Friday, May 30, 2003


My poker journey is constantly on the move. Since I don't have access to a poker room every day, like I did for 7.5 months in Las Vegas, I don't really have the chance to get in a rut and slowly work myself out of it, trying to quash bad habits while building good ones.

I basically have to just kick myself in the butt between one session and learn and grow the next session. The days in between give me a chance to read, read, read, study my notes and make positive change before making the four hour trip back to Atlantic City to test myself once again.

In my first AC trip report, I described the Tropicana in detail (for those who haven't been there, but are planning to go sometime), and I also was very thorough in my experiences during the Stud tournament. This post, however, will be more of a reflective journey into my own play and the play of others around me.

My husband and I arrived at the Tropicana on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 at around 5pm. I wanted to play in the LHE $50+10, no rebuy tourney. Glenn, however, had come to the conclusion that it was a bad tournament, horrible structure, too much juice and a crapshoot. I agreed on all points, but I am a tournament junky, so there ya go.

The Tropicana keeps talking about how their tournament turnouts are through the roof and they are getting record attendance. I'm not going to go into any of the reasons that this is happening. Other posts in the forum have debated this extensively. But the reason I bring it up is because they are having quite a surge in their attendance, and that make for very late starting times. In the Thursday LHE $20+10+20 rebuy tourney, we didn't get started until about 7:45pm, when the starting time was listed at 7:15pm. It also means that management is hard pressed to keep up with the rebuys and the empty seats. Four weeks ago, they had two men "running" the tournaments. Even though the attendance has doubled, they still just have the two men. Sometimes tables become shorthanded with just six players, while the men are scrambling and trying to combine tables. Sometimes people run out of chips completely before someone answers their calls for rebuys. This also makes for really inexperienced dealers being called up to deal, when they have no tournament experience whatsoever. The players had to tell them how everything was done. The dealers handled it excellently, IMHO, taking the player's word for it that they were to handle this situation in such-and-such a way.

Now, onto my own personal journey at the Tropicana this week.

We arrived at around 5pm and jumped into games. I got called for a 2/4 HE game. Yeah, this is coming from the girl whose A game is Stud. I wanted the live HE practice before the tourney. I also wanted to play at the 2/4 table for another reason. 2/4 tends to be very loose and passive. Usually 6-9 people are seeing every flop with barely any raises and every hand ends in a showdown. I have come to accept the fact that in my HE game, I play well with loose, passive players who must show down a hand. That suits my style. I have been avoiding it like the plague, trying to reason to myself that I am not as weak at HE as I think I am, but no matter how I try to outsmart my own self, the truth of the matter is, I am a come-from-behind player. I like to limp with aces, then I can dump them if I know I'm beat, or I can win a big pot at showdown if I have the best hand. Period. That is me. At this stage in my poker journey, I am no better than this. I don't chase, I don't bluff much, I can't always outplay even the 4/8 players and my table selection stunk, up until this week when I swallowed my pride and went back to 2/4.

In Vegas, it isn't always possible to exercise the right of table selection. We liked to play at the small rooms like Sahara, which only usually had one 1-5 Stud and one 1/4/8/8 HE table going at any given time. So I got used to being "stuck" at a table, unless we wanted to go to a completely different casino and start again (which we did quite a bit). So in AC, I found myself following this same pattern of table selection. I got called to a table, and I just sat there, win or lose, bad or good table. That is a really dumb and juvenile mistake. I thought I was past those kinds of mistakes, but I wasn't. I think the shock of having a huge choice just kept me frozen in the old Sahara thinking. I am working diligently to overcome that weakness.

I did well on the 2/4 table before the tourney started. I felt warmed-up, which was my intention all along.

Right before the tournament started, Michael (MG in NJ) walked into the poker room. We'd exchanged pics, so I recognized him, although at the time I was headed to the loo and my mind was in other places, lol. I guess Michael will always be considered the guy who intercepted me on my trip to the loo, haha.

