Tuesday, July 26, 2005
How funny is it that "bingo" is part of the name of a casino? That cracks me up.
Maybe it's not funny at all - Randy informed me that the casino he works at started off as a bingo joint half a century ago or so. As I walked through the bingo room at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, I couldn't help thinking, "Damn, is bingo REALLY this popular??" Wow. It looks a bit complicated, too - all those colors of ink and people with their bingo cards spread out in some methodically arranged order - it's all well beyond me.
As you may have read in previous posts, Randy and I headed up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin this past weekend to see a couple DMB shows. We also spent the afternoon Monday at the Potawatomi Casino. This being a poker blog, I will hold back from reviewing the DMB shows (except to say they were effing amazing, and Alpine Valley is one of the best places on the planet Earth to see a Dave show), and stick to the casino stories.
Our casino trip actually began Sunday afternoon, when we tested out the GPS navigation on my Blackberry and drove into downtown Milwaukee to find the casino. We had no problems - the path was very well marked with signage for the casino, despite a lot of construction going on in the area. (The GPS wanted us to turn off onto the expressway where one no longer existed - I didn't think my Spyder would do well jumping off a cliff, so I ignored the advice of the computerized woman who insisted that I bear left onto the non-existant I-94 ramp). Once we found the casino, we walked around and took in the place. Nice - the decor is (as you might expect) an Indian theme and is very classy, I thought. The clientele seemed to lean a bit towards upscale as well - not so much that I felt out of place in my t-shirt and Converse All-Stars, but it didn't seem to attract degenerates or the types of gamblers you just feel sorry for. We had a hard time finding the poker room. It wasn't on any of the directory maps. Why is that? Why are poker rooms always hidden in casinos? It's like they're the bastard stepchildren of the games - not cool enough to be right out front with all the slot machines, and not even worthy of hanging out with the other table games.
The poker room ended up being in its own little room off the back of the bingo room. As we stood in the non-smoking upper level casino overlooking the massive bingo floor, Randy goes, "Look - back there - off in the distance... behind the glass..." I scanned the horizon for the glass that he spoke of, and finally spotted a glass wall along the back of the room with the giant word "POKER" etched into it. It was very subtle though - we'd actually missed it when walking through the bingo room.
We didn't play any cards on Sunday - we actually spent most of the afternoon bumming around the Grand Avenue Mall in Milwaukee, having lunch and shopping and eating delicious caramel shakes at Culver's. (Well, **I** had the caramel shake - Randy had hot fudge). Then we headed to Alpine Valley Music Theatre for the Dave Matthews Band show. The gambling was saved for Monday.
So, we got up Monday morning and packed up the hotel room. (I have vowed to be certain to get an oversized whirlpool tub in the master bath of our next house. No if's, and's, or but's. The one in our hotel room was fantastic). Then, we checked out, loaded up the car, and made a call over to the casino. I asked for the poker room and my call was transferred. A very polite gentleman answered the phone and took our names, informing us that we had an hour to get there before we'd lose our spot on the waiting list. So far I had an excellent impression of Potawatomi.
We were there within 15 minutes or so. Randy dropped $20 on video poker, and I couldn't resist the urge to seek out one of the "Penguin Pays" slot machines I'd seen the day before and feed it some money. I picked a nickel slot machine and played my usual - 9 lines, 1 bet per line. (Stop laughing at me). In a brilliant flick of the wrist, I hit the Penguin Feature, and the cutest little penguin guy came ice skating out from behind each of icons on the board and gave me some wicked cool nickels. I cashed out of the machine with a $10 profit. You see, with slot machines, I find them to be a mindless but entertaining waste of money - so if I can manage to actually make any money on them, I fear losing it and cash out quickly. I know - that next spin could be the big winner. I'll just take my ten bucks and run, thanks.
I was slightly annoyed when we couldn't find a cashier to cash in my cool penguin profits. Several employees were around, but they all seemed busy talking amongst each other, and none of them responded to our "lost" look. Randy said I should just interrupt them - we're the customers. But I hate to be rude, so I didn't, and we continued searching until Randy found someone to ask. Turns out the main cage was all the way on the other side of the room, and none of the other cages were open. Well... OK then. I wasn't too impressed by the lack of customer service on the floor.
