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Sunday, August 08, 2004

Low-Limit Stud at Foxwoods
As expected, against good judgement, and despite getting only 5 hours of sleep Saturday morning, I returned to Foxwoods Saturday night. I didn't get out the door until 7pm, which meant I didn't get to Foxwoods until 8pm, which was a mistake. The waiting lists were huge. Like many poker rooms, Foxwoods writes your initials on a whiteboard. They can fit about 50 names in a column before starting a new column. When I signed up for $2/$4 Hold'em I was at the bottom of the 3rd column. Doh!

I also signed up for $1-$3 7-Stud, and there were only (!) thirty or so names ahead of me on that list. While I was waiting I spotted Tommy Angelo again, playing $20/$40 Hold'em. I also watched the Little League World Series semifinals at the sports bar. I had a beer while I waited, and marveled that only one bartender was manning the bar, since he seemed near to overwhelmed. This proved to be a theme on the evening.

Anyway, my initials were called after an hour wait. (From now on I am leaving the house before 6pm when heading to Foxwoods on a weekend. Conversations with other players reinforced my feeling that 7pm is about when it really fills up.)

The $1-$3 7-Stud game at Foxwoods has no ante. From the house's perspective, I think it must be the single least profitable game in the entire casino. So I was able to sit there for free while I watched the first several hands.

Because of the exposed cards, I find 7-Stud a much more interesting game to watch when you're not in a hand. You can speculate at what people might have, what they are representing, and practice keeping track of which cards are dead. You can (and should) do all except that last part in Hold'em, but in Stud there's simply more cards to watch, as compared to the 5 on the board in Hold'em. It's mentally stimulating, and that appeals to the game player in me.

However, perhaps because of the concentration required, the players in 7-Stud seem to be a far less fun bunch than in Hold'em. On average, they're older, which would be no problem except that many of them are also quite dour. No half-drunk young WPT fans laughing it up as in Hold'em.

The play was basically atrocious, more so than in $2/$4 Hold'em. I know the typical low-limit game is supposed to go something like, "check, check, check, check, check, bet, call, call, call, call, call," but honestly most betting rounds in $2/$4 Hold'em at Foxwoods aren't that pathetic. There's usually raising, and sometimes there's folding. But at $1-$3 7-Stud there really were a lot of "check, check, check, call, call, call" rounds, and there was remarkably little folding. Almost everybody paid $1 to see 4th street, and often 4 or 5 players went to the end. When I had a premium pair I would raise it to $4, and that hardly deterred anyone. There were a ton of free cards being given out--it was pretty amazing to see 6 players check it through 2 streets in a row, and this happened again and again.

So I says to myself, OK, fair enough, this game is incredibly loose-passive. I can deal with that.

The first hand I play is split aces. I raise on 3rd street and bet $3 til 6th street, but don't improve. I check on 7th, and by this time I only have 2 opponents, and one, who had Bad Skin and Bad Teeth, bets. The other guy folds, I call. BSBT says "straight," and I look at his cards, so I can remember what kind of starting hand this guy had, but he doesn't turn them over. After a small moment he gets angry that I'm waiting on hime to show and he slams his cards over and semi-yells, "2-3-4-5-6-7!" This is as close to a real ugly confrontation as I've had so far in casino poker. I just shrug and say, "that's good," and show my aces.

I decided to embrace the less-than-friendly atmosphere. You know, poker is war and all that. Of course just as I decided this a very genial man sat down to my left and we started chatting about horseracing, evidently that's his main game and he only occassionally plays poker, and he tells me all about handicapping contests and such. Cool.

BSBT was a real jerk. He would be quiet for several hands at a time but when he said anything it was usually pretty nasty. He got into confrontations with the dealers over his rules infractions, and also made whining/accusatory comments over the bad cards he was being dealt. He never cursed or raised his voice too much, so it wasn't anything you could call the floorman about, it was just unpleasant. Happily he was on the other end of the table.

Several players made it clear that they were annoyed at me for betting draws. In one hand I had an Ace-high four-flush on 4th street and raised, then bet again on 5th and 6th streets with 4 callers, but didn't make it and 2 pair took the hand. They looked at me like I was crazy. I think I made only 1 or flushes the whole night, but I kept playing them that way. Many of the players seemed to have the kind of old-school "you should only bet when you're sure you have the best (made) hand" mentality that is largely absent from Hold'em. This mentality would explain all the checking. Two different players asked the dealer if check-raising was allowed.

