Wednesday, September 9, 2020

I Played Live Poker....Seriously! (Part 2)

The Dreaded Pocket Whats? (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 is here and we pick up right as I enter the Morongo poker room. I asked about the games.  The electronic waitlist was on display in the casino right above the sign that said "poker room." There were long lists for all the games.  Most of the games had lists longer than the board allowed for names.  There were like 25-35 names for each game.  I did notice that names at the top of each list that had the phrase "called in" after them.  Good to know that they accepted call ins.  I did forget to ask how long they keep the names on the list if you call in.

They had one table each of 1/2 ($40-$100), 1/3 ($100-$300), 5/10 ($500-$3K) and 3/6 limit with a kill ($30 min).  There were two tables of 2/5 ($200-$500).  There was also an interest list for 4/8 limit.  Why they kept that, I dunno.  With those long lists and their obviously inability to open a new table, there was no chance any of the existing games would break so that they could start that 4/8 game.  There might also have been some kind of Omaha game running, at this point, I can't quite recall.  The guy at the podium told me they were limited to 8 tables at this point.  I think maybe I saw a semi-private room that might have had a bigger game going, not sure.  All I knew for sure was that they were not able to open any more tables despite the long lists.

I was pretty much prepared for this.  I knew I'd have a long wait, and I knew that in order to increase my chances of playing any poker this day I had to get my name on as many lists as possible.  The guy told me I could put my name on multiple lists, and if I was in one game, I could stay on the list of the other games and move if called there.

So I put my name on the lists for 1/2, 1/3, 2/5 and the 3/6 limit game.  The 3/6 game was somewhat pointless.  Although that list was only like 20-25 names I think, with only one table I didn't think there was any chance I'd get called any time within three hours.  Limit players tend to last longer than no-limit players.

The two longest lists were the 1/2 and the 1/3, both were like 30+.  I didn't think there was any chance of me getting into either one.  Maybe the 1/3 (the one I wanted) because it was actually shorter. Yes, more people wanted to play 1/2 at $40-$100 than 1/3 at $100-$300.  This is Southern CA.  I don't get it either.  By the way, I asked and they have absolutely no promos or bonuses during the weekend (weekdays only).  Also there are no comps!  So no need for me to even bother getting a player's card. 

I have been told that the reason players at Bike and Commerce play those $40 buy-in no-limit games is that they are just playing for the bad beat jackpot and trying to hit it for cheap.  But in this room, on the weekend, there was no point in that, you were playing $40-$100 NLH for some other reason.  Most likely, stupidity (or maybe, to be fair, you have a really good short stack game). Also it means I was getting ripped off, since they did take a jackpot rake of a buck a pot while I played, and I had exactly zero chance of getting any of that money back (just slightly less chance than I normally have). For this I blame, of course, Emperor Newsom.

My best shot at getting into any game was the 2/5 game.  Not only was it the only game with two tables running, but the list was the shortest one (other than the 5/10 game). I think it had about 17 players in front of me, and the top three were listed as "called in" so they might not even show up.

When I had decided to head over there, I knew there was a possibility that my best shot at poker would be the 2/5 game, which as you know I really don't play.  I have played 2/5 a couple of times in Vegas. And of course, I was out of practice, not having played poker of any kind in nearly six months. I had a plan for this.  I was going to buy in for the $200 minimum and play three times as tight as I normally play. In other words, I would wait for pocket Aces and otherwise fold every hand I was dealt.

In fact, I texted my buddy Lightning that I was at Morongo and would likely have to play 2/5 or leave without playing a hand of poker. He told me that 2/5 is a very different game than 1/2 or 1/3.  I said, "I'll buy in for the minimum and only play Aces.  Definitely not Kings."

So I got on the four lists, gave him my cel number, and took off.  I was told I had to leave the poker room.  There was no waiting in the poker room—again, social distancing—I had to wait outside the room.  When my table was ready, I'd get a text, and I'd have 10 minutes to get back to the room to claim my seat.  OK.

I checked out the casino.  I noticed there was a little casual eatery near the poker room, it was packed.  But imagine, a place where you could eat at a restaurant indoors in CA. Native Americans 1, Emperor Newsom 0.  There was also a food court as well.  They had a Fatburger, a Panda Express and a bunch of no-name places (at least, I didn't recognize the names). There was an Italian place that advertized both pizza and pasta.  Between that and the Fatburger, I'd be set if I wanted to eat there.  Again, indoors!  Take that, Emperor!

They didn't really have a lot of table game action. Maybe that's because the cheapest blackjack I saw was $25.  The only thing cheaper was some of the other table games, 3-Card poker and what-not, some of which was $15 minimum. I had no interest in any of that.