Wanting to see where we were on the waiting list, we headed up to the poker room. The bingo room wasn't jumping as it was Sunday, but there were still quite a few people playing. Amazing. It's like there's this whole bingo subculture that I somehow missed. There was only a name or two ahead of us for $2/$4 limit hold'em, and the man at the desk said we should have time to run out to the snack bar. (You see, I was starvin' marvin'). I ran and grabbed a slice of pizza - I think it was a Freschetta frozen pizza. MY FAVORITE! That's got to be a lucky sign, right? I scarfed down my zza and we went back to the poker room. Just in time! They opened up a new table - $2/$4 limit hold'em.
Randy took his favorite spot next to the dealer, and I sat next to him. The table was your usual cast of characters - a couple older locals, a couple WPT kids, a couple recreational players. We each bought in for $100 and the game began. The first thing I noticed was the felt on the table. It wasn't your usual felt. I'm not sure how to describe it, because it wasn't like velvet either. It was sort of a grippy fabric surface. When the dealers dealt the cards, they sort of "stuck" where they landed. They didn't slide all over the place. It was awkward to me at first, trying to move my cards to see them, but I quickly decided that I really liked it. The other thing I noticed was that Potawatomi's cards had their own logo on the back. Am I crazy here, or do some card rooms just use standard-backed cards? For some reason, I feel like Excalibur in Vegas, for example, had regular cards with no Excalibur logo on the back or anything. I don't remember the cards being customized anywhere, really. I think I would have noticed it, like I did at Potawatomi. Or am I crazy and just completely nonobservant? Anyone who can confirm or deny my notion that Excalibur's poker room cards are plain-backed wins brownie points for providing me with some peace of mind on this nagging nugget of complete unimportance. Randy made a good point that most casinos would use custom cards, as they're harder to forge or cheat with. That seems logical, but I could swear there was no logo on Excalibur's cards - nor on MGM's or the Plaza's, for that matter. Someone - help!
The average number of players to each flop was probably 5. Some flops saw 3 or 4 players, some 6 or 7. It was a pretty loose table, and very passive in general. Randy unfortunately wasn't catching any cards, and the ones he did catch either ran into goofy suckouts or just came up second best. He left within an hour or so to go play other games. I'll leave him to tell his stories (though I'm not sure he's really got any - it just wasn't his day for cards).
I, on the other hand, was doing alright. I wasn't catching monster hands preflop, but I saw enough playable cards, and for every 1 suckout I endured, I dragged 3 or so decent pots. So, I was profiting from the fishy play. A few random stories (I didn't take notes - sorry guys):
- Almost directly across the table from me sat Mr. Staredown. He was my age or so (I'd put him at 30-ish), and I initially pegged him as one of those "I'm a badass" WPT wannabe types. He would stare everybody down, both during and out of hands, and didn't flinch when you caught his gaze. I, being the shy wuss that I am, would turn my head away every time he caught me watching him. That's one of the best arguments for wearing sunglasses - so you can watch other people without feeling shy about staring. I really should try it sometime. Turns out Mr. Staredown was actually a pretty good player.
- When Randy left the table, he was replaced by Mr. Ego, a WPT wannabe caliber player who seemed to have some B&M experience (albeit at low limits). This guy was a piece of work. He sat down and bought in for $40. That to me seems laughable. How many hands can you play to the river with $40 at a 2/4 table? Even if it's only one-bet all the way, you can get -what - 3 hands in? Maybe 4 before going broke? This isn't no-limit, so I can't buy the short-stack argument here. But whatever floats your boat I guess... So EgoMan sits down (he's probably in his late 20's) and on the very first hand starts firing into the pot. Raises preflop, check-raises the flop, fires out betting the turn. I thought to myself, "Well, that's one way to make an impression..." By the time he got to the river, he only had one opponent. Then, he checked the river, and folded when his opponent bet. What?? Half of his stack is in the pot, and he's not going to call one more bet to see a showdown. Incidentally, he was firing into Mr. Staredown, who was having none of his shit.
- A few hands later, EgoMan pulls the same routine - firing away like a madman, and pulling out the check-raise move - again against Mr. Staredown, who again is having none of it. On a potentially scary board (a couple face cards, pair onboard, 3 to a suit onboard), EgoMan bets the river and Mr. Staredown reluctantly calls, figuring he's beat after all this action. EgoMan turns over Ace high, and Mr. Staredown wins it with pocket nines. EgoMan didn't play too many pots with Mr. Staredown after that.
