W.D. and I decided to go to Atlantic City on Saturday 30 December 2006.
I believe that it had been over two years since my last to Atlantic
City. It just usually ends up that I go to Foxwoods, since I know so
many people from the Boston poker world.
We were pretty frustrated to learn that the Borgata no longer has a
poker room rate like the old days — at least for anyone who
plays lower than $40/$80 limit. I checked in with a few staffers, and
they said that they, in fact, have very little control of room rates
anymore. According to a brush and two floor people, the room rates
are controlled completely by the casino hosts, and they chose whether
or not to make offers of rates against someone's player account.
I had been curious about what NL HE in Atlantic City had become. I
heard rumors that a lot of mediocre players were beating these games
regularly for large amounts of money. I quickly found out why. The
players are so bad that a well-trained child could beat the game, if
they had enough bankroll to survive the variance. The action is just
It's this weird scenario of the clueless leading the clueless. The
“strong, sharky players” at the table are these overplay
one-pair types who think they should get every dime in the pot with an
overpair. They are trivial to read because they play almost no hands
and they turn up their nose at players who take flops in multiway pots
with oddball hands:
They must be donkeys if they play hands not in
Sklanksy's list. These people would probably do ok at limit, but
because they get so many chips in with one pair, they are actually
helpless at NL HE and don't really realize it.
But that's only 2-3 players each table. The rest of the players are
just completely lost. I mean that almost literally. We had a guy at
our table who had never played poker at a casino before. He was
actually a pretty nice guy (which nicely offset the constant whining
of the “good players” ranting about how many times they
posted on 2+2 or somesuch). This older gentleman was nice and trying
his best to post his blinds, stop himself from splashing the pot, and
otherwise avoid breaking every last poker casino protocol. But,
unlike some others at the table who just flagrantly ignored poker
etiquette no matter what anyone said, he asked us to tell him when he
made a mistake so he could learn.
The variance was brutal, as I kept getting nice situations to put in my
stack in as somewhere between a 60%-80% favorite and losing. I won't
violate my journal's “no bad beat story” rule and tell
details, but I was quite sure I had positive EV enough that I need not
post these hands to ask if I played them right.
The only truly questionable hand that I played was actually a hand
against that kind older gentleman. To set it up, I should note that
he was clearly a limit stud home game player (he noted he'd been
for years but never in a casino), and he got easily
confused about how and when to bet. He would bet (what we believed
was) top pair by overbetting the pot 6-to-1 or so, and would never get
called (hence the “we believed” part). When he had a
reasonably strong hand — two pair or better — he'd often
call down the whole way, so it was difficult to tell his true
strength. W.D. lost a bunch betting two pair into his flopped flush
this way; W.D. thought the fellow was drawing. I got caught by
something similar, but I think maybe I didn't make a mistake given his
wide range. Here's the hand:
I raised to $10 from middle position with QJs, which I'm typically
doing in this game. I actually do get called by weaker Q-highs and
J-highs (people will play basically any face card with a kicker above
an 8 in this game for a small raise). It folded to our older friend
on the button, and he just called. We saw a flop of QQ3 heads up,
with two suits. I bet $20 into $23 and he just called. I figure his
mostly likely holdings are a flush draw, or the case Q.
The turn was an offsuit K, and I led for $50 into $63, and he called
again. Of course, he would play the entire range of 33, AQ, KQ, QJ,
QT, Q9, and Q8 this way. (I actually do think he would have reraised
preflop with KK.) So, I felt there was basically no way I can
eliminate any of these hands unless he raised; I kept reminding myself
throughout the hand to instantly fold if he raised and looked strong.
Baring that, I wanted him to keep calling with a weaker Q. I knew
from other hands that bets sizes around $75 or so actually caused him
to pause when he had a draw, so I tried to keep him drawing if he
The river was an offsuit 2, and I decide ultimately to give him one of
the queens I was beating, and bet $75. This assured a call from
everything but the flush draw, and if he did raise, I was surely beat.
He just called.
This is where things got confusing for everyone. I tabled my hand as
quickly as the calling chips went into the pot, as I always do when I
am last aggressor on the river. The dealer looked at my hand, and
collected the pot into a pile. A second or so went buy; our friend
flipped his hand, and I saw a black trey flash. Before I could see
his whole hand, the dealer was shipping the pot to me. I looked up
and saw three threes laying out in front board (our friend was in the
five seat near the board). My hypothalamus pot scooping reflexes
kicked in to collect the pot headed my just as I realized what was
happening. Yet, the pot had already hit a small stack of red chips
out in front of my main stack.
