Thursday, April 30, 2015

Flopping Two Pair for Fun & Profit

Picking up where I left off here, this is the second part of my report on the Player’s Casino in Ventura, Ca. 

The atmosphere was much more pleasant than it usually is at the Bike.  It had the feel of a locals Vegas room, but without all the grumpiness.  The players were friendly and it seemed like most of them were regs.  They knew each other and the dealers seemed to know most of the players.  The servers knew them too, calling many by their first name.  That said, those of us who were not regulars were not made to feel unwelcome or like they were crashing a private game.  Not at all.  It was friendly.  Really, it was a nice group of folks, I never saw or heard anyone get nasty or unpleasant the whole time I was there.  Really unusual.  Also, I never saw players disappear from the table for long periods of time like at the Bike.  My only issue was one of the guys next to me left a couple of times to go outside for a smoke break—I knew this because he always came back reeking of the cigarettes.

The other thing I want to mention is that they have no comps program.  No player’s card.  According to their website, they are working on that.  It will be interesting to see what they come up with for that.  Since I’ve never really taken advantage of the comps at the Bike, this didn’t bother me.

After getting back home, I did some more research and found some interesting gossip (or whatever) on the 2+2 thread on the room (here).  According to some posters, they are planning to add a jackpot drop soon.  And one of the forum members stated that it is state law that California casinos take all the drop up front, so that’s why they do it that way at the Bike and Commerce, etc.  And this poster wondered how Player’s Club was getting away with not doing it the same way.

I have no idea if this is true.  It strikes me as a weird law—but I bet if it’s true, casinos probably lobbied the gaming commission to make it a rule so they could do it without getting the blame.  Am I being too cynical?  I seriously doubt, however, that the Player’s Casino is breaking any gaming rules in doing it this way.  Perhaps, if that is true about the law, they negotiated some kind of waiver to do it the way they are doing it.  I dunno.

As for the poker, I started out quite card dead, which was ok as I was trying to get a feel for the place, the players, and the action.  And I concentrated on making sure I knew which chips were the $1 ones and which were the $5 ones.

The first hand I really played was pocket 9’s, I called a raise to $15.  It was 3-ways and the flop came 9-8-7, rainbow.  I had flashbacks to the period in Vegas where my sets were crushed by straights (see here).  It checked to me and I bet $40.  No one called.

I limped in with Ace-10 of hearts, and it was five-way.  The flop was all bricks, save one heart.  No one bet.  I caught an Ace on the turn and called a $15 bet, it was now heads up.  The river was a blank and we both checked.  He showed Ace-3 so my kicker was quite good.

The first time I raised, I had K-10 of spades under-the-gun and made it $12.  Three of saw a flop that had one spade but otherwise missed me.  I c-bet $25 and got one caller.  We both checked the turn, a blank, and then I checked the river and folded to his bet.

I raised to $15 with Ace-10 of hearts and had two callers.  The flop was Ace-Ace-8.  I bet $25 and no one called.

In the big blind I had 8-7 offsuit and checked to see the flop for free.  There were five of us.  The flop was Ace-8-7, two diamonds.  I bet $15 and one guy called.  There was a third diamond on the turn, I checked and called $25.  Instead of boating up, the river brought a fourth diamond.  I checked and so did he.  He showed two diamonds, the highest being a Jack.  I guess he was afraid of bigger flush once the fourth diamond hit.

With Ace-7 offsuit in the big blind and no preflop raise, the flop came A-10-7.  None of my four opponents called my flop bet of $10.

With King-6 of hearts in the big blind, the guy to my left straddled. The straddle is always $6 and I’m pretty sure only UTG can straddle.  Four players called the $6, so I took a chance and called as well.  The guy had straddled a few times and had raised less than half the time when he did, so I thought there was a decent chance I could see a flop in that inflated pot for just the three bucks. Indeed, he just checked. The flop was King-Jack-6, with a heart thrown in for good measure.  Nice to be flopping all these two pairs from the blinds.  I bet $25 and one guy called.  A low card hit the turn and I bet $50, he called again.  When an Ace hit the river, I was concerned the guy might have either caught a straight or possibly two pair with the Ace.  So I played it conservatively and checked.  He checked too and I showed my hand, and he just mucked.

At this point I was up around $80-$90.  Not bad for being card dead.  Seriously, I had not seen a pocket pair bigger than those 9’s I had early.  Probably had a total of three or four smaller pocket pairs that never caught a set.  Not even any dreaded Kings to scare me.  Never saw Ace-Queen, folded Ace-jack once to a raise. No King-Queen, suited or otherwise.  I finally saw Ace-King a few times.  Once my raise got no call, once I c-bet the flop and got no call.  I didn’t even get any suited connectors.

