Size Matters

When selecting a place to play poker, it is often wise to gravitate to the larger card rooms. The large rooms have a selection of games and ample staffing. The large rooms are also more accustomed to welcoming first time visitors. They are generally easier to find and much better advertised. They also tend to be safer.

I grew up and have lived in the small towns of northern California; this meant that I never had a real choice in where I played poker. There are poker games and some of them are regular games held every night and yet they are very hard to find. I have played close to one hundred times in Grants Pass, Oregon, yet I could not tell you the phone number or give you directions on how to get to the game. There are times where you just can’t find the game. I once spent an entire weekend trying to find the poker game I had been told about in Bend, Oregon.

In Crescent City, California, where I am from, the poker game is at Elk Valley Casino and usually starts about 6 pm and runs four or five days a week. Simply finding your way to the casino is not enough; you have to be there when they have a poker game.

While most large rooms do a pretty good job, I recently went to Garden City in San Jose for the first time and was surprised by how poor their customer service is. I had a hard time finding the place and when I walked inside I had no idea where to go to sign up for a poker game. I have been there three times and I still have no idea how to sign up for a tournament. I spent a half hour looking for a restaurant that did not exist. Simple things like finding the cage can be difficult when you are in a place for the first time.

Small card rooms often do not employ security and you are pretty much on your own to get out of the place alive. While skirmishes at the table have declined over the last ten years they are still a concern in a place with no paid security. I want to feel safe from the time I arrive until the time I am back in my car leaving. I do not want to worry about the place being robbed while I am inside. There is comfort in knowing that security is there and has a visual presence which serves as a deterrent to crime. I have always volunteered to walk people out to their cars and I have tried to make sure that the poker game is relatively safe.

If you enjoy being spoiled, it is a good idea to visit the same places and get to know the staff so they can take care of you. In large places like the Mirage in Las Vegas, I have taken the time to get to know the staff so I can be sure that I am seated in the good games and avoid the poor games. In a larger room you have to make sure the staff notices you and take the time to get to know them. The small rooms seem to appreciate the customer and take the time to get to know you, while larger rooms simply get too big and become impersonal.

I admit that if I were to travel to Atlantic City to play poker next week, I would plan to go to the Borgata poker room. The Borgata is the most popular of all the Atlantic City card rooms and while I have never been there I have heard good things about the place and it is well known. I can open a magazine and get the phone number and make a phone call and have all my questions answered. I would be able to fly there and jump in a cab and be delivered to the Borgata. I am sure they would have a number of games that would interest me. The place is easy to find and they have a reputation for providing a clean, safe and customer friendly poker room. There may be other rooms in Atlantic City that are just as attractive but on my first visit I am going to start with the biggest and the best place around and go from there.

At the end of the day, size does matter.

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