By Randall Rapp
The New Year always brings some new action to The Cardroom’s Player of the Year contest and so far 2012 has not been an exception. So far we’ve added the Napa Valley Casino in American Canyon and The Palace Poker Casino in Hayward. I’m making it my personal mission to see if we can’t get things started at the Turlock Poker Room, as they have a full slate of regular tournaments and are a natural fit for the contest. Hopefully, we’ll bring in a couple more and really get things firing on all cylinders.
Turlock Poker Room
Mrs. A and I made our first stop at the Turlock Poker Room for their Friday night tournament. We started out having a great conversation with owner Joe Fernandez, whose reputation for friendliness and hospitality is well deserved.
When the tournament began I was seated next to Robert from Patterson. He and his wife have only been playing since last June and already are doing quite well. The funny thing was his wife was seated at another table right next to Mrs. A! We had a great time playing together, making new friends, and enjoying some food and drink next door at Lamppost Pizza after the tournament.
I got off to a fairly slow start, but about midway through I picked up K-K and won a big pot. Then, on the very next hand, I was in the big blind when everyone folded to the small blind who raised. I looked down to find K-K again! I re-raised, he shoved, and I called. His A-J didn’t improve and I scored a big double up.
Mrs. A was also doing well, and before long we were down to two tables. Unfortunately she went card dead and watched her stack dwindling while she looked for a good place to double up. It never came and she was out in 11th place, out of the money; however, she did pick up five $15 bounties.
I had only scored one bounty myself, but I managed to keep my stack above par as the final table worked its way to five players. We wound up making a deal where the two big chip stacks each received $450 and we other three each got $323. Not a bad evening’s work.
This $50 buy-in tournament starts with 6,000 chips and has pretty decent play in the structure. But be forewarned, they don’t have scheduled breaks, so grabbing a smoke or a bathroom break means the blinds are still coming around!
The Palace Poker Casino
With The Palace Poker Casino just joining The Cardroom’s Player of the Year contest it seemed like a good time to drop by and play in one of their tournaments. We arrived at about 8:45 for their 9:00 a.m. Saturday tournament, concerned about getting a seat. Turns out we were the first ones to sign up, as the regulars apparently make a habit of showing up just about “kickoff” time.
The buy-in was $70 for which you receive 3,000 chips; however, if you last through the first break there’s an add-on of another 3,000 chips for $20. Re-entries are also allowed until then.
Once again things started slowly, but I had a small surge that increased my stack for a while, but then it started to dwindle. Mrs. A wasn’t getting any traction either and she was eliminated not too long after the break. I soon followed when my 10-10 in the small blind looked like aces, only to find out that Henry from Hayward was sitting on Q-Q in the big blind.
With some time before moving on to our next stop, I jumped briefly into their $3/6 game, moving up to $4/8 kill at the first opportunity (they were also playing $1/2/2 $5-to-go no-limit). On the very first hand at $4/8 I found my own pocket queens on a five-way hand that was capped before the flop. Then I flopped a set, only to see the betting cap again. When the river came my remaining opponent bet out and I raised, after which he mucked his hand. Big pot coming my way!
It wasn’t long before I picked up another big one and then rode my stack for the next couple hours of ups and downs. In the end it was another nice win that more than paid for the morning’s entries.
California Grand Casino
When we arrived at the California Grand it was mid-afternoon and our stomachs were growling. They were spreading lots of different games, including $3/6, $6/12, $15/30, $4/8 Omaha, and both $2/2/3 and $2/3/5 no-limit.
The wait lists were pretty long and all the tables looked busy, so we settled in at The Grand Café to have a late lunch while I waited to be called.
The café has a wide assortment of offerings—including breakfast, Asian and Mexican cuisine, pizza, and a pasta bar. Mrs. A opted for the Asian beef salad and I went with the chicken quesadilla, both of which were excellent.
As we finished eating I was called for a seat at $3/6. The game was good, but I wasn’t making any real progress. I mostly watched my stack descend, then get it back to about even. After a couple hours I got called for the $6/12 game, so I took my break-even stack and moved over there. Ouch! You never know what’s going to happen but this move did not work out for the best. While I had a nice time chatting with Mark from Fremont, nothing was working out very well on the felt. It was two steps backward, one step forward most of the time. Eventually my chips were gone, it was time to move on, and I was very glad for the big win at the previous stop.
Napa Valley Casino
Bright and early Sunday morning we were off to the Napa Valley Casino for their 9:00 a.m. tournament. NVC has also recently entered The Cardroom’s POY contest, so be sure to drop by and pick up some points at one of their many tournaments.
This event has a $40 buy-in for 1,500 chips and an optional $5 for an extra 1,000. While that’s not a lot of chips, the structure does start with blinds at 10/20 instead of the usual 25/50, so there’s still room to play.
My big moment came when I was check-raised all-in by a guy with a set of 9s and all I was holding was 10-J for top pair. The suckout came when I hit runner, runner flush. Later I tripled up holding 6-7. I tried shoving with the 6-7 again when it was all-in or fold time, only now the hand got what it deserved.
The good news was Mrs. A. made it all the way to fourth place. The bad news was they paid three spots.
We then headed to Taste at Oxbow in Napa for some wine tasting. They offer two wineries for the price of one—Mahoney Vineyards and Waterstone Winery. Afterward, we stopped for lunch at Gott’s Roadside which served up some fantastic hamburgers.
We got back to NVC just in time for the 2:00 p.m. tournament, but it seemed all our good tournament juju was used up for one weekend. Neither of us lasted long, so I settled in for a brief stab at their $4/8 Omaha Hi-Lo game. None of my draws were coming to fruition and I kept flopping straights (which almost never hold up in Omaha—none of mine did), but after nearly getting felted I won a decent sized pot to get almost even.
That seemed like a good time to start the long drive home and rejuvenate for the next excursion.