Until yesterday, I hadn't played poker at Wheeling Island since June 2010. The following month, table games launched at Rivers and The Meadows, and as a Pittsburgh resident, I finally had poker in my own backyard. Still, I didn't think it would take me this long to get back to Wheeling Island. I was born in West Virginia's northern panhandle and still have family and friends, many of whom play poker, in that area. At some point, the stars should have aligned for a trip to that casino.
Two and a half years passed and it never happened, though. Until Sunday, that is, when I had to make a rare trip to Wheeling for an unrelated matter and talked my father into joining me for a short session at Wheeling Island. I was curious to see it, as I hadn't played there since before they shuttered their old downstairs poker room (which originally featured 20 tables) and opened a smaller, nine-table room on the casino floor early last year.
The new room is actually nicer than I thought it would be. And to be fair, it's not a "room," but a corner section of the casino floor that's been partially walled off on one side to make it feel like its own separate entity. The place is surrounded by televisions, half of which were devoted to sports broadcasts while the other half aired simulcast racing while I was there. There are two automated betting machines in the room for anyone who wants to bet on the races and a leather couch near the front for waiting players or visitors. The room is small but plenty big enough to meet the needs of Wheeling Island, which lost a huge chunk of their players when the Pittsburgh poker rooms opened for business.
My father and I got there about 12:30 p.m. There was only one $2/4 limit table going, but we brought the wait list up to seven for a $1/2 NLHE table, which was soon launched. By the time we left two hours later, two additionally no-limit tables were running.
The table was extremely lax. I'm pretty sure three players were there solely to try and hit the bad beat jackpot, which hasn't gone off in a year and is up to nearly $150,000. They mostly folded and were easy to play against when they were in a hand. Still I found myself down early thanks to being extremely card dead. I also got a little aggressive with A-8 when a flop came 8-7-3 and I ended up paying off a guy who had called my flop bet with K-Q and hit a king on the turn.
Then, with my stack down to $85 from it's original $200, this happened: One limper in front of me at a limp-heavy table, and I threw my two bucks in from mid-position with 5♦-7♦. The button came along too, and the big blind checked. Four to the flop which came 4♣-6♥-8♠. Well, hello nuts.
Big blind checked, and the woman sitting second bet $7. I smooth-called, figuring I'd string her along a bit and maybe pick up some more close-to-dead money. Plus, if somebody else smacked this flop, I assumed I'd hear about it. Sure enough, the older gentleman on the button raised to $17. The guy in the big blind called. The woman folded. The raise was light, but the guy wasn't a big bettor, so I figured it could still represent a big hand -- two pair or a set. Well, thanks to my slow-play, I had a decent little pot built and wanted to make anyone drawing against me pay from this point out. So I shoved all-in for my last $76. The original raiser, who had me covered, mumbled disgustedly under his breath, like he knew bad things were about to happen, but he almost immediately announced call. The big blind folded.
"You flop a straight?" he asked.
"I did," I said, and rolled over my cards.
He flipped over his set of fours and dropped back in his chair, cursing at the ceiling. Neither the turn nor the river paired the board, and my straight held. The man offered no acknowledgement my way. No "good hand" or knock on the table. He only muttered, "How is that even possible?" to the guy next to him and then shot me a glare. I just pulled my pot in -- which put me back at about even -- and moved on to the next hand.
Before long, Mr. Grumpy had lost his stack completely (bitching about his bad luck the whole time) and had rebought for $150. Eventually, we dueled again. Another limped pot, and I was holding A♦-7♥ with position on everyone. The flop: 8♦-7♦-4♦. He and the other players in the hand checked, and I bet $7. He was the only caller. Turn came a blank. Check, check. The river was the 6♦. Great card for me, though it did mean I'd lose to a straight flush if he held the 5♦. He led out for $10, and I decided now was not the time to fear the one card that could beat me. I needed to get paid a little on this hand. I raised it up to $25.
"Goddamn unbelievable," he said and threw in the extra $15. "You got there, huh?"
He grabbed his cards and violently threw them face up: K♦-3♦. Mr. Grumpy had flopped a flush and slow-played it all the way to his demise. When I turned over my hand, he unloaded again, yelling about how all I did was catch cards on him all afternoon long.
"Should have raised all-in on the flop," I told him. "I would have folded." He shot me another glare and went back to his mutterings.
Ahh, Wheeling Island. You haven't changed a bit.