Sunday, January 29, 2012

Second trip to Tampa Hard Rock

I did not find the loose and crazy players in such abundance this time in Tampa.  I played about 12 hours with time off for the buffet, and Until the last hours I played with players who were fairly reasonable 
I started at 2-4, moved tables to see if I could get easier opponents, and finally decided to give the Omaha game a try.  This is very hard poker for me.  I manage to get the high fairly well defined, but the lows still confuse me.  This was a 3-6 game with a kill that kicked in for the next hand on any pot that was of a certain size, $40 if I remember right.  That is fairly high stakes for me, but I enjoyed it.
The players at this table knew one another and the game was reasonable.  There was another table that was crazy aggressive with pots being capped before the flop.  Many of those players had come from and Omaha pot limit game, and players came to our table complaining that the game was too loose/aggessive.
For me the game is fine because it reduces all thoughts of deciding how people play.  Luck overcomes all style here.  Those who play single dimensioned hands will lose int he long run.  What is needed are 4 cards with lots of possibilities, and then it is just seeing how the game goes.  Rarely does anyone fold who has any chance of a win.
I did see that I overvalued two pair.  So I had A-J when the flop gave me A-J and I bet it.  That is probably a mistake. It certainly would be for smaller two pair hands.  Trip is probably the minimum for betting.  High two pair make calling a good idea, but it is a better idea if there are other possibilities.
The players were patient with me as I got confused by the betting.  One dealer was especially confusing and gumbling all the time that he was confused.  I rely on the the dealer to call these hands and divide the pot.  I can't think through much of that as I do in Hold em"  Other dealers were wonderfully confident and accurate, but I almost got up and just waited for a new dealer.
One fine thing is that the bathrooms are right there in the poker room.  No long hike.  I hope Imperial Palace in Vegas arranges that when they remodel this year.
This is important because I drink a lot.  The orange juice is good and service is good.  The V8 is good as well. So I make many trips.
Overall the room is very nice. I have not waited long for a table.  I would like to see more limit games, but generally there are at least 2 in the 2-4 variety.
A bunch came in from the first night of the local pirate celebration, all in costume and party mode.  Many of those were at that difficult Omaha table.
I think this may become my next favorite game.  The pots are huge, but since they are often split in half or in thirds, they look bigger than they are.
At any rate I had a fine day gambling even if I left with a loss of $45.

The buffet was better than my first trip too.  All the food was fresh and hot and not dried out.  I ate at 2:30 while the price was still $15 and this was a good choice.  I was surprised the price was still so low on Saturday.  The Sunday brunch runs all day at $30.  That day I'll eat somewhere else.
I particulary liked the New England clam chowder and do did many others since after my first bowl it was gone and waiting for another batch.  There is a raw bar where clams and oysters can be had raw or steamed for a few extra bucks. This may well be the reason that the chowder is so good. Clams that were not eaten in a night may be tossed in the chowder for the next day.  I'll get a few bowls the next time I go early in my appetite.  There was also some bacon pieces to add to it.

Service was good.  I got the right drinks.  Perhaps they did have orange juice the other time, and I had not heard that right.  It was good.  I tried lots of food and it was all good except the waldorf salad.  They had few nuts in it and made it with grapes as well as apples.  Perhaps Florida is not a place to come for apples as these were lackluster.  The fried chicken was excellent.  I added Cholula hot sauce.  One fine thing about this buffet is every table has a rack that includes assorted hot sauce:  Tabasco red and green, Cholula, Texas Pete's, Tapa Tio.  I love it.
My comps did not show up when I swiped my card.  It may be that I have to get them right there in the poker room.  Sometimes it is like that.  However, the same player's club card is used.  I can see how yesterday's comps would not be posted, but I don't understand how those from last Thursday would not post by Saturday.  Well, eventually I'll go and have a cheap buffet.

