MB and I just got back from our trek to Palm Desert, a great alternative to Vegas. There are plenty of places to play poker here, the weather is fantastic, the food is great, and for those of you with kids, Palm Desert is way more family friendly than Vegas. Maddie came with her friend Malya, and being the trusting souls that we are, we let the kids play all day at Water Parks, go cart and arcade centers, and hang out in the room all night unsupervised while we played some poker.
Each day we started our poker playing at the Spa Casino, a small 9 table room in downtown Palm Springs. They sponsor a “free” NL Hold’em tournament with a $40 buyin during the week, but you get a $20 rebate if you play 1 hour of Texas Hold’em after the tourney. Our tourney expert, MB finished in the money day 2 getting her money back while I busted out on day 1 (card dead) and day 2 with my trip tens losing to the Spainer domination hand J9 os.
The debate will rage on as to the whether or not $1/3 or $1/$2 NL Hold’em is beatable. The rake was definitely brutal. $1 rake preflop, $2 on the flop, $1 more at $50 and $1 more at $200. There was, however, some truly terrible play but neither MB or I was the beneficiary of it. 2 plays of note were a guy shoving when a second King hit on the turn, after he bet the flop. He was instacalled by a guy with a full house who had trip 3’s on the flop. He left the table saying I was trying to represent that I had a king. The dumb part was the stack sizes. While his bluff was not a bad play as he will typically induce a fold, betting $120 into a $40 pot was moronic. He had air.
Moronic play number 2 was a guy calling off his stack with 9,7os on a 8 high board on the flop. He may have had a gutshot, but he was perplexed when he looked at his hand and thought he had 9,8os. Either way he was way behind an overpair.
My one lone big pot here was a flop of A♥K•8•(2 diamonds). I had raised to $10 or $12 preflop with pocket 8’s and then bet the flop, last to act with 3 players. Player 1 folds and Hawaii dude check raises all in for $74. I instacall, turn is a 9, river is an Ace and I proudly announce full house and flip over my 8’s. Hawaii dude says I have a bigger boat and turns over AK. Can’t really blame the guy as any of us at WNP would have ended up all in on the flop with the cards we had. The table continued to mutter about what a big hand that one was but after all my time playing Omaha this was simply a “beat” not a “bad beat.”
Hold’em cash game losses at the Spa were about $120 for me and another $90 loss at tourneys.
The good news for me though is that I was able to find an Omaha 8 game at Agua Caliente, a large casino in Palm Desert populated by almost all locals with the occasional tourist. The game was $6/$12 limit with a kill pot if anyone scoops a pot with $60 or more in it. The winner of the pot gets the kill button and becomes another big blind of $12. The game then becomes $12/$24 limit reverting back to $6/$12 if no one scoops again.
Day 1, I was on a serious heater and also the beneficiary of some pretty bad play. One woman, an older woman named Faye, would chronically raise with high only hands. On a flop of KK3 with 2 hearts, I called her holding an A2 suited in hearts and a 4 for a back up in the event I was counterfeited. The turn was a heart and a low card, the river another low card giving me the nut low and the nut flush. On each street she was betting into me so I believed she had at least a King. I really should have raised the river, but she was so bad it was similar to taking candy from a baby. She flips over JJ55, a hand I would always toss, though she liked it enough to raise preflop. She announces I have Jacks. I scoop.
I played the entire day and only recall one unfriendly river card where I was scooped on for a big pot. My queen high flush was no longer good on a big 3 way pot until the river when the board paired. Villain number 1 had a Jack high flush and villain 2 had pocket Kings for top trips. Getting like 10:1 odds I reluctantly called, knowing I was beat on the river.
I had nut flushes, wheels, and runner runner nut straights, all hitting on the same day. Limit O8 really gives you some interesting decisions on whether or not to chase the Jasonland type outs. Suppose you see a flop 4 handed, and you have A246 double suited in clubs and spades with 2 bets preflop. The flop is QQ3 with one spade and one club. Small blind bets out, big blind folds, limper calls and you have runner runner low, 2 runner runner flush draws, and a runner runner straight draw. Small blind likely either has a Q or a pocket pair of 10’s or higher figuring no one else had a Q. Should you call? I believe the mathematically correct answer is yes. There is $60 in the pot and you are getting 10:1 to call. You may scoop and when you see the turn card, you can pretty much figure out whether or not to continue. I surely enjoyed chasing the Jasonland outs and hitting the occasional massive suckout.
