Player Tips

A Poker Life – Part 2

A Poker Life At California Grand Casino – Part 2

Hey everyone glad to have you back for the second installment of my journey from learning how to play poker to being one of the many familiar faces at the California Grand Casino in San Francisco’s East Bay! In Part 1 of Poker Life At The California Grand Casino I told you about matching wits with my Grandma and playing with fraternity brothers and opponents more than double my age. The final chapter that sent me towards a life on the felt begins with an unlucky break in the most literal sense of the word.

New Year’s Eve: Dec. 31 1999. Massive New Year’s Eve celebrations abound Y2K fears unrealized and lots of uncertainty in the air as we slowly began to assimilate and embrace the new millenium-2000 here we come! But just prior to the New Year’s Eve festivities I finally made the very tough decision to drop out of college in Colorado and return home to California. This particular new year-2000-marked a completely new journey with no guarantees except that I would be living life on my terms. I had no idea where life was going to lead me but I was determined to enjoy the ride!

As it turned out that ride led me to a very rewarding environmental job that allowed me to travel a great deal. As I worked up and down the California coast I would take time in the evenings to find the closest local cardroom and play some poker. Every time I headed out of town for work you could find me at the local poker tables. I gained a great deal of experience during my time with this new job but it didn’t last long. The company lost a large contract and had to lay off workers; I was a casualty. I struggled to find work with other companies getting hired and laid off two more times. Throughout this turbulent period of employment I had been playing more and more poker and playing it quite well. Eventually I was putting in 50+ hours a week with excellent results so I simply kept playing. Without ever intending to I had evolved into a professional poker player!

Being the sports nut that I am I played on many sports teams-both as a youth and young adult-one of them being a soccer team. During a particularly grueling match an opponent tried to slide tackle the ball away from me. He crashed into my knee my cleats stuck in the ground and everyone on the field heard a loud POP! I wasn’t sure at the time what exactly had happened but I knew it was serious. The MRI at the hospital confirmed what I had feared: I had torn my ACL. I had to undergo two surgeries as a result of my injury and even with insurance it was far from cheap. My bankroll–the money I had been using to play poker and make a living–was now being diverted to repairing my knee.

Needing a new profession and not wanting to totally abandon my poker playing I naturally gravitated to the casinos. The California Grand was where I played the most. It had always been a friendly and enjoyable place to play. I liked the customers and the employees and the competition was challenging. My game continued to improve. I spent countless hours observing the dealers. The thought started to cross my mind that perhaps I could be a dealer. This could be an ideal profession for someone like me. Of course I had no prior experience working in a casino no dealing background and had not gone to dealing school-not exactly great credentials. What I did have was persistence and a deep understanding of the nuances of the game. After speaking with the general manager I was told to practice and come back for an audition. I practiced constantly, passed the audition, and began my career as a dealer in the East Bay with California Grand Casino. The rest is history. After dealing for several years I moved on to work as a tournament director dealer trainer and floorman before settling into my current role of prop player blog writer and utility employee. Life is unpredictable and you never know what seemingly innocuous event can end up changing your life forever. There have been many bumps and bruises along the way both literally and figuratively and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Just like a day at the poker table life is unpredictable…might as well enjoy the ride!

Until next time see you at the tables!

learning the game

To Bluff or Not to Bluff!

To Bluff or Not to Bluff, That is the Question!

Welcome back my friends! I hope that you’re enjoying the change in seasons and the additional sunlight that comes with it. The season isn’t the only thing changing around here…when you have a moment, check out our brand new website! All the information you need is there, including our latest promotions, great offers, and current JACKPOTS!

Something I overheard at the tables the other day really caught my attention and caused me to think a great deal about the topic. A regular opponent of mine said, “You just can’t bluff in this game, no one throws away their hand!” It struck me for two reasons. First, I have successfully bluffed this particular person on several occasions (in LIMIT poker no less!) Secondly, while his perception is a common one, it simply isn’t true. It certainly has some credence to it, as bluffing in limit poker is no easy task, and not one I would often recommend. That being said, there is a time and a place for it, both in limit and in no-limit Hold ’em. It’s impossible to pin down exactly when you should or shouldn’t bluff, but there are a couple things that you want to keep in mind if you’re considering making a move.