Nor did I have any interest in the slots.  Funny, as much as I love Vegas, as often as I've been there, I never really enjoyed playing slots and hardly ever do. I've always found it quite boring.  And also bankroll draining.  Even video poker has no appeal to me.

So I didn't play anything.  I just walked around and then found a seat at an unused slot machine near the poker room and sat and waited for a chance to play poker.  I watched the board and went over close to it every so often to see how I was progressing.  Initially my name didn't even make it on the board for the 1/2 or 1/3 games, but eventually I was at the very bottom.  But I could see I was getting close on the 2/5 board.

And eventually, after about an hour, I got texted to come to the room….it was for the 2/5 game of course.  OK, time to test that short stack strategy.  To be honest, I felt so rusty I wasn't sure I had any strategy for any game.

As planned, I bought in for $200 and took my seat.  It was seven-handed with the plexiglass dividers as advertised.  The dividers didn't bother me at all, perhaps because I was right next to the dealer.  But between the dividers and the masks, there wasn't much chatter at the table.  But who knows, it might have been that I didn't have a particularly talkative table.

Now the trouble with 7-handed isn't that 7-handed per se is bad, it's that if there is a player or two missing you are really very, very short.  And for long periods there was at least one player gone, sometimes two.  I heard one guy ask and he was told you could be away from the table for 45-minutes and still keep your seat.  I've complained about that at full-ring 9-handed games, but for 7-handed that's just absurd.  But it is what it is.  At least I can say that while I was playing, no one person was away from the table very long.

I wanted to get total trash hands for at least a few orbits so I could fold and try to learn the table.  So of course I got pocket 9's in one of the first hands I was dealt. I was in early position.  I just limped to see what would happen. Someone made it $25.  I shrugged and called.  It was heads up, The flop was Queen-high.  We both checked. We both checked a blank turn, and a blank river.  He showed pocket 10's to take it.  I suppose in my normal 2/3 game I might have bet the turn and taken it.  Or maybe he would have called and I've lost more money.

I folded a few more times and then, in the small blind, the last hand I wanted to see showed up.  Of course I mean the dreaded pocket Kings.  Yep, I suppose the fates demanded it.  Trying to play three times tighter than normal, I was destined to get pocket Kings, and so early yet.  I'd played 10 minutes of poker in the past six months, and there they were.  And here I was playing with the big boys, in a 2/5 game that I never play.

Well I promised Lightning I'd muck them, but of course I did not. A late position player raised to $15 and the button called.  As much as I am spooked with this hand, of course even I would automatically three-bet there.  But….but… was pocket Kings.  I was in a bigger game.  I was out of practice (do I need to be in practice to mess up pocket Kings?).  So I played chicken-shit.  No, I didn't muck them (sorry Lightning).  I just meekly called.

The flop was Q-4-4 and I checked. The preflop raiser checked but the button bet $20 and I called, the other guy called.        The turn was a 3, I checked, the next guy checked and the button bet $50.  I figured he likely just had a Queen.  I called.  The other guy folded. The river was a blank.  I checked, the other guy thought about betting but finally checked and showed a Queen.  I flipped my Kings to take the pot, leaving the other guy to wonder if I was perhaps the biggest nit in Riverside county. But it was a nice pot and I was up about $75 for the moment.

Of course I should have three-bet pre.  But based on the post flop action, I think it's a safe bet if I had, I would have taken the pot down right there and made less money.  That's not to say I played it right, just that my absurd meekness paid off that one time.

Editorial comment: As I was proofing this post, it occurred to me that I should refer to Gavin Newsom as "King Newsom" rather than "Emperor Newsom." (Wait for it) After all, I've seen many detractors of his refer to him as King on Twitter. My thought tho was that I wanted to be a bit original and Emperor sounds more self-important than King.  However, if I had called him King Newsom, I could from now on refer to Pocket Kings as "Pocket Newsoms."  And that would give me one more reason to hate them. The dreaded pocket Newsoms?  What do you think?

Much later, I got pocket Jacks in early position and made it $25.  There was one call.  The flop was Ace-Queen-x.  Ugh.  Hoping he had a smaller pocket pair and missed, I decided to c-bet $20, but he called.  The turn was blank and I checked, as did he.  The river was another blank and after my check, he bet $85.  I folded.  Did I let him steal it?  Perhaps.  I wondered if a turn bet would have ended things.  I'll never know.

I got pocket 9's on the button.  It folded to me so I bet $15 and took it down.

I got pocket 9's again (third time this day!) and called $20.  It was three-way.  Ace-high flop, there was no betting. The turn was a 10 and I folded to a big bet.

