Thursday, 4 January 2007

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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 amazing.

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 playing 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 was.

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 finished, saying: And three whites for the blinds who folded and tossed those in, the dealer grabbed the pot and started shipping it.

I said, 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 time.

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 clueless? ;)

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.


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