Getting Even

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Who Among Us Is Without Flaw?

Author’s Note

After yesterday’s fiasco in Phoenix, my closest friends quickly determined I was a threat to myself and others and checked me in to UCLA’s psych ward pursuant to section 5150 of the California code. My recollection of the actual events is still sketchy, but the security report said that sometime around 6:50p PST, I flew into an uncontrolled rage at the Mirage Super Bowl party, pelting anyone wearing Giants attire with barbecued chicken wings and soft pretzels and threatening to “rid the world of that surly chimp Coughlin and the entire Manning clan” and to “burn the Meadowlands to the ground.” Apparently, I then pounded my own head against a beer cart until “it [the cart] was no longer suitable for use.”

According to the LVPD report, my friends “reacted quickly and professionally”, secured my hands and feet with waitress garters and party wristbands and wheeled me from the Mirage on a bellman’s cart. The Mirage staff referenced me “lunging toward other guests in the taxi line” and shrieking something about my own ability to “hit a 49-yard field goal in a dome” and that “any idiot who’s played Madden ’04 could beat those crazies with screen passes.” I’ve no recollection of said incident(s), but I can’t in good conscience deny them given the barbecue sauce and mustard stains on my Patriots hat and Bud Light logo bruised into my forehead. That my friends got my through airport security and the 45-minute flight to LA without third-party notification of the FAA is a testament to their diplomatic skills and resourcefulness under duress.

In any event, as of 9 am this morning, the ward staff has determined that supervised visits with immediate family and limited communication with friends might help speed my return to the mainstream. All pens and other sharp objects are still prohibited from my room until further notice and my mouth guard is still in place, but I’ve been cleared to use a fixed keyboard for periods “not to exceed one hour.” Hence, this quick update with a 10-pound cat in my lap and wife chattering in the background.

Super Bowl weekend

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As I mentioned in the previous post, every year my friends and I head to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl. In my opinion, Las Vegas is a better play than attending in person—more intensity (see also, LVPD report), better food and easy access to fishy poker tables. My first time in LV for the Super Bowl was in 2001 with a Patriots cheerleader in tow and that worked out well enough to block out the first week of February ad infinitum. That relationship was a predictable bust but the Pats have been steady contenders ever since and my degenerate friends provide just enough blackjack and craps action to warrant invitation for six to attend a party each year. My poker earn has also improved dramatically since 2001. Ergo, we go.

We flew into town Saturday morning and it struck me that the airport was kind of a ghost town given the weekend. The LAX-Las Vegas flight was a third empty, the terminal in LV pretty subdued and the taxi line less than a 5-minute wait. Super Bowl weekend is a popular weekend in Vegas, but as of Saturday morning, Bellagio was offering internet deals on room for Saturday and Sunday night at a discount from their regular weekend rate. It’ll be interesting to see how the retrenchment of the American consumer shows up in the casino year-to-year comp numbers.

The Mirage

We headed for Carnegie Deli at the Mirage to refuel and establish a game plan for the week-end. The offensive coordinators thought the right line was check-in, gym, gambol and steak dinner to establish a rhythm, segue to a post-dinner NL session to wear down the defense and then run out the clock with the Super Bowl party on Sunday. We all agreed the plan made sense and broke on “Pats in a blowout!”

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I headed down to the spa to hook up for a quick workout and possible massage. I managed my expectations as I approached the girl at the front desk. Walk-in massage availability on the Saturday of Super Bowl weekend? In prior years, the desk staff would laugh me into the steam room but this year, no problem. Four o’clock ok? Sure, sure. See you then. After my workout/massage, I hunted down my friends who had positioned at a craps table at TI.

”I can’t look!”

I’m not a big gambler by shaundeeb et al. standards, but a little craps session is always good for some laughs. Besides, one of the guys with us who makes mid-high six figures and is eerily comfortable at $10/20 NL, turns into a little old lady with $200+ on a craps table. I figured I’d have some fun forcing him to put his max odds bets down and joined the group. As it was, he didn’t disappoint, turning away from the table like he’d seen his dog run into traffic every time the dice were in the air. Good comedy.

