Like last year, the City of Commerce was awash in Seattle weather during the annual February Los Angeles Poker Classic tournament series. The rain misted and showered from drizzle to torrents in the normally dry Southern California climate. Poker's popularity had caught up with the hotel space in the area so that rooms in the two acceptable hotels in this normally undesirable part of east LA were running up to $149/night if you could get one. Despite taking about $500 in juice, including staff payments in lieu of tips, from the $10,000 entry fee, the Commerce Casino charged players $1 each for water during the tournament. It was like a Bizarro version of Las Vegas where everything was backwards. In Vegas they build resorts, give you free rooms, ply you with free drinks, and try to get you to gamble. In LA they build the casino in the worst part of town, don't have enough decent hotel rooms, and charge you for water. Well, I just had to step outside, look up, and open my mouth.
The casino hotel was sold out but I found a $99 rate at the Wyndham. That was still three times what I had paid last year and when I checked in they tried to tell me I had to give them 24 hours notice to check out or pay one night's penalty. I told them that was not listed on the web site when I made the reservation and if I wanted a long-term lease I would rent an apartment. I crossed out the offending language on the registration card instead of initialing it and left the bewildered front-desk clerk to iron things out with his manager.
Wyndham had a great frequent-guest program. I was used to being treated like a king with Platinum or Diamond status in the big hotel chains but all you had to do was sign up for Wyndham's program and you got treated better than a Hyatt Diamond: wine, water and snacks in the room upon arrival, preferred floors and views, and best of all free Internet access. I settled in, got the Internet working, and drove through the rain over to the casino to see what was happening.
There was a super satellite starting in a couple hours but I didn't want to stay up so late playing it that I would be tired for the main event so I passed on it. Instead, I played a $1060 single-table satellite but busted in third place and got nothing so I forked over the cash to enter the main event. When my plane landed I had set Garmin for the nearest Bank of America, picked the youngest and prettiest teller, and handed her a personal check for $10,000. "I'd like to cash this please." After the initial shock and consultation with her manager, she opened her drawer and chided me, "You're using up all my hundreds, you know." But behind the scolding there was a twinkle in her eyes as if they were subconsciously converting those hundred Benjies into the equivalent amount of bling-bling. I turned around as I left to see if she was following me home After I bought in I returned to the Wyndham, played a little on-line poker, and rested up for tomorrow.
There were 538 players in the LA Poker Classic Championship, fewer than in several other big events this season but well above last year's 382. I drew table five, seat three. Out of 537 others I got the best player in the world, John "JJ" Juanda, on my left in seat four. The unbluffable Barry Shulman sat to his left in seat five. I didn't recognize anyone else at the table, but with those two on my left my friskiness was limited.
I chipped up to 11,350 from the starting 10,000 by the first break after level one but the chips dribbled away to 7800 by dinner. Both JJ and I folded several hands to a guy in seat six who kept chasing draws and hitting them, or at least representing that he hit them. Dinner was the second-worst buffet I'd ever had, the first being at the Hollywood Hotel in Tunica. At least they comped it.
After dinner Barry Shulman called big bets from a very tight kid in seat 10 on the flop and river with a weak Ace, catching his kicker on the river and busting the kid's Ace-King. That sent seat 10 on tilt and he threw away the rest of his chips after the flop with unimproved pocket Deuces in a three-way pot where the other players had monsters. That took out seats nine and 10 and seat one busted shortly thereafter. Jimmy "Jimmy Jimmy" Cha, who had busted me once and I him once in big events, took seat 10. JJ splashed in his last chips and lost a race so he was out, replaced in seat four by Raymond Davis. Then I picked up pocket Tens on the button and raised the 200 blind to 1000. Mr. Draw-chaser called on the big blind and the flop came King-Seven-Deuce with two Clubs. I bet 2000 of my remaining 5800 into the 2300 pot and he called. Then the Eight of Clubs came. We both checked. The river looked harmless but my opponent picked up his huge stack of 500 chips and slammed them on the table. It was 3200 to call to win 9500 and I figured there was a good chance he was bluffing so I called. Nope. He turned over the Ten-Nine of Clubs for the Flush and I was out of the contest in 380th place. This was the first time I could remember going out because I was calling what I thought was a bluff on the river and although I was wrong at least I went out in an advanced way.
I checked out of the Bizarro hotel and went to Vegas.