What Makes a Good Poker Room?

Twin River Casino Poker Room

Poker Room at Twin River Casino, Lincoln, RI.

I’m not much of a poker player.  I love home games, dealer’s choice, low limit games – just as long as the most I can lose would be equal to the cost of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. It’s the casino poker room that we write about today.

Five New England casinos have poker rooms. By the end of 2019, Encore Boston Harbor will be added to the mix. . For information about games, tournament, and general info, check out the following links:

Hollywood Poker Room, Bangor ME

Twin River Poker Room, Lincoln RI

Mohegan Sun Poker Room, Uncasville CT

Foxwoods Poker Room, Mashentucket CT

MGM Springfield Poker Room

“What makes a good poker room?” It seems it takes a lot of little things and big things combined.  Poker player preferences are as different as the casinos themselves.

I found that a consensus on what makes a good poker room was not easily found.  A few basics did pop up often enough to be considered in the decision: the room’s rules should be clear, the dealers should be pleasant ,and the surroundings should be comfortable. The staff should be on the look out for cheating and collusion.

That being said, without a lot of experience, I checked out poker forums and asked the question “what makes a good poker room?” To quote Paul Harvey, “here’s the rest of the story.”

Concerning the Rake:

First of all, the “rake” is the scaled commission fee taken by a card room operating a poker game. It is generally 2.5 to 10 percent of the pot in each poker hand, up to a predetermined maximum amount.  Obviously, most players prefer a lower rake %.  Low rake is sometimes switched with time charge, especially in the early mornings. Some players actually had decisive limits – 5 percent rake and a $3 maximum per hand, 10 percent with a $4 maximum is the highest that should be charged.

Second, a “Bad Beat Jackpot” is also not preferred. What is a “bad beat jackpot”? It’s  when a poker room pays out an amount of money if a very good hand (usually Quad Eights or better) ends up losing to another hand. This “bad beat jackpot” is usually divvied up between all of the players at the table who participated in the hand that was played. In most circumstances, the loser of the hand will receive 50% of the bad beat jackpot, the winner of the hand will receive 25% and the remaining players will split the remaining 25%.  The “bad beat jackpot” accrues over time and grows based on how much rake the poker room is collecting.  The low rake combined with fewer BBJ’s are preferred.

Concerning Comfort:

Mohegan Sun Poker Room, soon to be moved to the Earth Casino

Most players like what everyone in a casino prefers – a comfortable place to play. One player said, “The poker room exists to generate rake and the best way to generate rake is to provide an atmosphere that people enjoy. If I ran a poker room, I wouldn’t be in the “Poker” business, I would be “hosting a party and a party atmosphere” (business)…..Make the poker room fun. Hire/train competent staff because it makes the room more fun and increases your drop.”

But to most, quiet is most conducive to a comfy atmosphere. The room should be clean, good-looking, and well-lit, with nice chairs and cushions, and bathrooms. MGM Springfield is said to have most comfortable chairs in New England’s poker rooms. Many players admitted they prefer a poker room with space, especially at and between the tables.

When it comes to smoking, most players seem to be changing towards a non-smoking poker room. One forum member said “I’ve  played in rooms where smoking is allowed and it’s horrible. Can’t get away from it. Your clothes smell terrible afterwards. A smoker in a no-smoking room can always take a walk to indulge but a non-smoker basically doesn’t enjoy their time playing (especially when Mr. Chimney sits down right next to you).”

Foxwoods Poker Room – Still Best in New England??

Comfort can be a product of the way management enforces good etiquette and nice behavior so that everybody feels comfortable – which brings us to our next consideration, the Management of the Room.

Concerning the Management of a Poker Room:

The first part of what management controls is getting to the table.  almost unanimous was the preference for “…quick to get from waiting list to seated at a table…”

Foxwoods Resort Casino. Waiting for a game.

Every room needs someone on duty 24/7 who knows all the games who knows all the correct rulings, and is accessible to the dealers and the players. Great managers, or “floor-men,” are guys who know when to intervene and guys who know when to let the players handle their own situations.

The sign-up desk should be warm and friendly instead of ignoring its patrons, standing there politely waiting. “Greeting people poorly is a very common problem in poker rooms,” said one response. “If you aren’t a people person, don’t work the sign-up desk. Floor people should also have some people skills instead of having an assertive, officer-like attitude. A friendly person who approaches situations professionally and makes informed decisions will please more people in the long term. Correctness is most important but you can make correct decisions and still be pleasant.”  Which brings us to part four.

