Monday, December 19, 2016

Who Am I? And How Did I Get Here?

I second straight weekend of poker at MGM National Harbor is in the books.  Although I won a few hands this time around, the results were just as bad as last weekend.   In total, I've played 15 hours of $1/3, and am down just shy of $900.  My confidence is pretty much shot at the moment.  By the end of my Saturday session, for the first time during this stretch, I actually felt like I was playing bad poker.  I'll get to that in a moment . . . but first . . .
This weekend, I decided to stay at the Westin National Harbor.  It was actually my first time ever visiting National Harbor.  The area is currently about a five-by-five square block "entertainment" district, right on the Potomac River, in an area called Oxon Hill, Maryland.   Oxon Hill is a historically depressed area of Prince George's County, just over the D.C. border.  National Harbor began some years ago with the opening of the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center.  Shops, restaurants, additional hotels, and condos followed.  Then came new row homes at the back-end of the neighborhood . . . a Tanger Outlet Center and, of course, MGM Casino.  While the development is still relatively small, it's certainly a fun place to spend a weekend.  There are plenty of dining and bar options.  Friday night, I found an Oyster House, and had beers and fresh oysters.  Saturday night, I actually left the MGM to come back to National Harbor for a steak at a joint called Bond 45, and then found cheap beer two blocks away to watch Saturday Night Football on a big screen.  The National Harbor Circulator is a shuttle bus, run by Reston Limo's, which operates between 11:00 am and 4:00 am, making several stops in National Harbor, the Outlets and the MGM.  It's $5 for an all-day pass, and makes it easy and convenient to spend the weekend at one of the numerous NH hotels, with access to both the casino and the numerous entertainment and dining options in the neighborhood.  The entire area feels very connected, making it, perhaps, a more fun option for a gambling weekend than Atlantic City.