Michael is very Italian. He speaks with his hands and is super-animated. My husband, and most of the people I'm used to are not quite so "alive," I guess, because it really threw me for a loop. Michael will be an important part of this post, so expect to hear about him

Michael scouted out my table before I even sat down. It was a really rotten table. First of all, it was table II, so it wasn't going to get broken until the final table. I had no hopes of escaping a bad table. Second, it was filled to capacity with a lot of old guys who thought women had no place in the poker room. We are such dummies that I guess we should stick to slots and not worry our pretty little heads with men's games, such as poker and card counting (Blackjack). Blah, these guys are dinosaurs! Every one of them was at least 65, some were pushing 80, save two men. One was sitting to my left, a young guy who'd never played in a tournament before (I suspect). Another was a 40-something in the 9 seat who was very tight. Michael tried to give me the advice to throw away everything but pocket aces or kings with this crew, but he was talking so fast, and was so animated and talking to 10 other people at the same time, that I didn't really understand what he was trying to say before the director ordered the dealers to shuffle up and deal.

I knew I had to play tight, but I thought that I would win enough hands to stay ahead of the blinds while waiting for these old guys to start knocking each other out. Big mistake. What I didn't count on is that whenever one of the "guys" would raise, everyone would fold, save maybe one or two players. Yet whenever I raised, I would get six callers to the river. DOH! It was the old ambush. I had experienced this in Vegas one time, sitting with a bunch of guys 70+ years old. I never managed to win a pot with those guys (I moved very quickly), and I certainly never managed to win a pot with these guys either. They ran down every hand I had. Bluffing was completely out of the question, and I only went in with premium hands. Still, I was run down every time. Finally, right before the first break I went all-in on the BB with KQs (only 3, 15 minute rounds and I was already all-in!!!!). I managed to flop the nut straight and nothing anyone could do to run me down worked this time. I quadrupled up, and survived the first three rounds.

There was a guy at our table, two seats to my left, in the seven seat, who decided to raise each and every hand after the third hand. He kept to his strategy and raised, raised, raised. He reraised any raiser. He was one of the old, crusty guys and wore a Paradise tee shirt. I wondered how his hyper-aggressive style worked online. One time he raised, got re-raised, and re-raised again with 53s. He managed to run down pocket aces with that cheese. The tight guy in the nine seat wasn't too happy about it and vowed revenge. Unfortunately, the nine seat was so tight and timid that he never really got the revenge that he craved (though he did make it to the final two tables, so did Mr. Paradise).

Anyway, Mr. Paradise was complaining bitterly about the fact that my KQs ran down his big slick (unsuited) and how unfair it was, how I took his good hand away from him and he deserved to win. He complained and complained about his bad beat, pounding on the table, stomping his feet, for at least five minutes, while the entire table looked on in incredulity due to his raising every hand with absolute cheese and playing it to the river. Most of them tried to get him to shut his mouth, but it was for naught. He was still bitterly complaining after the break about how he had the best hand and should have been able to "knock that girl out who had no right to play poker anyway." NICE table.

After the break I survived a few more rounds, got nothing, and finally had to go all-in once again in the SB with ATs. I was happy to be busted by the nine seat, who was extremely nice, even if too timid. We both beat Mr. Paradise, who, as normal, held a piece of cheese and tried to cap it off each round. Timid nine seat held the nut flush, made on the turn. I was never happier than to give the last of my chips to him, versus one of the grumpy, old, woman haters.

So I was out. I came in 58:88.

I sweated Michael for the rest of the tournament. He was holding his own. The tables started breaking quickly and Michael always came out with a decent stack. Michael is one of those guys who talks, talks, talks at the table. He talks you off the winning hand. He talks you into folding when you want to call, he talks you into calling when you should fold. I don't know yet if Michael had this ability to manipulate prior to his poker beginnings (3 years ago), or if this is some sense he has developed in the course of his poker journey. I have a feeling that he has always been like this. It comes very naturally to him and can be off-putting to competitors.

