Foxwoods has all sorts of games, including bingo and a big racebook, and several good restaurants, concerts and other events too. Rooms in the Great Cedar and Grand Pequot hotels are some of the nicest in any hotel, anywhere. They certainly equal those of the Borgata, with the distinct advantage of not being in Atlantic City. Fox Harbor, Al Dente, and the high-end Paragon restaurant are all excellent.
But let’s get to poker. There are, to be sure, a lot of flaws in the running of the Foxwoods poker room, chief among them are poor dealers and inconsistent, often ludicrous rulings. The lack of good dealers is the result of a system that rewards everyone equally, no matter what their level of effort or ability. Unlike most casinos, at Foxwoods, all the dealers, including those in the poker room, share equally in all the tips. That means they all make a flat rate of approximately $14/hour in tips, on top of about $4.25 in hourly wages. Because of this, the poker dealers simply have no incentive whatsoever to run the game. In fact, it is in their interest to do as little work as possible, and that means dealing as few hands as possible. Often, a dealer will stall by counting the deck down slowly, or chatting with players while the deck sits on the table waiting to be shuffled, or appearing distracted during a hand until finally someone asks whose turn it is to act. In most casinos, where a poker dealer’s earnings directly depend on the number of hands he or she can get out in a given shift, the dealers are much more alert and focused. Foxwoods does have its share of dedicated, well-trained dealers, and they are very popular. But at least 50% seem not to know their trade very well and not to care. This is one of the negative things that distinguishes Foxwoods’ poker room from those in other casinos. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and after being away and visiting other poker rooms, I have concluded that the overall charm of the place makes up for its shortcomings. To wit:
The floor staff, while not particularly adept at making rulings, as noted above, make up for that handicap in warmth and friendliness. You would be hard put to find a friendlier group of staffers anywhere. And the room is spectacular, with high ceilings and beautiful views of the Connecticut woods (yes, they often keep the shades up). You sit at the table and have a feeling of space (except during tournaments, when there is nowhere to move because it is so packed with people waiting for games). The one problem has been a high level of smoke, for although the room is designated a non-smoking area, it is right next to the race book and a popular snack bar that allow smoking, with only a low wall separating those areas from the poker room. With the impending move, all of this will change, and it will be interesting to see whether a truly smoke-free environment compensates for the loss of the high ceilings, as the new room is on a lower level with much less headroom. I suspect it will. I will miss the current room, but not the smoke.
And then there are the players. Generally speaking, the vast majority of poker players at Foxwoods know how to behave. There is a level of politeness and civility among the denizens of the Foxwoods poker room that is sorely lacking at other venues. I don’t know if it’s just the nature of New Englanders (many of the players hail from Massachusetts), with their stereotypical reserve and taciturnity, or whether it’s the fact that many players are semi-retired, retired, or just there to have fun. Absent is the desperate, hardscrabble air of many players in places like the Taj Mahal. Many of the regular poker players at Fowxwoods seem to be relatively upscale, not playing with money they can’t afford to lose. Most of the men, especially the older ones, are quite gentlemanly.
I have always loved Foxwoods, since I discovered poker there incidentally during a blackjack trip in the fall of 1998. There is just something about the place that feels like home. Maybe it’s the silly shops (a whole shop just for candles, for one thing) whose false exteriors line the interior walkway between the poker room, the restaurants, and the adjacent Grand Pequot hotel.
The poker room will be closed from 1AM on March 16th until 8AM on the 18th, to allow for the move. This will probably be the first time in the history of the casino when there will be no live poker games at all for two days. Also coming up, very soon after the move is complete, is the Foxwoods Poker Classic, which runs from March 27-April 9 and culminates in a $10,000 WPT championship event. The series comprises nine tournaments, including the main event and a $300 Ladies Only No-limit event.
I will be reporting on the new poker room shortly after it opens. I have high hopes for it. In the meantime, you can find me at the 2/5 NL tables, with a large stack of chips in front of me and a look of wonder on my face. Seriously, folks, win or lose, Foxwoods is wonderful, and if you haven’t experienced it, you should.