Monday, March 06, 2006

For all of you that have been waiting with bated breath...

I've returned to the local card room.

Yes, it's true. I'm playing again. This afternoon, despite a bit of snowfall in the Chicagoland area, I decided to venture out to a card room I'd not been to before: Empress Joliet. Upon making this trek, I knew immediately of a couple pro's and con's.

Pro: It's less than 20 minutes from my house (and that's if I drive slowly).

Con: They only have 4 tables: two $5/10 limit hold'em, one $10/20 limit hold'em, and one NL $500 max hold'em.

(Possible con: they play 11-handed on all tables)

Going on the thought that I was bored to death grinding out my 2BB/hour win at $3/6 limit, I knew I would play the $5/10 game. I called ahead, and instead of giving me an hour to get there, the woman on the phone asked what time I planned to arrive. They give you up to 15 minutes after your stated arrival time before deleting you from the waiting list. Cool. I told the woman I'd be there in 45 minutes, giving me time to get dressed, brush my fangs, and drive out to Empress.

One thing I forgot to do was get nervous. I mean - $5/10 is pretty much higher than any limit I've ever played. (I did play one time at the $6/12 game at Trump, but it was very early in my poker career and I hardly remember it). I was pushing myself to a new level - I should be nervous, right? You see... the thing is, I bought in with $200, and the blinds were identical to the NL game of the same buy-in that I was used to at Trump. So, the game didn't even feel "big" to me. It felt... I don't know... normal.

I took my time parking, and made it to the "poker room" around 3:40pm. There was one name on the list ahead of me, and it took about 10 minutes for a seat to open up. Note to self: Don't get there ANY later than 4pm on a Sunday. Once the list builds up, the wait is easily over 2 hours (even if you call ahead). The guy to my right who sat down in the early evening waited nearly 3 hours for his seat. I'm not a big gambler, so I have no desire whatsoever to kill time in the casino.

It didn't take long for me to realize that this game was NO tighter than the typical $2/4 or $3/6 game, and in fact, it was fishy as could be. In sharp contrast to Trump, though, the 5 or 6 regulars at my table were extremely fishy (whereas getting money out of some of the Trump LHE regulars is akin to squeezing blood from a stone). It seemed like the entire table knew each other, and that I was the only "new" person, but my end of the table was friendly. The other end, however, had a regular who was easily one of the most obnoxious people I've ever played cards with. He actually had a feud with one of the dealers, and the two verbally spat at each other the entire time. The guy would literally throw his cards AT her when he folded, and she would say things to him like, "If you don't like how I deal you can get up and leave," or "I wouldn't touch you with someone ELSE'S hands." (I can't remember what he said to invoke that comment). It was brutal. Apparently, the guy had made some crude and ignorant comments in front of this female dealer about one of the cocktail waitresses, and the two have been at war ever since. Whatever the cause, this woman likely had reason to despise the guy, because his behavior honestly should have gotten him thrown out of there.

The one thing I really didn't like about Empress was that the dealers and floor people didn't really enforce rules or etiquette. The ignoramous from the other end of the table routinely showed his hand to his neighbors prior to mucking, and it wasn't until late in the evening when someone at the table finally requested to see his hand. The dealer obliged (as he should have), but didn't stop the guy from showing his hand to his neighbors in later hands. There was constant betting out of turn, and the dealers wouldn't notice it until 4 people had acted incorrectly, causing arguments amongst the players over whose fault it was that the betting got screwed up. I much prefer the dealers that keep the game running smoothly and properly, and not only abide by the rules themselves but enforce the rules in the players at the table (explaining the rules as necessary).

Other than that, though, I liked the room. It's not actually a room, but more like a nook off the side of the casino with 4 poker tables roped off. On the plus side, it's right around the corner from the restrooms, and is also nearby a bar, so cocktails are speedy. The location, however, does not block out cigarette smoke very well, and despite being a non-smoking area, players smoke on the rail. That smoke and the casino smoke wafts into the poker area. By the time I left tonight, my contacts were cloudy and my allergies were going in full force.

