Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back to the Future alternate ending

If they had gone a little *too* far into the future...

Liveblogging the Wall Street WSOP super sattelite

6:45p - Players start to arrive in earnest

7:00p - We're all here, except for Wendy who arrived early to work out for free in my building's facilities. A quick phone call is made.

7:05p - Wendy arrives, sweaty but eager. I collect buyins and an awful lot of people pay with Benjamin's.

7:10p - Cards are in the air.

7:20p - Jesse K. pulls out the first quote of the night

Me - Hey, there's a bottle of Vodka in my freezer. It's half full though, even though I haven't drunk a drop.
Wendy - Vodka evaporates.
Me (and two Russian guys) - No it doesn't!
Jesse - This has all the makings of a classic Wendy conversation.

7:30p - Blinds go up and Jesse puts up another quoteable

Viet (after raising Liezl) - Oh Issac, I didn't tell you the good news.
Issac - What's that?
Viet - Liezl is expecting.
Issac - That's great! Congratulations!
Jesse - You check-raised your pregnant wife?

7:40p - Paulie Ham Hands raises to 500 in the SB and gets two callers. Flop is Qc-5c-8h. Isaac leads out with 500, second player folds and Paulie calls. Turn is Ad. Paulie leads out with 1000, Isaac calls. River is 2c. It goes check-check and Paulie shows AcKd. Issac shows Qd6d (!), thus blowing his pre-flop image.

7:50p - Liezl is the first player to drop. On a flop of Ks-4s-6c, three players went all-in PF. Isaac had QQ, Eugene K had QJo, Liezl had Ks5s. Despite a red 3 on the turn, giving Liezl even more outs, the river bricked with a red 8 and Isaac tripled up.

8:40p (Sue me, I was looking up other stuff) - We get to 4 players when Isaac makes a hero call on a board of K-5-2 rainbow. Eugene L., had pushed $2700 into a pot of $1500 and Isaac called with AJ. Eugene showed A6 and bricked the turn and river to bust out.

8:50p - Isaac doubles up his already big stack when he calls Eugene K.'s all in with KQ vs. Eugene's QT on a flop of QT9. The turn is a Jack and Isaac is the big stack.

It's REALLY hard to blog and play host, so I lost track. Isaac won the seat and Liezl won the 7 handed tourney we played afterward. I bubbled. :-(

Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter Chill fallout

I have my own Cardplayer.com player page now. Woohoo!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shout out of the year

Jordan, at High On Poker, likes our games. And we like Jordan. Thanks bro!

Cold Fish madness

I made a visit to the new Cold Fish club tonight. It was after my HORSE tourney, which was well structured (FINALLY!) and chopped 4 ways after 3.5 hours of fine play. I had been telling the Cold Fish club proprietor that I would be visiting soon, and since it was only 10:30p and I didn't have to go to work tomorrow....Well, you can do the math.

I arrived and two games were in full swing. A $1/$2 NLHE game and a $2/$5 NLHE game. The 2/5 game, especially underground, usually runs a little large for my game, so I sat at 1/2. All was going well, and I was grinding a small profit, when a known agitator (read: a guy who gives a LOT of action) sat to my left. As sure as the sun will rise, his constant blind stealing was taking my stack down and I was quickly down from my $250 buyin to $135, after chasing a flush and straight draw to no avail out of position. The same guy *did* double me up though with my JJ on a ten high board. But that got ground down again and I was down to $180 when Matty Ebs offered to stake me to the $2/$5 game.

I jumped at the chance and sat down with $300. I played super tight, though the table wasn't as aggressive as the one I'd just left! I was up around $75 at that table when the 1/2 table broke and we filled up. The agitator from the last table was now sitting on my right, a much better place. I was folding speculative hands to his raises without putting money in the middle and my bankroll was the better for it. Finally, I was in the BB and saw a 6 way flop with A7 offsuit. The flop was A77. I had to check my hole cards again just to make sure I had flopped the second nuts. I checked and it checked around to a loose player who bet out $20. It folded to me and I called, trying to make like I had an Ace with a middle kicker (which I did, hehe). Everyone folded and the turn was a 5, putting two diamonds on the board. I checked and he bet out $45. This time, I went to my cards again, as if to check for diamonds and called. The turn was an offsuit Queen. This time, fearful of losing a bet, I put out $55. He immediately went WAY over the top to $225, nearly putting me all in. I went all in for about $40 more, he called and I showed him my hand. He mucked and I had more than doubled up!

I played tight for the next few rounds, losing about $25 back, before racking up and leaving at 3:15a. I had made Matty and I $190 in profit for my 2/5 session. After this session and the Mohegan Sun tourney, I am officially Matty's favorite horse. I run so good when he's staking me!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You know what's not awesome?

My apologies to Dawn Summers for the blog title.

What's not awesome is having a flight booked to Vegas, with your girlfriend who's never been there, and then losing your job and having to change your flight to Florida to see your parents for a week because it's infinitely cheaper. I know some people would spend their last scrap of savings to go to Vegas, but this guy is too practical for that.

Oh, and to top it all off, the change fees for the tickets are so high that I only got back $300 in credit for $800 worth of tickets. In the end, I cashed in 50,000 AMEX rewards points to get the Florida flights for free.

Things will improve. I'm just not that patient about it.

