Cliff notes: Edmond goes to Fresno for the big tournament. Busts out on 1st hand of Day 2. Donates buy-ins in the NL games. Vows to return.
Last weekend, I packed up the voice recorder and headed north to play the 3rd Annual Ace of Diamonds tournament at the Club One Casino
in Fresno, CA. The Ace of Diamonds is an annual event with a $400 (+$50 fee) buy-in that’s pretty much the biggest tournament in Central California.
The tournament had a Saturday noon start time and I had some business in Fresno on Friday, so I drove up the day before and spent the night at a local hotel. Saturday morning I got up, worked out, grabbed a bite to eat and headed over to the casino. I have to say it was a refreshing change from Southern California where you have to plan each tournament day with an eye to avoiding traffic. In, Fresno, you can pretty much get on the freeway 15 minutes before the start time and go. Ten minutes later, you’re holding a seat assignment. Nice.
Club One is a 49-table card club casino located in downtown Fresno at the corner of Van Ness and Tulare, directly across from the Fresno County courthouse. The card-room, the largest in Central California, is accessible from both the 99 freeway and the 41 freeways, two major Central California thoroughfares. You can find your way to Club One via Google or MapQuest, of course, but absent those aids you can pretty much use the following directions from anywhere:
When you see the tall buildings—that’s Fresno—take the closest exit. Head toward the buiildings. When you see one with neon signs that say Club One Casino, stop. You'll be at the arrow in the satellite image below...
As I drove into town, it looked to me that downtown Fresno seems to be in the early stages of urban revitalization. There are new bank and government buildings interspersed with older buildings that sit gutted and dormant. The Fresno Grizzlies (AAA) play in a beautiful ballpark right in downtown and the Convention Center (host to Fresno State men’s basketball, the Fresno Falcons and cultural mainstays like Riverdance and WWF Fully Loaded) is nearby. It’s obvious that the city is re-investing in its roots, but the neighborhood is still, as they say, “in transition.” On every block you still see vestiges of urban decline—old theaters converted into churches, thrift shops, pawnshops and bail bonds vendors. Whatever…I’m a poker player. If you asked me, there’s something to be said for having sports, liquidity, adjudication and salvation all within a couple of blocks of the card room.
The casino itself is located in a former bank building attached to 200-room hotel undergoing extensive remodeling as a future Holiday Inn. I think the hotel will add more after-hours activity downtown when it reopens, but for now, it’s just a mish-mash of trucks, dumpsters and scaffolding adjacent to the club. You can see the casino here (the hotel is the 7-story building to the right...
And the entrance...
What’s this? No valet? This was a rude shock for an LA softie like me, but I reminded myself that in towns where parking is cheap and plentiful, valet parking is anomaly. I put my ego back in its satin case, navigated my way through the hotel construction, found a spot in the underground garage and took the elevator to the casino floor.
On the inside
As you enter the casino from the elevators, the horse racing lounge...
are to your immediate right as you walk up a slight ramp past the gift shop onto the casino floor.
Club One’s casino area is one large room with areas designated for higher stakes tables, the cash games, the blackjack/3-card poker area and the tournament section. As you enter the casino area, the high stakes area is to the right in a semi-enclosed, raised area...
and most of the cash games are spread in the surrounding area. The tournament area is to the left rear of the floor. The sign-up board and cage are to the back of the floor...
There's a main brush area to the right (out of the 2nd photo), the cage is to the left of the vault door (legacy of the old bank) and the tournament and NL area is to the back left. Blackjack, three card poker and pai gow are to the left (out of the photo). The floor's bigger than it looks in the photos, for sure.
I headed over to the sign-up desk to pay my entry fee and pick up a seating assignment. As I mentioned,the Ace of Diamonds is the largest annual tournament in the area, and it draws primarily from the Fresno area (pop. 480,000 give or take) and the surrounding counties. Last year, there were 281 entrants. This year, the turnout was a bit lower, say 230 or so, but the floor staff I talked to pointed out that last year they advertised on local TV and guaranteed the prize pool at $100,000. This year, they went with word of mouth and fliers
in the casino.
In any event, the sign-up went smoothly and the staff and other players seemed pleased with the turnout. If anything, players were excited to play a “big” event and more than one voiced interest in having more of the larger buy-in tournaments. Club One offers tournaments twice daily
but those events are smaller buy-ins (<$100) so local residents need to travel to Southern California if they want to play larger events. I think quarterly $450 buy-in events might be a bit much for the local poker economy to digest but a few $300 buy-in events could find some traction.
Side note: at the end of day 1, one of the staffers mentioned that eleven people who won seats didn’t show. No-shows may be common at large LA and Vegas tournaments, but $450 isn’t a throwaway for the Fresno poker demographic. I’m convinced at least a couple will show up on a subsequent Saturday looking for a seat card and feel pretty stupid when they realize they provided an overlay for the rest of the field.
