Just as one of the main things that distinguish online poker sites from one another are the free poker bonuses, among the many things that distinguish one live poker room from another are the unique promotions offered. Player promotions always factor into my decisions of where to play when I’m on a poker vacation.
Thus, when I’m playing poker in Atlantic City, as I was last week, I almost exclusively choose one of the Caesars-owned properties: Caesars, Bally’s, Showboat, or Harrah’s. The main reason? They’ve got the Total Bad Beat progressive jackpot, which rewards players present in all four rooms upon a qualifying bad beat. For a low-stakes recreational poker player like me, the chance of getting a four-figure windfall just for being in the right place at the right time is simply too good to pass up. With that in mind I entered the Showboat poker room, full of hope and excitement as always. To my pleasant surprise, I was informed that they had an additional linked-room promotion running simultaneously: Hourly High Hand Jackpot = $500. What follows, then, is the unique story of how I got “bad beat” by the High Hand promotion. To be sure, nobody likes a bad beat story, but I think you’ll find this one just a bit more agonizing than normal. That said, at least there was a silver lining…
The Session Begins
So I arrived to start playing at the Showboat at about half past 11 in the morning. There were two cash game tables running. It was Veteran’s Day and there certainly were a bunch of “veterans” in the room. To put it kindly, let’s just say I brought the average age down by a considerable margin. They all appeared to be room regulars and the dealer knew most of them by name. Upon seeing me sit down, one of the players even remarked that he had shoes older than me (I’m 32 years old).
While I can’t imagine that any of those players was a professional, making their living exclusively from playing poker, they all seemed to have plenty of experience and seemed comfortable enough financially that a few hundred dollars here or there wouldn’t make much of a difference to their lives. Me on the other hand? $500 would be pretty sweet.
About an hour into my session, one of the other players at the table picked up pocket kings. A flop of K-K-5 ensured that his hand of quads would be the qualifier for that hour. Though he elicited a sly grin at his good fortune, he didn’t seem too overly excited. Perhaps this had happened quite a few times for him before. His hand held up until the end of the hour. When the room manager approached him to collect his details for the bonus payout, I learned something important: the promotion mandated that a qualifying high hand must reach the showdown. In other words, if you bet your opponents out of the hand while holding a royal flush, you’ll lose the chance to pick up the extra $500.
Yet Another High Hand at My Table
A couple hours later, another elderly gentleman at my table picked up a qualifying high hand. He was fortunate enough to be holding AQ when three aces ended up on the final board. Another lesson learned: one need not use both hole cards in order to qualify for the promotion. This player’s hand held up as well for the few remaining minutes until the end of the hour. A $500 payment later, we had another happy player at the table. At least I assume he was happy on the inside, as he sure as hell didn’t reveal any external indications of joy.
I should note that this was the 2–3pm hour and the room had filled up quite nicely. According to the Bravo Poker Live app, almost 20 tables were going strong at this point among the four Caesars properties.
All of the above, plus the fact that I learned the Total Bad Beat jackpot had just hit a couple days prior, certainly dimmed my hopes of cashing in on any sort of bonus prize money. Though in poker the cards have no memory, it seemed highly improbable to me that there would be another bad beat or that another high hand would be dealt at my table that day (let alone to me). Lo and behold, I ended up being wrong on both accounts.
The Session Continues… then, Lighting Strikes
Poker-wise, I was definitely holding my own but couldn’t exactly get any good positive momentum going. So I took a short break to eat, requested a seat change, and got moved over to a different $1–$2 no limit Hold’em table.
The players at this table were significantly less, how should I say, old. Overall it was a much less crotchety and much friendlier bunch. Not to rag on the senior citizens, but perhaps you just sort of have to be one to feel included in whatever pleasurable emotions they were experiencing – if at all.
Anyhow, the jokes were flying along with the chips and we were having a rollicking good time. I also asked a number of them their feelings on the upcoming debut of online gaming in New Jersey. Incidentally, while many were excited about the “return” of online poker, overall they seemed somewhat less enthusiastic at the prospect of playing live casino games online. But I digress…
Time passed quickly at this friendly table and before I knew it night had fallen. I looked at my phone to see that it was 7:23pm. Then, I looked down at my cards to discover pocket jacks. A raise from me to $12 and two other players and I were off to see a flop. Wouldn’t you know it, a 7-J-7 flop all but ensured I’d emerge victorious in the hand. Neither of the other players exhibited any strength, so I took things slowly; we all checked around. The turn card brought a meaningless 3. At this point I figured I might be able to get one of my opponents to call a small bet. I threw out $10, and one player folded while the other called.
Then, BINGO! That sweet, beautiful fourth jack appeared on the river. My opponent checked and, having learned my lesson earlier, I said “I check so that I can show this high hand”! The table erupted in whoops, hollers, and applause. Needless to say, I was beyond energized. The dealer called over the shift manager, Jim (more on him later), who took my player’s card and logged my hand into the system. I was going to win $500!
Then the Waiting Began
Five minutes passed. Then 10, 15, 20. I can honestly say I’ve never been so on pins and needles while playing poker as I was right then and there. I honestly can’t recall getting involved in a single hand during that time. I do, however, remember looking at my phone about 1,000 times, silently praying and willing the time to pass more quickly. One time!, I remember thinking… HOLD JUST ONE TIME!
Twenty-five long, excruciating minutes passed. It was 7:50pm. I was just 10 minutes away from High Hand glory. I was already planning what I was going to say when I called my wife and friends back home in Israel. I had even started thinking of titles for this blog post!
Then the Call Came
That damn phone. Why couldn’t someone have just pulled the power cord? I looked over my left shoulder to see Jim (remember him?) listening intently to whoever was on the line. He then got on the PA system. It turned out that for the second time in the span of three days he was going to announce a bad beat… but sadly (for me), not the good kind.
“Just received word from over at Harrah’s. Somebody get Robbie a tissue. A player there just hit four jacks… with a king kicker.”
Crestfallen isn’t the word. Deflated doesn’t even come close. Heartbroken? Yup, that’s it.
The Silver Lining
Whether out of pity, sympathy, just being a decent guy, or a combination of all three, the player who had remained in my high hand with me tossed over a couple of red chips ($10) and said “Robbie, that’s the bet I would’ve called; sorry buddy.”
Suddenly tired, I got up to leave, but not before Jim called me over and was kind enough to give me the poker room rate for the night. I suppose if I couldn’t sleep any better, I’d at least sleep cheaper.
While I didn’t exactly lose any money via the “bad beat”, it will certainly always feel as though $500 slipped right between my fingers. Then again, in poker there are always factors beyond one’s control. It’s just up to us to play the cards we’re dealt as well as we can and hope for the best outcome. Indeed, nobody likes a bad beat story, but it’s nice when other people’s kindness make it have an okay ending after all.