Imagine driving down whichever side of the road you normally do, then parking your car, eating at a nice restaurant, and then when you get back into your car, street signs, lights, everything is on the opposite side of the road and you now have to drive on that opposite side of the road!
With your head on a swivel, you carefully navigate this strange scenario, drive yourself home, and go to sleep. The next morning you awaken, get ready for work, and head out. The roads have returned to normal and you’re back driving on the side of the road you’re used to.
Was that some weird dream or had something been slipped into the wine with dinner?
No, this was the closest analogy I could come up with to describe my day of poker at Casino Gran Via during the WPT Prime Madrid festivities. Allow me to explain…
Madrid Poker: Some Slight Differences and One Big One
My day started with the 5 pm satellite into the WPT Prime Madrid Championship event. Played in the casino’s tournament poker area, approximately 50 players ponied up €200 each for a shot at a seat into the €1,100 Championship Event. My day unfortunately ended quickly as just after the first break my stack disappeared and it was off to the cash game room.
I had just left that dinner and hopped into the car.
I sat down at the table and saw the button two seats to my right. The dealer began shuffling and I let him know that I’d take the big blind to begin my session.
While Spanish is obviously the predominant language spoken at the tables, the dealer tells me “No, no” and points to the two players to his right, and to the right of the button. The cutoff and hijack each had a €5 chip in the center of the table. The dealer made a circular motion with his finger indicating that action moved in the opposite direction as we’re all used to.
I was about to drive down the opposite side of the road. Action moves COUNTER-clockwise in Madrid cash games!
I already had to make sure I didn’t commit any accidental betting errors because of the green €50 chips that came with my red €5 chips in my €300 starting stack. Now I had to worry about the action moving around backwards?! Good thing I didn’t have wine with that metaphorical dinner!
After dragging a couple of small pots, I had earned some €10 chips to go along with my fives, fifties, and ones. Players with larger stacks also had one hundred and five hundred value chips. That’s a lot of different chips in play for a €2/5 game. But we’re figuring it out.
The Casino Gran Via Poker Room
So, aside from some wacky chip denominations and everything moving backwards in the cash game, how is the Casino Gran Via for poker? Fantastic. One of my favorite rooms in Europe and a solid top 10 for the world! And I’ve played in a lot of poker rooms.
As mentioned, with WPT Prime in town, cash games were housed in their usual spot, a long, rectangular 10-table room with curtained windows, cool-looking fabric chandeliers, and large well-spaced tables in a line from one end of the room to the other. A bar for players sits at the far end of the room, while the registration desk is at the end nearest to the entryway to the room. Tournament tables filled the two adjacent rooms, one of which also contained a bar for players to access. Three beautiful private rooms are also available for high-stakes games upon request.
I had a short 15-minute wait for my seat as the room was packed with a pair of €1/3, four €2/5, a single €5/10, and a high stakes No-Limit Hold’em game being spread, along with a couple of €2/5 Pot-Limit Omaha games.
The casino exudes class, glamour, and tradition throughout (including a wall honoring members of the Spanish Poker Hall of Fame), and that’s reflected in the attire of the dealers who wear black vests over white dress shirts with black bow ties. No t-shirts or polos here. This is a good-lookin’ bunch of card pitchers.
Not only do they look good, but every dealer that came to my tables throughout the day matched their quality in appearance with the quality of how they did their job. The cash game moved along well and there wasn’t a single issue I could mention be it dealer or player-related.
In the satellite, there was some concern from players about table balance, but these issues were quickly addressed to floor staff who promptly filled the seats.
Service staff was readily available as well to take drink orders and I never saw a player complain about waiting too long to order or to receive their order. I had the extra bonus during my cash session of being at a table near the bar, so flagging down a server with a smile and a wave was an added privilege for me.
A trio of massage therapists was also making their rounds in the room with their services coming at a cost of €1.50 per minute, which converted to USD is about $1.59, making for a decent little discount for US players used to paying $2/min that need a bit of work at the table.
The Poker Session Itself
What’s this about driving normally, then on the other side of the road, and then normally again? Well, let me explain.
I mentioned the satellite which went south, leading me to cross the road and drive in the opposite direction through the cash game streets. Driving on the other side of the road seemed to appeal to me, or at least I was fortunate enough not to crash into any trees, though I thought I might have early on.
I three-bet an early position €15 open on the button to €45 with QQ and got a call from the original raiser to see a 10-high rainbow board. Following a check and my €50 C-bet (got to toss in one of them green chips!), my opponent check-jams for my roughly €200 remaining.
I didn’t buy in a bit short to fold an overpair in this situation, but thoughts of sets of tens or slow-played AA or KK are running through my head. I call, the board runs out with a 6 and K and my opponent reveals… JJ!
My queens hold up and I have a quick double-up and a 100+ BB stack to work with.
Shortly after that, I earn a couple more small pots, to cross €700, followed by catching a short-stacked player’s bluff after he raised to €20 from the button on my big blind with me holding KQo. He Cbets €10 from his €100 stack on an AAQ board, then checks back the 7x turn. On the river 4x, he just jams after I check. I call, he just mucks his hand, and I’m over €800.
I win a couple more small pots after that to bring my total to €900 when I notice that there was one more satellite into the WPT Prime Championship about to start.
— Mike Patrick (@MikePatrick98) September 29, 2023
After just getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road it was time to get back on the normal side. That’s right, folks: clockwise for tournaments and counterclockwise for cash games… ay dios mio!
The return to a clockwise rotation actually took a few hands to get used to again, but an early flurry of big pots going my way as I held pocket AA, KK, and AK certainly helped, rocketing me up to four 10,000 chip starting stacks by the first break.
My stack didn’t fluctuate much from that point, getting no higher than 60,000 and no lower than 30,000, which was enough to finish in the final 11 of 70 to earn my way into Day 1C of the WPT Prime Madrid Championship, which I’ll be heading off to as soon as I send this off to publish!
A room that you have a good session in will always get a little extra love from a poker player, and I’ll certainly echo that as I’m very happy with the results of my session (and hopefully what’s to come in the Championship event).
But everything I experienced playing at Casino Gran Via has been top-notch, and I can highly recommend playing in this immaculate property and its outstanding poker room. And if things don’t go as well as this, well, there are a multitude of options to check out away from the casino as well!