Monday, August 29, 2022

Buying in for $1,000 at Graton


They should call this place The Palace!

I made my first trip ever to Graton Casino on a recent Sunday afternoon and I was impressed. It had the scale and feel of an on the strip Vegas casino, but it looked like a Saturday night in there on a Sunday at 1 pm with 2/3 of the 3,000 (!!) slot machines in use. 

The Poker Room (not pictured: a decent view of the poker tables)

I heard from the friends I was with who were Graton regs that you get $25 in free slot play if you sign up for a players card so I did. When I got to the poker room I discovered that you give them your card when you want to be added to the list for a game, your phone number is tied to your card and they text you when your seat is ready. The only options were $4/$8 limit, and $1/3 or $3/5 no limit.


I got called for the $4/$8 first. Looking at these chips triggered a memory from the distant past. My first casino poker experience was at Cache Creek which like Graton is a tribal casino. Seeing these worn out dirty chips brought me back to some of the most exciting sessions of my life, playing like absolute trash against toothless degenerates and filipino grandmothers on weekday afternoons in a smoke filled, poorly lit corner of the casino sweating $100 wins and losses like my life was at stake.

A dirty chip comparison (viking added for scale)

I'm really glad I hung on to one of those Cache Creek chips. Anyway, between the trip down memory lane and the PTSD of them raking $7 (!!!) out of every pot at a $4/$8 limit game I've blocked out what happened. Thankfully I was called for the $3/$5 game fairly quickly.

I bought in for $1,000. The max was $1,500, but I rationalized buying in for less by telling myself that I'd never played with any of these players before and $1,000 was enough to cover everyone but one player who had $1,300. I had about $3,000 on me and it felt more comfortable to have three $1,000 buys ins than two $1,500 buys ins. In reality this is hogwash. HOGWASH! My best approach has always been to buy in for the max, try to build up a towering stack and use it for complete and total psychological domination of my mentally weak opposition. 

Happily I got off to a hot start. I three bet TT to $90 in the big blind over a raise to $15 and two calls. Only the small blind called. The flop came down T96! Huzzah! I looked over at the small blind's stack and he only had about $160 left. Usually when someone has less than a pot sized bet and is short stacked, it's time to just get it in, but my read on this specific dude was that he would be more apt to call a series of smaller bets than one all in. He checked, I bet $75 and he called. The turn was an 8 putting a one liner to a straight out there and my opponent quickly mashed his remaining chips in the pot with the dexterity and finesse of a 6 month old baby slapping at a serving of puréed carrots. I of course snap called, he rolled over J8 and after another 8 on the river I took down a nice pot.

The next one was a favorite of mine, not just because of the result, but because of my thought process. I called a raise to $15 with 54 of clubs in middle position and we took the flop 5 ways. The flop came down AK8 with two clubs, the preflop raiser checked, I checked and it got around to the button who bet $55. What could this guy have and what does he not have? He never has AA or KK or AK just calling after a raise and multiple calls. With a small raise size preflop he absolutely has every Ax in his range and many Kx hands too. After we all check he's going to bet any piece of that flop, but unless he has exactly 88 or A8 it's really tough for him to call a check raise. Also these other goons between us already checked after the preflop raiser checked so they can't have anything. Of course I had a flush draw as backup, but I think I could make this move with nothing in this exact spot. Going through this is not exactly hard sitting here looking back with all the time in the world, but the fact that all of that hit me in an instant in the moment is very encouraging. I made it $150, the goons folded and the button mucked with frustration. I own your soul you button goon! Let it be a lesson to the rest of you goons!

On top of thinking about "configuration" like in the last hand, one thing I've been working on is playing big hands fast. Most players if they flop huge they are inclined to slowplay to in theory disguise the strength of their hand. So when you do the opposite and just blast away it gets misinterpreted and builds a pot.

I got a chance to executed on this with A4 of clubs in the big blind. The 6 month old baby I stuffed with the TT vs J8 hand raised to $15 in the small blind after 2 people limped for $5. I can not begin to tell you how TRASH this raise sizing is. IT MAKES NO SENSE! IT IS THE MOST RECREATIONAL SIZING OF ALL TIME! Anyway, I flopped the nuts on the Q86 all club flop! The trash baby checked, and I went into fast play mode betting $35. Only the player to my left called. The turn was the A of spades which could be an action killer, but checking made no sense. Part of my brain was saying "GO BIG! GO BIG" and the other part was like "What? Quit shouting at me. You're screaming too much about how these players are trash and babies." I bet $100 thinking that was about full pot, but $125 or even $150 might have been better. The river was the 9 of hearts and I got this feeling that my opponent was just never folding. "GO BIG! GO HUGE!" "What? Are you sure? I'm not sure I want to go huge." I settled on $250, got called right away and regretted not going bigger.

