Among those of us who play in the World Poker Room, no one is quite sure what the branding means, except that each table boasts the WPT logo. Woo hoo! I trust that some benefit of this branding will accrue to the casino, but I fear it is not likely to trickle down to those of us paying $12 an hour at the $2/$5 No-limit tables.
As I noted in a previous article, the room has been moved to the lower level of the casino, and expanded from 76 to 114 tables. Also, Kathy Raymond has left Foxwoods for a new job running the new poker room at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. I’m not sure what to make of her parting contribution, as apparently it was she who chose what turned out to be a horrid mustard color for all the table felt, except to conclude that she must have planned for it to look like gold, not Grey Poupon.
Although there is still room for improvement, I’m happy to report that the benefits of the move outweigh the disadvantages. By far the most significant is that, compared to its prior location, the poker room is now almost completely smoke free. (There is a cutout in the ceiling of one section, exposing it to smoke from the upstairs blackjack area, but since smoke rises, it has, thankfully, a minimal effect on players seated at tables below.) Another advantage is the adjacent, newly-opened cafe/snack bar, offering everything from pizza to a full turkey dinner, complete with stuffing. (The cafe is sure to be packed on Thanksgiving.)
This was a thoughtful addition, especially since one of the drawbacks of the new poker room is that absolutely no eating is allowed at the tables. The place is cleaner than its predecessor as a result, but it makes one long for the Commerce, with its 24-hour tableside service. Still it is a fair trade - no eating in exchange for no smoke. And drinking of any and all beverages is still allowed, thank goodness.
Also of great significance to those in games that collect a time charge is the fact that almost all the tables in the poker room now have shuffle machines. There are plans to automate the signups for seats as well, and some tables have interesting-looking small computer screens that will presumably, when they are up and running, allow dealers to announce open seats by touching those screens rather than shouting above the din.
The biggest drawback of the new room is that despite its expanded size, which affords ample space for the tables, those tables have been situated in a fashion that is almost laughably inept. The no-limit and low-to-middle-limit holdem tables, for example, are so crammed together that it is almost impossible to navigate among them. If one wants simply to go to the bathroom - never mind reach an exit in case of fire or other emergency - one must execute a circuitous path among the players’ chairs, most of which are mashed together, high back to back. It is no fun to have to tap the shoulders of players at adjacent tables and ask them both to move in so you can pass. If you don’t want to squeeze in between the tables, you must cut a large circle around the perimeter of the area just to get out. In short, there is no direct access, no straight line possible from the cage to the exit, or from a table in the center of this section to anywhere. I cannot imagine how any floor person can work there without succumbing to total frustration, given how quickly they need to move from one place to another to seat new players, register them for their hourly Wampum points, handle seat change requests, make rulings, and be on hand for “fills” (where the house brings chips to fill up the dealer’s empty rack).
Then there is a large empty space between the Holdem section and the one for 7-Card Stud. The latter is designed much better to accommodate the flow of traffic, but of course there is less traffic to begin with in the Stud area.
During the recently wrapped WPT World Poker Classic, there was a lot of speculation among players as to why the tables were placed as they were. Some of us came to the conclusion that it had to do with the placement of the “eyes-in-the-sky” - the surveillance cameras above the tables. If that is true, I can only say leave it to Foxwoods’ upper-level management (and I don’t mean the poker room’s management) to screw up the planning so that tables have to be moved to accommodate cameras instead of the reverse. They had months to plan the design of the new room and decide where to put the tables and they really botched this aspect. I am hopeful, though, that they will soon move the cameras so that the arrangement of tables can be improved.
The staff, as always, were friendly and helpful during what had to be a very stressful two weeks. The move itself happened less than two weeks before the tournament began. As a result of the extra tables, coupled with large fields for several of the tourneys, there were dozens of new dealers, many of whom appeared unfamiliar with the basics of poker (such as big blind’s option to raise an unraised pot, preflop. I kid you not.) To be fair, however, some of the new dealers were quite good, and some of them tried very hard to make up for weak technique. I give an “A” for effort to the latter: several of the newest, most nervous dealers have the potential to become great since they care about what they are doing. It’s only the ones that are untrained AND careless that really drive me around the bend. I’m sure I’m not the only player who breathed a sigh of relief as the best dealers gradually returned to the room in the final days of the main event.
As always, some of the late-night rulings were ludicrous. One that stands out most, although it was an opinion more than a ruling, is this: I approach two floor men at around 1 AM to request that they tell a player at my No-limit table to please move his higher denomination chips out front where we can all see them. They tell me that it’s poker etiquette, not a rule, that players should do that, and then go on to say that I should simply “play the cards, not the stacks.” They conclude by suggesting, in all seriousness, that the solution is to get rid of No-limit altogether, gratuitously adding that they blame Chris Moneymaker for the presence of NL cash games. It would be nice to have more staff that are actually familiar with the strategies of some of the most popular games in the room. The number of $1/$2 NL tables was higher by far than any other limit or game, for the duration of the tournament and most likely beyond. But they were friendly.
I do think that major kudos and thanks should go to Gabrielle, who lost her voice midweek from all the shouting she had to do what with the competing announcements for sit-n-goes and seating in cash games, and to Michael, Tommy, Randa, Beverly, Daniel, Robert, Spencer, Francis, Ettore, Kenneth, Edmond, Mark and the many other truly dedicated floor people in the poker room. And they all deserve some kind of award for grace under pressure. (And congratulations to Patty on becoming a dealer!) Leave it to Foxwoods to move its games downstairs only two weeks before the start of a major tournament. (Although that is an improvement over the fall of 2004, when they decided to start using a software program that almost no-one had been sufficiently trained on, smack in the middle of their fall tournament.)
I have faith that the kinks in the new room will work themselves out, and, as always, Foxwoods remains my favorite place to play poker. More on why in upcoming articles.