Playground Poker Club Room Review

The Playground Poker Club outside of Montreal is a surprising gem. We first visited after seeing some major televised tournaments held there, and expected grand things. While our initial approach to the card room elicited a ‘”this can’t be right” reaction, upon entry all was revealed.

Location and Exterior Setting

The Playground Poker Club is located in Kahnawake, Quebec about a half an hour drive from Montreal. However, the drive can vary substantially – dependent more on construction status than amount of traffic. Returning to Montreal around midnight after one tournament took well over an hour, with bridge repairs narrowing many stretches to one lane. As we discussed in our travel post about Montreal, road conditions are a fearsome obstacle to contend with.  If you’re staying in downtown Montreal, this becomes one of the Playgrounds biggest drawbacks. Taking a shuttle to the Casino de Montreal becomes an attractive alternative in the winter when not feeling adventurous.

After you battle the pothole covered bridges, you’ll be dumped onto a road full of gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and tobacco stores. The Playground comes up fast on your right (when coming from Montreal), with not a lot of fanfare or large signs, so you need to be attentive. The building looks like a large warehouse, dark with little adornment. At this point on our first visit, we started to wonder what all the fuss was about. Pulling into the beaten up parking lot in back the feeling deepens. The front entrance, at least, starts to hint that there may be more to this venue than the outside conveys.

The Playground Poker Club is a great cardroom outside of Montreal

Interior

When you enter the Playground, you’ll get what the fuss is about. Immediately in the front room you’ll see a large number of cash tables. This front space was the original poker room which opened in 2010. Walk around toward the left and you enter the larger room (added in 2012), with many rows of tables and tall ceilings. This larger tournament room is almost cavernous. Despite its 75 tables, it feels expansive. The look is very modern and clean, with large banners of famous players ringing the room. Best of all, as the Playground is not a casino there is no cigarette smoke wafting in from nearby slot areas.

The Playground does squander the full advantage of their space in one way: their chairs are too big! The chairs sport a modern sleek design and are very comfortable (and some people clearly love that aspect), but so wide that if the player next to you turns to get their food or drink behind them, their chair will collide into yours.

Staff and Dining

A first-tier room has to have highly skilled and professional staff. The Playground nailed this aspect. Whenever we sign up for tournaments, we are greeted by friendly staff at the cage. The floors run tournaments smoothly despite often huge fields. Dealers are also highly skilled and knowledgeable. Despite being in French Quebec, (and unlike the Casino de Montreal), the cards and dealers communicate in English. Dealers are also supposed to repeat most actions in English. However, they do not always remember, so if you are uncertain of the amount bet, you may need to request a translation.

At the cash tables, all food and beverages from the adjacent restaurant, The Rail, are free. In tournaments, only drinks are free. The Rail is a standalone restaurant with 140 seats.  It has been bustling each time we have visited and we ate there twice, mostly because of convenience/necessity. While not terrible, we found the food to be fairly mediocre. Driving up and down the main drag, it does not appear that there are a lot of quality options locally. So if you are here for the day to play, The Rail might be your best option. Just keep your expectations in check.

The Playground Poker Club boasts 75 tables, excellent staff, strong players, and frequent large tournaments Click To Tweet

Players

Apart from the larger Borgata tournaments we have played, the Playground Poker Club has offered the stiffest competition we have yet encountered. Because the Playground is purely a poker destination, (and an inconvenient one at that) there are few novices in the tournaments. The Playground suits the serious poker player better than the casual one. Several players at the typical table will be very attentive to the actions of other players. They are there to win, not socialize. Most players speak French exclusively, although there are a smattering of English speakers as well. The Playground uses the English card deck, not the French (King, Queen and Jack as Opposed to Roi, Dame, and Valet).

Tournament Structure

It is difficult to summarize the Playground Poker Club’s “typical” tournament structure. Their standing weekly tournaments generally have 15 or 20 minute blind levels and stacks of anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 chips. Buy-ins tend to be between $65 and $125 Canadian. These structures are not a terrible value for such modest buy-ins. However, The Playground has so many rotating special events, mostly with higher buy-ins and better structures, that these may be more frequent than their standing tournaments. For example, as I look at this weekend’s schedule, there is a multi-day event with a $220 buy-in, 25,000 chips and 30 minute blinds, and $100,000 guarantee.

