Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nailing the Josie at The Bike

Two Saturdays ago, I finally got to play some poker again, first time since I returned from Vegas in the middle of September.  And, ironically, because I started working for AVP (see here) almost immediately after getting to Vegas, I really played less poker during that visit than I had since I started playing poker around 7 years ago.  Seven years?  Gee, has it been that long?  You’d think I’d be better at it by now.  Since I got back to L.A., I’ve been working hard at my new duties.  Which consists of talking a lot about poker, but not playing it.  So it was good to finally get out and play that little game I’d been talking about so much the past six weeks.

Now as it happens, I just got back to Vegas a couple of days ago and am staying until 11/2.  This is mostly a work oriented trip, but if you're in Vegas and want to get together for some poker or whatever, drop me an email or a tweet (both addresses available to your right) and we'll see if we can arrange something.
But since I was still in L.A. those two Saturdays ago, getting my poker itched scrachted meant a drive down to The Bike, in majestic Bell Gardens, CA.  I got there at lunch time with a big appetite (not a tough achievement for me), knowing that by playing in the $2/$3 game I described here and here (which they call $100-$300 for the min/max buy-ins), I’d be entitled to eat anything I wanted for free.  Such a deal.
When I got there however, I briefly considered in playing in Deepstack tournament they were running as part of a special poker series they had.  It was a $10K guarantee, $340 buy-in, 2 day event, with 40 minute blinds and starting stacks of $30K.  It was tempting.  But the realization that I’d have to come back the next day if I did well—and I’d be there way into the late evening or early morning one or both days—gave me pause.  I wanted to play some poker, but I didn’t really want to play that much poker.  I hadn’t heard about the tournament until I showed up that day and thus was really prepared to be there for that long (potentially), and I knew I had things to do the next day, if I was so fortunate as to earn a day two.  So I went ahead with my original plan—hit that 2/3 game I’d played twice before.
As luck would have it, even tho my name was third on the list, a bunch of folks showed up almost immediately thereafter and they started a new game within minutes of my arrival.  This was good not so much because I was desperate to get started playing poker, but because I was starving.  And I needed to be in a game so I could order my free meal.
This proved to be a major distraction for the first couple of hours of the session.  Ordinarily, the table side service is pretty good, but not this time.  I think I heard them say they were understaffed.  I believe the turnout for the tournament I mentioned was a lot bigger than they expected; they made the guarantee with ease.  During the session, you could see the line of people registering all through the place.  It was a big turnout.
It took me a long time to get someone’s attention to see a menu; a very long time for someone to come back to take my order; and an astonishingly long time for the food to finally arrive (and without the diet Pepsi I had ordered).  The whole process, including eating, took about 2 hours.  I only mention it because I know how much such minute detail, making my posts even longer, is appreciated by my readers.  No, seriously, I mention it because it affected my play, and is therefore actually relevant.
You see, while I was trying to get the food servers’ attention, I was totally inattentive to the poker.  Also, I was waiting so long I had to get someone else’s attention to get a drink.  Then when the food finally arrived, I was distracted by eating.  It’s a full meal, not just some kind of snack that you can easily consume while playing.  I am definitely a distracted poker player while eating.  What this means is that while trying to get someone’s attention, I’m not studying the players as much as I should.  When I fold my hand, instead of watching the action, I’m looking around the room to find a server to call over.  Also, while eating, I’m gonna fold marginal hands I might sometimes play, and really only play premium hands.
I suppose that’s a good argument for going to the Bike on a full stomach, but I just can’t resist the free meal.  And one of the incentives for stepping out on this day was, after weeks of being cooped up eating a very boring rotation of my regular meals, I wanted something a little bit different; I wanted a restaurant meal.
Anyway, by the time I was fully satiated, and no longer worried about food, most of the folks at the table were completely different than the ones who had started there (a lot of the original group was just killing time waiting for a different game).  So I didn’t really miss much in terms of learning the table.
One thing of note, of the first three hands I was dealt on this day, the first and third were both pocket 8’s.  Very strange.  I called a raise with them the first time and missed.  The second time, the raise was too big and I folded.
