Atlantic City, Part 3
Sunday morning we had breakfast at a different spot on the Boardwalk and my French toast with bacon was considerably better then the previous day's "bad beat" eggs. I was pretty quiet throughout breakfast as I tried to think about strategies for the upcoming tournament at the Hilton. The structure sounded really good; 5000 starting chips and 30 minute blinds starting at 25/50. I had a feeling they might double the blinds every level though, because for 60+15 I couldn't imagine that they would want the tourney to go all day and night. So, it was clear that I would need to accumulate chips.

Kevin and Rich had also been having a rough go at the tables and we decided it would be best to do a 60/20/20 chop for this tournament as an attempt to hedge our bets.

We got to the Hilton with plenty of time to spare and signed up for the tourney. Rich jumped into a 2-4 limit game while Kev and I sat around watching the mini-baccarat table and talking about the trip so far. It had been a rough experience, but we were optimistic about the tourney. The field looked pretty soft.

Rich and I drew the same first table and Kevin was seated at a table behind us, where he started chirping his opponents straight away. At one point, he apparently offered to trade seats with someone else at his table for 10 bucks. The guy agreed and the floor had to be called over to stop the deal. Rich and I were just cracking up at our table!

As I predicted the structure moved very quickly. We went from 25-50 to 50-100 to 100-200-25. That's right, antes came in on the third level! So, as planned, I started running over the field early and Rich was bemoaning the fact that I had position on him. What can I say? Them's the breaks, kid!

The rest of the table featured quite the cast of characters. The guy to my right was an arrogant, wealthy "free-mason", who relished in his own "Canuck" jokes. Meanwhile, the player to my left was a sweet, middle-aged small-town man who was apparently colour-blind and had a lot of trouble distinguishing the chips. At one point he meant to call one of my bets but threw in the wrong chips and ended up accidentally raising instead. It folded back to me and I just pushed all-in with my AQo. Rich laughed at me and the colour blind man mucked his hand. It sounds like an asshole thing to do, but in fairness, the man had been warned twice already and both Rich and I appealed to the dealer when the chips went in, asking for it to simply be declared a call given the guy's disability. So, I didn't really feel bad.

Things were going well and I was building a nice stack until a few calling stations got moved to my table and I bled away some chips to them. Before I knew it, we were down to three tables and I was being moved to another table. I was UTG, six handed on my new table and with the blinds and Antes climbing I felt like if I paid one more round of blinds I would lose all folding equity, so I moved in with a suited connector, 6♦7♦. I got called in two places by pocket tens and KQo but managed to make a straight and triple up. From that point on, I was unstoppable! I bullied the timid players and trapped the calling stations to get the chip lead. When we got to the final table bubble I was merciless, raising and re-raising with reckless abandon. It was very clear that most of the players on my table did not want to bust before making the money and I re-enforced their behaviour by commenting, "there's lots of short stacks on the other table" and "wow, this is exciting, we're almost in the money."

By the time we got to the final table I had about 35% of the chips in play. There were tons of short stacks and they fell to the wayside pretty quickly. The most interesting hand at the final table came when we were three handed. The button limped, the SB completed and I checked in the BB with 8-2. I was very suspicious of the button limp, this player had generally been raising his button pretty consistently. The flop came 8-5-5 rainbow. Pretty good for my hand. The SB lead for about half the pot and my suspicions about the button made me just call instead of raising to see where I was at. The button folded and the turn came a Jack. The SB pushed immediately. I leaped off my chair! I felt like I had really misplayed the hand, the pot had gotten huge and the SB had to move in on the turn no matter what and he knew it. I counted my chips and realized that the call might lose me the chip lead, but it would still be very close and both me and the SB would have the other player way out chipped. I tanked it for quite a while and decided that the SB was capable of pushing here on a bluff (like Ace high). So, I called. He showed K8 and I failed to improve. In retrospect, I think raising the flop would have given me the information I needed and allowed me to get away from the hand.

After that hand we took a 10 minute break and I used the time to calculate a 3-way chop based upon stack sizes. The 3rd place player was quite short compared to me and the other guy and it turned out that a chop wouldn't really be worth it for him. When we got back to the table, after break, I showed everyone the numbers and the third place guy refused a deal. I don't blame him, it just wasn't worth it for him to accept. So, the first hand after the break, short-stack moves in and I call with KJo. He sows QTs and I spike my King on the flop to seal the deal. At that point, I had the chip lead with 135K in chips vs. 115K in chips, but the blinds were 5k-10k-2k and we're going to 10k-20k-3k. So I felt like it was bingo and agreed to a chop where I got 880$ and my opponent got 833$. I thought it was fair and was overjoyed at my finish.

