On Insanity's Rail
The day was done at EPT London. I'd had dinner with some colleagues at a steak house and then they headed toward the Tube or cabs for home and hotels. I wasn't yet ready for bed, so like a moth pulled to a flame, I headed over to the Hippodrome on the northeast corner of Leicester Square. Since March of this year, it's been a PokerStars Live poker room, which is good for the players, but bad for PokerStars employees. That's because we (PokerStars employees) aren't allowed to play in our PS Live rooms.
Except when the room is hosting the cash games for major tournaments. I.e. now.
So I walked through the exception in the staff play policy and into the poker room at "The Hippo". Specifically I was looking for a PLO game - I had heard that they're running during this event.
I found a £2-5 PLO game, but not the one I was expecting. I expected to see £500-£1500 stacks and perhaps a couple of relative newbies. Instead, I saw stacks more like £1500-£4000.
Table Selection Tip #1: When the stacks are on the order of double what you have in your pocket, look for a different game.
So I stood there, wondering if I should jump into a game for which my localized cash was terribly under-bankrolled. That's when I noticed the dealer pitching for what seemed to be an interminable period.
Because they were playing six-card PLO. Not one two-card combination. Not six or ten two-card combinations. A whopping 15 different two-card combinations. In every player's hand. Now, I'm no more averse to a gamble as the next guy or gal1, but I really felt uncomfortable trying to establish what was a playable hand (or a playable flop) in that game.
Table Selection Tip #2: If you're thinking about jumping into a game for which you're under-bankrolled, it's best not to get into a game of which you've played maybe a couple of dozen hands.
So I'm standing there, becoming pretty sure that I don't want to get involved in this game. And after a few minutes, one of the players, a guy I recognize from decades of playing in London and Las Vegas, looks up and says, "Hey Lee - this is the perfect game for you; have a seat." Then a young Internet-pro-type kid across the table, with about £5000 in front of him, says, "Yeah - and then maybe you'd offer it on PokerStars."
Table Selection Tip #3: When the people in a serious poker game personally invite you to sit down, don't.
Now I may not have the best table selection skills in the world, but eventually I get the message. I wandered around to the corner of the table where three young pros were sitting near each other. Apparently they were all traveling with each other and this was just their London stop. I pulled up a chair between two of them and settled in to watch the game.
Rarely have I had as much fun watching a poker game. The nature of six-card Omaha (or well, any six-card poker game) is that you can't really keep the cards down on the table. So players pick them up and look at them the way you see cowboys in movies doing it. That meant that I got a perfect sweat of every hand and got to play along without risking a single pound. And in fact, I got to "play" more hands because there's no way I would have seen a flop with all the hands my friend from Atlanta was playing.
Six-card PLO story #1: During an interview some years ago, I asked Vicky Coren if she'd ever played six-card PLO. She raised one perfect eyebrow and in that voice, said "There's another way to play it?"
I got a cup of coffee and happily sat with my feet dangling on insanity's rail as £5K pots were built and run twice. My young professional friends talked about going up to Scotland the next day to play golf ("Y'all ever been to Scotland?" "Never." "You should go"). And I remembered years ago when I saw a different batch of young guns, with names like Ryan Daut and Mike McDonald, first discover the joys of touring Europe and playing poker.
Anyway, it was fun. The table was having a good time gambling it up, no headphones or hoodies in sight, and they talked with each other. After well over an hour, with a work day ahead of me, I reluctantly pushed my chair back to the adjacent empty table. I did, of course, thank my new friends for allowing me to sweat their game - it was most gracious of them.
Sometimes you can have fun at poker without even playing.
Six-card PLO story #2: I won one of the larger pots of my life in six-card PLO. At a home game, I got something like $1200 in on the flop, having what appeared to be a most-of-the-deck draw to the nuts. We ran it three times and I hit all three. Thanks to that pot, I am a significant lifetime winner in six-card PLO; I'm probably just trying to keep that record intact.
1Okay, that's not quite true. As poker players go, I'm absurdly risk-averse.
Lee Jones is the head of Poker Communications at PokerStars and has been part of the professional poker world for over 25 years. He first joined PokerStars over ten years ago. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.