I don’t go out of my way very often to play poker when I am traveling. When I do go to play poker, it is because I have some extra time. Maybe living in Las Vegas has spoiled me. After all, I have a lot of choices of where I can go play and lots of different games that I can choose from. Poker is poker no matter where you go. All the usual suspects are always at the table.
I went to Texas to visit my friend and meet his newborn baby.
I arrived on a Thursday around 11 AM. The second thing I did after letting my friend know that my plane had landed was to open the Poker Atlas app on my phone. There didn’t seem to be very many games running from what I could see in the app. Each room did have a $1/$3 and there were one maybe two games of $2/$5. They all seemed far and out of the way plus my friend had mentioned something about food. I was feeling hungry, so food seemed like the better idea. We ended up going to a Red Robin, a place we had not visited together since our college years.
We finished our lunch and headed back to his house. Here I would get to meet his newborn! I came with gifts for the baby and was introduced as Tio Bizzy. After getting to know the new baby, I took a nap. We had plans to go watch the premier of Oppenheimer later that evening.
We had purchased tickets to a limited premier on 70mm film for IMAX. When the film started there was no audio, you could hear murmuring among the audience as they became restless. I began to wonder if Christopher Nolan had done this intentionally. A few jokes were made as the lights in the theater were turned back on. The film was turned off and as they fixed whatever the issue was, I found myself checking Poker Atlas again. It looked like there were more games running but the lists looked awfully long. A lot of call ins but every game I looked at had at least twenty people on the list.
After the film we decided to pick up some food from the grocery store. Our conversation was all over the place but somehow poker found its way into our conversation. I showed him Poker Atlas and explained how I could see what games were running. He asked me if I would go play while I was in Dallas visiting him, I was still unsure if I wanted to go play. As we drove home after stopping at the grocery store, I thought about asking if I could borrow his car to go play poker. I even checked Poker Atlas again, but quickly realized that I just didn’t feel like going anywhere. I would rather just relax and enjoy the quiet night with an old friend. Later, I planned to go over some ranges and poker theory. Instead, I found myself scrolling through YouTube and Twitter until I eventually fell asleep.
The next couple of days went by quickly. I had one other opportunity to go play poker, but I passed it up. My friend thought that I would be able to go play poker for an hour or two but once you took into consideration the travel time, it just didn’t seem to be worth it. We even discussed which cardroom would be the closest to his house. He agreed to drop me off before he had to go to work Sunday morning. We made plans to drop me off at TCH Social and I would play until he was done.
I managed to get to sleep early enough so that I could be awake bright and early on Sunday morning. I woke up by 5:45 AM. I didn’t get out of bed right away because I figured that my friend would come knocking on my bedroom door at any moment to wake me up. The minutes ticked away as I sat there looking at TCH Social on Poker Atlas. The $1/$3 appeared to be full and there was a $2/$5 running but no waitlist. There were a couple of other games running too but they were most likely still running from the night before. They would probably be breaking soon. It was past 6:00 AM when I started to wonder if my friend was up already but when I went to the kitchen, I found that the house was still quiet. I went back to my room and got dressed. By the time I came back to the living room I found him rummaging through his bags. Turns out that he had slept through his alarm and had woken up late. Soon we were on our way, and I would be playing poker. It had been a few years since I had to make such an effort to go play poker.
We pulled into an unassuming shopping plaza. There was a Starbucks, an urgent care, a few restaurants, and a tanning place. This felt weird. As we drove through the parking lot, we did not see TCH Social, and he began to ask me where it was. We both sat there looking lost. As he began to look at his phone to make sure we were in the right location I spotted the entrance. There was no big sign above the door and if you were not familiar with the logo you would probably miss it.
The location felt a little sketch as I walked up to the door. I wondered what their policy was about protecting players walking towards the cardroom. Did their security just protect the public? I opened the door and walked in where I was greeted by two security guards wearing bullet proof vests. They just stood there chatting and didn’t even look over at me until I took a step towards them. One of them asked me if I needed something and I explained that I had never been to the cardroom and was unsure of where to go but I knew that I needed to get a membership. One of them pointed towards the room and said, “See that round desk over there? Go there and she will help you out.” I walked over to the desk that the security guard had pointed to and was greeted by a young lady. I asked about my options and pricing. They offered a one-day membership for $10 and then after that I would have to pay an additional $13 an hour if I wanted to sit down and play. I found it interesting how they made sure to call it a seat rental when the reality is that they are just charging a time rake that is paid for up front. I paid my membership dues for one day and bought six hours of play. The total was $88, I was stuck almost $100 before I was even dealt one card.
I was directed towards the cashier where I went to purchase chips to play. Since I had gone to the ATM the day before I just decided to buy in for all the cash I had so that I could get big bills later when I would cash out. After getting chips, I found the table that I had been told to go to and sat down to play $2/$5. The table was shorthanded, I was the fifth player to sit. This didn’t seem like a wild game and the players looked like they had been sitting there all night. I figured that this game would break soon.
