Monday, April 16, 2012

A Pineapple Upside Down Birthday Cake (Minus the Cake)

This is the story of one of my all time most fun nights since I started playing poker.  It happened around a year ago, back when I was still just a 2/4 player.  It also coincided, quite by accident, with my birthday.  Since my birthday is again fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to finally post this story.
There is a problem tho, in my telling this story.  I really am uncomfortable naming names—even the fake names I have given everyone who frequents the BSC—for this particular tale.  Especially now that I know that at least some of the BSC gang is reading this blog.  I’m not sure I even want their co-workers to figure out who said what, or who did what, if I can help it!  Oh it’s not that bad…it’s not like anyone got up on the poker table and danced naked damn it….it’s just that there are a few things that happened that I just am not comfortable attributing to a person who could be identified.  I’m probably being overly paranoid, but that’s just the way I feel.
And since some of the people I will be talking about already have fake names on my blog—and some don’t—I don’t want to give these people a second fake name! So I’ll just refer to people as “dealer” and “female dealer” and so on, rather than using fake names.  Hopefully this won’t be too hard to follow.  Now I know that in doing this, I will be infuriating at least one of my loyal readers, Lightning36, who does a wonderful blog that you should be following, and you can find it here.  But in response to my previous post, Lightning indicated he didn't like the fact that I never reveal real names on my blog. So I am dedicating this post to him, and I may just find a way to honor him further in this post.
Originally I was going to make an exception for the protagonist in this tale, who is not me.  He has been featured in this blog before.  I could use his blog name because there is nothing in this story that would embarrass him.  Oh, he had a bad night playing poker, but that happens to even the best players, of which he is not one.  No shame there. And everyone from BSC who reads this will know who he is.  But since I perhaps have already told an embarrassing story about this dealer—or some day might—I feel better not even using his blog name for this story.  Yeah, I know I’m weird about this.  Anyway, I am going to refer to this dealer as “Birthday Boy” for this post, the reason for which will soon be evident.
So by the time this story takes place, I had played a lot of poker at BSC, almost all of it 2/4 limit, and had started visiting Vegas on almost a monthly basis for the better part of a year.  When in Vegas, my evenings are spent at BSC more often than not.  My frequent appearances at BSC resulted in the stories told in my previous post here, but the story I’m about to tell happened before any of those tales and it is this night that made me realize what I fixture I had become at BSC.
So it was the day before my birthday of last year, which means, since I usually play poker past midnite, I would be celebrating the very start of my birthday at a poker table at BSC, in all likelihood. 
Soon after getting started at my 2/4 game, Birthday Boy came to deal.  Now several things happened while Birthday Boy was dealing and I'm not quite sure of the precise order of them.  This is unfortunate because I'm wondering if what happened had to do with my revealing that it was about to be my birthday or not.  But anyway, Birthday Boy asked me if I knew how to play "Crazy Pineapple."  I did not.  He explained the game to me.  He said it was easy, it's just like Hold Em except...instead of being dealt two cards, you are dealt three.  There's the pre-flop betting like in Hold-em, and another round of better after the flop.  After the flop betting round, you have to discard one of your three hole cards.  After that, it plays just like Hold-em.  The reason he told me this was because that today was his birthday (big surprise, huh?) and after his shift, a bunch of dealers were going to play Crazy Pineapple right in the BSC poker room.  It would be 2/4 limit, just like I played then. I thought he said I should join them, it would be fun.  I of course wished him Happy Birthday and told him my birthday was tomorrow. 
I had asked Birthday Boy why he didn't take the day off and he said he was taking tomorrow off instead, but for his birthday he arranged this game.  I asked him if it was a private game and he said no, you can't have a private game in a casino and that I was more than welcome.  I think he actually invited me to join.  When I asked what time it was, he said it would be 2:00AM.  Ugh...that's usually the time I leave if I haven't already retired, and I was already tired.  I said I'd see.  At first I wasn't really seriously considering it, I figured I'd be too tired, I'd feel out of place if everyone else was a dealer, etc.  But I had hours to think about it, this was only like 9 or 10 in the evening. Again, I'm unclear on the sequence.  Did Birthday Boy only invite me to the game after hearing it would be my birthday?  I'm not sure.  And would it have mattered anyway?  Was he merely telling me about this or was he actually inviting me?  I'm pretty sure it was the latter but I wasn't totally sure.  Also....did I really want to play a game...with a bunch of dealers no less....that I had never played before and didn't know the strategy for?
