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When in South Jersey... (AC Trip Report)

When I found out I would have to be in South Jersey on a Monday, I checked the fridge for the monthly free room offers I'm always receiving from Atlantic City properties. I heard opportunity knocking and once I confirmed that the rental car costs would be the same whether I picked it up Sunday night or Monday morning, I booked the only free room I could find, a spot in Atlantic City's Harrah's.

Yesterday, after seeing my family for Mother's Day, I returned to the apartment and prepared for the trip. I picked up the car at around 4:45. My plan was to get to Harrah's, check in, and probably play their 8:15 tournament. The buy-in was rather small at $58+12, but I was still mentally licking my wounds after a -$800 swing a couple of weeks ago.

I arrived at AC at about 7:15pm after hitting a decent amount of traffic escaping the city. The ride was easy, thanks to a Garmin GPS navigation unit and Howard Stern on my iPod. I lugged my heavy workbag and backpack into the hotel. Harrah's self-park garage is pretty much on the opposite side of the hotel as their lobby, so I took the slow walk from the garage across the casino. The place was busy, which was a bit surprising given the fact that it was a Sunday night and the economy is shit. Harrahs also did a nice renovation. While I could still find my way around the casino using my Casino Sonar, the place looked fresher than ever and the make over, while subtle in some areas, was rather impressive.

I got to the lobby after walking through several gaming pits and found a wall of computers made for humanless check-ins. Sweet! I wasn't planning on trying to upgrade since I was solo, so all I wanted to do was get a room quickly and dump off my stuff. I found a free machine, swiped my credit card and saw my room choices: Smoking Queen Beds in one of the less desirable towers. It was a free room, so I didn't expect much, but I hit the "change room" function anyway and crossed my fingers. Amazingly, a couple of clicks later and my worst room in the casino was exchanged for a non-smoking room on the top floor of the Marina Tower. I found a clerk and asked, "Where is the Marina Tower?" She pointed about 10 feet away to a huge sign and a bank of elevators. BINGO!

I was up to my room in no time. Amazingly, I was fairly close to the elevators. Usually, with free rooms, I end up with the furthest room. When I opened the door, I was surprised once again. The room was fantastic. The king sized bed was nicely appointed. The TV was a large flatscreen. The room also had a sitting area with a couch and lounge chairs. And the oddest thing of all (to me at least) was the fact that the room had dark wood floors instead of the usual carpet common in hotels.

Of course, I made these assessments in about 90 seconds, during which I threw my stuff on the bed and fumbled around in the dark, too rushed to go through the effort to find a light switch. Almost as fast as I'd arrived, I was gone, back to the elevator and on my way to the poker room.

I've already mentioned the casino's makeover and the rooms' makeover, but the best makeover of all was at the poker room. When I was last at Harrah's, the room was small, in sorta a back alley of the hotel. There were a decent amount of tables split off into two sections, with maybe 20-30 tables total. That's no small room. But the room still felt small time. Maybe it was the location or the decoration, but it felt like afterthought.

The new room, though, is a lot more sophisticated, for lack of a better word. I would assume there are closer to 40 tables in the room. While it is still split into two sections because of a walkway, it feels like one big room. The decor is a lot of dark woods, along with WSOP photos around the room in varying sizes.

As I neared the room, I saw the one cashier window had about 7 players waiting. I knew from my experiences at Showboat (the official Atlantic City Casino/Hotel of High On Poker, and a Harrah's property) that the cashier probably handled the tournament buy-ins, but I made my way to the floor person kiosk anyway, with the hope that I could avoid the long line.

"Where do I sign up for the tournament?" I asked. The floor was a squat bald man with glasses and a horseshoe ring of dark hair wearing a dark suit. "Which one?" This was the first I heard there were multiple tourneys, so I asked back, "You tell me. What do you have?" Apparently, aside from the 8:15, $58+12, Harrahs was running WSOP Satellites in some upstairs location. I asked about signing up for the $70 tourney and was directed to the cashier's window. "In that case, I'll take a seat at 1/2." He directed me to another floor person in the back of the room.

As I previously mentioned, I have been licking my wounds after a -$800 week (an amount that may seem small to some readers, but for my under-bankrolled ass hurt). Still, I had a craving for some NLHE cash games. I had resigned myself to possibly playing the tourney, but it was oddly too small. I didn't want to play for hours only to bubble or win $75 profit by coming in the lowest money spot, and in these tourneys, it is generally a crap shoot at the end anyway, so those scnenarios were just as likely as winning the damn thing.

