After a bunch of hours in airports, planes, and a speedy taxi, Vera Valmore and I made it to our hotel late afternoon yesterday. She’s here for a conference, meaning I’ve got some daytime hours on my own. Got a tip sent to me via Waldo’s Wild Kingdom about some of the cardrooms around San Fran and I decided today to check out the Oaks Card Club over in Emeryville (across the bay).
The Oaks Card Club is probably the oldest cardroom in northern California, if not the entire state. Has been around since way before poker was legal here. The Oaks website says the club itself has been around since the 1890s. The Poker Shrink’s review of the room dates the card club’s origins during the 1930s. Whatever the case, the room -- open 24 hrs. a day & 7 days a week -- certainly has a lot of history.
Had read some of the other reviews and talked to a couple of other folks who suggested the Oaks to be worth checking out, even if it isn’t necessarily located in the best of neighborhoods. I was wary during the trip over, but didn’t run into any problems. Being without wheels, I took the BART over to the MacArthur stop, made a three-quarter mile trek west on 40th Street, then turned right on San Pablo Ave. and found myself at the club around 10 this morning. The entrance opens onto a single large room with around three dozen tables, about half of which were occupied when I arrived. I circled around the front desk and asked about low limit HE. They had one short-handed 3/6 game going, nothing for 2/4, and a full table of 1/2. That’s right -- 1/2. I only had a couple of hours, and since I was new to the place I went ahead and asked to be added to the 1/2 list. Within a couple of minutes a spot opened up, and pretty soon I was in my seat staring down at Big Slick.
I’d gone ahead agreed to post from late position. When the dealer asked me how many chips I wanted I took a peek around the table and saw no one seemed to have more than $20-30 or so in front of him, so I just bought $30 worth myself. Was a bit discombobulated and so didn’t even realize the action had passed by me without my getting a chance to raise my AK. Just as well, as the flop came Jack-high and some action before me encouraged me to fold the hand.
Ended up folding that first orbit or so as I tried to get a feel for my surroundings and the other players. We were 10-handed. There were a couple of senior citizens down at other end of the table who chatted a lot with the dealers and were clearly regulars. There were four players of Asian descent, two at each end, who spoke relatively little. There was an older black fellow in a toboggan named Frank who also seemed to be a regular. Then there were a couple of white guys -- an amiable, tattooed dude to my left sucking down Coronas & another younger guy across from me who spent most of the session nursing a teensy-weensy stack (under $10) and a Budweiser. And me.
The play was remarkably tight for a 1/2 game. Or so I assume -- can’t claim I’ve ever played a 1/2 live game before. Most hands only had three or four players see the flop, and there were quite a few hands played heads-up. Aside from Mr. Corona (who rapidly bled away over $50 -- maybe more -- playing just about every hand to the river), most of the table were rocks. After a while I picked up AQ and raised it, and it was just Budweiser and me to see the flop come A-3-5. He called my flop bet, but folded the turn. Then came a hand where I had in the big blind. This one saw a few limpers, then the button raise it. The SB called, as did I and the other limpers. There were five of us, I believe, to see the flop: .
Decent flop for me. We all checked it around to the button who bet, then we all called. Turn was the and again we all checked it. The button bet again, and this time just me and one other player called. The river brought my desired spade, the . I checked, the MP player bet out, and the button just called. Perfect. I check-raised, both called, and my king-high flush took the pot. I was up about $15 or so.
When the hand was over, Frank told me he knew I had something ’cause he saw my hands shaking when I went for the chips to check-raise. I joked that it was because I didn’t have the nut flush. He was right, though . . . I know I had given something away there, but it didn’t really matter much.
Frank ended up telling a couple of other players about their tells as well before I left. He played solidly himself, and in fact I saw him make a pretty incredible laydown in one hand (for a 1/2 LHE game, anyhow). A little later on he changed seats and was sitting on my left. (Dunno if the seat change was motivated by his having seen my shaky hands or not.) In a hand where I had folded, one of the senior citizens had raised preflop and Frank had called. I can’t remember the exact action, but by the turn there was an ace on the board and the senior citizen had bet. Frank hemmed and hawed, then folded, showing me his AQ as he did. The hand ended up going to showdown, and sure enough the old guy had AK.
Little while later I picked up KK -- the only big pair I’d get the whole session. The player to my right limped in UTG, I raised, everyone folded back to him and he called. I’d seen him raise preflop once with something like K4-suited; I’d also seen him showdown some crap hands like J4-off, so I didn’t really put him on anything in particular. The flop came J-9-4 rainbow, and he check-called my bet. The turn was a 5. He checked, I bet, and he check-raised. I called. Could just see him having fallen into two pair here.
The river was a blank. He bet, I called, and he showed AA. Ha! He’d limp-called preflop with the rockets. I went ahead and showed my kings and shrugged. “Bad timing,” I said. I’d lost $9 on the hand.
Not too much exciting happened after that. After nearly two hours I looked down to see I was up exactly $4. I gathered my chips, told everybody “good game,” cashed out, and made my way back to the MacArthur station. I’d earned enough for my ticket back.
I know a lot of folks consider a 1/2 LHE live game as something that belongs in the fourth circle of Dante’s Inferno. But for us short-stacked types who don’t get to play live that often, it’s a nice way to get a game in without inducing much bankroll anxiety. The dealers at the Oaks were friendly and competent, and the players at my table all fun to be around as well. Definitely worth the trip.
Got off the subway at the Civic Center stop and walked back to the hotel, grabbing a Falafel sandwich along the way. Lots of people milling about the farmer’s market & other stands today. I did see one small, pink-colored “Five Years -- How Many More?” poster, but I think the larger protests are happening downtown. Also, now that I think of it, there was a dude wearing an orange jumpsuit on the subway ride back -- something like what those detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base wear. If he wasn’t a prison escapee, he was probably part of a protest today, too.
A lot else going on that’s more important than folks pushing 50-cent chips back and forth across the baize. But I doubt any of that’ll be bothering the regulars too much this afternoon at the Oaks.