Know your opponent(s)

If you’re going to attempt the most daring play in poker (outside of playing Omaha!), be sure to have a decent understanding of who you are trying to bluff. We all know the few players that simply never fold a hand like top pair or better. It just doesn’t happen and they want to see your hand no matter how badly they’re beaten. You see them make hopeless calls on the river all the time against other players. Despite knowing this, you may find yourself in a pot with this person on the river when you completely missed your hand. You will feel the urge to bet. After all, it’s the only way you can win now, and the pot is so big…what’s one more bet? You MUST fight that urge. Take a second, remind yourself of whom you’re playing against, and simply let this one go. Save that bet and live to fight another day.

Now take that same situation and replace Captain Calls-a-Lot, with Pondering Patrick. Patrick is a thinker at the table. He tries to make the best play and often gives his decisions a lot of thought. He prides himself on his solid play and isn’t shy about telling people about it. He might even show a fold face up just to impress the table with his hand reading ability and his knowledge. Here is your opportunity. Now that’s not to say that you go out of your way to bluff Patrick, but if you happen to find yourself in a situation like the one above and Patrick is your only opponent, a bluff just might be in order if other conditions are right. What other conditions? Glad you asked…

Know your situation

Simply put, your bluff needs to make sense in order for it to have the best chance of working. If you haven’t been taking any aggressive action when other people have shown weakness, and now at the end of the hand you bluff trying to represent top pair, you’re going to have a tough time. Especially against more observant players, you want to make sure that your bet/bluff AND your previous actions in the hand are along the lines of what someone would expect you to do if you had the hand you are trying to represent. This advice is especially important in no-limit. When your actions are inconsistent and things don’t make sense to your opponent, they are far more likely to call your bet. This advice also applies when you are facing a potential bluff. Think back through the hand. Does your opponent’s play make sense? If something doesn’t quite add up, chances are a call is in order.

If you find yourself considering a bluff, be sure that you’ve thought about who your opponent(s) are and if your previous actions in the hand make sense. If both of those variable are favorable, then you may want to take a stab at it. If one or both of those factors are out of whack, you may be better served by waiting for a better spot. Don’t be afraid to go with your gut and put yourself (and your chips) out there! Until next time, see you at the tables!

learning the game

Rules, Rules, Rules

Rules, Rules, Rules..Know Them!

Happy New Year poker fans! I hope your 2014 was fruitful and you rang in 2015 in style!

I’m usually not a fan of New Years’ resolutions, but this is the perfect time to make a promise to yourself to improve your poker game. Many people are hesitant to spend time improving their game. Some of the most common reasons I hear include:

1. Not having enough time
2. Thinking that improving one’s game is only for serious players
3. I’m just a casual player so why bother?
4. Simply not knowing how to go about it

Well let me solve those for you right now. You’re reading this article so you do have enough time. Everyone can benefit from improving their game. I’m going to show you a simple way to improve poker game fundamentals that will make you a better player by the time you’re done reading this post. Do we have a deal? Good.

Here are three words that will make you a better, more skilled player:

KNOW YOUR RULES!

Well thanks a lot captain obvious, how is that going to make me a better player? Let me explain. Knowing your rules means a lot more than simply knowing the rules of poker. Poker is not a black and white game. Poker is almost entirely played in the gray area. We seldom have all the information we need to make the most informed strategic decisions when playing a game of poker. Situations change and your decisions change with them. Rules are no different. Have you ever taken the time to read the rules of the game at your local casino? Any good casino will have them readily available. The California Grand Casino has fliers with all of the games, rules, and information available at the side of the information desk, as well as official copies that are laminated and chained to the right side of the main cage. If you’ve taken a look, it can be a bit overwhelming. Rules and interpretations of those rules vary from casino to casino, and rules even change at the same casino over time. The price you pay for not knowing the rules specific to your game at your casino can be steep. You might get away with making an easily correctable mistake, or it may end up costing you your whole stack! Here are a few quick examples of the types of rules that can vary from casino to casino, that you want to make sure you know before you sit down at the table.