I walked the length of the room and waited patiently while the floor person stared blankly at a computer screen. Two fat chicks were waiting in front of me with a bunch of $1 chips, clearly trying to get a seat at a "juicy" 2/4 limit game. Hahaha! Waiting was driving me nuts and after 5 or more minutes, the floor finally sat the ladies. It was then that some douschebag player in his early 30s decided it was time to swap recipes with my floor guy. I understand the pleasures of being a regular, but if you feel the need to flirt with another male, do it on your own time, buddy. I was there to play poker and it wasn't my fault that the dousche's only friends were those he would tip. I finally just stepped in front. "Hey man, can I just grab one of these empty 1/2 seats?" "Just a moment sir." Holy shit! I stayed calm, but boy was this getting annoying. When I finally got my seat, I was then told to go to the cage to buy chips...and once again saw a 7-person deep line at the only open window.

Thank fucking god, some Asian guy was trying to sell off his chips on the line. I bought $200 immediately and returned to the table. I usually buy in for the max, but the table's stacks were fairly short and I wanted to warm up a bit.

The table was actually a pretty good crew. In the 1 seat was the only female, a cute brunette with dark curly hair and a fresh face and smile. She also wore a low top, showing the curvature of her natural cleavage. Let me take a moment for a brief message to our female readers:

There are few things in life as sexy as the natural fall of a woman's breast; often, it can be sexier that even the push-uppiest push-up bra.

Next to the Chick in the 2 seat was a fat guy with a jovial spirit. It was clear that he knew the Chick and it eventually came out that they lived together. To his left was a generic white dude with a soul patch and backward cap, probably in his mid 20s. Next to him was a skinny white dude with boyishly good looks. What? That doesn't make me gay. He was also a good kisser.

The Boyish Guy was clearly going to be one of the action players at the table. It didn't take long to figure that out. His chattiness was a giveaway if his demeanor alone wasn't. To his left and my immediate right was another big guy wearing an orange sweatshirt. All of the people I've mentioned so far were chatty the entire evening. Most of them seemed to know each other. In fact, they may have all known each other. Certainly, the Chick, the Jovial Fat Guy and the Boyish Guy knew each other. It seemed like the other two players, Soul Patch and Orange Shirt were friends with them as well.

On my left was a quiet guy who eventually left to play the 2/5 game. Once I heard he was on that waitlist, I figured him for a decent player. His play actually matched that description nicely. To his left was a real loser. The guy must've been in his late 40s, wearing a Giants jersey. He was a chatty guy mostly with his neighbors, but he'd say the stupidest things. To his immediate left was another 2/5 player, a white dude who looked very serious. He had the headphones in and generally seemed very paced in his movements. I could tell he was a baller, likely a professional grinder, which was somewhat confirmed when I learned that was also on the wait list for the 2/5 table. So the Loser limps and the Baller raises and when a bunch of people fold back to the Loser, the Loser folds and says to the Baller, "I had KT." Why, dude? I was happy for the info, but why announce what he had there. All he did was confirm that he was limping light and would fold easily to pressure preflop.

As for hands, well, I didn't take any notes. But I can tell you that it was essentially a very easy time for me. I had a great feel for this fun-time table. That was really what made it such a great time. I was tuned into the table moreso than I have been in a long while. When you are tuned it, opportunities begin to arise. They were always there, but they just become more obvious. You can get a feel for bet sizes that throw off certain players, or you can tell when momentum shifts and dictates a change of strategy.

The whole experience reminded me of the importance of your table make up. There are times where I feel I cannot get anything going, but this was not one of those times. I didn't make any huge pots or large bets, but whenever I was in a pot, I was usually in a great position. Granted, I also hit hands. This wasn't moreso than natural, but I had a bad run of luck in some recent cash games (although not in the BBT4 tourneys!) and had resigned myself to missing most flops. And for what its worth, I didn't have many premium hands either, with only two JJs and maybe two AQ, with nothing higher.

