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I Played Live Poker….Seriously! (Part 2)
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The Dreaded Pocket Whats? (Part 2 of 2) Part 1 is here and we pick up right as I enter the Morongo poker room. I asked about the games.  The electronic waitlist was on display in the casino right above the sign that said "poker room." There were long lists for all the games.  Most of the games had lists longer than the board allowed for names.  There were like 25-35 names for each game.  I did notice that names at the top of each list that had the phrase "called in" after them.  Good to know that they accepted call ins.  I did forget to ask how long they keep the names on the list if you call in. They had one table each of 1/2 ($40-$100), 1/3 ($100-$300), 5/10 ($500-$3K) and 3/6 limit with a kill ($30 min).  There were two tables of 2/5 ($200-$500).  There was also an interest list for 4/8 limit.  Why they kept that, I dunno.  With those long lists and their obviously inability to open a new table, there was no chance any of the existing games would break so that they could start that 4/8 game.  There might also have been some kind of Omaha game running, at this point, I can't quite recall.  The guy at the podium told me they were limited to 8 tables at this point.  I think maybe I saw a semi-private room that might have had a bigger game going, not sure.  All I knew for sure was that they were not able to open any more tables despite the long lists. I was pretty much prepared for this.  I knew I'd have a long wait, and I knew that in order to increase my chances of playing any poker this day I had to get my name on as many lists as possible.  The guy told me I could put my name on multiple lists, and if I was in one game, I could stay on the list of the other games and move if called there. So I put my name on the lists for 1/2, 1/3, 2/5 and the 3/6 limit game.  The 3/6 game was somewhat pointless.  Although that list was only like 20-25 names I think, with only one table I didn't think there was any chance I'd get called any time within three hours.  Limit players tend to last longer than no-limit players. The two longest lists were the 1/2 and the 1/3, both were like 30+.  I didn't think there was any chance of me getting into either one.  Maybe the 1/3 (the one I wanted) because it was actually shorter. Yes, more people wanted to play 1/2 at $40-$100 than 1/3 at $100-$300.  This is Southern CA.  I don't get it either.  By the way, I asked and they have absolutely no promos or bonuses during the weekend (weekdays only).  Also there are no comps!  So no need for me to even bother getting a player's card.  I have been told that the reason players at Bike and Commerce play those $40 buy-in no-limit games is that they are just playing for the bad beat jackpot and trying to hit it for cheap.  But in this room, on the weekend, there was no point in that, you were playing $40-$100 NLH for some other reason.  Most likely, stupidity (or maybe, to be fair, you have a really good short stack game). Also it means I was getting ripped off, since they did take a jackpot rake of a buck a pot while I played, and I had exactly zero chance of getting any of that money back (just slightly less chance than I normally have). For this I blame, of course, Emperor Newsom. My best shot at getting into any game was the 2/5 game.  Not only was it the only game with two tables running, but the list was the shortest one (other than the 5/10 game). I think it had about 17 players in front of me, and the top three were listed as "called in" so they might not even show up. When I had decided to head over there, I knew there was a possibility that my best shot at poker would be the 2/5 game, which as you know I really don't play.  I have played 2/5 a couple of times in Vegas. And of course, I was out of practice, not having played poker of any kind in nearly six months. I had a plan for this.  I was going to buy in for the $200 minimum and play three times as tight as I normally play. In other words, I would wait for pocket Aces and otherwise fold every hand I was dealt. In fact, I texted my buddy Lightning that I was at Morongo and would likely have to play 2/5 or leave without playing a hand of poker. He told me that 2/5 is a very different game than 1/2 or 1/3.  I said, "I'll buy in for the minimum and only play Aces.  Definitely not Kings." So I got on the four lists, gave him my cel number, and took off.  I was told I had to leave the poker room.  There was no waiting in the poker room—again, social distancing—I had to wait outside the room.  When my table was ready, I'd get a text, and I'd have 10 minutes to get back to the room to claim my seat.  