Atlantic City Day Two: Humility and Cappucino Reward the Patient

Saturday Morning, 9am: Quality Inn Atlantic City
I feel humbled by my losses last night. Like Icarus I flew too high and had to drag myself out of the ocean this morning. I resolve to play a more appropriate game today. After a quick shower, we head down to the lobby and the desk manager calls us a cab, since we don’t have a car.

Before you read this, read Part One of my trip report

The Borgata in Atlantic City, Noon
I buy in for $120 at noon. In an hour at $2/$4 I’m up $120, having effectively doubled my money. Every drawing hand hits, and I’m dominating the table. When I play a hand and raise, people fold.

Same table, 1pm
I’ve set a goal for myself of $300 profit. It doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Same table at the Borgata, 4pm
Bradley comes over looking despondent. He lost a lot of money playing in a no limit cash game. In a no limit cash poker game you buy in for $300 and then any bet you make can be the quantity of the entire stack in front of you. Hundreds and even thousands of dollars are lost in ten seconds.

I play no limit cash games online, but for usually just $25. Bradley plays in a game like this in Boston for $200, and every time he loses money (which is more than he wins it) I hear about it for days.

In between hands I hear a story about how he had a great hand, and then someone with a crappy hand bets $300. Bradley correctly assesses that this guy would need to get incredibly lucky to beat him, and goes ahead and pushes his entire stack of chips into the middle. He’s played great poker at this point. The pot is now at least $700. They turn over their cards and the dealer deals out the final two cards. Bradley’s opponent catches two consecutive lucky cards wins. He takes Bradley’s entire stack of chips. Watching the guy stack his chips was too much to take, so Bradley gets up and leaves the game to come lament his loss to me.

Bradley fails to understand that this game has an incredibly large amount of luck to it. Nor does he understands that because he is bothered when he loses his buy in, that he’s clearly playing with too much money given his financial situation.

After losing his $300 he comes over to me and says, “What should I learn from this?” I tell him the same thing I tell him every time I hear about his losses at a no limit game: “You are playing for too much money. You can’t stand the luck factor psychologically or financially. You shouldn’t play that game.”

Bradley doesn’t actually listen to me when I say this. He thinks the way to master this game is to play it until the losses don’t bother him. I tell him he just needs to make more money in his professional life if he wants to play that game. He nods his head and says “Yeah”, but he’s too cocky and stubborn to ever actually act on what I tell him. (That’s the know-it-all thing I describe at the $2/$4 table haunting him) He wants me to tell him it’s ok, and that it was a bad beat, but I refuse. He doesn’t make enough money to go throwing away $300 in what is essentially a dice roll.

We’ll have this conversation several more times, right up until I leave him at 30th Street Station in Philly and get on my train. I guarantee sometime before the end of October he’ll be back playing the no limit cash game at Greg’s.

Same table at the Borgata, 6pm
I fear my problem is that I’m tired. Try as I might, my original $120 of profit has been whittled away by a run of bad cards and poor play. I’m back to exactly where I started six hours ago.

A buxom waittress covered in orange self-tanner comes around for drink orders and one of the other players asks for a cappucino. She says, “No hon, only coffee”.

Billions of dollars of marketing has conditioned me to want a cappucino now. I HAVE to have one. The entire problem with my game is my LACK OF A CAPPUCINO. I tell the dealer I’ll be gone for ten minutes and sprint upstairs through the maze of slot machines to the Starbucks.

I get back in time to find that I’ve missed my “blind bets”, which means that to return to the game I’m going to have to put $3 in the pot blind and hope for good cards. I do and one player raises it and everyone tosses in a second bet. Now I’ve got great odds to hit a miracle hand.

I’m holding 4-6 and the common cards are 2-3-Queen. I need one of the remaining four fives in the deck. In other words, I’m drawing to an inside straight. The saying, “Never draw to an inside straight” is not correct. What it should be is “Never draw to an inside straight without at least an 11 to 1 payoff”. A quick glance at the pot tells me that not only are there 11 bets in there, but there’s a whole lot more. Unbeknownst to me, one of the players on my right was holding a pair of Queens and now has a “set” (three) of Queens. Believing he’s unbeatable he starts shoveling money into the pot. Another player staying in with him has Ace-4, so he’s waiting for the 5 as well, but if it comes, I have him beat.

