Category Archives: Poker

Poker: An Unexpected Kindness


Went to the Trump Taj Mahal to play the $60 No-Limit Texas Hold-em tournament today. The last time I tried it I finished 15th out of about 60 players, pretty good, but not in the money. The time before that I was the Bubble Boy, finishing just out of the money, a very annoying place to finish!

But, hope springs eternal and all that, so I was ready to try it again. I did well in the first half hour, winning some moderately big pots, and doubling up my starting stack. Then there was a long dry spell where I couldn’t get any cards I thought worth playing. Around the end of the second hour I got hot again, winning two large hands back to back, both with pocket Jacks, and another with Kings. That put me in good enough shape to make it to the final table, down from about 55 players to 10, but I was the smallest stack, so it didn’t look good.

Then we were down to eight, then seven, then six. I was still the smallest stack, not getting anything worth playing most of that time. So, it looked like I’d be the Bubble Boy again, until one of the other players spoke up. “I suggest we have a Bubble Bonus,” he announced. How about if everyone gives $15 cash to the person going out on the bubble?” Naturally I thought this was an excellent, if surprising idea, and everyone else agreed. What nice fellows! I asked the proposer why he had suggested this, and he told me, “A while back I went out on the bubble three times in one day. That gave me the idea.”

Sure enough, I was soon all-in with a pair of Nines, and lost to three sixes to that same player. Everyone opened their wallets, and I went around and collected $75, with many thanks. Then I went home happy, instead of annoyed, and actually ahead a few dollars! What a great idea, and it proves that poker players can be as nice as anyone. If I find myself in that situation again, I’m going to suggest doing the same thing. If you play poker, I think you should, too. Make a Bubble Boy happy!

Poker: Bubble Boy at the Taj

It’s been a while since I had time to play in a small poker tournament in Atlantic City, and while this seems like an odd time of year for it, today I found I was caught up with everything: work, Christmas stuff, even in good shape with my next Logo Study, so I went to the Taj Mahal to play.

The Sunday morning $60 tourney was a small one, 38 players. Guess most people had other places to be. The top five players would finish in the money, and I thought a smaller field might be good for me, as I get tired of sitting there after a while, and this one shouldn’t go too long. I started out well, winning one big hand with Ace-Queen and a flop of Ace-Ace-Eight against a man with the other ace but a lower kicker. Won a few other small pots, and by the end of the first hour had doubled up my starting chips. The second hour didn’t go as well. I was getting nothing good to play with, and got caught in a semi-bluff attempt when the player I was up against raised me all in. I couldn’t call. By the end of the second hour my stack was dwindling, but so were the players. I went all in with King-Queen of diamonds, was called by two players with better hands, and lucked out by pulling in a straight, so that tripled me up and kept me good for a while.

In the third hour we got down to the final table, then things really slowed down, and I was getting nowhere. Finally I was dealt a pair of Kings. I called, and the guy to my left raised enough to put me all in, which I was happy to do. And his raise chased out the other players, so it was heads-up, usually good when you’re short-stacked, as I was. He turned over a pair of sevens, and I doubled up again, but even so was still the short stack. The guy on my left went out, leaving six players, with me as the shortest stack. Again, I was getting nothing worth playing, but did pull off one bluff to keep me going.

Finally I was down to six big blinds, time to go all-in for the last time. I was in on the big blind already when someone raised enough to put me all-in. I had King-seven of spades, and I decided to go for it. Unfortunately, the other guy showed pocket Aces, and I was soon out of the game in sixth place, just off the money. That’s called being “on the bubble,” I was the Bubble Boy today. Ah well, so it goes. I think I played well, just ran out of luck at the wrong time. There’s always next year…

Borgata Poker


I haven’t played poker at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City in a while, but decided to go there today. I knew I’d be playing in cash games, not a tournament, as they’re running more expensive-to-enter tournaments on most weekends now, with entry fees too high for me.

I enjoy playing at the Borgata, their poker room is large and comfortable, but I was a little hesitant about playing in cash games there. Minimum buy-in for the $1-$2 no-limit holdem games is $60, but most players start with $200. I usually start with $100, but the last two times I tried that I lost about half my chip stack early, and then spent the rest of the time trying to get back up the hill and not succeeding, so this time I also bought in with $200 in chips. That way I had a bigger starting stack and other players were less likely to try to push me off hands with big raises.

