A Day of Poker at Ocala Jai
Alai






So here is how it is for me and
poker down here in Florida.

I
played about 11 sessions last year and came away down money. Usually, just a few
dollars, but still that did not do much for my confidence.

This
year I played one session at Tampa Hard rock and lost, but I was ahead for a
while and my new hit and run no limit on short stack strategy had me winning and
feeling like I knew how to play that way against people who I knew could outplay
me in the long run if I wasnít short stacked.

I
decided that I just wouldnít bother so much with Tampa Hard Rock this and fish
more mullet than poker pots, although those little critters have proved tougher
opponents than rock hard poker partners.

Still
I just go the the Hard Rock a few times when I have people to get at the
airport, but when Elizabeth feels comfortable with no car for a day and can free
me up on a Wednesday for the Ocala Jai Alai games, I play there for
fun.

On
Wednesday and on Saturday they have a spread limit 1-3 game. There is no way to
expect to win money because the rake and tip take so much, but in the 1-3 I can
expect to have a bit of fun and break about even.

What
happens on Wednesday is a bus load of seniors from a huge nearby senior complex
called the Villages come in every Wednesday and so that 1-3 spread limit game
emerges as variety to what is usually a no limit game.

This
sort of game can also gives me the kind of social interaction with banter and
jokes that I like to mix with the poker.

It
is not the cosmopolitan crowd I love in Vegas at limit games, and some of the
people are taciturn, dull, and well.......pretty brain dead dull. They seriously
treat the 1-3 like real poker; there are always a few old men annoyed with life
and everything who donít like a lot of joking around because life is not funny
and poker isnít either. Why these old grumps would no sooner joke around at a
poker game than they would at the Baptist Evangelical Gun collectors rally and
rebel flag waving tent salvation convention.

But
others are good humored and good for conversation and banter.

I
met a guy who lives summers up near Bar Harbor. Maine. and he was interesting to
talk to because my poker buddy Ron goes there every year and we shared a bit of
his hometown, with him mostly talking about his pleasure in escaping..

He
day trades in stocks down here in Florida, but when he said that, the one good
humored guy Walter actually thought he said he traded in
socks
and seriously asked him what that was like, so that became the joke of the
afternoon, revisited time and time again. I

liked
that.

Then
right next to me was a woman who knew that we were just there to have fun, and
she said so, and she got soused on beer and laughed like a college girl, and had
a grand old time without being very obnoxious although she did seem to embarrass
her ride Rick at the other end of the table who was sheepish and quiet and
probably wanted to take her home. She built good pots and called even when she
did not get lucky.


My
own humor was sometimes missed.

Serious
John got a bit annoyed at me when after my reraise right before the drunk lady
who asked me what I had ( I reraised on the button preflop with pocket kings
trying to limit the field by taking a womanís initial bet of $2 up to the
unheard of extravagance of
5
dollars)


I
had just won a pot with a flopped two pair the hand before, and the drunk lady
started to do a fake whine and complain in a good humored fashion about me
bullying and such.

I
told her that I was really forced to make the raise because once again I had two
pair on the flop. (remember this is preflop so that is absurd)

Well,
that joke just swished over the heads of whole table and old dull and serious
John started to complain about such a ridiculous position, and lectured me that
I could not have the two pair because there had been no flop. I guess he
seriously thought I seriously believed I held two pair was telling my true hand
and an idiot besides.

After
that I tried to be less dry and made my jokes more transparent and simple.

Puns
on socks trading in Maine worked with allusions to L L Bean. Well, old dull John
did not quite get those either, but they werenít about poker, so he was just
quiet and I guess seriously counting his outs or figuring his pot odds or
communing with God about guns or just sucking something out of the hollows of
the few teeth he had left.


Drunk
lady was in her late seventies and acting like a teenager, but not in any
obnoxious way. I liked her and so did Walter, except she kept elbowing him in
the ribs and once she punched him in the arm.

He
laughed, but I think he was a bit annoyed.

