Foxwoods Before the Storm

On a business trip to Boston and I had a day to kill before Hurricane Irene hit New England. So I decided to head down to Foxwoods in Connecticut, which is running deep stack tournaments at 6pm every night. The WPT Poker Room at Foxwoods is advertised as the largest poker room on the East Coast, so I figured it could be a bit of an eye-opener for me, having played poker in a small tribal casino as my first casino experience just a few weeks back and the only other casino I’d been in being Spirit Mountain.

I got to Foxwoods with some time to kill before the tournament and went downstairs to where the cash action is. Lots and lots of cash action. There was a short wait for a seat at a $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em  table; I got my WPT Poker Room card and some chips.

The games at Foxwoods were definitely not as soft as Spirit Mountain. I managed to lose my first stack with a made straight on the flop hoping that nobody had already made the bigger straight draw. Got it all back when I doubled my stack holding [5x 5x] with [kx kx] on the board and the big stack thought I was completely bluffing. Then I managed to lose the whole thing, with my last hand being [as 7s]. The board gave me a pair of aces and wheel draw but [kx 2x] actually made the wheel. I went to get a late lunch.

When I was ready to face the music again, I happened into the start of a $1/$2 Pot LImit Omaha Hi-Lo game and signed up. This session went incredibly well. A three-card run in one hand turned into a straight that won me a double-up, and I caught another couple big hands, nearly quadrupling my buy-in. I actually threw down a hand with both Broadway and wheel draws after a turn bet from across the table that would have cost me about two-thirds of the profit (above the buy-in and the two stacks I’d lost in Hold’em) because I figured I needed to slow down for a second. As it turned out, the wheel came through and I probably could have added another couple stacks because I would have scooped the pot and both the other players were nearly all-in.

Success is fleeting, however. The tournament, a $15,000 guarantee with about 140 players didn’t last very long for me. I could only console myself with the fact that I wasn’t the first person out of the game. It was off to my hotel to get some sleep after that.

Back out to Foxwoods for the morning turbo. Took a bit of a hit after an OK start, but made it to the second table out of 50 entrants. Picked up [ax kx] in the big blind. After a big raise from a mid-position player and an all-in from button, if I got lucky, I might triple my stack. The raiser was largest stack, both were bigger than me. I called all-in, and the big stack called. The big stack also had [ax kx], the button held [ax ax] which held up, taking me out in 15th. First place paid $917.

The morning bounty tournament was still in the first level, so I bought in there. I plugged along with about the starting stack as the average chip level went up, then took a hit that put a mark on my stack. By the time the blinds were up to 500/1000/150 I was down to about 7bb. I shoved with [ac qc] and got called by someone who could afford the chips to race with [tx tx] (who I’d knocked out of the turbo game earlier). I placed 14th of 42. The prize pool was $5,149, with $1,803 going to first and just six players paid.

I’d lasted long enough that the early afternoon turbo was beyond it’s buy-in, so I got lunch and some goodies for friends back home, dragged things back to the car, then stepped downstairs to the cash games again.

I haven’t ever played much 7-Card Stud. My advice is, do not make your first live experience against a bunch of geezers at someplace like Foxwoods in a Fixed Limit $1/$5 game. I made a couple of blunders that marked me as a neophyte in the first couple of hands. Seriously, people were laughing. I managed to get a little bit of respect (and some chips) back with a sneaky move and a flush, but mostly the stack went down and down. The slower speed of the game did kill some time, though. I killed some more watching people play Sic Bo.

Finally, the $20,000 guarantee tournament. Our table started out laughably short-handed with just four players despite being set up for ten. People started to filter in as time went on. I pulled an iron out of the fire on one hand when a short-stacked player who had announced she was “on tilt” and I both seemed to have paired a [kx] on the flop. Hers was presumably better than my [kx tx] until the river when I called her all-in as the [tx] hit. My turn came later, when [ax jx] and an [ax] on the board ran into a set of [3x] with two of them on the board after the turn. That knocked me down to about a quarter of the starting stack and I was out relatively soon, in 98th place of 140. The prize pool was more than $27,000, with fourteen places paid and more than $7,700 to first place.

