Friday evening, after working with our local Denver counsel to file some opposition briefs, I got a late start to Atlantic City at around 7:30. The advantage to leaving late is the absence of traffic. I pulled into Showboat (my comped home for Friday night) by 11:30, checked in, and quickly set out to earn some sweet, sweet tier credits donking video poker and the occasional slots. I started with a crisp $100 in a 10-handed Joker Poker machine, but could neither win nor lose. As my first beer of the evening drained, boredom set in. It was time to up the stakes -- the Platinum Hits Slot Machine seemed like the right play.
For some reason, I can't get enough of Platinum Hits. For the uninitiated, the game plays much like any other modern slot machine. You press the button, various icons spin around (numbers . . . symbols . . . pictures . . . ), and when it stops, sometimes you win . . . and sometimes you lose. After several years of playing, it all still seems random to me. For instance, sometimes you'll hit five dollar signs ($) and win a nickel. But then you hit three dollar signs, a cherry and the number 6 and win $40. I've stopped trying to understand. I just press the button, take a sip of adult beverage, and wait to see if the machine pays me some nickels.
On this evening, the Showboat's Platinum Hits machines treated my well. I quickly pulled a $221 hand:
I collected my winnings and went over to the Mr. Cashman machine. Now, if the Platinum Hits is confusing, Mr. Cashman is an unsolvable riddle. In fact, I defy ANYONE to explain to me what the f*ck is happening with this game. There are numbers . . . there are letters . . . there's dynamite . . . there's a bird in a cage . . . there's a host of other cartoonish characters . . . and then, of course, there's Mr. Cashman who, on occasion, pops onto the screen simply for no reason and starts spewing cash. Yeah, it's sort of fun . . .
I played Mr. Cashman for about twenty minutes before the confusion of it all started making me dizzy. It was time to return to Platinum Hits. I sat down, pressed the button a few times, and promptly got paid:
Yes, slots gambling is just that easy . . . By 1:00 am, my crisp $100 bill was now a $435 slot voucher.
I cashed out, returned my original hundred to my wallet, and decided to "free roll" some black jack. Showboat owed me some rungood after my MLK Weekend debacle. Showboat delivered, as I quickly turned $300 into $500 and decided to call it a night.
I drove over to Harrah's the next morning, grabbed some breakfast, and walked to the Golden Nugget for the "grand opening celebration tournament." The structure was fantastic - $160 got you $25,000 in chips. Blinds started $25 / $50, and increased at 30 minute levels. The scene was chaotic. The Nugget has 20 tables, and they were expecting 70 to 85 entrants. Instead, there were approximately 150 seated by the noon starting time, and the registration line still wrapped around the corner. Ultimately, the floor capped the event at 200, and had to pull in additional dealers from the pit and get creative with the chip stacks to make sure everyone got their full $25,000.
The cards finally hit the air at 12:30, and I chipped up to $27,000 during the first level without ever having to show a hand. Given the slow structure, and the fact that the floor was predicting the event would last well into the next morning, I decided to head over to Harrah's to check into my room before the blinds increased too much. When I returned, 40 minutes later, level 3 was just completing and we were on break.
Following the break, I reclaimed my seat, and focused on building my stack for a long, long run. Three hands later, I was out the door:
Blinds are $200 / $400. My stack is $27,000. I'm big blind and look down at AA. Middle position limps for $400 . . . fold . . . fold . . . the cutoff raises to $1,200 . . . fold . . . fold. The action is on me. I three-bet to $3,800. Middle position folds and cutoff flat calls (I have him covered . . . barely . . .). Heads up; it's on. Perfect.
Flop comes out 9 2 5 rainbow. I check, and begin down a path to ruin that ends with nearly all my chips resting across the table from me . . .
Villain checks the flop back to me. Turn is a Q. I wince a bit internally. QQ is smack in the middle of villain's range. Of course, I have little information on the cutoff at this stage of the event. But, he's middle aged, dressed conservatively, and has played very few hands to this point. In my mind, his range is TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AK. I check again, and this time, Villain bets $6,800. I call. I really think Villain has pocket queens. I can feel it. I'm beat....
