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Casino Night!

Tonight's the big night: my first visit to a brick and mortar casino for some real live poker. This is actually only my second visit to a casino (read about my first visit here), even though the casino is only a 30 minute drive from my place. I've heard that the games are pretty soft at the $1/$2 NLHE tables. I should have a fun night regardless of whether I win or not.

I'm bringing a couple buy-ins with me which should be enough for me to test the waters of live poker. I know that I have a ton of poker tells but I'm hoping that most of my opponents won't notice. For example, when I get a big hand, my face turns red and I typically stand up and cheer. I'm thinking of following the same routine on every hand to properly disguise my good holding from my bad holdings. I wonder what casino policy is on incessant and needless cheering for one's self at the tables.

I have been brought up to to speed on how the live poker works at my local casino. When I first arrive, I'll approach a customer service desk (or something along those lines) and request a player's card. I'll then hand over some cash and my card will be loaded up and ready to use at the tables.

With my player's card in hand, I'll use a machine to have my name placed on the waiting list for the $1/$2 games. At that point, I simply need to sit back and wait for my name to flash up on a couple big screens to inform me of a seat waiting for me. Once I find my table and seat, I simply sit down, swipe my card to buy chips using the money on my player's card, and I'm all set to play.  The one sore point that I have regarding this process is that there's a very good chance that my friend and I end up at different tables.  I realize that this is quite normal for live poker.   But when I go out for a night of poker with a friend, it seems silly that I'll likely spend the bulk of my night alone with strangers.

The poker itself is played like online poker. Cards, stack sizes, and pot sizes all appear on either a personal viewing screen or on the communal screen located in the centre of the table. To see my cards, I need only cup my hands over my personal viewing screen to have my cards displayed. All betting, raising, and folding is played out exactly as it is in the online world: hit the appropriate buttons, set bet sizes, and pray that your hand holds up.

As for the game quality, I'm told that the games are loose-passive. Aggressive action should be taken at face value. However, a number of players will typically overvalue pocket pairs (sometimes shoving pre-flop with any pair) and top pair. Of course, gender and racial stereotyping is always a good fallback when in doubt. I'm not racist or sexist but let's be honest: stereotypes are there for a reason. I'll mainly be on the lookout for raises and check-raises since these will typically indicate strength. Other than that, I'm going to stick with playing ABC poker à la online micro-limit poker.

I've also been informed that I was a little off in my criticisms of my local casino. It seems that the casino does allow eating and drinking at the tables. I'm also told that free non-alcoholic beverages are served, as well as candies to help combat boredom and bad breath. I'll likely stick with coffee and pop, though I may have a couple drinks towards the beginning of the evening.

As for dinner this evening, my choices are fairly limited. While downtown Ottawa has many dining choices, I work in a part of town that typically shuts down at 6:00 PM. Those few restaurants that stay open get very crowded resulting in some inconvenient wait times.   Although we could drive a little further to find a restaurant, we'd have to find and pay for parking followed by wandering the frigid streets of downtown Ottawa looking for a place to eat.

The casino does have a few on-site restaurants: an upscale gourmet restaurant, a mid-to-upper scale buffet, and an upscale bistro . Notice the trend?  I hate upscale restaurants: they're overpriced and the food is never worth it.  With my allergies and broad palate, I'm equally happy with fresh Maine lobster as I am with $1.39 McDonald's Junior McChicken sandwich.  

Unlike casinos in other parts of the world, the food is really not cheap at the casino. According to what I've read online, meals typically run about $30 or more. I'm really cheap when it comes to spending money on food; in fact, I've never spent more than $11.99 on an entree for myself. I also refuse to spend more than $7.99 on a burger though I have been known to bend this rule if the burger has bacon and cheese on it and comes with an order of fries (e.g. $8.49 for a bacon cheeseburger with fries is acceptable).

In any case, that's all I can say about my evening for now. I'll have more to say on Monday after experiencing the casino and live poker firsthand. My only goal for tonight is to have fun playing good, smart poker. As for food, drinks, and everything else, whatever happens will happen.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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