Having never traveled through New England before, I will sum up the fall foilage using a poker analogy. Every tree has pocket aces.
I landed in Hartford Friday afternoon and headed straight to Foxwoods, which looms high above the woods of eastern Connecticut. I met my friend Tony there, who compares the place to a mall. I'm not sure that is the best description, but whatever works.
The ballroom in which the World Poker Finals is held is not as large or impressive as the one they use in Tunica for the World Poker Open, but the 80-table poker room is superb, if incredibly crowded. I hear that there is usually at least a two-hour wait for a table, even though nearly every poker table is being used. Considering that New York, Boston and Philadelphia are all less than five hours away I should not be surprised.
No pro spottings yet. I've seen several of the yokels I have ran into in other places, like Vegas or Tunica, who are semi-pretenders like me, I guess. Tony has taken to calling me "Tuscaloosa" Johnny whenever we are at the same table up here, trying to market the image. Please, no autographs.
At least in the melting pot of Vegas, my accent doesn't stick out much, but here it sticks out like a sore thumb. I have some fun with it, bringing my Lynyrd Skynyrd cap with me. As one player said, "A guy with a Lynyrd Skynyrd cap can't be all that bad." I eschewed bringing a set of "Bubba teeth" with me. I thought it a bit much.
Tony and I immediately hit some $80 satellites to try and win some tournament buy-in chips. I went out quickly in the first two, both no limit satellites. In the second, I held AK with the ace of diamonds and decided to just call the $50 BB after there were a few limpers in front of me. The flop was 3JQ, all diamonds. I just smooth called the $200 bet by the player in front of me, figuring I would either hit the turn or take the pot away from him there. But the turn was a blank and he bet another $300. I went all-in for $500 more, but he could not throw away his JJ and the river was another blank. So much for that hell of a draw.
I finally won in a limit satellite after pulling out an all-in with A7 with a miracle 7 on the river and then building some chips with a run of good hands. I took the $500 tournament chip I won, plus one I bought from Tony and entered the $500 limit Hold'em tournament today and the 500 NL Sunday.
So here I sit at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, having gotten a restless night of sleep on a twin-sized air mattress, which is much like a rocky boat. You turn one way, the other side of the mattress lifts up. I am perusing my dog-eared copy of Sklansky's Tournament Poker for my usual last-minute review before the 75-minute drive from Bristol to the casino. More to come later.