When you walk in through the sliding glass doors, there are some women on the couch watching “Deal or No Deal” on a 64 square foot projection screen that doubles as one of the house’s interior walls. To any observer who has driven through a foggy night, down an construction-crowded interstate, and then down a long, dark, unpaved driveway, this would seem like an ordinary rural house. Though the dozen or so vehicles parked in the back field might be a tip-off, the casual onlooker would only be guessing at what was going on behind the hollow wooden door to his right.
I knew, of course. I’d been there before. In an earlier post, I dubbed it the Spring Hotel. What’s more, two of my poker running buddies (frequent readers slot gacor know them as BadBlood and G-Rob) were already in the room, sitting around a curiously designed poker table. Black speed-cloth covered the top and a familiar dealer sat in the box.
I killed time waiting for a seat by playing a five-handed turbo SNG in another back room. I chopped the tourney and sneaked into the empty one-seat in the main game.
T.J. Cloutier told a story in a book with Tom McEvoy about winning $8000 in an illegal card room in Dallas, Texas. With big money in his pocket, he worried about getting to his car and on the road without getting robbed, or worse yet, killed. He knew one guy in the room was known to carry a gun and could be suspected of being a robber. Sure enough, that guy offered to escort Cloutier to his car. Cloutier said in the book that he wasn’t sure whether to be more worried about getting robbed or about the guy who was escorting him.
I thought about this story as I drove the 20-something miles back home tonight. Back in Cloutier’s illegal poker heyday, river suckouts were not among the players’ chief worry. While calculating pot odds, hiding their tells, and making sure they didn’t go broke, they were also worrying about being cheated, robbed, or busted. Every corner was a dark one and all the old school Texas road gamblers couldn’t have been happier than when poker–legal, regulated poker–exploded in Las Vegas.
The Spring Hotel takes care of its players. As the sun set, pizza and lasagna arrived as a prelude to the 64 square foot image of Kellie Pickler getting the boot on American idol. After all the bellies were full, the players had their choice of snacks, sodas, beer, and liquor from a fully stocked fridge. I’d venture there are even very few casinos where you can get a can of Diet Coke, a plate of lasagna, a Bud Light, a shot of whiskey, and a Hostess Twinkie all within 25 feet of each other–and for free.
What’s more, the Spring Hotel offers a professional dealer in the box. Anyone who has only played home games or player-dealt games does not know what they are missing. When a full-time pro dealer is running the show, the number of hands you see per hour skyrockets. What’s more, you can concentrate more on the game and less on making sure you get the card to the eight seat from the three seat without flipping over an ace.
Of course, players are paying to play. The house charges a rake, takes money for a high-hand jackpot (straight flush to the ten or higher to qualify), and expects players to tip the dealer. At the Spring Hotel, the rake is reasonable, the jackpot is not small, and the dealer is good. So, it makes it all worth it.
There will never, ever be a poker game where someone will have an absolute 100% certainty that they aren’t being cheated. Whether online, in Las Vegas, in a homegame, or in an underground card room, there is always the chance (no matter how minute) that someone is cheating.
Thankfully, the legal live card rooms and online poker sites have put in lots of money, effort, and security to watch out for cheating. That effort has allowed its players to feel as comfortable as possible while playing. Of course, there will always been worry warts and naysayers who refuse to believe the games are legit. There’s no getting rid of those people.
Underground cardrooms are different, however. At the Spring Hotel, for instance, the guys who own the action and run the games often prop to keep the games going. While there is little difference in this and dealers playing in shift in some casinos, there is a nagging part of any reasonable brain that whispers, “keep an eye out for these guys.”
I’d been playing a pretty roller coaster game since I sat down. I’d turned a set against a guy on a flush draw that missed and nearly doubled my stack. Later, I gave the dude half a stack back when he pushed all in under the gun. When I found pocket nines, I decided to gamble–putting the guy on 25% overpair, 25% underpair, and 50% big ace. He had aces and I, as expected, lost. Later I picked off a couple of loose players with my top-pair top kicker and made back what I lost with my gambling call earlier.
As the game started to get short-handed (G-Rob and BadBlood had left), I picked up pocket kings in the cutoff. With two limpers to me, I made a standard raise. The button called. Sitting in the big blind, one of the house players re-raised. While the guys has a fairly wide range of starting hands, he’s more of a calling station than re-raiser, so I put him on something big (AA,KK,QQ). His stack was fairly short (only $64 behind). I raised enough to put him all in and was fairly surprised to see the button call. As expected, the house player called. When the flop came down Qxx with two clubs, I knew I had no chance of winning the main pot. The house player certainly had either outflopped me or was ahead the entire time. I pushed in my stack and got the button to call with his AJ of clubs. He missed, which was good, because his missed draw almost made up for the money I lost to the house player. Oh, I didn’t mention? The house player, indeed, held pocket aces to my pocket kings.