Sunday, June 3, 2012

Stepping Up At The Bike

Yesterday, I ended up playing hooky from working on the blog post I had started about my recent Vegas adventures and ended up playing some poker at The Bike. (The Bike--actually The Bicycle Casino--is a casino in Southern California, about a 45 minute drive from my house)  In the process, I ended up playing, if ever so slightly, the “biggest game” (limits wise) I’ve ever played. So while it is still so fresh in my mind, I want to talk about that experience yesterday; I’ll get back to Vegas stories next time.
I have a good excuse for playing poker instead of blogging—my evening plans were cancelled early in the morning, and my morning plans put me half way to the The Bike anyway, so as long as I didn’t have to be anywhere in the evening, why not get a little poker in?  It was fuel efficient!
I was fairly certain I just wanted to play some cash games, although their $40 noon tournament was appealing to me, especially since I would easily make it there before Noon.  However, the internal debate I had was ended when I saw that due to the “L.A. Poker Classic”, their regular tournament was cancelled and I could play in a pricey 3 day event or just stick with the cash game.  Easy choice since I was leaning towards the cash game anyway.
No Limit cash games at the Bike (and at L.A. area casinos in general) are very different than they are in Vegas.  I’ve discussed that previously in posts you can find here  and here I thus felt that I was gonna be “stuck” playing what they call their “$80-$120 game”, which has blinds at $1/$3.  Yeah, I’ve already lamented about the fact that you can only buy in for 40 big blinds max, which is ridiculous.  Now, when I first played this game at the Bike last year (this post),  I was a totally newbie when it came to playing No Limit cash games, still be a regular 2/4 Limit player.  I had not read any complete books about NL cash games, only a couple of chapters in a general Hold ‘Em book.  Thus I was using a short stack strategy that was fairly easy to follow and not overly risky.
But now, I feel I am a decent No Limit cash game player, despite what this guy thinks. So I now find the 40 BB max to be way too restrictive and a handicap for me.  In Vegas at a 1/2 game, I usually buy in for 100 BB’s ($200).  A lot of rooms allow for bigger buy-ins ($300 being the most common), but I have found that a $200 buy in works best for me for now.
So, playing in this 1/3 game at the Bike is not ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers, and if I want to play in L.A., I have no choice.
Or so I thought. The Bike is either in the process of remodeling or has completed said remodeling.  As such, the 1/3 game I was looking for had been relocated to somewhere called “The Plaza” which is where they have the much bigger stakes games, like 5/25 No Limit and 40/80 Limit.  So now apparently, a 1/3 game with a $120 max buy in is considered high stakes?  Only in the L.A. Clubs.
But it was then I noticed another game on the board I hadn’t realized they spread before.  It was called “100-$300” and it indicated the blinds for this were $2 & $3.  In other words, it was a $2/$3 game where you could actually buy in for 100 big blinds.  Only difference from Vegas is that the small blind is $2, not a buck.  OK, I figured the small blind isn’t going to much of a factor.  I wouldn’t expect a lot of pots to be limped to the small blind, and if it was, you are practically priced in to call for a buck almost anything you’re dealt.
In addition to the 1/3 at the Bike I’ve played with the too-small buy ins, I think I’ve played 1/3 in Vegas one time, possibly twice.  The time for sure was at the Rio during the WSOP last year, when they have all those cash games going on in the convention center they use for the WSOP events.  I wanted to say that I had “played” in the World Series, even if that wasn’t technically true, so I played in a 1/3 cash game there for a few hours.  I suppose I have some notes about it that could turn into a blog post, but I don’t recall it being that memorable.  At that time, I was still a total NL novice, I just bought in for the minimum of $100 and employed the same short stack strategy I used at the Bike subsequently.
I thought about it awhile.  The Bike is known for its Loose Aggressive Players (LAG), I knew it could be a wild ride playing in that “bigger” game.  Variance could be pretty large, to say the least.  And I wasn’t prepared, either with a visit to the ATM or mentally, to lose a whole lot of money this day, should the cards run against me.  I only had one buy in at that level; if I played and lost it all, I couldn’t rebuy in that game, but I could probably buy in one more time at the 1/3 game.  Still, I also knew it was good opportunity for me; the possibility of a good score was definitely out there, and it would be great experience for me.