Jews are funny


via Karol

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Playing Perfect Poker

I was nervous as can be with the Shootout Finals coming up. The start time was supposed to be 9AM and I knew that if I got to sleep early, I could be up at 7AM for a shower and a real breakfast. Even though this was my first deepstacked live tournament (read: MTT, long levels, many many hours of play), I had an instinct that proper pre-tourney feeding would be key to surviving the long ordeal.

So I had the unfortunate task of going to be early, in a casino, on Saturday night. To my credit, I was in bed by 10PM. But I was awoken at 10:45 PM by a call from a friend, and then at 2AM by Matty Ebs' brother tromping through my room to pick up some stuff he had left in there. By the time I fell back asleep for good, it was 3:30AM and I needed the sleep.

Bam! The alarm sounded at 7AM and I jumped out of the comfy bed like a greyhound who's just had the gate lifted. In the shower I went and the adrenaline started. I debated what to dress in and decided on the hat, sunglasses and hoodie combination. I'm not usually one to wear that sort of unibomber getup, but it worked out great, for reasons I'll delve into later.

I met Matty and the group (his brother John and his friend Eric) down at the diner and we ate a surprisingly good meal. With just 10 minutes to spare, we were in the room and at our seats. The convention center room, where the Winter Chill Poker Events were being held, was cavernous and set up with about 100 or more tables, all in final preparation for the Main Event being held a few days later. But for now, my shootout tourney was crammed into the corner on 7 tables, having only 63 participants make the Finals. The top 20 places paid, so I needed to survive 2/3 of the field to get into the money. Starting stacks were 10,000, with blinds starting at 25-50 and 40 minute blind levels. My excitement mounted as the tournament director read off the rules of play and at 9:10AM sharp, cards were in the air! I was underway.

I won the very first pot I played in when I raised PF with Ad9d in MP and got one caller. I whiffed on the flop but C-bet when he checked to me and took it down! I felt happy to be in the mix of things and I concentrated very seriously about giving off as few tells as possible while picking up as many as I could read. This is where the hoodie and the sunglasses came into play. While wearing the hat, hoodie glasses combo, I looked a little standoffish, and therefore wasn't being talked to a lot. This was in my favor, as I was able to listen in on people's conversations without being distracted. It's amazing what people tell other people after a hand; What they had, why they bet that way and why they laid it down. All the info I was looking for was right there for the taking! I soaked it up like a sponge and vowed to use that knowledge when the time was right. In addition, the hoodie over the my head acted like horse blinders, keeping me from being distracted by things happening in my peripheral view. This was a wonderful help in keeping me focused on many little details that were going on at the table. My favorite tell of the tourney was what people did with their cards after they looked at it. Often, my opponents would look at their hole cards directly after being dealt them rather than waiting for their turn. Then, they would subconsciously pick up their cards as if to muck them, or play with them if they weren't any good. If they intended to call or raise when the action came to them, they would often pull the cards towards themselves as if protecting a treasure. Sometimes they'd even cap the cards in advance! This subtle, but highly reliable tell, gave me an incredible amount of information in advance and was the primary indicator I used when deciding whether to steal blinds or not. The other benefit of spotting the tell was that I noticed myself doing it as well! I stopped immediately and waited patiently for my turn to check my hole cards.

Because of my observations, I was able to stay afloat during the first four levels, even though I was COMPLETELY card dead. I never fell into the trap of playing trash just to see if I'd hit just because I could afford it. I waited patiently, pulling in tiny pots when I could and knew that a card rush was coming. It always does if you wait long enough. By the end of the fourth level, I was down $8,300 in chips. Not terrible, considering blinds would only be going up to $150/$300 with a $25 ante. I wasn't nearly desperate yet.

Shortly into the sixth level (200/400), a few new players had been seated at our table and I was dealt 88 in the BB. It folded around to the cutoff who bet $1100, a suspiciously low bet given the pot size and the previous play. I called, mostly because I was already priced in and my opponent had twice my chip count. I could feel him setting a trap and if I flopped big, I might get paid off. The flop was a pretty dreamy 9c-8c-4h. There were flush and straight draws on board, but I read his small bet in late position as desperation to build a pot with a big pocket pair and I went with my gut on the read. I bet out $3000 to try to represent a draw, or maybe top/top, and he shoved on top of me. I snap called and showed him the bad news. True to my read, he showed AsAc! The turn and river bricked out and I doubled up nicely to just over 17,000, which was about 5,000 over the average chip stack. Given that there hadn't been too many bust outs, given the generous blind levels, it was a good position to be in. Unfortunately, I was seated to the direct right of the chip leader of the tournament. The guy had gotten incredibly lucky when he raised PF with 99 and was called by a guy holding KJo. The KJo call was terrible, but the flop came Kxx. The 99 bet out 3/4 the pot and the KJ called. The turn was a Jack and the 99 shoved! OMG, how bad is that? The KJ insta-called the rest of his stack and a 9 came on the river to felt him. Super ouch. This put the 99 in a HUGE chip lead, with something like 45,000 in chips! The next highest stack in the whole tourney was maybe 25,000. I wanted to crack that guy so bad but didn't get a chance until....

