The Dreaded Pocket Kings
I Played Live Poker….Seriously! (Part 2)
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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…
Back to the Bike….Sort of
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If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw that I retweeted announcements from The Bike and Commerce (and other L.A. area-rooms) that they were re-opening at long last—for outdoor gaming.  The state of CA still won't allow indoor casinos open, but they are ok with gambling if you want to play outside.  But it took awhile, because in addition to the Governor, there was another group of dictators standing in the way.  The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  So while in San Diego and parts of northern California, outdoor casinos were approved, L.A. said no to even outdoor gaming. This all changed on October 5 when the Supervisors deigned to allow the local casinos to reopen as long as the games were outside.  That's when the Bike and Commerce reopened their poker "rooms" and their other games of chance.  In California still, only Indian casinos (as I explained here) can deal games inside a building. Outdoor poker, on its face, sounds rather ridiculous to me.  I mean, there's such a thing as weather.  My first thought was, "What if it's windy?"  Here comes the flop…..and there goes the flop!  Gone with the wind.  And even though there is no better place weather wise to try to play outdoors than Southern California, we do get occasional rain, extreme heat, extreme cold, in addition to the wind.  OK, the extreme cold part may be a stretch, but when you have lived in Southern CA most of your life, you think anything under 70 degrees is extreme cold. But I had to check it out.  It was still hot when the rooms opened, as we are known for hot early autumns.  I figured if I was going to check it out, I'd best get down there before the weather changed. So the first Saturday I could (Oct. 10), I planned on seeing what it was all about and if nothing else, get a blog post out of it.  If you are wondering about my little Ventura room, well Ventura is in a different county and they were not opening.  I subsequently saw on their website they planned to re-open on a limited basis beginning Oct. 13.  But later I learned that they only opened for table games, and are not currently spreading poker.  Also, believe it or not, the other L.A. county "poker rooms" that opened, Hollywood Park Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, etc, only opened for table games.  I believe this has to do with the insane rules the state and the county put in place for offering games even outdoors. Anyway, lucky for me, the Bike uses PokerAtlas's Table Captain software instead of Bravo (As you know, I work for PokerAtlas).  Not only could I see how busy the newly re-opened Bike was (answer: very) but I could add my name to the waiting list for the game(s) I wanted long before I arrived at the Bike.  I mean through the software, through the PokerAtlas app.  I had noticed that the lists for the 2/3 game I played had been ridiculously long since opening.  Of course one of the reasons is that they could not have nearly as many games outside as they could in the casino, where they have close to 200 poker tables.  What was weird, though, was that they had five 2/3 games running and there were still like 40-60 plus names waiting.  That was strange because back when I was a playing at the Bike fairly regularly on Saturday afternoons, there were never more than three 2/3 games running and never more than 10 players waiting to get in.  My only guess was that they were running fewer bigger games or mixed games, and therefore the players who would normally be playing bigger or mixed games were stuck playing down to 2/3.  Or that there was just such a pent up demand for live poker that everyone was coming out of the woodwork to play. I checked with a PokerAtlas colleague about how getting on the waitlist from the app worked. The ability to add your name to a list from the app is only an option, some rooms use the software and don't allow players to do that.  Turns out Bike only allows it for the "Plaza Games"—which are the so-called bigger games.  The 2/3 I play is the smallest game they consider a Plaza game so I could add my name to the list long before I got there. Before I left my house Saturday morning, I checked Google Maps and got a break when it told me it would only take 39 minutes to get there.  That meant that there was clear traffic, no real delays.  I guess that is one of the pluses of the state being in lockdown.  On the average October Saturday, in order to get to the Bike I would frequently run into traffic from a UCLA or USC home football game (or both), and/or a Dodgers playoff/World Series game.  Nothing like that on this Saturday.  And still, no one was driving to a restaurant to eat! So before pulling out of my garage, I registered for the 2/3 game.  There were five games running (this was before noon) and I was around 46th on the list!  Yikes.  Pretty sure I could get there before hitting the top of the list.  Only issue was that they would only keep me on that list for one-hour. If I didn't show up within an hour, I'd be taken off the list and have to start fresh at the bottom when I arrived.  