Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I'm back from the blogging dead with a story to tell...

About a dozen of us from CT & MD (pro duckpin bowlers, a.k.a. the bottom of the athletic food chain) met halfway in Atlantic City for our annual pre-season meeting. Since I’m not part of the governing body, I had absolutely no intention of going to the meeting and every intention of playing some live Texas Hold’em…which is exactly what I did.

My long-time buddy Lou, wife Jen, and I all took half days from work on Friday and headed out for AC around 1:30. The trip usually takes 3 ½-4 hours from Hartford with no traffic, but the crappy Garden State Parkway cost us about an extra hour or so of drive time.

Nevertheless, we got into AC around 6:30. I had received separate room offers from Harrah’s & Showboat, so I booked both rooms and gave the one at Harrah’s to some of the other guys making the trip. Headed over to Harrah’s & checked in, nicely asked for and got a room in their new tower. Two nights for $79 plus tax, not too bad.

Hopped back in the car and went to Showboat to check into our room. Two nights for $59, also in their new tower. I picked Showboat over Harrah’s since it’s on the boardwalk, and right next to the Taj Mahal & their huuuuge poker room.

We had dinner reservations for 14 at the Harrah’s steakhouse, so the three of us made a small donation to Showboat’s slots and drove back to Harrah’s…by the way, all this valet parking is starting to put a dent in the wallet. All the AC casinos charge $3-5/day for parking, even in their garages…so might as well tip an extra few bucks and valet if you’re going to pay anyways.

Dinner was excellent, my weekend highlight (so what does that tell you about the gambling?!). Jen had the jumbo crab cake, and I had the king-cut prime rib. Also split a bottle of Australian cabernet with Lou. Good friends, good food, good times.

Harrah’s has a tiny poker room (6 tables) enclosed in glass walls, so my friend Luke & I decided to try our luck in The Fishbowl. Took us about 20 minutes to get on separate $2/4 Hold’em tables, and I broke even playing on a $5 Three-Card Poker table while waiting. Played for about three hours and took a $140 beating.

It was the loosest game I’ve ever played in; no matter how many times I would bet or raise my solid starting hands, at least half of the table would call. Even if I caught top pair on the flop, I still couldn’t get anyone to fold. Seemingly every hand I played to the end, somebody caught their straight or flush on the river. Very frustrating, but I figured if I kept playing on these types of tables over the weekend, the fishermen would stop catching and I’d win my share of hands…hahahahahaha!

Come to find out Luke took a similar beating...didn't win a hand & lost $100. His story of the night was being dealt pocket Aces. Everyone was raising, and still 7 people were in the hand after Luke made the final raise. Needless to say his Aces were no good in the end.

Woke up late on Saturday and made it over to the Taj poker room by about 1. More of the same No Fold’em craziness followed. The kid to my right kept digging into his pocket for $100 bills, and finally caught his diamond flush (on the river, of course) against my top pair with Ace kicker. The worst part was when he showed his hole cards: 9-4. I’m betting & raising the whole way w/AQ suited, and he’s calling with that crap?! By this time I’m down another hundred and red as a beet, so I’m outta there.

Lou is a heavy slot player & racked up some good comp at Showboat, so he treated six of us to their buffet. Another helping of prime rib for me…buffet-quality, nowhere near as good as last night’s hunk o’ beef, but hey…it’s free prime rib so it's all good!

We all go back to our rooms & get gussied up for our first trip to the new Borgata (Bellagio Jr.). It’s not Vegas, but it’s the newest & best AC has to offer. We stroll around the casino and check out the table games…$15 craps table is three-deep with people trying to get on; half of the blackjack tables are $25 minimums, with the rest $50 and up. Yep, definitely playing poker tonight!

Luke & I head downstairs to their poker room…easily the nicest one I’ve ever been in. The waiting lists are displayed on side-by-side flat-screen plasma TV’s. I put my name in for $2/4 and $3/6 Hold’em; Luke is sick of getting outdrawn on the lower limit tables, so he cowboys up and asks for a $6/12 game. My name is nowhere to be seen on the list, so I head back up to the casino to pass the time.

I actually found a bunch of 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker machines (quarters), so I gave it a shot. Didn’t win, but my $20 lasted a good 45 minutes or so. Back down to the poker room, and I get called for a $2/4 game. This table was much tighter than the others I played over the weekend and I won a few hands. We also had a friendly group of players and ended up celebrating last call with a round of Southern Comfort snakebites…nice & smooth!

I left this table about $20 to the good, but not before getting bluffed out of a hand. I’m dealt KK on the button, so I raise pre-flop & get 2 callers. Flop comes Q-5-4, all diamonds of course. I bet my top pair, next guy raises, other guy calls. I re-raise, both call. I figure at least one of them for a flush draw.

The turn is a 6 off-suit, so now there’s also a straight draw on the board. I bet, next guy raises again and the other calls again. Figuring my Kings are no good, even if I catch a third on the river, I fold. The river is the 7 of diamonds, meaning there’s 4 diamonds & an open-ended straight draw on the board….and a pair of Queens wins! Are you kidding me?! Luke ended up losing $80, not too bad for 3 hours of play on a $6/12 table.

Wake up late again on Sunday & head down to the casino to try some $10 blackjack. Seven hands and $60 later, I throw in the gambling towel for the weekend. The other weekend highlight was watching the Pats D shut down Manning and the Colts at the Showboat’s sports bar. Love them Pats, and love their chances in the Super Bowl!

By this time it’s snowing everywhere between AC and Boston, so we decide to stay an extra night. Showboat graciously comps us another room, thanks to the $$$$ Lou & my wife pumped into their slots. We are ALL DONE gambling, so we head straight for the room. They both fall asleep while I watch the Eagles blow their third straight NFC championship. Drive home on Monday was uneventful.

I’m not sure what I learned from my weekend of poker frustration. I know that playing conservatively in low-limit Hold’em should be profitable in the long run, but all those unlucky rivers sure did kill my confidence!

I’ll probably play a lot of no-limit Hold’em tournaments on the March Madness trip to Las Vegas, which is just 57 short days away! I’m more used to playing no-limit, where it’s less likely someone will call a big bet with a marginal/get lucky on the river hand.