I watched Michael raise with Q8 and steal a pot. I watched Michael make a lot of moves I would never have made. Some of those moves are what makes Michael a much better player than I am. Other moves show the differences in our personal style. Towards the end of the tournament, I watched him out-fox an Asian player who wanted to call to the river so badly, just to see Michael's hand. He had every inclination to call, he was just begging for any sign from Michael to give him the go-ahead, but Michael gave absolutely nothing away. Michael just kept betting, and the Asian finally chickened out and threw his hand away. The Asian had the right idea...he kept staring at Michael trying to get a read. He didn't bother with the flop, except just a quick glance when he couldn't get a read. He used every type of reading device that was available to him, but couldn't put Michael on anything. I can't even remember if Michael had a hand or not. Shoot, I might not have even seen his hole cards. But that is the beauty of HE. I watched Michael outplay this guy. It didn't matter what Michael held, what was on the flop, or what the Asian held. Michael outplayed him, got him to lay down his hand (which might have been the winner), and that is what matters.

Michael made it to the final two tables still in decent position. I kept counting the other stacks and keeping track for him. He hovered around fifth in chips at all times.

Eventually Michael made it to the final table. They had 10 guys seated, but only the top 9 get paid. I didn't hear anything about a save, so I think #10 just got screwed and that was it. #10 was a guy who'd never played in a tournament and came in with the shortest stack (I believe). It was close between him and a very young Asian, in any case. His buddy, who was the chip lead, knocked him out on the very first hand. The buddy apologized, but explained, rationally, that he did have a hand and had to go for it. Both guys were great about it.

When nine were left, someone started pushing a deal. I wasn't aware of the guy who started the talk, but found out he was a local, from Michael. Michael has already posted about this "deal" in another part of the forum. Michael, who you all know by now is very vocal, helped with the pushing of the deal. Nothing was decided and another hand was dealt. The very young Asian, who was the shortest stack, went all-in, and was saved. The rumblings about deal, deal, deal were started again. I thought that it was completely out of line, but who am I? I thought that the locals pushed the big stack into making a decision that he was very unsure about, due to inexperience. The big stack had never played in a tournament before and let himself be pushed around by bullies. This is just IMHO, and is a subjective account from only my point of view. Finally an agreement was reached. I don't believe it helped really anyone but the shortest stacks. I think the big stack got ripped off. He got $700, when first place paid almost 3k, I believe. So the tourney was over, but I wasn't really impressed by anyone. Not the locals who bullied him into the deal, and not the poor rookie who let himself be taken. Granted, the rookie may never have been able to win first, with the competition he was up against, but still, to give up a chance at almost 3k for $700 when he was the chip lead??? No way, brother, I would have held out for more. I told Michael that if he ever tried to bully me into a deal when I was the chip lead, I would jump right over the table to strangle him. I was only half kidding

After the tournament ended, Michael said his good-byes, still undecided about whether to come back for the Thursday night $20+10+20 rebuy tourney.

Glenn and I played a little more ring, then hung it up for the night and went to sleep in our non-suite, lol. Yes, the suite was much nicer, but the bed wasn't nearly as hard in the regular room, so I guess it was just as well.

The next day was ring city. I stuck with the lowest limits this time; 2/4 HE and 1-5 Stud. I did pretty well all day long. At about 6pm, I heard from Michael saying he was not going to be able to make it. I called him a Bum, but I understood. Word was out that the tournament was going to break all previous attendance records, and Michael didn't even think he would be able to make it in time to register before the tourney filled up. In retrospect, I wish he would have felt up to it, and done everything he could to make it, so that he could have sweated me a little and been able to criticize my play later. I know that I can learn a lot from Michael, as he is not only a superior ring player, but a superior tourney player as well. I will never adopt his style, as I have my own and his is not my way, but I can learn a lot, and adopt some of his tactics while playing in tourneys.