By the time I looked up at the dealer and opened my mouth, the whole
table was in an uproar. The dealer had misawarded the pot. The
2+2-obsessed guy to my right said:
just give him the pot, you know
which chips are yours and which were in the pot. I actually
didn't. A red chip or two definitely got confused, and I certainly
recall touching some of the pot's chips as they came toward me, so I
couldn't be sure that I hadn't absent-mindedly stacked them while the
treys were swirling and the dealer was misreading the board.
Floor came over and didn't know what to do. I immediately conceded
that the other player had won the pot, but before his hand had been
properly read by the dealer, the dealer had misawarded the pot.
Meanwhile, 2+2 guy yelled in my ear louder than usual, saying I should
give him the money and move on. The floor guy did not, unfortunately,
take control of the situation.
After another five seconds went by, I said:
Look, I saw treys full
of Qs. I know the pot is his. I remember the action. Let's take
my chips, and reconstruct it street by street together.
We did so, going backwards from the $75 on the river, and we rebuilt
the pot by putting chips from my stack in front of me and the older
gentlemen to represent each bet that was made. Then, just as I
And three whites for the blinds who folded
and tossed those in, the dealer grabbed the pot and started shipping
Wait, that's the action, now I'm owed $4 for the rake.
The entire table erupted in rabble-rabble-rabble. The dealer and the
floor person argued that since the rake had already been taken, I
wasn't owed anything from the pot.
But we've already dropped the
rake, they kept saying.
I gave them two full go-rounds of:
That's exactly my point. The
rake was taken by the house, from the original pot. We've
reconstructed every bet made, including the blinds, and therefore
the pot out there that constructed from my stack is the pre-rake
pot. Since every chip came from my stack, and you've already
dropped $4 from the old pot, $4 in the newly reconstructed pot goes
to me. Then, they finally agreed, looking more like they were
appeasing than believing me. This whole damn table was a tribute to
the cluelessness of the human race — me included with my
distracted ill-gotten pot stacking.
Frankly, the floor shouldn't have let me take charge. I did because it
seemed the only way to keep the game moving, because I'd heard the
word “camera” mentioned, and I didn't want the game held
while they went to see if the dealer really did misread the board,
etc. I saw the treys-full distinctly after the pot was already in
front of me, and was happy to just do what needed to be done to get
the guy his money and get to the next hand.
It was, however, a bit humiliating to be the only one who remembered
every last bet of the action, and then to be in charge of
reconstructing it so I could give $155 over to a guy who had no clue
what was going on. And, of course the dealer made a completely rookie
mistake, and the floor guy didn't do his job, either. I sure hope the
guy forgot, as he kept doing all night anyway, to tip the dealer that
Anyway, I still think I couldn't have played the hand differently.
That's a tough thing about someone who is completely new. It's
actually more challenging to read them than the “good
players” because their range is so big. I was ready to fold,
basically on ever street, if he raised. (Unless, of course, the dude
tried a bluff, because he actually was the first person I ever saw who
had every single Caro bluffing tell at once, so I surely would have
known.) But given that he just called every street, how can I not
lose the amount that I did?
I should note this exact same thing happened to me in the 2/5 game at
Foxwoods early in 2006, where I held AT on TT5 heads-up against a
player who was brand new — never having played poker at all
before. That fellow actually had trouble reading the board over and
over, called everyone all the way to the river and asking the dealer
to read his hand for him. I mean, I've learned how to
fold open trips since my previous disasters, but, in the future,
should I just check them down, particularly against players this
Regarding the Borgata's amenities: I like the new poker room, but I
wish people would get used to the smoking ban and stop wandering in
drunk with lit cigarettes like idiots. The salad place at the food
court below is nowhere near as good as the fast food at Foxwoods,
but also isn't bad at all.
Finally, I don't think the 2/5 game is worth it there. I sweated one
for a while, the players are much better than at 1/2. It's probably
somewhat beatable and has substantially less variance, but with a buy-in
of only $500, you can pick up easier (and likely more) money playing the
$300 buy-in 1/2 game.
The limit action is presumably pretty good still, but I didn't wander
over my old $6/$12 grounds, since the NL HE games were so
beatable-by-morons easy. Ted Forrest was there playing $1,000/$2,000
H.O.S.E. (Although with another semi-famous pro whose name came
immediately to me when I saw his face, but whom I've now completely
forgotten other than his first name begins with a “D”.) I
kept taking the long route to the bathroom to gawk, including one time
when they had called security to shoo rail birds away, and to set up a
perimeter (why didn't they do the latter from the start?). Ted wasn't
doing well, I don't think. I saw him with chips and a stack of cash
on one pass and later with just cash, although it was admittedly hard
to see, so I don't want to start false rumors of Forrest losing at the
$1k/$2k game at the Borgata.