The first hand I played was a pair of pocket fours, and the flop did me no good, so I folded. The next hand I played pocket sixes, and the flop was 6-8-Jack. Very good for me, I’d flopped a set of three sixes. The player to my right, on the big blind, bet out $20. I called, everyone else folded. The turn card was a nine. Now there was a possible straight, but no flush draw, so my sixes looked pretty good. Player to my right bet another $20 and I called again. The river card was another Jack. This gave me a full house, sixes over Jacks, which was terrific, and meant I probably had him beat, but there was a small chance he now had a better full house than me if he started with two pair, one of them a Jack. He bet $50 and, while I was tempted to raise, I just called. He showed a straight, and I won the pot, about $120. A great start, and after that I continued to play my conservative game, building my stack slowly. By lunchtime I was ahead $270, and I cashed out and had something to eat.

After lunch I sat down at another table with $200 in chips again. This time things went more typically for me. I gradually lost about $70, then won it all back with a straight. Went down $40, and won it back with a small blind special, a 2-3 that cost me only $1 to play, and a flop of 2-3-6, giving me two pair, then another 3 giving me a winning full house. Didn’t get much betting on that one, though. When it was time to leave, I was down $55, so went home ahead for the day $215. Very satisfactory. Wish it always went that well!

Poker Payback


© Nick Gerrard.

The gods of luck and chance had it in for me today, no doubt as payback for my third place finish in the last poker tournament I played in. I sat down at the morning $60 tournament at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and found I’d been doomed with a fatal combination: great cards and terrible luck. I lost with pocket aces. I lost with pocket kings. I lost with a full house to a better full house. Finally, with a dwindling chip stack I went all in with A-J, and an ace on the board and lost to three eights, out in less than an hour.

Had lunch, and then sat down to a $1-2 No-Limit Holdem game with $100 in chips. I played conservatively, not calling raises with moderately good hands, and saw three pots that I would have won if I did. Finally I got pocket queens and bet big. There was an ace on the board, and one lady called me. I figured she probably had me beat with a pair of aces, but I was down to my last $35, so I went all in anyway. There was one more card to come, and it was another queen! I was sure I had won until she turned over a pair of pocket aces, beating my three of a kind with a better one.

I know when to quit. But the gods had one more laugh at me…I had to drive through two torrential rain storms on the way home that slowed traffic to a crawl and added a half hour to my trip.

Okay, you got me. But I’ll be back!

Poker: a small but satisfying tournament

I played the morning $50 no-limit hold-em tournament at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City today, as I occasionally do when I can, and for the very first time I finished in the money! The entry fee is $65, and it begins at 11:15 AM in the Taj poker room. There were 52 players today, a number on the small end, I’ve seen it over 100. With that many players, the top six would cash, with sixth place winning back the entry fee, and each place winning progressively more. In the past I’ve gone out as close as 4 from the money, but never cashed. Today I started out well, winning occasional hands, and not losing more than the blinds for the first two hours, so by the start of the third hour, with players down to about 30, I was in good shape, perhaps in the middle of the pack in chip count. I continued to do about the same through the third hour, and when the fourth hour began at the final table of 10 players, I was down a little, but still holding my own. At that point I got into and lost one pretty big pot, which hurt my chip stack, but then I made some back, and got into the money, the top six. Two lucky wins with low cards got me to the final three just before the end of the fourth hour. I called Ellen happily to tell her why I’d be home a little late.

Perhaps my favorite moment at this small-potatoes tournament was when, as we got down to six, they put up one of those velvet ropes around the table and made the handful of spectators stand behind it, just like on TV.

So, of the three left, an older gentleman (at least he looked older than me) had about two-thirds of the chips at the table, leaving me and a young guy in a Phillies t-shirt to battle for second place. We went at it, going all-in back and forth several times, but unable knock the other out. Finally he went all in when we were almost exactly even in chips. I had Jack-Seven, not a great hand, but I was tired of sitting, so I went all-in too. He turned up a pair of Kings, and it was over for me, I went out third. A minute later the game ended when the top two agreed to split the remaining winnings. I won $390, and after subtracting my entry fee, came home ahead $325. The other two got about $800 each.

So, considering how often I’ve played this tournament (about 15 times) I’m still way behind, but it felt great to win something. My only other tournament win, at The Borgata, was also a third place, so now my goal is to reach at least second. I’ll probably give back my winnings attempting to do that over the course of this year, but it’s fun to try.