I knew if that happened, I'd never get into a game this day. The app has a neat timer that appears right on your phone so you can see how much time you have to report in before you will be zapped from the wait list.  Traffic was a bit worse than Google anticipated, so by the time I hit the Bike parking lot I only had 7 minutes to report in to stay on the list.  By now I had moved up only to #34 on the list.  Ugh.  OTOH…..there were now over 70 names total on that list. My guess had been that the outdoor gaming would be in the parking lot.  But that was incorrect. I didn't see any poker tables in the lot.  I did see a few temporary signs with arrows pointing to the "casino."  It turned out that I had parked a long ways away from the actual tables.  I didn't have time to repark, I needed to get to the casino post haste to check in (or so I thought).  So I walked with great alacrity to try to find the casino. Whew.  It was a long walk.  Turned out that the gaming area was in the very front of the casino/hotel (the parking lot is in the back), basically where the valet parking / front entrance to the hotel is.  By the time I got to the casino area, I had walked so far and so fast I was sweating profusely.  This, despite the fact that the weather had changed.  This was the first cool day in L.A. in many months.  It was actually pleasant, not hot.  Cool, but not cold.  It was actually perfect weather for being outside.  But at the pace I was walking to get there "in time," I was soaked with sweat from that walk.  Wearing the mask that is of course required didn't help. Nothing worse than a sweaty mask. I had to get thru the temperature check and get a wrist band that would allow me to travel thru the various gaming areas.  Then I tried to find someone to check in with.  But I looked at the app again—I was only at #34 on the waitlist—and it had a button to press to check in.  So I could check in on the phone. I didn't know that.  I didn't have to rush.  I hit the button and explored the layout. Where the poker area was looked to be at the very front, where the valet driveway would have been.  The cement was covered with some kind of astroturf.  There was some kind of temporary covering overhead, not a tent, but something a bit more solid I guess.  There was an electronic waitlist board.  And poker tables. One of the rules was that there was no eating or drinking at the table.  There were a few dining tables up against the building, but how you got served I never learned.  There was also a coffee place near there, but they had no soft drinks and no real food (maybe some pastries?).  Eventually I asked if they even had bottled water but they did not, but they did give me a cup of ice water. There were some banquet chairs in a couple of spots outside of the poker tables for waiting.  There were also a few tables a bit away that you could eat or drink at if you somehow had something to eat.  I eventually sat over there so I could pull my sweaty mask down and drink the water but that area allowed smoking so that was annoying. I asked where the restrooms were and got a real shock.  They pointed over there….outside.  The only available restrooms were porta-potties!  In L.A., they are referred to as "Andy Gumps."  Ugh.  Seriously?  The hotel is open, there are nice restrooms inside and we have to use damn porta-potties? Well, I had no choice.  Gulp. Well, ok, it wasn't my worst nightmare but come on, who wants to use one of those things?  There was no running water either.  There were some kind of portable hand-washing stations outside the potties.  The was a sign on them that said "Please don't drink this water."  Hmm….I mean if the water is unsafe to drink, what is it doing to my hands?  And remember, in the Covid age, hand washing is most important.  There was also of course a lot of hand sanitizer available. It occurred to me that the diseases one could contract from one of those porta-potties are likely much more deadly than Covid. Yikes. What I found out about this was that the first day they opened, they were allowing guests to go instead the hotel to use the facilities inside.  But the state (or maybe it was the county) told them no, they couldn't do that.  They were ordered to get the porta-potties. No one was allowed to use the inside facilities. So the government thinks it's fine if you get sick from dysentery as long as you don't get Covid.  Makes sense. Anyway, hanging out outside with only a cup of ice water was pretty unpleasant.  I decide I would wait no more than 90-minutes, and if at that time, I wasn't real close to the top of the list I would just give up and call it a day.  I mean if I wanted to sit down, it was either in the poker area with my sweaty mask on or in the smoking area with smokers.  I figured 90-minutes was all I could take.  And I reasoned that I didn't want to stay long enough to have to use those Andy Gumps more than one more time.  Ugh. So after about an hour, while I was sipping on my ice water with my mask pulled down in the smoking area, I checked the list on my phone and I was now #30.  I was pretty much writing off getting to play.  I figured I would stay with my original plan and go to 1-1/2 hours.  Maybe the list would start moving faster?  By the way, at one point when I was walking around I saw a sign saying they were not currently taking names for the waiting list, there was no available space on them!  This was for every poker game, not just my game!  Think about what kind of business the Bike could…