Again the ride up and back was simple.  About an hour and a half door to door.  The key is having good radio.  I listened to cartalk on the way out, and to my own CDs on the way back, expecially some live Billie Holiday.  The ride goes quickly then   There is no traffic on these roads the GPS picks for me on the way home.  Most are well lighted with these road reflectors.  Amazing really!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tampa Hard Rock 2-4

Well, after all these sessions of hard games like Omaha and no limit, I knew I would be much more comfortable to be back at a 2-4 game where there is never much chance of losing much money.
However, I did not expect to be at a table with the worst players of any I have encountered ever anywhere.  It was an amazing day and night.  I had really very poor cards and I still walked away with $103 profit playing about 7 hours in all from 4PM until 12 midnight with an hour off for supper.
I encountered the worst player in my entire life.  He bet or raised every hand and showed on the river.  Sometimes he had bet on cards that did not beat the board.  He did get lucky in some cases and had everyone fold to him.  But in the end he could not win. 
I was not in too many hands with him because I went through a period where I was dealt a 5  for most of my hands and often it had a nine or eight with it, so for a long, long while I played nothing including folding blinds.  The guy to my right looked over at me and said, " You sure are tight!" and I talked about my bad cards.  However, this guy really was a pot builder.  There was no question of overcoming the rake. And others helped as well.  The only unbet hand I saw resulted in six players turning over cards that for the most part matched nothing.  A pair of 3's won the preflop dollars.  Most other hands were bet liberally so all one had to do was wait, play decent poker, and hope the river did not take the win away. 
Soon after my long dry spell, I held QQ and raised in middle position.  The dealer and three other players were amazed to see me bet, and I did limit the field as four of the five behind me folded.  The queens held up.
I was amazed at how many AA help up in this environment, but many did, including one that I held.  My KK won a huge pot when the guy just after me flopped Q-7 two pair and I caught a runner runner pair of eights.  He still bet and was surprised that his counterfited sevens did not win.  I had raised preflop.  He was my only opponent and I was pretty sure I was beat on the turn, but the money in these pots by the turn usually meant calling to the river.  l
Another great paying hand was 3-5 in the blind that flopped open ended draw.  I caught the nut on the river.  I bet.  That guy who raised everything raised.  A good playing woman to my right called the raise with two pair and I went to $12.  It was the one time I saw wild guy fold, but she grumbled and called me. 
It was delightful to be in a real casino.  During my dry spell I lost all my attention to poker watching a beautiful blond give a guy a massage at the next table.  She was really attractive.  However, it is ironic that attractive girls generally offer the massages, but the fellow who pays for one never sees her during the entire time she is loosening him up.  So big, ugly guys might be as good a choice.  No casino ever has that.
I also liked when late at night half the table was Black and they were all young folks, not too much older than the students I taught.  I miss that community and delighted in having it.  It was not very verbal, not much banter, but two young guys interacted with me, teasing me in a very respectful way, and I loved it.  There are too many old people in Florida.  I get tired of that.  One guy was one of the better players at the table and he moved twice to get to the left of me. And that worked for his game, except when I raised my pocket kings and he lost his two pair on the river. 
There were plenty of beautiful women around as waitresses and players and some on the floor.  None dealt.  Only men dealt and they were for most part very good.  The dealer was important in this game, because half the players did not know when it wasn't their turn or how much to bet.  They needed to be reminded.  One dealer got a bit testy after so many reminders that were ignored.  "It's 4 dollars.  It won't change."  and then " Look, this is a 2-4 game so the bet is always going to be 2 or 4.  After 4 cards it is 4.  It won't change."  He was not obnoxious, but his attitude was a surprise to some.
One dealer late in the night was so animated and such a character as he called the game that it was excellent theater.  He was a big, husky guy with a gravelly voice and some Southern or Western accent I could not place and he called every detail of the game and speeded it up a bit.  I did not win much during his stay.  Probably a good thing as I could see myself overtipping this guy.
Generally, all the people playing and dealing and working the floor were friendly and helpful.  No gasconade here.  No grumbling.  None of that.  Defeat was met with laughter or stoic quiet.  There was one guy who was totally quiet and played like it was no limit.  Otherwise, it was just fun.
Normally, I would have been disappointed to have picked this day because it was the last day in a promotion that gave $150 in gas to any player who played 20 hours between Sunday and this Thursday.  So there were lots of no limit players there just to make up the time they needed for the gas cards.  I had to stay out of their way.  But generally they did not play anything at all except blinds.  They were not there to play, but to get hours. They told us that.  However, casinos need to think about their promotions. Here they cut their profit by giving seats to tight players, and did not attract folks who come rarely to the casino.  One dealer did say they were thinking of a new promotion, probably involving high hands.  That would be great!
Already they are so far ahead of Turning Stone which offers only one bad beat. Here there were two, a major where quad tens needed to be beat and a mini where quad deuces needed to be beat.  And there was the same $500 for a royal that I encountered at Ocala. And, of course no $2 charge just to play. They had a full room and every game anyone could want including some 7 card stud if there was interest.
I went to supper about 9.  The buffet was expensive by Vegas standards and not that good.  Perhaps late in the day the food has just been there too long.  I had to be selective, and I just stopped eating some things that were too dry or tasteless.  The drinks were terrible.  They had no juices.  The tea was a powder.  I sent it back. The lemonade was fine.  The water they brought me was carbonated.  Either it was a soda or was club soda.  The coffee was good and I needed that because I was running on little sleep.
I best liked the skirt steak done on the grill and the hard iced cream with plenty of toppings.
Some of the buffet choices cost extra, a pattern hard to follow when the base price is $27.  However, with the Player's-Club discount and $5 in points for giving them my email I managed $18.  Not bad.  I got enough to eat.  I went to eat when the table changed to all pretty good players and came back to find new faces, almost all of them terrrible players. 
My early 5 hour play with bad cards and a couple bad rivers had cost me $36, so I liked not having to grind the profit back. 
At the table there is no free alcohol.  I read that is illegal in Florida.  Probably a good thing since so many people come in cars.  However, they would put four olives in a spicy tomato or V8 mix so I was well hydrated.  Ocala charged me $2.25 for orange juice.  After that I just filled my Ocala cup at the water fountain. 
Outside drinks are allowed in Tampa.  I brought in my dollar McDonald's coffee.  In Ocala they have a sign that no outside beverages are allowed.  I saved my orange juice cup so no one gives me any grief there.  But I like the free drinks being part of the EV.
Other hands I remember:

I had AK twice.  Once I raised and saw AK on the flop, but had few callers and all folded before the river.  Once I had it in the small blind, did not raise, and folded after the flop.

My toughest opponent was an Asian guy who had lived in Vegas and played at the Orleans and at Red Rock.  He stacked up a huge profit just getting good cards. He was the only fellow who played a bit tricky and he gave me respect, waiting to see he had the nuts before betting.  He had them one too many times for my pleasure. 

I really was going on very little sleep the night before.  We were in Tampa because we picked up Ann Marie at the airport. She rented a car and that will free me up to go anywhere I want in my van.  So that made the Tampa trip a "free" one. 

The trip home following the GPS was complicated, but there was no traffic.  The roads in the early morning hours were empty.  Nothing was open along the way.  I got home in about an hour and a half.  Actually it is shorter than my drives to Turning Stone.
I also had the number wrong on what it costs me to drive there.  It costs me about $24 round trip.  It is just 83 miles.  That makes it a great spot to go.  I may go again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ocala $500 loss

Letter to my Poker buddies

Well, I dont' know how you boys did yesterday, but I got creamed.  I played no limit all day and lost $500. It makes me think I don't want to play this game.
I had the money to lose because 5 hands into a 1-3 spread limit game I caught a royal flush on the river and earned a $500 bonus. There needed to be $10 in the pot and there was nine.  I was first to act.  Luckily in spread limit I could bet just a dollar.  As soon as the woman to my left called, I was golden.  Then the fellow to her left raised and I reraised.  He did not have the diamond flush, but was representing that he did.  Not the time to do that.
So I tipped $40 and at the end of the day was down $38.
But I got a fine Ocala hat.

I'd feel better if I could idnetify how I played badly.  Once or twice I put people on possible bluffs, and that adds up to may $50 of the losses, but I can't figure the rest of it.  I guess I just don't get this game.  Players were much better than I experienced on my last visit.

Well, today I play at Tampa Hard Rock and expect to play more often for the next couple weeks somewhere as Elizabeth's friend comes in and we will have two cars which frees me up without meaning Elizabeth is stuck in the house.