As for the poker . . . well, my run-bad continued Friday night.  It was an action table, with one loose cannon who managed to turn a $300 rebuy into a $3,000 stack.  This kid sat down initially in the 8 seat, bought in for $300, and dumped his stack on the first hand played when he hit a pair of 9's on a 68952 board.  He bet flop, got re-raised on the turn, and re-raised all in on the river against an older gentlemen who, SHOCKINGLY, had a 7 in his hand.  The kid took a seat change to the 1 seat, directly to my right, and rebought.  From then on, he could not miss a hand over the course of the next 3 or 4 hours...
As for P3 . . . he won zero hands the first three hours, before scoring some chips off a triple-barrel bluff.  It was my second triple-barrel of the night.  The first was on my first hand played, when I raised 9 T spades to 15, caught nothing on a 7 high flop, and bet three streets, only to be chased down by a guy hold a small ace when an ace hit the river...
Over the course of the session, I was dealt AQ five times, and caught neither an ace nor a queen on any of the occasions.  I had no premium pocket pairs.  I lost AJ to A5 on an A59 flop.  Still, four hours in, I was only down about $200.  Yet, I had that feeling of dread; like, that when I finally got dealt a hand, it would end up crushing me.  And, sure enough, premonition came to life on the final hand of the night...
After two limps, maniac luck box raises to $17 from the button.  He's sitting on ... well . . . he has me covered (prolly $2,800 or so).  I look down at JJ in the small blind.  I debate raising.  But, perhaps given the way I'd been running, I opt to just call.  We go three to the flop.  All undercards - 9 high (9 5 2, I believe).  Maniac leads for like $35.  I flat, figuring I can just let him hand himself.  Turn is a 6. I check, and he checks back.  River is an 8, making the board. 9 5 2 6 8.  I check again, and villain over bets $150.  The kid has made several bluffs like this before.  I snap call.  he tables  7 2 off, and, just like that, I'm down $400+ for the session.  It's past 1:00 am.  I'm done.  I wish everyone good luck and head back to the hotel . . .
I got an early afternoon start on Saturday, taking a $1/3 seat after a short twenty-minute wait.  I actually manage to win a few hands, and am up just under $100 two hours or so in to my session.  Then, this hand happens:
I call $3 with 77 in late position, and we go 4 to the flop:  5 Q 8.  Middle position bets $10, gets a call from seat ten, an older gentlemen who has barely played a hand in 3 hours.  Marginal spot, but I decide to call and see a turn.  Turn is a beautiful 7.  Middle position bets $20, old buy calls, and I raise to $65.  Old guy calls.  River is a 6, making the final board 5 Q 8 7 6.  This time, old guy leads out for $45.  Any 4 . . . any 9 has me beat.  Pre flop, he checked is option, so harder to put him on any sort of range.  It's only $45 . . . but, still.  This is an older, VERY tight player, who called my raise on the turn, and then lead with a "valuey"-type bet on the river.  He's got to be expecting a call from me, right?  Why am I ever raising the turn and folding to a $45 river bet?  Well, I'm convinced this guy hit the straight.  And, rather than waste $45 to see the flip side of his hole cards, I fold . . .  And, when he mucks, I'm pretty sure I see a Queen.  This puts me on insta-tilt.   Did he take that line with top pair?  Did he have Queens-up?  Or did he have Q 9 or Q4?   In the moment, I'm convinced I made an awful fold for $45....
A few hands later, I look down at 99 and open the action to $17.  I get one call -- from the maniac on my left.  This guy is a dream player.  He plays almost every hand, has dumped at least $800 the past two hours, and keeps telling the table he has another $1,500 in his pocket and is not going anywhere until he "gets his money back."  He starts the hand with slightly under $200.  We go heads up to a Queen-high flop.  I lead out for $35.  And, lag-tard jams $150+ on top.  Are you kidding me?!?!  I tank.  I'm tempted to make the call.  This guy has simply spilled money to the entire table the past few hours (of course, I was like the only guy at the table who did NOT "owe" him money).  It's hard to put this particular player on a queen.  And I've seen him stack off several times prior with medium pocket pairs.... There is a good chance my 99 is good.  Yet, for some reason - shattered confidence, perhaps --  I make a fold.  ATM shows a Queen... It's only 6:00 pm.  But I recognize I'm far removed from my A game (which, in reality, may be like a B or C game to begin with . . .).  I call it a night, down a mere $60... Best session yet at MGM.
In sum, it's been a fairly brutal 15 hours of poker the past two weeks.  I've definitely been running bad.  But I'm not sure if poor play is compounding the results.  But, shooters keep on shooting, right?  I'll be up in Atlantic City at the Borgata for four days after Christmas; and then heading back to MGM for NYE weekend.  I feel like I need to reset my game.  Tighten up a bit; get on some sort of a run.  Things can only get better, right?                      