- I had decided to play semi-clothed suited Aces in middle/late position in this game. They weren't completely naked, but I was playing with kickers down to 8. This burned me twice, though for the pots I won with the same hands, I think I'd continue this strategy in these live fishy games. It needs a bit more live testing before I have a good opinion on it. Anyway, twice I'm in a hand like that and hit my Ace on the flop. I bet it all the way, both times with only one caller (the same woman, a local who later mentioned that she was from India). Both times she too held an Ace, and I was outkicked - BY HER KING! Ace-King, no preflop raise, no raise ANYWHERE for that matter. She even checked AFTER me on the river in one of the hands! Wow. I can understand the no PFR - I mean, some people are just passive in nature, and she was definitely a peaceful type of woman. But, I mean - come on! She could have totally made more money off me than she did. Maybe she wasn't playing for the money - I don't know. If I had to be outkicked, I wanted it to be by her, because I lost as little money as possible in that situation when it was up against her. Incidentally, I didn't lose with Ace-little to anybody else, and even won one off her with Ace-ten of clubs versus her Ace-3 offsuit. I was just amazed at how passive she was. Absolutely amazed. She was very polite and smiley though - not a chatty woman, but friendly.
- One of the guys at the table reminded me of the internet player on that ESPN Tilt show with the clicky mouse finger. He was a bit annoying, because he didn't pay attention to the game (even though he was staring right at the action). He kept missing his turn to act, and then the dealer would snap him out of whatever he was daydreaming about, and he'd go, "Oh! Check!" and then have to be reminded that - "no, there was a bet in front of you - it's $4 to call." He'd bet the wrong amounts on each street (though one dealer had a nice little mnemonic to remedy the situation: "See - there's four cards on the table. That means we're at the $4 betting round"). Every time he wanted to bet a street, he'd yell out, "Raise!" Eventually, EgoMan stepped in and gave him a lecture on proper poker lingo, which NetNoob ignored. Later on, one of the dealers corrected him several times as well, saying, "No, you are betting - not raising." NetNoob replied, "Well, it seems as if my poker terminology is off - as long as these dealers keep bringing the sweet cards my way, who cares if I say it wrong?" (I care - you're an idiot!) OK, that wasn't very nice of me. He just got on my nerves - not because he wasn't a master of poker etiquette or because he was new, but because he had no desire to learn to play properly, and was constantly distracted. You're there to play poker. Stop watching TV and play your hand. On the bright side, NetNoob was very predictable. He had AK in one hand and kept grabbing stacks of chips to bet each round, pushing them past the line before the next card was even turned. He was stammering like an excited five year old when the melody of the ice cream truck becomes audible in the distance - "Raise!" "I'm raising!" "Raise it up!" He actually had a caller to the turn, when his opponent finally realized what the rest of the table had figured out. Duh, he has a monster and hit his flop. When he finally left the table, he was up twenty bucks or so. Good for him. Now go learn how to play.
That's one thing that bugs me about playing live - dealing with internet players that have no desire to play with proper etiquette. It's not that hard. Play your hands in turn. Pay attention. Know the betting structure. Don't talk about your hand after you've folded but other people are still in a pot. Don't show your cards to your neighbor, who already folded. Stop flashing your cards when you look at them - if you take ANYTHING from watching poker on TV, for God's sake, shield your cards when you peek at them. Or - show them to me. Fine. I'll tell you once that I can see your cards. After that - if you want to continue to be careless, go right ahead. And TIP THE DEALERS!!! I can't believe how rude some players are about tipping.
- EgoMan went on a little run with his $40, then lost it all back to the table. He rebought for another $40, and then went on some goofy superstitious quest for luck. First, he wanted to hold the green "seat change" chip in front of him for luck. Then, he was mad when dealers changed and the new dealer could only find the red chip and not the green one. Then, he started changing seats. He sat in all but my seat and the one to my left during the 4 hours I played. EgoMan got VERY cranky when he started losing money.