And it was only a “bigger game” by the slightest amount, basically only because the small blind was $2, not $1.  However, I would be buying for the max, $300, so unlike the previous times I’ve played 1/3, I would start with 100 big blinds in front of me.  And instead of going with a short-stack strategy, I would be playing my “normal” game, at least how it has evolved to date.
So after some thought, I decided to go for it.  I got on the list, waited a short time and was called to the game.  Unlike the 1/3 game, which oddly enough uses $1 chips, my $300 got me three stacks of yellow chips. Yeah, yellow.  For some reason, the $5 chips at the Bike are an extremely ugly shade of yellow.
One other note before I get to the actual poker.  The Bike offers food service in the poker room (and possibly at their table games, I’m not sure).  They have a pretty extensive menu of very reasonably priced breakfast, lunch and dinner items that are available only if you are actually playing, this is not the same menu that they have in any of their restaurants.  The food is actually quite good too.  Although most items are more expensive, they have a spaghetti dinner, with garlic bread, salad and soft drink for $2.50—this would easily cost $10-$15 in a restaurant.  But you have to be sitting at a table having cards dealt to you to get this.
I needed to have some lunch, so I ordered this soon after I started playing.  Now, if you have a players card and play long enough to have it swiped three times (ie, three hours), you are entitled to a free meal, but it is only a very limited menu that is available for this, just about half a dozen items (the spaghetti dinner is one of them, actually).  But I wasn’t going to wait three hours for lunch, $2.50 is cheap enough, right?  But when they brought my lunch, they surprised me by telling me that it was complimentary because I was playing in such a high stakes game!  I didn’t argue, even tho a $2/$3 blind game with a max buyin of $300 doesn’t seem very high stakes to me.  But now I can honestly say I’ve played poker at a high enough stakes game to be comped a meal!
So I wanted to take it slowly and try to get a read on my opponents.  That was foiled when during the first orbit, I found myself looking at AQ.  I could only guess at what a reasonable raise would be for this table, so I made it $15 and got a couple of callers.  A Queen hit on an otherwise dry looking board and I bet $40 and one guy came along for the ride.  The turn didn’t scare me and I put out $100, and the guy called again.  The last card put an unlikely straight in play, no flush, and when the other guy checked, thought about what to do. Half my buy in was in the stack, if somehow he was going for a check-raise I could lose my entire stack (if I bet and was raised, I’d pretty much have to call there, being pot committed).  And I hadn’t even ordered lunch yet.
But I felt that if he was drawing at something and missed, he wouldn’t call my bet anyway.  I decided to play it safe and just check behind him.  I showed my top pair, top kicker and he mucked, saying “I missed.”  Not sure at the time what he “missed” but based on his subsequent play I think it’s entirely possible he just had an Ace and was hoping to catch another on the board.  Yeah, he was that loose.  Lucky me.
Note to myself—I definitely need to learn more about “betting for value on the river”—it’s definitely a part of my game I can improve on.
So I was up a nice chunk of change for a bit and then was able to get a feel for the table.  There are a couple of absolute chip spewers there who contributed to a bunch of other people but not me.  A few solid, tight, good players.  A few good, LAG players.  And a few not-so good LAG players.  I was actually pretty card dead for most of the day, and there was enough aggression at the table that it made it difficult for me to try anything too fancy without the goods.  I felt generally that with the way these folks were playing, including a few calling stations who kept calling with hands that were clearly beat, my best move was to just play tight and wait for the occasional really good hand.
But mostly, the cards didn’t come.  I lasted four hours and received no pocket pair higher than 9’s, which I got twice.  I had to call a raise both times to play them, and when I didn’t hit my set the board and the play told me to fold.  I got 3’s twice and 4’s once (or vice versa) and that was it for pocket pairs all day.  I got AK twice, both times soooted oddly enough, raised both times, got one pot when it was folded to me preflop and got a small pot when I hit my King on the flop and no callers thereafter.  A continuation bet when I raised with AQ where the flop missed me bought me one small pot.
