Card craps or crap cards?

“Because Dickens and Dostoevsky and Woody Guthrie were telling their stories much better than I ever could, I decided to stick to my own mind.”
–Bob Dylan
Can blogging cure a post-birthday hangover? With Bob Dylan “Live 1964” (birthday present) in the background, some coffee, and the clacking of the keyboard, I’m feeling better already. Plenty of Guinness bottles to recycle, as many were hoisted in honor of not only my 27th b-day, but also to honor the mighty Ignatius, who finally got what he deserved with a brilliant performance Saturday. I’ll wait for Iggy’s writeup, and say only that he did the poker bloggers proud. Thanks to all the birthday wishes everybody left in the comments.
Where the Morons Go
Friday night marked the annual birthday trip to the casino. Last year the wife and I made it all the way to Vegas, but since she had to work this weekend, we could only make the 2 hour drive to the nearest Indian Casino, which is appropriately named “Casino Morongo”. Apparently Morongo is the name of the tribe, but the games offered are suspiciously moronic.
The most moronic was “Card Craps”, and since all the blackjack tables were full, I actually got a chance to play this new and idiotic game. But first an explanation gambling law and Indian Casinos in California is required in order to understand why this bizarre game exist.
Like other states, the only place where Casinos are legal is on an Indian reservation. But in California, card rooms are legal, where poker and several table games are offered. The legality of the card room games is based on who the gambler is playing against. It is illegal for the gambler to play against the house in a card room, so the blackjack games there must be played against “the bank”, usually a prop for the casino with a big bankroll who can cover the swings. These blackjack games aren’t the typical game either– the game is set up so that the house has a huge edge… the rules are bizarre: there are Jokers in the deck, you can still win if you go over 21, etc. So when you see a guy with a pin that says “I play for BOB’S BANK”, you know the odds are stacked against you. Don’t ever play these games in California or otherwise.
Since slots and “real” blackjack are not allowed in card rooms, LA residents are forced to drive 2 hours to the nearest Indian casino. However, the Vegas thugs managed to prevent Roulette and Craps from being played in California. To circumvent this, the Indian casinos have recently created “Card Craps,” an imitation of Craps that uses cards rather than dice to take players’ money. After counting cards for a while at blackjack tables full of 18 year olds (Indian casinos are happy to take your money at age 18), I was able to double up after an hour or so, but got tired of the pondering that went on when a kid was faced with the decision to hit or stand on 15 against the dealers 8 (hit idiot!), with a whopping $5 on the table. So I took my $100 win and went over to the Card Craps table. On top of the blackjack win, Mrs. Double ran by about 10 minutes after arrival, and stuffed a Franklin into my hand, screaming “I won $170” and sprinting back to the slots. Happy Birthday indeed.
Instead of rolling dice, the craps “dealer” had a blackjack shoes in front of each hand. The shoes were filled with cards ranging from Ace to 6, and each “roll” consisted of simultaneously pulling a card from each deck. I determined that the odds were the same as regular craps, and wondered if you could actually obtain an edge from counting this game (I believe the answer is yes, but only a tiny edge). Unlike craps with dice, there is no flow to this game– the dealer just continuously whips out the cards, and there is barely time to get your bet on the table. I quickly lost half my money playing coin-flip bets on the 6 and 8. I wanted to leave, but couldn’t see any empty seats at the blackjack tables, so went for broke after hitting a couple 8s. No more birthday luck for me, and I left down $50 or so.
On to video poker, fighting through crowds of drunken gamblers to finally find a decent machine. Lost my $50 after an hour or so, but I did have the joy of witnessing a wonderful exchange between an older couple:
Guy with a cane walks up to the machine next to me, stinking of whiskey and funk. Puts in $5, and is yelled at by the wife: “You’re drunk!” she screams at him, and walks away. He breathes liquor fumes in my face, “She thinks I’m drunk!”, and cashes out before even playing a hand, limping after her as fast as he can. She does a lap around the row of machines, and comes back a minute later, whacking the “cash out” button. I look over, and she shamefully mumbles “Oh, uhh, I wanted to make sure he already cashed out.” My trips never turns into 4 of a kind after about 10 tries, and I quickly leave the scene.
