A lot is going on in the High Household, but its always important to take care of one’s vices, so as to be sharp when the need for sharpness arises. With this in mind, more than a month ago, I eyed a possible weekend for a guy’s trip to Atlantic City. The trip finally came to fruition this weekend.
Anyone familiar with the archives knows that I used to go to AC several times a year with a crowd of fellow degenerates. We’d ditch our wives or girlfriends, head to AC for a weekend, and play poker for as long as possible. Now, with several of us with children, the ability to sneak away for a weekend is rare. When we planned this trip, the crew was going to be me, Dave Roose, Eric and my bro-in-law Marc. Usual suspect Robbie Hole had to work. By the time the weekend arrived, Eric had backed out, leaving just me, Roose, and Marc.
We had booked two rooms at the Borgata, the nicest and most expensive casino/hotel in AC. In the past, I usually went for the cheapest possible casino/hotel, but the rates were all high for Saturday night, so for an extra $60 or so ($30 per person), we opted for staying in the Borg, where the rooms are all nice (other hotels have inconsistently updated rooms) and the poker room is literally the best in town by a long shot.
I woke up early on Saturday and, after situating my son on the couch with his milk and fruitbar, said goodbye to my family and headed to pick up Marc. I got to him before 8 a.m., since sleep was no longer a luxury I could afford at home.
The drive was largely uneventful. From his place in Brooklyn, it was about 2 hours away. We arrived at the hotel around 10 a.m., and assumed our room would be unavailable until the late afternoon. Fortunately, we checked anyway and were pleased to learn that our room was available early at no extra cost. We went back to the car, grabbed our bags and set up camp in our room. We then quickly headed downstairs for some poker.
A $100+20 re-entry tournament was scheduled for 11 a.m. It was tempting – I prefer tournaments, although I love cash games as well – but ultimately decided that with more than 30 minutes before the tournament, I should just sit and play cash and if I were still in the mood to join, I could join the tournament as late as the 8th level. Marc and I placed our names for 1/2 NLHE and were seated at different tables relatively quickly.
It felt good to be back at a poker table. The table overall was fairly friendly. I did notice at one time that at least half the table were obsessed with their phones. I had my moments, too, checking useless stuff on Facebook or returning the odd text, but I did my best to just pay attention to the game. As I watched the chubby girl in the 2 seat watching what must’ve been a movie on her phone and the handicapped guy on my immediate left flipping through the channels on his TV app, I came to appreciate how these two (and others like them) were literally disadvantaging themselves by tuning out of the action. If they joined a pot, you could be assured that they had a hand; otherwise, they would’ve just gone back to watching their phones. And if they played, you knew they had no read on you from prior hands, since they did not pay any attention; likely, they did not even consider their opponents’ cards/play when making decisions.
Nonetheless, it was a friendly-enough crowd. The handicapped guy and I got into a long conversation about random stuff. A new player on my right chatted with me about the game and some rules that must have been obscure for a player who never before played at a casino. At one point, he was heads-up and acted out of turn, checking the river. When his opponent checked, he bet and she immediately folded, tossing her cards into the muck. Someone, perhaps the dealer, noted that the newbie was not allowed to raise, since he checked out of turn and he was bound to the check once the action checked to him. The folding player, an Asian woman who we will revisit momentarily, was enraged. “You can’t do that! He can’t bet the river after checking!” The newbie was really upset that he did something wrong and apologized. She wouldn’t let up, and he was getting frustrated, repeating, “I apologized. I didn’t know.” I quietly told him, “Hey man, you made a small mistake; she made a fatal one. If she knows the rules, then she could’ve said something and you would’ve been forced to check. But when she threw her cards in the muck, she forfeited her hand. That’s her bad, not yours. Don’t feel bad at all.” In the end, nothing came of it. The newbie got the pot and the woman got to feel like the victim.
I had hovered around even for most of the game. At one point, I was down over $100 and reloaded the $100, but got myself back to near even, with a $400 stack ($300 + $100 rebuy).
You can play poker for 6 hours and it can all come down to one hand. This was one of those days, and this was the hand.
I had been dealt 24d in middle position. I had been getting a lot of hands with two mismatched cards below 8. I mean a lot. At one point, I could feel myself itching to play marginal hands because it was the best thing I had seen in a while, but I remembered the advice I give to all other players who fall into that trap: Just because your other hands were garbage, does not mean that your current slightly-less-garbage hand is playable. The poker gods do no care that you have been folding for 2 hours. Fold for 2 more or 200 more if that’s what the poker gods demand of you. Eventually, your cards will come.
Now, some may read that and say, “But Jordan, you played 24d.” Well, yes, but I like playing suited connectors and suited gappers. It may not work for everyone, but I figured with my relatively tight image and ability to fold post-flop, it was worth seeing a flop.
I limped with my 24d, as did others, before the aforementioned Asian woman, let’s call her Sore Loser or SL, raised to $11. There was at least one call before me, so I called as well, admittedly looser than probably optimal. One or two more callers called and we saw a flop:
3d 5d 9h.
