Getting back to basics

“What time is it?”


“What happened to getting out of here at 6:00?”, I asked as I got up and started to get dressed.

Eventually we get the car packed, make sure we are not forgetting anything, and pull out of our driveway as we begin out road trip to Lake Tahoe. Its only the second time I have been but somehow this has been given the title of annual family trip. We make one more stop to pick something up from a friend and then stop one last time for some coffee before we are truly on our way to Lake Tahoe. The drive up there is peaceful and depending on which route you take; it can be scenic. Personally, I enjoy the path that takes you through California by Mammoth Mountain. It reminds me a lot of the small little sleepy towns that you see across the country. Eventually we arrive in Lake Tahoe and pull into Harveys.

Why Harveys? The short answer is because it’s the only place with a poker room in Lake Tahoe. From what I understand the new operators wanted to shut down the poker room when they came into power in 2020. The poker room management convinced them to give them a trial run and they proved that they could be profitable. Poker in Lake Tahoe isn’t what it used to be is what the locals tell me. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, the room has close to twenty tables and yet they never have more than six games running at once. The poker room feels like an afterthought. Something that was left there because it was already there and nowhere else in town spreads poker. There is something about the room that gives it a home game feel. It feels odd at times, and you can spot how soft the games are after observing a few hands. I love it! But sometimes I hate it…

By the time we had checked in and gotten settled into our room it was almost 10 PM. The poker room was only going to be open for another 4 hours and there was a list of 7 people waiting with only two games running. I was thinking about just staying the room and relaxing after a long day of driving. My wife questioned me if I was satisfied with my decision as I checked Bravo one last time, the list was down to one person and now there was a new game that must have just started. I decided to go down to the casino and see if I could get a seat. As I walked out of my hotel room and headed towards the elevators, I tried to log into my mobile banking app to transfer some funds. I was locked out! The security protocols must not like that my location has changed to a place that I have only visited once before. Maybe it’s a sign, maybe I shouldn’t go play poker. Instead, I walk back to the room to ask my wife if she could spot me some cash until the next morning when I could call the bank and get things sorted out.

I make it down to poker room and get seated right away. I recognize a few of the players from the year before. From what I can tell, their play has not changed at all. One of the guys at the table just seems like he is trying to get lucky. I watch as he quickly loses $500 within a few hands. He looks like he is done playing but then miraculously, someone hands him $200 from another table and he quickly buys back into the game. You can tell that he wants to get a win badly but there is something in his play when he decides to enter a hand. He keeps betting and gets called down. Its like all the players know that you just don’t fold against him and if he does win, well it just wasn’t in the cards for you to win. The player to my right has everyone covered as I look around at the short stacks. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of money flying around yet the game appears to have a lot of action. If things go right, I think I can clean up nicely.

Hand after hand I sat there and folded, patiently waiting for something playable. Broadway cards, a suited Ace, or suited connectors. Something that I can enter a hand and establish myself in the game. Finally, my first playable hand came when I was the Cut Off. I raised to $20 with King Queen off suit and get called by the Button. The board comes down Ace, little, little and I check to the button. I don’t think I can bet very often in this spot, maybe it was a mistake not to bet but I made my decision. My opponent led out with a half-sized pot bet, and I decided to fold. I thought there were a lot of Ax combos that he could have called with preflop. I had not seen him play very many hands and in my opinion, it was logical for him to only bet when he had top pair.  

The next hand I decided to play there was a $15 straddle, and I was in Middle Position. I look down at the Ace of diamonds and the Queen of clubs. The action folds to me, and I make a raise that only gets called by the straddler. I have seen him call down with marginal hands only to catch a pair on the river. The flop comes down Ace, little, little; there is no way that he has a piece of this flop! I make a bet after he checks dark and get a call. The turn is a great card for me and gives me two pair. I make another bet and get called again. The river brings in the front door flush draw. My opponent now decides to bet into me instead of checking. He is laying me 4 to 1 odds on a call and I arrive on the decision to call even though I know that I can lose to the flush. He tables his hand I see he has a small flush. I don’t feel like playing much anymore. I don’t have much money left from my original buy in and after the blinds pass me, I make one last attempt at winning a hand before calling it a night.

I decide to spend my downtime playing online poker. The swings continue but in a more manageable way. I play mostly 50 no-limit with a couple sessions at 20 no-limit when I can’t find a seat at the higher limits. My play feels loose, as if I am on tilt. Was I still dwelling on the hand that I lost downstairs? It didn’t seem like it but its possible. I share the hand with my friends from The Poker Zoo to check my line. I am reassured that my play wasn’t bad, I could have made a bigger bet on the turn. I think about the advice that I received and realize that there isn’t much I could do differently. I don’t think my opponent is ever folding that hand pre-flop. Mentally I start to feel like the fog has cleared and I can see it reflecting in the game that I am playing online.

On my last night at Harveys, I decide to go down to the casino and check out the poker games before I go back home. This time its earlier in the evening, I am not tired, and I feel more invested in playing. Once again, I make the walk down the hotel hallway towards the elevator. I make my way down to the casino floor and walk over to the cashier’s desk in the poker room. They tell me there is a new game waiting to start as I hand them cash in exchange for chips. I walk over to the table and select seat 6 and sit down to wait for the game to start. It doesn’t take long for me to get involved in a hand. My opponent decides to donk into me on the flop, I call. He keeps betting and I call him down until the river where he checks. I end up winning the hand without going to a showdown. More players arrive and soon we have a full game. There is a lot of open raises from players showing up with hands that they probably over value and a couple coolers like pocket Aces vs pocket Eights. I spend a lot of time folding but when I do play a hand, I usually end up winning. Most of the spots I play in are 3-bets that make other players fold. Slowly I am getting into a groove and finding spots that I can make bets and steal the pot. Eventually I get a text asking if I want to head up to the top floor for some drinks at The Sage steakhouse. I rack up my chips and head up feeling great about the way I played.

What started out as a bad experience was just a short-term swing that ended up being great! The work I am putting into my game feels like it is starting to pay off. I think I needed to spend the weekend away from it all. Sometimes all you need is some different perspective to get back to where you should be.  

Bizzy’s Gains 2022: -$3436.96

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2 thoughts on “Getting back to basics

  1. Tony Bigcharles says:

    ive played there many times, and had an airbnb in the california side of lake tahoe. still getting 500 a month in free play at the hard rock up the street. game is easier to win because the blinds are 2-3 instead of 1-3 but the 300 max buyin sucks. ive seen up to 9 tables going after midnite on a friday nite.

    1. Bizzy says:

      It would be nice to see that many games running but it seems like they don’t anymore. I didn’t even see a $3/$5 game while I was there this year.

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