I wasn’t quite ready to leave but I started thinking about planning to take off “soon.”  In the big blind, I had 3-2 off suit and no one raised.  The flop came Ace-3-2, rainbow.  There were five or six of us who had cards. I bet $10 and one player called.  A big card hit the turn and I bet $25, he called again.  A medium card hit the river.  There was no flush possible, and the only straight would have been a flopped wheel.  Still, I thought bottom two pair was pretty vulnerable.  My instinct there is to play it safe and check. But I forced myself to make the value-bet, I put out $50.  The guy counted out $50 and called, then mucked when he saw my little two pair.  I guess he had a weak Ace with a kicker that didn’t pair up.  One of the other players said, “3-2, huh?  I guess that’s the big blind special.”  Yep. 

Now I had nearly $200 profit for the day, and the thought of “booking the win” started creeping into my mind.  Not a big score by any means, but after last weekend’s rough ending, leaving up would feel good, and having a positive result playing in a new place seemed good to me as well.

And I still wasn’t getting any cards to play except when I hit something in the blinds.  So there I was, thinking this may be my last orbit, looking at Ace-3 offsuit in the big blind.  There were many limpers but again, no raise.  The flop came Ace-9-3, two clubs.  Ho hum.  Just flopped another two pair from the big blind.  Doesn’t everyone?  I swear there were plenty of times when I totally whiffed from the big blind.  Anyway, the small blind checked, I bet $12, the guy to my immediate left called, it folded to the small blind, who shoved.

But he was short stacked.  The shove was only for $31.  He had been playing really tight and I kind of figured him for a set, but I don’t see how I fold two pair there.  Should I have re-raised?  I dunno. I just called.

The guy who had called my $12 surprised me by putting out a stack of $100.  Hmm.  So it was back to me.  He only had $50 left.  My first thought was to protect the win and fold.  Yeah. But I argued with myself and thought about it.  It made no sense now to call, if I was gonna play I knew I should shove and get him to put the rest of his chips in before he saw another card.  This guy was fairly new to the table and had made no impression on me whatsoever, so he might have been a tight player, maybe he could beat my two pair.  Or maybe he was betting the flush draw?

So when I got out of the tank, I had gone from folding to shoving.  I announced “all-in” and of course the guy called but he didn’t seem too happy about it.  We didn’t show.  The turn was a blank but the river was a lovely Ace.  I eagerly flipped over my boat.  The short stack showed his pocket 3’s.  He honestly thought he had won the hand.  “I have a full house.”  Yes, but sir, I sucked out on you.  It’s called “poker.”  The other guy, the guy who had put $150+ in the pot, hesitated, mumbled something, started to show his hand, but then turned his cards in face down and left the game.

Wow, that was a damn nice pot, and damn lucky too, of course.  It was about the sixth or so time I’d flopped two pair from the big blind, and the first time all day I’d boated up….and I needed that boat.

Or did I?  Well, yes, to beat the short stack but…..well here’s the thing.  I think the dealer did something improper here.  I didn’t realize it at the time, only after.  We were all talking about the hand—like I said, it was a friendly table—and the short stack was still trying to figure out how he lost with a full house.  The dealer explained that I had a bigger full house, and even showed it to him.  I think he thought I only had trip Aces, not realizing I had the case 3.  I wondered aloud what the other guy had, no one else had even heard the guy mumble whatever he mumbled.  I said, “Was he on the draw?”  Then the dealer said, “I saw his hand, he had Ace-King.”

Interesting. I asked if he also had the draw and he didn’t (by this time I’d forgotten if one of the clubs on the flop had been the Ace).  He said the King was a diamond, so no draw.  Anyway, do you think it was proper of the dealer to tell us what he had?  I mean the guy had left, and maybe the dealer never saw him before and didn’t expect him to come back to play, but still, he’s giving us information that could help us if we play against the guy again.  Although I appreciated learning this, I don’t think he should have said anything since the guy didn’t show.  OTOH, the guy had started to show his hand, which is how the dealer saw it, so maybe he figured the player had showed long enough for this to be public information.

The other thing is, if the guy had Ace-King, he deserved to get felted.  He should have raised with it.  I’m not calling a raise from the big blind with Ace-3.  He still would have lost to the set of 3’s (assuming the guy would have called a raise, and he may very well have shoved preflop), but he wouldn’t have lost that much to him, as opposed to stacking off to me.

And if he had Ace-King, it means I didn’t really need that Ace on the river to come out ahead.  As long as a King didn’t hit, then barring the board pairing a different card than the Ace to counterfeit me, he would have lost anyway.  I would have lost the main pot to the short-stack, but I would have won a much bigger side pot from him and still made out ok.

