Monday, April 21, 2008

Greatly Exaggerated

It appears that I'm dead. At least, someone decided to post that I was, and since I haven't been updating this blog, his version stood. I have a fair guess who it was, and it was kind of funny, particularly since (with my computer down) I couldn't really respond, even after Iggy phones Gil out of the blue to ask what the hell.

Frankly, I haven't been updating the blog since I haven't found most of the last six months to be that interesting. I wake up, I go to work, I come home. A few times a week, I play some poker in there, too, almost exclusively live. But, even though I don't find it terribly interesting, I can update. This might turn out to be long, though.

Braving the Four Winds

If I remember correctly, my last post was just a couple of days after the casino I work at, opened. We're still open. And here's the real surprise: I still work there, and I'm not in any particular danger of being fired. This last is important, because our opening crew of dealers and supervisors has been cut by a third to a half, with possibly more departures coming.

Some of those departures were obvious: People who screwed themselves over somehow, usually with excessive absence but occasionally in more spectacular ways, like the dealer who showed up at work drunk off his ass, who blew a 0.23% BAC when they pulled him off the floor. There were also dealers who just didn't work out, almost always break-in (new) dealers. Those people were mostly offered jobs elsewhere in the casino, although it's got to be annoying to hear, "Maybe dealing isn't your thing. How'd you like to scrub toilets?"

We've also lost a good number of the experienced dealers that hired in, generally to other casinos. Some of this is the fault of the people doing the hiring: They set up unreasonable expectations among the dealers they hired. I think they had unreasonable expectations, based on some of the things one would overhear before we opened. When we were given the grand tour of the place in the days before we opened, we would be told, "This area, right outside the high-limit pit, is probably where we'll spread games not quite big enough to get people into high-limit—you know, like $100 a hand." The problem with not being wall-to-wall with high-rollers, as they seem to have expected, is that "ordinary" players don't tip as well. And some of the experienced dealers who came in felt as if they were promised tip rated of $30/hour or more.

Personally, I think they've made some bad marketing decisions (and the marketing director—he wasn't called that—was just fired, according to rumor), and it's true we don't see a lot of players playing at stratospheric levels. But I'm doing okay, monetarily. On the worst days I'm making $15/hour, and on the best days it can go over $30/hour. That's not bad for not working very hard.

If I indeed last wrote only a couple of days after we opened, then I'd at that time dealt only (mini-)baccarat. In fact, that's all I dealt for the first month we were open, until I started complaining. I spent 186 weeks learning dice (or whatever), and a day and a half learning baccarat, and what have I spent the last month doing? The shift manager agreed with me, absolutely, and I started getting on dice a couple of times a week.

To this day, I'm not perfectly comfortable on that game. I think it's primarily a function of not being on it much, even to this day. (The last couple of weeks I've not got a couple of days, but in fact a couple of hours of dice time.) I mostly don't have a problem with the math, but I don't always do things in the "right" order and it's not tough for players to flummox me with odd presses. For example, I set out $42 to pay a player with $36 on the Six, and he throws out a seemingly random amount of money and says, "Take it to $90." By the time I get to, "Okay, $36 plus $42 plus $12 equals $90, that makes sense," enough time has gone by that I'm holding up the game. We're really only talking about five seconds or so, but that's enough time that the guy on the other side of the table is done, and the stickman is ready to move the dice, and I've still got a couple more bets to pay.

In fact, this week the first round of promotions came up, and there was a sign-up sheet for people who were interested. Despite what I'd have thought when I started the job, I am interested. However, I'm not ready. The only game I feel fully proficient in is, unsurprisingly, the game I've had the most time on: Baccarat. I've had hardly any time at all (a total of maybe two days each) on the so-called "carnival games," which are the various poker-based table games. They aren't difficult, but it can be ugly for a while when I deal them, until I get my rhythm. I'm actually close to where I want to be at blackjack, but I still fumble around a little too much. Pai-Gow (poker, not tiles) isn't lumped in with the carnivals, but it's the only card game I don't deal. I don't deal roulette, either.

Even with all of that, I considered applying for the promotion. The step up from dealer is "dual-rate dealer/floor," usually just called "dual-rate" although there are other forms of dual-rate. The essence of it is that you act as a dealer sometimes, and as a supervisor sometimes, sometimes both during the course of a day. My plan in applying (I didn't do it) was not really to be promoted this time, but to be at the forefront of applicants on the next go-round. It was also to be able to lay before the heads of my department what would be called a "development plan" if I were higher on the food chain, to get me to where I need to be by the next round of promotions. Specifically, I wanted to ask for more time on dice, and to a lesser extent blackjack, and much less time on baccarat, in order to develop the proficiency on the other games to get me where I need to be. It was also barely possible that I'd get the promotion this time, with the intent that I'd learn on the job. My shift manager specifically, who is immediately below the vice-president level (and the top dog most of the time my shift is there), is the type of person who would much rather have someone who knows his limitations than someone who thinks he knows it all. But even so, it's so early in my casino career that it'd be quite unusual for me to be promoted unless I had a lot of juice with somebody (which I don't).

