The Poker Wilderness: More Tales from Commerce Casino

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.”
–Alan Alda
Fret not gentle reader, although I’ve grown a bit slack in my blog postings, yours truly has been hard at work on my “side project”. I’ve mentioned this a few times previously, and I’m happy to report that this project is finally complete. Check back in a couple days for the story of how this project came to be, how it will help your game, and how to get it. I’ve put a lot of thought, time, and effort into it, so hopefully it’ll translate into some profit and poker knowledge for all of you loyal readers out there. More in a few days about that.
The last couple weeks at Full Tilt Poker have been very busy, and it’s been a lot of fun hobnobbing with some of poker’s big names. The people there are great and extremely dedicated to making the site better, and I really believe we’re going to be the best in the online poker business. All we need is to fill up the barrel with some more fish, and from what I’ve seen, the dead money is starting to filter in. I highly recommend the .5-1, 1-2, and 2-4 no limit games, where the max buy in is 100 times the big blind, allowing you to actually push people off hands and do some bluffing. Contrast this to the PartyEmpire no-limit games where you’re only allowed 50x the BB, which puts a crimp in your style if you like to play serious no limit poker. But I suppose I’m a bit biased.
Let’s start with a quick review of my time at the tables, which has been exclusively at the Commerce Casino over the past couple weeks. The LA Poker Classic has brought everybody and their mama to Commerce, as the World Poker Tour seems to be a magnet for all things poker. It seems that anyone who’s ever been in front of a camera on a poker show can be found wandering around the high-limit section at Commerce if they’re not still alive in the tournament upstairs.
Last weekend, The Film Geek was kind enough to pick me up at my new apartment (Mrs. Double and I have almost finished unpacking after 3 weeks) and make the drive to Commerce. We’d planned to meet the infamous Bill Rini for dinner at 7 before hitting the tables. One problem: FG was stuck in a production meeting, and managed to take a wrong turn along the way, arriving almost two hours late.
After convincing myself that I really should spend some time sharpening up my no-limit game (I’m almost exclusively play limit), I reluctantly decided to play the super-soft $200 buy in no-limit game, and 3 players at my table had over $1500 in front of them. I felt better about passing up the amazing $20-40 game in the next room– if you looked closely, you could actually see the gills pulsating on the necks of the $20-40 players every time they cold called a raise preflop. But every week I see tight players taking 3 or 4 racks of yellow chips (each rack is worth $500) out of this game, and it seemed a shame to be missing out on this. I was not so fortunate, and didn’t get much in the way of cards for a couple hours. But with some bluffing and a couple monster hands, I managed to work my stack up to $500 by about 3 AM on Saturday night.
And then I made my “one big mistake” that I invariably seem to make playing no limit, and lost my entire stack by overplaying Aces against a guy who’d flopped a set of 4s. I guess that’s how you learn, right? Anyway, I managed to win back my losses after changing tables and tripling up at Film Geek’s table. My Aces held up this time, and managed to get me even for the night. My favorite hand of the night, however, came earlier against a middle aged asian man who stared me down for longer than anyone ever has in my life. It went something like this:
I’ve got A3h in middle position, and raise it preflop when it’s folded to me. I was trying to establish a loose aggressive image and felt like I could outplay the maniac in the small blind and the tight middle aged asian guy (MAAG) in the big blind. Everyone folded, and the maniac and MAAG called, so I got what I wanted. The flop came queen high, and both players checked to me. I bet the pot, resolving to fire again on the turn if both players checked again. Maniac folded, but MAAG reluctantly called. The turn was a Jack, and both players checked. I bet the pot and the action was on MAAG. MAAG goes deep into the tank… and I mean REALLY deep. After about a minute of staring at me, he begins looking around at the other players.
MAAG: “I think he’s bluffing.”
MAAG: “What do you guys think?”
(no answer)
MAAG: “But maybe he’s got it.”
MAAG: “Let me get a better look at you.”
(attempts Lederer stare, I stare back amazed)
MAAG: (to maniac) “Do you think he’s bluffing?”
Maniac: “I have no idea.”
MAAG: (looks at short stack) “I think he is. But this is all I have!”
HDouble: “Call then.” (puts on sunglasses)
(MAAG flips over Ace-King)
HDouble: “You’re going to call me with Ace high?”
MAAG: “Take off your sunglasses.”
(HDouble takes off glasses, stares into MAAG’s soul)
(MAAG stares at cards for a long, long time, and finally mucks)
(HDouble Gleefully flips over A3)
MAAG: “You’ve got a good poker face.”