We started out with 160 players. I tried to get some chips from the six seat who claimed we would start no later than 7:30pm, when I had claimed 7:45. I was closer to the mark, so I tried to retrospectively make a wager and get some of his tourney chips, but he wouldn't budge, lol. My table was a LOT better at this tournament. One seat was an older guy I've played with before who has a wonderful personality and is solid. Two seat was a young Italian who talks a lot, but seems to have a heart of gold and is genuinely nice and rooting for everyone. He plays a good game, on top of all of those other qualities Three seat was uneventful. I can't even remember one play. Four seat, on my right, was very passive and seemed inexperienced. He spoke with a European accent and seemed to have trouble with the limits. I never remember even one raise from that guy. I was in the 5 seat. Six seat was a sweet, crusty old dude who gave advice but played in an odd way, which I will describe in detail as we go along. Seven was a young guy who still had the shakes. Gave himself away completely, even with the ball cap pulled low to try to hide his eyes. Eight seat was non-descript. Nine was a young, handsome guy who was getting a massage during the first 15 minutes of play and looked like he was about to climax at any second. He kind of turned me on, which is way TMI, but he was a good looking, viral guy, shooting sexy testosterone in every direction. His play was pretty good, believe it or not. He took bad beats very well, never tilted, and played a pretty solid, if weak, game, IMHO.

The ten seat tried to bluff a little too much. He got called too often, which means his good hands were run down and the pots he did win were too small. He had to lay down hands when he attempted to bluff, and bled away his chips when he could have been a real contender for the money.

I folded, folded and folded some more. The young, Italian guy (YIG) raised. I called with AQs. The flop was a scary KJx. He checked, so did I. I guess I put him on big slick or a small pocket pair. The turn was another blank, check-check. The river was the blessed queen. He checked, I bet, he called. We both turned over the same hand and laughed.

In late position I got KK. I raised. The six seat (my left, the crusty, but nice old guy--NOG) re-raised. Now, this is when I where I promised you I would talk about his play later in the story. I was perplexed by this play. He sometimes re-raised a raiser with a mediocre hand. I thought he was trying to isolate. It paid him off at times, and other times he lost a smaller pot than he might have lost had he allowed other players to call just one raise, instead of two raises cold. My first thought was that perhaps he was trying to isolate again. He knew I was squeaky tight, but I reasoned that he was trying the same approach with this hand. I tried to put him on a hand, and although AA kept screaming out in my mind, I didn't want to fall for the old "monsters under the bed" routine. The flop came up xxQ. I bet out, he called. The turn and river were blanks. Each time I bet out, he flat called. I guess I saved three bets that way, because he did turn over the AA, and was scared to raise me again when the queen flopped, fearing I had pocket queens. I'm kind of disappointed in my play here. Everything screamed out to me that he had pocket aces. I kept dismissing my first instinct based on his previous play. What I failed to realize was that was his previous play with OTHERS. He knew I had something great, he knew how I played, so he wouldn't have tried that trick with me, knowing he would just be giving away his chips. Just because someone can get away with something with one person, doesn't mean they can with every person. I put his previous play foremost in my mind, and was crippled by a hand I could have gotten away from, or at least checked down, had I obeyed my own read on the guy.

So I was crippled not only by the KK vs. AA hand, but then by another hand a round or so later.

One of the problems with the Tropicana tourneys is that one only gets 400 tourney chips to start, and the levels increase rapidly. The structure is too fast to wait very long to make a move. The rebuy tourneys help increase the waiting time, and can boost one into the final table if one catches cards middle to late in the tourney, rather than in the beginning. Even though I'm not a fan of rebuy tourneys, even I know that with my style of playing, I have a better chance with 800 chips vs. 400 chips, with a structure that fast.

By the break I was down to 175 chips. I called for a rebuy and had a bit of life left. The guys at the table thought I was dead money and seemed genuinely sad that I was doing a rebuy when I was so crippled. They were playing through me, and I could sense their body language saying they thought I'd be the first to go.

We started round IV after the break. The NOG on my left had bled some of his big stack away. He had been chip leader and tried to use his weight as such. I felt he went too far, with too many hands. He didn't play well with a big stack at all, playing every hand, through raises or not. He saw way too many showdowns with mediocre cards that had caught nothing, or just a small piece of the flop. Soon he was the short stack (yes, even shorter than me, lol). So what did he do? Did he tighten up then make big moves? No, he continued to try to "catch up" and played most every hand. Nice guy, but what was he thinking? He was the first one out at our table, even having been the chip lead for almost the entire first three rounds. I watched how he used "my" AA vs. KK winnings to knock himself right out of the tourney. How sad.

