have to say was excellent. I even got a free t-shirt for signing up! They were very friendly and the Omaha game was a very fun time. It was the first time I played Omaha high Limit in a casino and, as expected, I got a string of the best Hi/Lo hands you could ask for! I got A23 about 4 or 5 times and had to call for a wheel but would normally fold that if the Ace wasn’t suited. In Hi/Lo, I could raise that! I walked back to my room and fell asleep happily.

There was one more day of major travel in front of me. Next destination: Biloxi, MS.

Sonuvagun, gonna have some fun on the bayou (Trip report, part 2)

Saturday was a monster travel day for me. On tap was about 400 miles of driving and four different poker rooms, so it had to be an early rising and out the door.

Um, right.

I set the alarm when I got in the night before for 8:00a, but when I woke up, it was 9:40a! Turns out, I had set the alarm for 8:00 *pm* and it was only my tricky biological clock which woke me up. Grumble, grumble, grumble. I was out the door at 10am and was already an hour behind on a very tight schedule.

The drive from Vicksburg to Shreveport, where two poker rooms lay in the north west corner of Lousiana, is about 220 miles. 220 very long miles. Thank god for the XM radio that came standard in my rental car. Channel 150, Laugh USA, rocks.

I’ll spare you the details of the drive, because there weren’t any bright spots, except when I tried to adjust the mirror and accidentally hit the ONSTAR button. I had no idea how to turn it off and had to explain that I was helpless to the nice woman who got on the line. She chuckled and told me she could disconnect the call remotely, but I guarantee she laughed at me when I hung up. Hey, who doesn’t?

I pulled into Shreveport at about 1:30p and stopped into the Horseshoe casino. The Horseshoe is related to the one in Vegas and is, in fact, the first casino the original Binion family opened beyond Vegas. Well, I think that Harrah’s actually opened it, but I can’t be sure until I do some more research. Um, does anyone want to do that for me? I’m tired right now.

The Horseshoe is actually a really nice place on the Red River and reminds me of a friendly semi-upscale casino. Kind like the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, but not aimed towards that young a crowd. They do have a wall of a million dollars, which harks back to the famous ‘million dollar horseshoe’ of the old Horseshoe hotel in Vegas, which was a lucite piece shaped like a horseshoe and filled with a million dollars worth of hundred dollar bills. This was a wall, about 50 yards long, wall papered with a million worth of hundreds. The poker room is a smallish, but very nice affair, with a dozen tables and a very friendly professional staff. I played a very workman-like 35 minutes of 4-8 Limit and finished even for the session. I had to go to the Eldorado next and didn’t want to waste time enjoying myself, a negative of traveling on such a compressed schedule.

Incidentally, nearly everyone I have met down here, floor staff, dealers and patrons, have been super nice and wonderful people. I’ve had a few notable exceptions from crusty old regulars, but generally that’s the exception. Plus, the natural cadence and rhythm of the southern accent is intoxicating. Everything they say sounds so damned friendly!

I crossed the river over to the Eldorado, which was the other poker room in Shreveport and I was impressed. Not with the room, per se, which was about equal to the Horseshoe room but a bit dirtier. No, it was the players. This is clearly the ‘poker players’ room in Northwest Louisiana, a feeling that was borne out by people I talked to in other casinos around the state. I don’t know why some rooms win out over others, but it happens. The games were in high gear by 2:45p when I got there and there were some pretty well-stacked no limit games going. I got a seat at a 1-2 NLHE game and left an hour later with a hundred dollar profit. One interesting note about the casino; I asked what the max buyin was and they said, “it depends”. Huh? They explained that for new games, the max buyin is $200 for 1-2 NL. But for a 1-2 game that’s been going for a while, the max buyin is 70% of the large stack at the table. I *LOVE* this policy and I’m going to implement it at the next Wall Street Poker game because it makes total sense.

Much to my discredit, I have not remembered any hands in the early part of my trip and even the more recent hands of note are slipping away. The main reason for this is that I was moving too fast through the rooms to be able to take many notes. By the time I wrote down where I was, some basic notes on the room, my buyin, my time of entry, my time of exit and my cashout, I didn’t have time to remember specific hands. Boo…I know. Sorry.

After an hour, I left the room, got a coffee for the road and proceeded to turn my car southeast towards Marksville, LA. The Paragon casino was calling.

On the way to the Paragon, I went through some super rural areas and lots of interesting farmland. Some of the farm plots I passed were hundreds of acres large and it was a little creepy to see that much open land with no one around. At one point, I had to stop off to get gas and it was about 20 miles before I could find a gas station. When I finally got to one, there was a Tamale stand across the street on the side of the road. There was no way I was missing authentic Louisiana Tamales from the side of the road. I pulled up and a few trucks were there too, with people waiting for their tamales to steam up. It was $2 for a package of two corn tamales that were handmade and they were absolutely delicious. One odd thing, I tried to take a picture of this young woman’s stand and as I was getting ready to take the snap, she got in front of my camera and was all, “What are *you* doing? What is that for?” I explained that I was a tourist and I apologized for not asking first, but could I take a picture? The answer was a flat out no. I thought it was odd considering that there were 8 foot high signs on three sides of her makeshift tent advertising her company’s product by name. Maybe she’s wanted somewhere, who knows?

