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High On Poker

Mind the Poker

January 31st, 2018

Last night, once I confirmed that wifey Kim planned to spend her evening engaged in a television program of which I had no interest, I decided to play in the almost nightly online poker game mentioned in the last post. I signed on at 8:33pm, and found that an 8:30 tournament was running with 6 players with 7 minutes left for late registration. I entered the game and prepare to lose my $40.

I’ve played this game already a handful of times, but have yet to cash. In one of my first tourneys (maybe the first), I bubbled. After that, I figured it would be easy to dominate this group of players. I didn’t know them from a hole in the wall, but I had to assume, based on my experience, that I was probably more knowledgeable about the game then my competition. Also, from what I saw, the group consists of a bunch of friends – remember, I got into the group through Dave Roose, but other than one other player who I barely know, the rest of the field are utter strangers. In any event, in my experience, when facing a group of friends, the interloper is at a natural advantage. They know each other’s tendencies, but not mine, and I enter the game with an open mind, picking up not only how players play, but how others play against them.

Regardless, despite my illusions of grandeur, I kept losing. I blamed it partly on ring rust (something that I admittedly claimed did not exist in a prior post). I also blamed the lack of information available in online poker, as compared to the live game. Finally, I had to blame my lack of attention.

With all that in mind, I figured that last night may be my last attempt to play in the game. I had consistently lost, so at some point, I had to accept that I was not cut out for the game. I also had a nagging feeling that since I do not know these players, I could be swindled via collusion. Of course, that’s the nagging feeling of just about any losing player, but it was present nonetheless.

So off we went, a last ditch effort to win. And I played well, too. I tried to get back into small-ball poker, making lots of min-raises with a wide range early on, hoping to build an image as well as a stack. I hadn’t made a ton of headway, but I was definitely doing well when I was brought back to reality.

Of the 7 players, 5 were left, and I had around 7k+ from a 5k starting stack. I also was dealt AA and used the same small-ball approach to get some action. Fortunately, it worked, and I found myself all-in with a shorter stack (4.5k) pre-flop. He had AK, and I was in great shape…until two Kings came out on the flop. Ugh.

Down to 2.5k, my first reaction was, “I want that action every day and twice on Sunday.” I couldn’t be upset with the outcome. My second thought was, “But maybe this particular group is just unlucky for me. If I can’t win, I can’t keep throwing money at this.” Finally, I reached my last thought, and it was as if a switch had turned on in my head: “Wait a minute! Just because you lost a hand and most of your stack, does not mean you are out!”

Of course! I was on the verge of tilting, but I pulled myself back from the precipice. In my head, I thought to myself, “This is just part of the story of how you won the tournament! This happens all the time. You take a hit, you come back, and you win the thing. The hit doesn’t matter if you are still in the game. Get back in there!”

And so, I did. I played much better attention, taking notes on my competition to begin to establish pattern-based reads. I picked and chose my shots carefully, working my stack back up. When we were down to four and even three, I was the short stack, at times with less than 10x the BB, but I was able to build my stack back up to the point that I became chipleader with three players left, and then chipleader with a nice margin.

Ultimately, one of my opponents took out the other, leaving us heads up. I had a 1.5:1 lead on my opponent, but heads up is a fickle beast, and in no time, we were even. He proposed a chop, and we were done. My profits from this one tournament still leave me in the red, but the win does remind me that keeping the right mindset may be one of the components I was missing from my earlier tournaments.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the hard things about poker is learning the same lesson over and over again. You make a mistake, you learn something, it fades into the background, and then you make the mistake all over again. But, hopefully, each time the fade gets slower. I’m hoping to remember to keep the right mindset for quite some time.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Many poker players, even professionals, face serious difficulties when transitioning from online playing to live events, or the other way around. Even starting with live playing can be overwhelming, especially at those big tournaments heavily packed with strong personalities. While nothing beats the real experience in those situations, there are certainly some steps to undertake before diving into the unknown.

Even if you have never played the game under any circumstances, the difference between online poker and live poker should be intuitively recognized. It doesn’t come as a surprise that competing against people in situations where you actually see them and they can see you will cause some important issues to be considered. You have to address those issues beforehand, otherwise they will definitely make your life harder. That is what the cool kids are doing, at least if they really aspire to greater things.