One advantage that I have during a tourney is the ability of playing with a short stack. I have always been good at that. Maybe it is the cheapskate in me. Maybe it is because I'm so tight that I am usually the shortest stack at any given time during a tournament. I have survival instincts. I have snuck into the money more times that I can count during tournaments (mostly played online these days, due to no proximity to a live casino). I remember reading Cloutier's book, PLNL, and him stating that he believes he has developed into such a good tourney player because he cut his teeth in poker playing with a SHORT STACK. Bingo, I felt a natural kinship. I can't play a big stack worth crap, but I can sure pick my spots with a short stack, and survive, survive, survive, even throwing away group I hands when I have to, knowing I can sneak into the money, but don't have a chance of winning.

Soon I caught presto in the BB. UTG limped in (a new guy, taking the place of the NOG) and it was folded around to me. I raised. The new guy (very nice, middle-aged man--NG) called my raise. He was short-stacked as well, but not as much as me. He had maybe 700 chips left. I caught a five on the flop and bet. He called me all the way to showdown. I think he mucked his hand when he saw my set and said GH. He was very friendly and we talked until he got knocked out, not long after.

The very next hand, in the SB I caught 99. It was raised before the flop by the 10 seat, the aggressive older guy who bluffed a lot (AB). I called and the NG in the BB went all-in with his remaining stack. I bet on the flop of rags and the AB folded. I won the side pot, which was a lot more than the main pot since the NG only had 50 chips left. We turned up our cards and the NG caught a Q on the turn to make his Q9 beat my 99. I heartily congratulated him and we patted each other on our mutual wins. He still barely had any chips.

Just a few hands later he went all-in for his remaining chips and was outdrawn. We said our goodbyes and another seat opened.

On the very next hand, the young shaky guy in the 7 seat (YSG) went all-in himself. He had A-something, I don't remember. The nondescript 8 seat called his all-in, as did the nine seat, the good-looking, young, massage guy (MG). The flop came down with a scary AKT. The 8 seat bet, the MG called. The turn was a blank, bet, very reluctant call from the MG. The river was another T. The 8 seat couldn't wait to get his chips into the pot, betting all-in. This is when the MG came alive and called very happily. His KT full house beat out both guys in one stroke. I think the 8 seat caught a flush, and the all-in before the flop, YSG, had top pair with his ace. I was so impressed by the counter-tell that the MG pulled on the 8 seat. Good going kiddo!!!

The 3 seat went out right afterwards, in such a way that I can't even remember the hand, his cards, the board, or who knocked him out. He was nondescript from beginning to end.

We were six handed when our table broke. I pulled table II, the same table I'd gotten pummeled on the night before. But this time I got a good seat, seat 8. An excellent seat to watch and read my opponents.

The MG sat to my immediate left, in the 7 seat. He wasn't giving off nearly as much testosterone this close to me...darn! Or was that a good thing? He didn't affect my play, in any case, lol.

An older man I'd played ring with before, and greatly respected, joined up with me at the 10 seat. This guy can play. This was the first time we'd been in a tourney at the same table, but in the HE ring games, he rules the table with his Johnny Moss style. Carlos, who had been 2nd chip lead at the final table the night before, was in the 2 seat. He can be a little heated at times, but it is hard to put him on a hand because he wears shades and looks straight in the face of his opponents no matter what his holding. Another heated guy, a friend (?) of Carlos' was in the 4 seat.

I folded a full round before getting A7 in the BB. I had two callers, the 10 seat, the older guy I respected (JM) and an obvious young, newbie in MP. When I flopped an ace, I bet out confidently and both men dropped.

The very next hand, in the SB it was folded to me. I had 22 and did not raise before the flop (mistake, maybe, but the BB was the JM guy since the 9 seat still hadn't been filled). We saw a scary flop of AKK. Check-check. Turn was a Q, check-check. River was T. Check-check. I won with my deuces. I told the JM guy that I know I should have raised, or bet at some point, but I know how sneaky he is and how he could pull out a monster on me. We both laughed, he knew it to be true. I figure I'd rather be safe in that situation, knowing the JM guy can outplay me any day of the week.

