Friday, July 30, 2010

I am the law, bitches! I am a lawyer!

5:30 in the morning. Is there a more ungodly time of the day? It was at this hour that the alarm rang and Ali did something I’ve never seen before and will probably never see again. She bolted upright, at 5:30am mind you, and got out of bed instantly. Without any prompting on my part. You see, it was Thursday, July 29th, 2010 and today was the last day of her official academic career. Today, New Jersey held their bar exam and, after taking the Multi-State exam and the NY Bar exam the previous two days, Ali would be finished with taking tests, studying and stressing out. She probably didn’t sleep a wink.

I, on the other hand, was resting peacefully when the alarm woke me abruptly. I struggled to consciousness and waited for my turn in the shower. We were out the door at 6:15a. I had taken the day off to drive Ali to the exam site in Somerset, NJ. We didn’t want to risk the possibility that public transportation would be flaky at that hour. Plus, the site of the test, the Garden State Exhibit Center, was not within walking distance of the Somerset train station. I didn’t know if there were going to be any cabs available going back and forth, so I bit the bullet and rented a car for the occasion. There wasn’t a lot of traffic going there and it took us a little over an hour to get there. I dropped Ali off to go register and went forth on my day trip. I had most of the day to kill before I had to come pick her up at 3:45p, and I had a car. Hmmmmm…. There will be poker. Oh yes, there will be poker.

Atlantic City was too far. It was still nearly two hours back and forth which wouldn’t leave much time for poker playing. So I decided to hit up the new game in town, otherwise known as the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. A mere 55 minutes from Somerset, the casino had just opened up a new poker room 11 days before and I was itching to see it. I made the drive out with little traffic and pulled up to the site.

Upon arriving from the direction I was coming, the first thing you notice as you close in on the casino is the enormous shell of a factory that is next to the main building. Actually, the casino building is dwarfed by the old abandoned hulk that lay next to it. This is Steel Country out in Lehigh Valley, and the Sands Casino is built on the site of the old Bethlehem Steel plant. At once, it is a sad reminder of the greatness that this country once had in manufacturing, and also serves as a notice that the old can be born again anew. I drove into the large parking structure and easily made my way onto the casino main floor.

The casino floor itself is quite large. It’s laid out in a single large rectangle, perhaps 300 feet wide and maybe 1500 feet long. The ceiling is very high, maybe 8 stories or so, and the steel beams of the structure are exposed, reminding you that this once the site of major steel construction. In the front half of the casino, the ceiling has hundreds of artfully placed red and orange cylinders hanging from overhead. The shimmering colors and the staggered heights of the light displays strongly evoke the look of molten steel pouring out of some long forgotten cauldron, forging the destinies of the thousands of families who used to work here. Now they forge quite a different destiny altogether. I’m a big fan of historical sites and I love when casinos, or any other operation, takes over a spot yet builds the history into their building’s character. The Sands Corporation (of The Venetian fame) deserves a lot of credit for keeping the character of the building intact, or at least as much as can be done within the confines of casino construction.
There is no hotel on site as of yet, but a May 2011 expected opening will see 300 rooms. There is also a 40 store shopping mall being built as well. One would expect, with 4700 parking spaces already allotted to the property, that 300 rooms will not be NEARLY enough to accommodate demand for such an impressive property (The Borgata, by comparison, has 2,800 rooms). However, given the location only 90 minutes from Manhattan and the proximity to many area motels, I would think it will be easy to stay close by if necessary. I recently found out that Zip Car has upped their mileage per day to 180 from a previous 100 or so. This make the prospect of renting a Zip Car for a weekend jaunt a real possibility. Sharing the cost of the rental (gas is included!) with 3 other visitors could be very cost effective for everyone involved. At this moment, the only bus service I’m aware of from Manhattan is from Transbridge Lines. Unfortunately, with no hotel room on site, it would very inconvenient to stay at a local motel for a weekend excursion. There are other issues with this as well, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

