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House of Cards
by Ashley Adams

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California Poker Scene, Part 4

My friend Andrei and I were on day three of my poker adventure in northern California, having visited 11 rooms that I’ve already reported on [Editor's Note: Read part 1, 2, and 3].

The next poker room we visited was Rancho’s Club Casino (10499B Folsom Blvd Rancho Cordova, CA 916-361- 9186). I really enjoyed this little room where I had the privilege of playing with and really getting to know the rooms owner, Reuben Marquez. We sat together at a $4/$8 with a half kill game of Omaha hi-lo. But this game was very special—perhaps unique—in that it was played with a 9 qualifier for low rather than the standard 8. The game was populated by six recreational players, and two extremely tight players: a house shill (someone who plays with house money) and Reuben himself. I only played for about 90 minutes, but managed to win about $100. That wasn’t the most memorable part of the experience. Instead, I learned from Reuben how to play a house game he invented: double hand Marquez. It combines the best of pai gow, baccarat, and blackjack and has just been approved as a legitimate California game. I shan’t explain it except to say that it’s relatively easy to learn, has a modest house advantage of about 3% or so, and seems fun to play (if you can find gambling games with a house advantage to be fun). The room is officially open from 8:30 AM until 3:00 AM, but considering there was just one short game going when I was there at 5:30 PM on a Tuesday night, I’d call before driving over.

by Ashley Adams

We left Rancho’s Club at about 7:00 PM and shortly thereafter arrived at the nearby Cordova Casino (2801 Prospect Park Drive Rancho Cordova 916-293-7470). This is a busier and larger poker room than Rancho’s Club, with about six tables in action when we were there. I played in a $1/$3 no limit hold’em game that allowed an under-the-gun straddle of up to ten times the big blind. Their rake was a reasonable $4 a hand (with another $1 for the many promotions they offered). They also had a low limit hold’em game that my friend Andrei played in. This seemed to be the hangout of the more serious poker players in town. I managed to win one fairly large pot with some trickery—something that wouldn’t have been possible if the players had been looser or less observant. There’s a nice $120 in chips for $100 buy-in promotion that visitors should take advantage of. The eight players at my table rated the food as better than average.

I dropped Andrei off at his motel and then proceeded for a late night session at the expansive and beautiful full-service casino, Red Hawk (1 Red Hawk Parkway, Placerville 888-573-3495), arriving at 10:00PM. I probably should have crashed, but I couldn’t resist playing for an hour or so in this beautifully appointed room that had two $1/$3 no limit games going. I returned the following morning as well and got the complete tour of the casino and run down of what the poker room has to offer. I met with Chris Abraham, the vicepresident of marketing, who explained that this casino draws from the Bay Area, Sacramento, and San Jose. They pride themselves on having all of the amenities of the largest casinos, but with the personal touch you’d expect in a smaller more intimate place. They have been successful in building a solid base for their relatively small stakes no limit game—using freerolls for frequent players as their chief poker-marketing tool. I agree that the feel of the room was special—a sense that the staff knew all of the players in the four and then five games that were going by the time I left at noon. My friend Andrei and I were also impressed with the sandwiches, soups and chili we sampled from their 24 hour café—only sorry that we didn’t get to stay and appreciate their well-praised steak house or buffet. We also enjoyed nosing around in nearby Placerville—a historic town worth visiting.

Next up: Folsom Lake Bowl, Lodi/Wine Country Casino, Cameo Casino, and Delta Poker Room.

Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-Card Stud. He hosts the radio show House of Cards, broadcast in markets throughout the US and on the Internet at http://www.houseofcardsradio. com. Contact Ashley at

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