I finished the session up $800 courtesy of once-in-a-lifetime roll by a craps newbie. This 6’4” bruiser had no idea what he was doing but was up 4x on his money with other people howling about his godlike skills throughout his 45-minute roll. He was clearly pleased with his newfound talent and anxious for the dice to find their way to his paw again. I colored up and left before witnessing the certain awkwardness of a 240-lb man sobbing in the presence of total strangers.

We headed back to the Mirage and I re-invested my winnings in two bottles of Dominus for the group. Steak, seafood and good cabernet are an excellent pre-game meal for any NL session so by 10p I was ready to hit the Mirage poker room.

The pokers

The Mirage was full but not packed and we were immediately seated in a $2/5 NL game, usually the biggest NL game in the room.

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My friends and I each bought in for the maximum so there was a nice overlay of $250 for each of the other six players. We each managed to pull a few hundred from the game and got on a list for a $115 sit-n-go. I recorded specifics on the hands I played but somehow deleted the files. Here’s what I have from memory.

Hand 1

I’m in the big blind with AKo, four players limped to me and I made it $25 to go. I got two callers including the button. I whiffed the 553 flop but fired $50 into the $100 pot anyway. The button, a young guy with roughly $500 in front, called. Oh nice, float me. Why not?

Turn was an A and I checked, knowing he’d bet into the grey-haired guy scared of the ace. He accommodated me with a $115 bet and I bumped it to $230. He thought for a minute and called. When the river blanked, I shoved the river and immediately kicked myself for not letting him bluff again. He folded, of course, and I stacked a nice pot. I should note that to the delight of my friends, I spilled chips everywhere with the flop check-raise. Whatever, I took the pot.

Hand 2

An orbit or two later I was in the small blind with jacks. One of my friends made in $20 to go and I called. I prefer to re-raise there and narrow the field, but I wasn’t paying close attention and headed to the flop four-way, out-of-position with JJ. Cool.

Fortunately, the flop was a lovely JTx.

I checked my top set and the table checked back to my friend who bet $40. Back to me, I contemplated a slow play but didn’t like that draw-heavy board 4-way. I begged the gods to let my friend have a real hand here and moved $120 into the pot. Bah! He (and everyone else) folded and later told me he had AK.

Hand 3

The last hand I pulled any dough with was A5 in the small blind. Limped to me, I completed and saw a 243 flop. I bet out with my wheel and got one caller. I continued on the blank turn and took the $60-ish pot.

Dude, that’s nasty.

It was shortly after midnight and I was getting bored, so I got up from the table and checked the sit-n-go lists to see if anything was close to seating. They immediately called for a $115 but several guys on the waitlist didn’t show. I waved my friends over.

The Mirage $115 sit-n-go runs with 1500 chips and 15 minute levels and pays two spots. About six of us put on a last longer and we were off. For the most part, the field comprised the usual “some guys knowing what they’re doing but most not” competition. Among others, there was a talkative but likable guy to my right that seemed to know what he was doing, an aggressive guy to his right in hip-hop gear, an Israeli guy who seemed better suited to a kibbutz than a sit-n-go, my friends and a redneck to my left chewing tobacco and spitting at the table.

The Mirage has a rule against chew at the table and I initially thought this dude had some sort of tooth problem, but when he started filling a cup with spit, it all came disgusting clear. When my friend moved in on his late limp with Kx and busted his AA with a KKx flop, I celebrated inside. Dude, take that back to Alabama where it belongs.

That same friend and I ended up chopping the tournament for $475 each (net of dealer tip and not counting the last longer). Some critical hands at the end…

My friend’s K2o > AA.

My K5o short stack push > A8s when the 5 hit the flop.

My A5o > K2o, ATo > A6o and AQo > T6o, in rapid succession to knock out the #3 player (the aggressive player to my right) who had been chip leader throughout.

We chopped around 2:00a and I called it a night.

Good fold!

On Sunday, I got up, met my friends for a quick breakfast (no line at the Café either) and headed off to the poker table to collect a few bets and load up on the Patriots less the points.

The table was uneventful other than one guy who kept betting his good hands hard and flipping them up each time his opponents folded, congratulating them on their “Good fold.” Why on Earth anyone would provide free information and ongoing validation about good decision-making is beyond me, but I mentally thanked him for myself and my buddies. I ended up down $30 courtesy of a bet/min-check raise/fold at the river with AT on a AKxKx three heart board and a pair of pocket kings that held three-way to a Axx flop.

