The Playground Poker Club outside of Montreal is one of our favorite card rooms. We first visited three years ago after seeing a major televised tournament held there and expected grand things. While our initial approach to the card room elicited a ‘”this can’t be right” reaction, upon entry all was revealed. We returned last month (December 2019) and were excited to see further evolution. The Playground Poker Club is truly an elite North American venue for poker.
Playground Poker Club Setting
The Playground Poker Club is located in Kahnawake, Quebec. It is about a twenty minute drive from Montreal. However, the drive can vary substantially – dependant more on construction status than the amount of traffic. Returning to Montreal around midnight after one tournament took well over an hour, with bridge repairs narrowing many stretches to one lane. As we discussed in our travel post about Montreal, road conditions are a fearsome obstacle to contend with. If you’re staying in downtown Montreal, this is one of the Playground’s biggest drawbacks. Taking a bus or a short car ride to the Casino de Montreal becomes an attractive alternative in the winter when the weather is bad or you’re not feeling adventurous.
After you battle the pothole covered bridges, you’ll be dumped onto a road full of gas stations, convenience stores, and tobacco stores. The Playground comes up fast on your right (when coming from Montreal), with not a lot of fanfare, so you need to be attentive. The building looks like a large warehouse, dark with little adornment. At this point on our first visit, we started to wonder what all the fuss was about. The front entrance, at least, starts to hint that there may be more to this venue than the structure conveys.
Poker Room Comfort
When you enter the Playground, you’ll get what the fuss is about. Immediately you’ll see a large number of cash tables. This front space was the original poker room that opened in 2010. Walk around toward the left and you enter the larger room (added in 2012), with many rows of tables and high ceilings. This larger tournament room is almost cavernous. Despite its 75 tables, it feels expansive. The look is very modern and clean. Large TVs display various sports, with a particular focus on hockey in the winter. Felts and chips all look brand new, as they have almost every time we have been here. The Playground Poker Club is one of the most immaculately kept poker rooms we have experienced.
The Playground does squander the full advantage of their space in one way: their chairs are too big! The chairs sport a modern sleek design and are very comfortable (and some people clearly love that aspect), but so wide that if the player next to you turns to get their food or drink behind them, their chair will collide into yours. Also, while the high ceiling provides great air-quality, it does feel a little dark compared to rooms with lighting immediately above the tables. Add to that the large table size, and it can be hard to see cards across the table if you’re seated at the end.
In late 2018 the Playground added a slots room tucked off the back right corner of the large poker room. The slots area that is open to the cardroom is non-smoking, with a small smoking room walled off with a sliding glass door entry in the back. This is an excellent solution for non-smoking poker players. No smoke wafts into the poker room. There is a small bar area in the slots room with a group of low, plush chairs nearby. The new addition seems to have further increased the volume of play in the historically busy Playground Poker Club.
But, wait, there’s more to come! The PPC is currently building an adjacent hotel, that from the looks of its current state, may well open in 2020. The Playground is transforming itself from a top-flight standalone cardroom to a small casino with hotel accommodations. We can’t wait to stay there on a future visit.
Playground Poker Club Staff and Dining
A first-tier room has to have highly skilled and professional staff. The Playground nailed this aspect. When we sign up for tournaments, we are greeted by the friendly staff at the cage. The floors run tournaments smoothly despite often huge fields. Dealers are highly skilled and knowledgeable. Despite being in French Quebec, the Playground uses the English card deck, not the French (King, Queen and Jack as opposed to Roi, Dame, and Valet) used at the Casino de Montreal. Dealers are also supposed to repeat most actions in English. However, they do not always remember, so if you are uncertain of the amount bet, you may need to request a translation.
At the cash tables, all food and beverages from the adjacent restaurant, The Rail, are free. In tournaments, only drinks are free. However, the tournament food menu offers a significant discount on prices over the restaurant next door. The wait staff in the poker room are hustling most of the time, but we hve had lulls in the tournament area at times where wait staff was nowhere to be found for an extended period. One of the playground’s welcome amenities is a lighting system on dealer chairs. If you would like a waitress, or need to call the floor, the dealer presses a button and a color coordinated light appears on a pole attached to his chair. This allows staff to know who needs assistance, and of what type.
The Rail is a standalone restaurant with 140 seats. It has been bustling each time we have visited. We have so far eaten in the restaurant three times, mostly out of convenience or necessity. We have generally found the food to be fairly mediocre, not bad but nothing notable. However, on this trip we ordered chicken club sandwiches for lunch (three times) while playing, and those were very good. It does not appear that there are a lot of quality dining options locally. So if you are here for the day to play, The Rail might be your best option.The Playground Poker Club boasts 75 tables, excellent staff, strong players, and frequent large tournamentsClick To Tweet
Apart from the larger Borgata and some Las Vegas tournaments we have played, the Playground Poker Club has generally offered the stiffest competition we have yet encountered. However, perhaps because the Playground moved from purely a poker destination to a more diverse venue with slots, there were more novices/weaker players in the tournaments this year than in the past. But there are still plenty of good to very good players to contend with. The Playground suits the serious poker player better than the casual one. Several players at the typical table will be very attentive to the actions of other players. They are there to win, not socialize. Most players speak French exclusively, although there is a smattering of English speakers at most tables.
Playground Poker Club Cash Games
The cash games seem very active on nights and weekends at the Playground. When we were there, there were a couple of dozen cash tables active most days. From their PokerAtlas feed, the Playground seems to offer many levels of NLH and frequent Omaha games. There is also a separate high stakes cash room.
Playground Poker Club Tournament Play
It is difficult to summarize the Playground Poker Club’s “typical” tournament structure. Their standing weekly tournaments generally have 15 or 20 minute blind levels and stacks of anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 chips. Buy-ins tend to be between $70 and $125 Canadian. These structures are not a terrible value for such modest buy-ins. However, The Playground has so many rotating special events, mostly with higher buy-ins and better structures, that these may be more frequent than their standing tournaments. Looking at the January/February 2020 calendars there are a smattering of $165-$330 events, as well as a multi-flight/multi-day $1,100 entry over a weekend.
The Playground Poker Club deserves its excellent reputation. It is an elite, spacious card room with a top-notch staff, high cash game volume, and excellent tournament play. The only major drawbacks are a difficult location, over-sized chairs, and a lack of light on the tables. When those are your weaknesses, you know you’re in good shape. The Playground is also in growth mode, having added a slots room, bar, and coming soon, a hotel.
The Playground Poker Club has long been an elite card room that has begun refashioning itself as a small casino. The location and exterior don’t give many hints to the quality inside, but once you enter, you will experience an expansive room with a sleek, modern look that houses 75 tables. The staff is excellent and the players strong. Regular tournaments feature fairly good structures for the buy-in value. Additionally, The Playground is always rotating in larger special event tournaments, often with sizable fields and significant prize money.