Raising/String Bets

This is important in Limit, and even more critical in No-Limit. The things you want to make sure you know are:

1. Is there a betting line and how is it used to enforce bets?
2. How much do you need to put in the pot for it to be considered a raise? (Limit: Half of a raise or more? No-Limit: all of the raise? A specific percent of the raise facing you?)
3. Are you allowed to declare raise and then put out the call first while maintaining your ability to raise whatever amount you want?
4. How many raises cap the action (Limit only)?
5. Is it the responsibility of the players or the dealer to call a string bet?

Seat Changes

Where you sit at the table in relation to the other players is extremely important. If you don’t know why, I wrote about it here. You need to know if there is a seat change list (and how it works), if there are seat change buttons, if players cut for a seat, or if it’s simply first to request it or lock it up. Don’t be shy, speak up and ask a dealer, floor-person, or even a regular player.

Lobbying

The last thing you want to do is lose your seat in a game or lose a couple chips because you aren’t clear about what the lobbying rules are. Some places take a lobbying fee from your stack. Some places allow you to miss three orbits (the button moving around the table and returning to the same spot is considered one orbit), while others give you a set time limit (ask the floor-person if you need longer and they may cut you some slack). Be sure to know how it works where you play.

Tournaments

Some rules are different in tournaments than they are in cash games. Find out before you sit down or it could cost you dearly. In some tournaments, if you are on your phone or not in your seat when the cards are dealt to you, your hand is dead. Don’t let that happen to you. Swearing and other unseemly behavior can cause you to miss an entire orbit or sit out for a period of time as a penalty. Thankfully you would never do such a thing, but just in case…I thought I’d mention it.

Knowing the rules of the game is such a simple thing and yet many people don’t take the extra time needed to make sure they understand how things work where they’re playing. Always ask someone about the rules when playing somewhere new and be sure that you know the rules inside and out wherever you play regularly. You’ll avoid costly mistakes and that helps improve your bottom line.

Until next time, see you at the tables!

Player Tips

Table Talk – When to Walk Away

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you are staying warm and dry this season, as it sure has been cold and wet lately. The change in weather combined with people taking time off of work means that the action inside the California Grand Casino has been heating up! We’ve talked a lot about various aspects of poker strategy in the past, but something that doesn’t get covered very often is how to quit a poker game. How does a player know when it is time to get up from the table and call it a day? It’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. When do you quit when you are running well and winning pots? When do you quit when things aren’t going your way? The reasons vary from person to person, so there’s no single right answer I can give you. What I can tell you is that there are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to get up from a poker game, and by taking a few moments to really consider your motivations and options, you should be able to figure out exactly what course of action is right for you.

In order to answer the question of when to walk away, you have to first establish why you started in the first place. Everyone starts because they want to play poker, but it goes beyond that. Why do you play poker? What motivated you to sit down at the poker table today? Let’s discuss a few of the main reasons that people play poker and when they should quit based on their individual motivations for playing.

Playing for fun

You love poker. You’re the type of player that plays to relax, unwind, socialize, and have a good time. You come after work to de-stress and sometimes come in on the weekends to enjoy some friendly competition. Poker to you is simply a fun game that provides recreation, interaction, and occasionally a little extra spending cash. When should you get up from the game? Get up from the game when the game ceases to be what you want it to be anymore. If you came to enjoy yourself and relax, and yet find yourself getting frustrated by bad beats or irritated by the chatterbox sitting to your left, then it’s time to take a break and consider cashing out. Maybe a break or a quick bite to eat is all you need and you can get back to enjoying the game. If not, then perhaps it’s time to end the session.

Another reason a recreational player may want to quit the game is when he or she simply has other responsibilities to attend to. If you are someone with a lot of things to take care of, I would suggest giving yourself a time limit and sticking to it. You can be a bit flexible if things are going extremely well and you’re having an absolute blast, but for the most part you should keep your promise to yourself and abide by your self imposed poker curfew.

Playing for keeps

You are a serious player. You’re competitive, better than most, and came to win. Don’t let others be fooled, you love a great time on the felt just as much as the next guy, but the chips are what brought you here and you plan to walk out with a ton! You work on your game and discuss strategy with your peers. You even read a small poker blog to see if there are any pearls of wisdom hidden among the verbosity! When should you get up from the game? That can be a bit of a trickier question than it is for a recreational player because there are factors outside of yourself to consider. Firstly, do you have the time to continue to play? If deciding to continue to play puts you on the clock and you’ll have to leave by a certain time, then it’s definitely best to call it a day. Playing with a fixed time limit looming can throw even the best players off of their A game. Speaking of playing your A game, that’s another reason to cash out. Any time you’re not playing your A game and you become aware of it, take a quick mental break. Ask yourself why you slipped from playing your A game and answer yourself honestly. If you can get back to the top of your game, then it’s safe to carry on. If other factors are contributing to your sub-par play such as being tired, tilted, or tense, then perhaps you would be best served heading to the cage.