I racked up and hit the gym for an hour or so before the party. I’ll be honest—while watching the pre-game show and Hall-of-Famers offering sycophantic praise to Tom Brady, I began to get a bad feeling about the game. I’m all for confidence in any aspect of life, but for some reason, these Patriots didn’t look as singularly focused and relentless as in years past. I shook it off to pre-game jitters and finished the workout with a quick steam and shower.

And now for the fun…

After the workout, I hunted down my friends. We picked up our entry wristbands and headed over to the party for gluttony and glory. To assist with the former, the Mirage sets up several huge buffet lines and multiple bars in a series of connected ballrooms. For the latter, there are flat screen monitors everywhere you turn and the main ballroom has 15-20 huge projection screens and a fully-synchronized sound system. Just to keep things light, a number of beverage vendors scatter talented cocktail waitresses throughout the event to defend their market share. I picked up turkey sandwich, flagged down a Corona girl and settled in for the Patriots 2008 victory lap…

Embrace the hope

There's been a thread in the Brick and Mortar forum on 2+2 about jackpots with a number of regular players complaining that they're a tax on the system, just a scam for the benefit of the cardroom and should be eliminated. My opposing position (cardroom perspective) is that they're not a profit-center, and they're a legitimate tool to attract new and recreational customers. Regulars forget that their chosen profession requires a steady stream of new or rec players who will come in and make EV- plays because they're having fun and, consequently, fuel the ongoing poker economy. I'm not sure why they don't see that.

In any event, I figured I'd share some excerpts from my responses in the thread...

"...As a owner/operator, I'm very interested in keeping a grinder happy, but I also need to remember that most people come into the card room to have fun, get some good cards and win a few pots. They're not students of the game who discuss hands, strategy or edges on forums. They're at the table because poker's fun and that rush they get when they peek at pocket aces or scoop a pot with chased flush is awesome. Jackpots add to that excitement. It's true with slots and it's true with most poker players who approach the cardroom for entertainment and a maybe, just maybe, a shot at a nice score.

As for the fight over jackpots (Bike vs. DoJ circa 1995) a few years back, the big cardrooms fought it because they knew that recreational customers want them and they felt that they're an important constituency. That's not to say it was an altruistic fight; it wasn't. The cardrooms felt there would be a noticeable falloff in business, and based on my experience and interaction with the majority of our players, I agree with that.

The state's position IIRC was that the jackpots were an illegal lottery and was protecting the CA Lottery's turf. Similarly, if the state pressed to ban alcohol from all casinos, that might be eliminate abusive drinkers, improve the demeanor and health of most players at the table, but the cardrooms would probably fight it. Admittedly, when smoking was banned in CA rooms in 1998, everyone howled in protest, but the impact on business was marginal. Then again, only 17% of Californians smoke. I'm guessing most customers (i.e. a number higher than 17%) would prefer us to fight for their right to party and chase jackpots.

Look at it this way. The baseball purist probably finds all the kids out for bat day kind of annoying, but the future of the game (both for the owners and the pro players) depends on a constant flow of new faces and repeat recreational customers. We BOTH want new customers and the regular "I know there's a 3-bet in front of me, but I have pocket 7s and the jackpot hasn't hit in three weeks. Call." player, right? To me, talk about eliminating jackpots is the equivalent of tapping the tank. Dude...shhhh..."

From a later post in the same thread...

"...If we eliminate the jackpots and, while we're at it, other taxes on the system like advertising and comped food, how do we continue to bring in the players that we both need to survive and make a living? Should we count on the regulars to recruit their friends down to the cardroom to enjoy the camaraderie? Should we count on the WPT or ESPN? Maybe we should hope that the 100,000+ players on 'Stars decide that the "play on the laptop by the pool and generate more hands in two hours than a live player sees in a week" lifestyle is too convenient and anti-social and they'd prefer the challenge of driving down to the cardroom, getting on the list and engaging in the social niceties of live poker?

Jackpots and promotional tools are part of the business of bringing in new customers and keeping recreational players anxious to sit and stay at tables. In some markets, like Vegas, you can count on a continual stream of tourists--unless, of course, the economy sours and people are less-inclined to part with discretionary dollars. In other smaller or local markets, we can't just fire up a Cirque du Soleil show or a few white tigers and hope the husbands will waddle into the poker room. Therefore, we advertise and come up with promotions, jackpots and other things to stimulate traffic and butts in seats...