Anyway, the field was somewhat more sedate than the typical So Cal tournament field. I saw the usual tattooed, team-attired players—note to self, this is Raider and 49-er country—but there were fewer Asians or guys in Tilt/Stars gear. For the most part, it was a mix of regulars and aspirants from the surrounding areas, and lots of players and staffers obviously knew each other. A few photos will give you a sense of the competition...
There’s always one, right?
The 2006 defending champ…
was pretty aggressive so I knew I had to be active, but I hadn’t played a tournament since my CSPC run
so I defaulted to a strategy based on the advice my Dad give me as I left for school each day—“Try not to do anything stupid today, ok?” It’s not a bad advice for either a 4th grader or poker player, if you think about it.
On a side note, I later spoke with the tournament staff and they conceded the structure was steep but pointed out that tournament structures have to be submitted to the state for approval. I’m pretty sure the 4th Annual event will have a more playable structure and I’m convinced they’ll see an even bigger field if they do. The casino recently added 8 minutes to their daily tournament levels (now 20 minutes per level) and they’ve seen a nice up-tick in entrants. It seems players want to see a few more hands before they need to start shoving stacks. Go figure.
Cards in the air
The tournament started a little late, maybe 12:20p or so, as the staff was setting up the last tables and giving stragglers a chance to get to their seats. No one complained about the delayed start time and by 12:30, the tournament was moving along.
With my Dad’s advice haunting me, I trying to get a sense of how my table was playing. First few hands…
in middle position. Two club flop mocked me. Whatever.
Next hand, folded T
…7 on flop, 7 on turn. No problem, it was early and I was just looking for a rhythm.
It was soon clear that my table was playing tight. A half a dozen hands in with stacks still 10,000 (+ or – 100) around the table, the cut-off raised to 200 and the big blind called.
Low card flop, two spades. Check. Check. Hmm.
. Check. Check.
Big blind bet out 200. Cut-off called and showed K
< big blind’s A
nut flush. This was definitely not the Southern California “chip up now or go home” mentality. Uh, ya'll know you’re allowed to bet those hands on the flop and turn if you’d like, right?
I can’t complain about being card dead; in fact, I got hands all day…I didn’t get AA or AK but picked up AQo like it was on sale, JJ, QQ, lots of playable hands. Actually, I think I got MORE than my share of quality hands, but my default mode is straightforward fold or raise and with everyone playing uber-tight I probably needed to work my bet sizes a little. As it was, I didn’t make any monsters to speak of or run into any lesser hands willing to pay me off.
For example, with the blinds at 50/100, I was sitting with 10,700. Four limpers to me on the dealer button with AQo. I raised to 600 and got one caller. Pot was 1800-ish.
Flop came A24, two hearts. I bet 1200 and he folded before my chips made it to the pot.
Another level in, at 100/200, there was one limper to me in middle position with AQo again. I made it 800 to go and he called. 1900 pot.
Flop came A96 with two diamonds. The limper led out for 1500. Dude…uh, no…that’s not gonna work for me. I re-raised to 3000 and he folded. Ok, maybe I need to back off a little and let guys find a hand.
Around the first break, I was getting a little hungry and called for service. When LakeofFire
did a review of Club One
, he touted the Vietnamese cube steak, and one of the servers mentioned it was the most popular item on the Asian menu. I like to think I’ve got a worldly palate, but I wasn’t wild about it. Then again, my frame of reference with Vietnamese food is pretty limited.
I had better luck later with the Club One burger. It’s a good burger (and cheap!) and my only complaint was that my server forgot to bring ketchup and mustard with it so I had to ask the Asian hottie next to me to borrow hers. Come to think of it, maybe the server was doing me a favor. In any event, the food here is fine—not as good as Ocean’s or the Bike but competitive with the Commerce and the Hustler.
On the second to last hand before the break after round 3, I was sitting with a little over 11,000 and picked up QQ in the BB. An UTG player, raised to 800. Folded to me, I re-raised to 3000 total, maybe too much, but he’s UTG and I’m in the blinds…let’s see where we are. He showed AQs and folded. Ok, I know where I am—I suck at poker. I headed into the break with about 12,500 chips.
Mixing poker and politics
On the break, I spent a little time chatting with Mike Dages, city council member/poker player. Councilman Dages
is a regular at the club and sponsors a charity tournament that has a good turnout. His wife was also playing in the tournament and I was a little envious. When someone asks me “Where’s your wife today?” I get to respond, “In the spa, wrecking my bankroll with a seaweed scrub, shiatsu massage and pedicure.” He gets to respond, “Last I checked, table 3, seat 7…but she was sitting short so who knows? Check the 3/5 game.” In any event, he’s a nice guy and running for mayor in 2008. Hey, if Larry Craig can keep his Senate seat, a poker player can be mayor, right?
