Sunday, September 2, 2018

Action Buttons, Kill Pots and a Deli From the Past

When last I left you (here) I had just busted out of the Sam's Town $40 tournament.  But Lightning, Flushhdraw and Chris were still alive.  And I busted out on the last hand before the first break, so I had a chance to tell the guys that I had busted out.  I believe it was at that point that I found out that Lightning's old blogger buddy Mike , who I first talked about in the post here, had also joined the party.

I assume he saw Lightning's tweet about playing at Sam's Town and decided swing by.  I believe that, inasmuch as he didn't have a car, he had taken Uber from the Strip all the way to Sam's Town.  I wish I had thought of asking him at the time how much that cost him.  I would be interested to see how much that length of an Uber ride would run.  Oh well, maybe he'll read this post and leave a comment—if he even remembers.

We talked a bit and then I just figured I'd hang around while the rest of them inevitably busted out.  The first thing I did once the tournament resumed was walk around a bit and look around the casino some more.  One thing that intrigued me was the nearby Sports Deli, in the Sports Book.  Lightning had texted me that the three of them were all eating there while I was driving over.  And he said the food was really high quality.  And cheap.  So I had to take a look.

When I mentioned last time that Sam's Town reminded of a casino from when I first started going to Vegas, this deli is really what I was mostly referring to.  It wasn't big, but it had a big counter and more importantly, a big menu.  Not just sandwiches but hot dogs and even burgers—and fries.  I think there was some Mexican food, salads and even breakfast selections.  And furthermore—yes it was cheap!  A burger (with fries) was $6.25.  That'd be close to $20 on the Strip.  A hot dog and chips was $3.50.  A pastrami sandwich was like $6-$7.  And again, according to Lightning, the food was really good.

You used to be able to find a place like this in every casino you walked into in Vegas.  Maybe not quite as cheap as this (relatively speaking, considering inflation) but not that far off.  This is exactly the kind of place every Vegas casino needs and used to have. No more.  You have to drive out to Boulder Highway to find it now.  What a shame.

Sure, MGM has a deli near the sports book (and poker room).  But it has a very limited menu, and you can't get a burger or fries, and just two or three sandwich choices.  And the pastrami sandwich (which is awful) is like $17.  There used to be a Stage Deli in that location (at MGM) which was better quality food and a slightly bigger selection, but still nothing like this little sports deli at Sam's Town.  I swear if the food is as good as Lightning claims, and if the poker room had more 1/2  action, it'd be worth it to drive out there regularly.

What was interesting about this is that I noticed a big food court on the other side of the casino when I first entered it (from about as far away from the poker room as possible).  I mention this because generally speaking food courts have replaced these type of delis at casinos.  Instead of a "mom & pop" style deli (well, it looks like a mom & pop place), they have these food courts with all the franchise places having a space.  You know, there's a Subway or some sandwich place, a burger joint (McDonalds or maybe Johnny Rockets), a pizza place, a Mexican place, a Chinese place, maybe an ice cream shop and always….always…a Starbucks.  Of course, because they're inside a Vegas casino, the prices are jacked up well beyond what you'd pay at your local version of the same restaurant.  When I'm downtown and playing in a tournament, if I make it to dinner break I always walk to the Subway that's at The Plaza.  And my sandwich and soda cost about $3-$4 more than if I had bought it at a Subway in a regular strip mall.

Anyway, since I had eaten I didn't buy anything but I was really impressed with the place.  I looked around some more and then sat down at an empty poker table and stared at my phone for awhile.  By this time they had opened up a cash game.  I considered playing in it….and when it had gotten nearly full, I decided WTF, I might as well play.  It looked like the guys were going to be playing in that tournament awhile.  Guess they're all better players than me.

Well, the game was 2-6 spread limit, not exactly my game of choice.  But I figured why not give it a shot for a little while?  It had been a long time since I've played a limit or spread limit hold'em game (other than as part of a mixed game).  If I'm not playing no limit, I'd prefer fixed limit to spread.  Actually, I've never really seen the point of spread limit, but I guess some people like it.  I think I played 2-6 spread a few times at MGM a few years back when they were trying to establish that game

But I didn’t have a choice.  When in Rome…as they say.  So I bought some dollar chips and joined the game.

When I got into the game, there were two interesting things about it.  One, it's a kill game.  Not half-kill, but full kill.  So if someone wins two pots in a row, the next hand is a kill pot and you're suddenly playing 4-12 spread limit until someone else wins a pot.  And the player who won those last two pots has to post $4.  Usually that's an additional blind unless that player happens to be the blind.