Walter
acted after her and was a very good poker player except he explained every one
of his decisions, so he gave away too much information. Some poker are more
afraid that they will be perceived as bad players than they are of losing pots
because people correctly perceive them as smart.


It
was a fine game to play for fun and for the high hand house award of $100 given
every 30 minutes. Two people at my table won this during the afternoon and it
was a great deal of fun to see a nice high Aces-full posted and then watch the
countdown clock and wonder if there was time for someone to catch a better hand
or if the high full house would hold up.

One
dealer said that the room was packed on New Years even when one of these high
hand awards was worth $2013 and it was actually won by a woman who early in the
hour caught Aces full and then saw them hold up for the money. The rest of New
Years Eve quads and straight flushes won, but that big hand awarded the full
house.

For
high hands to count there needs to be $10 in the pot and both cards have to
play, but one could be a kicker, so an A-6 with a flop of three sixes would
qualify.

Then
when some won, the casino made a nice little fuss, coming with a camera to take
a photo just like hitting 10 grand in a Vegas slot.

I
like all of it. It is the same entertainment as Vegas with less risk and these
high hand awards are much more satisfying than that constant banter about ďbad
beatsĒ in most places.

For
a while it was the only limit game, so high hands could be expected more often
at that table and folks played all the possibilities so even though the rakes
were high, the pots could get big, splashed as they were by straight flush
possibilities.

They
opened up a 2-4, but I stayed with the spread limit because I like it better.

I
did not hit any high hand, but I did very well for a while and then I lost my
profit back playing one hand really poorly that I should have just tossed back
early.


When
the drunk lady left with other people on the senior citizen bus, including
Walter, and left me with the dull witted taciturn old grumps.

I
left the 1-3 table down three dollars after a few hours, well, really up $7
since my early play at no limit had cost me about $10

I
took the last seat at a 1-1 NL game and entered in first position and too the
option of buying the button. For $2 that makes sense to me. Iím only playing
mostly button and near button hands anyway, as well as the many, many limped
blind hands I get to play in this game because it is not an aggressive game and
preflop raises donít happen so much.

Iím
dealt 7-2 of diamonds. Remember Iím in first position.

Two
diamonds come on the flop, so I check and then call a $2 bet somewhere with a
few callers. I am very weak, but this is like a 2-4 game.

We
all check the turn.

The
river comes with the diamond, but I check it in first position figuring anyone
calling me has a higher flush. One woman bets $2 and everyone
folds.

So,
I say, ďHow about $10?Ē and toss in two red chips figuring that if she has a
small flush, but one probably higher than mine, with this hefty check raise, I
might be able to push her off of the smaller flush for this match the pot
bet.

She
thinks a minute, but not long, and she calls.

ďWell,
I guess she has got me beat.Ē I say , and turn over my cards.

Well,
she doesnít.

Nice
to sit down and win the first hand from terrible position with
7-2.


What
I learn all day is that I canít put people on hands. Iíll watch the betting, put
them on such and such and Iím just stupid about it. Sometimes I win with my
stupidity.

In
one game I am on the button with A-Q and I raise to $3 because this will take
out the terrible blind limp cards. yes, in this game $3 will steal
blinds.

The
flop comes A-x-x and I make a bet on the button and get maybe two
callers.

I
should have bet on the turn, but I worry about A-K and there is not much to draw
to, so I let it go with a free card.

On
the river, a king falls and a guy bets just ahead of me.

I
call and when he flips his cards, I first see the K and Iím so sure he had A-K
that I groan a bit before I see that it is K-something and he was calling me to
draw into some inside straight and instead of worrying about my Ace, he bet his
second best river king but not so much as to push me off my pair of
Aces.


So
I learn that this inability to read hands is one of the reasons I canít play
this game well. And this makes sense to me and explains why I do better at our
weekly game with the same fellows every week, but donít do well in the casino. I
can put them on hands because I know how they play. In the casino I just suck at
reading strangers.


