the california grand is located in pacheco, a mile or two off i680, north and east of oakland. it's a little bit tricky getting to this place, but if you keep following the signs to pacheco (pa-chay'-ko), you'll get there! it's got a tiny parking lot, with narrow spaces, but i found a spot without too much trouble.
there are nine tables in the main room, with two tables of "hot action blackjack" and a couple tables of pai gow poker on the raised section by the bar. when i arrived at about 2pm on a sunday, there were a couple tables of 3/6 hold 'em, one of 6/12, and one 4/8 omaha/8 with a half kill. floorman skip noticed my tropicana jacket, normandie baseball cap, and fox- woods t-shirt without too much trouble as soon as i walked into the room. they were building a $50+5 no rebuy limit hold 'em tourney, and skip assured me that i'd have a seat in no time.
the room is well-lit and comfy, without very much noise. one player bangs the table (a common enough event in california), but skip implores, "please don't bang the table! it scares me and i've got a bad heart!" they offer bad beat jackpots and a full tourney schedule. there's food service at the tables, with a full menu. from 5 - 7 pm, all seated players are eligible to get a "50% off" food coupon. everybody knows everybody else in this room.
sure enough, i'm soon seated at the 4/8 omaha/8 game, which i'd describe as weak-passive. the one exception is the maniac, who is seated on my immed- iate right, but jumps around the table as soon as there is an open seat. they use the forward moving button rule here. at the 4/8, the blinds are $2 and $4. there is a $2 button charge, which is live. they take the entire little blind and the button charge for the drop before distributing cards. dealers keep their own tips. the chips in this casino are speed chips, but they are quite light, at around 7-to-8 grams. in a kill pot, the killer acts in turn. new players do not have to post a blind.
no doubt that you have all seen the advertisements for the california grand in the poker magazines. the ads contain a coupon offering $50 in chips for $20 cash for a new player. i give the pretty (and very pregnant) blonde behind the cage two franklins, the coupon, and my driver's license. she gives me two racks of blue $1 chips, and $30 cash. all right!! :)
my first dealer gravely instructs me not to throw my chips out lengthwise into the pot, but to leave neat stacks of four in front of me. ok. when in rome.....
i'm playing about 45 minutes, when i see someone i think i recognize at the atm machine on the gaming floor. "doc? doc??? hey, is your name larry?" i'm amazed. i do know this guy! i last saw him about three years ago, when he and i shared a room at the tropicana one weekend! he's moved to northern california, joined a medical group there, and recently gotten married! wtg doc!
you know, if you play poker long enough, you'll meet and re-meet just about everybody in the business. a tall, gray-haired, bearded blue-eyed man sits down next to me. we trade pleasantries for a while, and he soon notices my barge99 chips and my "year of the tiger" chip. and then, after i've made a few notes, he asks me if i'm some kind of poker writer! it turns out that alec is a former manager of diamond lil's cardroom in washington state, and although he's never met our own hittheflop, he knows of him quite well! i explain that hittheflop and i are both "some kind" of poker writers! ;)
i play a little more than four hours, and cash out with a win of a rack-and- a-half of blues. and then who walks in? none other than ernst-dieter martin! sorry, dieter! you've already won a jacket! :)
we both enter the $50 buy-in $500 added omaha/8 tourney that is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. there are four tables; 39 people; and we start with three orange chips, eight green chips, and eight yellow chips. for some reason, dealer juanita is reluctant to tell me the denominations of the tourney chips. finally, a player advises me that we all start with T500. i figure out for myself that the orange is T100, the green is T20, and the yellow is T5. the tourney gets started at around 7:10. on my immediate left are a wife-and- husband team. i'm not entirely happy about this, but i'm soon high-carded off the table.
blinds go up every fifteen minutes. when the dealer splits the pot (except in the ordinary high and low situation), such as when two people split the pot by tieing for high, and such as when one player gets half for high and two split the low, if there is an odd chip, the dealer takes an extra chip out of the rack.
at 80/160, i am under the gun and i am dealt three fours and a trey. i muck it. **of course** the flop is ace, deuce five. ::::sigh:::: i get past the blinds, and have an ace-queen suited; jack-ten suited on the button. one limper, so i raise. only the big blind and the limper call. the flop is q 7 5, with two hearts (not my suit). checked to me, and i bet my top pair. only the limper calls. turn is an offsuit ace. he bets, and i raise all-in. he calls. the river is an offsuit jack, and he wins the pot with (get this!) king ten nine three rainbow. "nice hand, sir. well played!"
i go home now.
i liked playing at the california grand (which has no connection to lyle berman's grand casinos), and you will too.
i'm going to stay in the bay area all next week.