Despite my regrets I think my bet sizing was OK. Certainly I've seen my opposition go something like $30, $60, $100 in similar sports and make half what I did. But if I'm against a 2 pair plus hand like it's clear I was I might have been able to go $125 on the turn and $500 on the river. I'm working on this. I keep telling myself to GO HUGE and then betting 80%-90% of pot which is big but not huge.

The exact colors of Heinz ketchup and relish bottles?

They gave us all "all in" buttons to throw in as needed. I was not in fact all in in the picture and did not get to use my button.

After this picture where I was sitting on about $1,650 I had a slow and steady decline for 3 hours eventually booking a win of $2. The smallest live cash game win of all time for me? Probably.

Teaser: I'll be back a Graton for some tournaments in mid September.

After 36 hours my $10K bankroll is at $10,456.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Crushing Skulls on Back to Back Friday's at Bay 101!

An important question I try to answer in this session

I rolled into Bay 101 a couple Friday's ago coming off my stupid $1K loss at the dumb Palace in moronic Hayward happy to be back in familiar territory.

While waiting for no limit I jumped into the $8/$16 limit game and got dealt JJ in the first orbit. It came to me raised with one caller, I three bet it, the guy behind me four bet it and we took the flop 6 ways. I'd played with the 4 bettor before and I was 95% sure this was AA or KK. To my delight the flop came JJ3  and someone else check raised the 4 bettor! Fun! 5 of us went to the turn for 2 bets, I ended up betting the turn and the river and beat AA and KK. Quads son! How does your skull feel bruh!? 

Racks on Racks

I made my way over to $2/$3/$5 up $400 on the day and had more hands hit hard. In a weird move the cutoff just called $5 and I made it $25 from the button with K7 of hearts. The big blind and limper both called and the flop came down A54 with 2 hearts. The action checked to me and in a must bet spot I fired out $45. Only the big blind called and the turn came out the 2 of hearts. Flush time! Skull damage incoming! 

The A was a heart and barring 53 of hearts which would be soul crushing (also skull crushing) I had the nuts. I was certain I had K7 of hearts, but took a second to look back at my cards. Many players lose track of their suits and have to check if they have a mix of suits, but tend to remember if they're suited. Normally I don't act at all, but in this one situation I do and a look back here should makes it appear like I don't have a flush. 

After a check, I bet $125 and my opponent called. The river was the K of clubs and in the moment I thought "I don't think this guy is folding, I should go huge." There was about $415 in the pot, but I'd lost track of the exact count. I could see two $100 chips in the pot and then a bunch of $5 chips, but my snap assessment was a little lite. I bet $300, my opponent quickly called and I regretted not going for more like $500. I think a straight, a flush or even a set is finding a reason to call here.

Later in the session I picked up KK and raised to $30 vs two limpers. The small bind and one limper called and the flop came down 863 rainbow. I bet $55 and both called. The turn was a 9, I bet $130 and got one call. Then the river came out a K! Huzzah! Actually that K may have killed my chances of getting called one more time by an 8 or a 9, but it always feels good to improve. Sadly I bet $200 and my opponent folded with only a glancing blow to his skull. 

I won $910 for the session bringing my $10K bankroll to $9128 after 25 hours.

Fast forward a week to the following Friday and more skulls needed to be crushed.

I sat down in a new game and took the big blind. The under the gun player raised to $15 and I called along with the small blind. The flop came down 223 and I thought "No way does this lady have a deuce in her hand and no way is she going to stack off for $500 on the first hand." I didn't even note what I had but I check raised from $15 to $45 and won the pot. Because of this pot I was ahead literally the entire session. 

A couple of hands later I raised T9 of clubs to $20 from the lojack and after one call on the button a solid player 3 bet to $90 out of the big blind. Gross. He had about $800 and while I would prefer to be deeper stacked calling here I knew this guy liked to squeeze and decided to make the call. The button folded and the flop came down 995 with two diamonds. Zing! My opponent bet $80 and in the moment I was thinking "GLORIOUS! He'll never put me on a 9 if I raise. Someone with a 9 would never raise here. This will look like a flush draw! MWAH HA HA!" I went to $220 and he snap mucked. Sad face. Later I realized I could easily play an over pair this way and I guess if my opponent is squeezing wide he usually won't have anything here. But it still felt good to smash the flop.

