Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Return from Vegas

zzzzz.... Unfortunately - being out of the office for four days means you have an immense pile of e-mail to sift through. Having slept pretty irregularly (to say the least) for my long weekend doesn't really help much either.
I'll be posting a more comprehensive trip report throughout the week. Some forewarning - there wasn't as much poker this weekend as there would be in any normal Vegas trip. I think I even went a WHOLE DAY (Friday) without playing...

However I'll write it all up anyway. Unlike my earlier Borgata trip report - there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (well maybe a little one), but all in all it was a good trip. I made some money, played some poker, saw some great shows, and spent most of my waking hours drunk.

Some Highlights to come include:

First Night at the Bellagio (and a good one)
Revenge at the Luxor tourney
La Femme (surprisingly good!)
Giant Hot Dogs and 99 cent margaritas
The Stardust - home of Wayne Newton and Low Limit Hold'em (just like on tv!)
Cirque De Soleil - O (spectacular!)
Falling in love with Video Poker (again)
The Downs and Ups and Downs of Blackjack!
Why they call it Crap!(s)
How to lose $100 in LLHE (guaranteed)!
Flipping coins at the Sahara tourney
Hitting the Jackpot!
Letting it Ride...

See you soon!


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Vegas Bound

Sorry for the lack of activity recently. I'm off for Vegas tonight and I couldn't be more excited to be in the Mecca (of poker).

While a good portion of the blogger community is down in AC (sorry I missed it) - you'll find the GotP camped out in the Bellagio poker room all weekend.

Not sure if I'll be able to get in my usual 12-16 hours of play a day - but that's probably healthier anyway.

Next week - Vegas Trip Reports!


Monday, September 13, 2004

Genius of the Golf?

(warning - non poker post)

This blog will return to it's normal poker programming after the following entry.

I wasn't going to write about this but then I figured - what the hell - even if none of you are interested, for posterity's sake I want to remember this round.

This Saturday was my Aoba-Kai golf club outing - and I was playing the championship match against fellow member J. He was playing to a 17 handicap and I am fortunately playing to a 27 due to the fact that Mid-Island is a course that always plays tough for me. (I think my low round there is 98)

As unnecessary background - I've been playing pretty well of late. The new Nike driver I bought off of e-bay has been great - I hit most of my drives pretty straight, with the occasional pulled shot and once in a while a slice (when I make a tentative swing). It only goes about 250 or so - but even still my mistakes are much more 'playable' than they used to be.

My short game is vastly improved - which is more a reflection on how bad it was than any real proficiency. I can make the occasional good chip (thanks to my hazy recollections of cousin Eric's lessons on chipping in Aunt Betty's hallway), and I've got a lot more confidence putting now - that at least when I pick a line - I can put the ball down that line. Occasionally they've even been going in.

A couple of weeks ago I put together a breakthrough weekend - shooting a 87 at Clearview, an 83 at Forest Park and an 84 at Van Cortlandt. (all par 70's)

All systems were go - as I prepared to play Labor Day weekend in preparation.

Unfortunately some flaws began to sink in that weekend. I shot a 96 and a 92 at Clearview and followed that up with a 99 at Emerson (a par 72). Shots were leaking right - my chips were getting ugly - and putts just didn't seem to be going down.

From supreme confidence that I would easily win with 10 strokes - all of a sudden I had some questions as to which game I would be bringing this weekend.

I hit the range the Thursday before with LT - and I managed to fix my fade problem. I have a slight tendency to line up slightly open and hit the ball from outside-in. I closed up my stance a little and concentrated on getting my hands through and voila - no more slice... err... fade that is.

It made me feel a lot better going into the weekend.

Still the night before - even though LT and I hit the regular Friday poker game, (Poker Content! - TT cracked by 78 suited and a shorthanded A2o in the SB cracked by the BB 56o) which was a good diversion - and I got home relatively early (around 12) but still I found myself unable to sleep.

I'm sure some of it was related to some jitters about the next day - but I wasn't consciously thinking about it. More of it was probably excitement and adrenaline.

In any case I didn't sleep until about 3-4am - about 3-4 hours of sleep before the boys showed up and we left for the course.

Got there early - hit a small bucket - all systems check. Chipped and putted for a little bit - not great, not bad - I guess I was as ready as I could be.

Get to the first hole (Spruce) with half the outing lined up in carts behind us. J leaks his first shot into the right hand side fairway bunker as I step up to the tee. I line it up, take a practice swing and address the ball. I expected to be nervous and have had first tee jitters before - but this was a little more than first tee jitters. Trying to ignore the apprehensive feeling I struck the ball, a solid hit (phew) - then watched in dismay as it started left, pulled through the trees and WAY into the other fairway.

Great start.

Caught a good lie in the 'other' fairway - and hit a solid 5 iron over the tree line that unfortunately was nutted and rolled in into the tree line on the other side. Punched out in front of the green, put it on - and made the putt for a 6. Fortunately - J must've been feeling the pressure even more than me - because he took an 8. And just like that I was one up.

The feeling of relief at winning the first hole was palpable. I parred the next two holes - playing pretty good and even a little loose. I'm 3 up and feeling like I might be able to put an end to this ordeal pretty early. All I had to do was just keep playing loose.

He took the par 3 4th and par 4 5th to cut the lead to 1. I parred the par 5 6th to bring it to 2. He won 7 to cut it back to 1. And I won the 8th to make it 2 again. We pushed the 9th.

