#3: No Life ‘Till Leather at Encore Boston (Part 1)

Monday, November 18th, 6:00 AM: I just wrapped up some loose ends and soon will be boarding JetBlue Flight # 322 from Terminal C at Palm Beach International Airport, en route to Boston Logan International Airport. I am traveling for work, but that officially starts tomorrow. As soon as I land, I am making a beeline to the Uber pick up area, dropping off my luggage at my hotel, and heading out to Encore Boston Harbor, not too far from where I’m staying.

I’m very excited to share a road trip Poker session, in only my third post on this blog. What would also be very exciting is to book my first win of the blog – nobody likes being 0-2.

Same day, shortly after 10 AM: I landed, got in a cab (I couldn’t find the Uber pick-up area at Logan), made the quick ride over to my hotel, checked-in and dropped off my bags, and then ordered an Uber to take me to Encore. It was a cold and wet morning with low visibility, but that didn’t stop me from seeing Steve Wynn’s latest masterpiece in Everett’s skyline on I-93. Once there, I can’t help but notice how magnificent the property is. The main entrance greets guests with this Bellagio-like masterpiece:

There were not many pictures taken on this three-day trip: My “read” on the staff at Encore is that they were not open to guests taking pictures while at the tables, and I got a lot of stern looks while taking the few pictures I was able to snap off. However, I did sneak one in of one of the sections of the massive, 74-table Poker room:

Hour #1:

I sat at $2/$5 while waiting for a seat at the $1/$3 game. At present, I am trying to build up a bankroll for $2/$5, and am in desperate need to book a win. As it turns out, there are no shortage of seats at $1/$3: The staff in the Poker Room at Encore do an amazing job of making sure all of the tables are balanced, that there are enough dealers to cover the demand, and that you’re never waiting very long at all for a seat.

In the first hour, I picked up a few small pots with AsJs and AKo where I missed the flop both times, and then another small one with J8o in late position after I rivered top two pair against an aggressive player in the SB. Not much else happened, which gave me the opportunity to look around and take in the scene at this elegant property.

Hour #2:

Things get much more interesting from a Poker perspective in the second hour of play. I am in MP and look down at AsKs and open for $20. The player to my left is that same young-and-aggressive player from the J8o hand in Hour #1. He flats my $20 opening bet, but the player on the button 3B’s to $120. I don’t have any specific reads on him as of yet, but I am not folding this big of a hand. I contemplate a 4B jam, as I have about $500 behind, but decide on the lesser-variant route and call. The player to my left also calls, and the three of us see a monster flop of AQQ. The action is on me, and, unless the player on the button has exactly QQ or AQ (which is highly unlikely, given that most of those combinations are not available), I’m going to be in great shape here. I decide to lead out for $150, which is a relatively small bet in comparison to the pot. Both players wind up folding, and I take a nice one down and have about $780 in front of me now.

A little while later, I am on the button and there are a few limps behind me. I have 44, and limp along. Five of us see a Q43 rainbow flop. A player in MP, whom I’ve seen mixing it up with marginal hands against other players, tosses three $5 red chips out for a bet of $15. I am the only caller on the button. The turn is the 7h, and we both check (looking back at my notes, I should have bet here to continue building this pot). The river is a blank, my opponent checks, I bet $30 and he calls. I am not shown any cards, but am good and take this one down.

Then, a few orbits later, there is a raise from a player in MP and one caller. I am in the SB and look down at two black JJ. I raise to $85. The initial pre-flop raiser makes it $245, and the action folds around to me. This player seemed to know what he was doing and wasn’t necessarily getting out of line up to this point. I don’t feel like this is a spot where you can call and see what happens profitably, out of position with a hand that looks to be, at best, a slight favorite, and, at worst, completely crushed. I tank and fold, showing the Jacks. The player immediately tells me that I made a good laydown, flashing KK.