Back to Portland.

Freeroll to Nowhere

Despite the fact that it’s supposedly now the top tourist destination in the state (and that’s a state where half a million people a year visit a bear-infested fish hatchery) I’d never been to the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grande Ronde since it opened fifteen years ago.

For one thing, I’m not much of a gambler. Despite the poker fixation, I have no interest in games of pure chance like roulette and slot machines, or card games where you have absolutely no control, like blackjack. I’ve built roulette and slot simulators, I’ve even worked with some of the people who design real electronic systems, and they just don’t interest me.

It’s a long drive down to the Mountain. Sure, it’s the closest real casino (sorry La Center, but “8 tables” doesn’t cut it) to Portland, but it’s more than half-way to the coast. Sixty-five miles by the shortest route, which takes you through the ugly traffic jam around Dundee; more than 80 miles if you go south on I5 to Salem and across.

And I’m not a cash game player. I really prefer tournament play, the bigger the field and the slower the blind structure the better. Without knowing more about the games at Spirit Mountain, there wasn’t any real draw for me.

But this weekend they are running their “Summer Showdown 2011,” a $440 buy-in tournament for 20,000 chips with $100 bounties. It was tempting with the money from the Champions game last week rattling around in my pocket. But it was too big a hunk. However, Friday they were running a $90 satellite tournament, and 20% of the field would get seats in the big game. Easy-peasy, right? I headed down there after getting some work done in the morning.

Spirit Mountain $1/$3 NLHE

Since I arrived more than an hour early (expecting more traffic on the I5 route than I ran into), I bought my tournament entry (getting a bonus of 500 chips) and then stood around a bit. Two tables of $3/$6 Limit Hold’em were running—not my game—but one of the hosts asked me if I wanted to join in a $1/$3 No Limit HE game that was starting up. I bought in for $100.

I picked up about $25 early on, then lost it a bit later after I had to lay down a straight draw to a re-raise. Then I got very lucky with a [qh 9h] and a flop with two hearts on it. There was money from four players in the pot pre-flop, I pushed all-in when another heart showed on the turn and got called, hoping that the other guy didn’t have [ah] or [kh]. As it was, he apparently didn’t even have a flush and I more than doubled up. A little after that I left the table for a bite to eat and cashed for $241. I’d just paid for my satellite buy-in and gas and then some.

30 minutes. ROI: 141%.

Spirit Mountain Summer Showdown 2011 Event 1 (4,600 chips)

It was supposedly an “event” but it was actually just a satellite to the big game on Saturday. The room filled up pretty quickly, a lot of the folks at table 12 where I was seated (table draw was from unlucky table 13) seemed to know each other and the dealer (with whom I discussed the relative “safeness” of the Encore and Aces; with her opinion being that she liked the neighborhood around Aces better—she’s the second person I’ve talked to whose car’s been broken into at Encore). Signing up over an hour early got me an extra 500 chip to go with my Coyote Club 100 bonus. I was feeling upbeat after my performance at the cash game, but I needn’t have bothered.

I lost a couple of smallish pots through the first half-hour of play. The levels were 30 minutes and we started at 25/50 but a couple of players busted out, with everyone looking their way in disdain. Just hold out, dudes! One in five gets through to the big game tomorrow! 20,000 in chips!

The last hand before the blinds went up, I was on the BB and drew [8s 4s]. There were five limps and the flop rolled out [8x 7x 4x]. One of the mid-position players raised to 300, got a call, and I re-raised to 1,500 with my two pair, only to get a check/all-in from the first actor. Everyone folded out of the way and I made a stupid call. She showed [5x 6x] for the flopped straight I hadn’t even seen. I was crushed and when the hand was over I had a single 25 chip which went into the small blind.

[ax tx] managed to quintuple me up, but a few hands later I was completely out.

