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First session in months.

I hadn’t set foot in a casino in a couple of months, and I was quite excited to get back to playing. Because I was traveling and playing with a buddy of mine, I ended up having to limit my play to the Taj, as opposed to my preferred casino, the Borgata. The Taj is the first casino I ever played in though, and I do feel something of an irrational affection for it, as I’ve said before. I knew this trip was unfortunately going to be a short one, but I hoped that the Taj would be good to me once again.

I arrived and went to the podium, only to find that there were only two 2/5 tables running. Sigh. This would never happen at Borgata. I put my name on the list and decided to sit in a 1/2 game to pass the time before I was called.

The first hand I see is opened to 10 from UTG and I fold my garbage. The hand plays out and the UTG player (complete with mirror sunglasses) ends up claiming the pot with A10. He then says “Yup, A10. I would have thought it was a bad hand too, but Phil Ivey plays it the same way. I used to never play it from early position, but then I saw Phil Ivey on tv raise from UTG with it, and he won the pot!”

Well done, sir. Thank God you watch poker on tv! How else would you know how to play A10 from utg? Armed with this valuable information you are basically equal to Ivey now, poker ability wise. Let’s ignore of course, the amount of players at Ivey’s table at the time, if it was a tournament versus a cash game, the dynamic at the table, the depth of the stacks, his read on the players, any number of a bajillion other factors that you couldn’t possibly even think of let alone process to arrive at the proper conclusion.

You are certainly a force to be feared at the table, even more so with those intimidating mirrored glasses you wear so none of us can see what you’re thinking while you stare into the depths of our soul. I think I speak for everyone in AC, my douchebag friend, when I say that we’re quaking with fear at your unfathomable poker superiority.

So I’m sitting at the 1/2 table and inwardly sighing/laughing/rolling my eyes at my table mates, and I end up waiting the better part of an hour. I chastise myself for not going to Borgata, but suck it up and make it over to my 2/5 table. Just so you don’t think I have zero respect for my opponents, there were a grand total of two players at my 2/5 table that seemed quite competent. One even used the word “float” in a sentence correctly, so kudos to them. The table as a whole wasn’t particularly tough though, as there was the usual assortment of clueless players, drunks, and old nitty guys rounding out the lineup. After a half hour or so of uneventful play I open a pair of KhKs to 20 from early position. A late position Asian gentleman that just sat down calls, as does the BB. The flop comes off 2hJh8h giving me an overpair and a K high flush draw. After a check to me I bet 2/3rds of the pot, $40, and the Asian gentleman instacrams his short stack in like Phil Hellmuth with the nuts. The BB folds and I make the easy call. My opponent only started the hand with $200 total, which means his raise of $140 is exactly the size of the pot. I call, and he has a black J8 offsuit for top two pair. I need any heart, K, 2, or running pair to win, but it’s not to be as the board bricks off. One of my tablemates consoles me: “Actually, you weren’t too big of an underdog, because a lot of cards could have helped you, you know, if you’re into that poker mathematics at all, you were only like a 60/40 underdog on the flop.” I simply responded with a shrug and “Eh, I’m not into any of that poker math stuff, it never works for me anyway” to which the rest of the table nodded their heads in agreement. I didn’t bother to correct him and explain that I was actually a small favorite because after all, who cares about that silly “poker mathematics stuff” anyway, right?

Stuck right off the bat is not exactly where I hoped to find myself, but I shook it off, thankful that he only had a short stack. About 20 minutes later, I find JJ in early position and raise it up to 20, getting 3 callers again. The flop comes excellent for me, 7QJ rainbow. I decide to lead in the hopes of building a big pot, and bet $40 again. This time, both opponents call and the 9c comes on the turn, putting a club flush draw up. This wasn’t the ideal card for my hand, but certainly presented no reason to slow down. Not wanting to bet too large and make my opponents fold a weak Q, I settled on a smallish lead, hoping to look weak. I bet only $75 dollars, and next to act, a kid about my age who had just sat down, declared “All in” He had just bought in so he was starting the hand with $500, which is also what I had.  The other opponent quickly folded and it was on me, fuck. I had no idea how this kid played, and his line felt like K10 to me right away. I immediately said: “Ugh, this is sick, you have K10 huh?” to which he put his headphones on and stopped looking at me.

I did some math in my head, The pot was $60 pre, $120 on the flop, and now $150 on the turn before his raise, meaning there was $330 in the pot. Before the hand, he had $500 meaning he was raising $365 into the $330 pot. He really did feel strong, but I couldn’t find a fold. There was always the possibility that he had a lower set (with 77 being most likely), as well as a couple of possible two pair combinations like  QJ Q9 and J9 (although these were less likely because I have blockers). I tried to convince myself that he could be making a crazy play with AQ or have some sort of weird combo draw. Plus, even if I was beat I could still win the huge pot if the board paired. After taking thirty seconds or so to study, I decided the pot was just laying me too good a price, and I, resigned to my fate, made the call saying “Alright, you got it. K10 is good.” Immediately, the kid took off his headphones and said “Yeah, I got the straight” and flipped up the K10. I was left looking for a QJ9 or 7 on the river, but it once more wasn’t to be, as it came a meaningless 5 and the very large pot was shipped away from me.

