Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Last day in Florida

After the debacle from yesterday, I woke up at a decent hour (10:30AM) in order to meet Abbie back up in Pompano by Noon or so. But I felt guilty about not seeing much of my parents, so I spent a very leisurely morning having breakfast with them an discussing the real estate and equities markets. My parents think I'm a genius when it comes to these topics, working at Merrill and all, but the truth is I'm only more educated about it than they are. So I spent a few hours with them debating what the downturn in the real estate market meant to their portfolio, whether we could expect a soft landing and explaining the concept of a 'random walk' and how that related to stock price movements. Refreshing....

I left the quagmire of economics talk around the kitchen table and drove up to Pompano, making it there by about 2. I was immediately seated in a 3-5 limit game. I decided to stick to limit today because I had been running poorly at no limit and I usually play limit at casinos since I don't have the opportunity to play it anywhere else. I did fairly well, playing tight and being aggressive with good hands. I check-raised often when I had the nuts and was able to carve out a solid profit in my first hour. Then it hit me. I'm in Florida, playing a game where the max limit table is 3-5 and the max buyin is $100. This would be a great place to play some limit games that I don't normaly play. Namely, 7 stud and Omaha 8. I used to play stud all the time, but I stopped when Hold'em became the primary game and stud was relegated to just a table or two at the casinos. And I've NEVER played Omaha in a casino at all. So I got myself moved to the one stud table that was running at 2-4 stakes. I was on the table for maybe 15 minutes when I got called to the Omaha table. I moved immediately and greeted all the players.

The Omaha table was populated by a group of folks who knew each other. These were local players who had fun talking about their hands and mostly betting like crap. No tricky plays here. Just check-call all the way down to the river. The trick with Omaha is to understand that the minimum winning hand is almost always trips and to throw your hand away the *instant* it can't win. Otherwise, it will cost you 3-4 bets on a hand you can't take down. The other trick is to be able to read your possibilities quickly. In Omaha 8, you can win half the pot if you have the low hand, but you can only use 3 cards from the 5 card board. In addition, your highest card can't be above an 8. So if a flop comes down with 2 cards below an 8, you need the turn or river to be below an 8 to even have a chance of winning half. Ace-deuce in your hand is the best starting low, but if a deuce comes on the board, Ace-trey becomes the best starting hand. Because the situation can change with every card, you need to be mindful all the time when things change and what your chances are to improve. The good news is you almost always have pot odds to draw, EXCEPT that in many cases you will be splitting your half of the pot with someone else if you go low. This changes your pot odds drastically. If you're only fighting for 1/4 of the pot, the pot odds generally aren't there for you to draw. This is also a bit of a paradox, because if you fold, your opponent who holds the same low cards as you will be able to stay in correctly. It's the Prisoner's Dilemma (Google it), played out in Omaha. But you can't think about that, because your opponent will never fold to give *you* the right pot odds, so you can fold with impunity and not feel bad.

Since there are so many draws in Omaha, the pots usually get sizeable, even for 2-4. A typical pot was $70-$80, with some as high as $150. So 'scooping' the pot (meaning getting both the high and the low) was a big deal for your stack.

When I sat at the table, the players immediately told me this wasn't an 'all-in' table. Evidently, many people sit down with the idea that this is a 1-2 NL table. I told them I knew that, but that this was my first time playing Omaha in a casino. One player asked where I had played it before and I said at home. He then helpfully told me that 6 high is not the nut low, but the wheel straight is. I told him I knew that, though in hindsight I should have just nodded and said thank you. It didn't matter though. I ran the table with a run of good cards and good judgement. I won my first three hands and left the table a few hours later up about $125.

I had dinner with Abbie and her grandmother (who had come to play slots) at Myron's Jewish deli downstairs. After being told it would be 30 minutes for a table, we nearly went to McDonalds down the road, but they ended up seating us in 5 minutes instead. We ordered a smorgasboard of delicacies, from stuffed cabbage to blintzes and latkes and hot dogs. After stuffing ourselves like good Jews and engaging in very pleasant conversation, the check came. I instinctively went for it, but Abbie and her grandmother would have none of it. It was their treat. Who was I to argue, although I admit I've never been taken out to dinner by two women before. Really, it was my treat.