But I did appreciate being on the right end of the suckout for once.  When I finished stacking my chips, I had nearly $400 more than the $300 I bought in for.  Now I was definitely in “booking the win” mode.  Since the short-stack rebought, I didn’t want to look like a hit-and-runner, I stayed two more orbits.  I only got one playable hand—Ace-King again.  I raised with it under the gun and no one called.  That was it.

So I picked up and cashed out a $390 win.  Mostly because I kept flopping two pair from the big blind.  If it was only always that easy.

I have to admit, however, I never had caught two pair as big as the two pair above.

So I had a rather enjoyable first time at the Player’s Casino.  I know I didn’t demonstrate any great poker skill, and readily admit my score was virtually entirely due to dumb ass luck.  The deck kept hitting me when I was in the blind. 

But you know, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.  I’ll definitely be back to this room again, we’ll see if I can get lucky there again, or if I actually have to play well next time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trying a New Venue--Player's Casino

Last weekend I played in a Southern California poker room I’d never played in before.

The weekend before I played at the Bike, as usual (see here).  As I reported, they no longer offer free food for the game I play (or any game, as far as I can tell).  Now, I don’t want to say that the only reason I tried a different venue was that they no longer feed me for free at the Bike, but….I suppose with all the other issues I have with the Bike, that may just have been the final bit of encouragement I needed to try something new.

For awhile now, I was aware of another poker room in a totally different area, a little bit farther away from where I live (as the crow flies) but in a totally different direction from where the Bike is.

The name is Player’s Casino.  It’s in Ventura.  It’s about 15-20 miles farther by car than the Bike.  But I felt it might be faster to get to in most situations than the Bike.  You see to get to the Bike, I have to drive through the heart of downtown Los Angeles.  That’s one of the reasons I avoid the Bike during the week and prefer going there on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.  Even in the middle of the day, traffic thru downtown L.A. figures to be nightmarish about 98.6% of the time.

Weekends, during the day, are better, but never really great.  I almost always encounter some kind of traffic jam going thru downtown.  According to Google maps, it should take me 45 minutes to get there with no traffic—assuming I keep pretty close to the speed limit.  Typically, it takes me close to an hour.  On particularly bad days, it takes more than an hour.

But heading out to Ventura, I figured that the traffic would normally be fairly light (on a weekend afternoon), and more than make up for the extra distance.  I figured I could make to Player’s Casino in 55-60 minutes most of the time.  So basically, the same commute time as the Bike even if I’d be driving a few extra miles. 

Just that conjecturing would have made me try the place in Ventura a long time ago.  But I knew that Player’s Casino was a much, much smaller venue than the Bike, and I was concerned that they might not have enough action.  I’d hate to drive all that way out there and find out they only have one (if that) short-handed 1/2 NL game (or whatever game they spread that I would play).  Once I went out there, I’d be stuck.  There’s no other poker room anywhere nearby.  The day would be shot.  In fact, it is the only poker room in all of Ventura County.  Doubling back to the Bike at that point would be out of the question (and I’d be out of gas). 

Unfortunately, the room isn’t on the Bravo app, and they don’t use the even better Table Captain software marketed by my employer, PokerAtlas (see here).  But I did a little more research and discovered they show their actual waitlist live on their website.  I think most poker rooms would be doing that now if it hadn’t been for the Bravo app.  Anyway, I started checking it out and they always seem to have a decent number of games going.  The main game seemed to be 1/2 NL but they also spread 2/3 NL, which is what I play at the Bike.  Checking online, they always seemed to have several 1/2 games going and a couple of 2/3 games.

And of course I checked out PokerAtlas and learned that the buy-in for the 1/2 game is $50-$100 and the buy-in for the 2/3 game is $100-$300 (same as at the Bike).  The 1/2 game was different though.  At the Bike, and at Commerce, the max buy-ins for 1/2 are like $40 or $60.  They are a joke.  I tried it once and hated it.  They play smaller than a 2/4 limit game—and then every now and then somebody shoves.  It’s the worst poker playing experience I’ve ever had.  I would never play that again.  $100 buy-in for a 1/2 game isn’t ideal, it’s half what it should be, but it’s better than $40!  At least you can play a little bit of poker before you get to all fold-or-shove mode.

It was my understanding that the Bike was the only L.A.-area room that had a game as small as 2/3 where you could buy in for 100 big blinds, which always made me reluctant to play somewhere else. So if that 2/3 game was running at Player’s Casino, I’d be able to start with a full stack.  And if I had to play 1/2, I’d still be able to start with a bigger stack than any other 1/2 game I could find in L.A.

