Casino de Montreal Poker Room Review

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 poker room review
Casino de Montreal by Philip Lai

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.

Staff

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.

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 Challenging Click To Tweet

Tournament Structure

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.

Overall

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.

Casino de Montreal Poker
5 lessons poker has taught me

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Seabrook Poker Room Review

New Hampshire, for such a small state, boasts a remarkable number of bustling poker rooms. While it does not have a single large casino, there are multiple vibrant charity card rooms. Poker is the primary focus of these rooms, although each has a few table games as well. Even more striking: two of the largest poker rooms in New Hampshire are a mere two miles from one another! I have reviewed the Hampton Falls room already, now I’ll take on its bookend, the Seabrook Poker Room.

Our Life as Seabrook Regulars

Seabrook was our go-to poker room for about 3 years. Mostly because it has a weekend tournament that fit our schedule and budget. The $50 tournament starts at 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. For such a cheap buy-in, 20 minute blinds with a starting stack of 15,000 chips is a bargain. Or, at least it seemed so. The 4:00 tournaments generally last about 6 hours, although they devolve quickly at the end to shove fests resulting in multi-way chops. But what could you expect for $50?!

Seabrook

Seabrook hosts more tournament than cash action. A few cash tables are usually going in the late afternoon and evening on weekends. However, the cash game volume pales in comparison to Hampton Falls every day of the week. As I write this on a Tuesday evening, there is 1 table running at Seabrook with no waiting list while Hampton Falls has 5 tables and waiting lists for both $1/$2 NL and $2/$4 limit games.

When we first started playing, there were also a number of excellent floors and dealers at Seabrook. Although there were a few weak spots, personnel were generally friendly and skilled and created a laid back environment. A wide range of personalities play at Seabrook, and the staff there made all feel welcome. Another plus is that the food is remarkably good. Nothing fancy, but Seabrook offers really good pizza and chicken quesadillas, and a number of other solid options.

 

The Times, They Are a-Changin’

In addition to poker and table games, Seabook hosts simulcast racing. Go there on a Triple Crown event afternoon, and you’ll wade through hundreds of eager folks playing the ponies. Rockingham Park in Salem, which also hosted poker and simulcast racing, closed in 2016. Seabrook then became the only option for those who want to bet the ponies or dogs in the state.

The poker players from Rockingham also needed to find new a new home. Salem is about half an hour from  card rooms in Nashua, Manchester, and Hampton Falls/Seabrook. Nashua had recently added the Boston Billiards Club and Casino cardroom into an existing pool hall and The River poker room moved to Nashua. Players from Rockingham gravitated towarad rooms based on convenience or the type of atmosphere and play they preferred.

And that was the beginning of the end for Seabrook.

 

Leaking Roofs and Poker Quality

Seabrook always had quirks. During a heavy rain, trash cans caught water that would drip through the porous roof, although the cardroom proper stayed dry. Suffice it to say, a stroll around the facility with stained and missing ceiling tiles and a trash can obstacle course was not scenic.  But for a time, that seemed part of the rugged charm of the site.

Seabrook also has one of the widest ranges of poker player quality I have seen. There are a few good skilled players, a fair number of rocks who would never bet unless they had a monster, and a wealth of bad players. The bad players range from loose aggressive maniacs to loose passive players who see gold in every gut shot draw. For a time the balance was good, with plenty of players to take advantage of, but enough stability to feel you weren’t just playing bingo.

New Hampshire boasts a remarkable number of bustling poker rooms Click To Tweet

However, Rockingham’s closure fed many more wild players into Seabrook. In fact, some of the new players put the old maniacs to shame. Suddenly at the 50/100 blind level players would open for 3,000…blind…UTG. This had the dual effect of goading the existing maniacs to greater heights and pissing off the rocks and solid players. Tournaments became free-for-alls. Seabrook always hosted a set of cranky older players and a few explosive young men. With this new dynamic it felt like Seabrook needed more security guards at the ready. Although I don’t play a lot of cash, those games seemed to follow suit and became crazy, loose games of raw machismo.

Competition from other sites continues to burgeon. In Salem, a new room, Chasers, recently opened and another, Cheers, is scheduled to debut shortly, filling the vacuum left by Rockingham. Of course, there are only so many experienced dealers and floors to go around. All these rooms have drained some of the best talent from Seabrook. During our waning days as regulars, the ratio of poor to good dealers just got too high. There were too many slow and mistake-filled blind levels. Pair that with conflicts between the old and new guard of players, and it just become unpleasant.

