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The Hammond Horseshoe

by Bob Ciaffone |  Published: Feb 04, 2015


Bob CiaffoneThe second part of my trip took me to the Hammond Horseshoe Casino, which during that time was hosting a World Series of Poker Circuit event.

Between Michigan and Illinois, there is a piece of Indiana that borders on Lake Michigan, which has some fair-sized cities such as Gary and Hammond. The Indiana state laws, which allow riverboat gambling, were modified in the 21st century, enabling a casino to have gambling that was not on an actual floating boat. Harrah’s, which operates the Hammond Horseshoe, took full advantage of this legal change and completely remodeled its hotel. The new Horseshoe opened in 2008 and it is a magnificent facility.

One of the local poker players told me the first day the cardroom opened, a large group of poker people went there to check it out. They loved both the hotel itself and the way the cardroom was being operated. The Hammond Horseshoe immediately became the main poker center in the Chicago area for the higher-stakes poker games. The pot-limit Omaha (PLO) players told me the Omaha action at the Hammond Horseshoe was by far the best for that game in the Midwest.

There are several motels and a hotel in Hammond that are less than five miles from the Horseshoe. I got a cheap rate at the Super 8 Motel by paying for the whole week up front. The Ramada Inn also had a similar weekly deal.

There were a lot of no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha cash games at the Horseshoe Casino throughout the tournament, which was part of the WSOP Circuit series of big-money tournaments. There was often a big PLO game, usually with $20-$40 blinds. There were a couple $5-$10 blind PLO games in the top-section part of the cardroom. The most popular stakes for PLO were $2-$5 blinds and $5-$5 blinds. These sizes look almost identical, but there were many differences between them. As I recall, the $2-$5 had a maximum buy-in of $500, but the $5-$5 game had a much higher buy-in and a lot more action in it.

The Hammond Horseshoe poker players got some terrific free food comps during the WSOP Circuit tournament. Once a day, the poker players had the opportunity to earn enough playing-points to get a free buffet ticket (the normal price of the buffet was $19.95). The buffet is as good as I have had anywhere, including any of the top Vegas hotels. There were five different rooms that served food: I think they were Oriental, Mediterranean, Italian, French, and American. There was a person serving over a dozen different flavors of ice cream for dessert. You could get as much as you wanted too. Hazelnut was my favorite.

One thing I appreciated was the fast tempo of play in most of the cash games. I attribute a slow pace mostly to young men who seem to have watched too much poker on television. These people penalize themselves. Haven’t they heard of the saying that time equals money?

Most modern people are reasonably polite when they play poker, but there unfortunately appears to be more angle-shooters nowadays. Here is an example. I said, “I’m betting all my chips,” and then put my entire stack into the pot. One of the players insisted a floorperson be called because I had not used the term “all-in.” I inquired if the English language was spoken in Chicago. The floor said that it was and allowed my bet.

I remember well the last hand I played at the Hammond Horseshoe. The game was no-limit hold’em and the blinds were $2-$5. (In the morning, there was always several no-limit cash games going. I liked the $2-$5 blinds game. I usually bought in for $300, but was quick to add another hundred after playing for a short time and not winning a pot. I had somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 when I picked up a pair of aces, one black and the other red. I opened for about $15 and got raised to $50 by the player on the button. I raised to $175 and my opponent went into deep thought. It turned out that he had two black jacks in the pocket. Something persuaded him that I did not have the big pair in the hole that I had represented, and he finally raised me back with an all-in wager, which I, of course, called. I never did ask him why he got involved for his whole stack.

Maybe he was stuck in the game and simply felt lucky. There are times when I might not have a big pair on this type of betting, but if so, I would nearly always have a couple of overcards to a pair of jacks. If you can easily be in a trap, but at best are about even-money, poker theory regarding pocket queens says to fold. With jacks, this should apply even more so. My opponent put all his money in and emerged with a jack-high club flush. I looked at my hand to see what the suit of my black ace was. My ace of spades glowered back at me, so I had to concede defeat. I quit the game and headed for home.
You know what Douglas MacArthur and The Terminator said when they temporarily had to hit the road. “I shall return,” for the former and, “I’ll be back” for the latter. Me too. ♠

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.