I had flopped an open-ended straight flush draw. For the records, there was no high-hand promo.
The action started with the Sore Loser, who bet $40. I looked at the board, looked at the pot, looked at my stack and was confused. With around $84 in the pot and $365 or so in my stack, I could not figure out what the right play was. I took my time analyzing the play. It was probably the longest thinking session I took during the entire day. I found myself in a real quagmire and tried to work out the possibilities.
I considered flat calling, but in any scenario, that seemed like a bad idea. If I missed the turn, I would likely be scared away by a large turn bet. If I called and hit the turn, a flush card may induce SL to fold, cutting off the profitability. Even worse, if a flush card came and she held a large diamond, the flush card may induce her to draw for a four-flush board, sucking out on me on the river Since I could not see a clear path to success that started with calling, I eliminated that option.
My next thought was whether folding would be appropriate. The part of me that is risk averse was heavily leaning toward folding, but I looked at my breakeven stack and thought that I had to be willing to fight for pots if I wanted to walk away with a profit. Victory is won by the bold. So, I decided that folding was probably not the best idea either, not that I eliminated that idea entirely.
Next I thought about raising. What were my options there? If I raised $100 or even $100 on top, the pot would be so swollen that any turn bet by me or SL would essentially equal my entire remaining stack (which would be somewhere around $265-$200, with a pot size around $280+). I really did not want to be put to that test. So my next option was to push all-in.
It seemed crazy at the time, raising from $40 to $365. But its only crazy if you care about money, something that I was actively trying not to do at the table. In the end, I figured that by pushing, one of two things would happen (something that is invariably true). Either everyone would fold, at which point I win the $80, or one or more players would call, at which point I’d sit back and wait for the turn and river without any hard decisions to make. Between the two options, I would have preferred for everyone to fold. So when SL called my all-in (she had $600+ in front of her), I was not 100% thrilled.
The turn was an Ace of clubs. The river was a blank. I waited for SL to show her cards: AA, for a set of Aces. I announced, “Straight,” and tabled my cards. She replied, “Straight?” She was confused; after all, it was a rather hidden straight. But then, she paid me.
I continued playing for several more hours. I had only taken one break during the session, a couple of hours before the 24d hand, to get lunch with Dave, who had arrived shortly after us. We went to the Metropolitan, a diner-type restaurant in the hotel, because the food court is under construction. I got the grilled cheese with bacon, the official casino meal of High on Poker. It was amazing, naturally.
After lunch, Dave convinced Marc to play blackjack. Marc was down around $120 in poker and was happy to change it up. I was in AC ostensibly for poker, so despite the temptation, I stayed put. When I won the 24d hand, I texted them both. They said congrats. I asked how they were doing and they gave me a noncommittal, “okay.”
A few hours later, when I was ready to cash out, I had amassed $316 in profit. Moments before this, Dave and Marc showed up with big grins on their faces. They had pooled their money, $200 apiece, and hit a blackjack table. They were down to scraps when their luck turned around. When they walked away, they had $2300, collectively. In other words, while I toiled away for $300, they had made 3x as much, apiece.
Marc and I have a friendly competitiveness, and their win definitely sparked that within me. But mostly, I was just happy for them. It would have been nice to have shared in their spoils, but if I were there, everything would have been different.
With all of us up, we discussed dinner options and decided to treat ourselves. The steakhouses were all booked up, but the Italian restaurant, Fornelletto, had an early reservation available. We were all hungry enough and made the reservation.
Fornelletto was amazing. It was probably the best meal I’ve ever had in AC, both because of the food and the atmosphere. The restaurant itself requires you to take an elevator or walk down several flights of stairs to a cellar-type area. The setup is bright but intimate. An open kitchen area allows guests to see some of the food prep, mostly antipastos.
We got our table, perused the menu and decided to create our own buffet. We ordered the calamari and meatballs to start, and chicken parmesan, lobster fra diavolo and a mixed seafood spaghetti as our shared entrees. Each dish was better than the last, and we all had our favorites. Mine was the lobster fra diavolo. The sauce was spicy enough that I felt it, but it did not overwhelm the lobster or the amazing sauce. But the rest was all great, too, and I’d order each and every dish again, happily.
After dinner, we decided to pool our money for blackjack. We called it a Syndicate (a collection of individuals with a common goal) and went to work. Playing at a blackjack table while sharing money is an interesting experience. Because you share money, none of the money feels like its yours. We each played, but if one of us was close to bust, the others would hand him chips without a second thought. Also, seeing Marc bet big, bigger than what I would normally bet, encouraged me to do the same. After all, the money was shared so if he bet big, then I was already ostensibly making big bets, so I may as well make them and take control of the hand. I didn’t quite reach his levels, but I bet bigger than I ever had before.
On our first session, we all walked away up $150 apiece. We then went to Pai Gow, where the Syndicate remained in play, winning us another $150 apiece.