Going into the 10th hole I had shot a 45 on the front 9. J had shot a 46. I beat him scratch - but even with the 5 stroke holes - I was only 2 up. Still if I kept playing like this - I felt I would win the match handily.

J even nervously made comments about how tough it was for him to give me so many strokes to me. He was certainly feeling the pressure - which made me feel a little better about how incredibly nervous I was getting.

With a stroke on the 10th (Dogwood) I managed to somehow push the hole even though my second shot to the green hit a tree - and I had to scramble to make 6 and push the hole.

Standing on 11 - a par 5 and stroke hole - I started thinking - make a good drive and second shot - get 3 up and I can coast home to the victory.

Maybe I was too loose, maybe too tight. But I 'missed' my drive cutting underneath it and toeing it into the woods about 50 yards to the right. Walking over to my ball - I was in JAIL, with trees seemingly everywhere. Tried to punch a low runner back in - hit a tree back in the other fairway. Hit another tree on my third - still on wrong side of the tree line. Four almost made it through but hit a branch and fell again inside the tree line. 5 finally punched out into the fairway - and I proceeded to take an 11 on the hole.

Kikuchi-san (J's partner) on the hole - who had been asking me incredulously what my handicap was on the front 9 - finally chimed in. "Now I see why you 27!".

Rick, who was my partner today told me to forget about the hole. I was trying my best - but inside my face was burning red as I felt my mental state start to unravel.

If this weren't such a big match (to me) - I'd pull out the big stick and take a gargantuan swing on the next driving hole to let off some steam. (and probably take an 8)

Unfortunately the next hole was a 110 yd par 3 - playing 90 something yards today. I safely wedged it on the green after J hit his shot just short but with the pin in the front. He chipped close to the hole (a gimme) - and I faced a long lag put to try to push.

I left the putt about 12 feet short.

Needing to make it - I lined it up - and hit it through the line - closing my eyes. Surprisingly it stayed on the hole - caught the edge and swirled around and in. Par saved.

"Man - you are SO lucky" Rick told me as I walked off the green sheepishly with a push.

Thinking I might have some momentum back I pull out the big stick on the 365 yd par 4 with murderous intentions now abated - but feeling that I should go for it. Still not swinging right - I hit another bad one - still on tilt and lose the hole to let him get back to even.

On the 140yd par 3 14th - I duff an 8 iron about 50 yds. (really on tilt now) Hit a wedge to the back of the green and lag putt to about 5 feet on my third. J chips to about 2 feet for his par putt and the win. I can the 5 footer for bogey - helped by the fact that I'm resigned to losing the hole already. But he let's me off the hook by pushing it just by on the gimme and we push. (phew #2)

On the 316 yd par 4 15th dogleg left - I pull a 3 iron right over the fairway bunker on the left side. If it carries the bunker - it's a great shot. J goes in the bunker and I pray for a good lie.

I find my ball - way left, inside the treeline - and in JAIL. There's no real safe lateral shot to put it back in the fairway - but there's a small opening towards the hole and it's pretty steeply downhill.

I have no idea what to do. Rick looks at it and says - "Go for it" pointing towards the green. I line it up with a 3 iron and hit a low runner pretty good. It tantalizingly heads towards the green with enough speed to get there - when (thwak!) it hits a tree and caroms right. Looks like it's back in play though and I may still have a chance.

I find my ball just in front of a tree with no chance to put a swing on it. J hits a good shot out of the bunker - I tap my ball forward a few yards and then proceed chunk a short iron, miss the green and lose the hole.

The bad news? Down 1 with 3 to go.

The good news - I stroke the last 3 holes.

On the 405 yd 16th I pull out the big stick again feeling desperate. But lo and behold even in my agitated, sleep deprived, advanced state of asphyxiation - I manage to sweep a low drive right at the fairway bunker on the left with enough topspin to go in and pop out just in front of the bunker.

Though I hit a poor second shot - J duffs 2 fairway shots - gets on in 5 - and he gives me the hole to put us back to even.

On the 560 yd par 5 17th, a hole that I HATE - I again come through with a great drive to the left side of the fairway. J hits a good one down the same line but quite a few yards behind me.

I duff (choke) my second shot 6 iron about 100 yards to the point where the fairway narrows down into a tree lined neck. J hits a poor second just into the tree line.

The pressure is now clearly getting to both of us.

His third is solidly struck back in the fairway. I have about 220 yards for my third - and opt to hit a club I can confidently hit straight, a 7 iron layup. I pull it slightly and it catches some overhanging branches - and to my dismay - kicks left back into... you guessed it - the trees.

I punch back out my 4th. Miss the green long and left on my fifth.

J misses the green - and gets on in 5.

I'm at the bottom of a hill chipping up to the plateaued green. But there's this huge area of ground under repair right in the middle of the green. (WTF?) I decide to try to hit it right in there - the soft and heavy grass should hold the ball - and I can move it laterally out and make the putt.

Goes according to plan - I two putt from my drop for 8 - and when J misses his putt for 6 and makes 7 - with the stroke we push and are even going into 18.

As we head to the 18th - I'm barely hanging on - and the tension has worn me down to the point of exhaustion. At this point I'm running on pure adrenaline - which is clearly not a good thing to power your golf game with.

I see my boys LT, Steve and Tadd on an adjoining green - and feeling the need to share the tension with someone - I walk over and let them know - LAST HOLE - ALL SQUARE.

Little did I know how interested they were - or rather, how uninterested they were in their own rounds at that point...