The Paragon, once I arrived nearly two hours later, is actually a decent casino, though it’s in the middle of nowhere. The room was 8 tables and well run with super good dealers. There was a 2-5 NL game and a 4-8 Limit game going. I sat at 4-8 and scraped together an $85 win for 45 minutes of play before I hopped back in the car again.

It was another hour to Kinder, La, which was the last stop for the day. I arrived at the Grand Coushatta casino, an Indian casino about 30 miles from anything resembling civilization. The Indian casinos, unlike the regular casinos, don’t have to be next to water, and they’re the poorer for it. Give these guys credit though, they recently put and expansion onto their old crusty casino that looks much more modern. That’s where the poker room is and I had such a blast playing 4-8 Limit with those regulars that I stayed an hour over the time I allotted. It helped I was winning a bit too. The room is the biggest one I’ve seen on my trip so far, with 23 tables and well run. They had about 12 tables going and I got a seat at a 3-6-12 Limit HE game. The 3-6-12 is a strange format where it’s essentially a 3-6 game but on the river you can opt to bet 6 or 12, which I suppose averages out to a 4-8 game. I had a blast chatting with the locals about the different rooms I’ve been to on my trip and showing off my knowledge of Manhattan. New York City, for most of the country, is a mythical land of great and mystic power and anyone from New York is either a cheating lawyer and/or wall street type or a criminal. In any case, it intimidates people. I just have fun watching their reaction. After a few hours, I had to get some sleep so I left and went to my Super 8 motel down the road and went to sleep, remembering this time to set the alarm correctly!

Oh, as an aside, I got a really short haircut on Friday before I left for my trip and I’ve already been asked THREE TIMES in different casinos about which military base I’m stationed at. When someone asked me where I’m from and I said “Manhattan”, they replied, “Fort Manhattan?”. Oy Vey.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wall Street Poker representing

Who caught W on the ESPN broadcast of the final table tonight? She was in the crowd front and center of the camera when Ylon Shwartz busted out.

Not wearing any WSP gear though.... :-(

Driving to the city of New Orleans (Trip Report part 1)

“I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done”

With apologies to Arlo Guthrie, but I don’t know where he was driving from. Starting from Jackson, Mississippi, where I flew into Friday night, I’ve already driven 960 miles and I haven’t even hit New Orleans yet! Of course, Arlo probably wasn’t trying to hit every poker room in Louisiana, Biloxi and Vicksburg. Sucks to be him.

My trip started on a frustrating note when I pushed out of the gate from JFK perfectly on time and then sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes. Oh, did I mention that the BIGGEST guy on the plane was sitting next to me taking up a seat and a half? I was leaning into the aisle to get away from his beefy arms and it was a loooong 3 hours later that we landed in D.C. for our connection. I was hoping to god he was going to get off, but his southern accent gave away Mississippi as his final destination. At least enough people deplaned that there were some empty seats and I was able to get a seat to myself for the remainder of the trip. 6 hours after we pushed from the gate, I landed in Mississippi.

Like all airports out of New York that I’ve been to, getting my car was a pleasure. 5 minutes after I got off the plane, I was in my car and on my way. It was still another hour to Vicksburg and it was already 11PM. The drive was fine and my GPS unit (‘Hermes’) did it’s job admirably. But I haven’t downloaded any new maps for Hermes in quite a while and it shows. While the streets were all good on the unit, the business listings were a bit off. My first casino, which I needed to hit that night before going to sleep, wasn’t listed. Luckily, I always come prepared and I had written down the full addresses of all the casinos I needed in advance. After entering the address, Hermes got me there without fail. On the way, I passed by a riverboat casino (they’re all riverboats or on the water in Mississippi and Louisiana unless they’re Indian) called Horizon. I remember reading about it but wasn’t sure if the poker room was still open. I stopped in just in case and discovered that the room had just recently been closed. So recently that the tables were still on the third floor but empty.

A few minutes down the same road was Ameristar. Riverboat casinos, which are permanently docked to the shore, are usually pretty crappy, and this had been my experience everywhere. Something about the size of the boat limits what you can do with it. When I got to Ameristar, I was tired as hell but committed to at least visiting this room. It was actually slightly better than I imagined it would be, with 11 or 12 tables and a few games going on. Even an Omaha/8 game, which I joined for a little while. 45 minutes and a few dollars of profit later, I had to go to sleep. I drove to my Super 8 motel, passing by the Vicksburg civil war battle field as I drove. One of the slightly upsetting things about this poker quest I’m on is that I don’t always get to stay and experience the cities I stay in. Vicksburg is a greatly historical city in American history, site of some pivotal civil war battles, but I just didn’t have time to tour the sites. I needed to drive a few hundred miles the next morning. I checked into my hotel at about 2AM and was asleep soon afterward.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An historic night (of poker)

What'd you think I meant? Oh, that thing....