Seabrook became less a fun, laid back venue with good value tournaments and more a repository of bad play, poor dealer skills, and physical deterioration. Quaint gave way to rundown and kitschy to past its prime. A shame, as we still have an affection for the place and some of the people. But Seabrook’s best days as a poker room are, I fear, behind it.

 

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The Venetian Poker Room Review

The Palazzo/Venetian Resort Casino

First, I must couch this review within my general affection for the Venetian/Palazzo complex at large.  My wife and I started our annual poker jaunts to Las Vegas three years ago. I was uncertain whether I would like Las Vegas at all. As much as I love poker, I do not necessarily groove to the full casino experience. An entire city  of that environment might prove to be too much for me.

Choosing the Palazzo as our hotel was the critical and fortunate first step to loving Vegas.  The rooms have a large, multi-level design complete with a desk, dinette set, square coffee table and huge wrap around couch. The bathroom is bigger than some hotel rooms I’ve rented in New York City! Our room at the Palazzo always feels more like a small, beautifully appointed apartment. Whenever I stay there, I never want to leave.

The Venetian Poker Room
by Prab Bhatia

Although the room is certainly the star of my Palazzo/Venetian experience, the whole complex is wonderful.  It is pleasant to walk through the faux canal area that connects the two casinos. There are great restaurants everywhere and good quick food options in the St. Mark’s square area. There seem to be nice shopping choices for those into such things. The gaming areas themselves are at the high end in terms of the look and feel among the major Las Vegas casinos. While not as expensive or elegant as the Wynn right next door, I realize the Palazzo charges higher than the median price for rooms on the strip. I promise you it is well worth it.

OK, enough of the general resort experience.  Let’s get to the poker room.

 

The Venetian Cardroom

Heather and I have played tournaments at the Venetian Poker Room during each of our three annual visits. The Venetian poker room appears to have gone through a significant renovation from 2016 to 2017.  They have lost several tables by shrinking the room space significantly.  The room also seemed a bit dimmer than I remember, but that could just be my rapidly aging eyesight. Because they were a bit washed out, discerning chip denominations from one another across the table was a challenge. However, the tables remain nicely spread out with comfortable elbow room and comfortable chairs.

In April of this year, we played in a Sunday evening DeepStacks Extravaganza tournament. Special tournaments happen so regularly at the Venetian that they might as well be daily tournaments. This was a $200 rebuy tournament (15,000 chips, 20 minute blinds, antes start at level 4.  Players were stronger overall than those we played against at Caesar’s the night before. Meanwhile, the Aria offered stiffer competition the following evening.

The Venetian's highly skilled and efficient dealers kept good control of table Click To Tweet

The Venetian’s highly skilled and efficient dealers kept good control of table, if not always consistent about announcing raises. The floors actively managed the action and no major issues developed. The tournament was professionally run (as you’d expect at a large Vegas cardroom). Service was prompt, although we did not order anything other than water. Wait times did not seem inordinately long for those around us.

Fifty-six players bought in (including rebuys) and the top prize was over $3,000 with an overall guarantee of $9,000. Heather chopped the top 5 spots for a $1,400 take. I had a top 6 equity chop in 2016 in a similar tournament format. Tipping was low stress and convenient, as you just put what you want in a box away from the table. There is a dealer hold out from your entry, so large tips are not expected.

Obviously, there are a lot of poker options in Las Vegas. The Venetian poker room, however, is one of the best in terms aesthetics, comfort, and professionalism.

Related Recommendation

As I said earlier the Venetian/Palazzo complex is filled with great dining options.  One of our favorites is Yardbird.   Close to the Venetian poker room, Yardbird offers great Southern-style food featuring a fabulous fried chicken. Most plates are meant to be shared; the fried chicken is certainly enough for two as a main course.  Side dishes of biscuits and grits with cheddar cheese are also very good.

Mohegan Sun Poker Room Review (Connecticut)

Winding through the Mohegan Sun Casino to find the poker room is not easy task. You have to pay pretty close attention to the signs at every bend. However, the journey will likely prove worth it.

Unlike some casino poker rooms dropped amidst the hustle and bustle of slot machines and table games, the Mohegan Sun room has it’s own space.  One enters through glass doors into a room with high ceilings and reasonably spaced tables. The decor is professional and pleasant, giving the entire room a nice look and feel. The chairs are comfortable and the tables generously sized.

Registration for cash table wait lists appears immediately as you enter, and the staff is welcoming and accommodating. on my most recent visit the1-2 NL list was fairly long, but they opened a new table soon after I arrived which cleared much of the list. In the end, I got a seat within 15 minutes.

