Monday, July 30, 2007


Had a break-even night last night at Majestic Star. To say that leaving with $4 more in my pocket than I arrived with was "profitable" would be a gross exaggeration, especially considering today's gas prices. I so badly would like to be back at Majestic right now, but alas, they are filming the final table of a Heartland Poker Tour tournament, and the poker room is either closed to cash games or is only running on the outside ring of tables (I got conflicting information from various dealers), but undoubtedly the place is crazy-packed, and I'm sure the wait is long if they are running cash games.

I overheard a couple guys from out of town talking about the local poker rooms. They were managers from a casino in Arizona, in town to get a feel for how Majestic runs their Heartland tournaments, as they're hosting one themselves in a few months. They had been to both Majestic Star and to Resorts, and the one guy mentioned that he'd been talking to the MS poker room director, who he thought seemed to feel pressure to compete with the Resorts poker room down the road. The out-of-towners summed it up well, I thought. Majestic has a nicer poker room, but Resorts is a nicer casino. I think that just about hits the nail on the head. If anything hurts MS, it's that Resorts probably draws more casual players to its poker room due to the fact that more casual players probably choose Resorts over MS. Resorts does a lot more advertising on local TV as well. They definitely advertise their reputation of being a more upscale venue - the player's choice.

Having spent many hours at both poker rooms, though, as strictly a poker player, I prefer Majestic Star (now that I've gotten over my post-Trump-sale grudge). On the whole, I think the dealers at MS are better (read: more accurate, friendlier, faster). For a while, I preferred Resorts because I could listen to my iPod while playing, but now MS allows that as well. Resorts had the leg up with the electronic list queue for a bit, but now MS has the same thing - as well as a few new flat screen plasma TV's, which are gorgeous and a step above the TV's Resorts has. While Resorts does allow tableside dining, the deli/concessions area at MS is adjacent to the poker room, which is fine with me - and prevents me from having to deal with greasy cards and slobs who can't keep their food in their mouths at the poker table. MS also runs promotions that, while not a deal maker or breaker, I do rather like - such as, "Aces Cracked - Get a Rack!" From midnight to noon Mon-Fri, if your pocket Aces get cracked, you get a rack of whites ($100) on the spot. MS offers 24 hour sit n go's (as long as there's interest), and a solid schedule of tournament options. I think maybe I'll make a side-by-side table of what I like about these two casinos and post it, to follow.

Since I really don't care about the rest of the casino aside from the poker room, Majestic Star gets my vote.

Back to last night...

I had a much more enjoyable experience last night, sans grumpy gramps and the drunken maniacs. There was even some nice scenery to look at (read: attractive members of the male species). I didn't realize until later that I'd gotten a lovely glowing red sunburn on my nose earlier in the day, so I'm sure some guy is out there blogging about the crazy Rudolph girl who was flirting with him last night at the poker table. Nice. (I rule!!) Actually, I rarely flirt at the poker table. Sometimes I will be friendly, though (in contrast to the times when I hardly speak to anyone and just play my game in silence). Hey, I'm a rather socially awkward creature. I was friendly last night. That's about as close to flirting as I get.

It was a mostly unremarkable evening. The table was ripe for the picking (I am *really* liking this $100 max NL game. It's incredibly soft and incredibly predictable). I sat and watched a lot of chips move around the table for a while, folding my junk and silently cheering every time someone pulled out their wallet to rebuy. Eventually, I caught some of the action and was up 3 buy in's. And so appears a dilemma with no apparent answer:

Assuming you are "up" on your buy-in, when do you walk away from a juicy table?

Do you set a stop-win and walk away when you reach it, even if you're running well, catching good hands and winning pots?

Do you set a stop-loss that preserves a good amount of your profit, and walk away when you lose down to that amount (re-evaluating that stop-loss amount after a significant win)?

For me, this is a harder decision in no-limit than in limit. Or - I find it easier to set stop-loss amounts, because your involvement in a pot is, well, limited in price. When you can lose large portions of your stack (or all of it!) in any given hand, how do you measure an appropriate stop-loss amount?

For example, last night I hovered around 350 for a while. After hovering for a few orbits (and noting that it was well past 3am), I set a stop-loss of 300, with a departure time of "one more dealer" (a half hour). Of course, within that half hour, I ran into a big hand that set my stack back to 250.

I was well below my stop-loss. Leave? Or is 300 also my stop-win, meaning I should stick around and attempt to recoup back up to 300 (assuming table conditions and personal conditions are favorable - ie. I'm not sleepy, I'm not hungry, I'm still focused, and the table is still moving chips around in a satisfactory way).

I stuck around and pretty much got nowhere, leaving with 204 in my pocket (208 if you count the $4 hot dog I mogged around midnight).

I'd love to hear how you decide when to leave the table. For the record, my typical stop-win in limit holdem is doubling my buy-in (which would be a win of 20BB) and my typical stop-loss in limit is 30BB per session (though I don't always abide by the stop-win if I'm running well).

No limit? Psh. I don't know. I have yet to find something that works for me.

The highlight of my evening last night was losing the minimum possible on two hands where I felt that I made very good laydowns. Ironically, I can't remember the details of one of them - just that I remember commending myself for the decision to fold.

