Sorry it’s been a long time coming, life sometimes impedes, but here is the 2nd part of my Panama trip report… you can view Part 1 of my trip report HERE

The next day, after sleeping in I decided to check out the tours offered by Megapolis Explorer, who have a tour guide set up in the hotel.  Many of the more exotic ones left in the morning, but that was fine as there was an afternoon city tour and Panama Canal which looked perfect.  I showed up a few minutes before the 1:30 leave time for the group, and was ushered out to the tour bus.  They have a driver who says nothing, and a tour guide who speaks adequate English, and repeats everything in both English and Spanish as we had tourists in both primary language category… myself, another pair from the US, a family from Canada, young couples from Paraguay and Argentina, etc. 

We get a very nice tour of the old city, the Presidential quarters, see the military area where the US military housed when the US operated the canal (Panama has no military of their own, only police).  The single soldiers lived in barracks and the married ones got a house.  Now Panamanians live in all the houses there.  All the facts learned  and sights seen on the tour are pretty cool, some amazing, and I’ll share some pictures in a minute of course.   One of the key aspects of the tour, of course, was a visit to the canal itself. 

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal


The Panama Canal is a waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at large that, through a series of Locks, allows ships to pass through that would otherwise have  to travel the much more distant and dangerous route around Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America.  It’s a marvel of engineering technology that was amazing to see.  We visited the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side, near to where Panama City is located.  Ships entering the canal are raised up by the locks from sea level to the level of Gatun Lake,  an artificial lake that was created to reduce the amount of excavation work required during the construction of the canal.  Gatun Lake is about 26 meters (85 feet) above sea level.  After a ship entering from the Pacific side navigates through the canal, the Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side lower the ship back to sea level.  There are 2 series of locks, but the Panamanians are in the process of constructing a new third series with a different water transfer method that will be far more efficient and the new lock will facilitate larger ships passing through the canal.  If you find this interesting, you can do more research online at your leisure… there is a rich history behind the construction and operation of the Panama Canal, as well as the engineering of how the locks work.  If you ever travel to Panama City, for business or pleasure, do not miss a visit to this amazing place.


Two ships entering the Miraflores Locks


The near ship is now in the first lock


The first lock lowers the near ship towards sea level while the passenger filled cruise ship looks on, awaiting their turn


I promised some tales from the cash game tables in part 1 of the trip report, so let’s get to that now.   I ended up only playing 2 cash game sessions during the trip.  Partly because I was doing some of the tourist/vacation thing, and partly because they didn’t always have games available… if games had been running 24/7 I would have played at least 3 sessions and probably 4.  But it wasn’t a big deal since I was enjoying relaxing on this trip. 

Both sessions I played $1-$3 NLHE with a buy in between $200-$500.  The first session was an outright disaster.   Play was in general very loose, and somewhat aggressive.  There were a couple tighter players, but most liked to see flops.  The 1 and 8 seats were very LAGgy.  There was a solid player on my left who I felt like was the only other player at the table who really knew what he was doing.  This player kept raising my flop or turn bets when I was in a hand with him, and generally was making my life miserable as I rarely had good spots to fight back.  Everyone at the table was from Latin America except for myself and the 8 seat, another online qualifier from the US, who was playing his hands only slightly faster and more aggressively than he was drinking down the beers he kept getting.  In the session I had a K high flush lose to the nut flush, trips/ace kicker lose to trips/Q kicker with a Q on the river, as well as several smaller pots that didn’t pan out.  My final hand of the night summed up this first session perfectly.  Seat 8 opened from UTG to $9, a move he was doing quite often.  I 3-bet to $25 to isolate him with JJ, fully planning to go with it if he 4-bet me as I’d seen him get all in pre with 88 and ATs already (although against looser players than me, but he was drunk and blasting away so I don’t know how much he noticed).  He called the $25 and we saw a flop of QJT rainbow.  He checked, I c-bet $40, and he raised all in for my last (roughly) $200.  Since I was 99% sure he would 4b AK or QQ preflop, I was quite happy to call off.  The board ran out QJT7K, and he produced AQo for the straight to take it down.  I left the poker room with my tail between my legs, feeling like I had played well but it clearly just wasn’t my night.

My 2nd session started out the same, but ended quite differently.  Loose-aggressive guy straddles to $6 UTG.  Very loose/bad player on my right who is also playing less than a full stack limps, I limp with 44, a couple others limp, and the straddler checks his option.  I flop good with a K54 2 heart board, it checks to the guy on my right, and he bets $20.  I raise him to $65.  It folds around to the straddle, who now check/raises all in for $200 total.  The guy on my right is covered, he has maybe $175 total.  He goes into the tank, I figure the straddle has some kind of draw it felt like, and I’m going to lose my friend next to me who likely has a K and will get away from it now.  Amazingly he calls all in though.  I call as well with my set.  Before this trip I had asked Gareth for any tips he might have regarding poker in South America.  Although he’s never been to Panama specifically, I know he’s lived and played all over different parts of SA during his travels.  One of the tidbits he gave me was to be mentally prepared to be slow rolled.  Luckily that doesn’t bother me anyway.  But he said they just love to act it up at the tables, and to be dramatic, especially the men like it’s some form of bravado.  So in this hand I got to experience the phenomenon first hand.  The straddle turns over Qh8h as expected, and the other guy and I don’t show yet.   The board runs out grossly, K545K.  After the K pops on the river, he gives one of those “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww” exclamations of disgust.  Shakes his head, then turns over a Q first… then the K.  It was almost comical.  I thought well, at least he was short, and if today is going to be like the other day then at least I’m getting some entertainment out of the deal. lol  

The worm turned however, and after topping up my stack and winning a few small/medium pots, I had a big one come up where I used a little deception of my own.  It was against the decent player from my 1st session, although this time instead of being on my left, he was 2 to my right.  The KQ fish on my right straddled to $6 and I raised it up to $21 with AsKs.  The button, BB (decent player) and straddle all called.  The flop came down Ts8s3s, giving me the nuts.  I knew the decent player was watching me for reactions and not the board, and I quickly peeled the corners of my hole cards back up as if checking to see if I had a spade.  I knew I had flopped the nuts, but it was commonplace in this game for players to be checking if they have one of the flush suit.  The idea in checking of course was to give the impression I had only 1 or 0 spades,  and not 2.  Both players checked to me and I fired for $45.  The button folded, and after some deliberation, the decent player bit, raising it to $150.  The straddle folded.   Decent player started the hand with $300 and I thought would not get away from it now, so after a brief fake deliberation time of maybe 10 seconds, I moved all in.  I didn’t want to just call as if he’s putting me on a single big spade, a 4th one hitting the board kills that other $130 for me.  He tanked for maybe 15 seconds, then called all in.  The turn and river bricked off, and I tabled my hand.  He looked at it, processing what had just happened.  Then he mucked, saying in an irritated voice “you check your cards for a spade, very good” in English, followed by a long string of Spanish that didn’t sound happy. lol   A couple of the South Americans at the other end of the table smirked at his Spanish tirade, and one gave me a subtle nod of approval.

I played until I was tired, then called it a night.  Despite the KQ debacle at the start of the session, I went on to book a nice win that made up for the disaster of the night prior.  All in all, the games were very good and beatable, if you don’t tilt when the high variance they come packaged with goes the wrong direction on you.

If you made it to the end, thanks for reading along about my trip and some of the tournament and cash poker I played in Panama City.  It was a very fun trip over all, and I look forward to an opportunity to return one day.   With a little luck, maybe I'll be back for the LSOP Millions II.