The biggest hand of the tourney for me, and the one that put me in a commanding lead for a long time. It folds around to me int he SB and I look down at KK. I don't want to limp and have the guy bet me off when a raggedy flop comes, so I raised to 3.5X the BB. I wanted to make it look like a blind steal and I was hoping the big stack would play back at me with his ego. He raised $3,000 more, to my surprise, which made me happy and I decided I was going to bet 1/2 my stack on any flop that didn't have an Ace. I called his raise and the flop was blocked a bit by the dealers hand on the right side of the table, where I was, but I could see an Ace come out the door and I died a little inside. Until he removed his hand and I saw a King too! The flop had come AKx and it was all I could do to contain myself. I was pretty sure he either had an Ace to call my PF raise or was intent on bluffing on the flop if scare cards came. I was motionless for a few seconds, my hands in a fist over my mouth, before I checked. He fired another $3,000 bet and I sat motionless before announcing a raise to $8,000 total. He immediately put $10,000 on top and I shoved. He called me like lightning and showed AK! What a cooler! To flop top two against a dominating set must sting. The turn and the river didn't save him and I ended up doubling through him to become the chip leader of the tourney! I would remain in that position for another five levels, nearly 3.5 hours.

After a bunch of hours sitting motionless except to go to the bathroom ocassionally and get updates on my compatriots progress, I was bound to lose a few hands. As we ground down the players, my stack kept growing a little at a time, until I was up to $70,000 at one point. At this level, far and away the chip leader at my table, I was able to make a few moves without worrying too much about losing my advantage. Like a book, when I applied pressure, usually as a semi-bluff with draws but sometimes ahead, the competition would fold, not wanting to get mixed up with the tourney big stack. Also working heavily in my favor was the fact that we had gotten down to about 28 players, only 8 shy of the money. Play was tightening up and I was taking advantage when I could. I was also mindful that short stacks would be shoving 10 BB's with premium hands and I shouldn't be goaded into calling simply because I could afford it. I know that's what the rest of the crew wanted, for me to start taking out players, but my job was to accumulate chips, not eliminate players. *By the way, I read that quote in Cardplayer Magazine and it focused my way of thinking when playing the big stack*. As an example of my discipline, I found myself in the BB when 3 people limped into the pot. The SB shoved for 10x the BB (about $10,000) and I looked down at TT. I considered the situation. If I call here, some other small stacks might be tempted to call and I'm probably a big dog in a multi-way situation. But if I raise, I might be committing much more than the 10,000 if one of the limpers shoves with something like AQ. Besides, I'm a coin flip AT BEST against the raiser and I'm dominated heavily at worst. Just because I had 70,000 in my stack doesn't mean I need to defend here. I mucked and the guy took the pot down with AKo (he showed, I didn't). Why flip when I don't have to? That's the luxury of the big stack.

Alas, though, all good things come to an end. A guy at the end of the table, with about $11,000 in his stack, calls my PF raise to $3,000 from the BB. I have KdQd. The flop comes AdJd4c. He checks to me and I put him all in. He calls in a heartbeat with 44 for the flopped set but I still love my hand. Nothing comes to help me, though, and I double him up. I'm still healthy at over 50,000 in chips, about 3rd stack in the tourney, so no big deal.

A few hands later, I raise in MP with AKo to $3,500 and get a call from the same guy! Matty, who had already busted out of the tourney, had told me already that this particular guy was a little loose, so I assumed I was ahead. Maybe way ahead. The flop came 2h-3h-3d. I check and he bets out $4,000. I read this as a steal since I couldn't imagine a way in which that flop, given his PF raise, could have helped him. I read him for an Ace with a weak-ish kicker, maybe AJ, so called. The turn put the 5h on board. This time I checked and he checked behind. The river was the Js. Since I put him on AJ or something similar, I checked, intending to fold if he bet. He did, indeed, lead out the betting with $7,000, but the bet was so small that I called because I thought he might be trying to take it down with Ace-Rag. Instead, he showed Ah-7h for the nut flush and I mucked. Arguably, this was my only poorly played hand of the tournament, but even this one didn't hurt me terribly. It did, however, take me out of the comfortable chip lead I had enjoyed for so long. It looked like it was time to play some real poker again.

At this point, the number of players had dwindled down to 22. There was nearly no chance of me NOT making the money since I had a good lead on the chip average at about $30,000 in chips. But play was tightening up near the bubble and Matty's brother John was down to less than 5,000 in chips. Matty's friend Eric has busted so they were both railing us. The situation with Matty's brother was that I had purchased 10 percent of Matty's second shootout attempt with the idea that he would sell the seat for $1,000 if he won it and give me $100. But when he couldn't sell the seat immediately, he gave it to his brother who was not an experienced tourney player! I tried to sell my share in him back to Matty but no dice. He told me to have faith in his brother and I figured, "What the hell, it's only $30". But here he was, super short stacked with 2 places to go to the bubble. In a few short minutes, someone else busted out and we were down to the bubble position. Play tightened up considerably at this point and I decided to do something to protect my $30 investment. I would offer a bubble prize! I floated the idea to my table that in order to speed up play, which had been going on for 7 hours at this point, we would eliminate the bubble by giving him his money back. If we took $30 of the top ten places, none of them would feel it and we would be able to create a $300 21st place prize. I glanced at John while I made this suggestion and saw he was at $1,400 in chips! With blinds at 600/1200!!! We were in desperation mode and I worked feverishly to get everyone to agree. Finally, I called the floor and asked them to stop the clock while we worked this out. To their credit, they did and we all agreed on the $300, though we finally ended up taking cash out of our pockets ($15 each) to do it. No sooner had play been started up again, than John busted out, taking the $300 and earning me back my $30! Oh sweet lord, I dragged him over the finish line.