Hour #3:

After ordering a chicken Caesar wrap for almost $20 (it was good, so probably worth the investment), I lose a few and win a few with AQo against a player in the BB with J9cc where he rivered two pair, and with AKo and then JJ after c-betting, respectively. Then, I have 99 in MP and raise to $25 after a limper from early position had come along for the ride. Two players call and the three of us see a A98 rainbow flop. Action checks around. The turn card is an 8, filling me up. The SB checks, but the BB makes it $35. I flat call to keep his range wide open and to keep any possible bluffs in. The SB folds, and two of us see the 3d on the river. The BB checks, and I throw out a polarizing $125 bet to make it look like I missed all along and am now trying to take this pot down. The BB does think about it for a minute, but folds. I’m now up to $960, and things are going well.

Hour #4:

I play a couple of tough hands during this hour to bring my stack back down to 100BB. In the first significant hand of the hour, I have AhQd UTG and raise to $20. The player in the HJ calls, and we see a T66hh flop. I check, but the player in the HJ bets out $35. I have two over cards, one of them being the nut-flush-blocking Ah, so I decide to peel and see what happens on the turn. The turn does improve my hand greatly as the dealer reveals the Qh. I now have TPTK with the nut-flush draw / blocker. I again check to see what my opponent wants to do, and he bets $60. I consider semi-bluffing (or, value-raising?), but ultimately call the $60. The river is a 9x. I check, and the HJ bets $90. It’s a relatively small bet ($90 into a pot of ~$230), so I’m getting a great price to call, as I have been getting during this entire hand. There’s no point of raising now: My opportunity to do so were on earlier streets as there are now both straight and flushes available. I am not happy about the situation, but my hand is too strong to fold, so I make the call. My opponent turns over 8d7d for the rivered straight to win the pot. I’m definitely not happy about how I played this hand: Any overt act of aggression on my side would have won the pot before the river, but I chose the more passive route.

In the second important hand of the hour, I once again have pocket 9’s, but this time I’m on the button (As you’ll read over this three part series, I get dealt 99 a lot). I raise to $25 and get two callers. The flop is 753 rainbow. I make a $40 continuation bet and the player in MP calls. The turn card is a 5 and the player in MP checks it over to me. I bet $100, and after a long tank, the player in MP check-raises to $250. I decide that he might be on some type of combo draw and make the call. The river is an 8. He takes about a minute to decide what he wants to do and eventually decides to bet $325. I go super-deep into the tank, trying to determine a hand I can beat. After running through various hand scenarios, I show my hand and fold. The player to the villain’s left immediately tells me I made a good laydown, but it’s hard to know for sure as my villain in this hand did not reveal much in the way of information.

Hour #5:

I pick up TT in late position, and raise, picking up one caller whom had limped UTG. At this point, I am down to under $350 after whiffing on many flops with good hands in earlier hands, and quickly find myself all-in on a very safe flop for my tens. He thinks about it for a while, but then throws out a single $5 red chip to indicate a call. The run-out is a Q and then a K on the river: My opponent flips over QQ, and, after busting, I decide to take a break to clear my head and walk around the Poker room for a bit.

I then decide to jump in to a $1/$3 game. It’s worth mentioning at this point the insane action available at Encore Boston Harbor: There was a high-hand promotion running that paid $1,000 every 20 minutes from 12PM – 10AM, which brought in over 300 hopefuls each one of the three nights I was at Encore. These promotions generated a lot of action and caused games to get deep in short order, including $1/$3, which I would wind up playing for the duration of my stay.

New Hour #1:

I buy-in for $175, because I wasn’t in the mood to hit up the ATM at this point. After winning a small pot with a pocket pair of Aces, a crazy hand ensues. I am in the BB with Tc7c and a player in MP makes it $10 to go. I defend, and the player to my left, a Russian lady, calls from UTG after initially limping in. The flop is TsTd8d, so I flop myself trip tens. I’m stuck from the $2/$5 game, and not about to play passively after this flop, so I want to start building a big pot right now. I lead out for $15 and the Russian lady to my left immediately calls. The initial pre-flop raiser now makes it $45. I call the bet, and so does the lady that’s UTG. The turn is a magical 7d, giving me a full house and making several straight and flush draws available. I check, and the Russian lady immediately jams for over $125. The young kid in MP (who would actually wound up having his ID checked later on) tanks for a few minutes before folding. I snap call, and the Russian lady flips over 8d for an open-ended straight-flush draw. Fully expecting her to get there, I silently shake my head after turning over my full house. The river is a Kd and I scoop a large $400 pot for a $1/$3 game. As it turns out, I dodged a massive bullet: The young kid in MP had KT and laid it down after the all-in by the UTG player.

