Monday, June 23, 2008

Two ways to lose

Viv and PP and I all made it down to AC this weekend. Well, that’s not quite accurate. PP was kind enough to drive into the city from Brooklyn after work on Friday just to pick up Viv and I. I had just climbed into his car at Water and Wall when Viv called us up.

“Guess where I am?” she asked.
“Down in AC?,” I inquired hopefully.
“Nope, still at work,” was the mournful answer.

Turns out that just because your company flames out dramatically in a week’s time and then is bought out by JPMorgan, doesn’t mean you still don’t have to work weekend with last minute notice! So we sadly turned the car around and headed off without Viv. It was a sad car ride down, I can tell you….but we got over it when AC was in our sights!

We parked at the Taj, checked into our room at the Wyndham next door, and hit the tables. It was already 10PM by the time we got settled and I was personally exhausted. That meant low stakes for me. I’m not at my best playing No Limit if I’m not mentally prepared. I wanted to play in the 5-10 O/8 game that the Taj runs, but they were full and I was 4th on the list to get a seat. So I sat at the 2-4 O/8 game with Paulie for a few hours. It was relaxing. Nothing strenuous and it was a nice table. Just warming up.

We got back to the hotel relatively early (2AM) and enjoyed a full night’s sleep, which might be the first time I’ve ever slept more than 5 hours in AC (ah, the joys of not having Wendy on the trip!). We woke up very refreshed and had a nice brunch at the Taj again before heading into our car to go to the Borgata.

We arrived at 11:45a and were seated by noon. I took my place at the 10/20 Two Way game (Stud/8 and O/8 in 30 minute rotations). This is my favorite regular game in AC for a variety of reasons. First, the play is relatively decent. There are at least 4 or 5 regularly good players and the rest of the table is populated by chasers. This is a nice ratio for good profit potential. Second, the stakes are such that for your time you can actually make a nice chunk of money. It’s about halfway in between what a 1-2NL game and a 2-5 NL game could give you. If you’re running well, you could expect to leave a long session with about 400-600 dollars profit. In addition, the nature of limit is such that if you’re playing with discipline, you can limit your downside loss as well. Third, the characters who play in this game are precisely the kind of salty, crusty and bitchy old men you’d expect in a poker game filled with sterotypes. So it’s fun watching them snipe at each other.

I played 16.5 hours at that damned table, most of it very unprofitable. There was one girl in particular, she said her name was Lisa, who I just couldn’t beat no matter what. She would make crazy loose plays, like raising a kill hand PF with 2c3c4c7s. That’s an awful hand to limp with, let alone raise with because your only going low with it and you HAVE to have an Ace on the board to be comfortable. But surely enough, she not only won with this crappy hand, but she scooped when she made the nut low and her baby flush held up. I had her dead to rights on at least three hands and she won every one with incredibly awful starting cards. Like the time I flopped top set of 10’s and she called the whole way with a 9 high flush draw, hitting on the river to scoop. Her stack zoomed from 400 to 1200 in a matter of 90 minutes hitting like that. But, like experience has shown me, that kind of luck doesn’t last forever. She finally started losing pots, though still not to me, and her 1200 was down to her original 400 two hours later. Then she hit another streak and cashed out with 680. She was the lucky one.

An old Chinese woman was playing with us and she couldn’t stop winning. She was playing even worse hands than Lisa and I counted her stack at a max of 1400 at one point! But she played every hand and it was only a matter of time… 8 hours later, she was felted. Down to absolutely nothing. Seriously, it’s like physics. It’s an immutable law. If you play badly, you will eventually lose what you have. Period, end of sentence. The Chinese woman even bought in for another 200, but lost that too. So, if you’re counting, the woman went through 1600 (!) dollars in chips in the space of about 8 hours at a 10-20 game. That’s a good number. Yes, she didn’t lose 1600, in the sense that she didn’t buy in for that amount, but she still *lost* it. I was sick not being a beneficiary of that.

In fact, I was looking every bit the donkey that these other two were. At one point in the night’s festivities, I was in for $980 of buyins and down to my last $100 of chips. Ouch. Only $100 of that was lost to pure donkey plays that I could have avoided. For instance, I had JJ in the hole in Omaha/8 and the flop comes KKJ. Bingo, right? I lead out and get a raise. Okay, I put him on a King, but not KJ, right? I have two Jacks!! I re-raise and he raises again! Ok, now I put him on AK. Why? Because I’m stubborn and stupid. An 8 comes on the turn and he leads out. Uh-oh. He’s not worried about me having a boat with K8, so he must have a boat already and that means he must have KJ or K8, both of which beat me. But even though this logic is perfectly clear, I remain wedded to my flopped underboat and call. He bets the river and I call and he shows KJ. Duh!

