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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Very Small Win at Foxwoods
I am at the end of the first week of my 2-to-4-week break from online poker that I discussed in my last post. So far the interesting thing about this break is that I have more time on my hands. Weeknights when nothing is on TV, I'm not just sitting down at the virtual poker tables. I've used the extra few hours for various errands, put some old stuff up for sale on Ebay, etc.

But I've also been reading a bit more . . . about poker. Something that happened to me in recent months is that I would be reading poker blogs, or a book on poker, or rec.gambling.poker, or whatever, and after a little while I would say to myself "OK, I don't have all night -- enough reading, time to start playing!" With my self-imposed break from online poker, I've been reading about poker in a less hurried manner. I've even spent a couple hours reading archives in the 2+2 forums, which I never used to do.

I've also read through some of my own archives. I should do that more often. After all, this blog is a record of my thoughts on poker, my ups and downs, and my place to write down the lessons that I've learned. This week, I re-read some of my Vegas and Foxwoods trip reports, and it brought back just how much I enjoy playing in a casino -- and how confident I was about my poker game before the winter doldrums hit.

The last time I had been to Foxwoods was in November. On November 15th Mrs. Cheap Thrills and I had gone down to celebrity-spot during the WPT event, and I just played a little $1-$5 Stud. But the time before that, November 4, a Wednesday night, I had sat down at $4/$8 Hold'em and dropped $160 over the course of a few hours. Ugh. Short version is, I ran into one total maniac and several other loose-aggressive players, and I lost. I really want to be playing $4/$8 rather than $2/$4 at Foxwoods because the rake hurts less. I think the lesson I should draw from that night is not that I shouldn't play $4/$8, but rather that I should walk away from a table that is too loose-aggressive. I know these games are supposed to be "high variance but high profit," but they are not my preferred type of game. Why try to bust a maniac when I can switch tables and play with loose-passive and tight-weak types that I know exactly how to beat? I also wonder if I should avoid weeknights at Foxwoods and stick to the weekends, when the more recreational players are at the tables.

Of course, it may be that the $4/$8 games at Foxwoods are all more loose-aggressive than $2/$4, in which case I'll have to adapt if I want to play $4/$8. Friday night I decided to find out if this was the case. (Remember, my self-imposed break is from online poker, not live play.) Mrs. Cheap Thrills has been pretty sick all week, so she was content to stay home and rest.

Things Go Well

I left at 4:40pm on Friday; was walking in the casino doors at 5:50. I put my name on the list for $4/$8, but there were about 25 names ahead of me, so I also put my name in for $1-$5 Stud, which rarely has a long wait. Fifteen minutes later, just as I was finishing up a cheeseburger at the grill by the race book bar, my name was called for Stud. It was the usual senior citizen crowd: Kinda loose, kinda passive. With the spread limit structure, it's pretty easy to take free or cheap cards when on a draw, and to drive others out when you have a vulnerable hand like a big pair. I don't remember any specific hands, but when my name was called for Hold'em 45 minutes later, at around 7:15, I was up $42.

The Hold'em table I was seated out dispelled any worried I still had that all $4/$8 games were totally loose-aggressive. The table I was at was pretty much just like a $2/$4 table. In fact it was almost ideal. The two seats to my right were occupied by two guys who were friends. The one guy had never played in a casino before; his friend had, but he sure wasn't teaching his buddy good habits. They were playing about 80 percent of their hands and rarely. Total calling stations. They got outckicked again and again and every time they blamed bad luck.

One very good line of the evening. In one pot, one of the calling stations was betting aggressively, and by the river, an older giy on my right who I ended up chatting with quite a bit, was the only player left. The calling station turns over Aces, spade and club. The guy on my left says "Yeah, I got the red ones," and turns them over. Great line.