As poker players there are so many things that we have little control over; our opponents’ actions, what cards will come, and any number of other variables in a card room. One of the few things we do have control over is when we get up from the game. A little bit of self reflection and honesty is all that is needed to help you arrive at the conclusion that’s right for you. Until next time, see you at the tables!

learning the game

Progressive Jackpots

Progressive Jackpots – Your Chance at a HUGE Payday!

Welcome back readers! While the weather may be getting colder, the action is always hot inside the California Grand Casino! Many of you are familiar with our huge bad beat jackpots, which allow a person who loses a pot with a superior hand to make a large amount of money. With the recent addition of double jackpot hours from 2-4am and 8-10am daily, the total prize has the potential to swell to $200,000! There are a multitude of ways to claim your share of the many big cash prizes we have…here’s how it’s done.

High Hand Bonuses

On Mondays through Saturdays we offer $100 to the best poker hand made every four hour period across all of the Texas Hold’em games. It doesn’t matter if you play 3-6 limit hold ’em or $500 buy in no-limit, everyone is in the mix. If you make a hand that is aces full or better (AAA22, both of your cards must be used), and that is the highest hand so far in the time period, your name goes on the board! The person with the highest hand at the end of the four hour period wins $100, and then it resets and starts all over again! It gets even better on Sundays with our current extended summer/fall High Hand Explosion promotion! On Sundays during certain times the High Hand is awarded every hour and sometimes the prize doubles to $200! Considering our $500 added no limit hold ’em tournament Sunday mornings, dozens of flat screens and great football food specials, you don’t want to miss out on Sundays at the California Grand Casino.

Progressive Royal Flush Bonuses

There’s no limit to how much you can win by making the best hand in poker, the royal flush. For Texas Hold ’em the royal flush bonuses for each suit start at $50 and increase by $50 every day they are not hit. Earlier this week the diamond royal flush was approaching $1,000! Don’t worry Omaha players, we’ve got great bonuses for you too including progressive royal flush bonuses. When these get big the game catches fire! Be sure to check the monitors on the west wall when you come in to see how much the bonuses are worth.

Texas Hold’em Mini Bad Beat Jackpot

We also have a mini bad beat jackpot. To hit the jackpot, all you need is to make aces full of jacks or better (AAAJJ), and have it beat by four of a kind or better, and you win a share of $5,000! $3,000 goes to the losing hand and $2,000 gets split up among the remaining eligible players at the table. So, if you were dealt into the hand that qualifies you win a share of that cash prize, even if you folded!

Omaha Bad Beat Jackpot

Our Omaha game has a jackpot of its very own. Make get quad jacks or better (JJJJx) beat by anything and you win half of the $5,000 prize while the rest of the table splits the other half. Just like the other jackpots, if you are dealt into the jackpot hand, you share in the prize!

Texas Hold ‘Em Super Bad Beat Jackpot and Double Jackpot

This is the big one folks. California Grand has already paid over $15,000,000 to players! The jackpot starts at $70,000 and increases $200 every day it’s not hit. Between 2-4am and again from 8-10am, if you hit the super jackpot, your table will split the lion’s share of at least $140,000 and all it takes to win a $200 room share is to be an eligible player at any live poker game when the double jackpot is hit! We just had one player win $83,600 last month. Twenty-two players also won $200 each and the other 8 players at his table got $9,900 each! That’s a lot of happy winners! As I write this blog (10/24/14), our double jackpot is currently at $155,200! You too could be one of the many lucky winners at California Grand Casino The potential is there to score a $100,000 payday if lady luck happens to swing your way!

With all of the action and so many different ways to win, make sure you don’t get left out in the cold this fall and get in to the action at California Grand Casino! Until next time, see you at the tables!