By the time I was fully concentrating on the poker, I was down about $75, give or take.  I’d won a few small pots and lost a few small pots, or a few small bets I should say.  I wasn’t getting really good cards, and I was easily tossing in the bad ones.  However, unlike the other games at this level I’ve played at the Bike, this game was—for pretty much the entire time I was there—rather calm.  It was the least wild game I’ve played at the Bike since I started playing NL there.  Most of the preflop raises were reasonable, there weren’t a lot of shoves or huge overbets on the flop or the later streets.  Yet, there was still enough action to make some money when you hit a good hand.
In hindsight, I think I probably missed a good opportunity during the time I was worried about the food.  When the game is wild and full of aggressive types, I can usually do well by just playing my normal very tight game and wait for a hand and get paid off.  But I know that when the game is tight, you should play more aggressively, and I should have tried that.  It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I am learning a little how to do this and this would have been a good opportunity to learn more—and possibly get some money in the process.
But distracted, I didn’t really try this, and then after I was ready to give the game my undivided attention, I spent a few orbits really watching and studying the players so I could figure out how best to play which players.  There were a few real good players at the table, a couple of really tight ones (one was tighter than me, if you can believe it), and some really mediocre ones.  But I really didn’t think anyone who was there for any length of time was a truly bad player.  The few times when I was in position to try to play a little bit out of my comfort zone came when someone who I had to respect had raised, and I didn’t think challenging them would be prudent.
The guy to my immediate left was one of the tough players.  He was an older gentleman, but it was clear he was really good player.  He started straddling my big blind with annoying regularity.  He also like to talk to the other player when he was heads up; something that is apparently allowed at The Bike, although this is now usually prohibited in Vegas.  But he was always making positional raises—and even telling us in advance, when it was a multi-limped in pot and he was on the button or one of the blinds, that he was gonna raise if he had an Ace in his hand—and I knew I couldn’t be afraid to call one of them if I had something. 
Then there was the young or middle-aged (couldn’t tell which) Asian fellow two to my right.  He raised a lot preflop, but not usually a very big raise.  He even said, he raised small (usually $12) because he wanted action.  Again, I knew, I couldn’t be afraid to call his raises.
Most of the other players I felt I could outplay if push came to shove (so-to-speak).
After another hour of watching and studying and still waiting for the right opportunity, I was dealt pocket 3’s in early position.  I limped in (I can’t remember, but I may have had to call a straddle).  There were a lot of limpers.  The flop was Jack/10/3, very nice.  It was rainbow, so my only concern was the straight draw.  I thought about a check raise, but didn’t have to.  The big blind bet first, he put out $25.  So I counted out $75 and bet that.  Folded back to the big blind, who shoved.  He had just moved over from another table and didn’t have that much more than my $75.  I didn’t have a read on him but it was an easy call.
When I called, he said, “Oh, you already have a set?”  I sure did.  He had flopped two pair and got no help the rest of the way.  He took off and I now had more money than I bought in for—but not by much.
Oddly enough, on the very next hand, I was again dealt pocket three’s.  What are the odds of hitting a set of three’s back-to-back?  I don’t know, but I didn’t get there.  I was able to limp in and saw a flop that missed me.  Too much to ask for, I know.
A bit later I looked down at two lovely ladies.  While thinking about what to raise to (I was in middle position), the aforementioned Asian fellow made it $12.  Hmmm…what to do?  There are times there—most of them, frankly—where I just call.  To be honest, I don’t 3-bet a lot.  And against a lot of the players at this table, I wouldn’t have 3-bet there.  But against this particular player, I knew I was ahead of most of his raising range.  He raised with pretty much any Ace, or any pocket pair.  Of course, there was a time when he just smooth called a preflop raise and flopped a set of Aces (beating the original raiser’s pocket Queens).  Hey, whenever I try that stunt, it blows up in my face.
So the guy between us folded, I put out $30.   It folded back to the Asian fellow who thought about it a bit, then said, “The tightest player at the table……….I fold.”  Actually, as I mentioned, I think there was at least one player tighter than me, but I knew I wanted to try to use my reputation to my advantage somewhere down the road if I could.  He showed an Ace and asked if I had Kings.  I just laughed as I took in the small pot (there was some limper money too).
Not long after that came the hand of the day.  In early position, I was dealt the Josie, aka, Jack/Ten.  We all know this is Josie’s favorite hand.  And I always play the favorite hand of any of my fellow bloggers.