Lost a good chunk of my early profits when I played J10 and flopped two pair.  When a Queen hit the turn I was scared of a straight, but called a bet.  The river pairing 4’s killed me.  The guy had Q-7 (!?) and my two pair was counterfeited by a better two pair.  What pissed me off there was that I was in position.  He had bet the Queen and I thought he had hit his straight but called.  When he checked the river, I figured, no way he’s going for a check raise since he bet the turn, so I bet out thinking my 2 pair was good after all.  He called though.  I actually am not sure he realized he had me beat when I showed my Jacks and 10’s, I don’t think he realized the board had paired in his favor!
Got back into a nice profit zone when I was able to limp in with J-9 and flopped a straight.  When the board paired Queens on the turn, and some guy raised me, I worried about a boat.  I checked the river and he bet out fairly big (sorry, don’t remember the details), but I thought long and hard and decided I was committed to call and pay him off if he had hit the boat as I feared.  I did think there was a good chance he didn’t have the full house because if he had had a boat with all those high cards on the board (the straight was K high), he would have raised preflop with those high cards.  Almost everybody at this table would have, I thought. 
So I called and was relieved to see he had only Q-J, three Queens, no boat.  Took down a real nice pot.  Two months ago I would have folded to his turn raise, for sure.
Lost a really big pile of chips when I limped in with 10-9 offsuit.  I was in late position, there were a lot of limpers and I thought, good pot odds if the flop can hit me hard. Next time I hope I realize to either raise or fold there.  Board is 10-9-6, rainbow.  Top two, that’s hitting me hard. 
Guy to my immediate right, who was very aggressive and had limped into this pot for one of the few times bet $10, a bit less than the pot.  I raised really big—“$60—because I didn’t want to give anyone with a straight draw good odds to stick around.  Pretty good LAG kid called, which scared me a bit, then original better shoves!  I have him way covered, but it was still a big bet to call.  But I don’t call.  I shove so the LAG kid doesn’t have a reason to stick around.  And indeed he folds.  Since that closes the action he shows his cards, 10-6, for a lesser two pair than mine.
Guy to my right shows 7-8 off for a frickin’ flopped straight! I needed to fill up and did not, so bye bye all my profits thus far.  I still had my original buy in at least. 
In retrospect, I should have just called and if the LAG kid had called, I would have won a side pot from him.  But shoving there seemed like a good idea as I was worrying about a draw.  Go know.
My day was saved when I pretty much felted the LAG kid, who was at one point up over $300 and started losing it back in big chunks.  Ace-10 suited (diamonds) and I indeed raised.  Ten of hearts is the highest card on the flop, but there’s a 9 of hearts to go with it.  Low black card too.  I bet out and LAG raises.  I call.  Turn is 8 of hearts, not a card I wanted to see.  I checked, he bet about half of his chips.  I’d seen him bluff before and I couldn’t be sure he wasn’t bluffing, or he had a 10 with a lesser kicker.  Luckily he didn’t have a lot of chips left so I felt it was safe to call and if I have to call the rest of his stack on the river, so be it.
The last card was an Ace giving me top two but I didn’t know if that was any better than TPTK with that scary board.  I checked prepared to call his shove.  Why not bet there?  Well, I guess I should have, But I felt that even with all those chips in there, he wouldn’t call me unless he could beat my two pair.  He might check if he had a straight (worried about a flush) or a low flush (worried about a higher one) and if I was beat, no sense losing more than necessary (see note above about betting for value on the river).  I showed my hand and I didn’t need the Ace on the river to take it down.  He showed one card, a 10, and said something like, “I didn’t have enough chips to scare you away.”  He was left with about $60-$70 and soon went all in and busted out, and left the game.  I really think he was a pretty good player, but he got into a bad run.
Anyway, that was a good hand for me and put me back in the black for the rest of the day.  I finally cashed out of my “biggest game ever” with $175 more than I started with and a free meal to boot, so I considered it a pretty good day of poker.
Guess I’ll try it again sometime!

