So, the last time I went to a Holland Casino to play poker was months and months ago in Amsterdam and I lost my shirt, then committed the cardinal sin of hitting the ATM for another shirt and losing that one as well.

That’s what you get when you go to the one place in the whole city where they have poker. You play against the best ten players in all of Amsterdam and, playing at 10-20, you lose your shirt.

But recently I found out from my Den Haag poker group that they have Texas Hold ‘Em at the Rotterdam casino. And they have 5-10 (lower limit bets = less shirt losing [theoretically]). Well, with Ann gone, and my self-discipline never that strong to begin with, I hopped on the train and went to check out these wild rumors of poker debauchery.

I had been to the Rotterdam Holland Casino once before on a business trip and found it to be depressingly stuffy, modernistic, smoky, and haughty. It’s not a very big place, and to accomodate all the people packed into the confining rooms they do this weird thing where they let other people place bets underneath the eight or nine people who actually have seats. So what you are doing is putting your money down on the person who looks least likely to hit on fifteen or sixteen. As an American, bred to be the master of my own fate, you can imagine the horror this inspired in me. I lost my 100 Euros and left swearing never to return.

“Uh, hi. I have a membership card, but I lost my shirt in Amsterdam… well, it’s a long story, but I should be in your system.”

The woman looked me up and finding me in her system was like watching the heroin slide through the syringe and into my bloodstream. She was Asian, and was sporting that Buddha-like smile that said “welcome back suckah” and “we are so pleased to see you again” at the same time. And… cue rush of adrenaline.

So there indeed are two tables for Hold Em, a 5-10 and a 10-20. I showed up at 7:10 to sign up for the list. They start the poker nightly at 8pm. See here for the explanation on this. When I sauntered up to the guy with the clipboard there were already 7 players signed up. Wow.

The poker started around 8:10 and I played extremely tight. Not wishing a repeat of the shirt-losing (at least not within the first hour) and to get a feel for the players at the table. It was a surprisingly even mix of medium-experienced players. There were some more experienced players, but they all got up to duke it out on the 10-20 table when that opened. At one point we were playing with six (pretty short-handed), and that was fun (since you don’t need to have as good a hand to stay in), but most of the time we had between eight and ten players.

I just had it together last night. No other way to put it. I threw away weak hands before the flop. I saw a small amount of flops on the cheap when I had weak hands but was a blind, and bet hard when I had anything. At a limit game there’s really not that much bluffing and I wasn’t too concerned about being played by anyone at this table. I won a few big hands an hour, lost only two memorable hands, and limited my stupid mistakes to just the one time when I went all the way to the showdown, the other guy turned over his cards, and I threw mine away even though I had a better hand simply because I didn’t take the time to examine the board.

I started with 200. Although I had 480 at one point, I ended the night at 402. Not bad. It’s as if someone paid me 50 tax-free Euros an hour to play games for four hours. Now if only I could get the same deal from my PlayStation.

I am forcing myself to stay at home tonight and NOT go back, even though as I write this there is still enough time to jump on the bike and catch a train to get to the casino in time to get on the list.

Hope you’re proud honey.

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