by Ashley Adams
What’s the poker capitol of the world? For my money, the honors have to go to the entire state of California. This state’s rich poker legacy goes back to the 1930s, a time when gambling was banned everywhere in the United States, but in Nevada. But in California, poker clubs were legal and thrived in those municipalities that allowed them (if only for draw poker games).
Poker continues to thrive in California today, with 104 rooms listed on www.pokeratlas.com. Having played in just about all of the poker rooms in Southern California, I decided to explore the vast sea of poker rooms in the northern and central part of the state. My buddy Andrei (a limit hold’em specialist) and I managed to hit about 25 of them on this five day trip. In this and my next few articles, I will tell you, at least briefly, about the rooms we visited—as well as a few of the highlights and lowlights of our excursion.
We flew into San Francisco and immediately rented a car and left the Bay Area. We could have played in the four rooms that ring San Francisco: The Oaks in Emeryville, Artichoke Joe’s in San Bruno, Palace Poker in Hayward, and Lucky Chances in Colma. All are fine rooms, worthy of at least a visit. But I had played in each of them in the past and decided that we would spend our limited time in rooms to the east that I had yet to visit. So off we were for points east.
by Ashley Adams
As a Boston resident, I am regularly asked about poker in Massachusetts. Sadly, there are no casinos or other public poker rooms in this state. However, in 2011, the state passed a law that enabled full-scale casino gambling here. In 2012, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was assembled; and in 2013, they accepted applications for casino licenses. Applicants have been investigated and their applications have been reviewed. Some have been rejected; some approved. Communities have voted, in accordance with the enabling legislation, on whether they will accept a casino. Some have rejected the projects; others have accepted them. One, Revere, will vote again on February 25th on a new proposal (the initial proposal included putting part of the casino in East Boston, who rejected the plan).
Here’s how the casino gambling picture in Massachusetts looks now, with my estimate of when poker will actually be available. There are three regions that have been given the right to have one licensed casino: Eastern, Southeastern, and Western/Central. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has been given first crack at a license for Southeastern MA—but they had to have both a state compact, approved by the federal government, and a “land in trust” deal – because they do not have any tribal land. As of January 17th, their requisite compact with the state has been approved. They still do not have a land in trust agreement, however. And the entire matter of preferential treatment is under challenge by a private casino developer, KG Urban. So it may be a while before this casino deal is squared away. My guess is that this will not be fully sorted out until the beginning of 2015, with no spades in the ground until the end of 2015, and with the casino opened up by the winter of 2016.
by Ashley Adams
We all know that correctly folding a losing hand can save you money. The better you are at reading your opponents, and thus the better you are at assessing when you are beaten or significantly behind, the greater will be your savings from folding correctly. I’d like to look at another advantage that accrues from folding. It is an advantage that stems from how folding affects your image in the minds of your opponents.
In the old fashioned home game, where buddies play poker regularly with each other, images are fashioned over time. Reputations for betting styles, long developed, are not soon to change no matter what the actual betting may be in one series of hands or even over the course of a few regular poker nights. But in public poker rooms and on line the image that your opponents will have of you is created quickly. In a casino, your image depends predominantly on what you have done recently at the poker table. Exposed as players are to so many opponents, few will actually keep a book on you. Unlike online poker, where note taking is easy (and with the help of some software automatic), public poker room opponents will decide what kind of a player you are, and how to play against you, based on how you’ve played at their table over the session you’re in.
by Ashley Adams
I have found that as my opponents play more “correctly”—that is to say as they cease to be bad calling stations, my old tight aggressive, “ABC” poker is less profitable. I don’t make as much money off of bad calls, which was the main part of my profit, because my opponents aren’t calling as readily as they used to with second best hands. Accordingly, it’s critical for those of us who care about winning to regularly assess what we’re doing and how it’s working and then redesign what we do to take advantage of the changed circumstance. I’ve been doing exactly that over the last couple of years and especially over the last six months. During that time I’ve worked on two things, chiefly: aggression and image. I’ve addressed the subject of aggression in previous articles, and I’ll address it more in the future. So let’s look at how you can make more money by changing your image.
by Ashley Adams
You’re going to make them, these mistakes at the table. You’re going to make them, so you should figure out how you’re going to deal with them when you make them. Why am I so sure that you’ll make mistakes at the poker table? Because I make them. Recently I made a colossal one. It could have ruined my game for the night. That it didn’t is the product of having learned to deal with mistakes like this over the many years that I’ve been playing poker. Here’s what happened.
I was in a relatively soft $1 - $2 no limit game at Foxwoods. Everyone was friendly and most were laughing much of the time. Players were generally tight. So my new style of being loose and aggressive was working—building pots, or letting others build them, and then stealing them with aggressive play on the flop and turn.
by Ashley Adams
I often fantasize about having superpowers at the poker table. I like to think about whether it would be better to know with certainty what cards were going to come on the flop, turn, and river; or whether it would be better to know my opponents’ down cards. I’ve concluded that it’s better to know my opponents’ down cards, and that either special power would render me unbeatable.
It’s an absurd mind game because, of course, it can never happen. But still, it’s a nice fantasy.
