Hollywood Park, that is.
Yesterday I drove down to Hollywood Park Casino to check it out. I was first reminded that there even was a Hollywood Park Casino the previous Saturday when a player at my tournament table at Commerce mentioned he’d been playing there recently (see here). When that guy mentioned it, I asked if they had finished the renovations that I knew they were doing. He said yes. So I made a mental note to try to check it out “one of these days.”
I had pretty much forgotten that when, in response to my follow up post about the Commerce cash game, fellow blogger edgie212 commented that HP had a 1/2 game with a $100 max buy-in instead of the $40 max that Commerce has. Hmm…that’s the same buy-in as the 1/2 at PC Ventura. I’ve played that and it’s not bad (tho I prefer the 2/3 game with a $300 max buy-in).
So, since my plans for yesterday included a late morning appointment in the West L.A. area, I started considering trying HP instead of heading out to the Bike as I originally planned. It was actually a bit closer to where I’d be leaving from than the Bike (and of course, both are a lot closer than Ventura). So, when my appointment was over, I decided to check out the new and improved Hollywood Park Casino. I figured if nothing else, by going to HP I could at least get a blog post out of reviewing the new poker room.
I actually did once write a blog post about an experience at the old Hollywood Park Casino. It was one of the first blog posts I ever published. You can find it here. It’s funny—rereading that post just now, you can tell it was written by someone who had virtually no experience playing NL tournaments—or NL of any kind. At that time, I had played just a few tourneys and had probably never played a NL cash game. And you can pretty much tell that by the post. I’m a much better NL player now, right? Right?
I remember going back there one or two more times. I even remember the reason—they were doing major road construction on the main freeway that gets me to the Bike for a few weeks and I couldn’t easily get there. So I played cash a time or two at HP. I’m sure it was before I switched to NL and I played 2/4 limit there. I don’t have fond memories of it, that’s for sure. Especially when I got approached by a guy begging for a handout as I tried to leave the last time I was there.
Hollywood Park is not in the best part of Southern California. Actually no casino around here is. They don’t put gambling establishments in Beverly Hills or Malibu. The reason the casino is named Hollywood Park is that it used to be next to the Hollywood Park race track. They closed that a year or two ago. The same lot also has the once “Fabulous” Forum, where the Lakers used to play before they opened Staples Center. That area where the racetrack used to be is being used to build a beautiful new stadium for the L.A. Rams (and now, the L.A. Chargers). Let’s hope that one of these days, one or both of those teams will be worthy of playing in a nice, new stadium.
When I got there, I realized that they didn’t just remodel the old room, they tore it down and built a whole new facility in the vicinity. The old casino was badly in need of improvements. It was dirty, dingy, the tables were old, the chips were filthy….it was an unappealing place to play. The new place is all shiny and new, with new tables, new chairs (quite comfy) and even new, clean chips. It’s not as big as the Bike but the layout is really nice, everything all in one big room. Outside of the table side dining, not a lot of great options for food, however. There is a sit down restaurant and a little deli with a limited sandwich menu (but no place to eat what you get there). Unlike Commerce, it was easy to order a Diet Coke (they do charge a buck for it, and no free refills).
The outside is different too. Instead of just outside parking, they built a new parking structure. No, they didn’t charge me for parking, but there were gates there (stuck on open at the time), so they can add that in the future. Now that I think of it, whenever the Rams or Chargers are playing there, there is no way that they won’t be charging for that casino adjacent parking garage—they are not going to let football attendees park for free. Maybe they’ll figure out a way to have gamblers (in the casino) get a validation. I believe they do charge for valet parking, though.
After taking a tour I found the poker podium and tried to figure out the games. Like Bike and Commerce, they refer to the games by the buy-ins, not the blinds. On the board, they had the blinds for each game in tiny, tiny print. The game I wanted was “$40-$100.” The next biggest game was “$100-$300.” I checked—was this possibly a 2/3 game I could play? Nope, that was the buy-in for their 3/5 game. Absurd.
There was also a game listed as “$20-$30.” I was sure that was an awful game but it didn’t show the blinds and so I asked what they were, just out of curiosity. The lady at the podium didn’t know. She asked a guy in a suit who was in the vicinity. He didn’t know either. He said to call so-and-so at extension whatever. She was about to when another suited guy came by and the first guy asked him. Turns out it was a new game they just started, the blinds are 50¢ and $1. Although later I heard one of them tell another player it was $1 and $2, which I am sure is wrong. I did find it noteworthy that they have floor people who knew so little about the games they are spreading.
