April 30, 2010

777 Unlucky Horseshoes

I traveled Thursday back to my great home state of Nebraska to visit my grandmother who began receiving hospice care this week due to a recent diagnosis of cancer.  Grandma C just turned 94 and had lived on her own until three years ago.  She's still pretty sharp mentally, but I wanted to make sure I got to visit with her at least one last time before she needs higher doses of painkillers.  So, I combined a business trip to Omaha with a jaunt to central Nebraska.  Grandma C was doing well, all things considered, and we got to talk a good two hours before she became fatigued.  The highlight was when she complained about her roommate, and broke her usual mannerly demeanor to observe:  "She complains all the time.  Nobody likes her.  She's something else.  Well, she's a bitch.  I guess I can call her that because she calls me that all the time."  It took all the self-control I had not to fall on the floor laughing at the commentary!

Anyway, on the way home, I decided to make a pit stop at the Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs (just over the border from Omaha for my geographically impaired readers).  The Horseshoe is at the site of a former dog racing track (or maybe they still race dogs, I don't know for certain, and don't particularly care).  Anyway, it's part of the Harrah's Casino Borg, so it's a good place to keep my Total Rewards card points current.

The Horseshoe poker room is easily the nicest in Iowa in terms of decor, comfort, and physical layout.  They have 18 tables, so they can accomodate tournaments and cash games simultaneously.  The Horseshoe also hosts an annual WSOP Circuit Event.  But, there are a number of quirks:
  • There is no posting into a game, unique in Iowa.
  • They play 1/3 NLHE (as well as 2/5 NLHE), unique in Iowa.
  • The maximum buy-in for 1/3 NLHE, however, is only $200.
  • They take a jackpot drop for high hand jackpots, but all the HHJs are progessive by specific hand, including suits for straight flushes.  Also, the HHJs reset to only $10 after being hit.  So, tonight, if you hit a royal flush in spades, you would win $10, while the other royals were each well over $1000.
  • They use a moving button instead of a dead button, again unique in Iowa.
The above-listed quirks are simply house rules, so even though they are unusual for Iowa, they don't much affect play.  However, I did notice a few house quirks that are annoying:
  • Fills are done whenever the floor brings chips to the table, even if a hand is in progress.  Twice I saw dealers filling their rack while players were betting the flop.  It's astonishing that there were no errors or issues that arose from the dealer's attention being diverted from the action.  Both dealers severely "rolled" the deck while completing the fill.
  • The house rakes at 10%, with a maximum of $5.50, well over the $4 maximum rake at all other Iowa casinos, and higher even than at Harrah's properties in Vegas (where they rake $5 maximum).  Compared to other Iowa casinos, the extra $1.50 per hand adds up pretty quickly; assuming 30 hands per hour, with 20 hands hitting the maximum rake, that's an extra $30/hour being taken off the table (not insignificant when the average stack is $100-$250).
The bad thing about the extra $1.50 rake is that the Horseshoe is taking a significant amount of that rake from its dealers.  It seemed that tipping a 50-cent chip was common for pots under $50, rather than the $1 tip that would be standard on a table without 50-cent pieces.  So, at least one-quarter of the extra rake is actually coming from the dealers who are being tipped less.

I also saw one situation that would have driven my friend the Poker Grump crazy (or crazier).  A new dealer sits down at our table and promptly announces, "This is my first table for the night.  I hope you guys start me off right with some big pots."  Now, she didn't exactly say it, but the implication was clear; she was angling for tips.  This attitude was reinforced when she continued to tip-hustle on most pots, with comments like, "Nicely played" or "You knew I was going to get you that flush" directed to pot winners.  Just to really bother the Grump, this dealer also had the habit of shuffling the cards once before putting them into the automated shuffler; apparently, the machine is not to be trusted with random shuffling.

Because the 2/5 NLHE list was full, I sat in 1/3 NLHE instead for my quick session.  I got up about $150 early with a couple of calls of fairly obvious bluffs.  But the level of play was quite atrocious.  Once, on a board of 9-9-T-7-Q, a player with pocket Tens check-called a river bet, to let a player with A9 save some of his stack.  On another hand, a player folded 87 face up to a flop check-raise all-in (to $100 into a pot of $50+) ... on a board of 8-7-3 with two diamonds.  Just very curious.

However, I ended up gacking back my profit and part of my buy-in on three weird hands.  I had black kings and one preflop caller, with a flop of 4-5-6 all clubs.  We got it all-in on the turn, and he showed red 77, so he was drawing to seven outs.  Of course, the 7s hits the river.  Another hand, I have AKo, limp-reraise preflop to $28 total, get one caller who has ~$75 behind.  Flop is K-J-7, we get it all-in, he has a set of 7s.  Hmmm, set-mining getting only 4:1 odds??   Finally, I have KK again, limp-reraise to $105 (enough to cover the preflop initial raise).  He calls with ... AdJd.  Of course, he rivers the Ace.  I'm actually pleased with how I played these hands, and I'm not complaining about bad beats.  I just want to illustrate the poor play going on.  This is definitely one of the softer rooms in the state.

As an interesting coda, it turns out two of the guys who took big pots off me were in town for the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting (Berkshire Hathaway is the investment company owned by tycoon Warren Buffet).  Obviously Mr. Buffet's disciples don't share his investing acumen.

1 comment:

  1. this dealer also had the habit of shuffling the cards once before putting them into the automated shuffler;

    I play at the Tunica Casinos. There's one dealer who when he first sits down washes the cards and suffles and strips, then puts them in the automatic shuffler. But, this is only for the first hand of his down. (Maybe I'll ask him why he does that next time he does it.)

    I've never seen a dealer shuffle once each time -- I'm guessing the house wouldn't stand for it because it slows the game down slightly.