Let’s crack open my POKER ARCHIVE: This article was originally written back in October 2008. I’m sure some things in the poker world have changed since then. I for one used to like playing at The Bellagio back then, but for the sake of LA Poker I really hope some things have changed there as well.
The Commerce Casino. The Bicycle Club. If you play poker seriously then you’ve heard of these venues. I myself had never been to either one of these establishments before, but after spending a week in the Los Angeles area I have to say that these poker rooms do not live up to the hype and praise you’ve heard about them.
The Commerce Casino is perhaps the most famous card room in LA. It might even be the biggest card room in the whole world (Foxwoods?). But let me tell you as a player that prefers the likes of The Borgata and The Bellagio, The Commerce Casino is a dump! You’ll find dirty people loitering around the casino and sometimes even dirtier people sitting at your table. And everyone is eating all the time! My #1 poker pet peeve is eating at the table and it seems that in CA when most people decide to go out to eat they somehow find their way to a poker table. I swear of the nine people at the table at least 5 of them were eating or ordering something during the whole session.
Next, let’s talk about how fucked up LA’s buy-in structure is for No-Limit Hold’em. Listen to this, the max buy-in for a 3-5 NL Hold’em game is $200! WTF? I thought the logic for NL Hold’em was to have a max buy-in of at least 100x the big blind. At a buy-in of only $200 and where the average pre-flop raise is around $20 – $30 it doesn’t take long for you to get your stack committed in situations you wouldn’t normally desire. Basically the game can turn into a coin-flip shove fest. So my biggest problem with LA poker is that there doesn’t seem to be much “play”.
During my time at the Commerce I was surrounded by loose bad players that unfortunately I wasn’t able to exploit. But it was fun to watch this guy sitting next to me with about $800 in chips get felted after he got drunk and started playing every hand and trying to bluff everyone out of every hand. In a string of five hands this guy went from $800 to nothing. It was one of the worst displays of poker I had ever seen. But the one good thing I can say about the Commerce Casino is that the parking lot isn’t as bad/dangerous as everyone says it is and the parking is free as well.
The Bicycle Casino or commonly refer to as “The Bike” is cleaner and nicer than the Commerce Casino but the quality of players is still pretty bad, also everyone loves to eat at the table, as a matter of fact if you play 3-5 No-Limit Hold’em or higher you can get all the free food you want from the casino. That’s a first. But what would seem like a nice perk for the players actually was kind of annoying to me as I watched players display their gluttony as it seemed like everyone was ordering 5 course meals plus desert. The poker table turns into this centerpiece surrounded by side tables filled with food. And as if live poker wasn’t slow enough, all the eating going on only slows the game down more.
So there I was playing 3-5 NL Hold’em with their bullshit $200 max buy-in which led to me playing pretty tight and waiting to take advantage of the loose and wild players around me splashing every pot. Because of this structure I believe you just have to be patient and wait for a situation where you can get involved with the best of it, and boy did I find such a situation. Long story short I held Qs Js with a board of 9s 10s 8c which resulted in me stacking my opponent. So yeah you can say I had fun at The Bicycle Casino.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about The Hustler Casino. How Larry Flynnt flies in the world’s best poker players to take on, so I was excited to check out this place out. And with the name Hustler involved I was expecting to see hot sluts walking around everywhere. Well, that’s not exactly what you’re going to see. I really didn’t see any hot chicks anywhere inside, even the waitresses were kind of beat and rundown. But the card room was comfortable and well laid out, and from what I was told the table where Larry and players like Phil Ivey and John Hennigan play ultra high stakes games is right there amongst all the normal tables. Well I didn’t see Larry or Phil playing anywhere but my 3-5 No Limit Hold’em game was actually the most solid game I had experience since playing in LA. Most players knew how to control their bets in accordance to their stacks and there really weren’t any shovefests to speak of. This might be a result of the high number of house players I spotted in the card room. Actually the number of house players I saw in LA poker rooms was abnormally high in comparison to other card rooms I’ve been in around the country. But hey I don’t mind house players, they keep the game going and most of them don’t get out of line too often with their betting.
My final session of LA poker came while I was waiting for my red-eye flight back to Philly. The Hollywood Park Casino is only a stone’s throw away from LAX and is a pretty cool place to play. I loved the fact that there are arcade games everywhere surrounding the poker room. And we’re talking cool arcade games like Donkey Kong, Operation Wolf and an Elvis pinball machine as just a few examples. But like everywhere else in LA there was the $200 max buy-in for the 3-5 No Limit Hold’em game which I again will tell you how much I detest. And once again I was at a table where players were just making huge over-sized bets pre-flop and just shoving on the flop. Is this poker? Maybe its just a result of all the action junkies in the room who are also betting the horses while sitting at the table.
Now don’t think I’m being a whining little bitch, because I know how to adapt to this structure and this kind of play, but the thing is, is that on this day some bad luck and some cold cards resulted in a pretty decent dent in my bankroll. I’m not going to tell you how much I lost but just let me point out these few hands: my set of 4’s stacked by a set of Kings, a guy all-in rivering a flush to beat my straight, I was short-stacked with pocket 8’s and of course my opponent with AK nailed his Ace on the flop…OK, maybe I am starting to sound like a bitch because no one likes to hear bad beat stories, but it just seemed like that during my time playing poker in LA I didn’t exactly feel like I was “playing poker”. I almost felt that due to the structure that comes with a low buy-in for a No-Limit Hold’em game that most of my actions were pretty much determined by the math involved and not by any kind of high level thinking. Man, I can’t wait to get back to The Borgata.