Northwoods Casino Poker Room Review
We have played at some poker rooms in the middle of nowhere before (see Creek Entertainment Gretna or the Ebro Poker Room). But I don’t think we’ve ever played at a room as remote as the Northwoods Casino in Berlin, New Hampshire. Berlin is waaaaaay in the north of the state, closer to Canada than to the nearest city (St. Johnsbury, VT is a mere hour away). If you are coming from the South, as most of you will be, the journey is a beautiful drive through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And your destination is housed in a former church.
Setting and Non-Poker Amenities
The Northwoods Poker Room is located in the middle of northern New Hampshire. Nestled in the White Mountains, it’s a mere 20 minutes from the start of the Mount Washington Auto Road. It is convenient to hiking trails and ski resorts alike. However, it’s open only Wednesday through Saturday, with a tournament each of those evenings.
There are very few places to stay near Berlin, but we found a fabulous (if pricey) bed and breakfast just 15 minutes up the road in Milan New Hampshire. The Inn at Oxbow Acres was all that we could have dreamed of in an overnight stay. We stayed in a peaceful room with views of the garden and horses. The furniture was finely crafted and carefully chosen. And the included breakfast was the best I have ever had at a hotel of any sort.
We barely had time for dinner after checking in to the Bnb. So we took a quick jaunt down the road to Gorham (about 15 minutes from Berlin) and sat at the bar at Big Day Brewing. Big Day is a craft brewery with excellent food as well. The place was packed on a Saturday night. The atmosphere was loud and cheerful, with high ceilings and an open room. Note that if you are pondering a bite, or a beer, after you play, EVERYTHING in Gorham and Berlin closes at 9pm on a Saturday night. And we mean everything. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Northwoods Casino Poker Room Comfort
As we mentioned, Northwoods Casino is housed in an old church. Everything about the place still screams church, from the exterior view to the stained glass window, and the stage where the minister once stood. The space is expansive and comfortable, with extremely high ceilings (of course) and plenty of light in the daytime. Yet the overall effect is decidedly odd. The light is decent, the temperature comfortable, and the air is clean. The music piped over the speakers tends toward country which will please many, but is not our genre.
There are four poker tables up near the stage at the far end of the space and about 8 table games in the center of the room. The whole area is ringed by electronic gaming machines, and a small bar sits in the far corner. The bar, by the way, is cash only.
The poker tables are branded and the felts are fairly new and in good shape. The rail is thinly padded, and there are no USB ports in the tables. Two of the tables sport drink cups and two do not. The chairs are basic banquet chairs. They have no wheels and are not adjustable, but are comfortable nonetheless. The cards are in decent shape, but not branded in any way. The poker chips were quite clean the day that we visited.
Play was 9-handed for tournament play.
Poker Room Staff
The dealers at Northwoods were generally competent and quick. Most were pleasant as well. An oddity of the tournament that we played was that there was no dealer rotation at all. Your first dealer was your last dealer unless you got moved to another table. Another oddity is that every staff person appeared to play all roles at the casino. If you find yourself in need of a drink, you will find a dealer or the room manager manning the bar. Everyone was friendly here, from the cheerful room manager, who also acted as tournament floor, on down. There were no wait-staff per say, but if you wanted to order food there was usually a stray dealer doing double duty to help you out.
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Players at the Northwoods Casino Poker Room
The players at Northwoods Casino represented a decent mix of ages (although tending to the older side). There were five women in the 28-player tournament. Players were generally regulars, but very friendly to newcomers. At my initial table, there was a player from Vermont and another from Maine (and of course, I was from Massachusetts).
Players ranged from some aggressive young guys to many tighter older players. At Heather’s table pots generally went unraised pre-flop while Paul’s table saw a lot more pre-flop raising. The aggressive players generally busted the tournament quite early leaving generally solid to tight players to play down toward the finish.
Cash Play Activity
Northwoods Casino hosts only four cash tables. Three were in use for the tournament. Fairly quickly an interest board was created for cash (on a white board laid out on the remaining table). But it wasn’t until around 9pm when enough people had exited the tournament and a dealer was available that a cash table finally started up. We wouldn’t recommend visiting Northwoods for cash poker, as it is unlikely you will find an active table when you arrive.
Throughout the evening 2 to 3 table games ran, picking up activity whenever the tournament was on break. There were also five to ten players on the electronic games at any given time.
The tournaments at Northwoods are unique in New England. While you can buy into most of them for a very modest fee, there are plenty options to throw in some extra money for extra chips along the way. As mentioned above, Northwoods Casino is open only four nights a week. However, each of those nights features a poker tournament. Wednesdays and Saturdays feature bounty tournaments for a $40 initial entry, while Thursdays and Fridays feature straight-up no rebuy tournaments for $30.
As we played on a Saturday night, we bought in for the $40 bounty ($30 plus a $10 bounty chip) for 20,000 chips. We then bought the dealer add-on for another $10 and 10,000. Additionally, at the first break (and only at the first break) players may purchase another 10,000 chips for $10. So this tournament can cost as little as $40 or as much as $60 depending upon your druthers. Most players do purchase both the add-on and the chips at break. The tournament is no rebuy, no re-entry. So if you get busted, you are out.
Thursdays and Fridays offer the same price point, only without the $10 bounty.
The structure of the Northwoods Tournament is quite aggressive to start, and then slower in the middle. Blinds start at 100-200 with 15-minute levels. Blinds double for the first few levels, but when they hit 5,000-10,000 they start to moderate a bit. The overall S-points calculation is an almost respectable 24, largely due to the fact that there are no antes in the tournament.
Note that prize pools tend to be small due to the low buy-in and small number of players. The top prize the night we played was well under $1,000. This is a place to have some poker fun, not to expect a significant windfall.
If you are interested in tournament poker play in New England, check out our Poker Room Tournament Activity Map.
Overall Assessment of Northwoods Casino Poker Room
The Northwoods Casino poker room offers a unique experience with good dealers and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. This is a place to have some poker fun, but the low buy-ins and small number of players limit the prize pool. While a striking room, it’s not very modern or fancy. Northwoods provides some nice low-buy-in tournaments with the fast structures expected at this low buy-in level.
All in all, this is a room worth visiting if you are in the White Mountains area and looking for a cheap evening tournament. The unusual setting in a renovated church itself provides a unique experience, as do the uncommonly friendly players. However, because it’s so small and remote with limited cash options, Northwoods likely won’t be at the top of your New England poker room wish list.
The Northwoods Casino poker room offers a unique experience with good dealers and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.