But this was how the whole session ran for me. I 3 bet AK in a straddled pot from $50 to $150, flopped a K and won. I had AQ of clubs, flopped Q54 with two clubs and made the flush on the turn. I had JJ on a Q93 flop, turned a J and got check raised from $120 to $300! Hot damn! I didn't get paid off huge on any of them, but I just kept connecting.

Later in the big blind, I called $15 with J7 in a 6 way pot. The flop came down J82 with two hearts and it checked around. The turn was the 2 of spades, I bet $45 and got 2 callers. Not only was the river a J it was the J of hearts bringing in the front door flush draw, someone had the flush and I made another $100. Hitting the perfect card I started to think this was getting out of control!

Towards the end of the session I had 77 and raised to $20. I got one caller and then a total goof ball made it $60. We took the flop 3 ways and it came down A97 with two heats. YES! COME ON YOU GOOF BALL! WE CRUSHIN' SKULLS AND YOU NEXT! I just called a bet of $80 and the third guy in the pot shipped it all in for $375! Oh baby! The goofball folded I snap called and the board ran out T, A. With no structure at all left to his skull my opponent couldn't muster the strength to show his cards so after a couple of seconds I showed my hand and took down the pot.

Of course over close to 6 hours I had some hands go against me, but fuck those hands. Today we're only interested in the good stuff.

The white chips are made from the skulls of the vanquished

In the end I won $1,326. HUZZAH! I'm also back in the black for this project with my $10K bankroll at $10,454 after 31 hours. DOUBLE HUZZAH! In celebration I had a happy hour old fashioned and relished the defeat of my enemies.


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Uncapped Buy In No Limit at the Palace in Hayward



You would think after playing poker in the bay area for 22 years I would have been to every poker room in town. But you'd be wrong! You're so recreational at thinking! I made my first trip to "The Palace" in Hayward last Wednesday. What I new about it going in was they had 4 poker tables, offered $4/$8 limit hold'em and a $1/$2/$2 blind no limit game with an uncapped buy in. Given the state of their website it's surprising I was able to gather this much. 

Such a sad website

I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly, but my first reaction was that it had all the charm of an off track horse race betting establishment in a Fresno strip mall. I put my name up for EVERY GAME IN THE HOUSE (literally every game in the house is pictured above). I got called for the $4/$8 limit game which played with a half kill first and bought in for $200.

2 stacks of the lowest society

It has been a loooong time since I played a game with $1 chips. Surely I must be a massive favorite in the game right? RIGHT? 
The saddest stack of all time

I played for about an hour, lost $140 and began to question what I was doing at the Palace, why I was playing with red $1 chips ($1 chips are never red) and all the decisions in my life that had lead up to this moment. Finally I got called for the no limit game. Actually they called the name right before mine and right after mine and when I inquired I was informed that there was a regular with the same name, they didn't see him in the room and since he's deaf they never actually call him.

The $5 chips are blue and the $100s are orange!

I bought in for $1,060 including my sad stack from $4/$8 which may be the first time I've ever bought in for 500+ big blinds. I played uncapped buy-in $10/$20 at Bellagio once in my hay day, but certainly didn't buy in for $10,000 and can't remember too many other uncapped games. 

This game had some goofy straddle rules I've never seen before. On the first hand I played the cutoff put out a $5 straddle and the lojack two to his right put out $10. I was in the big blind and rather than asking WTF was going on, I decided to wait and see. The action started with the under the gun player, bypassed both straddles over to the small blind who made it $20, then the cutoff called and then the lojack called. Surely someone had acted out of turn here right? Nope! A straddle will act last after all of the other action and I guess a double straddle will act after the regular straddler. Furthermore in a normal hand you can't just call the $2 big blind. It's $5 to open. In a single straddled pot it's $10 to open and in a double straddled pot you have to put in $20 to just call. The effect of all of this is the game plays more like a $5 big blind game than a $2 big blind game. The stacks were all between $400 and $1200 with the exception of one guy who had ~$3,000 and no idea what he was doing.

The actual hands I played were not all that interesting with one exception. With the $5 straddle on I was in the big blind with T6 suited and 5 people came in for $10. This is a folding spot, but thinking I was closing the action I made a loose call for another $8. Then Mr. 3000 in the straddle made it $40 to go. Gross. I reluctantly put in another $30 in a spot where again I should have just mucked. The flop was amazing - J98 with two clubs giving me an open ender and a flush draw. I'd make a flush or a straight a little more than 50% of the time and was ready to stack off on the flop. I checked over to Mr. 3000 who bet $145 into the pot of $240. Then the next player to act went all in for what turned out to be $180 and it was back to me with a little over $1,000 in my stack. 

