I am writing tonight from the poker table. There are poker casinos in Los Angeles County. This one is in Hawaiian Gardens.
I’m in a tournament. For a fixed price I get tournament chips. One by one the players are wiped out. The last 10% get paid. Winning can be lucrative with around 200 entries.
This is a cross section of SoCal. Every ethnicity is here. Only English is allowed at the tables, but you hear many languages elsewhere. Asia is well represented in the players and staff.
I come here hungry. Waiters and waitresses orbit the room. Food comes to the table. It’s a huge, tasty, piping hot serving.
I got pepper steak and shrimp. It comes with a bowl of rice, unmatched knife, fork and spoon, chopsticks and plastic plates. I added a small salad.
Every person here comes with the hope they’ll take it down. Most hopes get dashed.
Two things about poker. It’s the only game in the casino where you play against players, not the house. And it’s primarily a betting game, not a card game.
We’re ninety minutes in and just back from a break. Few bust out in these early rounds. The skill is being here at 3 or 4am when the winner is paid.
There’s some chatting, a little friendly table talk. Everyone’s cordial.
There are disputes. Dealers make mistakes. Players make mistakes. Floor managers come as arbiters. I have seen angered players forcibly ejected.
A card room is loud. Chips click. Players talk. Cards shuffle.
There is constant drama as players attack and retreat, sniping for their opponent’s stacks.
Joyce is our dealer. Based on her accent it is not her given name. She deals the cards from her slender fingers to nine of us. Dealers change every half hour.
There have been a lot of all-ins recently. That’s usually a desperation move by a short stacked player. The field is shrinking.
I’d like to say I’m doing well, but I’m not. No rush to move, but I’ll be eaten by the swiftly increasing blinds if I don’t move soon.
I spoke too soon. I won the next hand, a big pot with four others in by making a big bet. Bluff. I wanted my bet to represent strength I didn’t actually have.
Being behind, the risk seemed more worthwhile. One should not bluff often.
They just broke the table next to us. One of their players filled a seat here.
Just lost to a player who was dealt two aces. That seems so unfair.
My stack has shrunk again. You can’t sit still. The stakes go up at scheduled intervals.
Another player busts out and silently walks away.
The tournament’s been going almost three hours. We still don’t have an official talky of how many played, how many get paid and how much.
The guy next to me just played a hand. First he paused the movie playing on his phone. Three players wearing earphones.
The next hand I play, I’ll be pot committed. In other words it won’t make sense to bet anything but everything I’ve got.
Break again. Teeth minute pause. Just putting off the inevitable.
One guy across the table has been drinking. He’s getting a little talky. Tonight I am quiet. An observer.
His stack is larger than mine. Maybe skill is overrated? Maybe liquor is overrated.
He is cackling now.
Nearly two hundred players. The top two or three will walk away with big money. I’m looking less and less likely to be here for that.
Half the players are gone. People are concentrating a little harder. There’s less noise.
10:30 and I’m having a cup of coffee. Still in, barely.
Hour five begins. I now have too few chips to scare people away.
King King. I’m all in with two others.
My kings get cracked! I’m done.
Dinner was really good. I played well. No regrets.
As players are eliminated tables are consolidated until there’s a final table.