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Saturday, August 07, 2004

Getting Comfortable at Foxwoods
Once again, B (Mrs. Cheap Thrills) is out of town, and once again, I headed down to Foxwoods for a night of $2/$4 thrills.

It was my latest session by far. I was at the casino from 9pm to 4:30am, though I didn't get a seat at a table until about 10pm. Why did I do such a thing? Part of the reason is that I was very off-kilter yesterday. For no apparent reason I stayed up til 1am on Thursday night--I wasn't even playing online poker. Then I had to get up at 4:30am to drive B to the airport. So I was tired all day then took a too-long nap before finally getting down to Foxwoods.

But I had also wanted to do a later session at the casino. In my previous trips I've petered out around midnight, and I wondered if the play or atmosphere got a whole lot worse or different in the wee hours of the morning. The short answer: No. Most everyone's play is already terrible at $2/$4, and I didn't detect a major shift for the worse as the evening went on. Of course, I can only speak for my table.

I also blame the tame late-night atmosphere on the fact that Foxwoods has last call for alcohol at 1am. So after about 2am the drunks start sobering up or head home, and you're just left with tired people. Just another great thing about Las Vegas: The booze never stops flowing.

I also did the late session because my inner wannabe-badass wanted to player poker all night long and get a taste of what a true marathon session might be like. Well, now I can say that I played til the sun came up (OK, it came up as I was driving home), but I doubt I'll being doing such a late session again. My circadian rythms are incredibly out of whack.

Back to Foxwoods: I arrived at 9pm to find a huge line for tables. I had been thinking about playing 7-Card Stud for the first time in a casino, and the line for that was a bit shorter, so I signed up for $1-$5 Stud and $2/$4 Hold'em. I was called for Stud about an hour later.

There's a .50 ante for this game at Foxwoods. The bring-in is a buck and anyone can bet or raise between $1 and $5 on any street. Both of the books I have on Stud say that your strategy for such a spread limit game shouldn't be much different from a structured limit game, and that usually these games play similarly to structured games. I'm doubting the second part of that statement. To me it seemed like everyone was either betting/raising the maximum amount too often. I think this is primarily because they were loose aggressive players, and also because everyone had mostly $5 chips and didn't want to be saying "raise $2," etc., and having to get change, for fear it would be a huge sign of weakness.

Whatever the case, I had assumed the low-limit Stud games at Foxwoods would be too loose-aggressive for my tastes and I was right. I only played a dozen or so hands, in which time I did not get a single playable starting hand, so all I lost was $10 in antes and bring-ins. I may try the $1-$3 game, which has no antes, just to see if I can get a handle on these loose games.

By 10:30pm my initials were called for $2/$4 Hold'em.

I instantly relaxed after sitting down at the game I'm more familiar with. However, the not-a-single-playable-hand pattern continued. I got a lot of starting hands in which both cards were below 7, ugh. I started thinking pointless things like, "Wow, 53 offsuit three times in a row, that's interesting." I need to remember that the first half-hour at the table, when I'm all pumped to play but haven't actually been dealt a real hand, is totally my "danger zone." It was 11:10 (I noted the time) before I played a hand. I lost a bit on my first couple hands, I forget what they were but I know that I was factoring large implied odds and backdoor outs into my decisions to play, and that always costs me money. I was trying to loosen up to take advantage of the loose-passive table and it wasn't working. Online, though I may be on the road to rock-dom, I find that tighter play always works best for me.

Then for some reason I paid the extra $1 to play 52s out of the small blind. I flopped 2 pair and lost to the button, who had 56s. Some how I had knocked myself down to twenty-some dollars out of my starting $100. (Well, $10 of that was the Stud antes, $1 of it was for a drink, and $1 if went to the Stud dealer when I abruptly left his table.) I have never dropped $70 so quickly in online play. I decided I was playing like an idiot, got another $100 in chips, and resolved to play my normal tight game.

