Friday, April 11, 2014

Two Ante Up Ambassadors Walk Into a Poker Room...

The first night of my March Madness trip, I finally met Dave Palm. 

Dave (and yes, that’s his real name) is my Los Angeles counterpart for Ante Up Magazine.  Like me, Dave does a monthly column about the poker scene in his assigned territory.  (We’re actually called “Ambassadors” so show us some respect!).  He covers the Los Angeles rooms—you know, The Bike, Commerce, Hollywood Park, Hawaiian Gardens and Hustler).  Like me, Dave lives in the L.A. area.  Unlike me, he lives near the territory he covers for Ante Up.

I first heard from Dave not long after I started writing for Ante Up.  Turns out he reads the blog (in other words, he is a man of impeccable taste) and was surprised to learn I live in L.A., not Vegas.  We emailed and tweeted back and forth about getting together for some poker and to compare notes.  You would think we would have been able to arrange a day and time to get together in L.A.—say at a poker room, like the Bike—since we both live here.  But we always kept missing each other.  We just never were available at the same time.  Often when he would suggest a joint visit to the Bike, I’d be in Vegas.  Last year when he hit Vegas during WSOP time, it was during the short period of time that I was in L.A. 

But early this year, Dave told me he was going to be in Vegas on St. Patrick’s Day and for a few days later.  It turned out that his last night in town was going to be my first day in town, the night before the official start of March Madness (assuming you don’t count those annoying “play-in games”)  So we both agreed to do our best to get together for some Vegas poker.

Dave was staying at Harrah’s and so we agreed to meet in the poker room there.  I hadn’t played at Harrah’s since they moved their room last year, so it was a good opportunity to check it out.  So after settling in to my room in Vegas and having some dinner, I headed over to Harrah’s.

Dave told me that he was wearing a Tigers shirt.  But he noticed me wondering around looking for someone first.  He was already in a game, and after we exchanged pleasantries, I got on the list for a 1/2 game.  One of Dave’s first comments to me was, “Hey, maybe you’ll get a blog post out of this.”  I said, “Yeah, that’s what I’m here for.  That’s my number one priority.”  He responded that my priorities may be a bit messed up.

Even before I got into the game, I noticed that Dave was taking advantage of the fact that Harrah’s offers the button straddle.  Ugh.  I groaned and he said, “Hey, if they offer it, it’s +EV to take advantage of it every time.”  I didn’t get into a debate with him.  Or tell him that I did a long post once entitled, “Why I Loathe The Button Straddle,” which you can find here.  All I did was ask which version of the BS (short for “Button Straddle”) they used.  He said first action was on the small blind—in other words, the worst form of the BS imaginable (again, read the post I just linked to for an explanation as to why this the worst form of BS).

After I got my name on the list, I went over and saw that they had the latest issue of Ante Up, which was good because they were all out of them at the Bike when I visited there 10 days earlier.  I strongly considered taking the issue, going over to the guy who was running the room, showing him Dave’s column as well as mine (and which have a pictures) and explaining to him that he had two “celebrities” in the room tonight.  But it would have been too out of character for me to call attention to myself like that.

I got called to a different table (they had 4 1/2 games going) but just then a spot at Dave’s table opened and I took that instead.  We were on opposite sides of the table and trying to carry on a conversation was a bit problematic.  But after a few orbits, the seat to Dave’s immediate right opened and I moved over there.  Now, I had seen enough of Dave’s play to realize he was a real good player, no doubt much better than me.  But there was no way I was going to sit on Dave’s left. No way was I gonna put myself in a position where I’d get button straddled every time I was the small blind.  So I preferred being on his right.

Dave seemed to be having a good night, he hit a few big suckouts and had lotsa chips.  At least he hadn’t won any from me.  I was so card dead I barely played a hand for the longest time.  As it was my first night in town, I was just trying to ease into things anyway and didn’t see any need to try anything cute with a weak hand.  Besides, it was an action table and I felt like if I made a hand, I would likely get paid off.  I lowered my calling standards a bit trying to find that hand, but the crap I was getting was unplayable under any circumstances.

While sitting next to Dave, I realized this momentous occasion needed to be recognized, so I sent out the following tweet:  “Playing 1-2 @POKERHLV with @Dave_Palm. @anteupmagazine Ambassadors game.”  And Dave tweeted back, “thankfully I have position and am a luckbox.”  I responded with a retweet of Dave’s tweet and the addendum “ßtrue dat.”