OK, that’s not true.  I don’t do that.  Sometimes I do though.  In fact, earlier, while I was eating, the good player to my left had won a hand playing the Grump, yes, the mighty deuce-four.  He turned two pair.  I was eating at the time so I don’t know what he had to call with his weak pair on the flop, but I did almost ask him if he knew he had played the Grump!
And the truth is, if I had gotten that Jack/10 (it was offsuit) earlier, when I was eating, or trying to flag down a server, I would have mucked it, especially in early position.  But now, as I was fully engaged, and frankly, getting near the end of my session, I was ready to roll the dice a little.
Again, I think I called a straddle with it.  Four or five of us saw a flop, which was Queen/9/rag, two diamonds.  So I flopped an open-ender but had to worry about the flush.  After the guy to my right checked, I checked, and rather cautious player put out a bet of $25.  He had about $150 behind him—I had him covered.  So I likely wouldn’t have called except the guy to my right called first.  Hmm……he had about as much as the other guy did behind him.  Now it seemed like I might be getting decent odds.  I checked my cards….the Jack was a diamond.  So I even had a shot at runner-runner straight flush.  Or a Jack high flush (which would not likely be any good, of course).  Despite the fact that one of my outs could actually hurt me, I decided to roll the dice again and call.
The turn was a blank, and it was again checked to the guy who bet the flop.  This time he put out $50.  Again, the other guy called.  Of course, I had to consider that at least one of these guys, probably the guy to my right, had the same hand as me, and if I hit my hand I’d have to chop it.  But still, it just seemed like decent odds for the position I was in.
The river was the King of clubs, the sweetest looking King of clubs I’d ever seen.  I made my straight and didn’t have to worry about a flush.  In other words, I only had the absolute nuts.  First guy checked, so it was on me.  What to do?
I could check there and go for the check-raise.  But the guy who had been betting only had about $100 left and would likely shove if he bet at all.  A check raise wouldn’t do much good—unless it would get the guy to my right to call.  But with the straight out there, I had to assume he’d only call one or both of us if he had the same hand as me.  So not betting would accomplish nothing.  My only chance to extract more money on this hand was to bet.
I put out $100.  Turns out the better only had $95 and thus called, putting him all in.  The other guy folded.  No Jack/10 for him.
The good player to my left, who was long out of my hand, said, as I was about to expose my hand, “He’s got the nuts.  He’s got Jack/10.  He doesn’t even have to show it, I know what he has.”  The other guy didn’t show, I don’t know what he had.  Two pair or a set, I guess.  But I believe he was a friend or at least an acquaintance of the good player to my left.  So I don’t think the good player was being rude—just helpful—by telling the guy I had beat that he hadn’t bet enough, that’s why I was allowed to stay in to wait for my straight to come.  The guy reluctantly agreed as he left the table.  I pointed out that because of the guy to my right calling his flop and turn bets, I was getting decent odds to make my straight.
Oh, and the Asian guy who said I was the tightest player at the table said he was surprised “that’s all” I had.  He expected Jack/10 of diamonds for the combo draw.
I wasn’t trying to criticize the guy to my right, but he said, “Yeah, and I shouldn’t have called.”  He didn’t say what he had.
This was a really nice pot, and suddenly I had almost $600 in front of me.  By the time I’d stacked up my winnings and counted it, the blinds had passed me.  I was happy with my late run.  It was getting late, I wasn’t there to play all day and night, and If I left a little shy of a double up, I could live with that.  I decided to play my blinds, then play one more orbit until the big bland came to me, and then call it a day.  For this orbit, I would play ultra-tight, even for me.  Didn’t want to risk too much at this point. I suppose the right thing to do if I have that attitude is just get up even before the blinds come to me, but I can’t resist seeing a few more “free” hands.