The last thing I can think of that belongs here in this section is about the poker room. I made many forecasts of gloom and doom for the electronic tables in the room. While I still think the room would be doing much, much better with live dealers, it is doing far better than I thought with the electronic tables. This past Saturday, of the sixteen ten-handed tables in the room, thirteen were in use. The high-water mark was fifteen in use, when a tournament was at the three-table stage (and I don't know if that was the start or the middle of the tournament). That probably sounds pretty good, but Soaring Eagle, which I've talked about often in this blog, on a typical Saturday night would have all eighteen(?) of its tables busy, with thirty to fifty names on the lists for each type of game. That room has less immediate competition, but is also farther from major population centers.

Even with the lukewarm success the Four Winds poker room has had, and it's all but killed the room at Blue Chip, it is not the premier destination for poker in the Chicagoland area. That (for the moment) is Resorts East Chicago, the former Harrah's, the former Showboat, the future Ameristar. (I'll talk more about that room later.) In September, the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana, a few miles closer to Chicago and home to the area's highest-limit games (and players), opens its new casino on a barge, with a zillion times the space as their existing boat, and according to rumor as many as 80 tables of poker when their room is completely ramped up (they have no poker now). The descriptions I've heard make this room sound as if it will be somewhere between Caesars' and the Venetian's rooms in Las Vegas, in style and size. It's expected that the action at Resorts will mostly move to the Horseshoe when that happens, and that most of the other rooms in the area will feel a serious bite. (It may not affect us as much, being that we're pretty far from Chicago as it is.)

Jeezus, Man, Don't You Do Anything but Work?

Well, in one sense, no. I'm playing less poker overall than I did before I came down here, primarily because I'm hardly playing online at all. (More on that in future blogs.) But I still go play live several times a week.

Initially, particularly before Four Winds opened, my play was primarily at Blue Chip casino, and was primarily $3/$6 limit. Even for some time after we opened, I primiarily played at Blue Chip, with the occasional excursion to Four Winds (we can play where we work, subject to certain restrictions).

But then, a few months ago, we hit a bad beat jackpot at Blue Chip. More important, Gil got the winner's (or "small") share, about $7000. Since Gil had had a windfall, and I had money from my table share but mostly from, you know, having a job, I suggested that we try playing a little higher, at Resorts.

Resorts' room is cramped and dingy, but also has (at the moment) the most variety of games, and the biggest games, of any of the casinos east of Chicago. (I can't speak for west of Chicago, but I'm told none of the Illinois casinos are very good for poker because of the legal situation in Illinois.) Resorts is the only casino between Milwaukee and Michigan that still regularly spreads limit holdem, at $5/$10, $10/$20, and $20/$40. They also regularly spread $5/$10 no-limit, as well as $1/$2 and occasionally $2/$5. Omaha usually goes on the weekends, in various forms, and here's the real shocker: They almost always have two tables of $1-$5 seven-card stud, the only casino I'm aware of besides the Mirage where that's the case. And I haven't been to the Mirage in a couple of years, so even that might have changed.

Gil and I played $10/$20 limit, and we both killed the game. I think that first trip I made about $700 and Gil made about $400, or maybe it was the other way around. In terms of bets, these were decent but not spectacular wins, but until then we'd mostly been playing $3/$6, where a $400 day is astoundingly good. So in our minds we both killed the $10/$20 game. And we were surprised that the game wasn't really that tough.

So we came back a few times. Mostly, our results continued well. Once I came with co-workers and took $1200 out of that $10/$20 game. We've had reversals since, but we're both amazed that we've been doing so well at a game that we would have considered a "someday" step only a few months ago.

My thoughts are that we've never really considered how bad the effect of the rake is at $3/$6. I'd always thought that, well, yes, the rake is proportionately quite high, but that's made up for by the much weaker players one sees at $3/$6. But maybe the reason we weren't killing the game for as much as we thought we should be before we moved up, are structural in the game itself. Note that I'm not saying, "You can't win at $3/$6 because nobody folds," because that's absolutely not the case. The person who says that is usually someone who comes from a no-limit background, or from a background of tougher games, where they learn plays that won't work in low-limit games. I continue to believe that $3/$6 is fundamentally beatable by building pots when you have the best of it and folding when you don't. But maybe I've been underestimating the effect of the rake, or something else that I haven't considered.

The other thing we've been doing lately is experimenting more with no-limit. This is probably something I should have started doing two years ago, but at that time there were still limit games readily available, and limit was (and is) my better game. But the pool of limit players is drying up, or playing no-limit, such that both Blue Chip and Four Winds get limit games of any kind going only rarely. Fortunately, Four Winds offers $100-max no-limit with 50¢ and $1 blinds, the lowest-blind no-limit I've ever seen spread. We've both had some okay sessions in that game, but mostly our results have been spectacularly negative.

I consider it tuition.


Shit I sent you flowers. Dammit! I want a refund! Haha. Iggy actually refuted his earlier death claim. I smacked him silly after that.
Hey, good to see your new post, been wondering about you. Yeah, I'm starting to learn no-limit too, the online limit game is getting harder, and in live game, it's just too slow for me. I find it more profitable playing no-limit live even though I know very little about no-limit play.

Sounds like things are going well for you, keep it up!
Glad to see you are still alive. My friends and I have been arguing about whether or not you were dead for the last few months lol.
Great posting about casinos. I am very impressed from this service.

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Yeah, I'm starting to learn no-limit too, the online limit game is getting harder, and in live game, fast to me and impressive.

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