Monday, May 12, 2008

California Trip – Part Four

I heard the mission bells…

After my 37 hour pokerpalooza, I slept for a good 7 hours in my hotel, waking up to a pleasant conversation of the Mexican hotel workers who were chatting it up in loud Spanish right outside my door. I thought about yelling at them, but really I was too tired and I don’t speak the language. I showered and dressed and wondered what to do with my day.

The day had been set aside for sightseeing, so I definitely wanted to hit a few of the local tourist spots. Everyone I’d spoken to about touristy things in L.A. told me the same thing; “There’s nothing to see. It’s a disappointment.” So I really didn’t have high hopes.

For the most part, they were right.

I started out by driving to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The Beverly Hills shopping area, which is about 4 square city blocks, really *does* exude the aura of super-rich. Each jewelry store is more high end than the next and most of the patrons, in the mid-afternoon, are either crass tourists or incredibly rich and thin locals. I walked around for a bit, including the actual Rodeo Drive, which is just this small alleyway that looks very European, but I didn’t have anything I wanted to buy so I ended up leaving after an hour.

My next stop was West Hollywood. I’ve always, my entire life, wanted to see the Whiskey-a-go-go rock club on the Sunset Strip. So many famous rock bands have played there (G’N’R, Motley Crue, etc…) that I felt I had to make the pilgrimage. I drove up onto the strip, found the club (Thanks again Garmin!) and made my way inside. Except it was locked because rock clubs don’t open at 2PM. I probably should have realized that. I was just hoping the bar would be open and I could have a drink, but no such luck. However, a new problem presented itself. I was having some, um…, intestinal issues, which would have to be addressed immediately, if not sooner. I spotted a coffee shop next to the Whiskey called Duke’s coffee shop. The name rang a bell somehow and then I realized that this was the famous Duke’s coffee shop which I’d read about in some biography somewhere. I ordered a coffee (because bathrooms are for customers only!) and headed to the men’s room posthaste. As I passed the headshots of the hundreds of famous patrons, I found a sign that said this was the location of the Doors first club gig, back when it was a club called London Fog in the 60’s. When I got into the men’s room, there was a single toilet and I did the math in my head. All of those famous people, all the guys anywhere, have used this toilet. All those famous rock musicians. You know, those perfectly clean musicians who have no diseases or open sores at all.

I put down a MOUNTAIN of paper on that seat before I sat on it.

Across the street from the Whiskey is the Viper room, which is owned by Johnny Depp. If you remember, this was the place River Phoenix died after OD’ing inside the club. I took a picture.

That was pretty much it for West Hollywood. I drove to Hollywood Boulevard and saw Graumman’s Chinese Theater, with the walk of fame and the handprints and everything. I put my feet in Harrison Ford’s and mine are smaller. I kinda figured. The place was swarming with tourists and performers of all kinds trying to swindle money. Instead of wading through the scrum, I decided the best way to experience the theater was to see a movie. So I did. I caught Harold And Kumar 2 at Graumman’s. Granted, it was an early afternoon showing on a Monday, but there were only 5 people in the theater. The theater is very comfortable and big, but it’s just a movie house. In fact, most of the time I was supposed to be impressed by something in L.A. (the eateries, the landmarks, the shopping), I always thought to myself, “We have that in Manhattan too, and we don’t have to drive to it.” New York City: Still the best city in the world.

After the movie, which was fun but not great like the first one, I had some dinner and then headed back to my hotel for a quick nap. When I got up again, I headed out to the Bicycle Casino. It was 11:30p when I got there and the plan was just to play for a few hours and then be back at the hotel at 3:00a to try to get my sleeping cycle back in order. The room is very nice at the Bike and it reminds me quite a bit of the Taj. It’s kind of what like the Taj would like to be like, if they had decent management. They weren’t quite as busy at the Bike as they were at Hawaiian Gardens, but there were still plenty of choices to be had. The room is split into multiple ‘pits’ where are labeled overhead (Stud, Omaha, Hold’em, etc…). There was a line at the front desk for a tournament sign-up and I thought that would be a great way to play and kill a few hours. So I signed up, after hastily getting photographed for a players card. The tourney was $40+10 and it filled up with 100 participants for a midnight start on a Tuesday Morning! Try THAT in Atlantic City. The payout structure was odd, though. Normally, tourneys pay out the top ten percent of players so I would have expected only the final table to get paid. But the Bike pays 18 spots for tourneys of 100 or more, which seriously dilutes the prize pool. Top prize was only $1400.

