Sunday, December 04, 2005

L.A. Stories Part 2: Estimated Prophet
"My first wife cost me $1 million and a fuckin' house. Of course I'll call." - Drunk rich guy at my NL table moments before he cracked my aces
This post has two sections... the first one is the conclusion of HDouble's home game and the second is what happened on Saturday.

BG and Daddy called for another dial-a-shot. Lance had been drinking heavily all night and was quick to join in. A few hours later he would be blowing chunks in HDouble's bathroom. While the final table of the tournament went on, a cash game started up on the kitchen table.
Seat 1: Ephro
Seat 2: Mrs. Double
Seat 3: Lance
Seat 4: Grubby
Seat 5: Pauly
Seat 6: Franklin
Seat 7: Wampler
Seat 8: HDouble
Glyphic arrived just at the start of the cash game and hung out on the rail. It was dealer's choice and they liked playing 1-1 PL Hold'em or Columbine, which is a game HDouble invented. He was dreading it since everyone was calling it. Columbine is a version of Pineapple. For $3 you can get purchase a third card preflop. It didn't last too long because Grubby called a new game that he invented with Bad Blood called "Vegas Hold'em." It's just like regular Hold'em with one exception. As soon as it gets heads up one player can ask to see one of the other player's hole cards and vice versa. It was an awesome twist on the game and I'm gonna get everyone at the Blue Parrot to play it. The game caught on quickly and everyone started calling Vegas Hold'em instead of Columbine.

Vegas Hold'em. You gotta love Grubby. He's a friggin' genius. First the Hammer. Now Vegas Hold'em.

Anyway, Lance was super drunk and super loose. He and Mrs. Double battled it out a few times. She's fearless at the tables and likes to talk shit. She busted Lance with A-A. In a short time she built her stack up from 60 to over 250, mostly from Lance. She played a few junk hands and scooped another big pot from Lance.

"How could you call that bet?" he wondered.

"You are as bad as I am. That's poker, man!" she responded. "Is it cheating if I leave?" she asked HDouble.

We all laughed. He told he she could cash out if she wanted. Man, I hope she plays at the blogger event next weekend and tilts her table. She also shared with me some of her favorite cookies imported from Sweden. They were a version of gingerbread cookies and you are only supposed to eatthem during Christmas time.

I ended up winning a few bucks in the cash game. I was super tired and Grubette must have read my mind because she asked me if it would be OK to leave soon. When we left, the game was still going and Lance had just stumbled into a cab. We all wondered if he would hurl in the back seat.

Mrs. Double's Swedish cookies


On Saturday morning I woke up early and wrote for a few hours and waited for Grubby to wake up. It was a beautiful day with a high blue sky and a few fluffy clouds. I was reminded why so many people live in Southern California. The weather all year long is like 2000% better than Las Vegas.

I met up with Shirley (aka Poker Babes) for lunch at the Yard House on the marina in Long Beach. Grubby, Grubbette, and Doug all tagged along. We sat outside on the deck and the USC-UCLA game was on, which was big for any local alumni who had flocked to the bar to watch the game. I had not seen Shirley since the WSOP so it was great to finally catch up with each other. We both ordered spicy chicken sandwiches. I drank a few pints of Carlsberg and we talked about a bunch of poker related stuff. One of the best things about the 2005 WSOP was getting to know Shirley better and watching her play. She's definitely one of the coolest pros I've met.

Later that night, Grubby and I met up with his sister at Hawaiian Gardens, which is a quick 10 minute drive from chez Grubette. I've only played at the Bike (almost five years ago) and never anywhere else in L.A., which is often referred to as the poker capital of the world. If you have never been to a Southern California card room, you will be impressed by the sheer size of everything. Tables. Tables. Tables. It's not hard to get intimidated right away. I thought Foxwoods was big, but Hawaiian Gardens easily tops it with over 175 gaming tables, possibly more.

As soon as I walked inside, the pungent aroma of sweaty feet and Korean BBQ greeted me. I could hear faint grovelings and bad beat stories told in Vietnamese, Filipino, Spanish, and two Chinese dialects as I carefully navigated through a row of tables. I scanned the room and decided that 2/3 of the clientele was of Asian decent. Grubby told me that's not uncommon for California cardrooms. After getting a grasp on the enormity of the room all I could think about was Phil Gordon's quote after he stepped inside the poker room at the Rio during the 2005 WSOP... "I've never seen so much dead money in my life."

Perspective. Life is about perspective. And in an instant I went from slightly uncomfortable to extremely anxious. The tables were filled with donkeys, fish, and other forms of terrible players. Some of them were new players that were willing to give their money away. Others were veteran players that still haven't figured out the game. I would have to get lucky and be assigned the right table. I told myself that if I couldn't win money in this room, then I should quit poker.

"Beware of the crazy Asians," Grubby warned me. "They are very aggressive."

Hawaiian Gardens is really a series of tents broken up into a few sections. It was originally just a five table room set up in a trailer and has since expanded into one of the more popular rooms in the LA area. There's an Asian games sections that features Chinese Poker and Pai Gow. It's about half the size of the poker room but pulls in twice as much revenue. We met Grubette at the bar. What used to be the restaurant was turned into part of the poker room. She gave us a quick tour after all she plays there at the twice a week. She pointed out that different casino workers wore different uniforms. They all had on different color shirts, for drink servers, wait staff, chip runners, and massage staff. Grubette showed me where to sign up for 8/16 and 6/12. Both games have a half kill. Since there was a wait, I also signed up for a 2-3 NL table (100 max buy-in). I got called for that table first.

