Tuesday Donkball at the 'Pot'
"Directions from the East: I-94 west to 35th Street. Head south on the 35th Street viaduct to National Avenue. Go east on National Avenue, then north on Caesar Chavez Drive/16th Street. Turn east on the Emmber Lane ramp, then north on Emmber to Canal Street. Turn west on Canal Street to the Casino."
--- from the Potawatomi Casino web site, as major interchange construction in downtown Milwaukee baffles potential visitors
Road trip Tuesday, with a bit of poker thrown in. The poker includes one of the most unusual low-limit casino variants you're ever likely to encounter, so it might worth the read. I spent Tuesday on the road to the previous stomping grounds in Milwaukee, snagging a car load of junk from a storage unit, handling some other paperwork, then not being able to get my car's drive belt replaced at the place that previously said they'd do it on the cheap and quick ... in general, just running a collected bunch of long-distance errands.
But all work and no play makes for lousy poker-blog reading, so I made the loop through the dreaded downtown Milwaukee construction zone --- that's the west-south-east-north-east-north-west hilarity quoted above --- and finally found the way to the Potawatomi Casino, about the only public poker game for 100 or more miles around. The Pot's poker room is a reconstitued storage area adjacent to the large bingo hall on the casino's upper level, pretty much the farthest point possible from the casino's main entrance. They've got ten tables and a small brush area squeezed into something like a 24' x 60' room, with a small cashier's cage on one end and a glass wall on the bingo-hall side that sometimes keeps the place from becoming claustrophobic. "Spacious" is a word never used in the Pot's marketing material when describing its poker room.
There's no room for railbirds or sweating of players, either, but there are a few windowbirds from time to time. And also, pray that your occasional bathroom trip does not correspond to break time during one of the major bingo sessions just outside. Can we say "waiting line?"
Nor is it fair to call the game donkball, as the mid-week daytime games at the Pot include few players beyond the room's regulars, and most of those are competent. I had to wait a short while until a new $2-4 w/ Kill table was started up, the only available seats on the seven or so tables in play. We played nine-handed, and we had six competent players and three fish, about what I figured. I bought a rack of whites and won one hand in five dealer shifts --- me card-dead. But that's not the fun part of the tale.
At an adjacent table behind me was a 7-Stud game with two open seats, so I gathered up my remaining chips (maybe $45) and figured I'd try the change of pace. As I said, this is an odd sort of stud game; it's $1-5 spread with no ante, and a forced $1 bring-in for the low window card. If you've done any reading about 7-Stud, you know that buying the antes is an important part of the game, as it helps offset the variance and suckouts brought in by later-street play. Now, wed that knowledge to the previous description and you'll realize this: A spread game with no ante defeats one of the purposes of the spread. There's rarely any value in chasing down someone who makes an early $5 bet, hence the high success rate of the steal, but until there's a few dollars in the pot, the steal itself is a high-risk/low-reward venture. And that points to when the steal is apt: If you're in late position relative to the forced opener, and there are two or three or four limpers, then the occasional $1 + $5 (max spread) steal raise is the right play. The early limpers' donations provide the value for the steal, and your bet obviously represents a high pair or some other quality holding, as it should.
One other note: If you're in a spread game with no ante, and you are the forced bring-in, there is no reason on Earth to bring it in with anything other than the minimum... no matter what you have. It's only your money in the pot at that point, and anything over the minimum is giving away information that there's no need to share at the start of the hand. The possible pretense that you're defending your forced buy-in doesn't hold water; you've got the lowest up card, so all the other players at the table have at least the chance to have a hand that's currently better than yours, and unless you're on a rolled-up set of babies, it's likely that someone does. Besides, if you've got three treys, you want the action, not the opposite.
Okay, there is one exception: If you're across the table from a maniac who personally hates your guts and has told you that he's going to max-raise you whenever you bet --- and you know that he will --- then go ahead and max-open your strong hidden hands. That'll occur at least once every 20,000 sessions, I'm sure.
Back to the action. I only recognized two of the players, an older woman who was a known steady quantity and a dreadlocked black guy, named Reg, who's one of the Pot's room rats and is among the toughest there in the lower games. He can play, but on a Tuesday afternoon I'm going to find a mix of solid players no matter what table I'm at --- it's a supply-vs.-demand sort of thing. Besides, Reg is a good talker.
I took down a couple of smallish pots early, one with a maximum-sized overbet on seventh street that a scrawny, middle-aged biker-wannabe type called me on when he had no business making the call --- my made boat against his pair, or some such nonsense. And he gives me a quizzical look, and gets up from his seat two seats to my right and takes a seat two seats to my left. And just seconds later another player, an average-looking blonde-haired sort who I didn't have any read on, moves up from across the way and takes the seat immediately to my left.
Hmmm! People moving intentionally moving to my left tells me one of two things: they either respect my game and want to get behind me to limit their exposure, or they view me as a mark and want to push me around. And I've been playing against them for all of 15 minutes...
The answer, of course, is "One from Column B." And one wait-and-see.
Among the pure joys in poker is the man (in this case the biker wannabe, replete with requisite bandana and goatee) that will not fold a hand to a woman. Call after call after call, with a wasted re-raise or two thrown in for comic effect. Thank you for your chips, sir. He alone added ten max bets to my stack in an hour's time. The other guy who moved to my left didn't have the attitude/terrible game, but was a looser player on a run of tough luck; one example was his having a queens-full boat and running into a river-made straight flush (not mine); to add insult to injury, the other guy (the other bad player at the table) made a six-card straight flush, too. The tough-run player who had moved to my left was in from the south Chicago suburbs with two of his friends, to gamble some and then hit the Tigers-Brewers game just down the road. He loved playing stud but no other casino within driving distance spreads the game, and his buddy was on a good run of blackjack. They didn't make it to Miller Park.
However, my mark and the other weak player and the older woman were gone soon enough, though I did take my chips from a low of around $40 up to $150 or so while they lasted, a healthy surge at these limits. But I would go no higher. Not only did my cards quiet down again, but the table soon filled up again with several of the room's toughest players, some killing time as they waited for seats in the bigger games. A 30-ish player named Don who is always there was among them, along with another named Mark or Mike and two other faces I recognized, one a sometimes dealer himself. In response to one of the Chicago-burbs player's comments, I said, "Looks like you got your wish. It's as tough a 1-5 stud game as you're likely to find." And he was happy for it, though already stuck $160 and not likely to improve.
I bounced along in the game for another hour or so, basically not going anywhere. Cashout at about $140, a net plus of $40 after rake and tokes. Retirement income, no. A fun time, though; and a must re-do on my next drive north.