The Keene Casino poker room lies on the periphery of the New Hampshire poker room scene. Located in southwest New Hampshire, Keene draws a completely different player-base than the highly competitive central-eastern region. Unsurprisingly, this gives it a distinctive character.
Unfortunately, we visited Keene Casino on a very slow Saturday (it was a very nice day in June). We registered during the first level and were the 6th and 7th people to do so. Although management assured us that people would continue to buy in, the tournament maxed out at 9 entries. No cash tables started while we were there. A couple of people wandered in and played blackjack. There were a lot of staff milling about with little to do. So this review should probably come with an “incomplete” stamp.
Setting and Non-Poker Amenities
The journey to Keene provides a pretty, bucolic ride. There are no major highways that run through Keene, so you’ll approach from one of the smaller New Hampshire country highways. Keene itself has about 23,000 residents and is the seat and largest city of Cheshire County. As with many former mill towns of New England, the area swooned with the manufacturing declines of the 20th century.
Keene has successfully recreated itself into an artsy, bustling destination. It is now a quaint college town (Keene State College and Antioch University New England are located there) amidst the scenic Monadnock mountain region. Although there are signs that Keene is still in transition. Several storefronts on Main Street are looking for tenants, and social services buildings abound. On the other hand, there are a number of interesting restaurants and clearly an active arts culture.
The Keene Casino poker room is housed in an attractive brick building a half mile west of Main Street. Directly across from the front door is the Elm City Brewing Company. Inside, the poker room is no less attractive, with a brick interior and skylights in the ceiling. The 4 table cash area is on the first floor, has an all glass sunroom with roulette and blackjack tables. Upstairs is on open loft with a 6 table tournament area. The wood beams further the rustic warm appeal. It is definitely the sunniest card room we have ever played in. However, the random clutter propped up against the walls does distract from the positive feng shui a bit.
There was space for a restaurant and bar. But there was so few players, and little eating, that it’s hard to assess food quality and service issues. A waitress did not visit the table at any point during our play.
Keene Casino Poker Room Comfort
With only 6 tables in the upper loft and 4 on the main level, The Keene Casino has plenty of space between tables. The upstairs room was unusually warm compared with most rooms, likely due to the skylights above. This felt like a refreshing change for a while. As time went on, it felt a bit stuffy. This could have been a product of the New England spring weather transition: as it was not yet warm enough out for full air conditioning.
There were four TVs upstairs and 2 downstairs. There were also two screens displaying the tournament clocks upstairs. Lighting was quite good. It was nice to have rare natural lighting in a poker room.
The problems reveal themselves once you sit at the table. The chairs were poorly cushioned, very uncomfortable, and sat very low to the ground. There seemed to be booster cushions scattered around, but not many. The tables were dirty, covered with crumbs, lint and other detritus. Given that this was only a single table tournament, it seems like it would take minimal effort to brush off the table before starting. At our favorite New Hampshire poker room, Hampton Falls, all of the tables are cleaned at the end of each evening. Again, at a 10 table room this seems like it would be quite do-able. Keene’s chips were also filthy to a point I have never before seen.
Poker Room Staff
Staff were a bit hard to assess given only the single table operating, but the dealers we had were good. They had very solid skills and were quite friendly. There was not much for the floor to do in a single table tournament, but the floors were friendly as well. No waitress was circulating that we saw. However, no one seemed to be drinking and there was only one person eating food, which he obtained at break. I imagine that wait staff is more present when player volume is higher.The small Keene Casino poker room is a mixed bag with a nice location, good staff, and good tournament structures. Unfortunately, uncomfortable chairs, dirty tables and chips, and low volume play limit its appealClick To Tweet
Players at Keene Casino Poker Room
Once again, we were in a tournament with only seven players other than ourselves. Characterizing the general pool of the room is thus impossible. In this tiny event, there was a pretty big spread: a couple of very poor players, most just soft/predictable, and a couple decently deceptive. Players were very friendly and no one was unpleasant. Those we played with were clearly a tight group, all on a first name basis. Our favorite was a self-proclaimed 90 year old woman who was quite sharp and still enjoying the game. Given a likely small community of players, I imagine this is a fairly typical mix even with more activity.
The excellent tournament structures are a real strength of Keene Casino. The Saturday $60 tournament that we played had a 20,000 chip starting stack, 25 minute blinds, and a starting level of 50/100. There was a $60 rebuy or add on opportunity. That is a pretty darn good structure for $60. Scanning Keene’s tournament calendar reveals an array of structures, several with slightly higher buy-ins but even deeper starting stacks and longer blind levels. One distinguishing factor of the New Hampshire poker scene is the existence of several rooms with great structure-to-buy-in ratios. Keene certainly is in the conversation as one of the best.
Of course, the limiting factor is size. Although, clearly Keene has tournaments with bigger fields, their tournament space has only 6 tables. They likely never get very large player numbers.
Overall Assessment of the Keene Casino Poker Room
In some ways an “incomplete” may be the fairest grade for this visit. So few players make the whole experience hard to assess. What we can say is that the location provides a pleasant drive in a pretty setting. If you have time to stroll around downtown Keene, all the better. The Keene Casino poker room itself provides an attractive interior setting. The staff seems competent and nice.
However, the inattention to comfort is a major problem. Providing comfortable chairs and clean tables and chips would go a long way to improve this room. These limitations may well contribute to the low player activity. Elsewhere in New Hampshire, people will go some distance to their favorite rooms. The Keene Casino may well have a very local draw. Even for a small room, it has greater potential if it addresses some of these weaknesses.