Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Musical Chairs

Seat selection. I've talked about it a few times before, and in general I think most people who read this blog understand my point of view and either agree, disagree, or don't really care because they don't play much poker. That's all well and good, as this post isn't really about seat selection in the classical sense. Typically the way a player is presented with a seat selection question is very simple. His game is full, somebody leaves, and he has the choice of moving to the new seat if he wants. Now of course sometimes it's a bit more complicated, as with a Zeus Seat decision, but in general your seat selection problems are binary, or at the very worst true/false/maybe. In one specific situation, however, choosing a seat becomes drastically more complicated.

The Oaks 30/60 game is pre-scheduled twice a week. By pre-scheduled, I simply mean that it will be started at a set time, with names called from a sign-up list that is available one week in advance. Specifically on Tuesdays and Fridays at 1pm the board calls down the names from the sign up sheet, and the first ten players to respond get seats. If there is enough interest (which has been seldom of late), a second game is started, but in general if you don't get a seat in the first game you're SOL. Since the game is pre-scheduled and everyone starts at the same time, it is common for the same 10 players to fill the seats for 3 or more hours, without a single person picking up. If you think about it this should be pretty obvious, but it kind of shocked me the first few times I played.

So how does this all play out? In some pre-scheduled games (such as Bay 101 80/160 mandatory straddle day, or at Ocean's in San Diego), you can sign up on the board and lock up a specific seat. Not so at the Oaks. If you're in the top ten names you are allowed to physically lock up a seat upon your arrival at the casino. This can be done with all manner of casino paraphernalia, the most common of which tends to be chips or card protectors. However, some people use napkins, slips of paper with their names on them, or random other items from their pockets such as car keys or a cell phone. I often end up using my headphones. Remember that the game is called down at exactly 1pm, at which time there are typically 7 or 8 people sitting at the table (those who were in the top ten) and 3-5 others lurking around wondering if they are going to get one of the remaining seats. My seat selection problem occurs 5 to 10 minutes before this, and it is without a doubt one of the most complex situations I face in my average day. Here's how it goes down.

Upon my arrival at the Oaks around 12:40 or so (assuming there was no traffic) I check the list for the 30/60 game and note who's in the top 10. I try to remember this as best I can, but of course this is tough to do. Ideally I could remember the first 15 names in order, but that's just not gonna happen. I walk over to table 15 (the game is always spread there) and check out the scene. Usually at this point there will be two people sitting at the table chatting (sometimes there are three, and other timers just one talking to himself), and my goal is to decipher the following bits of information:

1. Which players have locked up which seats.
2. Which players are actually in the building.

There are three other major pieces of information that I must consider before I select my seat from the 6-7 seats that are likely still available.

3. Certain players like certain seats. Mrs. Davis, for example, always sits in seat 4. Sitting there would be blasphemy. Dave F prefers seat 1, but taking it from him would be fine.

4. Certain players may base their choice (or even change it) based on where I sit. The universal consensus seems to be that having me on your left is bad, as I raise way too much.

5. The Oaks has 10 handed tables, and seats 2,3,8 and 9 are far more comfortable than any other seats at the table. It's not even close.

An example is in order. I walk up to the game and see a chip in seat 2, a scrap of paper in seat 4, another chip in seat 5, some car keys and a jacket in seat 7, and another chip in seat 9. On my way in I saw Mrs. Davis and Dave F, and I can see Abbey's wife in the pan game. Ben is talking to a floor man, and Steven and Charles are in the 15/30 game. The low ball game is going, and Jack, Ray, and Paul are all playing in it. I try to ask my brain if Steven and Charles are in the top ten, and it responds with a very fuzzy "no". I haven't seen Stan or Marty, and I ask my brain if it saw either of them on the list. It responds "yes" in a general sense and I assume that one of them has locked up the 5 (they like 5 and 6). Mrs. Davis must be locked in the 4, and it's pretty safe to assume Abbey is in the 9, as it's his favorite seat, and while I haven't seen him his wife is in the pan game. This presents a problem with the 10 seat as Abbey is likely to actually take chips out of your stack to either play or tip a waitress/busser. Last time he and I went red/black 3 hands in a row, but he quit down love 3 (go black). The next thing I try to figure out is who is likely to fill in the remaining seats. Are any of the lowball guys on the list? "No" my brain responds. OK, is Nick here? What about EBX? Shit, EBX is definitely in the 7, that's his jacket. OK, so Stan, Marty, and EBX have the 5,6,and 7 locked. Those guys are tight so I don't want the 8, even though it's my favorite seat at the table, and as usual Mrs. Davis has the best seat. Nice hand Mrs. D, nice hand. Well, it's down to this....who's in the 2 seat? If it's Dave F my decision is to take the 1, even though it's my least favorite seat at the table. Wait, what's that? 2 is locked up for Ben? Yikes. Now what do I do? I guess I'll sit between Ben and Mrs. D, because at least I'll have the 3 and that's on the comfy list. So I lock up my seat and 10 seconds later Ben walks over, picks up his chip, and moves it to the 6, which I had penciled in for Marty or Stan but wasn't actually locked up (I didn't take it just kind of out of common courtesy). Now I'm in a conundrum, as there are 3 open seats all to my immediate right and I have a sense that they are are going to be filled by good players, as my brain is telling me that the lurkers/people on the list that aren't seated are pretty good. I contemplate a move but more often than not opt for a trip to the bathroom and a hands off approach. Once again the seat selection problem has defeated me.

The game is called down and Dave F and Jose (where the fuck did Jose come from? He's not on the list....he wasn't here 5 minutes ago. What's going on?) fill the 1 and 2, with Stan showing up a bit perturbed that Ben stole is 6 seat and sitting in the 10. We draw for the button and away we go. Nobody moves for 3 hours, and I invariably sit there wishing I had a better seat, yet unsure of exactly which seat that would be. I resolve to be happy that I'm on a corner and order some lunch, and can't help but think there must be a better way.


hdyoum said...

I love your post about the Oaks. I haven't been there in a while, but this makes me nostalgic and teary-eyed for the motley crew that you speak of.

Wacky said...

You are making my head spin!

dlgilbert4 said...

I'm really good at musical chairs.

Not as good as I am at cakewalks, though. :)

Tom said...

Two words: iPhone. App.

Oren said...

Nice post!
I guess one way is to get there relatively early, lock up a random seat and then when there are 6-7 players have the option to move. This way you increase your options.

Regarding more comfortable seats: I will always put edge over comfort.