Friday, August 6, 2010

2010-08-05 Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races

A few friends and I decided to hit up the new poker room at Charles Town, WV.  With the economic downturn / gambling boom, there have been numerous poker rooms and casinos popping up all throughout the east coast.  Thursday night being a school night (no off Friday the following day :-( ), we chose to check it out, since it was close enough (about 1 hour away) that we could go there after work and return home at a "reasonable" hour.  Although the drive going took a bit more than 1 hour from my house, it was far shorter going home (since we knew where we were going) and fairly convenient.

The welcoming sign the road; very regal!
The casino
Me in line to get on the waitlist in my
poker uniform: Royal blue collared
shirt to subdue the natives.
The casino was fairly dingy; dimly lit with cigarette smoke filling the air.  The casino is supposed to be brand new, but styled in 40's fashions; picture bright light billboards and old timey banks and old timey cinemas.  I know it's tough to describe; you kinda have to see it for yourself in order to get the picture.  It was nothing spectacular; I would liken it to any other typical themed casino, except with the theme of Hollywood (I guess that's what they were going for when they designed it... who knows).  The clientele was a good mix at the table games, though the slots seemed to be a bunch of retirees hoping to eek out a bit more on their social security checks.  I'll paint the typical visual of an old lady with an oxygen canister hooked up to her nose, but the cigarette hanging out of her mouth... ash so long that you wonder how it's not falling off into the slot machine coin catch area...

The poker room
The empty poker room waiting for
action to start
A quick background for those who don't know, the Charles Town poker room does not open until 8:00pm (I think they're on a probationary period from the state) and closes at 4:00am during the week.  People line up to waitlist themselves until they can be seated, starting at around 7:50pm.  To begin, simply finding the poker room was a task in and of itself.  It is tucked away in the back of the casino, upstairs, by the horse track betting window.  I guess they figure that we're as degenerate as the horse bettors, so why not locate them together?  Although I was appreciative that it was away from the smoke of the casino, I would prefer it to be located within line-of-site of the casino such that we may be able to get a few "lucky winners" at the tables, from time to time...  Alas, we arrived at 6:45pm and got online to register for the waitlist.  They started taking names from the line at 7:00 - and it moved very quickly.  By my estimate, there were about 75 people in line for what would turn out to be 17 tables to open Thursday.  Once my friends and I registered, we were free to go & get dinner so long as we returned prior to our tables getting called.

The food court
Wow.  What highway robbery!  The food was decent, but awfully expensive for what it was.  I decided to get the Beef Chow Fun from the Chinese-themed restaurant.  $13 was my cost for the food - a personal serving of the dish.  I thought that was exorbitant, but I guess most players use comp points and don't really care?  Whatever - I had food in me, and I was ready to roll.  My buddy got a $6 beef panini & $3 Red Bull, which he said was decent as well.

The players, the play and seating
A typical poker table at CTRS
We got back up to the poker room at approx. 8:00, as names were being called to each table.  I think they had gone through 2 tables worth of names (20 people) prior to our arrival.  Logically, they sat the higher stakes tables, first.  Clearly, the 1/2 games, for which myself and my friends were registered, were the most popular, but were the last to be seated.  They sat a 3/6 limit game(?!?!?!?) ahead of us.  Regardless, I would settle into my seat at approx. 8:30pm.

A quick background on CTRS (Charles Town Races & Slots) poker room:  They charge $6 / hour seat time rental in lieu of rake.  This coincides with the California poker rooms, though I think CA is a bit cheaper for seat time.  That rental time will just eat you alive if you're not involved in many pots and not seeing any hands!  After the first two hands, they had a dealer change and I had to pony up my $6 along with the rest of the table.  Although I had not taken part in any pots (limped or blinded), I was already facing a $6 loss, which was not a good feeling.  The way they run things, every 30 minutes, the table gets a dealer change and the house collects their $6, so the goal is to get as many hands as possible per hour.  You *WANT* the dealer to move the game along.  You want the players to be aware, ready and act quickly.  In this game, literally, time is money.

Regardless, the tables were very comfortable - felt was firm, side rail was plush and seats were firm and comfortable.  The chips were real clay chips, unlike the Delaware Park "home game" feeling chips with metal inserts.  The tables were a bit on the small side; although I didn't feel cramped, I did feel like I was right on top of the table at all times.  I'd imagine site lines were very good from all seats, though I sat in the 5 seat, with a good view of all players and the community cards.