Side note:

I didn't get Pocket Kings yesterday, but my fellow blogger Memphis MOJO did, with less than wonderful results.  See here.

24 comments:

  1. That picture made me hungry

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    1. Me too. And I had to page through 10's of photos like this on Google to find the tastiest looking pic!

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    1. grrouchie? I had to double check on the name of the commenter.

      Based on a certain prediliction she's admitted to on her blog, I thought that comment might have come from Josie.

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  3. The food looked good to me, too.

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    1. Wow, I can see I've been wasting my time writing about poker all this time. Three comments and they're all about a picture of pasta I found, not about the actual content of my post or poker.

      Stay tuned for "Rob's Vegas & Food Blog".

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  4. The spaghetti looks good to me, too. I'll have to keep the Bike in mind when I finally make it out to Vegas.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Herb, but please note, The Bike is NOT in Vegas. It's in L.A. (Bell Gardens,really).

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    2. Gotcha. I'm so used to reading about your Vegas trips, I'd assumed it was in Vegas, although I do remember hearing about it being in LA now. I will still keep it in mind when my wife and I can get out there on for a vacation.

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    3. You know Herb, in rereading my post, I realize I didn't make it that clear where the Bike was, I guess it's implied but not really spelled out. Sorry. I think I'll add an edit there.

      But also, I'm thinking MOST of my readers have been to Vegas and probably know there's no casino called "The Bike" there.

      But it is a good thing to point out to me, thanks.

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  5. I am now thinking about a vacation to Cali to visit the Bike and have this delicious looking sketti.

    It better be worth the 3 hour drive, the gas money and the $2.50 while sitting in a 2/3 NL game!

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    1. Well, that will depend on how you do at the poker table, no? I mean, in the end, I was paid $175 to eat that spaghetti, so it was a good deal for me.

      BTW, to be clear...the picture is NOT a picture of the actual pasta I ate, it's just a picture I found on the web.

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  6. I admit, you made your post first, but putting this photo up 'after' I blog about my upcoming diet today, a true bad beat... Congrats on getting paid to eat spaghetti, and I'm jealous about you going to the Bike - I've yet to visit any Cali poker rooms...

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    1. Despite the free or cheap food, I much prefer playing in Vegas than in any CA casino I've tried.

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  7. Dude, how does Grouchie get a link for saying you suck when I say it louder and more often than anyone? Cmon! :).

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    1. Yeah, but you're just guessing about me sucking. Grrouchie and his retirement fund have witnessed it first hand.

      Besides, grrouchie has not only bought me a (rare) hamburger, he's taken to a place well hot chicks in their underwear serve it! (the burger, I mean)

      Further, he's actually named some of his blog posts after me, my blog, and how bad I suck and had links back to me in them.

      But I have added you to my blog roll, FWIW.

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    2. I need to go there again because last time Grrouchie took me the company sucked.

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    3. Really? I liked the scantily clad waitresses.

      Oh wait, I guess that's not what you meant.

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  8. Wow -- sounds like it is certainly a different experience playing at The Bike. I like the idea of the discounted food for players, although personally I do not like eating anywhere near a poker table unless it is my home game.

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    1. Almost any Vegas poker room will let you eat at the table, as I'm sure you know. They don't generally give food discounts tho. Venetian, for example, has full dining service in their poker room, and a special poker room menu. But it's not discounted unless you think a $15 hot dog is a sweet deal.

      I too prefer NOT to eat at the poker table. But you do what you gotta due to a deal on spaghetti.

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  9. Very nice post! I used to watch "Live at the Bike" almost every night. A bunch of us would discuss the play the next day. It is LAG country, for sure.

    I said nice post. Lets switch that to excellent!

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    1. Thanks very much Ken, I really appreciate it.

      I also appreciate that you were able to comment without mentioning the picture of the pasta!

      Ironically, the table I was playing at was right next to the table that is obviously used for the "Live at the Bike" broadcasts. If I had played at that game long enough, I might have seen them showing the "final table". Perhaps I even would have gotten on camera!

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    2. As to meatballs...
      Takes one to know one.

      Your only problem is sharing my sense of humor. Ostracism isn't that bad.

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