From that point on I started really enjoying myself. I chatted up the guy on my right, who was in the area for a wedding the next day. His father was also seated at the other end of the table, and they were calling each other's bluffs and really enjoying themselves. It was nice to see. There was also a very amiable woman to his right, who was playing very solid poker. She was handicapped, which I mention only because it made me think about how I'd love poker more than I already do if a lot of other activities in life were denied to me.

The guy to my left was also very nice, although he was a a semi-maniac. He played almost every pot and raised preflop about half the time. He was more passive post-flop, but often called to the river with any piece of the flop. Seeing as how I wasn't playing many hands, I kept watching him trying to understand what his rationale for pre-flop raising could possibly be. I never really found a pattern, but I did find an obvious tell--he would take chips into his hand before it was his turn turn to act, 1 if he was going to call and 2 if he was going to raise. I felt like Sherlock Holmes spotting that one, and boy did it help me out.

There was another maniac at the table playing and raising every hand, but he kept getting up every five minutes, and would sometimes be gone for two or more entire dealer shifts. A couple people complained that his seat should have been forfeit but the dealers never bothered. Turns out he was leaving to go play single-table super-satellites to the Foxwoods WPT event, which he kept getting busted out of fairly quickly :)

My constant folding became a bit of a joke at the table. Around midnight I finally won a pot, and I got some semi-mocking applause. That marked a turning point as decent cards started to come with soem regularity. At one point I flopped quad fives, which was nice. I also won with a couple other good hands, and later in the evening I actually won a couple pots uncontested. I was pretty lucky in that I didn't experience any awful river beats.

About 2-ish the game started to get less fun, as I described above. Most of the jovial players left and a more somber crows remained. The maniac who had been playing satellites was still around, though, and so everyone was trying to get his money. He was quite drunk by this point and it got a little ugly a couple times. Two things I noticed here: 1) I was proud of myself for not letting the maniac put me on tilt, which has been a problem for me in the past, and 2) I think the thing I like least about maniacs is how they can sometimes ruin the mood of a table. Granted, the people getting most upset at this maniac were not fun to begin with, whining about the bad cards and such, but the maniac wasn't helping.

At 2:20am I'm pretty sure (85 percent) that I spotted Tommy Angelo at the chip cage. I recognized his face from his website and because I recently bought his CD of poker songs. That marks my first sighting of a Gen-U-Wine poker professional.

At about 3:30am I made it back up to $180 (out of a total $200 buy-in) and began trying to decide whether I should head home or try to win 1 or 2 more pots so I'd have an actual profit on the day. Prudence prevailed, as I realized that even if I won one more huge pot, I still wouldn't be able to show a very big win rate for the 6-hour session. I finally left at 4am with $173 out of my initial $200. With the rake, the experiment with Stud, and the $15-$20 I paid in tips to the dealers and cocktail waitresses, I figure I held my own on the evening. If I had really wanted to build the bankroll, I should have stayed home and played online.

Yep, for me, $2/$4 at Foxwoods is not fundamentally about profit, but about getting live casino experience, and I definitely did that last night. It was the most comfortable and relaxed I've ever been at the table. That bodes well for my upcoming trips to Las Vegas, in mid-August and in September.

After those Vegas trips I think I'll take the plunge and try $4/$8. I know the level of play will be similar, but before the Vegas trips I don't want to risk my bankroll at the higher limit.

I'm still trying to decide whether I'll head down for some more $2/$4 tonight. Reasons not to go: 1) I am tired, 2) I can win more playing online, 3) I am being results-oriented and want to bag a win tonight so I can say I had a live-play profit on the weekend. Reasons to go: 1) It'll be fun, 2) If I don't go I'll just end up playing online, 3) I think I can bag a win tonight and show a live-play profit on the weekend. My early prediction is that prudence isn't going to win 2 in a row; I'll let you know how it turns out.

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