One form of live playing is cash games you can come across at casinos and other regulated establishments. This would be similar to regular online table games in terms of coming and going as pleased, and much different when it comes to the need to read opponent’s true intentions and hide one’s own. After carefully choosing the right and affordable stakes to play with, according to available bankroll, there are some important tips to have in mind throughout the game. The obvious ones, applying also to any kind of real money wagering, are to stay focused and alert, keeping eyes on what’s going on around, which could be difficult for online grinders used to play multiple tables. Maintaining clear head, free of distractions, outside concerns and refraining from intoxicating substances will help this case profoundly. While at it, keen observation of opponents tells and tendencies is crucial, too. As well as looking for some bluffing patterns. When tempted to take a shot at bluffing yourself, not being experienced enough should be major argument for the case of minimalizing this part of the game. There’s plenty of time to learn along the way.

Big live tournaments with high competition and great money prizes are something else to be conscious about. It’s probably best to start from smaller events rather than World Series of Poker. Still, the stress factor in those is considerably higher than during casual casino visit. However, it is important to tame a pounding heart a bit and not to be instantly intimidated by numerous and most likely more experienced players. After all, the idea remains the same – the best hand wins in the end, and it might just as well be yours. On the other side, a little humility won’t hurt either, but imitating professionals seen on tv or even in person is not a good idea for a serious approach. Ideally, you would be able to play your own game and produce some unique combination of styles. Recognizing the parts in the game when it’s better to play tight or when to take on some more aggressive stance is the ultimate goal here.

Last but not least, regardless of the circumstances and level of difficulty, don’t forget to have fun and simply enjoy poker. If it feels like a chore it probably won’t work. Whereas the ability to loosen up a little can help to relax and make better decisions.

The Return of Pantsless Poker

January 18th, 2018

I have a secret to tell. I’ve been playing online poker. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s illegal!

This all came about around a month ago. Good pal o’ mine Dave Roose sent me a text about how his friend, who I will call Minty, has been hosting an online poker game at a free-to-play site, but with real world money implications. The tournament, which runs fairly randomly, but also fairly often, is a $40 buy-in. Fortunately, Roose vouched for me and Minty trusted me, so I pay after the tournament via an online money transfer program that shall remain nameless. Thus far, its been pretty easy to transfer the funds, but, sadly, despite several attempts, I have yet to receive any funds. That’s right, folks. I have NOT been cashing.

Playing online poker again is interesting. It’s definitely different. I remember in the good old days circa 2007 sitting in my couch, next to wifey Kim, playing on a laptop while we watched a show together. Occasionally, I would pop in headphones and a mic and be able to talk with fellow bloggers, some of which had kids. When those kids would wake up or would otherwise need parental attention, the player(s) would have to leave the game for a bit. I had no such issues, being married but childless. Thems were the days.

Nowadays is very different. With two kids under 5 years-old, my routine has changed. I haven’t had a laptop in over a year, so my poker is relegated to my home office, which is a nice way to say the walk-in junk drawer where our desktop is set up. Its more isolating, but, I suppose, there are less distractions. Thus far, I have not had to deal with mid-game childcare, so that’s fine, but the possibility is always there.

My skills have also seemingly atrophied; or at least my luck has. I’ve probably played four times or so, and have yet to win. The second time, I bubbled, but since then, its been ugly. I think part of the issue is patience. Focus is an issue too, as I notice myself mentally checking out between hands instead of watching my opponents for patterns. Then again, sample size is small.

Whatever the case, its nice to be back in action.

Until next time, make mine poker!

 

Samuel is a guy whose dense friends believe that he will one day conquer the heights of the poker world. From his recent local performances, they believe that Samuel has all it takes to be a poker “star”. Yes, he is talented and seems to be a promising poker player, but how he got started playing poker is a rather strange story.

Samuel was born in an upper-middle-class household. He was born almost ten years after his parent’s marriage because they suffered from some infertility problems. For this reason, Samuel was given undue care and attention. He was assisted in doing anything and everything.

What he lacked was the liberty to think and do things proportionate to his age by himself. For example, he was not allowed to play in the evenings and holidays with his peer group, as his parents feared that he might get hurt. Also, from dress to food, his parents, though lovingly, imposed their interests on him.

Despite this, he was a brilliant student and a promising athlete during his early days. He proved to be adept in his studies. And out of the classroom, he excelled in sprinting events.

By the time Samuel was ready for the college, his parents had made up their mind that he would be a mechanical engineer. But his passion was elsewhere. He wanted to study and pursue a career in mathematics. Later, though unwillingly, he joined a reputable college to pursue an engineering degree.

Soon, everything changed for the worse. His academic interests started fading away as mechanics was not his “cup of tea”. Out of academic and internal pressure, he started looking for some way to vent his frustration. And unfortunately, with some external influence, he started smoking. By the end of his coursework, he had been transformed into a chain smoker.