Complaining about jackpots is akin to Derek Jeter beefing about answering the same inane post-game questions or signing autographs for some kid he'll never see again. Or Tiger Woods refusing to play the pro-am because he makes his money on the weekend. They don't because they know that without the sponsors and the fans, their paydays wouldn't be what they are. Similarly, without the new or recreational players, how profitable do you think your games will be?

If you don't think promotions or advertising matter, ask yourself how good the live games were before the WPT, PartyPoker or guys like Moneymaker winning the WSOP? Ask yourself how good the games would be if there weren't new players getting in, chasing, making mistakes. What you only want good players who understand the game, read books published by 2+2 and play solid poker?

Put differently, jackpots are like your girlfriend's makeup. It may seem like a waste of time and a fraud on the purity of the sport, but I'm not sure you'd like the look of the game without it. Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, once said, "In the factory make cosmetics; in the drugstore, we sell hope." Embrace the hope. It's why the new and/or recreational player comes in and blindly takes the seat to your right."

Anyway, thought you might be interested on the perspective from the other side of the felt.


The 2008 Central Valley Poker Championships

Every good cardroom should have its own tournament series, yes? Hence the First Annual Central Valley Poker Championships held Aug 3 through Aug 9. This week-long series will offer deep stacks, generous level times, relentless attention from the best player relations staff in the surrounding 200-mile area, good food, strong drink, shelter from the hot August sun and the insightful companionship of yours truly. If someone's willing to pay $2.1 million for lunch with Warren Buffet, why wouldn't you put this on the calendar? With buy-ins from $100 to $500, we're practically giving these tournaments away!

CVPC Schedule - PDF

Club One Casino

LA Card rooms: Bicycle Casino

Stars & Stripes

While other poker rooms have seen tournaments attendance soften, the Bicycle Casino's Stars & Stripes tournament series kicked off last week with 615 players (60 tables!) showing up for the first event. With buy-ins of $120 to $545 and $260,000 of guarantees in this series, the Bike recognizes what poker players want in a weak economy—bankroll-friendly value—and like locusts, players swarmed to it.

In the old days, the Stars & Stripes was a mid-summer series extending over the July 4th holiday. The Bike moved it up a few years back, most likely to avoid the WSOP, and in an endearing, demented twist, dropped it smack in the middle of tax season. It’s been an April routine for me for the last couple of years—file an extension on my taxes, resolve to sort out my receipts at some later date and head over to the Bike to play poker. Pretty much the story of my life—procrastinate, let my conscience bother me for a few minutes and then cave to my basest instincts.

One of the things I like about the S&S and all the other tournaments at the Bike is that you can register online. I, for one, like a tournament I can register for with a laptop in one hand and a DirecTV remote in the other. More poker rooms should offer this option.

I was planning on playing a couple of the $335 and $545 events and wanted to see how they were setting the tournament up this year. In any event, I called a friend of mine over at the Bike to fax a copy of the structure sheet to me, but she didn’t have a copy of it handy so I headed over on Monday night to pick one up.

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Sketchy? Compared to what?

For those of you who haven’t been, the Bike’s located in Bell Gardens, California directly off the 710 freeway at the Florence exit. The area, the corner of Eastern and Florence south of LA, used to be seedy when Stuey hung out there in the 80s and 90s, but now it looks like every major intersection in Los Angeles with strip malls on each corner. Except in this particular case, the second biggest and nicest card room in the city sits on one of the four corners.

Every so often, I’ll be reading a thread on a poker forum and some dude will comment about the Bike being in a bad area. That’s nonsense. I’m not saying you’ll find Whole Foods and the Apple Store nearby, but compared to its peer group, the Bike’s located in the middle a thriving village. At the Commerce, you’re pretty much stuck there unless you’re willing to drive. That’s not all bad, of course, but at the Bike, you can go outside, wander around and have something to visit other than the freeway on ramp and vacant lots.