Film Geek somehow managed to get a clock on this whole drama, and confirmed that it took 8 minutes. 8 minutes! Probably the most amazing thing about the whole thing is that not a single player at the table called the clock on the guy. Maybe because it was 4 AM. You just can’t beat the characters at Commerce.
Last night I headed back for more, but I chose to stomp in more comfortable grounds, the $20-40 game. The game was unbelievably good, with 6 players seeing the flop for 2 bets routinely. I found myself rivered by hands such as 43o and 32s (I lost with KK to these hands on the river in monster pots), and was in pretty deep. But I managed to claw my way back and the variance finally swung my way and managed to end up a meager 5 big bets after a grueling 8 hour session. Phil and The Film Geek were there for moral support, periodically checking in from their NL game.
My favorite lines of the night:
–Middle aged guy sits to my left. After one orbit, he whispers to me:
“I haven’t been here in a couple years. This game is unbelievable! It’s like a $2-4 game!”
Me: “Yeah, I guess it’s the whole TV thing.”
Him: “Where do these people get this kind of money?”
Me: “Real Estate?”
Him: “Ahh, yeah, probably.”
–Middle aged woman gets Aces cracked in monster pot. A few hands later she puts her last 8 big bets in the pot that is capped 3 way preflop. Monster pot and a raise war breaks out between two players. She’s trapped in between and gets all in on the turn and runner-runners a straight with no draw on the flop. She beats a set and a pair of kings. The table groans in pain and someone asks how she could call on the flop.
“What, I was going all in no matter what! No one felt bad when I got rivered with Aces!”
Me: “I felt bad!”
Her: “I didn’t mean you!”
–Another middle aged woman has been getting bad beat all night. She remained pleasant however, and even gushed about her conversation with Fossilman in the top section minutes before. In the hand above, it was her flopped set of 8s that got rivered. Her pleasant demeanor immediately vanishes when the other woman shows her straight, and she stands up and turns into the Hulk.
“UN-F**KING-BELIEVABLE! THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” (Commerce’s new policy is to kick you out for cursing) “THIS F**KING GAME IS A JOKE! (pause) YOU WANT TO KICK ME OUT FOR SWEARING??? I DON’T GIVE A F**K!” (the table stares appalled, but no floormen seem to care. She anticlimactically exits in a huff)
So, the games at Commerce have been great but yours truly could only squeeze 5 big bets out of the variance monster. I’ll take it.
The high limit section was rockin, with Doyle ruling over the 2000-4000 game roped off in the corner. The WPT tourney was going on upstairs, and I checked in a few times to see some intense action amongst the best in the world. Toughest lineup I saw: Andy Bloch, Erick Lindgren, and Ted Forrest sitting next to each other at the same table. Murderer’s row.
Check out the chip counts and tourney updates at Poker Wire.
I got a chance to chat with mighty Max Pescatore after his Aces got cracked by Erick Lindgren’s QT when Lindgren was in the big blind with a big stack. Max finished 66th out of 538 of the world’s best, but he wasn’t too down, since he had just won 3rd place in the Best All-Around Player category after two fourth place finishes in the LA Poker Classic. He was headed to blow off some steam at the Chinese Poker tables when we chatted, and he clearly has the right perspective on being a professional poker player. Disappointed about getting his Aces cracked, I consoled him by reminding him how well he had been playing. “Yeah, the results will take care of themselves. What matters is that I’m having fun and playing well.” Check out Max’s Poker Blog for his tournament tales from the past couple of weeks.
A couple quick links. I came across this article and thought it was very relevant to poker:
Science Points to a Sixth Sense
It looks like Doyle was right after all. Although the headline is a bit silly, the important thing about the study is that it confirmed that the human pattern recognition capability goes beyond our ability to explicitly capture what we are doing:
“It appears that this part of the brain is somehow figuring out things without you necessarily having to be consciously aware of it.”
I’ve been arguing for a while that “card sense” and “poker instinct” is little more than this ability to “figure out” the interaction between board cards, betting patterns, and tells. Maybe this study lends a bit of credence to this idea.
Second, be sure to check out my man Dan Mezick’s (creator of Primate Poker) 2+2 post, The Psychology of Full Immersion (thanks to Bill for the link). Dan breaks down a poker player’s commitment to the game into 5 levels, and as usual, is right on the money.
Alright, it’s back to work on the finishing touches on the Side Project. Check back in a couple of days for more details…

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