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Learn To Play Event

Learn To Play Poker With 97.3 The Game’s John Lund – October 9th

Right now is the best time to be a poker player. Poker fever is running high. Poker is among the most popular card games in the world. New players are entering into the game every day in large numbers. As a result the coverage of poker on television in books and online-gaming brings more players to the game everyday. This is among the reasons why we are seeing casinos and cardrooms popping up throughout the state of California and all over the country for that matter. But how does one learn to play poker and get up to speed quickly so that you feel comfortable playing in a cardroom or casino with real people of all ages at varying levels of skill all vying to win some cold hard cash? Let’s face it Youtube training videos can only take you so far.

Well now here’s your chance. California Grand Casino located in Pacheco along with 95.7 The Game’s John Lund are hosting a free Learn to Play Poker session on Thursday October 9th from 6p-8p. We are going to teach the first 20 players who sign up how to play the game of poker. It’s easy it’s fun and there’s no risk!

To make Learn to Play Poker at Cal Grand fun for all we are offering some fabulous door prizes to the first 20 people who sign up. Some of the prizes include Raiders tickets, Stanford football tickets, movie theater tickets, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk tickets, and more. Free food and non-alcoholic drinks are included plus the first 20 players to sign up will receive a coupon for $100 in FREE Match Play chips to be used at a future visit-pretty good deal right?

It takes knowledge, skill and practice to become a good poker player. But we all had to start somewhere: the beginning. It can be intimidating for some to walk into a casino or cardroom with rusty poker skills from days gone by or even worse little playing experience. Understandable! Poker instruction from a dealer is one of the very best and quickest ways to pick up the game or fine-tune your strategy. At Cal Grand you will have the unique opportunity to be taught by one of our most popular players and trainers David Okimoto or Oki as we affectionately refer to him (also our resident Blog Writer so check out his recent stories about becoming a professional poker player).

The key is to take that first step to learning the basics of poker. Then test your ability by playing a variety of poker formats such as Hold’Em or Omaha, or eventually tournaments. This will speed up and help improve your poker game. Cal Grand offers a weekly Sunday Texas Hold’em tournament starting at 10:30 and a High Hands starting at 8am.

We hope to see you Thursday October 9th from 6p-8p at our Learn to Play Poker night at California Grand Casino. Come watch the National Division Playoff games on anyone of our 22 big screen TV’s, enjoy some free food and drinks, and discover why poker is one of the most popular card games in the world.

And remember,the first 20 to sign up at the California Grand Casino will receive a seat at the Learn to Play Poker table. Not interested in Poker? Check out the bay areas best Baccarat, Pai Gow, and Hot Action Blackjack tables!

Player Tips

A Poker Life – Part 1

A Poker Life at California Grand Casino-Part 1

I hope your summer has been full of fun, adventure and huge pots! Mine sure has been.

Some of you have been asking me what it’s like being in my line of work…what a loaded question! I took some time recently to reflect on my growth and experiences in poker, and open up a bit about how I got my start, how things progressed, and some of the skills it takes to move your game from casual hobby to serious financial pursuit. In part one of this series I’ll share with you my personal poker journey, from a baby faced 21 year old, all the way to a casino employee with a poker blog…with several large bumps along the way.

The very first time I played cards competitively was not in a smoke filled Nevada casino or a friendly California card-room. I played heads up gin rummy against the most skilled player and most ruthless competitor I knew at the time. I was about 5 years old and at the mercy of my wonderful grandmother. While no money changed hands, score was meticulously kept and no punches were pulled. She never took it easy on me and she taught me the basics, as well as how to keep score. I owe her a great deal of gratitude for always playing to win, as I was forced to learn and develop skills in order to compete and improve.

My introduction to poker didn’t come until my college days. My fraternity brothers had a weekly game that they would play, mostly small tournaments, that drew my attention. I wasn’t the best player in the house when we first started playing, but by the end of my college days I was winning a great deal of free beer! My 21st birthday led to my first authentic casino poker experience at the now defunct Frontier casino on the Vegas strip. They had a grand total of two poker tables and I had the choice between seven card stud, or…seven card stud. Not a lot of choices and not exactly an environment that I was familiar with. Keep in mind this was back in 2001, a few years before the softening of poker’s image and the widespread acceptance that came along with the poker explosion fueled by Chris Moneymaker, PokerStars, and a booming economy. I was staring at a table full of cigarette smoke and players at least twice my age. Nevertheless I was very intrigued and sat down to play my first hand. I picked up the game quickly but must have looked like a complete rookie handling my chips and placing my bets. I didn’t leave the table with chips that day, but what I did leave with was an inner desire to play again. At the time I couldn’t figure out why, but now I understand completely what kept drawing me back to the poker table.

