[flickr align=”right” hspace=”10″]photo:5287336624[/flickr]Puerto Rico Poker Patterns
Night three: I called the Marriott, which is supposed to have some poker tables, but it is in the Condado section of San Juan, which is about a 15 minute cab ride and we had already had that adventure today, so we stayed close to the InterContinental again. At 4 PM, I peeked into the casino and sure enough, one of the four poker tables was full. About 7 PM, we hit the casino and it took about 40 minutes to get seated at one of the three active tables. All $2-5 no limit hold ’em. Not quite as boisterous as the previous two nights. Almost sane. The 2-5 game very rarely had a pot over a few hundred dollars and only once up to about $500. By comparison, the Hollywood Casino in Indiana this summer featured $1200 pots as the rule not the exception, with some being nearly $3000. This means, with the Puerto Rico rake as high as it is, the jackpot rake, and the blinds, it is hard to make more than a hundred or two per night.
[flickr align=”right” hspace=”10″]photo:5286735009[/flickr]
I, personally, have a goal to make at least enough to pay for the trip. As expensive as Puerto Rico is; for an 8 day trip that means about winning about $400-$500 per night at poker. That simply isn’t going to happen at in San Juan. Maybe if you start at 4 PM and grind it out till 3:30 PM. I saw a few locals get up 300 to 400, but that was the exception, not the rule. (on my last night I did cash out $800 up though). Most locals sat down with a $100-$200 buy in. And then rebought as they busted out. In Vegas, at a $2-5 no limit game, you sit down with $500 – $1000 to start with and pull out more as you need it. The swings are bigger, but so is the pay day. I spent most of the third night trying to make up for an early hand where I was convinced a local was semi-bluffing a small pair. I was wrong. Aces to my pair of jacks and a busted straight draw. I made numerous mistakes in that hand, not the least of which was paying out about $200 for them. I eventually won that back and another or $100 or so, but again, it took all night. This is a grinder’s paradise. Not for the guy looking for a high impact win. The third night was everyone limping in for $5 with the occasional pre-flop raise of $30 which 6 guys would call; everyone checks the flop, then someone bets the turn. Its then down to two players. For a $200 pot MINUS $12 for the house.
Night Four: It was Thursday, the night of their big tournament and the cash table was more of the same with nearly the same cast of characters, but at the Ritz Carlton. The pots seemed slightly larger. I won an $800 pot which put me back to +$200 for the night. The tourney was $125 buy-in and rebuys with about 30-40 players in. First place was just short of $2000. The Ritz also doesn’t allow ear phones so I was bombarded by loud incessant chatter again. I must look like a stone to them, not talking all night.
Night Five: Back at the InterContinental. Being Friday, they had a smoking hot female lounge singer in the casino and she was so loud it drowned out the table chatter. Thank God! But after a few hours, also gave me a headache. Cards were cold except a for a few hands where I was at least 83-92% favorite and got sucked out on for my whole stack. The exception to that was a four way all in with me having 4 parts of a straight flush. All I needed was the 8 of spades to complete it. I got the King of spades to beat the first two players, with one and two pair respectively, but the fourth guy had my 8s to have the larger flush. That was a $200 I’ll never see again.
The rest of the week, the same pattern continued.
- InterContinental Resort has the most poker games with 2-3 tables running. Ritz has one that they can’t keep full. Marriott is an unknown. They have tables, but I don’t know how busy they are. Heard: not very.
- The language barrier is just that. Unless you are fluent in machine gun Spanish, you are going to feel like an outsider and be left out of a big part of the game, some of which would be information helpful to your bankroll.
- The dealers are not personable to tourists, meaning if you’re looking to joke with someone, two words: Rosetta Stone. (or Las vegas, depdning on your learning ability)
- You can easily play on $300-$400 per night even if you have to rebuy, with most players buying in for $100-$200.
- The games at the InterContinental keep 1-2 tables going all the time and occasionally three, but the pots are relatively small compared to other gambling destinations.
- Many locals play emotionally, letting frustration, or ego, dictate their actions, calling you down to the river when they should have let it go long ago. This should be a good thing. Unfortunately for you, they are hitting lucky and long shots seem to be the norm.
- Playing tight is okay, but they will try to play over you that way.
- The locals will play ANY two cards and hope they hit a flop.
- The local strategy is to limp or low raise pre-flop (with nearly everyone calling); check the flop if possible, wait and see if they hit any possible draws on the turn. Suggestion: hammer the turn when they miss their draw.
- It’s okay to occasionally mix it up, but forget bluffing. I repeat: FORGET BLUFFING. You get called down to the river almost every single time.
- You are not go to kill someone’s opt odds here. They don’t care about them.
- No one is very observant. They don’t look at their cards until it is their turn, but also don’t watch other players for tells. Some also give off a number of behavioral tells if you watch closely.
- There is no ‘chop’, so if everyone folds down to the blinds (almost never), they either play it out or the small concedes his $2 to the big blind.
- You can’t cross the line on the table with more chips than you are betting; a reasonable rule.
- The cocktail service is the best I have seen in any casino EVER! They even bring you complimentary grilled ham & cheese sandwiches and similar food if you ask.
- The games go about 11 hours which gives you more time than anywhere else in the Caribbean to grind out a winning session. Most places start about 9:30pm and go to 3am, but the InterContinental starts about 4pm and goes to 3:30 am or so.
There is poker in San Juan in 3 casinos, but it is $2-5 games that play like a $1-2 game. The pots don’t get very large so if you are looking to make some money, this is not the place. If you are looking to play tight, it will be boring for you, as they play any two cards. If loud, incessant Spanish chatter doesn’t bother you, you will be better off.