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

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. But it’s the casino poker room that we wondered about.

Four New England casinos have poker rooms. By 2019, poker rooms will most likely be offered at MGM Springfield & Wynn Boston Harbor. 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

“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.

One thing I found tis that a consensus on what makes a good poker room was not easily found.  A few basics did pop up often though: the room’s rules should be clear, the dealers should be pleasant. The staff should keep an eye out for cheats and colluders.  That being said, without a lot of experience, I checked out poker forums and asked the question “what makes a good poker room?” However, to quote Paul Harvey, now, “for 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 BBJ, “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

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.  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. “I ‘ve played in rooms where smoking is allowed and it’s horrible. Can’t get away from it. Your cloths 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 – 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!!!

What was lower in 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

Hollywood Casino, Hotel & Raceway – Maine Trip Report

Penn National Gaming operates two of the seven casinos in New England – Plainridge Park in Plainville, MA and Hollywood Casino, Hotel & Raceway in Bangor, ME.

The staff at NETimeGambling.com decided to visit both Maine casinos this past week.  Today, part 2, as we drive to the furthest northeast casino withing the US borders.  Today, we visit

Hollywood Casino, Hotel & Raceway in Bangor, ME.

Hollywood Casino, Hotel & Raceway, Bangor Maine

Hollywood Casino, Bangor, Maine

Hollywood Casino, Hotel & Raceway – Some Background

It was the first licensed slots facility in the state, and became the first casino to be licensed in the state of Maine when it added table games to its facilities in 2012.  However, it was the third New England casino to offer Vegas style slots in 2005, after Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun in CT. Twin River, at the old Lincoln Greyhound Park in RI, did not introduce Vegas style slots, or class III, until 2007.

Hollywood Casino, Hotel & Raceway, Bangor Maine

Hollywood Casino, Hotel & Raceway, Bangor Maine

This facility has everything – it’s just that it’s a little bit of everything.  It is the smallest casino in New England inches behind the other Maine casino in Oxford, Maine.  It does draw from patrons from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Canada & of course Maine.

This makes our 4th trip to Bangor casino.  Only two hours away from Oxford we decided to eat first.  Dining later – let’s talk casino!

Level three of Five in the Marquee Rewards Program of Penn National

Level three of Five in the Marquee Rewards Program of Penn National

Marquee Rewards

A brief word about Hollywood Bangor’s rewards club.  Penn National has bought some Las Vegas properties recently like M Resort & the famous Tropicana to go along with its country-wide portfolio of casinos & racinos.  Included in that portfolio is Plainridge Park in Massachusetts which uses the same Marquee rewards.  Points can be used at all Marquee Rewards properties, making a visit to Bangor, ME. more profitable.

Walking the Red Carpet to the Hollywood Casino

TRIP REPORT – Gambling

This isn’t a 24/7 facility.  The property is open daily 8am – 3am.   It houses over 900 Vegas-style slots in 30,000 square feet of gaming space.  Slots include many old & new favorites, but many times only one or two of them.  Denominations include penny slots up to $10 in the High Limit area (which is larger than Oxford.) Hollywood includes a broad variation of slots catering to reel & video slots players.

Video Poker seems to be it’s low point. Mostly single line VP with terrible pay tables such as 7/5 JOB, 7/5 DDB. and 6/5  Bonus.  There are only two multi line games that I could find – a”Super Times Pay Spin Poker” and one “Ultimate X.”  Both have different denominations available starting at nickels.

16 gaming tables round out the casino’s main floor.  Hollywood Casino currently offers Craps, Blackjack, Spanish 21, Roulette, High Card Flush, Three Card Poker and Texas Hold’em Bonus®.  Most low limits start at $5.

I played craps at the only craps table early one morning for 15 minutes.  The dealers were helpful and friendly, and I had the table to myself. But “3-point Molly” was not friendly. The same pattern happened five times in a row to my defeat.  Point, Point, point, 7-out (appropriate odds were also added.)  Off to slots I went.  I ended on the “ultimate X” video poker machine, since VP is my best game, and played on $50 for almost an hour.  I guess I should have started there!

There is a poker room with 4 poker tables with live action Texas Hold ‘Em games, 7-stud, and Omaha.  The same room has a small race book. Bangor Raceway is adjacent to the property and features a 1/2 mile racetrack and grandstand seating for up to 3,500. We didn’t have time to visit the harness racing track – maybe next time.

TRIP REPORT – Dining

Our first dining experience was next to the property and suggested by some of the staff – Geaghan Brothers Brewing Company.  Bangor has some great brew-houses, such as this and Sea Dog Brewing in walking distances.

Geaghan’s was a real treat.  I would go back in a heart-beat.  Great original brews.  We tried a flight of four 5 oz beers for only $5.25, an outstanding price, especially for great beer.  We preferred their Raspberry Pale Ale, but all four were delicious.  Once again, we asked for changes to their menu to cater to our needs, and Bryan was terrific as our server getting it done.  Our burgers were lean, tasty and cooked to our liking.  But if you have limited time – just have a beer.

Hollywood Bangor is limited in dining options, much like Oxford.  The Epic Buffet is only open on the weekend.  Your choices are the Hops House 99 (which took the Celebrity Restaurant’s place) and Take 2 – more of an express dining experience.

Hops House 99 is another brewpub, only specializing in other breweries.  With a good array of Maine beers and others from around the world, it follows its name by offering 99 beers.  22 beers on rotating taps, and the rest in cans & bottles.  Because we had been freezing for two days in VERY cold casinos, we decided to go dark & malty.  We picked two outstanding beers – Rogue’s Mocha Porter & Horny Goat’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter (from Wisconsin).  Nothing like having dessert in a can!

Our meals were good.  Their menu has enough choice to make anyone happy.  I decided to try the Beer Can Roasted Chicken, as seen in the pic.  PBR was the beer used inside and it was moist. I highly recommend this dish.  Service was timely and friendly – a definite “re-visit.”

Take 2 Snack Bar offers up a variety of you classic favorites including wings, burgers, sandwiches, salads & fries. It is open for breakfast daily at 6am. with a complete breakfast menu.  We had breakfast, since it’s the only thing open on a Wednesday.  It was surprisingly expensive.  Noteworthy is the fact that they don’t accept casino dining credit, but will accept Marquee Rewards Points.  I would suggest you go out for breakfast somewhere outside the the property.

Hollywood Hotel Lobby, Bangor Maine

HOTEL – The Gem of the Property

The hotel has 152 rooms, including four suites, and with over 5,000 square feet of meeting and pre-function space.  But it’s hospitality that shines here.  A friendly greeting, ease with check-in and in our room withing ten minutes both times we stayed over is what you can expect. The rooms are nothing special, if you compare them to Las Vegas.  But they are very homey, very clean well-designed, comfortable and have great amenities. A comped room here is a “no-brainer.”  But pay to stay and you won’t be sorry.

Note – on some summer weekend night, the Darling Event Center has some of the best country performers.  On those nights, the casino & hotel can be, well let’s just say, a little more boisterous?

Great Trip, Enjoyable Casino

I like Hollywood Bangor.  In the early part of the week, as in Oxford, or even in CT’s mega resorts, it’s slow and quieter.  The staff all over the property are concerned that you have the best visit. We’ll be back – there’s something about visiting Maine in June & July that begins the summer right.

Binbin