A new guy got seated in the one seat. He was one of the young, Rounders impersonators. He played fast and aggressive. In the BB I had A6s. He let me limp and I flopped two pair. I bet out. He didn't know me from Adam, so obviously didn't respect my bet, and called me all the way to the river, just to muck in disgust. His tells were so obvious that I knew my two pair were good from beginning to end. He was out not long after.

By this time I'd built my stack up to a respectable 3800 chips. The blinds were 150/300, but about to go up to 300/500. I saw nothing else for a long time.

A man filled the 9 seat. He was very friendly, but I don't think he knew proper tournament strategy. His wife was sweating him, and kept us informed of chips and number of players still in the tournament (the way he and I were sitting, it was difficult to know what was going on at the other tables). She was a true gem, since my usually, very supportive hubby didn't show up, for some reason.

Finally we were down to two tables. I was getting blinded down, but couldn't even attempt a steal, since it was always either raised before it got to me, or I was in EP with 94, 83, 72, T4, etc. I just don't feel that I am to the point that I can get away with stone-cold bluffs. I'm still growing

We got down to 18 players. My husband had been coming and going, sweating me for most of the last 45 minutes. The 9 seat started bleeding chips like mad, having started with a huge stack. I felt bad for him for not picking the right spots, and for playing drawing hands even through raises. He really had no clue, but he was nice and his wife was the bomb.

I was now blinded down to less than a full bet. In the SB, I was dealt AQs. The cutoff raised yet again (he raised quite a bit, with mediocre hands). I didn't respect his raise and went all-in. He had presto and I was out.

18:160, no pay except the top 9.

Now, you may think that I am crazy to write up a whole report like this when I was out of the money anyway. You may think that I am a fool for having spent money just to get out of the money having worked so hard for so many hours. You may think that the guy who was the first one out got the same thing out of the tourney that I did, but you are wrong. I got a LOT out of this tournament. I learned quite a bit. I misplayed some hands badly. I didn't shove all-in when I should have, yet did shove all-in when I didn't even have a full-bet left. I could have snuck into the money by folding that AQs in the SB, leaving the rest of my stack to just sit, knowing the blinds were about to go up to 2000/4000 and that people would be dropping left and right. I had a full 7 hands to play before I would be faced with the BB again. I had no chance of winning the tourney with such a short stack, so I should have just folded and tried to sneak into the money. But I know that. I know my mistakes, thank God. They are getting clearer to me every time I play in a tournament. I also made other fundamental mistakes, but I won't go into them, since I know what I SHOULD have done, so no amount of someone telling me about them is going to help.

By my notes, I made four very fundamental, big mistakes. HE is not my A game, that is for sure, but I am getting better. During my first LHE tourney at the Trop three weeks ago, I made at least double that many mistakes. Two weeks ago I probably made six mistakes. So I am getting there. I still outplayed 141 players to get to 18. I am proud of myself and almost feel like it was a WIN. I was not disappointed or shell-shocked from being so close to the money and then blowing it. I feel like poker is similar to learning a new language. At first, your basic, fundamental mistakes are enormous. But slowly they dwindle until you find yourself making less and less mistakes and playing a good game. A very good game. I was not ashamed by my fundamental mistakes while learning new languages, since I was ignorant and knew no better. Thusly I am not ashamed of my diminishing number of fundamental mistakes during LHE tourneys.

Once again, I had a great time in Atlantic City and wish I would have discovered it years earlier, as the AC players are a world away from the Vegas players. The attitudes and personalities are so much more pleasant in AC. For every grumbling, crusty, grouchy old rock in AC, there are 10 or more in Vegas. I have yet to see a dealer get spit on, hit, burnt with a cigarette or have a drink thrown on them. I rarely see players arguing or threatening to fight. The atmosphere is a complete opposite from Vegas. I am so glad we decided to give AC a try!

Good luck at the tables...knock 'em dead!

Felicia :)