Though he somehow managed to secure a degree, he was unable to come out of his bad habit, despite he himself showing intent. To his fortune, it was then that his pre-degree classmates happened to arrange a get-together and hear his story. Knowing the unfortunate situation of their friend, they suggested that Samuel to find some interesting thing to do so that he may concentrate completely on that; thereby effectively reducing the frequency of smoking. He chose card games.

Because of his concentration on the game and his conscious efforts, he then reduced his smoking. It was at this point that one of his friends introduced him to the world of Poker. Samuel was even gifted the poker strategy book titled “Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide” written by the famous professional poker player Barry Greenstein. Although it was initially meant to make playing cards more interesting and a bit rewarding for Samuel, it made his life whole again.

He found poker so interesting that he substantially reduced his smoking in the first week alone. Within another couple of months, he eventually quit smoking altogether. And by the time he quit smoking, he had already mastered the game of poker. So now, Samuel has made up his mind to take up poker as his career and he, supported by his friends, is waiting for a global breakthrough.

Juror Tells

October 9th, 2017

I’m currently in the middle of a three week trial. One of the main aspects of the defense is that our client is lying about his injuries. The defendants telegraphed that they would be attacking my client’s credibility in all sources of ways, many of which are irrelevant or, at most, tangential, to the case itself. Things like repeatedly making reference to my client’s girlfriend since he is still married (but separated), attacking the institution from which he earned his degrees, and claiming that he plagiarized his book. Since we knew that the defendants were going to take this tactic, during opening statements, we made reference to the anticipated character assassination. The hope was that the jury would remember our opening statement and whenever one of these tangential issues come up, think, “Oh, this nonsense again,” rather than, “Oooh! Really? How scandalous!”

Last week, the defendants were going on and on about these topics, so I decided to see how the jury was reacting. As I reviewed their body language, I was reminded of poker. I was looking to see whether the jury was open and engaged, or turned off. My people reading skills are a bit dusty, at least in terms of poker, but like riding a bicycle, it all came back.

The most noticeable thing was that a couple of the jurors had their arms crossed. In a poker setting, a player sitting in this way before the cards are dealt is indicating a willingness to wait for good cards. In the middle of a hand, it may indicate that the person is defensive, perhaps because of a vulnerable hand or a bluff. In contrast, a player leaning into the table before the cards are dealt is indicating that he is impatient. Once the cards are dealt, leaning into the table may suggest interest in the hand – especially if you eliminate the possibility of reverse tells (otherwise, such an overt indication of eagerness may be a player acting strong because he is weak). Its safe to say in a trial setting, no jurors are sending out false tells.

Truth be told, I’m still not 100% sure what the crossed-arm stance meant in the context of the testimony. They may’ve been turned off by the questions, but they equally could’ve been turned off by the answers. I looked at the few players – um, I mean jurors – who had their arms closed and realized that they probably were empathizing with my client, since they were jurors who I generally saw as similar to the client. So, the crossed-arms hopefully indicated that they were mentally putting themselves in the plaintiff’s position and felt attacked. Of course, time will tell.

The other “tell” I noticed were jurors who were covering their mouths, or face with their hands. In a poker setting, particularly in a hand, such a move is a sign that the players is uncomfortable. In a bluff setting, the player may be trying to hide tells. Otherwise, its still a soothing habit – hiding one’s face – which indicates a certain level of discomfort, if not deceit.

I racked my brains trying to figure out what the hand-covered-faces meant. Honestly, it could just be boredom, which works for me as well (I rather they be bored by the attack than engaged). But otherwise, it likely meant that – like the cross-armed jurors – they were putting themselves in the place of the witness and consequently felt uncomfortable. I suppose they could have been uncomfortable by the answers they heard. Like poker tells, ultimately, until showdown (or in our case, verdict), you cannot say with certainty what’s going on inside a player’s (juror’s) head.

After the day had ended, I suddenly felt the poker itch. I don’t see when I will be able to scratch it, but it has been a while since I even thought of the game, so it was nice to return to that mindset for a moment. Alas, at least until this trial is done (and the one after it), there will be no poker for me. Maybe I’ll check out www.bestusacasinosites.com when done to see what options are available to US players.

Until next time, make mine poker!

A Grain of Sands

August 29th, 2017

I’ve had a very interesting few months, and an even more interesting few months on the horizon. The biggest item that has been monopolizing my attention are three upcoming trials. The first will be my first solo NY trial. It involves a man whose hand was crushed in an elevator door. The second and third trials are my two largest cases. The second involves a man who suffered nerve damage to half of his body due to an electric shock and the third involves a man who lost his hand in an industrial meat grinder. The last trial I had (my first solo trial ever – in NJ) was at least two years ago, so I have to use legal muscles that have atrophied a bit.

