A foggy/rainy mix shadows our hero on his second trip to the City on the Atlantic. The weather isn’t enough to dampen either spirits or the golden shine that reflects off the Borgata. To recap the play so far, I have played five hours and I’m up 213 with the goal of 1000. Before I get to the action, I want to present my review of the poker room in general and do a quick PSA that I beg my writer friends to read. If neither interests you, feel free to skip it.
Here is a photo of the room at capacity. There are 82 tables total, which is gigantic for a poker room these days. The arches you can see in the background on the left are where you enter from the room from the casino floor. You can’t see the curtains I mentioned in my last post, but the wall that extends to the right is the divider that separates the main room from the high stakes tables.
The dealers are quick. The waitresses come around at a reliable rate. The floor supervisors are present without being overbearing. I have two primary complaints. You can’t buy chips at the table. This is a minor complaint and I’m starting to think Canterbury Card Club, the poker room I play at in Minnesota, is the exception for allowing you to do this. When I get called for a game, I want to sit down with cash and buy chips without having to get up and go to the cages. I have functional legs though, so it’s not too big of an issue.
My second complaint is about the table construction. Look at this picture. See how the felt stays flat as it comes up to the rail? This allows you to stack your chips easily because you can use the rail as a solid surface to press your chips against. By keeping your chips back it allows more room to keep your cards out front and makes it harder to accidentally knock over stacks. These are all good things. The felt at the Borgata dips about a half inch where it meets the rail. That may not seem like much, but it may as well be the sarlacc inhabited pit of Carkoon. If you try to pull a stack of chips back to the rail, like a courteous player should, the dip is enough to cause the chips to fall back towards the rail knocking the top half of the stack into your lap if you’re lucky, and on to the floor if you’re not. I’ve only played during the day, but this seems like it would be an unbearably constant delay of the game when drinks are flowing.
PSA(Writers please read)
Two final points of clarification on terminology before I talk about the actual events of the most recent session. I feel it is my civic duty as a poker player to make these things clear to my friends who read this blog and write more seriously than I do. These are things that poker scenes in movies and books get wrong with a consistency that borders on willful ignorance. Bet, raise, and re-raise are three separate terms. They are not interchangeable. The first money to be put into the pot during any given round of betting is a bet, the next money put in above the bet(so not a call) is a raise, and any money put in above the raise(still not a call) is a re-raise. Too often the first bet is called a raise. That is wrong and makes poker players cry, but it doesn’t cause the physical pain that this other faux pas does. We’ve all heard, “I see your raise of X, and I’ll re-raise you Y,” No! Sweet buttery Jesus no! As soon as someone says, “I see your raise,” that’s it. You’ve called. To try to do anything afterwards is a string bet and wouldn’t be allowed in any poker room on the planet, probably even any poker room on this arm of the galaxy.
It took me 655 words into this post to get to the game I played on Wednesday. The game itself started much faster, we join the action on the second hand of the session. I’m dealt 5♦ 7♣ in the small blind. A hand that generally I’d fold without a second thought. I had a second thought because 5 people limped and because I was in the small blind it meant I only had to put in five more dollars to see the flop with a seventy dollar pot(ten each from the five limpers, myself, and the big blind) and I’m willing to risk 5 to win 70. The flop comes 10♥6♥4♣. I have to act first now and I check, although I’m pretty happy with the flop because I have an open ended straight draw. Any eight or any three and I have a great hand. One of those two cards will come roughly 32% of the time. It gets bet and raised, so I need to call 20$. This is a good call because at this point the pot is 150. The percentage of the pot I have to pay is less than the odds I will make my hand. This is a concept called pot odds. It’s a critical math aspect of poker to understand and right now it dictates I call. Including me there are four people left in the hand.