New Hour #2:

I play in a funny hand: I limp in the CO with AsJs and there are six players in the hand. The flop comes A64hh. A player in EP bets $5, then, a player in MP tosses out a green $25 chip, not realizing that there was a $5 initial bet. He starts laughing as he intended to bet $25, and starts telling the table that he’s very strong, and that nobody should raise as he’s going to come over the top of them. All the while during this funny speech, the action is on me and I’m just watching this player carry on for about 30 seconds. As soon as the table quiets down and he stops talking, I raise to $20, making the table erupt in laughter. My Russian female opponent to my left immediately calls, and, as I expected, the “Super Strong” player folds quickly. I continue for $40 after the 9d falls on the turn, but my opponent quickly folds and the pot is pushed in my direction.

On the very next hand, I am on UTG and raise to $12 with AhQc. There is one caller and then the young player in MP from the full house hand three-bets to $50. I decide to call as he only has $125 behind. The flop comes A86cc: I lead for $50 and he snap-mucks his hand.

My Russian lady-friend gets me back in a good way. Again, a lot of limpers (this is common at $1/$2 or $1/$3, and I’ve seen it happen at $2/$5 and $5/$10 as well), and I have KcTc in the SB. I complete, and look at a K9x flop with two spades. I lead immediately out for $8, my lady friend calls, and then a player in MP min-raises to $16. I call and so does my friend in the BB. The turn is a Ts, I check and she fires out $50 without hesitation. In previous hands, she fired out a big number whenever she hit her draw – I consider this as I show her laying down trip T’s. She is nice enough to show me that she only had top two pair with K9. I tap the table a couple of times to communicate my opinion of that play (it was a good play).

After all of this action, I am at $390.

New Hour #3:

I win a few more pots before this hand comes up: I have 33 in the BB and check my option after several limpers threw in $3 to see a cheap flop. I then flop bottom set with two spades on board, and the action checks around. The turn is a brick, and I decide to check again. A late position player bets out $15, which folds around to me and I call. The river is the Kh, which is also a blank on this board. I lead out for $35 and my opponent makes a confused face, but does toss in the call. My bottom set holds up, and I am now cruising along at $590. I wrote in my notes on my phone that I “…can’t help but think how I will punt this stack off”.

New Hour #4:

At this point, my note taking becomes scarce as the Russian lady to my left and I start chatting it up about hands, playing poker at different properties, and other unrelated Poker topics. I am also using her USB charger (each seat at every table at Encore has a USB charging port, but the one in my seat was not working, so I had to borrow hers and didn’t want to annoyingly reach over to check my phone all the time).

Nothing too note-worthy happened during this time, although I did pick up a few pots with AA and AK, brining me, somehow, close to all the way unstuck for the day at $630.

New Hour #5:

Something significant happens during this hour, something that I’ve never done at the Poker table before: My emotions get the best of me. This was not a particularly good hour for me. I lost with ATo four different times, and I start talking to myself and slamming my chips down at the table. Every run out during this hour was bad for me but great for my opponent, which starts driving me insane. I think everyone whom has played Poker for a significant amount of time has been where I’ve been, where you’re just running bad and where nothing seems to go right. However, not everyone lets the emotion overcome their own selves. I did. I was on super tilt. I thought that I was once again going to find a way to get felted after playing well in a session, like it has happened to me a few times in a row now.