This mentality was on display in a big hand that BSBT won. I wasn't in the hand, but most everyone else was. There's betting the whole way, and even some raising. At the end BSBT turns over rolled up sevens, and he of the eternal whining says, "I can't believe I had a good hand finally hold up!" The player to my right shows paired Aces with a busted flush and straight draw, then begins to justify his play to the table. "I had so many outs," blah blah, the kind of thing you just ignore, but BSBT won't have any of it: "You called me with that? Geez, you wasted your freaking money, pal, just completely wasted it." This goes on for a bit and I'm amazed at the complete switch BSBT just made--from being surprised that he wasn't outdrawn, to telling another player that there was no way he was going to be outdrawn. Oh, mercy.

Despite the bad play and BSBT, I was really enjoying myself, just kind of reveling in the seedy atmosphere. It also helped that I was winning. I bought in for $50 and at one point I was up to $80. Mostly I was just treading water, though, and with the large rake and high variance--and this being the first time I had really played 7-Stud in a casino--I was happy with that. Like I said in my last post, at these live low-limit games I'm playing more for the experience than for profit.

Unfortunately my good mood slowly turned sour due to a seemingly minor problem: Drink service to our table essentially stopped. At first I attributed it to the whole "single least profitable game in the entire casino" thing. Other players at the table complained to the floorman, and it became apparent that the whole poker room was understaffed in terms of wait service. The really frustrating part was that when I got up to go to the bar and pay full price for a beer, there was a huge wait--that one poor bartender was dealing with dozens of thirsty low-limit players!

By 11:30 the list for $1-$3 Stud had emptied (although there were still huge waits for Hold'em), and they broke our table up. This is the first time that's happened to me (I love all these little firsts). The new table was at the other end of the room, and I harbored some hope that a waitress might come by to this new table. At this point I was really quite thirsty, and just wanted some water. She took my order--two different times--but each time she came back with drinks she managed to give away all her waters and beers before getting back around to me.

It's amazing how a little thing like that can ruin a good time. Fundamentally, the casino experience is escapist entertainment--it's fun to feel like a "player" even when I know at heart I'm a low, low roller, and drink service is a part of that. Getting dissed by the cocktail waitress just sort of ruined the illusion that I was doing anything but playing a cheap game with other cheap people, all losing to the rake. Stewing at the waitress I started thinking about some of the other problems with Foxwoods and questioning why I wasn't at home playing online. How in the hell are they understaffed on a Saturday night? I played all night Friday night and didn't have one problem. I started thinking it was a wonder they have any drink service at all, considering the monopoly they have on casino poker in puritanical New England. I started thinking about how such a thing would never happen in Las Vegas, which was a pretty pointless thought, but once I started thinking like a Vegas snob it was hard to stop. I started questioning why I was risking my bankroll at crappy old Foxwoods when I'm headed for the "real thing" in ten days.

And while I was doing this pointless steaming I was losing. On three different hands I paid off a pudgy Asian kid to my right. His flush beat my Aces up, his straight beat my trip Kings, and his Aces-full boat beat my embrassingly low straight. He played each hand well, and by the second hand I should've learned to respect his raise, but I didn't. He was a nice guy, and after his third win I was joking with him about how he had my number. By this point I was just playing too aggressively overall. At 1:00, as the cocktail waitress came around with a rather maddening "last call for alcohol," I decided I'd had enough. Also I realized I was exhausted and that wasn't helping with my crankiness and tilt. I cashed out for $10, a $40 loss on the night. But honestly I could have left up $100 and I'd still be pissed about not being able to get a drink for 3 straight hours.

I guess I'm a little burned out on Foxwoods after two nights in a row, but despite my complaints there's no dout in my mind that I'll be heading back down eventually. What I'd really like to do is build the online bankroll (currently around $900) enough that I don't mind risking $160 at the Foxwoods $4/$8 game--that way there will be more of a possibility that I actually win enough to pay for the gas I use in getting there! I'd also like to play $5/$10 Stud (the lowest level that isn't spread limit), but that's farther off.

For now, I'm going to start looking forward to our upcoming San Francisco/Las Vegas trip. We leave on Thursday!

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