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.
We also love a location that offers more than just poker. In New Hampshire, where we currently play most of our poker, the charity card rooms are pretty stripped down. The most they offer are table games (don’t play them), off track betting (nope), or maybe a sports bar (no thanks). Meanwhile, a place like The Orleans in Vegas houses a bowling alley, movie theater, a wide variety of shopping and dining options, and if we like, a hotel room upstairs convenient to whichever of us knocks out of a tournament first.
Poker Room Comfort
You would think that comfort would be a simple thing for poker rooms to do right. However, there are so many ways we have seen it done wrong. Sometimes the chairs are basic wedding banquet chairs, hard and low to the ground. Sometimes the chairs are large, comfortable, and even adjustable. But when you stick ten of them around the table, you’re constantly crashing into your neighbors. There are rooms that are too hot, and rooms that are too cold.
Many casinos opt to place the poker room right next to the slot machines with no wall between. The waves of smoke drifting over leave us choking and smelly after a 6 hour tournament. The rare entirely smoke-free casino, like The Rivers in Schenectady, NY, is a treasure.
Our ratings of comfort are pretty simple. We evaluate the factors above along with lighting, cleanliness (I hate a dirty chip), noise level, and overall feel. We report where a room falls short, and where it soars. Our current all-time favorite room from a comfort standpoint goes to the Borgata in Atlantic City. We’ll let you know if and when it gets unseated.
Poker Room Staff
This evaluation is pretty straightforward. Are the dealers competent and friendly? Is the floor attentive? Do the waitresses show up more than once every two hours? That’s really all a poker room needs to hit the staff rating out of the park. Sadly few poker rooms do. Turning Stone has fabulous dealers, and Hampton Falls has excellent floors. Playground Poker outside of Montreal has a button where the dealer can call a waitress for you anytime you like. Other poker rooms would do well to study these three in the interest of upping their staffing game.
In a poker room review, we don’t assign numerical ratings to players. However, we do provide a flavor for who you may meet at the tables. Casinos in Vegas can attract some local grinders, but mostly tourists. Places like National Harbor in DC may be filled with area pros. Meanwhile, somewhere like the remote Lakes Region Casino in New Hampshire are often filled with local recreational players. In some rooms everyone seems to know one another. While in others you may meet residents from countries all over the world. Both situations offer promise, but it’s good to know what you might be facing before you walk through the door.
In addition to player categories, some rooms seem to feature particular playing styles. We’ve played in rooms positively filled with older tight passive players, and others with loose aggressive young guns.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!Click To Tweet
At this point in our playing careers, Paul and I are primarily tournament players. Thus, when we evaluate a poker room, we put an emphasis on the tournament structures offered on a regular basis. Many larger rooms may host a WPT Deepstacks tournament once a year. It’s the regular tournaments offered every week we are evaluating. We are strong believers in Arnold Snyder’s tournament structure evaluation presented in The Poker Tournament Formula . (Yeah, that’s an affiliate link. But if you saw our copy, you’d see how very loved it’s been).
There are tournament structures that favor skill, and structures that favor luck. We seek out tournaments with long enough blind levels and shallow enough jumps that our odds are high of outlasting the guy who is playing his first tournament ever. In our poker room review, we share that insight with you. Note that tournament schedules and structures are ever-changing. Go through to the poker room’s site to confirm that the structures we describe are still those offered.
How to Find a Poker Room Review
If you are interested in our review of a particular room, there are three ways to find it. First, you can go to our Poker Room Reviews page and enter the room in the search bar. If you are interested to see all of the poker room reviews, sort the table by stars. Reviewed rooms will come to the top.
We also offer a map of all of the poker rooms in the United States (and a couple in Canada) with more then ten tables. You can use the map to find poker rooms near you. Those that we have reviewed will offer a link to the review in the description.
Finally, you can simply go to the home page and search the poker room that you are interested in. If we have done a review, it will appear in the search results.
If you have had a significantly different experience at a reviewed poker room, or if its status has changed in some way, please reach out and let us know.