The Poker Room Staff

Good dealers are a must, good floor people as well and other support staff like cashiers, chip runners, wait staff etc. Everybody agrees you should have great dealers. But some people think a great dealer tells jokes and gives his sports picks, while others think a great dealer never says a word except what has to be said to call the game. Being a good dealer is not that easy – just think back to your sessions. It must be hard being a dealer for years. Dealing with lots of rude customers really much take its toll. Maintaining a smile night after night of people accusing you of giving them bad cards, etc. has to be emotionally draining.

poker dealer

Here are “good dealer traits” that were mentioned mostly:

  • Most of the dealers have been here at least 4+ years.
  • Good dealers deal a decently paced game
  • Don’t talk too much
  • Know the game left and right
  • Very courteous especially to the losing players.
  • Provide a consistent experience as other dealers (which suggests better training by management)
  • Treats 1-2 (limit) players like 10-20 (limit) players. (i.e., treating all players like they’re important)

Wait staff should represent the positive aspect of the service industry. Visiting players and people on vacation expect polite and fast cocktail service.

Concerning the Games:

Poker Room at Hollywood Casino in Bangor, Maine

Poker Room at Hollywood Casino in Bangor, Maine

A lot of tables with a wide mix of games, including stud, seems to be best – games for high rollers, games for low-rollers (one player called them ‘degens‘ as in degenerates, but that’s kinda harsh!), games for hobbyists and games for the low limit players to introduce them to poker, let them learn on and move up in stakes. Good games seems to be the most imports factor, and yet the house has little control. Players who make good games tend to flock to the best run rooms. So, the clientele ultimately plays the most important part of good games. What a revelation!!!

lower considerations and THE FINAL CONCLUSION

Service with a smile.

Can you believe that being treated well was more important in my findings than free food, drinks, and comps? Promotions, and all the amenities were important, but not if the place was a mess, run poorly, and made the players uncomfortable with the game.

So, my conclusion is this:

  1. Management must care and cater for its players
  2. This will attract the best clientele, raising the interest and packing it’s poker room.
  3. If the poker room is packed, then the rake will be small, with tournaments and a variety of games.

Heard this before?  Sure, SERVICE COUNTS. It’s the same old thing we have been saying for years, as we see casinos change to a business first model instead of the service / hospitality model we were used to in years past.  It’s the same for any part of the casino, not just the poker room. Happy players means repeat business of the best kind. Treat players fairly, make them feel like valued customers, and they’ll come back for more.  Simple……….too bad it’s more often a thing of the past….and that’s the rest of the story!

 

Binbin

Poker Etiquette, An Editorial by Steve Ruddock – The Monday Link

EVERY MONDAY, NETG BRINGS YOU A GAMBLING POST FROM SOMEONE ELSE FOR YOUR INTEREST, ENTERTAINMENT, AND KNOWLEDGE. WE CALL THIS:

“THE MONDAY LINK”

Once again, we turn to one of Massachusetts buddies and his terrific editorial in USPoker

Steve Ruddock primarily focuses on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. He writes for numerous online and print publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.  Steve is also a fan of NETG and we are lucky to be able to share this link.

It’s basically about etiquette at the poker table – and the many “bad behaviors” professional poker players resort to during play.  Is it a comment on society at large?  Read on…..

Negreanu Tweet About Manners Sparks Controversy, For Some Reason

New England Casino Awards – Final Analysis of 2018

There were some different winners in our awards this year, but not exactly what we thought they would be. With MGM Springfield on the scene, I assumed that it would be well represented.  Instead, Mohegan Sun added to it’s New England prominence. Here is our analysis:

BEST HOTEL – With the most rooms and most variations in room decor and layout, it has to be Foxwoods.  Even with Twin River’s hotel opening, Oxford Casino Hotel open for over a year, Tiverton’s opening including hotel and the opening of MGM Springfield, Foxwoods is still the best choice for hotels. MGM Springfield’s Hotel is one of a kind, and we highly recommend trying a stay there.  The many intricacies of Springfield history can be found through out the casino and continued in the Hotel decor.

MGM Tower at Foxwoods - Right side.

Fox and Grand Pequot Hotels & Casinos

BARS –  When it comes to places for libations, there are two types in casinos.  First, the typical bar, sometimes with entertainment, usually offers great drinks and dining options. The video poker bar is an important gambling choice provided, usually including slots, keno and sometimes electronic blackjack.  Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun tied in this category, and why not with so many bars and VP bars available in their multiple casinos.  But it should be mentioned that MGM Springfield’s Walk-up Bar and Commonwealth Bar have terrific ambiance.  Now, if only they had playable video poker…….