Mohegan Sun
Mohegan Sun by joevare

I have played both cash and tournaments at Mohegan, and have consistently found the dealers to be professional and skilled. They rarely make errors or seem uncertain, and the card shufflers move the action along briskly.  On weekends there are often many cash tables running with a variety of limit and no-limit games. Mohegan Sun draws a pretty wide span of player skill: one ATM machine at the table re-bought a stack of $100 five times during my 3 hours there with no apparent limits to the hands he would play.  There were also a couple of very skilled players who extracted maximum value from their made hands and rarely showed down poorly.

Most of Mohegan Sun’s daily no-limit tournaments have reasonable buy-ins (most ranging from $75 to $150) with decent structures (such as $150 Saturday tournaments with 20K starting stack and 25 minute blinds).  Mohegan also hosts larger buy-in events during special series, like the $1,100 buy-in with 100K guarantee during their Fall Showdown.  Again, the tournaments I have played there tend to have a fairly wide range of player skill and an equally wide range of player attitudes, with some welcoming and gregarious, and some visibly irritated by what they consider the poor play of others.

Mohegan Sun provides a quality poker experience amidst a large casino setting Click To Tweet

Serving staff is attentive in seeking drink orders, circulating frequently and delivering promptly. The one downside to the room, experienced during my most recent visit is the open dance club that lies right outside. On a Saturday night it was in full swing, and the music and intense bass beat was very loud in the poker room. Even with my headphones turned up, the noise was a bit distracting.

The Mohegan Sun casino is a large full-service casino with a variety of gaming, entertainment, and dining options. The Connecticut WNBA team plays its home games there in the summer and top comedy and music acts visit on a weekly basis. The casino is set in the Eastern Connecticut woods, fairly close to a major north-south highway (route 395).  As a bonus, it is a mere 15 minutes from Connecticut’s other major casino, Foxwoods.

Mohegan Sun provides a quality poker experience amidst a large casino setting in an area that is convenient to Hartford, Providence, RI, and the Connecticut and Rhode Island shores. If you are a poker player visiting New England, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods should be priority destinations.

 

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The Poker Room at Hampton Falls

Hampton Falls is simply the best poker experience in New Hampshire for the player looking for a well-run room, quality dealers, and reasonably competitive play. If you want to match wits with tournament players who can actually fold correctly, well, your chances here are far better than many of the other local rooms. The cash games can get fairly wild with loose aggressive play being a seeming badge of honor.

 

Hampton Falls Poker
Upstairs at Hampton Falls

Hampton Falls has some of the best value tournaments in New England. the Friday and Saturday 1pm tournaments are our favorites: $90 entry fee with 30,000 chips, 30 minute blinds starting at 25-50, antes starting at level 4, and levels that increase gradually enough that the tournament does not become a shove-fest after hour 3.  In fact, if you plan to money in this one, set aside 10-11 hours of your day. This tournament typically draws 70 to 130 players.  Skill levels vary, but not many “bingo” players are chasing gut shots to the river.  However, there are plenty of solid, unspectacular players who can be exploited. Hampton Falls also features special monthly tournaments with higher buy-ins (e.g., $250) that tend to draw big crowds.

Hampton Falls has a nice two floor design, with reasonable space between tables and comfortable chairs for a non-casino poker room. The lighting is decent and for those who want to beat the summer heat, the room is kept very cool.

Aside from tournament structure, the major differentiator between Hampton Falls and its local competitors is the quality of the dealers and floors.  Most dealers are fast, friendly, and knowledgeable.  There are a few weak spots, but they do such a good job rotating dealers that you are rarely saddled with a mediocre dealer for very long.  There are few issues, but when there are the floors maintain control and have the respect of the players. They know the rules and are able to articulate the logic behind their decisions clearly. Hampton Falls features the most professional staff we have encountered outside of a major casino or very large cardroom.

Our Review of The Poker Room at Hampton Falls Click To Tweet

One down side is that the food is fairly mediocre.  We have tried a few things on their menu, with the fried appetizers certainly solid, but nothing stands out.  We ordered a grilled chicken sandwich once and it was basically a protein delivery system at best: unseasoned breast slapped in a humble bun with wilted lettuce and a tomato slice keeping it company.  Generally the food and drink crew are well staffed; they circle frequently and are attentive, but we have seen some complaints of food taking a long time when things are bustling.

On the other hand, you’re not here for the food, you’re here to play some poker. Hampton Falls delivers the best poker experience in Northern New England.

 

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