The 18th is a 350 yard severe dog right with a green that slants severely from right to left. It's a gimmicky hole in my opinion and I tell J that I wish that it didn't come down to a lucky hole like this one.

I don't think he agreed with me - but there's just so many luck factors - a bad bounce here, a good one there that seem to come into play on Dogwood 9. Although I've MOSTLY had bad luck on this particular hole. In fact - the 8th and 9th on Dogwood always seem to destroy my scores at Mid-Island.

J hits a great drive (considering the pressure) that fades and settles nicely in the middle of the fairway. Unable to drive this hole, feeling less than confident in my trusty Ovation 5 wood - I decide to pull the 3-iron.

I'd been hitting it left during the back 9 - which was definitely NOT where I wanted to go on this hole - so I firmed up my front side, to make sure I couldn't pull the shot left. I hit it slightly right just along the tree line - it took a few good bounces forward - and I was optimistic about my second shot.

Rick's tee shot ran into the woods on the right. As he surveyed his options - he got a crazy look in his eyes an said "watch this!". He tried to run a shot right towards the green - going through a forest of trees (and over a rock wall). It was struck well - had a chance - but inevitably hit wood - and luckily bounced left towards the fairway - though we couldn't tell whether it had made it out or not.

I don't know if it was his intention but watching this 'crazy' shot loosened me up some. And I definitely needed to clear my head of a lot of bad thoughts.

J put his second shot (a wood) onto the green safely.

As I approached my second - to my dismay I had not carried the bend far enough and there were overhanging branches in my line to the green. I figured I'd pull a 5 iron (from about 150) and hit a low runner under the tree and hope for the best.

But Rick suggested I try to turn it around the tree - reasoning that my ball tends left to right anyway. I wasn't even considering that as an option - but being far from decisive about the other shot - I decided to blindly embrace the advice.

I opened up the club, set up for an outside in strike and let my swing go.

It went high and straight - but never moved right as it headed straight for a tree left of the green and disappeared into the greenside hill. I expected to watch it bounce down the road to the clubhouse - ending my chances of winning the match...

It never appeared - but I began to resign myself to losing the match - as prospects didn't look too good for me to even have a playable third shot.

We headed down to Rick's third shot. And found it in the valley on the tree line. Again - he got another crazy look and set up for another "watch this" shot. He hit a low liner under the trees - caught the hill on the right of the green and rolled towards the hole - ending up maybe 10-15 feet.

A great shot - but I could only half-heartedly congratulate him.

There wasn't going to be any magic that could save me, I thought.

As we drove up to the 18th green I saw a ball sitting on a tuft of grass in front of a tree. Could it be my ball? As I walked up to the ball I felt pretty pessimistic about my chances of making a good shot from there if it was. But as I discovered it WAS my ball and as I took a stance against the tree - I found I could actually get a swing on it.

(This was also when I realized that Steve, Tadd, and LT had abandoned their round to drive over and watch me perspire through the crucial 18th)

The green was sloped sharply towards me, there was a bunker in front of the line to the pin - and I was facing uphill, about a 10 yard or so chip. I had a half decent lie - the ball was in some loose long grass that I could get my club through (I thought).

Rick's advice was to just hit it to the back of the green and let it run down - and that made it easier as this wouldn't be a 'touch' chip. So I leaned up against the tree, made sure I could make a backswing on the ball - and struck a firm chip that surpisingly caught the ball solidly through the grass and sent it sailing up towards the green. I saw it land and run to the top of the green and it disappeared from sight as it slowed and began taking the slope, rolling left and back (towards the pin?).

I had no idea where it had ended up - but I felt good as I heard my boys behind me and Rick on the green compliment the shot.

As I paced up to the green - I saw 2 balls - one about 5-6 feet under the hole and the other about 12 feet out.

"Which one is mine" I asked Rick.

"The closer one!" Rick said.

Man was I happy to hear that.

As I watched J line up his long putt from the front of the green (easily about 15 yards) I started to hope - I might have a chance.

He hit his putt a little short and the slope swept it down until it ended up right next to my mark.
Although I was oblivious at the time - we were now both lying 3 with a 5-6 foot putt uphill - breaking right to left. And I still had a stroke!

After watching our partners two putt home - some scary putts too - as the slope on this green makes them all adventurous - I started to make up my mind that I would go for the win.

I lined it up, allowing for the break, then changed my line slightly more on the hole and struck the ball firmly.

It skirted the hole - going thru the line and curling left about 2-3 feet past the hole.

My sentiments were mirrored exactly by Rick's scream of exasperation as the ball ran by.

Still determinedly (and perhaps defensively) I told him (and my gallery) "I went for it!"

So J had the same putt - plus got a read from mine - to at least ensure a push.

He slid it by the hole and ran past it just inside my mark.

Now I was in the driver's seat - though I didn't really realize it. So many thoughts were rushing through my head - that I wasn't even sure if this putt was to win it or just to ensure a tie.

All I knew is that I needed to make this little 2 footer.

It was a tricky little putt - downhill with enough left to right that it had to be taken outside the hole. I lined it up - nervous but not debilitatingly so - and decided rather than be too careful (and giving bad thoughts a chance to sink in) - to go ahead and putt it while I was feeling relatively choke-free.

The putter went back, the ball went forward, broke towards the hole and trickled into the cup.
Relief swept over me as I picked up the ball. Still not sure whether I had won - I walked back to give J room to make his putt. Rick gave me a fist bump - and I saw my gallery smiling and pumping their fists.

And that's when I realized - it was over...


