So here we are, coincidentally enough, at 8/8. I’ll explain.
Hit the Monte Carlo Las Vegas last week. It’s my favorite poker room in town, standing out against some of the other Chuck E. Cheesy rooms you’ll find nearby at the Excalibur, Luxor, and Aladdin.
The Monte Carlo has one of the more secluded, intimate settings that you’ll find on the strip, with dealers that are notably more personable than some of the purely mechanical robot types you’ll find dealing at, say, the MGM Grand. This is not to say that robotic dealers are always bad. Quite the contrary. It can be nice to have a dealer just shut up and keep the game moving at times.
The Monte Carlo poker room has a series of progressive “High Hand Jackpots” going 24/7. High Hands include all straight (and royal) flushes and four-of-a-kinds. If you hit any of these High Hands, you’re immediately awarded a jackpot on the spot, complete with roomwide recognition of your accomplishment and an official presentation of chips totaling the amount of the jackpot. The jackpot is separate from the hand’s pot itself.
How much a High Hand is worth at any given moment depends on the room’s history. There are video screens in all corners of the room, displaying a ticker of sorts, listing all the High Hands, along with their current value. The video screens will constantly be scrolling the following hands all day long:
Royal Flush (Spades)
Royal Flush (Hearts)
Royal Flush (Diamonds)
Royal Flush (Clubs)
Straight Flush (910JQK)
Straight Flush (8910JQ)
Straight Flush (78910J)
Straight Flush (678910)
Straight Flush (56789)
Straight Flush (45678)
Straight Flush (34567)
Straight Flush (23456)
Straight Flush (A2345)
Four Of A Kind (AAAA)
Four Of A Kind (KKKK)
Four Of A Kind (QQQQ)
Four Of A Kind (JJJJ)
Four Of A Kind (10101010)
Four Of A Kind (9999)
Four Of A Kind (8888)
Four Of A Kind (7777)
Four Of A Kind (6666)
Four Of A Kind (5555)
Four Of A Kind (4444)
Four Of A Kind (3333)
Four Of A Kind (2222)
After each High Hand on the screen, it’ll have a dollar value. The amount the High Hand is worth depends on how recently somebody has hit that particular hand in the Monte Carlo poker room. For instance, AAAA could pay a jackpot of $180, while KKKK would simultaneously have a jackpot of $500. Sure, the Aces beat the Kings, but the KKKK has a higher jackpot at the moment because it’s been longer since somebody’s hit ’em.
*Note: there are separate jackpots for Texas Hold ’em and Seven Card Stud.
A couple rules to be aware of here. First, you must be holding two of the cards in the High Hand. You can’t be holding AK, have the board show three more Kings, and then be eligible for the KKKK jackpot. You’d need to be holding KK. Also, there must be at least $20 in the pot for your High Hand to claim the jackpot. This is important to understand.
The jackpot factor adds a new element to the way you play the game, particularly what hole cards you’ll pay to see a flop with. While I was there, the big jackpots, all worth $500, happened to be KKKK, 5555, and 4444. What this means is that if you get a pair of fives in the hole and are faced with a raise and a re-raise before the flop, it’ll be worth it to stay in the hand due to the jackpot factor. If there was no jackpot for the 5555, then pocket fives would be the type of hand you’d fold before the flop after a raise and a re-raise.
So on my afternoon session, I’m sitting at a packed table. Ten of us. I’m in desirably late position, with the button to my left. Dealer deals the hole cards. I wait, watching what the players in early position are doing. Three people fold, two others call. Action gets to me, with the button and blind to follow (there’s only one blind at the Monte Carlo in 2/4 Hold ’em; no small blind). I look down at my cards:
4 of Hearts, 4 of Spades.
Nice. I’d been in this situation a few times over the last couple days, holding 55 and KK on a few occasions. Now I’ve just hit my first pocket fours of the trip, which, although it’s a long shot, gives me a prayer to hit a jackpot if I get some love from the board. I call, the button folds (effectively putting me in last position from here on out), the blind option checks it through. Here comes the flop:
Q 9 4
I’ve just flopped a set. Not bad! Let’s see what the table does now. The blind checks, one guy bets, followed by a couple folders. It gets to me. I’m now faced with a decision, one that’s interestingly affected by the jackpot factor. Normally I’d raise right here, protecting the trips. However, if I do so, I might not only scare the blind away, but if the original bettor is on some sort of straight draw or holding something like A9, there’s a chance he’d fold. I DON’T WANT ANYBODY TO FOLD. I want to see the next two cards, since there’s a remote chance I’d hit my fourth four. I also want the pot to grow to at least $20 in order to qualify for the jackpot if I happen to hit it. I call. The blind folds.
Heads-up between me and the guy representing a hand. I’m guessing he probably either is on a draw, or he hit a pair (Q or 9) on the flop.
The turn card comes:
Q 9 4 A
A pretty good card for me. That Ace may have helped him, giving him a very possible two pair, but there’s no flush draw on the board. The guy bets. I call. Pot’s over $20 now. My trips are looking good. Only thing he could be holding that worries me would be AA, QQ, or 99.
Q 9 4 A 4
Time stands still, and I almost have a heart attack. I just hit Quads! What are the chances of that? Well, that would be a probability of 0.000240, or 1 : 4,164 odds. Wow. I can remember noticing myself reacting by inadvertently sitting back in my chair (if my opponent was paying close attention, he’d have noticed that my gesture showed strength) and glancing up at the video screen to see how much the 4444 jackpot is worth. The guy bets, I raise, he just calls.
We turn ’em up, and the dealer shouts the announcement to the room director: “We’ve got a a High Hand at Table Twelve!!!”
The whole room applauds, the girl comes out with a rack of $500 in chips, and I’m a celebrity for an hour. Lucky me. I think it might’ve had something to do with my pinkish neon orange aloha shirt.
So remember, when you’re playing the poker rooms, always ask if there are jackpots. If there are, be aware of the terms. If you’re holding two cards that have a remote possibility of hitting something big, you’ll want to at least hang in there and see a flop. Hey, Columbus took a chance.
And by the way, please remember to tip your dealer on both your winning pots and those rare jackpots. 10%. It’s the right thing to do.
Nice…… So when can we expect to see you on FSN?
Sounds funny, but it’s not. I could actually see that happening. Anybody can learn to play poker well. It’s part of its appeal. It’s been described as “chess with luck”. Not too many other sports offer so many potential contenders. For instance, I’d love to play in the NBA, but it’s simply out of the question. I don’t have the hardware for it. Poker doesn’t have such limitations.
Poker for a living? You really just need a bankroll to get started, which puts you in a position to pay the entry fees to the big tourneys. Another method is to start playing the satellite circuit, which are smaller tournaments with reasonable buy-ins. Winning these tournaments earns you a seat in a tournament that would otherwise exceed what your current bankroll can get you into. But this takes time and dedication.
In a perfect situation, perhaps later in life, I could see myself spending a couple months in Vegas during the winter, along with the routine summer trip for the WSOP. That’d give me my fix. I wouldn’t necessarily want to play cards 365 days a year though, as I have too many other interests to indulge in. The key to life is balance.
While we’re on the subject, we headed across the street to the MGM Grand to check out the shiny brand new poker room that they just opened on March 28. Very cool, state-of-the-art, all the amenities, and gives the Bellagio something to think about. Seriously. Push a button, here comes the cocktail waitress. Not kidding. You’ll be hearing about it in the years to come. It’s going to be a fave once they iron out a few wrinkles with the dealers.