********************
When
I really donít put a guy on a hand is when we are heads up and he is betting
small with a large full house. Iím calling. He is just trying to get the pot up
to $10 because kings full is at this point the high hand of the half hour, and
he wants to be in that $100 running. I never put him on such a hand and he puts
me on something pretty low, so he even after he has the minimum, he just value
bets the river for $3. Maybe he hopes I will come back over the top and try to
push him.


When
he shows the kings full high hand, I am very surprised. And then he says that he
had tried to signal me to help him out with getting the $10 minimum in the pot.
I feel pretty stupid. I completely missed any signal and did not put him on much
of anything and was in the dark about anything inspite of the obvious clues that
I guess were right there.


*************

There
was no chance to play short stacked on a 1-1 $60 max table. I could have joined
higher staked tables, but I liked playing where on a small bankroll I could play
real poker and did not have to leave when I doubled up. For a good bit of the
time with $160 in front of me , I was top chipped guy at that NL table by $40,
so no one was going to take me on the river for all my money. Playing short
chipped here would mean playing with a $20 buy in and going all in preflop
against just a few dollars and certainly making these folks angry.

It
would be the ultimate grind and not much fun. To hit and run with a $20 profit
is not appealing even to my small potatoe self.

And
this was not a game with many all-in bets and most of those would be made from
nut hands. Very little bully bluffing at all. So the advantage of short stacked
play, the absence of the big bluff, was absent here just as much as at a short
stacked, higher stakes and aggressive game.


********************************

As
well as learning that I canít read strangers and put them on hands, I think I

better learned when it is time to go home.

On
the limit table there was a time when the fellow next to me from Maine turned
and said, ďMan, you sure are getting some good kickers.Ē I guess he missed how
many hands I tossed away and that I was only showing good kickers because I was
only playing good kickers. In that game good kickers would win more money than
good hands because folks were playing king and Ace with small kickers right to
the river. But I realized that this drew attention to how tight I was and it
might be time to go.

On
the no limit, the fellow who got and quickly lost the $100 high hand bonus,
looked at me and said with some annoyance, ďYou know the only hand you have lost
is when I had the high hand and beat you.Ē pointing out that if I was in it to
the river, I was strong and not just full of hope or bluff. So, with that being
my table image, explained for anyone who had not noticed, it was time to leave
there too because second, third, and fourth best were going to stop calling,
fold and not pay me.

And
perhaps it is time to leave whenever I am up $100 at any game.


***********

And
finally, the ďjunk winning handĒ of the day happened to me in middle position
when I limped in with a dollar because I had not played in a long, long while. I
held 6 and 10 of clubs. What was I thinking??

The
flop was 7-8-9 rainbow and I slow played well enough, made a pot building bet on
the turn when there were also two clubs giving me a flush possibility as well,
and I had three callers when I bet my $15 on a no flush possible river, one
raising to $18 to go all=in and go home. My straight was a surprise to everyone.

And
for once I had correctly read that no one had the nut 10-J that might have made
me cry.

ď
My lucky hand,Ē I announced hoping to spoil a tight table image, ďI win so often
with these two cards that I just have to always play them. 6-9 works that way
for me as well.Ē

I
donít know if they believed me.

*********
The
dayís hands themselves were no great wonder. No pocket Aces or Queens or tens
all day. I lost with Pocket kings and twice with A-K. Pocket fours flopped a set
,and I slow played and did well on that pot against two pair bettors. Pocket
8ís, 9ís, 2ís 3ís 5ís went no where. Suited connectors never connected. I think
I got one full house all day and no Ace high flushes. But $104 is huge for
me.

Iíll
take it.

They
tell me on Saturday the high hands are awarded $500 every 30 minutes, but the
room is full and so the odds dwindle or perhaps stay about the same as there are
perhaps five times the players in each hand. Still, the 1-3 game will be there
for certain and that is the one where the high hands have the best odds of
hitting.

Iíll
be back.