The Playground Poker Room outside Montreal is a great place to play

Overall

The Playground Poker Club deserves its excellent reputation. It is an elite, spacious card room with top-notch staff and excellent tournament play. The only major drawbacks are a difficult location, uninspiring food, and over-sized chairs. When those are your weaknesses, you know you’re in good shape.

The Best Poker Training We Have Found

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Today we want to share with you the best poker training site that we have found. This one comes with a double disclaimer.  We are not only affiliates for the site, but also write for their blog and help them develop content as our primary side-hustle. Of course, that’s not a coincidence. We do all of these things for Advanced Poker Training because we love them so much. Their methods have been extremely effective in bringing our games to the next level.

Given that our goal is to spend a year on the road playing poker, we think a lot about how to get better at the game. If we drop 100 tournament buy ins with no return on investment, it could be a very expensive year. So we read, and we watch, and we practice, and we train. When we train, we want to make sure we are taking advantage of the best poker training options available.

Advanced Poker Training is the best poker training site around

Favorite Books

We both came to poker late in our lives, picking it up in our 30s. At first we played free pub poker to get a feel for the game before we invested any money in the endeavor. We quickly learned that poker, like chess, can be taught in a few minutes, but takes a lifetime to master. So we started reading. We have at least 40 poker books in our house. If you’re interested, our favorites are Arnold Snyder’s “The Tournament Poker Formula“, Dan Harrington’s Hold’Em tournament strategy books, Daniel Negreanu’s “Power Hold’Em Strategy“, and Jonathan Little and Patricia Cardner’s “Peak Poker Performance“.

We continue to read. We play as often as we can. And after we play we discuss our strategy, difficult hands, and trouble spots that we encounter. Unfortunately, we don’t play as often as we would like, given our kids and our jobs and our crazy life. So we started looking for an online training site that would help us improve our game on our own time. After researching a variety of poker training sites, we settled on Advanced Poker Training. APT offers the best package of strategy, resources, and community out there.

Frankly, Advanced Poker Training (APT) is a pretty amazing site Click To Tweet

Best Poker Training Online

Advanced Poker Training (APT) is a pretty amazing site. They offer the ability to play your preferred format of No Limit Hold-Em (tournament style, cash, or Sit-N-Go) against programmed opponents of various abilities. APT also allows you to customize games to resemble the structure, stakes, and player strength of your favorite live or online structures. At the end of each week you get a training plan identifying your most important areas in need of improvement. Reports chart your improvement on important metrics such as starting hand choice and position play. You can also focus on specific situations by playing any starting hand or position you want. Replay a hand as many times as you like until you feel you have mastered your approach.

APT’s Reports section allows you to access your performance on certain poker actions, such as raising pre-flop and continuation betting. It tells you how much luck has affected your performance, and identifies your best and most challenging hands. The hand analysis section allows you to replay hands tagged by APT as outstanding or problematic.

 

 

My favorite aspect of APT are the Beat the Pro Challenges. APT has worked with a number of pros, such as Jonathan Little, Scotty Nguyen, Scott Blumstein, and David Williams to create these amazing challenges. Each BTP Challenge starts with an explanatory video filmed by the professional player explaining the nature of the challenge. Next you have an opportunity to play a grouping of hands to practice that skill. Finally, you watch the pro play the same hands while explaining the thinking behind all their decisions. The BTP Challenges allow you to compare your outcomes both to the pro and to the other APT members. Beat the Pro Challenges are a lot of fun and very educational.

Constantly Evolving

APT also has an ever expanding library of resources. There are games which allow you to practice your board reading, an odds chart, a series of training articles, an active member forum, a shove/fold tool, a tournament chop tool, and of course, a blog (that’s us!). The site is constantly growing and adding new features to help you improve your game. Just this month, APT hosted a webinar with Alex Fitzgerald, author of The Myth of Poker Talent sharing “Poker’s More Important Thing” (spoiler: it’s aggression). Next month Advanced Poker Training will debut their new ninja combat trainer. The combat trainer will allow players to focus on trouble spots like playing AK and whiffing on the flop.

In short, we really love Advanced Poker Training and feel that it is the best poker training site out there to help us bring our game to the next level as we prepare for our year of poker travel.

