Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hitting Quads on the Riviera

My April column for Ante Up led with a story about the Riviera poker room trying some new promotions to try to get their business up (see here).  They were teaming with a group called Team5poker  for this.  The main features of the promo were a series of tournaments and also a new spread limit cash game.  The initial promo ends this weekend with a freeroll.

Since I had written about it for my column, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the promo and the new spread limit game myself.  It was at least kinda/sorta my job, and I want to broaden my poker horizons anyway so I can do better columns for Ante Up.  I can’t give them the best possible coverage of the Vegas poker scene if I never play anything other than 1/2 at BSC.
My trip in March was the first chance I had to check it out, and it took me awhile to get there.  I know Mark, the manager at Riviera, professionally of course.  Also, I was pretty sure I had met him (or at least seen him) at the TBC tournament last summer (see here).  He is a good guy, and I wish him well trying to get the Riviera a bigger footprint on the Vegas poker landscape.
My workload was heavy and I had a lot of things on my plate, so I didn’t arrange anything with Mark. I assumed he was likely to be there if I showed up for the Team5 promo days, so I dropped in one evening unannounced.  A fire prevented me from showing up the day earlier.  The fire blocked the main access streets between where I was and the Riviera, so I had to wait a day and really only decided at the last minute to drop by the Riv.
It was a Friday night when I showed up, not long after the spread limit game was supposed to start.  Mark was there and I introduced myself to him and asked him how it was going.  He considered the promo a success—I’m going to call it a mild success.  My words, not his.  The spread limit game was not full and usually wasn’t, and the Saturday night tournament was usally getting two tables.  My column was just starting to hit the poker rooms when I dropped by, and I take it as a personal failing that once it hit, the room wasn’t doing overflow business.
My desire to check this out wasn’t solely due to my having written about it.  I wanted to check out the new game they were spreading as part of the promo.  It was $2-$20 spread limit, with a mandatory straddle (under the gun).  I don’t have much experience with spread limit games, having started with $2/4 limit and then having transitioned into NL.  I played spread limit a few times but nothing like this with such a big spread.  I wondered if it would play more like the low limit game I used to play or the NL games I was now regularly playing.
As Mark and I were chatting, I noticed one guy I had seen before playing in the spread game.  In fact, I was sure I’d seem numerous times in various poker rooms, I just had no idea who he was or what his name was.  Or where I’d run into previous (other than, generically, a poker room somewhere).  No big deal.  I constantly see familiar faces in Vegas poker rooms—people I’ve played with multiple times before but have never actually “met.”  Just then, Mark pointed him out to me and told me who he was.  It was Kat Martin, a frequent forum poster on All Vegas Poker.  I’m sure I’ve read at least a 1,000 of his posts there, never realizing that I had played with him before.
I made a mental note to be sure to introduce myself to him but I didn’t have to.  While I was talking to Mark he came over to introduce himself to me.  Now it isn’t clear to me if he knew who I was and realized that we had not formerly met, or if he just recognized me from poker rooms the same way I recognized him and wanted to meet a familiar face.  Either way, it was nice to finally meet him, officially.
Mark had to run off, but I was able to take advantage of one of the promos I had mentioned in my column.  By committing to playing for 2 hours, I was able to get $100 worth of chips for only $80.  Good deal.
The table was not full and never did fill up while I was playing.  In addition to Kat, I met Tony Capps and Rick Lucas who are the brains behind Team 5.  The three of them were all playing in the spread limit game.  Tony and Rick had seen my column and were very appreciative of the write-up I gave them.  Nice guys too.
It actually had the feel of a home game as it seemed like everyone in the game knew each other, at least at first.  One guy I didn’t meet had a rather unusual look.  He had long hair and a full beard.  But I only saw him in profile.  At one point he turned his head so I could see him full head on.  To my surprise the other side of head was completely shaved.  No beard, no hair.  Yes, that’s right.  Long hair and a full beard (and moustache) on the right side of his head.  Totally bald/clean shaven on the left side of his head.  Don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. It was an interesting fashion statement, to say the least.
I did enjoy the game, although I never got the full flavor of it because the table was never full.  As I said, there is a mandatory straddle, and ordinarily I absolute hate the straddle (especially the button straddle, see here).  But I had to admit, this game played better with it.  It is designed to be an “action” game and the straddle helps it get action.  When the straddle is on, chopping the blinds is not allowed.
The problem is that when the table is short-handed (6 or less, I believe), the mandatory straddle comes off.  As I said, this game kind of demands the straddle.  It never plays quite the same as a NL game, but it is a lot more fun than a pure low limit game.  Of course, one of the problems is that most of the raises are going to be the max, $20, because the players are used to NL and really want to bet more.  Still, an interesting variation and a nice change of pace.  I think if the table was full, it would be a very fun game indeed.
One negative for me was a real jerk came to the game.  He had no idea that it was a spread limit game at first, he wanted to play NL but that game was full.  It took him about 20-30 minutes of being told to finally realize he couldn’t raise more than $20.  And that he couldn’t raise “all in” ever.  He was loud and obnoxious.  When he first sat down, he was sitting immediately to my left and was crowding me, even tho the table wasn’t full.  So when I asked him to give me a little more room, he got annoyed and said there was no room on the other side, even tho there surely was.  I was happy when he changed seats to get away from me.
He liked to announce why he was raising and or calling.  Like, he’d say, “I have a draw, so I’m calling.” Or, “I have to protect my hand, why can’t I bet more?”  In a way, he sort of reminded me of Natalee, without the reference to how small his vagina was.