This was a tricky situation. I didn't think that if I called Mr. 3000 would be able to raise again as usually the all in raise needs to be more than half of the original bet (at least a raise of $73 more in this case) in order to reopen the action for the original bettor. But who knows in this goofy place! I thought about asking, but didn't want to ask as it may have given away information about me and my hand. There was also a guy behind me who only had $25 left (who knows why he didn't just get it in preflop for the extra $25). It's not all that often that you have a 15 out draw against effectively two all ins and another guy who is totally bananas and could have anything with fairly deep stacks behind. Between trying to figure out how much was in the pot, whether I should ask about the re-raising possibilities for Mr. 3000, and just the general internal juices flowing from being in this big pot I was feeling the fog of war and not really thinking clearly. While it was certainly possible for me to up against a better flush draw and another straight draw or made straight and be drawing dead to a chop, I decided to just get it in and shoved in my whole stack! The guy with $25 called and Mr. 3000 proudly folded JT face up. The turn was a red 5 and the river was...a 7! The $25 guy flashed AT meaning I was chopping, and then the other guy rolled over QT for the nuts. Bullshit! What a stupid hand! Why did I even write so many words about this dumb hand!

I also lost $350 with AA vs T9 on a 984 flop, turn T runout, $100 with AJ vs 33 in an all in preflop spot, and $250 on a raise preflop then big double barrel bluff that didn't work out. The rest of the time I generally just had nothing good happen.

In total I lost $1,020 on the session over 4 hours. My $10,000 starting bankroll is at $8,218 after 19 hours.

Despite the loss, this was a great game and I'll probably be back. I'm also been feeling inspired to visit EVERY POKER ROOM IN CALIFORNIA over the next couple of years. I probably won't make it to all of the tiny ones, but expect to see more posts about different places....stupid T6 suited.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Devil on My Shoulder at Bay 101


Poker is booming in the bay area and going in on Friday often means having to wait as all of the poker tables are full. While waiting for my normal $2/$3/$5 last Friday I managed to get a seat at the limit $8/$16 with a half kill (the stakes go up to $12/$24 for one hand if someone wins two pots in a row). Every player in this game was absolute trash...I'm sorry...every player in this game was HIGHLY recreational trash.

I couldn't help but think back to my early days when $1/$2 limit hold'em was the smallest game in the house at The Oaks Club, the $3/$6 limit game had a couple of regulars who had read some poker books and played fairly well and the $6/$12 had 2-3 regular players in every game who were solid if not quite good. In my early 20's I would have stayed in this $8/$16 game until my clothes slowly decayed and my beard grew down to the top of my stack. I may have needed to be hospitalized after not sleeping and eating only Mongolian Beef for weeks. It was truly incredible how not a single player had any idea what they were doing at all. After 2 hours of waiting I had 3 stacks of low society (as pictured above) and finally got called for the no limit game.

Lately I'm needing to remind myself : "BEING PASSIVE DOESN'T WORK IN POKER! BE AGGRESSIVE YOU RECREATIONAL DOOFUS!" There is always the devil on your shoulder telling you to just call or give up and wait for the nuts, but that doesn't work in the long run. 

On my first hand at the $2/$3/$5 game after buying in for $800 I got put to the test. I posted in the cutoff, got dealt KJ off and called after the player to my right raised one limper to $30. The button and limper called and the flop came down QT2 giving me an open ended straight draw. The action checked to me and I bet $75. I could make the argument that betting into 3 opponents as a semibluff is not always smart, but see my all caps reminder above. The button folded, the preflop limper called and the preflop raiser folded as well. Going to the turn heads up we had about $270 in the pot. The turn paired the 2 and my opponent bet out $25! I felt the devil's presence as he whispered "Hey bro. That's a real nice price for a river card. Why don't you just call and see what happens. Feels real safe to me." But I went with the angel's recommendation of "CRUSH SKULLS!" and put this dude all in for $400. He folded and I felt good about being aggressive. It works!

A little later I had changed tables and was back down to a stack of $720 when I got dealt KK under the gun.  I made it $20 to go, the small blind called and the big blind made it $120. This is a big raise and felt like a squeeze play to me, but no matter what it was a clear 4 bet spot and I went to $320. The small blind quickly folded, the villain called and the flop came down A55. Gross! With $400 behind and $660 in the pot I would have said I was pot committed as we went to the flop, but then the flop was what it was and my opponent shoved all in. GAH! SO FRUSTRATING! I folded, but later realized this was a big mistake. If my opponent had an ace I don't think he'd play it this way. He seemed like a decent player and I really look like a passive middle aged white guy who is only 4 betting QQ, KK or AA. If he thinks I'm not 4 betting AK (I am) or AQ (I would in this spot) then with an A on the board 80% of my range is under pairs. This is one I wish I had back. 