 

APT is simply the best poker training site we have found

Throwdown Thursday: Are We Made for RV Living?

Paul and I have been reading a lot of articles about RV living. I’m intrigued by the idea of making our poker pilgrimage in an RV. The thought of being able to bring my house (albeit a very slimmed down house) along on our travels like a very ambitious turtle appeals to the part of me that hates to leave the couch. Paul, however, is pretty sure that this particular journey would end in homicide.

Heather: Don’t you think it would be nice to sleep in the same bed every night, no matter where we wake up? And to have our own little stocked pantry that we take along with us? No need to rely on hotel food or an AirBnB kitchen to have the right sharp knife?

Paul: Listen, if we have to share the same 300 square feet for 12 months, all the knives will be kept very dull. We get edgy and claustrophobic in our 3 bedroom, 1,200 square foot apartment now. What are we going to be like when our couch and kitchen table are one entity?

Throwdown Thursday: Are We Made for RV Living?

Heather: Well, obviously, we won’t be spending all day in there. We’ll be out and about a lot. It wouldn’t be any smaller than spending that time in a hotel room or a single room rental. I think it would be very cozy to experiment with living in a small space. As long as we have two separate rooms (say bedroom and everything else), I think we’ll do just fine.

Paul: Are we really “hitching our home to our pick up truck” kind of people though? There is some upkeep and maintenance required in these units. It may be an understatement to say that our sum total of mechanical skills is humble. The last car repair I attempted ended with “The passenger window doesn’t really need to go down anyway.”

Heather: I don’t know. I think we’re at least moderately handy.  I’m a master at putting together Ikea furniture. And when in doubt, there are always YouTube How-To videos!

For me, the biggest concern would be dealing with the sewage end of things. You know I’m not going anywhere near that situation.

I think it would be very cozy to experiment with living in a small space Click To Tweet

Paul: If IKEA has a DIY RV in stock we may be good. Get that Allen wrench out and go to town!

Knowing that the human waste department is my purview is not a real siren call to me for this adventure. I would like to keep plumbing one of the great mysteries of life. Kind of like the fate of The Lost Colony and the acting career of Seth Green.

Heather: Fair enough. That may be a tough one to get around.

But don’t you at least see the allure of taking our home with us, and not having to settle and re-settle in a new place every few days or weeks? You’ve got to be able to appreciate the beauty of that.

Paul: That convenience is outweighed by the recurrent nightmares I’ll have of failing to hitch our home correctly and watching it pitch off the Eads Bridge into the Mississippi. The potential list of tragedies that would likely occur with you and I as stewards of this aluminum missile is limitless.

How about if we’re two months into this trip and we hate our ambulatory togetherness coffin? The great thing about the “new place” rotation is we’re only stuck with a residence that we don’t like for a short time.

Heather: Only you would come up with the phrase “ambulatory togetherness coffin”.

Fine. You convinced me. We’ll leave my RV dream behind, along with my dream of appearing on “Jeopardy!”, and my dream of getting through a single day without hearing you crack your knuckles.

Paul: Phew! Now I can stop googling “How restraining orders work with an RV.”

Are We Made for RV Living?

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6 Travel Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Heather and I generally travel well together. We do our research, weigh our options, and come to decisions that we both feel good about.  On trips we often praise ourselves for the fine job we did planning such a spectacular vacation. (Sadly, that’s true. We actually do.)

But, nobody’s perfect.

We have made our share of travel mistakes. We share them here in the hopes that you can avoid them on your own travels.

1. Traveling North for New Year’s

Our most recent oops. Last month we reviewed our impressions of Montreal. The city certainly has a lot of destination appeal. However, amid a record breaking cold snap this appeal plummets. We thought: how much colder can Montreal be compared to Boston at New Year’s? Answer: Nose snapping instant frostbite colder.

There’s a reason that people in the Northeast go south in the winter. I accept the logic now.

2. Rental Car Lines at Midnight

We traveled to one of our favorite destinations, Las Vegas, a couple of years ago and arrived shortly before midnight. We figured “Who’s going to be renting a car at midnight?” Well, apparently everyone in Las Vegas on a Friday night is in the airport renting a car. The more operative question would have been: “Who will be working the rental car desk at midnight?” And the answer to that would be only the 3 people not crafty enough to get out of that lousy shift. So, despite reserving our car weeks ahead of time, we waited over an hour and a half to pick it up.

