Monday, September 14, 2009

Of men, ladies, pink chips and bubbles (Part One of Two)

Oh man, what an interesting weekend I had at the Borgata. As some of you may know, I'm having revision septoplasty surgery on Sept. 23rd, which will put me out of commission for about a week. And my October weekends are more or less booked up with weekend getaway trips with Ali, so I won't be playing any poker for a while. Which is why, during a dinner with Paulie, Christine, Ali, Myself, Liezl, Viet and the lovely new Luna, I was excited to hear that Ali was actually cool with me taking the weekend off to play in Atlantic City. After a wonderfully zany time getting Wendy to take the number 9 bus down to the Financial District, Christine, Wendy and I took off from the city and got down to the Borgata in a sharp 2hrs and 15 minutes.

The excitement was building inside me as we checked into the room. I couldn't drop off my stuff fast enough and we all headed down together. What was I excited about? It was only poker after all, and I had played it a thousand times before. But this trip was special for one reason. Two words: PINK CHIP!

A bit of background first. When I was a young pup, just learning the game of poker, in a time before all of this no-limit hold'em nonsense took hold, the game of choice was 7-card stud. And the first full fledged poker room I ever played 7 card-stud in was The Tropicana in Atlantic City. For years, that was the only room I went to when I found myself in AC. Those were the bad old days when I would also play table games like Carribean Stud and Let It Ride. What was I ever thinking? Not too much later, I was introduced to Hold'Em and played in the little 2-4 and 3-6 limit games, also in the Trop. Whenever I played in the room, there was always one table in particular that seems to be having the most fun, making the most noise and had the prettiest chips in the casino. It was the Pink Game, so called because the game used $2.50 chip, colored pink by New Jersey law. The game was $7.50/$15.00 limit Hold'em and only the pink chips were in play. The dealer would call out the bets and raises in numbers of chips rather than denominations. For example, a call and a raise would be "Three chips...Six chips...", rather than "$7.50...$15.00...". It was all quite exciting to watch and made even more magical by the fact that the table was the focal point of the room, placed front and center at the entrance, and spoken about in nearly mythical tones by the players in other games. It was my dream to work my game up to the point where I could sit at that game.

Finally, after months of building conifdence, I sat down at the game with a rack of pink chips, $250 all told, and got slaughtered. It wasn't even close. All of the limit games I had played to this point were fun affairs with very few raises and no re-raises at all. When people bet, you knew what they had and there was no such thing as bluffing (at least it never worked). But the Pink Chip game (capitalized for proper respect), was totally different. It was the first time I saw people bluff successfully, three-bet pre-flop, make great reads with middle pair, bet for value, etc... In other words, real poker. And real money could be won or lost. More than once I saw opponents with stacks of chips in four tiers at the table. Sometimes twelve or thirteen hundred dollars in front of them. The game attracted wild, loose players and tight players too. It was chatty and congenial but tough, and I met some really great players along the way. Dealers too. One of the dealers even asked me out once (Paulie can vouch, he was there)! After a few months, I finally got used to the game and even got good at it, and when I started going down with the Wall Street crew to Atlantic City, almost 5 years ago now (!), the Tropicana was one of our regular stops. This was pre-Borgata times. While they would all go play no-limit, I would crack out at the Pink Chip game and have a blast. The money involved at the Pink Chip game would set me up to be very comfortable at 1-2 NL Hold'em, which made a great transition for me.

Sadly, the Pink Chip game at the Trop died a few years ago. It wasn't a sudden demise, but it was quite noticeable. If I had to guess, I'd say the opening of The Borgata poker room was what ultimately did the deed. Once all the No-Limit players moved to the much nicer Borgata, the Taj started to up their ante with the limit players. Both of those rooms sucked out all of the Trop players, and I blame the room management who did absolutely nothing to keep those players. The final nail hit when the Trop closed up a portion of their poker room last year and replaced the tables with slots. The poker room still exists, but it's much smaller than it was with almost no action these days. so sad...

Ok, that's the background. The foreground is that the Pink Chip game has been revived, at the Borgata! Sort of. Officially, there are lists for Pink Chip Omaha/8, Hold'em and Stud/8. And while I heard the list for Hold'em and Stud/8 being called this weekend, those games never got off. Omaha/8, though, was a different story, with 3 different tables of Pink Chip O/8 running at the same time. I got into the game post-hast upon my arrival and did pretty well for an hour or so, stacking about $100 in profit when I ran into the cooler that sent me on tilt. My hand was QQ23 double suited and I called a raise, going heads up with one player who had just sat down. The guy had the look of action player to him and raising his first hand pre-flop was a good indicator. The flop was excellent for me, KQ5 rainbow, but both of my suits on the board. I led out and he raised! Pocket Kings? Possibly. I slowed down and called. Turn was a King. Now it's harder to put him on KK, so I led out again, he raised again! I called again. The river was meaningless and I check-called the river and he showed down AK45, single suited for Kings full of 5's. Ouch on the two outer! It's plays like this guy made that have me scratching my head about Omaha. Raising PF with that hand? And then raising top and bottom pair? Yeesh. Of course, this sent me tilting and tilting even a little in Omaha is bad. I left the table after going from +100 to -100 in an hour. I had had enough.

I found a 1-2 NL table and managed to get hit by the deck in the first 5 minutes. My second hand at the table was 85 (suited gap connectors, what?) and the flop was 885. Helllllloooooo boat! Unfortunately, no one had hit any of that. I checked the flop with 3 players and the turn was a Queen. I bet it and everyone folded. Boo. But my very next hand was A9o. I limped and called a PF bet to $10, alonf with 4 others. Flop was 999. DQB! (Dems Quads Bitches!) I flopped the nut hand and checked, naturally. Everyone checked along. Turn was a 4 of spades, putting a spade draw on board. I was first to act and checked again. Everyone else checked. I was waiting for a high card that would give somebody a big boat. The river was what I wanted: K. Not only a high card, but a flush as well! I sprang my trap, trying to represent the flush. I bet out $25 (half-pot) and got popped to $50 by another player. I went into Hollywood mode and tried to figure out what he'd call. I figure he beat my "flush" with his King but he'd get suspicious if I went all in. So I put $100 on top and he looked deflated. "Quads? Really?" Finally, he made the call, flashed the King and mucked to my quad 9's! Yay! My Omaha losses were erased in one swift hand (my theme for the weekend). After another hour, I was up just a little for the day ($40) and was getting tired. Wendy and Chris both wanted to play the ladies tournament the next day and Wendy went to bed at about 1:00a, which is a record for her. I followed shortly afterwards, but not before winning $50 playing craps (a record for me!). Chris, played the role of Wendy by staying at the tables until at least 4:00am. It had been a long, but exciting day.

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