There’s another fantasy, however, that can and does happen— though not very often. Imagine, if you well, that there’s an area that has long had lots of interest in poker, but has never had a poker room. Then, one day, a large, well managed poker room opens. All of the home game players from the area, and everyone nearby who ever thought he might want to play poker in a casino comes to the new room. Since it’s new, everyone comes with a lot of money, not having lost it yet in the casino’s poker games. Since it’s new, everyone thinks he might be a winner if he gets lucky. Since it’s new, the games are great, as the bad players haven’t yet been picked clean by the good players; and the mediocre players haven’t yet learned the skills at the table that they might eventually learn through trial and error. This is a fantasy that does happen—though only rarely. And it’s happening now just south of Baltimore, Maryland at the great, new, huge, busy, rocking and rolling Maryland Live Casino poker room! I had the opportunity of experiencing this rare poker fantasy. I flew down from Boston to Baltimore on a trip to see my daughter who lives in Washington, DC. As it happens, the best deal I could get on a motel was $39 a night at the lovely Red Roof Inn about one mile from Maryland Live in the Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Maryland. During the day and evening I got to visit with my daughter, her boyfriend, and my cousins in the DC area. But by night, I was left to play poker at Maryland Live. This I did with alacrity.
by Ashley Adams
I had a family reunion in DePauw, Indiana—in the southern part of that state, across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. For poker action and convenience, nothing would seem to beat the enormous, action-packed poker room at Caesar’s in nearby Elizabeth, Indiana. But I’d played there half a dozen times. So though I loved the room, I decided to try out the three poker rooms within an hour of Cincinnati, where my flight from Boston arrived.
My first stop was on Saturday evening at the Belterra Casino in Florence, Indiana (www.belterracasino.com, 888-235- 8377). It is just about an hour from the Cincinnati airport. It’s a small, modestly appointed poker room, in the back of the enormous and beautiful casino resort, with daily tournaments. Unfortunately, from my experiences both on Saturday and Sunday night, the cash game scene is rather hit or miss. As it was, they got a short-handed $1/$2 no limit hold’em game together by about 6:00 PM on Saturday. I was not as fortunate the following evening, when they failed to get any game, and suggested they wouldn’t get a game later in the evening, even though players were being knocked out of the tournament. This was disappointing, in light of the fact that the rest of the casino resort was luxurious, extensive (including a highly rated spa and golf course) and had a top quality steak house and terrific sports bar that I sampled. Perhaps some major tournaments scheduled for the property will jump-start the cash games going forward. But for now, I’d suggest that cash game players call first to insure a productive trip.
by Ashley Adams
Thank you Jet Blue. I had no intention of traveling to Texas, but Jet Blue announced a new non-stop route from Boston to Houston’s Hobby Airport. To promote it they offered $93 round trip fares. So I hastily booked a flight. Only then did I ask myself, “What can I do in Texas”?
Texas, the birthplace of the world’s most popular poker game, Texas Hold’em, makes playing poker a crime. Yes, it’s absurd. So all the poker that is played is done illegally—with one exception. That exception is the one legal casino in Texas, the Lucky Eagle in Eagle Pass on the Kickapoo Reservation. So I decided to take advantage of my cheap transportation and play poker in Eagle Pass.
Unfortunately, Eagle Pass is on the other end of the state—on the southwest border with Mexico—and about a six-hour drive from Hobby Airport in Houston. Nevertheless, for a poker-playing road warrior like myself, the distance was not daunting. So, after a Texas-sized breakfast of chicken-fried chicken with grits, off I drove.
by Ashley Adams
A lot of poker theorists, players, and writers talk about “range”—that is finding an opponent’s playing range. This refers to the range of hands that an opponent may be playing. It’s considered helpful in devising your playing strategy to consider what range of hands your opponent is likely to be playing. So, for example, if you have a tight opponent who raises from early position, you might not be able to pinpoint the exact hand he has, but you might put him on a “range” of hands—anywhere from AK, JJ, QQ, KK, or AA. This concept works for limit, no limit, hold’em, stud, Omaha, or indeed any type of poker.
I find this exercise of putting opponents on a range of hands to be useful. And, to be sure, I do it regularly—almost automatically—when I play. But I find another concept to be even more useful. I call it ANTI-RANGE. That is, figuring out the hands that my opponent is NOT likely to have. From my experience, I find that by deducing what my opponent doesn’t have, I can take advantage of many bluffing opportunities that I might not normally consider.
It started as a lark and it turned into a mission: Could I play poker in all fifty states?
When the idea occurred to me back about five years ago, I made a list of all the states where I had already played. When I included public poker rooms and private games, there were 25 states in which I had played: ME, NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, MD, SC, NC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, OH, IN, MO, MN, OK, NV, NM, AZ, CA, WA, AK. I started to think about how to get to the rest, planning vacations around places in which I had not yet played. My list of states expanded to include: VA, IL, TN, WI, IA, PA, RI, VT, WV, MI, DE. By this time two years ago, I had played in 36 states. During the past two years I went on to play in: CO, TX, MT, WY, ND, SD, KS, KY, AR. By the start of this summer, I had played poker in 45 states.