Now that the bubble burst, play started in earnest. In a very short time, players started busting out left and right. All of us kept one eye on the table and another on the screen flashing the prizes. As each new player busted and the prize money we were assured went up, everyone seemed to feel better about their situation, no matter who they were. I was chipping up nicely again at this point, even busting a few smaller stacks with hands like top/top on the flop against TT. I had AK on a board of Kxx and he shoved into me. I called and he walked. Just like that. In short order, I was once again the big stack of the table at 75,000 in chips, although jsut 3rd in the tourney as another table had two big stacks on it. When we were down to 15 players, I heard an audible noise from one of the other tables. It turns out the two big stacks at that table had gotten into a big pot and the one big stack drained the other one down to the felt with a flopped set vs. a flopped two pair. It put me in 2nd place in the tourney but gave the other guy almost twice the number of chips I had!

3 bustout later, there were 12 players left, 6 on each table. I called Matty over and asked him to do some calculations. Given the number of prizes already out, how much is left and how much would it be for an even split. He informed me that it would be about $4,000 to each of the remaining players if we chopped evenly. I was excited about the prospect, given that that would guarantee all of us better than 4th place money! I floated the idea and my table seemed enthusiastic except for one guy wearing a red Ferarri branded jumpsuit. He argued that it wasn't enough to play for and he would rather have a bigger first place prize than chop evenly. The chip leader also complained, arguing he would want more money given his place. I then floated the idea of $3,000 each, with the remaining $10,000 to go to first place or possibly $6,000 for first and $4,000 for second. Again, Red Ferarri guy said no. He offered $2,500 and I came back with $2,750. "C'mon," I said, "meet us in the middle". He finally agreed to that amount and we also agreed to pay the big stack an extra $1,000 on account of his being easily able to derail the whole agreeement. Once we hammered out those details, the floor went to put in the paperwork and we all clapped in congratulations on our having locked in some good money! There was $13,000 left over in the prize pool after our machination and we all agreed to 3 new prizes of $10,000 additional for first, $2,000 additional for second and $1,000 additional for third.

After the chop, Matty comes up to me and whispers that I should tighten up a bit because things would start loosening up because of the guarantee. I nod in agreement and he starts to walk away. A tiny stack at the table (maybe $7,500) pushes all in and it gets to me and I look down at AQo. I call and Matty flips around with a look on his face like, "didn't I just tell you to tighten up?!?". He's relieved to see I'm up against A7 and I flop a Queen to lock it up.

We were one bust away now from the final table, which happened in a most fantastical way. I was in the BB with 8h-5h. Blinds were $1,000/$2,000 with a $200 ante. UTG limped. UTG+1 limped. The button (Red Ferarri) limped. The SB completed and I checked. It was a family pot!!!! Wow. The first one I'd seen in the last two days. The flop was an unbelievable 8c-5c-3s. I flopped top two! The SB, a very short stack at $8,000 more, shoved on the flop. It came to me and I decided that since I was only losing to a set, I'd isolate the short stack. I moved all-in for $55,000. It folded to Red Ferarri, who tanked! What the hell was he thinking about? A raggedy flop and two all in's behind you, including a guy who has you covered?!?! Are you kidding me? He thinks for a good 60 seconds and you could just see the resolve on his face weakining. Finally, he says the phrase no poker player wants to hear, "What the hell, I call". Ferarri flips over 3c-7c for bottom pair and a flush draw. SB shows 69o for a gutshot and I am leading with top two. The turn is a 7, giving the SB his straight, but thanks to the donkey call from Ferarri, the side pot stands to be much bigger than the main pot! The river is a brick and I go over 90,000 in chips and bust Ferarri! And *he* didn't want $3,000 a piece. Pity.

I coasted into the final table with the 3rd biggest chip stack and a bounce of excitement. I did it! I final tabled my first live big buyin (read: bigger than the Showboat's Saturday night tourney) MTT!!! When the seats were re-drawn, I naturally got sat to the direct right of the big stack. What else?

Play went fairly quickly in the first dozen or so hands. I managed to bust another small stack with another AQ. He flipped over KT and said, in a heavy European accent, "Don't worry, I'm good here". He had hardly uttered the last syllable when two Queens flopped and he changed his tune. "Um, maybe not". The table laughed at the jest but a 9 came on the turn just to give me a sweat. Fortunately, the river bricked out and we were good. Red Ferarri, who just made it into the final table with maybe 3 BB's, busted out soon afterwards, as did another short stack. We were now down to 7 deep stacked players, each with at least 20 BB's and it was looking like it could be a long contest for the $10,000 first prize overlay. I was in the one seat and the 10 seat, whom Matty had identified to me as a bit of a luckbox, kept min-raising my blinds! I folded with holdings like 83 and 94 but I finally got sick of it. I vowed to re-raise him next time and I did, re-raising him to 20,000 total with Js9s. He folded. The next hand, I had AKo and I thought it would be the perfect setup. He was on the button and min-raised again and I popped it to 20,000 again, saying audibly, "Stop stealing my blinds!". I was hoping it would goad him into calling or raising, but he folded again. Still, I was happy to have the pots. I knew I would need to do battle with Mr. Big Stack on my right. I got a chance a while later when I completed the SB with Qh9s after a few people limped. Big Stack checked and the flop came down Qc-9c-7s. Top two. I bet out $5,000 and Big Stack calls. Everyone else folds. The turn is a brick and I check. He bets out $10,000 and I pop to $30,000 (nearly half my stack). It was a strong move and he folded.

