With a free night (courtesy of my brother, the King of Komps) at Harrah's Joliet setting the stage for the weekend, my brother and I set off to gamble at two Harrah's properties. First stop on Friday: Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond.
Many people, myself included, think that The Shoe is the best poker room in the Midwest. I had a short wait but was soon seated at a table with mostly decent players. Unfortunately, I had one of those afternoons when I couldn't get much going and did a lot of folding. The only memorable hand came shortly before I left. I looked down to see J-J and smooth called a raise by the player to my right. A few more players came along. The flop was Ace-rag-rag with two Spades, meaning that I was probably dead in the water. I was surprised that everyone checked, so hey -- I would certainly take a free card. The turn -- a Jack. Bazinga! I was hoping that someone had an Ace, or maybe better yet, hit two pair. The guy to my right bet, and with two Spades on the board, I made a big raise. The other players folded and the villain, after short consideration, said "all in." I, of course, insta-called and showed him my pocket Jacks. I was horrified to see that he had a pocket pair also ... Aces! BOOM -- chuck that buy-in out the window. We left shortly thereafter.
We then drove to Harrah's Joliet and got on the wait list for Paula Deen's Kitchen. My brother recalled that he had never given me my birthday present, so he bought my meal at the Crab Leg Extravaganza and Fish Fry. Despite reading some negative online reviews of this restaurant, I thought it was pretty good. A really nice part of the buffet was that you could select from different types of fillets (mahi mahi, perch, swordfish, catfish, salmon, ...) and have them prepared one of several ways -- blackened, dill, fried ... The blackened mahi was excellent. Another favorite was the buffalo shrimp. Although the selections seemed limited for a buffet (especially for one this pricey because of the crab leg and fresh fish options), everything was pretty tasty except for the mac and cheese, which was chalky.
After dinner, I was seated at a $1/3 NL table. On weekend evenings the tables are deep stack, so some people already had a healthy mountain of chips. I decided to buy in for $200 and see how things went. I waited a couple of hands for the button to pass and noticed that one youngish guy, who I will call "Tiger" (yes Rob
-- I am using a pseudonym!), was very aggressive in his raising. The first hand I played I was dealt pocket Queens. A guy to my right raised and I re-popped to $75. Tiger then re-popped me another $125. The guy to my right, who had a short stack, shoved his chips in. So ... first hand I am already in the pot for $75 and now I have to fold or call the remaining $125. My quick assessment of Tiger was that I was way ahead of him but I didn't know about the other guy. Heck of a first hand. I called. The flop delivered a lovely Queen along with a ten. The turn was another ten, giving me a boat. Excellent. After the river announced "I have a boat." All the chips were passed to me. My $200 turned into about $480 in one hand! A little later I found out that the initial raiser had pocket Kings. Such is poker.
Later on that evening Tiger and I were once again at the same table. Harrah's Joliet poker room works on a feeder system, which I tend to not like. Tiger got me back on one hand where I thought I was way ahead. He was first to act and checked the flop, then called my raise. He checked the turn and then called my raise. He then checked the river and I should have
just flipped over my cards. However, I was dumb and tried to extract what I believed to be a value bet. He insta-raised me $275. What? I went in the tank, which I rarely do. I had two pair top kicker, but the board was paired and there were straight possibilities. For the first time ever I had the clock called on me. At the 30 second mark, I folded.
I ended the night with a tidy profit, but I couldn't help but wondering if I made the right play. This poker stuff can kill you sometimes!
The next morning we checked out, had lunch and went shopping. After visiting with my Mom, it was time for me to head back home. As I neared my exit to get on I-80, I began thinking that I was sooo close to Harrah's that ... you guessed it. I called my wife to make sure that nothing was planned for Saturday evening and headed back to Harrah's Joliet. I was on a wait list for a short time. My timing was bad because a tournament was ready to begin. However, as the list grew they opened up another table.
I was not having much movement in my stack and ended up losing two pots. In one I had A-K and a guy called my raise with J-7 diamonds. He flopped a flush, but I stayed in the hand because I had the King of diamonds. When the turn blanked I didn't donkey chase to the river. In another hand I had top pair (Queens) with an Ace kicker. I lost to A-Q. I replenished my stack just in case I had a good opportunity come up, but I thought that maybe it was time for me to head home. Then guess who gets moved to my table? Tiger!
Tiger takes a seat and in his first hand in the game I was dealt ... Q-Q! Of course I raised, and Tiger, following form, re-popped me. I knew exactly what I was going to do if he cards cooperated. I called.
The flop was rags with no paint. I checked and Tiger raised $90. I then re-popped my remaining stack and he called. No cards above a Queen came on the turn or river. Tiger mucked. I was now sitting at just short of $500. Poker is EZ sometimes!
I did notice something interesting about Tiger in another hand, He had the nut flush but checked on the river, apparently hoping to induce a bet and then make a huge re-raise. Hmmm ... Unfortunately for him, the other player didn't take the bait and just checked. But the hand got me thinking that I was right to trust my gut the night before.
I decided that I needed to get on the road with about a two-hour drive ahead of me, so I cashed out with another profit at Harrah's Joliet. My record there has been pretty good, so maybe I should look at playing there a little more often.