The orbit was uneventful.  I kept getting crap, easy folds.  Finally when I was under the gun, I mucked some crap and got up to get a couple of racks to carry my chips.  Now, what had happened was the Asian guy had been away from the table for awhile, so he missed his big blind on that last hand.  But as I was racking up my chips, he returned, and announced he would “buy the button.”  In other words, I could play one more hand for free.  So the dealer dealt me in as I was almost done racking my chips.  I knew—I just knew—this was going to be a hand I was tempted to play.  I really didn’t want to look.  I wanted to just fold without looking.
You see, I remember a story my pal Lightning had told me—and blogged about, here—when he last visited Vegas.  He waited for that one last free hand—and lost all or most of his stack.  It happened to him a couple of times, in fact.  And I sure as hell didn’t want that to happen to me.  But again, I had this overwhelming feeling I’d actually get a hand this time.  Knowing me, it’d be pocket Kings and I’d lose my whole stack to some donkey who would hit runner-runner flush.
But dammit, I looked.  It wasn’t Kings, or even Aces.  But it was a very playable hand.  It was Ace/Jack of spades.  Yeah, soooooted.  I thought for a second, and came thisclose, I mean, really, truly thisclose to mucking it and getting the hell out of there.  But….I couldn’t do it.  I had to play it.  If it hadn’t been suited, that’s an easy fold, especially in early position and with me anxious to book a nice profitable session.  But I couldn’t resist the damned suitedness of it.  Besides, the Bike has a bad beat jackpot, and me hitting my first royal flush ever right then could have been an terrific pay day.
I limped.  Under different circumstances, I’d raise there to thin the field.  But I wanted to see if I could get away with a limp.  Only risk three bucks out of my profits.  No one raised; in fact, only three of us saw a flop—which had two spades on a non-paired board.  The Asian guy who bought the button checked.  I checked too, as did the last guy.  A free card.  Nice.
Now ordinarily, I would probably have bet the flush draw there and possibly would have taken it down there.  But I didn’t I just didn’t want to risk anything at that moment.  I also thought the Asian guy might check raise me there and put me in a quandary.  So I was glad to see the free card.
Which was a very beautiful spade, giving me the nut flush, and the absolute nuts at that moment, pending the river.  As I was wondering how much to bet, the Asian guy kind of surprised me by betting out, $25.  Do I raise there?  Now I am no longer interested in playing it safe, I want more money.  I figured based on the action so far, no one would likely call me if I raised, so I smooth called.  All I had to worry about was a paired board.  The third guy folded, as I figured he would.
The river was a blank, and the Asian checked.  I wondered how much he would call.  Having earlier said I was the tightest player at the table, I figured he knew I had the nuts.  I didn’t figure he’d call a huge bet.  I frankly thought he’d be unlikely to call any bet.  But if I made it small enough, he might just give me a few more chips.
I put out $40.  I was still surprised that he called.  Maybe I bet too little?  He said he had two pair, would he have called $100?  $75?  Hmm….I think I maybe put a little too much credence in his saying I was the tightest player at the table.  Since I was leaving I actually told him I was surprised he called.  He thought I might have top pair with an Ace kicker.  Oh well.
But I guess because I had already kind of mentally checked out of the game, I had forgotten that he commented on the Jack/10 hand earlier and thought I called light.  Maybe now he wasn’t thinking I was such a tight player after all.  Or, maybe he was thinking I was a bad player who just got lucky?
Anyway, I was now past double-up territory.  I ended up with  a $370 profit. 
Even more, if you count the free lunch I had to wait so long for. 
Despite the early aggravation, not a bad day at all.