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Borgata Trip - Post Mortem

Well I want to thank all of you for the feedback on weekday Borgata poker binge write up. I'm glad that there was actually a decent story in it all, it really wasn't looking that way until the very last few hours... But poker is a crazy game. (to say the least)

I was encouraged to start this blog by friends who read a trip report of mine earlier this year (see my first posts) - and while online stories are interesting - there's nothing that stimulates the senses or imprints into your memory like live play with real (and usually in poker - crazy) people.

I'm happy to say that since I started playing regularly - I am positive that I am a profitable player. Although I am only up a few hundred online, I'm up substantially more in live play (thanks to a few memorable sessions) - and I've gained a huge amount of experience as far as hands played and situations faced.

My next dream is to play in a big event - perhaps one of the smaller NL events at one of the big tournaments. Or maybe I can win an online qualifier to one of the various poker site's big tournaments. My focus will definitely change to multi table tournaments - a portion of the poker discipline that I feel relatively weak at.

In any case - I wanted to address some of the commentary on my last post.

Justin (Blogged by J) justifiedly mentions that calling an all-in bet with pocket JJ preflop is not the type of situation you should be looking to get involved with (i.e. a coinflip) in a NL game.
I don't really have a defense for this. All I can say for myself is that I was pretty certain that he was NOT holding QQ-AA.

Not completely certain. But I had a really strong gut feeling - and as I contemplated calling his all-in, that gut feeling became stronger than my rational thought (which was to fold).

You're absolutely right - and if I'm ever faced with this situation again - I hope I have the sense to fold, give up my $65 and wait for a better situation.

But ya gotta understand - this guy was really irritating me - I just couldn't back down - I couldn't...

Moving on to the next comment:

ReelBigFish mentions that one trait that you'll need to cultivate for the NL games is the ability to lay down TPTK. I couldn't agree more. Although at times it seems the NL games get pretty loose - for the most part - you'll find the bulk of the players actually have hands when they see a flop. A set is always a possibility that needs to be considered.
I'm not saying that you should play in fear of sets on every flop - but they certainly need to be taken into account when you evaluate your prospects - or get played back at on the flop.

Those of you playing NL online probably already know this. Although I will say that in my limited NL online ring game experience - that live play seems to be a little tighter (to say the least) than online games. Not sure if it's the anonymity that allows people to make bolder plays - but most confrontations I saw (live) involved 2 players w/hands.

I also feel that certain players are probably incapable of running stone cold bluffs in live play (like me!).

Speaking of tight:

ToddCommish, you and your west coast brethren JAs disappoint me. There ain't many of us JAs on the east coast - but we represent! Maybe it's because quite a few of us east coast JA's come from Hawaii JA stock - notorious for their gambling ways.
I'm also sad to hear that your 11 year old son has already become a more difficult to read poker player than both of us.
He must be a new breed...

And finally - as I mentioned at the end of my last post - I'll be heading out to Vegas in a few weeks.

It's not THAT kind of trip, as the girlfriend is coming along (which is also why I'm staying at the $$$ Bellagio) - and 10-12 hour stints in the poker room will definitely not be tolerated.

I have ingeniously and thoughtfully managed to book a room via the poker room rate - which REQUIRES me to play 6 hours each day. This thankfully ensures that I will be able to at least play the minimum amount that I require to survive in Vegas.

Hopefully she's not completely serious when she says that my designated poker playing time is "while she's sleeping". Because I'll do it, if I have to. (I can catch up on my zzz's during the shows we go to see)

Some additional storylines include introducing my father - an online poker junkie to live (casino) play. It should be interesting to see how addicted he gets when he sees how loose the low limit live games are for himself. (assuming he doesn't catch too many bad beats from the fish)

Also, I've just heard that my brother is taking up my offer to bankroll him in Vegas for the weekend. Last time this happened - well, it was an endless bad beat week in Vegas.

He's still a good bet IMHO (or I wouldn't even make the offer). I'll be especially jealous of him as he'll be able to play for uninterrupted hours at a time while I'm off being dragged sightseeing and catching the next Cirque de Soleil show... (sigh)

It's a family affair in Vegas this September.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Borgata Trip Report (Day 3 – Part II)

Well this is the part of my trip I’ve been dying to write about. Think of it as a little reward for those of you who’ve managed to slog through the last 3 parts of this boring trip report.

Fasten your seatbelts – cause the real story is about to start.

Anyway, I headed upstairs and found my good friend, L and his brother-in-law at a BJ table hooting, hollering and high fiving. I sat down and watched as they reveled in the BJ action - hitting, doubling, and splitting all over the felt. (in fact – perhaps a little too much – but man, was it FUN to watch).

Eventually I couldn’t resist – I bought in for a few hundred and told myself – I’m either doubling this or losing it, but I’m going to have some fun doing it.

Three Jack and Cokes, too many cigarettes, and a nerve wracking hour later – I had $400!

That’s when I pulled off my most impressive display of gambling discipline for the week.

I colored up my chips and walked away.

It ain’t easy to walk away from a winning Blackjack session, my friend. (although it’s a fact that it’s harder to walk away from a losing session)

The short break from poker – with a few black chips jangling in my pocket and a few more hours left until the trip home – I headed back to the poker room – determined to get into some real action.

To my surprise when I returned I found open seating for 1-2 NL – a game that usually sported a pretty long list every other time I’d shown up. Was the weekday action at the Borgata slowing down?