Just like that I was pretty buried, but I tried to shake off the last disastrous half hour, and rebought up to $5oo. The Villain from the first hand (with the J8) was playing really terrible poker, refusing to fold with anything resembling a draw, and had generally become the table target. About 45 minutes later I was starting to feel optimistic that I would catch him sooner or later, as he limped into a pot. I looked down at Kc10h on the button and decided to raise to $25 to try to isolate the fish with position. My plan worked like a charm as everyone, except him of course, folded. We took the flop heads up of KhJh2c giving me top pair with a 10 kicker. He checked to me, and knowing his inability to fold, I valuebet $35. He (big shock here) called. The turn came the 2h, pairing the board, as well as putting three hearts up and giving me a 10 high flush draw to go along with my pair. This time, he donked right into me betting $45. Hmm. Because he was generally a passive stationy type player, this was cause for concern. I suppose it was possible that he could have made trip deuces or even a flush, but against a player as terrible as him, I certainly wasn’t folding a strong hand. The river came the 8h giving me a ten high flush. Once more he bet right out, this time $60. The pot had become quite large now, and I couldn’t imagine ever folding or raising. The only thing that I could lose to was a full house, the Ah, or the Qh. I couldn’t raise either of course, as there are basically zero hands he could fade a raise with that I beat (even though he’s awful). I call and he announces “two pair” and shows the Ks. “No good, I have a flush” I say, tabling my hand grateful to have scooped the large pot and started my comeback toward the black.

Just then though, he jumps up out of his seat, raises his other card high in the air, and slams it on the table while making some bizarre vocalization resembling what Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid might yell when he was kicking ass. The card he slammed down was, of course, the Qh for a higher flush than mine. Cute. Several people at the table immediately made comments about what a classless slow roll it was, but I managed to hold my tongue and simply said “nice hand.” While I still felt pretty calm, I decided to get up, take a walk, and check on how my buddy was doing. After that, I went for a lap around the casino floor to make sure that I wasn’t steaming at all when I returned to the table. I pride myself on never tilting, and I certainly wasn’t going to allow this douchebag slowroller to throw me off my game.

Really buried now, I returned to the game and settled back in. After another hour or so in which nothing went right, I surveyed the damage. I was stuck more than I had ever been in a live game to my recollection, down a little more than $1500 dollars. Gross. I briefly considered quitting, but reflected that the game was still very good. Sitting at the table was still +EV, so I decided to play another couple of hours. In the next orbit, I won two medium sized pots (one with AQ when I raised preflop, bet the A high flop, and then took it down with a turn bet, and the other when I picked off a bluff  on the river with second pair) and was hoping that I was heading in the right direction.

With around a half hour left before my predetermined quitting time, I looked down to find two red aces. Utg (a passive player) raised to 15 and MP (an aggressive player, who made it clear to the table that he was God’s gift to poker, despite the fact that he didn’t play very well) called. Because both of them were pretty short stacked, I had an interesting decision. I couldn’t flat and allow the whole world behind me to call, but I didn’t want to shut them out with a large reraise either (this would perhaps be a good spot for a squeeze play if I had 87 of spades or something). I settled on a smallish reraise to only $45, hoping that one of them would cram AK or 1010 for their short stack. Instead though, both of them called (which is probably bad on their part, but it’s LOL live poker and who pays attention to stack sizes anyway?). The flop came J84 and they both checked to me. I considered checking, which I think in a vaccuum would be a pretty good play (especially if I was heads up against the aggressive player) but decided to instead lead small hoping to represent an AK that missed but felt obligated to follow through. I bet only $75 into a pot of $135, and the passive player folded. Sure enough though, the aggressive player pounced, check raising all in for $269 total. I made  the quick call (trying to silence the voice in my head that was saying “Lol, he has jacks you’re so fucked”) and tabled my aces. His reaction immediately told me that I was way ahead, and I watched the board blank off before he mucked. He later claimed he had queens, which I suppose makes sense and I might even believe. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he had 10s or 9s or AJ or something and was trying to save face though. Frankly, I don’t give a damn what he had as long as his cards were in the muck and I had won my first big pot of the night.

Nothing too eventful happened the rest of the way poker wise, although our table did play host to a handful of well, let’s call them “characters.” Without sounding overly sterotypical, these were the type of people that are often in the Taj at 3 am, not the most savory individuals. I was disappointed though, that the dealers and floor people did an exceptionally poor job of keeping the game under control. While my table was admittedly being difficult to deal with, I thought the staff showed a disappointing lack of professionalism and competence in dealing with it.

Frequently, players were reaching over and touching others’ chips, putting chips into and taking chips out of their pockets during play, slowing down play, colluding by way of inappropriate table talk etc. etc. all while intimidating the dealer into inaction. For my part though, I can’t say as though I helped the situation. While normally I might speak up, I had struck up something of a rapport with my inebriated tablemates, and if they were going to keep getting drunk and playing terrible poker, I was going to put up with their drunken antics while taking their money. I do sympathize to some extent with the dealers, as I’m sure our table was very difficult to deal with. At the same time though, this is a perfect example of something that would never go on at the Borgata.

The Borgata is simply the best casino in Atlantic City in terms of dealer competence, floor staff, and overall professionalism. It’s really not even close. Unfortunately, it took a trip over to the Taj for me to really realize how bad some other places are compared to the Borg. I spoke earlier of my “irrational affection” for the Taj, well, I can truthfully say that’s over and done with. From here on out, I resolve to play at the Borgata absolutely any time that it’s humanly possible (and no, I’m not just saying that because I ran bad at the Taj, in fact, if you’ll recall, I won my biggest pot ever there).

At any rate, I racked up for the session stuck $864 dollars in 7 total hours of play. Because I was traveling with a friend, I didn’t get in the type of hours that I hopefully will going forward. Also, while this is definitely a hugely disappointing result, considering how much I was stuck at one point (and that I considered quitting at that point) it’s hard to be too upset about it. There’s a lot of winter break left, and I’m confident this is just a small blip in what is going to be a fun and profitable month for me.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted, but until then, thanks to everyone that is still following along.