Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trip Report: Hustler Casino

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally broke through with a decent win at the Commerce Casino.  I followed up my win at Commerce with a nice session at Hustler.  The Hustler Casino is quite a bit closer to my hotel, so I decided to head out for dinner prior to my session.  Since I was in the mood for sushi, the front desk recommended a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Sakura Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Los Angeles.  I highly recommend it; prices were incredibly cheap and the food was very good - particularly for the price.

Entrance to the Hustler Casino
Stomach filled, I headed out to Larry Flynt's casino.  The casino is somewhat small, with an understated entrance.  I was figuring there would be tons of neon, bright lights and half-dressed women roaming the property, akin to what I'd imagine the Playboy mansion is like.  At any rate, I was not there to check out women nor party it up; I was there to make some money.

The poker floor at Hustler Casino
Consistent with the exterior, the interior was pleasant and clean, but smaller than the cavern I had seen at the Commerce on the prior night.  The buy in structures for Hustler are different, as well.  They offered a 1 / 3 game (I think; perhaps it was 1 / 2) with a lower buy in, but 2 2 / 5 games - one with a $100 - $300 buy in and one with a $300 - $500 buy in.  I opted for the 2 / 5 $300 buy in game, starting with $200.

Having had one prior experience with a 2 / 5 game, the players at this game seemed unlike prior players I have encountered.  The action was typically loose passive - players limp / calling large raises to check / fold cbets.  I got nice value from JTs to a pocket second pair on a Jack high board, and stacked a player with a turn check / raise where I flopped a set to another player's AA (which totally tilted him, FTW!), but other than that, I had very few decisions.  The one "threat" at the table wound up quitting, leaving me as the table aggro.

A few observations: In this game, I would constantly raise my button to the limpers - a price of $40 would force the limpers to fold, as they were not keen on playing a large pot out of position.  In this game, players were able to fold their hands a lot easier than the 2 / 3 or 1 / 2 games I have played.  Finally, I walked away with a decent profit of $475 for the 3-4 hours of play - not a bad profit for a Wednesday night.

The coolest thing about the night, though, was a fellow player who was involved with movie production - a contractor who started a company applying EVMS to movie schedules / costs.  This is in my bailiwick as an engineer, so my interest was definitely piqued.  We exchanged emails and he'll hopefully contact with future opportunity.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trip Report: Commerce Casino in Los Angeles

The Hustler Casino and Crowne Plaza Hotel
 Continuing on my second night of my trip, I decided to make the 20 minute drive to the largest poker room in the world, the Commerce Casino.  Let me say that it is HUGE!  According to their website, there are more than 200 tables.  I was surprised to see that for a Tuesday night, it was jammed; I estimated a good 70% of the tables were in action.
Entrance to the casino; seems legit, no?
The configuration of the casino was a section of table games sandwiched between 2 huge poker floors catering to cash games.  Apparently, there is an additional poker floor on another level, open for the tournaments regularly hosted.  This place was clearly huge, but given the setup, it did not have an overwhelming feel like I'd imagine the basement of the Rio feels like during the WSOP.
Inside the NL poker room
Upon finding a table (a quick process; the floor manager found me a seat almost instantly), I immediately noticed that the chairs are TERRIBLE.  In addition to the padding being worn down, the chairs were of the 4-legged variety, i.e. no swivel, no wheels, no height adjustment.  To compensate for the harsh padding, there are wedge pads readily available at random empty seats which you can grab to "soften" the crunch to your rear end.  In my case, though, for the 3-4 hours I would be playing, I thought the seats were bearable.  However, given a longer session, frequent breaks are absolutely necessary because you could likely develop bed sores (I joke), but you really would need to get up and stretch your legs.
The limit / high limit poker floor
Commerce has a buy in and blind structure similar to Hollywood Park.  Its rules are consistent with Hollywood as well (missed weird button / SB rules, betting line, etc.).  This time, I immediately sat down to a 2 / 3 blind structure with a $100 buy in, not wasting time at the 1 / 2 $40 tables.  It was a good choice; the first table was filled with mostly passive limpers, coupled with 2 aggressive types.  I sat in the 1 seat, and took note that the 9 seat (it seems that all poker tables in CA are 9-person tables) was playing every single hand, calling far too lightly, and playing hands to the river.  I would sit and wait for a playable hand prior to getting involved with Mr. Station.