Last night, on Election Day ’08, Wall Street Poker opened up it’s two table tourney format for the first time. Despite a few last minute hiccups, it was an unqualified success. The format was pretty much the same as the standard one table format: 2500 in starting chips, 15 minute blind levels, blinds start at 25/50. Like a well-oiled machine, the tables collapsed to one table at 9:15PM on the dot, in time for a cash game to start up at the main table. Meanwhile, at the final tourney table, blinds were progressing pretty rapidly and the table finally chopped for two places at about 10:30PM. Congrats to Vivian and Matty Ebs for winning the first tourney. Also, it was Vivian’s…er..30th……22nd (yeah, that’s the ticket) birthday, so congrats on looking so fine.

Overall, I was pleased with how the two tables worked out but I have to put some tweaks in. First of all, the blind clock, which was placed on the bookshelf last night, needs to be put somewhere where everyone can see it. I played town crier all night announcing blinds. Second, I need to get a new lamp for the corner near the window so the second table can have more light. I think I’m going to pack up my chess set (no one uses it anyway) and sell the gaming table it’s sitting on and put a new lamp there. Also, it was pretty arduous making the transition from a two table tournament to a one table tournament and a cash game. When the tables collapsed, I was a beehive of activity trying to get everything moving in time. I believe what I’ll be doing from now on is EITHER a single table tourney with a single table cash game OR a two table tourney with no formal cash game. If a cash game breaks out after the tables have collapsed, then fine, but it won’t be my responsibility to keep track of the cash. It’s the actual tracking of all the statistics that makes the whole thing difficult. If I didn’t have to do that, it would be much easier for me to deal with all this. For a guy who’s not raking the pot and not taking a vig on the tourneys, I should be able to at least play in my own games, right?

When things settled down, I was able to play in the .50/1 NLHE cash game, where I ground out an $80 profit by the end of the night. I had lost most of my first buyin on a very well-played hand by Brian G. I was in early position with AhKh and when it limped around to me, I popped it to $7, getting Paul W. and Brian G as calls. Flop was QJ2 with one heart. I made a small C-bet of $7 and Paul folded. Brian called. His call was suspicious to me and I couldn’t put him on a Queen. Perhaps a Jack or maybe a straight draw (KT?). Even an underpair. Turn was a 5h, giving me a flush draw to go with two overs and a gutshot. I felt emboldened enough to bet $12. He called again and I started to feel sick. River was 8c. It completed the low end of the straight draw but now I was starting to feel that Brian was calling me down with just a pair of Jacks. I decided the only way to win this pot was to bet at it and I fired $32, about half the pot. Brian put down the deck he was dealing and started to think, with a half smile.

“Should I make a hero-call here?,” he asked.
I shrugged and smiled.

About 15 seconds later, he took out two green $25 chips and placed them in front of him. Damn him. I mucked my AK and he tabled 2s7s!!!! Bottom pair with a seven kicker and he put me on the right hand the whole way. Very sick read on his part. When I asked him why he couldn’t put me on AQ, he explained that “you would have played AQ differently”. I couldn’t get a detailed explanation but I was in awe of the read. Brian continues to give me trouble at the cash table.

After blowing through my last $20 or so dollars, I bought in for another $100 and a few hands later I get in late position. There’s a $7 PF raise and I call along with a few others. Flop with J83 with two hearts. W bets out $20, Paul W. raises to $45 and now I’m forced to move all in for $92. W contemplates but folds a heart flush draw. Paul W. calls and I ask if he wants to do business. When he sees my hand, he agrees instantly but when I see him table AJ (top/top) with no flush possibilities, I have to negate the running of business. He’s dead to running Aces or running Jacks and I pick up the pot when he draws dead on the turn.

All of a sudden, I’m back in the profit zone and I build it up a bit more until my stack is about $275. I pick up 7h9h in the SB and I get to limp in to a multi-way pot and the flop is 732, rainbow. Nothing scary on this board, right? I bet out $7 to see where I’m at and it folds to W, who calls. Everyone else folds. Her flat call on a completely innocuous board makes me nervous. She’s in position too, which doesn’t help. Turn is a brick, maybe a T. I check and this time she says, “Same bet. 7 was friendly.” She puts it out and I call. River is a Jack. This time, I bet $16 because I’m putting her on a draw of some sort, maybe 45 for the up and down which missed. But when she min-raises me to $32, I give up the hand. I’m 90% certain she flopped a monster. I say 22 or 33 for a flopped set.

A few hands later, I mix it up, this time still in the SB. By the way, how come all of my big starting hands seem to come in early position?!?! It’s frustrating. Anyhow, I have AJs and it limps to me and I raise to $6 and get two callers. Flop is Jack high and I C-bet $16. Cheryl calls. Turn completes a flush draw and I check. Cheryl checks. River is a Queen. I check and she checks again! I have the Jack, she has AQ! The $16 call with the two (actually one) overcard was sketchy and she sucked out.

It was hands like that that kept my stack from growing too high, but a win is a win. I have the Deutsche game on Thursday before I leave Friday for my road trip in Louisiana and Mississippi. Can’t wait!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wine is G00000t!

I'm not a wine-drinker, per se, but Ali and I just kicked a bottle of one of the tasty varietals we picked up this weekend in Pennsylvania. And it was good. REALLY good. How good was it? I just finished ordering another 9 bottles from the vineyard in addition to 3 more of another kind that Ali and I both agreed was the best one we tried when we did the tasting.

If you're interested, the tasty wine is from Vynecrest Vineyards and the wine I just ordered more of is:

9 bottles of the Summertime Red and 3 bottles of the Cherry DeVyne (Which sounds like a stripper name but tastes like candy).