The poker was, like I said, fishy. The game was extremely soft. I was pretty much card dead, but not the kind of card dead that makes you broke; on the contrary, it was the kind of card dead that, other than making you bored, doesn't cost much more than the passing orbital blinds. I only lost one hand that went to the river, and the few hands that I won allowed me to leave with a small profit. End result: + 2.1BB/hour or 6.89 BB/100 hands. (I'm calculating based on 30 hands per hour). I want to calculate in BB/100 only because I'd like to be able to compare my brick-and-mortar and online poker results, and counting by the hour would be hugely imbalanced.

I don't really have any poker stories. I had QQ twice, and it held up both times. My first QQ hand was almost a loss. I had the overpair, but the guy to my right had T9s and had called my raise after limping. He turned 2 pair, but the river paired the board, giving me a higher two pair. (Thank you, river!) No river suckouts against me today. I saw AK a handful of times, throwing it away on the flop a few times and taking down pots with TPTK a couple times. I limped with some suited connectors and suited one-gappers from late position a couple times, and folded after missing the flops. I saw AQ what seemed like a million times, and always from early position. Almost ever time, the guy to my left raised after I'd limped, and he was a very solid player. Once, I saw the flop with him and outdrew him. Another time, I hit my top pair Queens and bet out UTG. He raised, and I had him on the KK or AA. He had played straight up with me all night, never slowplaying me, so I folded my TPTK face up. (There was nobody in the pot but the two of us). He showed me AA. :) Yay, me! LOL. Neither of us trying to pull any trickery on the other, and I appreciated his "honesty" in truthfully displaying the strength of his hand. He did get a decent pot off of me when the same situation occurred, but this time he had JJ and flopped a set while I flopped an Ace. There were 5 people in the pot and I was also drawing to the nut flush with my top pair, so when the flush missed, I was out some cash. I'm glad it went to him, though, and not Ignoramous at the other end of the table.

Man, that guy was a dick. There's no way I could do any justice to the degree of his dick-hood. You just had to be there.

Joe the Dealer berated me for eating ketchup on my hot dogs. I have no idea how that topic came up in conversation (though it made me REALLY want a hot dog). He said I was "unAmerican." Ha! 3 of the 5 people at my end of the table also enjoy ketchup on their hot dogs, for the record.

After 6 hours or so at the table, my back was getting sore from sitting with my arms on the rails (horrible posture), so I racked up and grabbed my coat to leave. As I left the poker area, a guy walks up to me.

"Shelly?" he said.

?!?!?!?!? "Yes.....?"

"I'm Chicago Joe!"

Excellent! It was Chicago Joe, of the Chicago Poker Club forums on (also the home of the Card Club Podcast on Lord Admiral Radio). Too cool! Apparently, the fact that I was wearing my yin-yang poker sweatshirt and was carrying my Flyers jacket tipped off Chicago Joe to my identity. We chatted about some local tournaments (Joe cashed in one this weekend - congrats!), and Joe told me stories of some of the people in poker he's met over the years. I'm so jealous of people who have these great poker histories, ya know? I'm pretty new to the game, only really getting into it along with the rest of the poker booming world. Joe talked of seeing Bruson and Chan win their WSOP bracelets, and playing with Barry Greenstein when he was still a "local" around here. (I didn't know he was from Chicago!) Stories like Joe's are part of a rich poker fabric that I can only marvel at, and hope that my time spent loving the game results in such great stories to tell down the road.

It was great to meet Joe, and I enjoyed playing at Empress. What I enjoyed the MOST was the fact that it only took me 18 minutes to get home :) Woohoooo! I'll definitely go back, but will have to be mindful of the waiting list. It looks like it can be pretty brutal.

It's nice to have money in my poker box again. :)

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  1. CC said...
    Aahh, the sweet smell of live poker. Nice laydowns with TPTK. I'll have to ping you next time I'm headed to the Chicago area.
    Bazkar said...
    Good to hear you made it out to Empress. I had forgot to mention the 11 handed play....definitely something to keep in mind.
    Kudos on the decision to go back to limit.....I'm back to limit for awhile myself....mine is more of a bankroll issue. I can still play my solid aggressive game at the limit table when my bankroll gets a little short but at the NL table I learned I change my game which is no good.

    Good Luck!

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