Thursday, March 17, 2005
This past weekend was my first experience playing poker in a casino cardroom. I had a ton of nervous anticipation for the event. Ridiculous things start going through my mind when I'm nervous, like: what if I totally suck? What if they start making fun of me? What if I'm the only girl? What if I lose all my money? Of course, after realizing how lame such self-berating questions can be, I respond to myself: if I totally suck, then I probably will lose all my money, and then I go back to the hotel and watch TV for 3 days. If I'm the only girl - who cares! I'm usually the only girl (or one of very few) at the local tourneys I play, so what difference does it make? If someone makes fun of me, again - why do I care? Besides, I can sling the comebacks pretty well when I want to. No worries. Right?
Our first cardroom was the limit-turned-no-limit tourney at the Luxor. Before we sat down to play, Randy and I were talking a bit about limit hold'em. He prefers no-limit. I had just finished reading Jennifer Harman's chapter on limit HE in Super System 2, and we were refreshing each other's minds on some play tips. One tip that's been working for me lately is "behold the power of the re-raise." Another tidbit out of Jennifer's chapter is not to bother slow-playing in most circumstances.
Little did we know that none of our poker smarts would be required in this game. To survive the first hour, it was purely hit-massive-flops-or-drop-out. 100% cards, no skill required. It was a disappointing start to our poker weekend, and I didn't really feel like I'd gotten anything useful out of the experience. Time to try some ring games.
Excaliber was our first ring game stop. This ended up being a good choice, because the low limit tables were very friendly and laid back.
One thing I particularly liked about playing the ring games in the casinos was that the dealers almost always announced before each street how many players were in the hand. This made it much easier for me to keep track of how much was in the pot at any given time. You could even come up with rough estimates pretty easily with little attention paid. For example, if 5 people saw a flop that had been raised to $2 pre-flop, you could tell there was roughly $10 in the pot. If 3 more people saw the turn for $2, that's $6 more for $16. It was very helpful to have the player counts announced, and I quickly decided that I preferred dealers who kept the player count.
As far as tables go, I discovered that I much prefer the ones with the wooden ring along the inside - perfect for storing chips. Without that ring, sometimes the felt of the tables was too cushy and my chips would topple over. I also liked the tables with cupholders built into the rails. Some cardrooms had little tables on wheels that you could pull up next to your chair, for the tables without cupholders, but during busy times, those tables were in short supply.
My other favorite feature: nearby bathrooms. Excaliber's was so close to the cardroom that if I was speedy enough, I could make it back to the table without missing a hand.
One thing that really surprised me was how easy it was to put players on a hand. This was probably due to the fact that many of our opponents were beginners with tells screaming as loud as sirens, but it was a confidence booster to notice these things, and try and guess an opponent's hand and be right. I found that somehow, it was MUCH easier to remember little tidbits about people than in any other setting. Maybe the local home games are too distracting, or maybe it's harder to read people you know as friends. Somehow, in the casino, I had no trouble making mental notes on how people played various types of hands, and what hands they showed down. Up until this weekend, I'd have considered my ability to mentally store and recall hand histories to be sketchy at best. I realized this weekend that with some focus, I'm actually better at it than I thought I was.
At one point, I was mentally assigning Poker Tracker icons to all of my opponents. That must have been on Sunday when I was folding folding folding all day. :)
My first weekend in a casino cardroom was a great time. I can't wait to check out the local poker rooms!