Commonwealth Bar at MGM Springfield

BEST DINING OPTIONS & BEST DINING VALUE  – Our voters pretty much nailed this. Mohegan Sun offers the gamut on one property, especially in the area of lower cost eateries.  But, I also feel when considering just high end restaurants, Foxwoods would edge out the competition. However, even the fun establishments such as Sugar are in the hefty price range at Foxwoods. Since we visit all New England Casinos, some restaurants need some mention. Tiverton Casino’s Tuscan Chophouse and Italian cuisine at Trattoria Romana are great restaurants with local ties. When it comes to great steak houses, New England’s casinos offer a wide variety of excellent steakhouses.  Consider MGM’s Chandler Steakhouse, Jordan’s Steakhouse at Mohegan Sun, Cedars and David Burke’s Prime at Foxwoods, Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse at Twin River and Slack’s Oyster House & Grill at Plainridge Park for your next beef bonanza.

Again, NETG applauds the voters in selecting David Burke Prime as outstanding high-end restaurant.  It has everything you’d fine in the best eateries in Las Vegas.

David Burke Prime, Foxwoods

BEST BUFFET – Mohegan’s Sunrise Buffet is just the best, ’nuff said.

ENTERTAINMENT, BEST SMALL VENUE – The Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun is hands down the #1 favorite. The Sun offers outstanding free entertainment on the weekends. But free entertainment has increased at other properties.  Foxwoods raised the ante in the Atrium Lounge, Hard Rock Cafe and Centrale.  Plainridge Park Casino not only offers good entertainment at their Revolution Lounge, but also at the Loft – including Comedy. Twin River’s Lighthouse Lounge continues to offer great free entertainment. Speaking of comedy, Roar! at MGM Springfield’s Armory and Mohegan Sun’s Comix leads the way.

ENTERTAINMENT, BEST LARGE VENUE – Even with the addition of MGM Springfield’s MassMutual Center, Mohegan Sun Arena is still the best venue in New England.

Mohegan Sun Arena

BEST SLOTS – I think it’s simple – wherever you win is where your preferred slots are. No one knows the payback percentage, and a slot players play is very short play and really can’t give anyone a good idea on how high the payout is. Most casinos have the same newest slots.  But what I found interesting was the lack of Buffalo slots or Wheel of Fortune machines mentioned! Instead, Wonder Woman?  who’d a thunk it?

BEST VIDEO POKER – Mohegan Sun is the only New England Casino to offer full pay VP – Jacks or Better – at the quarter level up. As long as they offer it, the Sun will continue to be the best VP in New England.  We know from experience at their other properties that Wynn & MGM will never offer Full Pay VP, rarely even at $1 levels.  So, this award may be good through 2020.  Decent VP paytables can be found at Plainridge Park and Foxwoods.

TABLE GAMES – Players of all levels appreciate good rules & low starting limits, especially on traditional games.  In New England, Foxwoods and MoSun had this covered, but recently have raised minimums and introduced 6:5 Blackjack.  Maine casinos, while having similar rules, lack the amount and mix of traditional table & “carnival” games. Twin River & Tiverton offer table games with slightly higher limits, with most games starting at $10, and MGM Springfield has lowered minimums to be more competitive. While Mohegan Sun won this time, it will be anyone’s game in the future as all casinos seem to be offering the same games, same minimums and same rules.

MGM Springfield Poker Room – most comfy in New England?

An interesting change has been seen in two areas – favorite game and poker rooms.  Craps has taken over as the popular table game in the casino. And when it comes to poker rooms, MGM Springfield, with what is now considered the most comfy poker room in New England,  has made a great run at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to the point that all thee poker rooms, as well as Twin River Casino’s poker room, are in a dead heat right now. Mohegan Sun is down-sizing its poker room and moving it to a different casino area, which could really change the feel of their poker room. You can bet that poker is alive and well in New England.

BEST RACEBOOK/SPORTSBOOK – The Sun won this category last year, with Foxwoods winning this year. Rhode Island’s legal sportsbook must have been too new for most to be counted this year. When Twin River open their real betting area, it could easily win next year, unless CT and MA approves legal sports-betting this year

BEST PLAYERS CLUB – Even with changes, Foxwoods continues to lag behind Mohegan Sun.  MLife at MGM Springfield could be a big players club in the coming years with properties on both east & west coast – especially access to Las Vegas Strip properties.

Thanks to all who participated this year.  It’s always fun.  What changes are in store this year?  We’ll just have to wait……

Binbin