Other lessons learned were that if play was heads up on the turn I would generally call players down with any low draw, regardless of how bad the draw might be. Bettors are typically protecting made high hands or big drawing hands hoping the low doesn’t get there. Drawing to an A8 low with 2 low cards on the board and a small chance at winning the high, I hit the river low and called with hands like this. They were generally good, unless of course it was a multiway pot. With hundred of hours of online play under my belt I made much looser calls then I did in Vegas and was typically rewarded for it.
8 p.m. hit and it was time to get Maddie and her friend from Boomers, the go cart, arcade, mini golf playground. I cashed out for $900, more than a quadruple up from my $200 buyin.
Day 2 I go back to Agua Caliente and kill just under an hour playing NL Hold’em. A couple interesting hands. Mega stacked woman (intended double entendre) just stacked a guy when her quad sixes crushed a King high flush. She limps on the next hand, another guy calls and I have AJos on the button. I raise to $10, trying to get rid of the blinds and thinking I likely have the current best hand. I tell her I am check folding if any pairs hit the board. She smiles across the table and says, “You are funny” making my day. I miss the flop and I am really just trying to kill time prior to Omaha. I am just not in the mood to bluff so I check. I miss the turn, and it is checked around again. I miss the river and it is checked around again and all 3 of us announce Ace High. I take down the monster $30 pot with AJ as the jack plays.
A few hands later I get one of the Ryan killer hands in the big blind 9,2 suited in hearts. It is a 5 way limp and I check my option. The flop has a 2 and one heart. I check, it is checked around. The turn is a heart. I check, late position bets $6 and my name is now announced for Omaha. I suddenly have no interest in this hand. Without Ryan around to possibly put on tilt, I just can’t get excited about possibly winning this small pot so I fold. The river was a gin card, the King of hearts, giving the bettor trip Kings which I would have beaten with my flush. O well, so much for Rotty thinking.
Omaha 8 day 2 turns out to be much tougher. My table has about 4 locals, a guy from out of town who clearly knows what he is doing, a young aggressive player who also appears experienced, and a woman from Vancouver on a serious heater. Rounding out the field are a couple interesting players, a fine gentleman to my left who looks to be in his 80’s wearing a World Champion Gin Rummy hat. I ask him if Stu Unger was everything he was cracked up to be and he said yes, Stu had a photographic memory. The Gin Rummy guy says that he won the World Championship twice and is the only player in the world to do so. Seated 2 to Gin Rummy’s left is the Rock of all Rocks. In four hours of play I see him play exactly 4 hands, all hands that he open raises and then the whole table folds. I had an OK hand, ATK9 with a suited Ace on one hand on the button and I asked Vancouver woman if I should play a boredom hand. She says no way I folded a suited Ace against him. He clearly gives no action. I take her advice and fold.
Another local is very good and says he used to play $20/$40 NL Omaha 8 but the game is not available any more. He is clearly a good player but he follows Jasonland logic, playing hands because he likes to go up against certain players. If you are on the favorites list, as many of the locals know each other well, they will often just check down if they are friends and heads up.
The bottom line is that I have my work cut out with zero fish available except the occasional tourist who survives for an hour or less before busting out.
I lose $100, buy up, lose another $100 and buy up again. I am up against 2 players in what turns out to be a pivotal hand. I have a low draw and a flush draw so I bet the turn. Both players call. The river pairs a ten on the board giving me air. It is checked to me in middle position and I bet, seeing no other way to win the pot. A likely local thinks for about 15 seconds then reluctantly calls with just top pair. I announce I have air and flip over Ace high for multiple missed draws. He looks pissed while he rakes in the pot, perhaps I have breached etiquette in this local game but I am just trying to play poker.
About 5 hands later in a Kill pot with double stakes the flop is 77,2 and I have the button and a 7 as well as Ace 4. I bet the flop and pissed local guy calls as do 2 others. The flop is a perfect card, a 3 giving me the nut low. I bet and pissed local guy calls again as does one other. I am sure he is saying to himself I can’t let this tourist guy invade our game and steal our pots. The final card blanks, I bet again, pissed local guy and another local guy call and I have the nut low and trip sevens for the scoop. Pissed local guy remains pissed.
