It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of parents, it was the age of children, it was the epoch of commitment, it was the epoch of independence, it was the festival of Lights, it was the season of Christmas, it was the spring of…ok, enough of that. It was poker. That’s what it was.
Any long-time reader will likely know about the annual AC on XMas tradition at the HighOnPoker household. Fifteen years ago, wifey Kim and I, a newly minted couple, decided to spend Christmas in Atlantic City, rather than doing the usual Jewish Christmas routine of Chinese food and movies. A couple of years later, my good buddy Dave Roose joined, and a year or so after that, we had a regular ole tradition: Me, wifey Kim, my parents, Roose, his wife (at the time, his girlfriend), his parents (who grew up with my parents), Robbie Hole and whoever else cared to join. And then, KidOnPoker was born. Oh boy!
This year, wifey Kim floated the idea of staying home with the Kiddo while I went to AC. I loved that idea (private poker time!), but she eventually felt the call of tradition. As a result, our trip was a bit different this year. Instead of two nights (or more), we did an overnight trip. When wifey Kim went to put Kiddo to bed, I ditched my family and hit the poker room. It was probably 9-ish, and at about 11:30pm, Dave Roose and Robbie Hole, who had thus far been at the casino for 48 hours or so but still hadn’t played poker, stopped by to grab me to head upstairs for a debriefing of our night’s activities. Those two degenerates had stuck exclusively to table games. I had played some table games earlier with wifey Kim while my mom watched the Kiddo, but otherwise kept to my new self-imposed ban on any non-poker games. For the life of me, I do not know why Dave and Robbie did not follow suit. They had more time and freedom than me on this trip (Roose’s wife DID stay home with his kid and Robbie’s girlfriend decided to take a year off). But we all get our rocks off in different ways, so whatever makes them happy…
My poker session went well. I won about $160 in my session. I do not recall specific hands now, but I do recall one mildly annoying situation when I first sat down.
In my very first hand, I was dealt JTo. The flop hit me hard: AKQr. I was out of position with a ton of limpers, so when the player on my immediate right bet, I just flat called, hoping that we would get more players in the pot. Alas, I was the only caller. I don’t remember all of the betting details on the turn or river, but the turn was an Ace and the river a Ten, meaning that any AT, AQ, or AK had a full house, and any Jack had a straight. My opponent bet the river and I flat called, knowing that any raise would only be called by a chop or a full house. The weirdness happened at showdown. I waited patiently for my opponent to show his hand. He said, “Straight?” That’s it. Not, “Do you have a straight?,” or “I love to a straight if you have it.” It was not even a sentence. Just one word, “Straight?” or arguably, “Straight.” I just waited. Finally, he flipped up his cards to show an Ace with a crappy kicker. I showed my straight and took down the pot. My opponent, though, had to share, “That’s a slowroll.” I was internally incredulous. No, guy. You are required to show first. If anything, YOU are slowrolling. Instead, I chided him: “Don’t be silly. You know the rules.” I figured it to be the best strategy. Belittle him and call him an angle shooter in the softest language possible.
Other than that, it was a largely pleasant session. When my buds wanted to leave, I was happy to pack it up, exhausted from the long drive and lack of sleep that comes with parenting. I also knew that in just a few days, I would be in Bethlehem at the Sands.
You see, once wifey Kim decided she was coming to AC, I knew that my poker itch would not be sufficiently scratched. We had arranged to borrow my parents’ car for the AC trip and for other events later that long weekend, so I had one day, Saturday, December 26, with a free car. I had emailed my degenerate crew and bro-in-law Marc agreed to join. It certainly helped that the Sands in Bethlehem was running a $500 high hand promo every hour.
I picked up Marc around 8:30 and arrived at the Sands around 10:30. Now, poker money and real world money are two different things, but as I walked into the poker room, I still felt that I was up at least $150 already. To understand this better, we need to rewind to when I was driving through New Jersey on my way to Pennsylvania.
There I was, in the left lane, minding my own business and moving at a brisk pace when Marc pointed out, “Cop car.” I suddenly decelerated, and could literally see the cop’s head swivel in my direction as I zoomed past at an undisclosed speed. With little hesitation, the officer pulled out from the median. I knew the score. I immediately moved to the middle lane. When the officer pulled up behind me and turned on his lights, I finished my pull over, and parked the car on the side of the highway.