We head to the river. I've got $16,400 in front of me. River blanks. I take the opportunity to make what might be the dumbest move I've made in a year. I decide to throw out a small "blocking bet," hoping that if I am beat, my small bet may "block" my Villain from making the much LARGER bet that he otherwise would make had I just checked to him. Also, if he comes over the top of my small bet, I pretty much know I'm beat. Yes, I was actually thinking all this at the time.... Following through on my plan, I bet $6,000. Villain promptly moves all in. Fuck.
I'm soooo beat. This particular villain is not shoving KK as an over pair, and he's certainly not overplaying AQ. I'm beat. BUT, here's the beauty of my blocking bet -- there's now over $40,000 in the pot, and, thanks to my bet, I have only $10,400 left. It costs me a mere $8,000 to call Villain's all-in. In short, I can't fold.
I say, "show me your Queens," and call . . . . He obliges. My stack is down to $1,800. I fucken suck at poker.
Two hands later, I'm out the door when my 99 gets called by AT and the board runs K 4 Q _ 7 _ J . . . .
In retrospect, I'm not sure the AA v. QQ ends any differently if I play the hand like an actual poker player. I doubt he folds if I bet the flop. In fact, I asked him after the hand, and he said he probably would not have folded. But, poker players lie. Who knows what he would have done. Chances are, he calls a 3/4 pot flop bet with his over pair. He still has a very strong over pair on a dry 9-high flop, and I could have very easily three-bet pre with TT, JJ or AK or AQ. A lay down to a continuation bet would seem very weak. Was my "blocking bet" completely retarded? No doubt. But, assuming I don't lead out, the pot is $21,600 and he probably fires a 3/4 bet ($7,000 or so). I have to call. So, best case, I probably end the hand sitting on $9,000. Still a playable stack . . .
Sure, the hand was bad luck - I lost to a two outer. But I still feel like its inexcusable in a tournament with such good structure to lose nearly an entire $27,000 stack with a pair so early on . . .
I finish 194 out of 200, and slink back to Harrah's feeling like a donk . . . the rest of my Saturday is a blur . . .
I woke up Sunday in better spirits and decided to seek redemption. It was back to the Nugget for the Sunday event.
The Sunday structure was also good. $15,000 chips and twenty-five minute levels. The event drew 98 runners. I had an interesting table draw, which included the winner of the Saturday tournament (which, incidentally, ended at just before 3:00am), two dealers from Harrah's and a dealer from Borgata. I feel like I played well. I did not get many playable hands, but also didn't make many mistakes and maintained a good table image. Ultimately, I fell short of the money, finishing 16th (9 spots paid).
My overall thoughts on the Nugget were quite positive. The floor had some issues on Saturday given the size of the turnout, and some of the dealers are very, very fresh. But the staff was friendly, the tournament structure top notch, and the room absolutely beautiful:
Looking forward to playing the Nugget's deepstack again on March 3rd . . .
I left AC Monday morning not quite ready to return to reality. And, why should I . . . particularly with Delaware Park running a noon deepstack event. I drove the hour and a half South, and by 11:00 I was registered and ready to make one more run.
Del Park runs some of the best tournaments in the country. This was no exception. A holiday Monday, $100 buy-in, and the event drew 409 runners. Just awesome.
Starting stacks were $15,000 and blind levels twenty-five minutes. Another great structure. I played a couple of hands prior to the first break, and each was a monster.
Hand One -- blinds $25 / $50, and I'm in position with 99. A few limpers, a raise to $175, and I repop to $400. One caller -- a dude fully decked out with hoodie, sunglasses and baseball cap (with hoodie pulled over hat). I mean, where else do you see this aside from a poker table?
Flop comes 978 rainbow. He checks. I bet $650. Hoodie calls. Interesting....
Turn is a 3. I lead for $1,700. Hoodie calls. VERY interesting. Did he flop the straight?
River is a 7. Um. Cool. I bet $2,500. Hoodie tanks . . . and re-raises to $6,000. Thank you. I try and look a bit concerned before shoving my stack. Hoodie grunts out an insincere "nice hand," as he mucks. Nice start to the event.
Hand Two. A few levels later, Hoodie and I go at it again. This time, I'm in the big blind with 72 spades. I'm intent on folding. Of course. But one person limps. Another min-raises to $400 . . . three callers later and I'm ready to take a flop for another $200.
