This is a continuation from my River Rock trip recap.
While one of the main reasons I personally went to the River Rock was to play real poker in a big-casino setting for the first time, I only ended up playing around a total of 10-12 hours during the 4-day trip. I could have played more, but since Lisa and I go on very few trips together and the fact that I can play poker anytime I want at all the local private games around town, I decided I should do many non-poker activities as well.
That being said, I still got my "poker fix" from those 10-12 hours, and learned a lot about playing poker in a large poker room in a big casino.
It was quite funny. The first day at the River Rock, after Lisa and I had finished scouting out the place, we were grabbing some dinner when I heard somebody shout out my name. I turned around, amazed to see a friend from the regular home poker game I frequent. His wife (also an avid player) and him were there for the weekend as well.
It was great bumping into them as I later hooked up with them at the poker room and actually sat beside the wife (the guy was in a tournament) at a table for the night. This was great, as I could ask her the million questions I had for her about playing in a casino environment with a live dealer. I started at the $1/2 NL tables since I was new to the environment. I completely dominated the table, and within 2-hours I had increased my original $200 to nearly $800. Quadrupling up on a table in 2 hours is pretty rare, so I felt really good.
The next night I went to get on the waiting list for the 2/5 NL tables. I was impressed – you can request a beeper if you’re on the top 20 of the waiting list and they’ll buzz you when there’s a slot open for you, so I took the beeper and went back to the hotel room to relax.
When I was beeped 15-minutes later, I bought $500 in chips and sat down at the table. This was the "big game" at the River Rock. I was fairly surprised that higher games weren’t running since it was a large casino and very large poker room, but I later heard through the grapevine that there were higher private games "upstairs".
I sat down with my chips, and I could tell immediately that most of the players were regulars by the way they looked at me with hungry eyes. I was still aligning my chips when I got dealt AK. I JUST sat down at the table – this was my FIRST HAND.
There were a couple limpers, and I raised to $30. Since I just sat at the table and raised to $30 on my first hand, I naturally didn’t get much respect, and got around 3 callers. The flop was something like 7 A 9 and was checked to me. I bet around $75 or so, and the guy behind me raised to around $200. I thought for a short while then pushed all-in for another $400 or so.
He quickly called and turned over AQ. Turn was rag, but the River was a Q. So I had lost exactly $500 on the first very hand, haha. It was a bad beat, for sure, but that’s poker. I immediately bought in for another $500, and lost it as well during the next couple hours due to catching absolutely no cards.
I took a break from poker to go eat and relax, then came back to play the $1/2 NL tables. Unfortunately, the cold decks continued and I lost another $200 after getting what was perhaps one of the coldest decks I’ve ever been dealt. So, in the end, I had lost $1,200 that night.
One thing I didn’t know when I first sat at the $2/5 NL table was that the max buy-in was $1,000, not $500. I was very surprised to hear this as usually the max buy-in is 100x the big blind. If I had known it was $1,000 I would have bought in at $1,000.
There are some very crazy players at those tables. One pot accumulated to $6,000 and had around $30,000 on the table. There are many rich Asian players who play purely for the thrill and will bet $500 all-in blind. Oftentimes such moves attract HUGE crowds of onlookers around the table, and security have to be brought in to make sure there isn’t some form of riot.
There was one player at the $2/5 table who REALLY impressed me, I’m sure he had to be a professional. He was an Asian player in his late 40’s/early 50’s who was absolutely quiet at the table and always dressed very well. He was a very tight player, but would occasionally play garbage "Gus Hanson" hands to mix it up. I saw him make one of the best calls I’ve ever seen in my life. I wasn’t paying attention to the hand until the River, but this is what went down:
It was only him and another player in the hand, and the other player was betting every street, including preflop. On the River, this player bet $300. I forget what the exact board was, but I believe it was along the lines of: J 2 Q 5 8. The Asian player thought for a very long time, perhaps 6 minutes (which is a very long time when you’re just sitting there) and then called.
What did the good Asian player have? 3 8! He called a $300 bet on the river with a pair of 8’s, and he won! The other guy missed with his A K. Now, you can’t simply say that’s a good call because he was right, but I was watching this guy all night and he didn’t just get lucky with his call, he was a very good player. Wow, I was impressed. I’m so used to playing with very bad players so it was very nice to see a great play! Needless to say I avoided confrontations with this guy. There were a couple of other good players as well (one young Asian successfully bluffed me out of a pot with absolutely nothing when he pushed all-in for $400 more), but the majority were fish.
Overall, I lost around $900 during the trip. I’m not sad at all, that’s poker. I had bad luck, and unfortunately luck is still a large part of poker. It’s all about the long term. I believe I played well overall, only catching myself making a few mistakes which is natural. It was a good learning experience, playing in a large poker room in a casino setting for the first time, and so now I can adjust my play accordingly.
The Hotel Room
I bought the cheapest room available at the River Rock. I normally don’t buy the cheapest room if I’m staying at a crappy hotel, but since the River Rock was far from crappy, the cheapest room would suffice. 4 days cost me around $570 including taxes and two in-room movies (I Am Legend and The Kite Runner).
The room was great – nothing spectacular or out-of-this-world, but was quite nice. The bed and pillows were SPECTACTULAR. I am now seriously considering buying a new bed after sleeping on that – I couldn’t believe how freaking comfortable it was…
I love River Rock to death and think it’s absolutely great, but it does have one pitfall apart from the rather ugly nearby neighbourhood – it’s located right across the river from the Vancouver International Airport. It’s probably a 1-minute flight from the runway. As a result, planes are constantly coming in for a landing, and do so directly over the River Rock.
It’s not too loud inside the hotel room, and you definitely can’t hear them inside the casino, but outside on the pier you can get quite the scare. Sometime they’re only around 100-feet over the top of the casino and it’s really freaky seeing these huge objects in the sky suddenly appear over the horizon of the casino’s roof to fly directly over your head. Here’s a shot I took:
Here is a video tour of our hotel room. There is nothing spectacularly interesting in the video, so be forewarned. Apart from the little tour, I talk about playing poker at the casino.
Stay tuned for my next post where I discuss meeting up with John Chow in person!