One thing I save on here is the tolls I pay to head to Turning Stone.  That along with the poker card adds up to about $12 in expense for each trip.  Here I pay no tolls and need no card to play.  It is 59.4 miles.  I get 22.3 MPG and pay $3.50 per gallon at the pump.  So my calculation is the trip costs about $9.32 total each way or $19 round trip.
Turning Stone is 125 miles from home and using the same figures would cost over twice as much in gas and then the $12 in tolls on top of that.
Meanwhile Tampa Hard Rock is 83 miles from here and would cost $24 round trip.  I get to play today because we are going to pick up Ann Marie at the airport and I'll pay it to see Bill.  There is a bus  somewhere near here.  I think I'll do the research, as it pays more than the poker.  However, if I go without paying tolls to Tampa Hard Rock, that is not an unreasonable expense.  It is shorter than Turning Stone.

Great weather here now. Hot and as fine as New York summer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Second visit to Ocala Jai-Alai

I played a 2-4 Omaha game and had just a great time.  I am really bad at this game, making mistake after mistake.  But it was fun to try to learn it and play well.
I am happy that in this particular limit version I did not have to do more than pay attention to my cards.  There were no tricks at this table and no one played anything more than cards.  Watching people made absolutely no difference, except I probably got called more often because I made so many nutty mistakes that they never knew if I had anything when I bet.
I got pretty lucky, especially on the rivers.
After five hours I has lost $7.  That too was on the last hand I played when I just got confused.  I saw my trip nines and then a 3 came on the turn and for some reason I thought that my 3 would play as well as my pocket nines. Stupid.
The people were easy and friendly and very helpful.  I learned more about the poker room.  It did fill up with bused in people and the folks at my game told me that would make for some soft tables, but I elected to keep playing the Omaha.  There is certainly no time to get bored.  It is like playing six hands of Texas Holdem at the same time.
I lucked into one high hand for the hour.  They pay $25 each hour.  I had quad sixes with an Ace.  I only needed one six in my hand for it to count.  Odd for a bonus.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ocala Poker at the Jai-Alai

The drive from Inverness up to this poker room was supposed to take me about an hour, but it took an extra fifteen minutes  because I went in the afternoon and the roads were pretty busy.  I take mostly good highway I 75 and FL 200 E, and if there is no traffic coming out of the stores and crossroads it is a faster journey.  Coming home at nine PM it was an entirely different road.  I rarely had to stop at a red light.
I don't like driving after dark, but on some of these Florida roads they have installed reflectors for lane markers and it really looks like they have lit up the road, like a runway at an airport, marking all the lanes.  It makes the driving very easy.  I suppose such reflectors would not do well up North.

Everything is very downscale in this poker spot.  There is no glitz.  In one section gamblers bet the horses and in a large room others play poker. There is a place that must sell food when there are more people.  The whole place felt like the areas around sports stadiums, and that makes sense because this is a sports stadium for Jai-Alai.
I watched a couple guys playing for practice.
There is very little signage.  I had to ask where the poker room was located.  I suppose that they just assume all the players know where they are going.  Even getting out of the parking lot was a bit difficult because there was no clearly marked exit sign and I kept getting into corners of the lot where it looked like there should be an exit, but there was only more parking.
There also are no slot machines.  What Florida did here is devise a way to offer gambling that is gambler friendly.  Smart gamblers, whether they be good handicappers or good poker players, have a chance at making money and are not simply at the mercy of negative EV slot machine games.  
Here the gambling establishment does the gambler a service rather than exploiting them with a high house advantage that grinds down most bankrolls over time.  They are paid for the service, but somehow it just seems less like the government is setting up a system to trick its citizens when the government takes a piece of the profit here.
I suspect he profits are less, so it does mean less glitz, but in my mind it is a better route to take than having government take a large taste as casinos redistribute the wealth using the slot machine.
In New York. by contrast, it is even against the law to have a machine pay over 100% as do many of the Vegas VP machines.  There the government wants to make absolutely sure that their taste is protected.  The advantage player has no chance.
Today at Olcala there was only No Limit games.  I usually play limit in casinos. But there was no free booze either, so I just decided to play.  The only open seat was at a 2-5 NL game with $200 minimum buy-in.  
I have never played that high stakes.  But here was a good place to try.  
I expected I'd lose my buy-in quickly and be heading home with my tail between my new stow and go Dodge seats, but it really was not a bad game.  
Most of the players waited for good hands.  Some of the players were poor.  Others were good.  I did not see anyone doing anything tricky. or making bets I could not understand.   One guy was a bit aggressive, and he did what my poker buddy Gregg does, make a bet on almost any hand he was playing just to see what the playing field was like.  
So, if he was in a hand, it was most likely a twelve dollar hand.  
This made it hard to judge what to bet.  In a hand where I flopped a nice straight and was on the big blind, I checked, let him bet his after flop twelve dollars, and then raised to thirty.  He folded.  I don't know if he was betting to see if he could steal or if I had been so tight that even this reasonable raise was too much after all my bad cards and tight play.  Clearly here I should have slow played my straight, but I was figuring that if his hand was worth twelve, it was worth thirty.  

