The New England poker rooms are our home turf. We’ve played at all of the major ones (10 tables or more), and several small rooms as well. Our go-to rooms have changed over the years, depending on budget, whether we were into cash or tournaments at the time, and staffing. Our very first go-to room, Rockingham, near Salem New Hampshire, no longer exists.
Nationally, the New England poker room scene has a lower profile than Florida, California, or Las Vegas. However, with 13 rooms less than a 2 hour drive from Boston, this region offers one of the most vibrant and diverse poker environments in the country. In southern New Hampshire alone there are seven decent to very good poker rooms within a 20 mile radius. With the Encore slated to open in Boston later this year, the poker climate is only going to get richer in New England.
We have developed an approach to evaluating rooms, and written reviews of most of the New England poker rooms. With dozens, if not hundreds, of New England poker room visits under our belts in the past few years, the time has come to name our favorites. We present them in no particular order, as some are favored over others for very different reasons.
The Poker Room at Hampton Falls
Why Top 5 in New England Poker Rooms?: The number of weekly tournaments, some with very good structures (see below). In fact, the best low-cost tournament structures in New England can be found not at Foxwoods or Mohegan sun, but right here in Hampton Falls. Hampton Falls has two levels, so the bigger tournaments have their own space downstairs apart from the cash and table games. The room is wood paneled, bright and airy and offers a nice atmosphere for tournament players. Finally, the floor managers at Hampton Falls are fabulous. We have not seen more professional, knowledgeable floors outside of a major casino.
Favorite Tournament?: The Saturday 1pm $90 with single re-entry (there is a similar tournament on Fridays at 1pm, but it does not generally draw as many players). With a starting stack of 30,000 chips and 30 minute blinds, this is the best value tournament in New England. It is hard to find this kind of structure anywhere in the country for $90. The players are stronger here than most other rooms in New Hampshire which makes the quality of play less maddening, but profitability more challenging.
Drawbacks?: There are a smattering of mediocre dealers, but with as many tournament and cash tables Hampton runs, that is to be expected. Most dealers are very good. If you want to cash big in the $90, settle in because it is going to take 10+ hours. Also, by law New Hampshire card room revenues go partially to charity, thus the tournament rake is higher than you will find in other states.
What Else is Around?: Hampton is one of the busiest beach towns in New England, so there is lots of great seafood, but awful summer beach traffic as well. You can easily drive to any number of beaches from northern Massachusetts through southern Maine from here. Nearby Portsmouth is a small city gem with a great downtown and restaurant scene. Go 15 minutes inland and you’ll find the quaint town of Exeter. Off season, you can find very good deals at the Exeter Inn, one of our favorite old style New England hotels.
Why Top 5 in New England Poker Rooms?: Mohegan Sun in eastern Connecticut offers the most upscale of the New England poker rooms (at least pending the opening of the Encore later this year). Mohegan offers high ceilings, modern design and a comfortable playing space. The dealers are always professional and skilled, as is the floor staff. Mohegan offers a number of tournaments throughout the week as well as consistently active cash games. Our two Connecticut casino choices, this and Foxwoods, offer much lower tournament rakes in comparison to the New Hampshire card rooms.
Favorite Tournament?: Friday 2pm $100 with $25 bounty. This tournament offers a 20,000 chip starting stack, 20 minute blinds and no re-buys or add-ons. The field is generally not huge, 30-50 players is typical, but this game is a fun way to wind down a week. If you want to play for a little higher stakes and a bigger field, the Sunday 11am offers the same structure, but for a $230 entry with a $100 bounty.
Drawbacks?: Some of the players can be very serious about the play. Mohegan has more know-it-alls, scoff-at-others-players types than Foxwoods down the road. Also, the poker room can be a bit hard to find if you don’t know where it is. Hint: head to the Casino of the Wind entrance from restaurant row and keep walking!
What Else is Around?: Mohegan is a full scale casino so it offers a lot of entertainment, gaming, and dining options. We particularly enjoy Jasper White’s Summer Shack and Tom’s Urban restaurants. Mohegan Sun’s primary hotel is very nice, but expensive. Mohegan is also just a short drive from the Rhode Island and Connecticut shorelines which are, of course, mobbed in the summer.