Note: Councilman Dages’ wife final tabled the event and took home $7500 in a 10-way chop. And my wife's toes look fantastic.
No action, no traction
After the break, I spent time just trying to pick up blinds. The structure was such that no one ever really built a commanding chip stack relative to the blinds. And without antes at later stages, I felt like I needed to keep active throughout. No matter what I did, though, I was stuck at 11-13k.
With the blinds at 200/400, I raised with A9o from middle position. God help me, I hate A9—a wretched, piece of crap hand with which I’ve managed to donate throughout my poker career. Thankfully, everyone folded.
Another orbit and I had 88 in middle position and raised to 1200. One caller from the blinds. Jack high flop. He checked to me. I bet 2500 and took the pot.
The blinds then bumped to 300/500 and I was sitting with 13500. Pretty much everyone at the table was stuck in the 5-15k range, maybe one guy with 20k.
Folded to me in the cut-off with A5, I made it 2000 to go. Dealer button called, small blind folded.
Flop 988. I continued for 3000. Dealer button showed AJo and folded and small blind commented that he’d folded JJ from the blinds. What, are you serious? Have you seen the structure, sir?
Keep your enemies close
My table was pretty collegial with lots of chatting and showing. The guy next to me mentioned he’d been sponsored by his local card room to play some WSOP events and had moneyed in a few. We end up talking a bit and I reminded him I needed him to do something stupid to chip me up. We both laughed, but it was obvious to me that if he played back at me he’d have a real hand.
Sure enough at 300/500, a girl limped UTG and my “friend” raised to 1600. I picked up JJ and re-raised to 3500. The table collapsed back to him and he insta-shoved. Uh, no thanks. I mucked and he showed AA. Yeah, no kidding. I kicked myself because I knew he’d been playing tight and I ruined any set value I had, but I was happy to have avoided stacking off on some 239 flop.
The last hand before they broke our table, I had 13000 chips and KK in the small blind. Three limpers to me, I made it 2500 to go and got one caller. 6300 pot.
Flop was TT9. I led out for 4000. Guy showed AJs and folded. What’s with all the showing here? And quit playing so tight…shove pre-flop!
Same chips, different table
They reseated me at a new table and the blinds increased to 500/1000. Figure I’ve got 17000+ now.
An orbit in, I’m in the big blind with QJo with a limper from the button. Small blind called and I checked my option.
Small blind led out for 2000. I usually re-raise here, but I called hoping to keep a weak Q in the hand. Dealer button folded.
. Ok, maybe the smooth call wasn’t my best idea.
SB checked and I bet 3000. He labored and called. Ok, maybe it was a good idea.
River was the 4
. Check. Check. Queens were good and now I’m sitting a little better with 21k or so.
At this point, there were 12 tables left with another 8 minutes in the level. We were playing to 7-8 tables today (maybe 6p or so) which was a nice change from the usual mid-afternoon to 2a grind that’s common down south. I’d like to think this is just small-town sensibility, but the reality is the club probably wants to get some cash games running and still have a good crowd tomorrow. Whatever…I can’t begrudge guys for making a living. I went back to stealing.
With the blinds still at 500/1000, it was folded to me on the dealer button with JTo. I made it 3500 to go and took the blinds. I was now sitting with 23,000, an above average stack…of 23 BBs. Ridiculous.
Next hand, I was in the cut-off with QQ. A player someone identified as a good, local player raised to 3500 from UTG. I thought about just re-raising but figured with a shove maybe I could get TT or JJ to call. I moved in and he tanked for a bit and folded. He later pulled me aside and told me he folded 99. Excellent, Edmond. Another blown opportunity. Nice work.
Hand of the day
A couple of orbits later, I was sitting in the BB with 23,500 in total 93o. Three limpers to me and I checked. Flop came 973, two clubs. Ok, here we go. I led out for 3000 into the 4500 pot and an EP limper min-raised me to 6000. Ok, I like it. Next limper promptly shoved. Ugh. I really wanted to chip up here but with how tight table had been playing, it really looked like one of those guys had a set. I resisted the urge to tear the Copags in half and folded. The min-raiser thought for a good two minutes before showing and folding A
; the winner showed a set of threes. Well, thanks for showing, pal, but it still sucked.
After that, I don’t remember much other than folding and shoving my way to 5:30 when we broke with 7 tables remaining. The blinds would start tomorrow at 1000/2000 and I had a anemic 15,000 stack. If you can imagine it, there were at least 15 players sitting shorter than me. Tomorrow was going to be carnage from the start. I stretched and sought solace in the cash games.
It's about giving back...
Following the tournament, I walked around and noticed about 15 cash games including the following:
1/2, 2/4, 3/6, 4/8, 6/12, 15/30
There were at least two 2/4s and 3/6s and three 6/12s running. The 4/8 had a list and didn’t get going until later as a double jackpot game, but the 15/30 ran all weekend.
