Live Poker in Chicago (Really Indiana)

Last weekend I was up in Chicago for the finals of the Barclay’s Churchill Cup. Billymac covered most of the trip at his place, so you can get the full run down there–I’ll just concentrate on poker. On Friday, Billymac and I went over to Majestic Star Casino just across the Indiana border to play poker with our buddy Big Paul the Wrecking Ball. This was a very educational session of poker for me. I’ll get to the lessons later, after I give you the lowdown on playing poker at Majestic Star.

The Majestic Star has about 20 poker tables, and the room was surprisingly well populated for a Friday afternoon. It was a little run down–the felt on the tables was worn to almost nothing in some spots. That’s not a huge deal I guess, but everyone there was talking about the new poker room that was going to open up at Horseshoe (I think), so I’m surprised that they weren’t upgrading the room to try to make it as nice as possible while they still had the market cornered. The dealers were solid, and there was a good variety of games going on–1/2 no limit, 2/5 no limit, some higher stakes limit games, and even an Omaha game. I haven’t played any Omaha in a while, so I stuck with 1/2 NL.

I had a couple of beers and some coffee while I was there–pretty prompt service. The coffee was free, but the beer wasn’t. Not a big deal, just letting you know. We all played at different tables, and we were in agreement that there weren’t any bad players there, at least that we saw. My table had a few guys who were lose, but they were solid after the flop. There was one guy at my table who was really good and had everybody flustered at one time or another. I lost ~$60, but I can honestly say I’ve never had a run of cards as bad as I had during this session. I was dealt two pair the entire time–JJ and 55. I got K-8 off suit so many times I was considering going to the blackjack table instead. The session became an exercise in discipline, and that leads me to my lessons learned during this session.

Without good cards, it’s much tougher to win money at non-tourist poker rooms. Everybody there was local–local as in every day player local. They all knew the dealers by name, and several of them knew each other by name. The big topic of conversation was the new poker room that was going to open and which dealers were going to be working there. It sounds like Majestic Star is about to lose most of its good dealers and most of its regulars to this new room. It seems like local rooms are tough to crack because the level of play is pretty high and pretty steady. I’m sure a pro could have come in and jacked the place, but I’m no pro. Any local fish would get busted out of this room within a week or two and never come back, so you are stuck playing with guys who are essentially passing the same money around to each other all the time.

I was forced into playing tight by the cards that I was dealt, but being at a table with guys who were lose without being reckless post flop made it tough to pull off any moves, even with a tight image. I think this room is definitely beatable for me, but I’d be back to depending on luck, which I’d rather not have to do. The fact that the poker room at Majestic Star is open 24 hours puts you a little behind as well, because the max buy-in for 1/2 NL is $200. That means that you can’t sit down at a table with guys who’ve been playing for 15 hours with a $600 stack and stand up to them. I’m a firm believer that you are at a huge disadvantage at a NL table unless you can buy in to match the chip leader’s stack. A local room like the one I played at in Dania, Florida (which closes at midnight) is easier to beat because you can get there in the early afternoon and buy in at the max with everybody else. Then the guys who come in later are at a disadvantage to your larger stack.

As I said, it was an exercise in discipline, and I think I did pretty well to only drop $60 with the bad run of cards. It happens sometimes. I’d recommend Majestic Star just for the size and variety of the room, but it sounds like the new room opening up may be a little nicer once they get it going. Have fun!

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Comments

I actually like the max buy-in rules on the lower blind NL games. If the limit didn’t exist, people with a big roll could just come in and lean on everybody/bully the table. And the guy that builds his stack can take advantage of his situation as a reward of good play.

I don’t gamble, but your review is a very thorough one and useful to most of the rest of the world who do gamble.

BM, I generally like those rules, and it didn’t affect me on this outing, but it has before. I’d rather see the max buy in set to the max chip count, but that’s a lot more work for the house.

HM, I don’t gamble either. But I play poker. 😛

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