I asked for a seat and was directed to a floorperson – who brought me over to a table with about 5/6 people seated. Something looked a little wrong to me – there were quite a few chips at the table. Hmm.. I thought the max buy in for 1-2 NL was $300?

Thinking nothing of it – I walked over to the cashier’s cage – got my max buy in of $300 in red – and sat down at the table.

That’s when I realized that something was definitely REALLY wrong. Two players had over a thousand in chips – is that even possible in a 1-2 NL game? The others had around 5/600 as far as I could tell.

That’s when the floorperson came over to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that he had accidentally sat me at a 2-5 ($600 max buy in) NL game, and did I want to move to an open 1-2 NL seat?

The table started chirping at me – “c’mon stay!” “he doesn’t want to go!”.

I looked around – I guess I must’ve looked pretty fishy, and maybe I WAS a fish in this game – but hey, I was here, and I was freerolling off of some blackjack winnings – what the hell?

“I’ll stay.” I told the floorperson to a round of applause from the table.

Man, do I know what I’m getting myself into? (I remember thinking to myself)

I was a little intimidated – not necessarily by the players – but by the stacks they had in front of them. I added my extra $100 black chip to my pile – which along my three piles of red still seemed painfully meager in comparison to the racks and piles sitting in front of the other players.

I watched the action for a bit – thankfully not getting a playable hand for the first orbit or two. I was thankful because the typical preflop raise was anywhere from $15 - $40.
Not that this was overly daunting – but hey – I wasn’t used to this.

The first hand of interest I saw – was the kid on my left raising to $25 and the guy on his left (with one of the huge stacks) re-raising him $50. Everyone else folded – and the kid called.

The flop came three low cards.

The kid led with $100 bet, pushing a stack of red forward.

The big stack on his left picked up his racks of red and pushed them all forward – ALL IN.

Now wait a minute I thought. There’s about $250 in the pot – and he’s moving in with almost $1000???


The kid goes in the tank for a while – and for once I’m not annoyed. He’s got maybe 3 or 4 hundred left and he’s got to put it all on the line. I wondered what they were holding? I was thinking pocket overpairs for both of them. But whose were bigger?

The kid finally decides to call and pushes his stack forward.

The older big stack dude shows TT for the expected overpair.

The kid showed AKo for Ace high????

$1000+ in the pot and the dealer turns.. an ACE!

No miracle river 10 and the kid is raking a $1000 pot after making in my opinion, a ridiculously bad call.

The big stack kind of shrugs – pulls out a wad of hundreds – and reloads the rest of chips to the max $600.

Maybe this game isn’t out of my league after all.

Seats start to fill up as the room begins the early evening rush. Strangely, thought the Borgata usually puts this game in the high-limit area – we’re sitting right by the cashier window in the main room – as a line begins to form to sign up for the 7pm tourney.

Naturally – the average poker player’s eyes are drawn to any table with a lot of chips on it – and considering we’re surrounded by 3-6, and 2-4 tables – we WERE the action in the main room and all eyes seemed to be on our table.

It was kind of a cool feeling – I have to admit. It was nice to be one of the watched for a change instead of one of the railbirds – which I had been, watching the high limit games from a distance. I didn’t have many chips in front of me – but I was in the GAME.

I start to get comfortable and even make a few pre flop raises (usually to $15-$30) with hands like 22, 55, and ATs. I pick up some small pots with some very nervous flop bets of almost $40-$80 and it’s a heady feeling as everyone folds to my big bets.

Am I getting the hang of this or what?

I’m dealt AQs in LP and call a raise of about $25. Three other players take in the flop.

It comes A-Q-7. (rainbow)

It’s checked to me – what to do? I’m nervous – I don’t want to overbet and scare anyone away – but I don’t want to slowplay and let a straight/flush possibility or board pair happen.

I decide that $50 is a good number.

The kid from the last big pot raises me to $100. Everyone else folds, and I think for a bit, a little acting on my part, although I was kinda nervously double checking whether I really had top two pair.

I call, of course!

The turn is a Q.

Fireworks go off inside my head. How to play this, the virtual nuts and he must have something. I don’t put him on QQ – and I’m pretty confident it ain’t AA either. Could it be 77??? I need a grudgingly aggressive bet – like I want to be – but I’m too scared to commit my stack to the pot.

I push a $100 stack of red into the middle.

The kid thinks for a bare moment – and confidently grabs a hold of his chips and moves all-in in that smooth gliding motion that seems so unnatural with too many chips.

What the hell? Could he have AQ too?

I start rethinking my hand – am I absolutely, positively sure I have the nuts? I’d like to say that I took it all in calm and collected – but this was the first time ever that I’ve had to deal with a bet this big to me.
I can’t really even say that I analyzed the situation logically and rationally and came to some reasonable well thought out decision.

The main thought in my head was “Hell – I ain’t good enough to lay this hand down!” – I push my chips forward as a crowd gathers around the table.

He doesn’t show his hand so neither do I – as the dealer turns a river 2.

At this point I can’t wait – regardless of the fact that I called HIM. I flip up my AQ for the Q boat.

And I’m ecstatically happy as he curses “Dammit! I knew it was AQ!” as he throws his AK on the table in disgust…

$1000+ in chips are pushed my way – and I am now the proud winner of my biggest poker pot ever! Raking and stacking chips is fun – especially huge NL pots. To put this into perspective – this was at least 5x as big as the biggest pot I’d ever won.