This guy has RIDICULOUS timing

A master of the craft...

Sick Weekend

I’ve never spent more than $30 for a Halloween costume, ever. But something told me I should splurge for one this year. Lord knows I shouldn’t. With the economy tanking and my job in a precarious situation, I should be looking for every opportunity to scrimp and save for the (possible) coming storm. But I just can’t refuse a beautiful woman anything.

So $160 later, I’m decked out in a sweet Pirate uniform and I look great. I mean, as good as Jewish pirates get to look anyway.

Ali and I went over to the Halloween parade on 6th avenue and it was every bit the cluster fuck that you’d imagine. We took the 2/3 up to 14th Street and when we got topside we were absolutely *swamped* with people. Everywhere, there were costumes of all varieties swirling around us like the ghosts at the end of Indiana Jones.

“Marion, whatever you do, don’t look at them!”

After squeezing our way over to 6th Avenue, we found a decent spot on the sidewalk and waited for the parade to pass us by. Ali, in her very skimpy and delicious French Maid’s outfit (complete with hot redhead wig), had decided to forego her jacket in favor of showing off her costume. Bad. Move. And yet another tick goes into the ‘bad judgement’ column.

Or maybe it wasn’t so bad? I had to hold Ali real close to me for quite a while to keep her warm. Jedi-Mind tricked again. :-p

The Parade, which I’ve never had the privilege of seeing before, was a hit and miss affair. Some of the costumes on display were pretty elaborate, including a guy dressed as Pac-Man and two of his friends dressed as Pac-Man Ghosts. Also on display were some other really inventive get-ups and a few large scale productions. One of them was a haunted gothic living room, complete with 20 foot tall ghosts with real faces (creepy) on them. But by far, the best part of the parade was the entire Zombie Dance from Thriller performed in perfect synchronization, right in front of us, with about 150 zombies all made up perfectly. It was an incredible sight to see. I can’t believe that 25 years later, the Zombie Dance is still exhilarating to watch and more importantly, recognizable.

After a few hours of watching the parade, we stopped into the Two Boots down in the village for a slice of pizza and a Diet Pepsi and then made our way uptown to a loft party at 37th street, near Penn Station. Getting uptown was a real chore since all the cabs were taken and the streets were infected with people. There was a line leading out the subway station that snaked all the way up to the street and it took us about 15 minutes before we could even swipe the turnstiles! We squeeeeezed onto a train and suffered through it before getting out at 34th street.

The party was fun, if a bit crowded. We were met by Ali’s friend Elizabeth, dressed up as a super hot nurse, and we spent a few hours dancing, grinding and drinking to a DJ who could really use some skillz. The space was pretty cool though and there was an outdoor balcony where we could grab some fresh air if we needed it. The best costume I saw at the party were two guys doing ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’. Pretty cool.

After getting home exhausted, we chilled out Saturday and made some dinner inside. I showed Ali the magic of Shake and Bake Pork Chops and made some of my famous corn relish and string beans on the side. We needed to get to sleep somewhat early in order to catch a ride out to Pennsylvania for a winery tour. Elizabeth, who is an avid athlete, was joining a few other people on a bike tour of local wineries (her family lives in Allentown). We caught a ride with Brian, a mutual friend. As we approached his car, another guy joined us and we all introduced ourselves. The new guy, Jordan, looked at me and said, “You look familiar. Have you ever worked at JPMorgan?”. I told him I did and he said, “I think I played poker with you once”. Awesome. Turns out he was a friend of one of the traders I used to support in Equity Derivatives at JPM and I had organized a big poker game for those guys a few times. If I remember, he won a tourney I had organized. I can’t believe after 4 years he recognized me. Small world.

The ride out was tiring but fun. Tiring because I hadn’t gotten great sleep and I had to be up early. Even worse, I got up at 6AM when I was supposed to be up at 7AM because I completely forgot about Daylight Savings time. Wow. I wait all year for the extra hour and I screw it up. Nice job Jamie.

We got to Elizabeth’s parents house in West Allentown (WOW. Nice neighborhood.) and got settled in. Ali and I would be driving in front of the bikers as a support vehicle and going from winery to winery with them. The biker ended up biking about 40 miles all told and Ali and I ended up drinking quite a bit of wine from 4 local wineries. It was a great time with great people and we picked up a few bottles of some really fun wine that I’m looking forward to quaffing in the coming weeks. By the time we got home to the city at 10PM, we flopped into bed, exhausted from the weekend’s activities.

Next week, I go to Louisiana for a weeklong poker tour/New Orleans thing. SOOOO looking forward to it.

P.S. Jets Won. Giants Won. Bills Lost. Cowboys Lost. Pats Lost. Holy crap, a penta-fecta!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jets vs. Chiefs at home

Why does Brett Favre have to be such a sadist. For god's sake, if you're gonna win can't you do it in a blowout and save us all the heartache? Why do you have to insist on giving the game away two or three times only to get it back again and again. I feel like I'm being given human catnip on the end of a stick and Brett is jerking it up over my head every time I get close.

Thanks god for some Coles in the endzone with one hand. Ali and I were at the game and her seats are 4 rows up from the field in the end zone so we got to see the reverse view of that catch like it was in our laps. Amazing play.