The one I remember wasn't anything spectacular, and can probably be critiqued by the NL experts as flawed play on my part earlier in the hand, but it indicates progress in an area that I've been weak in: over-valuing top pair in NL. That's the positive that I'm taking from the hand.
I had A9 of clubs on the button in a live-straddled pot with 2 limpers in front of me, plus the blinds and straddle to act behind me. I limped, and the blinds called, and we saw an unraised flop. The flop came 2 clubs. Straddler bet $15 into a $24 pot (=$39). 2 calls (=$69). Ballpark 2:1 odds on my flush draw (with no considering of implied odds), and I'm getting at least 4:1 on my call (though am at risk for a squeeze play raise behind me - though that was very uncommon at this table). I call. Blinds fold. $84 in the pot, and 4 players in (including myself).

Turn is an Ace of diamonds (no diamond draw onboard). I can't say that I like the Ace due to my weak kicker, but I still have the nut flush draw. Straddler bets $20 (=$104). Fold, fold. Action to me. He certainly didn't bet enough to get me off my flush draw (I need about 4:1 on my money to make the call with one card to come, and I'm getting about 5:1, plus the offhanded chance that my top pair is now good). But what did this guy bet on the flop that he can continue to bet on the turn? The Ace didn't scare him? This guy was a pretty straight-up player, though he had tried to get tricky against other players earlier in the game, and I'd seen him bet flush draws twice before.

If he's betting a flush draw, I'm golden. He straddled the hand and didn't raise it preflop, so I'm not putting him on a strong Ace, but honestly, I smelled something fishy. Two pair felt really likely here, and he bet so little on the turn it felt like he wanted me to call.

I called the $20 to see the river, hoping for a club and knowing that if one didn't hit, I had a decision to make.

The river was a brick. No club. Straddler pushed all in for $78 into a pot of $124.

I took a little while on this one. There's always that little devil on my shoulder saying, "But what if?!" - in this case, but what if my Ace was good? This is where I am commending myself on this hand - for stopping and thinking before acting. For avoiding impulse calls.

This is the hand that put me under my stop-loss. I had around 275 left on the turn. Surely I had enough chips to make the call on the end and still be even for the night. I thought about that. Then, I forced myself to use ALL of the information I had available to me. My thought process went something like this:

If I make this decision based on my desire to leave without a loss, I could still call.
If I make this decision based on the betting patterns in this hand, warning bells are going off and I should fold.
If I make this decision based on my cards and my cards only, it's a toss-up. I could call or fold.
If I make this decision on random bits of poker wisdom, I hear the mantra of "don't go broke with top pair" echoing in the distance, and I should fold.
If I make this decision based on my gut, I should fold.

The trick in any situation, I suppose, is weighing how much each of these angles is worth relative to the others.

I decided to lay it down. I had a friendly rapport with this guy, so when I acted, I said, "I'm going to let you have it," and folded my hand face-up, showing top pair. He shook his head and said, "Damn it!" with a grin on his face, and showed me A6 for two pair. He flopped middle pair and turned two pair. He shook his head and offered congratulations for a nice laydown. I considered the hand a $78 win.

I'm not sure I would do anything differently in that hand, other than possibly fold it preflop. When there are typically 6 or 7 people to a flop, though, I'm almost hoping to find suited Aces and suited connectors in the hole rather than a big pocket pair. I'm OK with seeing cheap flops in hopes of hitting a big hand or a big draw. Those seem to pay much better than the AA or KK or QQ. In fact, the old adage seems to play true in my world: you either win small pots or lose big ones with big pocket pairs. I'm comfortable enough these days with my post-flop skills (at least against the fishes) to trust myself to get away from a hand after the flop when appropriate. I don't chase ridiculous draws like I used to (you know, chasing your top pair draw with 2 overcards to the board, or chasing gutshots when the pot is laying you nowhere near what it should, or chasing a set with a pocket pair when you didn't flop it). I've been known to chase all of the above, usually due to the simple desire to win - even when there's no money in the pot.

Now, I can pretty much squelch those instincts and make decisions with my brain and not my emotions... most of the time. And I can lay down top pair. It almost feels like a milestone.

In other news... I've been running decently well on Full Tilt Poker and have decided that I'm going to attempt to withdraw some of what I've won to add to my brick and mortar bankroll. It's too typical that I go on a rush on FTP only to lose it back just as quickly. Online poker is not my specialty, and my problem seems to be that I just can't stay away from the cash games. (I do much better in the Sit n Go's, despite the fact that I much prefer cash games). So I'm going to try and outsmart myself and suck money out of my online pockets and into my B&M pockets while continuing to play SnG's online. We'll see how it goes.

That's about it for me. I've been hankering to check out Hollywood Casino in Aurora (about an hour from me, northwest instead of northeast). It looks like they only offer limit holdem, though (funny how I go through these phases - that would be a plus in my book a few months ago, and now it almost feels like a torture sentence). Someone mentioned Blue Chip Casino last night, but I think it's about 45 minutes from the Indiana boats, making it more like an hour and 45 minutes from home for me. Probably too far for a random Monday jaunt, and probably better suited for an overnight trip. Plus, I'm a little sleep deprived today and would not want to be in the position to drive that far home (the road is hypnotic when I'm sleepy).

So, I'm not sure if there's any poker in my future today. Actually, I'm a bit hungry. I'm thinking Subway...


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