Where is a positive EV gambler to go? I found my way into the poker room, in which every seat was filled, and a bunch of younger guys were standing around waiting for a seat. I tried to get into the NL $100 buy in game, but it was full. I was told the $8-16 game had a seat, and a quick survey of the participants showed a nice mix of fish: a couple young drunks, and weak-tight looking older players. I grabbed the seat, feeling good to be back at a table where the odds were clearly in my favor.
AQ on the first hand, raise it up, got a couple of callers, and everyone folded when the ace flopped. Hmm, maybe the table is a little tight, but ok. I play tight for a while, and after a player wins two hands in a row, the Kill Button flips over and I realize that this would be the first kill pot I have ever played. For the uninitiated, a kill pot happens when a player has won two hands in a row, at which points the limits double, and the winner of the last hand posts an additonal blind.
These kill pots are great, since you have $8-16 players playing $16-32, and not properly adjusting their play. The players at my table did tighten up considerably in kill pots, but overly so. In my best play of the night, I used my tight table image to steal a kill pot. I had the kill, and put in the extra $8 to see the flop with JTo and 3 limpers. The flop came 8 high, and I bet out, knowing that nobody had hit their hand and my raises would get respect. Everybody folded, and I took down a nice pot.
Tight play and quality big-card starting hands were good to me. I flopped top pair several times, and played my AK like AA to win a decent pot on the turn when the board showed J J T 7. I ran my $300 buy in up to $540 after an hour, and I was happy to have escaped the masses of card crappers and bad blackjack players. The wife couldn’t get there soon enough– it was late and I was running out of steam, and I kept glancing towards the poker door hoping to see her smiling face. But she was hypnotized by the flashing lights and mellifluous tones of the slot machines (the guys that make those things are the best marketers that have ever lived). The cards went cold, and I played super tight for the next hour.
Finally, she showed up, and I breathed a sigh of relief– nice to go home with a good win. As you can see, I’m a little overprotective of my wins, especially when I felt that I was the best player at the table. Anyway, the last hand comes around (gotta play till the blinds), I’m UTG and it’s a kill pot. I see AQo, and raise it up, hoping everybody folds and I can go home with a couple extra Big Bets. Perfect–everybody folds to the kill pot, who calls (uh oh). The flop is T 4 4, and he checks to me. I bet out, and he check-raises. Huh? He was pretty tight, so I figured him for JJ or KK, since I held an A and Q, and I didn’t see him raising if he held a Ten, and didn’t see him calling with AT or worse. I called, planning to fold if the turn didn’t help me (now $128 in the pot). Turn was a rag, and when he bet out, my brain malfunctioned. Maybe I was tempting the fates, but I called with my 6 out draw in the hopes of a birthday gift from the Poker Gods.
And they gave it to me– an Ace on the river. But when he bet out, I heard the poker gods laughing, and just called, only to be shown TT for the flopped boat. That one horrible play cost me $120, and I went home still up $120, but stinging from the final hand. That’s what happens when you play tired, and your mind has already left the poker room.
Anybody near Casino Morongo should definitely stop by the poker room– the rake is reasonable, the players are bad, and there’s lots of money to go around. Just make sure you don’t lose your focus on that infamous “last hand”.
