On Saturday afternoon, I drove down to Hollywood Park like I always do, and there were five or ten times as many cars in the parking lot as there usually are, along with parking attendants. I probably should have expected as much - after all, it is a place where you can place bets on horse racing, and this was the day of the Kentucky Derby. I know the Kentucky Derby is a big deal in horse racing because I've actually heard of it. The attendant I spoke to didn't seem to be able to understand my English, and there were no parking spots in the area to which he directed me after I asked him where the self-parking for the poker room was. I decided to leave, and made my way to the Hustler.
I'd been meaning to check out the Hustler Casino for a while, but to get there I need to drive south on 405 past the exit for Hollywood Park, and it's never seemed worthwhile to drive further in LA traffic than I need to. Traffic isn't so bad on Saturday afternoon, though, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
My first impression, before I entered the casino, was that the Hustler was surprisingly small and unimpressive. I expected something rather extravagant from the outside. Once I got inside, though, I was impressed. The decor was very inviting - very high ceilings, wood paneling with large paintings on the walls, a circular floor plan with a glassed-in room in the center. There were some stairs up to a second floor in the center, which I think held a small restaurant. The place had the feel of a small upscale Vegas casino minus the hotel and depressing slot machines. There was no poker room per se, just a section of the casino where all the poker tables were. I think this is a good setup - it's not as intimidating for new players to mosey over from the blackjack tables and sign up for a seat in a poker game. In this way it reminded me of Foxwoods' poker room of three or four years ago (haven't been to Foxwoods since then). Of course, the Hustler's poker room is much smaller. Probably less than twenty tables.
Once I got in a game (2-5 NL, $100-300 buy-in), I was disappointed to see that like all the other LA poker rooms, the Hustler takes $1 from each pot for a bad-beat jackpot. Moreover, they take $5 out of each pot for the rake, whereas Hollywood Park takes just $4. With a $1-2 tip, I am giving back $7-8 of every pot I win.
After I had played an hour in this game, one of the other players announced he was going to go play in the satellite tournament, where they were awarding a $10,000 WSOP seat to the winner, regardless of the number of entries. I didn't really believe his estimation of there being "only six or seven" entrants, but considering the tournament was only $125, I thought it sounded like it might be a good deal. The tournament was starting in about two minutes, so I quickly cashed out of the $2-5 game and signed up for the tournament.
I should have done a bit more research into the tournament structure. It's true that they were guaranteeing a $10,000 seat, but there were actually over 50 people, so collectively we had already contributed well over $6000 of the $10,000 seat. Worse, this was an unlimited rebuy tournament for the first hour, along with an extra add-on at the end of the hour. Each of these $100 rebuys bought twice as many chips as the $125 buyin. This made it strategically inviable to forgo the rebuys - in other words, almost every player ended up paying between $225 and $525 for the tournament. Now the casino had plenty of money to cover the $10,000 seat. Yes, they did pay out the extra money to the 1st through 4th places, but still, the tournament was not nearly as good a deal as I'd been led to believe.
On maybe the tenth hand of the tournament, the guy to my right (who happened to be the guy I had been playing with at the $2-5 game earlier) had AK on a board of AAA74, and his opponents had 88. Quad aces beating Aces full: a bad beat jackpot! Only, of course, they don't have the bad beat jackpot for tournaments. Six months of paying a damn dollar per pot for the bad beat jackpot, and my table has never once won (everyone at the table gets part of the jackpot when it hits). Then I play in a tournament for the first time in LA, and the "jackpot" hand hits. Unbelievable.
As for the tournament, I actually made it to the final table with a sizable stack. Even so, the blinds were so large that my M was around 5. I think I got it up around 20 for one hand, but then the blinds doubled again and it was back down to 10. Then the blinds doubled yet again, and my M was down to about 3.6: 5700 dead chips in the pot, my stack at 20700. This was about the average stack size, and I was in 4th place out of 9 remaining players. One player who had been limping most hands but folding under pressure limped in early position for 2000. Everyone else folded around to me one off the button and I pushed with 86o. Usually the other four players would fold and I'd be up to 28400, giving myself a bit of breathing room. Even if I'm called, I'm still better than 2-1 to win against two overcards . Unfortunately, the big blind had me covered and pushed all in with his AQ. It held up against my 86. Had I won I'd have been up to 47100 and possibly first place.