It was the first time I had ever been in the bar. And it was probably the most nervous I had ever been about what I had in my pocket. It's not every day I walk into a bar carrying a thousand dollars.
The place fancied itself a sports bar. I'm not sure that a couple TV's scattered around the single room make it a "sports" bar, but people don't seem too discriminating around here. The room was sufficiently dark for a place running a poker game. The legality fell somewhere in a pretty narrow gray area. I got the impression that the bar only hosted the game and that the dealers pocketed the rake.
By the time I got there, 10 names were already on the list. Since it was my first time, I didn't know how long I'd have to wait. At about 7pm, they slid a poker table out from a back room and set it up. Player's names were called and chips were sold.
I stood by the bar, nervously sipping a Bud Light. It was a half hour later when they slid another table out from the back. This time I got a seat. It was a $1/$2 NL game with no max buy in. Everyone else was buying in for around $200. I bought in for $500. I spent the next three hours robbing college kids of daddy's money while wondering if I would be robbed or arrested before the night was over.
I left with my $700 profit and, despite deciding it was one of the softest games I'd ever seen, I vowed to never return.
Mere weeks later, the local police department began breaking up bar room games. The poker boom was going bust. Or so some would say...
That's the only time I've ever had to nervously watch the door during a poker session in Louisiana. The reason is simple. I have a half dozen legal poker rooms with games and tournaments I love to play within an hour or so drive.
There's the Coushatta Casino (my personal favorite), the Paragon Casino, Cypress Bayou Casino, Harrah's New Orleans, Isle of Capri Casino and Boomtown Casino and that doesn't even include the two poker rooms in Shreveport or the next poker room currently in discussion for Baton Rouge.
With the homegrown Louisiana players and additional flood of players from the Houston area seeking legal poker, the game is thriving in Louisiana. I can get a $2/$5 NL game at any time of day or night. On some days, they're even spreading the $5/$10 NLHE/PLO8. And you never have to worry about a gun to your head or a SWAT team invasion. I'd much rather save my fear for what monster my opponent may be holding.
On a completely unrelated note, for those who got this far, I wanted to let everyone know that I'm a long shot for Vegas. A long shot at best. As most of you know, I'm engaged, and the wedding is now just a few months away (Januray to be exact). So barring some kind of miracle (or a hell of a wedding gift!), the trip just isn't practical right now. Either way, I'm sure everyone who goes will have a blast, I'm just sorry I'll miss it.