Kev and Rich failed to cash in the tourney, but were happy to get a piece of my win. They both played very well, but the structure really forced a lot of action and they fell victim to a continued bad run of cards.

With this win, after paying Kev and Rich their share, I had a little under 1000$ and I decided that I wanted to take one more crack at the Borgata. I was gonna buy-in for 300$ and have two more 300$ buy-ins behind. But first, it was time for a nice sit down meal.

Kevin has a very finicky palette, but was adamant about finding a nice sit-down place. We asked the valet if he knew a good Italian spot and he recommended "Angelo's". We hopped in a cab and I had a delicious seafood ravioli. Unfortunately, Kevin didn't find much on the menu that he could enjoy. Knowing him as well as I do, I can assure this was by far his worse "bad beat" of the trip. Never the less, he handled it well and had some apps, while Rich and I chowed down. Rich was gracious enough to pick up the tab (thanks, dude, next one's on me) and we were soon off to the Borgata.

The Borgata was less crowded than it had been, since Monday was not a holiday. I sat at a very aggressive 2-5 table. The first hand I played saw me raising 35$ on the button with KQs and getting one limp-caller from mid-position. The flop came K high and I lead for 50$. My opponent flatted and then he lead the turn for 50$. I called and then called again when he bet 75$ on a rag river. He showed, AK and took it down. I think I lost minimum, but when your buyin is 300$, losing 210$ is substantial. I topped up to 500$ at this point, figuring a 300$ stack was insufficient for the stacks I was playing against and the level of aggression at the table.

I got no cards or a long while and eventually found myself raising on the button with pocket 4s in an unopened pot. The BB called and the flop came A-K-6, he checked and I made my con-bet. He called and I shut down, at showdown he showed 5-6 for bottom pair and I was forced o muck. The player to my left said "hmm" and the very next hand I made it 25$ to go on the CO with AJs. The player to my left, on the button, made it 75$ to go and I was sure he was re-raising very weak because of the earlier hand. I flatted him to be safe and the flop came 7-T-J with two diamonds. I check-called a 25$ bet from him and when the river came an Ace we got it all-in. He showed 89o for a flopped straight. In retrospect, I played that hand pretty badly. My first instinct pre-flop was to re-raise him. It's not something I would normally do with AJs but I had a very strong read that I could move him off his hand and I should have gone with it. Looking back that whole last session at 2-5 saw me playing scared and weak. I was at an aggressive table and I missed some opportunities because I was afraid of going home broke. After losing the AJ hand, I left the table, down about 800$ on the session.

Rich and Kev were not ready to leave yet and so I wandered around the casino and landed in the "B-Bar" at Borgata (a trendy little Casino hot-spot with beautiful people and loud music). I ordered up my favourite drink, a Godfather, which surprisingly the bar-tender knew exactly how to make. In fact, it was one of the better Godfathers I had ever had. While I sat there I contemplated the events of the last few days. The first question I asked myself was, "was this a business trip for me, or a vacation?". Looking back on my behaviour, I felt like in a lot of ways, I treated this as a business trip. I felt the need to play even when I was tired and unfocused, as if being at the table was like attending some mandatory meeting. I did nothing but eat and play poker. I never set aside any time or money for just relaxing, going out and being a tourist. I was sitting in this bar, watching everyone have a good time and party it up and I felt like I had missed out on that aspect of this trip. The next question I asked myself was, "did I have a good time" and the honest answer was, "yes". I laughed it up with some good friends and I love playing poker and seeing different card rooms, etc... Also, even though I lost in the neighbourhood of 3000$, it was all money that came from poker and it would have no real impact on my life in terms of paying the bills and so on.

I went to fetch Kev and Rich and found them both sitting at a 3-6 limit table. They convinced me to sit with them and I played well and yucked it up with the boys. Unfortunately, I witnessed Rich getting runner-runnered 3 times in the span of like 15 minutes. I realized that no matter how bad it goes for you at the table, it's always going worse for someone else. The fact that the "someone else" in this case happened to be a good friend of mine was disheartening and the last night in AC saw a bit of tension mount in the hotel room afterwards. Fundamentally you had 3 guys all of whom had been losing and taking a proverbial beating all week-end and a bit of a blow-up was inevitable. This is where I really feel like we should have done something other than play poker all week-end. The good news is that all matters were resolved quite amicably and the ride home was pleasant.

I know this, when I take my next poker vacation, I am going to make sure it really is a "vacation" and set aside time and money for something other than poker. I won't force myself to play and if things don't go my way, I'll just find something else to do for a while.

Overall, it was a good experience and I'll definitely go back some day. For now, I have the WSOP to look forward to as I follow my friend Marc Karam on his quest for a bracelet. Thanks for reading my 3-part odyssey, hopefully it helps you on your own poker journeys as well.

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