There were 2 other loose players at the table, 2 rockish types, and the rest in between. In general there was an occasional preflop raise, but a 3-bet or cap was rare. I loosened up and was playing suited connectors from late position. They paid off twice for me in a big way, which was nice. I also bluffed one of the rockish types out of a pot when I had Q8s from the SB, and the flop came with 2 Jacks (she called my flop bet and folded to the turn bet). A few hands later that player called down my Kings over Queens boat -- I like to think it was because of my earlier no-show. In short, I was getting cards and I felt like I was "in the zone." At about 9:30. I was up about $110 (plus I had the $42 from Stud).

In retrospect, this is not as much money as I would have thought -- less than 14 big bets. I had really been getting cards, and felt like I had doubled up. Was my surprisingly low profit the effect of the rake and tips? Or was I not playing aggressively enough? Several times I checked the river when holding a great hand that was not the nuts. For example, I play 67 of spades on the button, flop gives me a straight and a straight-flush draw, I bet on the flop and turn. But by the river there are 3 hearts, and with 3 others still left in the pot, calling me the whole way, and having watched hand after hand of players getting lucky on the river, I fear runner-runner flush and just check. When there is no flush, I look and feel like a wuss for not betting the river. Plays such as this are variance-reducing, but also profit-reducing. And it is the higher stakes that cause it for me. Online, at .50/$1 or even $2/$4, I would usually not hesitate to bet unless I had a real Mr. Sooted at the table. Even at the Mirage $4/$6 game I was making these kind of bets. But for $8 at Foxwoods I checked. I will have to get over that if I am going to keep at $4/$8.

Things Go Downhill

Things started to go downhill around 10pm. The two guys to my right busted out and were replaced by tighter players. One guy sat down with $400, in very neat stacks, and he had 2 poker chips with pictures of his kids in the center. The first thought that came to my mind was that this guy was some kind of semi-pro, grinding out a few extra bucks for his family a la Knish. A little paranoid, I know. But he was clearly a regular since all the dealers and floormen knew him. From their chat I gathered that he may have been a former employee. But he played like a rock, and he was on my right, so I decided not to worry too much about him.

I was in the 4 seat. Down in the 10 seat, a semi-maniac sat down. He played every hand. What annoyed me about him was that he pretended to not know how to play -- "How much can I bet?" "Can I check?" -- and then 10 minutes later he is discussing how many outs he had on some hand. He was also acting more drunk than he was, chatting everyone up. I have done this drunk fun guy bit a few times myself, but I like to think that I am not nearly as annoying about it, and I certainly never pretend to not know how to play. Anyway, although he would call down almost every hand, he was only raising with pairs and other reasonable hands, so I decided he wasn't a big problem. He really ticked off the older guy to my left, though. Geez, that guy was like an older verison of me!

I didn't like the mood that was overtaking the table. The pretend-drunk was annoying everyone; friendly conversation ceased as everyone got more aggressive with their bets, and focused on what the semi-maniac would show down with this time. I got up and asked the floorman for a table change. He told another floorwoman to notify me when another spot was available.

She promptly forgot about me. The difficulty of changing tables at Foxwoods sucks.

Things went down the toilet when an aggressive young woman sat down in the 7 seat. She had a demeanor that screamed "regular," and she was raising about half of the many hands she played. Her presence at the table was the catalyst I had been hoping to avoid. The other loosie maniac-wannabes at the table at the table, who at this point had kept getting more or less isolated by reraises from me and other reasonably tight players, and bleeding chips, now had a leader. Henceforth, all pots would be raised, and most would be 3-bet or capped. The loosies delighted in showing down with each other with things like 48o, bottom pair. The money didn't seem to matter to them; it was all about action and winning with an unlikely hand. I had Kings cracked, and foolishly tried to limp in with hands like AXs a couple times.

The table had become completely loose-aggressive, and I suck at loose-aggressive games. One or two maniacs I can deal with: Isolate them, stay out of their way, whatever it takes -- I can usually adapt. But once there are 3 or 4 maniacs at a table, forget it -- they are going to squeeze the other players with raises and reraises on every street, and I rarely do well in that situation. This is a lesson I need to remember. I know loose-aggressive games are supposed to be profitable, and there's a big part of me that doesn't want to admit that I have such a big poker weakness, but my refusal to accept it is costing me money: I suck at loose-aggressive games. I need to learn to walk away as soon as things turn sour.