Meet the neighbors

Need specifics? Directly across from the Bike, you’ll find Appleby’s, Ross, Marshall’s, Washington Mutual, Jamba Juice, some coffee shop called It’s a Grind and a trippy mariachi joint that’s a free-for-all on weekends. You’ll also find the Bell Gardens Hotel, formerly a Ramada Express. It’s not my favorite hotel, but if you’re looking for a shower and a bed, it’s fine. And it’s literally across the street. You could stumble out of the Bike, trip, roll down the driveway and, subject to cross traffic, come to rest at the bottom of the stairs to the hotel lobby. I’m not recommending that commute, of course, but it’s an option.

Across the street to the north is an IHOP (go hungry, leave happy!), Citibank, Big 5 Sporting Goods, RiteAid pharmacy, and a Food 4 Less grocery store. Across the street to the northeast is a Toys R Us, Hollywood Video, Starbucks Drive-thru, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. You get the idea. Anyone who tells you the Bike’s in a lousy area is the kind of guy who orders a no foam chai latte and has a bottle of Purell next to his chip stack. Are you seriously taking advice on poker rooms from that guy?

Oh, the places I've been

You want sketchy? Try Inglewood (Hollywood Park) which lies in the direct landing path of LAX or Gardena (Normandie Casino) where the attendant in the fast food place serves you from behind bulletproof glass. Or maybe even my home poker room, Club One, where our neighbors include an odd mix of banks, bailbondsmen, ethnic markets, former theaters now serving as churches, homeless shelters, the county courthouse, a bunch of gutted buildings and a minor league ballpark. Trust me, we’d kill to be able to walk across the street to grab a decent cup of coffee or some Extra Crispy with 0 trans fat!

Ok, enough of that rant. I parked the car with the valet and wandered up to the Welcome Desk.

Welcome to the Bike, sir!"

The Bike has the nicest entrance of any casino in LA with marble and chandeliers that rival a Las Vegas casino. As you enter, you’re directly in front of a marble podium with a cascading waterfall directly behind it.

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They usually have tournament info right at the front desk, but tonight the girl on duty directed me to the tournament room to the right, down a long hallway past the lottery kiosks.

Heartache? That's down the hall...

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Tonight’s event was the $100 buy-in with one rebuy and 353 entrants showed up. I wasn’t into playing the re-buy so I just grabbed the structure and looked around. In the main tournament room, there were twenty-five tables, all full, and there was spillover in the hall and other rooms.

I like the Bike’s tournament room—it’s smaller than the caverns over at the Commerce or Hustler, but you can actually hear announcements and it’s harder for waitresses to ignore you when you’re in the mood to eat or drink. You can get a sense of it from these pics…

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I looked around and didn’t see anyone I knew, so I headed back to the main poker area to see what was happening there.

Be honest, Ed, you're broke again, right?

The main poker room is to the left of the Welcome Desk and the high stakes poker room is located directly behind it.

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If you’re ever looking for lakong, you’ll find him camped in a 5/5 NL game, making ill-advised plays out-of-position and scamming free food (all the yellow chips games are comped). I hadn’t played the Bike in a while and tried to keep a low profile, but a grey-haired dude with a voice recorder is an easy target.

“Ed! Where’ve you been? You’re not broke again, are you?”

I tried to convince my friends on the floor that I’d been living 5 days a week in Fresno running a card room and my table time was limited to propping 2/5 NL. The tale was so absurd they shook off my explanation as a complete sham. I had been grinding in the 2/4 over at Hollywood Park. They could smell it.

In an attempt to save face, I put myself on the list for 5/5 NL. The list was five deep, but there was a good chance another table would get down as the tournament coughed up victims. Here’s a look at the action in the high stakes room at 8:00p on Monday night:

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Two tables 20/40 hold’em
One table 300/600 hold’em (the big game in the room)
Three tables 2/3 $100 NL
Two tables 3/5 $200 NL
Two tables 5/5 $300-$500 NL (with a list 5 deep)
Two 5/10 $500-no max NL
One 20/40 stud hi/lo
One table of pot limit Omaha 5/5 $500 min buy-in
Interest for pot limit mixed game

The Bike recently opened up the wall between the high stakes poker area and the Bar & Grill so you can get toasted waiting for a seat. That was, of course, a legitimate option, but I hadn’t been down to the Bike in a while so I figured I’d wander around, sober for once, and make some notes. It was certainly better than sitting on the rail being mocked by my peers.

Listen, when that seat opens, you know where I'll be...