It wasn't too long  until I picked up 99 on the button.  Mr. Station, in the CO opted to limp, as has been his habit.  I also had one other limper, an aggro who was a limp weak- / raise strong- hands type person.  I immediately popped the $3 blind to $16 ($115 effective stacks) and lost the aggro.  Mr. Station called and we saw a HU flop of J 7 3 rainbow, about as dry as it gets.  Mr. Station checked to me and I led for ~$25 into ~$40, to which he called.  The turn was an x (can't remember, but it wasn't an overcard to the board and it 2 flushed the board), and he checked again.  I continued to bet ~$40 and he called once again.  The river paired the board (3, it must have been), and he decided to shove all in for his remaining ~$40...  No decision snap call for me, and I scooped a decent pot for a second pair holding.  He showed K7o FTW!  From that point, I was off and did not slow down.

I would go on to build a $186 profit at the table and decided to move when Mr. Station quit and the table got far tighter / aggro.  I switched briefly to a table where I lost ~$10 of my new $100 stack (remember you can't sit down with more than a buy in at a new table in which the player requests a table change) in an orbit before reading the table for similar aggro.  I saw the table behind me was chatty, noisy and cheering for hands to hold, etc.  I knew that this kind of table is the table I'm after; players who care what happens after the money goes all in.  I spotted an empty seat and immediately switched.

At my new "home card game" table, I immediately took an aggressive line, 3-betting  and raising all in with my $100 stack.  I 3bet with AQ against an EP raiser who I read for weak.  He called / folded to my cbet shove.  I raised QQ and collected a family pot of limped blinds.  I was all in on the flop with J9s against a flop of T 8 x ss - and doubled up my initial ~$100 with the flush on the turn (against T4o - overvalue hands much?).  Finally, I was confronted with the only real decision of the night:

Given my reputation as the table bully / table captain / table aggromaniac (and I'm not usually in that spot in live poker), I raised to $25 with AQs in the CO against a table full of limpers.  By this time, I had an effective stack of ~$250 and started to tighten up, as I'm not entirely loving the thought of shoving a ~100BB stack pre-flop without a truly decent starting hand.  The SB flatted and the BB shoved all-in - a stack of nearly $300 (he has me covered).  The UTG instantly calls with his shortish ~$60 and I'm faced with a decision for my stack.  As you may have gathered, I'm not loving the thought of, at best, flipping for my stack, so after a fair amount of time, I folded.  In addition, I was not loving the tightish flat from the SB, his first such move in my series of raises.  Anyway, it turns out that the SB snaps and I would have been up against 77 (SB), JJ (BB) and T9s (UTG).  K QQ flop and blanks on the turn and river - the BB scoops a $580 pot and he's feeling pretty smug.  I am silently cursing myself for not having the balls to call of the raise - particularly once I get more hands on the SB who turns out to be an ABC player.

Anyway, I would end the night $425 to the positive.  The Commerce Casino trip marks my first decent live session win in about 2 months.

Up next on the trip report is Larry Flynt's Hustler Casino.  Stay tuned :-).

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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Graduate school acceptance!

I got in!  Go me!

Friday, July 1, 2011

L.A. / El Segundo area poker rooms?

I have a business trip scheduled for July 11 - 15 to El Segundo / Los Angeles.  I'll be staying approx. 5 minutes from LAX.  Does anyone have any suggestions for poker rooms in the area?  Best I could find, there are two casinos immediately in the vicinity:

Larry Flynt's Hustler Club
Hollywood Park

If I drive a bit further away, I can go to the world's largest poker room, the Commerce Casino.  Nearby to Commerce, I can opt to go to the Bicycle Club.

In prior business trips, I think I've been to the Bicycle Club, but don't recall it being particularly memorable.  Obviously, the Bike & Commerce are world famous and have quite a bit of history - places where Johnny F'ing Chan and Barry Greenstein, among others, cut their teeth.  However, is the walk down memory lane / homage worth it?  I'd imagine that the time difference between the two closest casinos and the two better casinos is around 30 minutes in L.A. traffic.


P.S.  Of course, whatever the decision, you'll get a trip report.  Hopefully, I'll have the time to visit each of the rooms at least once, so I'll come back laden with pictures and recaps of the players.

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