My expectations weren't exactly high.
Grandpa got weary in the evenings (when 92 you are, see how much energy you have), so we went back to our hotel rooms in Susanville, Calif., during last week's visit and hung out.
This was near Reno, Nev., and I had the itch to play poker. I rarely get to play live poker anymore, especially the kind in a casino, and if my evenings were going to be free, i.e. without twins or a toddler, I really hoped to take advantage of that.
So when Mom sent me a link to the new Diamond Mountain Casino, I remember being excited. In fact, other than getting to see Grandpa for the first time in 15 years at least, the chance to play live poker was what I looked forward to the most.
Alas, when my brother and I drove out to check it out on our first free night, last Thursday, we walked in to a small, dingy, smoky three-room casino that generously looked like it belonged way off the strip near Vegas.
I doubt the place would survive even in downtown Vegas. It ranked above the downtown place with women sporting C-section scars passing out beads or the place that offers $1 frozen drinks and carpets that smell like cat piss. Barely.
"This place is a dump," my brother said, and he was pretty much right. But I searched for the card room anyway.
I was crestfallen when the security officer pointed me to a table game called "Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em." THIS is your Texas Hold 'Em game that you bragged about on your Web site? If you could see a picture of dashed hopes, mine would look like an egg, with the yolk running off the sidewalk.
As I sulked out, I caught a flyer. "Texas Hold 'Em," it said. Tournaments Saturday and Live Games Sunday.
I didn't see anything about
poker tips, but otherwise it looked good.
Hmmm. So there was hope. I decided I would check it out if I had nothing better to do.
Sunday rolled around and the itch was back. When we got back to our hotel room at 7:15 p.m., I told Mom and Brian I would check it out.
"It'll probably suck," I told them, already cloaking my hopes.
When I got there, I was excited to see some double doors opening to a meeting room. I peeked inside and saw a cheap poker table with 10 middle-aged guys probably struggling with their mid-life crises. It was one table, though, and the waiting list was four deep. Dammit.
"You can help a new dealer while you're waiting," all 10 guys said at once as they looked me over.
This was obviously a regular game, and they were wondering why the hell this 36-year-old guy was walking in on it.
But I did wander over to the other table to help a dealer who was having an incredible time grasping the limits of 3/6.
"It's, um.....3 to call?" she said on the turn numerous times.
No, we corrected her. It's 6 to call.
Then some guy sat down at the table who had never played before. So a conversation like this one quickly took place:
"I'll bet $12"
"OK, um....wait...it's $3 to call."
"Oh. Well, I want to raise."
"Um...it's $3 to call."
"I know, but maybe I want to raise."
"You can't raise. You haven't called yet. I think."
"OK, I call $6. And I raise."
"OK. No, wait, you can't do that. You have to just call if you just say call. And it's $3 to call."
"OK, then, I'll call and raise."
"No, you can't do that either."
"I thought I could raise."
"Wait...you're right, but I think you did it wrong."
After an hour of this, I looked at the floor manager and asked her how long my wait was. She said she would open up a table if five showed up. Thankfully, two younger guys who worked for the Forest Service walked in. The government, mostly jobs like those, was the biggest employer in Susanville.
Five-handed limit poker sucks, basically. Most of the pots were small, and there just wasn't much action. I was about to go home when two ladies sat at the table as well as a Native American named George, and suddenly, we had a lot more action than even the "big kids" table.
My first big hand came with A-K. I raise, got two callers from the loosest players at the table, i.e. complete donks. Truth be told, most of the players were not good at all. It was pretty typical limit poker.
I scooped a huge pot when the K-high flop held up for me and I was on my way.
Of course I took tough beats. I flopped two pair three times and lost all three times, two times to flopped straights. Thankfully I didn't lose a whole lot on all three of them, but later it cost me a nice pot when I folded two pair, thinking I was so smart, and it would have won. That was the worst hand I played all night and really my only big mistake.
When I finally did move to the "big" table, I had a few good hands, including a flopped full house with 4-3 (it was sooted!), a flopped set of threes that turned into a full house on the river and tripped up another guy (trips, of course, are golden, so the pot was capped on the river) and a flopped straight with 7-8.
I also won a 6-12 kill pot with K-10 on a 10-high flop. I called the hand before the flop and bet on the flop and the turn and river. I was never raised once by the woman to my left. Another 10 came on the river, and when I bet, she said, "You'd better have trip 10s." Well, I did. What did she think I had?
She flipped over K-K.
"God dammit. That's not very nice," she said. "I always get screwed on the river."
This is what I call the Ballad of the Mediocre Limit Poker Player. They always feel sorry for themselves.
Sure, I sucked out, but she never did anything to prevent it, either. Remember, this was a kill pot, so she actually had a little ammo to work with. Had she raised me pre-flop or on the turn, I might have considered folding because she was a tight player and the board did look a little dangerous, even if it did stay 10-high.
But she just called, and here came the banjo on the river when the chips were pushed my way.
We all love playing with players who believe that it's the cards, and not their actions, that determine when the chips come their way. It's what we like to call the mashed potatoes of the chicken fried dinner. At least I like to call it that.
But their complaining and bitching and whining does get old. I suppose it's a small price to pay. LIke having to listen to Slaughter before Ozzy hits the stage.
It was 1:30 a.m., and my ears and eyes had had enough. It was time to go home. I was leaving money on the table by leaving, but then again, in a 3-6 game with dozens of callers on every hand, maybe I was saving money by leaving too.
I left with $105. Not bad for a few hours of low-limit poker.
But the best part was the fact that poker really is everywhere these days. It was a fun, friendly game, even if it was in a little dinky casino, and even if it was in Susanville, Calif.
I enjoyed playing with them and playing the game.
Almost as much as taking their money.