one of my very good friends has admonished me by telling me, no matter how good or how bad these trip reports are, i have forgotten the most basic rule of our business: "poker is a game of *people*". so, this first part is about some people.
yesterday, i played 3/6 omaha/8 at station casino. i'm in #2 and ed is in #4. he's a white guy about 70 years old, thinning white hair, glasses, about 5'10" tall, slim build, dressed in casual clothes. he's an easy-going fellow who has quietly smiled as i've been telling some of the other players at the table about my trip. this was the afternoon session, before the maniac (see below) arrived. ed has not yet said one word. i'm in the big blind with a 2 4 5 9 rainbow. nobody raises, and there are five callers, including ed and the little blind. flop is 4 5 9 rainbow. it's checked around. turn is an offsuit jack. checked again. the river is a king. and it's checked again. i spread my hand. "i started with three pair, and that's how i finished!" ed rolls over A A 9 5 rainbow. "i *really* started with one pair, made two pair on the flop, but i've got two better kickers than you for the high!" i fire back, "yeah...but my kickers are the better low!" we look at each other, and burst out laughing! and we split the pot!
bob riley is also at the table. he's also about 70, 6 feet tall, a white cowlick of what must have been blond hair over his right eyebrow, glasses, casual clothes. he's a very good player, and he's waiting for a seat in the 20/40 omaha high game. bob has just returned from tunica, where's he's made about $1500 in ten days. bob gives me the names of some people at several poker rooms in the area with whom i can book rooms. i thank him, and make some notes. today, i see bob again. i thank him for his help, and tell him that i've made room reservations down there. he's glad to help. a couple hours later, i'm up three or four stacks of white chips playing 3/6, and i start putting my chips in some racks. it's about 4:00 pm, and i want to get downtown to the president, the other cardroom in town. bob wanders over. he's carrying two-and-a-half racks of red. he sees i'm about to cash out, too, and asks, "what does a poker player do when he's made some money at a casino and it's still too early to go home?" "hey, that's easy! you go downtown to another casino!" he chuckles and tells me to be careful down there.
okay. last night's 3/6 omaha/8 game was a shoot-em-up because of one player: "fidel." he's about 40 years old, olive skin, full head of wiry black hair brushed straight back, 5'6" tall, medium build, several gold chains around his neck, several rings (but no wedding ring), dressed in expensive slacks and a purple silk shirt. he doesn't stop talking. he doesn't stop raising. players who know him are razzing him because he's from tijuana, but each time he says, "no, no, no, no, no! acapulco! acapulco!" fidel plays any four cards, and there's simply no way you can put him on a hand. he might have suited aces, and he might have 3 6 9 Q rainbow! he plays 'em all the same! fidel is not happy. it seems that tuesday, someone hit the omaha bad beat jackpot ($15,000), while fidel was not sitting in his seat - he was away from the table shooting craps! fidel gives away at least $300 in two hours at this game. remember, missouri law has a loss limit of $500 for two hours. you just can't buy more than $500 in chips in that time period. poor fidel!!
ya remember what vegas used to be like? i mean, 15 or 20 years ago, when vegas was *vegas*! when there wasn't anything like the mirage, or the bellagio or the luxor. when the old (pre-fire) mgm grand really was grand. when there wasn't any such thing as the fremont experience. and when steve wynn hadn't yet rebuilt the golden nugget. ya know, when the strip was the strip and downtown was, well, downtown....
the president is the name of the casino on "the admiral," a huge boat which is permanently docked in downtown st. louis, not too far from the st. louis gateway arch. it is not the nicest place in town, and i've read stories here at rgp about how it's not very safe around there. ok. i'll park in the valet parking area. i drive around for 15 minutes, and i can't find the damned valet parking (several locals later admitted to me that the valet parking area is not well-marked). so i park in one of the parking garage structures across the street. hmmmmm..... hey! i live in new york city! i've got enough urban paranoia! i don't need this.....