So, what does a responsible adult with two young children do when he has a free day? You got it! The Sands in Bethlehem. I was lamenting to wifey Kim how I really wanted to go, but I could not get over the guilty feeling of leaving her with the kids, not spending every waking hour preparing for the trials, and spending money that should be preserved since we are in the process of buying our coop unit. She was encouraging me to go, but I still could not shake the feeling that she didn’t want me to go. She was on the phone with her bro, bro-in-law Marc, and mentioned, off-hand, how I was considering a Sands trip the next day. He volunteered, “I’d go. I was thinking of gong anyway.” Wifey Kim passed along the statement, and suddenly I had to go. After all, I didn’t want to let Marc down.

The next morning, I got up early and took the subway to Manhattan. Marc was driving and he picked me up before entering the Holland Tunnel. We had an uneventful ride, catching up and having the type of conversation two friends and bros-in-law can have only when they are both staring forward in a car with nothing else to do.

We arrived at the casino around 10:15 or so. We put in our names for 1/2 NLHE and waited patiently. They opened a new table (my favorite) and we both took seats. When we play, we do not initially acknowledge each other’s existence or our relationship. We sit far from each other at the table, build a rapport with our neighbors, and interact only as one would with another stranger at the table. We do this, I think, for two reasons: (1) we do not want anyone even thinking that there is any collusion going on – and to be clear, there is no collusion at all, and (2) if we were chatty, we may give off info about each other or even give off info subtly by how we play against each other.

I took the 2 seat, and regretted it after an orbit or two. I likely have already mentioned this here, but poker players in a poker room are like human pinballs. They cannot navigate a 6 foot space without bouncing off of the chairs that border it. After being bumped into more than a few times, I asked for a seat change, eventually moving to the 8 seat (out of 9), which was against the rail.

I do not remember most hands, but one scenario in particular stood out to me. There was a player who had won a bunch of pots. He was a good player, but not great. I was admittedly playing a bit weak passive, and I got the sense that he thought he could read me. Well, he couldn’t. In two major hands, about an hour apart, he incorrectly folded, saying that he knew I had made my hand (I was bluffing) and called saying that he knew I didn’t have the flush (I did). It felt good to have my opponent read me wrong twice, both to my detriment.

I had amassed a decent stack, around $500 on a $200 buy-in, and then went card dead. I was folding for a long while, but I did my best not to fall into the “this is the best hand I’ve seen in a while” trap. Sometimes, in fact, even today in a blog post on another site, I’ll see players say, “I played K9 because it was the best hand I’ve seen in hours,” or something similar. There is no logic to that statement. In fact, its complete trash to think that way and will only cost you money. The other players and the poker gods do not care that this is the best hand you’ve seen in a while. If its a crap hand, its a crap hand. Plus, even if you card dead, if your opponent is getting hit with the deck, your K9 is still not going to beat his KK. Which brings me to a hand between Marc and I.

When I moved my seat, it put me two spots to the left of Marc. After being card dead for a while, I was dealt KK. I raised pre-flop, and a calling station across the table called me. Marc also called. The flop was K-high. It checked around to Marc, who bet. I called, to keep the calling station in the hand. He called as well. The turn was a blank. I bet, the calling station called, and Marc raised. Hmm. I decided to flat calling, hoping once again to keep the calling station in the pot. Alas, he folded. On the river, I made a large bet and Marc called. He had KQ, for top pair, strong kicker. That last bet was probably $100+, so I do not know why he thought he was good there. Alas, he did it to himself. Ka ching.

I made what may’ve been a mistake in a late hand. There was a player who had amassed a large stack and was the type of player who will bet any pair . I had flopped the joint, a low straight, with suited gappers (57). I let him lead the flop. On the turn, I raised large. He had bet $30 and I upped it to $130. On the river, I pushed all-in for about $300 more. He thought for a minute, decided that I definitely did not have the 5-7 straight, but then folded, claiming he had two pair. I mulled over whether i could have kept him in the pot for less. Surely, he would’ve called $100 or even $130 again. Alas, I ultimately decided that my play, while not successful, was justified. The players around me all thought I was trying to steal the pot with the shove, especially since my opponent was a bit of a bully. I was hoping to give off that impression. So, even if it didn’t work in that instance, the play was at least justifiable.

I was able to lay QQ down once. Preflop, I bet and was met by a raise and a call. I flat called because the raiser had not re-raised pre-flop a lot, despite being a fairly loose caller. The flop was all unders, but the raiser raised again, this time for a tidy sum. The caller called all-in for less. I decided that QQ could not have been good. As it turned out, I was facing KK (raiser) and JJ (caller). So, good for me, I guess.

