Thursday, January 13, 2005

Cruise Report: Day 1

What do jellyfish stings, over-crowded seating, and being silly till 3am get you? One amazingly enjoyable Cardplayer Cruise that's what. This was our first cruise ever and it was one helluva good time. I have decided that I could live as a passenger on a cruise ship for the rest of my life.

It all started innocently enough as we awoke at 4am on Saturday the 4th to go to the airport. Ofcourse we didn't finish packing until 1am so the entire time in the air was spent sleeping. Upon arrival the chilly, meaning colder than it was in Kansas City when we left, San Diego air was quite a surprise. Our cab ride to the pier was a short 10 minutes and after clumsily working our way through the preboarding process we were on board at 11:30am. Since the stateroom, ie. closet doubling as sleeping quarters, wouldn't be ready until 1pm we were left to explore the ship. I wouldn't describe the ship as a floating city as we were on a smaller vessel that only held 1,300 passengers, but it was definitely a floating 5-star hotel. The MS Ryndam had all the bases covered with bars, nightclubs, theater, casino, pools, and more.

After getting settled into the room we left for the introductory cocktail party being hosted by Cardplayer. As previously agreed upon my wife and I wore our polo shirts so we could find our group and meet everyone. Cardplayer Cruises provided us with some nice welcome aboard gifts including a t-shirt, a nametag/money holder to wear around your neck, and a small waterproof container to hold items while on shore excursions. Each item was very useful during the trip. The actual Cardplayer Cruise constituent numbered around 400 of the overall 1,300 passengers on board. The PokerSourceOnline group comprised of the company owners Mike and Peter as well as Peter's dad Steve and grandfather Nelson. The "players" were myself, DuggleBogey and his wife, Krager, John, and David along with his girlfriend.

Linda Johnson of CardPlayer and WPT fame gave a brief talk about what to expect on the cruise and informed us that hold 'em and omaha would be spread with limits ranging from 2/4 up to 10/20. We were also told that they would accommodate the players and spread any other games wanted but I found out later on that this was not the case.

The ship left port during the cocktail party and afterwards we headed straight to dinner. Since all members of the poker cruise were given the same dining time we were able to eat dinner every night with the PokerSourceOnline group. This proved to be a most entertaining and fun group of people. I truly hope we can all stay in touch in the future.

I don't remember the specifics of most meals on board but the food was generally very good and I remember eating steak for most of them. It in fact became quite a topic of conversation towards the end of the trip as some people were amazed at just how much steak I could eat in a weeks time.

I had no intention of playing cards on the first night but with the wifes permission I ventured to the card room after taking in a comedy show at the ships Vermeer Lounge. The wait list was surprisingly small but the room was jam packed. The "board" was a dry erase board on an easel located at the entrance to the converted conference room, now poker room. I would have thought the poker room would be part of the ships casino but apparently they don't play poker in ship's casinos. You learn something new every day. The Poker room itself wasn't all that big and I didn't get an accurate count of the tables crammed into the room, but if memory serves it was around 19 with 10 seats each. This led to very crowded conditions. You couldn't move in your seat without hitting the person next to you or behind you. My 10 minute wait for a seat was eased by the buffet style spread of snacks that was laid out whenever the card room was open. We were truly treated very well.

Much to my surprise a majority of the players could be classified in the senior citizen category. Since my bankroll for the cruise was going to limit my play to mostly 2-4 I found myself at tables full of mostly older women during daytime and evening hours. This didn't turn out to be as bad as it may sound since most were very friendly and very weak. My game required no adjustment as the tables played very similar to the Party Poker tables I was used to. This meant several callers preflop and action to the end. Most players paid no attention to your play and those that did were usually vocal which really helped out as the week went on.

After displacing half the players in the room just to get to my seat, I sat down very nervously at my first real live poker table. I didn't want to look like an idiot, I'd save that for later, so I was very quiet and tried to stay below the radar on my first night. I did a lot of folding for most of it and was going to finish down about $20 when I found a pair of K's staring at me. My raise sent no one out and others decided to bump it up. We were capped preflop with 4 players and the flop paired the board with a blank. This brought another flurry of betting and we only lost one player. The turn was much more subdued as it was only one bet each. The river brought me a third K for the full house and after capping the river I found that I had dealt out my first bad beat of the cruise as one player had pocket A's and the other had trips. I folded a few more times and decided to call it a night with a profit of $23.

I know $23 is nothing to get excited over but this was my first time playing live in a poker room environment and I had survived. Not only survived but learned a lot. As my week of playing would go on I'd learn that playing live is actually much easier than playing online. Opponents will give away so much and if you press the right buttons without them knowing it, you can really increase your advantage. You lose these nuances online because there isn't that human connection. I walked away with a much greater appreciation, and yearning, for the live game.

I've scribbled on long enough about day one. Day two to come....