Shake Shake: A Review

I ate dinner last night at the new Shake Shack on the Upper West Side (Columbus and 78th). It was good. I ordered a double Shake burger with an order of fries and a malted Black and White shake.

The line wasn't terrible when I got there at 8:15pm, but it was significant enough where I had to wait a bit. From the time I got onto the line until the time I got my food was about 20 minutes. The presentation is, of course, very basic. Just our burgers and fries on a tray with the burgers barely wrapped in paper. But the burgers were very very well done. I don't mean cooked well done. I mean the burgers were just the right amount of juiciness for me with just the right amount of condiments. What I liked especially were the potato buns which weren't huge in comparison to the tastiness and soaked up a lot of said juices. By the end of the burger, the buns were flattened down to next to nothing, the better to enjoy your heart attack.

The fries were just fries. Crispy and tasty, but not extraordinary.

The shakes, on the other hand, were sublime. I guess you'd expect that from a place called Shake Shack but sometimes names suck. They use custard or something rather than ice cream so the shakes are thick and cool but drinkable and delicious. Compare this to your normal ice cream shake which is so cold it gives you a headache and so thick it won't go through a straw.

All in all, a great meal but not one I'd wait for a long time on a line for. My next stop for burgers is the Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien hotel, which Ali has been raving about.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Because it's too easy

Mr. Blackwell, the arbiter of fashion and the author of Blackwell's annual 10 best and 10 worst dressed lists, died yesterday at age 86.

He was buried in an atrocious striped tuxedo number that made him look like a white polish sausage wrapped in a three day old intestinal casing that was left out in the sun. Oh well, there's always next year!

More gambling related tragedy

Lefty Rosenthal died yesterday. He was the Robert Deniro character in the movie Casino.

Indictment: Did anyone else miss that?

That poker shooting thing from last year, which killed the underground action in Manhattan, resulted in an indictment 10 months later. Just found out.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The last of the wisdom teeth

It was time. My original pain started just before the summer and I had attributed it to my impacted wisdom teeth. But when I went to see the Dentist and got a full mouth of x-rays, she had told me that I also had a deep cavity in a tooth that might require a root canal, on the same side. As the pain got more localized, I got the root canal and the pain went away.

So this is good, right? I don't need my wisdom teeth removed? Except they're impacted and they *will* hurt sometime in the future. Maybe not now, but sometime. So I said screw it and scheduled it for after the summer so it wouldn't interfere with any travel plans I had (Louisiana and Mississippi, W00t!)

I went to the office today and got hooked up, but good. I had had a full set of x-rays done a while back on my mouth but they didn't get far enough back to see the wisdom teeth so the first thing the doc ordered me was another x-ray. This one is cool though. You stand up and bite down on this little plastic thing and they lower these bars on four corners of your head to keep it still. Then they tell you to *hold*, with your arms, a lead vest over your chest. Um...won't my arms still be affected. Hope I don't get arm cancer. And then they stand aside and press a button and this thing sweeps around you and takes a panorama picture of your whole skull. Sweet. Instantly, the image comes up on the monitor and what I found out was that I have two impacted wisdom teeth. Ok, I already knew that. What I didn't know is how impacted they are (or aren't in this case). Both teeth had a gap between the molar, which is why I hadn't felt any pain. The doc said he thought they'd be easier to get out that way even though he'd still have to cut into my gum to make room and possibly break my lower tooth and take it out in chunks. Yummy.

They started an IV drip (an extra expense and worth every damn penny). Within 5 minutes, I couldn't recite the numbers one through 5 and even though I was awake for part of the procedure, I had no clue what was going on and only remember an accumulated 1 minute of things. It was beautiful.

I woke up to the most gorgeous site of Ali (who had come to take me home and take care of me) and my regular dentist (not the oral surgeon) standing over me. Ali is hotter, because she's my girl, but my general dentist is also a super hottie. Wall Street rocks!

I was sent home with pain pills, antibiotics and care instructions. Luckily, my dentist's office is about 75 feet from my apartment, so the walk was just fine, if slow because of the haziness. Ali went out to Duane Reade to fill my prescriptions and buy me some soft foods (Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Pudding, etc...). She's pretty much the best, I know.

So far so good. After 7 hours of having gauze in my mouth, it looks like I've formed a nice clot and the real healing can begin. I have swelling and a little bit of pain, but the Advil is helping. I'll keep the Vicodin on tap for when I'm *really* bad. At this rate, I'll be at work on Monday and perfectly fine by next Friday. Crossing my fingers...

R.I.P. Audrey II

Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of The Four Tops (possibly the best of the Motown singing groups), died today. To you all, he might be the singer of such hits as "Reach Out, I'll Be There" and "I Can't Help Myself" (otherwise known as "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch"), but to me he'll always be the voice of Audrey II, the man eating Venus Fly Trap in the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors.
I guess it's appropriate then that I'm getting my wisdom teeth out today. I'll spill a drop of blood on the ground for my homie, Audrey II.
(Ok, that was an analogy stretch).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Borgata Slaughter

I play better with people I know around. I just do. They don’t have to be sitting at the same table as me, but if someone I know is in the room and I’m on a trip with them, I feel better and play better. It’s irrational but that’s the case.

