♠ Thursday, July 14, 2005
Drowning in the Little River
When Gil offered to stake me for some live poker on Sunday, I readily accepted, especially when he suggested that we go to Little River Casino in Manistee, Mich., which is still my favorite room even if it isn't the closest, and doesn't offer the best game selection. Time and again I was reminded why.
As we usually do on the way up, we called when we were 45 minutes or so from the casino, to get on the lists for games; Jeremy (poker room manager) recognized my voice and readily added Gil and I to his lists. This, after we haven't been there for a good six months (although I have bumped into him in Mt.Pleasant, where he plays $6/$12 from time to time). There was one game going when we got there, and we were waiting for a couple more names to be added to the lists before he opened a second $4/$8 game.
When he did, I found myself to the left of a fellow (who introduced himself as "Jim Heck, just like it sounds, Heck") who was a registered maniac. Whether he bet, raised, or folded seemed almost random, and often he'd do one of those entirely blind—if, for example, he was still stacking chips, or just sitting back down after hearing about his wife's latest $30 win at the slots.
But I wasn't getting the cards to take advantage of it. I'd get the occasional baby pair (that missed), but my only raiseable hands for the first two hours were on the order of ATo or AJo, which also totally missed. Fortunately the action was such that I didn't put any money into the pot postflop, so that even while I bled chips for the two hours it took to win my first pot, I never really took a big hit, and I don't think I went into the extra $40 Gil handed me (on top of $120). My cards never improved by a whole lot, but the first hand I won (excluding one chop of the blinds when Jim Heck was away from the table) was when I had Tens and hit my set. It's the only hand I remember; I hit a couple of top pairs that I kept betting into Jim Heck, probably, but when Gil was ready to go, I was $4 or $6 short of even. On the one hand, I was down a few bucks. On the other hand, Jim Heck was buying beers for the table, and I was the only one to take him up on it (until just before we left), so I got four or five free beers to make up for the $5ish I lost.
All this time, Jim Heck was catching unlikely two-pair and straight hands (although none against me, I wasn't in enough hands), and when he left the game he was ahead between $200 and $300, out of a $4/$8 game. He is/was a good guy, personable; I'm sure he thought he knew more about poker than he actually did, and some of his stories were off just enough that it grated on me, but he more than made up for it by giving the table action, and buying me free beers. (Michigan liquor laws prohibit commercial enterprises from giving away alcohol, so the casinos here charge for beer. At Little River they charge reasonably (less than $2 for a draft); at the other Lower Peninsula casinos it's more like bar prices ($3 to $5 for a draft).
I really haven't gone into how great this casino's staff is. As I said, Gil and I haven't been to this casino in six months (since the Invitational tournament in, I'm guessing, January), but two or three dealers told me, "We haven't seen you in a while," and one of the pit bosses (who used to deal poker) actually remembered a joke I told over a year ago.
I don't remember whether I wrote up that joke when it happened, but it amuses me to remember it, so I'll (re?)record it here: I was playing late at night, and a gal a couple of years younger than me sat down and started playing, and was chatty and personable, so of course we were chatty and personable with one another. (Ahh, if Gil wasn't my ride that day . . . but I digress.) Some board card fell, probably one that completed several possible draws, and she said, "Well, that changes the water on that bean." I immediately launched into a (good-natured) tirade about how that wasn't a real saying, and probably continued on into a discussion of the decline of American literacy. Then, a couple of hands later, when a random card fell, I shouted, "Well, slap the turtle and call it Wednesday, look at that card!" After the entire table got over laughing at what a wacky-ass thing that was to say, I of course explained that her thing wasn't a real saying either, so why was my thing so funny? Oh well . . . maybe you had to be there.
During our play this Sunday, we learned that Little River, who has dealt tournaments on Monday and Tuesday afternoons for a year or so, recently changed the Tuesday tournament to No-Limit. The blinds start a little higher, but you start with more chips, and the rebuys are collapsed into a single $25 add-on anytime in the first hour. Gil would have had to stake me, but I thought that one or the other of us was pretty sure to money the tournament, so I suggested that it was probably a good plan just from an investment standpoint. He relented, and we came up again Tuesday.
I was accumulating chips rapidly due to above-average cards during the first hour, but then I got bad-beat; I had Kings, made a normal raise and was called, the flop came Ten-high, I made a 2/3–to–3/4 pot-sized bet, he shoved, I called, and it developed that he had Ace-Queen: He had just over three outs to beat me. That "just over" was the important bit, since a King hit the turn and a Jack the river, meaning his Broadway straight beat my Set of Kings. I was crippled but not out; with the blinds increasing I had to pick a hand, though. I let my big blind pass, but when I limped out of the small blind with Ten-Seven, and the flop came Ten-High, I shoved. I was called by Ace-Nine of Hearts, who had a flush draw and an overcard, so it was pretty much a race. (Cardplayer.com says the advantage was mine, 54% to 46%, which comports with my intuition.) He hit his flush on the river and I was out.
Gil did a bit better, reporting at the second break that he was the chip leader at his table, but when I wandered back to the tournament area he was in blind trouble, just before they combined down to the final table (nine places paid). Gil got a good draw when they redrew for the button at the final table, which makes his bubble finish (tenth) a bad deal: It folded to him, he had Ace-Two of Hearts, he shoved, but the small blind had Tens and Gil didn't improve. At least two other short stacks had to pay the blinds before Gil, so if Gil folded there he was virtually certain to limp into the money.