So, a long drive to Grande Ronde on a sunny day, half-an-hour of good cash game play, and an incredibly stupid move in the first half-hour of a marathon tournament. Driving back to town I was kicking myself for the call but when I ran the numbers I saw that it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it was. Oh, it was still bad—especially when my tournament life was on the line—but I had between a 27% and 30% chance of winning the hand, which was better than I thought it was on the drive back.

30 minutes. -100% ROI.


The Barber

Encore Club $3,000 Guarantee Monthly Champions Freeroll (7,000 chips)

After it was all over, I told the manager at the Encore that it was a good thing I’d spent some time establishing my table image as a complete fish earlier in the week, with two noon games where I busted out in the first round. Then again, it was a victory in another noon game that got me into the “Freeroll.”

Now—particularly considering the way things turned out—I’m not complaining, but the Champions event (open to winners of the six daily events through a calendar month) does have a $20 door fee. Six games a day, thirty days a month, minus duplicate winners and people who don’t make the event, and you might get around 150 players. (Last Saturday it was 138.) That puts the take in door fees within a couple hundred dollars of the freeroll guarantee, which sort of means the players are funding at least half of it themselves, given that a bunch of degenerate poker players are likely to be putting out a $10 door on a Saturday night anyway.

Encore August Champions TournamentI got a good start in the first few levels with a full house holding a low pocket pair and managed to pick up about 1,600 chips before [ax jx] let me down as I was drawing for Broadway against an older gent. I needed a [qx] but got a [jx] on the river and bet my two pair, but that made Broadway for his [ax qx] and I was down to about 6,000. I held the line through level 3 and managed to double up just before the first break.

That’s pretty much where I stayed through the next three levels as the blinds leapfrogged from 200/400 to 300/600 to 400/800. At the second break (when I took the photo above) I still had only 13,000 chips even though I’d bought 5,000 in add-on chips. I’d gone from 30bb to 13bb and was at only two-thirds of the average stack.

Another two levels passed without any movement on my part, which was bad, because the blinds took a big jump between level 7 (500/1,000) and level 8 (1,000/2,000). I managed to hold out to level 9 (1,500/3,000) with only four big blinds left then shoved with [kx jx] twice and managed to take the blinds. Pushed again with [jx tx] on a dry board with [tx] as the top card and bets on the table and the take took me up to 35,000 before the third break. I was still a couple thousand chips below average (with 47 players left), and was about to start a level with just eight big blinds, but it was better than my position at the previous break.

The fourth session is sort of a blur for me. It would probably be a lot better if I could remember what happened. All I know for sure is that I sent DV an email during the fourth break just after midnight saying: 2 very good hands in last rounds up to 225000. No idea what those hands were or how they played out, but I did somehow manage to sextuple my stack over the hour. Don’t ask the centipede how he keeps all those feet coördinated.

An hour later and we consolidated to the final table. Incredibly, I was the chip leader, with 510,000, just ahead of the guy to my right who had just under 500,000. Between us we held over half the chips in play (about 1.8 million). He rather quickly set to knocking out other players, and in short order he’d added another 800,000 or so onto his stack by removing five players. I was holding relatively steady at (relatively being the operative word when the blinds are 30,000/60,000).

My only real mistake of the tournament came, I think, in proposing a deal to award the prize money based on current chip standings. The big stack was obviously a good player. I had more than twice what the next player had, and she had half again as much as the fourth player. There was no doubt the big stack was going to hold out for the first prize money. Nobody but me liked the idea of awarding by chip rank, and I probably should have just played it out and seen how the 90,000 chips/orbit affected the small stacks rather than accept the ICM deal for second through fourth, which effectively took $210 from me (assuming I would have kept second place) and gave it to two other players. Nothing’s certain in poker, though.

It may not look like much, but there are sixteen black chips stacked in front of me below adding up to 400,000, with five pink 10,000 chips on the side. If my picture is going to keep showing up online, I’m going to need to do something about my hair.