I don't do that.  Before ever setting foot in Vegas, I studied several books on blackjack and craps.  I studied several poker books before playing live casino poker (I know, this will astonish folks who have seen me play).  Playing some game I never played before first time with real money is not my style.
I had time to think about it, and initially was doing well at my 2/4 game.  I got up over $100.  But my lucked changed and I started losing my profits.  As long as I was up, taking a shot at that Crazy Pineapple game seemed intriguing.  Once I started losing, it was less so, since I felt it was likely to be a losing proposition for me.  I wanted to at least hang around for the start of Crazy Pineapple game to check it out, so I considered checking out of the 2/4 game early and just walking around the casino for a bit.  Then the table, which for a long spell was rather quiet and boring, got more interesting when a bunch of chatty folks showed up.
One guy was a Lakers fan, and with the playoffs having just started, that gave us lots to talk about.  Then a very interesting, married woman from Northern California joined the game with her husband.  She was very well built, wearing a tank top that was very low cut.  She was wearing a bra that didn't give her enough support--she needed plenty--so not only was the view plentiful but....this gal got very excited whenever she won a pot and stood up, raised her arms and--her words, not mine--'shook her booty" that made for a very interesting show. 
In an addition to California Girl and Lakers fan, a lovely couple from Australia joined the table, both very chatty and fun. The wife was a very pretty blonde who unfortunately hadn’t gotten the memo that women visiting Vegas are obligated to show cleavage, but frankly, California Girl had enough cleavage for both of them. Now the table was fun, giving me incentive to stick it out until 2.  Lakers fan was a frequent visitor to Vegas and may have remembered me from a previous trip.  Or maybe he just saw me chatting with all the dealers.  In any case, he knew that I was a regular and every time they swapped out dealers, he asked me for a rating on the dealer.  His criteria was whether you could win when they dealt.  That's just silly cuz even if a dealer was lucky for me it wouldn't mean that they'd be lucky for him.  But it was fun and as I said, he was a basketball fan so we had fun talking about that. 
So I was having tons of fun while waiting for the pineapple game to start, still unsure what to do.  But now the problem was my winnings...they were all gone.  I was eventually down a few bucks.  If I did play in the pineapple game, those profits I could safely invest in the game were gone and I would be risking losing even more in a game I didn't know.  So I was still debating what to do.  But around 1:30 or so I saw that they had put the "Crazy Pineapple" game on the waiting board, as an "interest" game.  The first name on the list was the name of one of my dealer buddies, who I had seen hanging around in his regular clothes, not dealing that nite, so I realized he had come in on his day off to play in Birthday Boy's birthday party game.  The waitlist starting filling up with names I recognized as dealers and some names I didn't recognize.  I assumed that other names were just regular folks who knew the game and were interested in playing.  This made me feel a little more comfortable about playing, if there were other non-dealers there.
The list started getting longer, and I had to decision to make.  If I didn't play at the beginning of the game, and it was filled, I'd probably never get in before it would get too late.  OTOH, I didn't want to freeze out any dealers who wanted to play with their buddies.  But it sure did seem like Birthday Boy invited me into the game and would welcome my playing, meaning he wasn't expecting it to fill with just dealers.  And then I thought—how often am I going to get an opportunity to get into a game like this, to be welcomed into a private club like this?  It was an opportunity I could not possibly pass up.  Obviously Birthday Boy thought enough of me to tell me about it, so I must be welcomed.  It was really a nice compliment.  And it was now my birthday.  How could I possibly pass this up?  The strange names on the board and the fact that there were now 8 names on the list made me realized I had to make my move or get frozen out.  I hoped it would be ok with the other folks....I was still unsure despite Birthday Boy asking me.  But I got up from the table and headed to toward the front to get my name on the list.
One of my dealer pals saw me and asked if I was calling it a night.  I started to say "No, actually....." and he stopped me and said, "Oh, you want to get into that pineapple game?" reading my mind.  Yes, I said, I did.  He said he would have them put me on the list.  I went back to the table I was playing at, said good bye to Lakers Fan, Australian couple, California Girl and California Girl’s tits and was ready to play in the game.
