For the third straight Saturday, I returned to the Player’s Casino in Ventura for some of that pokerz. This was one heck of a wild, swingy, roller-coaster session. The first two times I played there, the games were relatively calm, more like a typical Vegas 1/2 game than the looser games I frequently encounter at The Bike. But this one was a whole ‘nother animal.
I arrived early afternoon and the list for the 2/3 game was quite long. Note: one of the few things I don’t like about this room is that they don’t take “call-ins.” You can’t get on the list until you show up there in the flesh. So I had to no choice but to wait. I decided not to get into a 1/2 game while waiting, I just didn’t want to bother moving over, coloring up my chips, and changing my game mindset. I figured the list would go pretty fast. That was the longest list, and I heard the guy at the podium say that as soon as another tournament table broke they would open a new 2/3 game. In fact, they were calling players to the 2/3 game at a fairly good clip.
While waiting, I did some exploring around and realized that my initial report on this room (see here) was a bit off. The “back room” that has the bar and the table games is actually a bit bigger than I thought, and they actually have three more poker tables back there. In fact, that’s where I saw the tournament clock. But they can’t possibly confine the tournament to just those three tables. I noticed that tournament had had 61 players (down to 23 now), so they must use some of the tables in the front room to start it off.
Anyway, I wasn’t there long—no more than 15 minutes, probably less—when they announced a new game of 2/3 and called my name. Not bad at all.
Now typically, when a new game starts, everyone tends to start off a bit tight. It’s not unusual to see the blinds chopped a few times the first couple of orbits. And to see a single raise take down the blinds more often than not. At least that’s been my experience. Everyone seems to want to get a feel for the action and the players before gambling it up.
Not this table. No sir. The very first hand, it was three all-ins on the turn. The guy who initially shoved had raised preflop with Ace-King off. When he shoved, the board had a king on it but also three to a straight and three to a flush. He was called by a straight and a medium-sized flush.
Throughout the day, there were usually two or three straddles per orbit, sometimes more. Preflop raises weren’t usually out of line but there was almost always at least three players seeing the flop. Limped pots were probably less 25% (less if you count straddled pots that weren’t raised). Players kept coming and going. Most of the players left went to bigger games, though a few busted out and left. But the action never calmed down, no matter who they sent over to fill our table. It was if they were purposely sending only maniacs to us. As I said, this wasn’t at all my experience my first two times I’d played here.
Early on, I saw something unusual that I don’t think I’d ever seen before, at least quite like this. A guy shoved the turn on a board that had Ace-4-4-x. The other guy—who had raised preflop— snapped called. The first guy said, “Oh, don’t tell me you have pocket Aces?” No, he showed his hand, it was Ace-Jack. The guy shoving showed his hand, he had a 4-3 suited. He was relieved. The guy with Ace-Jack was dismayed. And then another Ace hit the river.
The dealer asked the guy with Ace-Jack to push his stack forward so he could count his chips to see if had the other guy covered. The two stacks were very similar in size. While the dealer was counting, the player with Ace-Jack got up and left the table without saying a word. Meanwhile, the dealer determined that he didn’t have the other guy quite covered and left the 4-3 guy with a few chips and pushed the rest of them to the seat where Ace-Jack guy had been. But the winner was nowhere to be seen. The guy who lost was digging into his pocket to get money for more chips, and then he asked, “Did he think he lost?” We all started speculating, and someone said they saw him go out the front door. Now maybe it was to smoke, but it was an odd time to go on an “emergency cigarette break.” We decided that the guy must have thought he had lost the pot, and his buy-in, and was en route to his car to leave the vicinity!
