Monday, March 26, 2007

Early-Spring Raid on Atlantic City

WHO HERE IS SICK of hearing me natter on about work? Yes, I thought so. Why not a short recounting of my weekend of gambling degeneracy, from the glittering towers of Atlantic City to the smoky basements of Rockland County? Yes, that will provide a fine change of topic and tone.

Dave (aka the mighty Felix) and Steve were set to join me this Saturday for a raid on New Jersey casino center by the sea. Sadly, at the last minute, fate intervened and prevented a direct reprise of our excursion last June. Felix called to report that Steve was "not so much hung over, as still drunk." So it fell to Dave and myself to forge ahead.

Now half of a duo, I grabbed my copy of the soundtrack to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and motored over with my co-conspirator to the traditional pit stop of the Emerson Dunkin' Donuts. From there, we made fantastic time zooming south through the cool morning air of early spring, reaching AC without so much as a rest break — an amazing feat, considering both of us pounded caffeine on the way.

Once again, we parked at Resorts for our initial foray. Dave has been hot for a rematch here for some time now, and my plan was to let him and Steve damage the casino's P&L statement with some dice while I sought out prey at the poker rooms at the nearby Trump Taj Mahal or Showboat. With Steve gone, I felt bad about leaving Felix alone right off the bat. Not that he'd really be lonely; craps is a social game, so one finds friends quickly, especially during a profitable roll.

Despite my preference for games with an edge in the house's favor, I felt a yen to join in. I wasn't going to return to Las Vegas until 2008 at the earliest. The job hunt beckoned as well, making East Coast casino trips doubtful. If my search were to take a long time, I would certainly cut out my local poker game as well. This was really my last chance for a while to have some fun smacking money and the laws of probability together to strike sparks. With a "what the hell" shrug, I yanked out my bankroll and peeled off $200, much to Felix's approval.

I decided to start slowly, with only two bets working during a roll. The man to Felix's right sevened out, as did we, but the next guy went on a nice tear, putting me back to even and $103 ahead. When he finally rolled a seven, I decided to take the wisdom of one of my poker gang to heart. This guy has a habit of taking a hundred or two of a respectable poker win to the craps table to see if he can make the pile a little bigger. If he gets another C-note or so, he just calls it a night and runs to the cage. With more willpower than I have ever exerted at a craps table, I placed my now-healthy pile of chips on the felt and said, "Color me up!" Three black and three white checks in hand, I bade Dave good luck and made for the cage like a shot.

My next destination was the House of Blues poker room at the Showboat. I spent a good (and profitable) few hours there last year, but this time, only two $1/$2 no-limit hold'em tables were running, and the table they were just starting was a $2/$5 table clearly full of local players who all knew one another. I knew how that script would end. I might as well have gone to the men's room, written SUCKER on the mirror, and positioned my reflection under it. I bailed on the Boat and took my freeroll C-note over to the Taj.

Considerably larger than the House of Blues room, the Taj poker room was already lively in the late morning. Several $1/$2 no-limit games were running, and I was quickly seated. I found the table passive, with an average of six players merely calling the preflop bet of $2. I felt like I might be able to do some good here.

I did pick up a healthy pot with a flush about a half hour in, when I was dealt a pair of Tens in the hole. Two players had called ahead of me, so I raised to $10, getting a cold call from one behind, and calls from the other two already in for $2. The flop came Q 9 T, with no matching suits, giving me a set of Tens. One of the players ahead of me bet, I raised to $70, and got two calls. By now, there was about $250 in the pot.

The turn was the worst card I could see: a Jack. From watching the other two players in this hand, I knew either of them was capable of hanging onto a lone King, either with a suited card, or another straight card of a different suit, through a preflop raise. I knew one of these guys was going to show me a straight at the end of the hand. The first player to act checked, the next one went all in for $79 to kick the pot up to about $340, and I called without hesitation. I knew the third guy was, at minimum, going to call his straight here, rather than reraise all in, for fear of scaring me, his only customer with more chips, out. So I could count his $79 call as part of my pot odds of about $420 to my $79, or 5.25:1. There were 10 cards that could help me by making a full house or quads: the fourth Ten, any Queen, any 9, or any Jack. My odds against hitting these hands were 4.6:1. Furthermore, I had a strong feeling I could pull at least another $100 out of the other opponent, if not another $300 (the size of my remaining stack) if I could get him to call an all-in with his straight. I was in a better spot than it might look.

Sadly, a 4 of diamonds hit, and I checked back when my opponent checked. Sure enough, he had the straight, and a monstrous pot was shipped the opposite way. I still had the vast majority of my starting chips, but losing the money I had made up with the flush was a bummer.

I didn't have a chance to try and get it back at this table, because Felix manifested, low on funds and ready for lunch. The table had been no kinder after I had left. I endorsed this lunch idea, so I cashed out my stacks, and we noshed at the Pickles deli at Bally's, plotting our next move.

More details tomorrow!

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