Friday, April 17, 2009

Good Eats and Comfortable Seats

Gold Coast CasinoAnother fun one yesterday, marked by good eats and comfortable seats. With regard to the latter, I’m referring to the seats you find at both kinds of tables -- the ones where you chow down and the ones where you play cards.

After some breakfast at the hotel and a quick shopping excursion with Vera, she went back for more dressage at the World Cup and I took off to meet Al Schoonmaker and Jim Brier for lunch. We met up over at the Palms where Dr. Al treated Jim and me to the buffet. Had a blast.

Most poker people are probably aware of Dr. Al thanks to his four books concentrating on various psychological issues in poker: The Psychology of Poker, Your Worst Poker Enemy, Your Best Poker Friend, and Poker Winners Are Different. Jim Brier is perhaps less immediately familiar to most, although a few years back he co-authored a well-regarded book with Bob Ciaffone called Middle Limit Hold’em Poker. He also contributed significantly enough to a book by British poker author Byron Jacobs called How Good is Your Limit Hold’em? to be listed on the cover as a collaborator, too. Both especially nice guys. And smart, too.

'The Psychology of Poker' by Dr. Al SchoonmakerWe discussed a number of different topics during our hour-and-a-half together, including the history of the Wednesday Poker Discussion Group (which dates back to 1999) and its Monday no-limit hold’em-focused offshoot, limit versus no-limit hold’em, risk aversion (and how all three of us had it), the many treasures awaiting bonus and promotion-hunters in Vegas, artificial intelligence and the future prospects for “poker bots,” and the upcoming World Series of Poker.

Dr. Al was nice enough to give me a copy of the one of his four books I didn’t own, and we parted making plans to keep in touch, perhaps at more meetings this summer when in all likelihood I’ll be back in Vegas covering the WSOP.

I thought I would try to squeeze in a short session, though since I played at the Palms several times last summer I wanted to sit down somewhere new. So I hopped in the rental and motored across Flamingo Rd. to the Gold Coast to see if perhaps they had anything at all going on. I’d tried once last summer to play there, but all they had happening then was one full table of old-timers, none of whom seemed ready to budge for another decade or so. Didn’t look much better yesterday, although there were some folks lingering to try to get a second table going, and thanks to some extra effort from the staff we ended up making one happen.

We started three-handed -- fairly absurd, really, although with only a one-dollar rake if the pot reached $10 and just a single blind, it could’ve been a lot worse. And, as it turned out, we only had to play a few hands of that before the table started filling. By the time I left we’d been eight- or nine-handed for a good while. I did pretty well, actually, leaving exactly $45 up for an hour of “work.”

There were a couple of characters in there worth sharing. There was the drinker. Four Captain ’n Cokes during our hour together, and more coming. “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time,” he said. And random-comment lady. “The coffee isn’t that bad, is it?” she once asked, with no coffee anywhere in sight. And a couple of semi-interesting hands, too. Will talk about ’em next week.

I suppose it might seem silly to some to read about my squeezing in an hour of $2/$4 limit hold’em rather than pursue more potentially lucrative opportunities during my short while here. Fact is, I get so little chance to play live I just don’t feel a special desire to test myself unnecessarily. One nice effect of putting in some hands like this at the lowest limits is that I do feel much, much more confident just dealing with the mechanics of live play than I did even a year ago.

Yeah, I know. Confidence ain’t gonna help but so much at the lowest limits like this. Hell, even skill is only gonna be of marginal benefit at a lot of these tables, where eight-handed flops means you gotta showdown winners or lose, end of story. But I tend to think what I’m doing now is gonna help me down the road, should I venture into higher stakes, tourneys, etc. As we were talking about a lunch a little bit, stepping out of one’s comfort zone ain’t a simple matter.

We ate at the Pink Taco over at the Hard Rock Casino and HotelCame on back to the hotel to decompress a bit before going out for dinner. Later on, Vera and I ventured over to the Hard Rock for a loud dinner at the Pink Taco. The shrimp tacos were quite scrumptious, in fact. And soporific. We wandered around the casino in a daze for a bit afterwards. Looked in on the poker room, where two no-limit tables were filled with players while sixteen more collected dust in the distance. Got back to our hotel and crashed, sleeping soundly despite the planes roaring overhead from nearby McCarran.

Like I say, I’ll have more to write about all of this next week. Today the plan is to visit with David Schwartz over at UNLV and check out the Special Collections at the Center for Gaming Research. Then will be getting together with Pokerati Dan later in the afternoon. Not sure what else is on the agenda as yet. Will probably post something tomorrow, too, so we’ll all find out.

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Anonymous Danieldinho said...

Hmm, so much for my thoughts on going to the Pink Taco. And for you ... from academic to not-so-academic on the agenda today ... frightening.

4/17/2009 3:12 PM  

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