Pissed local guy eventually leaves and the locals and I warm up to each other. I chat with them, tell them about on line play, and one guy says why don’t you move down here and make a living. I say thanks but I am not good enough. He says you sure know what you are doing and with this comment, along with the smile from the mega stacked woman earlier, my day is made. Wow, respect from the locals at the O8 table. I apologize for having to leave to take my wife and daughter out to dinner and cash out, up $20.00 on a brutally tough table.
After fantastic Mexican food, MB and I head to the Morongo casino. A $20,000 guarantee NL Hold’em tourney is just ending and the place is packed with about 30 tables going. I sit down for $1/$3 NL Hold’em. After playing O8 where I am considered the young gun on tables of 60 and 70 somethings, I have to convert to elder statesman role as the average age his is likely 23 with ½ the crowd looking like they need ID to prove they can gamble in a casino. 45 minutes on a nitty $1/$3 table quickly leads to boredom, then MB says they have just opened an O8 table.
Here they play $3/$6 O8 with 5 cards instead of 4. Strange game but I quickly figure out you usually need a monster to win. On one had myself and chatty guy both flop the double nuts on a 2,5,6 board, we end up in a heads up raising war and I am eventually quartered when my runner runner flush is beaten by his King high runner runner flush. I win about $40 at the table, run into the boredom factor, and figure I will try my luck at $2/$5 NL Hold’em.
First time for me at these stakes. I buy in for $380 and come up with the following objectives.
1. Don’t play like a pansy. Just because the stakes are higher don’t wimp out and fold preflop with hands you like to play.
2. Try to get involved in big pots. On my last trip to Vegas and on this current trip I have won a total of zero hands for big pots in NL Hold’em, pots of say $150 or higher. If I am drawn out on or fail to hit my draw in a big pot, so be it.
3. Do chase draws given reasonable pot odds. Unless I am lucky enough to find a second best hand, I am probably going to have to hit a good turn or river card to win a big pot.
Very first hand, pocket J’s, UTG, I raise to $35 having no clue what a normal raise is here. Everyone folds.
A few hands later one limper with me in early position and I have pocket Kings. I raise to $30, everyone folds, and early limper calls. He checks dark, the flop is Ace high I bet $30, he calls. We check the turn and river and he shows AJ.
A few hands later A2 suited, I limp, raised to $15, I call, I miss, and check fold.
I then get snowmen in early position, raise to $15, two callers, the flop is J10x, I check fold.
A couple hands later aggressive Asian dude raises to $15, I am on the button and see the True Spainer, I am calling. The next guy to act raises to $40, I rethink and hit the check fold button. The only boneheaded move I see at the table happens here where the flop comes JJ9, Asian guy checks, reraiser moves in and Asian guy calls for about $200. Asian guy has snowmen and reraiser has queens. Rotty thinking again but I would have had trip Jacks and finally hit a big pot.
A few hands later I see AQ in the small blind, one original raiser and one caller. I think to the advice of Marsh to reraise with AQ and to my thought to not play like a pansy. I raise to $40.00. I am hoping for one caller and then I will likely Cbet the flop regardless of what it is. The big blind calls as does the original raiser and the caller. The pot is now $160 and I have at most $150 behind. So much for my Cbet plan with 3 callers. The flop is jack high with 2 spades, I have no spades so I can’t even bet runner runner. I check, likely check folding. Big Blind bets $40 and original raiser calls, original caller folds and I am now priced in to try to hit my 2 overs. The flush draw gets there, the board pairs on the river, and the blind throws out a smallish river bet. Original raiser folds and I can either check raise all in for the bluff or fold. I hit the check fold button as I don’t believe I can successfully sell a check raise all in on the river. I suppose a hero call with Ace high was an option but it really never crossed my mind.
I get A10 on the button and raise to $15, 2 limpers call. The flop is QQJ with 2 hearts. I figure this is a good place for a Cbet and bet $20. One folder and big stack check raises to $80. Another failed plan.
I finally win a micro pot with A4 in the big blind. The flop is Ace high with no draws, checked around. The turn is a second club. I bet and big stack says are you betting your club draw and calls. River blanks, I check and will call any reasonable bet hoping a failed flush draw will bet. Big stack says I have the missed flush draw and turns over Jack high with 2 clubs, again playing perfect poker against me. I cash out for $117 down $263 for the session. Looking back at each hand I am not sure if I would have played anything differently, just the luck of the cards.
So the total for the week, up $750 in O8, down $450 in Hold’em and tournies, up $300 for the week in total. MB lost about $200. I think I have found a beatable game in O8, but for me Hold'em remains unbeatable in casino land.