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Tale of Woe

I played a 6 hour session at MGM NH Saturday night.  It did not go well.  If you follow me on Twitter at @PetePPeters, you likely know this from my post-session Twitter-Tilt-Barrage.  I bought in for a total of $700, and cashed out $272.  I was rivered repeatedly; showed down second best multiple times; missed every draw I chased; "hit" the draws I folded; called with the worst; and folded the best.  Without further ado, and more for my venting benefit than your entertainment, I provide the highlights.
  • Open AK to $15 and get 2 calls.   Flop is 5 A Q.  I bet, get one call.  Turn blanks.  I bet, he calls.  River is a 6.  I bet, he calls.  I show TPTK.  He stares at the board for a solid 5 seconds or so before slow rolling Q6 off-suit.  Off to a flying start.  Immediately add on for $200 (in for $500).
  • Flop top pair and a gut shot. I bet flop and turn before rivering the straight.  Villain leads, I raise, he calls.  We chop.  Top pair would have been good. 
  • Call raise in position with Q 9 spades.  Flop top pair on a Q J 2 board.  Check call flop bet.  Turn is a 9.  Check call.  River blanks.  Check call.  My two-pair loses to QJ.
  • Call a small raise 5 ways with A(d) 4(d).  Flop 3(d) (6)(d) (5)(h).  Open-ended straight draw, A-high flush draw, back door straight flush draw.  Not bad.  I call a flop bet.  Turn blanks.  I check-raise.  He calls.  I miss the river.  He checks, I fire.  He calls with 5 6 off. 
At this point, I'm becoming frustrated; but still having fun.  Beer is helping my disposition.
  • I raise AQ to $17.  5 callers (why not . . .).   Flop is 4 Q T.  I lead for $50.  And get two calls.  I check the turn.  Guy bets in the range of $100 and gets a call.  I fold.  Winner tables 44.  Ok. Pretty standard.  But . . .
  • Very next hand I call a raise with 9 T in position, and flop an up-and-down straight draw multi-way.  A smallish flop bet prices me in and I make the call.  Turn misses.  I'm again priced in by some joker and call.  River blanks.
Add on another $200.  In for $700.
  • Shortly thereafter, I raise KK.  Flop is Q 6 2.  I bet and get action.  Turn x.  I bet and get called.  River is a Q.  Villain leads big.  I fold.  Pretty certain I got chased down with a Q.
  • Open with Q T clubs.  I once again flop an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw.  I bet $25, its raised to $65, and then re-raised to $225.  FML.  I fold my HUGE draw.  I mean, I have not hit one yet, am already down $400, and would have to commit my remaining $300 on this hand.  Other guy calls . . . turn blanks . . . club on the river.  A flopped set beats two pair and my winning flush is in the muck.
  • Play KJ and lose to K9 on a K9x flop.
At this point, I'm properly titled.  Beer has turned from friend of my emotional state to arch enemy.  I send the following text to Lightning and Rob:
Lightning, being the good friend he is, provides his usual excellent advice.  I play on . . .
After a few additional minor losing hands, the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back: 
  • I open AA to $17 from early position and get two calls.  Flop is Q(c) 8(x) 9(c).  I bet $35.  Both players call, of course.  Turn is a 7.  I check (pot control and shitty board).  Villain 1, a typical Crasian-Asian, bets $100.  I'm prepared to call this bet given his table image.  But, then, old guy next to me -- solid player -- CALLS the $100.  I feel like I'm nearly always beat.  I recall the AQ hand above which played out similarly, and where my top pair was crushed by a set of 4's.  Thusly, I fold.  These two fine gentlemen decide to check down the blank on the river.  Crasian tables Q J and old man mutter an "I missed."   
At this point, I grab my remaining $200+ and, for the first time in years, abruptly mutter something about performing a sex act on the game of poker, and storm off from the table. 
Later that night, while enjoying a beer at Tap Sports Bar, I felt sort of bad about my reaction.  I should have handled it better.  This is, after all, my new local poker room.  Reputation is important.  I should have casually gotten up, offered the table a "Nice playing with you all . . ." and wished everyone good luck -- my standard departure routine. But 6 hours of getting kicked in the nuts got the better of me.  I vowed to do better next time the poker gods decide to take a steaming one on my head.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Vegas on the Potomac

