A Collection of Poker experiences at casinos other than those in Nevada, spiced with a few descriptions of our local games. Most of the narratives are of limit poker.
Friday, June 18, 2010
A Day at Foxwoods
My gambling had been in a long slump until three games ago when the live poker started to turn around. I have not been winning huge amounts, but I have been feeling more in charge of my game, more as if I am thinking clearly and taking full advantage of where and when and for how long I play. Clearly I did not do that on my last Vegas trip.
I don't require much from this gambling hobby. I have the Jean Scott mentality that studied attention to detail will not make me rich, but may put the random part of the experience at a break even place while the comps push the value into the black.
I know there are gamblers content merely with the thrill of riding the random roller coaster and happy to be entertained even when playing low expectation games if on some days they have the thrill of winning and on the other, they have the thrill of losing. However, if I gamble very long in a situation where the mathematics are such that I know I must be ground down in the long run, then it takes the edge off the fun for me, and I feel like a chump simply being exploited by this big casino industry.
Live poker puts the math in the power of the players and merely pays the casino to do the service of dealing and enforcing the rules, of calling the game and paying attention to mistakes in reading cards, and of providing a comfortable venue of strangers.
I love my local home games with poker buddies, but it means playing with the same folks every week, understanding their patterns, knowing who can easily be beat and who cannot. And it means constant focused attention on aberrant behaviors that confuse the play, both theirs and mine.
A bus trip to Foxwoods frees me from all of that responsibility for monitoring the rules, as well as from bringing my own refreshments and staking my underfunded son. Driving for the Yankee Trails bus means I drive just a third of the distance it takes to get to my weekly local game at Gregg's and that the time between drives makes it much easier to have a few drinks.
However, the Foxwoods bus ride round trip is almost 5 and a half hours. I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy that ride. If I am at all impatient, it is grueling, especially if it is crowded.
The price is right.
I can book it on line for $25 and this includes $15 of free slot play, a $17 buffet, and transportation. Lately, just for showing up, Foxwoods adds another $10 in reward points.
This trip was free because last visit I used my accumulated points to get a voucher from Foxwoods good for a fee trip.
For that I get about seven hours of poker.
Sometimes the bus will have a sale and the price will go down to $16. I don't like to book then unless I have a buddy coming along as the buses crowd up and I won't have two seats to myself. Today the bus was only a little over half full.
Having a buddy come also means a long time of focused conversation and storytelling. I enjoy that as well.
But this time, I was solo. Wild Bill says he wants to go with me next trip, but he says it in an email from Southpoint in Vegas where he is winning some at poker, but more at slots so it won't be for a while.
Sometimes it will be dead quiet on the ride up, but on the way back there will be a movie. We had an inexperienced drive this time who did not bring a movie or entertain us with jokes. However, two older women behind me and a group of laughing men in front of me entertained me both ways and seemed never to run out of things to say. Often I engage other riders, but this time I just sat quietly and listened to the banter and the stories. I have always enjoyed diners or taverns for the same reason. They put me in a community of strangers and let me watch and listen.
Some of the men did not live far from me out here in the country. They talked of boating and deer, of where to buy a case of inexpensive cigars and of road work in the area. I think they work on the highways here. One kept joking that he had told everyone (perhaps his wife) that he was on jury duty. This included some of the fellows he encountered on the bus who were surprised to see him, so perhaps for him this was a mental health day.
The women behind me reminded me of listening to my grandmother. It is rare at 63 to be able to encounter old folks, but these bus trips are often filled with seniors averaging 20 years older than me. It gives me hope, and it makes me feel like a kid again quietly listening to their converstation the way I listened to my parents talk over a late night lunch in the kitchen after I had been sent to bed. It is hard at 63 to remember what it felt like to be nine.
The women were doing a simple crossword puzzle. This was not the NY Times puzzle, but these were not college educated women either. They struggled with very simple clues and asked around in their group.
So _______________ Alva Edison took them forever and I don't think they ever did get that "fisherman's basket" was a creet. I am not a good crossword puzzle player, but I knew most of the simple clues over which they struggled. I kept my mouth shut. And I think that was very wise.
This attention to trivia however was wonderful when they started talking about old movies. One woman could remember the players in dozens of old films, remember their marriages and how they died, remember what happened in the old movies and certain scenes that moved them. I love old movies, but I I could not tell you how many time Elizabeth Taylor was married, or that she was infirm now and wanted to die, or even than she fell from the horse acting in National Velvet and never fully recovered. I had just seen Barbara Stanwyck in "Ball of Fire" and I did remember that "Big Valley" was her television show, but much of the detail of the lives and accomplishments of these actors was not in my memory.
They did talk of the weather and how much more the trees had filled out in green since they had come last, and of the many, many people who they knew who had died. Death and disease are common conversation among seniors. Funerals are as common as poker games.