Another player busted about an hour later and we were down to 6 players. Someone else started talking about a chop and I was happy to agree to it. The idea would be to give everyone at the table $2,000 of the final prize pool, $500 extra to the big stack and $500 to a guy who was willing to sign for the biggest prize. This was an important consideration because at Mohegan Sun, they will give you a W2 tax form for any payout over $5,000. The poker room had already done the paperwork for the $2,750 and wasn't going to do another chop so anything we did had to be on the side. Which meant that somebody would have to be paid out the $10,000 first prize and therefore sign a tax form. A guy at the table wanted to do it for $500 extra and we were all happy to oblige. We followed him to the cage, got our payouts and were very congratulatory to each other. It had been a day of some success, for everyone.

I'm very happy to have made such a good score, my biggest tournament win ever. Could I have taken the top prize? Definitely. I was 3rd stack at the table, with good reads on the players and a great mental focus. But I locked in 2nd place prize money and was perfectly content not to let luck be a factor. Perfect Poker.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Satellite goodness

Thanks to Brian at The Poker Atlas, I was hooked up to go to Mohegan Sun this weekend to do some reporting/observing on their Winter Chill tournament series going on this weekend into next. There was a $300 Shootout event being held on Saturday and Sunday that I wanted to play in, but due to my recent job loss, didn't feel I could do it because of the expense. Luckily, I got a call a few days before from Matty Ebs who told me he'd be there that same weekend for the same expense. He offered to buy half my action in the tourney and I accepted so all was well with the world.

The tournament structure was a dream. The tourney started out on Saturday with three different chances to get into the main tournament, at $300 a pop. There were 9AM, 1PM and 5PM sessions, each set up in a single table sit'n'go turbo format. The top 3 finishers at each single table would get an entry into the main tournament to be held on Sunday at 9AM. But the Sunday tournament was a long format deep stack event, with 10,000 in chips and 40 minute levels! So once you got past the turbo portion of the tourney, you were in a deep stack field with 40 minute levels in a comfortable format allowing for LOTS of play. In addition, 70% of the field was already gone! For example, 203 players, in total, bought chances to win a seat in the main tournament. So over the 3 sessions, there were a total of 21 single table tourneys that were run. 63 people made it into the final tournament. Since 10 percent of the field gets paid, there were 20 spots paid out of 63! Awesome. The best part is that the turbo portion of the tourney is run in nearly the same format as my Wall Street Poker tourneys, so I was extremely comfortable with how I needed to play. And NO ONE has more live experience with that format than me. In that last two years, I've played in over 200 of them!

I made it into the finals on the strength of patience and timed aggression. I was never the short stack and my experience made all the difference. Some of the players were clearly making the risky moves necessary to win a tournament whereas I knew that it was all about survival. You didn't have to win, you only needed to place in the top 3. So patience is more important than outright accumulation of chips, though some accumulation is necessary to win. I probably went to showdown with no more than 2 or 3 hands for the two hours it took for the table to be over and I left it to the others to knock each other out.

Matty also coasted into his seat at the 1PM session and found it so easy that he bought another try at the 5PM session and won a seat there too. The idea was to sell the seat for profit (seats were legally transferable) but he ended up giving the seat to his brother Jon instead. Matty's friend Eric also tried for a seat at 5PM and made it as well, making our little group 4 for 4. A good omen.

I found the experience of the turbo format so mentally and physically draining that I didn't play another hand of poker that entire day, though the soft and juicy cash games were beckoning. I put all my remaning energy into thinking about how to play the Sunday finals and went to bed at a reasonable hour. The 9AM start time would necessitate me getting up by 7AM in order to have time for a full breakfast. I surmised, correctly, that a full meal would be needed as there was no mention of a lunch/dinner break in the posted schedule and only a 10 minute break every two rounds (80 minutes).

Next post will be a detailed explanation of how I kicked ass.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mohegan Sun - First Day

Mohegan Sun – Day one

Chris and I got up at Bally’s in AC at about 10AM. After showering and getting dressed, we had a decision to make. Do we leave now, both of us up for the trip, or do we play a few more hours. I was gong to have to leave at 3:30pm latest, because I needed to make a 7PM bus to Mohegan Sun to check into my hotel room that night. The 7PM bus was my absolutely LAST option from Manhattan, so if I missed it I was out of luck. We flipped a coin to decide if we were going to stay or go and it came up heads. Stay. So we went to brunch at Bally’s bistro restaurant (really yummy) and hit the tables at the Taj (best action available). Chris went to the 2-5 NLHE table and I stuck with 5-10 Stud (just killing time). After two hours, Chris racked up a huge $550 profit after getting paid off on quad 5’s by two players who pushed all in ahead of her when she quadded up on the turn! I dropped $40 at the Stud table on my last hand, naturally, but it was a fun time with the old folks. And make no mistake, only elderly people play 5-10 Stud. And me. But they’re usually fun to talk to. Lots of stories. Except for one dealer who sat down and kept saying stuff like, “Remember XXXX? He has Cancer. Remember XXXX? He died last month”. It was like playing with the angel of death. Chris and I made it onto the 3:30 bus home and we hit HUGE traffic going into the Holland tunnel. I made it into the Port Authority at 6:30p, with just enough time to get a sandwhich, buy a ticket to Mohegan Sun and get onto the bus. The bus, which was 30 minutes late, was surprisingly fast to the casino. 2hrs and 30 minutes flat, and that includes a stop at 85th street to pick up more passengers. The cost of the bus ride from the Port Authority is $25 ($10 cheaper than Atlantic City) and they give you a $15 food/retail coupon when you get there PLUS $25 of coupons good for free bets on table games in a specific pit in one section of the casino.

