I got the email from Darko about 3 weeks ago: "I'm heading down to the Borgata for President's Day wknd. Can you make it?". Well, I'm married now so I guess…I'll have to see. Surprisingly, to me, I got a free pass for the whole weekend from the best wife who ever was. I think she felt guilty because with Darko's little bundle of joy coming so soon, there probably wasn't going to be another opportunity to get the gang down there for a while.
Friday night was Valentine's day and Ali and I had dinner at The Capital Grille in Stamford (awesomesauce). When I got back home, I checked the weather report and found out it was supposed to snow and rain all day Saturday, starting at around 10:00a in Connecticut (surprise). My plan was originally to take a train to the city and take the bus down, but I had a doctors appointment on Monday at 3pm back in Connecticut and a bus trip back would have meant getting up at around 7:00a Monday to get back in time. The weather reports threw in another X factor and I decided to just get up early Saturday morning and drive down, hopefully beating the snow.
At 5:30a, I jumped out of bed like I was sleeping on a spring. I was on the road at 6:15a sharp and even with a stop to fill up gas, I was able to pull up to the Borgata Valet at 9:00a sharp. Amazing time. The rain had just started to come down and it would be snow farther north. Darko had told me he was going to be there early for the 11:00a Borgata tourney but he was running late and didn't show up until after 12:00p. Christine and Matt C were also on tap to show up on Saturday, but they got stuck in the snow and didn't show up until around 1:00p. I patted myself on the back for making a good driving decision, for once, and settled into a 1-2NL game with $200 at about 10:30a after having a nice breakfast at Bread and Butter.
Here's the thing about early morning Saturday games; the tourists aren't there yet. This game was super tough for me and I didn't get any traction. No big hands to speak of except getting pocket Kings in early position on my third hand and having to give them up when an Ace flopped and there was a leadout bet in front of me. From there on, it was a slow drop to zero and I lost that first buyin in about 90 minutes. I moved tables and reloaded for another $200 and things started to pick up a little bit. I was up about $60 on this buyin when Darko walked in the room and Chris and Matt C soon afterwards. Chris wasn't feeling well, but she looked great and seemed eager to play. How they managed to get away for the day with kids at home is a lesson I'm going to have to learn one day.
Right around the time I said my hellos and salutations, I got a text from Slayer who said he was just outside the city. Slayer also has a new baby girl at home which makes at least a dozen Wall Street Poker babies in the last 5 years. I'm not saying it's a coincidence that they've all been born after I gave up my game, I'm just pointing out that poker is not good for population growth. Slayer, being a new dad and all, is sensitive to his bankroll and wanted to play in a 1-1 NL game, which we'd done together successfully a few times at Mohegan Sun. However, Borgata don't play dat (say that in your best Damon Wayans voice). Even though I wanted to play 1-2, it would be nice to spend some time with Slayer, who was only going to be in for the day. So I scouted AC 1-1 NL locations online and discovered that the Golden Nugget's new poker room spread it, as well as the Bally's poker room (located upstairs in Billy's horse racing facility). Golden Nugget is in the marina and we decided to go there. We called ahead, locked up a single seat for Slayer and headed over. We brought the car to the valet station, figuring we'd be there a while and headed inside.
The Nugget is heavily renovated and looks pretty nice. I even like the poker room, small as it is with about 8 or ten tables. It's cozy, well run and looks really professional. Slayer sat down at the 1-1 NL table and I found a magazine to read while I put my name on the list. I think I was about halfway through an interesting article on the Borgata Winter Poker Open Event #1 tournament cheating scandal when I got a tap on my shoulder. It was Slayer saying he wanted to go, after 4 minutes at the table. It seems the game wasn't playing like a standard 1-1 NL table and pre-flop raises were consistently in the 15-17 dollar range. I'm proud of Slayer for having the intelligence to recognize that the table wasn't playing to his strengths and leaving immediately. Table selection is, after all, part of a winning poker strategy. So we picked up, cashed out, and went to get the car to go over to Bally's to see if we'd have any more luck there. Unfortunately, because we had dropped off our car at the valet only ten minutes before, the car wasn't there any more but the valet system hadn't yet registered the vehicle in their system and it took us 30 minutes to get the car back. We spent the time catching up, which was nice, but I'd been pulled off a 1-2 table for this and I really wanted to get playing. I was feeling antsy.