I do remember getting pocket Aces when I was in early position and seeing them hold up.  I did not bet them freeflop and under the gun.  I had been so tight for so long that I knew if I bet under the gun, I would be left with no one.  Had anyone bet, I'd have gone all-in, and I expected to get twelve dollars from the one guy, and do it then, but everyone just limped in this time.  
I did bet heavy after the flop when there was mild action from the guy who always bet into weakness.   The flop was a rainbow of unconnectors, and I bet a hundred dollars, really representing trips now, and took down the small pot.

At one point after a long stretch of playing nothing, I held some junk. I won with my  8-10 of clubs that caught an open ended straight, but then caught runner-runner for the flush.  I had outs for the straight as well.   
A few at the table told him he made a bad call, but he explained that he put me on the river Ace and had held two pair.  The table  knew I had caught the flush.  But a runner-runner flush on this table was hard to figure so I guess the guy figured on the Ace.  I liked showing those low cards because it made me a bit harder to put on hands I might choose to play. 

I moved to a 1-2 NL game where my $200 was the maximum bet allowed.  That felt much better to me.  I had some luck, but not with pocket aces.  A king came on the flop and again on the turn.  My Aces were cracked.  I had played so tight that the guy with trip kings just made value bets.
I had some other wonderful hands, but few people to call me.
In one hand I held A-7 suited in hearts.  No hearts came but the Ace and 7 hit the flop.  I bet, and ended with one caller, a guy who had flopped trip 8's.  
Another Ace came on the river, I was called on my all-in bet; my full house the winner over his.  
He did not have much money to call my all-in bet, but I made a little profit.  Too bad he did not have $200 in front of him.
I had a better sense of how the betting should go in the smaller NL game.  The players here were just average.  No one was terrible, but they played all sorts of stuff.  There were no aggressive players. That is an easier game for me.  I can't play comfortably when there are maniacs going all-in often.
Around six the table was thinning because of folks going home for supper and others playing the tournament, so I played the tournament.  $35. 
I did well in the beginning, but then my stack drained.
My worst loss was holding A-K of hearts, with nothing of value on the flop, but still calling an all-in bet.  It was strange because my opponent with his pocket tens all but told me he had them.  He said, "Well, I am supposed to go all in here," but it was clear that he did not want to.  He did make the bet and because it was a tournament, I really had to call him and hope to get lucky because my stack was dwindling.  
My best hand was holding pocket 4's and flopping trips but three spades.  I bet, but watched to see if there was any real spade action.  None happened but I had callers.  I decided to hope to catch a bigger pot rather than to push out chasers.  One guy kept betting  decent amounts and I called.  On the river I had a full house. I checked as I had done and then went all-in over his healthy bet.  I never saw his cards.  I was not afraid of the spades but I was afraid of trip jacks.
The all-in added about a third to the pot, so if he had enough to really bet what he had, he should have called me, but if he lost, it would put him out of the tournament. He took a long time.  
He was very puzzled.  He could not understand my betting.  He folded, but he kept chewing on and on about what could I have had.  He put me on a flush draw that busted, and so thought  I had bluffed.  
I never showed and I never corrected him.  
Others told him they did not think I had a flush draw. 
I stayed quiet.

