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.
- 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).
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.