It took them a while to start the $1/$2 no-limit game that usually goes after the tournament, long enough that Jim Heck didn't end up staying around (dammit). When they did, it was a standard low-buyin no-limit game, without an appreciable fish most of the time, though. I still wonder about this hand: I raised in late-position with King-Jack of Clubs, got a caller or two. The flop came with two Clubs (and maybe a King or a Jack, I don't remember), it checked to me, and I bet. One caller. The turn was the third Club, and my opponent bet $15 (an underbet). I made it $45, and he called. The river was a blank, and my opponent immediately went all-in for $140 (I had about $220 left at this point). Well, I didn't have the nuts, I had the second nuts, so after much hemming and hawing, I eventually folded. Discussion after the fact leads me to believe I probably made a mistake, but he might have had it, and I'd be kicking myself more for $140 lost, than I am for $140 not won. And I still wonder about that hand.
Holding the Pit . . . or, umm, something
One final thing I'll mention before I leave the subject of Little River: In the pit they've placed a Texas Holdem table game. It took Gil and I a lot of figuring to determine what the house edge actually was at the game; it appears to be effectively a headsup hand against the dealer, and the dealer doesn't fold. Before receiving cards, the player places an "ante" and possibly a "bonus" bet. The Bonus bet is horrible, paying (for example) 30:1 if the player is dealt two Aces (which is the best payout). There are other payouts, but if they're all individually bad bets, the total bet is bad. When Gil sat down he wisely refrained from placing the Bonus bet. After placing his bets, the player is dealt his two cards, whereupon he can fold or place a "flop" bet of double his "ante" bet. My intuition says that this requirement says that you fold all but the top third of holdem hands, but my intuition might be misleading me. In any case, the actual players generally placed the flop bet with any two cards.
After the dealer places the flop, the player can "check" or place a "turn" bet equal to the Ante, and after the dealer places the turn, the player can again check or place a "river" bet equal to the Ante. The dealer then places the river, opens his hand, reads it, then goes around the table reading the players' hands. If the dealer's hand beats the player's, all bets (except possibly the Bonus) are losers. If the player's hand beats the dealer's, then the flop, turn, and river bets are paid at 1:1, and if the player's hand is a Flush or better, the Ante is also paid at 1:1. (The ante might be paid better for better hands, but I don't think so. We never saw a hand better than a full house, which if it pays better probably pays the ante at 2:1.)
It's this last, Gil and I determined, that provides the house edge against perfect play. If the dealer beats the player, the player always loses the ante. But to be paid on the ante, the player must have a flush or better. This probably results in a significant edge against perfect play, because it seems that the flop, turn, and river bets are essentially even-money propositions. It occurs to me now that the house gets an additional edge if the player folds or checks when he would have received a winning hand, but I don't know how the player defends against that edge. In any case, it's a normal pit game: a large house edge that can't be overcome even in theory. But there were several players watching the action every time I passed that table.
Soaring with the Eagles
After I suggested to Gil a couple of times that he'd probably want to go to Manistee again after his gig in Evart the next day, and Gil insisting the opposite, he surprised me by suggesting that we instead go to Mt.Pleasant and Soaring Eagle casino. It was a particular surprise because we haven't done well there, for the last few months. I have a couple of theories as to why, but the short version is that we haven't. So he does his normal kids' show at Evart's tiny library, and we head down to Mt.Pleasant. (We took a wrong turn in Clare, but we figured that out soon enough.) After a wait of 30 minutes or so (you can't call ahead in Mt.Pleasant, another reason it's my least-fevorite room), we get our seats in $3/$6 games.
I draw a great table. Most of the players there were decent players, but one, with about $400 in front of him, is my favorite type to see at the table: predictably loose-aggressive. I had my A-game against him, which involved a lot of three-betting to isolate, and a lot of check-calling from there on. I got lucky against him once (rivering a flush) but mostly I was playing better cards and playing them smarter. This got me out to a huge win early, and I improved only slightly after that, but when he went broke most of his $400 was in front of me. He left in a huff, claiming that he's never lost at poker before. That's almost certainly not true, of course, but his aggressive style has probably bought him a lot of pots against people who don't adjust to it. I will say, though, that my win wasn't entirely due to my genius; my cards were running above average, and my blind hands hit a couple of flops hard. There was only one hand I think I played badly and it wasn't against Mr. Maniac, but a solid player who was accumulating chips slowly. In all, I finished +$358, and Gil only asked for $150 of my win, so I profited above $200—and even that +$200 is the best I've done at Mt.Pleasant in months.
Home Games: Pete the Dragon
I'll have to come up with a better name for Pete, and for the game, but for now this works. Gil was chatting a couple of months ago with a player on PartyPoker who, it turned out, had a home game on Grand Rapids' northeast side, which we were invited to. It's typical: a $20 rebuy tournament, maybe two, followed by cash games (generally $1/$2 dealer's choice no-limit). There's even a player or two from the other northeast-side game we've been to, a $1/$2 PLH game that kicked both of our asses. But this game is a lot friendlier and a lot more relaxed, and when the host and a couple of his compatriots start in on the pot, a good deal easier, too. I haven't partaken of the cash games yet (hrmm, maybe once, I remember doing so once, don't remember if it was this game), but I'm something like 4 for 7 for moneying in the tournaments, well ahead. And we go back tonight, so maybe I'll have another "trip" report to post. As if this post wasn't long enough.
Please, please please don't move west, we need the fish to stick around here . . . . and whatever would you do without Gil????