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A Night of Atlantic City Poker

29 November 2004

ATLANTIC CITY – As reported by the Baltimore Sun: "Everything that was once grand about Atlantic City seems to have washed out into the sepia tones of memory.

"…But the casinos remain - those enormous, glittering respirators keeping the city alive even though its heart may have stopped beating long ago.

"And now the casinos are hitting the jackpot with No-Limit Texas Hold'em, the wildly popular brand of poker that seems to have swept the nation.

"…At the Tropicana Casino and Resort, 2,800 new players signed up for a Trop Poker Club Card in a recent three-month span.

"…Walking through the glass doors of the Tropicana's Poker Turf Club, I felt like I had stepped into a fine gentleman's club. If it weren't for the plasma TVs and lack of smoke, I would have sworn Frank Sinatra was playing that night.

"…I separated my chips by color and sized up my opponents: a college student who brought her boyfriend to play in his first tournament, some guys in their 30s who looked like they cared way too much, and a gaggle of older gentleman who looked like they couldn't care less.

"Flat-screen monitors hung around the Trop's poker room displaying the time left in the current round, the amount of the blinds and an enormous number '130.' I asked the guy next to me what that number meant, and he told me that it was the number of people left in the tournament.

"…My next hand was shaping up to be a monster: ace-king hole cards. I threw what felt like a very real $1,800 worth of chips at the center of the table. I thought the Atlantic Ocean surf had swelled over the Boardwalk right into the casino, but it was only my heart pounding inside my ears.

"… I twisted my face into the most menacing (but nonrevealing) scowl I could muster.

"The dealer turned over ace, seven, 10 in the Flop. I now had a commanding pair of aces. My hands went numb.

"My two adversaries tapped the table, indicating a check - meaning they did not want to bet - and waited to see what I would do.

"The white noise of riffling chips and murmured conversations vanished as eight sets of eyes bored in on me. I couldn't see or hear anything; I could only smell the fear at the table - unfortunately, I couldn't tell if it was mine.

"…'All in,' I said, though my mouth was so dry I could barely speak.

"I pushed the remainder of my chips into the middle of the table.

"…When both of the players still in the hand called my bet, I knew I was in trouble.

"After someone goes 'all in,' all players still in the hand turn over their hole cards for all the world to see, and the rest is up to the dealer. My ace-king was up against an ace-seven and a pair of queens. My monster hand was now hiding under the bed. I had the queens beat, but those aces and sevens had me in a bad spot.

"The dealer turned over a five on the Turn. No help for anyone. And then, after a brief pause, he turned over the last card - the River - and my last chance.

"…I must have looked like something out of Finding Nemo at the Tropicana when, after pushing all of my chips into the pot, the dealer turned over the last card - a queen - and my young gel-headed opponent won the hand with three of a kind.

"I stood up from the table, wished everyone good luck and walked out under the mocking glow of the '110' flashing above my head.

"…Getting knocked out of a poker tournament hurts because it's so personal. Those other players took my chips like bullies stealing a kid's lunch money.

"And the truth is, I loved every minute of it.

"My 90 minutes at the table cost me $115 - $50 buy-in, $50 re-buy and $15 entry fee - and it was worth every penny…"

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