First is the Bad Beat Jackpot. Typical of most, you have to have both cards in your hand and there has to be at least 6 players at the table. You have to have Aces full of 10s (or better) beat by four of kind or better. It’s at $50,000 and is frozen there. The Bad Beat Loser gets 50%, the winner gets 25% and the remaining 25% is split up amongst ALL the PLAYERS in the entire room (everyone sitting at a Bad Beat Table – which is to say, all the tables but the 4/8 game). Say what? That’s right. Not just the ones at the table, but everyone in the room. As with all things specifically Aruban, I am not sure why that is. I suspect it is to encourage return visits by the locals, which make up about 60% – 70% of the room.
They certainly put a lot of emphasis on that jackpot, considering it hasn’t been hit in a year or two and the jackpot does not continue to grow, even though they continue to collect a separate rake for it. Someone needs to do some math on that. They do have a Backup Jackpot of about $16k that continues to grow, in case the first one gets hit and the second one gets hit immediately after that. About the same odds as being mauled by a polar bear in Aruba. Having said that, I missed it by one card. I had quad jacks and if my opponent would have had AA instead of A-10, I would be $12,500 richer now. As it was, he had 10’s full of Aces against my quads. Dammit! I could smell the cash whistle by my head like a missed bullet.
Straddle – you can straddle for ANY amount ($10 to infinity) after the big blind. Unusual. Once everyone agrees, then from then you can do a Mississippi Straddle, which according to Aruban rules, means you can straddle ANY amount from ANY position (except the blinds). Clearly, they have never actually BEEN to Mississippi.
Rake -10% or $12 maximum.I know. But what can you do? It’s THEIR island.
Underbidding for effect – while this is not a rule, it might as well be. In the real world, if you are on the river with a scary board, you can throw out a suspiciously low bet – like you are TRYING to suck a guy in. In reality, you are trying to make him think that in order to buy the pot for cheap. In Vegas, the Skilled Player will suspect a trap and avoid it it (depending on your rep and his skills, etc.), but in Aruba, a suspicious underbet is just an invitation to call. When I mentioned this to some locals, they looked confused as if the thought never occurred to them. My advice: don’t be subtle.
Of the three levels of play: [Playing – a.) Your cards b.) their cards and c.) with their heads], don’t go to Level C. The subtleties and nuances are lost here. Play straight up poker based on what they could have and more importantly, what you have. Check raises, blind checking, low raising, bluffing, buying a pot. Doesn’t matter, they will call you down if they have any hand at all. Or even if they don’t. That’s not to say they are loose. It’s just saying: many sophisticated tools in your poker toolkit will not be effective here.
Also, fairly common: Eight limpers with any two cards waiting to catch an insane flop. ANY. TWO. CARDS. Keep it in mind.
Star Wars Cantina
The one last thing I wanted to give you a heads up on is the atmosphere. Combine numerous nationalities, languages, loud music from the casino band, employees screaming in Papiamento (spanglish/dutch/South American hybrid language) and the local and tourist personalities and its a cross between the Star Wars cantina and a wild west saloon. Typically players are quiet, but last night I sat at a table with the loudest, crudest woman in New York who thought she knew more about poker than anyone else. She would lecture guys when they beat her with a Jack-9 suited. More so than her failure to adapt to the local style of play was the fact that she was just loud and obnoxious. Then you have the opposite extreme of Reggie. In between are millionaires, busboys, poker rookies, cab drivers, teachers, Canadians, New Yorkers, New Jerseyans, people who stay two months at a time. It has it all. Combine all those personalities and I expected a Wookie to sit down next to me in the 8 seat at any minute. Be prepared for a “unique” blend of personalities and an atmosphere George Lucas would love.
I don’t know whether any or all of that is a good thing or a bad thing, but you need to adjust your game appropriately to it.