We finally got the car, jetted over to Bally's and got seated at separate 1-1 tables. I bought in for $100 and promptly ran through it. The 1-1 game, incidentally, isn't a true 1-1. The blinds are $1 and $1, but the minimum call is for $2. So it's exactly a 1-2 NL game except the big blind costs a dollar. That actually suited me fine since the game played similar to a standard 1-2 though not as light as Slayer was looking for, ala the Mohegan Sun. Still, I ran through my first buyin quickly and was able to move over to Slayer's table which was much softer.
Sitting on my left was a woman in her 50's with big tousled hair and long fingernails and she clearly didn't know what she was doing. Sitting next to her was her pudgy and balding boyfriend with an oily thin mustache and a rough look about him. He was teaching her what to do every time the action came to her and it was annoying that the game was moving so slowly, but no one was complaining because it was a friendly game and we'd all been there. The action was light but the players were awful and the game was easy. I started to win a few pots here and there which made me feel better. I got my $100 buyin up to about $210 when a few new players started to change the character of the game. An older guy sat in the one seat and after losing a few pots to Pudgy and his girlfriend, he asked them to stop colluding so obviously. This perfectly reasonable request was precipitated by a few things. One, the woman was showing Pudgy her cards, not on purpose, by flashing them as she was looking at them. Two, he was betting people out of pots when she was in and had a good hand. That is obvious collusion and even though she wasn't in on it, they were still playing as a defacto team. This became known a few hands before when she had some kind of good hand and not knowing how much to bet bet the minimum. He raised and the older new guy flatted as did the woman. The flop came down and new guy checked as did the woman. Pudgy moved all in for a small stack and got called by new guy and the woman. Pudgy had to show first and showed K2 offsuit with no connection to the board at all. The woman had KK and the new guy had JJ. That's when the fireworks started.
New older guy got peeved by the collusion and asked Pudgy to stop looking at her cards. Pudgy, who had been drinking along with his girl, told older new guy to mind his business. Then the dealer got in on it and told Pudgy to stop doing it. The dealer instructed the woman how to cover her cards properly and told Pudgy to stop sneaking peeks and that colluding was not allowed. Pudgy replied, and I'm not making this up, "I get it. I know how to play. But she doesn't know and I'm just telling her what to do." Older new guy made a comment and Pudgy got belligerent real quick. Words were exchanged and older new guy called for the floor immediately. The floor manager came over, got the idea of what was going on and straightened everything out by standing over the table while we played, for about ten minutes. In the meantime, I didn't want completely dead money to leave the table so I tried to tell a joke to lighten the mood. Here's the joke:
"A married man and woman fall on hard times and decide the only way to make ends meet is to prostitute the wife. They're not happy about it but they need to make money. The woman is completely nervous but the man calms her down and assures her he'll be around the corner in his car the whole time. So she gets dressed up and he drives her to a deserted street at the wrong end of town, drops her off and parks around the corner. Sure enough, a few minutes later a car comes driving by and rolls down the window. 'Hey honey, how much for sex?', the guy asks. She says, "I don't know, hold on a minute." She runs around the corner to her husband and says, "I got a guy asking for sex. How much should I charge him?" The husband replies, "I don't know. Maybe 50 bucks?" So she runs back to the john and tells him it's going to be 50 bucks. He says, "I only have 20, what can we do?" She's about to turn him down when he pulls down his pants and pulls out the biggest penis she's ever seen in her life. Her jaw drops and she says, "Hold on a second." She runs back to her husbands car and says, "Hey honey, do we have 30 bucks we can lend this guy?""
That seems to do the trick at the table. People were in a better mood, if only a little, and the tensions seemed to rest a bit. Until, of course, Pudgy got felted by the older new guy. Words were exchanged again and Pudgy's girlfriend, who was now depressingly drunk, started dropping F-Bombs like it was the Battle of Midway. She took the rest of her money and stormed off with Pudgy to the craps tables, where I'm sure the pit boss was thrilled.