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Manchester Poker Room
Why Top 5 in New England Poker Rooms?: Manchester has a very large and well-lit main room, unusual among freestanding poker rooms. There is plenty of space between tables, and the chairs are comfortable. The beautiful new tables in the main room also offer USB ports at each seat! The staff is top-notch, with some of the best dealers, floors, and wait staff around. The room seems to equally value tournament and cash play.
Favorite Tournament?: The Tuesday and Thursday 5:30pm tournaments are very popular, getting 60+ players most nights. The $50/$50/$50 format with 20 minute blinds gets a lot of money in the pool quickly. This translates to a $50 buy-in for 15,000 chips plus a $5 staff bonus for 5,000 more. You can rebuy if you bust by first break for $50, and there are $50 add-ons for 20,000 additional chips.
Drawbacks?: These Tuesday/Thursday tournaments are not for the faint of heart. With all of the rebuy/add-on potential, many players in early rounds are aggressive to the point of recklessness. They either want to get big or plop down their rebuy and add-on. If you struggle against that style, stay clear. Also, being a bit more isolated than some of the other New Hampshire coastal and southern rooms, the player base can feel a bit insular. Also, Manchester’s cash scene can be very dry some nights.
What Else is Around?: If you are flying into the area, consider the Manchester airport as an alternative to the nightmare of Boston’s Logan. Manchester is the largest city in northern New England, so there are plenty of dining options downtown. The city is about 45 minutes from the coast, an hour from Boston, and 60-90 minutes to Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains.With 13 rooms less than a 2 hour drive from Boston, New England offers one of the most vibrant and diverse poker environments in the country.Click To Tweet
Why Top 5 in New England Poker Rooms?: If you want the opportunity to play a variety of cash games, Foxwoods is far and away the best choice in New England. They are the largest poker room on the East Coast and draw both a faithful clientele and a lot of tourists and casual players. Chances are, if you don’t like the table you are playing, you can scan the room for a better situation. Foxwoods has been around for a couple of decades, so they know what they are doing. Despite large volumes, both the poker and wait staff work hard to keep everything rolling along.
Favorite Tournament?: Sunday 6pm $120 Survivor tournament with 20 minute blinds. We love the Survivor structure in general – 10% of players win the same amount, in this case $1,000. The Survivor structure eliminates the sometimes tortuous final table play and rewards strong consistent play over volatility. In this game, Foxwoods has a gem to end the weekend.
Drawbacks?: The main poker room shows its age. It is a bit dark and cramped in comparison to newer rooms, it also can get smoky in the area open to upstairs. Dealers are generally skilled, but there are some that can be quite cranky and seeming to hate their jobs.
What Else is Around?: Like Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods offers a full scale casino. Dining options range from the omnipresent Dunkin’ Donuts to high end upscale restaurants. The Golden Dragon has decent Chinese fare, but can get crowded on the weekends. Foxwoods also recently added an outlet mall, so shopping is plentiful. Just 15-20 minutes away is Mystic, one of our favorite New England towns.
Why Top 5 in New England Poker Rooms?: Chasers is the most active cash room in the crowded New Hampshire poker scene. On weeknights there are typically 10-12 cash tables, and on Fridays and Saturdays there are 15-18. Other New Hampshire rooms may have 1-2 cash games going on a weekday at most. So if you get a bad table elsewhere, you’re stuck. At Chasers you’ll have a variety of table options.
Favorite Tournament?: None, sadly. When Chasers first opened they had some decent mid-week tournaments, but their cash business was clearly just too lucrative.
Drawbacks?: Chasers’ popularity sometimes brings long wait lists during peak hours. Get there early before the tables have maxed out. Of course, as stated above, tournament players need not apply
What Else is Around?: While the immediate area in Salem NH is not a tourist mecca, many attractions are reachable from there. Chasers is about a half hour drive from Boston and the same from the New Hampshire coastline. Head north and you’ll pass through Manchester and the state capital of Concord, and within 2 hours be in the White Mountains.
If you are an avid poker player living outside New England, plan an extended trip to the area. You will not be disappointed by the variety of options and depth of quality New England poker rooms. Check back here at the end of 2019, as this post will surely be updated with the opening of the Encore and the subsequent growth or decline of other rooms.
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