Sunday, August 17, 2014

If You Came to Play Poker, Why Won't You Play Poker?

Crazy idea: If you go to a poker room to play poker, EFFING PLAY POKER. Don't spend 2/3's of your time away from the table, ruining the game.

The above was a tweet I sent out after finishing up my latest session at the Bike.

Now, a few months ago I did a post called Things That Piss Me Off, a rant about, well, things that piss me off. Most of them weren’t poker related.  But I should have included the one referenced in my recent tweet.  So here it is now.

Ever since I started playing poker in poker rooms, one thing I always hated was playing short-handed.  Now, recall that for years when I played live poker, I was a limit player, usually 2/4.  And low limit hold’ em is terrible when short-handed.  The pots are small enough when the table is full.  When it’s short, you can find yourself going hand after hand where the blinds are chopped and no hand is actually played.  Or no raise is call and someone takes just the blinds.  Or a couple limp in and if you hit the flop, you win an $8 pot. 

And….the blinds come around faster than if the table is full, so you put your blinds in faster and have less of a chance of getting them back, because when you win a pot, it’s so small.

The Bike (and Commerce, I believe) have nothing but 9-handed tables for their cash games.  I remember going to the Bike to play 2/4 and being upset that it was only 9-handed to begin with, before all the players started wandering off (more on that come).

As far as I’m concerned, limit Hold’em game (at least low limit, like 2/4, 3/6, 4/8) should be played  10-handed.  And pretty much every Vegas poker room I’m familiar with has 10-handed limit games exclusively. 

When I switched to No Limit, I started encountering 9-handed tables as the standard.  In fact, a little bit before I made the switch myself, good old BSC changed their NL tables from 10-handed to 9-handed.

I didn’t mind playing NL 9-handed.  I soon got used to having more room at the table.  And because the pots are bigger, you can make up for the slightly accelerated blinds when you win a pot.

The problem with 9-handed in NL, however, is that it makes it that much easier for the table to get really short-handed—either a few players are away from the table at the same time, or enough people get up and leave that the table breaks. Or at least, you want it to.

As long as players remain in their seats, playing poker, everything is fine.  A bathroom break, or even a cigarette break, shouldn’t take too long.  If I can help it, I try not to leave the table to use the facilities if anyone else is away.  Sometimes, of course, I have to break that rule, but I try.

Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed is that players tend to spend a lot more time away from the poker table in locals joints than Strip poker rooms.  When I played 2/4, I played in a number of locals rooms, and would often get frustrated when players would get up and disappear for a long time.

Sometimes they’d go to eat, taking advantage of way too liberal policies that allow players to be away from the table for a long time (45 minutes to 75 minutes, depending on the room).  But I eventually figured out that some of these players were going into the casino to play slots, or perhaps table games, while their chips were at the poker table, preventing a new player from taking their place and filling up the game.

Very rude, very inconsiderate.  Play the slots on your own time!  If you’re gonna be more than a few minutes, if you’re planning to park your ass in front of a slot machine for 30 minutes or longer, cash out of the game, let someone who actually wants to play poker take your seat.  Please don’t punish the rest of us.  You can tell them to put your name at the bottom of the waitlist for the same game, as a “call in.”  When you’re ready to play again, you’ll likely be the first person called to a game when there’s a seat open.  It’s the civil, proper, and courteous thing to do.

But time after time I saw people disappearing from the 2/4 game for nearly an hour at the locals rooms I frequented.  I saw some of this at the Strip poker rooms too, but it wasn’t nearly as excessive.  Most of the players who left for more than a bathroom break went to eat.  And the number of wanderers was never anywhere close to what it was at the locals joints.

But the Bike was always worse than any locals place in Vegas.  Those 2/4 limit games I played in the early days, it was rare when more than 7 players would get dealt in for any particular hand.  One of the many reasons I didn’t really like playing there.

And it hasn’t changed much since I started playing bigger games at the Bike, specifically the 2/3 NL game.  Players just disappear for 10, 20, 30 minutes at a time routinely.  And one thing I know they’re not doing when they’re away is playing slot machines.  The Bike doesn’t have any slots.  Are they playing table games?  Perhaps, but I doubt they all are.  I doubt most are.  I don’t get it.

I know some players don’t mind—or even like—playing a NL game short-handed. Not me.  I guess to some degree I haven’t learned to exploit the opportunities afforded by the short-handed game.  I still am thinking that the damn blinds are just coming around too fast.  And if you raise, there’s a greater chance no one will call your raise because less players are dealt in, meaning all you get is the blinds.  And since the way they work the rake at the Bike (see here), you don’t even get all the blind money (If there’s no calls and no limpers, you get $4, not $5).  Pretty hard to make it pay off.