Their seats were taken by a few younger poker newbies and life went back to normal. I was building my stack nicely and making up for my earlier misfortunes until I lost it all in two straight hands. I got dealt pocket Aces. It was raised in MP to $8 and I re-popped to $20. After chasing out the limpers, the original raiser called and the flop came down Js 8c 4c. There's not many hands here I'm worried about (only one really), and with the quality of the play so bad it was easy to see him putting in his stack with a wide variety of hands (KJ being the lightest, but also AJ, QQ or KK. AcKc or KcQc was also a strong possibility to shove. And, of course, JJ). He checked, I led out for $22, he shoved for $80 total. So it's $58 for me to call into a pot of about $148 meaning I'm getting 2.5 to 1 to make the call. I need about a 40% chance to win the hand to make it a profitable call and seeing as how only one hand realistically had me crushed I called. Of course he tabled JJ. I mean, what else. I couldn't suck out and I was back to my starting stack, which I proceeded to blow on the next hand.
I had KsJs and saw a flow of Kh-8s-3d. The pot had limped PF all around and a player who was in the BB led out for $10. I raised it to $25 and he shoved for the rest of my stack. Now, here's where I should have laid it down, easily. But I was steaming from the last hand and quick called only to see Aces. Which, by the way, he limped in the BB. Still, I was being beaten by a huge percentage of hands in the BB there and I should have gotten away easily. I was really steaming after that and decided not to rebuy. After losing a few buyins in short order and with my earlier losses, I was down $460 on the day. I had only come down to AC with about $800 in my pocket so losing half my stake in a few hours wasn't the way I wanted things to go. In fact, I was so steaming, that I went down to the casino floor and sat at a $15 PaiGow table for a half hour. Bad move, I know, but I was lucky enough to leave even and I de-stressed a little. It was time for food.
I collected Slayer and we went back to the Borgata. It was 10:30p and the two of us ate at Wolfgang Puck's, next to the poker room. Darko, Chris and Matt C had already eaten dinner, but Darko joined us for a drink at around 11:30p after a particularly disastrous day at 2-5nl, so I was told. I don't blame him. None of us were doing well and a drink was in order. Slayer cut out at midnight to go back home to Queens, the snow having already moved out of the area. I was tired myself and was going to go up to the room. I suggested Darko do the same as I've found a good night's sleep has a way of clearing out the emotions and cobwebs and making the next day's session a clean slate. But, in true Wendy fashion, he wanted to go back and play, though this time at 1-2.
In the past, when Darko has had a losing 2-5 session, he generally cleans up handily at 1-2. I've seen him splash around at 1-2 and turn $300 into $1400 in short order. It's been done, so I can see where he was coming from. Well, his enthusiasm got the best of me and I decided to join him. Best of all, we got seated at the same table. Which, by the way, struck me as a perfect microcosm of what Atlantic City poker has become. In the heydey of 2006-2007, if you were at the Borgata on a Saturday night at midnight, on a holiday weekend, the board for a 1-2NL table could be 30 deep. In today's world, there were two seats open on the same table and an open board. A sad state of affairs. I think this is the way of the future with all the new poker rooms opening up in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Instead of an intense concentration of players in a single room or two in Atlantic City (Boragat and Taj), now you have a bunch of smaller rooms with the same number of players overall but fewer in any one spot. That's definitely why we heard that Bally's and Caesar's are going to be closing their poker rooms and combining them into one big room to be located, reportedly, at the Wild West. We'll see how that goes.
So Darko and I got seated at around 12:15p and it was immediately apparent that this was not your father's 1-2NL table. The guy in seat 8 was $2200 deep with a pyramid of chips he could barely get his arms around. Seat 9 was a smooth looking guy with about $1400 with a pretty hot girlfriend sitting behind him nearly falling asleep on his shoulder. Seat 1 was an indian kid with about $600. Darko and I were in seats 3 and 4 respectively. I bought in for $160 and I was the short stack at the table by a good margin. Darko came in for $300. Darko immediately began chipping up at a good clip while I had a few big hands cracked and lost my stack in the first two hours. I reloaded for another $160 when seat 7 got filled by a new player who was brought over from another table to balance our table. He was a Romanian guy with a purple shirt open at the chest and an asian girlfriend. He came with $300 and started instigating action in a BIG way. He would straddle at every opportunity, raise any limped pot (sometimes blind) and his standard pre-flop bet size was $17. It jump started the game and we started to see some pretty big pots. It was at this time that my stack started to finally do well. I c-bet a few pots to take it down with flops I whiffed and was able to more than double my stack to about $380. Romanian lost a chunk of his stack and finally got felted and then turned to his girlfriend who pulled $300 out of her purse and handed it to him. I don't know what that was all about but there's nothing more emasculating in my eyes than having your girl hold your money (or lend you money). It changed my image of him.