We had a great time trading stories and impressions of Vegas & L.A. poker rooms.  And of course, poker in general.  Now, the Lakers were on TV, getting their asses kicked as per usual this year, and so at one point Dave said, “Thank god the Lakers are bad this year.”

Dem’s fighting words.  I said, “You hate the Lakers?  We have nothing further to discuss.”

Well, as it happened, the cocktail waitress had just come over to us at that point to deliver our drinks.  And she thought my last comment was meant for her.  “What I’d do?  What I’d do?”

“No, no,” I explained. “I was talking to him.  You’re wonderful.”

This thrilled her.  “I’m wonderful?  Could you say that louder, please.”  And then as she walked away, I heard her saying several times—not sure to whom—“I’m wonderful.  Did you hear that, I’m wonderful!”

Truth be told, I was very impressed with the cocktail service.  I have to say, it was the best cocktail service I’d ever seen in a poker room, or at least since a certain blonde bombshell waitress had a baby and got married and retired (see here).  Really.  We were served by two different waitresses during the evening and I’m pretty sure there was never more than five minutes when the waitress wasn’t in the poker room.  It was fantastic.

So when I told the woman she was wonderful, I actually meant it.

Another time she saw me writing in my notebook.  She said to me, "Oh, come's not that interesting."  First time a waitress ever commented on my note-taking!

But back to Dave.  Of course, the Tigers shirt was a tip-off.  It was the Detroit Tigers, not the LSU Tigers.  Dave is an escapee from Michigan so he likes the Pistons.  At least they’re not having a better year than the Lakers are!  We did spend some time reminiscing about the great Lakers-Pistons rivalry from the late ‘80’s.

After what seemed like forever I finally got a hand to play, Ace-Queen in late position.  After a few limpers, I made it $15 and only one person called.  Nothing on the flop but my c-bet took it down.  Very next hand I got a low pocket pair and limped in.  All the cards on the flop were higher than mine.  But when it checked to me, and with only one player left behind me, I decided to take a stab at it and bet.  No one called.

Then, in the cut-off seat, I looked down at the dreaded pocket Kings.  Now, if I was in the cut-off seat that meant that Dave was the button which meant he was BS’ing.  As in Button straddling.  Three or four limped in (for $4), so when it got to me I made it $25.  Only one player called, the only woman at the table.  The flop was low enough—no King, no Ace.  I bet $40 and she thought for a bit but folded.  As I collected the pot, I whispered to Dave, “My favorite hand.”

He responded, “Oh, I thought it was the ‘dreaded’ hand.”  “Yeah, that’s what I meant.  ‘Favorite’ was in quotes.”  Everyone who reads this silly blog knows what my “favorite” hand is.

By now I had found some hands to play and all that did was cost me chips.  I was down to about $155 from my $200 buy-in.  Under the gun, I limped in with pocket deuces and had to call a raise to $10 to see the flop.  Four of us saw the flop, which was 9-7-2, two hearts.   I led out for $25 and had one caller, a new player who had just come to the table.  The turn was a 10, a non-heart.  With $119 left, I just put it all in.  The guy thought for a long time, asked for a count (we had similar stacks, actually).   Finally he said, “If you’re already ahead, I’ve got outs,” and called.  The river was a blank and I showed my set of deuces.   He showed pocket 8’s.  So he had picked up the open-ender on the turn.  And missed.  (Edited to add:  Until I saw Dave's comment below (under "Unknown") I had forgotten that Dave totally called my hand (before I had to show it).  He could tell by my bets that I had the pocket deuces.  He's good.  Or I played my hand face up--getting accused of that a lot lately).

One more hand I’ll discuss.  In late position, I had pocket Jacks.  The lady who folded to my Kings earlier raised to $7 and another player called before it got to me.  I’m three-betting with Jacks more and more often these days.  This woman had been very active at the table, but more for calling a lot of hands than for raising.  So I made it $25.  The lady re-raised to $95.  Gulp.

The other guy folded and I thought for quite awhile but finally folded.  Dave asked me, “The dreaded hand?”  I laughed.  “No, I’m not folding Kings.  Lower than that.”  “Jacks?”  “Yeah—do you think it was a bad laydown?”  He emphatically said no, it was not a bad laydown.

And that was about it.  I played a little longer but as it was just my first night in town, I didn’t want to stay up too much longer.  I cashed out up $60 and said goodbye to Dave.

The room at Harrah’s was good.  They recently added some tables and the action was good.  They had 4-5 tables full all the time I was there.  And the room was well-run.

