Tiger Tours the Tables - fort mcdowell, gila river, harrah's ak-chin, phoenix arizona; paradise casino, yuma arizona; viejas, san diego, sycuan, san diego

jeez....i haven't written a report for three days! fasten your seat belts! it's going to be a bumpy ride!

part 1

i forgot to tell you something about casino arizona at salt river. they have a system there that i haven't seen since 'way back in the final days of the poker room at caesar's palace in nevada. at salt river, on every table, right next to the drop slot, is a little electronic device. the dealer presses separate buttons to call for (1) service (2) set-ups (3) chips (4) floor (5) seat open, and (6) multiple seats open. what a pleasure it is to play poker and not hear the constant calls "player checks on 5!", "seat open, table 12!", and "cocktails!!"

i liked casino arizona at salt river. :)

part 2

fort mcdowell, just outside phoenix, used to be *the* place to play poker in that area; however, salt river has taken all of the high-limit action, and most of the rest of the action, too. the room has about 35-40 tables, about half of which were in action when david trinidad and i arrived about 3 pm. they've got stud at 1-5, hold 'em at 3/6 and 4/8, and an omaha 4/8 game. in addition, they have a 5/10 stud game that runs like this: it's a one dollar ante (twice the "standard" ante you'll find in vegas, atlantic city, and connecticut); one dollar goes to the bad beat jackpot drop and three go into the rake slot. the bring-in is $2, and the rest of the structure is standard. stud is played eight-handed.

we're greeted as soon as we walk in, and almost immediately help crank up a new 4/8 hold 'em game with a full kill that goes into effect when one player wins two consecutive pots, the second of which is $40. the killer has last action.

the room has high ceilings and seems to be well-ventilated, and i'll hazard a guess that smoke is't too much of a problem. the place is roomy and spacious. they've got high hand giveaways for a straight or better. they use the forward moving button rule. they've got various tourneys and give- aways, but we didn't stay long enough for me to make notes about them.

we're playing with "doc" whose real name is lee. i mention to david some- thing that had happened the night before at salt river in a 4/8 hold 'em game. he had flopped a set and was the aggressor in the pot. on the river, a straight became possible. david bet, and an old man raised. the geezer had his chips stacked neatly, and had three or four stacks of 20 chips, and a few extra chips in front. after david bet, the geezer (with shaking hands) took one of his complete stacks, placed it into the pot, and removed the top four chips with a flourish, leaving 16 chips (a bet and a raise). notwith- standing the shaking hands, i have found this to be a nearly absolutely reliable tell at any 4/8 game: when an old man does this (and *especially* if he takes the tube of 20 chips out of a rack!), he's got the nuts! doc is listening carefully, but doesn't say anything. a few minutes later, doc is in a hand with the table maniac and a clueless geezer. on the river, doc makes his hand; he picks up a stack of 20 chips, places it in the pot, and removes the top four chips with a flourish! david and i laugh so hard that we almost fall off our chairs! the geezer, who wasn't even listening to our earlier conversation, calls. doc exclaims, "i've been waiting 20 years to do that!" and he starts to laugh, too! :)

part 3

gila river casino is about 10 or 15 miles south of phoenix. it's a beautiful red adobe structure, with plenty of parking all around. the poker room is located off to the side of the casino. they've got at least 50 tables in this room, but i suspect that something is wrong right away. they've only got three or four tables working (one of which is a head-to-head 10/20 3-way game). they've also got a 1-3 stud, a 3/6 stud, and a 3/6 hold 'em game. i sit down at the 3/6 stud game.

you folks know that, when i see something i like, i don't hesitate to give credit where credit is due. and when i see something i don't like.....