The game really got the poker juices flowing, but with three major trials that will take me straight through October, it looks like there is not much on the horizon. If only I could play on some awesome website that would allow me to play without the travel, I could work some poker into my schedule without having to leave my family for a day. I miss the days of getting dozens of bloggers together from around the world to play some online poker and socialize, like some sort of worldwide mobile casino party. At least I don’t have to travel all the way down to AC, though.

Until next time, make mine poker!

 

Are you a gambler by nature? Just love the thrill of watching the pot grow, the cards turn over, and that feeling you get when you win big? What if there was a way that you could partake in these kinds of activities everyday right from the comfort of your own home? Well, there is and it comes in the form of online casinos. In fact, there is a good chance that you have probably heard of these websites, since they have been around from quite awhile now and soared in popularity over the years. When you mix the excitement of poker with the convenience of online play the whole aspect become pretty appealing. However, before you get started there are several things that you need to be aware of.

The Game Is Not Rigged

If you do some research and study up on online casinos, you will probably find tons of forums, blogs, and posts that say that these online casinos are rigged. These are just from bitter players and the real truth of the matter is that gambling is a game of change and there is always a change that you can lose. When playing online poker games, these casinos use card generators rather than a dealer. However, these card generators are monitored by third-party organizations, which makes it nearly impossible for the website owner to manipulate them. Of course, you are going to get dealt some bad hands just like you would in a real live casino.

Be Wary Of The Casinos You Choose

When it comes to poker online, you will find that there are a wide variety of different online casinos that you can choose to play in. However, not all of the sites were created equal and there are some pretty mediocre casinos out there that don’t offer much in the way of games or excitement. The good thing is that in the end the decision as to where you play really comes down to you. If you find a casino that you don’t like then just simply move onto the next one. Be sure too choose sites that excite you, make you feel alive, and offer rates that you can afford.

Finding Competition

If you are a competitive person and consider yourself a good poker play by nature, you will probably not find the competition that you are looking for online. Of course, there are some amazing players out there in the virtual world, but the sad truth is that most of them are bad. However, this can be used to your advantage, because it gives you a chance to earn more money.

You Can Still Play If You Live In The United States

You have probably heard about lots of crackdowns on online casinos based in the United States. This is due to the fact that is online poker isn’t legal in the United States, but just because you live there it doesn’t mean that you can’t partake in these activities. Certain sites that get shut down usually get shut down, because their servers are owned and operated in the United States. Look for sites that do not operate in the United States to ensure that your favorite casino never gets shut down.

Where to start? Where to start?

First of all, I discovered a handful of comments awaiting moderation. Sorry, folks, if you left a comment and it did not post. Hell, even one of my own comments were awaiting confirmation.

I played in a home game. Ham Hands Pauly and Abby from Wall Street Poker recently hosted the Parents’ Home Game, as I like to think of it. It was at their home, scheduled to start at 7:30pm, only a few short blocks from my home. I arrived early (naturally) and was the only one there aside from the two hosts. As we chatted idly, I mentioned that their proposed game was a genius idea: one tournament only, with a higher than usual buy-in, so that players with kids can budget their time wisely. Pauly and Abby have two great kids under 6 years old (under 5?) and they are both very intelligent people, so I assumed they had come up with the plan. With just one tournament, there is no pressure to stay for the second game and with the slightly higher buy-in, winning is worthwhile, even if you will be exhausted from a bio-alarm-clock that thinks 6am is a fine time to get up on a weekend. When I complimented them, Abby looked at me strangely and then shared, “Actually, this was your idea. You mentioned having just one tournament at the last game.” Hmm… I thought for a moment before realizing that she was right. So, it turns out my two friends are not geniuses…but I am. But good on them for listening. That’s something.

I wish I could tell you about my big win. Nope. I lost two buy-ins. The first time, my AA was all-in against Pauly’s 88 preflop. He hit his 8 and I was out. (Your $1 for the bad beat story is in the mail). The second time, my low pair was all-in against Pauly’s flush draw. I was trying to push him out of the hand, but alas, my reputation precedes me and he made the call and took a chance to knock me out. Pauly ended up not even cashing, so all that donking by me amounted to nothing.

What I did win, however, was an evening of poker with friends who are willing to take your money ruthlessly and then discuss openly how they ruthlessly took your money once the hand is over. Its a smart crowd, so hearing insight from the other players is always invaluable. I play a somewhat risky game, particularly in tournaments, so I shrugged off my losses and thanked them for a fun evening. I was home in time to be merely exhausted the next day, instead of utterly exhausted. I look forward to their next game, which should be monthly.