So what the heck?  I decided to give it a shot.  If nothing else, I’d get a blog post out of it, describing a different venue.  So I headed out to Ventura on Saturday. Now, my first assumption proved wrong when I ran into some heavy traffic in route.  I never encountered any accidents but traffic became slow-and-go for about a 10 mile stretch.  Might have been weather related.  It was gloomy, windy and it even started drizzling as I was driving. The drizzling shouldn’t have affected traffic, but as I was driving I could tell from the wet roads that I was entering an area where it had gotten some significant rain. Whatever, even with that slowdown, it didn’t really take me more than an hour to get there.  So hopefully the traffic was just a fluke and I can make it there next time in less time than it usually takes to get to the Bike.

I had checked their site before leaving to see that they were busy.  They had a bunch of 1/2 games going and I think one 2/3 gaming, and both games had waitlists.  They were spreading other games as well.  So I was confident I’d be able to play.  I was a bit disappointed with the parking lot, it was pretty full, and I had difficulty finding a place to park, not something I’m used to—for a casino, that is.  In L.A., having trouble parking at most shopping centers or businesses is a common as finding a would-be actress with fake boobs.  But park I did and I proceeded to head around to the entrance.

It is a rather unusually looking poker room, at least to me.  It appears that the room took over the location of a defunct car dealership—it’s surrounded by car dealers and the address is on “Auto Center Drive.”  The front “wall” is glass and you can look out and see outside—not something you can do from a Vegas poker room (or an L.A. one, for that matter) unless it’s near an open door.  The room you enter is all poker tables, about 16, and although it’s pretty crowded, there is room to walk around.  It really is a vibe I’ve never experienced before in a poker room, I dunno if I can adequately convey this.  But it’s sort of like something you’d see in a old movie, just a relatively small room filled with absolutely nothing but poker tables. 

What I’m getting at is, the front room is just really small to be a big poker room, if that makes sense.  It’s small to be all poker.  The Bike and Commerce have areas that are all poker, but they are huge, really big, with poker tables galore.  In Vegas, there are small poker rooms to be sure, but when you’re in one, it’s a totally different feeling.  I played at the Linq when they had a five-table room.  But the feeling is totally different because even if you were in that small poker room, you were also in this huge casino, you couldn’t escape that.  And there’d be the noise from the rest of the casino and all the people from the rest of the casino all around you.  Here, it’s nothing but poker and it’s just different.

Behind the main room is a smaller room that has a bar and a few table games.  I didn’t even notice what they were—blackjack I assume and a few others maybe.  Since it’s not an Indian casino, there are no slot machines.  Beyond that is a restaurant.  You can eat there, or you can order food to be delivered to the table. 

And the place was packed!  This was about 1:30PM on Saturday. There were at least five or six 1/2 games going and two 2/3 games going.  They also had 3/5 and 5/10, at least one each.  There was a 1/3 PLO game and to my total surprise, a 3/6 Big O game.  All the games had lists, some of them very long. The lists for both the 1/2 and 2/3 were both so long I couldn’t see the bottom of them.  So I certainly didn’t have to worry about there not being enough action. No, I had to worry about how long it would take to get into a game.

My original thought was that I would try the 1/2 game first.  I figured it was a brand new venue for me, get a feel for the action and the players and all the little idiosyncrasies of the room at the lowest possible risk.  I anticipated moving up to the 2/3 after I got comfortable with everything.  But the long lists gave me pause.  I decided to get on the lists for both games and if I had to start with the bigger game, so be it. 

I found a seat at an empty poker table and waited.  There were only two tables not in use, and I think within an hour of my arrival they were using them all.  My name moved up pretty fast on that 1/2 list with all the tables of it they were spreading.  But then they called a new game of 2/3, and I was the first person on that list not called to it.  So a few minutes later I got called to a different 2/3 table and I bought some chips ($300) and took my seat. 

Ah, the chips, the chips.  A couple of things.  I had noticed that the 1/2 game used $1 chips, not $5 chips.  I guess that’s not surprising since that’s what they do at Bike and Commerce (Bike actually uses $1 chips even in its 1/3 game!).  But I thought that maybe they’d use the $5 chips there since the buy-in is bigger.  Nope.  Now, for the 2/3 game they used $5 chips but boy, I think someone made a blunder with those $5 chips. The $1 chips are not white, they are pale/medium blue (not unlike the $1 chips they use at the MGM (or the Bike).  But the $5 chips are not red, like in any Vegas poker room, nor are they the ugly puke yellow they use at the Bike.  They are green. Yes, green.  Not quite the shade of green you see on the Vegas $25 chips, more of a lime-green.  The problem is that they look incredibly similar to the $1 chips.  Honestly, you really have to look closely to tell them apart.  And when you put them both on the blue-green felt, they really, really look alike.

I couldn’t believe it.  When someone from across the table bet, it was nearly impossible for me to tell the difference.  Very bad design.  I realize that I had to make sure I asked whenever somebody made a bet exactly what it was, with no exceptions.  And when I bet myself, I was always extra careful to make sure I had the correct chips.