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Boldly going where more men go

The high stakes room is on the same level as the lobby but a step or two above the main poker room. The step acts as an ego boost for guys like me and a subtle obstacle to keep the riff-raff like LakeofFire sequestered in $40 NL and 2/4 limit where they belong. Tonight, though, I was a man of the people and wandered over to the main poker room to check the board.

Editor's note: immediately to the left of the Welcome Desk is the Bike's Cafe/Deli. Great sandwiches, good coffee--it's easily the best poker room deli in Southern California.

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Past the 2R editor drooling in front of the deli, there’s a set of four huge monitors surrounded by four smaller ones and typically, a good-natured Asian guy on the desk ready to match you with your game. Signing up for $40NL via this set-up is a little surreal—it’s kind of like wandering on the bridge of the USS Enterprise and asking Sulu for directions to the head..

Aye aye, Captain! Warp Factor 4!

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Had I been so inclined, there was plenty of action to choose from:

One table 3/6 limit
Three tables of 4/8 limit
One table of 8/16 limit
Seven tables of $40 NL
Three table of $80 NL
Two tables 8/16 with a ½ kill
Interest for a $20 sit-n-go
One table of 3/6 crazy pineapple with interest for another game
Two tables of 3/6 Omaha hi/lo
One table of 6/12 Omaha hi/lo

A typical Thursday or Friday night will show roughly twice the action. If you haven’t been over here, the main room is big and there’s another tournament area for the dailies.

The main room

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What I really want to do is direct...
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The daily tournaments area

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I was just a tourist in these parts and moved on. I headed past the Mexican poker area (about 6 tables running), past another of the million or so bars on the property (side note: the Bike has bars everywhere. We applaude the practice), over to the blackjack, pai gow and baccarat area.

Degens, welcome...

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What’s that? Over in the corner, I saw a brand new craps table. Apparently, the Bike will soon start offering craps using the cards, somehow corresponding to dice. I haven’t played it, but once they start running the game, I’ll give it a shot. I like craps almost as much as IHOP.

Hard eight dealer! One time!

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Behind the California games area, there’s smoking/gaming area called the Freedom Court where the Bike has managed to work around the state’s no smoking law by having a patio area with a vented roof. There’s no poker here, but eight or so tables of no bust blackjack, pai gow poker, super pan 9, pai gow tiles and Chinese poker. I’m not a smoker, but there seem to be plenty of people who think the Surgeon General is over-reaching. The room was packed.

Smoke 'em if you have 'em, fellas!

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On the way back around, I took a couple of shots of the Bike’s high stakes Dragon Room. The décor is pretty staggering and our shabby little faux Buddha up at Club One is laughable by comparison.

Action? You have no idea...

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At the time, the Bike was filming for some commercials for local TV and posted a disclaimer near the entrance of the Dragon Room:

“Filming and photography are taking place beyond this sign. By entering these premises, you hereby grant the Bicycle Casino the right but not the obligation to photograph and record you and your likeness, voice and other sound effects in the production, exhibition, distribution, publicity and advertising of the program without compensation in all media (including interactive media, internet and digital) throughout the universe in perpetuity.”

You’ve gotta love the lawyers. “Why would you limit it to just the Milky Way? There are a hundred billion other galaxies. You can’t say for sure there’s no life there, can you? And make it good forever, ok?”

Seat open? Why not?

I circled back to the high stakes room just in time for the tournament run-off to spawn some extra tables in the high stakes room. Even though I had a 5:00a run up to Fresno scheduled, my instincts took over, and I plopped into an open seat at a new 5/5 $300-500 NL table.

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As I stood over my seat waiting on chips, I looked over in the corner of the room and caught a glimpse of Barry Greenstein and Frank Mariani (Jerry Buss’s long-time partner) sitting in the 300/600 mixed game behind velvet ropes. I also saw a couple of guys I know sitting well-rolled in the 5/10 NL game. It’s always fun to see two guys, both of whom owe you money, sitting 300BB deep in a game bigger than the one you’re in.

On the very first hand, I didn’t even have chips yet and picked up AKo. I raised to $20 on my good credit and got two callers anxious to stack the crazy old guy who just arrived and started raising with any two.