I was very matter-of-fact about it as this all went down, but in the back of my head, I was hoping to find a way out of a ticket, particularly in front of Marc. Marc and I share a mutual admiration, but also a mutual sense of friendly competition, and Marc’s favorite battlefield is money. The man barely buys anything for full price, and if you compliment anything he owns, he’ll likely regale you with a story about how he got it for 50% off by shmoozing the shopkeeper. When we play poker, we always compare our results at the end. This ticket would simply be another challenge I had to overcome under the watchful eye of my challenger.
After pulling over, I turned off the engine and placed my hands on the wheel, where the officer could clearly see them. He came over to Marc’s side of the car and asked for my license and registration. I handed them over as he said, “I got you going 86.” This seemed odd to me. I was probably speeding, but I didn’t think I was that fast (albeit I was probably within spitting distance). I thought to myself, “That’s 21 miles over the speed limit. I wonder if he is just trying to bump me up to the next ticket level.” What I said, though, was, “Really, officer? That number is a bit surprising to me.” He asked me where I was going, and I admitted it was to the casino. I didn’t want to admit it, but there was no sense in lying. He asked if I had any warrants or suspensions on my license and I politely explained I did not. He then walked to his car.
As Marc and I sat there, I asked, “Is there any chance I am not getting a ticket?” Marc responded, “Nope.” We waited, making idle chitchat, and then the officer returned. He handed me my papers and a piece of paper. The paper read, “Warning Issued: Reckless Driving.” The officer said, “I’m giving you a warning. Drive safe.”
I sat there in dumb silence momentarily, before pulling out, a bit too fast, honestly, since I was still running on adrenaline. As I drove, Marc and I went through the play-by-play, during which I think I figured out what happened.
Like a flashback, I recalled the officer turn his head. What I couldn’t recall was a speed detector in his hand. My best guess is that he saw me decelerate rapidly, pulled me over, and tried to get me to admit to driving at 86 m.p.h. He was bluffing. I called (sorta) by pointing out that 86 m.p.h. did not sound right. Now he had a choice. He could fire another barrel by giving me the ticket and hoping I did not oppose it, or he could fold his hand and let me go. This is where my politeness likely played a role. If I was rude or defensive or evasive, perhaps he would’ve issued the ticket, but he opted for a warning, likely because he had nothing on me in the first place.
If I had gotten the ticket, I would’ve entered the poker room feeling like I was down at least $150. Having avoided it, I was mentally on a profit already.
So, back to the poker. Marc and I arrived at the Sands and got two seats at the same 1/2 table. Very early on, I started to build a stack, but was decimated when I ran flopped set into flopped set. I ended up into the game for $600, and at one point was down $350+. Fortunately, I grinded it out over 8.5 hours, eventually leaving with a $100+ profit. The actual amount of money was not impressive, but the turnaround was. Aside from the set under set, I ran flopped top two into flopped set (from a terrible player no less) and had my Aces cracked by 67o. I note this not to say how unlucky I was. That is poker. I mention this solely because it was part of my accomplishment. I eked out a profit in the face of adversity.
Marc left up around $50. It was a weak profit for both of us, but a profit nonetheless. Most importantly, I won more than Marc, not even counting the avoided ticket.
I should also add that Marc hit quad Queens…8 minutes before the high hand promo started. Neither he nor I (nor anyone at our table) had a qualifying high hand for the rest of our session.
I should also add that getting there before the promo was key. We were seated almost immediately, but at one point, there were 170 players waiting for seats.
The trip offered me a pretty direct comparison between AC (the Tropicana specifically) and the Sands. Once again, the Sands was on top for poker. Their poker room is open to the casino floor, the player base is friendly and the poker room is well run. It isn’t a true comparison because of the holidays, but the Trop’s poker room was, in comparison, dingy, the staff and players are less friendly, and Atlantic City as a whole feels like it is circling the desperation drain. The drive to the Sands is also preferable from NYC.
So, there you have it. A tale of two cities and two poker sessions.
Until next time, make mine poker!