OK. I checked out the casino.  I noticed there was a little casual eatery near the poker room, it was packed.  But imagine, a place where you could eat at a restaurant indoors in CA. Native Americans 1, Emperor Newsom 0.  There was also a food court as well.  They had a Fatburger, a Panda Express and a bunch of no-name places (at least, I didn't recognize the names). There was an Italian place that advertized both pizza and pasta.  Between that and the Fatburger, I'd be set if I wanted to eat there.  Again, indoors!  Take that, Emperor!They didn't really have a lot of table game action. Maybe that's because the cheapest blackjack I saw was $25.  The only thing cheaper was some of the other table games, 3-Card poker and what-not, some of which was $15 minimum. I had no interest in any of that. Nor did I have any interest in the slots.  Funny, as much as I love Vegas, as often as I've been there, I never really enjoyed playing slots and hardly ever do. I've always found it quite boring.  And also bankroll draining.  Even video poker has no appeal to me. So I didn't play anything.  I just walked around and then found a seat at an unused slot machine near the poker room and sat and waited for a chance to play poker.  I watched the board and went over close to it every so often to see how I was progressing.  Initially my name didn't even make it on the board for the 1/2 or 1/3 games, but eventually I was at the very bottom.  But I could see I was getting close on the 2/5 board. And eventually, after about an hour, I got texted to come to the room….it was for the 2/5 game of course.  OK, time to test that short stack strategy.  To be honest, I felt so rusty I wasn't sure I had any strategy for any game. As planned, I bought in for $200 and took my seat.  It was seven-handed with the plexiglass dividers as advertised.  The dividers didn't bother me at all, perhaps because I was right next to the dealer.  But between the dividers and the masks, there wasn't much chatter at the table.  But who knows, it might have been that I didn't have a particularly talkative table. Now the trouble with 7-handed isn't that 7-handed per se is bad, it's that if there is a player or two missing you are really very, very short.  And for long periods there was at least one player gone, sometimes two.  I heard one guy ask and he was told you could be away from the table for 45-minutes and still keep your seat.  I've complained about that at full-ring 9-handed games, but for 7-handed that's just absurd.  But it is what it is.  At least I can say that while I was playing, no one person was away from the table very long. I wanted to get total trash hands for at least a few orbits so I could fold and try to learn the table.  So of course I got pocket 9's in one of the first hands I was dealt. I was in early position.  I just limped to see what would happen. Someone made it $25.  I shrugged and called.  It was heads up, The flop was Queen-high.  We both checked. We both checked a blank turn, and a blank river.  He showed pocket 10's to take it.  I suppose in my normal 2/3 game I might have bet the turn and taken it.  Or maybe he would have called and I've lost more money. I folded a few more times and then, in the small blind, the last hand I wanted to see showed up.  Of course I mean the dreaded pocket Kings.  Yep, I suppose the fates demanded it.  Trying to play three times tighter than normal, I was destined to get pocket Kings, and so early yet.  I'd played 10 minutes of poker in the past six months, and there they were.  And here I was playing with the big boys, in a 2/5 game that I never play. Well I promised Lightning I'd muck them, but of course I did not. A late position player raised to $15 and the button called.  As much as I am spooked with this hand, of course even I would automatically three-bet there.  But….but…..it was pocket Kings.  I was in a bigger game.  I was out of practice (do I need to be in practice to mess up pocket Kings?).  So I played chicken-shit.  No, I didn't muck them (sorry Lightning).  I just meekly called. The flop was Q-4-4 and I checked. The preflop raiser checked but the button bet $20 and I called, the other guy called.        The turn was a 3, I checked, the next guy checked and the button bet $50.  I figured he likely just had a Queen.  I called.  The other guy folded. The river was a blank.  I checked, the other guy thought about betting but finally checked and showed a Queen.  I flipped my Kings to take the pot, leaving the other guy to wonder if I was perhaps the biggest nit in Riverside county. But it was a nice pot and I was up about $75 for the moment. Of course I should have three-bet pre.  But based on the post flop action, I think it's a safe bet if I had, I would have taken the pot down right there and made less money.  