Now.....was I wrong to get into a game with a lot of poker dealers playing?  Well, the thing is, I've played poker with a lot of poker least ones I knew about at the time.  Who knows how many poker dealers I played with that I didn't even know were off duty dealers.  But, I will frequently play with the dealers cuz they play all the time.  If it's at BSC I know they are dealers.  Sometimes they play before their shift, sometimes they play after their shift.  And even weirder, sometimes they play during their shift.  If it is a slow day, the players are allowed to play while on the clock.  They are actually getting paid to play poker.  Of course, they have to use their own money, so they risk losing money (they could also win, of course).  The idea is that, if it is slow and a few of them play, it makes the room busier, keeps more normal players playing and gives more opportunity for the dealers who keep dealing to deal more tables and make more money in tips than they otherwise would.  The caveat is that they must be prepared to be "picked up", asked to put their uniform back on and go back to dealing if it gets busy.
So I've played with a lot of the BSC dealers, including the night of this post here, which took place long after the night I’m now describing. And the thing is, they are not necessarily any better than any other players.  In fact, they may be worse, and it may be more profitable playing with them than with the average joe.  Some of them are pretty bad players....especially at a low limit game.  They don't take the game that seriously if they are playing low limit and they put too much money in on too many weak hands.  It can be a great situation for a tight player like me.  Note, now that I have had a chance to play with some of these same dealers at the No Limit table, I can assure you they almost always play a lot better there than they do when the play 2/4.
Anyway, I made my way to the area of the room where the game was just as they started "calling down" the list.  I was unhappy that there were more names than seats, I was taking someone's seat.  Turns out the two names who didn't get in initially were Female Dealer and Graveyard Shift Manager. Graveyard shift manager could only play if he took time off and turned the job of managing the shift to someone else.  That was no big deal.  But I felt bad about Female Dealer.  She was late to the game cuz she was still dealing when they started.    She is a sweetie, one of the first dealers to remember me by name way back when. 
Anyway, the ten players were not all familiar to me.  Birthday Boy was there of course. Three other dealers from the swing shift when I mostly played, all well known to me, were there too.  I saw a daytime dealer I didn’t really know that well and barely recognized. (Since this I’ve gotten a lot more familiar with him).  I also recognized a regular Massage Girl from the room at the table. It was clear from what she was telling one of the other dealers, she is not a poker player at all, doesn't really know how to play poker and was just playing to be in on the party.
There were three guys I didn't know at all.  Two of them were sitting on either side of Birthday Boy,  Birthday Boy introduced me to them but I didn't catch their names or what they were in relation to Birthday Boy....but it was clear were Birthday Boy's buddies there to help celebrate his birthday.  I found out the next day that these are Birthday Boy's buddies that he knows from another room he used to work at.  The last guy was a guy who I later found out works at BSC in another part of the casino, not in the poker room.  I guess he was a friend of either Birthday Boy’s or one of the other players.
So that along with me was the group.  The first dealer (actually dealing the game, that is) was one of my buddies.  I started out feeling really out of place.  It was indeed the case that all the people there were real friends with Birthday Boy, not just players who he had dealt to like I was.  And I felt terribly guilty about keeping Female Dealer out of the game.  I knew she probably couldn't stay too long, since it was so late   For the first round or two, I kept thinking I should offer her my seat.  But then after a few hands, Massage Girl gave up her seat to Female Dealer...she wasn't really a poker player and was just there to be sociable.  So this worked out well....Female Dealer played and Massage Girl saved her money and just kibitzed. 
Before the game started, one of the (male) dealers playing stacked all his chips in one really tall stack, much taller than you usually ever see at a poker table.  He pointed that out to Massage Girl and asked if she was impressed.  It was clear to me that this was a phallic reference.  I didn't catch Massage Girl’s reply but she was not offended...and said something to him—something I didn’t hear, unfortunately—that caused him to say, "Really?  That big?"   One of the ladies present then made a comment about “penis envy,” but I didn’t hear exactly what she said about it.  But this elicited a rather strange comment from one of the male players at the table, a regular dealer at BSC—oh heck, let me make an exception and give him a name, ok?  Let’s call this particular male dealer playing in this game “Lightning”.  So Lightning said, “I actually like penis-envy.
Another comment came up when Female Dealer was about to enter the game for Massage Girl.  She said she would buy in for $40...and then said "a $40 lap dance...who wants one?"  Nobody bit.  But when she got her first hand, she wasn't settled in yet and was casual about looking at her cards, so much so that the player next to her—her co-worker— apparently saw her hand.  He said, "You’re showing, be careful."  She said, "don't look."  He replied, "if you're showing I'm gonna look."  She said, "Don't look at my boobies!"  Player/dealer said, "If you showing your boobies, I'm gonna look at them!"  She repeated, "Don't Look at my boobies!" but she was just kidding, her boobies weren't showing, they were of course well covered. 