You know how I feel about kill games, right?  Oh wait, you don't.  Amazingly enough, I've never discussed my feelings about kill games or half kill games.  And the reason it's amazing is that it should have been one of the very first topics I discussed when I started the blog.

Now those of you who have been with me since the beginning will recall that when I started the blog, I was almost exclusively playing limit poker, mostly 2-4 limit.  That was the game I started with when I first played poker in a casino and I was still playing it when I started the blog in September of 2011. Jeezuz…..can it be seven years already?  Seven??? Wow, maybe I should do something for my anniversary?  Anyway, the point is that my assumption was that the posts I would do about poker would all be about limit poker.  And one of my issues at the time was the increasing number of rooms that had added the half-kill to their low fixed limit games.  Because back then, I really, really hated it.

Although I had been playing poker regularly in Vegas for a few years by then, for most of that time I had full time "real" job (in a very much non-poker environment) and didn't get to Vegas that often.  And I wasn't heading down to the local L.A. rooms very often either.  So I was still trying to figure out the poker thing.  And I couldn't seem to master it to the point where I was a winning player.  Now maybe I wasn't very good, but I came to believe that the main reason I wasn't winning as a 2/4 limit player was that at that level, it's virtually impossible to overcome the rake.

Anyway, I can't remember where or when I first encountered limit games that had the half-kill or even the kill rule.  I think I'd been playing for a few years before I came across one.  But find one I did, then another, then another.  And it was happening in some of the rooms that had been my favorite rooms to play 2/4 in.

Now here's something I've never mentioned before.  Back when I first started playing, one of my favorite places to play was The Orleans.  You see before I started playing poker, Orleans was always one of my favorite casinos. I played tons of blackjack, craps and then Pai Gow there.  They had low betting limits.  And the rooms were fairly cheap so I stayed there often too.  And back then, they had some decent cheap food options (and my favorite burger joint, "Terrible Mike's").  So it was only natural for me to give their poker room a try when I started playing poker.  And I liked it.  They always had plenty of 2/4 action so you didn't have to wait too long for a seat.  Sure the players were nitty, but so was I and I liked that, I didn't want to see a lot of raises as I was learning the game.

And then one day I went in there and the 2/4 game had become 2/4 with a half-kill (I think they converted the 4/8 game to half-kill first, but not sure).  I guess I knew what that meant but perhaps Orleans was the first room I played to have it, again not sure.  And once I learned what it meant, once I played it a few times, I absolutely hated it.  And after a time or two, I never played 2/4 in Orleans again.  And as I found other rooms that spread their 2/4 with a half-kill, I stopped going to them also.

Biggest objection to the half-kill was simply this:  If I wanted to play a 3/6 game (which is what the 2/4 game becomes when the half-kill is on), I'd go find a 3/6 to play (in those days they were easy to find).  Also, it seemed so arbitrary.  You could go 90-minutes without winning a pot, then suddenly win two pots in a row and you've changed the game, plus you're committed to posted extra and costlier blinds.

Besides, I figured people played 2/4 because they wanted to keep the stakes and the betting low.  If they were looking for a more action game, they could find it.  Why try to turn a 2/4 game into a bigger game when people were playing it most likely because they liked to nittiness of the game?  It made no sense to me.

Anyway, I stayed away from those rooms, and I missed a lot of them but why should I play in a room that had rules I didn't like when I could always find a game with rules I preferred?  Note:  When I played 2/4 at MGM back then, it did not allow for kill pots.

So when I started the blog, I knew in the back of the mind that someday I'd need a topic to write about and then I'd write a blog post pontificating on how much I hated the half-kill games.  But before I got around to it, I started playing No Limit (first tournaments, then cash) and I had a whole lot of other stuff to write about.  And since I was no longer playing a game where you could even have kill-pots, there was no point in going on about it.  Until now.

Anyway, for this game, I was ok with the full-kill.  I mean I now play NL, how could I logically object to the max bet being increased to $12 when for the game I regularly play the max bet could be your entire stack on any street?  But somehow I suspect if I was ever to go back to playing limit regularly I'd still prefer to avoid games with kills and half-kills.

The other weird thing about this game was that it had "action" buttons.  I think these are also known as "overs."  I'd heard of them but had never played with this before.  As explained to me, players had the option to ask for an "action" button when they joined the game (or any time after).  If any hand ever gets down to only players who had an action button, the game suddenly becomes No Limit for the rest of that hand. 

I guess I see the logic of it, especially for a room that doesn't get too many live hold'em games. Obviously some of their regs only want to play the spread limit.  And some obviously prefer NL but they may not get enough of each to have both games a lot of the time.  So they have play a combined game to fill up the table.  The action players who want NL have to deal with a lot of spread limit hands, but every once in a while a hand gets down to only players who really want a NL game and they get their way.  It's a weird hybrid.  I suppose sometimes, everyone at the table has an action button and then the game just becomes a regular NL game.