Another hand I lost on, but I hardly think anyone can blame me is my JJA2 hand. Flop come QJT, rainbow. I bet out and get raised by Lisa. I put her on the flopped straight. Turn is a Ten. I check, she leads out and I raise, she re-raises and I cap it. She calls. Maybe she’s trying to push me off the pot? Maybe she’s got a small boat? I don’t know, but now I’m getting nervous. So when the river bricks. I check, she leads out and I call. She flips over the one hand I’m nervous about, QQ for the higher boat. Ugh.

After Lisa (or Jamie-Killer as I call her) left the table, things got a bit better. I started winning pots, including two scoops that sent $350 in badly needed profit my way. I was down about $600 at that point and ready to call it a night at 2:00 AM (or at least move to 1-2NL) when an obvious fish sat down. I have never seen the stereotype of a bunch of hungry sharks salivating at the same time as I did when this guy sat down. He bought in for $400 and it was instantly obvious that it would be gone by the time he left. He played every hand, bet out on most streets and showed down two pair like he was showing a monster. He would occasionally suck out on people, which would only give him more time to pad my stack. I didn’t lose a single hand against him, which was nice, and by the time he turned tail at 4:30AM, I had won an additional $200 in profit, mostly from pots he was feeding. Yay! I never felt so much like a ‘shark’ as I did when that guy sat down. It was like that scene in Rounders when all the guys are giving knowing glances at each other when the tourists sat down. A guy said to me after he left exactly what I was thinking:

“I was going to go to sleep until he showed up. I played hands against him I *never* would have played against the rest of the table”.

Amen brother, Amen.

Paulie, meanwhile, was playing shark at a 1-2NL table. Before my own whale arrived, he came to me and said we were going to leave at 4:00AM. When 4:00a arrived, he came back and said 4 fish had sat down and he absolutely wasn’t leaving. Good for you Paulie! He gutted them good, too, to the tune of +550 at the table. When my own game broke, I sat at the table for a bit and was able to also win a silo of red off of their ugliness. Hmmm….let’s see. A7o and I limp. Flop is AKQ. At any other table, that’s a loser, right? Oh no, not here. I *led out*! With confidence! I got three callers who called me all the way down with middle pairs. My top pair never improved and it held up at the river. Oh boy, playing with ATM’s is fun!

I beat up on the 5-10 Limit table similarly and through their largesse, was able to cut my loss for the evening to about $200. Quite a distance to dig out of that hole! Viv, who had joined us by bus at about 5p dug out of a similar hole at the 2-5NL table to go up about $300 for the night in profit. Maybe it was the aura of James Woods, the actor, who was playing at the table next to her. A full table of 10-20 NLHE (why on the main floor and no the High Limit area?!?), with average stacks of about $4000. Mr. Woods, or Jimmy as he’s called, was in great spirits and seemed to be having a lot of fun with his friend, a chunky latino guy who was sweating him from a chair about two inches behind him. At one point, James whispered something to his friend that made him fall out of his chair laughing onto the floor. It was quite a sight. I was standing about 7 feet away, watching with interest, when there was a dispute as to whether a misdeal has occurred. Action had already begun when someone discovered the button hadn’t moved from the previous hand. There was a bunch of ruckus when James Woods called for the floor. He stared me right in the eye and said, “Floor, can you come here and take a look at this?”. I told him I wasn’t a floor person (I was wearing my Bicycle Casino jacket, so maybe I looked the part?), but I flagged down the next floor person I saw. They ruled that a misdeal had occurred and since the flop hadn’t come, all bettors would be refunded their money, the button would move and the next hand would be dealt.

The incident got me to thinking about how to handle similar issues at my own table. I’ve come to a conclusion that the default ruling should be to have minimum monetary loss for any player when a situation arises that isn’t clear cut. For example, at a recent game at my place, I was dealing a hand and a player placed a $5 chip (0.50/1 blinds) in front of her and announced a raise. There was some confusion as to whether the announcement had occurred after, at the same time, or before the placement of the chip. I hadn’t heard it, not paying attention as usual, so I had to rely on eye-witness testimony to guide my decision. Predictably, everyone rooted in their own interest. The player said she announced raise at the same time whereas two other players said she announced well after the fact. The single-chip over rule, being as clear as day as it is, I decided to go with the path of least monetary loss to the player, and announced that given the circumstances of my not having witnessed it, the single chip would be considered a call. Now, lest you think I’m being completely unfair, I would have also given the player the option of folding altogether, because a call in that position completely changes the flavor of her hand. She opted to stay in and, if I remember, eventually won the pot when she bet out big on the flop. The idea of ruling to the least monetary loss is appealing when the floor can’t make a clear cut ruling having not witnessed the circumstances. It’s tough to rely on player’s interpretations because they are often biased. The dealer is supposed to be the dispassionate observer, but if the dealer *is* the floor, like in a home game, it gets harder when the dealer fails to observe. Home game rulings are hard, no question!

On tap at Wall Street Poker tonight is a rollicking game of .25/.50 PL O/8. That’s right, Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo. Oh boy….

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