Abbie had to go to the airport right afterwards and we said our goodbyes. I high tailed back to the room and continued on with my Omaha game. All of my friends were right back where I left them. I played for another 3 hours before the table broke up and I couldn't get seated anywhere else. It was 10:30 on a Sunday night and things were starting to slow down. But not for me. I got in my car and drove south towards Hollywood with the intention of going to the Seminole Indian casino on route 441. They're open 24 hours and all the local hard core gamblers were going to be there. Going to the Seminole is an entirely different experience than going to the Hard Rock, it's sister casino. The Seminole allows smoking (though not at the table, thankfully). Still, it has a musty smell to it. There *used* to be smoking at the table, but they did away with it a few months ago and it makes it much more pleasant. Still, the cast of characters around the Omaha table at the Seminole was a sight to behold. There were two crusty old grandmothers, one black and one white. The black woman had a cigarette dangling out of her mouth like Sammy Farha. Actually, she looked to me like an old picture of Robert Johnson, the blues guitarist. That is, if Robert Johnson lived until his 80's and had a sex change operation. Rounding out the list of characters was a small drunken asian man who reeked of alcohol on his breath and had about 13 teeth in his mouth. A somewhat confused rastafarian looking old man with a shock of gray in his bushy beard who somehow knew the rules of the game better than the dealer (more on that later). A very annoying and talkative guy with a missing bottom tooth and a huge ganglia in his right forearm. Finally, an old man with white hair and a hole in his throat, with a little tab coming out of it. And me, the odd man out.

Play at the table was pretty good and these folks had obviously played a lot. Some interesting hands won and lost, though nothing to write about here. What's important is that I got a good education in omaha, even if I lost most of my Omaha profit from Pompano. I played until 5AM, with every single player staying until that time. I lost less than most and the old man with the hole in his throat won the most. Ganglia man was on a roll for a while but ended up losing most of his money. He also got the dealer to call the floor to throw him out because of some very annoying behavior. He was obviously a regular there and all the dealers knew he was a pain in the ass. His favorite move was to ask the dealers to push the cards dealt to be in front of him. Nevermind that the cards were dealt, no joke, two inches from where he asked them to be pushed. That was the final straw that made the dealer call the floor. He didn't get booted, but he behaved after the floor came and admonished him.

I was witness to one interesting call to the floor for a ruling and a participant in another. First, my participation. Action around the table moved fairly quickly and there was almost never a raise. So when action came around to the guy to my right, I called almost in unison with him, putting my single $2 chip out on the table about half a second after he did. It was only when my chip went in the middle that I realized he had raised. I did what almost every other table allows. I withdrew my chip and threw my cards in the middle to muck. At that point, the old man with the hole in his throat pressed a hidden button near his shoulder and croaked at the words, "That has to stay in the pot!". Evidently, you're not allowed to call, even out of turn, and then withdraw the money. I see the point of the ruling, but I don't agree with it. If you're going to make me call, I should have to call for the whole bet ($4), not half the bet. But the floor agreed with the old man and my $2 chip stayed in the middle. Later, after he left, the old man with the hole in his throat tossed me a $2 chip and breathed out the words, "no hard feelings". It was a nice gesture, but then he pursed his lips and blew me a kiss, which was creepy and pervy and left me feeling dirty.

The other interesting call to the floor involved bushy gray bearded rastafarian guy. A clean cut gentlemen was down to his last $1 chip and he was first to act in the hand. He said, "I'm all in for $1". The rastafarian objected to this move, saying the guy couldn't bet the $1 since it didn't meet the minimum bet requirements! We all assumed you could bet anything you have in front of you since all in was all in. But the floor confirmed that the guy couldn't open a bet with less than the minimum. He could *call* a bet for $1 all in, but he couldn't *start* the betting. It was the first time I'd heard that and it only applies to limit, from what I understand.

5AM came and I picked up my remaining chips and went home, exhausted but satisfied. I got up at noon and promptly went down to the beach for some well deserved rest. It was hot though, so I stayed by the pool area, under a shady canopy, looking at the ocean and listening to the surf. Lulled to sleep, I slept by the pool for about 3 hours before heading back upstairs and showering in preparation for my trip home.

I'll be back soon, I hope. I love you Florida!

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