Put me in Coach
After talking a while with my best friend since forever, it seemed his attitude towards poker had changed, and there was potential here. Monk is one of the smartest people I’ve met, but he’s a bit headstrong, and his previous dabbling in poker has resulted in too many hubris-filled attempts to outplay weaker players. I don’t care how smart you are, in low-limit poker, the cards do the talking. But Monk has had a small epiphany, and he seems ready to put in the time and effort to learn how to play disciplined poker. I’ve agreed to be his mentor, and in the upcoming weeks, I’ll be tracking his play and investing in him. We reviewed some hands in PokerTracker today, and next up is an overall strategy session. After that I’m letting him loose on 2 $1-2 tables to determine if he’s got the discipline to beat these games. He’s one of the best people-readers that I’ve met, so I think he has a big future if he can survive enough hands to absorb the patterns of the low limit world. We’ll see if the investment is a good one.
Poker Blog Patrol
Newcomer JD at Cheap Thrills has started off with a bang, excellent stuff there (as usual, thanks Iggy for the pointer). JD weighs in on why he plays poker:
“I’m going to be honest and say that one of the reasons I enjoy poker is its gambling element. Some folks deny that poker is gambling, saying that it’s a game of skill. I think too many people think of the word “gambling” as a pejorative, associating it only with casino games that are stacked against the player. But I don’t want to get into semantics or legal distinctions. Of course there’s a huge skill element in poker. But there’s also a gambling/chance element. Once AK has gone all-in against a medium pair in a tourney, it’s a gambling moment, and that has its appeal. I think one of the main reasons the WPT has become so popular is that it affords many viewers who know little about poker but enjoy gambling many vicarious thrills. By and large the skill in poker is recognizing and pouncing on the right gambles, and again, self-discipline is needed to temper the appeal of trusting in Lady Luck at the poker table.”
TiltedLitt is another brand new blogger and talks about the $.50-1 insanity on PartyPoker. Litt is playing from Taiwan, so it’s a lot tougher for him to find the juicy games:
“Now, with the return of Daylight Savings Time, the fish have another hour of sleep before I chase after them. So 8 PM Taiwan Time is 8 AM East Coast time, or 5 AM West Coast Time.”
Grubette crushed the $4-8 game at Hawaiian Gardens, and was planning to use her winnings to buy something nice for herself. Not a laptop, not an entry into a multi, but a DRESS. Surprisingly practical, from the sister of the multi-table king.
BG offers the quote of the month, heckling a fish in a SNG with Iggy and Pauly:
“Boygza: no one expects the spanish inquisition”
The Penguin is back after a long hiatus, offering up a stellar post– the seven deadly sins of poker:
“Pride is excessive belief in one’s own abilities, it has been called the sin from which all others arise. There are few poker mistakes that can’t be traced back to pride. Playing above your bankroll – Pride. Trying to buy a pot against fish because you’re a tight player – Pride. Fancy Play Syndrome – Pride. Playing hands out of position because you think you can make them work – Pride. Calling down with a beaten hand so people won’t think you’re weak – Pride. If I could get rid of one fault from my game, it would be pride.”
One of my favorite blogs hasn’t been updated much recently, which means that the blogger is either (a) abstaining from blogging for lent, (b) overwhelmed with work, or (c) drunk. Let’s hope its (c) and the updates roll in next week.
Alcan Thang reports on his first live tournament. No Moneymaker-like results, but it sounds like he played an excellent game, but the it wasn’t in the cards for him that day.
Paulsburbon takes us on a trip through the mind of a no-limit player. His post just showed me how far my NL game is behind my limit game:
“A lot of players will put in a check here or a small bet not wanting to scare anyone away. I bet big and a semi-pro will say to himself. He doesn’t have the spade he’s looking to buy the pot. If he has any spade or even top pair he might call a pot sized bet or raise to see if I have the spade. He just calls almost immediately and the small blind folds. River brings the four of clubs and I fire off another pot sized bet.( this was a mistake by me. I should have over bet the pot because if he was in for a $70 bet than he would be in for more if I was looking to get paid on this pot) Sure enough he calls right away and shows jack of clubs ten of spades and mucks it.”
I’m off to the tables and then to the Poker Blogger Tourney, which may ended up shorthanded due to the holiday. I guess all poker players aren’t pagans after all…

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