What Makes a Good Poker Room?

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

Twin River Casino Poker Room

Poker Room at Twin River Casino, Lincoln, RI.

“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).”

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
  • Dont 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!


The Casino Poker Room – Beginner’s Guide & Mistakes

people-naughty-dog-plsaying-pokerSure you play poker – at home with others.  You know those crazy dealer’s choice games where some players make-up crazy rules like “no-peak, wild follows the queen, extra card if you stay in…..and on windy Wednesdays, we play with two wild cards….”dogs-playing-poker


Chris Moneymaker, poker player.

Those experiences don’t make you ready for the casino poker room. It takes some study. The whole poker boom ten years ago, started by Chris Moneymaker winning the World Series of Poker out of no where, gave young and old the idea of “I can do that!”

Think again.  I HAVE played those home games, and I know NOT to step foot in a poker room just yet.

So, what do you need to know about starting?  Here’s some advice – not from me, but from experts:

  1. Start low bets ($1-2, or $2-4) and limit tables.  Stay away from “no limit” at first. – Mark & Dr. Mike from their “You Can Bet on That” podcast.

    Great Podcast fpr Craps, home poker games, and all sorts of gambling advice.

    Great Podcast fpr Craps, home poker games, and all sorts of gambling advice.

  2. Bill Burton from AboutGambling.com gives the following pre-play advice – “In a casino you don’t just walk up to a table and sit down. When you enter the poker room you must sign in at the desk. You tell the host what game you are interested in playing. If there is an opening you will be seated immediately. If the table is full they will take your initials and call you when there is an opening. Some casinos have a large board where they will write your name or initials or they will write your name on a list. Either way you will be called when it is your turn.”

    One of my favorite all-time movies - "the Sting"

    One of my favorite all-time poker movies – “the Sting”

By the way, Bill Burton is a gambling expert and best-selling author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold’em and 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets. He is the former Casino Gambling columnist for About.com continues to outline common mistakes. He writes for several national gaming magazines and newsletters. These publications include: Casino Player, Strictly Slots, The Southern California Gaming Guide, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Southern Gaming and Destinations magazine, Midwest Player and Blackjack Insider.

Bill’s Common Mistakes made by beginning poker players in poker rooms include:

Betting Out of Turn – You must wait until the player to your right acts.

Making a String Bet – If you are going to raise you should announce “raise” when it is your turn. If you don’t announce a raise, you must put the bet and the raise in at the same time. If you put in the bet and then go back to your stack for the raise you can be called for a “string bet” which is not allowed and your raise will not be honored.

cat at pokerNot Knowing What the Bet Is – You have to know what the bet is when it is your turn. You must pay attention to amount of the bet and if the bet was raised.

Folding Instead of Checking – Sometimes if the player does not like the next card dealt he will immediately fold when it is his turn. If you are first to act you can check. If everyone else checks, you get to see the next card for free.

Throwing Chips Into the Pot – Place your bet in front of you. This way the dealer sees that your bet is correct.

pokerNot Protecting Your Cards – It is up to the players to protect their cards at all times.

Throwing Away a Winning Hand – The cards speak for themselves. Don’t immediately throw in your cards if someone calls out a better hand. The dealer will declare the winner of the hand. Sometimes you may have a better hand than you thought you had.

guys-playing-poker-cigarsLosing Control of Your Emotions – Keep your emotions in check. Veteran players as well as newcomers make this mistake. It is one that should not be made by anyone!

Playing Too Many Hands – Many players crave the action. They feel that if they are not involved in the hand they aren’’t really playing the game. Successful players play fewer hands. .

Playing Too Long – If you play too long you may get tired or even bored. This can cause you to make mistakes or play marginal hands. If you start to get tired leave the game.

Toby Bochan, also from AllAboutGambling.com, adds:

Don’t Talk About Your Cards While the Hand is Still Going On – Once you’ve folded, it’s tempting to chat about what would have happened if you had stayed in, but if anyone who’s still in the hand hears, it’ll give them information that they might use to their advantage.

play-pokerIf You Show One, Show All – If you win a hand before the showdown but want to show your cards anyway, you can’t just show them to the one player to your left or right, you have to turn them up for the whole table to see. After all, why should only the lucky players next to you get to know what you were holding?

I hope that helps – you as well as me.  Someday you might see me trying my luck.  I’ll be wearing my NETimeGambling.com T-Shirt!



Texas Hold ’em Nicknames For Your 2-Card Hand

texasholdemNames, names names.  It’s amazing the slang used in gambling for all sorts of things. If you visit the casino, you heard the basics before:

  • Action – the amount of money a player wagers during a playing session
  • Camouflage – any action made by a skilled gambler to hide his activities from the casino.
  • Eye in the sky – refers to surveillance cameras situated on the ceilings of the casino’s gaming area.
  • Whale – a high roller

But, poker players have their own slang, jargon…..whatever you want to call it. And, Texas Hold’m leads them all.

Here’s a list of Texas Hold’em starting hands and how they got their names –  a definitive list of names that are still actually used, and the convoluted (fancy word for “what may be a lie”) story behind them.  Thanks to the work of Al Moe, here it is. Check out his Bio below his article before you leave.

acesAce-Ace –  Aces only come around about once in every 221 hands, so your really enjoy them, except when they get cracked (beaten). That’s why sometimes a player will say they had eggs, and they got scrambled. Other names for the best starting hand in the game are: pocket rockets, bullets, and the nuts.

