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I Played Live Poker….Seriously! (Part 2)



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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