The poor folks at the desk did their best, but the line was long and any glitch in a reservation caused massive delays. While Heather waited in line, I even scoured the other rental car providers still open at that hour to see if I could get an equivalent deal. No dice.

Never will we run this risk again at that hour. In the future, we will either schedule our flight to arrive earlier or just grab a cab to our hotel and get a car the next day.

 

6 Travel Mistakes You Don't Want to Make
Where am I Going?

3. Passing Any Available Restroom

We love efficiency and hate inconvenient or unnecessary stops when we have the momentum working in our favor. But more than once we have passed on a potential restroom stop because we felt the lines were too long, it was on the wrong side of a busy road, or we just felt we could hang on a few more miles. Do not do this. On several of those occasions, we have regretted our decision when we discovered the next available restroom was not just “a few minutes down the road.” The resulting discomfort and irritability proved not worth the risk. Now we wait in the line, cross the busy road, and eschew the tough guy act.

Be comfortable when you travel. There are no bonus points for suffering.

4. Travel Partner Compatibility 

Heather and I have pretty similar tastes, so travel compatibility is not an issue for us. But in previous relationships, I have made the mistake of planning an ideal vacation for me without realizing that I have set up a vacation from hell for my travel partner. I once planned a multi-city jaunt through Italy with grand plans of strolling for hours through historic cities punctuated by long sojourns into world-renowned museums like the Uffizi in Florence.

What I failed to do was ask my partner “Do you like A) art museums,  B) hours of walking through cities, or C) history?” As I walked the two miles from my hotel at 7am to the Uffizi ticket line alone, it dawned on me that the answer to all of those questions was no, as well as the answer to “do you like to get up early when you travel?”

Ask the operative questions in order to determine what you and your travel companions like and dislike in a vacation before you go.

There are no bonus points for suffering. Click To Tweet

 

5. Low in Blood Sugar, High on the Ugly American Scale

Same trip to Italy. Let’s just say I am a poor master of languages and monitoring my blood sugar. While I am not diabetic, when I go without eating for an extended period, I become what my ex-wife labeled “psychoglycemic.” I get irritable and my frontal lobe takes a hike. Preview moral to this story: always keep people well-fed when your travel.

After failing to learn even one correctly pronounced word of Italian in the weeks leading up to this excursion, I outsourced all Italian communication to my then wife. One afternoon, having fallen deep into the throes of psychoglycemia, I found myself waiting not so patiently to get sandwiches at a roadside stop in Tuscany. I increasingly believed (and shared) that the staff must have forgotten about us. My wife kept trying assuage my building concerns (which she might label paranoia).

Finally, I could no longer contain the brewing Ugly American inside. Across the cafe I yelled a perfectly enunciated “Scuzi!” Abrupt, loud, and dripping with accusation. Everyone’s head turned toward me. I slunk back. My wife moved forward, made eye contact with the woman making our sandwiches, point at her wedding ring, shrugged her shoulders and said something that caused them both to laugh.

I needed no translation to understand the gist of that exchange.

Learn at least a modicum of the language before you go to a non-English speaking destination. And stay well fed!

6. Trust No One

A few years ago I went on an important work trip to Cincinnati in order to pitch a big project to a prospective client. My colleague said that he would take care of the travel plans, and I never gave it another thought. On the flight, he told me we were using a small regional airport to avoid the crowds, so we would have a bit of a ride into the city. Fine by me.

We landed at the Akron-Canton airport and as my colleague was renting the car, I grabbed a map to plot our course. I turned to him and said “Is this client in Cleveland for some reason?” He looked at me like I was an idiot and said “No, we’re going to the main office in Cincinnati.” I responded “Well, in that case, we are in the completely wrong part of Ohio” pointing on the map to Akron in the Northeast corner and Cincinnati in the Southwest.

After he uttered a few expletives, he said “Crap, I meant to fly us into the Dayton airport.” What followed was a three and a half hour 80 mph death defying jaunt in a minivan across the diagonal of Ohio. Shockingly, we landed the project and no one was the wiser.

Always double check your travel arrangements. And never trust the other guy to do it for you.

