Headphones at the Poker Table

Throwdown Thursday: Headphones at the Poker Table

Headphones have become ubiquitous in our culture. Take a subway, and half the riders are plugged in. Walk down a city street, and cords are flapping in the breeze. Even attend a high school music performance, and you’ll see younger sibs with headphones firmly implanted in ears. (Although that final choice may reveal precocious wisdom). Headphone use at the poker table has become part of an archetype of a specific kind of player. We’ll label this breed “poker headphones”. Most, but not all poker headphones players are under 30 and wear them throughout their sessions along with sunglasses and a hoodie or ballcap.

Can these players not be alone with their thoughts? Must they desperately block out the comments of other players in order to think? Do poker headphones help or hurt focus? Debates have raged about the etiquette of headphones at the poker table and whether their use is beneficial. Norman Chad, the great poker commentator and wit, comes down firmly against poker headphones, throwing them into the same category as hoodies and sunglasses. However, many top pros like Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey, frequently wear headphones at the poker table.

In today’s Throwdown, we take on the poker headphones phenomenon. We have played tournaments both with and without headphones. Which is better?

Paul: I generally like poker players, but sometimes hate what comes out of people’s mouths. Short friendly interchanges allow me to think the best of everyone. Too much exposure to others’ insights makes me want to take up crocheting. Enjoying my poker session is as important to me as winning. Listening to Elvis Costello assures that I will enjoy my day, however the game plays out. Listening to a poker genius telling everyone else how they are misplaying hands assures I won’t.

Heather: Ah, the “I hate humanity” argument. Fair enough. However, I find that I get a lot of information from listening to others at the table. Not only through direct communications, but also from side banter with the dealer and with each other. I lose those insights about other players’ habits and their games if I am tuning out to the music of Hamilton.

 

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Foxwoods Poker Room Review

Foxwoods Poker Room Review

NOTE: This review was updated in September of 2019 to reflect substantial changes in poker room location, cash room activity, and tournament offerings.

The Foxwoods poker room was our first regular live poker venue (outside free pub poker). Thus it holds a special place in our own poker journey. Like many novice players, our experience started with “Wow, we’re doing really well! This is easier than we thought!” Which of course transformed into “Guess we’re not as good as we thought” in due time. Nonetheless, we have spent many fun evenings at Foxwoods through the years. When Foxwoods announced that it had moved its cash room from the dark lower level to a brand new room on the casino’s main level, we were intrigued. We ventured down to Southeastern Connecticut to check it out and update our review.

Setting and Non-Poker Amenities

The approach to the Foxwoods complex elicits a common reaction: “There is no way there is a large casino in the middle of these sparsely populated woods.” Then the vast structure appears like a mirage in the distance. Foxwoods’ long-term, and much-maligned, ad campaign “The Wonder of it All” actually does have some merit.

Built on Mashantucket Pequot tribal grounds, Foxwoods started in 1986 as a bingo hall. In the early 1990s, it added table games and slots and evolved into a full-blown casino. The poker room followed in 1995. The Grand Pequot Tower hotel opened in 1997 and the luxurious MGM Grand (now Fox Tower) followed in 2008. Various casino rooms surround and link the hotels along with numerous restaurants, and a large concert venue. The inevitable outlet mall (an 85-store Tanger Outlet) joined the complex in 2015.

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BestBet Jacksonville Poker Room Review

BestBet Jacksonville Poker Room Review

The BestBet Jacksonville poker room is one of largest and best known of the Florida card rooms. It is also one of the best rooms you’ll ever enter. Spacious, nicely appointed and replete with amenities that are generally only part of a large casino setting, Bestbet sets itself apart from other freestanding poker rooms. While there were a few areas BestBet fell short, overall it is a top flight room.

Setting and Non-Poker Amenities

BestBet Jacksonville is on the east side of the city, half way between the city center and the Atlantic shore. As an aside, when we visited we stayed in Atlantic Beach/Neptune beach area and it was great. Neptune Beach has fantastic restaurants in a very small walkable footprint.  Atlantic beach sports gorgeous, endless beaches and a laid-back vibe. At 15-20 minutes from BestBet, a visit to Atlantic Beach offers a great poker/beach combo vacation.

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Aria Las Vegas Poker Room Review

Aria Las Vegas Poker Room Review

The Aria is one of Las Vegas’s most breathtaking upscale hotels.  A relatively recent addition to the Vegas landscape (it opened in 2009), it offers a modern and sleek look and endless luxury offerings. The Aria poker room transmits that sense of elegance and provides a top-shelf poker experience.  We have played tournaments at the Aria in both 2016 and 2017.  The Aria certainly did not disappoint, save some minor issues.

Poker Room Setting

The interior of the Aria Las Vegas poker room is striking. Vibrant reds and various shades of brown give the room a deep and rich feel, as do the architecture and drapes that frame the room. The swivel chairs are plush and comfortable, but not too oversized (like we ran into at Playground Poker Club). There is plenty of room between you and your table mates. However, the 24 tables are not housed in a very big space, so there is a somewhat cramped feel to the room overall.  There is much less room to move around compared with The Venetian poker room, for example. Overall, the room is somewhat dark, although the tables were lit sufficiently. As the Aria Las Vegas poker room is also largely open to the casino, noise can be an issue if you are seated at a table near the edge of the space. The biggest drawback, however, is the smoke. Although the poker room is smoke-free, we found more smoke wafting in to the poker room from the Aria casino than we experienced at some of the other elite Vegas rooms.

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6 Travel Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

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.

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