More recently, I had an opportunity to go to a casino in PA for poker, but…passed. I was in PA for work. It was very intense, but I finished by 5pm. The drive home was 3 hours, and I contemplated staying in PA overnight. I decided against it. Despite my exhaustion from having kids and the temptation of a bed that did not feature any feet to kick me in the ribs or a bio-alarm-clock perpetually set at Please-Jesus-It’s-Too-Early-Go-Back-to-Sleep(!) o’clock, I missed my family. I considered stopping for a few hours, but it would not be enough to really enjoy myself.

A younger me would have never passed up the opportunity to play, but kids and the lack of poker has definitely factored in to my diminished desire. I still want to play, but I realize the conditions have to be right, or I’m going to play terribly due to distractions, exhaustion and ring rust (which I now acknowledge to be a real, but surmountable, obstacle in poker).

Finally, I faced an interesting temptation recently. A certain poker site began advertising on Facebook. I was tempted to play, but I’m still very hesitant after the UIGEA fallout from 2011. A friend has tried it out at very low stakes, but has not withdrawn money. I’m not just interested in playing poker; I’m interested in winning money by playing poker. If I’m not confident I can withdraw, what’s the point of playing? Until I’m ready to take that added risk, I will stick with live casino action. Meanwhile, people over in the UK can comfortably play games like the Thunderstruck 2 slot at the popular online casino InstaCasino, while I twiddle my thumbs.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Oldie By Goody

March 6th, 2017

This weekend, I returned to the Sands with three of my usual degenerates, Dave Roose, Bro-in-Law Marc, and Robbie Hole, to do that poker thing I used to do so frequently. The day pass from the wife was easy to get; she’s a reasonable one. I just tend not to ask.

As per usual, the ostensible reason for the trip ended up falling by the way side. I decided around two months in advance that I wanted to play at the Sands on Saturday for a special tournament that they were throwing, a $400 total buy-in, black chip bounty, $30,000-guarantee. The tournament started at 11 am, so the plan was to arrive nice and early, by 10 am, and settle in for a long day of poker. As the day approached, though, reality set in. The tournament itself would attract at least 100 entrants and likely quite a bit more. Given the start time, I figured the tournament could end in the wee hours of Sunday morning. To a young stud like me…five years ago…that would be doable. To the exhausted father of two I am today, that was untenable. Not only would that mean driving home when I would be completely exhausted (with two bio alarm clocks, aka kids, demanding that I awake at the crack of dawn), but it would also mean that I likely play sub-par late due to exhaustion and anxiety about going home so late, AND my friends would have to wait around. Perhaps even worse, I could bust early and have to wait for my friends!

Roose had picked me up at 8am and we met Marc 15 minutes later before heading out to PA. On the drive, I called to confirm that the tournament allowed re-entries until 1pm before deciding that it was definitely going to be a day of cash games.

By the time the three of us arrived, Robbie Hole had already found himself a black jack table and was embracing the grind. The three of us headed to put our names on the 1/2 list, which was already 10 names deep. We then met up with Rob. I left him shortly after seeing him lose on a double down and then immediately lose to the dealer’s blackjack. I don’t believe in jinxes, but I sure as shit was not going to tempt fate.

Eventually, Marc and I were called for the same 1/2 table. I took the 9 seat (the tables are now 9-handed) and he took the 5 seat. To his immediate left was an older gentleman, followed by the man’s 30-something son Moe, and an Asian guy on my immediate right named Che. All three played fairly well, with the Asian gentleman particularly skilled. The 1 seat was similarly skilled. The 2 seat and 3 seat rotated a bit. The 4 seat was a black gentleman, likely in his 30s, wearing an extremely oversized black leather jacket and a black ball cap that read “KING” pulled low, practically over his eyes. He looked like a thug, like something out of The Wire.

I admit, at first, my play was sub-par. I lost around $150 or so playing passively, calling a bit too much only to fold shortly thereafter. I lost an early hand with pocket 10s, and then had to let go KK against an Ace-high flop with lots of action. If I were watching me, I would identify myself as a mark. Fortunately, King, the would-be thug in the four-seat, seemed to have had the same read. I noticed in particular that he was playing back at me, as well as he should have, given how I was playing.

When I arrived at the table, King had a large stack, probably north of $800. He had lost some and I had reloaded $100, so when the hand in question began, I had probably around $250 or so. I was dealt AKs.

I had noticed that the table was playing somewhat aggressively, so I opted for what seemed to be a common bet, $20. I think King was the only one who called. The flop had two spades, giving me a flush draw. The cards themselves were all relatively low (8 or lower). I bet $40 and King called. The turn was a blank. Here, I think I cannot exactly recall the action. I may have bet $60 or so, or, quite frankly, I may’ve checked. All I know is that if I bet, he called, because we both saw the river – a 9 of spades – giving me the nut flush.