This past weekend was Columbus Day weekend and the Bond Markets were closed. 3 day weekends are normally spent with the GF now that I’m in a relationship, but she was at her parent’s house for her cousins bachelorette party all weekend which meant I was free and easy to indulge in my poker passion. Ebay furnished me a sweet deal at the Wyndham. $340 all in for 4 nights, of which I only use three but I don’t have to wake up early on Monday. However, despite multiple emails to the entire degenerate crew, and a few promises of maybes, not a single person came down with me. Not Dawn, KJ, Mary, Alceste, Darko, W, Paulie, MB, Viv or Abbie. That’s NEVER happened before! Is poker losing it’s mojo to the masses? Hmmmm….

I wasn’t letting that stop me though. I wanted to leave early on Friday afternoon because the bond markets were closing at 2PM, but the current crisis on the street meant I was busier than ever. Only after rushing in a cab was I able to make a 7:30p bus, a far cry from the 3PM I had envisioned. My Friday night was essentially ruined when I got into my hotel room at 10:30p, tired and exhausted from travel. A normal person, one of good mind and body, would have curled up in bed with a copy of Super System and fallen asleep, ready to attack the day Saturday. But I, gentle readers, am not normal, or of good body or mind. I am, instead, an insane lunatic whose exhortations of a godless world would be met with disaster by the only gods that truly matter and exist; the lords of the poker underworld.

{Too dramatic?}

I hoofed it over to the Taj to get in a few hands of 5-10 O/8. What a mistake that was! I played stupid hands like A488 and got my ass handed to me over and over. Mind you, I hit some really really bad beats too, but my hand selection could have used improvement. $200 later, I limped back home and really went to sleep.

I was up at 9:30a in order to make it to the Borgata in time to start the 10-20 two way game (OE), but when I got there at 10:30a, the game was in full swing. There were enough people on the overflow, though, to get a feeder game going. I sat down with the usual bunch of misfits, and a few new faces, and got pounded. I mean beaten down like a homeless man surrounded by Alex and his droogies. Mercilessly, they sucked out on me over and over again. The worst hand I can remember was Ah-2h-8c-8h in a kill pot. I come in for $15, along with 5 limpers and the flop comes 8d-5d-3c. I flopped a monster here. I have top set, a wheel draw and a made nut low. I lead out the betting. Player 2 calls, Player 3 raises, Player 4 calls, Player 5 calls. It gets to me and I re-raise. I’m trying to tell people where I’m at with this raise (way ahead of everyone), but Player 2 calls my 2nd raise! Player 3 caps it at $60 and Players 4 and 5 call! Player 2 calls. Pot is now at $300 and there’s 2 more streets to go!!!! Turn is Ks, a brick unless someone has KK. I lead out for $30. Player 2 gets frustrated and mutters about “raising with the low”. This tells me that he has the low. Player 3 raises! Now I now *he* has the low too, almost certainly with a draw (straight or flush). So three nut lows are out which means I’m getting sixthed OR I’m scooping. Might as well press my advantage. Players 4 and 5 both call again (which has me really confused) and I raise again. Player 2 gets visibly frustrated and player 3 caps it again. Everyone calls and is still in. $900 in the pot now. The biggest O/8 pot I’ve ever been involved in. I’m in the pot for $180 at this point and I’m thinking at worst I’m getting $150 of that back for a minimum loss. The river is the worst possible card I can think of. Just the worst. The case deuce.

So here I am with: Ah-2h-8c-8h
And the board is 8d-5d-3c-Ks-2c

Counterfeit anyone?

I check this time, and the two nut lows to my left both check. This time, player 4 bets out and it folds to me. I make the call only because I’m getting 30-1 on my money and I’d feel stupid if I win half with my set or live Ace even though I’m sure he’s got it. Players 2 and 3 both call futily hoping the same thing. What does Player 4 show that he cold called every raise on every street? A458. He flopped top two with second nut low draw and he had *1* out in the deck to win. His top two are beaten by my top set and his low draw is dead to 3 better hands. Any halfway decent player, facing that many raises, would have mucked that shit a LONG time ago but he didn’t and I lost.

And so began a long slow slide into oblivion.

There were not one, not two but THREE more instances in that session when I lost to the case card. One other situation in which I had nut low to three other people and the case card fell and two situations in which I flopped top set (Aces and Kings), raised the whole way, boated up on the river only to lose to quads. Just a frustrating session all around.

My emotions definitely go the better of me and I should have left earlier but I stuck it out, reasoning I was better than most of the table and things would turn around. But they didn’t and I dropped a cool G in the space of 5 hours. Horrible.

