Last night I played at The Vic (the Victoria Grosvenor Casino in London) It had been 3 long years since I last played there. Some things have changed; some haven't changed at all.
They have expanded the cardroom to include some of the space upstairs. They also now spread a lot more Hold Em as opposed to the almost exclusive spreading of Omaha High they use to have. Another change is that it is now legal to drink at the tables. So I had a pint of lager with my supper. Very nice, indeed.
Of course, it is almost entirely (if not entirely) pot limit. And being the UK, it has the somewhat odd practice of the small blind being equal to the big blind. (I know that some readers of this blog assume that the current structure with no ante and a small blind equal to half the big blind is the only way to play Holdem. All you have to do to debunk that myth is to read to first edition of Super System which gives advice about a game with all sorts of different structures, most notably the inclusion of an ante.)
I sat down at 3:30 when they dealt their first table, a £3-£3 pot limit holdem game. That is roughly equal to $6-$6 holdem, which is a big game by my standards. Even Junell takes such stakes seriously. UK tables typically seat 9 players. The other 8 bought in for about £2,000 each. I bought in for £200.
Early on, there was a very odd situation. Michael, who has a striking resemblance to Michael Caine albeit much older, was the luckiest guy of the night, if not the stupidest. The final board on the odd hand showed three diamonds. His opponent, Victor, value bet £20 and Michael called. Victor showed the suited King for a flush, and Michael just sat there for what seemed like an eternity. I later learned that he is just old as dirt, and it takes him forever to process information and respond. During this eternity, two players that were uninvolved in the pot got into a discussion over the possible contents of Michael's hand. One guy decided he had a set, and the other guy decided he had a lower flush. Michael was this close
to mucking, but since the other two guys had a side-bet on the content of his hand, he showed them and declared, "just a Queen-high flush....Nick won the bet" Then another player pointed out, "You have a straight flush to the Queen, you fuckin wanker! Can you believe it? Michael called down the absolute nuts on the river. They should make him the manager for England ('s soccer team); he's fuckin brilliant!" Brilliant, indeed.
The game was going well: I was playing tight and there was plenty of maniacal play by others. Then I got TT in the big blind. There were several limpers pre-flop and I decided to check from the blind. I wasn't going to run anyone off, so why bother? Flop came AAK. It checked around to the button who threw in a very lame bet and got several callers. Turn was a 9. I thought that maybe I actually had the best hand, so I went for a feeler bet (aka not exactly a "lame bet") and got one caller, the cutoff seat. The river brought the most unbelievably beautiful ten I have ever seen. I bet big and Mr. Cutoff raises me. I reraise, and he re-re-raises me for my last £20 to put me all in. He showed KK for a bigger boat than mine. Crap.
I bought another £100 which disappeared when I flopped three spades while holding the King of spades in the BB. I was getting pot odds to call on the flop, so I did. No more spades came.
So, being out of pounds sterling, I pulled out $300, which got me £160 in chips. I was given £100 immediately, but the card room mananger, Jeff, had to go off to the cage for my other £60. My plan was to only play with the £100 and put the £60 in my pocket (for little things in life like a ride home, dinner, etc). However, Jeff brought me the £60 while I was distracted and put it in my stack (an understandable mistake). I didn't notice it until after I had seen my next hand, and I just knew that there was no way this crowd would let me pull money off the table, even if they believed it was an honest mistake.
Lo and behold, I shortly thereafter woke up with Aces. I was almost all-in on the flop when I re-raised American Dad (more on him later) pre-flop. I got the rest of my money in on the flop and then proceeded to double up. I sure am glad I made that mistake of putting the £60 in play!
One clear difference between the Vic and anywhere else that I play is the characters. I have played with some odd birds over the years (Don Murphy, the Nuclear Cockroach, Silk Suit Guy and The Mexican, to name a few) but the at the Vic, EVERYONE is off the charts weird. As a self proclaimed closet weirdo, I call them weirdos with the deepest affection possible. Most of the weirdos are foreign born (mainly in the Middle East) and have moved to London. There were plenty of those guys there, but the strangest individuals were two Americans who were apparently on vacation. American Dad (appr 70 yrs old) and American Son (appr 40 yrs old) sat at separate tables, and we got American Dad. On the first five hands, he raised the pot on every street. He successfully bought every single one of those pots. On the sixth hand, a grisly veteran decided to look him up. The veteran had top pair, top kicker, not a bad hand to use to slow down a maniac. The maniac got a runner runner straight. As with all maniacs, his luck wouldn't last. He started dumping chips at an alarming rate until he only had £500 left. He got involved in a hand in which he had invested £300 by the flop. His opponent bet another £200 on the river. American Dad CALLED WITH NOTHING BUT KING HIGH! He claimed that he was "pot-committed" but I suspect he was "pot-smoking." Not to worry..."Another £500 in chips!" And so it went. I watched him and his son purchase £3,500 in chips while I was there. There is no telling what the final tally was, but based on the wads of bills from which he pulled each £500, he clearly was planning on losing a lot of money.
I had earned back 75% of my buy-ins and knew I would be going home soon when I was dealt KJo (aka "Jack-King-Off") on the button. I consider this to be a big time "trap hand" and always throw it away to a decent sized raise unless I have good reason to play it. Good reasons granted: American Dad was the raiser, and I was on the button. I played it and saw the flop of KJ6, all hearts. A bet came from Nick which was re-raised by American Dad. Crap. Maybe in another game, I might have called without much worry. I had several concerns:
- a loss would mean that I could not afford a taxi home, and it was a long walk
- losing hurts. losing quickly in the night, rebuilding (most of) your stack over several hours, then losing it all again would cause more psychological damage than I could afford
- I could have been behind to a flush
- I could have been ahead of one or two four-flushes that could still draw out on me
- I could have been behind a set (or two) that was trying to protect itself
The thoughts were o'plenty, but I finally settled on a bit of wisdom that I learned from a man once (at the Vic, of all places): "He who turns and walks away lives to fight another day". My version of this advice is to often bet all your chips but rarely call with all of your chips. So I folded. The original bettor re-raised and made American Dad fold, so I never learned if I made the right decision. What do you think? (btw, I would have gotten 2.75:1 on a call and been nearly all-in)
I was planning on leaving earlier, but the presence of American Dad (and another fishy individual with a French Canadian accent that was losing money at about half the rate of American Dad) convinced me to play longer. I stayed until 9:30, which was the absolute latest I could get away with given the amount of work I had waiting at the hotel and the 6:00 a.m. wake up call that was waiting for me. I spent the last 4 hours of play oscillating between about £250 and £350. I left at my high-water mark of the last 4 hours of just over £350, meaning I lost £91 on the evening. There is no rake, so the Vic takes £10 from you every hour. That means I paid £60 in juice and only lost £31 on poker. Not good, but not bad. I had a blast, and honestly, I would have spent a lot more than £91 had I spent my day wandering down Jermyn Street or watching the England v Trinidad & Tobago match at the pub. On a side note, don't you think it is amazing that England is so good they could beat both Trinidad AND Tobago all at once? Really! OK, that joke didn't work with my taxi driver either, so I won't be offended if it didn't work on you.