He also tried to smoke while playing, running outside the poker room to take a puff by the slots and then coming back in when it was his turn to act.  The floor had to tell him he had to leave the cigarette outside if he was gonna do that.  Very annoying.  He did somewhat ruin the game, which was unfortunate and no fault of the Riviera. 
Early in the session I had my two pair (Queen-3 in the big blind) beaten by Kat’s set of fours.  But I got him back a bit later.  I had to call $11 preflop with a pair of 6’s.  (Edited to add: thanks to Coach for pointing out my original error below, I obviously didn't have a "set" of 6's preflop)  Now that I think of it, that’s probably a bad call.  With a limit on the betting, I don’t think I was getting the right odds—actual or implied—to hit my set.  But I did indeed flop my set and bet out $20 (there was a flush draw on the flop) and Kat was the only caller.  I bet $20 again when the third flush card hit, but Kat just called.  The river was nice because it paired the board.  It paired the board with 6’s, giving me quads.
I bet another $20 and Kat just called.  “I just have quads,” I said as I turned over my hand.  “Just quads huh,” he said as he mucked without showing.  At first I thought that there would be a high hand bonus for the quads, as I knew that the Riv had high hand bonuses.  But no, not in this game.  Because of the reduced rake and the points toward the freeroll, there’s no high hand bonus on the spread game.  Just my luck, I finally get quads, finally get them in a room that has high hand bonuses, and I still don’t get paid for it.
I also beat a set of 6’s when I caught my flush against either Rick or Tony.  By the next day I couldn’t remember which one.  I had raised preflop ($10) with Ace King suited and made a $10 continuation bet on a flush draw.  Rick or Tony raised to $20—could have and probably should have raised to $30—with what I later found out was the set of 6’s.  I just called and hit my flush and kept betting and kept getting called.
That’s another hand where the spread limit aspect of the game changes the math, and I had spent zero time studying or even thinking about how the limits on the bets affect the math.  My thought there is the max raise on the flop ($20) might have gotten me to fold my flush draw because if I had thought it through, I would have reasoned that I couldn’t make enough money if I hit my flush to justify the call.  In a NL game, a $20 raise isn’t going to get me to fold a flush draw there.  But of course, the guy with the set doesn’t have to bet $20, he can bet more.  So the odds work both ways.  In NL, you see a big stack and wonder if you can get some if not all of it if you hit your hand.  In this game, you have to think you’re only like to get $20 if you hit your hand, so you really should be more cautious with calling your draws, not less so. 
I guess if I was gonna play a game like this regularly, I’d have to study up on spread limit strategy.
Anyway, I left after a couple of hours.  I had managed to win $90 not really having a clue as to how to play the spread limit game.  The Team5 promo ends this coming weekend, but I suspect the Riv will be doing something again with the Team5 crew soon.  That spread limit game definitely has possibilities if they could only keep the game full. 
I’m glad I checked it out.


  1. I was so proud of you for using the term 'set' now, and then I saw that you had to call the $11 preflop with a set of 6's (I always raise when I have sets preflop)... ;) Don't take it as a personal failing that the room wasn't doing overflow business when your column hit - I could deal a little poker when I worked there and the room wasn't overflowing often for me either. :P Keep up the good work Rob!

    1. Thanks for the correction Coach, I fixed the post when I got your comment. I was once dealt a set of 6's in Crazy Pineapple but in that game it's a bad thing.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, MOJO. I think the key tho is having a full table. Much more so for limit or spread limit than in NL.