In the end, the main advantage I had was good reads combined with conservative postflop play (preflop, once I realized it was a limping table, I was able to open up my range in position). I knew, for instance, that I was better off calling in position preflop with my JJ after a raise by the Boyish guy because, well, he would hang himself with weaker pairs and I could get away from the hand if he hit one of his many overs. A re-raise preflop could've been effective too, but unlike tournament play, I was trying to build a pot instead of protect my hand. I also had to consider the generally small pots played by the table. If I raised too much preflop, I'd push out weaker hands (like underpairs) and definitely get called (or raised) by superior hands (QQ-AA), and get called by hands that can beat me (like AK or AQ). At another table, I might get calls from some smaller pairs or I could string along an AK/AQ even if they missed the flop, but not this table. In the JJ hand, by the time the board reached the river, there were three kings out there. Foolishly, the Boyish guy finally checked the river, announcing almost as an afterthought, "I guess we are pair vs. pair." That's all I needed to know that my pair was better than his, so I was able to comfortably place a value bet out there that he had no choice to call. I then did a bit of the ole weak-means-strong until he took the bait and paid me off. He had 99.

The key to the table was the friendly vibe. It made it a limp-heavy table. Limping tables are great if you excel at post-flop play. They are also great because the limping tends to get people to open up their starting hand requirements. Pots can be built, but most of the building is post-flop, after you already know 3 out of 5 of the community cards. That cuts down on a lot of uncertainty. Probably the best part, though, was the ability to control pot sizes.

Ah, but this is all very loose stuff. The bottom line was, it was a friendly table and I kept it lighthearted and friendly as I slowly siphoned chips from my smiling competitors.

At about 9:30, I was absolutely starving and asked to see the poker room's menu. The food was very expensive, but I figured I could go for the official gambling food of High On Poker, a grilled cheese (which was probably still almost $10). When I asked the floor, he warned me: "Okay, but this could take a really long time." I knew of a deli-type area with $13 overpriced crappy burgers sitting under heat lamps, but that didn't appeal to me either. That's when I learned of an additional renovation, the creation of a mini food court called Tastes of the Boardwalk.

I took the walk over the food court and was happily surprised. There was a pizza place, a sandwich shop and some other booths. I opted for sandwiches and waited patiently in line. When I got to the front, I asked the cute cashier if I should get a Philly Cheesesteak or Chix Parm. She recommended the Chix, so I followed her advice. That's a quick lesson in random eateries; the staff will usually be kind enough to let you know when one dish is particularly sub par (no pun intended).

With food in hand, I returned to the table. Some people had shifted seats and there were some new faces, but not many. Things continued on course, as I slowly accumulated more chips.

At about 9pm, I had thought to myself that I should set a time to stop playing. I was in town for work, after all, and I wanted to get sufficient rest. Poker sometimes gets the adrenaline going, though, so I knew I would need ample wind-down time.

By 10 pm, I had already finished my first cocktail and was ordering my second. At the end of every cash game session, I usually have a few drinks to celebrate a victory (or drown a defeat). It also sets me up to relax afterwards.

At 10:30, my internal alarm clock sounded. I was up a decent amount and when my neighbor, one of the few truly clueless players (actually, the doofus who announced his amazing KT laydown preflop...he had moved seats) got up, I decided to follow suit.

I walked to the cage, where I cashed out $465, up $265 for a few hours of work. I then took the reasonable walk to the Marina Tower, without a second glance at the casino table games. The best thing I ever did was quit casino table games (with the sole exception of play with wifey Kim or with social gatherings).

The next morning, I woke up to the sounds of douschebag ladies in the hallway gabbing about some such nonsense with their shrill voices. I contemplated getting up to ask them to go elsewhere, but I finally just reached of my iPod and put on some trance music as background. I finally re-awoke an hour or so later.

Once I had showered and donned my business attire, I returned to the food court for an egg sub (way too big for one person for breakfast...I ate half and tossed out the rest). The breakfast sub was as good as the Chix Parm sub from the night before, which, by the way, was good, but not great. The Chix Parm was essentially cubed or shredded chicken, grilled not fried, with mozzarella sauce and a touch of tomato sauce. It needed more sauce because of its dryness, but overall was much better than anything I could've gotten at Harrah's shitty deli. The egg sub also surpassed my expectations, which were albeit low. The bacon was a bit lacking (in quantity), but anything was better than the usual crap casino fare. Overall, that's a big thumbs up to the new food court. On that note,

Hey casinos. We know you like us to spend our hard earned money on expensive eateries, but sometimes, a man has already spent his paycheck on your godforsaken slot machines. Get a food court and we'll both be happy.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 8:19 AM,


At 6:55 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Good trip report!


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