I thought for a moment and then pushed my entire stack into the middle. I wanted a call – desperately – so as he took his time, I thought about how I could get him to call given the rivered flush card. If he had the flush, he probably would have called by now. If he did not have the flush, would he fear that I had it? I knew from experience that when a player is taking a long time and you think he is going to fold, its best to do something – anything – to induce the call. So, I put on my acting hat and decided to look scared as shit.

I’ve seen scared players before, usually young kids playing with money that actually matters to them. I did my best to impersonate them, going into a weak version of tell lockdown. In case you have not heard me mention this before, some people who are bluffing are so scared of giving off tells that will induce a call that they completely hide, going into tell lockdown. Usually, this very move is the tell. It’s definitely gotten me paid before. So, I opted to imitate tell lockdown, but do so in a manner that clearly showed fear. I pressed my chin against my chest so that my hat brim covered my eyes. I took scared sips of my drink, making sure that my hand was NOT shaking (shaking hands usually means a player is on an adrenaline rush from having a strong hand). I tilted my head every once in a while to glance at his hands, moreso so that he was thinking that I was looking at his hands less than an actual desire to see what he was doing.

He eventually called and showed A9, for rivered top pair. He had been calling me the whole way with air, presumably to try to take it away from me. After all, I was playing weakly. Instead, I had caught my fish.

The two players to my immediate right, Che and Moe quietly mentioned that they thought I was bluffing. “You looked so scared,” Che added. In my head, I said, “Well, that move is burned for the day.” The next thought was, “Unless I reverse it and do the scared act the next time I’m actually bluffing.” Layers, folks. The game has layers.

I continued to press ahead until I found myself in a hand with Marc. I had JJ preflop and raised, receiving two callers, Marc and some other guy. The flop came out AcJc7c, and Marc led out with a bet. I had some concerns about a flopped flush, but I had the redraw to a full house and there was a possibility someone was playing a strong Ace or had a strong club in their hand for a flush draw. I flat called, hoping to keep the other player in the pot. He called as well.

The turn was another Ace, giving me a full house. Marc led out again, for a larger sum. Once again, I wanted the other guy in the pot, so I just flat called. The other guy, however, decided to fold.

The river was a 2c. Marc led out for $100. He had probably another $120 behind. I considered pushing to get the rest of his chips, but ultimately opted to flat call. For some reason, I had feared a better full house, like A7 or AJ. He had bet enough to make the pot sizeable. There was no need to gild the lilly. I called. He showed a flopped flush and I took down the pot.

At this point, I was up a decent sum, but the story continues.

In the next major hand (but not the actual next hand), I had AA. An unexceptional player raised pre-flop to $12. By the time it got to me, there were a couple of callers, so I reraised to $37 ($25 on top) and got two callers, including the initial raiser. The flop was 237 rainbow, which was about as ideal as I could have hoped. I was first to act, so I bet $100. I had to assume I had the best hand. 22, 33, and even 77 seemed unlikely to call a $25 re-raise pre-flop, since preflop re-raises were not common at this table and the action had considerably died down. A bet of $100 may look like I was trying to buy the pot, or so I hoped. The original raiser was next to act and thought for a bit. As he labored over his decision, I remember thinking, “guys who take a long time and then push are usually just acting.” Sure enough, he did push. The other player in the hand folded. I asked for a count of the all-in. It was $208. I considered my opponent’s possible holdings once again and confidently removed 22 and 33 given his play thus far. I also could not envision 77, although there was a slight possibility. I called. He showed QQ immediately, so as a courtesy, I showed my AA. The turn was a 6. The river was a Queen. SHIT!

Inside, I was a bubbling cauldron of rage. On the outside, I was very calm about it. My neighbors, Moe and Che, commented about how well I took the beat. “It happens. If you want to know everything, go play chess.” I went from up to down. Ugh.

Hole had played in the tournament, but busted out in the third level when his full house lost to a straight flush. By the time I lost that big pot, it was 12:45 or so. Roose texted about lunch at the Carnegie Deli inside the casino. We agreed to go at 1pm. Marc, ultimately, decided to keep playing poker, hoping to grind back his losses.

Lunch was great, but ultimately VERY heavy. I’m starting to realize that the food that I enjoy is only enjoyable on the way down. It was nothing crazy. A grilled cheese with bacon and an order of fries for the three of us to share. Grilled cheese has always been the official casino food of High on Poker, if only for its comfort and simplicity. There’s was great, a double-decker (nothing is small at Carnegie). But after finishing, I felt a coating of grease on my insides and outsides.