Seven hours. Second of 138 players. +714% ROI (including entry fee, add-on, and dealer tip; I probably should have counted the diet sodas and something called a Titanic I ordered when I got to the final table, but I didn’t).

 Second Place


Encore Club Noon $700 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

Traffic held me up on the way to the game, so I not only didn’t get the free soda but I missed out on the extra 500 chip. I got to seat 6 at the first table just in time for my big blind. The game was another blow-out for me, with my buy-in and re-buy gone before a full orbit had been made. One hand I had [qx jx] with a board of [qx 2x 2x]. I re-raised a 1,500 raise to 3,000, we went all-in and of course he showed [kx kx], even getting the case [kx] on the river (another player mentioned he’d folded one). Seriously, what was I thinking?

Gotta get all the run-bad out of my system before the $3,000 Champions Freeroll this weekend. Not feeling very champion-y right now.

10 minutes. -100% ROI (including buy-in, re-buy, and door fee).


Encore Club Noon $700 Guarantee (5,500 chips, including bonus)

I don’t know what I was thinking here. I was in seat 6 and called a raise with [qs jc] on a [jd 6d 7d] flop. The turn was another diamond and I was heads-up with one of the regulars I’ve played with in seat 6 who kept raising and I kept calling. I didn’t have a diamond, my hand didn’t improve, and if he had just a single diamond he was better than my jacks. I was all-in by after the river and he did have just one diamond: [ad].

I re-buy, even though I intended not to, and get [ax 2x] on the next hand. By the river, the board is [5x 7x qx 7x ax] and I’ve been calling his bets again. I know he’s got an ace; the best I can hope for is a chop; there’s about a 25% chance he’s got a [7x], [qx], [kx], or [ax], in which case I’m beat. I go all-in, hoping for the other 75%, but he shows down [ax kx] and I’m out after literally five hands.

15 minutes. -100% ROI (including buy-in and re-buy).

Encore Club Special Limit H.O.R.S.E Tournament (5,000 chips)

I’d been looking forward to one of these events ever since I’d first heard about them a little over a month ago. I thought it would be a good chance to stretch beyond Hold’em into other potential events, should I get the opportunity. Maybe not. There was the inevitable older guy at the table who played the confused card about the betting structures but who inexplicably was exceptionally good at Razz. I never even made it to ‘S’, as I ran into his three very low hole cards disguised by high up cards. I was the first player out.

70 minutes. First of eight players out. -100% ROI (including buy-in and add-on).

Wyld Stallions

D’s Dealer’s Choice

I hadn’t played with the guys at this table for a few weeks due to a trip out of town and a holiday, but I was looking forward to it because I came armed with several new games I could use to annoy the ever-whiny A, who still bitches and moans about me introducing Badugi several months back. There were only three of us to start with, which made it perfect for Chinese Poker, which I’d seen at the Encore the other night but hadn’t ever played. Two other games I’d never played but cracked open for the night were Sweten—a split-pot combination of 5-Card Draw and Omaha that I heard about in an interview with Greg Raymer on an episode of Dennis Phillips’s Final Table podcast—and Double Flop Hold’em.

I was severely beaten during a round of B’s favorite: Kings and Little Men, where I ended up putting $28 into the pot after losing with two 2s in my hand and a 2 on one of the crosses. Combined with earlier losses, I was down almost $80 in a quarter-ante game (although they’re still telling tales of the night a K&LM pot went over $700) until I won almost the whole thing back in a single hand of unadulterated Pot-Limit Omaha.

I really hate wild cards.

3 hours. ROI: -20%.


Although I haven’t been posting much the past couple of months, it hasn’t been because I’ve stopped playing; just that I’ve been testing whether my note-taking during live games affected my play (apparently not). But I just wanted to note that the motto of the Poker Mutant is that “49 is the new 50” for the reason that I’m seven years older than the World Series of Poker, as is Badih “Bob” Bounahra, who’s a member of this year’s November Nine, in sixth place with 19.7 million chips. There is still hope for some of us old guys.