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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Our Big Trip, Part I: San Francisco
I'm back!

Actually I've been back since Sunday night, just recovering and catching up on stuff all week. There are over 400(!) unread posts in the poker folder of my Bloglines blogroll. Yikes. Figured I should get down my thoughts on our trip before I start trying to ctach up with everyone else.

As a quick recap, B and I left last Thursday the 12th for San Francisco. Thursday night and Friday we visited with friends, then Saturday through Monday were in San Francisco, I was mostly sight-seeing while B did conference stuff. Then Monday night we flew into Las Vegas and stayed until Thursday night. We arrived home Friday morning and slept til Friday night, when my mom and my aunt flew in to Providence from Phialdelphia, then we headed up to Saratoga for the weekend, and came back home to Providence on Sunday. Whew!

I started to write this all up as one big post, but now I've decided to split it into to two parts: The first on my brief excursion at Lucky Chances, the second on the fantastic time we had at the Mirage. Even though I didn't have a great time at Lucky Chances, it was interesting, so read on. But definitely tune in for my next post on the Mirage. The 3 days I played there were some of the best times I've had playing poker.

Saturday the 14th at Lucky Chances. After visiting with friends in Sacramento Friday night, we drove back into San Francisco Friday morning. I dropped B off at her conference at the San Francisco Hilton, then checked into the hotel were staying at a few blocks away. After settling in I headed back out, to return the rental car at the airport and then hop on the BART train down to the town of Colma.

It was a quick ride and I arrived in Colma around 2pm. The only thing that didn't go well was the weather -- I'd been to San Francisco once before, for the 4th of July, and it had been sunny then. I wasn't dressed appropriately for the fog and cool temperatures, and was a little cold as I waited at the Colma BART station for the shuttle to Lucky Chances. Fortunately I didn't have to wait long, and was at the cardroom by 2:30. Colma is an interesting town, by the way, that consists mostly of cemetaries. We passed about a dozen of them on the short ride form the station to the cardroom, along with a couple flower shops and headstone engravers.

Lucky Chances is a lot smaller than I expected (but then, I've been playing at Foxwoods), and has a very nice interior. The floor is divided by a nice raised walkway from which you can watch games going on. There are also some stools and a counter near the floor where you can eat lunch and watch the floor. This is a very smart design compared to Foxwoods, where there is a bar and hamburger grill very near the poker room, but not so near that you can really watch the poker action or hear your name called from the waiting list.

I put my name in for $3/$6, got lunch, and was seated by 3pm. Lucky Chances has chip runners, which was new for me. I worried briefly whether you're supposed to tip chip runners, then decided against it.

At my table, it was me and 8 middle-aged Asian men. The entire casino was mostly middle-aged Asian men. Not exactly party central, but what do I expect in the middle of the day. I looked around the table, trying to assure myself that I wasn't the biggest fish there--a couple guys were buying in for only $40 and then rebuying, so I decided I wasn't the worst player at the table. What a confidence-building thought! Yeah, right.

Lucky Chances has a weird structure where the button posts a live big blind. You take your $3 and place it physically on the plastic button. This goes to the house, and the pot is not otherwise raked. But there are 3 people already invested in the hand, instead of just 2. If you're thinking this would make for looser games, you're right.

At least 3/4 of pots were raised before the flop, and often reraised, with an average of 6-7 players seeing the flop. I'd just finished rereading Ed Miller's Small Stakes Texas Holdem on the plane, so I said to myself, OK, I can deal wioth a loose-aggressive game.

But to cold-call 2 bets you need reasonably good cards, and I wasn't getting them. I only played about 10 hands in the 2 hours I was there. (I had promised to meet B at 6pm for dinner, so I had to leave at 5pm. Really I just didn't leave myself enough time for poker, which is just as well.) I kept looking around for a better table, hoping the "fun crowd" would start to trickle in after 4:00, but it didn't happen.

Hmmm . . . not much else to say. There wasn't much conversation. Occasionally a player would demand a "new setup," which meant 2 new decks of cards. They would often do this after losing a hand, perpetuating the stereotype of the superstitious Asian. There were also a couple guys rudely flinging their cards at the dealer, which is behavior I'm unfortunately starting to be less surprised at.

I left at 5pm down $77, but get this--$10 of it was for 2 Heinekens I drank. You have to pay for your drinks! I don't know why I found that so suprising, but I did.

The shuttle to the BART station didn't leave for another 20 minutes, so I paid $7 for a cab ride. In the cab and on the BART station I have to admit to being in a pretty bad mood. I didn't care so much about losing, but Lucky Chances was a whole lot less fun than I'd hoped it'd be. The experience served to temper the intense jealousy I've always felt about the legal cardrooms in California. Maybe it was just the time of day, though--I wonder what the Lucky Chances crowd is like at night.

Sunday and Monday in San Francisco. No poker action to recount here. We visited with more friends and saw some sights. I had Crab Louie Salad at the Beach Chalet Restaurant in Ocean Beach, and Sunday night we got drinks at the Tonga Room at the Fairmount Hotel. Very nice. Monday we rode the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf and chowed down on more seafood.

Arriving in Las Vegas. The Monday night plane ride to Las Vegas got off the ground about 40 minutes late, but were psyched to be on our way there so we almost didn't mind. We stay at the Flamingo, for a variety of reasons, including the location and the pool. Plus since we have a history there we can usually get really good rates. Unfortunately we had an awful experience at the front desk checking in (I'll spare you the details), so we're going to stay somewhere else next time.

We had also been psyched to stay at the Flamingo because the new Margaritaville bar and restaurant opened there. (It had been under construction last time we were in Las Vegas, October 2003 when B and I got married.) We're parrotheads so after the un-fun check-in, we were psyched for a tropical drink. To our utter dismay, however, a DJ was playing really loud, really crappy hip hop music, so we walked over to the Mirage for our drink, then hit the hay.

We woke up in better spirits, and hit the pool. Also, Margaritaville mostly redeemed itself by playing the kind of music they're freakin supposed to for the rest of our time there.

And then we hit the Mirage, which deserves its own post. Hope to have that up by Monday!

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