I got my start playing poker at the Oaks Card Club in Emeryville, CA. I know now that it's a medium to small poker room (it has about 25 tables), but when I was 21 it seemed enormous and intimidating to say the least.
The games there are a little small for me now, and playing one game at a time is more than a little slow from my perspective. But about every six months my friend Jake and I go in to have a few drinks and have a good time. Yesterday, was one of those days.
The main reason I started going to the Oaks was they were the only place in town that had a $1/$2 hold'em game (at all of the other clubs the smallest game was $3/$6). We're not talking $1/$2 blinds no limit here. This was 2001, two years before Chris Moneymaker and the poker boom, so everything was fixed limit. This was a game where you could get in for $10 and most people had $20-$30 in front of them. It still terrified me because I didn't have any money.
In those days the big game was $15/$30 and it was tough. By the time I'd moved my way up to $3/$6 I knew all of the $15/$30 regulars. They didn't know me, but I watched with envy and awe as they swapped massive piles of yellow $5 chips back on table 18. I thought someday I'd somehow come up with $500 I could afford to lose and take a shot against those guys. Of course I eventually made it into that game, took my lumps at first, but eventually beat it to death for a little while and then moved on.
While I might be a little bored $15/$30 somewhere else, I get a kick out of playing at the Oaks. The place looks exactly the same, the game is played at the same table in the same spot, and while there are plenty of new faces, there are still many of the same employees and players. The difference is instead of standing on the rail in awe, I'm in the game and I'm far and away the best player. It's like going back to high school and all of a sudden being the most popular person or the stud quarterback or the valedictorian.
While a 10 handed $15/$30 doesn't have the pace, risk or stakes of some of the games I play in, it's not chump change. Everyone at the table had between $500 and $1,000 in front of them when I sat down and there was a lot of action. After 5 hours I won $900, 4 snifters of Grand Mariner, 4 beers, one Redbull and Vodka (I was buying drinks for my self and Jake out of my stack), an order of Chicken Satay and a grilled cheese sandwich (I'll call your Bud draft and raise you a grilled cheese!).
Even though Jake didn't do as well I did, we still had a great time and I always enjoy taking the walk down memory lane that I go on whenever I go to the Oaks.
Today it's back to Pokerstars. I'm going to take my stadard shot at a few $215 buy-in tournaments and do my best to beatdown the weekend warriors in the cash games.