Ace-King – Big Slick (Those Texas Boys again, when you’ve got a slick of oil coming up from the ground you are pretty happy – it’s almost as good as AA, but you ain’t got no cash yet).

Ace-Queen – Little Slick or Big Chick are the favorites, Killer Queen is a backup, because it loses to AK.

Ace-Jack – Blue Dot Cleanser (Ajax used to be in every American kitchen).

Ace-Deuce – Acey Deucy, Top and Bottom, No Field Goal (no kicker to go with the ace).

pair-of-kingsKing-King – Cowboys, King Kong, Knuckleheads (when they are played hard and lose to AA)

King-Queen – Royal Family, Marriage.

King-Jack – Kay Jay, Kojak (1970’s police show).

King-Nine – K9 (canine), Dog hand, Big Dog.

Queen-Queen – Ladies, Bitches,

Queen-Jack – Maverick (1950’s western “Living on Queens and Jacks”)

Maverick, the Tv Show, 1957 - 1963

Maverick, the Tv Show, 1957 – 1963

Queen-Ten – QT, on the QT (silently, secretly, especially since QT makes a nice straight that is often over looked).

Queen-Nine – Quinine (an early anti-malaria drug).

Queen-Seven – Computer Hand (1980’s computer simulation showed the hand to be right in the middle of all hands, a break-even hand).

Jack-Jack – Jakes, Meat hooks, Fish hooks, U-turn and 0 and 20 (never wins).

Never wins!

Never wins!

Jack-Five – Motown (Jackson Five).


Jackson Five

Jack-Four – Tire changer (what’s a jack for?).

Ten-Ten – Audi (Audi TT), Dynamite (say it slow,TNT).


Woolworths Dept. Store.

Ten-Five – Woolworths Five and Dime (old stores with lots of goods for five and ten cents)

Ten-Four – CB Hand, Good Buddy, Broderick Crawford (1950’s cop show using the term 10-4 which meant “everything is alright).

Ten-Two – Doyle Brunson (who won two WSOP Championships with 10-2 on the final hand).


The original “agent 99” in Get Smart – Barbara Feldman

Nine-Nine – Barbara Feldman (Played Agent 99 on 1960’s Get Smart TV Show), Gretzky (the Great One’s hockey number).

Nine-Eight – Ninety-eight, Oldsmobile (the Old’s 98 was a hot car starting in the late 1940’s)

Nine-Five – Workday, Dolly Parton (from the movie 9 to 5), Workin’ Man (song by Merle Haggerd)

Eight-Eight – Ovals (88 looks like to race tracks), Snowmen, Dog Balls, Piano Keys (88 keys).

Eight-Six – Maxwell Smart (Agent 86 on 1960’s TV show Get Smart).

Seven-Seven – Sunset Strip (1960’s TV show 77 Sunset Strip), Crutches, Hockey Sticks, Hammers.

Seven-Six – Union Oil (old gas chain was Union 76), Independence (US – 1776.)

Worst hand.

Worst hand.

Seven-Deuce – Hammer (you’ll get hammered if you play the worst hand in Texas Hold’em), Beer Hand (you’ll be out of the game and at the bar if you play the hand).

Six-Nine – Happy Meal, Big Lick (sexual reference).

Six-Six – Kicks (1950’s Chuck Berry Song, Get your Kicks on Route 66), Hard Road

Five-Five – Sammy Hagar (sang “I can’t drive, 55), Double nickle.

Five-Two – Bomber (as in B-52)

A B-52D Stratofortress from the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., drops bombs. B-52Ds were modified in 1966 to carry 108, 500-lb bombs while the normal conventional payload before was only 51. (Historical U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-52D Stratofortress (Historical U.S. Air Force photo)

Four-Five – 45, Jessie James (was killed with a .45 caliber handgun).

Four-Four – Handgun, Magnum, Dirty Harry (1970’s Movies with Clint Eastwood, who used a .44 caliber Magnum handgun).

Three-Nine – Jack Benny (who always said he was 39 years old).

Three-Three – Craps (they look like ’em), short route (half of route 66).

Three-Ace – Baskin Robbins (31 flavors of ice cream).downloadTwo-Nine – Twiggy (1960’s fashion model who was thin).

Two-Four – Lumber Number (a two-by-four piece of wood).

Two-Two – Ducks, Quackers,

There are others, but those are the popular ones.  Who knew playing Texas Hold’em had so many names for your two card hand.  I’m still getting confused over Flop, Turn and River!


Special thanks to Al Moe for his many contributions to all levels of gamblers over the years. Moe is the author of Vegas and the Mob and has written for Gambling Times/Poker Player, Pokernews.com and Casino and Gaming Chips Magazine. His love for casinos and the history of gambling are only exceeded by the thrill he gets learning new casino games and his desire to teach new players how to get the most for their money at the casino. He writes the very fun & informative AboutCasinoGambling.com  which is a great resource for some of the simplest or hardest questions you may have, and everything in between.  Do yourself a favor and check his archives out.