This emotional state affects my play on this hand: A player – an older gentleman with a red New England Patriots hat on, has just met up with family members (if I had to guess, his daughter and son-in-law have arrived) and are railing him. Sometimes, when friends or family comes over to watch, a player might be willing to mix it up a bit more than usual to “show off” in front of their loved ones or their boys. I am in UTG+1 and have one of the ATo hands that I was dealt during this hour, and raise it to $12. The Pats fan makes call, and the flop comes all undercards. I continue for $15 and Pats fan again makes the call. The turn brings a T, giving me TPTK. I again bet (I don’t have the amount in my notes), but again my opponent simply flat calls. The river is a blank and I chose to check to see what my opponent wants to do. He fires out $60 and I think about what he might have. With his family looking on intently, I make the call, and he reveals pocket 5’s for a flopped middle set. If I were in a clearer state of mind, I might have been able to lay it down on the river. I wrote in my notes that this was a pot I should not have been involved in too deeply.

I am now at $405 – still in the black for this second session of the day – but feeling like I am stuck five buy-ins.

A huge hand that sends the pot my way happens shortly thereafter: I raise 33 from the HJ to $12 and pick up two callers, which includes the player in the big blind. The flop comes AJ3hh with one club. I lead (again, I don’t have the amount recorded), and one player calls. The turn brings the Qc for two possible flush draws available. The player leads out for $30. With bottom set on a wet-and-connected board, I don’t want to let another card come off to complete a draw. I wind up shoving all-in. The player thinks about it for a minute, then ultimately says “Fuck it” and calls. The river is a blank and I turn my hand over. It’s good, as the player pushes his cards into the muck. I am now back to over $600, and feeling a bit better, as nice pots pushed in your direction always have that effect.

New Hour #6:

At the conclusion of this hour, I am back down to $390. It’s not easy to keep your cool when your stack continues to swing wildly throughout a session. Admittedly, I have done a poor job of keeping my emotions in check, but, maybe, just maybe, this will be the end of the run-bad. It’s also frustrating to fight hard and lose pots to players flopping quads (ultimately this player’s hand would hold up, giving him a $1,000 HH bonus), and just badly missing flops in general.

New Hour ???:

At this point, it’s getting late and I’m trying to converse both mental energy and phone battery, so my note taking is sparse. I do wind up flopping a straight with QcJc on a T98 rainbow board, getting a bit of action on it from one player, and then rivering a straight with 78 from late position and getting there after being on a double gut-shot straight draw. This brings me back up to $500 and I feel like the tilt has completely left my system. It appears that, by this time, I have fought all the way through the emotional instability into a zen-like state of calmness where nothing could affect me. Maybe slamming my chips down and talking to myself in front of everyone was exactly what I needed to do to work through it.

I look down at T9 in the CO and raise to $12. Two players call, including the player that hit the quad 5’s for the HH bonus earlier in the night. This player was a former LLSNL pro, who used to play 50+ hours weekly but has since taken a step back from full time Poker and now plays recreationally. He was a tough player to play against, but started drinking quite a bit, often ordering two beers at a time with each waitress that visited our table. Sitting directly across from him afforded me the opportunity to see his face change as if watching one of those high-rise buildings being constructed in a time-lapse video. As the night wore on, his face became droopier, and by the time this hand happens, we’re in one of the later stages of my opponent’s buzz.

The flop comes 982hh. I lead out for $25, and both of the players in the hand make the call. The turn is a 7, putting a straight out there and also giving me an OESD to go along with my top pair. I bet $45, slightly less than half-pot. Again, both players make the call. The river is the 6s, giving me a ten-high straight. I check to see what my opponent wants to do, and he fires out four green $25 chips for a bet of $100. The other player in the hand makes the call. Thinking I would just be chopping, I make the snap call and show my hand. To my surprise, it’s good and I take down a very nice pot to put me up to $790, where I now find myself all the way unstuck from the moment I sat down at $2/$5 earlier in the day.

After playing for another hour or so, I rack up and book a nice win of $738, which is a profit of $538 for the $1/$3 session (21BB/hr.) and a profit of $68 overall on the day when including the $2/$5 session from earlier in the day).

It feels great to finally book a win. My mindset walking out of Encore’s Poker room is a good one, filled with excitement for the following day’s action.

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