by Ashley Adams
Ohio is the newest state to add legal poker to their entertainment menu. I visited back in January to try out the poker action at two of the three legal rooms in the state – the Horseshoe in Cleveland and Hollywood in Toledo. Here’s my take on each room.
I first visited the Hollywood Casino in Toledo en route to visit my brother in Minnesota. The Hollywood is not in downtown but on the outskirts of this western Ohio city, on the scenic banks of the Maumee River. There’s no hotel there – forbidden until either the enabling casino legislation is rewritten or until the occupancy of Toledo’s existing hotels increases. The décor is 1930s art deco – with many larger-than-life prints of famous movie stars on the walls. If you’ve been to any of the many Hollywood casinos around the country, you’ll recognize the retro theme.
This is Toledo’s only poker room, and the only legal room within 90 miles or so – the next nearest being in Detroit, Michigan. As the only game in town, it gets a lot of action on its 20 tables and was about seventy- five percent full on a Sunday evening when I visited. There was a $3 - $6 limit hold’em game going (it closed about an hour later). The other 15 or so tables were largely $1-$2 no limit, though a couple of $2-$5 games were going as well by the time I left the room at 7:30 that night. There are tournaments here – usually two a day, with buy-ins ranging from $30 to $50. There’s a monthly $300 event. All of the tournaments are no limit hold’em except for one Pineapple tournament each Saturday.
This is a beautifully appointed room, as are all of the many Hollywood poker rooms that I’ve visited, with many large flat screen TVs all across the walls, interspersed with famous movie poker scenes. The gorgeous tables seat nine for cash games and ten in tournaments.
There’s a 10%, $6 maximum rake with an additional $1 bad beat drop at $20. You might say I was fortunate, as I never had to pay any of that. I played for about two hours and literally did not win one single hand! I won’t bore you with my tales of woe except to say that the quality of the opposition was such that I think this session would not be indicative of my overall chances in the room. Players tended to be loose, passive, and fairly timid. There were two players at my table who seemed to be fairly strong, but the rest just seemed to be passing the time as they waited for whatever luck had to offer them.
I played with a few guys who lived in the Detroit area but who drove down here regularly to escape the cigarette smoke in the Detroit casinos. Ohio’s new casino legislation requires the entire casino to be nonsmoking. According to the Michiganders at the table, it makes a world of difference – as the cigarette smoke in the non-poker areas of the Detroit rooms filters into the poker room, making it Hellish to play in for nonsmokers. The Hollywood room and the entire casino that surrounds it is completely smoke free.
21-Year-Old College Student Wins First Gold Ring and $174K
WSOP Circuit’s Last Stop on Jersey Shore has concluded. Joseph McKeehen put on the most dominant display of the 2012-2013 World Series of Poker Circuit season on Monday, winning the Main Event Championship at Caesars Atlantic City McKeehen made a shambles out of the poker proceedings, scorching the hopes of each and every would-be rival in his shining path to victory. Consider that when play reached the final table, the 21-year-old college student had nearly half of the total chips in play. The old line about everyone else “playing for second place” gets overused in poker tournament liturgy. However, if ever there was an appropriate use for the aphorism, it was most certainly the final table of the Main Event in Atlantic City.
In fact, McKeehen was never in serious danger of elimination. Like an alley cat toying with its prey, the young semi-pro poker player from North Wales, PA made it rather obvious that the mice in the dispute had no real fighting chance. The rush of cards didn’t hurt McKeehen’s prospects either.
by Ashley Adams
I’ve reported on five poker rooms I played at during a recent trip to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. This concludes the four-part series [Read the other parts of Gulf Coast Poker Report], with a look at the Hard Rock and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi.
Hard Rock Casino, 777 Beach Blvd. 228-374-7625. The Hard Rock is the area’s room for young players; I was there at 12:30 on a Saturday night. The casino was crowded with guys and gals in their 20s – many of them drinking heavily. Some of them had found their way into the poker room – which had two $1/2 no limit hold’em games going.
The games are raked at 10% up to a maximum of $4 with a $2 drop for the bad beat and other promotions. Players earn $5 off their meal bill for every two hours of play. My visit was characterized by what I can best describe as the tale of two tables.
by Ashley Adams
I really enjoyed the Biloxi, Mississippi poker room at the Isle Casino—an Isle of Capri property. (See my first two articles in this series for other rooms in the area). The Isle is beautiful, situated right on the beach, with beautiful seaside views everywhere. I decided to stay in town rather than drive the 90 minutes back to New Orleans. Before my return, however, I had a great playing session.
The Isle spreads both $1 -$2 no limit and $4 - $8 limit hold’em. There were three games going while I was there. Players earn $2 an hour in comps, and (as in the other rooms in the area) pay a 10% rake, up to a maximum of $4, with a $2 drop for the many promotions, including bad beat and high hand jackpots. My $1 -$2 game was filled with regulars who can only be fairly described as “characters”. They often play together, know each others schticks, and were eager to share them with the only newcomer at the table: me!