- There was a bit of an altercation at my table. It involved EgoMan (shocker). There were a few, actually. First, EgoMan started yelling at one of the new guys at the table (a guy in his 50's or so who seemed very new to poker in general). The new guy would show his cards to his neighbor (Mr. Staredown). Now, he only did this when Mr. Staredown was out of the hand, but EgoMan when through the roof. Instead of calmly informing the dealer of what was happening (I didn't see it happen, so I guess it is conceivable that the dealer didn't see it, either), he started yelling at the guy. Poor guy didn't even know he was doing anything wrong - I mean, you show your cards to your buddies at the home game, right? Obviously it's not proper etiquette, but EgoMan could have been a bit more discreet about the situation.
- Then, we got another new player at the table - an experienced older man who spoke with a Russian accent. EgoMan was quickly put on tilt by the Russian guy, as he was trying to bully EgoMan around and got a kick out of the boy's reactions to him. During one hand, EgoMan was the aggressor all the way through the turn, bringing Russian Man and a third opponent to the river. The river was checked around, and EgoMan showed his hand first. The second opponent mucked, and the Russian man goes, "Your hand is good," and mucks his cards. EgoMan then requested to see the Russian man's cards. The Russian man smirked and said, "No, I muck - your hand is good. You beat me." EgoMan insists on seeing the cards, and the dealer is consulted for a ruling. Indeed, any player in a hand can request to see the cards of any other player in the hand who went to showdown. Russian man disagrees with this, since nobody bet the last round. A somewhat loud argument ensued, and unfortunately our dealer at the time was a very passive woman who did nothing to settle the two guys down. EgoMan went on and on about how he "knows every rule in the book and plays here all the time." I'm sure he does. He was right, but was acting like a complete jerkoff.
- The Russian man and EgoMan clashed again later on, when EgoMan accused the Russian man of showing his cards to people. EgoMan flew up out of his chair, nearly knocking it down, yelling, "See! He can't do that! Show one, show all!" He threw such a tantrum that other tables even stopped play to see what the ruckus was about. The funny thing is, I was sitting directly to the left of the Russian guy, and the dealer was to the Russian guy's right. He wasn't showing his cards to anybody. I didn't see them, anyway. A few minutes after EgoMan's tantrum, the Russian guy whispers to me (after winning 4 kill pots in a row), "You know why he's mad, right? Wasn't he sitting in this seat just before I got here?" I busted out laughing. Indeed - EgoMan had been in that seat, and he moved when another seat at our table opened, and the Russian guy took EgoMan's old seat. He'd have been rolling in the chips if he'd have stayed in his original seat. "I can see clearly, now..."
- So what have I been doing this whole time? Winning some pots, watching the action. This was my first time playing a kill game, so it took me a little while to figure out exactly how it worked. Randy asked me later on what I thought of the kill pots. I have to say, I think I like them. I'm probably biased, because I went on a little rush whereby I won 2 kill pots in a row that alone put me up a good $100. But in general, at these fishy tables, they seemed to me like great opportunities to make an up-front big bet investment to see a flop with 7 players. I was praying for drawing hands in these pots like Ax suited or nice suited connectors. With $28 in the pot minimum preflop, it was just ripe for the picking. And, if you don't want to play with the higher stakes, fold the hand. No big deal.
- My biggest hand of the day was a kill pot. I limped into the kill pot with Q-J suited. I flopped an open ended straight draw, and hit my nut straight on the turn. I had FOUR people call me to the river (with what, I have no idea - there was no Ace or King onboard, and no flush draws). By my math, I made a good $85 or so profit on that hand alone (not including my contributions to the pot or the rake). Something like that.
- I'd won the hand before, so here I go again with the kill button. I limp with 8-5 offsuit (my $4 was already in since I had the kill button). I flopped a gutshot draw, and with 6 people in the hand, I decided to take my chances and called EgoMan's bet on the flop. The turn came a blank, and it checked around. The river brought my 7, giving me the high straight to the 8, and EgoMan bet it. Two people called, and I raised. Everyone called. I won. EgoMan was PISSED, because he had pocket Queens and got busted all to hell. Shoulda raised preflop, eh? I'da folded like a leaf.