I got deuce-4 in the big blind and there was no raise, one limper so three of us saw the flop.  No one bet the flop, which did have a deuce on it.  The turn was a Jack so I bet $5 on my deuce.  One call.  No bet on a blank river.  I showed my deuce, and the guy didn't show.  I think he was hoping to win with Ace-high.

That's all the hands I noted.  Now I should mention that after playing at this game about an hour or so, I got texted that my 1/3 seat was ready.  I decided to stay where I was.  I was getting tired from the long ride out there, and figured I wouldn't be staying much longer. But I did note that even with that ridiculously long list and just one table, I could have gotten into the 1/3 game after about two hours of waiting.

Plus, I had noticed something about this table.  I don't think it was at all a typical 2/5 game.  As nitty as I was playing, nobody else was all that aggro.  I actually wondered if most of the players were really 1/3 players who were all, like me, playing the bigger game because there was less of a wait for it.  Or maybe, like me, playing more cautiously because they were out of practice. Seriously there was not a lot of three-betting, no really aggro moves, and very few all-ins.  I was holding my own, honestly.

When I was ready to call it quits, I was down $15 for the session. I was actually pretty happy about that.

Let me some a few words (ha!) about the safety protocols that were in effect. I already mentioned the temperature checks at the door.  Anytime anyone left a game, someone came by and sanitized the area he had left.  New decks were replaced every dealer change.  One thing I noticed—and I have no idea if this new or standard for Morongo—there were no automatic shufflers.  I had wondered if all the hand sanitizer would get on the cards and muck up the shufflers but they were hand shuffling so no issue (there was no space for a auto shuffler at least on the table I was at, so maybe they never used them). And the dealer also sanitized their whole area every time a new one pushed in.

It was quite impressive.  Of course, I became super paranoid and made the mistake of ordering a bottle of water instead of a diet coke. The thing is, I had to pull down my mask every time I took a sip, and also had to use two hands to open the water, and I realized that I didn't want to do any of that without sanitizing my hands every time first.  There was a bottle of hand sanitizer behind my table on some kind of bar that was otherwise unused that I kept getting up to use. Of course, you were not allowed to eat at the table.

Even before I sat down to play, I realized there was absolutely no reason at all that Bike, or Commerce, or my Ventura room, couldn't reopen this very day using the very same safety protocols. Of course someone could get the virus there, but they had greatly minimized the chances. It is ridiculous that those card rooms are still closed, and also ridiculous that you can't eat indoors in a restaurant anywhere in CA outside of an Indian casino.  You go, you Native Americans!

I left feeling quite happy about finally getting out, getting to a public place and getting to play some poker again, even if it wasn't my preferred game. It was the best I've felt mentally in a long, long time.

Also, I rather enjoyed saying, "F*** you, Gavin Newsom."


  1. I need to get off my butt and write my Las Vegas trip report. As for cleanliness ... I felt very good. We can't live out life in a bubble every day. I tested negative four days after my trip was over.

    1. You were tested for COVID after getting back from Vegas? How could you tolerate that incredibly painful test? At least Tony (who has never had it) says it is incredibly painful, and when has Tony ever been wrong?

      Looking forward to your report. Also, this reminds me I need to stop by your blog and post my thoughts about Dave Smith, aka Memphis MOJO. Damn, what a loss.

    2. If the place testing is using the method that Tony mentioned - yeah, I heard it sucked. Where I have gone two times now, they just swab the inside of both nostrils for about 30 seconds.. Certainly no big deal.

  2. I played some 2-5 occasionally. One night I couldn't find a low stakes game at the Parx near Philadelphia. I sat down next to a huge stack of 3K or more next to me and put my $500 buy in on the felt. Early on I got into a huge pot with Ks-js. I limped in the the huge stack raised 50$ on the button. Unimpressed with the button raise I and one other limper called. The flop was Queen high and two spades. I checked and then called the 100 dollar raise from huge stack which left me heads up. The turn was a blank and I called another 100 raise wondering if I could bluff the huge stack. On the river - Hallelujah! I counted out a 250 raise and put it out there. He tanked for a long time and then folded aces face up moaning something about losing a lot of money with aces all the time. He asked what I had. I looked at my cards and I saw: Ks - Jc. I misread my hand! I turned them over and said nothing. 30 minutes later a low stakes table opened up and I ran away with a double up. I realized I had no business at the table and a little luck goes a long way.

    1. Thanks, great story. But I probably put that guy on tilt with your inadvertent bluff and could have taken the rest of his money. Maybe especially if you let on that you had misread your hand, that would have really set him off!

