#2: Shattered Dreams at Coco

Friday, November 15th: A light drizzle fills the Florida Turnpike as I navigate my way to the Poker room where it all started for me, some 18 years ago. After busting out late in Day 1 in brutal fashion last week, I’m looking for a classic revenge session, in the hopes of boosting both my confidence as well as my bankroll.

The Seminole Coconut Creek Casino’s Poker room used to be a tightly-cramped room on the second floor, where ten tables seating ten players were stationed amongst a thick cloud of second-hand smoke. That was 18 years ago, when I first started playing $1/$2 Limit Hold ‘Em. Today, Poker at “Coco” is near the Pavilion on the first floor, next to the 1st Street Deli, with a lot more elbow room and sustainably less smoke to be inhaled. Pictured above is one of the 23 Poker tables that, as of about a week ago, have been completely re-felted, replacing the faded, pale blue felts. Personally, I really like the new felts with the classic green color – I appeared to be in the minority, as many players and dealers that I spoke to seemed to prefer the previous version.

Hour #1:

I buy in for my standard $200 at $1/$2 No-Limit and take seat #1 on table #10. The tables, at this early morning hour, are few and far between. The action, at this early morning hour, is bountiful. One of the reasons I like playing at Coco is that there is always good action, even at LLSNL (That’s Live Low-Stakes No-Limit).

The first blog-worth hand happens after about an orbit or so, where I limp in from middle position with Ac5c, taking a multi-way flop of JT5 with two clubs on board. The action checks around and the dealer burns and turns a brick. An older player, who is a bit brash and loud for my tastes, over-bets the pot for $40. The player to his immediate right goes all-in for less ($36), and I, getting a good price ($40 to win about $140, so a little more than 3:1) make the call. The river is the Ks, and the aforementioned older player immediately fires out $100. I muck it, but he does show TPTK with AJ0 to take the pot down.

After a few more inconsequential hands, I got bluffed holding a small 8 on a KK8 board, where my nemesis from the first significant hand of the session, once again, over-bets the pot, making a $50 bet on the river with $35 in the middle. I’ll have to file this action away for another time, though, as this particular villain gets up from the table shortly thereafter, denying me the opportunity to get him back.

At the end of the first hour, I wound up busting a player’s ATo after I put him all-in as I held JJ. This puts me at roughly $150, 3/4 of my original BI.

Hour #2:

After raise-and-whiffing a few more hands, a player in the HJ raises to $8. I am in the SB and complete with Ac4c. Looking back, this is one of those hands that should be three-bet from one of the blinds (either for value or turning my hand in to a bluff), and I definitely would do it at a higher rate of frequency, especially in $2/$5 or higher. Here, in this particular game, there are not a lot of three-bets and, consequently, almost no four-bets happening. I typically like more passive games where players are doing a lot of limp/calling: This lets me put my foot on the gas pedal, pump the brakes, or get creative in other ways without getting caught in a tough situation.

Anyway, the flop comes 445 with two diamonds. I check to the initial pre-flop raiser and he continues for $10. I check-raise to $25, which appears to confuse my opponent. Ultimately, he slides in his last $80 or so and I snap call. The turn and river do not appear to improve my opponent’s hand (I flipped my hand over after calling, and my opponent mucked his cards after the river fell), putting my stack slightly up for the first time in the session at $210.

Hour 3:

My session gets an influx of action during this third hour of play. It begins right away when a short-stacked player, two seats to my left, jams all-in and I call with QQ. He flips over AA, but I get extremely lucky and spike a Q on the river to bust that player, putting me at about $225.

Right away in the very next hand, I raise to $12 from MP with AKo and pick up two callers to a 542dd flop. One of the early-position callers leads out for $15. With this type of flop against a player in early position who led out against two players on a connected / wet board, I decide to flat call with plans of stealing the pot away at a later street if one of the obvious draws get there. The other player in the hand folds, and we see the Jd on the turn. This card doesn’t scare my opponent as he fires out $20 in to a pot of about $70. At LLSNL, especially at $1/$2 or $1/$3, most players’ bet-sizings are going to reveal quite a bit about relative hand strength. Most players at these stakes never have to double or triple barrel bluff, and don’t know how to size appropriately to obtain their desired outcome when betting for value. I have two over-cards with a gut-shot wheel draw, and am being asked to call $20 to win a pot of $110 (which includes my call), for over 5:1 odds. Some percentage of the time, I’ll actually be ahead of my opponent in this spot, but even if I’m not, there are a lot of good cards for me on the river: Cards that greatly improve my hand, or cards that I can represent hitting based on the action so far. I decide to call the $20, with plans of firing a strong river bet if needed. However, my plans change when the 3s falls on the river, giving me the wheel. My opponent now checks to me, and I think about what I want to do. Ultimately, I decide to go down the path of least variance and check it back. I considered going for thin value against some Jx, but this player could also have a 6 in their hand or the flush, and checked to allow me some rope to hang myself. At any rate, with this pot I am now up to about $300 total.

