Heather and I spent our New Year’s vacation dodging frostbite in Montreal and retreating for warmth to the poker room of Casino de Montreal. We played three tournaments over four days (the fourth was spent at the Playground Poker Club outside the city). This was our third poker jaunt to Montreal. The last was so profitable that we were itching to return. Let’s just say that the results this time were not as positive. I’ll try my best to divorce that fact from this review of the Casino de Montreal’s poker offerings.
Casino de Montreal Setting
The Casino de Montreal lies on the Ile Notre Dame in the St. Lawrence river 5 minutes from downtown. The Casino has a very futuristic look as its two main buildings were built as exhibition space for Expo ’67. The casino opened in 1993. The entire casino, including the poker room, is non-smoking.
The poker room lies on an upper floor of the annex, and you walk through the rest of the casino proper to get there. A modern bar bisects the poker room. The primary space has fifteen tables lined with one massive television and several smaller ones.
One of the nice features of the Casino de Montreal is a self-service beverage bar that dispenses soda, coffee, juice, and water. The self-service bar obviates the need to wait for table service for non-alcoholic beverages.
The Casino de Montreal poker room is dark. The low black ceiling and dim lighting create a cave-like feel. The tables themselves, however, are well lit, so you can see cards without issue. The chairs are comfortable yet not so large (unlike at the Playground) that you are bumping into other players. The tables are also reasonably spaced, so you can move around without difficulty.
Poker in French
I took four years of high school French, yet am limited to little beyond “Oui” and “Merci.” During this visit to the Casino de Montreal, I was typically the only English speaker at my table. Thus, picking up verbal tells was not a factor. The other players might as well have been speaking Swahili. Players stated bet amounts in French and were repeated by the dealers in French most of the time. Sometimes dealers also translated to English. Interestingly, the main poker actions such as fold, call, and all in are spoken, and repeated by the dealer, in English.
One of the larger adjustments is that the letters on the face cards are in French. Kings are R for Roi, Queens are D for Dame, and Jacks are V for Valet. Whenever I was trying to figure out if I had a Broadway draw I had to practically mutter the translations under my breath. It’s amazing how tricky this simple change in the cards is to process.
The dealers were skilled and knowledgeable and kept things moving efficiently with minimal mistakes. They were informal and at times playful with players. The floors were rarely called, but were pleasant in greeting the players at the beginning of the tournament. The tournaments were very well run overall.
At the Casino de Montreal, the waitresses circulate with drink and food orders. Each table also has a button to call a waitress, which I found more civilized than the shout-for-the-waitress-as-she-zips-by style of many card rooms.
Casino de Montreal Players
The players at the Casino de Montreal are generally pleasant and social with the widest range in skill I have ever seen. There were a few tricky players in every tournament, and some truly talented ones. But there were just as many young men seemingly new to the game. Finally, there were a lot of recreational regulars who were out to enjoy themselves as much as win.
Interestingly, there was very little alcohol consumption at the tables. No one was intoxicated and few people even ordered a single drink. This was true even for the tournament that we played on New Year’s Eve. This added to the pleasant environment and meant that testy exchanges were rare.Playing Poker in French is both Fun and ChallengingClick To Tweet
The Casino de Montreal hosts 1 to 2 tournaments per day (at 1pm and/or 7:30pm). All are described as Deep Stack, with chip stacks starting in the 15,000 to 25,000 range and opening blind levels at 25-50. The Regular tournament has 20 minute blinds, while the turbo blinds go up every 15 minutes. All tournaments are re-entries. Like any small buy-in tournament, the structures are aggressive and you have to play accordingly.
The tournaments typically get between 60 and 100 runners. One aspect of the tournament I did not like was that buy in occurs at the table. Every time a new player joins, the dealer has to stop to process the buy-in and present their stack. When lot of players are rebuying, this process slows things down to an extent that is not ideal with such aggressive structures.
Playing poker in French is both fun and challenging. The Casino de Montreal provides a rich French atmosphere, yet is comfortable for the non-native speaker. If you are a recreational player looking for a fun environment with reasonable play, the Casino de Montreal will fit your needs.