Today September 22, 2021

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Back to the Bike….Sort of


If you follow me on
Twitter, you probably saw that I retweeted announcements from The Bike and
Commerce (and other L.A. area-rooms) that they were re-opening at long last—for
outdoor
gaming.
  The state of CA still won’t
allow indoor casinos open, but they are ok with gambling if you want to play
outside.
  But it took awhile, because in
addition to the Governor, there was another group of dictators standing in the
way.
  The Los Angeles County Board of
Supervisors.
  So while in San Diego and
parts of northern California, outdoor casinos were approved, L.A. said no to
even outdoor gaming.

This all changed on
October 5 when the Supervisors deigned to allow the local casinos to reopen as
long as the games were outside.  That’s
when the Bike and Commerce reopened their poker “rooms” and their
other games of chance.  In California
still, only Indian casinos (as I explained
here)
can deal games inside a building.

Outdoor poker, on its
face, sounds rather ridiculous to me.  I
mean, there’s such a thing as weather.  My first thought was, “What if it’s
windy?”  Here comes the flop…..and
there goes the flop!  Gone with the wind.  And even though there is no better place
weather wise to try to play outdoors than Southern California, we do get
occasional rain, extreme heat, extreme cold, in addition to the wind.  OK, the extreme cold part may be a stretch,
but when you have lived in Southern CA most of your life, you think anything
under 70 degrees is extreme cold.

But I had to check it
out.  It was still hot when the rooms
opened, as we are known for hot early autumns. 
I figured if I was going to check it out, I’d best get down there before
the weather changed.

So the first Saturday I
could (Oct. 10), I planned on seeing what it was all about and if nothing else,
get a blog post out of it.  If you are
wondering about my little Ventura room, well Ventura is in a different county
and they were not opening.  I
subsequently saw on their website they planned to re-open on a limited basis
beginning Oct. 13.  But later I learned
that they only opened for table games, and are not currently spreading poker.  Also, believe it or not, the other L.A.
county “poker rooms” that opened, Hollywood Park Casino, Hawaiian
Gardens, etc, only opened for table games. 
I believe this has to do with the insane rules the state and the county
put in place for offering games even outdoors.

Anyway, lucky for me,
the Bike uses PokerAtlas’s Table Captain software instead of Bravo (As you know,
I work for PokerAtlas).  Not only could I
see how busy the newly re-opened Bike was (answer: very) but I could add my
name to the waiting list for the game(s) I wanted long before I arrived at the
Bike.  I mean through the software,
through the PokerAtlas app.  I had
noticed that the lists for the 2/3 game I played had been ridiculously long
since opening.  Of course one of the
reasons is that they could not have nearly as many games outside as they could
in the casino, where they have close to 200 poker tables.  What was weird, though, was that they had
five 2/3 games running and there were still like 40-60 plus names waiting. 

That was strange because
back when I was a playing at the Bike fairly regularly on Saturday afternoons,
there were never more than three 2/3 games running and never more than 10
players waiting to get in.  My only guess
was that they were running fewer bigger games or mixed games, and therefore the
players who would normally be playing bigger or mixed games were stuck playing
down to 2/3.  Or that there was just such
a pent up demand for live poker that everyone was coming out of the woodwork to
play.

I checked with a
PokerAtlas colleague about how getting on the waitlist from the app worked. The
ability to add your name to a list from the app is only an option, some rooms
use the software and don’t allow players to do that.  Turns out Bike only allows it for the
“Plaza Games”—which are the so-called bigger games.  The 2/3 I play is the smallest game they
consider a Plaza game so I could add my name to the list long before I got
there.

Before I left my house
Saturday morning, I checked Google Maps and got a break when it told me it
would only take 39 minutes to get there. 
That meant that there was clear traffic, no real delays.  I guess that is one of the pluses of the
state being in lockdown.  On the average
October Saturday, in order to get to the Bike I would frequently run into
traffic from a UCLA or USC home football game (or both), and/or a Dodgers
playoff/World Series game.  Nothing like
that on this Saturday.  And still, no one
was driving to a restaurant to eat!

So before pulling out of
my garage, I registered for the 2/3 game. 
There were five games running (this was before noon) and I was around
46th on the list!  Yikes.  Pretty sure I could get there before hitting
the top of the list.  Only issue was that
they would only keep me on that list for one-hour. If I didn’t show up within
an hour, I’d be taken off the list and have to start fresh at the bottom when I
arrived.  I knew if that happened, I’d
never get into a game this day.

The app has a neat timer
that appears right on your phone so you can see how much time you have to
report in before you will be zapped from the wait list.  Traffic was a bit worse than Google
anticipated, so by the time I hit the Bike parking lot I only had 7 minutes to
report in to stay on the list.  By now I
had moved up only to #34 on the list. 
Ugh.  OTOH…..there were now over
70 names total on that list.

