I played at Winstar Casino in Oklahoma today. It was my first casino poker in almost two years. I have played in a few nickel and dime home games, quite a bit on line for very low stakes, and regularly in the free Amateur Poker League games locally, but it's definitely different playing in a real card room. I had the day off work so I made the hour-plus drive just over the Texas-Oklahoma border this morning to see how Winstar's poker room would treat me.
The casino building is huge. It looks like a big tent out of a Middle Eastern desert from the outside. Inside, they have different sections full of slots (their bread and butter), plus some table games. The poker room is in the rear of the building, and it's a very popular place. They actually have had to set up poker tables outside the poker room proper to keep up with the demand. I kept hearing them tell players to go to the Showroom; what do they do when they have entertainment playing there? Probably make the band play in the hallway.
They spread Limit Hold 'Em from $4/$8 up to $20/$40, and No Limit starting at $1/$2 blinds with buy-ins of $100 min/$200 max, up to $5/$10 blinds with buy-ins of $500 min/$1,000 max. I chose to play $4/$8 Limit so I could ease in without putting too much at risk at once. I got there just about when the poker room opened at 10:00 AM, and they sat me at a table that was just opening. I bought in for $100. Once the table filled up, which didn't take more than a few minutes, the cards were in the air. I played tight, much tighter than the rest of the table. While not everyone played every pot, it seemed like every pot had mulitple players and ended in a showdown. There were a few players who saw virtually every flop and, as you might expect, a fair number of suckouts. One older guy, who was across the table from me, seemed to catch the winning card on the river on nearly every pot he played. I must admit that I caught several good cards myself over the course of the day. Early on, I limped in from the BB with 82 suited. The flop had an 8 and a 2 in it, plus something like a T. I bet, was called by one player; the turn wasn't scary, so I bet and got called again. The river was another 8. I bet again, got called again, and took down a nice pot. The same kind of thing happened to me later with J9 suited in the BB, when a J and a 9 hit the flop and a J hit the river. There were several people in that pot, with pairs and flush draws, so that one was healthy-sized too. Mostly I played the cards rather than the players, because my pocket cards were either great starters or easy folds preflop. But I did get reads on a few of the players, and picked up some obvious tells. The most glaring tell was committed by a couple of people: picking up chips before their turn to act when they planned to bet, and picking up their cards in advance when they were going to fold. I knew every time what they were going to do before it was their turn. Need I say to anyone reading this: not a good idea. Another big no-no: one guy who was sitting two seats to my right was not hiding his cards very well at all when he looked at them. It would have been way too easy to see what he had without even trying. Then again, this particular guy, who was a regular at this casino since all the dealers and staff knew him by name, played just about every pot with any two cards, all the way to the river. He sucked out a couple of times, but I can't imagine him doing anything but losing in the long run.
I didn't make any fancy plays, just mostly stuck with premium hands and played them aggressively. Most of the time. On one hand, I got AKs under the gun and just called instead of raising, to mix things up a bit. I got several callers, and the flop came 9s-Ts-X. With the nut flush draw, I bet for value. The guy to my left raised. If I remember right, everyone else folded, leaving it to me. I didn't stop to figure the exact pot odds (I'm not very quick at that), but I figured it was worth one more small bet, so I called. The turn was the 8s. Bingo! I bet and got called. The river was a brick, the board was unpaired, so I knew I had the nuts (except to the straight flush), and I bet. My opponent saw the straight and flush possibilities on the board, figured I had one of them, and folded. He was about the only player at the table who would have folded at that point; most of the others would have called just to see what I had, they were that loose.
Overall, it wasn't a spectacular day, but I did leave the table with double my buy-in, which was very satisfying. Now that my bankroll is fatter, I just might have to make another drive up there soon and see if things are as soft next time. Maybe I will even try the NL game, if I'm feeling brave.