Most of the actual dealers had problems dealing the game since they so rarely deal it.  The players had to help all the actual dealers out.  They often forgot to deal the third card, or ask for discards after the flop. It was kind of funny.  Also their fellow dealers playing gave whoever the actual dealer was excessive abuse, calling each one that dealt “the worst dealer in Vegas” and some even worse insults.  But they made up for it by tipping well, the dealers who dealt this game made a killing in tips, dealers are generally extremely generous tippers when they play.
I threw away my first few hands, even one possibly good one, just trying to learn the game and get a feel for it.  And all the dealers know I'm a tight player anyway.  It didn't take long for me to start getting teased.  So one of the dealers playing says, "Look at Robert, he's so quiet over there, I bet he does really well tonite."  The actual dealer says, "Yeah, he'll probably go home with all the money."  Player/dealer said that was probably true.  Later when I finally won my first pot, player/dealer made a big deal of it, and started calling me a "rock."  He said I need to flex my muscles every time I won a pot.  So I did.  He kept calling me “the rock” the rest of the night.
After a while I got totally comfortable with the group, and began to tease the guys I knew as good as I was getting.  I relaxed once Female Dealer was playing and I was no longer preventing anyone from playing.  The game itself is very fun, a really fun variation of Hold Em.  I figured out soon enough that good hands in this game were not the same as in Hold em.  For example, I immediately figured out that getting dealt three of a kind, which you would think would be good, is really bad.  After the flop, you will have to throw out one of your three cards, giving you only a pair and only one card in the deck is left to help you. 
After a few rounds, I started getting some good cards and hit some nice hands.....and the pots were big.  With so many dealers, there was a lot of raising, and when I got lucky I won some big pots. Dealers seem to love raising and re-raising pre-flop and on the flop, whether or not they have good cards or not! Some hands I remember.  One, I was dealt two black Aces and the Queen of Spades.  I raised preflop.  The flop had BOTH an Ace and a Queen.  I had a full house but I couldn't keep it because I had to throw out one of the three cards in my hand.  Of course I had to throw out the Queen, three Ace's beats two pair, Aces and Queens.  As it happened, a Queen hit on the river giving me a full house anyway.  I won a huge pot.
Another time I was dealt two 10's and a Queen.  The flop was 7,8,9.  The suits didn't matter this time.  I had four cards to a straight.  But do I keep the Q and throw away one of the 10's?  I need to read "Crazy Pineapple for Dummies" to get the answer.  If I keep the Queen, a Jack gives me a better straight than if I don't have it.  But keeping both 10's gives me other ways to make a good hand...two pair, three of a kind or even a full house.  And although unlikely, 2 10's might be good enough to win unimproved.  I decided to throw out the Queen since a Jack would give me a straight anyway.  Turned out to be the wrong choice.....a jack did hit.  I made my straight, but two other players also had a 10 (that's why I never got another 10 on the board) and we split the pot three ways.  If I had kept the Queen instead I would have one the whole pot with a better straight.
Then there was poor Female Dealer.  She played way too many hands.  But one time she had pocket 7's and hit a third 7 on the flop.  Poor girl...I had pocket kings and had raised preflop (probably a reraise, most posts were raised preflop) and hit a third K on the flop.  I beat her in what is known as "set over set.” Or course we were raising and re-raising each other like crazy! When I showed my pocket cowboys was really upset….not at me, at the cards. Please note, that while I can’t win with Pocket Kings in Hold Em, I can apparently win with Pocket Kings in Crazy Pineapple!
The worst thing was that Birthday Boy, on his birthday, was really having a bad night.  He kept getting beaten on the river time and time again.  I think I only caught him on the river once, but I felt bad about it, especially since he invited me!  Oh well...that's poker.
In fact, I was doing great.  The pots I won were really large and by playing tight I didn't throw too much money away on bad cards and bad beats.  I ended up winning $200.  One of my dealer pals did a bit better than that but Female Dealer and Birthday Boy got killed.
Towards the end of the evening, some of the guys were getting nasty texts from their wives asking them where they were and hoping they weren't out gambling.  No kidding. 
Eventually the calls from the wives became too much to ignore and the game broke up a little past 4:30 AM  I wasn't even tired and had had a total blast.  It was a great birthday for me (not so much Birthday Boy).....and did I mention I won $200?  I would have had a blast even if I had lost, but winning was of course better.  And I really felt honored to be included in a game like this. I thanked Birthday Boy for inviting me and said I was sorry he did so poorly.
It was one of the best birthdays I can remember, and also one of the best times I’ve ever had in a poker room.  Thanks again, guys, for letting me be a part of it. 