Thursday, at 11:00 pm, the new MGM National Harbor opened on the shore of the Potomac River in the D.C. suburb of Oxon, Hill Maryland.    
MGMNH is the third casino to open in the Baltimore/Washington region (well, the 4th if you consider Charles Town), and was hyped for months as the "Gold Standard."  Does it live up to its billing?  I visited Friday and Saturday of opening weekend, and my initial impressions of the casino follow. 
MGMHN opened its doors at 11:00 PM and, according to news reports, by 11:30, it was at capacity and turning visitors away.  I was almost hesitant to visit opening weekend; however, I found myself in need of a few Starwood stays to re-up SPG Platinum, so I decided to spend the weekend at the nearby Westin and take my chances with the crowds.  And so it was early Friday afternoon, and I was in the office trying to bill a few hours, when word broke on several message boards that the casino had no video poker machines on the floor.  Like, none.  Now, if you know me, you can likely imagine my horror at this news.  I knew I was done being productive for the day and decided immediately to sneak out of the office to confirm this tragic news. 
I got to the Westin around 2:30, checked in, and tried to grab an Uber for the 5 mile trip across the river to National Harbor.  Two drivers, however, essentially refused to take me.  Word of the traffic nightmare around the casino had apparently reached the Uber community.  So I hailed a cab, and turned an $8 Uber trip into a $30 taxi ride.  When we reached the Casino, the valet circle / taxi drop off was gridlocked.  It took a solid 20 minutes to move through the line.  I could have hopped out, but I felt bad leaving the driver stuck in the mess I had created for him.  So, I stuck it out for ten minutes before eventually bailing and giving him an extra $10 tip for his trouble.       
Once inside, it took me all of five minutes to locate an entire section of the casino floor dedicated to video poker.  From single hand JOB, BP, DDB, Joker and Deuces Wild, to 10-hand Ultimate X to Spin Poker to 50 and 100-hand machines.  MGMNH has a decent selection at relatively typical payouts for the area.

Given that I have the willpower of a crack addict when it comes to video poker, I sat down immediately before even taking a lap around the joint.  I played a few hours on the hundred-hand machine and eventually hit the nuts:

It was perhaps 5:00 at this point, and I knew ThePokerMeister was seated in a $1/3 game in the adjacent poker room.  Notwithstanding that we live like 5 miles apart, it had been probably a year since I had last seen him (totally my fault, by the way . . .); so I rolled over to say hello.  After a few minutes of catching up, I headed out to finally take a lap around. 
The casino was packed.  The closest comparison was MGM Grand on New Years Eve.  Only, more people; and less space.  The casino floor was a bit smaller than I had expected.  One big rectangle, with no space wasted.  I was anticipating Aria; but it felt (and is) smaller.  In fact, Maryland Live! feels much bigger.  Slot machines were installed so close together that it was sometimes impossible to even pass between rows.  While this may have been due in part to the shear volume of visitors, the floor is still far more dense than most casinos.  In terms of variety, MGMNH has all the newest slots.  Many also have USB Ports, so you can charge your phone while you play - a nice touch.
I counted one bar and two lounges on the casino floor.  Felt Lounge looked particularly classy:

The lounges, however, were packed beyond the point of even trying to get a drink.  If I wanted to grab a beer on the floor, I found myself basically limited to a single bar which, itself, was typically packed 3-deep.  It took a solid 15 minutes to grab a $7 miller lite bottle.  Yes; $7 for a lite beer.  The same price was charged in the poker room (and, presumably, at the $100 black jack tables).  While I understand Maryland law prohibits free drinks, the decision to gauge for booze still seems unjustifiable.  Hopefully, MGM stock will hit the $40's and I can make up my beer costs on the back end...  
Overall, the vibe of the Casino floor was cool.  I would describe it as sort of a mix between Aria and Cosmo.  Table limits were outrageous.  Word was, there were one or two $25 black jack tables; but the cheapest I saw were $50's and $100's.  And even those were 6/5.  LOL as the kids say.
Outside the casino floor is the MGMNH Conservatory, the hotel lobby (and lobby bar), and "The District" -- a mall-like corridor that snakes around half the casino and contains shops, restaurants and the food court.  There are lots of high end options, as well as some more casual places, like Tap (the same bar that exists at MGM Grand next to the poker room).  Unfortunately, for reasons that were never satisfactorily explained, I was not allowed in any of the restaurants in the District (the best explanation I received was that they had run out of food the night before and, in order to ensure that it did not happen again, only guests with reservations were being allowed in).  Even the bars were off limits to Pete Peters.  This put a damper on the evening.  Being left with the prospect of not eating, I opted for a burger at Shake Shack and then suffered from self-loathing the remainder of the night.  Hopefully, access to the restaurants, including Voltaggio Brother's Steak House and Jose Andres Fish, will be much improved during my next visit.
After dinner, it was finally time to hit the poker room.  The list was 80 long at 6:30, but the giant Bravo Board made it easy to track my spot on the list (word is that text messages will be available in the future once the opening crush fades).  The room itself was nice.  Not spectacular; not the vibe of, say, the room at the former Revel.  Hell, I think the style of the room at the Horseshoe Baltimore might even be nicer.  But the room was cool.  And well-run, given the circumstances.  There were certainly a few hiccups.  Drink service was atrocious.  Friday night, I waited an hour for a water that never came.  And Saturday, I paid $7 up front for a miller lite, which came only after 45 minutes and two conversations with the waitress.  And the 25 minute line to cash out at the cage (with one employee servicing players) was a bit beyond the pale.  But, generally speaking, I really liked the room:

