Herding Yaks at Riverside

February 04, 2010

Work took me to eastern Iowa the past two days. Tuesday night was spent beating college buddy Santa Claus in a NLHE tourney at his place, along with enjoying some Chinese takeout, wine, and gin. I suppose I should also mention I lost in that tourney to Mrs. Claus, who called my flop bluff with A-high, which held up over my K-high. Rigged, I tell you!

Wednesday I mediated a case, and got done in time to make a short stop off at Riverside Casino, Insane Asylum, and ATM near Iowa City. It's a nice looking casino and golf resort, with a 14-table poker room. But, the poker room is quirky enough to qualify as the Mandalay Bay of the Midwest:

  • No electronic devices can be used at the table at any time, in any manner, even if you are not in the hand.  One old guy admonished me for Twittering at the table, claiming I would void any high hand or badbeat jackpot, even if I'm not in the hand.  I felt like saying I didn't give a flying pig, but it looked like the fellows at my table took their jackpots very seriously, so I acquiesced.
  • Dealer tips are not kept by the individual dealer.  Nor are the tips pooled with the other poker dealers.  Instead, poker dealer tips are pooled with all the other dealer tips from the pit games.  Not a lot of motivation for the dealers, and it shows.
  • The tables seem slightly larger than regulation vegas tables, making it hard for a lot of people to see the board from the ends of the table.  One dealer had trouble reaching bets, so he would put the deck down on the table, half stand, lean forward to pull in bets two-handed, then sit back down and pick the deck back up.  Very odd.
  • The chairs swivel, but are not on wheels, and are not adjustable for height.  Their fixed height is too short for the tables.
  • They have HHJs for quads and straight flushes, but they are quite small.  There is also a bad beat jackpot and a "mini bad beat" jackpot.  Pick a promo already!

When I arrived late afternoon, there were two 2/5 NLHE games in progress, with a main game and a full must move game.  I got seated within minutes.  The action was pretty wild, with a lot of pots where 4-5 players called $20-$25 preflop, and postflop big bets were being called down by third or fourth pair, which often won the pot.  I saw one $1600 pot where five players called $25 preflop, and three players got it all-in on a flop of:  Js6s2s.  The hands:  KsTd, 9s3s, 8s4s.  Hand runs out blanks.  Within minutes, the winner and the loser of that hand both got called to the main game, taking a ton of chips with them.

Our game suddenly became uber-passive, with a lot of limped pots, and no 3-betting preflop.  I manage to turn out just over a double up by playing maybe 10 hands in two hours, and scoring medium sized pots with:  a flopped set of 8s filling up on a card that made the nut flush, a flopped set of treys knocking off flopped top two with AK, my own flopped top two with AK holding up against a pair with flush draw, and 3-betting out of the BB preflop with AQ to steal $100 in limp-calls of a $20 preflop raise.  That's it.  That's my session.  Exciting, eh?

There was plenty of excitement in the room, however.  The main game looked to be playing psychotically, with a ton of big pots.  The players all seemed to be regulars, and there sounded like a lot of bluffing, 3-betting, and big moves being made.  At one point, I tried to estimate the chips in play, and figured there had to be $11K to $13K on the table--two players had over $2000, two other players had over $1500, and the rest all had at least $800-$1000.  By contrast, at my table, I was one of the two big stacks with $600 when I left, and most stacks were in the $100-$250 range.  At the main game, pots of $500-$1000 were being pushed regularly.  At my table, the most exciting moment was when a debate broke out among the old farmers as to which Vegas casino had the best action--a couple backed the Riviera, and a couple backed the Orleans, and one guy threw out the Flamingo.  Actually, that conversation alone should tell you how the game at my table played.  Although both games were labeled "2/5 NLHE", it's pretty clear that those games had nothing in common but their limits.

Which brings us to the Yaks.  One guy was stacked twice in one orbit with Yaks, running a flopped set into a monster draw that got there (Q8s gutterballed Broadway), and a few hands later flopping top set with Yaks against a set of 9s.  Of course, the 9s river quads.  Hilarity ensued, which was aggravated by the "apology" of the guy with quad 9s.  A little later, two other guys get it all-in on a junky low flop, only to find it's Yaks vs. Yaks!   Of course, the board four-flushes.  Bonus hilarity ensued!  Altogether a very satisfying poker session.

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