A quick aside, while I have my thoughts in order: they make new players to the table post to play, which is somewhat stupid.  If I were playing there, and I'm sitting down to a table already in play, the only way I'm posting is if I missed the half hour rental.  That way, I'm getting a discount for my play.  I saw a guy post the $2 blind + pay the $6 rental in the same hand, which, to me, was a bad use of funds.  Had he waited for the blind, he would have missed the rental as well.

Anyway, back to the review and to sum up: they don't comp points yet.  You can get rail alcohol for free... sodas & water are free as well.  Premium alcohol & Red Bull cost money - Red Bull is $5 at the poker room, but $3 in the food court ldo...  The first two dealers on the night were awful.  We had 3 misdeals in the span of 1 hour.  One misdeal was where he dealt the BTN as the first player...  WTF?  Another misdeal was where the dealer gave a player another player's cards, but then attempted to give the other player who was missing a card the top of the deck card...  WTF?  Call the MISDEAL and move on!  Don't cover up your mistake.  There was one particular decent dealer - an Asian lady who was new to dealing, but she was quick, efficient, and always turned over cards when one player would show another player his holdings.  She knew her rules and made sure they were followed - only complaint about here was that she wasn't confident in the enforcement.  She stated "show one show all," but waited for acknowledgment from the player in question prior to showing.  I have no doubt she'll become more confident.

What else?  Hmmm...  Oh - a quick WWYD if you'd like, though this is a loaded one because I know my opponent's hole cards.  I think this is a fairly easy decision; perhaps the issue lies in the way I played the hand, but here goes:

Limping table, and I limp KsQs in MP1 position.  It limps around to the CO who raises to $9.  Everyone and their brother calls and 8 player see a flop of Ax Kx Ts.  The BB leads for $20 (prolly a $180 stack) and I call ($225 stack) as does the player to my left (covers us both), who was a tight, fairly knowledgeable old guy - 100% live good 'ol boy who has probably been playing since he was 20.  Turn is a 3s, giving me 9 outs to a flush + my gut shot + what I perceive to be a possible trip Kings...  I can't count the pairing of the Q as my two pair would make a 4 straight, FWIW.  Regardless, BB leads for $25 (I call) and old guy pushes the action to $50 on top.  BB calls and I call (with $110 remaining).  River is an off-suit (obviously) Q.  Checks to me and I check.  Old guy says all in.  BB folds.  Hero?

Click to see results

I folded; I can't figure that my 2 pair are worth a stack and an eighth.  Had the river been a spade, I'd obviously be all in, but I can't put old dude on anything less than Aces-up... and likely much stronger than that given the river 4 straight.  As it turns out, old dude flopped the straight; he was holding QJ.

In closing, the players seemed to be *MUCH* better than Delaware Park.  They were far more aggressive, yet I don't believe they truly understood hand strengths and relative hand strengths...  about typical of what you'd see in your standard AC player I guess.  Perhaps my view is tainted from the fact that I was card dead the whole night and walked out with a $10 loss :-(, but I'm generally immune to those things - I've seen enough poker to know streaks happen.  Regardless, I'm not in any rush to get back there; I don't like the cigarette smoke and definitely don't like the way they do rake.  FYI for those keeping track: I wound up winning 2-3 pots the whole night; I would have "paid" $11 in rake for those 3 pots, but I wound up paying $36 in seat time for the 3 hours I was there.


  1. *Meant to say that I likely should have folded on the turn raise to $75. We have $~100 at that point, and I *WILL* get paid if the flush hits, but is 26% equity worth it?

  2. A note about the rake -- I'd generally prefer a $6/hr time charge to the NorCal rake structure.

    Honestly, I've been playing mostly home games lately, but I believe the local casinos are now up to $5-$6 rake a hand. In NLHE, that's a lot of cash unless you play super tight. I always estimate 30 hands/hr with me winning my fair share (3/hr) -- a $12 time charge is much better than the $15-18, plus it doesn't take half the pot when you see the flop with only one other guy.

    General rule is, if you win a lot of pots, the time charge is better, if you don't win many pots, the rake is better.

    I'd love to hear other opinions though!


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