There was Charlie: His stack ranged from $2,000 to $4,000 during most of the session (there was no cap to the buy in). He was generally quiet, except with his betting action, which was often extremely wild and loose. He proved the wisdom of being welcoming to all when he said that though he often dropped a ton in this game, he kept coming back because of the pleasant company. To be sure, he was no pushover. I saw him shove $3,500 in chips into an $800 pot, win when his opponent folded, and then reveal an unpaired hand of 6-4. He gave a toothless smile when he did so, saying “Sometimes I have nothing”. Describing the philosophy of the game, one player said, “Some people play got’ems, some people play get’ems. We play get’ems over here”. And so they did. Many of the players loved to stay in when they were behind just to see if they could draw a winning hand. Pots were often $1,000 or larger.
by Ashley Adams
I spent two days playing poker in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi—in Biloxi and Bay St. Louis. My first port of call was the IP, the first place off Interstate 10 coming from New Orleans, Louisiana. I wrote about it in my last article. Across the street was Boomtown, a small locals casino with the distinction of not having a hotel. No matter, they had a poker room, and so I enjoyed myself.
Boomtown’s poker room, the only smoking room in the area, is on the second floor of the modest casino. They pride themselves on their $1-4-8-8 spread limit hold’em game. When I arrived at 7:00 PM on a Saturday night, it was filled. The game has a $4 maximum rake with a $2 drop for bad beat jackpot and other extensive promotions. Players earn $1 an hour for live play and are provided with free hot dogs and popcorn.
by Ashley Adams
Folks often ask me which poker room I enjoy most. My answer is usually “Foxwoods,” as well as the last place I’ve played poker. Such is the case now, as I have just finished playing poker in the seven poker rooms on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. Each of the seven rooms offer something different. Overall, I loved the experience – and I recommend it to anyone looking for a great poker vacation.
Let me tell you about my experiences: It’ll take a few columns.
by Ashley Adams
In my last article I posed a quiz about a $1-$2 no limit hold’em game, with players with effective stacks of $200, played against typically mediocre players. Here are the questions again with my answers and comments.
1. You have KsQd in late position. Three players call the large blind in front of you. You raise to $10. The two initial callers call your raise. Everyone else folds. The flop is AsJdTc. The first player bets $20. The second player calls. Which of the following statements is the most correct?
a) You should always make a small raise to induce your opponent to call you.
b) You should always call so you can exploit your opponent on the turn and river.
c) You should sometimes fold to make sure you’re not thought too aggressive.
d) You should always call, to encourage aggression on the turn.
e) You should sometimes stick your chest out, stare directly into each of their eyes, and boldly say “all in”, shoving out all your chips aggressively.
The conventional answers are probably some mixture of a), b), and d), but the best answer is e). Sometimes, especially with three mediocre players, this goading play will cause an opponent to take the bait, assume that your goading move is a bluff, and call you.
2. When playing against a maniac, which of the following statements is most correct?
by Ashley Adams
In my last column I wrote about the strategic differences between limit poker and no limit. Here’s the promised follow up article on the typical mistakes that limit players make when they transition to no limit play.
1. Overvaluing AK
2. Not considering stack size
3. Playing too tight pre-flop
4. Calling too frequently on the river
5. Overplaying Top Pair
1. Overvaluing AK: Limit players, especially limit hold’em players, think of AK as one of the premium hold’em hands. They often play it, preflop, as if it were AA or KK – raising aggressively in and out of position. This is surely an error in no limit. While AK should sometimes be raised, for deceptive purposes, it should usually be played for a call, not a raise. No limit gives you the opportunity to fully press your advantage as the hand develops and once it is made – with an appropriately large bet if you hit your hand. Accordingly, in no limit you should usually take advantage of your ability to hold off on your aggression until the flop, saving money on all of those times when AK comes up dry.
by Ashley Adams
My home poker room, Foxwoods, is still a great limit stud room—with all levels of games going regularly. I learned there how to beat that game. (I also wrote a book about it: Winning 7-card Stud.)
Even so, about seven years ago, I noticed that the lower stakes games were tightening up considerably (as bad players gave up,or died) and the bigger games were getting wilder, and effectively bigger, making it tougher for a grinder like me to deal with the ever-larger swings. So I did what a lot of players did at the time: I took up no limit hold’em, primarily the $300 capped buy-in $1 - $2 blind version of the game. Now I play it just about all the time that I play there, and I’ve learned how to win in that game too. (And I wrote a book about that too, Winning No Limit Hold’em.) But the skills necessary to beat $1 - $2 no limit are very different from the skills necessary to beat the limit game.
by Ashley Adams
Do you ever think about being a better poker player? Many of you probably don’t. You win, you lose – no matter. You’re happy without improving. Sure, you’d like to win more and lose less. Who wouldn’t? But actually improve your skill? You couldn’t care less about that. Others say they want to get better. But do they really? Most, I suspect are just hoping, as if by magic, they will get better just by playing more. But they’re not willing to do any work toward their self-improvement.
For all of you above—who, when it comes right down to it, don’t really want to do what it takes to get better—that’s fine. I respect you, I’m glad you like to play, and I hope we meet at the tables. But this article really isn’t for you. Rather, this is for those of you who are eager to improve and are willing to do the necessary work. There are five key ingredients to improvement: intent, intelligence, study, self-reflection, and application. Let’s get to them.