I tried to take a picture of the two chips together to give you an idea, but I couldn’t really capture it without standing up and hovering over them, something I didn’t want anyone to see me do.  I grabbed pics of the web of them, but I don’t think the separate pics I found really illustrate how similar they look.

That was really the only issue I had with the room.  It was at least as comfortable as the Bike, similar chairs, tables were fine (9-handed).  They had auto-shufflers, tho the one at my game was broken.  Chairs about the same as Bike.  No cup-holders, just plenty of portable carts for both food and beverages. No “hot” cocktail waitresses.  The food servers also brought drinks, alcoholic or otherwise.

Ah yes, beverages.  I’m sure my readers are all eagerly waiting for my report on how difficult it was to get a drink, and if they took it away before I was done with it.  Well, I did indeed order a diet Pepsi.  When the server brought it in one of those large paper Pepsi cups, she told me it was $1.50. She added that it was free refills all day.  OK, but now someone really had better not take my cup away before I was done with it!  I assume I could have gotten a glass of water for free, and I didn’t even notice if they were offering bottled water.  Fortunately my Pepsi cup remained untouched by the staff the entire day, and I even got my free refill once (note, it was the large size cup, so I got a lot more soda than I usual get, not really a bad deal).  

I was curious about the rake and the jackpot drop, was it similar to the Bike?  Actually, no, not at all.  There was no slot for a jackpot drop!  I vaguely remembered hearing or reading that they have a house funded bad beat jackpot, and don’t take a jackpot drop. 

As for the rake, that was weird.  I noticed that they always took exactly $5—when they took a rake.  There were a lot of pots, especially at the beginning, when they didn’t take anything.  Those were small pots of course.  I really couldn’t figure out what the deciding factor was, but finally, when I won a $21 pot, I saw the dealer count it before shoving it to me (and she took a $5 chip).  So I asked.  The break point is $18.  If the pot is less than $18, no rake.  At $19, they take $5, and it’s always $5, never more, never less.

Interesting.  If you’re used to the rake in Vegas, that sounds terrible, right?  My $21 pot was raked $5, in Vegas that would have been $3.  Worse, if it had been $19, Vegas would have taken out $2 and here it would still be $5.

But compared to the Bike, and the other L.A. rooms, it’s a bargain.  First of all, no jackpot drop.  Second, the Bike takes the rake right off the top.  Say there are three limpers who see a flop.  I bet $5 on the flop and no one calls.  I get my $3 back.  Six bucks is dropped ($5 for the rake, one for the jackpot).  So this is a lot better than the other L.A. rooms. Before $19 it’s better than the Bike, after, it’s the same (except for two things—no jackpot drop and no extra dollar that the Bike now takes when the hand goes to the river).

I was also curious to see if they allowed chopping of the blinds and if so, how they do it.  Recall that at the Bike, in the 2/3 game, if the blinds chop they still take $1 from the small blind for the rake.  So there’s no pure chop.  But here’s the funny thing.  In the the 3+ hours I played, it never came up. That’s right, there was never a situation where it folded to the small blind and there was a possibility of a chop.

I guess that should tell you something about the game itself, but not really.  I never could get a real feel for the game.  There were times when it came close to a Bike-style game, lots of loose action.  Other times, it played very tight.  There were quite a few hands that weren’t raked because they never got to $19.  I didn’t see any players who I thought were especially good—or especially tricky.  A few players seemed less than mediocre, but I couldn’t smell any outright fish.

And…..I’m going to stop here for now.  My usual succinctness has deserted me and I find myself with too much to say about this day.  So come back in a couple of days for the rest of the report, which will include the results of my poker session there. (EDITED TO ADD, THE WAIT IS OVER, SEE THE FOLLOW-UP POST HERE!)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Here's a Leak I Need to Fix

So in my previous post, here, I mentioned that I wanted to save the last significant hand of the session for a separate post.  As noted, I was down to about $200 from my $300 buy-in at the Bike.  And it was about time for me to leave.  All the cool people had already left the game (except for me, of course).  And it was that time, anyway.  I was playing my last orbit.

And thus, I got in trouble.  Whenever I’m near the end of session, whenever I’m down to that last orbit or two, I find myself playing hands differently than I normally would.  There have been times when that has worked out real well.  But usually it just blows up in my face.

Let me be clear what I mean. I’m not talking about making adjustments for table conditions and reads.  You always should be doing that.  You play a hand differently if you’re at a table full of maniacs than if you’re at a super nitty table where no one has raised preflop since the Truman administration. 

I mean that, if I’m at the tail end of a session, I might play a hand completely differently than I would at the exact same table with the same players early in my session.  I’m surely not the only person who does that. We’ve all seen players who get down to a short stack, know that they are done if they lose it, and then shove with marginal hands hoping for a double up but prepared to call it a day if they get called and lose.  I talked here about the player who didn’t want to cash out his few chips and shoved blind every single hand because he had tickets for a show.  That’s an extreme example, of course.