The table was adversarial, but in a friendly way, and a lot of stories were exchanged about all sorts of things; underground poker rooms mostly. The 5 seat got filled by a girl, around 32 years old, who was unconventionally pretty but wore a scowl on her face like she was about to junk punch you. She was a dealer herself in underground games, knew all the dealers and locals, and she seemed pissed at the world. Just angry. She bought in light and lost mostly. After about 30 minutes listening to her rant, the hand of the weekend went down.
The chip stacks relevent to the story:
Seat 1 (Indian Kid): about $450
Seat 3 (Darko): about $850
Seat 4 (Me): about $380
Seat 5 (Angry at the world girl): about $80
Seat 7 (Romanian): about $450
Seat 8 (Big Stack): about $2400
I'm on the button. Romanian is UTG and straddles, naturally. I'm on the button and get dealt Qs-Qh. Hmmm...this could get interesting. Seat 8 (Big Stack), who is UTG+1 and first to act, makes it $20 to go. This is slightly more than the normal PF raise and it sends a shiver down my spine. He's a rock solid player who hasn't lost a hand to showdown in the 4+ hours I've been at the table. An early position raise like that indicates big strength and I'm sitting here with a category 1 hand. At least I'm in position. But then, Seat 1 (Indian kid) calls, Seat 3 (Darko) calls and it's to me. I have to decide to pop it, call or fold. Fold is not in my playbook at this point so that's off the table. So, to raise or to call? I opt to call because if I raise and he re-pops big, I'd have a huge decision to make for the rest of my stack. Since I'm in position, if I call, I can hopefully flop a set, or I can fold if a King or Ace hits the board. In any case, if I call, I'll have the advantage of seeing Big Stack act first. So I call on the button. Unfortunately, this creates what I like to call the 'vaccuum call' because it sucks in more players who now have pot odds to call. So yes, the small and big blinds both call. 6 players to the flop. Big stack, the original raiser, calls out to the next table, "Hey, any of you want to make the call too?" This is a really important piece of information for me later on because it tells me he *didn't* want callers. BUT, does it mean he only wanted one or two callers because he's got AA or KK or AK? Or does it mean he wanted NO callers? I just don't know.
The flop comes down Ts-7s-4h. So, a heavily connected board with straight and flush draws. I have the Queen of Spades, so that helps. SB and BB check and original raiser c-bets for $100. $260 in the pot so far. Seat 1 (Indian Kid) folds. Seat 3 (Darko) calls! Well now, just fuck me with a chainsaw. Darko's flat call blew my mind and now I had a TON of decisions to make. Here's what I was thinking:
1. The original raiser could have AK that missed and he's C-betting.
2. The original raiser could have AA or KK and he's trying to take down a draw heavy flop.
3. The original raiser has JJ or a flush draw with overcards like As-Ks or Ks-Qs.
4. Darko is floating a bet because there's a crap ton of turn cards that he can bluff on.
5. Darko hit a set or some crazy two pair and he's calling to maximize his profit if the turn bricks.
I tanked all this for about three long minutes and to everyone's credit, no one complained for a whit. While I was doing it, however, I was giving away a bunch of information about my hand, I thought. I definitely swore under my breath and looked legitimately pained (because I WAS!). Finally, I decided that I was ahead of Darko and the original raiser had a drawing hand. So I shoved for $360 total. SB, the angry girl, who had $60 behind into this monster pot, was so convinced from the action that whatever she had was being destroyed (Top pair and a 9 kicker as it turned out) that she folded into a pot laying 7-1 to her. BB folded and Big Stack looked over at Darko's stack. I was crushed at the sight of that. Instead of being worried about the guy who tanked and shoved, he's asking for a count from Darko! Holy crap he must have Aces or Kings. At least I have running spades or a Queen to possibly save me, I thought. Darko announced he was about $750 behind and Big Stack thought it over for a long 30 seconds and announced all in for $2400! Holy shit. Darko gave it up quickly (Also top pair from what he told me).
