With the WSOP safely in the rear-view mirror, Las Vegas poker is slowly returning to normal. Freeroll promotions are back, and with them the local promo-chasers have re-emerged from their lairs. The mood in many poker rooms reminds me of the beginning of the fall semester at universities, with the notable omission of zit-faced freshmen trying to find the campus fake-ID forger.
I have multiple outlines for articles on the role of locals in the poker economy; our responsibilities, failings, and exploitable playing tendencies. And all these outlines have left me thoroughly depressed.
I tracked down Doctor J in the hope he could help me cut through the malaise.
It’s probably worth pointing out at this juncture that Doctor J is not a Doctor, nor is he the most celebrated athlete who attended Roosevelt High School. Doctor J is notable because, in American terms, he is completely average.
As an aside to this aside, I should add that he is a superior hand-reader and one of the more dangerous poker-playing locals in terms of the threat he poses to the bankrolls of others. But in height, weight, and a host of other medical metrics, he sits perfectly at the mean of the distribution. And as a result he is much-prized by medical research institutions attempting to determine the efficacy of products covering the gamut from curing dry skin to antidotes to the anthrax virus.
Now I do not like hospitals, injections, medical examinations, or pretty much anything that has me sitting on a metal bench in nothing but a paper gown with someone in a lab coat peering down my throat instructing me to say “Agggggghhhhhhh.” J on the other hand is completely at ease in such environments and spends so much time in them he has been granted, at least by the Vegas poker-playing community, the honorific of “Doctor.”
It’s true that Doctor J’s fondness for medical trials is not universally acclaimed, but most poker players give a grudging admiration to anyone with a semi-stable income that includes free meals and lodging while laying in bed playing online sit-n-goes. My own feeling is that this plan borders on genius, thus Doctor J is frequently my go-to guy when I’m trying to distill poker culture.
I told him about my depression over the “locals” article.
He snorted derisively. “What do you know about locals?”
I imagine I did one of my cat-like slow-blinks as I formed my response.
“I am one?” I offered hopefully.
Doctor J shook his head. “You want to write about locals, you need to play at a locals’ room.”
“Noooooo!!!!!” I replied, realizing immediately he was right and that I was about to have a bad day.
If you want to know exactly which Wednesday it was that Doctor J and I completed this excellent adventure, simply glance through the high temperatures for August and find the hottest one. After a brief fueling at Harrah’s Diamond Lounge (lasagna, 7/10), we pointed the J-mobile east. The heat-haze shimmered so violently I was concerned I was slipping in and out of acid flashbacks. Consequently Boulder Station materialized from the fuzzy surroundings like a beautiful oasis.
The purpose of this article is not to provide a review of Boulder Station in general nor the poker room in particular. Suffice it to say that ever since an employee out at Red Rock carefully affixed a blue “over-50” sticker to my player’s card and congratulated me on all the senior-related perks I would now receive, I have probably been looking to find fault with Stations properties. And once I was inside Boulder Station and cool, “beautiful oasis” was no longer the description that sprung to mind.
Look it was fine. Really. The poker room was bustling. Who am I to criticize what is clearly a thriving business?
The room has the most unbelievably awful poker tables anywhere on the planet. What in the almighty !@#$ is the purpose of the wooden racetrack surrounding the felt that makes it impossible to slide your cards to the rail and back and which additionally prevents stacks of chips from being pushed forward in the traditional manner not to mention thoroughly thwarting all attempts to stack them sensibly because this bloody great ledge makes the third row (humble brag) fall over?
Doctor J had phoned ahead and put us on all the lists. We quickly took ourselves off the 2/4 LHE one. The main plan beyond me learning about locals was to sample the 4/8 limit Omaha-high game, but seats opened first in the 1/2 no-limit.
I scanned the table as I sat and noticed the gentleman slowly rising from the ten-seat was Ol’ Walker.
I immediately realized, somewhat guiltily, that I’d tacitly assumed that Ol’ Walker had expired. He’d been a fixture on the center-strip freeroll scene ever since I’d moved here, but disappeared a couple of years ago. He got his handle from the folksy way he dropped terminal dees and gees from key words (he’s the kind of guy who knows when to use “dang nabbit” rather than “dad gummit”) and the fact he spent most of his time “playing poker” walking the casino floor, apparently in the hope the dealer would forget to punch him out of the Bravo so that he could accrue freeroll hours without the danger of getting involved in a hand. He might equally have been called “Ol’ Talker,” since during the rare periods he was in his seat his gravely voice would dominate the table chatter.
I nodded a greeting to him as he stood. The narrowing of his eyes suggested he probably recognized me. “Gruh,” he said.
Ten minutes later his voice, shortly followed by him, returned to the room. I was involved in a hand so missed the details of the complaint he was directing to anyone who would listen, but caught key phrases such as “buffet,” “double points,” “two-fiddy,” and “line half way to Henderson.”
In an effort to calm Ol’ Walker, the dealer engaged him in small talk. I’d just finished stacking the one-seat for the third time in forty minutes (which would be a better story if the minimum buy-in was more than $50), as Ol’ Walker uttered a remarkable sentence. And you are going to think I am making this up, but to be perfectly honest I’m not that creative. Not even close.
I swear I have it word for word because I put it straight in my phone before going to the rest room to splash cold water on my face.
Ol’ Walker said: “He’s still in a coma, but his eyes are open.”
When I returned to the poker room a new 4/8 limit Omaha-high must-move was starting. After a quick glance to make sure Walker was really in the room and that I hadn’t imagined the whole episode, I colored down my chips and locked up a seat. Doctor J also moved. He’d played this game before, and despite warning me about it I was ill-prepared for the experience.
To be accurate, the must-move table was loose, but somewhat sane. It was the main game I joined thirty minutes later that mangled my melon.
Hand 1: nine to the flop. five-way showdown. Hand 2: nine to the flop, six-way showdown. Hand 3: ten to the flop, five-way showdown.
And the difference between the first two hands and the third? In the third hand, I was in the big blind.
There is a lot of conventional wisdom in poker that I personally find damn silly, and one such example was on display in this game. According to folklore, a key method of generating action in limit games is to use a denomination of chips that maximizes the physical expanse taken up by the pot. Results of this idiocy include abominations such as 9/18 structures played with $3 chips. At Boulder Station the typical 4/8 Omaha pot is around $200 comprised exclusively of dollar chips, which are all going to be in there anyway for the simple reason these guys fold about as enthusiastically as a pair of pants made out of quartz.
Just think about this for a minute. It’s true that with lots of hole cards and bifocals a limit Omaha game does not move that fast, but it’s way quicker than a typical low-limit NLHE game in the current age of these insufferable poseurs who feel it is their right and possibly duty to spend obscene amounts of time over every freaking decision and when heads up to engage in incessant babbling presumably in imitation of their favorite television pro in order to “get a read” despite the fact they couldn’t get a read if their opponent held up a big sign in bright red block caps that said “I’m on a flush draw you narcissistic moron.”
And with a vast lake of powder blue chips being pushed to the winner on a time scale less than the average NLHE hand, it was not uncommon in the Omaha game for three or four players to be stacking mounds of chips at any given time.
Half of which would fall over because of the idiotic wooden racetrack around the edge of the table.
And I’m not at all sure that the trip to Boulder Station has taught me anything new about “real locals,” who I will be slamming in the next installment: “Locals II: Kat’s Bogus Journey.”
~ Kat Martin, August 2016.