Cruise Control

I have taken many cruises over the last ten years and every boat that I have sailed on has had an onboard casino. The latest cruise was a quick three day cruise from Los Angeles to Ensenada and back.

The casino on the ship now features Texas hold’em. I was surprised to hear an announcement for a $5-10 limit hold’em game. I could not find a poker table and after some serious looking I asked for help only to find the game being dealt on a blackjack table.

I put my name on the list and staked out a good vantage point to watch the action from. The game was dealt seven handed with the players being tightly squeezed around the blackjack table. The dealer button seemed to be moving correctly and the players were providing plenty of action. There was no drop slot so the dealer just swept the rake into the tray. There was plenty of action and the quarters were very cramped but it seemed to be a relatively active game. I was excited and wanted to get a seat but I also had a realization that we were at sea and most people had nowhere else to go.

After hours of being on the list I was given a seat into the $200 minimum buy-in game. Unfortunately, I asked about the rake and was told that the rake is 10%. Yes that meant 10% with no maximum. The game was played with five dollar chips and often I saw four or five chips taken for the rake. When you are used to playing for $3 per hand $25 seems pretty strong.

The game was wild with most players playing every hand and nobody laying down anything that had a remote chance of dragging a pot. There was no bluffing and no protecting your hand. You simply had to show over the best hand on the river. This meant every pot was a big pot and the rake was going into the rack in huge chunks.

I was pretty certain that a game of this nature could not be beaten for any substantial length of time. The rake was just too severe to be overcome. I played a couple hours and did not seem to be winning too many pots but I was showing a profit. A couple players seemed to be playing way too much and were re-buying a $1000 at a time. I was having trouble gauging how much hopelessly dead money was at the table. I set my water line at plus $500 and figured if I could get up $1000 I would cash out. I played for six hours and finally got tired with my stack around plus $700. I cashed out and ran from the table.

I never dreamed I would play in such a horrible game but there I was playing hour after hour watching $600 per hour go off the table. What a racket that cruise ship had going. We were a captive audience and there was no other game in town. They were charging what they could get away with and I was playing because I could still hold my own and even make a small profit. By the end of the night I was up $700 and the house was up $6000 and everyone else has lost money. They had fun and they tipped red chips like it was nothing.

The next time I play poker on a cruise I hope it is on a Linda Johnson sponsored Card Player Cruise. Until then I will try to keep cruising and poker locked into separate little boxes.


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