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Midwest Poker: Part I Firekeepers

by Bob Ciaffone |  Published: Jan 07, 2015


Bob CiaffoneIn October of this year, I took a nine-day trip to both play poker and find out more about the various possibilities for cash games and tournaments. I spent the first two days at the FireKeepers Hotel and Casino, which is located on I-94 near Battle Creek, Michigan and spent the following week at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. I had visited FireKeepers a couple of times before. I had not been to the Horseshoe since it was renovated in 2008.

FireKeepers is owned and operated by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians. The casino opened in August, 2009 after a 15-month-long construction project. In 2012, the tribe bought out the management team’s contract and started running the casino themselves. The poker room has 14 tables and is run very well. The games featured include no-limit hold’em with $2-$5 blinds and pot-limit Omaha with $1-$2 blinds and a $5 minimum bring-in.

My main reason for going to FireKeepers was to play in their big no-limit hold’em tournament, which was an $1,110 buy-in which had two different days, where you could pick your starting day, then play the final day on Sunday if you made it that far. Last year, they had about 250 players enter that event. This year, the number of players was over 500. Evidently, the poker boom is still going strong in Michigan.

I had a couple of interesting rulings occur while I was there. The blinds where $1-$2 and I had the small blind. I put up a $5 chip for my small blind in order to get some more $1 chips. When the betting got around to me and no one had raised, I put in three more $5 chips and said “raise.” How much had I wagered? Was it $15 in addition to the $2 big blind or $20 total? An argument broke out that was never fully settled. The floor supervisor came over and asked me what my intention had been. I said that the $5 chip ought to represent only $2 throughout the hand until it was changed up, and I had wanted to make the wager $15 more, so the floor ruled that was the wager. What do you think?
The other rules question occurred in the tournament on the final day. I was hurrying to get back from the restroom in order not to miss a hand. When I arrived at the table, the dealer had just started dealing cards. I sat down immediately and scooped in both my cards right after receiving my second card. The action was on me as under-the-gun player and I called, holding pocket eights. One of the players asked that the action be stopped until it was determined whether I was entitled to receive a hand. The Cardroom Manager was called to my table. The facts were not ever in question, just the rule as to when a hand was dead. He ruled that I had a dead hand because I was not seated at the table when the dealer had begun dealing. I said action had already started with my having a live hand. He said it was no longer live and told the dealer to give me my wager back. I was unhappy with the ruling, of course, but there was no higher authority to appeal to. As it happened, an eight came on the flop and my mucked three eights would have remained the best hand throughout. The other two players got all-in, so I likely would have tripled up.

Afterwards, I was told by the Manager that the rules being used were those of the tournament sponsor, Mid-States Poker Tours. The cash game rules were not nearly as strict.

Personally, I do not like a rule that goes out of the way to make the player’s hand dead. If I can get my cards before the dealer does, I expect to have a live hand.

In the early days of tournament poker, the rule was if the player got back to his seat before the action on the first betting round went past him, his hand was live. This was a bad rule because a player who takes action is entitled to know who was in the deal, and not have a player unexpectedly appear who had not been anticipated in the hand. So the rule was changed to the dealer mucking the hand of an absent player immediately after dealing the final preflop card to the button.

My own rules set Roberts Rules Of Poker says, “A player must be at the table by the time all players have their complete starting hands in order to have a live hand for that deal. (The dealer has been instructed to kill the hands of all absent players immediately after dealing each player a starting hand.)

The modern trend is to get stricter on whether a hand is dead. For example, The Card Player tournament rules say, “A player must be at his seat when the first card is dealt on the initial deal or he will have a dead hand. At your seat means within reach of your chair.”

I do not understand why it is necessary to be so quick about killing the hand of an absent player. If you do want the absent player’s hand dead as soon as the dealer starts dealing, the cards of that player should be dealt into the muck instead of to that seat. Many tournaments use this procedure. It is certainly more psychologically satisfying than having the dealer responsible for getting the cards away from the player after he has taken possession of his hand.

I entered the $1,110 buy-in tournament at FireKeepers and managed to survive to the final day, which I started with about 75,000 in chips. I quickly got my stack up to 100,000, but then had a bad period of poor starting hands. We were playing with an ante and 2,000-4,000 blinds when my swan song hand arose. I had about 65,000 left and picked up AClub Suit JClub Suit. The opponent to my right, who had close to a quarter million in chips, opened for 9,000 in early position. It might be right to muck my borderline hand because nearly all the field is left to act and we were playing ten-handed. I felt that it was time to take a stand and this was, by far, the best starting hand I had seen in the past hour, so I called.

The flop with a rainbow board came ADiamond Suit QHeart Suit, and some small offsuit card and my opponent bet 11,000. This seems like a small amount, but it fit right in with how other players had been sizing their bets, which was two to three times the big blind. I called, which looks automatic to me. I obviously have too much hand to fold to a continuation bet by the preflop raiser and I have position on my opponent. The 9Heart Suit came on the turn and my opponent bet 13,000, which was definitely undersized. I decided it was decision time and wagered all my chips. My opponent called and showed pocket nines for a set. Goodbye, Bob. ♠

Bob Ciaffone’s new poker book, No-limit Holdem Poker, is now available. This is Bob’s fifth book on poker strategy. It can be ordered from Bob for $25 by emailing him at Free shipping in the lower 48 states to Card Player readers. All books autographed. Bob Ciaffone is available for poker lessons.