It may sound a bit corny, but what really appealed to me (and still does!) about poker is equality. Sure I love the competition, the strategy, and of course winning money, but the fact that everyone that sits down at the poker table is an equal is what I really love. Everyone at the poker table shares a common interest and there is an instant camaraderie that is formed. It doesn’t matter what culture you’re from, what native language you speak, how old you are…we’re all equals on the poker table. When you buy into a poker game, you’re instantly accepted. Obviously this should always be the case, but life doesn’t always work that way. Poker does.

It’s amazing how small events and accidental roads traveled can lead us down a certain path. Had my grandmother not introduced me to competitive card games at a young age, I may never have found my way to a game that has provided me with countless amazing experiences and a profession that I enjoy every day. Thank you grandma!

Part 2- Next time I’ll share how I went from novice player to semi-professional poker player (getting laid off from a job and blowing out a knee in a soccer match were big game changers!).

Until then, see you at the tables!

Player Tips

Macau

Macau: “Vegas” of the East?

Hi there everyone, it’s been a while! Summer is winding down and school is back in session. Some of you may have a bit more free time now, and others may have a bit less. As for myself, I have had more free time recently and took advantage of that by taking a trip to Asia to visit Hong Kong and Macau. Prior to this I had only been to one other Asian country (Japan) so I was very excited to see another part of the world up close and get to experience the different food and culture firsthand!

As some of you may know, Macau is a small nation off the coast of China best known for its new, elaborate, and gigantic casinos. After spending a great deal of time in Macau, I can tell you that these casinos are indeed beautiful and enormous! I’ve spent my fair share of time in Vegas and the casinos there simply can’t compete with the ones in Macau when it comes to size and style. This revelation shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider all of the factors involved.

Macau is the only major location in that part of the world where gambling and casinos are legal, basically giving them a geographic monopoly on the gaming industry. Gambling is a very central and well known aspect of Chinese (as well as other Asian nations’) culture. Macau’s proximity to China allows people from mainland China to simply take a quick flight or even an hour ferry ride to reach the casinos. Combine all of those factors along with the fact that the Chinese economy has been booming in recent years, and it is no wonder that both American and Asian companies have been rushing to build casinos in Macau.

Companies and brands familiar to the Vegas regular such as Wynn, Sands, MGM, and Venetian already have thriving casinos in Macau, and most of them are looking to expand and open new casinos and double down on their investments there. With a bridge connecting Hong Kong to Macau scheduled to be completed in 2016 and gaming revenues beating Las Vegas returns five times over, it is likely that these multi-billion dollar bets will yield more blackjacks than busts! Just in case you were wondering, no, the California Grand Casino will not be expanding its operations to Macau…well, not yet anyway!

Many have dubbed Macau “The Las Vegas of the Far East” or “Asian Vegas.”  While this is true on some levels, it couldn’t be further from the truth in others. The fact that Macau has so many similarities and yet still so many differences is quite simply staggering. Don’t let the similar glitz, glamour, and bright lights fool you, there is a stark contrast once you set foot inside these monstrous gaming meccas!

I’ll start with the similarities. The casinos are lavish, beautiful, and designed to amaze and impress. Once you are out on the gaming floor, you’ll hear the familiar sounds of slot machines ringing and gaming chips clinking together. The hustle and bustle will feel all too familiar to the Vegas regular, while all of the gaming options use their lights and sounds to vie for your attention. Groups of players gather around tables two and three people deep, craning their necks to get a view of the action taking place on the felt. Cocktail ladies saunter around offering drinks to patrons…and that’s where the parallels end…

The cocktail ladies are sometimes pushing around a drink cart, and that drink cart is loaded full of…tea. Coffee is also available as is bottled water, which can also be found simply sitting out on various gaming tables throughout the casino floor. Take a closer look around the gaming pit and you’ll notice a distinct lack of a couple things: alcohol and happy noise. The excited yelling, screaming, celebrating, and high-fiving that is so synonymous with Las Vegas excitement is nowhere to be found. Neither are the various cocktails and beers that you’re accustomed to seeing scattered about a casino pit. Sure you’ll find an occasional gambler with a drink, as they are indeed offered, but they are not complimentary. If you want alcohol, you must pay. There simply isn’t the demand for it like there is in American gambling culture.

