Went to check out the Jade Tavern Casino Malaysia room in Haymarket. They have been running full page adds in Bluff Magazine, and also have a professional web page; both of which show the place to be fairly up market. But it isn’t. There is a dingy entrance that leads to shabby stairs down to, what on first impression, looked like a left over speakeasy from gangster days, or perhaps from the seedier section of Hong Kong’s dock area.

The poker room itself had a number of old tables with worn and stained felts. There might have been a dozen tables, in a room big enough for ten. And if there was air conditioning, it wasn’t turned on. Only one table was occupied, half looked to be descendants of said gangsters and the other half triad young guns.

I looked at the table occupants, looked at the stairs that were the only exit, and decided that I would have little hope of making it up them when knives were pulled should I inadvertently put a bad beat on someone. I made an exit and headed to Star City. But maybe I would have been better off staying at the Jade Tavern.

The waiting list was only 20 deep for the $1/2 game, and I laid out a hundy on the craps table while I waited. There were a few faces I recognised from previous times, and the guy next to me also really knew what he was doing. The two shooters before me made ten and then eight rolls before crapping out, then I did my bit with 12 rolls before I hit craps. I was up $90 and that was enough. I took my chips and went to get a coffee to wait for a poker seat. No sooner had I received my coffee than another 1/2 tables was opened and I was able to take a seat with everyone with equal stacks of $80.

I was UTG in the first hand, and 9 2 was a no brainer fold. So was the 8 5 I checked and later folded in the BB and the J 4 in the SB. No big deal, I am patient. 35 hands later I had still not played a hand, having to fold three consecutive sets of blinds. I wasn’t trying to play super tight, or ignoring the possibility of bluffing. But when your best hand is J 3, and every raise of $15 pre flop is called by 4 or 5 people, it sort of rules out any of those ‘fancy plays’.

On hand 36 I was in early position, but with A K suited. I raised $10. The 35 previous folds had managed to gain me no respect at all, and I had five callers. The flop was raggy rubbish, 3 8 5 or something like it. I continue bet $25, about 1/3 of the pot, and every single person called. I guess they had all called the pre-flop bet with eights and threes. The turn was a queen. I checked. One or two people bet and someone else when all in, Whatever, it didn’t matter to me, I was done with the hand, and was down to about $40.

I limped into some hands with marginal or speculative holding, all of which I had to fold pre or post flop to raises. Probably not the best strategy, but not too expensive. Not a single hand hit, and blinds and time charges had brought my stack down to $29.

With pocket queens I made a $15 pre flop bet. Only got one caller, which was fine. The flop was all low and I was first to act. In went my last $14, which was called. My opponent had pocket twos. A two hit on the river, and that was my first $80 buy in done.

I had some slightly better hands on the next $80, mainly low pockets which I either limped in with or called an initial raise. Flops came high and I didn’t connect with anything. A couple of hands I had straight draws and the correct odds to call. Semi bluffs didn’t work and none of the draws came out. My last hand was A Q from late position. I raised three limpers to $20 and was called buy a guy on the button to my left. A queen and two low cards came on the flop, so I pushed my last $30 into the $50 pot. I was called by the button who revealed 8 4, and hit runner runner for a straight.

Third time is the charm right? I didn’t think I was playing badly, and I have gone over many of the hands in my head since then and I can’t see how I could have played them any better. I should not have limped with those marginal hands, but I easily got away from them and they didn’t contribute more than $20 to the total losses. It was when I put money in with the best hand – at worst a 3:2 favourite, and more often 2:1 or better – and got drawn out, every single time, that cost.

I had formed the opinion that two of the people at the table were collaborating, so I left that table and took a seat at an electronic table. This run of poor hands and nothing connecting had to end sometime. But it didn’t. I did win a few smallish pots, but not enough to cover the losses. Meanwhile a guy two to my right had build his stack up to $700 by playing almost every hand and hitting almost every time. Patience, I kept telling myself, pick your time and wait for hands that will hold up, just be patient. Great advice, but to no avail. Two hours later, that was the third $80 sunk.

A terrible, terrible night. Maybe I should have sat down with those young tattooed Chinese gentlemen after all.