Monday, April 11, 2011

Will the Tropicana be different now?

With the news that the Tropicana, after months of rumor and speculation, is actually on the verge of reopening its poker room, it seems a good time to tell you a story.

The last time I played at the Trop was the night it closed, November 30, 2008. I was there specifically to see what happens when a poker room closes. I told one story from that night here, though I apparently never got around to the promised longer post about it.

The answer, by the way, to what happens when a poker room closes is pretty much what you'd expect. They announced that the room will be closing in an hour, then 30 minutes, then 15, then five. They announced and played the last hand. Then they told the players (only about six of us, at one pathetic $2/4 limit table) that we'd have to cash out at the main cage, because they had already closed out their bank for the night. They said, "Thanks for playing," and that was that.

There is, however, a story that I really meant to tell in my Tropicana retrospective, but I somehow never got around to writing it. It centers on Rule #11 as shown in the photo above, which I snapped on my cell phone camera November 7, 2008, the next-to-last time I played there, and the night this incident occurred. The rule reads, "Abusive language and discourteous behavior is [sic] unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

It had been an uneventful session of $1/2 NLHE, except that I had been losing and was down to $71. One player was chronically short-stacked, and occasionally shoved in what little he had left, basically picking up the blinds and surviving for another orbit. He and another player had talked a time or two about shoving blind just for fun. On the hand in question, they decided to do it. Mr. Short was under the gun. He put in his last $23 without looking at his cards. Action folded to the other guy, who called, also without having looked at his hole cards. More folds. I was the last one left, in the big blind.

I looked down at A-7, both diamonds. (The fact that I remember the specific cards and dollar amounts, without notes, more than two years later, should tell you something about how deeply this episode affected me.) I knew that this was a significantly better hand than average, and had strong equity against two random hands. (Checking PokerStove now, it's around 43% to win.) So I shoved.

The first guy obviously didn't care, since he had no further decisions to make, and would presumably be even happier to triple his stack than to double it. But the other guy, who had agreed to call him blind, was livid. He stood up, ranted for at least two minutes before finally acting on his hand. The line that he kept repeating, well over a dozen times, I'm sure, was, "That's the shittiest thing I've ever seen anyone do!" He complained that I knew that the two of them had agreed to a blind draw for the value of the first guy's stack, and I had no business reraising.

Well, yes, the two of them had made that agreement. But they had made no effort whatsoever to consult with the rest of the table. They could have asked in advance, "Would the rest of you mind either folding or joining in the blind call and checking it down?" Chances are good that I would have agreed to that, if they would have agreed to have the winner reimburse the blinds. But they didn't even ask. They just assumed that nobody would have a decent hand, and that nobody would choose to play the hand normally.

Was I taking advantage of the situation? Of course I was. A-7 is not normally what I would consider a $71 hand. But I certainly would have called the first player's blind $23 push if nobody else had. The second $23 going in blind just made the call that much better. I knew that the second guy would have to look at his cards to make a decision as to whether to call the extra amount, and that there was an excellent chance he would fold, leaving dead money in the pot. From a purely EV standpoint, it was absolutely the right choice.

(I'm sure some readers will be thinking that it was not a long-term +EV move to piss off another player, or to interfere with other players' little fun. But I really had no idea how angry he'd get. I assumed that he would check his hole cards, and either call or fold, and if the latter, it would be with not much more than an "Oh well" attitude.)

Anyway, his tirade seemed to go on and on. He was yelling--could be heard throughout the poker room--but neither the dealer nor the floor person did a thing to stop him. He called me every name in the book, called into question my parentage, etc. He never threatened or appeared on the verge of physical violence, but it was really an extraordinary rant--one of the longest and most abusive I've ever witnessed in a poker room, and the second most extreme that has ever been directed at me by another player. And, to repeat, the poker room staff did nothing whatsoever to put a stop to it.

The scene finally ended with the ranter checking his cards, apparently finding trash, and saying, "I can't call that. I can't call that." He folded, but not before repeating once more his mantra, "That's the shittiest thing I've ever seen anyone do." The dealer put out the board, which brought me two aces on the flop and, for good measure, a 7 on the turn. Yeah, I won.

I have played at the Trop a total of seven times--a really small number for a Strip poker room. The reason is simple: Out of those seven times, three of them turned into three of the most unpleasant experiences I've ever had at a poker table. I documented the other two here and here. All three centered on being on the receiving end of incredibly abusive treatment by another player, and on all three occasions the poker room staff did nothing to stop it.

It's not like I routinely attract this kind of thing. In thousands of hours of playing, it has happened maybe five times. Three of them were at the Tropicana, a room I've visited only seven times. That kind of concentration of incidents just cannot be a pure coincidence. As I wrote in the previous stories, it's a safe conclusion that players in need of anger management classes discovered that the Trop was a place where they could exercise their vitriol without interference or repercussions, so they naturally tended to focus their play there.

I assume that after a two-year closure, the Trop has hired entirely new staff for its poker room. On that basis, I'm going to give them a clean slate. From the photos, it looks like a nice, small, comfortable room, enclosed on three sides--precisely the sort of physical setup that I like best. I have hopes that it will be well-run, too.

If the previous problems prove to be recurrent, however, you can be sure I will tell the tale here.


Anonymous said...

It always seems like the Trop is a cheesy lowball casino and the players there are the same. Never liked playing there.

--S said...

For the obvious personal reasons, I hope it's better managed this time around. I hesitated to take a job there because of how bad it was before but decided the new owners seem to be moving the property in the right direction. Hopefully, it works out :)

Anonymous said...

My only memory of the Trop is that this is unfortunately the room where my one and only royal flush chose to appear, on the flop no less. Naturally there were no jackpots or prizes, not even a free meal. The dealer did arrange to have the table give my hand a standing ovation

GeorgeX said...

A friend of mine had somewhat of an opposite experience at the Trop a few years back. He was admonished at the blackjack tables at different times first for high-fiving his friend sitting next to him when the dealer busted and then on another hand for yelling out a whoop after winning a hand.

Jen said...

I used to play at the trop a lot and I love it because I could make a lot of money there. I was also verbally attacked there after I turned a set and stacked two guys who flopped top two and slow played. The guy ranted for about 3 minutes before he stormed away and told me I should use the money to buy Jenny Craig. The floor did nothing, but one of the other players chased him down, dragged him back to the room and made him apologize to me.