Saturday was a monster travel day for me. On tap was about 400 miles of driving and four different poker rooms, so it had to be an early rising and out the door.
I set the alarm when I got in the night before for 8:00a, but when I woke up, it was 9:40a! Turns out, I had set the alarm for 8:00 *pm* and it was only my tricky biological clock which woke me up. Grumble, grumble, grumble. I was out the door at 10am and was already an hour behind on a very tight schedule.
The drive from Vicksburg to Shreveport, where two poker rooms lay in the north west corner of Lousiana, is about 220 miles. 220 very long miles. Thank god for the XM radio that came standard in my rental car. Channel 150, Laugh USA, rocks.
I’ll spare you the details of the drive, because there weren’t any bright spots, except when I tried to adjust the mirror and accidentally hit the ONSTAR button. I had no idea how to turn it off and had to explain that I was helpless to the nice woman who got on the line. She chuckled and told me she could disconnect the call remotely, but I guarantee she laughed at me when I hung up. Hey, who doesn’t?
I pulled into Shreveport at about 1:30p and stopped into the Horseshoe casino. The Horseshoe is related to the one in Vegas and is, in fact, the first casino the original Binion family opened beyond Vegas. Well, I think that Harrah’s actually opened it, but I can’t be sure until I do some more research. Um, does anyone want to do that for me? I’m tired right now.
The Horseshoe is actually a really nice place on the Red River and reminds me of a friendly semi-upscale casino. Kind like the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, but not aimed towards that young a crowd. They do have a wall of a million dollars, which harks back to the famous ‘million dollar horseshoe’ of the old Horseshoe hotel in Vegas, which was a lucite piece shaped like a horseshoe and filled with a million dollars worth of hundred dollar bills. This was a wall, about 50 yards long, wall papered with a million worth of hundreds. The poker room is a smallish, but very nice affair, with a dozen tables and a very friendly professional staff. I played a very workman-like 35 minutes of 4-8 Limit and finished even for the session. I had to go to the Eldorado next and didn’t want to waste time enjoying myself, a negative of traveling on such a compressed schedule.
Incidentally, nearly everyone I have met down here, floor staff, dealers and patrons, have been super nice and wonderful people. I’ve had a few notable exceptions from crusty old regulars, but generally that’s the exception. Plus, the natural cadence and rhythm of the southern accent is intoxicating. Everything they say sounds so damned friendly!
I crossed the river over to the Eldorado, which was the other poker room in Shreveport and I was impressed. Not with the room, per se, which was about equal to the Horseshoe room but a bit dirtier. No, it was the players. This is clearly the ‘poker players’ room in Northwest Louisiana, a feeling that was borne out by people I talked to in other casinos around the state. I don’t know why some rooms win out over others, but it happens. The games were in high gear by 2:45p when I got there and there were some pretty well-stacked no limit games going. I got a seat at a 1-2 NLHE game and left an hour later with a hundred dollar profit. One interesting note about the casino; I asked what the max buyin was and they said, “it depends”. Huh? They explained that for new games, the max buyin is $200 for 1-2 NL. But for a 1-2 game that’s been going for a while, the max buyin is 70% of the large stack at the table. I *LOVE* this policy and I’m going to implement it at the next Wall Street Poker game because it makes total sense.
Much to my discredit, I have not remembered any hands in the early part of my trip and even the more recent hands of note are slipping away. The main reason for this is that I was moving too fast through the rooms to be able to take many notes. By the time I wrote down where I was, some basic notes on the room, my buyin, my time of entry, my time of exit and my cashout, I didn’t have time to remember specific hands. Boo…I know. Sorry.
After an hour, I left the room, got a coffee for the road and proceeded to turn my car southeast towards Marksville, LA. The Paragon casino was calling.
On the way to the Paragon, I went through some super rural areas and lots of interesting farmland. Some of the farm plots I passed were hundreds of acres large and it was a little creepy to see that much open land with no one around. At one point, I had to stop off to get gas and it was about 20 miles before I could find a gas station. When I finally got to one, there was a Tamale stand across the street on the side of the road. There was no way I was missing authentic Louisiana Tamales from the side of the road. I pulled up and a few trucks were there too, with people waiting for their tamales to steam up. It was $2 for a package of two corn tamales that were handmade and they were absolutely delicious. One odd thing, I tried to take a picture of this young woman’s stand and as I was getting ready to take the snap, she got in front of my camera and was all, “What are *you* doing? What is that for?” I explained that I was a tourist and I apologized for not asking first, but could I take a picture? The answer was a flat out no. I thought it was odd considering that there were 8 foot high signs on three sides of her makeshift tent advertising her company’s product by name. Maybe she’s wanted somewhere, who knows?
The Paragon, once I arrived nearly two hours later, is actually a decent casino, though it’s in the middle of nowhere. The room was 8 tables and well run with super good dealers. There was a 2-5 NL game and a 4-8 Limit game going. I sat at 4-8 and scraped together an $85 win for 45 minutes of play before I hopped back in the car again.
It was another hour to Kinder, La, which was the last stop for the day. I arrived at the Grand Coushatta casino, an Indian casino about 30 miles from anything resembling civilization. The Indian casinos, unlike the regular casinos, don’t have to be next to water, and they’re the poorer for it. Give these guys credit though, they recently put and expansion onto their old crusty casino that looks much more modern. That’s where the poker room is and I had such a blast playing 4-8 Limit with those regulars that I stayed an hour over the time I allotted. It helped I was winning a bit too. The room is the biggest one I’ve seen on my trip so far, with 23 tables and well run. They had about 12 tables going and I got a seat at a 3-6-12 Limit HE game. The 3-6-12 is a strange format where it’s essentially a 3-6 game but on the river you can opt to bet 6 or 12, which I suppose averages out to a 4-8 game. I had a blast chatting with the locals about the different rooms I’ve been to on my trip and showing off my knowledge of Manhattan. New York City, for most of the country, is a mythical land of great and mystic power and anyone from New York is either a cheating lawyer and/or wall street type or a criminal. In any case, it intimidates people. I just have fun watching their reaction. After a few hours, I had to get some sleep so I left and went to my Super 8 motel down the road and went to sleep, remembering this time to set the alarm correctly!
Oh, as an aside, I got a really short haircut on Friday before I left for my trip and I’ve already been asked THREE TIMES in different casinos about which military base I’m stationed at. When someone asked me where I’m from and I said “Manhattan”, they replied, “Fort Manhattan?”. Oy Vey.