So I had a decent stack, even if I was stuck $100, and was perfectly willing to cash that out, take the $100 lose, and go on with life if I didn’t get a hand or a situation to exploit.

But I let the fact that I was on my last orbit affect my play.

I was in middle position with Ace-9 of spades.  These days, I almost always raise with a suited Ace.  And I absolutely should have here.  But I just limped in.  I had been raising with hands like that all day. I guess I was thinking I didn’t want to bring my stack under $200 unless I had a good hand or a good draw on the flop. Dumb.

Five or six of us saw the flop.  It was Jack high, two spades.  Someone bet $10, another guy called, and I called.  I suppose I could have raised, but honestly, I rarely raise with my draws in cash games, although I should definitely consider doing it more often.  There were now three of us left.

The turn was a non-spade 9.  The guy who had bet the flop checked, but the next guy bet $45. 

I wanted to fold.  I knew that was too high a price to pay to hit my flush with just one card to come.  Even if the other guy called.  But that 9 was so inviting.  I figured that gave me some more outs.  Two 9’s were likely outs.  Three Aces were likely outs. That’s assuming the guy who bet didn’t have a set.  And of course, I had all those flush outs. 

But I knew that even if I did have all those outs, I still wasn’t getting the right odds.  The guy who bet $45 had about $80 left so the implied odds weren’t good, either. This guy was middle-aged, or older, fairly new to the table and hadn’t played too many hands.  I couldn’t count on him paying me off if I hit my flush.  The other guy had more chips than me but I didn’t think he’d call.

But I called.  Last orbit, a chance to win a big pot, end the day ahead if I made my hand.

The other player folded.  The river was another 9.  So now I had trips.  Was that good?  My opponent went all in, I asked for a count, it was $83.

I couldn’t not call there, could I?  Trip 9’s with top kicker?  Of course I feared that the 9 had given him a boat. I had been thinking another 9 would be an out, but of course his shove gave me pause. But I called and said, “You have a boat?”

He didn’t say anything.  He just turned over Jack-9 for the full house.  That 9 was really the worst card I could have seen.  Any blank saves me $83.  Aces would have been good, or any spade. 

I stayed a few hands longer, and didn’t get a hand worth risking my remaining $70 or so.  I had a lot of time to think about that hand on the way home, as the freeway entrance right by the Bike was conveniently closed.  It took me almost as long just to get to the next nearest entrance as it would ordinarily take to get home.

I thought about all the mistakes I made on the hand.  Should have raised preflop.  Maybe that gets Jack-9 offsuit to fold?  Not sure, I’ve seen calls with that hand (and worse) many times.  I mean really, he shouldn’t even have limped in with it.  The call on the flop was ok, though I really should work raising with my draws more into my repertoire.

But the turn was the mistake.  Even with the 9, even if I was somehow sure another 9 would be good for me, it was a bad call.  And I know why I did that.  I know if this exact same hand had occurred earlier in a session, when I wasn’t just a few hands from calling it a day, I would have folded.  A bad call there and a miss would have led to me reaching into my wallet for more money to get more chips.  Of course, I would have had no problem risking my chips and having to rebuy if I was getting the right price, even if I wasn’t ready to leave.

But as I was ready to leave anyway, I knew I wasn’t going to dip into my wallet if I missed.  There was nothing that could happen to get me to touch any part of the second buy-in I had with me.  If I lost there, I was done, and I didn’t have to worry about losing anything beyond what I had in front of me.

And that’s what made it easier to make the bad call.  It was strictly gamble gamble, with bad odds.  So it cost me $140, basically because I knew I wasn’t going to rebuy.

Is that a good enough reason to play the hand the way I did? Because I was leaving in a few minutes?  As I said, we see people do that all the time.  Sometimes it pays off.  But then, if you call enough times with 7-deuce you’ll eventually flop a boat.  Or even quads.  But you’ll lose a lot of money trying for that.  It’s not an +EV play.

So I think I should work on fixing that leak.  That $140 didn’t prevent me from having dinner that night, or paying my bills.  But it looks real crappy on my log.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (At the Bike)

This past weekend I returned to The Bike, in regal Bell Gardens, CA.  Last time I was there, a story chronicled here, it was a crappy day.  This time, I’m happy to report that I didn’t suffer from any gastric distress.  But like last time, I had an early morning appointment sorta/kinda on the way to the Bike, so I got there earlier than I normally would.  It was about 11:30 AM or so.  I didn’t even consider trying the Quantum Reload thing I talked about in that previous post.  If I ever do try that again, I wouldn’t do it unless it was convenient to arrive at the Bike within a half hour of the starting time.  But honestly, I doubt I’ll ever try that again, just based on the time commitment, if nothing else.