A few minutes later, I win a $75 full house bonus with my Q2 off-suit and a Q2xQx run out. The first 25 full houses get $75 instantly, which I deposit into my hoodie’s left-hand side pocket. A few more minutes after that, I win another decent pot holding QQ against a short-stacked player’s AsKs, bringing my stack total to $360.

Another orbit or so after my pocket queens hand, I get into an interesting spot with a player who is typically a $2/$5 grinder, but is playing $1/$2 (my assumption is that he’s waiting for a $2/$5 seat to open up. I do eventually see him sitting at a $2/$5 game later on in the day). I limp from MP with 3c2c, and four of us see a flop of 35Q with one diamond. The action checks all the way around. The dealer – a kind-hearted soul – reveals the 2d, giving me bottom two pair, but also giving the players in the hand a back-door flush draw. The BB, who is the primary villain in this HH, checks it to me, and I bet $10. Action folds to the BB who check-raises to $30. I am concerned that the BB made a better two pair – hands like 52, Q2, or even A2 are entirely plausible given the action so far and his position pre-flop. I decide to call for the extra $20, as folding might be a bit too weak here. The river is the Kd, which completes the back-door flush. The BB leads out for $45, and I go into the tank. I don’t really beat much at this point other than a bluff or a hand like 44 that found an open-ended straight draw on the turn but bricked on the river. Ultimately, curiosity gets the better of me and I say “OK!”, as I throw in the $45 bet. To my surprise, he announces “One pair”. I quickly flip my hand over and it’s good, raking in another good pot to bring me up to $380.

Hour 4:

Things are going great, and I’m getting hungry. I order a bagel and have a relatively “chill” hour. I did win three nice hands to put my stack up to $460 by the time Hour #5 starts, including getting two streets of value when holding 5d2d on a 52x board with two spades. I also had AKo in back-to-back hands, three-betting each time and taking it down before the flop. The bagel was $3.

Hour 5:

I played a few hands that missed or hands where I opened / called but got raised off of, so my stack now has dropped to $390. An older lady took a seat directly to me left, employing some unusual bet sizes (Ex: she opened in MP to $25 without any limpers and took it down pre-flop without any callers). In one hand against her, I flopped Broadway holding KQo with an AJT board. I check and she immediately fires out $30. I “Hollywood” and got the impression that she was here to gamble it up. I try to make my play look like a bluff and jam all-in, but sadly, she mucked it.

Later on, I go for thin value holding KhTh on a AJTTx board and get paid off, bringing me back up to $420. Shortly after, I get into a great value situation when I called a $7 pre-flop raise with A8 in the CO. The flop came Ace-high with two spades. A player in EP bets $15, picking me up along as the only caller. I improve to Aces-up when the 8s falls on the turn, but remain cautiously optimistic as the front-door spade flush is now available. Once again, an opponent’s bet-sizing on later streets is far too small to drive me away – my opponent again bets $15 and there’s simply no way to fold getting 4:1. The river is an awesome 8h, filling me up. For a third consecutive time, the opponent bets $15, confirming my early suspicion of having a good-but-not-great hand. I raise to $50 and he calls. I show my hand and my opponent throws his away. After the Dealer shoves the pot in my directly, I count my chips and find $550 worth of $5 red-birds are now in front of me.

Hour 6:

Only one hand worthy of making my blog takes place during this sixth hour of play, and it comes in the form of two black Aces. I am in the LJ, and raise to $15 after a few limpers from earlier positions throw in $2 each. I get two callers on my raise, and we see a T-high flop. The SB goes ahead and leads for $15. I flat-call, and so does the HJ. The turn is the Tc, and when the SB checks it over to me, I decide to go for some value and bet a small amount of $35. I don’t think either opponent has a T in their hand (definitely not the SB), so the board pairing doesn’t scare me all that much. In fact, it might have helped me if, say, the HJ had some time of lower two pair. The HJ does decide to make the call. The river is a total blank. I think about what I want to do and after seeing that there’s over $150 in the middle, I slide forward a stack of 20 $5 red-birds for a $100 bet. The HJ snap-folds, but I show it anyway and am now up to $620 on the session.