After Pai Gow, Marc’s beer had caught up with him, so he headed to the bathroom. Dave and I followed, and as we waited, Dave sat down at the second-to-last Wheel of Fortune slot machine in a bank of machines near the bathroom. I took the last one, happy to see that despite being a $1 machine, it was only 3 credits max. Dave’s machine was 5 credits max. I put in $20, he put in $100, and we began mashing buttons.
As I neared my last $3, I figured I had just blown $20. I don’t enjoy slots at all. There are no decisions. Its just pay money, push buttons and hope. With my last $3 (I must’ve won a small amount somewhere, because $20 does not divide evenly with $3), I hit the Max Bet button and prepared to lose. Lady Luck had other ideas. The first symbol to come up was a 3x multiplier. The second symbol was a 2x multiplier. The third was a Bar 7. I had won something, but I wasn’t sure what. As the credits passed $20 and then $40, I nudged Dave. “Hey,” I said, “I think I won something.” He pointed to a part of the machine that showed 480. I had, apparently, hit for $480 dollars. I naturally cashed out immediately.
As I was waiting for the 480 credits to register, I looked over at Dave’s machine. He had $235 or so in the machine.
“How much did you buy in for?,” I asked.
“Then you are up over $100. Cash out, man.”
“Oh. Oh yeah.” We, apparently, suck at slot machines. But with that, he cashed out his profit too.
Remember when I mentioned Marc and my friendly rivalry? Well, when he got done with his bathroom break and heard the news, he was emboldened.
“Show me the machine!,” he demanded. I walked him over and pointed to it. He immediately sat down and put $100 into it.
“Okay, man, but I just hit with it. It’s not going to hit again.”
As I watched his balance dip, I was filled with a sense of glee. Keep in mind that this asshat was up over $1,000, so losing $100 would humble him, but not hurt him. The fact that he was chasing to one-up me, despite his earlier huge win, was even better. When he finally hit a spin and it landed on 25, one of the lower amounts, I was openly taunting him. “Oh. $25. Cute.”
But Lady Luck gets around and moments later, he hit another spin. This time, it paid out $200.
“Alright, man. You have your profit. Let’s go.”
“Just a little more.”
I don’t know what he was thinking. He wasn’t going to hit it again. But then he did. Another spin and another $200. You’ve got to be kidding me.
He cashed out somewhere in the $400s. I had still won more than him, but he felt victory making a profit in an unlikely scenario. He can have his empty victory.
After that, we headed to the B Bar in the middle of the casino floor so Dave and Marc could enjoy some cigars they bought with their earlier winnings. We have all been drinking steadily. For me, that mean rum-and-cokes, the official casino mixed drink of High On Poker. By the time we got to the B Bar though, I had switched to Stoli O on the rocks with a lime. Dave was downing Johnny Walkers. Marc generally stuck to beer.
The scene at the B Bar was weird. It was fairly packed with a bouncer checking IDs, despite the fact that the bar was literally in the middle of the casino floor. We were able to get an area with a couch and lounge chairs, and enjoyed our drinks and the view as the guys smoked their cigars.
Once done, we patrolled the casino floor once again. It was only midnight, but the long day had caught up with me and we had won so much that anything more would have felt futile and empty. Alas, Marc wanted one more go, so we pooled our funds once again ($200 apiece), sat down for some blackjack, and had our first losing session.
All done, we headed back upstairs satisfied with our gambling day. Marc and I hit the sack pretty quickly, both of us having been up earlier than 7 a.m.
The next morning, I received a text from Dave around 7:46 a.m.: “Breakfast?”
I was more than annoyed. I finally was able to sleep without a rambunctious toddler who doubles as an alarm. Unfortunately, my rambunctious degenerate friend had the same alarm function. I texted him back:
“Still sleeping. Stop waking me, anus.”
I don’t know why I chose “anus.” Alas, I did. I closed my eyes, content to eke out some more sleep, when my cell beeped again. Another text, 7:52 a.m.:
“Cool. So breakfast?”
Fucktard. I could tell my sleep was over. I showered (a rarity for an AC trip), got dressed and reached out to Dave. By then, Marc was awake and the three of us checked out and headed for breakfast, down at the Metropolitan.
Once again, the Metropolitan did not disappoint. I had an egg, cheese and spinach sandwich on a croissant, subbing the usual meat choices with my favorite veggie. Dave got an eggs benedict with crab meat and Marc got huevos rancheros.
The bill was paid with comps, Dave’s and Marc’s comps to be exact. I apparently only had $1. That’s when I discovered that I had two different Borgata card numbers. A trip to the promotions desk confirmed that my other card had $29 in comps on it. And that’s how I tricked my buddies into buying me breakfast.
The car trip home was uneventful. It was by all accounts one of our most successful trips. I had won $316 in poker, $100 in table games (thanks to the Syndicate) and $460 in slots. My compadres each cleared more than $1,000 in profit. Not bad for an overnight trip.
Until next time, make mine poker!