Early last month I visited the local exhibition casino that runs for about a month every year. It’s a short walk from my office, so if I can sneak out early, I can get on the long, long wait list before the after work crowd shows up. I started to write up a trip report shortly after my trip, but then it sat in the queue unfinished for a month and a half while things got extremely busy at work. I really liked some of what I’d already written, so in revisiting my languishing blog, I decided I would finish off the tale.
He sat at the end of the table, overweight and waxy skinned with a trickle of sweat running down his forehead from his thinning hairline. He was in command of the table, or at least he clearly thought he was. An obvious regular at the poker room, every passing patron would stop for a brief conversation.
His wife was waiting for him in a chair at the side of the room. Her vacant stare took in none of the action at the 18 poker tables spread throughout the room. The first sign of movement I see in 2 hours is when she gets up to give him a sandwich. In fact, there are enough sandwiches, pretzels and cans of pop in his bag to feed half the room. And he does, offering beleaguered looking floor people and wayward players items from his stash. A few players step closer, whispering in his ear. I cannot help but wonder if they are seeking advice or a little padding for their bankroll. The desperation in the eyes of a few would suggest the second. He sits magnanimously, surveying his domain like some Don Corleone of the Exhibition Casino.
Others at the table are equally easy to pin.
There is the young, impatient wannabe pro who talks too much and overplays his cards. I am unsure if he is part of this world or simply trying hard to be. He is familiar with some of the obvious pros in the room, but there seems to be a distance in their responses that suggest they may be humouring a mark.
There are a couple of older asian men and they are as tight as the stereotype might lead you to believe.
A couple other players relate tales of their trips out to the casino every Friday night, but their play indicates that this is an expensive hobby for them.
I peg a couple others as internet players but after observing their play for an orbit or two, I am not worried about too much tricky play.
Finally, there is an older caucasian gentleman who becomes boisterous whenever he enters a hand and bitches and moans about how bad the board is whenever he has cards.
All in all, it is a table I should be able to squeeze some chips from, if I can only find some cards. After watching a few monster pots dragged by improbably starting hands, I consider loosening up, but my starting hand selection is not that tight and there just isn’t any way I can justify played 82 offsuit, even in an extremely loose 5/10 game.
The first hand I see is a pair of jacks in middle position. Still finding my feet, I limp from middle position but a raise on the ragged flop wins me the pot. This hand is followed by a long dry spell and eventually I decide to raise with 85s. Of course, I’m not going to get folds with an 11-handed table but I’m either going to take advantage of the tight image I’ve been forced to cultivate or dispel it entirely. I flop an open-ended straight draw so I bet out again, following through on the initial raise. I hit the straight on the turn and my early position bet gets all but one player to fold. Unfortunately he raises me and I am forced to consider whether he has the nut straight to beat me. He’s bouncing around and I’m pretty sure he has a good hand, but I decide I have to call him down. I do and he shows me another 85 to split the pot. I get a few comments about raising pre-flop with 85 and I’m just happy that someone noticed. And even happier that I won some money on my advertising hand, though that is tempered by the unlikely chop. Still, I could go back to waiting for some cards, more confident that I would get paid off when I finally found some.
My next hand is AKo which I raise pre-flop. The flop comes QQQ and I bet out. I am called by one of the asian rocks and am forced to consider that he has a pocket pair. But that doesn’t stop me from betting again when the turn comes a 2. Again I am called. The turn comes a K and I feel much better when I bet again. The rock doesn’t look happy but calls and shows his pocket 2s for the losing hand. I got lucky, but had I not bet, I still would have called him down the whole way with the amount of chips in the pot.
River suckouts seem to be my specialty this evening as my top pair on the flop falls behind to someone’s two pair on the river. When I catch my kicker on the river, I manage to take the hand. Of course, there was never any raise, so it was a bit tough to put him on two pair. Particularly since he just about anything. I had a few more small pots where I limped into some big hands.
On my last orbit for the night, I picked up 55 UTG+1 and limped in, with a bunch of others. I hit a 5, but there’s a possible straight and after watching my opponents all night, I was a bit nervous. I bet anyways. The turn filled in the straight a bit more, leaving a 1 card possibility. I check and it’s checked around. The river is flipped and I bet out before I realize the card would have filled someone’s flush draw on top of the 1-card straight possibility. I’m called in two places and turn my hand over in disgust. Surprisingly my hand is good and I have to wonder what my opponents were playing.
I feel guilty getting up after the next hand having just won a large pot, but I was starting to get tired and frankly, it was nice to leave with a 22BB score after six hours in the room. Besides, I would be back, and the regulars would be there to try to take my money.
My next session was not as memorable. Cards were running cold and I didn’t get involved in many hands. I also knew that my table was a bit tougher, with fewer donors, but as usual, I was too lazy to get a table change. I was down a bit on the day, but was fairly confident I just needed one good opportunity to be up on the day.
The only memorable experience was when the table boss from the night before joined our table. In fact, he sat down to my immediate right. Looking around the table and seeing some obvious regulars and decent players, I began to think that perhaps he remembered me from the previous night and considered me an easy mark. We chat a bit about the game and when he asks me how long I’ve been playing he laughs at at my two years of real experience. We chat a little bit more and then settle into the game. His game doesn’t impress me that much, but he’s tight aggressive and I guess there isn’t much creativity in low stakes grinding. I also observed a few conversations he had with different floorman, one of whom he gave a gift of a fancy pen, pulled from his bottomless sack of snacks. An orbit later, two young friends at the opposite end of the table busted out and the gentleman beside me waved down a floor person for a table change.
I wish him luck at his new table and he turns and snaps at me “Don’t say that.”
I reply “I’m not saying you needed it, but luck never hurts.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he says. “In this place, that’s a curse. You’ll learn.”
I breathe a sigh of relief, realizing that I hadn’t been the man’s intended prey. That doesn’t prevent me from bleeding, however, and after six hours I’m down 9BB. Maybe the don was right, maybe it is a curse.
My second day he spends some time seated beside me. Looking around the table that had been drying up, I wonder if my play on the previous night had marked me as a likely source of income. But when two young players at the end of the table bust out and he signals for a table change, I breathe a little easier.