Hour 7:

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! You might be wondering why the title of this post is called Shattered Dreams at Coco, given that I’m running well and playing well, up to a little over $400 in profit for the day. Well, take a good look at the picture above: that’s the last time I will see any of those chips together in front of me.

After losing a few pots, there is a hand where the button straddles for $5 with one limper. The LJ makes it $20 – the LJ is a younger guy who looks like he knows what he’s doing (in other words, not your typical $1/$2 player). I am in the CO and look down at KK. I put in a sizeable three-bet to $100. Action folds around to the LJ who goes deep in to the tank, but ultimately folds and tells me he had AQ suited. I show the Kings. Later on, it hits me that my bet-sizing is poor: I should have bet in the $60-$70 range to get value from a hand exactly like an AQ suited who might miss the flop. Nonetheless, it seems like I’ve righted the ship and I’m back up to $555.

After a few more busted straight / flush draws (about three of them), I’m now down to $475, which is still a profit of $275 for the day (at this point, $275/6 = about 23 BB/hr.), which is nothing to be shy about.

Hour 8:

This is the hour that I’d much rather forget than blog about. When I decided to make this blog, I wanted to ensure that I kept myself accountable to myself, win or lose. This accountability includes posting the details of both winning and losing sessions – and this post will be no exception.

I take part in two brutal hands that quickly put me in the red for the day. The first hand was when I had 44, raising to $7 in MP. The button and a few other callers come along and see a QQJ flop. I bet (I don’t have the exact amount in my notes – probably $15 if I had to guess) and the player on the button calls. The turn is an awesome one: a 4. I check for deception, but the player on the button checks back. The river is an inconsequential 6. I lead out (again, I don’t have the bet sizes for this hand), and the player on the button clicks it back, min-raising. I call, but in doing so, I tell him I think I’m no good. He quickly flips over QJ for a flopped boat. The awesome turn card turned out to be the last thing I needed to see, now being down to $315.

The second brutal hand is the one that hurt the most. I raise pre-flop from LP with QQ, and get flat-called by the player on the button. The flop was safe: I bet, he called. The turn was a complete brick: no obvious draws get there, and there are no over cards on this ten-high board. I take a look at his stack and he has about $125 left in front of him. I eventually inform my opponent that it will cost him the rest of his chips to continue on in the hand by stating “I’m going to put you all-in”. The player does not snap-call, which makes me feel very good about where I’m at in the hand. At this point, I notice that a woman is standing behind him; At first I thought it was a masseuse, but realize she is not wearing any type of uniform, so deduce that this woman must be my opponent’s girlfriend or wife. My opponent then makes a speech about how it’s getting late and it’s probably time to go home. After a bit more hemming and hawing, he eventually, reluctantly calls. I flip over my hand, and as the river card comes out, he flips over KK to win the hand. I couldn’t understand what he was scared of, so I ask him what he thought I had. His answer is another thing that many live low-stakes players think about whenever someone raises pre-flop when they’re holding a big hand: “I thought you had Aces!”. Many players will play hands like QQ and KK very passively, as they immediately put opponents on AA that show aggression before they do.

I realize that I didn’t get slow-rolled by my opponent. To be frank, he just wasn’t an advanced-enough player to know what he was doing. After this last pot, I now have $120 in front of me.

Hour 9:

By now, some of the players are realizing that I’m running poorly and we start chatting about downswings and such. Before I realize it, I look down in UTG+1 at QQ, a hand I’ve seen many times today, and raise to $12. A player in late position makes it $30 to go. The action folds back around to me and, looking to now double up to at least get back in the black, I shove. The opponent snap calls and, predictably, has me in a bad spot with AA. I could not improve, and just like that, there is nothing but newly-installed green felt in my direct view.

It would have been really nice to get the first winning session of the blog out the way in the second post, but it doesn’t seem like it was meant to be. However, I don’t leave empty-handed: I walk to the cashier to cash out my $75 that I had put in my hoodie’s pocket from winning the full house bonus earlier in the day. All things considered, I lose $125 on the day, or, equivalently, -8BB/hr., which is not the end of the world by any means. Additionally, I never once felt tilted or upset about the turn of events, and kept to my strategy and game plan even when my fortune drastically reversed.

Next week, I will be in Boston and plan on playing at the new Encore casino in the Boston Harbor area. There are a ton of $1/$3 and $2/$5 tables running during the week, with good high hand and bad-beat jackpot promos running (I’ve been checking Poker Atlas and it just feels like there will be a ton of action available). I look forward to taking some pictures, writing about my session(s), and, whether I book a win or a loss, executing a solid, long-term profitable, winning Poker strategy in Bay State’s capital city.

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