Thursday, April 23, 2015

There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (At the Bike)

This past weekend I returned to The Bike, in regal Bell Gardens, CA.  Last time I was there, a story chronicled here, it was a crappy day.  This time, I’m happy to report that I didn’t suffer from any gastric distress.  But like last time, I had an early morning appointment sorta/kinda on the way to the Bike, so I got there earlier than I normally would.  It was about 11:30 AM or so.  I didn’t even consider trying the Quantum Reload thing I talked about in that previous post.  If I ever do try that again, I wouldn’t do it unless it was convenient to arrive at the Bike within a half hour of the starting time.  But honestly, I doubt I’ll ever try that again, just based on the time commitment, if nothing else.

So it was cash, the usually 2/3 NL game I play there.  When I arrived at the Bike I did a little tour just to see if anything had changed due to the construction (they are adding on a hotel) that I needed to be aware of—like more missing bathrooms—just in case. 

It actually looked pretty much the same as last time, with one notable exception.  The snack bar that had been missing from the tournament area had mysteriously reappeared.  Recall that the fact that it wasn’t there last time, when I really needed it, was one of the reasons the day was such a disaster—and why I almost got stuck with a hot dog covered in mayonnaise. 

Then I went over to the area where they have the 2/3 game.  They call this area “The Plaza” and this is where they have their biggest games.  The 2/3 game is the smallest game that plays on the Plaza.  I was really surprised when I got there, as the place was dead.  The Plaza, I mean.  The parking lot and the casino were about as busy as usual to my eye, but I’d never seen so few games on the Plaza.  There were only three games running.  There was a single table of the 2/3 game.  The other two games were not hold’em (I’m thinking one was Omaha and the other was perhaps a combination Stud/Omaha).  Neither one of those non hold’em games was close to full.  The 2/3 game was full and when I got my name on the list, I was second up. 

I was sure I’d never seen the place so empty. I couldn’t figure out why. It was a very nice day, weather wise, in L.A., but then, it usually is.  That’s why we live here.  I could think of no reason the place wouldn’t be as busy as it usually is.  I did consider that it was about an hour or so earlier than I usually get there, but then I remembered that I had gotten there about the same time last time, and I surely would have remembered it had been this dead.

Anyway, I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  I have never waited this long for a seat at the Bike. The place does have 190 poker tables, after all—and isn’t even the biggest poker room in LA. That would be Commerce, the biggest poker room in the world at over 200 tables. 

No one was leaving the game.  And what was really bothering me was that, unlike so many times at the Bike, I didn’t see any players leaving the table and miss any hands.  Just the kind of game I like, and I couldn’t get in it.

Eventually some names started filling up the waitlist.  I got to be #1 on the list and then it looked like they had enough players to start a new game.  In fact, they finally called the game, sold chips, had a dealer spread the decks and prep the cards.  But despite a few more names on the list, there were only four of us at the table.  So we waited a bit, and then, a player left the table where the one game was playing, and I got called there to take that seat.

I moved over there and as I was just about to order my free lunch, the waitress followed me over there.  I waited to post and started to place my order when the waitress asked me how I was going to pay. Pay?

I should mention that this waitress recognizes me every time I play at the Bike, and she’s the only person at the Bike who does.  She had already come by to say hi while I was waiting.  She noted that it had been awhile since she’d seen me.  So when she saw the look of surprise I gave her when she asked me how I was gonna pay for my free meal, she realized that I hadn’t been in since they had changed their policy.  No one gets free food anymore. 

Turns out that just a few days after my last trip to the Bike, they stopped giving the folks who play on the Plaza free food.  My immediate thought was, “Now I know why it’s so dead here.” That probably isn’t the explanation, but it may contribute.  Recall that I recently discussed how the Bike increased the rake (see here).  It’s now $6 plus the $1 jackpot drop when the hand goes to the river (whether there’s any betting action on the river or not).  And when I talked about the Quantum Reload tournament, I mentioned that they charged the guy $1 for the bottle of water.  Now this.

OK, ok.  It’s not like one should expect a free meal in a casino the way one expects a free drink in a Vegas casino (see here).  It’s just that, when you consider the exorbitant rake they hit you with, getting those free meals sure made it easier justifying playing there.  In fairness, I should point out that their biggest competitor, Commerce, never gave free food to players.

So the waitress asked me if I was going to pay with cash or my comp points.  To be honest, I’ve never fully understood how they do comps.  I know if you play enough in a month, they will actually give you cash back, but you have to play like 25 hours in a calendar month in order to qualify, and I can’t see myself ever hitting anywhere close to that (I doubt I’ve ever played more than 10 hours in one month there, and that would a lot for me).  I did recall, eventually, that in the old days, before I was playing on the plaza, you would earn enough comp points to order a free meal off a very limited menu after three hours of play on that day.  Those points expired at midnite.  I had no idea how it worked now, but since this was the first time I’d set foot in the place since late February, I was sure I had nothing coming to me.

Of course, I had counted on the free lunch, so I hadn’t eaten and was hungry.  No choice but to order and see how bad the damage was.  I ordered what I usually do and then for some reason, the waitress said she would check the computer to see how much to charge me.  When she came back, it was only $7, which for the amount of food I ordered, was quite reasonable.  But it’s infinity percent higher than free.