I checked into my room, after walking aimlessly to find it. The casino is GARGANTUAN. Definitely the biggest casino I’ve been in that I can remember. The MGM Grand in Vegas is big too, but it’s laid out a little better. This casino is like an endless stream of different room and shops. After a while, I started to get the hang of it, but that first walk to the hotel lobby was tough. Anyhow, I checked in, dropped my luggage, and went to find Pit 8, which was where I had to use my coupons. There was a time limit, as the coupons were only good for that day and it was already 10:30p. I placed some free bets at the Pai-Gow table (the poker players table game!) and won every one. A good sign. I cashed out my free money immediately and went to find the poker room.

On the absolutely other end of the casino, nearly a 10 minute walk from where I was in Pit 8 (!) is the poker room. 40 tables in a wide open area with an incredible amount of noise seeping in from the casino floor. The room is beautiful, as is the rest of the casino, but the chaos can be overwhelming. The tables have the swipe system that’s supposed to let the brush desk know when a player has sat down or is leaving. This is supposed to make questions like, “Is there a seat available” superfluous but there were still people walking around with Walkie-Talkies letting the desk know when there were empty seats. Clearly the system isn’t working. I was able to get in on a new 1-2 NLHE table starting up and I sat in seat 7 with $200. I like new tables because no one has a big stack and the table roster tends to stay stable for a while, allowing me to get good reads that will stick. One read was spot on as an older player started making weird raises/bluffs, and showing them, which prompted me to move to his left when a player got up to leave. I sat tight for the session, making tight fold after tight fold. Two examples of good folds are:

JJ in MP. It folds to me and I raise to $12. It folds to the BB (the crazy older guy), who re-raises to $50. We hadn’t seen a raise/re-raise yet, so I put him on a monster. Even if he didn’t, there aren’t a lot of flops I’d be particularly happy with. If the flop comes with a Q, K or Ace, and he bets big, I have to fold. If the flop comes raggy and he bets big, I have to fold unless I get a stone read on him. Basically, with my little $200 stack, I have to shove or fold here. I elect to fold considering we’re not fighting a big pot and I table JJ. He tables QQ and gives me high compliments on my good fold. In fact, he goes on for a full minute about how great it was. I thought it wasn’t *that* great, but I’m happy to get the ego boost.
AQo in the BB. I see a raise to $16 (more than is normal at this table) and a call. When it gets to me I start considering that I’m out of position with what could easily be a dominated hand. So I muck. The flop is Q72 with two spades. The action gets heated between the two players before the winner is shown KdQd. Okay, I would have won, but I still think it’s the right fold. As a guy on my right said to me, “That hand in that position loses more than it wins”. Good point.

I was sitting on a very small $35 profit when the table broke up because some players busted and never returned. I was sat at a different table where the action was much heavier that the last table. After getting re-raised by the same guy twice on hands I really wanted to see flops with, I finally decided to take a stand in late position with 6d8d. Yes, this isn’t the best hand in the world, or even close to it, but I was in position on the aggressor and there was another caller. The aggressor had raised PF to $12 and I called along with the one other. Flop was KhJd4d. Okay, a flush draw. The Agressor bets $17 and I call, with the other guy folding. The turn was the 8c. This gave me a pair to go along with my flush draw. The Agressor bet $17 again! This was a REALLY weak bet on a turn card that isn’t threatening. So I popped him to $50. He called. I was hoping to take down the pot on the semi-bluff, but he clearly has *something*, though I don’t think it’s that strong. The river is the perfect Ad. He checks and I bet $40, which he calls pretty quickly. He tables KJo (!) and I show him the flush. He steams and I don’t give him the chance to crack me, getting up a few hands later. In my defense, I was going to play in the tourney the next day and it *was* 2AM. In addition, I had sold ½ of my interest in the tourney to Matty Ebs, which lowered my buyin cost to $150 and I happened to be up…$154 for the session. Perfect time to get up, if you ask me.

One more note about the Mohegan sun casino. It’s a beautiful complex, with lots to do for everyone in the family, but I had the displeasure of having one of the worst poker dealers EVER at my table. This guy, whom we’ll call Mike, sits down and starts dealing. His skills were fine and he was fast, but he wasn’t paying attention. When the guy to my right called a $14 bet by putting in a redbird and 4 whites, I told the Mike the pot was short. Mike said, “No he put in the right amount”. I argued and Mike argued back until we forced him to count the pot back and we found it was indeed $5 short. There was another situation where a player went all in and the guy on my right asked for a count. Mike didn’t respond. He asked again. Mike again didn’t respond. Then he actually YELLED at Mike to count it out and Mike snapped out of his daydream and said, “Oh, right”. But that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was Mike’s really awful trolling for tips. I hit a set of 8’s on a pot that didn’t go to showdown, but had about $85 or so in it and Mike pushed the pot to me saying, “Big pot. Nice hand sir”. This is an egregiously poor choice of words. Not only does it imply that it’s a nice pot so I should tip him, it also disrespects the other players who LOST THE POT!!! Under no circumstances should any dealer EVER comment on the size of the pot or congratulate a player for winning a pot. It’s not right in any situation. Plus, and this is even worse, I caught him lying to three players, myself included in order to get more tips. After I pulled in another pot, I took two loose white chips and flipped them to Mike. He pulled them in and the hand went on. As I was thinking about the next hand, I momentarily forgot whether I had toked Mike. This happens a lot to me, where my extreme short term memory just disappears. In this case, I will always ask the dealer if I had toked them. In every casino I’ve ever been in, with every single dealer, the answer has always been either, “Yes, thank you” OR “I don’t remember”. Mike, on the other hand, shook his head and said, “No”. I didn’t remember if I had so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and flipped him two more, thought I clearly remembered later having already toked him. Then, three other players asked if THEY had toked him for previous hands and he said no to ALL of the them! Clearly lying. And then the worst offense of all, he pointed to a player who hadn’t asked about it and said, “And this guy didn’t tip me either!”. Wow, I was stunned. The player, out of embarrassment maybe, flipped a white to Mike but I vowed never to tip him again. This sort of unprofessionalism should not go unpunished.