    2. That is exactly what happened. He started bleeding chips immediately. I would have told them I misread my hand if anyone asked why I played the hand like an idiot. Of course, he was a good player and probably picked up on subtle clues that I thought I had a great hand. You know, things like the fist pump and shouting "YEAAAAH!" when the third spade fell.

      I didn't win any more money from him directly because he was on my left and I was playing tightly unless I had position. By the time I left we was no longer huge stack - just sad sack. Poker can be a cruel game.

  3. Hi Rob Just like you I have not played in six months because of Emperor Newsome. What is worse he gets on television three times a week and explains why I must stay home, wear my mask, and can not eat at my favorite restaurants indoors. Its quite tiresome listening to his royal hinny for an hour. He just drones on and on like a bad record. Its even worse for me because I like tournaments better than straight cash games. I am praying for a vaccine to magically appear before my age catch's up with me. This quarantine is a slow slow death. Let's pray this comes to a faster solution and soon.

    1. Well, I can't really add to that, Ed. Thanks for the comment and try to hang in there. Obviously I completely sympathize with you.

      It's ridiculous how shut down CA is. There's no excuse for it, other than our Governor is a total dipshit.

  4. I watch some video about auto driving car which is doing not bad. Maybe that will make thing easier for you.
    Why not just stay a few week at the casino?

    1. You mean for avoiding those roundabouts? I just assume they get rid of them, but I suppose if I ever get an auto-driving car it will make that easier. Tho I'm willing to bet the autodriving cars will cause MORE accidents in those damn roundabouts.

      Seth, if I could pack and travel for a gambling trip of a week or more, I'd go to Vegas, not Morongo. A week in the middle of nowhere where I only had an over crowded poker room for amusement (and nothing else in the vicinity) sounds like hell to me. But thanks for the suggestion.

  5. Glad to hear you got back out on the felt, although I'm curious why you decided to go on a weekend when (I'd assume) a weekday session would have a shorter list?

    I'm also curious how your arm is healing. Were you actually able to type these last two entries or are you using speak text?

    Finally, as far as Vegas goes, I wouldn't be in a huge hurry to come play here. Although the casinos have implemented measures, there's certainly a lot of people I know getting sick. I have a good friend who deals poker at Aria that tested positive, and managed to give it to his entire family including parents and children. His wife is still suffering after several weeks. In addition to covid, crime (on the strip) is increasing weekly. The Wynn is actually implementing metal detectors due to increased shootings on the strip since the summer. If you do decide to come, I'd recommend parking at valet (free now) vs in a lot, or, only play at the casino you're staying at.

    Wishing you all the best,

    1. Thanks, Faith.

      Regarding going to Morongo on a Saturday, well two reasons. First, I am just used to going to play poker on a Saturday afternoon when I am home in L.A., that's my normal way of unwinding. So it felt good to do it on a Saturday and replicate a pre-Covid weekend as best as I could.

      But in a more practical vein, there is Southern CA traffic. I knew that I would encounter much less traffic to and from on a Saturday afternoon than any weekday. If I went there on a weekday, For sure at least one way there or back I would have gotten in stuck in very heavy rush hour traffic, which would not only have been beyond frustrating but it would have limited the time I had available to actually play poker.

      As it happened, I really lucked out and didn't get involved in any serious traffic jams either way; there's no way that could have happened during the week.

      Faith, although my arm hasn't fully recovered, I have been able to type with it almost all this time,at least since I started posting again. I haven't used speech to text since the very first, very short post. My arm still bothers me a bit when I use the mouse too much, but typing is fine.

      Sorry to hear about your friend the Aria dealer. That is terrible and I know that COVID is still out there. But at this point, that would not prevent me from playing poker or heading up to Vegas. My buddy Lightning was up there for five days a few weeks back and he was fine, I only wish I was well enough to join him (still a bit off for me). The virus is going to be around awhile but I am not going to sequester myself any longer. I do send my best wishes to your friend and his family and really the people suffering with the virus.

      But to be honest, and perhaps too blunt, I would rather get COVID and even die from it than I would have to live the next six months the way I lived the last six months, under house arrest. That's how I honestly feel.

      But yeah, those stories about the increasing crime up there really do present a concern, and that would keep me away much more than COVID would.

  6. Nice that it is possible to play cash game live again

    1. Yeah. Here's a sneak peak. I played at the Bike on Saturday. Blog post to come.

  7. Rob when you say you felt like house arrest for the past six month.
    I can't help but I must. Been such a long time reader.
    Remember those beautiful picture you used to always post?
    Try to get a few of them to keep you company and maybe play a few poker game in your house. It will surely make you feel better.

    1. LOL. I wish it was that easy.

      But fear not, my friend. I am working on a new post, and yes, I DID play poker againg!