Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Keeping abreast of tavern poker

A couple of weeks ago, I started seeing ads in the local weekly newspaper for "poker night" at Asheville's one and only "gentlemen's club." You can see the ad on the club's web site here. The games are part of a larger organization called World Tavern Poker. I thought I had never heard of it before, but on reflection, I vaguely remember them having a big to-do in Vegas the last year I was there.

As it turns out, I know the guy who is the local organizer. He's a regular in one of the home games I've gotten hooked up with. But I didn't know that until I got there.

Strange as it may seem, I, a heterosexual, unmarried male, lived in Las Vegas for 6 1/2 years without ever setting foot inside any of its many strip clubs. In fact, I've never been to one in my life. So I had some hesitation about such a place as a poker venue.

But the poker pickings are slim around here, and it was free, and I've seen the Treasure Club when driving by and kind of wondered how sleazy it was inside. So I decided to give it a shot. Last night was my time.

I was pleasantly surprised. The poker tournaments were reasonably well organized. No dealer--getting the dealer button meant that you were literally the dealer for that hand--but we managed with not too many gross errors. Everybody was super friendly and relaxed, having fun. No wannabe pros in hoodies, sunglasses, and Beats headphones. One of the players was a dancer at the club, off duty.

We did two single-table tournaments, each taking about two hours, with a very fast structure. Since it's unlikely that any of them will read this, I think it's probably OK to say that the other players were not very experienced (with the exception of the organizer, who also played). We're talking the level where keeping track of whose turn it is and what the bet is constitutes a serious, ongoing challenge to their poker knowledge. I don't mean that as an insult; everybody is a beginner at some point, and there is no shame in that. You have to master basics like the mechanics of the game before you can move on to understanding proper bet sizing, hand reading, probabilities, etc. I'm just telling you where they were on the learning curve.

I did pretty well. I came in second in the first tourney, first in the next one, and never had a genuinly difficult decision to make. In that second one, I personally busted every single player on my way to the win--and had the best of it when the chips went in every time except for one suckout. I.e., it was not difficult to know where I stood most of the time. I went into heads-up with more than a 10:1 chip lead. It would have been hard to lose at that point.

And the venue? It was surprisingly clean and non-nasty. It was smoke-free, which amazed me. I didn't come home reeking of cigarette smoke, booze, or anything else. They had bright lights over the poker tables. The dance stage was at the far end of the room, dimly lit. The distance and the glare from the poker lights combined to make it so that you wouldn't be aware that there was a topless young woman dancing over there unless you made an effort to scope it out. Put another way, it was easy to ignore--though one guy at the table probably needed to see a chiropractor today to work out the kink in his neck he must have gotten from constantly trying to watch.

It was less easy to ignore the young women serving drinks, or the ones walking back and forth past us on their way to or from their turns on the stage, in outfits that would have been considered outrageously revealing in any other context. Rob likes to describe how scantily clad the women are lining up to get into one of the clubs at the casino where he plays most of his poker, but I assure you that those dresses are like Taliban burkas compared to what these dancers were wearing. If there was a combined one square yard of fabric in all of the clothes worn by all of the dancers last night, I'd be shocked. I did see--and admire--some very shapely buttocks last night, among other things.

The DJ played several poker-themed songs just for our little group, which was a nice touch. He even came out of the booth to check and be sure the music wasn't too loud to interfere with our game, and when several people said that it was a bit much, he promptly dialed it down. Drinks were offered frequently, but there was not a bit of pressure to buy anything. It really was entirely free. The venue seemed genuinely accommodating, and happy to have us there (on what was obviously a very slow night otherwise).

Will I go back for more? I haven't decided. I need to check out the WTP web site and figure out how much of a time investment it would require before I would be eligible for the kind of prizes that would be worth winning--like WSOP seats. If it looks reasonable, I well might. If it looks like a huge commitment with little chance for any meaningful reward, probably not.