i won't say much about gila river. this is what happened there: i had been playing for about an hour. i was about to order the very first bagel and cream cheese i had had on my trip, when it finally occurred to me why the room had gotten so noisy. several staffers, including a few dealers, and a few people who looked like floorpeople, and at least one or two who looked liked supervisors, had been engaged in a lengthy argument at the front podium. the argument was about changing days off, fa' chris'sake. my table was near the front. i stood up and shouted, "hey! hey! shut the hell up! don't you people understand that you've got *customers* in this room???"

i think i know why they only had three tables in action at gila river.

part 4

harrah's ak-chin casino is several miles south of gila river. they've got a small poker room off to the side of this rather small casino. the card room is open to the main pit, and it's pretty noisy. when i arrived, they had four tables of a stud/8 tourney in progress. it had been running for about 30 minutes, and i was rebuffed in my attempt to join the tourney. they had no live games in progress. oh, well.

part 5

although ken's poker page has three separate listings, there's really only one casino in yuma, arizona: the paradise casino, on quezon road. you take interstate 8 to 4th avenue, take a right turn at the exit, a quick right onto route 24, and follow the signs to the bright blue-and-red neon lights that could only be a casino! but you gotta follow the signs. the route to the casino runs around the mission and you don't want to get side-tracked.

the poker room is at the far end of the casino. it has seven tables, and they spread 1-4 stud, 3/6 hold 'em and omaha/8, both with a full kill. there's one game of each in progress. they have bad beat jackpots, and offer $30 for $20 to the first seven players when they open the room at noon. they take $1 for the jackpot on the flop, and rake at 10% to a maximum of $3. the dealers keep their own tips, and are quite friendly. here's something i have not seen outside of connecticut: the players are responsible for calling a string bet. and here's something else i haven't seen very often: all games use "large index" cards, so that the geezers can see 'em. cash does not play. they use the forward moving button rule.

the room is open to the casino, and has low ceilings. there are overhead fans running, but one fan is directly between a light and table #2; this creates an annoying "strobe" effect. seats next to the dealers are not no- smoking, and i suspect that, on a busy night, smoke could be a problem. because the casino is not huge, the noise is not overwhelming. there's soda, lemonade and coffee available in the room, but they're all kept in large plastic jugs; the soda is flat when you pour it.

the quality of play is horrible. at the hold 'em table, i raised twelve times with aa, ak, kk, and aq. i got at least three or four callers every time. i didn't win one hand. at the omaha/8 table, my experience was even worse. two big "l"s go into the log book. :(

california, here i come!

part 6

casino viejas is about 25 miles east of san diego, just east of the alpine exit, north of interstate 8. it's a new casino, across the street from a very large outlet store, where you can buy hundreds of name brand clothes for discount prices. it's a busy place.

the poker room is along the side of the casino, far away from the slots, but it's a pretty noisy place, anyhow. this was my first experience in a long time with california "aaiiiiyah!!!" ;) the room has about 25 tables, most of which are in action at 2 pm on a thursday. they offer various games at various limits from 2/4 on up. seating control procedures are pretty good, and i didn't see any board listing for anything higher than 6/12. cash does not play, and they use the forward moving button rule. they've got bad beat jackpots and random seat giveaways. the ceilings are medium-high, but the ventilation is pretty good. although this is california, smoking is allowed in this casino, and i conclude that the indian casinos are not subject to the state-wide "no smoking" rule. table service is available.

i'm immediately seated at a 2/4 hold 'em game....almost immediately move to a 3/6 game....and again almost immediately get a seat in a 4/8 game. there are plenty of gambooooolers at my table. :/ the entire big blind of $4 is taken before the deal for the $3 rake and the $1 jackpot. dealers are pretty good, keep their own tips, and are pretty friendly.

