21 is the magical age where we get to sin legally. My 18th birthday called for buying of cigarettes, porn, and a lottery ticket, even though I didn’t smoke or watch the porn or play the lottery ticket, just because I had the power. My 21st, of course, was for gambling.
MZ drove me and J, blasting loud badass Asian music, up the toll road to the city of Monopoly streets. The first quest was, of course, not getting to the casino, but finding those legendary White Castle sliders that stick to the roof of your mouth and melt, exuding succulent sweetness. Like in the movie, this was the most difficult part of the trip, as the dudes we met kept telling us that a local White Castle had shut down and we had to go out of the way each time we asked for a White Castle. 3 hours of search failed, so we gave up and just headed for AC. This will be a mission we set for another day – hopefully including the hot farmer’s wife part and not including the battleshit.
In AC I kept looking for Baltic and Meditteranean, my favorite cute little purple properties/streets, but all I saw was Ventnor. We didn’t even go to the Boardwalk. We booked a $170 hotel and headed straight for the Taj, where Andrew + co. were.
What followed are many sessions of 1/2 live play through 3 days. I remember about 6 good hands, but I’ll just save my favorite one and dedicate most of the report to atmosphere and feel.
First session: P and his two Penn friends (Sam and some dude I didn’t know) were coming a bit later, and Andrew + co. were playing a tournament, so it was just the three of us for now. The first session was learning everything the hard way. I like to point at the pot when I count the size of the pot – but it was interpreted as a check. Twice. After only showing down AQo to win a decent pot with top pair good kicker and winning the other two uncontested, I triple barreled into a paired board representing trips, and got a call (after 3 minutes of thinking) from this tight dude with 2nd boat, who thought for sure I had top boat and was totally shocked to see me with ace high and gave me some lessons on playing. Oops. Down $260.
Intermission: MZ, J, Y, and I went to the place with Kobe burgers on the other floor and talked about hands. MZ,Y, and I shared a large pepperoni, but J refused to share the pizza with us and partake in the camaraderie, citing stomach problems. This mistake will bite him in the ass later.
Session 2: This time I’m at the same table as J. We both set up tight-aggressive games, and I go crazy whenever a decent number of people fold pf. I try to make convo with people but they seem to be less fun. I gradually build my stack, and valuebet stacks for a turned mid trips into this tight guy who berates me after the hand for betting flop with mid pair even after I have shown aggression pf. I also get 3 bets out of the same dude with top pair, better kicker. At the end he starts to complain to the table because I raised pre with 8Ts even though I was button and only a couple of late guys limped. Thanks. I flopped a straight and stacked someone there. I also ran mad hot. +870.
Intermission: this session, MZ was up 300, Y was up 200, and J was down 300. This was because J did not eat the Pizza of Victory. So let that be a lesson to you all.
Session 3: Next day (after stuffing 5 cheap people into a 2-bed hotel room) was Borgata. The dealers were better, waitresses were hotter, and I think the players were a bit better as well. People were still pretty much weak tight, with a couple of rocks. My table remained full, and I floated around 300. Near the middle of the session, I called an 80 bet into a 100 pot since the guy had a really weird betting pattern and I had only seen him valuebet with less. Since the board was uber-drawy and I had the missed ace high flush draw, I hero-call, ignoring phantom Paul’s lectures in my head, and took it down. That was unfortunately the best pot of the day. I think I stacked off twice with top pair against small stacks. Then some sketchy guy gave us info of a strip joint with chauffeur service. Down $500.
Session 4: We go back to the Taj since Borgata left a sour taste in our mouths (everyone was down). WTF Paul this is all your fault. I build a stack and then semibluff a reraised pot all in into a player with a combo draw. This is probably the most marginal hand I’ve played on the trip, as the guy shows a flush (6Ts… ) and takes my 400 stack. I then lose 200 or so due to what I think was normal play. MZ was at my table and didn’t change his stack much. J at the next table reads his straight flush as a small flush and folds to a huge river AI bet (it was the nut flush). Down $600. =(
Intermission: P and his friends go home. MZ, J, George (who just got in with us) and I are sorta bummed. We try to have some fun in the town, but it got late and sketchy, so we decide to sleep and call it quits tomorrow. This was the end and we should cut our losses right there.
Session 5: when I woke up, I realize a few things I already knew:
1) I don’t think I was playing badly. As a whole, I don’t think we were playing badly.
2) I didn’t tilt, and I was not going to tilt.
3) Cash poker is one long game. Why should I be scared and quit now?
This was my birthday weekend, my time to be wiser, my time to make the correct decisions. I fucking call a pep rally and saying we cannot end on the note that was last night. I hear badass Gladiator music in my head and bring the troops to the Taj for one last battle. At the cashier, we shout our battlecry in unison: “THIS IS TAAAAAAAJ!” and MUTHAFUCKING CASH IN THREE STACKS OF LOW SOCIETY.
Okay we don’t really shout, but you get the point. A few hands in, this happens:
I’m pretty aggressive here, been taking down uncontested pots. I have ATs in the cutoff, so I raise 2 limpers to 10 and get 1 caller from a huge stack. Flop comes AcJTc rainbow. Jackpot. he checks, I bet 15, he calls. Pot now 50.
Turn comes a 7 or whatever. He checks, I bet 40, he calls. Pot now 130.
River comes a Kc. He shoves for about 200.
I don’t think this is necessarily an instafold, so I think about it and fold. I try to keep up some solid play, and later I call a huge bet from the same guy on the river with top pair no kicker (again, weird betting pattern) and get revenge. Phantom Paul is rolling in his grave seeing me make another hero call, but at least I got lucky and was 2 for 2. +$450.
So in total, I was (not counting rake) -260 + 870 – 500 – 600 + 450 ~ -40. There was also hotel and food and that kinda cost so it was a -value trip.
But money was not the important part, the experience was. Game-wise, I learned to adjust to live casino FR play (I’m used to 6max) . Friend-wise, my boys were awesome and we had a lot of fun, especially since we don’t see each other at all during the year. We all learned a bit about poker and about life – you totally meet all kinds of people at the casino.
There was the nice lady at J’s right on the final table who basically told him to make correct plays against her, like telling him to fold and then showing her hand honestly. There was the silent old man to my left who called down everything, sighed when he loses or gets outdrawn, and just kept reloading for 100 or 200 more until we took all of his money. There was the table coach (at several of my tables) who eventually saw his money given to the other players through his “more correct” play. Poker is just a microcosm of social aggression and defense.
But this is not just poker, this is also the casino. When I walk outside for fresh air and see the brooding town with its run-down buildings and unhappy people (maybe because of the casinos?) and go back into the casinos filled with sparkling light, beauty, and wholesomeness, I get a bit wiser – enough to make me 21, I suppose.
P.S.: biggest casino FR adjustments:
1) people really respect bets/raises, and people don’t pay attention. This can actually be exploited by betting less on bluffs, something that online players catch on, if not immediately then over the long run with PT and such.
2) People as a whole had no concept of position, stack sizes, etc. People will donk a ton and minraise a ton. Minraises are usually a sign of polarized hand strength, and almost never a TP type of hand.
3) I’d say about 50% of players are weak-tight, 40% of players are weak-loose, 10% of players are tight-semi-aggressive (in that I think they don’t think beyond a flop cbet or a river bluff against extreme weakness, and they bet small. But they win this game). I saw only one other player who went anything close to LAG, and one nut peddler who have only shown down flopped sets or boats for a really long session (and doing things like folding AJo in LP with a couple of limpers, which I think is really too much on the tight side for a passive table).