I played a very tight game, but concentrated on stealing blinds when at all possible. My table was passive, which helped, and I was able to accomplish my goal quite nicely. Through three blind levels (20 minutes each), I stayed just ahead of the average chip stack and I hadn’t shown down a single hand yet. The next three blind levels were much of the same. Again, I hadn’t shown down a single hand. Then I got the dream hand. I’m in the small blind with 77. I have about 10,000 in chips and blinds are about 150/300. There are two limpers and then a player in the 6th seat raises to 1200. It gets to me and I consider folding but I’m starting to compute my implied odds. If I flop a set, could I win 7000 in chips to my 1000 I need to call here? I decided that I could, especially if one of the limpers calls. So I call and one of the limpers indeed does call. The flop is KQ7. BINGO! I hit my set AND got some high cards in there so I know that someone has a piece of that. I check, waiting to check-raise someone. The first limper bets out 2500. The raiser raises him up all in to 8,000. I push all in as well and the limper gets out of the way with what he says later is KJ. Easy fold in my opinion. The other guy asks if I have a set and I show him the bad news. He has KQ and I instantly become chip leader in the tourney. An hour later, I look up and there are only 3 tables left. Only one stack is bigger than mine and I’m looking good to final table this thing.

A few minutes later, I stack a guy on one of the best reads of my life. I had QQ in the SB (why am I always getting good hands in the SB?!?!) and it limps to me. I pop it to 4X the BB and everyone folds except one of the limpers. Flop is AKJ. WORST. FLOP. EVER. I check and he checks behind! Now I have a ton of information to work with. He limped PF, so AK is probably not his hand, but he called my 4X BB bet. So he has something good but he’s looking to connect on the flop. Then, he checks in position on me with AKJ on the flop! So it’s looking better and better to me that he doesn’t have an Ace or a King. The turn is a 4. I check again and this time he shoves all in. I go into the tank and work out all the logic I just typed out above. The only thing that makes sense with those moves is…an underpair. Maybe Tens or 9’s. It takes me a minute to think about and I finally make the call and he shows pocket 8’s. Genius!

There are a bunch of short stacks that are busting out and the blinds are starting to get aggressive. It’s been three and a half hours already but I’m very much in the zone. We finally get down to 2 tables and everyone is in the money. I’ve still got the second largest chip stack and we draw for the table seatings. As it turns out, the three biggest stacks in the tourney all get seated together, in a row, with me out of position on both of them! Couldn’t have been crappier. But I bide my time and end up losing nearly half my chips on a bluff.

Here’s what happened:
I had T2 in the BB and it folds all around to the SB who limps. I check my option and the flop comes AT7, rainbow. He checks and I decide I probably have the best pair here. I bet out the pot, he calls. Uh-oh. Is he slowplaying an Ace? I doubt it because I can’t see how he doesn’t raise an Ace preflop to take down the big blind.. Turn is a J. He checks and I smell a trap. I think the Jack helped him somehow. His call on the flop bet indicates to me that has something and the Jack seems to help a few hands. So I check. The river is a Queen. The board is now AQJT7. A King fills a straight so the Queen is a great scare card and I’m in position. He checks to me and I bet 6,000. This is about ¾ of his chip stack and effectively cripples him. My thought was that he has something like JT and he is going to fold to a straight on board. He goes into the tank for a while and I try to play some mind tricks. “Your two pair get cracked?,” I ask. He doesn’t respond. Finally, he makes a crying call with the sigh that comes when you know you’re beat. If only. He has 89 for the bottom straight and ends up taking the pot. It was a good bluff on my part and most good players would have folded two pair. I guess folding the straight is harder to do.

After that, my stack was crippled and I was down to an M of 5. I ended up pushing all in with AQ only to get called by AK and he spiked two Kings on the flop, putting me out in 12th place. For my $50 buyin, I got $75 in money. Still, it was fun.

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