- I was in another hand that pissed off EgoMan. I had AQs and raised preflop on the button. He came along for the ride for a flop of 10-10-Q. He bets, I call (fearing a 10 in his hand). Turn - blank. He checks, I bet, he calls. River comes a 3. He checks, I bet, he raises. I'm thinking, "Damn ten's..." I call for the one additional bet, and he turns over his cards, exclaiming, "TWO PAIR! Queens and Threes!" Yes, he fully expected to win that pot, until I turned over my cards and said, "Actually, your third pair doesn't count - I've got Queens and Tens, Ace kicker." He was dumbfounded, and started cursing under his breath. This kid became so unbearably rude that I loved every cent I could take from him. That makes me feel like such an awful person to say such a thing, but... I sure was thinking it.
- By now, EgoMan is a bit tired of me winning. At this point, I had my chips stacked in pyramids. It was getting a bit obnoxious, actually. Another favorite hand of the day also came against EgoMan. I've got Jack-Ten suited in late position and limp. Flop comes A-J-K. It checks all the way around to me. I bet. Everyone folds except EgoMan, who calls. Turn comes a blank, and EgoMan checks it to me. I bet, and he goes, "I know you have the Ace," and lays down his hand face-up. He had King-x. I resisted every urge in my to show him that he had laid down the best hand. I mucked, scooped the pot, and went quietly about stacking my chips. It sure felt good to see him lay down that hand to me.
- The ironic thing about most of my wins was that I didn't really have monster hands. I had pocket 5's once that hit a set on the flop. I had Queens that held up once. The rest of my winners were either Ax or drawing hands. I hit two pair once with my 9-8 of hearts to win a pot, and hit a few Ax hands with top pair. Other than that, I lost those couple Ax hands to AK, and lost a big pot with pocket Jacks that hit a set only to run into a flush. No other big hands for me.
So... I had fun at the tables. Randy had gone out to the car to read Harry Potter while I played (the saint that he is, letting me stay up at the tables), and it had been a few hours so I figured it was time to call it a day and start the long drive back to Chicago. When the blinds got back around to me, I asked the dealer to signal for a chip runner to get me some racks so I could cash out. Another gentleman at the table then offered me the racks he had been collecting under his chair. He hands me one and said he had a few more. I said, "I think two will be fine." The guy next to me (who had been there the whole time - nice guy, but sucky card player) said, "Ummm, you're going to need a lot more than 2 trays!" I didn't think so... but as I started filling the trays, I was shocked at how many chips I'd accumulated. After a while, my pyramid had gotten so big that I was just playing off the couple little stacks on top of the pyramid. As I filled the second tray, the one guy was laughing at me as he dug under his chair for the third tray. Then, as the third tray was filling up, my eyeballs must have been bugged out of my head. The guy hands me a fourth tray, and I almost filled THAT one, too! I got up from the table to head to the cage, praying I wouldn't trip and fall or drop all of the trays of chips on the floor. (I can be a dumbass like that).
I cashed out $376. If you count my Penguin Pays profits, I made $286 in my four hours at Potawatomi (a little more if you count tips). DAMN! That's my best brick-and-mortar session to date. It sure felt good. It was nice to offset the cost of the weekend a bit!
A few other random notes about the Potawatomi card room: the drink service was slow but the waitresses were friendly. There were 12 tables, I believe. The room was separated from the bingo area with glass walls, which was nice because it kept the noise out but kept it from seeming claustrophobic. It was a small room, though, and the tables were really crammed in there. I had a hard time squeezing around the chairs of players as I got up to run to the bathroom. The bathrooms were nearby - just outside of the poker room. The poker room also had its own cashier cage, and chip runners, which was nice. The dealers were all good - mostly fast, and none committed any errors that I noticed. The one dealer explained that they're testing out the automatic card shufflers on two tables and may be adding them to all tables soon. I liked the tables (as described above), and the atmosphere was comfortable (except for EgoMan and his outbursts). A couple of the dealers could have been a bit more assertive in handling EgoMan's outbursts, but I guess that has more to do with the personality of the dealer than the card room itself.
Overall - I really enjoyed playing poker at Potawatomi. I wouldn't mind heading up there again sometime. It's a bit of a hike for a casual day of cards (two and a half hours or so from Chicago suburbia), but I'd definitely consider driving up there for a weekend of poker. I wish there was a hotel attached to it (though there are plenty of hotels downtown in Milwaukee, I suppose). I had a great time and some good cards at Potawatomi. It was an excellent way to end the awesome weekend that Randy and I had. I wish Randy would've won too, but he was a good sport about it. Thanks, baby!
OK... I didn't intend to write all this. I really have to go to bed now! :)