I returned to the table around 2pm and got back to the grind. I won back all of my money, and even worked my way up to a small profit before the final major hand of the day for me.

I had TT in the BB. It was practically a family pot of limpers by the time it got to me, so I raised to $22. Everyone folded except for Moe.

The flop was King high with two low cards. I bet $40 and Moe called. The turn was a blank. I checked and he checked. The river was a 6. He bet $100. I thought for a moment and decided he did not have the King. I called and was correct. He did not have the King. He had 66. His dad, or at least the guy who I pegged as his dad based on their appearance and the fact that they both spoke the same foreign language, said, “If you bet that turn, he probably folds.” By this time, our side of the table was friendly and chatting, so I did not mind discussing the hand. “True, but he was drawing to two outs. Most of the time, that check is harmless.” I didn’t add, “and I get paid off on the river by looking weak on the turn.” But I thought it, and I mostly think I’m right. Then again, the pot was already over $100 on the turn, so $100 in the hand is worth more than paying off an additional $100 on the river.

I should mention that some time before this hand, Marc sent out a group text asking us all if we wanted to go in on a black jack syndicate, where we pool our money, play at the same table, and chop the results. I decided to pass, happy to play poker. Roose joined him. Rob was playing table games too, but I am not sure if he was part of their team, so to speak.

The syndicate did not work out this time, though. Around 3:45, the group was texting about an exit strategy. In our younger days, we could play poker for days. Not so much anymore. I decided to go with the flow and pack up. I was down around $60, but in the grand scheme of things, that was okay. My cohorts were down considerably more, but I do not know the actual figures.

On the way back to NY, we stopped at Wegman’s, a supermarket chain that does not exist in NY. We loaded up on their subs and I grabbed four of their cookies, the best cookies available in my estimation. The drive home was bearable, but just barely. On the way to the Sands, with Dave driving, Marc and I played Chinese poker the entire way. I lost $5. On the way back, we played some more, and I lost another $15. Que sera.

We dropped off Marc and then headed to my place. Roose and I opted to see Logan – making the most of the day pass we received from our respective families. The movie was amazing.

I returned home to find wifey Kim passed out on the couch, my son passed out in my bed, and my daughter passed out in my son’s room. All was well with the world, and I was only $60 lighter than when the day started.

I cannot wait to plan my next poker trip. But I imagine its another long time coming. In the meanwhile, there’s betulator.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Even Two Won’t Stop Me

November 30th, 2016

II’ve had a helluva year, people. We had a relatively sudden death in my family in the summer (no need to get into it in detail here), and the birth of my second child in October. The result, as you can imagine, is that my already meager poker play remains just that…meager. Fortunately, there is poker on the horizon.

Once again, I will be returning to Atlantic City for AC for X-Mas. This is probably the sixteenth year, but it will be different than years past. Initially, it was just me and wifey Kim (then girlfriend Kim). Eventually, Dave Roose and Robbie Hole joined. Then, my parents and Roose’s parents got in on the action. Roose’s wife and Hole’s girlfriend joined the festivities and my brother(s) and other friends would randomly join for a year here and there. But one constant was me and wifey Kim. Not this year though.

While I will be drinking free drinks and playing poker at a table of mostly non-Christians, wifey Kim will be home with a toddler and newborn. What a woman! For the first time in a while, I will be on an AC trip without the wife, so poker will be practically non-stop. Sure, we’ll be doing a X-mas eve dinner (our usual joint, Rafici’s, reopened after being closed for several years) and sure, this year, I’ll only be in AC for one night, but, well, FREEDOM! Of course, I will use this freedom to completely destroy myself with no sleep (already used to that from having two kids), copious booze (not so used to that anymore), plenty of poker (I am always ready for poker) and my buds.

Now, whether this tradition persists, particularly in light of the life events mentioned in that first paragraph, is yet to be seen. AC continues to commit slow suicide with high room rates (fortunately, Roose got a free room, so I’ll be staying with him). They were able to stop the expansion of NJ poker to the Meadowlands, which is way closer to NYC, but PA casinos are still taking on a lot of the action that was previously exclusive to AC. If NJ has a bright spot, it may be its online poker, which remains the only place to play online poker legally in the US, with the exception of Delaware and Nevada. If only I had a cable long enough to reach NJ from my NY home, so that I can spend some time in an online casino New Jersey offers. Hell, I may even get some online poker while in AC for X-mas. It seems sacrilegious, when live poker is just downstairs, but who knows.

Until next time, make mine poker!