View Full Version : Life Among The Maniacs - A Trip Report

06-07-2004, 08:03 PM
I was in San Francisco for a quick conference, and decide to venture out to Lucky Chances in Colma for an evening of cards. What I found there, scared and delighted me.

I usually play in home and casino games in Chicago with regular trips to Las Vegas where I make my home at the Mirage 10/20 and, lately, 20/40. Chicago is a lot like Vegas; the games are fairly tight and the players mostly sane - with a few exceptions.

I walk into Lucky Chances and am initially struck by the silence. No clankety-clank of slots and video poker. My second impression is that there is a LOT of food around. I've never seen so much food so close to a poker room before. Everyone is eating, and not just a little. There are entire plates of chinese food, shrimp, steak, eggs, pizza, ice cream, carrot cake, steamed vegetables, and on and on. Everyone seems to be stuffing his/her face. At first I'm a little disgusted, but I change my mind before long.

The lists are short, so I get my name on the 9/18 HE list, and start scouting the room. I can see why they call these "card barns" - they're high-ceilinged and large, with huge space between tables. Of course, you need room to accomodate all the food being constantly delivered and consumed.

I'm second on the 9/18 list, but the wait is around 30 minutes, which surprises me. In the meantime, I'm trying to get a feel for the games. The 9/18 games are using yellow chips, which appear to be $3 chips - weird. The only color that looks right is the red chips in the 20/40 game.

I am called to my game and take the 9 seat (9-handed games here, how civilized) and am immediately dealt a hand (no need to post a blind) as the chip runner comes up behind me. I hand over my $400, get a bunch of yellow chips and a couple grey chips (no white, white appear to be $100 chips) - which seem to equal something around the right amount. I muck my QJo and watch as I would have turned two pair. Bottom pair takes down a really large pot, and I'm hooked on California poker.

I have a couple more free hands coming before the blinds, and I fold the middling holdings only to watch total junk take down pots that would have been mine. Okay, I gotta keep my head. Don't gamble with these people, just pick your spots.

As most on 2+2, I've heard of these great California games, but I've never really seen anything like it. It's aggression for aggression's sake. I beat the player to my immediate left with a legit hand, so now he's trying to isolate me every hand I play - I actually get to cap preflop with pocket tens, which I know are going to be good against this guy. And they are, unimproved.

I soon learn that I have to call down all the way with a middle pair even when I would normally assume I'm beat based on the action. Somehow, verses a very aggressive player, I take a pot with King-high over his Queen-high when I call on the river. I feel I'm slipping into maniac mode, but it seems the right play for the table; I'm still playing tight preflop, though I'm much more likely to cold-call than I ever have been before. The implied odds on some of these draws seem to justify it with so many people in the hands. I'm still not strong enough to cold-call more than two bets, and I'm not in a position to even consider it - fortunately.

I have a poker playing friend who ribs me about being weak-tight (which I don't think I really am). He wouldn't have known me in this game.

The swings are huge. I get 4-way capped preflop action when I'm holding AK-suited. I lose it, but it doesn't really matter. If I hit a couple hands, I'll be in comfortable profit territory. I teeter between +$200 and -$200 for most of the evening when a couple weird hands leave me down a few hundred. In one case I have AKo, get an Ace on the flop and bet hard all the way. We reach the river with no real scare cards on board for me and the river has brought an innocuous 4. Early position check-caller bets unexpectedly. I call and he shows pocket 4s for the set. I know I love this game. Where's my helmet?

About midnight the game starts to break; they change us to a 6/12 game and get some players. I figured we'd keep playing with $3 chips - silly me. We change color to $2 chips. It's important for them to have a 3-chip/6-chip ratio, I guess. I come from the land of 2-chip/4-chip. The extra chips seem to contribute to the action.

I'm shortly called to the other 9/18 and it's a rock garden. The game isn't even as good as my Chicago games. It looks like the maniacs have packed it in, and I'm going to have to actually work to get out of my hole. It's too late, I'm tired. I'll see you next trip, o maniacs. I cash in for a $300 loss.

I tried a chicken pizza while I was doing battle with the maniacs. I find I like having food at the table. After seeing games break because too many people are away eating, food at the table makes sense. Of course, I didn't see any food on the cards or grease on the chips, so maybe I'd change my mind after enough of that. The prices are low, and what I had was pretty good. The fruit plate looked tasty.

Never have I seen so many deck changes and new setups called for. The decks were barely making it two orbits before someone was asking for a new one. At one point a very aggressive player got miffed that the floorman opened the Kem box; he apparently likes the dealer to open the new setup. I guess the dealers are lucky - until they deal you bad cards. Even players that seemed solid were asking for new decks and setups.

I don't know about other California card rooms, but at the Lucky Chances 9/18, the button posts a live $3 blind that goes to the rake. The small blind is also $3 with $1 going to the jackpot drop. $4 also comes out in the 6/12 game, so it pays to play a little bit higher.

The California experience was a lot of fun. I didn't see any of the dealer abuse you hear about from the LA rooms, but the chips were splashing hard and fast and the players were amazingly loose. I'm looking forward to my next trip into the Land of the Maniacs.



06-07-2004, 08:50 PM
Glad you had a good time on your trip. FWIW, in my experience the LC 9-18 game tends to be more of the rock garden you found in the second table than the crazy game you saw in the first. In fact, I find the game is rarely worth playing if they only have a single table going; the 6-12 tends to be the better action low-limit game.

The 20-40, on the other hand, is usually a pretty good game. There are some tough regulars, but I've also enjoyed playing against some not-so-tough regulars. Worth checking out if you visit again.

06-08-2004, 11:01 AM
Ah, interesting, thanks for the information. I did seem that a lot of the players at the 9/18 were waiting for 20/40 seats - maybe that explains some of it.

Overall, a good time. I later found out that Artichoke Joe's was closer to my hotel in Burlingame. I'll have to check that one out next time I'm there.



06-08-2004, 01:41 PM
I think AJ's 15-30 is more crazy, overall, than the LC's 20-40. individually, though, I'll pit the craziest LC's player against the craziest AJ's player in a heartbeat.
forget the bay area, though, if you want to see insane play and huge swings. head south to LA and hang on to your hat.