but i get on the boat. there's a $2 admission fee, and they stamp my parking ticket to cancel the $5 parking fee. the president has 100,000 square feet of gaming area, which is as much as the taj mahal in atlantic city. they have four levels, and the poker room is located on the top floor, at the stern of the boat. the room is divided into three sections, and they have about 15 tables there, about half stud and half flop games. however, they don't spread anything larger than 1-5 stud (i'm told that they get a 2-10 stud game on saturdays). they have a couple 1-4/8 hold 'em games, and soon after i arrive they crank up a 5/10 omaha/8 with a kill. i take a seat in the new game. very soon, rgp'er chris downs spots my green satin tropicana jacket and my white-and-black "rgp" poker hat, and greets me! chris is a regular at the president, and he tells me that the lineup in my game is as tough as i'll ever see. humph! i didn't think very highly of the players at my game, and chris tells me that i'm right! this is as tough as it gets! :) chris is a good guy! (he's an rgp'er! what else is new?)
the view out the windows of the poker room is, in a word, splendid! one can see several bridges crossing the mississippi from st. louis to illinois, the river itself, the gateway arch, the "casino queen" riverboat on the illinois side (right next to the continental grain company distribution factory), and i'm told that when a home team player hits a home run at the nearby stadium, they shoot fireworks out over the river! unfortunately, the windows are pretty dirty.
and that is quite symbolic of the entire casino. the floor is dirty. the chips are filthy (see below). the bathrooms are disgusting. the surfaces of the poker tables (green velvet, like at artichoke joe's near san francisco) are stained and cigarette-burnt. the entire place can be summed up in one word: seedy.
ya remember downtown vegas?
now you know what i mean.
at one time, the admiral must have been magnificent! but that was a long time ago. and now, they're going to have to spend a lot of money to even start to recapture what must have been...but they're not going to do it.
nevertheless, the action in the room was terrific. they take a 10% rake, up to a maximum of $3.00. they've got bad bead jackpots (currently, the stud jackpot is over $100 grand!). the ceilings are high, and i'm told that smoke is not a bad problem. the two seats next to the dealers are not no- smoking. in accordance with missouri law, cash does not play. there is no rulebook available for players. :( in the evenings, they put out free food (this offer wasn't enough to keep me there). on mondays, they run a $50 buy-in hold 'em tourney, and on thursdays, they run a $1000 freeroll tourney for players who have played four hours on the previous tuesday.
many of the players are just as seedy as the environment. two players in the room carry their own oxygen masks and tanks. and it's easy to see that several others are going to need their own very soon. one of them is at my table. he has two teeth in his mouth - one in the upper right, and one in the lower left. he stops coughing only so that he can light yet another cigarette.
the manager of the poker room at the president is wayne royce. he's a great guy who has spent close to twenty years in the poker industry, including many years in vegas working for the boyd group. wayne wants to do the right thing for his room, but i suspect that his hands are tied by upper level management of the casino. too bad.
as i mentioned above, the chips are filthy. during my trip, i'm collecting chips for three chip-collecting friends in atlantic city. naturally, i want to bring them back the newest, shiniest, brightest chips i can find. i won a couple stacks of red in just over two hours. i cash out for five stacks of red, and a few odd chips. after the cashier has given me my money, i place four white (or what used to be white) chips on the counter, and ask the cashier, "do you have three nice, bright, white chips in your rack?" she replies, "we ain't got no really white chips." me: "yes, but could you please look in your rack, and see if you can find three of the best-looking chips?" her: "i got a whole lot of chips, but i ain't got no good ones." i don't press the issue. she doesn't want to look in her rack, and she doesn't want the damned toke. me: "okay. gimme a dollar for this one, please." and i put the other three chips in my pocket.
i leave the boat. i look to my left. i look to my right. i look behind me. i get in my car. i get the hell out of dodge city as fast as i can.
a note about "the admiral" where the president casino is located: i've been told that the reason why it's permanently docked is because the boat never had any engines! it is, and always has been, one very large and luxurious barge (using the word in its original sense....).
i drive back to station casino and tell my story about the four white chips. dealer dennis tells me the story of "white chip terry." he was a regular player at the president, who used to take home racks and racks of white chips. he would put them in his dishwasher, clean them, and bring them back to the casino!! lol!!!
i play 3/6 omaha/8 for about three hours, and win a stack-and-a-half of reds. it's time to go back to the motel, break open the bottle of dewar's, and write this report! :)