Monday, December 8, 2008

Bring on the beads (Trip Report, part 5)

After my adventures in Biloxi, I was eager to get cracking in New Orleans for the remainder of my vacation. Ali was flying down that night to meet me for the long weekend and I had two more poker rooms to visit in the Big Easy. I left relatively early Thursday morning and hit the road for the hour and fifteen minute drive to the city. After a boring drive, stuck behind a tractor trailer who just wouldn’t give way, I spotted the skyline of the Business District and the Skydome to the right of the French Quarter. It’s a respectable skyline for a city that doesn’t really pride itself on the height of it’s office buildings. Not like Charlotte, NC, with its building (singular). Instead of heading into the city, I took a roundabout interstate to head south to the Boomtown casino, located about 10 minutes south of the city.

True to my theory that all western themed casinos suck, the Boomtown was a strictly locals casino that was smoky and dirty. The poker room was pretty hard to find, upstairs in a small area that was completely cut off from the casino floor, though it was overlooking it all the same. This gave it very much a ‘skybox’ feel to it with it’s small 5 tables. Only one table of action was going at the time, but they were full so rather than waiting, I collected my chip and left. Nothing much going on here and I was anxious to check into my hotel.

The Country Suites and Inn (or something like that) at 315 Magazine street, was very conveniently located two blocks from the French Quarter in the no-man’s land between the Quarter and the Warehouse district. The building was a converted warehouse with a lot of exposed brick and original wooden beams on the ceiling and the effect was very airy. As a consequence of being a converted warehouse and a few other buildings joined in, in true haphazard New Orleans style, the rooms were laid out on differing levels that required a map to find. I checked in, dropped my bags off, and immediately walked to the New Orleans Harrahs casino, three blocks away.

The New Orleans Harrah’s is the best poker room I visited on my trip, even if it’s also one of the loudest. One of the key qualities of a good poker room is the action you can get (translated as the number of players who are playing at any one time), combined with the ratio of tourists to locals. Too many locals doesn’t make for a good game because locals tend to play very tight and give little action. Conversely, a small number of players at a room limits the number of games that are running which can make getting a game excruciating, or worse make the game you want unavailable. Harrah’s, being the only real poker room in the immediate area, not only enjoys a monopoly but also the advantage of being smack in the middle of one of the biggest tourist destinations in America. This makes for a steady flow of good traffic, both locals and tourists alike. You will ALWAYS get your game here (provided it’s hold’em). Consequently, the comps kind of suck but that’s not a big issue if you’re playing and you’re happy.

I spent a few hours playing 1-2 NLHE in the very loud Mardi-Gras themed casino and was having a blast. Ali called right in the middle with a good story about how she was chatting it up with Ali and Dina Lohan in JFK airport. To her this was fascinating. To me, not so much, but I dutifully listened and was happy for her that she was happy. I asked if Lindsay was there, because I was only really interested if hot crack whores are involved. But alas, Lindsay was off somewhere else.

The excitement of the celebrity encounter having passed, I played some more until the sun went down and I walked through the Quarter to get dinner. I found a great new restaurant on Royal street called, appropriately, Royal House, and was treated to a very very good Oyster Po-Boy along with a half dozen fresh shucked Oysters. I discovered the joys of Crystal hot sauce, a locally made delicacy, which has a much milder vinegar content than Tobasco, and delivers the hotness and sweetness without overpowering the Oyster. I was a believer. Thanks to Mike, the Oyster shucker at the bar, for turning me on to that. I walked back towards the hotel to pick up my car to pick up Ali from the airport when I got sidetracked by the Jets/Pats game blaring from a local Irish bar. I watch the last few minutes of the 4th quarter, just long enough to see Randy Moss make one of the best catches I’ve ever seen to tie the game with one second left. I cursed the Jets ability to give their games away and scurried off to the airport. Happily, while I wasn’t watching, the Jets won the coinflip for first possession in overtime and won the game on their first drive.

Suck it Pats!

Ali and I got back to the hotel room and promptly fell asleep, tired from poker and travel and the long weekend ahead of us.

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