Flop comes out 9 high, all spades. Jackpot. Pot is $2,200, and I lead out for $1,600. It folds around to my friend Hoodie. Hoodie tanks, and shoves his last $8,000. I think this is a fairly easy call, particularly against this villain. So, I do . . . and Hoodie flips AK with the ace of spades. Keeping the drama to a minimum, the fourth spade hits the turn and I'm returning the chips I had previously borrowed.
Hoodie and I get into it a couple more times over the next hour. He gets the best of me on both occasion - first, with his A8 out-kicking my A6, and then with his KJ beating my pocket 77s as a jack falls on the river.
Suddenly, thanks entirely to my new friend, I'm down to $5,500 chips and sinking fast. Time to double up or go home. I choose to double up. Multiple times . . .
I first double up with JQ. I open from hijack for $2200, flop top two, get it in on the turn against AK, and fade the T on the river . . .
Second double up is courtesy of my old friend, Hoodie, who at this point, is bullying the table, sitting on a big stack, and bragging about how he owns multiple restaurants and is looking to hire someone to supervise all his various lackeys for him. I hate Hoodie.
I look down at AK . . . Hoodie raises to $2,600 . . . I shove for $8,200 on top. Hoodie says, "this is a loose call," puts his chips in, and flips AT. Suddenly, I'm back to $22,000 and have chips to play with again.
After a table change, I hit my biggest hand of the tournament. I open to $6,000 with QQ. Yes, the hand that caused my demise Saturday . . . Two callers. Flop comes down QQK. What? I look again. Board remains the same - QQK. Villain 1 checks, I check, and Villain 2, who has me covered, fires $17,000. I try my best to look concerned . . . cut out $17,000 in $1,000 chips . . . gaze at what would be left should I lose the hand . . . think a second more . . . and call. Turn is an A. F*ck!! I hope that doesn't freeze the action! I check again. It doesn't. Villain two has AK and shoves. No need to Hollywood here. I snap call and am sitting on $100,000.
A couple hands later I make a move with AJ. A preflop raise and a call. I check raise my Villain on the flop for $30,000 with A-high and take down a nice pot.
With the blinds at $2,000 / $ 4000, I repop TT from the small blind and take down $16,000 without a flop . . .
Shortly thereafter, I get my second table change and claim my new seat sitting on $152,000 -- well above the $61,000 chip average, with 132 players remaining. Of course, with only 45 cashing, plenty of time remains to self-destruct or to just get unlucky.....
With the blinds at $3,000 / $6,000 ($500 ante), I start bleeding chips after a card-dead orbit or two. I decide to make a move in the next hand or two, to at least steal some blinds and antes. As luck would have it, I actually get a hand -- ATo. Older gentlemen directly to my right min-raises to $12,000. I think about popping it, but decide to flat. Flop comes out A 7 2. Old man bets $12,000. I call. Turn blanks. Old man again bets $12,000. I've had enough. I shove. Old man calls all-in for another $30,000 and flips A5. Hell yeah!!! I'm counting my new stack of over $200,000 chips when the 5 falls on the river . . . Just like that, I'm down to $74,000, which is slightly LOWER than the chip average. Poker is a funny game.
The rest of my tournament becomes a quest to survive past the bubble as I'm card dead, short stacked, and no real threat to anybody. Eventually, I find myself 15 from the money, sitting on $40,000 in chips, at $1500 / $6000 / $12,000 . . . I need to shove a hand just to cash . . . I strike a bit of luck when I find QQ in the big blind. I shove it, but can't even get a call from the small blind, who folds a "big ace . . ." Still, the $19,500 I steal helps.
My stack soon dwindles back down as I can't even find a shovable hand . . . a constant barrage of T6, 92, J5 . . . I find myself sitting on a paltry $24,000 . . . I need (NEED) to shove before the blinds come back around . . . Hell, the min-cash ain't much; but after 8 hours, I need a moral victory . . . Mercifully, an eruption occurs at an adjacent table . . . the bubble has burst. Down to 45. Moral victory achieved.
Two hands later, I shove A6 and get called by A9 . . . the ace on the flop is of no consequence, and I'm heading for the cage to collect my cash . . .
A fun weekend of tournament play in the books, its now back to the grind . . .