Mike ALMOST made it worth it though by giving us the line of the night. One of the players had a little Leprechaun statue they were using as a card cover and Mike asked if they had ever been to Ireland. The player, in fact, hadn’t been and Mike started going on about how his trip wasn’t that great. He mentioned how it’s like the U.S., but very different. Me and some of the other players chuckled at the comment. Of course, it’s different than the U.S., it’s ANOTHER COUNTRY. The guy on my right cracked wise, “Yeah, and they have a different accent and everything”. Mike mentioned how he wouldn’t want to live in Ireland, of all the countries he’s been to. I wanted to find out a little more about Mike and his travels so I asked, “So which of the foreign countries you’ve been to would you LIKE to live in?”. He said, with a straight face, “If money was no object? I’d like to live in Miami.”

We laughed so hard, there were tears rolling down our cheeks. It all made sense now.

Cracking out in AC midweek

One of my friends from my poker circle, Chris, had gotten a free mid-week room at Bally’s and invited me to go. Having nothing else to do, I accepted her gracious offer. And a good thing too, because I’m running well so far on this trip.

I went down on the noon bus and arrived at Bally’s at 2:30p. After checking my bags with the Bell Captain, because Chris wasn’t able to check into our room until she came down later that night, I walked over to the Pier Shops on the boardwalk. That’s the large mall-like pier on the Ocean in front of Caesars. I needed underwear because I had forgotten to pack it, like an idiot. Luckily, there were plenty of men’s shops in the mall and I picked up 6 new pair just like that. Traveling is fun, isn’t it? Armed with my bag o’ briefs, I hunted for a poker room. Caesars was the best option as it was closest and probably had the best action going on the Boardwalk (other than the Taj).

I sat down to a 1-2 NLHE table with 200 and immediately sensed something wrong. I was the short stack at the table, with stacks ranging from my 200 to 1500. The three big stacks, 1500, 900 and 700 were all to my left (never a good thing). I played tight against these big stacks and folded every hand for 10 minutes when two guys in the center of the table, in position on the big stacks (HELLO), got up. I immediately moved seats and felt more comfortable about where I was sitting. And then the fireworks started.

The guy to my immediate right, whom we will call Lucky Bastard (LB), was clearly a novice even though he was sitting on a 700 stack at 1-2. How do I know this? Because a hand occurred where he was in the BB and it folded to the SB. When the inevitable question of chopping the blinds came up, LB was genuinely confused as to what they meant. It took a full 30 seconds of explanation to convince him that he wasn’t being scammed somehow. If he *did* know what they meant and he was pulling an act, he should be given a Golden Globe of B.S. A Crazian (Crazy Asian) in seat 3, sitting on a big 1500 stack, paid me off nicely when I turned a nut flush and I was sitting on $150 profit and hoping to build it into a multi-rack night but LB was winning everything he set his eyes on. After paying me off on my nut flush, the Crazian dude raised PF to $18 and got calls from a young kid in seat 4 and LB in seat 5 (I was in seat 6). The flop was Js8s7h. Crazian bets out $50 and the young kid moves all in for $150. LB calls and Crazian starts going into the tank. 30 seconds later, he moves all in over the top for $1500! LB now starts sweating and finally shoves his chips, clumsily, and says, “I guess I’m all in too”. The pot is over $1500 and I’m dying to see what’s happening. Young Kid flips over AJ for top/top. Crazian has JJ for flopped top set! LB sheepishly shows As7s for nut flush draw and a dead pair. He’s drawing to 7 clean spade outs and, naturally, hits it on the river to get up to over $1700 in his stack. He stacks another guy at the table on the very next hand when he calls a $20 PF raise with 6d8d and flops the nut straight! A guy with 99, who flopped another top set, gets stacked to the tune of $300. So sick. So in the midst of this madness, while he’s still slowly stacking his chips, scrounging on the floor for the 3rd rack to collect his winnings in, I look down at AA in the SB. Here comes the pain! It limps to seat 1, a guy who sat down 10 minutes ago with $200 and seat 1 raises to $15. LB calls by casually flipping three red birds forward and now I have a dilemma. I’m about to raise, no question, but I really want to just isolate one of these players. How much to raise to? I decide on $50, which is really announcing a big hand and the first raiser calls, which pretty much tells me he’s got a big pocket pair (or maybe AK suited). LB calls like it’s an annoyance that he has to pause from his chip stacking. The flop is a craptacular TT9. Against two players, I don’t know where I am here, but I’m first to act and I have to find out. I bet out $100 and seat 1 goes over the top all in for $173. That confirms to me he has an overpair and I’m crushing him. If I call him for the extra $73 and he has the Ten, then so be it. But my situation gets much worse when LB says, “Well, I’m all in too”, for $2000+! I muck my Aces face up and seat 1 tables KK. LB has….AcTc. For $50 PF. Against two raisers. Wow. The King never materializes and LB drags another big pot. After going from $700 to nearly $2400 in 15 minutes, LB does the smartest thing he can do and racks up and leaves. Two shorter stacks, also playing donkalicious, bust out shortly afterwards and all the dead money is gone from the table. So I am now exactly even from where I started an hour ago, I get up and leave too. Table selection is an important part of playing for money, and I’m proud of myself for having the discipline to say that the table has now become too needlessly difficult to play at.

