What makes a good poker room? A lot of little things


Taylor Dayne plays at The Casino @ Dania Beach Friday night.
Taylor Dayne plays at The Casino @ Dania Beach Friday night.

I have long followed the development of what started as a podcast by two poker-loving workers at the St. Petersburg Times in 2005 and has grown into a national magazine, tournament series and cruise, all under the brand “Ante Up.” Founders Scott Long and Christopher Cosenza have a good handle on what the regular poker player wants and they deliver news about what’s going on in poker rooms nationwide.

Last month, they tried something different. Rather than conduct “poker room awards” contests — when you pick winners, then you also create losers, and that doesn’t help ad revenue — they asked readers to brag about their poker room via the Twitter hashtag #MyPokerRoom.

“No criteria, no prizes. Just an honest declaration of why they love their room,” Long said.

They got me to thinking, and because I play in all 10 South Florida poker rooms, and anywhere I can on vacation. I think I can recognize the fundamentals of at least an acceptable poker room: Their rules are clear, including high-hand promotions. The dealers are pleasant. The staff keeps an eye out for cheats and colluders.

That said, here’s my ideal, ideal poker room — taking the best from what I have seen:

I am greeted as I walk into the door, and I am immediately queued up in the computer for the game I want to play (almost always $1-$2 no-limit). As I wait, I head to the cage, plunk down my $150 or so for chips and when they are slid over to me, the cage worker offers up a cheery “Good luck!”

As I wait, there’s a comfy chair nearby, with a view of how many are ahead of me on the list. If there are at least seven, I know it won’t be long. This room will have a spare dealer around to open up another table. Because having players on the sidelines means lost revenue.

But in this case, I’m joining an existing table, which the brush points me to. It’s the second one from the back, middle row. I’m glad I’m not going by just a table number.

The dealer swipes my player’s club card and announces what the requirements are to hit a high-hand bonus. “Aces full of 10s, at least $10 in the pot and both hole cards must play,” she says.

Before the first orbit, a server takes my order (hot tea, with artificial creamer and sweetener) and when she returns, she has a drink holder and a napkin as well. I place a $1 chip on her tray.

There’s a mix of super-tight players and aggressive, macho types who will pay to see every card. Sure, they might hit that flush on the river, but I will have made them pay a price well above what their odds would dictate. The tight players I exploit by betting with nothing, knowing they’re going to fold unless they have a big hand.

After a couple of hours – this is an NFL Sunday afternoon and I’ve had a clear view of at least two games – I gather my chips. I didn’t quite double up, but am easily in the black. The cage worker makes eye contact as she hands me my bills.

On my way out, I grab the card room’s monthly schedule, listing promotions and tournaments. Because after a day like this one, I know I’m coming back.

More poker

▪ The Casino @ Dania Beach has added a free poker tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. The tournament carries a $4,000 prize pool guarantee, with $2,000 to the winner. The card room also has a $6,000 guarantee tournament at 7 p.m. Mondays for $130.

▪ The Big Easy Poker Room at Mardi Gras Casino has installed 13 65-inch TV and is offering food and beverage specials during big sporting events: $1 draft, $2 well drinks and $3 for six chicken wings.

▪ Patrick Mahoney from Winona, Minn., won the Rock ’n Roll Poker Open last week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. He collected $564,227 in the event, which cost $3,500 to enter. The Championship produced a total of 760 entries, with a total prize pool of $2.4 million, easily surpassing the $2 million minimum pool the card room had guaranteed. Complete RRPO results are available at SHRPO.com.

This week

▪ Hialeah Park has guest appreciation day from 9 a.m. to midnight on Thursdays in December. Players’ club members who earn one point are eligible to receive $5, $10, or $20 free play depending on card level.

▪ Casino Miami is doling out entries for a Chevy Camaro giveaway at 2 a.m. Christmas Day (so stay up late Christmas Eve). Players who earn slot points are placed into the drawing, and every entry earned on Saturdays is multiplied by 100.

▪ Gulfstream Park's total handle on Saturday's opening day was a record $11.1 million, breaking last year’s record of $10.3 million. The track’s biggest race, the Pegasus World Cup, is set for Jan. 28. I reported an incorrect date last week.

▪ Did you love the ’90s? Taylor Dayne brings her Tell It To My Heart Tour to The Casino @ Dania Beach at 8 p.m. Saturday. Other hits are “Love Will Lead You Back” and “Prove Your Love To Me.” Tickets are $25, $500 for VIP tables of four.

▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek offers weekend football season specials: Tito’s Vodka, Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey are $5 at Nectar, level2 and Sunset Grill. Beer buckets of Miller Lite, Coors Light and Yuengling are $15 for five.

Twitter: @NickSortal