To my left there was an older gentleman who appeared to be sobering up from the night before and didn’t seem to have very much money left. On my right there was what appeared to be a big stack and one short stack. The last guy was seated across the table from me in the two or three seat. He had what appeared to be a moderate stack but was the most active on the table. I settled in and soon I started to slowly build my stack. The action wasn’t the greatest, but I didn’t have much of a choice. The $1/$3 game appeared to be full and the next closest location to play poker to me was about twenty minutes away by car. This game would have to be the game for now.
The time slowly ticked away as I sat there folding hand after hand. I learned that the players in Texas seemed to live for double board Omaha bomb pots. It was interesting to see this play out at every dealer change. Some players would complain about how they didn’t want to play a bomb pot but still put in money for the hand. I don’t think they had a clue as to what was going on. Players would claim to have the nuts on one board only to not have the nuts at all. They would announce a hand on one board without even realizing that they had a better hand on the second board. They would sit there agonizing over how to read their hand before tabling it so that it could be read. There was even a hand where a player jammed on the river after I had led out on the flop and turn. I thought it was obvious that it would be a chop after we ended up heads up. I asked him why he jammed, and he responded by saying that he thought he had both boards locked up with a straight. There were flushes and houses available on both boards. It just so happened that I flopped quads. How this guy had both boards locked still has me stumped.
There were only two notable hands of the session. The first notable hand happened early in the session while I was trying to recover from losing to a rivered straight that I had missed on the board. I was in the big blind with AsQs and three limpers. I raised it to $30 and was back raised by the under the gun player to $120. The plus one called the back raise. I was presented with an interesting decision. Do I call and see a flop, or do I go for it? I decided to go for it and jammed for about $500. The under the gun player called my jam with pocket tens and held. At the time it didn’t even occur to me that I could run it multiple times. I would soon learn that I had that option available to me had I asked but I didn’t.
The second hand happened towards the end of my session. By now the table had flipped and only the old, disheveled man who was there when I arrived remained. Over the course of the morning, I learned that there was some decent gamble in these players. Money was no object. These players had come to find out if they could get lucky. More than once I had seen someone double up after they would get it in while they were behind.
There was one player in particular who had come to our game who seemed to be trying to lose. From the first hand he played he made sure to let us know that he was there to gamble. His words were louder than his actions as I saw him folding in a lot of spots when the board didn’t favor him. I started to think that he was bluffing at a high frequency too. Unfortunately, the opportunity to catch him had not presented itself yet. I found myself looking for a spot to catch him. Finally, the opportunity came. In this hand I called from late position with QJo. The flop came jack high with low cards and my opponent bet. I raised and then he re-raised. We ended up getting it all in and he immediately asked if I wanted to run it twice. This let me know that he didn’t have a pocket pair, unless of course he just liked to run it more than once. I told him that I would prefer to run it three times but was immediately informed by the dealer that we could only run it twice. So, we ran it twice and I held both times. He didn’t seem too happy but gave me credit for calling his semi-bluff.
My session had come to an end. My friend had come to pick me up. I went to cash out. As I stood there waiting for the cashier to finish counting my chips, I pulled out some extra cash. I gave the cashier three extra $20’s to round up to the next hundred. I was told that they did not allow this. I found this odd as it was an even exchange. Luckily the cashier was feeling rebellious that day and decided to grant my request.
I knew it might be a long time before I would find myself in Texas with time to go play poker. I didn’t want to leave extra time on my card. I walked up to the floor that was on duty at the TCH Social club and asked him if it would be possible for me to have my time transferred to another player. He informed me that I could not, and the time on my card would be good at any Texas Card House location. Unfortunately for me, I do not live in Texas, so this was not very helpful. I then asked if the player could just use my card to use up the time I had left on the card, it was not. This seemed problematic to me as I am sure there are lots of people that have come to visit and leave with extra time. Sounded like a great way for the clubs to make extra money without ever having to deliver on a product. I was ready to accept the fact that my time would go to waste. But the guy who was willing to purchase my remaining time insisted that I take the money for the hour that I had left. I refused; it wasn’t about the money for me. He walked away before they came back with his change. The lady at the desk just handed me the change as instructed as stood there confused about what had just happened. The floor guy had stood there watching cracked a smile and told the lady to give the player an extra hour to his account.
I doubt I will ever be back but at least my last interaction was a positive one. I saw how the players are willing to be hospitable in their hometown. As for the games themselves, to me it was just another cardroom. There was nothing special about the action. Sure, the game was loose but just like any other place that you go to play cards, you won’t become an overnight millionaire.
Bizzy’s 2023 Gains: -$2,609.56