Busting at the seams with player cards

By Randall Rapp

One thing I’ve found traveling the highways and byways of the casino roads, you can sure wind up with a fat wallet.

I wish I was talking about one stuffed with cash. Instead I’m alluding to the multitude of player cards you wind up with. I put them in my wallet and it’s like they breed in there. I’m sure a whole lot of plastics had to give their lives to manufacture my collection.

At some places you need one before you can enter a tournament and pretty much all of them are used to garner points toward various perks. I like to sign up for them because I know doing so keeps my mail carrier busy and the U.S. Postal Service in business. That’s just the kind of citizen I am!

Thunder Valley Casino

I made the trip up to Lincoln in time for Thunder Valley’s Saturday tournament at 11:00 a.m. This $60 event starts with 5,000 in chips and has 20 minute levels. It’s a good thing they’ve got such a big room, because they had nearly 120 players (including re-entries). We wound up with a prize pool of $5,265 with first place receiving $1,738 and 12 places paid. Unfortunately, I never got any traction, suffered two major suckouts, and was done midway through the fourth round.

With my stomach growling I headed to their food court and settled on the Beach Hut Deli where I ordered The Spicolli, a turkey, cheddar, and bacon sandwich that was so good it just made you want to say, “dude!”

Then I settled in for a few hours of play at their $1/3 no-limit game (the other options at the time were $2/5 no-limit and $3/6 limit). I had a great time chatting with Butch from Lincoln whose wife was out of town, thus he had a “free pass” to play poker all day.

When it was time to move on I was more than pleased to have covered my tournament buy-in and then some, ready to take on the next challenge.

Towers Casino & Card Room
Grass Valley

About 45 minutes to the east, and nestled in the lovely town of Grass Valley, sits a jewel of a place to play—Towers Casino. When I arrived they were playing $1/3 no-limit and I took a seat as soon as one became available.

To my right was Sandy from Nevada City and few seats down from her was her husband Bill. She said that every once in a while they like to get a sitter for the kids and come down to Towers for a few drinks and a night of poker. What she was really thrilled with was how the last time she was there she commented to someone (who turned out to be one of the owners—John) that they should have some local wines available at their bar. Now here she was drinking a glass from one of the very wineries that she requested. Now that’s what I call listening to your patrons!

After a couple hours I got moved to the “main game” where the stacks were huge and mine felt paltry in comparison. Undaunted, I proceeded to do my best to transfer chips from in front of them to in front of me. Sitting next to me was David from Forest Hill, a regular at Towers Casino who strongly stated that it is “the best place to play in Northern California.”

I stayed way too late, had a great time, and gave my bankroll I nice boost. I could certainly appreciate where David was coming from.

Jackson Rancheria Casino

The next morning I headed down to Jackson to check out their brand new poker room. As expected it was extremely nice and a welcome improvement to their previous digs (which weren’t really all that bad). But this is much more spacious and I understand that they’ll soon be adding glass barricades to help filter out some of the casino noise (which also wasn’t all that bad).

I came expecting to play in their Sunday morning tournament, only to find out that they were holding a special freeroll for some of their regulars instead. Let this be a lesson to you: Whenever possible call ahead when making a special trip. Tournament schedules change all the time and what was good information last week might no ­longer be accurate.

While I did enjoy the atmosphere and camaraderie at the table playing in their $1/2 no-limit game, I had apparently used up all my good mojo at the previous two stops. Sure I was ahead quite a bit for a while, but I wasn’t ready to leave and had no reason to think things could change that drastically. Oh but Hold’em, and especially no-limit, is a cruel mistress sometimes. Soon my winnings were gone. Then my buy-in was gone. Then a second buy-in was gone. I had to get out of there while I was still ahead for the weekend. Besides I had a three hour drive ahead of me and that seemed like another good excuse to tuck my tail and run. I’ll be back again to reverse that outcome … hopefully soon.

Tachi Palace Casino

I hadn’t been down to Lemoore for some time, so the following Wednesday I made the 45 minute drive down to Tachi to play in their 7:15 p.m. tournament. I got there a little early and saw they were playing $1/3 no-limit, but the table remained full so I enjoyed the $2/4 limit game for about an hour. I managed to exactly break even when it was time to quit, which was fine with me and it beats sitting in front of a slot machine.

This tournament features a $50 + $10 buy-in, 5,000 starting chips ($5 for an extra 1,000 chips), 20 minute levels, and $10 bounties on every player.

Things were looking good as I nearly doubled up early holding A-10 on a 10-10-x flop when my opponent held J-10. After that it was all down hill as I suffered one bad beat after another. First I had A-Q on a queen-high flop, got the villain to go all-in with 8-8 only to have him make runner-runner straight. Then, a while later I had two players all-in holding A-A. One of them had A-K and the other 9-9. Sure enough the A-K won when he got runner-runner straight!

Now I was down to 2.5 big blinds, so it was time to shove soon. I could have tripled up with A-7 (and probably would have if I could have been playing against myself) but this time the better hand won when the other guy had A-J and it held up.

While I didn’t have time left in the evening for more live poker, I decided to give their Blackjack game a shot with a small buy-in and actually won enough to cover my tournament. I guess miracles do happen.