While I was so close to it, I did want to check out The Linq for the first time, since it was mostly open by then.  The Linq is basically a shopping and restaurant area between The Quad and Flamingo.  The famous High Roller “observation wheel” hadn’t opened at this time (it has opened since) but frankly, I’m not really interested in spending $35 to stand up in confined space with 30 strangers for half an hour.  But I did walk the length of the Linq and didn’t really see anything that wowed me at all, Just some bars, restaurants and stores.  But then, I don’t suppose I’m their target demographic.

I was curious about something called The Brooklyn Bowl.  I wasn’t sure if this was an actually bowling alley or not.  It seemed to be a place that hosted musical acts.  The name didn’t convince me.  After all, I’ve been to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and there are no bowling lanes there.

But yes, apparently this place offers bowling in addition to the current musical acts.  So now, bowling is so cool that you can mix it with rock groups?  When did bowling get to be cool?  In my day, only dorks went bowling.  I know, cuz I was one of the dorks.

I also checked out O’Sheas, newly re-opened.  I already knew that, unlike the previous O’Sheas, this was not a stand-alone casino.  No, it’s built into the side of the Quad.  But the dealers and waitresses do wear different uniforms than they do at the Quad.

And I was done for the day.  All in all, a very nice first day in Vegas.  Won about $60 playing poker, had a great time with a fellow Ante Up Ambassador (and glad to finally meet Dave) and got my exploration of the Linq accomplished.

And played in a Vegas poker room that I hadn’t (technically, at least) played in before.


  1. With your love of the Lakers and hate of the button straddle, I can't believe I enjoyed playing with you so much.
    So, you're basically saying the button straddle makes it awful for the big blind, who already has it awful? I think that's a very half-empty view of things. I like to think it helps the big blind fold hands he shouldn't be calling with anyway, and saving any decision he would have if he were last to act.
    Pretty disappointed you didn't mention I called your 22 hand ... twice.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dave.

      I think I laid out the reasons for hating the button straddle in the post I linked to in the current post. When the action starts on the small blind, as it did at Harrah's, it changes the whole nature of the game way too much. It's a total unfair penalty to impose on the blinds. As for your response....well, you know, most hands shouldn't be played out of position anyway, so why even bother to give players cards if they're not in the cut off or on the button. Save them from calling when they shouldn't, right? :)

      And if it really does help the button, why give the button that much of a boost, since the button is already at an advantage? Yeah, you are rewarding the risk-takers, the aggressors. But look at the big picture. It may be fine for a big stake game where everyone is comfortable playing for those higher stakes. but at an entry level game like 1/2, do you really want to discourage new players from trying the game? I think that's what you might be doing by allowing the button straddle.

      I totally forgot that you called my set of deuces. Sorry. I'll go back and edit the post.

      Hope to see you again soon.

  2. Forgot to mention ... my "suckout" was an open-ended straight and a flush draw. The guy with the queens played it awful when I bet my draw on the flop, ergo deserved to lose.

  3. no need to edit. Calling the 22 you folded was harder than calling the flopped set.

    I was just blowing smoke on the button straddle. I just do it because it is beneficial to me, and can get people a little out of their game if they're not used to it.

    1. I don't recall folding deuces. Do you mean the Jacks I folded to the woman's 3-bet?

  4. i love the straddle,baby. ACTION ACTION.AND SWEET PIC .with the chicks and bowling. like the big lebowski but with hot babes.OVER THE LINE. THIS ISNT NAM .THIS IS BOWLING.

    1. Yeah, I was surprised I was able to find a pic with girls in bikinis bowling. The internet is amazing.

  5. I bowled and ran, and running has become cool somehow too. Yeah, if she's popping from 25 to 95, I like your fold...

    1. Thanks, Coach.

      I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Back in the day, comic books were for geeks and nerds, only social outcasts read them. Nowadays, every movie out there is from a comic book.

    2. i wish i could run again but it is so damn BREEZY.

  6. Hey Rob, Last TR now up, with poker content (well some anyways !).

    1. Thanks, Ben, glad to hear you had a good time. You seem to go to Vegas almost as much as I do and you live just a bit farther away!

  7. Assuming things go well in the next couple of weeks, I could be back either late APR or MAY !. Or I get the job with 3 months a year in Denver, which will put me in town nearly every weekend when i'm over!

    1. Cool. I'll be in Vegas late April and also late May. Let me know.