So it was cash, the usually 2/3 NL game I play there.  When I arrived at the Bike I did a little tour just to see if anything had changed due to the construction (they are adding on a hotel) that I needed to be aware of—like more missing bathrooms—just in case. 

It actually looked pretty much the same as last time, with one notable exception.  The snack bar that had been missing from the tournament area had mysteriously reappeared.  Recall that the fact that it wasn’t there last time, when I really needed it, was one of the reasons the day was such a disaster—and why I almost got stuck with a hot dog covered in mayonnaise. 

Then I went over to the area where they have the 2/3 game.  They call this area “The Plaza” and this is where they have their biggest games.  The 2/3 game is the smallest game that plays on the Plaza.  I was really surprised when I got there, as the place was dead.  The Plaza, I mean.  The parking lot and the casino were about as busy as usual to my eye, but I’d never seen so few games on the Plaza.  There were only three games running.  There was a single table of the 2/3 game.  The other two games were not hold’em (I’m thinking one was Omaha and the other was perhaps a combination Stud/Omaha).  Neither one of those non hold’em games was close to full.  The 2/3 game was full and when I got my name on the list, I was second up. 

I was sure I’d never seen the place so empty. I couldn’t figure out why. It was a very nice day, weather wise, in L.A., but then, it usually is.  That’s why we live here.  I could think of no reason the place wouldn’t be as busy as it usually is.  I did consider that it was about an hour or so earlier than I usually get there, but then I remembered that I had gotten there about the same time last time, and I surely would have remembered it had been this dead.

Anyway, I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  I have never waited this long for a seat at the Bike. The place does have 190 poker tables, after all—and isn’t even the biggest poker room in LA. That would be Commerce, the biggest poker room in the world at over 200 tables. 

No one was leaving the game.  And what was really bothering me was that, unlike so many times at the Bike, I didn’t see any players leaving the table and miss any hands.  Just the kind of game I like, and I couldn’t get in it.

Eventually some names started filling up the waitlist.  I got to be #1 on the list and then it looked like they had enough players to start a new game.  In fact, they finally called the game, sold chips, had a dealer spread the decks and prep the cards.  But despite a few more names on the list, there were only four of us at the table.  So we waited a bit, and then, a player left the table where the one game was playing, and I got called there to take that seat.

I moved over there and as I was just about to order my free lunch, the waitress followed me over there.  I waited to post and started to place my order when the waitress asked me how I was going to pay. Pay?

I should mention that this waitress recognizes me every time I play at the Bike, and she’s the only person at the Bike who does.  She had already come by to say hi while I was waiting.  She noted that it had been awhile since she’d seen me.  So when she saw the look of surprise I gave her when she asked me how I was gonna pay for my free meal, she realized that I hadn’t been in since they had changed their policy.  No one gets free food anymore. 

Turns out that just a few days after my last trip to the Bike, they stopped giving the folks who play on the Plaza free food.  My immediate thought was, “Now I know why it’s so dead here.” That probably isn’t the explanation, but it may contribute.  Recall that I recently discussed how the Bike increased the rake (see here).  It’s now $6 plus the $1 jackpot drop when the hand goes to the river (whether there’s any betting action on the river or not).  And when I talked about the Quantum Reload tournament, I mentioned that they charged the guy $1 for the bottle of water.  Now this.

OK, ok.  It’s not like one should expect a free meal in a casino the way one expects a free drink in a Vegas casino (see here).  It’s just that, when you consider the exorbitant rake they hit you with, getting those free meals sure made it easier justifying playing there.  In fairness, I should point out that their biggest competitor, Commerce, never gave free food to players.

So the waitress asked me if I was going to pay with cash or my comp points.  To be honest, I’ve never fully understood how they do comps.  I know if you play enough in a month, they will actually give you cash back, but you have to play like 25 hours in a calendar month in order to qualify, and I can’t see myself ever hitting anywhere close to that (I doubt I’ve ever played more than 10 hours in one month there, and that would a lot for me).  I did recall, eventually, that in the old days, before I was playing on the plaza, you would earn enough comp points to order a free meal off a very limited menu after three hours of play on that day.  Those points expired at midnite.  I had no idea how it worked now, but since this was the first time I’d set foot in the place since late February, I was sure I had nothing coming to me.

Of course, I had counted on the free lunch, so I hadn’t eaten and was hungry.  No choice but to order and see how bad the damage was.  I ordered what I usually do and then for some reason, the waitress said she would check the computer to see how much to charge me.  When she came back, it was only $7, which for the amount of food I ordered, was quite reasonable.  But it’s infinity percent higher than free.