I was steaming something fierce when I went over to the ShowBoat for the 7PM Sat. nite tourney. 20 minute levels, 15,000 in starting chips and a weak field sounds like my kind of fun. Despite my drubbing at the OE table, I felt like I was relatively level headed at the start of the tourney. I nearly doubled up in the first level by flopping a set of Queens on a scary board. The board read As Qh Ts. I led out with my middle set in EP and got called by one other player. Turn was a blank and I fired another big bet. He smooth called again. River was 3s. This time I checked and he fired big. Way bigger than the betting would indicate and larger than a value bet would normally be. I weighed the options and decided he was trying to buy the pot and called. I was right. He had 22 and was trying to outplay me on a scare card. If my hand hadn’t been strong enough to beat two pair, I probably would have folded there. Midway through level 5, I’m still ahead of the curve with 27,000 in chips when I get felted in one heartbreaker of a hand. Again, I have QQ in EP and see a raise PF by UTG. Cutoff calls and it gets to me. I pop it the size of the pot and get called by UTG. Cutoff calls! I assume I’m up against two big Aces because I would think cutoff would fold any middle pairs he has. Flop is a relatively non-threatening T9x. There’s 20,000 in the pot and I have 14,000 behind. Time to shove. So I do. UTG mucks his pockets 8’s and I get insta-called by the cutoff’s 99. Donkey play to flat call two raises with a medium pocket pair, but hey what can I do.

My poker life is flashing before my eyes.

After a slow and calming dinner, I finished off the night by being brutally beaten yet again at the 5-10 O/8 table at the Taj. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, that’s why! I am now down $1600 for the trip and I’ve been there a whopping 24 hours.

Sleep was fitful. I got up Sunday morning at a comfortable hour (11:30a) and had breakfast at Constantine’s diner, a greasy spoon on the corner between the Wyndham and The Taj. If you ignore the dirty and visible kitchen and concentrate instead on the hot Greek waitress, the eggs and scrapple with OJ breakfast is a good deal. I pondered what to do, deciding that playing 2-4 Limit at Caesars in an effort to hit the $135,000 bad beat was the way to go. When I arrived at Caesars at 1PM, their 1PM tourney was just getting underway and I made the hasty decision to switch over. Good thinking on my part. I proceeded to run over the table I was on, doubling up on my second hand with 4d6d. I limped in EP with this hand and flopped 3s-5s-6h. Top pair and an open ender. Not bad. I fire out and get one caller. Flush draw seems obvious. Turn is a 4h. Since I put this guy on a flush draw, I don’t see him having a str8, though it’s a possibility. I fire again and he just calls. River is the money card, 4s. I boat up and he makes his flush. Just like Rounders. I bet, he raises big, I shove and he calls with QsTs. Ship it!

I start bullying the table a little bit but I lose half my stack when I get too frisky with AJ. Flop on the hand with one other player to my left is AK8. I C-Bet with a good top pair and he smooth called. Turn was an 8. I didn’t figure him for an 8. I thought he either had a weak Ace or a King. So I decided to play fancy and push figuring that at worst I’m chopping but he’d have to make a tough decision to call. I pushed and he called with AK! Nice slowplay. Incidentally, this guy would go on to take my stack and win the tourney. Just saying.

I managed to get back into the game and when the table broke, I was moved to a new table where I doubled through two hands in a row. The first was when I was in the BB with J2o. Flop was JJ9. The SB, who was the only other person in the hand, checks and I check. Turn is a rag. This time, he bets. I call. River is a rag. He bets, I move all in for about ½ the pot and he calls me down with 79. Very next hand in the SB, I get 66. UTG raises to 3000 (blinds are 500/1000) which is a pretty light bet. 4 people come in and I complete for 2000. Flop is A86 with two spades. I check, original raiser bets 6000. Someone in between raises to 15000! I decide that there’s enough in the pot to take it down now and I shove for 45,000 more. UTG thinks and says, “I’m not worried about him (meaning me) but her (meaning the first raiser)”. He looks at me and says, “Ok, I’ll call your bullshit flush draw”. He calls (keep in mind he was the big stack in the tourney at the time) and the first raiser wisely folds. He tables AK and he’s practically drawing dead to my set. W00t! I’m now the big stack in the tourney by a large amount. There’s 19 people left, with top 4 paying. I use my stack somewhat aggressively, since antes are now being taken and pots are decent, and bust two more short stacks on the way. I’m keeping ahead of the curve and make the final table with 175,000 and the chip lead. My nemesis from the first table is right behind me with 145,000. He tells me he wants to be heads up with me for the big money and I couldn’t agree with him more.

Here’s where it gets interesting. We make it down to 6 players and I’m completely card dead. My stack has been whittled to 100,000 for 3rd stack at the table and now I’m starting to think I might bubble or some bullshit like that. Meanwhile, my nemesis, in position on me, is mercilessly hammering the table with his now big 200,000 stack. I try to offer a deal to the table. Take $180 proportionally from the top 4 payouts and make a $120 5th place price (gets his entry fee back) and a $60 6th place prize (half his entry fee back). The deal would take a nominal $70 from 1st place but the chip leader refuses! He’s the only one to refuse and I can’t understand it since it’s in his interest to loosen up play. I plead with him that one lucky card could wipe him out but he doesn’t budge. The tournament director, looking at this tourney entering it’s 4th hour, does some calculation and makes the table this offer, “everyone gets $500 guaranteed and the remaining $700 goes to the tourney winner”. Everyone, including myself, jumped at the offer and finally the chip leader relented! This would mean the top prize goes from $1600 to $1200! He was willing to take $400 off of first but not $70?!? Jeez, where do they find these people?

