#4: Playing The Short Stack at Encore Boston Harbor (Part 2)

Tuesday, November 19th: After an up-and-down day 1 where I finished slightly in the positive, I’m looking to go 2-for-2 in my Encore Boston Harbor Poker sessions. As I mentioned in the last blog post, this property is spectacular: The design, the colors, the sight lines, the amenities, and just about everything else is world-class. While it might be cold and rainy outside in Everett, MA, it’s delightful inside Encore.

I quickly buy-in for $300 upon arriving and, after a mere few minutes, a seat opens up at $1/$3 NL with my name on it. My primary train of thought deals with tilt: I wanted to make sure I would play a solid, fundamentally-sound game, no matter the outcome, without letting my emotions get the best of me.

Hour 1:

Nothing Poker-wise happens within the first hour of play for me. There is a lot of chatter, and I am seated next to a young man who is a dealer at private games and at another property. He has also taken the liberty of partaking in some form of recreational drug; His behavior, actions, and speech were all dead giveaways.

Hour 2:

I made a couple of big laydowns (one with TPTK), and then had an interesting hand come up. I am in the CO and look down at Ad9d. There are a few $3 limpers in the pot (Note: there are always limpers in $1/$3), so I raise to $20. I pick up four callers, so I find myself five ways to a good flop of AQ5dd. I have top pair with the nut flush draw on a lively, action-filled table, and this is my first significant hand that’s hit me hard on the flop. The action checks to me and with this many players in the hand and a chance to realize my full equity potential, I lead out for $100. Everyone folds, except for the UTG+1 player who tank-calls (but is all-in for less). The turn is the Qh and the river is the Jd for the nut flush and a nice-sized pot, brining me to about $400 in my stack. The player actually had AJo in the hole, so I needed that Jack for at least a chop (AAQQJ).

At the end of this hour, I have $430 in front of me and I’m right on my arbitrary, made-up schedule of being up, profit-wise.

Hours 3 and 4:

Outside of folding middle set on a four-card flush and four-card straight board, not much has happened. This table has turned out to be a strange one, with some good players occupying seats and a high-out-of-his-mind player directly to my right. I actually do something I rarely do, but should do more of: Request a table change. In tournaments, this is not possible, and you have to make due with the table draw that you’ve found yourself within. However, in cash games, anything is possible: Seat changes, table changes, reloading, straddling, and such. It takes about 20 minutes for the amazing staff at Encore to get me off that table and into a new situation, and right in the nick of time, as the $1,000 high-hand promotion has just begun, paying out a smooth $1,000 every 20 minutes to the high hand in the room for the next 10 hours.

Hour 5:

Even though I find myself down to $330 on the day, the new table looks amazing. There are 5 older gentlemen whom are obviously here to grind out the HH promo, and one professional. Unlike many players, I like playing against the “OMC’s”: For one, I’m a lot closer in age to 2+2’ers or Redditors who use that term, so I feel I can relate a bit more to their style of play. Also, it’s fun being “The aggressive one” or “The kid”, as I’ve been called before (Yes, “The kid” has been thrown my way, even though I was born in 1979).

One nice thing about playing with tight-passive or tight-weak players is that you can limp in and see a ton of cheap flops with marginal hands, as there is a much smaller chance of a player raising or making a 3B. When you hit your hand, you can really win a big pot against a passively-played KK or QQ or AK (these hands are played meekly fairly often by this particular player profile). If you miss your hand, you can release it pretty quickly as the initial $3 investment is nominal. With that in mind, I limp in with Q9o on the button with several limpers behind. The flop comes T87r, giving me a gut-shot straight draw with one over-card. The flop checks around to a brick turn. The player in the big blind leads out for $10, and gets 5 callers, including myself. The river is a magical Jc, giving me the absolute nuts. The SB leads for $15, and the BB calls. I try to extract maximum value out of this situation and essentially min-raise to $35. The SB folds but the BB calls, and I show him the bad news. This puts my stack north of $470 for the day.

Hour 6:

I decide to switching things up again and change seats into the 4-hole. To my dismay, an obnoxious retiree who would continually tap me on the shoulder and talk to me (even during hands) was seated in the 5-hole. Sometimes, the luck of the draw is not on your side.

I do pick up a hand, JJ, in the LJ, and decide to 3B to $40 after a limper and a MP raise to $10 acted before me. The initial PFR calls my 3B, and we go heads-up to a A55 flop. This is a pretty good flop for my 3B range from a later position, as I can realistically represent an Ace. The PFR checks and I bet out $75. He mucks his hand pretty quickly, but I show mine to everyone, to let my opponents know that I am not scared of a single over card, even if that card is an Ace.

I do also lose the absolute minimum in his hour, holding KK and raising pre-flop to be up against AK on an Ace-high board.

Hour 7:

The table has caught on to their perceived reality that I am a very tight player (the truth is, I’ve been card dead for a while now). Hour #7 also starts a brutal stretch of Poker for me, one where a player just sits there in a fog-like state, hoping to come out clear on the other side, but not knowing if or when this clarity might be achieved. It starts with a player in the HJ raising to $12, and me looking down at 33 in the CO. I flat, and it’s heads up to an excellent flop of JT3. The player, who plays relatively tight and straight-forward, bets $30. I don’t want to call and let a card come off to potentially complete a straight if my opponent had, say, AK. I think about what I want to do for a moment and eventually slide in a stack of 20 $5 red chips for a raise of $100. My opponent thinks about it for a moment and softly announces that he’s all-in. I turn my head to make sure I’ve heard him correctly, and ask if he’s in fact jammed. When he nods his head in the affirmative, I make the call. Unfortunately, I am drawing to one out as he flips over TT for a higher set. The massive cooler knocks me all the way down to $160.

