A funny anecdote about my sleepless Friday night. I was staying in W's room and as far as I understood, it was just me and her. I took the bed farthest from the window when I went to sleep. W was nowhere to be found, given her propensity to play until 5 or 6 in the morning. I went to sleep and was woken, groggily by the sound of what I assumed was W entering the room and getting into her bed. It was about 2:30a, which was about right. I promptly fell back asleep. About 4:30a, the door opened again. It woke me up once more (I wasn't sleeping well at all) and I was more than surprised to see W walking through the door! It was 4:30a. I got out of bed and wiped the sleepiness out of my eyes. Was I imagining things? I looked over at W's bed, and it was hard to make out in the half light, but I could swear I saw the blankets wrapped around someone's body. But if W was just coming in, who the hell was in the bed?!?! Turns out it was just DJ, who didn't have a place to stay that night. W had offered our room without telling me and I got a bit of a shock. Luckily, I've met DJ before (even if he didn't remember me) so I wasn't creeped out too badly. This contrasts with an event that happened a few years ago when W invited a complete stranger she had met at the table three hours earlier to share our room! I was NOT happy and slept with my wallet under my pillow. That hasn't happened since but I thought I might have been seeing a repeat! Fortunately not.
Ok, on with the story. I woke up at around 11:30a, refreshed and ready for a new day. Chris, Viv, Paul and Abbie were on there way down and had just hit the city, according to some texts I had received when I was still sleeping. W and DJ were still out cold. I showered and dressed and the two of them woke up and we all recounted last night's victories and defeats. I went down to the poker room to sweat Chris and Viv, who were already playing. Paulie and Abbie had gone to the Showboat to play cash and then the 2PM tourney. I wasn't playing at the moment because I had plans to see an old friend, Erin, who I had recently re-connected with on Facebook. Erin lived in my dorm at Hofstra and we had really great times together way back when. She grew up in Atlantic City and moved back there after college, so when I knew I was going to be there, I called her to have lunch with me and catch up after 18 years (old, so old). She arrived at 3:00p and we had a great time, eating lunch at Bread and Butter (awesome grilled cheese w/bacon!) and then walking around just shooting the breeze. It was 5:30p when I walked her back to her car and I felt really good about meeting up with her. She's very different than how I remember her, more mature I suppose. Still a lot of fun, but 10 years of marriage and a 5 year old daughter is enough to make anyone grow up.
At this point, half the day had passed by and I still hadn't been dealt a hand of poker! W was of the opinion that the entire group was going to go the Showboat to play the 7pm tourney, but Viv and Chris looked at me like I was nuts when I floated the suggestion. Leave their precious 2-5nl tables?!?! Hells to the no. I went to the Showboat myself to enter the tourney and ended up getting there about an hour early. I played cash in the meantime. The table I got was friskier than the usual Showboat table I normally play at. The players were raising and re-raising PF quite a bit and the action leaned towards heavy. I had bought in for $160 and chipped up to $180 or so when I blew my stack in one shot on a real cooler. I'm dealt A♥J♥ on the button. It limps to seat 8 who raises to $12. He gets a caller and I call as well. I think there might have been another caller too. Flop is AJ5. Top two, huzzah! It checks to seat 8 who bets out $30. I put him on AK and pop it to $65. It folds back to him and he flats. Turn is a brick. He checks to me and I bet $65 (about half my remaining stack). He shoves on me! I call and he shows 55 for the bottom set. Ouch. The river doesn't save me and I call for another buyin. I have to leave before I can get my chips back and I head into the tournament thrown for a bit of a loop. The cards are conspiring against me.
