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Hollywood Home Games

I'm back in LA for some more meetings. This time I get invited to a couple of the infamous Hollywood home games. If you haven't played in one of these, let me share a bit of how this works…or at least how it worked for me.

I receive a text with an address. I arrive at the address and it's a hamburger stand. A few minutes after I arrive, my phone rings. "Look across the street", I hear from the caller. I look across to another burger stand and see someone waving in my direction. Am I that identifiable in this omnipresent black hat I wear?

I wander across the street and spend some time getting to know each other before I'm escorted to a nearby building. We clear security at the front door and ascend the stairs. What I encounter there looks straight off the set of High Stakes Poker on Game Show Network. There's a room with a large, custom-made poker table in the middle. Around the room are several large, flat-screen TVs playing rebroadcasts of poker programs. There is a nice spread of fruit, cheese and wine. The room has a nice lounge area with several poker publications in it. From one of the attached room a gorgeous Russian girl appears and asks if I'd like a drink. Being a teetotaler, I ask for water. From another attached room an equally gorgeous European girl appears with a bottled water for me.

The players are milling around, buying in and getting ready to take to the felt. Average buy-in for this game is $1,000. The players consist of a couple of tough looking Russians, an Armenian, an Israeli and a couple Americans. One of the players is Pete Lawson, who readers may recognize from a couple of WPT final tables. Another player is Internet phenom Matt Vengrin. The game gets underway and the $5/10 blinds help move the action along nicely. There are designated dealers who, from what I can tell, do this fulltime. The guy dealing first lives at this location and manages the place.

Before too long, a dinner spread arrives and players graze on a variety of food between hands. The girls are busy fetching drinks and giving massages. The Russian girl gives a great massage, while my buddy – who is a bit intimidated by the stakes – enjoys a massage from the European girl from my winnings so far. I manage to give back half my winnings when I don't push a guy off A/K on the turn when I'm holding 10/10 against a board of 9/8/3/3…he hits a king on the river and I pay off his value bet. I am consoled by the European girl circulating with warm cookies.

The next night I take a young lady friend of mine to another game and the action is pretty juicy. This night there is a middle-aged Hungarian woman who has assembled an amazing selection of Russian delicacies. As we feast on her culinary skills, the cards are in the air. Several of the players are the same as the previous night. A different Russian girl is circulating, getting drinks and giving massages. I can only stay a few hours, as my friend is anxious to get back to the hotel.

In this type of game you need to declare your intention to cash out about 30 minutes before you actually do. At midnight I tell the host I need to cash out at 12:30. At 12:27, I limp under the gun with Q/2 of hearts. Three other players limp before the big blind raises to $75. This guy had a fairly small range based on my observation, but – it's my last hand so I call – the other players fold so I'm heads up. The flop comes Q/8/2. The big blind bets $120 and I raise to $300 (with about $700 behind). The big blind calls. The king of hearts comes on the turn. I still have two pair and there are two hearts on the board. The big blind goes all in and I have him covered by about $50. I consider his possible hands. I'm really only worried about KK or QQ, but I'm not sure why he'd push if he had this. More likely was A/K and he wanted to end things here. It was possible, but unlikely, he has K/Q. Even if I was beat, I still had the flush redraw. I called. He showed A/K. My hand held up and I won a pot of ~$2,000.

When I stood up to leave, he muttered something in Russian, but the host backed me up that I had declared my intention to leave in advance and I was granted the cash out. The big blind was still muttering about my loose pre flop call, but that's poker. Deal with it or find another hobby.

It's time for bed. I'm off to Las Vegas to meet with the team from the World Series of Poker.

Take time to Tilt,

John

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