Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trip report: Hollywood Park at Los Angeles, CA

View from the Hollywood Park parking lot
Whenever I travel, be it for pleasure or business, I make a concerted attempt to experience the local casinos of the area.  This week, I find myself in Los Angeles, California, home of the Lakers, smog and movie stars, among other things.  L.A. also happens to be poker-friendly area, with more than 5 large card rooms in the immediate vicinity.  In planning for this trip, I decided that I would try to visit at least 3 casinos in the 4 nights I would spend out west.

I flew into LAX on Monday, and after an easy flight and quick turnaround on car rental / hotel check-in, I found myself with a free afternoon.  Being that I have had a craving for In-n-Out since my last visit out west 2 years ago, I proceeded to the nearest fast food burger joint for a late lunch.  (If you haven’t had a chance to try In-n-Out, I highly recommend it; fresh ingredients at McDonald’s prices, with FAR FAR FAR better taste and no indigestion.)  Stomach laden with a fresh cheeseburger, French fries, and a diet Coke, I was ready to scratch my live poker itch.  After a quick google map search of casinos nearest to the area, I settled on the closest, Hollywood Park.  I jumped in my rental and headed out.  (BTW, props to Ford for their Ford Focus.  I really like this car.)

I figured that I would be going to a “local” casino, akin to a tribe casino.  As such, Hollywood Park was exactly what I expected.  Entrance to the casino was typical: table games to the left, poker tables to the right, horse track straight ahead.  Once inside, though, I found the casino rules to be totally different than what I had been accustomed to.   There are a few major differences to LA area (and not sure whether it applies to the whole of California) casinos, as well as minor tweaks to the “normal” poker room rules.  I will detail them below in two sections, -EV games and poker.

All of the below description is merely my interpretation and not in any way verified as factual.  It is what I interpreted / understood from my short time in the casino.

  • -EV games

The rules in LA (or California, not sure whether it’s state or local) are that “gambling” is illegal, but games of skill are okay.  Therefore, the house is a conduit for skill games; it charges a “commission” for playing the role as dealer.  Basically, the house / dealer is paid $3 for every hand of blackjack, 3 card poker, etc.  A separate entity, “the bank,” an independent contractor to the casino, provides a bankroll from which to pay the players and collect the players’ losses.  This “bank” entity is a physically separate person, apart from the dealer, who has opted to essentially play the role of the house.

All players have a chance to act as the bank, paying $3 per hand dealt in exchange for the privilege.  Surprisingly, I observed 100% of players playing the role as player, never as bank.  I’d imagine playing the role of bank is akin to playing the craps line; looked upon as unfavorable.  However, I couldn’t help but think that playing as the bank clearly makes the most sense; the more bets / money in action, the lower the $3 commission effectively becomes.  It surely was an interesting twist on table games.

One additional note is that blackjack in Hollywood Park pays 6:5 instead of the normal 3:2.  Again, in my mind, this clearly favors playing to role of bank.
  • +EV games (ala poker)

Hollywood Park poker room; pretty typical (sorry for the blurriness)

My bread & butter…  Poker in LA is simply… well… different.  The first thing I noticed when I sat down at my typical 1 / 2 NL game was the buy in was $40; no more, no less.  20BB?  Really?  Oh yeah; bonus if you fall below $20, you can rebuy to $60.  I don’t get why the 1 / 2 tables have a $40 buy-in cap; perhaps one of the readers can enlighten me with the logic behind it.

With the third hand, I found myself nearly all in pre-flop as I raised to $18 with AQs in the CO after everyone (10 person tables at Hollywood Park) limped to me.  Literally.  Everyone limped.  I would be happy here taking the blinds and moving onto the next hand.  However, a woman who fancied herself a real pro, decided to flat in the SB.  The table folded around and we saw a heads-up flop of 7 x x.  She auto-shipped her remaining $16-18 (guess she’s never heard of checking to the raiser) which I obviously snapped, and was shown the bad luck of her holding A7ss.   However, runner runner Queens to the rescue bailed me out and I now had a workable >50BB stack.  Moreover, she was PISSED, and started SPEWING chips.  She was appalled that I make a call for my stack with nothing but two overcards.  Granted, it did suck for her, but gimme a break; 10BB out of 20BB effective stacks with Ax sooted?  Get over it.  You may as well have shoved pre flop.

Approximately 20 minutes later, I raised from EP with AQs again ($10) and was 3bet  to $20 by the tilted reg middle aged white guy who kept complaining to whomever was listening that I was running my mouth and jabbering way too much.  Seeing that he was just DYING to make a move on me, I decided to 4bet shove for his $40 effective stack.  He hemmed and hawed but made the call.  I was shown A3ss.  Nice hand, sir.  Queen in the window, and I’m almost to a full buy in (100BB).

After spending 45-60 minutes getting my bearings and the lay of the land, I grew bored of 1 / 2 NL $40 which played like limit poker (players would typically raise the blinds to $4) and decided to move up to the 2 / 3 $100 buy in game.  Big time, I know…  Since I moved tables, I could not bring my +$100 stack to the table; I had to pull cash off the table to get to the $100 no more no less buy in rule.  I would wind up walking away up $50 for the night without any major hands or significant decisions.  Overall, though, the 1 / 2 game was EXTREMELY soft, and the 2 / 3 game had soft spots but was more difficult.

A few observations for Hollywood Park: every pot pulls $1 for the bad beat jackpot, regardless of flop or not.  The rake is $5 flat (+$1 for the jackpot), assuming the pot reaches a threshold $$ amount, which I could not determine.  The betting line never seems to be enforced; in fact, I queried a dealer about how a bet is constituted and was told that forward motion constitutes a bet.  Therefore, there is no need to push your bet past the betting line.  Angle shooter, anyone?  Finally, there is neither a dead button nor single blind.  If a player leaves when he / she was supposed to be the button, the would-be big blind posts a big blind (as the new SB), and the would-be UTG position posts a big blind (as the new BB).  The would-be SB posts the SB but receives the button.  What a weird rule.  If a player leaves when he / she was supposed to be the SB, I can’t exactly remember what happens, but it’s just as screwy.

Up next on the trip report: Commerce Casino.


  1. Some screwy rules. Reminds me of Florida poker before they raised the limits. Way to run down A7 with your AQ, ha. Like how you riled up the table; trouble maker.

  2. Good report and thx for the photos.

  3. I thought small on the button when the player on the button sits out was standard in B&M casinos. I don't like the dead button rule because it gives the player previously on the button two hands on the button in a single orbit.


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