Hours 8-9-10:

These three hours featured a lot of me staring into space, staring at my chips that fluctuated between $160 and $50, and trying to double up to stay alive, as if this were a tournament. I once shoved with 6s5s and, after the table asked if I had AK or AA, I flipped over my cards and the table went nuts, erupting in laughter. Somehow, I more than tripled up at the 10th hour mark with third pair against two other opponents on draws, brining my stack back up to around a salvageable (and, playable) $200. During this time, many players reloaded, added-on, or busted and had to leave: Somehow, I was not one of those players. I don’t add-on or rebuy for a single penny during this time and somehow manage to grind up a short stack and still be on my first bullet.

Hour 11:

I’m now all the way unstuck and back in profit-ville when I lead out for $20 in MP with JdJh. Three callers come along to see a 754hh flop. I bet small – $30 – after the action checks to me. The SB is the only caller. The turn is the Ah, which one the surface is a bad card, but gives me 8 flush outs + 2 Jack outs, so about 22% equity (assuming my opponent has an Ace, but no hearts). The action checks through and luckily for me, I find the Kh on the river, for the AKJ54 flush. He leads for $60, I quickly double-check that one of my Jacks is the Jh, which it is, and snap-jam. Interestingly, he snap folds: The player goes on to tell me that he completely missed and had to bet in order to win the pot. I am around $350 now, including winning another small pot with JJ and a second small pot with QQ.

Hour 12:

I lose a few pots to bring my stack back down to $200 with QQ and 55, but at least I still have a stack where I can raise and play “real” Poker. Somehow, it’s been 12 hours of Poker and I’m in the red and not angry, frustrated, nor upset at all (I really do think I worked through all of that the night before, and this proves it to me). After losing those aforementioned few pots, I get into two interesting hands with a young man who is definitely a “Table Captain”. You most likely know the time I’m talking about: Always getting out of his seat to chat with buddies, flirting with basically every waitress that walks by, busting every player’s chops about any particular topic, and, of course, taking odd lines and trying to run huge bluffs. This player had also won a HH bonus when his quad A’s held up, so he has an additional pep in his step by the time we find ourselves playing against each other in the following significant hands.

In the first one, my buddy raises it to $25 from UTG+1 (yes, we’re still playing $1/$3 and he opened to $25). I look down from UTG+2 and see KK (just for a visual reference, I’m in seat 1 and he’s in seat 9). Before I act, I notice that he’s trying to get the attention of one of the waitresses for another drink, as if he needed more in his system. I raise to $80, and the action folds all the way around to him, who is still yapping it up. One of the players mentions that my raise will “get his attention” when he realizes it’s on him. After a good 15-20 seconds, he finally whips his head around and sees that I’ve raised. He leans over the dealer to see how many chips I am playing behind, and then re-takes his seat to announce all-in. Feeling like I knew this was coming from him, I don’t even let him finish his all-in announcement before I snap call him – and I snap call him HARD. That was one of the most satisfying all-in snap calls I have ever made in my entire life. The board runs out clean and I flip over my cowboys. He has As5s, which is no good. It’s tough to convey what a bad play this was on his part: His needling toward me was all about how tight I was playing, including mentions of my only holdings being either AA or KK. He must have forgotten about his analysis of his perception of my play style before jamming over by three-bet.

Then, not too much longer after this, a player in MP raises it to $7, my loud friend calls and I have Jh6h in the SB. I decide to complete for an additional $6, and take a flop. The flop comes J76ss, giving me top and bottom pair. I check for deception, as I’m OOP in a multi-way pot after flopping two pair. The initial PFR bets $15. My vociferous acquaintance decides to snap-raise to $75 (the word “decides” here is used loosely, as I’m not sure what decision-making process he went through on this hand). After taking a minute to count the bets and look at stack sizes, I 4B to $150 to isolate my friend and to, what I thought at the time, put him all-in. The player in MP folds and my amigo snap-calls by placing one white $1 chip out in front. I tell him I have two pair and he says I’m good for now. Then, a few seconds goes by and the dealer and the at-risk player exchange a few weird glances. As it turns out, I didn’t put him all in (he had an additional $20 or so behind). This is now awkward, as I’ve told him what I had and he’s told me that I’m good, but the dealer helps figure it out and, once the pot is right, the dealer reveals a blank on the turn. I then officially put him all-in by throwing out a green $25 chip. My opponent snap-mucks his hand! He wouldn’t commit his last $20 after putting nearly $200 in the middle with one card to come and with outs (according to him).

Hour 13:

In my last hour of the day, I got AA UTG but had no action, so I pick up the blinds only. Then, I quickly win a bit pot after getting maximum value with a turned full-house holding 66, but then lost it all back after a decent-sized pot went the way of my opponent when my pocket 9’s fell short to his pocket Q’s.

Shortly after the 99 v QQ hand, I rack up for $401, for a profit of $101 on the day. That’s a sub-minimum wage earning of $7.48 per hour, or, 2.49BB/Hr. While meager, the win is much better than the alternative.

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