Since it was new to me, I opted not to take an action button.  My thought was, I really had no idea if the strategy changed for this type of game.  I mean I know how to play NL (at least in theory I do).  And I remember enough about to play limit games to get by.  But is there a strategy for a hand that starts out as a limit game and suddenly turns into a NL hand when the last person without an action button folds?  I imagine there is some strategy involved, and not having ever giving it a thought, I felt it safer to avoid the situation altogether.  How about you?  Anyone every played in a game like this before?  Is there a specific strategy you can use to handle the unpredictable nature of it?  For a game that can change from a fixed limit to a no limit game in the middle of a hand?

As for the game itself, my card-deadness continued.  I only wrote down one hand, a small pot I won.  Let's see, I limped in with Ace-10 off.  The flop was Ace-Jack-x, all hearts.  My 10 was a heart.  I bet and got a caller.  I bet again on a blank, call.  The river was the King of hearts, giving me the second nut flush.  I bet and got called, he had the 5 of hearts.

While I was playing some more folks we knew (or knew of) showed up.  Let's see, there was Alysia Chang, a tall guy and another couple.  The tall guy I figured out to be Washdude, who I've been following on Twitter for some time.  I guessed who he was (I was right) and introduced myself.  Turns out he is a really nice guy.  I didn’t figure out who the couple was until I was gone and I never got introduced to them.  But I later came to understand they were Jason and Adriana, who I tweet back and forth with and who appeared to be good friends with Alysia.  May I belatedly say to Jason & Adriana, nice to have almost met you!

None of my pals ever joined me in the spread limit game.  I actually didn't play very long.

Now at some point Chris abandoned Lightning leaving him stranded at  Sam's Town, along with Mike.  I suppose I should have left them there to Uber back to the strip, but of course I agreed to chauffeur them back there myself.  Am I a nice guy or what?

It was a fun night at Sam's Town, good people and I felt a bit like I'd taken a trip back in time.


  1. You said:

    "Besides, I figured people played 2/4 because they wanted to keep the stakes and the betting low. If they were looking for a more action game, they could find it. Why try to turn a 2/4 game into a bigger game when people were playing it most likely because they liked to nittiness of the game? It made no sense to me."

    I understand what you're saying when you say if people want to play in a higher game than they would do so, but I kind of look at it slightly different. In my $3/$6 limit Omaha 8 game that I play there a kill pot makes it $6/$12 and although I don't want to play in a game that is $6/$12 every hand, or more correctly my bankroll would not allow such a thing a kill pot does give you the opportunity to play a hand or two here and there was just a little bit higher, but it's not permanent. I kind of think it is kind of nice to have a few tossed in here and there. You don't have to play it consistently but every once in awhile a single hand with higher Stakes gets tossed in and just mixes things up.

    As for the food court it sounds like you were down at the very end of Sam's Town where they have the Subway, Dunkin Donuts, and there's an ice cream counter there as well. There is also another small food court, I mean like three places I think so that's about as small as you can get and if you walk through the area where they have all the the trees and the water and where you check in if you walk past that there is a McDonald's, Panda Express, and a Mexican fast food place, but for the life of me I just can't recall the name of it.

    Great write-up as always Rob, enjoyed it thoroughly.

    1. Well, as I said, I knew that obviously some people like the kill feature or they wouldn't have it. So yours is obviously a valid view, I just don't share it. Again, seems too arbitrary. I think I'd like it better if at random times, a buzzer went off and it meant the next hand had higher stakes. I dunno, it just bugs me. Like I said, I avoided rooms that had it back in the day.

      I saw the Subway, I don't what else I saw, just that it was a food court. But I'm sure I would have loved that sports deli!

      Thanks for the kind words.

    2. Sports Deli was great and had a bar right next to it. And thanks again to Flushhdraw, whose comps covered my meal.

    3. You mean I not only missed a great meal, I missed a FREE meal? Damn.

  2. Uber to the strip would be about $15 and im very familiar with overs buttons and shocked u arent. they used to use those all the time at texas station before their room closed and the cannery still uses them alot. riverside laughlin has a great 4-12 omaha hilow game when theres a kill from 2-6, which is wide enough i think to be able to beat the rake in spread limit.

  3. I'm a fan of Sam's Town, usually spending a day or two there each time I'm in Vegas.

    On our last trip Ms. Duck and I got a suite there that rivals anything we've stayed in on the strip. Very nice.

    1. That's good to hear....but tell me, did you eat at that Deli?