In the end, I went out in 4th place. I had Ac6c UTG with blinds at 6,000/12,000 and antes at 4,000. There was $38,000 in the pot before we started and I had 100,000 behind. I open shoved with my Ace and got called by the BB with Ah8h. The flop came AA4 and I started hoping for a chop but the turn and river were baby cards and I lost. I had a few chips left and was forced into the next hand, which I won with AJ. The next hand, I was similarly forced in with AT (not bad cards!) but lost to 88 this time. Comeback averted.

We had to wait until the end of the tourney to get the chopped payout and it was at this time that the tourney director told us that it was customary to give “8% or so” as tip and he was going to withhold $40 from each $500 payout. Despite the fact that I think 8% is monstrously high for a tourney tip (I prefer 5% of gross payout), it was also 10.5% of my profit!! That’s a good chunk considering the vig and my losses for the weekend. I didn’t want to say anything in front of the other players, so when the time was right, I pulled the director aside and told him I wanted to put less in. He understood. I ended up giving $25. The tourney winner, the cheap bastard, won $1200 gross ($1080 profit) and gave $20!!! The director put up a bit of a stink and he gave another $20 and walked away. *That* was chintzy. On both dollar terms and percentage terms.

I was dog tired at that point, mentally and physically, and I went to eat dinner at Continental on the Pier. Incidentally, if you’ve never gone to the end of the pier, it’s quite nice. You’re basically in the middle of the ocean with great beach views of the boardwalk at night. I ate a nice dinner, had a drink and was sufficiently relaxed to go play more poker. I was too mentally drained for 1-2NL so I stuck with my original plan to play 2-4 Limit for the bad beat. It didn’t hit, but I had a great time at a really fun table. One guy, a local, was taking an inordinate amount of time for each decision. He wasn’t drunk, he was just playing super seriously. He had the hat and was rocking the sunglasses and the whole thing! We all rolled our eyes at him and the high point of the night came when he had to face a tough decision (you know, tough for 2-4 Limit) and it took so long we called clock on him! The floor came over and said the same thing I said, “Clock? On 2-4?”. We all laughed, except this guy who looked like he was sweating a tough decision. The clock wound down and he mucked. I said, “Too bad we couldn’t get the hole cameras on that one. I guess we’ll see what you had in the televised replay”. He was not amused.

5 hours later, but no bad beat, I got back home and fell asleep. One more day to go. At least I made some money back today.

I woke up Monday morning and headed over to the Taj for the 12:15p tourney. I donked off another $125 at the 5-10 O/8 tables waiting for the tourney to start. This one didn’t go as well as my last tourney but the buyin was smaller. $65 for 10,000 in chips. The Taj tourney is aggressive too, with antes starting on the 2nd level and a better quality of player. I busted out in the 6th level when I raised PF with AJo and it folded to the BB who called. Flop was 79T I had two overs and the gutshot and gambled the flop didn’t hit him. When he checked to me, I bet ¼ of my stack. He called and the turn came with a J. He put me all in. I was only worried about a 8 here but I couldn’t put him on a hand he’d call pre-flop and post-flop with a 8, except 88. I decided to gamble and called off my remaining chips hoping he had QJ (which made sense in terms of the action). Instead he had 87s and I couldn’t hit the miracle river to chop. Oh well.

I had a few hours to kill before I had to make a bus back to see Ali so I sat at 1-2NL. Probably should have been there all weekend, in hindsight. I had two big hands at 1-2NL, both off the same guy. I bought in for 140 and cashed out 1.5 hours later for 425 because I had to get on the bus. The big hands were 3h4h where the flop was J33. I checked in position and my opponent bet out 20 for his AJ. I make a move to my cards like I'm checking my kicker and call. Turn is a 2, putting a spade flush draw on the board. I check again and he bets 25. This time, I raise 50 more. He calls. Now I'm not sure if he has a 3 or not. I boat up with a 4 on the river and bet 25, half his stack left. He calls and I take it down.

The next big hand, 20 minutes later, I check my option in the BB with T8o on a multi-way limped pot. Flop is J94, rainbow. I check and the dealer points to my opponent who isn't really paying attention and skips over him! The next guy bets 10 and the next guy calls and my opponent gets all flustered that he wanted to be the flop. He just calls though, when it gets to him. The turn is a Queen, completing the second nut straight. I lead out for 10 this time and my opponent takes the bait, raising to 30 and driving everyone else out. I assume he flopped something good, like a set or maybe QJ and he made two pair on the turn. I know he doesn't have KT because he wanted to raise the flop, which whiffed for KT. So I re-raise 50 more thinking he has a monster and is going to shove. But he just calls! The river is an Ace. I'm hoping that improves him and I shove for 140 more. He goes into the tank and now I know I'm good. I give off every false tell I can and pull a Jerry Yang by going stone cold silent with my mouth in my hands. He says the most beautiful four words you want to hear when holding the nuts, "fuck it, I call" and shows QT!!! He flopped OESD, turned a top pair and called a shove when the Ace popped?!? Donkeylicious.

I made up my losses for the day in that one hand and added 100 in profit.

Final tally for the weekend:
-$1040 in cash
+5 in ability to bounce back from tough losses
+4 in good food and drink
+2 for seeing Tom Gillespie on Saturday and also running into my father’s childhood friend
-10 for not getting anyone to come with me. I blame you all.