The dealer tried to flag down a floorperson but to no avail. So one of the players got up and rushed out to try to find the guy in the parking lot. Fortunately the bolting player was an older gentleman and didn’t more too fast--fact, he had mentioned that he was planning to play in the WSOP's first "Super Seniors", which is open to players 65 and older. A few minutes later the guy who chased after the winning player came back in, followed by the guy who had actually won the pot. He started stacking his chips and apologized to us. “I’m sorry, I thought he boated up on me.” Well yes, he had, but you boated up bigger. Before the guy came back, the dealer made a joke about the stack (well over $300) being a “splash pot.” But honestly, I wonder what would have happened if the guy hadn’t been caught in time?
Things got off to pretty good start for me. While everyone else was putting all their chips in the center every other hand, I was trying to figure out if I could tell the difference between the games of one maniac from another. Then I found myself looking at King-10 of diamonds in middle position. Because I’m a donkey—or it could be because in Ed Miller’s new book this is one of the hands you open with in any position—I raised to $15 after one player had limped in. Three of us saw the flop, including the big blind. He had a huge stack. He was the guy who had one the very first pot with the medium flush described earlier. I guess I was down to about $290-$295 or so from my $300 buy-in, I don’t think I’d put in anything other than the blinds. The game was less than 20 minutes old.
The flop was Queen-9-3, two diamonds. Before I could c-bet, the big blind donked out $35. I called and we were heads up. The turn was the marvelous Ace of diamonds, giving me the stone cold nuts. The third diamond didn’t faze the Big Blind at all. He put out a bet for $85. Nice.
I thought about my action for some time. I didn’t want to just call. But with my remaining stack, I couldn’t see how I could raise anything less than a shove. Even a min raise would have been significantly more than half my stack. So after a bit, I just announced “all-in.”
He snap called and announced, “I have two pair,” and showed Ace-Queen. Wow, that turn card was even more perfect than I imagined. I showed my flush and the river bricked. It was a sweet pot.
I counted my stack after it was all nice and neat and I had exactly $593 in front of me.
I won another hand, this time with pocket Jacks. It was straddled and I raised to $15 first in. Only the straddle called, and I c-bet $25 on a King-high flop. He folded.
It was way too early to call it a day and book the win, although I can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind once or twice.
And then I looked down at pocket Aces on the button. One was black, the other was a diamond. Again, it was straddled, so the player first to act made it $20. It folded to the guy directly to my right, who called. Both of these guys had smallish stacks, a bit less than $150. I had noticed that guy who called never seemed to fold his hand preflop to a raise. I guess he did, but if he limped in, he called a raise for sure. This time he hadn’t limped in, he just cold called the $20.
I thought for a bit and made it $90. The blinds and the straddler hadn’t been heard from, and they had bigger stacks (not as big as mine) and the way this table was running, it wasn’t unlikely to think that they might still have been interested. But it folded back to the guy who made it $20 and he tanked, and finally decided to call. While he was tanking, he heard his name called for a bigger game.
The next guy wasted little time in announcing “all-in.” What the heck could he have had? He cold called $20 then shoved?
I couldn’t raise so I just called. But the original raiser put all his chips in. Now that I am thinking about it, he shouldn’t have been allowed to do that. He had $148 to start. The guy who first shoved had $143, which is what I called. The raise from $90 to $143 wasn’t enough to reopen the raising. He should have only been allowed to call. Not that it made a bit of difference, of course, he and I would have gotten it all in on the flop. Anyway, there was a tiny side pot.
No one showed. There was a King on the flop, and a 10. And two hearts. Another heart on the turn. And a fourth one on the river. You see where this is going. The guy to my immediate right, on the flop, had said, “I’m looking good.” Then, when the fourth heart hit, he said, “I guess not.” He turned over King-10 offsuit. I wonder if Ed Miller would think that was a good hand to shove with against a raise and a re-raise? But neither of his cards was a heart.
The guy who first raised to $20 had two 6’s. And yes, one of them was a heart. He took the whole pot, and moved to his bigger game. The other guy rebought, and then, sometime later, moved to a bigger game. I guess in those bigger games they shove with pocket 6’s and K-10 offsuit, huh?
