In this Card Player weekly feature we look to provide our readers with a guide to some of the biggest poker events taking place in their area for the upcoming week. Check out all the tournament action set to go down in your own backyard from February 23rd through March 1st. Head to our tournament database for more information.
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The CPPT III Wynn Las Vegas (Feb 25, ‘15 – Mar 18, ’15) The Card Player Poker Tour returns for the second time to the Wynn Las Vegas for an action-packed 14-event poker tournament series starting this week. Every single event features a guaranteed prize pool, with the highlight of the first weekend being a $100,000 guaranteed $400 buy-in no-limit hold’em event that kicks off with the first of two starting days at noon on Feb. 27th. The $300,000 guaranteed $2,100 buy-in main event will run from Mar. 15th through the 18th.

The 2015 WSOP Circuit Lumiere Place (Feb 19, ‘15 – Mar 02, ’15) The Lumiere Place Casino & Hotel in St. Louis, MO kicked off the latest stop on the World Series of Poker Circuit last week and is set to continue the action this week, with the centerpiece of the whole affair being the $1,675 no-limit hold’em main event that begins with the first of two starting days at noon on Feb. 27th.
The 2015 Oklahoma State Championship of Poker (Feb 19, ‘15 – Mar 01, ’15) The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Oklahoma is hosting a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool no-limit hold’em event this week. The $675 buy-in tournament features three starting flights, with the first beginning at 7:00 PM on Feb. 27th and the second and third starting at noon and 7:00 PM respectively on Feb. 28th.

The 2015 WPT L.A. Poker Classic (Jan 12, ‘15 – Mar 05, ’15) The Commerce Casino’s largest poker festival is reaching it’s climax. This week at the LAPC the World Poker Tour $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event will get underway starting at noon on Feb. 28th and will continue until a champion is decided on Mar. 5th at the televised final table. Lsat year Chris Moorman topped a field of 534 entries to win his first major live tournament title and over $1 million in prize money.

The 2015 Winter Deep Stack Series (Feb 19, ‘15 – Mar 01, ’15) The Seminole Hard Rock Casino Tampa launched into a six-event tournament series late last week and is now moving into the business end of the festival. The main event is a $250,000 guaranteed $560 buy-in no-limit hold’em event that features six starting flights, two each starting at noon and 6:00 PM on Feb. 26 – 28.

The 2015 WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Baltimore (Feb 26, ’15 – Mar 09, ’15) The Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in Maryland is the next stop on the WSOP Circuit, with the tour pulling into town later this week for the latest 14-event series. The early highlight is a $250,000 guaranteed $365 buy-in event that features four starting flights, two each at noon and 5:00 PM on Feb 27th and 28th.
The 2015 Spring Showdown (Feb 28, ‘15 – Mar 08, ’15) The Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut begins with it’s Spring Showdown series this weekend, beginning with a $600 buy-in $100,000 guaranteed no-limit hold’em event. The tournament begins at 11:00 AM on Feb. 28th.

This series of articles is intended for people who have played poker online and/or in home games, but have little or no experience playing in a “brick-and-mortar” casino. Casinos have rules, procedures, and points of etiquette that can trip up players on their first few visits — or at least confuse and mystify them. I hope to explain these for you in advance so that you don’t get intimidated or embarrassed. Understanding them might also keep you from losing money by inadvertently breaking a rule during the game.
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Articles in this series will focus specifically on how poker in casinos differs from what you have learned from playing on the internet or at friends’ home games, particularly in what might be termed its “procedural” aspects. I work from the assumption that readers have enough experience under their belts at one or both of those other types of poker games to feel comfortable playing them and would like to try adding casino poker to their repertoire.

For this first installment, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide for getting into a cash game. I’ll cover entering a casino poker tournament in a later column.

Figuring Out What Games Are Available
So you’ve taken the trip to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica, Los Angeles, or any of the other many poker destinations that are now available in the U.S. and around the world. You’ve selected which poker room to patronize. Now what?

Your first step is to know what games are available. Poker rooms vary in how they communicate game availability to would-be players. Most now have a large-screen TV listing the games and the names of any people waiting to play. Some use a manually updated white board. The smallest rooms sometimes still use one person behind a desk with a simple piece of paper, and you have to ask what games are available. But let’s say that by one of these methods you learn that the choices are listed as follows:

2-4 limit hold’em
4-8 limit hold’em
1-2 no-limit hold’em
2-5 no-limit hold’em
4-8 Omaha-8
Often you’ll see a number in parentheses after such listings, which tells you how many tables of each game are in play. Some places display the actual table numbers. (Each table in a poker room has a fixed identification number.) If there are names under the game heading, that tells you who is waiting to play.

What the Numbers Mean
The stakes of the game are communicated by the pair of numbers in front of the name of the game. Confusingly, the numbers mean different things for different games.

