Weekend inPortsmouth - Music Hall

A Fabulous Winter Weekend in Portsmouth NH

Last month, in honor of one of those “big” birthdays, Paul and I spent a fabulous winter weekend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Portsmouth lies a little over an hour from our house. However, the real distance from suburban Massachusetts to this old New England town was obvious from the minute we crossed into the city.

Portsmouth, founded in colonial times, features restored 17th and 18th century houses, many of which are open to visitors. It also still functions today as a working seaport. Over the years, Portsmouth’s main industry has alternated between boat building and repair (during times of war) and tourism (in times of peace). In the weeks leading up to Christmas (which was the case during our visit), Portsmouth is decked out in holiday finery and hosts glittering evening tours of historic homes. In fact, Portsmouth has a lot in common with last year’s holiday destination, Mystic Connecticut.

Another plus to spending a weekend in Portsmouth is the proximity of two of our regular New England poker rooms. Portsmouth is less than a half an hour from both the Seabrook and Hampton Falls poker rooms. This was definitely a factor in our choice of locale for the weekend.

What to Do in Portsmouth New Hampshire

USS Albacore

We started our weekend in Portsmouth at the USS Albacore museum. We had seen the Albacore several times before, as it sits by the side of the main road entering Portsmouth from the south. However, we had never actually stopped to take a look. We figured it was time. The USS Albacore was built in Portsmouth in 1952 as a research submarine. After her decommissioning in the 1970s, she returned to Portsmouth and moved to where she currently sits. The USS Albacore museum offers the rare opportunity to walk through a fully preserved, formerly working submarine. For 8$ a person, we were able to stroll through the Albacore at our own pace. The sub features strategically placed recordings explaining key details of the ship’s history and functioning. At the end of our tour, we returned to the visitors center, staffed by former navy men who answered any questions that the recordings did not address. I have to say that this place blew me away. Also, I never want to be in a submarine underwater. Quarters are as tight as you would imagine, and I’d be pleading to get out about five minutes in.

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Long-term poker travel

4 Keys to Preparing for Long-Term Poker Travel

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In a couple of years we plan to spend at least a year traveling the United States playing poker.  That goal is still more than 2 years away, but the planning has definitely begun. Constructing a lifestyle based on poker travel requires significant preparation. Creating the plan and communicating our discoveries is one reason that we started this blog.

We should define what we mean by long-term poker travel. We are hoping to play poker several times per week while maintaining financial viability and travelling around the country.  For poker players who have reached a comfortable retirement or are independently wealthy, the financial implications may be minor. For the rest of us, such a plan requires a delicate balance between freedom and flexibility and working to maintain economic stability. Our intended nationwide trip is still at least 3 years out. Yet sometimes it feels like we don’t have sufficient prep time.

There are four critical areas to address if you want to forge a successful poker travel lifestyle.

1. Improve at Poker

Even if you’re a solid recreational poker player, it can be a challenge to break even. The impact of rake and tipping in small stakes cash and tournament games is substantial.  On top of that, it seems like every year the average poker player gets better. A decade ago, there were very few good, solid players in low stakes games.  Today at any given table, half the players may be pretty good.

Show me 10 low stakes players who claim they are lifetime profitable, and I’ll show you 9.7 liars.

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MGM Springfield Poker Room Review

MGM Springfield Poker Room Review

The opening of the MGM Springfield in August 2018 brought in the era of full scale casinos in Massachusetts. It beat the highly anticipated Encore’s target opening by a full year. With the first legal poker room in the state, the MGM Springfield is an early indicator of Massachusetts’ ability to match up against the established Connecticut poker scene. Economic indicators in the first months have been mixed, but generally the start has been strong. The MGM Springfield poker room has been growing over its first 4 months, recently adding a few weekly tournaments.

The Caveat

We celebrated the 2019 New Year with a visit to the MGM Springfield poker room (a 75 minute drive for us) and its standing Tuesday morning tournament. We came away unfortunately frustrated, and able to assign only an incomplete score to the MGM Springfield poker room itself.  In short, we came to play a New Year’s Day tournament, and despite arriving just 5 minutes after the start, found we were alternates 14 and 15.  This seemed surprising, as the room was not nearly full. We discovered that the MGM was only able to run 2 tournament tables because (they claimed) several dealers had called in sick.  A regular player, however, commented that management did not plan for an uptick in volume on New Year’s Day. This indicates that the Tuesday tournament has a small showing in general. So buyer beware if planning to play a tournament here in the near future.

One of the floors did open a third table during the second level and dealing himself, but that still left us out in the cold.  By level 3 the alternate list was back up to 15-18 people beyond the 30 seated. As that level neared an end with no additional dealers in sight and the next level bringing the starting stack  down to 50 blinds, we abandoned hope, got our money back, and headed to Foxwoods.

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Boston Billiards Poker Room Entrance

The Boston Billiard Club & Casino Poker Room Review

Holding down the New Hampshire poker scene at the central Massachusetts border are the Boston Billiard poker room and The River.  The Boston Billiard Club (or BBC) offers distinct advantages to the Central Massachusetts and Southwest New Hampshire poker player. Making inroads against the established Manchester Poker Room 15-20 minutes north, and the cash game venue Chasers to the east, is no easy task however. The BBC is currently seeking to broaden their appeal, revamping their website and adding a couple of new poker tournaments to their weekly schedule.

Setting and Non-Poker Amenities

The Boston Billiard poker room is just a couple of minutes off Route 3 in New Hampshire, about 10 minutes north of the Massachusetts line.  The neighborhood doesn’t hold much promise, as The Boston Billiard Club sits in a nondescript industrial park. However, the inside of the Boston Billiard Club quickly sets a very upscale tone. You walk into the attractive open space of a large billiards room. Up and to the left is an equally attractive bar area, to the right the greeter station and then an event room with a few pool tables. That event room is particularly stunning, with elegant wood framed bookcases encircling the room. There are several comfortable chairs and couches around the main and event room. The difference in tone between the outside and inside of the BBC is among the greatest we’ve seen. Only the Playground Poker Room near Montreal even comes close.

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Manchester Poker Room Table 2

The Anatomy of a Poker Room Review

One of our goals at Poker Pilgrims is to conduct a poker room review for each of the 200 plus US rooms (those with 10 or more tables). By doing so, we hope our experiences will help others decide where best to spend their poker dollars. Currently, our poker room review database is heavy on the Northeast and Vegas (the two places we play the most). But we’ll continue to add to it through our travels over the next couple of years, and of course on our Pilgrimage. This winter we are planning a week-long poker intensive trip to the Miami area. We plan to add five more Florida rooms to our lonely Best Bet Jacksonville review.

In any case, we thought it was time to share what we value in a poker room. Hopefully, this will help you assess our poker room reviews against your own standards for a room.

Setting and Non-Poker Amenities

We love a good poker room location. Give us a casino in Vegas or a card room near the beach. Suddenly we’ve got more than a poker room, we’ve got a vacation! One of our favorite things about Best Bet Jacksonville was that it was all of 15 minutes from Atlantic Beach Florida. In the middle of the winter we got poker and a sunny beach vacation all rolled up into one. Definite setting points.

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