Well, that hurt, but I still had some profit in front of me…..well half of what I had before.
But not for long. I had pocket Queens, again it was straddled and there was already a caller or two. I made it $20. Only the guy with K-10 on the last hand called. The flop was 9-8-3, rainbow. He donked out $40. Grr… He had about $140 left. I could shove. I could fold. But I just called. I think I was still a little staggered from the Aces hand, which is why I didn’t want to play for the rest of his stack, even with my overpair. A King hit the turn. He immediately shoved for his $140. I tanked and then folded. I think it was very possibly a bad fold.
I got Aces again, another straddled pot. A bunch of folks had called the $6 straddle, so I made it $25. No one called this time.
Pocket Queens again, this time on the button. Another straddled pot. I put out $20. Only one player called. Now this guy was actually the tightest guy at the table. Not long before, I realized that this guy had been at the table since it opened and I couldn’t remember him doing anything. I was sure he had played a few hands but he was folding as much as I was, never straddled, and didn’t call a lot of raises. I didn’t recall him making any raises either.
The flop was 9-8-7, rainbow. He checked. I bet $40. He called without hesitation. The turn was an Ace, and he checked. I checked behind. There was another Ace on the river. This time he bet $70. I tanked. I think if the same line had been taken by any other player at the table, I would have called. But this guy had been so tight, I thought folding was the right play.
I may have been wrong about that. A bit later, I saw him call off his entire stack—nearly $200, with top pair, top kicker (Ace-Jack). The board had a pair on it and the other guy had a boat. So that made me think he might have been stealing against me, despite my observation about his tight play. In his defense, the player he called it off against was quite the aggro and it might not have been such a bad call.
Anyway, I was down to just a bit over $300, so just a little bit over my initial buy-in. That big stack I had when I caught the nut flush against 2 pair was a far away memory.
Then, in the small blind, I had pocket 7’s. There was no straddle and no raise. I competed for a buck. The big blind checked behind. Four of us saw a flop of Queen-7-4, rainbow. There were no good draws, but the pot was too small to slow play, so I put out $10. A guy with a huge stack called. Then a guy with a small stack ($100ish?) made it $40. The other player folded.
Should I have just called there? Maybe, but the kind of table this was, I figured I could get action even with a raise—the short stack would for sure call my raise—and I figured I should get the money in while I was almost certainly ahead.
I made it $120.
The big stack wasted almost no time in announcing all-in. Now, this guy had been at the table since it opened. He had been felted in the first 10 minutes with the dreaded pocket Kings. He flopped a set and lost to a rivered straight. You mean that doesn’t just happen to me? But he rebought and got his huge stack mostly from a three-way all-in awhile later (I don’t remember the hand). He now had over $1K in front of him.
The short stack very resignedly put the rest of his chips in. He must have known he was beat but for the amount he had left, he couldn’t fold.
Of course I called. I couldn’t imagine the big stack limping in with pocket Queens, the only hand that was ahead of me. And if I could have imagined it, I would have assumed it was just my imagination and called anyway.
No one showed. The last two cards were bricks. I showed my set of 7’s and the big stack said, “I knew it. I knew it when you raised.” He showed pocket 4’s. Those set-over-sets are so nice when you’re on the right end of them, aren’t they? The short stack mucked and left the game. I have to assume he had a Queen.
When I finished counting I had exactly $700 (after tipping the dealer). That was a really, really nice pot.
I stayed another 45-minutes or so, but didn’t have another memorable hand. I lost some money with blinds, calling a raise or two with pocket pairs and whiffing, and the like. I think I raised once with Jack-9 clubs and missed the flop completely, and didn’t c-bet against five callers. I also think I raised once with big cards and took down a pot with a c-bet.
So when I was ready to call it a day, I was down to $650, a $350 profit. Not bad for such a wild game. I could have stayed 10 more minutes and lost it all, or possibly tripled it up. But I was ready to get off the roller coaster and head home.