Monday, June 26, 2006

Atlantic City

Finally, finally, you point your car east and accelerate towards your destination. You've jumped the hoops your loving wife has put out in an effort to keep you home and safe for another few minutes. You're on no sleep again, but a cup of coffee and your excitement are enough.

You make pretty good time, despite trying to break the record for number of bathroom breaks by an adult male. It's rainy and cool, which is good, since you don't want to feel guilty about staying inside all day at the beach.

Your first stop is the Showboat. The first thing you smell as you step of your car is spaghetti sauce and garlic.

Damn, you love New Jersey!

The casino is much better looking inside than out. It's a maze of mirrors, flashing lights, and marble. You need to ask directions to the poker room three times, but you finally make it there. The AM tournament's already started, but you don't care about that. You're going to break your cherry in 2/4 limit hell.

The floor man is rude, and acts busier than the half empty room would suggest. You ask to be put on the list and he waves at a table to his left and mutters something about the cashier. After getting a rack and a stack, you take a seat at the first 2/4 table you find.

You drop into your seat and the weight of fatigue and adrenaline drops onto your head. Dizzy and sweaty, you post your blind and try to get your feet under you.

First thing, you realize you've passed the Rounder's Maxim. You can spot the fish. He's drunk and playing every hand. You're dealt 7-8s on the button and buy into the pot. You flop an OESD and complete on the river. It's you and the fish left.

He bets.

You raise.

You know you've got him beat, and you know he's going to call. You're so tired you're not even excited yet. "You won't even look at me," the fish says. You look him in the eye. "You don't have anything." he says. "No," you say, "I'm just zoning out, I've been driving all morning," you reply. You smirk.

The fish does just what you know he will, and you drag your first pot.

You split twice with the person to your left, a retiree on a bus trip, then the cards go cold and lifeless in your hand. You wonder if that rank smell is from the deck's rotting corpse or the street person who took the open seat to your right.

You develop a fatal attraction to two pair hands. With a pair on the board, you're bet into on the river. You know your opponent has probably faded your queens up with trips. You ask to have the pot counted down, and it's only five big bets. On Stars, you'd fold this hand without even thinking about it. Instead, your tired mind whispers false promises to you and you make a crying call. Now you're stuck about ten bucks.

An hour of folding later, you're sitting with top two pair. You're jamming, and everyone's folding. Almost everyone- a cranky old man holds out for the river spade, completing his nut flush. He says he admires your courage.

Now you're steaming and tired. And hungry. The time says you've played for four hours (Really? Didn't you just sit down?) It's time to check into your hotel and you jump at the excuse. You're weaving as you leave the Showboat, the intoxicating drone of hundreds of slot machines adding to the wooziness in your head.

Call home, shower, space out in front of a baseball game on TV, sleep. You feel somewhat better, but you wonder if you'll be able to pull off the poker marathon you've planned as you sleep-drive to the Trop.

The Quarter is as good as people say it is. Ten years ago, pre-marriage you would be all about the bars, clubs, and hoochie walking around. Now, you just want to get something fast to eat. You hit a cool market that has a hot and cold food bar. You buy some caeser salad, chicken, and fruit and nearly faint at the $15 dollar price. The nourishment improves your vitality a notch or two and you start the hunt for the Trop's poker room.

The place is full, but when you ask to be put on the list for 2/4, the floor person says "No."


"Get you're chips and go see Harvey." You do as you're told, but Harvey has already given your seat away.

You head back and succeed in getting on the list this time. Literally a minute later, you're called.



"Lock it up!"

As you squeeze in between the dealer and a cuban lady, that foggy, sweaty feeling comes back. You fold, fold, fold. The cuban 'accidentally' throws in too many chips in the pot when she's got second pair or worse and wants people to fold.

She's replaced by a young, pretty woman from Jersey. She donates like she hates money, pulling twenties and hundreds out of her purse every half hour. She's friendly and talks to you. She complains how everyone at the table is quiet (they are) and how much more fun Vegas is. She shares a bag of chips with you.

Later, she asks you to give her your pickle.

From the sandwich you ordered.

You win a few pots and are surprised to find that you've covered your 40 dollar loss from the Showboat. You take a smoke break. You realize you feel fine now and you're into the rythym of the game. Excitement and anticipation build.

You win more hands. You fold A LOT, and play those hands that your prophet, Sklansky, has ordained as worthy. You always have callers. An old man from across the table yells at you, complaining that you aren't playing enough. You tell him there's only so many opportunities to play 3-5 offsuit, and you're not here to throw money away. You say it with a smile, though, and make a joke out of it when you finally play a hand. You win that hand.

The night is a blur. You hit your nut flush twice. You call down someone with ace high on a two pair board. He flips over 8 high and congratulates you on a good hand. The pretty woman on your left is dragged away by her mother and replaced by another fish who, by the end of the night, is asking your advice on what poker books to read. He donates heavily. Another donator wins a pot with five high. You win a dispute with a dealer, who forgot to include you in the action, then demanded you pay the pot when you try to fold.

A drop dead gorgeous woman across the table re-raises you and looks you straight in the eye while you decide what to do. You cap it and she calls. The guy on your right ribs you about her staring you down. The flop is KJ9 rainbow. You bet, the woman folds. You show her your pocket queens.

You learn some things from your time at the Trop:

1. Chips really ARE as filthy as people say, and they do stick together.

2. Whatever short comings the system has when playing online poker, the ideas in Sklansky's and Malmuth's Small Stakes Hold'Em fits casino poker like a diver's wetsuit.

3. You now understand how people can play poker for one and two days straight.

Too soon, it's 2:30 in the morning. You're up a little over a hundred bucks and you have to drive home later on. With a pang of regret, you rack up, cash out, and stride out of the casino.

The slots are playing their siren's song, but you are leaving this enchanted world.

For now.


Blogger HighOnPoker said...

GOD DAMNIT CL! THIS IS WHAT I LOVE TO SEE! I miss my 2nd home already.

1:20 PM  
Blogger C.L. Russo said...

I was ready to shop for a house nearby. Then my wife slapped some sense into me.

I'm working on a mini trip in August.

5:10 PM  

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