My guess had been that
the outdoor gaming would be in the parking lot. 
But that was incorrect. I didn’t see any poker tables in the lot.  I did see a few temporary signs with arrows
pointing to the “casino.”  It
turned out that I had parked a long ways away from the actual tables.  I didn’t have time to repark, I needed to get
to the casino post haste to check in (or so I thought).  So I walked with great alacrity to try to
find the casino.

Whew.  It was a long walk.  Turned out that the gaming area was in the
very front of the casino/hotel (the parking lot is in the back), basically
where the valet parking / front entrance to the hotel is.  By the time I got to the casino area, I had
walked so far and so fast I was sweating profusely.  This, despite the fact that the weather had
changed.  This was the first cool day in
L.A. in many months.  It was actually
pleasant, not hot.  Cool, but not cold.  It was actually perfect weather for being
outside. 

But at the pace I was
walking to get there “in time,” I was soaked with sweat from that
walk.  Wearing the mask that is of course
required didn’t help. Nothing worse than a sweaty mask.

I had to get thru the
temperature check and get a wrist band that would allow me to travel thru the
various gaming areas.  Then I tried to
find someone to check in with.  But I
looked at the app again—I was only at #34 on the waitlist—and it had a button
to press to check in.  So I could check
in on the phone. I didn’t know that.  I
didn’t have to rush.  I hit the button
and explored the layout.

Where the poker area was
looked to be at the very front, where the valet driveway would have been.  The cement was covered with some kind of
astroturf.  There was some kind of temporary
covering overhead, not a tent, but something a bit more solid I guess.  There was an electronic waitlist board.  And poker tables.

One of the rules was
that there was no eating or drinking at the table.  There were a few dining tables up against the
building, but how you got served I never learned.  There was also a coffee place near there, but
they had no soft drinks and no real food (maybe some pastries?).  Eventually I asked if they even had bottled
water but they did not, but they did give me a cup of ice water.

There were some banquet
chairs in a couple of spots outside of the poker tables for waiting.  There were also a few tables a bit away that
you could eat or drink at if you somehow had something to eat.  I eventually sat over there so I could pull
my sweaty mask down and drink the water but that area allowed smoking so that
was annoying.

I asked where the
restrooms were and got a real shock. 
They pointed over there….outside. 
The only available restrooms were porta-potties!  In L.A., they are referred to as “Andy
Gumps.”  Ugh.  Seriously? 
The hotel is open, there are nice restrooms inside and we have to use
damn porta-potties?

Well, I had no
choice.  Gulp. Well, ok, it wasn’t my
worst nightmare but come on, who wants to use one of those things?  There was no running water either.  There were some kind of portable hand-washing
stations outside the potties.  The was a
sign on them that said “Please don’t drink this water.”  Hmm….I mean if the water is unsafe to drink,
what is it doing to my hands?  And
remember, in the Covid age, hand washing is most important.  There was also of course a lot of hand
sanitizer available.

It occurred to me that
the diseases one could contract from one of those porta-potties are likely much
more deadly than Covid. Yikes.

What I found out about
this was that the first day they opened, they were allowing guests to go
instead the hotel to use the facilities inside. 
But the state (or maybe it was the county) told them no, they couldn’t
do that.  They were ordered to get the porta-potties.
No one was allowed to use the inside facilities. So the government thinks it’s
fine if you get sick from dysentery as long as you don’t get Covid.  Makes sense.

Anyway, hanging out
outside with only a cup of ice water was pretty unpleasant.  I decide I would wait no more than
90-minutes, and if at that time, I wasn’t real close to the top of the list I
would just give up and call it a day.  I
mean if I wanted to sit down, it was either in the poker area with my sweaty
mask on or in the smoking area with smokers. 
I figured 90-minutes was all I could take.  And I reasoned that I didn’t want to stay
long enough to have to use those Andy Gumps more than one more time.  Ugh.

So after about an hour,
while I was sipping on my ice water with my mask pulled down in the smoking
area, I checked the list on my phone and I was now #30.  I was pretty much writing off getting to
play.  I figured I would stay with my
original plan and go to 1-1/2 hours. 
Maybe the list would start moving faster?  By the way, at one point when I was walking
around I saw a sign saying they were not currently taking names for the waiting
list, there was no available space on them! 
This was for every poker game, not just my game!  Think about what kind of business the Bike
could have been doing if only they were allowed to use that beautiful, newly
remodeled casino they just spent millions sprucing up only a few years ago.

But a few seconds after
I put my phone back in its holster, I heard a beep and looked at my phone
again.  It was a text from PokerAtlas
telling me my seat was ready!  I wasn’t
about to ask why it still showed me #30 on the waiting list.  I rushed my ass over there and tried to find
a floor person to tell I was being paged to a game.

I found a guy and told
him about the message.  I was prepared to
pull out my phone and show him the text but he didn’t question me at all.  He just asked me what game it was and took me
over to the area where the 2/3 games were running.  It looked like they were about to find
another player for an open seat they had when the guy I was talking to said I
had gotten a text and the seat was mine. 
As it turned out, this was all on the honor system!  I never proved that I had gotten the text and
they never went over to their list or the board to clear my name.  They never asked my name!    But they let me have the seat.  If only I had known it was that easy, I could
have cut in way ahead of everyone!  But I
did nothing wrong.

