Value Town by Paul Jackson
Thursday, 6 January 2011
“Value” is a word which is often used in poker circles to justify a dodgy call. Of course, if there is “true value” in a call, then you do not need to justify your action, and most players fail to consider the concept that “there is no value in losing”.
The truth about poker in this country, however, is that there often little real value available for players, as almost every pot we play for is about 90% of our total entries (assuming about 10% “service charge”, “juice”, “forced government tax”, or whichever phrase makes it feel more palatable).
Occasionally, when the suits in the office grow at least a small pair of balls and offer a guarantee, if they get the very, very carefully considered calculations wrong and an overlay arises, all the poker players that attend seem to get sexually aroused and spend the next few weeks telling anyone and everyone about the great “value” and everyone gets the “feeling” that they have been done a great favour. The fact that on every other occasion they are slipping their hand into your back pocket seems to be forgotten.
If you want proper value, the kind we poker players really deserve, then you need to find an event where money is actually “added” to the prize fund. This is where the total prize pool paid out is greater than the total sum of the entry costs.
At the Circus Casino in Stoke, they have a great tournament every month to which they add extra money in increasing amounts to the prize pool. In November there was £4,000 in cash added, plus all final table players received automatic entry to the Genting Players Championship at Star City. A £165 entry includes £15 juice (£10,000 added to prize pool), so an extra £1,650 on top of the £4,000 is added to the cash prize fund.
Yes, they charge £15 juice, as all casinos have expenses, but even with 300 players, that still leaves the players with more than 100% of their total entry costs returned in prizes.
At the Circus Casino they also offer a “value” menu where you can get a very nice three-course meal for £7.50. That is a proper nice meal, with three proper courses for £7.50, not £4 worth of dog shit distributed into three consecutive sittings.
As an additional bonus: the card room supervisor Kate is attractive (in a school teacher with whip sort of way). When breaking tables, she likes to come over and ask the moving players if “anyone wants a rack”, which makes me laugh, anyway. And I’m not just saying that because she sorted me out with some lovely apple crumble and custard from the restaurant.
The event is entertaining and attracts players from all around the area. I had a young lad from Liverpool who had a player all-in holding 5-5, versus his own 7-7. As each card was dealt he shouted “No five, you c**t!” As it turned out, his first four requests were granted, only for the five on the river to leave the dealer with a look that suggested he was about to make a run for nearest exit.
Having recovered from that loss, and sitting with a stack of 37,500 (blinds 1,500/3,000), our hero then made a raise to 21,500 (somewhat larger than what most internet players might regard as optimal) and another player then moved all-in for about 40,000. All other players folded and the dealer, influenced, I think, by the all-in player looking as though he was about to reveal his hand for showdown, said, “On your backs.” The young lad showed his pocket queens, the all-in player his pocket aces. It was then noted that the young lad had not yet called the re-raise and he was given the option of calling for his remaining chips and carrying on to the flop or folding and losing over half his stack. He opted to fold.
This is a good example of that oft occurring dynamic in poker where a player is rewarded for playing less than optimally. Had he raised a more optimal seven big blinds or fewer, he would almost certainly have found himself all-in pre-flop with no option to fold, although he also denied himself the opportunity to get lucky, obviously.
With 35-odd players left (just short of the money), I was moved to a table just as another young player was asking the player next to him if he thought he had played his hand correctly (always a nice sign, I thought). My attention was therefore immediately drawn to him and I noticed that he hardly played a hand and seemed a little bit too tight.
As the blinds got bigger the “standard live players” changed their strategies. Whereas earlier they had been cold-calling a 10BB pre-flop raise, they now tended to take no chances at all, as to do so would be to risk too great a portion of their stack (I am not sure they actually thought about it in those terms but the result was the same). I, then, started to raise more but was re-raised twice by legitimate hands. Then I hit top pair twice on dry flops and, in an endeavour to extract value, trap-checked the flop only for my opponent turn an under-pair into a set on the turn.
With the blinds now quite high (3000/6000), I decided I was going to raise the tight player’s big blind with any two cards every time it was folded to me. My first opportunity to do this happened to be when my two cards were a five and a seven. I made a raise to 14,500 and it was folded around to my victim who made the call. This was even nicer as he was most likely to miss the flop and make a nice, nitty check-fold move on me.
The flop comes a nice raiser’s flop of T-Q-K. He checks like a good boy. I make a bet of 16,000, and he min-raises me to 32,000. I thought about it for a bit then made a solid fold with my seven-high while he revealed he had a rather winning A-J for the complete nuts.
This hand reduced my stack to 55,000. Shortly afterwards a player raised to 14,000 and I moved all-in holding pocket tens. It was folded back around to the initial rasier (who was chip leader on our table with about 140K) and he went into a very deep tank.
He had to call 41,000 (just under a third of his stack) to win a pot of 125,000, and the more he thought the more I wanted a call. If he had A-K he would have called already, as would all better pairs, so I was hoping to get a call from pocket sevens eights or nines, but preferred a fold from A-J suited or A-Q. He eventually called and turned over a nit-rolling pair of jacks. I looked over to make sure he really had jacks (my eyes are getting worse as I get older) and asked, “Are they really two jacks?”
It was nice to see I was losing and even nicer to see him fist pump as each non-ten card was turned over.
After a series of five sequential fist pumps, I left the table wishing everyone good luck. I don’t think he heard me as he was still celebrating, or maybe he was just warming down after his aerobic fist-pumping exercise.
So, to sum up the Stoke Circus Casino: the game is proper value, the card room supervisor is fit and the apple crumble is tasty.