The turn card is the 8♠. A fantastic card for me. I now have the straight and the only hand that could currently beat me is a 97. I check because I’m certain someone else will bet, and sure enough someone else does, and then someone again raises. The initial better didn’t have enough money for a full bet, so they bet 15 and the raiser made it 35. I re-raised to 55, both players left in the hand who weren’t all in call. Four of us to the river with one player all in and a pot of 335. The way one player is playing tells me he’s absolutely on the heart flush draw. I’m pretty certain as long as a heart doesn’t hit, I’m in the clear. The river is the 4♠. I’m thrilled it isn’t a heart, then my heart sinks because a paired board(two fours are in the community cards) means someone could have a full house and one of the players having a pair of 10s, 6s, or 8s makes a lot of sense. I check, the guy I think was on the flush draw checks, the last guy bets. I call because 20 into a pot of 375 means I need to be best around 5% of the time to turn a profit. Sure enough the villain had 66, made his full house on the river, and I’m down 105 before I’ve taken off my coat.
Only seventeen cards could have beaten me(9 hearts, 3 tens, 2 non heart eights, 1 six, 2 non heart fours). That’s a 63% chance I win that hand. Two out of three isn’t a guarantee. It hurt, but so it goes. The session is still young.
What follows is an hour of folding. I get pretty iffy hands and the couple hands I get don’t connect with the flop at all. Folding is certainly less expensive than trying to overplay a bad hand, but an hour of it at 10/20 still costs me another 100. It does allow me plenty of time to get reads on my opponents and their play styles. There is one player specifically who is clearly there to gamble. he is calling down with any draw no matter how unlikely. One truly aggressive player is on the opposite end of the table. A pretty good player is immediately to my left, which I’m not happy about. You always want better players on your right. That way you act after they do the majority of hands.
I fold for another half hour, and trickle away another 50 before running into my first real hand. I wake up with Q♠Q♣, and not a moment two soon. Losing half my stack before winning a single hand was not part of the plan. I put in a bet and get raised by the really aggressive player. I’m going to skip to the end of the hand when the pot is over 200(100 from me) and the villain makes a flush on the river with 9♠4♠ in his hand. My hand was a 83.79% favorite against his preflop.
When I only have 50 left in front of me, I win a somewhat small hand. It took me two hours to win one hand. I’m staring the end of this session, my bankroll, and my world series hopes right in the face. I win a second hand, still small, but it’s another win. Do I feel momentum? Come on Reed, you’ve got a chip and chair, let’s do this. Cue the guy who was there to gamble hitting a 24% shot when I was all in to clean me out. All 500 gone in three hours. The official scoreboard would read -287 in 8 hours, but it doesn’t matter too much because the world series goal isn’t happening this year.
I’ve lost buy ins before. Looking at my stats from this summer I lost a full buy in 3 of the 16 sessions I played. This one hurts more because the stakes mean a lost buy is a lost bankroll. I still get upset even if I’m playing a 5$ buy in game though. Losing sucks, but it happens, but it sucks, but seriously I’ve had losses hit me harder. I think it largely had to do with how little I actually played. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was only involved in those handful of hands. I can’t be upset with my play because I didn’t really play much.
I’ve had rules in place for 8 years now that have kept damage to the bankroll separate from damage to the bank account(liferoll). I’m not going to break those now for the sake of this resolution. Give me a couple months and I’ll set aside some more money. This isn’t the end of my poker career, but it is going to put it on hold.
There are a few more numbers that deserve attention before this resolution comes to an early end. The three hands I lost had 37%, 17.2%, and 24% individually to go badly for me and only a 1.5% chance of me losing all three of them. That may seem small, but when you’re dealt 30-40 hands an hour, then odds are there’s going to be at least one 1.5% chance outcome occurring every three hours. It’s not all that unlikely.
That first hand(the straight vs the full house) I had an expected gain of $207.90 before the river. If you give me situations in which I’m going to make $375 63% of the time and only lose $105 the remaining 27% I’ll take it without exception. This time didn’t work out. Despite the loss, I’m still happy that I proved to myself I can play at that stake. I was able to maneuver myself into a winning position, but variance still exists and happened to rear its ugly head at a rough time.
I had a blog back in college, and I’d end every post with a quote that usually did a better job summing up my emotions and thoughts better than anything I said in the post. I don’t plan on reawakening that tradition permanently, but there’s only one way to end what will be my last poker post for a while.
“Be of good cheer. If science teaches us anything, it teaches us to accept our failures, as well as our successes, with quiet dignity and grace……….Son of a bitch! Bastard! I’ll get you for this! What did you do to me? What did you do to me?I don’t want to live. I do not want to live.” ~Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein
As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.