when you first enter the club, you can join the players club. when you join, you get ten points, and earn one point for each hour of play, at any level. points are redeemable (3 points = one dollar) for food and gifts. the only hands i play for the first 45 minutes were my unraised big blinds. then, i had ak suited in late position, raised, got five callers, flopped an ace with two of my suit, bet it all the way, and made the flush on the river. aces would have been good. 45 minutes later, i win a kill pot with a jack-ten suited on the button by flopping a broadway. lots of action. :) i then win my own kill by flopping a small set. :D

i book it, and splurge my accumulated points on spring rolls and salad. i've got another date! :)

part 7

el cajon, california, is about 15 miles east of san diego. take the 2nd street exit away from downtown, take a left on washington and go straight. washington eventually becomes dehesas street, and after negotiating some truly hair-raising twists and turns along a mountainside, you come to sycuan indian casino. there are large parking lots all around the main building, and convenient shuttle service back and forth. i am advised that they are building an entirely new structure to open some time in the future.

annie adlin is a veteran of the poker industry. she started as a dealer in las vegas 20 years ago, worked for tom bowling at the las vegas hilton, propped for a couple years, and has been at sycuan for the last 7 years, 4 of them as floor. annie also maintains the cardplayer magazine web site, and was the co-author of the "you make the call" column in the magazine. we hit it off right away. hey! we both love rules! :) besides, as soon as i walk into the room, she presents me with a sycuan baseball cap! :) annie is working on revising and updating the room's rulebook, which comes from a variety of sources, including the hilton's.

the room has 17 tables. they offer 1-3 stud/8; hold 'em from 3/6 to 9/18; 3/6 and 4/8 omaha/8, and something they call 3/6 "hop" with a full kill. this is one rotation of hold 'em, omaha, and crazy pineapple (you are dealt three cards, bet, flop, and you must discard one card before the turn). all three rounds are played high-low with an 8 qualifier. this game was classic california "no fold 'em poker" and i had a ball at this game. "uncle louie" is at the table. he's a white guy, at least 75, graying and balding, and well-dressed in sartorial splendor with a tailored suit, tie, and handker- chief. he plays every hand and every round. he wears glasses, and can barely see the cards. everybody knows him and loves him! so, i won two racks of blues ($1) in two hours. :D

the rake is "flop 'n' drop." at 3/6, the small blind is taken for the jack- pot drop, and the entire big blind is taken for the rake. if there's a flop, they drop 'em. no, folks, i never saw a hand end before the flop in this game....

despite its size, this really is a local cardroom (el cajon is not really a destination resort). boardperson spots me as i'm walking down the stairs, even before i actually set foot into the room. :) it's a pretty friendly place, and many of the staff have years of experience in the business. i was introduced to supervisors ken and gary, and to boardperson carole. all of the seats in this room have high swivel backs, and have wheels. there are small service tables for ashtrays and drinks, and larger service tables for food. seats next to the dealers are no-smoking. for a room with rather low ceilings, smoke was not too much of a problem. cash does not play.

they've got bad beat jackpots, and small buy-in daily tourneys. in november, from noon to 4 pm, they offer a $100 insurance for aces in the hole in hold 'em. if your pocket rockets are beaten, you get $100. they've also got random lottery giveaways and various other promotions. the room was full by 8 pm.

after dinner, they finally got a 6/12 hold 'em game cranked up. i was the little fat white guy in the #9 seat, playing with eight, count 'em, eight asians (only three were maniacs, which was more than enough!). here, the entire small blind went to the rake, and $1 of the big blind went to the jackpot. no flop, no drop. at this game, i finally saw a hand end before the flop....well, maybe even two hands....

the blue chips are standard clay chips. however, the yellow $5 chips are speed chips. here's one hand from the 6/12: after two limpers, one of the maniacs raises in late position. curiously, only one of the limpers calls. the flop is q 7 6 rainbow. limper checks. maniac *faces his rockets* and bets. ***limper calls!*** turn is an offsuit jack. check, bet and call. the river is a 4. limper laughs hysterically and bets, but faces his 5 3 offsuit before the maniac can do anything. i win a stack of yellow and book it. i just might come back for some 3/6 hop tomorrow. :)

stay tuned!!