I find that one of the fascinating things about poker is that everyone at the table is making a decently correct decision based upon the size of the pot and the information they have at their disposal.

The dealer lays out the fourth common card and….. it’s a 5! The guy with the Ace-four and I start raising each other. Ace-Four can’t believe his luck and he doesn’t even see me coming. The poor guy with 3 Queens is calling all the bets, wondering how he could possibly lose with three Queens, and why we’re going crazy.

When we finish the hand we all turn over our cards and I look sheepishly towards the crestfallen. As I’m raking in chips with this hand that I was compelled to play (but didn’t want to) I announce to the table that it’s the cappucino that has improved my luck.

Same table at the Borgata, 6:30pm
I hit a full house and slow play it effectively for maximum revenue.

Bradley comes over to my table to hang out. A Granny sits down next to me, plops down a tiny stack of chips, and gets to talking.

A ‘Granny’ is a common type of poker player you’ll encounter in low limits in a casino. They often buy in for too little money, they play poor starting hands, and they don’t compute the mathematical odds of the hands they play. In the long-term Grannies are losing poker players. If you spend a few hours at a table with a Granny you’ll see them pulling Twenties out of their wallet every hour or so as they continually leak away their money.

Learning not to let that affect you (while thinking of your own grandparents) is a crucial skill if you want to be a successful poker player. The first time I played with a Granny she kept pulling twenties out of a Bank envelope just like the one my own Grandmother used when she visited the Bank every week. I literally felt like I was taking money from my own Grandmother when I won a pot from this lady.

Over time I learned to get over that. Your guilt usually lessens when they cackle as they rake in your chips.

Granny sits down with her $50 in chips (way too little for this table) and tells us a story about two friends who got into a fight upstairs. One guy lent the other guy some money, and then he lost it at poker. They got into a shouting match and the lender then pushed his friend into the escalator and he fell partway down the escalator well.

Granny’s timing is perfect.

Bradley sheepishly says he came over because wants to play in a game that has a higher buy-in than the $250 he has left on him. He left his ATM card in his hotel room and wants to know if I can lend him some money. I tell him he can go back to the hotel and get it, or he can play in a game that only costs $250, but I’m not lending him money and ruining our friendship.

Same table at the Borgata, 7:00pm
I’m in a hand with four cards to an Ace high flush and three other players. If it hits I’ll be golden. On the fourth card (the turn) the flush card comes. The whole table recoils in horror. I pass on the betting and try for an Oscar in “Best Performance by a guy who Really Doesn’t Have The Flush You’re All Afraid Of” and everyone passes on the betting in that round. When the final card comes and we go around for a last bet, everyone passes to me and I despondently bet, hoping for callers to pay off my amazing hand. I get them and count my chips. I’m profitable baby, up by $152.

Same table at the Borgata, 10:30pm
I’ve been playing very few hands, but never really catching much. I watch as others get tired and play worse and worse. A player wearing a Detroit Lions hat was my idol for the first six hours of this game because of his aggressive play. He’s really tired and so his naked aggression and poor judgement has resulted in him re-buying chips twice. His friend goes to get them cappucinos. Nobody at Starbucks thanks me.

Same table at the Borgata, Midnight
At one point I think I’ve got almost every player at my table figured out when three of them leave and three sharks come over. They said everyone at this table seemed happy and so they wanted to join us. They watch what people play and talk about how they’re going to make a lot of money off the fish. I’m annoyed that someone’s nosing in the people I’ve spend 12 hours studying, and more annoyed that they’re calling them “fish” loud enough for them to hear. Nobody likes to be played, and if they get wind of it they’ll go to bed. I stick it out though, hoping their cockiness will let me take some of their chips.

Same table at the Borgata, 4am
I decide to give up for the night. I haven’t been able to take advantage of anyone else’s tired state, probably because I’m tired myself. I cash out positive for the day and resume the inevitable discussion of Bradley’s $300 loss in the cab on the way back to the hotel.

Daily total: +$125
Trip total: -$186


  1. ken okabe on October 15, 2004 at 3:01 pm


    I can’t find your archives.