And believe you me, I took my time with the stacking. (although it may have had something to do with my shaking hands)

The kid had just swung from a big winner to a few meager stacks of red – and I vowed that I wouldn’t let the same thing happen to me. (The kid would bust out a few minutes later – moving all in on a stone cold bluff and getting called)

No sir – these chips were going home with me. A $600 profit? That’s a pretty decent poker trip – covers my expenses and then some…

I’m counting the money in my head and trying to keep from showing how giddy I am inside, as a new player sits down at the table wearing a Gutshot jacket and mirror shades.

He plops down his max-buy in and begins chatting away – clearly one of these smarmy new school ‘geek chic’ poker player types. (does that make any sense to you guys?)

I don’t like him, right off the bat.

He moves all in on a pot at the turn (a huge overbet) and takes a pot down. He shows top set and makes some stupid wiseass crack like “C’mon boys – I’m not playing around here..”. Or something asinine like that.

I think that overbet is a little out of line with a hand that strong – I suspect he THINKS he’s much better than he actually is.

A few hands later, he raises preflop to $15 and three players call. I look down and see a couple of black jacks.

Well I want to thin the field with JJ and I have ammo – so I raise it up another $50. Back to Gutshot man – and he announces – “Well – I came here to gamble.” He shrugs. “I’m all-in”.

Fold. Fold Fold, To me.

Every fiber in my being is screaming for me to fold. But I’m frozen. A deer in headlights. “How much is it?” I hear myself asking. “Approximately.” I hear myself add hastily…

“About $615 total” he answers confidently.

Every cell in my body is tingling, my face is flushed and what the hell is that thumping sound? Oh – it’s my heart racing.

I’m in the tank, supposedly thinking about the hand, but in actuality? My entire body has gone numb and my brain has frozen up.

Eventually some coherent thoughts form. What could he possibly have?
AA, KK, QQ? Those are the only hands that are ahead of me, after all, right?

As I start to ponder – would he raise this hand to $15 hoping to set a re-raise trap with big pockets like this? For some reason this doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

What else could he have? AK, AQ are possibilities. There’s even an outside chance he’s holding TT… which would be great for me.

As I percolate these thoughts I start absently counting out $615 in chips from my stack. As I finish counting I realize - $615 is basically all profit. If I call this bet – I’ll still have my original buy-in.

I don’t know if this is stupid or not – but this makes me feel infinitely more comfortable with considering the call.

I decide to put him big cards but not a big pair. The all-in move smacks of vulnerability – and just the opposite of his statement – the unwillingness to gamble.

“Ok – let’s gamble” I hear myself say to Gutshot man as my trembling fingers push $615 in the pot. (what the hell am I doing?)

I can’t see his eyes behind the mirror shades – but I don’t think he’s too happy as the dealer flops an 8-9-T board. Again – we keep our cards hidden.

It seems like the whole room is clustered around the table. Another player in seat 1 – an asian-gambling type (eh’ ToddCommish?) asks me – “Was that a good flop?”

“That was a GOOD flop for me!” I announce to the crowd.

An Ace comes on the turn…

“That was NOT a good card” I announce as I feel my heart jump into my throat.

I’m praying for a J, Q, or 7. But a heartless 2 comes on the river.

Gutshot boy shows me an Ace. Numbly – I tell him “Ace is good!” as I flip my JJ up.

He shows AKo for the winner.

I’m absolutely stunned as I watch him rake a $1230 pot. He gibbers along in a happy fashion – and I overhear him say “I didn’t think his hand was that strong!” to another player.

That’s right, I think to myself – I had him pre-flop! (54%) The fact that it was the right call – doesn’t really make me feel much better.

Why oh why, did I just gamble away my all my winnings!

The feelings that come over me as I look down at my now depleted stack are all tilt-worthy.

Anger at the annoying Gutshot guy carefully stacking my chips into racks.

Anger at myself for jeopardizing my good fortune and blowing it.

And nausea as the reality sets in that I’ve just lost over $600 on one hand of poker.

My face is still burning a dangerous red minutes later, as I look down to find an AJ diamonds on the SB, $25 to me.

I call with 3 others and flop comes 3 low cards and 2 diamonds.

I check it hoping to get a good price on my draw.

But, no – the asian dude in Seat 1 makes $100 bet after the table checks to him.

I’m set to release my hand to the big bet, but something makes me stop.

Is it tilt? I’d like to think not – but something just seems fishy about this over bet with three low cards, no straight possibility. Could he be on a flush draw too? Would he bet $100 with just a little pair?

Would he bet so much with a set? Two pair?

I know this guy in seat 1 is capable of a bluff. I’d seen him make some suspicious big bets at other flops. I’ve also seen him play a relatively wide range of hands (for a NL game). It’s possible that he could’ve hit something on this flop.

With only suspicions, a nut draw and a much increased tolerance for gambling – I call the $100.

Everyone else quickly folds.

We’re heads up when the turn comes – a THIRD diamond. (I was too excited at the time to remember now which card it was)

I start to check the turn – but stop myself. Checking is the obvious play here. Maybe I can make it look like I’m REPRESENTING the flush, is my thought.

I bet $100.

He thinks about this and mumbles something over to the dealer.
“What’s that?” the dealer asks.
“What did you say?” I ask almost simultaneously.

“I’m all-in.” he says again more clearly as he waves his hand towards the pot in an almost nonchalant way.

The instant I hear this fireworks go off in my head.

Immediately I tell him “I call!” and flip up my AJ diamonds, never mind everyone else slow rolling at this table. I can’t believe this guy just bet all-in into my nut flush!