On the next notable hand I raised Q9 of diamonds to $20 and got one caller. The flop came down QJ2 with one diamond, I bet $20 and got called. The turn was the 8 of diamonds giving me top pair, a gut shot, and a flush draw. I decided to check and my opponent bet out $50. At which point the devil appeared again whispering... "Bro. Just call. See if you make it. Dude over there looks like he's got KQ to me or even T9. Don't want to mess with T9 do you? Slide in that $50." Surprisingly the angel made a similar read "LOOKS LIKE KQ AND I DON'T GIVE A SHIT! CRUUUUUUUUSH SKULLLLLLLLLS!" I moved all in for $400 and after thinking for about 10 seconds he mucked. 

I ended up winning $597 on the night over 7 hours. My $10,000 starting bankroll sits at $9,238 after 15 hours.

My next session which is already in the books was at the very inappropriately named "Palace" in Hayward. It was super weird. More on that soon.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Big Pocket Pairs and AK are Garbage!


We're even on the session!

After coming back from 9 days away from home with tons of activity I bailed on my plan to plan most Friday's instead opting for a rare Sunday session. I walked into Bay 101 around 11 am and by 11:30 they filled the last empty table in the room with a new $2/$3/$5 game. I bought in for $800 ready to accumulate a huge stack, stay all day and CRUSH SKULLS!

About 10 minutes in, in a straddled pot, one player called $10 and the next player to act made it $40 to go after starting the hand with $260 in his stack. In the small blind, I looked down at KK (hooray!) and 3 bet to $120. Only the raiser called. Seeing he only had $140 left with ~$250 already in the pot my mind went to "SHOVE ALL FLOPS!" When the flop came out AJ5 I decided to SHOVE ALL FLOPS! My opponent instantly called with A8 and won the pot. Shit! Even though it wouldn't make any difference in this hand, looking back I think a check is better here. If my opponent has an A, I'm just screwed and there's not getting around it. But if he missed he might take a shot at it after I check. The point is KK is garbage and should be folded preflop.

A little later I raised QT of hearts to $35 in another straddled pot. A guy in his 60's or 70's three bet me to $85 out of the big blind and I opted to call. This guy was the classic weak tight older guy and I was pretty sure his entire 3 betting range was pairs JJ+ and AK, but I had position and was getting a good price to call. The flop came down KQ7 with two diamonds and to my surprise he checked. He only had about $225 behind and my first instinct was to just get it all in. But it seemed more likely that he'd flopped a set than missed given my read on his range.  I checked back, the turn came down the T of diamonds bringing in the flush draw and making me two pair. Now he checked again. At this point I figured I had the best hand and wanting to protect against another diamond coming I tossed three $100 chips into the pot putting him all in. After some hemming and hawing he mucked black pocket aces face up! The point is AA is garbage and should be folded preflop.

Towards the end of the session I got dealt AK in the cutoff and raised two limpers to $30. The button behind me and the UTG limper called. The flop came down AJ2 with two diamonds and one spade. I bet $45 and only the limper called. My opponent had about $1,500 in front of him and seemed like a solid competent player. The turn was a J which is clearly a bad card for me.  After he checked, I checked it back hoping to avoid getting check raise bluffed, lose less vs a J, induce a bluff on the river or otherwise appear weaker than I actually was. Given the turn action, my mind went to "CALL ALL RIVER BETS!" before the last card was dealt. Unfortunately the river was the very shitty 2 of diamonds and my opponent bet $215 into the $190 pot. Gross! This bet should be polarized meaning it's either a flush or better or absolute air. In the moment I was thinking that a full house or a flush would bet $100 trying to get action from an ace, but $215 made no sense. Thinking back later, I couldn't come up with any hands limp preflop, call my flop bet and are total bluffs on the end. Maybe QT or KT of spades? After about 10 seconds I made the call and lost to 54 of diamonds. I think I'm lucky I didn't get check raised on the flop, because we may have gotten it all in if that happens. Anyway, the point is AK is garbage and should be folded preflop.

I put in 4 hours and lost $478. My $10K starting bankroll now sits at $8,641 after 8 hours. WEAK! I did play another session on Friday (the above was from a week ago) and had a better result. I'll post about that session when I get a chance.

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

After four and a half years working for StubHub I wrapped up my time there in March. I've been at the poker tables 3-4 days a week since...