Where to Play

A couple days ago I wrote a pretty tough piece about a local card room here in Fresno and I have gotten some feedback about the tone of the story. I will say that I write as honest as I can and I write about things that move me. I do not write to be correct or make people happy. I write what I feel and often times that is not a happy thing.

My friends pointed out to me that Club One is huge card room and therefore they must be doing something right. I have to tell you that the fact that players are in there is no reflection on how well the club is being run. I think they have a huge room and a great location in the middle of a large population base. Players go there because they feel that is where the action is. I would say over the last five years or so that has been pretty much correct. Do I think other rooms are run better? Absolutely. The 500 Club in Clovis is run way better and a much friendlier card room that does more for the players.

Why do I not play at Club One? I have several answers and the first is the most important. They charge too much to play there. The rake is just too high at Club One. I can play at plenty of places that charge three dollars per hand. I do not need to pay five or six dollars per hand to play poker. Second I am not a big fan of jackpots and the jackpot drop is too strong at Club One. They immediately drop a dollar for the jackpot as soon as the hand is dealt. Even if the big blind gets a walk the dollar is gone. Taking two dollars for a hand is absolutely ridiculous. The third reason is that they rarely give anything back to the players. Free drinks and free food are no longer available. A cheap players menu would be nice. A player’s club card that allows players to earn complimentary food and services would be nice. The last reason and the hardest one for me to get over is that they do not treat the players well.

People often question why I travel so much and go on the road to play. I have to say I am going to play where it makes sense for me to play. I play where the players are fun to play with. I play where the players have large bankrolls. I play where the games are soft. I play where it is cheap to play. I play where I receive the best perks for playing. I play where people appreciate my business. I will travel to find that place if I have to. I would love to play close to home if I could find a good game to sit in.

My friends want to know why it matters so much all the little things I bring up. They feel if they win it is a good place to play and if they lose it is not a good game. I would say that part of the reason players lose is because it just costs too much to play the game. On a typical poker weekend I spend three to four days playing poker because of the current furlough Friday program State employees are under. This means travelling on Thursday after work and returning Sunday or Monday. I will play ten to twelve hours of poker each day. I usually see friends or family for a few hours and often incorporate a mini-vacation into my poker weekend. Most trips involve me playing about 25 to 30 hours of poker or 600 to 1000 hands of poker. I will manage to win about 100 pots on the trip and the two dollars a hand I save on the rake will amount to about $200 per weekend. Most full time players will play more than I do and see even bigger savings from finding a room with a cheaper rake. Most of the poker professionals I know could use an extra $30,000 per year in income.

An added benefit is the free food and drinks I receive when I play. I do not drink alcohol while playing but I will drink soda, water, juice, coffee and Red Bull. I usually tip a dollar when I receive my drinks and I am not fond of paying for the drinks. While playing at the Mirage in Las Vegas I just ask the floor man for a comp for two to the buffet and it is never a problem. When I play a long day I will get a meal at mid-day and another when I am done for the evening. I probably eat better than if I were to pay for my meals. I can honestly say that I save an extra $100 every weekend by finding a place that provides free food and drinks.

I understand that most players are just going to play poker for a few hours and really just like the convenience of playing at the local room because it is close to home. The real problem with playing at the local room day after day is that you wear out your welcome and players will not want to play with you. If you keep taking their money long enough they will just find another game to play.

As the economy has gotten worse over the last several years the games have contracted and the money has gotten tighter. There is not as much easy money out there today. I travel to vacation destinations where people bring money to have a good time and hope that it includes a few hundred for poker every night. The players in Fresno are not a wealthy group and while there are a few players with large bankrolls the vast majority walks into the place with a couple hundred dollars. If you doubt what I say just go down to Club One and sit at an empty table and watch how many times people use the automated teller machine and pay the three dollar service fee. They are all either incredibly stupid or they are playing with money that they should not be using.

I would say my best advice would be to plan your poker playing and find what it is you expect to gain by playing poker. Once you know what you are looking for you can find the right place to play. I am always on the look out for promotions that make it a good deal to play poker and will draw other poker players to play. I find a place to play and make my plans so I can travel, stay and eat cheap. I play in games where the rake is affordable. I also like to play where the staff is friendly and the room is clean and safe. Is that too much to ask for?

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