Note:  For a report on another Crazy Pineapple game, which was also a birthday celebration with lots of wild dealers playing, see here and here.  And as a bonus, that one has Prudence, too.


  1. Rob,

    For whatever reason, this only seems to happen in YOUR life (never in mine):

    "You’re showing, be careful." She said, "don't look." He replied, "if you're showing I'm gonna look." She said, "Don't look at my boobies!" Player/dealer said, "If you showing your boobies, I'm gonna look at them!" She repeated, "Don't Look at my boobies!" but she was just kidding, her boobies weren't showing, they were of course well covered.

    1. Indeed,it does appear that whenever I'm around, women can't help but talk about their intimate body parts.

      They never let me TOUCH them, mind you, but they do seem prone to talk about them.

  2. love pineapple and crazy pineapple also played with an 8 or better low.... AA2 with a suited 2 in regular pineapple what do you do ? like you blog

    1. Thanks very much, geezer, for your kudos and also for commenting. Appreciate it.

      I've heard that it is also played hi/lo, I have no idea how to play a hi/lo game, but in a low stakes cash game with a lot of crazy dealers, I'd be willing to try.

      I actually played another Crazy Pie game with a similar group of dealers a few months later, which I can probably blog about in the future if I can read my handwritten notes well enough. I think in that post I can name names, at least blog names.

  3. I've found that when dealers play after getting off duty, they are just letting off steam and that is more important to them than playing good poker.

    1. Absolute true MOJO.

      Or as one dealer told me, "Dealers just love to suck out on each other."

      Fortunately I was there to take advantage!

  4. The Rock huh? Please tell me that after they started calling you that you would ask, "Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?!" while dragging a pot.

    I'm glad you played this game, I could tell from the way you initially described the game that it was just going to be a fun sociable time with people splashing around in pots. As long as you're playing with money that you can afford to lose (which should always be the case anyway) and you approach a game like that with the right attitude, you will have fun. Poker doesn't always have to be a money making grind after all, sometimes it's just for fun.

    Along those lines, I think it's fun to learn new games. Now I used to be a lot like you, I would be scared to death to play a new game unless I had done some significant book studying of it. Then I realized a few things. First of all, for a lot of non-hold 'em games there isn't much in the way of strategy books written about them. Second, there are a lot fewer opportunities to play those games then there are to play hold 'em. Third, if you have some basic knowledge of general poker theory (Sklansky's "Theory of Poker" is useful here), then you can usually get a sense of good strategy after observing the play briefly. To me, the key concepts to identify in looking at any game are what types of hands have good equity and how those equities can change as betting rounds progress. One of the reasons that good hold 'em strategy can be pretty thoroughly analyzed is that there are certain spots where you know you will have a significant equity edge and therefore you can comfortably commit to playing a pot to the end. As you likely figured recently, that's not the case in Omaha. :) That doesn't make Omaha a bad game, it just makes it a very swingy game, so if you're going to play it, you have to be prepared for the swings. Pineapple, particularly low limit, is a blast to play and good for that social atmosphere.