So it was W, Abbie, Paulie and I in the 7pm tourney. 52 entrants yielded a mere 5 payouts but it's still a fun structure. I had even worse cards than I did in the previous tournament and tried to bully again. It didn't work as well as last time. All 4 of us made it down to the last two tables when we started busting. Paulie was first, in about 18th place. I busted in 15th place. W and Abbie, meanwhile, were somehow sitting on the biggest stacks in the tournament! Or at least in the top 5. Rather than go back to the Borgata, I decided to rail them and provide as much info as I could about players I had had experience with. Due to a combination of aggression (Abbie is monstrously aggressive!) and lucky cards (W busted two big stacks with QQ>JJ and JJ>99), both of them made the final table with ease and were the 1 and 2 stacks coming into it. By the time they were down to 6 players, they each took out $20 for a bubble prize, which the short stack promptly collected by busting out with a marginal hand. Then they played for a while and W had a nearly 2-1 chip advantage over the next player. They discussed a chop at the break and agreed to ship W $1500 with everyone else taking $650. Everyone was happy about the outcome, especially the short stack who had about 2 BB's in his stack! I was amazed that they didn't wait until he busted to make a deal considering they were already in the money! If the short stack had busted in 5th place, he would have received $250 and the same deal could have been made with W taking $1500 and the other players taking nearly $900 each! Quite a difference. But I wasn't involved and I would have felt guilty about suggesting anything considering my deal FAIL at the tournament the night before. All of us, Paulie, Abbie, W and I, each had a 10% profit sharing arrangment, meaning we'd split 10% of anyone's profits should they cash (after entry fee and tips). Which meant I got about $60 back of a $100 tournament entry. Not too bad and I was really happy for my friends who crushed the tournament like it was nothing. Seeing W in her comfort zone with a big stack is something to behold. It doesn't hurt that she was getting hit by the deck when it helped, but she was playing very well. Abbie too. I'm very happy and proud of them.
W, predictably, hadn't eaten anything in a while and wanted to hit the noodle bar at the Borgata for a late night dinner with her friends Alan and Patty. I obliged, even though I wasn't that hungry. I just wanted to chat and break down the tournament in conversation. We had a great discussion about aggression and three betting, but you have to take everything with a grain of salt. Alan, for instance, seems to be a pretty competent player when you talk to him. He and his wife Patty are very nice people and Alan paid for the late dinner with black card comp points. So I really like the guy. But when someone tells you, with a straight face, that they have a 'system' for Blackjack and they're employing a card counting technique, you have to look at them with some suspicion. At least I do. I'm going to make this clear for my readers and anyone else who might be interested. There is no 'system' for any casino game. Not Blackjack, Roulette, Let It Ride, slots, video poker, or any other game the casino spreads (with the obvious exception of live poker). There have, in the past, been ways to game the system. Roulette, for instance, still uses a physical ball and wheel to choose numbers. There are documented instances of people having used the laser from a PDA (Palm Pilot or some such) to surreptiously read the rotation of the wheel and discover that a physical abonormality might slightly favor a particular number. Such small changes in the standard deviation could wipe out the house edge and throw it in the player's favor by anywhere from 2% to 5%.
Blackjack, years ago, had a similar exploit that was detailed in the movie '21'. By keeping track of the high value cards left in a deck, a player could exploit the advantage to the player towards the end of a shoe of cards. But this doesn't work anymore for the same reason you can't get away with the Roulette exploit anymore. The casino knows about it. Period. End of story. They won't let you anywhere near a Roulette wheel with anything that looks like a Star Trek Tricorder, and they won't let a big better onto a blackjack table in the middle of a shoe either. Lest we forget how the blackjack counting scheme works, a 'counter' counts out the deck and then silently signals the 'big bettor' to put down the real money when the shoe is in his favor. yeah, they won't let you do that anymore. Also, they don't go down to the end of the shoe anymore. The cut card is specifically left so that there could be as many as 100 cards left in the 450+ card shoe when they re-shuffle. This throws in enough variation so that the player edge from counting is wiped out.
So to all the gamers out there thinking they're getting an advantage off of some 'system' they bought off the internet or saw in a movie; You're being suckered. All of the true exploits are things we haven't yet thought of and it's going to take work and money to develop them.