I did bluff one good player when I held K-4 of hearts and the king but no hearts came on the flop.  The turn came and I put the guy on a King with a bigger kicker, so I went all in.  Well, this was one of the better players at the table and he took a long, long while trying to read me.  So, I looked away mostly and then I let my right hand shake a bit, a tell that says I have good cards. Meanwhile, he stacked and restacked and looked ready to call, but I could tell that was all just to see how I looked when he did it. Finally he folded.  I think at that point I might have had a tell that I had bluffed when I collected my chips.  It was a good pot and kept me in the tournament for a good while longer.

So I did very well on that hand, but it all drained when the blinds went up and when the time came for everyone to ante each hand. 

So, I had a good bit of fun, ended up $37 which must have covered my gas to get there and discovered a good place for me to play some no limit.

The players were more friendly here, more like limit players.  There were a few who never said anything and just listened to music in their ears, and never responded to any hand.  They were the better players.  But there were others who told a few stories or made a few comments.  And there were plenty who just told everything about how they played, what they held, why they played the way they played.  Information was just easy. I did not have to look for tells. The players told.
I think what happens in a poker room where only no limit is offered is that there is a real mix of players and folks who would play Limit, were it offered, are playing No Limit, but not with poker faces. 

I ordered one drink, an orange juice.  I thought it would be free, but it cost $2.25.  Players cannot bring outside food or beverage in to the poker room.  Well, next time I'm just taking that styrofoam cup with me and filling it at the water fountain.  

Overall, I liked this place, but  I still missed Vegas.
The culture of the people was such that it was easy to play with them.  
No grumps.  No whining. No temper tantrums.  No macho bravado. No gasconade. 
Friendly chuckles.  Folks who laugh when randomness does not go their way.
We were not testing our manhood here.  We were just playing a little cards.

And folks were not chewed out if they played junk as I was in Niagara Falls.  They played junk often. 
I remember at the 2-5 table seeing a pot split by two guys who held K-7 off suit and not one of them was in the blind.  It was not a huge pot, as they were shy of betting much on their low kickers, but it had some money in it.
Unlike Niagara Falls, I did not get chewed out for winning with a hand of junk.

I never understand the need to point out to a player that they were stupid for playing junk. When that happens I know the game is more about proving who is the smartest than it is about playing cards.  If a player is playing junk, it seems ill advised to embarrass him.  He will either leave or stop playing junk.  Either way he is a more formidable opponent.
Light teasing between friends is a different thing.  
Or helping newbies at the 2-4 table, so they learn a bit of the game.
At No Limit, it is best to just say, "good hand" when the guy catches his junk on the river.  And I heard that said when junk was played here when I took it to mean, "Keep playing that junk to the river, and I'll get you eventually."

It was nice to play no limit and not feel much out of place.  Many of the players at my weekly game Gregg's game up North are much better than many of those I faced at the tables here.  However, there were fewer pots with multiple all-in bets and fewer went to the river here because the stakes are higher,  and up North I know how each guy plays because I play with them every week.  That makes a huge difference in No Limit.

One really funny thing was that I read the rules before I went.  There were very detailed rules and I even thought about copying them and sending them to my poker buddies, since at our local games there are often rule confusions and sometimes rules are made or altered as we go and I get frustrated with the lack of consistency.  Well, rule 15 said,

The splitting of pots among players will not be allowed in any game. All hands must be played to completion (no chopping of blinds are permitted). 

So I never gave chopping a thought while playing.  In one hand, with a fast dealer, the chips were in and the flop visible before my opponent ( a regular) said, "Oh, we should have chopped"  So I told about reading the rules on line, and the dealer said, "In the beginning players were not allowed to chop, but that has changed." Just like the home game I thought.  

I'll certainly go back.  I may go on a Wednesday when they told me that the old folks buses come in and the place fills up with players.  Then they will have a 2-4 game as well.  And then I expect there will be stories and I will be able to talk a bit. I just don't have much time to visit at a NL game.  There is too much to study and watch.  It takes a good while to see how the others play, especially since we see what they play much less often than at limit.