Thursday, April 07, 2005

The contradiction of casino poker.

I was disappointed with the Foxwoods poker room when Peg and I went there last year. I'm not usually a ring player, preferring the mini-tournament Sit-and-Goes. There were only a handful of SnG tables at Foxwoods, cramped into a dirty corner outside the main poker room, and the general atmosphere was of benign neglect.

Even during the weekday the main tables -- all 81 of them -- are usually filled, and there's usually a wait for an hour or more if you want to play Hold `Em. According to some of the players I talked to, you can forget playing on the weekends unless you get lucky, are willing to wait several hours, or can buy in to a seat at the high-stake games.

According to this article, Foxwoods is planning on adding more tables and is actively flogging its poker rooms. On the other hand, Mohegan Sun, a few miles from Foxwoods and its main competitor, closed its poker room last year and changed it over to slot machines.

"...despite its popularity, the balance sheets show that poker remains a gamble. It steadily accounts for less than 1 percent of Nevada gaming revenue. With just five slot machines, a casino can match a poker table's earnings without paying a dealer or a support staff...."
Look at me. I buy in to a $60 SnG. Foxwoods takes a piece of that, say $10. So, they make a $100 from a 10-person table, and that's the last money they're going to see from any of us for an hour or so. You can pump $10 into a slot in less than 10 minutes. The rakes at the ring tables are more profitable -- and constant -- of course, but still nowhere near the money hose that a slot machine is.

The converse of the argument is that poker draws in people -- like me -- who usually won't go to a casino. "If a basement poker player visits a casino, spends three hours at a table while his wife plays the slots, has dinner and leaves, poker has done its job. If he tries other games or gets a hotel room, even better," as the article states, which pretty well summarizes Peg and my occasional trips to Foxwoods.

I think from a profit standpoint, the on-line casinos have a better chance than brick-`n-mortar. There will always be traditional poker rooms, of course, but I don't think they're ever going to be that big in casinos.

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