I ran this by my boss a
few days later and got her best guess as to what happened.  Either the folks at the Bike screwed up and
paged me in error, or maybe since, as I witnessed, they weren’t clearing names,
I really was next up, and the list just wasn’t being kept up.  Because for the entire time I was playing at
the table, I kept checking and saw my name still on the list, slowing moving
up, and after another hour and a quarter I finally heard them call my name for
a seat!  So I dunno what happened but if
I had waited to be actually called, I would have left before that and never
played.

I waited for them to
sanitize my seating area, which they promptly did whenever there was a new
player or a seat change or a table change. 
As I mentioned, you were not allowed to eat or drink at the table, so
that for me, is a bit tough (I tend to have a dry mouth that I need to keep
lubricated). But at least it had been so long that I had stopped sweating.  But the mask does also tend to make my face
itch, so I had to leave the table periodically so I could step outside and pull
down my mask (after using some hand sanitizer) to scratch my nose or
mouth.  Fortunately my seat was near the
area completely unprotected by a temporary ceiling so I could step
“outside” and pull down the mask within a few seconds.

The table was 8-handed
and there were plexiglass dividers. 
There were no electronics connected, so it was manual shuffle and—there
was no way to clock in for comps!  The
Table Capt system is great for keeping track of player comps but it does
require electricity.  It didn’t bother me
for this one time but if I was going to make a regular habit of this (I’m not),
it would be a pisser.

Once I started playing,
I was immediately reminded of why I stopped going down to the Bike.  The players drove me nuts.  Not by the way they played, but by the fact
that they didn’t play. They walked around. 
A lot.  The guy next to me got up
almost every third hand to go over to a blackjack table to check in on his
friend.  Everybody was getting up every
few hands to wander around, look for a better game or whatever.  Even I got up more than I usually would to go
“outside” to scratch under my mask. Despite the huge waiting lists,
seldom were all eight hands actually dealt. 
I was instantly reminded of how annoying I always found that about the
Bike.

But when they did play,
it wasn’t the same old loose-aggressive players that I remembered.  The action was fairly tame.  Surprisingly so. I saw almost no crazy moves
the entire time I was playing.  It was
strange.  I had gone in thinking that
players used to bigger games were playing down to 2/3, but this did not appear
to be the case at all.  Maybe it was just
my table, or maybe people who haven’t been playing lately just wanted to ease
into it.

I bought in for the $300
max. Early on I was in the big blind with Queen-7 off. There was no raise so
four of us saw a Queen-Queen-Jack flop. 
I bet $10 and didn’t get a call.

Then of course, of
course, I got the
dreaded pocket Kings.  I opened to $15 and only got one call, the lone
female at the table.  The fact that I
only got one call shows you that this was not a typical Bike game. The flop was
Jack-8-x and I bet $25; she called. 
Another Jack on the flop.  Hmm….I
figured she probably had a Jack.  I
checked, she bet $50.  Oh well, I figured
there was no way I could get felted with pocket Kings if I didn’t call, so I
called.  The river was a blank, I checked
but so did she.  I showed my hand and she
just mucked.  Winning with pocket Kings!  If that is the new normal, I’m on board.

I got pocket Aces and
opened to $15.  No one called.  Again, proof that this isn’t the old Bike!  I won a whopping $4 because they take a buck
for the jackpot drop.

I got King-Queen of
diamonds utg+1.  I opened to $15 and got
one call.  The flop was Jack-high, two diamonds,
I bet $20, he made it $55.  I
called.  The turn was a King and I
checked, he checked back.  There was a
Queen on the river, I bet $50 but didn’t get a call.

I had pocket deuces on
the button and called $10.  This time it
was five-way.  The flop was Jack-high and
it checked around.  The turn was a blank
and it checked around again.  The river
was another blank.  This time, the guy
first to act put out $17 and it folded to me. 
I figured if the guy had a Jack he would have bet the flop.  So I smelled a bluff, though of course if he
paired anything on the board or had a low pocket pair he had me beat.  I shrugged and called.  He just mucked without showing.  I guess I still have a little card sense.

Futzing with that damn
mask was really getting to me.  Why do we
need a mask if we are outside again?  I had played enough, and was up a nice $140,
so I decided to call it a day.

It was nice playing
poker again.  Am I going to go back to
play at the Bike in this outdoor set up? 
Not very likely.  Not as long as
the only restrooms are those damn porta-potties.  No thanks. 
It’s too bad, because otherwise it’s not bad (assuming nice weather).

Sadly, the young lady
above was not at the Bike on this day.
 
This a pic of a woman who won a tournament at the South Point (in
Vegas) recently.
  This was posted on
their Twitter account.
  I dunno who the
young lady is, but it would be great if I ran into her at the Bike one day,
wouldn’t you agree?
  She sure knows how
to dress for poker. By that I mean, notice how she is wearing her mask.


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