Find the game. Beat the game.

Just thought I’d give you a quick heads up on the local poker situation here in Sydney.

I found the local game without too much difficulty.  I’m not saying this is the only game in town, you understand, far from it. But it’ll do me for a start.  It’s at the Star Casino in Darling Harbour – either a quick ferry trip across Sydney Harbour or a 30 minute walk from where I’m staying if I’m feeling sprightly.

The “Star” is Australia’s second biggest casino and it is a quality place, right up there with some of the casinos on the Strip in Las Vegas.  Poker games run 24 hours round the clock in glorious surroundings and I’ve never seen less than ten tables on the go in my first three visits.

There is one big disadvantage however……you have to pay to play.

And I’m not just talking about the rake, which at 10% (to a max of $10 per pot), is plenty high enough. On top of this there is a time charge of $10 per hour. Per person! Can you believe that? $10 an hour!

I’m talking about the $2-$5 game here, which has a minimum $200 buy in and a maximum of $500. If you play the $1-$2 game (with a $80 – $200 buy in) there charge is a mere $5. I mean come on! When I first heard this I thought it was the most ridiculous, criminal thing I’d ever heard of.  You’re looking at paying something like $40 for an afternoon’s poker at the $2-5 level.

Say I really get stuck in for a week and play 40 hours. No in fact say I get really stuck in for a whole month. That’s something like $1600 shelled out just in fees.  And who knows how much more in rake?  My initial reaction was that those fees are crippling, a game changer.

But then something got me thinking and it cheered me up a tad.  In the harshest terms, isn’t anyone who sits down in such a game by definition a bit of a mug? Surely a player who is so insensitive to value will tend to make bad plays during the game?

Well it was enough to get me interested and the only way to find out was to actually sit down and play. And the early signs are promising.  Let me give you a clue….. I sat down to my first session, my plan of nitting it up for the first hour or two while I sussed out the standard.  Fold, fold, fold.  Finally I got KK and raised a limper to $30……and I got 4 callers!

OK, so I’ve only played two sessions so far. But from what I’ve seen the game is definitely beatable, even with the punishing fees. Of course I’d rather not pay them, but I honestly think they can be overcome.

The game is beatable……it’s just that I’m not beating it yet. I dropped two buy ins on my first session and a further buy in yesterday.  But I’m strangely calm. I just keep getting KK cracked, that’s all. And I’ll take KK vs AK all in pre flop all day long as often as I can.

Perseverance is required, but in the meantime it’s bound to be a bit swingy.  But I’ll stick my neck out here: I’ve got to be a genuine 20-1 shot to still be losing after 10,000 hands in this game.

Some other foibles about the cash games at the “Star”

I call it the $2-5 game. It is actually a $5-5 game with both big and small blinds being $5. This means there is no such thing as a “walk” for the big blind, but there wouldn’t be any in any case. It is unbelievably rare to see it folded round to the blinds.

People just don’t raise to $15 preflop. It’s $20 or $25, with plenty of callers “Gee mate – look at that value!”

There are no complimentary drinks, a fact I discovered after giving the waitress a dollar tip for bringing me a coffee and being told “that’s be $3.50 Sir” while I was smiling gormlessly at her. Oh well, I don’t really like coffee that much anyway. Nice waitresses though.

No headphones/iPods are allowed at the tables. I actually like this rule but I don’t understand why it exists. During tournaments you are allowed to put your headphones on, just not for cash games. Go figure that one out. Perhaps I’ll find out one day why this is the case.

Nobody tips the dealers when they win a pot. Nobody at all. I haven’t asked, but I’m guessing that this is actually a rule and it explains the sky high table charges. Do the two balance out? Hmmmm, I would guess that they don’t. I don’t think I’ve ever tipped $40 in 4 hours. Still it’s better not to pay both.

They say of poker that you’ve got to “Find the Game. Beat the game”.

Well I’m half way there so far.

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