I got into a game and it was very nitty. Stacks were less than $100 mostly, with one or two players having $200-$250 tops at any one time. Preflop raises were a rare thing for the first hour….and then it changed with a few new players who liked to shove shortish stacks preflop. When there were raises (as opposed to shoves) it was usually $4 or $5. I usually open to $8 but realized that would be too much here. I refused to open to less than $6 though. I actually stole some blinds that way, including once when I had Aces. Then the table got a bit preflop shove happy.
The rake was interesting. Like all L.A. rooms (except Ventura, I believe), chopping the blinds means taking the small blind for the house. They took the $1 jackpot drop and then up to $5 for the house. I wasn’t sure if they took more than the initial $3 rake based on their being a turn or on the size of the pot or what. But it was $6 (including jackpot) tops. No extra buck for the river like at Bike.
There was an unusual situation with the rake involving a hand I was (marginally) in. I had 10-5 off in the big blind. Only UTG on my left had entered the pot, he limped in. Actually, I’m not sure if there was anyone else. I only know that after she took some money out of the pot for the jackpot and the rake, there was just $2 in the actual pot. There was never any betting. I didn’t think that the $2 pot was worth investing any money to steal. I had nothing. At the end of the hand, I flipped over my cards and said “10-high.” The guy on my left showed 10-9. I don’t remember the board, whether it had two pair or a pair and higher cards than the 10 but it was definitely a split pot, the 9 didn’t play.
That seemed easy for the dealer….each of us gets a buck. But she hesitated. There was a floorman walking by and she asked him what to do. After much discussion, she took one chip from the rake and put it in the pot to make it a $3 pot instead of a $2 pot. And since I was furthest from the button, I got the extra buck! I came out way ahead on that. I said to the guy who got just a buck, “Doesn’t seem fair. You had the better hand yet I got double what you got.” He agreed. But I sure wasn’t going to give him the buck! I have no idea why they took money away from the rake and gave us an extra buck, but the floorman insisted that was the right thing to do.
I did take notes about a number of hands, but really nothing that exciting. One of the hands I didn’t write down was when I made a bad fold that was actually a good fold. Huh? Well, from memory, I think I had King-8 clubs, big blind, no raise, many limpers. The flop was Ace-Ace-5, two clubs. I had the nut flush draw, but didn’t like the paired Aces. A guy bet $3 and I called and the guy on my left called. The turn was a blank, Same guy bet $3, same two callers. The river completed my nut flush. Same guy bet $3. I just called. I really was concerned about a boat, so I didn’t want to raise. Guy on my left made it $20. First guy folded instantly. I tanked. On the one hand, it was only $17, easy call. But the pot was still small. In Vegas, there’d be more money in the pot and a bigger river raise. I think I should have called there because it was only $17. But I smelled a boat. I ended up folding.
He didn’t show. I’m not one of those guys who ever asks what the player I fold to has. That’s because I don’t want to be asked that question myself. So I said nothing and wondered if I made a good fold. But when I left the game, the guy was still there, and I asked him if he remembered the hand. He did, and confirmed he had a boat—he had pocket 5’s. So it was technically a good lay down (no reason for him to lie since I was leaving) but as a poker play I think it was a dumb move. And really, if I’m not prepared to call there I should have folded on the flop, right?
The other hand of note was another big blind hand. A bunch of limpers and I just checked from the big blind with Ace-Jack of clubs. I should have raised but by then I felt I was likely to get called in one or two spots and didn’t want to play it out of position. The flop was Ace-high, one club. I bet $4 and got one call. A second club on the turn and I bet $8, he called. Third club on the river giving me the stone cold nuts. Actually, the board clubs were 9-10-King, so I almost had the Royal. I bet $10, the guy tanked forever. He asked, “How big is your kicker?” I said nothing. He folded and then asked what I had. I said, “I forgot.” He groaned. Then I said, “Hey, it’s pay-per-view.” They guy next to him laughed and agreed. That guy correctly put me on the flush.
When I left, I made a point of letting him know what I had. No harm then since I was out of the game. Odds of me playing with him again are slim.
I had to cut the session short due to an errand I needed to run that came up at that last minute. I ended up winning $25. It wasn’t a terrible game, but it wasn’t great either. Next time I have that West L.A. appointment, will I head there instead of the Bike? It’s possible. I may just decide based on what Google Maps says is the road less traveled. In L.A., you always have to consider the traffic.