There was a sign on top of the automatic shuffler that read, "English only when a hand is in play."

A chubby white guy with a $3,000 Rolex set in seat 8. He had almost $1500 at a $100 buy-in table. When my limit table was called, I passed. With a drunk rich guy ordering another Kettle One and tonic every time a waitress walked by, it would have been foolish for me to leave. As I folded all my hands during the first orbit I watched the rich drunk guy bully the table which consisted of a golf pro at a local country club, the middle-aged woman who did all her clothes shopping at K-Mart, a cool guy toughster who wore his had sideways and did constant chip tricks, two older Asian guys, and a young Asian kid who wore shades, an iPod, and a hooded UCSB sweatshirt.

Yeah the drunk guy ran over the table. He had over $1500 and the closest to him had $200. That's the biggest difference between limit and NL... the big stacks can control the flow of the game.

Grubby was seated at the table right behind me. He had a guy who was missing four fingers at his table.

"It must be a mob thing," Grubby suggested.

My table was a combination of loose and passive. Everyone was loose preflop, willing to flat call raises up to $20-25, but they clamed up and played very passive after the flop. I used that to my advantage and picked up a few small pots firing out at the flop. Sometimes position is key in NL, but I wanted to be in EP at this table. I wanted to be the first one in the pot post-flop since I knew I could thin the field with a large bet and get heads up with the drunk guy.

Thank God I read Russell Fox's book Mastering No Limit Hold'em before I came out to L.A.. Since he regularly plays against the super loose and sometimes aggressive SoCal players, his book was excellent prep for me. I highly recommend it.

In the first 75 minutes, I built up my stack to almost $350 most of that was from the drunk guy. I won a big pot with KJs and took down another pot from him when I rivered a runner runner flush with AKo. The hand of the night for me was Qc-9c. The flop was Q-J-3 with two diamonds. The turn was another Jack but that gave two flush draw possibility. I was heads up with drunk guy after the flop. I bet my two-pair on the turn, and he called. On the river, a third spade fell. I bet out and Drunk Guy moved all in. I thought about it for a while and called. He had nothing a mucked as soon as I put my chips across the line.

"Awesome call!" the golf pro said out loud. He was sick of getting bullied by the drunk guy and began to needle him. "The new guy can read you like a fuckin' book."

The drunk guy shrugged his shoulders and raised the next 13 hands in a row.

Things seemed like they were going good until a hot Romanian cick sat down and began dealing. The drunk guy was hitting on her so hard that it was comical to watch until I got my aces cracked. I raised in EP over 5x the BB. The drunk guy reraised me to 10x the BB. I moved all in for over $320 more. He still had over $1K in chips and called... with 9-9. Pocket Nines? Are you shitting me? He threw $350 into the pot with 9-9. Guess what flopped? Aces cracked and I got kicked in the junk in true California style. Second time within 24 hours.

I eyed his stack as I slid a $100 bill out of my pocket and shouted, "Rebuy!"

A few hands later I'd lose my second buy-in when I missed a big draw. After my second rebuy, I lost another pot. I went from up $250 to being down over $240. Talk about swings. I took a break and went outside to chat with Grubette as she smoked a cigarette. She was getting killed at the 6/12 tables. There was a ton of chips at her table and I thought about moving to limit. But shit, with so much money on my NL table, I had to stay. When I returned, I went on a run. I doubled up with 9-9 and flopped a set. I check-raised all-in and still got two callers. Later in that orbit, in consecutive hands I found both J-J and the Hilton Sisters. I was finally even. I turned around to Grubby and said, "I told myself I'd leave if I got unstuck."

"You got a big stack at your table," he said. "Only one guy has more chips. You sure you want to leave?"

He was right. We agreed to stay about an hour more. Good thing I let him talk me into staying. I moved my stack up to $560 (up 260 total). I picked up a nice flop with the old "Let's raise in LP with 4-7o and try to flop a straight."

I flopped two pair and turned a full house which gave two other players flushes. I busted both of them. One of the Asian guys bitched at me in Vietnamese as he walked away.

"Dude, I raised preflop. You didn't have to call," I sarcastically quipped.

I racked up my chips and headed to the cashier. I was up $262 for the session on a rollercoaster of a ride. If you can handle the swings both financially and psychologically, then you have to make a trip out to the California card rooms. You will get action.

The dealers were much better than in Las Vegas. Grubby told me that before we ever played. I dunno why this is, but there were fast and efficient. The players were all locals so no one asked me "Where are you from?" Everyone assumes that everyone is a local. They might ask "What do you do?" but the table chatter was light and people were mainly there to have a good time.

So far for the trip I'm almost up $200. Nothing to sneeze about, but it's better than being down. Grubby and I celebrated with eating Taco Bell after Midnight before we headed back to chez Grubette.

Obviously, thanks to Grubbette and Doug for letting me crash and showing me around Hawaiian Gardens. Big thanks to HDouble and Mrs. Double for inviting me into their home to play cards with some of the Full Tilt crew and the rest of the L.A. bloggers. I had a ton of fun this weekend with Grubby. It was an original experience. I wish I came out to L.A. sooner, but it was definitely worth the long drive from Vegas. I'm hoping I can make at least two trips to LA in 2006 and bring Derek with me for one of them.

Or maybe I'll just quit writing about poker and move to L.A. to be a screenwriter by day and grind out a living in the card rooms at night? Pauly in Hollyweird? That would be one great fuckin' book someday.

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