March 2007
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The Stardust was imploded at about 2:30am Vegas time.

Other people’s money

The guy in seat ten has just £17 left in front of him in the £25-£50 buy in pot limit game at Gutshot when it’s time to pay the £3 hourly donation.  Everyone throws in their chips except him.  "Let me just see if I can win a hand", he says, "and then I’ll pay you".  The dealer shrugs whatever – after all the contributions are voluntary, and he’s only working for tips.  It’s just bad karma to mess with the system.

I don’t remember whether he sat down with the full £50 but he hadn’t reloaded, and I’d be surprised if anyone wasn’t aware that he’d not picked up a hand all evening.  That’s clearly a good enough reason to have a bit of a gamble with the club’s money before deciding whether to donate.  The times he gets lucky, he pays his dues afterwards but keeps the extra profit he won from having that £3 in his stack.  The times he loses, the donation simply gets pushed across the table to another player, who surely won’t think to – or see why they should – pay it for him now.

And so it happens.  Mr Cheap manages to get it all in pre-flop with pocket nines and is called by five other players.  Two others make it to showdown with him, both with undercards to his pair, and 99 ends up the third best hand.  Should his hand – by far the best pre-flop – hold up here, he would be £15 better off than he should be thanks to gambling with his risk-free loan.  Funny how these things work themselves out.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems like they don’t want your money.  Tonight I played for four hours and only coughed up the hourly fee once.  The first time they came to collect – after a new table had been running for 90 minutes – most of the players stood up and went to another table or upstairs to the tournament.  We played a few hands three handed before tournament bustees started to join us (it’s freeroll Monday, so this didn’t take long) but they didn’t come back for a donation for another hour and a half, and after that the next time anyone thought to try and collect some actual revenue from the poker tables, I’d already started to leave.

The player to my right, Chen – a young chinese man who I struggled to understand at times, but due just as much to my cloth ears as to the slight accent adorning his perfect English – asked me how the club could make money.  This was after we’d played for over two hours without contributing a penny, so I explained what should happen.  I’d already told him that soft drinks were free, but tonight they weren’t, so at every available opportunity he’d been turning to me and muttering "one pound fifty!" with a cheeky grin.  Hey, tonight you pay for your drinks but the table time is cheap.

I expect that Chen, along with almost everyone else there, probably did not understand the reason for the new sign on the door: "Operated by Clerkenwell Clubs Ltd".  The former company is – and there’s really no better word to use than this – busto.  The question should be not how they make money, but do they actually make money?

Usually the internet room would bring in some revenue, whether it’s from renting out workstations by the hour or offering them free to play Gutshot’s own online poker.  But right now, it’s all offline because the ADSL is disconnected.  I couldn’t possibly believe that this is because they didn’t pay the bill, when there’s a perfectly good alternative explanation: the change of ownership must have confused their ISP enough to result in a full week of downtime.

Anyway, I’m now four for four (which I just discovered should never be written in words) winning sessions in the £25/£50 game.  I’m due a loss for sure, and tonight should have been one.  I got lucky at the right time to finish up £56 instead of… looks like it would have been £12 down.

Holding a pair of tens, I raised the pot from the big blind after 5 people limped and I got 3 callers. The flop was jack-high with 2 small cards.  I checked as did two others and the last player to act bet £10 into the £26 pot.  He only had another £11 left so I made a minimum raise – thinking this would either get me to a fairly cheap showdown against the short stack or tell me for sure that I’m beaten by one of the other players.  It’s not a great play – I’m still making limit hold’em moves that don’t belong in pot limit games and tournament moves that don’t belong in cash games – but it did what I wanted, even if what I wanted to do was not a terribly good idea.

In effect I was taking just better than 2-1 pot odds on the chance that he holds a worse hand than mine – possibly a smaller pocket pair, or that he’s betting overcards in position as a semi-bluff.  In retrospect, as he would have been pot-committed to any raise he almost certainly had to have at least a jack here.   And he did, but I somehow spiked a ten on the river to ourdraw his top pair, top kicker.  Nice hand me.