It turned out that my food order wasn’t exactly right, and it wasn’t clear if there had been a communication problem between the waitress and me or if the new policy meant a new menu and that what I really wanted wasn’t available.  You know, once I found out the food was not free, I should have looked at the menu first, that’s my fault.  But I can report that the waitress brought me three diet sodas and two bottles of water (which I made sure no one stole), so there’s that.

Meanwhile, the game.  When the button passed, I went to post and was told that posting was no longer required.  That too is a recent change.  I said, “No posting?  No free food?  I don’t recognize this place.”

But this was one of the most pleasant tables I’ve ever played at the Bike, I’ll say that. There wasn’t a single jerk at the game the entire time, which is definitely unusual. There were three people on one end who were all buddies and having a good time.  I recognized them all as regs. There were a couple of real nice guys in seats 5 & 6, two buddies, who I didn't recognize but who seemed to know the regs I just referred to.  

The guy in seat 5 had a t-shirt with the emblem “Share My Pair.”  I had heard of that.  It is a app for recreating a hand and displaying how it played out via animation. It always sounded pretty cool to me, and I’ve always wanted to try it, but for whatever reason, I never got around to it.  I know I’ve had some hands that I’ve described here on the blog that would be worthy of recreating this way.  Anyway, it turned out that I was playing with the man behind the "Share My Pair" app and he was only too happy to tell us all about it. Let's call him Steve, because, as I found out the next day, that’s his name.

Early on I raised with pocket 10’s, and, after a call, one of the regs made it $51.  I folded, as did the other guy.  The reg kindly showed his hand, which was the dreaded pocket Kings.  Not so dreaded for him.

The next hand I had worth playing was a couple of Aces.  I was in early position and raised to $12.  It folded to Steve on the button, who went all in with his last $63.  When it folded back to me, it was heads up so I could only call.  We didn’t show.  And…..well, actually if you want to know what happened, you can click the link here and see it play out on Steve’s app.

Yeah, indeed, Steve rivered the nut flush, shoving with Ace-7 of diamonds.  He titled the hand, “A frustration bet,” and when he tweeted it out, he said, “better to be lucky.”  Actually, that’s exactly what he said when he turned over his hand—“I got lucky.”

Yep.  At least it wasn’t more.  I suspected that Steve had created the hand on his app, but didn’t bother to look for it at the time.  But I knew I would do more research after the session. 

A bit later, I limped in with Jack-9 of diamonds.  Five of us saw the flop which had two diamonds on it.  Steve led out with a bet—my notes say $22 but that seems rather high.  One person called, as did I.  I hit my flush on the turn and this time it folded to me.  No one called my $25 bet.  Steve commented that he was being very disciplined and later said he had flopped a straight.  Could have given me a little more money back to me, Steve!

I raised to $15 with Ace-Jack off.  Only the guy who had just come to the table and was playing his first hand called.  The flop was Ace high, two spades.  I bet $20 and he called.  The turn was the third spade and we both checked.  The river was a blank and I checked, he checked behind me and showed two Kings.  Wow.  If he had re-raised me I would have easily folded Ace-Jack.  OTOH, I can sort of understand just calling there.  Brand new to the table, had never seen me play before.  That’s sort of my default, play it very safe until I get a feel for the action.  But having said that, I don’t think I’d just flat call a normal raise with Kings even on my very first hand at the table.

The next time I had pocket Aces, the guy on my immediate right, with a short stack, shoved for $51.  I just called and it was just the two of us.  The full house he rivered was no good.  There were three deuces on the board and he had pocket Jacks.

I won a small pot completing from the small blind with 10-8 of hearts and rivering a flush against a guy who rivered a straight.  Then I three bet with pocket Aces ($15 to $45) and took it down pre-flop.

I think I want to save the last significant hand of my session for a separate post, because I want to make a larger point with it.  (And I have, that post is now here). So at this juncture, I was down to around $200 from my $300 buy-in.

The next day, I researched the Share My Pair app, and found the hand on the website, just as I suspected.  Steve had recreated a number of hands from his session.  He had of course tweeted out the hand so I tweeted back to him that I was the sucker with Aces in that hand and that it had been a pleasure playing with him. I also confirmed that I had the flush when he folded his straight.  He thanked me for that, than later sent me an email, suggesting we meet up when he’s in Vegas playing some of the WSOP events.  I hope we can do that.

But I do want to quote a little from his email to me.  His opening line was, “I recognized your Twitter handle but didn’t realize that you’re a poker blogging icon!”  Thank you, sir.

Now, I’m sorry, but I’m just not classy enough to discuss the “Share My Pair” app without taking advantage of the obvious double-entendre.  So I have to include this pic of a pair that is definitely worth sharing.  This is why I’m a poker blogging icon.  Sorry, Steve.


  1. Now that's a pair worth a share! A+

  2. Just in case you had any thoughts of featuring your testicles in the Share My Pair theme, please note that I vote a resounding NO.

    1. I thought Sick meant something else in the colonies, but each to their own!

    2. The colonies? That was a long time ago, Ben. Let it go.