So I get onto the casino floor and immediately scope out the poker room. The ‘room’ is a gated off area with nothing more than a waist high rail keeping out the spectators. It is located on the left side of the casino about halfway into the room. The location is advantageous for several reasons. First, the bathrooms are close by. Not right on top of the poker area, like at the Borgata, but they’re not on the other side of the casino either. Second, the room is directly in front of the food court area. This makes meals convenient, obviously. The other thing making meals convenient is that there is food service at the tables! This was an unexpected treat to hear and I saw many a player ordering lunch delivered right to them as they were playing. Drinks were free, including beer although they served the beer in cups and not in bottles. The cups were plastic and large, a full 12 ounces. I don’t know if alcohol was free, but I’d suspect so. I arrived at the poker room at 9:20a on that Thursday morning, fully expecting the room to be dead as so many local casinos are on weekday mornings.

Nope.

There were two 1-2 NLHE tables going and there was a list quickly building for a new table. I put my name on it and by the time I walked to the cage to get my chips (also located adjacent to the poker area), the table had been called. One of the major disadvantages of the poker room at the moment is that if you are not RIGHT IN the poker ‘room’, you will not hear your name being called for a new table. The brush desk, really just a small one person affair right at the entrance when you come in the poker area, has a microphone but it’s not hooked up to the casino’s main PA system. So if you wander off to play Pai-Gow (like I almost did), or even are tardy getting chips at the cage, you might miss your turn. Luckily, I was called and my table was underway with 6 players at 9:30a. It took another 15 minutes to fill the table.

My session did not start well at all. I bought in for $200 (max buyin was $300) and tried to get the feel of the table. The table was a mix between locals who normally played Atlantic City and newcomers who didn’t play poker well, or at all. I was in the 9 seat. Two guys sat in the one and two seats with $200 each and I could see immediately that they would be the fresh meat at the table. The Convention Guys (they were here on a business trip) didn’t know how much to bet, when they could bet or what the ‘blinds’ meant. A helpful local was helping them out with the rules while simultaneously trying not to drool. How bad were these guys? Convention Guy 2 (CG2), who looked EXACTLY like Milton from Office Space, after limping into a pot 5 ways, tried to bet $1 when it got to be his turn. A single dollar. He hadn’t made a mistake or anything. He wanted to bet a dollar. But he got the hang of the betting patterns real quickly. I was never directly involved in a pot with him, but CG1 and CG2 donked it up something fierce and ended up doubling their money by sucking out in the most awful ways that only a rank beginner can. How bad were these guys? Well, in one hand I can remember, CG2 raised pre-flop to $10 and got calls from a few people including Helpful Local (HL) and Friendly Black Guy (FBG). The flop was A23, rainbow. CG2 makes a continuation bet of $25. HL calls. FBG goes all in for $150 total. CG2 instantly calls for the $150. HL thinks for a few seconds but also calls for slightly less. I’m expecting to see at least one wheel, one two pair and a set. Right? That’s the only thing that could engender such betting madness. But no. FBG shows AQo. CG2 shows 55!! Really? You couldn’t put someone on an Ace there? HL, who just saw a big bet, an all-in and a call behind him, tables A4o. Holy Fuck! He’s got the worst possible Ace and CG2 has two of his outs! The 4 isn’t an out because it would make CG2 the straight. Right away, on the turn, a 5 pops! The river bricks out and FBG shakes his head in disgust. He played it perfectly and got cracked anyway. HL, meanwhile, shouts out “The Nuts!”. I decline to tell him the 46 is actually the nuts here. CG2, meanwhile, pays off the other guys like it’s all in a day’s work. He seems a little confused.
I, on the other hand, can’t get a damned thing going. HL and FBG are the two best players at the table! And one just called off his stack with top pair/weakest kicker and a gutshot draw! Into two players! How am I not rich?!?! But no. I got a succession of weak hands. The few strong hands I got, mostly AK and AQ paid off exactly zero times. My entire first hour was this:
ME: AK Yay! I raise in early position.
Table: We call.
Flop: Junk-Junk-Junk, no hearts.
Table: We bet. And raise. And bet some more.
ME: I fold. ~Waaaaaaah~