He mucks his cards in disgust as I rake an $900+ pot.

Feeling good again.

In fact, feeling real good. I go on a little rush as players with a few hundred dollars come into the table, bust out and are replaced by others.

The best are the blackjack players – who you can tell right away because they plop down into their seat – reach into their pocket and pull a bunch of green ($25) and black ($100) chips from their pocket.

With my new profit (which I vow to defend zealously THIS time) – I find myself calling a raise with KQo. (nice job – Mas)

The flop gives me top two pair. BJ player makes it 50 and I call.

The turn comes a low card. BJ player makes it 100 and I call again.
The river is a K.

BJ player checks. I bet 200.

He moves all in.


I call immediately.

I show him KQ and he seems stunned. (I’m almost tempted to ask him if he can beat 20 – but I’m not that smarmy)

I rake a much smaller in volume pot – but filled with nice green and black chips and I’ve got over $1500 in my stack.

I was so excited at the time that I don’t even remember what he was holding. Maybe AK? (blackjack?)

I hit another hand a bit later with A-Q (again!) – when I flop top pair and call the bettor down to the river and outkick him when he shows K-Q.

At one point I’m sitting on top of a stack with over $2000 in chips.

I can’t contain myself – I’m just euphoric, the cards are running great – and people keep betting into my nut hands!

Is there an easier way to make money than this?

Unfortunately – I loosen up, maybe I had a few too many jack and cokes – see a few unwise preflop raises – but don’t hit any boards solidly enough to play. My stack ever so slowly begins to diminish – hardly noticeable to others – but trust me, I NOTICE.

Suddenly – I begin to feel a creepy and strange feeling that comes with being the table chip leader. All eyes are on me as every hand begins – and they stay on me until I fold.

It does become very easy to get loose with so many chips in front of you. It can even be profitable in NL – because you can hammer people out of pots with big bets at any time.

That isn’t MY style though. (not yet)

Meanwhile – the rest of the table sits and waits for you to make one big mistake. And that’s exactly what they’re doing, licking their chops – staring at my pile and waiting for an opportunity to scoop a big chunk out of it for themselves.

That’s when I notice one of my friends, A, enter the poker room to check on her brother in the 3-6 game a few tables away from me.

Suddenly trying very hard to not let my mask of cool poker nonchalance drop – I find myself doing everything I can to get her attention.

I can’t say exactly what came over me – but suddenly it was my utmost desire to get someone I knew to witness and share this moment of victory and look at the evidence of my tangible success.

In fact I wanted to scream, yell, laugh hysterically, and babble on about what had just transpired in the past hour and a half.

When she finally did walk over, after much eye contact and strenuous telepathic messaging on my part – her only comment is a raised eyebrow at my chip stack and a deflatingly, understated “You’re doing well.” – or something to that effect.

I feel an irresistible urge to take a break.

And as I head upstairs I run into the rest of my friends – we talk about what time we plan on leaving (soon) – and I excitedly recount the past hour and a half’s crazy action to them.

As I’m recounting – I realize, I’m done – there’s just no way I’m going to risk taking a big hit to my current stack. And the chances of me going any higher are, well… let’s just say they’re probably not that good.

I head back to the table – find four or five loose chip racks and begin the laborious task of racking up my huge stack while the whole table moans.

“Where are you going?” “Your not leaving are ya?” the table cries.

I ignore their pleas – “It’s time to go home” I tell them. And I head off to the cashier bustling through the still long tourney sign up line – with five racks of assorted red, black, and green chips (mostly red) teetering precariously in my clutches.

As I watch the cashier call his manager over before counting out a seemingly endless string of hundred dollar bills, the adrenaline begins to recede in my body and I’m left feeling spent, but euphoric.

As I ride the escalator up out of the Borgata poker room, I feel great – like all the hours spent here this week had been worth something after all. It wasn’t the money – I knew I’d find some wasteful (but fun) way to blow it. (starting with dinner at one of the Borgata restaurants for me and my friends)

I knew that it wasn’t as if I’d played any exceptional way either – obviously the deck had hit me over the head for the past hour and a half.

But I’d weathered some storms here – I’d faced big bets not in worthless tournament chips, but in real money.

And I discovered perhaps, that maybe just maybe – I have the heart (if not the skill) to play this game.

Hey – one can dream can’t they?

Next stop – Vegas, here I come - September 23 – 27th.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Borgata Trip Report - Day 3 (Part I)

When I returned to the poker room at 9am on Thursday morning there was already a pretty fair line for the 11am tournament. I had to keep from laughing as I saw a lot of haggard faces from the previous night, undoubtedly they had all gambled the night away as I didn’t see too many different (or clean) outfits…

I signed up for the 40+20 tourney, (which didn’t sell out until the last minute actually) – contemplated playing for a few hours before the start – but then decided it was too short a session (for me) and headed for breakfast, which consisted of a huge cup of Starbucks coffee.

Side note – I don’t know what it is about poker. I mean I like to eat as much as the next person, and then some. But when I get on these poker binges – food is like the farthest thing from my mind, even a nuisance. During this trip – I can honestly say – that I basically ate a sandwich on Tuesday night, and a burger on Wednesday night.
That was it. (well there were about a dozen or so Michelob Ultra beers, and at least 20 jack and cokes too).

Someone ought to come up with a new diet, call it the poker diet.
“Action is the only sustenance I require”.