Anyway, this most recent visit, that took place a week after the post I just linked to took place, was one of the most frustrating for this very reason.  For the first three hours of my session, the table was never technically short-handed. Whenever a player left, there was always someone immediately called to replace them. 

Despite that, I’d estimate that fewer the 10% of the hands during this three-hour period were actually dealt 9-handed.  The rest were eight or less.  That might be a slight exaggeration, but not much.

There was always one, or two, or three players wandering around, not at the table when the cards were dealt. 

It amazes me because, if you’re not playing cards, there isn’t a whole lot to do at the Bike, unlike in a Vegas casino.  I mean, there’s no Slut Parade to check out. There’s a couple of bars, but no music and no hot, hip crowd to enjoy it with.  No one is going up to their room for anything—the hotel hasn’t been built yet.  Are they taking 30-minute cigarette breaks?  Well, the way some of them smell when they get back, maybe.

Another thing they’re not doing when they are away from the table is eating.  Oh, there is a deli at the Bike where you can go eat, but no one playing 2/3  is going to the deli to eat. You see, if you are playing the 2/3 game (and higher), they will bring you all the food you want, right to the table, for free.  Yes, free.   And it’s good food too.

Actually, food is part of the problem sometimes, because some players will stop playing and sit out multiple orbits while they’re eating.  So that’s one reason 9 hands aren’t dealt out all the time.  You can be sure that pretty much anyone who plays this game, if they are there more than a couple hours, gets some free food.  I know I do. You’ve got do something to make up for the $7 rake.

But you can play and eat, and most people do.  Actually, I’ve learned that when a player starts eating, you can kind of use it as a “tell.”  Most players, especially it seems the more aggro ones, tend to slow down when they’re eating.  That guy who plays every hand and raises most of the time is suddenly mucking hand after hand.  So I know that if he’s still eating and he makes a raise instead of folding, he actually has a big hand instead of the usual garbage he’s raising with.  That’s definitely not the time I’ll three-bet him with pocket deuces.

There were at least four or five guys at the table who problematic while I was there, very likely all of them played less than 50% hands dealt while I was there.  Two guys in particular were really pissing me off.

The guy next to me ordered food.  As soon as he ordered, he passed on his big blind and sat out—before the food had arrived.  It took at least three orbits before it was delivered and he didn’t play a hand, he just sat there waiting for his lunch.  When it finally came, he of course kept sitting out while he ate. 

And then, and then…..he did the most incredibly rude thing.  When he finished his lunch, he didn’t play another hand.  He picked up his chips and left.  There was a list.  He held that seat while not playing for nearly an hour.  We played short-handed that entire time while he waited for his food and ate it and never rejoined the game.

I should point out that, while you have to be playing in a game to get the free food, once they bring it to you, there’s nothing to prevent you from getting up, sliding the tray away over to an empty table or an empty space on the floor and enjoying your meal away from any poker.  People do that all the time.  People were doing it right there while he was eating and taking up a seat. 

I couldn’t believe it.  It was an old guy, and I really had to control myself form saying something nasty to him.  I muttered “Thanks for taking up the seat for so long, jerk,” totally under my breath.

This other guy was in the seat one away from me and then moved over to take the seat next to me when the inconsiderate old guy left.  He would play one or two orbits, disappear for about five or six orbits, and then return, wait for the big blind, play another one or two orbits and repeat.  He did this the entire time I was there. I doubt ever played three full orbits in a row.  He did have some food at one point and of course sat out for that.  But otherwise, he just disappeared for 20-30 minutes at a time.  His wife was there (not playing poker), maybe they went to play table games, I don’t know.  It was quite annoying.  If he was the only player doing it, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but as I said, others were disappearing for long stretches too.

Then at one point, when the big blind came around to him, he just waived it off.  He just sat there for two or three orbits, not playing, not eating, not doing anything. Just sat there taking up space while we played on.  WTF? I don’t think I’d ever seen this before.  It wasn’t like he was away and missed his blind and was waiting for it to come back around.  No, he had played the hand under-the-gun and just passed on playing the big blind, and sat there watching the game for several orbits before coming on the big blind a few orbits later. 

So it was doubly annoying when this guy won a big pot. He limped in early position.  The small blind, an aggro with a big stack ($900 or so) raised to something like $26 (there had been a bunch of limpers, of which I was not one).  The big blind, who had about $500, called.  The guy I’m bitching about raised to $125.  Ah, the good ol’ limp/re-raise!  It folded back to the small blind who snap-called.  The big blind took a long time but finally called. 

The flop was Jack-high, two of a suit I believe.  The guy I’m bitching about put the rest of his chips in after the other two checked.  It was about $150 more, if memory serves. The small blind called and the big blind folded.  At showdown the small blind showed Queen-Jack offsuit.  The limp/re-raiser showed pocket Aces to claim the pot.

