Trip Report: Northern Lights Day 1

My wife and I decided we needed a change of scenery for President’s Day weekend, so we did some research to find a big casino with a good poker room within about a 5 hour drive where we could get a hotel room and have a few days of poker-filled fun. We were planning on going to Quinault Casino in Ocean Shores (since they bill themselves as a romantic he oceanfront resort/spa as well as a great casino) but they were booked. For plan B, we decided on the Swinomish Northern Lights casino in Annecortes. Northern Lights doesn’t have a hotel on the property (although they do have a fairly impressive RV park overlooking the bay– great if you have an RV) so we booked a room at the Fidalgo Country Inn, which looked like a charming little inn within a short drive.

It was about a 3 hour drive, and we were listening to (and laughing at) Jon Stewart’s “America: the Book, the Audio Book” so it went really fast. Our first stop was the hotel, which was a huge letdown. The pictures on the web site suggested a small, quaint inn by the bay… but in reality, it was a nice, clean roadside motel with a lovely view of a car dealership on one side, and a self-storage lot and propane station on the other. The room was the standard, tasteful “roadside motel chic” but not exactly what we were looking for. The only plus: free wireless internet access– that’s a pretty big bonus in my book, but alas our room was too far from the access point to connect, so I had to go to the hotel lobby to get connected.

Disappointed but not about to give up our little mini-vacation, we got dressed and headed over to the casino. When we got there, it was smaller than we had expected– their website made it look a lot larger. It was fairly nice inside– nothing impressive, but hardly anything you could complain about. No worry… onto the poker room. Well, not really a room per say– really more of an area about 30 feet by 50 feet where, in the absence of slot machines, laid six (fairly new) poker tables. It was loud, smoky, and– even worse– empty. I found the floor person, and he let me know that they probably wouldn’t have a game going until around 8:00pm. Mind you, this is on a Friday night! Rachel and I decided to grab some dinner at the buffet, and come back.

The buffet, if you’re picking up the subtle theme of this post, was unsurprisingly disappointing. Not terrible, but not great. We headed back to the poker room, and about 30 minutes before a game would get going, we had decided we were going to drive back towards town and go to our old standby, the Tulalip casino, about halfway between home and where we were. We had pretty much given up.

We drove out to Tulalip, and on the way made the decision that if we could find a good hotel close to the casino, we’d cancel our reservation and stay by the Tulalip. Yes, it’s only 30 minutes away from our house, but we decided that didn’t matter. It was still a mini-vacation.

We got to the casino, and asked the information desk if they had any information about nearby hotels. Turns out they had a deal with the Hawthorne Inn and Suites where we’d get 20% off their room rate, an upgrade to their “executive floor” and a few other perks if we showed our Tulalip Player’s Club card. We were sold. We called the Hawthorn and made reservations.

Being at the Tulalip was a stark reminder of how lame the Northern Lights casino really was… Tulalip is Vegas-quality– a beautiful, impressive, new casino with everything a compulsive gambler needs to get his game on.

It took me a while to get a seat in the poker room, but I finally sat down at a no-limit table with 2 and 4 dollar blinds, with a maximum of a $100 buy-in.

It was going pretty bad at first– I didn’t get a playable hand for the first 2 hours, which put me down well over a third of my stack just in blinds. Finally, I looked down and found pocket-queens. I raised the standard raise for our table, which was $15. (a little over 3x the big blind.) The small blind folded, and the big blind raised $40. This was an unusual raise– there was only about $20 in the pot… also, the fact that I hadn’t played a single hand in over 2 hours had given me a super-tight image… so I assumed that the big blind would put me on a strong hand. I decided that the big blind either had aces or kings and was trying to milk me for more money, or he had a hand that needed protection like jacks or tens, and was hoping to fold overcards. I decided that my tight image (plus the way he sat strait up in his chair when he looked at his hole cards) made it likely that my queens were beaten. I said loudly and jokingly “fourty dollars American? Too rich for my blind-stealing blood!” and laid my queens down face-down. He showed aces. Good read.

A couple hands later, I snuck in cheaply from the big blind with pocket sixes. (I was heads up against a player who had raised $15 from late position, so it was only $10 to me.) There was a glorious six on the ten-high flop. I assumed my opponent had an overpair, and I decided to mess with his head a little bit. “I bet six.” My opponent stares at me… Six? What kind of a stupid bet is THAT? He was clearly annoyed, and he raised me another $20, putting around 55 in the pot.

“I raise $66.” My opponent is getting visably angry. “Sixty six? What the fuck?”

“I’m raising sixty-six in honor of the six on the board.” Everyone at the table laughs, knowing that I have a set of sixes, but my opponent, blinded by his overpair, doesn’t get the joke… he raises all-in… unfortunately, there’s only about $10 left in my stack. I call and turn over my sixes. My stunned opponent had kings. I dragged a big enough pot to give me a respectable stack at the table for once.

A few hands later, I have pocket eights, and I call the standard $15 raise from the button. The flop comes deuce/six/queen. I sit and think for a moment– there’s an overcard, but I’m heads-up against the pre-flop raiser, and I figure there are only two hands that he would raise with that would have a queen in them– QQ and AQ. I take a chance and make a pot-sized bet, assuming my opponent has a couple of overcards. He calls.

Turn and river are both rags… I make another $30 bet (a little less than half the pot) on the turn, and check the river. My opponent makes a small bet on the river… I figure there’s a good chance my eights are good, and I call. Bad read, bad call: my0 opponent had pocket queens for a set.

A few small pots later, I had run my $100 buy-in to about $220. I moved to another table with 3 and 5 dollar blinds, with a $200 max buy-in. I folded a few hands in a row, and finally looked down at a pair of pocket nines. There had already been a $15 raise from the button, and I made a pot-sized re-raise– $30 to go. I’ve got two callers.

The flop comes A-9-3. I’m feeling pretty good about the world… fortunately, so’s the small blind, who makes a pot-sized bet of $60. I smooth-call, hoping to get a call from the button… he calls.

The turn brings another glorious nine. I’ve got quads! I was looking at the button when the card came, and he obviously liked it, seeing the card, looking at his chips, and then casually glancing away as if uninterested in the action. I knew I was going to get every chip in front of him.

The small blind checks, and I make a bet about one and a half times the size of the pot, hoping the button (who obviously has a hand– I’ve got him on a full house with either pocket threes or aces) will think I’m trying to buy the pot… it works. He raises all-in. There’s about $250 in the pot… the small blind folds, and I call. I drag a massive pot.

A few hands later, my wife came up to me and said she was getting tired… I racked up my chips (I was very pleased that I needed two racks to hold all my red chips) and we headed back to the hotel, happy and with our entire mini-vacation damn near paid for.

Day 2 coming soon…