I ran through my first buy in that way and rebought for another two. The line at the cage can be daunting simply because the cage employees are completely clueless and obviously newly trained. Luckily, I was able to take advantage of another nice feature of this poker room, chip runners. When available, a runner will bring you new chips. Unfortunately, due to Pennsylvania state law, the dealers are NOT allowed to sell chips to players from their racks, so don’t ask. One of the dealers told me that the Mount Airy Casino, 45 minutes north of the Sands, got fined $25,000 a few days ago when one of the poker dealers was caught doing just that. Yes, it holds up the game when dealers can’t sell but you’ll just have to wait like everyone else. For the record, when you give the chip runner your money, you will NOT be dealt a hand. You can’t play ‘behind’ at all. Play commences when you have chips in front of you. I’m curious to what that means, though, if the blinds pass you. I assume you will owe the blinds just as if you’d gone to the bathroom. I don’t know about that one.

On my second buyin, I tried playing a little more loosely to see if I could win a big pot, I played suited gapers for limps and got frisky with a few marginal holdings. It didn’t work. I lost $70 by playing A8 with HL. He had raised PF to $10 and I called him. Flop was K83. He bet out $20 on the flop and I called. I had seen HL lose $200 in the last hour calling down with middle pair so I didn’t necessarily put him on a King. The turn was a blank (I think a 4). HL bet out $65. I got to thinking about it. I almost raised him, thinking it might be a raise or fold kind of situation. But my instincts were off and I didn’t believe him. I called. The river was another brick. This time he checked! I really thought he’d call anything I put in so I checked to and he showed KQ for the win. I was down to $130 of my second $200 buyin when I got into a pot with T7. I was on the button and HL raised to $10. HL had been very aggressive, raising with nearly any two cards in any situation. This time, he got a smooth call from Older Local Man (OLM), FBG, me and CG1. Flop was QT7. Bottom two pair is good, but the possibility of QT worried me. HL bet out $20, OLM calls, FBG folds and I pop to $65. To my astonishment, CG1 calls! This is a big bet for this table and is shaping up to be a big pot. HL calls! OLM calls! WTF?!?!?! Turn is a J. Oh crappies. I have only $50 left. HL bets out $30. The damned Jack made straight and flush draws, but there’s so much money in the pot that I feel almost obligated to call. OLM calls, I call and CG1 calls. I have $20 left and it’s going in no matter what the river is. My mind does the dance of Ten, 7, Ten, 7. River….3. HL bets$55, OLM calls all in for less as do I. CG1 calls. HL calls out ‘Jacks Up’ and flips over only a Jack. I guess it must be QJ or JT, which means I was good at the flop. I ask him to flip the over card and the dealer reaches over and throws up a… King. AngleShooterSaysWHAT? He had flopped an OESD which ended up being a pair of Jacks on the river. OLM turns over AA for the worst played pair of Aces I’ve ever seen in my life. And what did CG1 win with (you knew I lost this, right?)? What did he have that he called a bet and a raise with on the flop and then cold called the turn and the river with a flush and straight showing? 89. 89 offsuit mind you. He had flopped an OESD, turned the worst straight card in the deck for him and held on for dear life. Meanwhile, a $500 pot got pushed his way and I couldn’t understand again how I was losing to these idiots.

REBUY!

Part II to come later featuring – a nice comeback, an exhausted Alison, a long drive home, a dinner in Jersey City and last, but not least, my Sands PA casino resort recommendation.

3 comments:

Folding Tables said...

Hey nice Work I like it …. Thaks for sharing
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lj said...

I live 5 min from where she took bar and my gym is around the corner. Next time you're in Somerset lmk :)

Memphis MOJO said...

Sounds like the legislators who made some of these wacky laws didn't know much about poker. Still, probably a good place for you to play.