At about 11:45 I left the table up $39. Almost exactly 1 big bet per hour. My biggest regret of the evening is that I did not leave sooner. Coupled with my $42 from Stud, I was up $81.

I should have gone home at this point. But of course I didn't. This is something I noticed in re-reading my trip reports on this blog: I almost always stay too late at the poker room. This is a problem I have in general -- at any kind of party or whatever, I will be willing to stay up long past what is sensible, and usually past the time that everyone I'm with wants to. Even on weeknight Mrs. Cheap Thrills has to drag me to bed, and on a lot of night I'm successful in getting her to stay up way too late with me. I think part of the reason I love live poker so much is that in a casino poker room, I am surrounded> by other people who are just as foolish as I am about staying up late.

But the fact is, I was tired. I generally start to crash after about 5 hours at the poker table. I always get my second win, but that roughly half-hour period when I'm a little foggy is never profitable. Something to try and work on in the future

$5-$10 Stud

Anyway, I put my name in for $5-$10 Stud, which I had never played before. Trying a higher limit for the first time, late in the evening when I knew I was tired, was not smart. But I was up $81, and I wanted to give it a shot.

The table stunk. Players were either too serious, and/or whining about their bad cards. I am not sure of this is a function of it being $5/$10, or if it was the hour. Foxwoods seems to really get to be less fun around midnight. It always seems like most of the fun casual players have gone and all this is left is either regulars, or players that have been losing and are trying to salvage their session. You would think this latter group would be profitable to play against, and maybe it is, but they are not a fun bunch! Last call is at 1am, so you also lose the drunks them or if they stay, they are surly at the lack of any more beer.

The less fun atmosphere, couple with how tired I get after 6 hours at the tables, makes for another Foxwoods lesson I need to remember: Think about leaving at midnight. [Insert Cinderella reference here.]

One interesting thing happened in the first hand I played. This was my first time playing casino 7-Stud with a fixed, rather than at spread, bet structure. The ante was .50 and the bring-in was $2. I got dealt split aces and, wanting to make it $5 to go, I threw out my chip and -- revealing the fact that I am book-learned at Stud -- said "Complete." The table looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. Greenhorn! The woman to my left said "You need to say raise, or else it's just a call." I said, "I said complete." She said, "You need to say raise." The dealer allowed my "raise" to stand, and I said "raise" from then on. In retrospect, "complete" does sound a bit like "call," so in the noisy atmosphere at Foxwoods, just saying "raise" does make more sense.

The play at $5/$10 was tighter and more interesting, but for me less profitable, than at $1-$5. Usually pots were heads-up. I got dealt split aces three times but wasn't able to win much with them. I lost two big pots: One to a guy who made a full house on 5th street. He seemed loose and I did not respect his paired door card. (He had (88)558.) In the other big hand, I had split Kings that didn't improve, and my opponent just decided to call me the whole way, making the wheel on the river. In retrospect, I wouldn't have played either hand much differently than I did. Well, I could've saved the crying call on the river against that straight. But I am more upset about not leaving the maniacal Hold'em table sooner than I am about losing those 7-Stud hands.

After about an hour and half of 7-Stud, I was down $62. I knew I didn't want to turn my overall session into a losing one, and it was after 1:30am, so I left.

Total winnings for the evening: $19. Enough to pay for gas! Woo-hoo!

Seriously though, I was happy that got a chance to "freeroll" a shot at $5-$10 Stud. I have to say I wasn't too taken with it, and in the future I think I will stick to the $4/$8 Hold'em game, and play $1-$5 Stud when waiting for a table.

When I woke up this morning, I had a very strong urge to play some online poker. It was the most tempted I've been to play since I went cold turkey all of 6 days ago. I've killed about an hour now by writing this. Now I will have some lunch and try to stay away from the computer . . .

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