Asian gambling culture is starkly different. The patrons take their gaming very seriously. They don’t come to the casino to have a good time, leave their stresses behind, let loose and party…they come to win. Their game of choice: Baccarat. While there are several other gaming options offered such as Sic Bo (High Low), Blackjack, Roulette, and Slots, I would estimate that nearly half of all the gaming tables and certainly half of all the gaming space is dedicated to baccarat. Players get to handle the cards and they make the most out of it, squeezing, bending, folding, and peeking at each of the cards that they get. The result is that cards are thrown out and are only used once, disposed of in a large box on the table. New cards are constantly being shuttled over to the tables to replace their mangled predecessors. All of this creates a very serious and fervent vibe; quite the juxtaposition to the Las Vegas party atmosphere.

Having experienced this culture clash first hand I must admit I was both amazed and yet not totally surprised. One culture is not necessarily better than the other, they are simply different. Ironically it is the fact that they are so different that makes the casinos the same. These casino environments are simply functions of the cultures that the casinos reside in. Ultimately it is you, the gambler that creates the environment; the only thing the casino wants to do is to cater to you.

I kept that thought in mind when I returned home and walked back inside the friendly confines of the Cal Grand Casino. I really did miss this place and seeing the familiar faces that populate the room brought a smile to my face. There really is no place like home. Until next time, see you at the tables!

learning the game

Poker Table Etiquette – Part Two

Poker Table Etiquette – Part Two
I hope you have all been enjoying the summer and the hot weather that comes with it! It is by far my favorite season with all of the fun activities that can be done. When I need a break from the heat there’s nothing better than playing some poker in our nicely air conditioned cardroom here at the California Grand Casino. Relaxing. joking with familiar faces and dragging some pots always puts me in a great mood. You just can’t duplicate that feeling that you get at the poker table anywhere else; it’s why we play the game.

What doesn’t put me in a good mood is seeing players chastise and berate one another over perceived poor play. In my last blog posting Table Etiquette: The Flow Is Good For the Game we talked about appropriate etiquette at the tables,basic good manners and self-awareness. Today’s article takes that a step further.

It’s completely understandable to feel upset after suffering a bad beat but it’s not OK to verbally attack the player that put the beat on you. It makes that person uncomfortable and kills the mood at the table. We’re all here to have fun and win some pots but taking your frustrations out on another player accomplishes neither of those things. In fact it actually hurts your ability to do both. If you find yourself feeling the urge to let someone else know that they made a bad play at the poker table I have two techniques that will help you let go of that hostility and get your head back in the game where it belongs. I use these techniques all the time and have found them to be quite effective. Hopefully they will work for you too.

Inject Logic

Technique One: Inject logic. I use this phrase all the time. I use it at the poker table as well as in my everyday life outside the cardroom. There’s no hidden meaning here. The phrase means exactly what it says. When you encounter a situation at the table where your emotions seem to be getting the best of you use your mind to inject logic into the situation. Ask yourself What will I be accomplishing by giving this player a hard time? Don’t just stop at the question, answer it! One correct answer is you will be making the player feel bad and killing the mood at the table for everyone else. Another correct answer is that you are pointing out a mistake (or so you think) that your opponent made which may help him avoid making that same mistake in the future thereby improving his or her game and making it harder for you to win money off of them.

When you simply look at the facts it’s easy to see what the right decision is: Keep your thoughts to yourself and do your best to let it go. Not only does this help keep the game fun for everyone but it also keeps your head in the game and doesn’t help to improve your opponent’s play. I understand that this course of action is much easier said than done which brings me to my other point:

Know Thyself

Technique Two: Know Thyself. No one knows how you react at the poker table better than you. You know what triggers frustration and anger for you. You know how well or poorly you deal with it. You know what makes you tilt and play less than you’re A-game. I can give you all the advice in the world but it may not be perfect for you. Find out what is. If taking a break from the table for a bit helps you get back on track do it. If you feel you need to stay at the table and muscle through it do it. If you need to vent to feel better do it-but not AT the table!