When the tournament started (about 100+ players) – I was seated at a short table – with only 8 players. (There were 11 spots at each table) Didn’t really bother me too much – although I think I would’ve preferred a full table. The table was pretty tight to start – most hands didn’t go into a showdown. But, eventually as people began to settle in – the action began to heat up…

As for me – even though at this point I was intellectually and acutely aware from my experience in the Tuesday tourney, that I needed to loosen up and play more hands in the first hour – I was unable to bring myself to enter the pot with marginal hands like J9o, KTo, T8s, even hands like KJo or JTo.

I can’t figure it – it’s like it’s against my religion or something. I’d hesitate as I thought about calling or raising with one of these hands, and as I was agonizing I’d realize the whole table staring at me – and look up and muck. Just couldn’t do it.

So for the first level – I don’t think I had a single playable hand that wasn’t a blind. Not really an auspicious start. In the second level I was able to claw back to my original 1000 when I entered a min raised multi-way pot with 33. The flop came J-J-7 and was checked around. I bet the pot on the turn and most of the table immediately folded, the last player on the button agonized for a while – then took his sunglasses off – and stared me down…

Amused – I looked up and stared back. “Do you have something?” he asked me boldly.

Smiling I told him “Call and find out.” as I waited for him to finish 'looking into my soul'.

This seemed to be enough for him as he mucked his cards, grumbling something about getting me next time…

Are these guys kidding me, for gods sakes it’s a $40 buy-in tournament! I guess everyone wants to be a big shot like their heroes on poker TV.

Anyway – this pot let me continue to coast through the second level without having to rebuy. I was thinking of reloading just in case a good hand came around – but decided to see if I could find a good hand and double through on the cheap instead.

I got my opportunity on the last hand of the first hour with 88 in EP. I raised it up to about 3xBB in early position. The button moved all in – and I called the rest of my stack. He showed AK – no help came on the board and I had a free rebuy as we hit the break.

The second hour saw my streak of unplayable hands continue. I sat and watched players get knocked out left and right as the big stacks dominated the table pushing chips at pots and putting bad beats on some unlucky and desperate short stacks.

Our table was broken when we got down to 6 and I was given a slip to find my new seat..

A little controversy here as I wandered among the tournament tables looking for my new spot. I walked right by my assigned table because I couldn’t see the number and eventually circled back and found my seat.

When I sat down a new hand was being dealt and I found myself between the button. A player from my broken table apparently thought I was trying a bit of chicanery and called a floorperson to accuse me of missing the BB on the new table on PURPOSE!

WTF? I couldn’t believe it for a sec. The floorperson simply shrugged and told him there was nothing he could do about it. When I realized what I was being accused of – man was I pissed. I started to retort to the grumpy old guy – but the floor asked me to leave it alone.

This guy kept on pissing and moaning about it – as I got angrier and angrier. Would they toss me out of the tournament if I got up and knocked him out of his seat?

Eventually I figured the best course of action was just to ignore him. If he wanted to continue the conversation upstairs – well, that would be a different story. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t…

I mentioned something to that effect in a pleasant tone and he pretty much shut up after that. At least not that I could hear – which was fine with me.

The cards still ran cold – I pushed on JJ – and picked up some blinds and antes (which were a significant amount) to help survive through level 5.

I got moved again during level 6 as my stack went from average to below-average. My new table was a younger table – and unsurprisingly an action table. I still picked up some blinds and antes to keep alive – I’m not sure whether my reputation had preceded itself or what – but no one seemed to want to give me any action.

Maybe I’m getting a little too good at chip shuffling?

Anyways made it to the second break and when I returned they moved a few really big stacks the table. Looked like it was going to be double up or nothing for me. And probably at least twice if I was gonna make any noise in this tourney.

The blinds were at 500-1000 and the antes at 100, as my stack dwindled to under 5000. I was forced to start counting hands until the BB – as I waited for a hand to push with. No luck and the BB came around of 1000 – leaving me with about 2600 left in my stack.

An EP player raised it to 2000 – and two others called.

Over to me – and realizing that this was do or die time for me – I announced to the table “All-in. BLIND!” as I pushed the rest of my chips forward.

Some of the players on my side of the table seemed to get a real kick out of this. Players on the other side leaned over to ask other – “did he look at his cards?” “Really?” “He just went all in blind?”

I was laughing on the inside – I knew I would push in this situation with just about any two cards – and the 5-1 possibility on my money made it even more attractive a situation to make a move. Plus – by announcing it – maybe I could induce a loose call or three, ne?

Well – I got my wish as another player decided to push along with me, two folded, and a medium stack on the button to my right got that “what the hell look” and called us both.

The first all-in player flipped up 88. The button showed A9o.

I put my hands on my cards and flipped them up with the whole table watching intently.


My pulse raced – hey – I actually have a good hand – in fact – I’m in the lead here! The rest of the table gasped as we started to make noise that drew the attention of the rest of the tournament. Many accused me of having peeked at my cards – I didn’t – but what did I care what they thought?

Of course the flop came with an ace, and so did the turn. No help on the river and I was gone.

Before I left some of the players at my table got up to shake my hand – I guess they were impressed with my blind all-in move. But really – what else was I going to do in that situation?

It was fun – but I was more demoralized with how I had gotten to that point as I tried replaying all the hands I had seen – and wondered how many more of them I should have called.

I walked out of the room in a daze – for once I didn’t really feel like playing more poker as I rode the escalator back up to the bane of many a would-be profitable poker player, the casino floor.

Was that a blackjack table I saw somewhere off in the distance?

I didn’t know it at the time – but the best was yet to come…


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