Back to my story. I had dinner with these nice folks and was too tired to play poker as it was now almost 1am and I was still mentally beaten from not having made any money on anything so far this weekend. The noodle bar convieniently sits near the Pai-Gow tables at the Borgata. Pai-Gow is my one table game weakness as a poker player. I'm probably net up a bit playing the game over my lifetime, but mostly I just play to de-stress. There's not a lot of thinking involved, pots are usually split so I can be up in free drink money, and my routine of rubbing the table to get good cards and shouting 'MONKEY' at the dealer is relaxing. The tables that night had gone up to their usual Saturday night $40 minimum, which is more than I wanted to spend. I was about to walk away when I decided, "Fuck it". I'll put down $400 for 10 bets and see what I can do. To soften the variance a bit, I decided to play two hands at a time, which was a good strategy since I will usually not lose both unless the dealer has a monster (boat over Aces or some such nonsense). I did well initally, going up $100 in short order. I decided that +$200 profit would be goal before quitting and then an evil woman dealer came in. She beat the table mercilessly, with the worst hand being that my King Flush over QQ chopped, barely, (to an Ace flush and JJ). On that particular hand, my other hand lost, so a chop turned into a push and a loss. I went down $240 at the table before deciding to switch to another table. My luck would change considerably and I went on a run that was so nice that I decided to up my bet to $60 each hand. It was when I was up around $60 that I started playing the Dragon Bonus for $5 each. Normally, I know a sucker bet when I see it, but the bonus bet ended up being a good way to alleviate some of my losses. More often than not, I got three of a kinds or straights that paid me off. I was up around $80 when my big hand occurred. I got quad Aces on one of my hands and the dragon bet paid $125 on my $5 bet. In addition, the dealer made a Queen high Pai-gow and I won both of my hands. I counted it up and I was +$240 on my original $400! Enough was enough. I collected my money, got colored up (woo-hoo $500 chip!) and left.
I went to the poker room to say goodnight to everyone who was still awake at 3:00a (most everyone) and went back to the room and fell asleep. In the morning it was back to the poker tables. I played $1-2 NL and finally did well. I bought in for $200 in my first session right after lunch and played at a really tight table. It was boringly tight until a maniac took an open seat and started playing every hand for a raise. I sat tight and managed to flop a set of Ten's vs. his KK and doubled through him. Woohoo! I worked up to around $450 before the maniac busted and we were back to our boring ways. I racked up and cashed out, catching a late 1:30p brunch with W, Dj, Viv and Chris at the Borgata buffet.
When we were done with Brunch, we all went back and I sat at a super crazy 1-2NL table. Initially, there was just a single crazy maniac playing a lot of hands and successfully betting everyone off on innocuous flops by simply grabbing a handful of random chips in his stack and splashing the table. Then another maniac sat to his right and started playing back at him. It was the battle of the crazies and the action was intense. I successfully moved seats so I could be in position on them and the fireworks started. I bought in for $200 and was down to $60 at one point when I managed to triple up when Maniacs 1+2 and I all moved all in preflop. I had QQ. Maniac 1 had Ad6d. Maniac 2 had JTo. I faded everything to take it down and I was back in position again. Maniac one ran his $250 starting stack to $1400 at one point. Maniac 2 ran his $100 starting stack to $900 (!) by calling all-ins with bottom pair and catching up on the river. It was a luckbox extravaganza. I was able to double my stack to $500 with AA vs. Maniac 1's AJ on a Jack high flop. At this point, Maniac 1's girlfriend had sat behind him to sweat him and he managed to lose his ENTIRE stack in about 90 minutes. It's what happens to all maniacs eventually. Maniac 2, also, had dropped from $900 to about $200 when I doubled him by overplaying QQ. The action went like this. I was in middle position and I opened for $12. Maniac 2, re-raised to $25 from the SB and I called. My game plan, in my head, was to drop the hand if an Ace or King came on the flop. The flop was A♣9♥5♥. Maniac 2 bet out $45 and I flat called. The turn was 3♦. He bet out $100 and I called again. I just didn't believe he had an Ace. I put him on JJ or TT. I got away from my game plan and I paid for it. The river bricked and he went all in for his remaining $65. I called and he showed AKo. He gave me a back handed compliment by telling me 'that was a good play. Normally I have shit there.' I didn't take it like a compliment and he racked up and left with $500 before I could get my chips back. By the time I had to leave, I was sitting on about +$100 profit for this little session and I eventually had to pick up and leave.
I drove all the way back to New York in Chris' car, with viv, Abbie, Chris and Paul in tow. Even though the trip took just over 3 hours, it was fun to have them on the ride and even better to spend time with them. My weekend ended up being about +$160 after expenses, which is never a bad thing when you come back from AC with more than you left with! Still can't get last QQ out of my mind though. Serenity now, insanity later.