A horse is a horse (of course, of course)

By Randall Rapp

A few days before the running of the Kentucky Derby, I had an interesting conversation with a guy planning a party for the big race. They were planning to have great food, friends, fancy hats, and all the action on a big television screen.

“Yeah,” I said. “But unlike at the fairgrounds or an off-track betting site you can’t do the obligatory wagering.”

“Oh, that’s no problem,” he replied. “Since they opened up sports betting you can easily place your bets online.”

I gulped a little and I could feel my temperature begin to rise. “You mean that you can use your credit card to send them money to place wagers on a horse race without it being a big deal? Then if you win, they can send you a check or pay you off some other way, also no big deal?”

“Sure. We do it all the time. Same with betting on games. Didn’t the Supreme Court say it’s okay?”

I resisted the overwhelming urge to have either a complete meltdown or epic explosion and explained to him that apparently, in the United States of America, it is not an issue to use the Internet for gambling on horse racing, or basketball games, or ultimate Frisbee. However, it is very illegal to send money back and forth in order to play poker, whether for fun or for profit.

Not being a poker player, his response wasn’t surprising: “Really? You can’t? That’s pretty stupid.”

Well stupid is as stupid does my old pal Forrest used to say. It really is an idiotic combination of law-making idiocy, proving once and for all that the left hand truly does not know what the right hand has done.

Politicians did their best to shut down online poker because they couldn’t buy the fact that it’s a skill game and not just a game of chance. (Also to “protect the kids.” No one is saying much about protecting kids from sports wagering.) Then they allowed Draft Kings and others to effectively take wagers on football statistics.

Now anything goes (except poker) whether there is any skill or not. How many of these online bettors devour the Daily Racing Form to make an educated choice? And how many have a system that amounts to “ooh, this one has a cool name!”

I’m not much of a political activist, but this has to change, and it has to change now. Whether you wish people would or wouldn’t play poker online, it makes absolutely no logical sense that these other activities are wide open, and poker remains in lockdown.

So call and email your congressperson and senators and point out the inconsistency and hopelessly ridiculous environment they’ve created. It may or may not create any progress, but wouldn’t it be worth it just to be a pain in their collective butt?

It’s time we let them know that poker is not, indeed, a horse of a different color.

Feather Falls Casino & Lodge

I recently had the pleasure of heading up to Oroville to play in Feather Falls Casino’s $20,000 guarantee tournament with a buy-in of $220. For that I would receive 15,000 chips and fa $20 dealer gratuity increased that to 20,000.

This was the evening of Saturday, April 13. If I made it to the top 30, I would return on Sunday to play for the big bucks.

Before we got started, I had the pleasure of engaging in a great conversation with Harvey and Kao who oversaw the event. We talked about Feather Falls, plans for future events, and much more.

Midway through this we were joined by one of the dealers—Monica—who said she tends to deal bad beats to people she likes. I then offered to see what I could do about making her not like me in order to avoid such a scenario but was unable to actually go through with it.

Monica showed up at my table midway through the third level when the blinds were 400/800. That’s right … third level. The structure here was very interesting. Not bad, just interesting. We started at 100/200, then doubled to 200/400 and again to 400/800. My thinking was that this was going to go super quick and have very little play if we continued like this.

But then we went to 500/1,000 followed by 600/1,200 and continued that pattern for several levels. We went from super-fast structure to super-slow. That continued up to 1,000/2,000 when it began doubling again but slowed back down after 4,000/8,000. It was the same as before, just with an extra zero added on the numbers.

Soon after we hit 500/1,000, I had pocket deuces in the big blind of a limped pot. The flop was K-9-2. Rather than slow play it I made a half-the-pot bet only to have a player with fewer chips (but still quite a few) go all-in. It was an easy call and he showed K-J so I was way ahead.

The turn and river then brought runner-runner spades to give my opponent a flush. Thanks Monica. I guess you weren’t just kidding.

I was down to 8,500 (less than 10 big blinds) so I shoved a couple of times and stole the blinds and antes. Then I did it again with A-K and got called. I’m thinking this isn’t so great, but then my opponent turned over J-5! She looked sheepish and said she thought she had J-J. Well good for me. I doubled up to about 23,000.

The session ended with 29 players remaining and I was hanging in there with 35,000.

The next morning my chips are up and down, but overall the blinds and antes are taking their toll. Short stacked again I went all-in with K-10 only to get an instant raise from the player on my left. Bad timing on my part as he had pocket aces.

Maybe not bad timing though, as there was a king on the flop, a 10 on the turn, and another king on the river so my full house crushed his aces. Just goes to show you no one can be unlucky all the time. If Monica had been dealing, she would have been forgiven.

It was the last hand before a break and Monica was back in the box. Everyone folded to the button to head for the bathroom, but the button raised all-in, which was about two-thirds of my stack. He’d been overly active and clearly just wanted to steal one before the break, so I called him with K-10. Looking like the kid with his hand in the cookie jar he showed 4-6.

The flop paired his 4 and they were all small. A 3 on the turn makes his straight and I freak out a bit with an uncharacteristic outburst to the poker gods. They must have heard me (or at least felt sorry for me) because when I wasn’t looking the river made a flush for me and I hadn’t even seen it as a possibility. All I could see was that damned straight. Sorry about the histrionics Monica, and clearly all is forgiven and then some.

But as it goes in tournament poker, the blinds get bigger and bigger and if you’re not acquiring chips, you’re getting closer to the door. I was getting short stacked again when everyone folded to my button and I had 4-4 and shoved. The big blind called with K-Q and a whole lot of chips.

He hit his king on the flop and just to rub it in got a queen on the turn. Two outs weren’t nearly enough, and I was out in 18th place; three short of the money.

I guess I could have scrimped along trying to min cash but risking the possibility of being outright blinded out. Nah! I’d rather go out with a bang than a whimper!