— Regular at the Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk: "You know why it's so packed, don't you?"
Me: "The online thing? People are bored on Saturday? The poker boom?"
Regular: "No. The Bad Beat jackpot."
It was hard not to blame the gamboolers who packed all dozen tables at the Ameristar, making us wait for a table for two hours when I came up with one of my best friends for an all-day, orgasmic, play-poker-till-you-drop-and-you'd-better-do-it-now-before-the-twins-arrive marathon.
The bad beat was more than $180,000. Just sitting at the table if it hits will net you $7,000. That's a lot of diapers.
Daddy needs some low quads!!!
I was stunned at the talk of the poker tables. Bad beat this, bad beat that, wouldn't it be great if we could hit it, blah blah blah. Yeah. It hadn't hit in months. The odds of quads over quads (or a straight flush) are about as high as Jack Bauer spending a day lounging on the couch and picking at his toenails. I was not there to hit a bad beat. I was there to play poker.
Unlike many of my tablemates.
"I'm here to gamble," one said, "not play poker."
Limit poker in a casino is always a minefield, and Colorado only offers $2/5 limit. Yes, you'll find your good players, but you'll also find many willing to chase any inside straight draw with 7,4, any pair in the hopes of catching trips, any flush draw even with a single suit out there and any pocket pair in the hopes of catching a set.
Raising works only to sweeten the pot (and as the pot builds, ironically gambooling with such fodder gets more and more correct - you'd pay $5 to win $100, right?).
I knew exactly what to expect Saturday, and I wasn't disappointed, when a Vietnamese girl all the dealers called "Angel" took her J,7 to battle against my KK, despite my re-raise and raising every turn, until the river, when she caught her 7 to go with her top pair. I was a little pissed, but I also knew that eventually, those are the players who pay you off as well. It works both ways. And I also told myself that the odds of her finishing ahead of me for the night were as high as, well, hitting the bad beat jackpot. I wasn't wrong: She burned through $300 and left the table depressed. After she sucked out with another two pair with crap against my A,Q, I silently cheered when she busted.
Bad beat story alert (but it's not mine, so I get to save $1): Twice I saw a flopped full house with a pair in the hand get beat by runner, runner card, giving the other person quads. One was A on the turn and A on the river, and then my friend lost his full house after re-raising the guy to the bone and he continued to call with his pair of 7s, and then his trips on the turn, and then his quads on the river). Ouch. That's the worst I've ever seen.
So you don't go expecting to make a ton of money or have all your hands hold up. You go to have fun. Fun, to me, still means playing solid poker, only good starting hands, betting and raising when you've got it and checking when you don't (bluffing is pointless) and being patient, but many others would disagree. That's cool. Thank you for calling down my made nut flush with your small pair.
I got my fair share of good hands. I swam through the cold streaks and rode the hot ones. I preserved my chips until I got a hand and either won or got sucked out on. It was a typical Black Hawk night.
Then I hear some screaming three tables down. Either a guy snapped when his K,K lost to 8,3 os, or it happened.
Bad beat jackpot.
6s beaten by QQ. Both got their set on the flop, then each nailed their card on the turn and river.
"God dammit," a guy hissed to my right.
Hey, I was happy. How cool we got to see that.
And then I look down.
Oh, shit. We get to keep playing, don't we?
Play continued, sort of, as the table went bonkers. Players gazed over there with envy in their eyes. My big hand was easing my envy. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you're holding AA.
"Raise," I announced after six callers threw in their $2 blind.
A gorgeous A comes on the flop, but this is limit, so I don't even think about slowplaying it, not with two clubs out there. I bet.
Three fold, but two call. One folds on the turn and one folds on the flop when the other club doesn't hit.
OK, sweet. AA doesn't always hold up.
Happy, I excused myself and congratulated the giddy table sipping on bubbly.
I guess they weren't the only ones who got lucky that night.
I wound up finishing $35 up, making an incredible $4 an hour, meaning I could have made more flipping burgers at McHappy Atomic Burger.
But I would not have had nearly as much fun.