In hold’em and Omaha (i.e., the so-called “flop games”), fixed-limit games are named by the size of the bets you can make. For example, “4-8 limit hold’em” means that the bets and raises are each $4 for the first two betting rounds of each hand (before the flop and on the flop), and $8 on the turn and river. The blinds in these games are typically one-half of those values, or $2 and $4 in this example, though some casinos use different structures. Stud games (and draw games, if you can ever find one) follow the same convention — the numbers in the name of the game represent allowable bet sizes.

But just when you think you understand that, you discover that no-limit games are listed differently. “1-2 no-limit hold’em” does not mean that the bets are $1 and $2 — that would violate the whole concept of a “no-limit” structure. Instead, these games are named by the size of the two blinds, in this case the small blind being $1 and the big blind $2.

To make it even more confusing, a few casinos — most notably the largest ones in southern California — eschew the conventions I’ve just described in favor of a bewildering hodge-podge of buy-ins and blinds as the titles of their games.

For example, a “$40 NL” game will mean no-limit hold’em with buy-in of exactly $40 — no more and no less — with blinds unstated but understood to be $1 and $2. There are other variations used in these places that are too numerous to detail here. But don’t worry — just tell them that it’s your first time there, and they’ll be happy to explain what the words, numbers, and abbreviations mean. Just about everywhere else, the explanations above will serve you well.

Buying In and Taking a Seat
Okay, so let’s say you’ve decided which of the offered games you’d like to play. Now just approach the person poised to greet you at the entrance to the poker room and tell him or her what you’re interested in. You will either be put on the waiting list for a opening, or, if you’re lucky, directed or escorted directly to a vacant seat in an active game.

If you have to wait, be sure that you don’t wander off to someplace where you can’t hear your name being called. Some poker rooms now offer to call or text your cell phone when it’s your turn, in which case you’re free to go do something else while you wait. However, I think it’s a better idea to stick around and watch (from a respectable distance) a game of the type you plan to play, in order to get a sense for what’s happening.

Next you’ll need to convert some cash into chips. But how much? The amount for which you can or must buy in to a game is related to the sizes of the blinds and/or bets, but not in any obvious or standardized way. Most commonly, the buy-in is capped at 100, 150, or 200 times the amount of the big blind in no-limit games. However, you can find poker rooms with substantially smaller buy-in caps, and some with no caps at all.

There’s no reliable way to figure this out on your own; you just have to ask an employee. Limit games are often officially uncapped, but you’d be looked at oddly if you bought into a fixed-limit game for more than about 50 big blinds, because stack sizes are not usually an important factor in how the game plays.

Let’s suppose you’re going to play $2/$4 limit hold ’em, and you’ve decided to buy in for the maximum this casino allows for this game, which is, say, $200. There are four different ways you might exchange your cash for poker chips.

The person at the front podium who signs you in might also serve as the room’s cashier.
He or she might direct you to a separate cashier’s “cage” to purchase chips.
You might be instructed to buy your chips from the dealer when you sit down.
After you take your seat, they might have a “chip runner” take your money and bring you chips.
Again, which method a given place uses (and it can change depending on how busy they are) is not usually obvious, even to experienced players — you just have to ask.

Congratulations! You’re past the first set of hurdles, and seated in your first casino poker game, with a fresh stack of chips stacked neatly in front of you. In the next “Casino Poker for Beginners” entry, I’ll start to delve into what the casino expects of you as a player at one of its tables.

The Aviation Club de France, a more than 100-year-old gambling club in Paris that was raided by police in September of last year and shut down over alleged misconduct, including alleged money laundering, has been ordered to undergo judicial liquidation.
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In other words, the card room is no more.

The Aviation Club de France is widely regarded as one of France’s most legendary poker rooms. The main games played at the Aviation club were baccarat, poker and backgammon.

According to reports, numerous members of the French poker community tried to keep the poker room open, but to no avail. Some are worried about the fate of other French card rooms.

2014 WSOP Hall of Fame nominee Bruno Fitoussi (not accused of any involvement in the Aviation Club de France bust) introduced Texas hold’em to France in 1995 at the club.

I recently had the pleasure of traveling to beautiful Prague for the World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour events. In a particular hand from a €1,000 event, I found myself totally lost on the river. This hand took place near the end of the first day. My opponent is a tight, aggressive kid who has not messed around at all so far. He is on the button when I am in the big blind. It folded to him on the button five times throughout the day. Three times he folded, once he raised and folded to the small blind’s reraise, and once I called his preflop raise and check-folded to a continuation bet. What this amounts to is, I do not think he is going to do anything too crazy. I think he is only raising from the button with relatively strong hands because both myself and the small blind are prone to defend our blinds aggressively. That being said, he is a young European kid, so I am sure he has at least some gamble in him. It is also worth noting that I have been generally active throughout the day, fighting hard for a lot of pots with aggressive postflop action.
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Everyone folded to the tight, aggressive (TAG) kid on the button, who raised to 1,250 out of his 50,000 stack at 300/600-75. I decided to call 625 more with QSpade Suit JClub Suit from the big blind. I also could have reraised, but I did not think he would fold to my reraise too often due to his likely strong preflop range and I am not a big fan of playing hands that are easily dominated from out of position, especially when I am not reasonably sure how I expect my opponent to react.

