|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.