    As far as your thoughts on not revealing "true identities" in your blog, I'll fess up that at first I didn't get it and whenever I would read a story I would spend part of my time wondering about what places were what and what people were who. Then I realized it didn't really matter. Despite what a certain blogger may think, we're not journalists. I see blogging as more about being a story teller and from that perspective, it doesn't matter if BSC is the Wynn Macau or Joe's Poker Palace in Beautiful Downtown Sheboygan. In fact, in the hands of a good story teller (and you definitely are one of those) I think a case can be made that not using real identities is actually helpful to the reader in bringing the story to life. If I don't really know where your story takes place, then when I read my imagination can cast the various characters and locales in your story from people and places that I have actual experience with - thus, the story comes to life more easily!

    So good story and I'm glad you had a fun birthday!

    1. Wow, Glenn, thanks for a great comment. Really great thoughts here, and nice kudos. Appreciate it all.

      This was my first time playing in a "primarily" dealers game and I would do it again any time, in fact I have. And I'm sure the gang at BSC would have no hesitation about inviting me into another such "semi-private" game, even if they would fear I'd take all their money! :)

      No, I didn't say that quote. In fact, I never heard of it. I had to google it just now to get it. Guess who's not a wrestling fan?

      You make a great point about non Hold-Em games and have encouraged to be more adventuress, so we'll see. Despite my earlier post, you may actually see me try Omaha again, but only in a low limit situation. My mistake was being in a tournament situation, where I put my tournament life there on a game I didn't understand. So don't expect to see me in a HORSE tournament any time soon but maybe, just maybe....with the right group of drunken dealers, I'd try a mix cash game.

      I've ready Sklansky's book, but I kinda skipped over the non- Hold Em examples, so maybe I should re-read it!

      Oh no!!! I shouldn't have allowed your comment to go thru. BSC is indeed Joe's Poker Palace in Beautiful Downtown Sheboygan. Damn you, sir.

    2. Dude - I knew that Joe's was really BSC, but you're not supposed to admit it. I was trying to throw everyone off the scent!

    3. Are you kidding? I sold out! The Sheboygan Chamber of Commerce is paying me for every new tourist they get looking for Prudence.

  5. "... But this elicited a rather strange comment from one of the male players at the table, a regular dealer at BSC—oh heck, let me make an exception and give him a name, ok? Since this particular dealer is handsome, intelligent, charming, and honest, let’s call this particular male dealer playing in this game 'Lightning'. So Lightning said ..."


    1. LOL, so glad you commented. I was pretty sure you read the post just hours after it first went up, and when you didn't comment, I feared that I had indeed pissed you off. Glad you came back.

      You know,if I change my post to indicate any other reason why I gave him your name, I would risk identifying the dealer. So you've got me in a box, I can't really make another joke at your expense without violating my own "secret identities" rule. I have been hoisted on my own petard, as it were. Nice move.

      I'll have to figure out another way at getting back at you, LightNing. Hmm........

  6. Ha ... you are trapped! However, if you were REALLY interested in protecting the innocent, you might have said something like "I will be infuriating at least one of my loyal readers ... let's call him Thunder ..."

    Muhahahahahaha !!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Yeah, well, I didn't need to protect YOUR identity, since I assume that Lightning36 isn't your real name.

      If I'm wrong, I apologize.

  7. fun stuff. to this day the best times I've ever had playing poker have more to do with the people at the table than how much money I win or lose.

    I still enjoy playing nickel/dime or whatever poker with my close friends more than any random game I could pick up despite how much money I win (welll..... maybe not despite how much but you get my point!)

    1. The ultimate is having fun with the people AND winning money, which is what happened for me at this event.