View from the balcony
Despite what the modern James Bond movies might have you believe, I am here to tell you, my faithful friends that there is NO SUCH THING as poker in Montenegro. This is at least my third trip here, one of my very favorite holiday destinations. The last two times I visited the casinos in both Sveti Stefan and Bar– tried to get into poker tournaments, but there were never enough players to complete even one table. At those times, I usually only played tournaments in casinos, and I wasn’t deep pocketed enough to play cash game.
This time, tonight I was prepared for any eventuality. All of the billboards and posters around town for the Avala Casino here in Budva advertised itself as the place to be for poker, etc. Not only that, but the casino is a 7 minute walk from the humble “Sobe” or apartment where my gal and I are staying– and being on holiday here for only one week, she found it in her sweet little heart to grant me one night of poker on this trip.
On Tuesday, we went in to scope out the action the day before, and among myself, the floorman, the conciergette and my attorney– using a mish-mash of English, German, Russian, Serbian and probably even a little Spanish thrown in just to keep it weird, we divined without a shadow of a doubt that there would be a tournament on Wednesday night starting at 21:00… and there was cash game every night starting at 22:00.
So armed with a nasty tourist raccoon-eyes sunburn, a loud Hawaiian shirt and a pocket full o’ Euros, (Montenegro’s official currency IS the Euro, even though they ain’t EU yet), I sauntered through the boom-boom tourist-filled summer night streets, into the air-conditioned gambling hall at 10 minutes to 21:00, ready for the tournament action, and/or cash game thereafter.
Ignoring my previous experiences, and ever the optimist, I still feigned disappointment when they informed me there WAS no tournament tonight. Nevertheless, I asked if there would be cash game, and they assured me that by 22:00 there would be cash game. Now this is where holiday casinos getcha… you wait around for players to show up, and once you get bored or ancy, you start throwing coins in machines or start buying chips for a few rounds of blackjack to kill the time.
Well, think what you want about your humble narrator here, but this aint my first barbecue, and I’ve long since lost the urge to gamble with money. I’ll play skill games for cash anytime, anywhere– but I DO NOT play games against THE HOUSE. If I have one rule in gaming it is that, and that alone. That is the fundamental difference between Poker and other casino games like roulette, craps, blackjack or slots. In those games, you are playing against the croupier, the slot machines or the tumbling ball or dice. In those games, the odds are always mathematically stacked in favor of the house. That’s how those games function, that’s how the house makes money. Poker on the other hand, is a game played between players only. The house provides the table, the seats, the cards, the chips and the dealer– the dealer and/or the house do not play. In tournaments, a small fee is payed by each registered player, and the winners usually tip the dealer pool well when cashing out. In poker cash games, the dealer takes a ‘rake’ or a percentage of each pot over a certain amount, usually 5%. The house makes their money from the winnings of the players, and the only advantage one player has over another is his abilities and his/her BALLS.
So needless to say, I didn’t remain in the casino to get tantalized by the buzzing bells and boring bimbos– I went to the lobby of this overpriced resort and played Scopa on my iPhone for about 45 minutes. I went back down there to see how many players were lurking by the machines waiting for sunburned fish like me to stumble in for a few drunken hands of Texas Hold ‘Em — and how many were there now by 21:45? You guessed it: Zippity-Doo-Dah. Nil.
I couldn’t be bothered to wait around for another hour for more disappointment, so I headed back to the little bungalow to join my sweetheart and earn extra boy-friend points by blowing that popsicle stand to come hang with her.
Poker just wasn’t in the cards… and I was still the big winner after all!