The raise from the small blind was ok, trying to steal all the limps.  He had often put in big raises from the button or the blinds in limped pots.  No doubt the guy I’m bitching about knew that and that’s he planned on the limp/re-raise. In fact, the small blind commented about the guy limping first and that he was clearly on to his M.O.  But what the hell was he doing calling $125 with Queen-Jack? The limp/re-raiser hadn’t played a lot of hands in a row, but by this time he’d played enough of the course of three hours for the small blind to have realized he was playing fairly tight.

The big blind said he had Ace-2 suited and was priced in to call preflop. 

Yikes.  Why the hell couldn’t I get any money out of these guys?

Kimberly Lansing demonstrates what you're supposed to do in a poker room
I did win a little bit.  I played my pocket Jacks heads up against a guy who flopped an open-ender. I had meant to bet $18 preflop, but accidentally grabbed an extra chip and had made it $23. He shoved short ($49) in response to my $30 c-bet on a 10-high flop.  I called of course, and he missed.

I raised with King-Queen off in early position and only had one caller.  I c-bet on a totally whiffed flop and the guy very reluctantly folded Ace-King face up  Then he asked if his hand was good.  I softly said “no.”  What I didn’t add was, “because you folded it, dummy.”

In the cut-off I raised to $10 with 9-7 of clubs.  I got three callers.  The flop was Q-Q-7.  It checked to me and I put out a $25 c-bet with my bottom pair (I guess technically, it was also middle pair).  No one called.

I even won with the dreaded pocket Kings. Raised to $15 and only had one caller.  Ten-high flop, two clubs.  My Kings were all red.  I bet $20 and he folded.

I called a raise to $6 with Ace-9 of spades, flopped the draw, called a small flop bet and hit the flush on the turn.  My bet was not called.

And so I left with a free meal and a few more bucks in my pocket than when I arrived.  And very frustrated at the players purposely missing so many hands.  I don’t get why people go to a place like the Bike to play poker only to….not play poker.

I do know they need to tighten up the rules being away from the table for extended periods.  I just don’t know how they should do it. Any suggestions?


  1. Exactly! (Except for your hatred of using the limp/reraise as a valuable poker tool)... ;)

    1. Actually, I've mentioned that I've considered using the limp/re-raise myself....I just hate it when it's used against me! :)

  2. exactly,kim is showing what u should do at a poker table. SHOW SOME CLEAVAGE. TY KIM

    1. To be fair, anger, not EVERYBODY should show some cleavage at the poker table.

      But if you look like Kim, definitely an excellent way to go.

  3. As previously discussed, just charge per missed blind. More than 4 orbits, you get cashed out.

    1. Are the blinds posted when they are away, or do they make them all up when the return in one fell swoop?: of the issues at a place like the Bike is that they play a few orbits, skip a few orbits, they'd never get picked up in your system, because they play an orbit often enough. Although I guess they would still be dinged for the blinds.

      Here's another idea....if you miss your blinds, when you come back you have to play two full orbits.l If you attempt to come back after missing your blinds and leave without playing, your money is withheld and distributed to the other players. :)

    2. Easy solution to this problem. Do what they do in tournaments. When the blinds come around to you and your not there they take them out of your stack. It is very rare to see a tournament table short handed.

      I played at a table once were four friends all got up at the same time and went to dinner. They came back a hour later and picked up there chips and left.

    3. The fairest way to the rest of the table is to collect as you go, else someone comes back and has to dump 12/15 into the pot, and you have had aces all day and wake up with 7-2 you are going to be even more annoyed !

    4. @Nappy -- I like that idea but I'm sure the rooms will never go for it. They seem to ok with people being away for long stretches. In the nicer Vegas poker rooms, they have over an hour (so they can eat). It's absurd.

      And there has to be a special place in hell for those four people who left the table short-handed and then came back and didn't play another hand. How incredibly inconsiderate.

      I think I would have been tempted to go to the manager and asked that they be permanently banned.

      @Ben, yeah I would agree, that's fine by me. I would love to see it.

  4. Great pic, the best perhaps. I play in Pennsylvania, and we had a guy disappear 3 times in 3 hours. 15 minutes, 20 minutes then close to an hour. With a list behind him to play. Just as I was about to call the floor, he showed up. In AZ and the Talking Stick, they pick your chips up after 15 minutes. No smoke or bathroom break should be more than 15 minutes.

    1. Thanks. Believe it or not it was hard to find a pic like that of a female poker player other than Jennifer Tilly.

      I love the 15 minute rule....but most rooms will let you be gone for an hour. They think they are being nice to the player who wants to eat. What about the players left behind?

    2. 15 minutes??????? man, fascism is alive and well in your poker takes me that long to roll a fattie and what if i had taco bell with extra hot sauce for lunch/dinner???

    3. Cash out and let someone else play...if they really want to sit in the same seat you were at under those circumstances.

      When you're done, come back and play some more poker.