I take the jitney (that’s the shuttle bus that runs through the streets of Atlantic city for $2.25 a ride) over to the Taj to play in the 5-10 Omaha Hi/Lo game. The game runs with a full kill on scoop pots over $75, the action is loose and the play is generally terrible. The serious high limit Omaha players in Atlantic City play at the Borgata, but the older locals who have terrible hand selection criteria, play at the Taj at the lower limits. It’s a wonderful game to just relax and take my mind off of things. Of course, it’s also exactly the same game that a former floor person I met in Tunica said had the, and I quote, “absolutely most miserable players in all of Atlantic City”.

After playing for a few hours, and grinding out a pleasant $35 profit (much more in free drinks), I got the call from Chris that she was arriving at Bally’s on the bus. I took a cab over and we met up in the room before going out again to play at Caesars. I played for another two hours or so at Caesars, grinding out yet another $130 in profit (no big hands to describe) before calling it a night.

After waking up at 10:00am, we hit Caesars buffet for breakfast (eh) and got back onto the tables. Unfortunately, the action in the room was still anemic because it was too early, so we headed back to the Taj to play in the 12:15PM tourney (50+15). While sitting down at my assigned table, I saw a familiar face at the next table and waved over to my friend Magda, with whom I work as a dealer at a private loft party held twice a year in SOHO. The party, incidentally, is SICK. Very Bacchanalian, but that’s another story I won’t divulge. I’ve never actually played poker with her before, just dealing, so I didn’t know how she’d play. But after the tables broke down into the final two, I got a good idea. I busted out in 13th, out of 55, never really getting anything going. Chris ended up cashing in 4th place and Magda had the chip lead throughout the ENTIRE tourney, from the first hand. Evidently, she had doubled up on the first hand and never relinquished the lead. By the time she got heads up against the old grizzled guy who was chip leader at my table, she was a 2-1 chip leader, but the guy crushed her on two successive hands. The first, she had flopped two pair and he pushed with a flush draw and hit runner runner straight. The next hand, she flopped another two pair and pushed against his flopped club flush. They had been battling for a good 30 minutes and just a few hands before she’d offered a chop, with her giving an extra hundred to him, but he declined. {Sigh}.

After the tourney, I played some more Omaha and was up a quick $135, mostly on the strength of one awesome hand. I had 2d-4h-8c-10c. Before you get upset with me, I was in the cutoff and I was the kill button, having scooped the previous pot with AA2x. So I had this craptacular hand blind and about 5 people called. I checked (duh) and the flop was a very pretty 6s7c9c. So not only did I flop the nut straight, I have a straight flush draw to go with it. The flush doesn’t mean much, being Ten high, but having the clubs in my hand means it’s less likely that anyone else will make THEIR flush. It checked to me and I bet it out. EVERYONE called. This made me a bit nervous as I can easily get counterfeited here. The turn was Ad. This put a low on board, which halves my nut high, but I have a decent low to go with my high. So when it checked to me, I bet it out again and got two callers. I prayed for the perfect river card, and it came, the 3h. NUT/NUT baby! It checked to me, and I bet it out. The first player called and I got so excited that before the second player called, I started to say “Nut….”, and then I caught myself. She said, “I hope you only have nut high, I call”. That’s when I let her in on the bad news. She had 25 for the low and the other player had a set of 9’s but couldn’t fill up. Yay!

Chris was doing poorly at the Taj after cashing in the tourney, so we headed out to dinner on the Pier and had a blast. We ate at Phillips Seafood, which is normally pretty high priced but I’ll be eating there again after discovering the tasty prix fixe meal deal. $29.99 gets you a salad or a bowl of any of four soup offerings, a steak/shrimp combo and a slice of really good cheesecake. The steak was delicious and the soup was an outstanding Cream of Crab chowder. Great stuff.

I was sated, so I went back to my room to watch some TV and digest. Chris went off to play on her own. After dinner, up 600 on the trip so far, I went down to the Bally’s poker room just to see the action going on. It was pretty quiet but I sat down at a 1-2 table anyway. It was a DREAM table. 5 absolutely clueless players, all of whom were making some godawful plays. The only three players who knew how to play poker were sitting on my right and we were all giving each other glances as if to say, “how do we not have all the chips at the table yet?!?”. Well, luck was a huge factor. Gutshot straight draws that hit were common. Also, I couldn’t get a starting hand to save my life. 3 straight hours of Paint-Little will frustrate anyone. I was proud of myself to not start playing rags, but it’s awful to finally get a starting hand of JJ, and get two raises in front of you and have to give it up pre-flop. After literally 4 hours of trying to crack the table, I finally gave up at 4AM after dropping $150. It was so hard to get up from that juicy ripeness, but I had to get up in the morning for a long travel day to Mohegan Sun.