The flop came QHeart Suit QClub Suit 10Diamond Suit.

I checked and my opponent made a standard continuation bet of 1,500 into the 3,975 pot. I decided to check-raise to 3,900. I thought he would certainly call with any queen, A-A, K-K, J-J, most 10s, K-J, J-9, and perhaps A-K, A-J, and pairs worse than a ten. I don’t like check-calling because, while it does keep my opponent’s range wide open, it makes it tough to play a large pot on the turn or river because I think his range to call a turn or river check-raise is much tighter than his range to call a flop check-raise.

He decided to call 2,400 more.

The turn was the 8Spade Suit.

I decided to bet 5,800 into the 11,775 pot. I thought he would almost certainly fold his small pairs, A-K, and A-J at this point. I thought he would still continue with any queen, A-A, K-K, J-J, 8-8, K-J, and J-9. Again, I don’t love checking, because it allows him to see a free card with his draws while also allowing him to value bet when he happens to have me beat. While it is somewhat likely that my hand is beat at the moment, I think it makes more sense to assume it is the best hand most of the time.

He called 5,800.

The river was the AHeart Suit.

This is a terrible river for me because now both A-A and K-J beat me. I will also not be able to get additional action from K-K. So, should I bet small for value, bet large for value, check with the intention of calling a river bet, or check with the intention of folding to a river bet?

If I bet small, perhaps 7,500 into the 23,375 pot, my opponent will certainly call with all hands that beat me. He will probably call with all worse queens. He will probably fold all pairs worse than an ace. If he somehow has A-K or A-J, which I do not think is too likely, he will probably call a river bet. This bet sizing is only good if I thought he would call the turn with A-K or A-J, which probably is not the case.

If I bet large, perhaps 18,000 into the 23,375 pot, I think he will call almost entirely when I am beat and fold when I am ahead. He may even find a big fold with a hand such as Q-9 or A-K. I think betting large would be a fairly large error without some sort of overly aggressive dynamic with my opponent, which I did not have.

If I check the river and my opponent makes any sort of reasonable bet, should I call or fold? Again, if he could have A-K or A-J in his range, I should probably call, assuming he would value bet those. If he would check behind with those, I should be much more inclined to check-fold. I also have to figure out if my opponent will turn hands such as K-K, J-J, J-10, or J-9 into a bluff on the river. If he will bluff with those hands, I should almost certainly check-call because that is likely the only way to extract value.

This is a difficult spot because my hand looks like either trips or a straight, which will never fold, or a 10 that will fold to any bet. This means that it would be fairly crazy for my opponent to try to bluff with a hand such as K-K or J-J because I do not think he can expect me to fold many better hands to a bet. This leads me to believe that if I check and he bets, I should assume it is for value with a hand that can beat a queen, allowing me to safely fold. I talked to a few of my friends and they also said, given his perceived range, this is a fairly standard spot to check-fold. While it is not too often that you find a spot to relatively easily check-fold with trips on the river, this is one of them.

Unfortunately, I made the error of betting 7,500 into the 23,375 pot. My opponent happily called with J-9 for a straight. ♠

North Sumatra’s North Tapanuli Police seized on Tuesday eight poker machines allegedly owned by Indonesian Military (TNI) members in separate raids in several locations.
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Police also arrested four suspects who had turned their homes into gambling dens.

They have been identified as Godang Panggabean, 60, and Ronni Panggabean, 24, both of Pancurnapitu village, Siatas Barita district, Jhon Siagian, 31, of Diwaluompu village, Tarutung district, and Rit Jhon Purba, 32, of Simatajau Dolok Seribu village, Pagaran district.

North Sumatra Police chief spokesman Sr. Comr. Helfi Assegaf said the police had acted on a tip off from a member of the public and had investigated and later raided the gambling dens.

Helfi added that the first raid was carried out on Godang and Ronni’s house. A poker machine was confiscated in each raid.

“Godang and Ronni admitted that the poker machine in their home was owned by two TNI members stationed at the Tarutung Military Command and in Lapogambiri TNI company,” Helfi said at a press conference at the North Sumatra Police headquarters in Medan on Tuesday.

The fourth annual Arena Winter Poker Classic Championship returns to Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona on Saturday, Feb. 21. For just a $400 tournament buy-in, players can compete for an estimated $68,000 prize pool (based on 200 players).
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Each player will receive 12,000 in tournament chips and can re-enter as many times as they’d like on both day 1A and day 1B. The tournament begins at 11:15 a.m. in the Arena Poker Room.

The final table, which is expected to award nearly $16,000 to the winner, takes place Monday, Feb. 23.

The Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort features 47 poker tables and a giant scoreboard featuring 16 flat screens and a sports ticker. Those who want to play cash games can enjoy their favorites from hold’em, Omaha and stud.

For more information, visit the casino website or call 480-850-8693 to speak with a poker room staff member.