Big Stack tabled....Jd-Js! I flipped up my Queens and was THRILLED when they held up, not only wiping away my losses for the weekend but putting me in the black for about $250. The more I think it over, the more I think that I made the wrong decision, poker-wise. In that situation I went through, my Queens are usually beaten. It was the first time that I can remember that I'd ever made the wrong decision that turned out to be the right decision.
On a different note, the river was the case Ten, which would have given Darko and/or angry girl the pot if they had stayed in. There was no way Darko was going to risk his stack after I shoved, but the girl gave up 7-1 odds and would have taken the main pot. This made her angrier than usual, if that's possible.
A few hands later, my bad luck returned and my Aces were cracked by Seat 1 (Indian Kid) whose JJ flopped a set on me. He was short stacked, thankfully, and I only lost about $120. It was coming up on 10:00a (25 hours at the tables, yo!) and I had fought through sleeplessness to drag the biggest pot of my last five years and get into the black. It was time to call it quits. Big stack racked up and I left a few hands after that and hit the hay.
I woke up at 4:30p and joined Darko, Chris and Matt C at the buffet to see them off to the highway. Darko decided to cut his weekend short (He was originally planning to stay until Tuesday) and Chris and Matt had to get home to the babies. I was going to join them because I don't like playing alone but Matty Ebs came through with a text saying he was at Harrah's. So I bid my goodbyes and joined him over there. It had been an eventful 30 hours and it would be good to catch up again with Matty Ebs who I hadn't seen since he got married almost four years ago. He's a homeowner now on Long Island and has a beautiful baby girl who's almost three. If you squint your eyes just right, he almost looks like an adult.
I joined up with him, sitting to his left, at a 1-2 NL table. But before I could sit down, who should we see but Mary (@madbrooklyn) herself! It had been even longer since I'd seen her and I got to catch up on how she's doing and, by proxy, how Stephane is doing. Stephane was going to come down, it seems, but one look at the snow and she, and her precious BMW, were staying Brooklyn bound.
So Matty and I sat down at the 1-2 table and I looked around the room casually and saw Pudgy and his girlfriend from Bally's the night before sitting at another table! Pudgy was playing and his girl was in the 'girlfriend seat' behind him. They were behaving themselves, it seemed, but I updated Mary and Matty about them in case they ran into them in the future.
My session playing 1-2 was uneventful. Matty was being his usual crazy self and I had worked my $200 stack up to $280 when I gave my profit to Matty with pocket 9's on a board of 4-5-7. Matty had made a preflop raise and bet out at the flop, driving away, what I thought, were any draws. I called. A six fell on the turn, but an 8 or three seemed unlikely. Matty and I checked it down to each other, politely, and he turned over Kh-8h for the naked gutshot draw on the flop. Same old Matty!
We decided to pick up from the table (I was up $8.00, WooHoo!) and enter the 8:15pm tourney. $65 buyin gave you $25,000 in chips (starting levels 100-100 and no antes in the tourney), meaning you'd get a whole lot of play for your $65. After deciding to give each other 20% of our action, Matty and I got seated at separate tables. There were 30 entrants and Matty went out in 11th place, just short of the final table. I made the final table with 10 BB's and went down to 3 BB's before quadrupling up with pocket Aces that stood up, miraculously, when pocket Jack's bet out the field. From there, I went on a tear and I was chipleader with 5 to go (3 paid and the table decided on a 'booby' prize of $80 to the 4th place finisher). I'll make a long story short; I had Ad-Kh UTG and I raised to $35,000 (starting stack of $215,000 and blinds at 6,000-12,000). I got raised all in by the BB for $100,000 total, which I quickly called. He had JJ and the Jacks stood up, halfing my stack. I gave up 24,000 a hand later with pocket 9's when I got caught in a bidding war that I knew I was behind on. And from there it was a slow slide towards the bubble. My last chance to make any money was when the big stack, whom I had doubled up with my AK, put a guy allin with AJ. His opponent had AQ and the AQ made Broadway. My last hand, I was all in with 9s-Ts in the BB (forced hand) and I whiffed. It sucks being the bubble. This is twice in a row I’ve bubbled in the last two Atlantic City tournaments I’ve played. Bloobies.
It was 1:15am when I picked up and I was beat. Matty and I had a late dinner at the noodle bar and called it a night, driving home in the morning together. It had been an epic weekend. And even though I was only up $65 for the weekend, the feeling of coming back from the big swing and coming out in the black was fantastic. It felt like 2007 all over again.