My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for night...
I got to Newport Beach around 11PM and checked into my cute little hotel about a block from the beach. After I put my stuff down, I immediately ventured out to see what the beach was like at night. It was a Saturday night and, as you’d imagine, the beach and boardwalk were full of kids hanging out. The energy was fun and I managed to take a midnight stroll in the ocean, sans footwear. The Pacific is COLD!
I woke up in the morning with visions of L.A. poker rooms in my mind. But poker wasn’t on my agenda quite yet. First was the Santa Monica pier. My ex’s cousin, Michael, lives in California (he’s getting his degree in Physical therapy) and we’d arranged to have lunch together. I drove to my last hotel in Marina Del rey and he met me at my hotel at 2PM and we drove the short distance to Santa Monica. The pier is a fun place, if smaller than I imagined it when I saw it in Lost Boys. The beach was absolutely crawling with people and the pier was busy with artists, sculptors and souvenir stands. At the end of the pier is a middling Mexican restaurant we had lunch at. The only saving grace was that it had beautiful ocean views all around. But it was strange because there were pigeons in the place, walking around like nothing was going on! We caught up for a while and he dropped me off after a nice few hours. It’s been a very long time since we had spent time together and it was probably the nicest part of my trip. When you get married to someone and become part of another family, divorce hardly ever takes away that feeling. At least it didn’t for me.
I napped for a bit at my hotel and got up at 8PM, ready to hit some more poker rooms. The farthest room away from me was Hawaiian Gardens. I drove there and was stunned. Absolutely floored. There were 120+ rooms in a huge tent-like room and there were no empty tables, at all. I couldn’t believe how much action there was here. There were multiple Omaha, Stud and Holdem tables going, at various levels, in addition to at least 70 NLHE tables! WOW. So this is what California poker was all about. I’ve been thinking about why there was so much action in L.A. and it hit me. These people can play every night of the week because it’s only a 20 minute ride to the tables. In New York, you have to travel at least 2 hours each way, which pretty much limits your poker playing to weekends. But in L.A., these rooms are hopping EVERY NIGHT. It makes a big difference. If you don’t believe me, try to imagine there’s a 120+ table poker room in Times Square. That’s about the same commute as it was for me to get to Hawaiian Gardens. I don’t want to get into my insanely bad O/8 play, but I lost another three buyins. Ouch.
I played until late in the night and when I left, I had two choices. Go home, or keep going. For whatever reason, I decided to keep going. It was daylight when I left Hawaiian Gardens and I thought to myself, “It’s daylight on an early Monday Morning. What better time to go to Compton? All the gangstas are sleeping!”. I set my GPS to Crystal Park Casino in Compton and prayed for the best. I needn’t have worried. The casino is right off the highway and you never have to go into the general neighborhood. Befitting the hour, the place was deader than dead. It’s also really small. Still, they manage to cram 30 tables in the back, but no one was playing. I decided to work off some energy anyhow playing Pai-gow. Other than a few interesting rule changes (The joker counts as a WILD card!), the game is pretty much the same. The dealer was cruel to me, dealing me Pai-Gow’s for 7 out of 10 hands! It was insane. The whole time, a woman is sitting next to me, not playing at all. She looks to be in her early 40’s and other than a late age weight gain and a really bad case of adult acne, she wasn’t terribly unattractive. I was talking politely with her and the rest of the table and we all were having a good time, despite my losing streak. When it came time for me to go, and here’s where it gets odd, this woman gets up and follows me to the cage to cash out! I didn’t sense anything odd about her but I was curious. Her friend at the table had given her some money for a cab ride home, but when we walked outside together, she asked me to give her a ride home! I was way too tired to be made a conquest of some cougar, besides for which I wasn’t interested in picking up older woman at 7:30AM in Compton! I declined and she called me a “dud”. Then she asked if I could at least drive her to the Metro station, which was actually in sight of the casino, a five minute ride. I didn’t see the harm and I went along with it. We chatted amiably on the way and I found out that she was leaving because the casino security had actually kicked her out! Turns out she’s a regular who had run out of money and even though there was no one in the casino, the gendarmes didn’t like a woman with no money just sitting there. She also confided to me that the reason she didn’t have her own car was that she had gambled it away. Wow. The dregs of society flock to me. I dropped her off and shook my head in disgust.
By the way, I get the irony of a guy who uses his vacation time to tour poker rooms bemoaning the gambling addicts in Compton! So save it!
At this point, it was perfectly light out, but I kept pushing through my sleepiness. I figured that the more poker rooms I could bang out now, the more time I would have to myself later. So I went to the next closest room, which was the Hustler Club, owned by Mr. Larry Flynt. The club is in a really sketchy part of town and it doesn’t help that the place looks like it was designed by a pimp who thought it was ‘classy’. The room is circular and the walls are upholstered in plush red velvet. The chandeliers are over the top for such a small space and there are about a dozen full size Klimt reproductions on the wall, which give the place an entirely decadent feel. There were two poker games going at this ungodly hour but I didn’t feel like sticking around, so I collected my poker chips and left. The whole room made me feel dirty.
A mile away was the Normandie casino. By far the most ‘ghetto’ casino I’d visited, it was dirty and populated by really unsavory characters. I played a few hands of 3-6 limit and hightailed it out of there. A truly disgusting place.
The final stop in my 37 hour day was Hollywood Park (hey, it was on the way back to my hotel!). The facility is really nice for a racetrack. There are about 60 tables with an old fashioned brush board which is on a podium elevated above the floor. I played a few minutes at 1-2NL before blowing yet another buyin in O/8. I’ll learn one day, I swear it. I drove back to my hotel and slept, a lot.
More to come soon, including my near Trifecta, my cash in a Bicycle tourney and the two best reads I ever made in my life.