That's not to say I played it right, just that my absurd meekness paid off that one time. Editorial comment: As I was proofing this post, it occurred to me that I should refer to Gavin Newsom as "King Newsom" rather than "Emperor Newsom." (Wait for it) After all, I've seen many detractors of his refer to him as King on Twitter. My thought tho was that I wanted to be a bit original and Emperor sounds more self-important than King.  However, if I had called him King Newsom, I could from now on refer to Pocket Kings as "Pocket Newsoms."  And that would give me one more reason to hate them. The dreaded pocket Newsoms?  What do you think? Much later, I got pocket Jacks in early position and made it $25.  There was one call.  The flop was Ace-Queen-x.  Ugh.  Hoping he had a smaller pocket pair and missed, I decided to c-bet $20, but he called.  The turn was blank and I checked, as did he.  The river was another blank and after my check, he bet $85.  I folded.  Did I let him steal it?  Perhaps.  I wondered if a turn bet would have ended things.  I'll never know. I got pocket 9's on the button.  It folded to me so I bet $15 and took it down. I got pocket 9's again (third time this day!) and called $20.  It was three-way.  Ace-high flop, there was no betting. The turn was a 10 and I folded to a big bet. I got deuce-4 in the big blind and there was no raise, one limper so three of us saw the flop.  No one bet the flop, which did have a deuce on it.  The turn was a Jack so I bet $5 on my deuce.  One call.  No bet on a blank river.  I showed my deuce, and the guy didn't show.  I think he was hoping to win with Ace-high. That's all the hands I noted.  Now I should mention that after playing at this game about an hour or so, I got texted that my 1/3 seat was ready.  I decided to stay where I was.  I was getting tired from the long ride out there, and figured I wouldn't be staying much longer. But I did note that even with that ridiculously long list and just one table, I could have gotten into the 1/3 game after about two hours of waiting. Plus, I had noticed something about this table.  I don't think it was at all a typical 2/5 game.  As nitty as I was playing, nobody else was all that aggro.  I actually wondered if most of the players were really 1/3 players who were all, like me, playing the bigger game because there was less of a wait for it.  Or maybe, like me, playing more cautiously because they were out of practice. Seriously there was not a lot of three-betting, no really aggro moves, and very few all-ins.  I was holding my own, honestly. When I was ready to call it quits, I was down $15 for the session. I was actually pretty happy about that. Let me some a few words (ha!) about the safety protocols that were in effect. I already mentioned the temperature checks at the door.  Anytime anyone left a game, someone came by and sanitized the area he had left.  New decks were replaced every dealer change.  One thing I noticed—and I have no idea if this new or standard for Morongo—there were no automatic shufflers.  I had wondered if all the hand sanitizer would get on the cards and muck up the shufflers but they were hand shuffling so no issue (there was no space for a auto shuffler at least on the table I was at, so maybe they never used them). And the dealer also sanitized their whole area every time a new one pushed in. It was quite impressive.  Of course, I became super paranoid and made the mistake of ordering a bottle of water instead of a diet coke. The thing is, I had to pull down my mask every time I took a sip, and also had to use two hands to open the water, and I realized that I didn't want to do any of that without sanitizing my hands every time first.  There was a bottle of hand sanitizer behind my table on some kind of bar that was otherwise unused that I kept getting up to use. Of course, you were not allowed to eat at the table. Even before I sat down to play, I realized there was absolutely no reason at all that Bike, or Commerce, or my Ventura room, couldn't reopen this very day using the very same safety protocols. Of course someone could get the virus there, but they had greatly minimized the chances. It is ridiculous that those card rooms are still closed, and also ridiculous that you can't eat indoors in a restaurant anywhere in CA outside of an Indian casino.  You go, you Native Americans! I left feeling quite happy about finally getting out, getting to a public place and getting to play some poker again, even if it wasn't my preferred game. It was the best I've felt mentally in a long, long time. Also, I rather enjoyed saying, "F*** you, Gavin Newsom."
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