I happened to be in town this time for business and I was limited to 3 hours of play at Hawaiian Gardens. It was every bit as good as I remembered from my last trip in 2016, although by now the construction is done and it looks beautiful. In fact, the area around the casino that seemed blighted when I came here in 2012 now looks vibrant.
I played a $3-5 NL variant that I liked back in 2016. Every player buys in for exactly $300. I was expecting tight play on a Thursday afternoon, but rather than a full table of old timers and jackpot seekers a young crowd dominated. I don't think we ever had two people at the table over 50. The demographics brought loose play and the action made the game a blast. It was the kind of action I've seen at Aria in Vegas during the weekends, but never mid-week. Because the games get much more expensive than $300 a few of the players were just biding their time at this table waiting for a bigger game to open up. But the level of play was such that those players refused their seats to the bigger games when they came open.
The one downside on the day was a particular kind of player that is more interested in showing off than winning money. I've seen the same behavior several times in my poker career. You get a loose gambler at the table and the show-off decides to pick a fight with him to demonstrate his greater knowledge of the game. The gambler becomes discourages and leaves the table and the tone of the game immediate changes to grinder style. Later the show-off pretended to feel bad for the gambler that dropped over $1,500 in a few hours, but it was an act.
The dealers, the chip runners, and the managers did a fine job on this day. Looking at my older review I noticed that cocktail waitresses were an endangered species in 2016. What I found in 2018 is that they were moved up in classification to a threatened species.
I've increasing adopted the idea that Los Angeles is a better destination for a poker trip than Las Vegas. The rooms here are bigger, the variety of limits is larger, and the cash game play is softer. It's not going to beat Vegas for daily tournament opportunities, but if you aren't playing for free drinks then it's best place I have yet to find.