The flop came AQ3 and I shook of the notion of one or both of my opponents hitting two pair. I bet out $40 and a doughy Asian kid in seat 7 called. When the turn blanked, I fired out another $100 and Asian kid insta-pushed for $180. I snap-called expecting to see AQ, but my AKo > AJo and I was up $325 without a chip of my own yet to touch the felt.

If there was ever a spot for a hit-and-run, that was it--up $300+ without posting a blind or putting chips on the felt--and I'll be honest, I thought about it. In fact, I'm still thinking about it. And to be even more candid, if that perfect storm ever strikes again, you can bet I'll be checking my cell phone and pantomiming an urgent call I need to take. "Sorry, fellas. I know this looks bad, but there's been some sort of accident..."

After that hand, I went card dead of course. Fortunately, the high stakes room has comfy chairs and food comps in the yellow chip games ($200NL and up). I spent the remainder of the session stuffing myself with the best card room food in the city, attempting to collect from my deadbeat friends in 5/10 via text message and watching rodeo on the flatties scattered throughout the room. I did manage to go up another $100, but gave it back with AQs and finished the night up $296.

Sleep deprived tomorrow morning, I'd no doubt be cursing the Bike, it's staff and the printers they send their files to. But for now, up three hundies and a batch of good photos, I was fat and happy...literally.

"Who are you calling sleazy, Ed?"

The Bike’s a modern, standout property, and with the most bars of any So Cal room, it's a favorite of discerning players like me. It's come a long way since the 60 Minutes segment in which the late Ed Bradley called it “a sleazy second-rate casino on the outskirts of Los Angeles.” That's the kind of description that would leave us beaming with pride at Club One, but it's nowhere near accurate for the Bike. The Bicycle Casino's one of the nicest casinos you'll find in any jurisdiction and any serious poker player should put it on his must-play list.

In another post, I compared the Commerce/Bike debate to other classic match-ups like Sox v. Yankees, USC v. UCLA or Ginger v. Mary Ann. But those comparisons suggest that you need to pick a side and make a stand. More accurately, the Bike and the Commerce are the Grey Goose and Belvedere of So Cal poker and everything else is just a generic brand that will leave you angry you got seduced into trying it. Take it from someone who's tried them all and suffered the consequences. Stick to the premium brands!


Yin/Yang at Club One

In the Chinese tradition, yin and yang represent “two opposing and, at the same time, complementary aspects of any one phenomenon." Yin qualities are characterized as “passive, dark, feminine, negative, downward-seeking, consuming and correspond[ing] to the night.” Yang qualities are characterized as “active, light, masculine, positive, upward-seeking, producing and correspond[ing] to the daytime.” (quotes from Wikipedia).

On Saturday, the 5th Annual Flop ‘til You Drop Charity Tournament was held at the Club One Casino in Fresno, California. Councilman Mike Dages (District 5) sponsored the event which included a buffet dinner and poker tournament in which prize money was paid to the charities of the contestants’ choice. Club One matched the prize money, dollar for dollar, and the event raised over $28,000 for local charities.

Special guests included some local celebrities and Fresno native and 2007 WSOP Main Event Champion, Jerry Yang. Yang was a huge hit with both participants and spectators and graciously posed for photos and signed autographs for several hours. He was the invited guest of one of the councilmen and, as it turns out, was related (distantly) to one of our casino hostesses.

I knew I was doomed to a brief and unimpressive showing when once again I was seated at a “featured” table. My tablemates included a judge, the former sheriff, the councilman’s lovely wife (a fine player) and Jerry. The WSOP champ exited relatively early when, short stacked, he shoved A9s and ran into TT, held by the eventual winner of the event. I busted out shortly thereafter when, 12BB deep, I raised from MP with ATo, whiffed the ragged flop and shoved the T on the turn. My opponent showed QQ, and I was back to running chips and busing tables.

The City took some of the sting of my exit away when, in a bizarre and unexpected twist, the Council proclaimed April 5, 2008 to be EdmondDantes Day and, in a separate proclamation, Jerry Yang Day. Now I don’t know if there was some subtle yin/Yang message that the Council was attempting to convey, but it was generally agreed that Yang was a bright, positive influence on the event. Well, if I’m the darker and more negative of the pairing, so be it. It was an honor to share the day with such a courteous and charming guy.


P.S. Photos of the event, Yang and plaque confirming the proclamation (no, I’m not kidding) to follow…
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