 

Those our some of our most memorable misadventures. What were your worst travel mistakes? Maybe we’ll all learn something here today!

6 Travel Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

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Chasers Poker Room Review

In the fall of 2017, Chasers entered the competitive Southern New Hampshire poker scene with a bang. Granted a smallish bang, at only 16 poker tables, but the immediate returns have been very good. On any given night Chasers fills a large portion of those tables with active cash games. Although, we don’t play a lot of cash poker, we came away impressed on the Tuesday evening we stopped in to the new venue for a tournament. There was a lot of energy in the room and the cash players were clearly excited about this new Salem, NH poker room.

Setting

Chasers occupies the basement of a now defunct Chinese restaurant.  From the outside, the building does not inspire confidence. As you enter, the initial impression is “this is dark.” But the dark feeling quickly yields to a nice homey feel, atypical for your average poker room.  There is a small bar immediately to the right of the door, with seating and a few high top tables. Along the right wall is an attractive brick fireplace which we assume will never be used. In front of this wall are the table games: roulette, blackjack, and a couple of poker variations played against the dealer.

Although the room has a dark feel, the tables are very well lit from above. We had no problems seeing the cards. The chairs are padded and very comfortable, especially in comparison to some of the surrounding New Hampshire rooms. The footprint of the room is not huge, however, so the tables are a bit cramped.

Chasers Poker Room

Chasers Staff

For the 42nd most populous state, New Hampshire has a large and vibrant poker community. In a very small radius, there are currently at least seven active poker rooms, including one of our favorites Hampton Falls and another, Seabrook, that has seen better days. Many of these rooms lie close to the Massachusetts border, still waiting for legal casinos, and pull from the the northeastern Mass poker population. The upshot is that everyone knows one another: players, staff, owners. The competition for quality dealers and floors is as intense as the play at the tables.

Chasers did well in securing some of the better available talent when it opened. Being first to market, ahead of down-the-street rival Cheers, certainly helped. Chasers managed to lure some of the friendliest and most skilled dealers from existing rooms, and clearly trained their new dealers well. We played a tournament without issue. Floors were visible and active. The wait staff seemed a bit stretched thin, but were attentive and working hard.

Players

Clearly Chasers has overcome the pre-opening concerns that its branding and logo are insulting to its potential clientele. A lot of the better cash players in the area have made their way here. The tournament we played had very few weak players as well.

However, any poker room draws the gamblers. Along with the typical high hand promotions that fuel the active cash rooms in New Hampshire, at one of our tournament breaks Chasers had a single hand event, the No Chip Flip. In the No Chip Flip players buy in for $50 each. One Hold ’em hand is dealt and the top two hands win with the cash, after the house rake of course.  Not our cup of tea, but the room was abuzz as it played out, and the house grabbed like $130 for 3 minutes of action.

Chasers has made an immediate impact on the New Hampshire poker scene, and is clearly here to stay Click To Tweet

Tournament Structure

Frankly, it is clear that tournaments are not the focus at Chasers. Understandably, the success with cash, and the room’s small number of tables, would make focusing on tournaments unwise. Currently, Chasers runs regular tournaments on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. As with most new rooms, tournament offerings are in flux month-to-month, so check before you go.  Most of the current tournaments are $100-$125 buy-in for 20k-25K in chips and 15-20 minute blinds. On the higher end of buy-ins in the area for 15-20 minute blind levels. Certainly nowhere near the value of the Hampton Falls $90/30K chips/30 minute blinds events held at 1pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  But that Hampton Falls tournament is one of the best regular structures I have seen across the country, so not the standard by which any room can be held.

On the Tuesday night we were there, the tournament got 34 players. Not a great field, but not atrocious for a weeknight in New Hampshire. There were no dead stacks, so in the early stages we played shorthanded for awhile. Because tables are at a premium at this venue, they fully filled the first two tables before opening a third.

Overall

In a crowded and competitive poker landscape, this new seemingly humble room has made its mark. Starting with creating a comfortable environment and hiring good personnel, Chasers has made all the right decisions. On any given night, Chasers rivals Hampton Falls and the Boston Billiards Club in Nashua for the number of active cash tables. Management knows what works and how to get the players in the seats. While some other local rooms look vulnerable long-term, Chasers seems to be here to stay.

Chasers Poker Room Review