1/1 20-40 min-max buy-in
2/2 40-100 min-max
3/5 100-300 min-max and
5/10 1000-no max that runs on Tue, Thu and weekends
3/6 with a kill (Saturdays only)
The Fresno City Council recently amended the city ordinance to allow Club One to spread no limit cash games on a trial basis. Per the amendment, the Club can run three games mid-week and five games on the weekend.
The 1/1 NL game didn’t get down while I was there, but it looked like the 2/2 ran continuously. I can’t vouch for the entire overnight shift but was definitely running at 11a and 2a. The 5/10 game ran about 8+ hours and looked like it played pretty deep—I saw several guys sitting with $3000+. For reference, the Commerce caps the 5/10 NL game at $400 and the Bike 5/10 plays with 500-no max. If you’re a 5/10 player in the area, it’s worth a look.
The local Indian casinos have been running NL games for a while, but it was obvious that the NL game was new to many of the lower stakes players. That said, I managed to dust off several buy-ins in the 2/2 NL with the following gems…
KK v J7s. All-in on the JJ8 flop.
KK v AJs v 88. All-in multi-way pre-flop. JxxxJ board.
KK in position v A8. J8x flop. Raise, re-raise, call pre-flop. He bet out, I raised, he called. A on the turn. He led out and I folded. He showed A8, obv.
QQ v JJ on 8922J board.
Etc. ad nauseum.
I took a break for dinner at a local restaurant but finished the day in fine form, heading into Day 2 of the tournament with a little over 3x BBs and down five buy-ins in low stakes cash games. Just another weekend of EdmondDantes poker.
Thanks for playing, sir.
Day 2 started like Day 1—I got up, worked out, ate, then made the 10-minute drive to the casino. We started Day 2 with 7 tables, but as I mentioned, almost everyone was in rough shape from the start. The blinds started at 2000/4000 and even the chip leader had only 90,000 chips or so. The average stack was 30,000 so I figured it to be a push-fest from the start.
On the very first hand, it was folded to me on the cut-off with Q
. I shoved my pathetic 15,000 and got two callers…A
. Ok, not horrible…I'm 30% or so to triple up.
Flop was an encouraging…
Nice! Now I was actually a favorite to triple up with 15 outs twice. Of course, I whiffed them all—turn 3x, river 5x and the 66 took it with a straight. Well, at least I got up and worked out. Good luck, fellas.
The rest of the field thinned pretty quickly and by 3:30 or so they were seating the final table. No sooner had the final table seated, when they showed their good sense and announced a 10-way chop for $7500 with the winner taking the $5000 white gold bracelet. The way the prize pool was structured the winner could have taken home about $25k or so, but everybody seemed pretty happy with the outcome.
The Winnah and his hardware...
Side note: I thought the dealers and floor-staff were professional and friendly and acted like they actually enjoy working there. It was a nice change from the cynics or B-teamers you sometimes find pitching cards in the So Cal or Vegas tournaments. In the entire tournament, I only saw one misdeal, an exposed card that the dealer retrieved and dealt through without any disruption whatsoever. Contrast that with this year’s WSOP where I saw misdeals a couple of times an hour, each of which would stall the play for a good minute or so.
In addition, the tournament tables are a mix of some synthetic felt and some regular felt, but they accommodate 10 players comfortably and are well-maintained. There are no automatic shufflers (auto-shufflers on the cash game tables, though) but again, the dealers were as good as I’ve seen in tournaments resulting in hands per hour higher than those I’ve seen elsewhere. All the chairs are in good shape, albeit fixed leg. And if you’re not comfortable in your chair, just ask. At one point after a table change, I asked for one of the taller chairs and the staff was quick to oblige.
Back on the horse
My Day 2 cash game play was a mixed bag. Highlights of the day included:
(1) Laying down AQo on A
board when my opponent showed strength the whole way and shoved the river. He showed A3o. Oh, nice Edmond, way to go. This is LIVE poker, remember?
(2) Flopping sets with 44 and 99, both times against KK and getting it all-in. Ok, that's more like it.
Other than that, it was my usual "raise in position, bet my good hands, fold when I’m beat" strategy that seems to be pretty effective at low stakes NL. I managed to finish the weekend down about $1000 between the tournament and Day 1 cash game carnage, but I thought the games were beatable for an observant, aggressive player.
Overall, I think Club One is a solid choice if you’re looking for action in the Central California area. You can read the review I posted
but I could sum it up…plenty of action, excellent dealers, good food. If they fix the structure, I’d play the 4th Annual Ace of Diamonds, for sure. I’m not taking that 10-man chop at the end, though!
Club One Casino
1033 Van Ness Avenue
Fresno, CA 93721
Club One Casino website