The bottom line is: the only person that knows how you tick and what truly works for you is you. Understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie and manage them accordingly. By keeping your emotions in check everyone will have a friendlier game and your own poker game will improve.

Until next time see you at the tables!

learning the game

Poker Table Etiquette

Poker Table Etiquette: The Flow Is Good For The Game

I’m sure you’ve all experienced playing at a poker table where everyone is having a great time. People are in good spirits cracking jokes (okay not all are funny) and enjoying each other’s company (and money) all while playing the game that we love to play. Not every player gets dealt a winning hand on each draw but everyone is enjoying good times. The personalities the mutual enthusiasm and some good cards help make poker great for all involved. Yes ALL of us even the dealers enjoy Good Flow.

From the casual low limit player to the serious player looking to pay his or her rent a lively table full of good vibes is good for everyone and helps create the flow. It’s easy to see why a full table of players enjoying themselves is good for the recreational mindset. It may not be as apparent why it’s good for a serious player looking to make a profit. The serious and winning poker player relies on the flow to consistently achieve positive end-results. If players are getting nothing else out of the game won’t they eventually lose interest and look for better flow elsewhere? It’s a collective effort. Nobody is here to play solitaire. We all have it in us. With that in mind knowing and exercising good poker etiquette and bringing your best flow to the table is something everyone can strive to do. Here are a few common situations I’ve come across at the tables that relate. They may seem obvious to some but being aware of these situations and knowing how to act accordingly makes for Good Flow.

Pay Attention!

Be aware of the flow. If the dealer has to remind you that it’s your turn to act take that as a friendly reminder to pay closer attention. You’re not only missing critical information that can help you win the hand but you’re slowing down the flow for the other players at the table. Be considerate and keep your focus on the game while you’re in the hand. Post your blinds when it’s your turn to do so. Improve your odds of play by keeping your mind on the game in addition to keeping up with the flow.

Playing poker from seats 1 and 10

The seats on either side of the dealer are generally not the most comfortable as they tend to afford the player less physical space. It can be more difficult to see everyone at the table especially the person directly across the table from you. Pay extra careful attention when you’re playing in either of these seats. We see players fold out-of-turn when you can’t see around the dealer however the end seats have tremendous advantages of seeing more cards turned before your play. If you cannot see the player that acts immediately before you watch the dealer to know when it’s your turn. Dealers will often let you know it’s your turn simply by turning and looking in your direction. Not sure if it’s your turn? Simply ask. Playing from seats 1 and 10 has a perceived challenge but good advantages so be aware of that when you take one of those seats and make great flow a part of your game.

The Phone

Phones are a tricky topic since many people use phones for different purposes at the table and many card clubs have different rules on what is and is not allowed at the table. The first thing you need to know before sitting down in any poker game is exactly what the cell phone rules are (if any) at that specific card club. Secondly and perhaps most importantly respect the rules. You may or may not agree with the cell phone rule at whatever club you play at but you’ve chosen to play there. Everyone else is required to play by the rules and you’re no exception. Trying to bend or get around the rules of the club makes other players feel uneasy and forces employees to police you which I can promise you kills the good flow. Even if cell phone conversations are allowed at the table none of us likes to hear another person’s phone conversations. Been there. Excuse yourself from the table when you get a chance and finish your call away from the table. If you simply must stay at the table while you’re on the phone keep your volume to a minimum so the flow is not disrupted.

Conversations

Table chat is a good part of the flow! The camaraderie and social aspects of poker are a big part of what makes it an enjoyable hobby and a large reason many people come to play regularly. That being said if you’re talking to your buddy a couple seats away and there’s a person in between the two of you that’s in a hand pause your conversation until he/she is done with their play. Poker is a challenging game and to play it well requires concentration. Be respectful of the other players around you and keep loud conversation to a minimum during play.

What constitutes a positive poker experience may vary from person to person but everyone wants to have an enjoyable experience when they take the seat at the table. Keeping some of these basic etiquette tips in mind will help to achieve Good Flow for everyone. Hopefully the next time you sit in a game it will be full of happy and respectful players looking to enjoy themselves!

Until next time see you at the tables and keep up the Good Flow.