After a long session of $1/3 NL, I called it a night and retreated back across the river to the Westin.

I made it back to the casino around 2:30 Saturday afternoon, and decided to take a more extensive tour of the property before gambling.  The casino was even more impressive in the daylight.

I find it's always somewhat hard to fairly review a new property in an initial visit.  This was particularly true this time around, given the overwhelming crowds.  Nevertheless, my initial thoughts on the MGMNH are as follows:
  • MGMNH is a true destination resort.  It's head-and-shoulders above Maryland Live! and The Horseshoe.  I typically can spend a few hours at the latter joints before becoming bored.  Not so at MGMNH.  I can (and did) spend a full weekend.  And I'm looking forward to doing the same again in 4 days.   The property does, as promised, have that "Vegas feel."  While the casino floor is smaller than many (most, perhaps) of the Vegas casinos, the resort as a whole, including restaurants, bars, shopping, theater and hotel, is expansive.  It's big enough that you can stay occupied all day, between gambling, poker, drinks and dinners.  This may be the first regional casino that actually eliminates my urges to drive 4 hours to Atlantic City. 
  • Unfortunately, it's not all fairies and unicorns.  It appears MGMNH is screwing players with the comp system.  At any MGM property in Vegas, $10 coin-in at video poker earns you a point ($5 on slot machines).  A point gets you a certain amount of comps as well as progress along the MLIFE Tier Status.  At MGMNH, however, the best I could tell, it was $20 coin-in per point.  In other words, gambling at National Harbor earns you half the comps and tier credits you'd otherwise earn for the same play at a Vegas property.  I'm not sure why MGM made this decision; and it's somewhat disappointing.  Over the course of the weekend, I earned 1,688 points.  75,000 is needed to reach Gold; and 200,000 for Platinum.  It does not seem feasible to reach these goals simply by grinding at National Harbor.  But, I guess things could be worse.  I suppose the points will at least help reach status, when combined with some trips to Vegas and money spent on filets and cabernets at MGM restaurants
  • The transportation situation is currently a shit storm of epic proportions.  The parking garage was apparently full at several points over the weekend.  And the valet areas are simply gridlocked well into the early morning hours.  I tried to Uber home both nights.  The casino claims to have a designated Uber pick-up spot (much like at Aria and other Vegas properties).  However, both nights, Uber drivers claimed either to be unaware of this spot or unable/unwilling to try and access it.  Friday night, after a brief dispute, I had to meet my driver in the parking garage -- about a 20 minute walk from the designated Uber spot where I was waiting.  And, Saturday night, I was never even able to locate my Uber driver.  I was on the phone with him for 10 minutes, listening to him attempt, unsuccessfully, to describe his location, before my phone died (luckily, the slots have USB ports, as mentioned above!).  Eventually, after having difficulty with a second Uber, I was able to hop in an empty cab and finally get home, albeit at a cost of $30.  Frankly, at 4:00 am, the last thing I want is to battle 40 minutes to find a ride 5 miles back to the hotel.  Hopefully, this situation will be improved in the coming weeks. 
In sum - kudos the MGM on a job well done at National Harbor.