It turned out that my food order wasn’t exactly right, and it wasn’t clear if there had been a communication problem between the waitress and me or if the new policy meant a new menu and that what I really wanted wasn’t available.  You know, once I found out the food was not free, I should have looked at the menu first, that’s my fault.  But I can report that the waitress brought me three diet sodas and two bottles of water (which I made sure no one stole), so there’s that.

Meanwhile, the game.  When the button passed, I went to post and was told that posting was no longer required.  That too is a recent change.  I said, “No posting?  No free food?  I don’t recognize this place.”

But this was one of the most pleasant tables I’ve ever played at the Bike, I’ll say that. There wasn’t a single jerk at the game the entire time, which is definitely unusual. There were three people on one end who were all buddies and having a good time.  I recognized them all as regs. There were a couple of real nice guys in seats 5 & 6, two buddies, who I didn't recognize but who seemed to know the regs I just referred to.  

The guy in seat 5 had a t-shirt with the emblem “Share My Pair.”  I had heard of that.  It is a app for recreating a hand and displaying how it played out via animation. It always sounded pretty cool to me, and I’ve always wanted to try it, but for whatever reason, I never got around to it.  I know I’ve had some hands that I’ve described here on the blog that would be worthy of recreating this way.  Anyway, it turned out that I was playing with the man behind the "Share My Pair" app and he was only too happy to tell us all about it. Let's call him Steve, because, as I found out the next day, that’s his name.

Early on I raised with pocket 10’s, and, after a call, one of the regs made it $51.  I folded, as did the other guy.  The reg kindly showed his hand, which was the dreaded pocket Kings.  Not so dreaded for him.

The next hand I had worth playing was a couple of Aces.  I was in early position and raised to $12.  It folded to Steve on the button, who went all in with his last $63.  When it folded back to me, it was heads up so I could only call.  We didn’t show.  And…..well, actually if you want to know what happened, you can click the link here and see it play out on Steve’s app.

Yeah, indeed, Steve rivered the nut flush, shoving with Ace-7 of diamonds.  He titled the hand, “A frustration bet,” and when he tweeted it out, he said, “better to be lucky.”  Actually, that’s exactly what he said when he turned over his hand—“I got lucky.”

Yep.  At least it wasn’t more.  I suspected that Steve had created the hand on his app, but didn’t bother to look for it at the time.  But I knew I would do more research after the session. 

A bit later, I limped in with Jack-9 of diamonds.  Five of us saw the flop which had two diamonds on it.  Steve led out with a bet—my notes say $22 but that seems rather high.  One person called, as did I.  I hit my flush on the turn and this time it folded to me.  No one called my $25 bet.  Steve commented that he was being very disciplined and later said he had flopped a straight.  Could have given me a little more money back to me, Steve!

I raised to $15 with Ace-Jack off.  Only the guy who had just come to the table and was playing his first hand called.  The flop was Ace high, two spades.  I bet $20 and he called.  The turn was the third spade and we both checked.  The river was a blank and I checked, he checked behind me and showed two Kings.  Wow.  If he had re-raised me I would have easily folded Ace-Jack.  OTOH, I can sort of understand just calling there.  Brand new to the table, had never seen me play before.  That’s sort of my default, play it very safe until I get a feel for the action.  But having said that, I don’t think I’d just flat call a normal raise with Kings even on my very first hand at the table.

The next time I had pocket Aces, the guy on my immediate right, with a short stack, shoved for $51.  I just called and it was just the two of us.  The full house he rivered was no good.  There were three deuces on the board and he had pocket Jacks.

I won a small pot completing from the small blind with 10-8 of hearts and rivering a flush against a guy who rivered a straight.  Then I three bet with pocket Aces ($15 to $45) and took it down pre-flop.

I think I want to save the last significant hand of my session for a separate post, because I want to make a larger point with it.  (And I have, that post is now here). So at this juncture, I was down to around $200 from my $300 buy-in.

The next day, I researched the Share My Pair app, and found the hand on the website, just as I suspected.  Steve had recreated a number of hands from his session.  He had of course tweeted out the hand so I tweeted back to him that I was the sucker with Aces in that hand and that it had been a pleasure playing with him. I also confirmed that I had the flush when he folded his straight.  He thanked me for that, than later sent me an email, suggesting we meet up when he’s in Vegas playing some of the WSOP events.  I hope we can do that.

But I do want to quote a little from his email to me.  His opening line was, “I recognized your Twitter handle but didn’t realize that you’re a poker blogging icon!”  Thank you, sir.

Now, I’m sorry, but I’m just not classy enough to discuss the “Share My Pair” app without taking advantage of the obvious double-entendre.  So I have to include this pic of a pair that is definitely worth sharing.  This is why I’m a poker blogging icon.  Sorry, Steve.