Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arizona trip report - Part 5 of 8

Waking up on Wed. morning, I had it in my mind to explore the city of Phoenix. Or at least the downtown area. But poker got in the way, as it usually does on these trips. After having breakfast and finding it was around noontime, I decided to ditch my Phoenix explorations in favor of knocking out the rest of the poker rooms in the state. The remaining 5 poker rooms were all within a 45 minute drive of where I was and I figured I'd rather do them today then wait for the weekend when I'd want to be sitting for extended sessions at one place. I was expecting Viv and Chris to join me in Phoenix Thursday afternoon and I would feel bad dragging them to multiple poker rooms for short sessions of $3-$6 lhe! Besides, this way I could scope out the rooms and take them to the best action in the city.

My first stop was the Wild Horse Pass casino of the Gila River tribe in Chandler, AZ on the south edge of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. At first, I pulled up to the casino that my trusted GPS had led me to and found it to be locked and the parking lot completely empty. But I had called a few days before to ensure it was open and was told it was. How odd! It was a cool looking casino too, with the entire structure made to look like a Native American adobe brick house. But the chains on the front door were bumming me out. I called the number for the Gila River tribes to inquire and the nice woman on the other end told me to look to my left.

"See that big hotel in the distance with the blue wave on top? That's the new hotel and casino. We moved there a few months ago."

Aha! I happily drove over another 5 minutes and walked into the front doors of the prettiest and most modern casino in the entire state of Arizona. It was built to Vegas standards and reminded me quite a bit of the Red Rock casino outside of the Vegas Strip. There was a Fatburger in the food court, a Don Shula's steakhouse and a 30 table poker room that was wonderful. The brush desk didn't have an electronic board (the bugs were still being worked out), but everything was flowing smoothly by paper. There were about 12 games going at the time, including a $4-$8 lhe game which I sat in on. All of the lhe games in Arizona are run full kill and the kill requirements are pretty low, 10 BB's. So if you win a $40 pot in this game, the next hand runs $8-$16. So as you can imagine, the games had a lot more action in them than the stakes would imply. I sat next to a really surly looking young woman in a black denim jacket, a Vanessa Rousso hat and sunglasses. A lot of the serious poker players down here were sunglasses at the table, no matter the stakes. I find it retarded to were shades at a lhe game since bluffing is nearly impossible, but they do it anyhow. She, and another local on my left with shades, were playing loose and aggressive and were very tight lipped. But soon enough, my chatter won them over and we were talking amiably about poker in the state, my trips to L.A. and Vegas and the game were were in. The guy on my left, who looked to be about 35, said he played professionally in Vegas for 2 weeks out of every month. I guess he was just slumming around? I wasn't sure how much to believe him though, because he also claimed to have, at one time, run 3 different underground games on Long Island out of Bohemia. Maybe yes, maybe no. All I know is he was sitting at a $4-$8 table. Whatever. After 4 hours of enjoying myself and the fine room, I cashed out +$140.

The next stop was Vee Quiva, also a Gila River tribe casino. This one was old and dirty and had a smaller poker room with a $3-$6 game going which I joined and broke even on after 2 hours. I didn't want to stay so I picked up and left.

I grabbed a bite to eat on the road and headed to a place called Poker Nation on the north edge of the city in the 'burbs. Poker Nation is a retail storefront which sells poker equipment (cards, tables, card covers, chips, etc...) but becomes a small legal card room after that. There was a game of $1-$2 nlhe going on in the two table room when I got there and it was populated by friendly locals who all knew each other. Unfortunately, after 20 minutes of patiently waiting, not a seat had opened up. One of the guys who worked there asked if I was a member and I said No. He informed me that the club, in order to stay legal, charges a one-time lifetime membership fee of $20. I decided that paying $20 to sit in a tight $1-$2 nlhe game was too much for me and I declined. But as I walked out, I bought a card spinner just so I could throw them some business. I don't want to be a jerk after all. I bought a single dollar chip off of them and was on my way.

The second to last stop was Fort McDowell casino which is just east of Scottsdale. They have a decent room with about 30 tables but only a few low limit games were going on at the time. I got a seat at a $3-$6 game that bored me to death and played for 25 minutes before cashing out with a small profit. The Fort, as it's known locally, is a perfectly adequate room but overshadowed by my last and best destination.

Casino Arizona, at the intersection of Route 101 and Indian Bend Rd., in Scottsdale, is Arizona's best poker room. Period. End of Sentence. It's built to look like two big Tents from the outside and inside it reminds me very much of a California cardroom. There are at least 40 tables inside and the room is very spacious, with a huge ceiling and a looong floor space, giving the feeling you're inside an enormous circus tent. There is action going at all hours of the day or night, including multiple $1-$2 nlhe games (really spread limit, but same thing for the most part), $2-$5 nlhe, limit games up to $8-$16, Omaha Hi-Lo of $3-$6 and $6-$12 and a high roller section with $10-$20 lhe, $20-$40 lhe, $40-$80 lhe and a $75-$150 mixed game in progress. I checked out the $75-$150 game and the table was full with an average stack of $4,000 for each player. Lots of money floating around and there were multiple PF raises in the Omaha Hi-Lo game that I saw. Good stuff.

I sat at a $6-$12 O/8 game, which was a mistake because it was around midnight at the time and I was tired. I managed to lost $72 in 30 minutes before I wisely picked up and left. There was no doubt I would be bringing Viv and/or Chris here when they came.

I drove back to Harrah's and popped my head into the poker room to see what was gonig on. They were running a $3-$6 lhe game with a few of the locals left hanging around. It was late, and I was tired, but they had a SplashPot promotion running and I couldn't resist. The SplashPot is a promotion in which a single table is selected at random every hour or two and a set amount, $50 in this case, is added to the next pot to be played. Since there was only one table running, it was no surprise which table won the SplashPot! The time for the next one was 2:30a and everyone played until that time. When the pot was pushed (not to me) everyone picked up and the game broke. I went to bed and slept soundly.


bub said...

Man, you have the best poker trip reports ever! Really enjoying them, glad ya didn't get knifed in El Centro!

Chris Faustina said...

I'm glad you finally made it to the decent casinos in AZ... From what I've seen Arizona poker is growing, but I wouldn't dare tour the whole state for fear of encountering what all you've described here (cramped rooms, tight local regulars, inefficient hotels and casinos, etc.)

If you come back, go to the new Casino Arizona. Like Wild Horse Pass, they've moved into a larger much more upscale resort/casino and renamed Talking Stick Resort, instead of "tacky circus tent place"

Their card room WILL DEFINITELY PLEASE YOU, a non-smoking room with easily 100+ tables, and probably any game you fancy
~ Good luck & great posts!