  1. Nice Session and good write up on the injustice of how long it took for your food to arrive from start (first thought) to finish (delicious bites)

    1. Thanks. I guess I can alway wait this long for food if I knew they'd be a few nice pots waiting for me at the end.

  2. Nice session. I like the food at the Bike. Good stuff. Quick question for you: do you think the free food outweighs the 2 hours you "miss" playing at the table, preoccupied with the ordering / waiting / eating of the food? In other words, does it make more sense, i.e. cost less, to come in a full stomach and play your best for those 2 hours instead of not winning anything (or losing $75) and getting a "free" lunch?

    Gives meaning to the expression, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

    1. Well, I made that observation myself. I would say that if I knew it was going to take that long, I wouldn't have done it that way. But usually the whole process takes less than 45 minutes. Also, if I'm not annoyed by how long it is taking and how hard it is to get anyone's attention, I'm paying a lot more attention to the poker even while eating and being served, etc.

      So normally it is not nearly as big an issue as it was on this day.

      The way I look at it.....if I had been totally into the poker from the first minute, I wouldn't have gotten involved in a marginal hand and might have busted out right then and there, so it's all good. Yeah, right, that's the way to look at it!

      Thanks for the comment!

    2. As an aside, I've been finding that I don't play nearly as well on a full stomach, or immediately after eating. A few years back, I came across a study (hat tip to Freakonomics) about food and gambling ( The short of it was that you have a tendency to gamble more on a full stomach or immediately after eating.

    3. I meant I WOULD have gotten involved in a marginal hand of course, not would not have.

    4. Thanks for that link, Poker Meister. Interesting info.

      Now, my late mother always told me, don't go swimming for an hour after eating. I guess she should have added, "Don't go gambling an hour after eating"!!!

      Of course, I didn't listen to my mom about the swimming, either. :)

      Now that I almost always skip the buffets, I almost never play on a REALLY full stomach and I find that if I'm really hungry, that is a very big distraction.

      Besides, the study talks about effects on GAMBLING.

      Poker is a game of skill.

  3. saying u play WORSE after u eat, has got to be one of the STUPIDEST comments ive ever heard, who can play good poker when theyve not ate all day, are starving to death, and are in a terribly big hurry to win or lose a big pot so they can go eat. about 90% of poker players are severly retarted, its why the games are beatable and why id be a rich man if i didnt play VBJ

    1. Wow... Well, Tony, since you're so emphatic about it, I guess I don't really have anything more to say. I can't believe this is one of the STUPIDEST comments you've ever heard!

      However, "when theyve not ate all day, are starving to death, and are in a terribly big hurry" is not quite the typical person who is playing poker. I can't recall ever seeing an emaciated person sitting at the poker table, who is "starving to death." In this country (the United States), there are plenty of places to go eat - and I have to believe that those people who are "starving to death" are going to prioritize eating over playing poker. More to the point, if they have the money to sit down at the poker table, they're going to use a few bucks to get themselves a meal first.

      Finally, in reading your posts / forums for a while, I have to believe that the claim "id be a rich man if i didnt play VBJ" is patently false. There's a TON that you don't do to make yourself into a successful poker player, while playing the VBJ or not. In fact, there are plenty of poker players out there who have sports book addictions, craps tables addictions, etc. who have made a success out of themselves despite their weaknesses. Mind you, I'm not saying they'd have even more money without those addictions, but I'm saying you don't take poker playing seriously. You don't treat it like a profession. From what I read, your game is behind the curve in a continuously changing and difficult environment.

      In my opinion, you could make a decent living grinding your 1/2 games if you would take a few simple measures:
      1. Read a few books on advanced poker concepts.
      2. Participate in hand history analysis of other players.
      3. Post your hand histories (I'm not talking about the BS hands where you get in good and are sucked out on, but the difficult decision or marginal decision hands).
      4. Keep journal entries of your sessions (you don't need to do this on a computer or cell phone; carry a simple notepad with you if that's your preference).
      5. Beg forgiveness from the huge chain casino properties. You need to get back into Harrahs, Wynn, Belagio, etc. You NEED to get to a place with a lot of tourists and win their money rather than the local Vegas rocks. They're hurting your win rates.
      6. Try to be nicer to people who are trying to help you.

    2. Thanks, Tony. I think there's a difference between just being hungry and actually "starving" from not having eaten in 24 hours. At some point, yeah, being hungry will be distracting. Being too stuffed could be too. It's worth looking at the study if even your own experience is different. But if you know the data, maybe it would be a good thing to think about it and see if you see a difference in your play.

      PM, I let your comment on because I appreciate all the great comments you've made lately. But I don't want my comments section to become an extension of the comments section of Tony's blog! He's got his own blog for that.

      If you have more to say about Tony's play, you know where to find his blog.


  4. Sorry man. I don't intend to detract from your blog.

    1. No problem, your comments were relevant to Tony's. I just want to make sure we don't get too involved in Tony's decisions. He's got his own blog for that type of commentary.

  5. "By the time I was fully concentrating on the poker, I was down about $75"

    Sorry Rob -- it looks like you have become TBC! Are you sure this wasn't a guest post? Muhahahaha

    So you dared challenge The Lightning Curse? And you won? Maybe I need to take lessons from you ...

    1. More about Tony, I see. Hey, I'm over here, guys, see me? :)

      But it's a bad analogy. I didn't order mashed potatoes.

      Yeah, I did indeed avoid the Lightning curse. It's not luck my friend; it's skill.