"That is why you have to enjoy every day," the old movie buff reminded, "Because in the whisk of an eye we can be gone."
That malapropism was worth the entire trip.
And so I was entertained.
There is also from the bus a certain perspective that I can't get even in my van. The window was huge and clean and the passing forests and farms, the rivers and lakes and birds all looked much more grand than they do from a car. Perhaps it is the added height or just the freedom from thinking about the driving.
At one point I watched a hawk circle for a long while. In car travel the site of a hawk is a brief glimpse,but the large picture window meant that I he had plenty of space to circle and swoop and still be in my vision.
He was looking for some poor mouse who in "the whisk of an eye" would die to be supper.
Even when I don't drive myself, I find I am constantly watching the details of the driving. Having the paid driver as well as no real view of the traffic or road conditions is like having a dealer in the pokerroom. It frees up my focus and changes the experience.
We arrived in good time, twenty to ten, a full half hour earlier than we had arrived on the last bus trip. There was a good bit of action in the card room, perhaps because the badbeat is pushing closer to $200,000. I was signed up to play either 2-4 or 4-8, and started on a new 2-4 table which usually makes me very happy because I will get a shot at some poor players before they lose their money for the day, but this table was tight. In the eight hands I had A-A, A-K, A-J, pocket kings and a couple other playable pairs, won most of them, and looked down to see practically no profit. Even betting that many in a row had not pushed the old rocks off their tight game.
So I changed tables.
I had looked around earlier and notice a table I liked with some mixtures of people.
I sat down just to the right of the button, and posted, only to have to see a $2 raise on my 6-9 opffsuit. Everyone was in.
The flop gave me a gutshot straight. Again, everyone was in, so I tossed in another $2.
And I caught.
The fellow acting a few players ahead of me bet. I decided not to push out the player's acting behind me, and that was a good choice as four more folks called me.
I raised on the river when I had the nut and still had two callers.
When I collected the chips, I was up $80.
Well, I was up and down all day. The fish at my table kept catching trips when I was in a hand with him, so while he lost all his profits eventually, he did not lose to me but merely distributed my money around the table. I was positioned perfectly, right to the left of a regular tight player and an overbetting fish, so I had generally had the advantage of seeing raises and a rock's calls before I acted.
Still in the long run I lost for the session.
And I lost in my second session as well.
There I played one interesting hand.
I had pocket fours on the button. Two nines came on the flop. Someone bet. I should not have played the fours, but I wanted to play them. Calling was foolish, so I raised.
Sometimes that says "I have a full house" and they fold. Other times it at least buys a free card for just $2. The turn brought me nothing, but everyone checked to me and I checked. Some of the checkers had trip nines.
The river brought me my four, so I raised and beat a guy with pocket queens, and two players with trip nines. I also totally confused and annoyed them which helped me in the rest of my game. A few hands earlier with pocket aces I had raised in middle position and had isolated players as intended, but won me only a few chips. I thought that showing I could raise on pocket 4's might help my next Aces.
And I felt like although I probably should have folded those fours, I did play them perfectly, minimizing my risk.
i got lucky.
So while I ended up the second session down again, I felt my poker was fine.
For a short while after dinner I sat at a 4-8 table and let the play come around to me while I waited and watched and listened. Guys there were talking about how they just could not afford to play 30-60 anymore or some such high stakes game, and I saw how tight the rest of table was.
"know when to run"
I left and went back to my 2-4 game.
I must remember that in Vegas. Evaluate the table and then get out even if the next game is a casino walk away.
All day I remember only one real misplay, and then it was because the dealer missed my " wait one sec" for "check" and I missed a bet. I had wanted time to think through how likely it was that someone had caught a bigger straight than I had when the river made that possible, as well as time to represent some doubt to offset an earlier successful check raise that had built my pot. It was a poor choice of words. I am certain there were more, especially when the waiter forgot the lime in my Myer's rum and so brought me a complete new drink with two limes. That was just before dinner and I did feel the rum working along with an earlier coffer and amaretto.
So I was down over ninety dollars on the poker.
However, I picked up $19 on the free slot play. I have found a two coin dollar machine with a relatively low large jackpot. This means it will more likely bring me some profit on my freeplay. I hit three sevens twice and cashed out $19.
A poorer but more lucky choice was to play some bad pay video poker. I was attracted by a paytable on a Bonus Poker machine that looked like the full pay of 8-5. I even put in $20 before I noticed that the table started at two pair.
What a ripoff!
But I wanted just ten minutes of play before the bus, so I put my $20 in an 8-5 Double Double Bonus machine and hoped for the best. When I got down to 40 credits, I told myself I would quit at zero or if I broke back even. About this time I hit quad jacks.
So my losses for the day at poker were reduced to just $17, just equal to the price of the free buffet. In comps the day left me well ahead. I left too with another voucher for another free trip sometime soon.