I have talked a lot about the NL game at Foxwoods. I have gone back
and forth about whether or not their NL games are run well enough to
be worth playing. I once claimed that I would never play in the
$1/$2 NL game again. Although I can't seem to find the post in my
archives (perhaps it was said in a comment), I have also seen bizarre
rebuy rules enforced at the $2/$5 game, where a floor person told me I
could not top off to a $500 (maximum buy-in) stack until I was below
the $200 minimum. I've since gotten around the rule by being a bit
more sly about it, but as far as I know, it's still in place.
I went yesterday with two NYC Players (Dawn of I Had Outs)
and Alceste) to
Foxwoods. I warned them about everything I knew and felt about the
NL HE games at Foxwoods, but they wanted to see the place for
themselves, and I looked forward to showing what was once my home
poker room to some fellow NY players.
I mostly played limit for the day, but I spent a good amount of time
taking breaks and looking at what was going on at the NL HE tables. I
kept a close eye on the $2/$5 tables and didn't really see any
particular reason that I should be jumping to them. Sure, the games
seemed generally beatable, but I didn't see anything to indicate that
a good score could be made. Most of the players seemed somewhat
tight, so I could imagine a strategy of trying to run over the table
would be profitable, but not greatly so.
Based on my limited observations, what I believe has happened in
the $2/$5 NL game is that it has become much like the $10/$20 limit
games at Foxwoods. All the Foxwoods limit regulars have known for
years that the $10/$20 limit HE game is the toughest game at Foxwoods.
Sure, it's beatable, but it's where you run into the best players.
This is because there is little reason for the small stakes gambler to
jump up from the $5/$10, because with the kill it plays almost as
$10/$20 in an action game. Meanwhile, the bigger gamblers go for
$20/$40, because it has the draw of being the biggest regularly
running limit HE game. Everyone I know who plays serious limit HE
(such as roryk, reddogace, and good old
F.D. who started at the $2/$4 tables with me, play almost exclusively
that game when at Foxwoods).
What I see at $2/$5 is the people who have learned some things about NL
HE but haven't built their bankroll up for the $5/$10 or $10/$20 game.
I'm about in that category, so I'm likely to find settling in at $2/$5
players about at my skill level. So, with a huge time charge, I'm
going to rate to lose in that game because I'm sitting with relatively
evenly matched players; the low stakes gamblers will prefer to make
ten rebuys and goof off at $1/$2 and the serious ones are going to try
the $5/$10 or $10/20 blind game.
I was actually one of the first six people who were dealt the first
hand ever of the $1/$2 NL game at Foxwoods, which was on Saturday 1
May 2004, as I sat in the game the first time they called (with the
goal of learning more NL). Foxwoods realized the popularity of this
game quickly and it grew. Their goal, however, has always been not to
design a game that the regulars would like, but rather build one that
would draw the maximum number of people from other parts of the
casino. In other words, their goal (not surprisingly) is to maximize
the number of people in the casino they could get to pay exorbitant
Now, I realized and posted a long time ago that the math of the NL game
doesn't work out well. An entire buy-in leaves the table every hour, so
you have to move chips early to build a stack that can be used to get
people's chips before they are lost to the house. One of the tools you
can use is the $40/$100 rebuy trick, whereby you pay a blind from a
minimum $40 buy-in, and then rebuy to make your stack $138. This helps a
little, as long as you can double up quickly.
The other system I use in this (and all capped buy-in games) is to
always pay the time charge and dealer gratuities out of my pocket.
This is very important, because if you waste your stack of a limited
buy-in with time charges, that $10 in the first hour you pay is
actually $20 of from your stack, because you can't use it for a double
up. Over a few hours, you've paid $30 or $40 in time charges, and
imagine how much double-up and redouble-up money you've lost! Thus, I
have tipped and payed time out of chips in my pocket for years at the
Foxwoods NL HE games. At times, some people at the table asked if
this was allowed, and the floor people always said it was no
However, sometime in the last six months, they have made yet another
bad rule change. In addition to not being able to rebuy in an NL game
until you are below the minimum buy-in, players at Foxwoods NL HE
games can no longer pay time out of their pocket. I spoke with a
floor person at length about this, and he was completely unable to
come up with a good argument. At first he said they didn't want the
confusion of people taking chips in and out of pockets, making it more
difficult to watch if money was taken south. But, I asked him,
you still allowed to tip dealers from your pocket?, and he said
yes. I therefore maintained that his argument was flawed,
because if one can take a chip from the pocket to the table in that
case, how is taking time the same way any different?
His next piece of sophistry was even more bizarre. He claimed that
since some players might not have adequate bankroll to take time from
their pocket (i.e., their case money is on the table), that players
taking time payments from their pockets was a violation of table
stakes rules, because the player that pays time from his pocket is
gaining the advantage of keeping that amount of money in his stack.
Of course, this is patently silly. The idea that one can take
incidental expenses from the pocket or from the stack has been a
long-standing rule in poker, and the time charge should be treated no
different than any other incidental expense. In addition, how is this
any different from my ability to buy into a game for the maximum while
someone else can buy in only for the minimum? That gives me an
advantage, of course, but that's just poker.
Both his arguments twist a long-standing permission for
players and turn it strangely into a requirement. It's
always been the case that if some players choose to pay their
incidental expenses (time charges and gratuities) from their stack,
that's a prerogative that they are granted by the “incidental
expenses during a poker game may leave the table” rule. Making
that prerogative into mandate is completely silly.
Foxwoods could make a consistent argument here, saying that the
confusion of people going into pockets for chips is too likely to
allow people to hide that they've “gone south” (a poker
slang term for taking money that is in play in a game from the table).
If they wished to make this argument, they would have to mandate that
a player may not be possession of any Foxwoods chips except those that
are on the table, and that they may not pull gratuities from their
pocket under any circumstances. Even more, they could remove the
(already annoying) “cash plays as chips” rule of Foxwoods,
and they could even say that you can tip in cash but not chips.
But, the truth is that Foxwoods has no interest in making the rules
consistent. Indeed, they have no interest in making rules that help
regular players. They have no interest in making it so someone can
take full advantage in a NL HE game. The truth is, they are a limit
club, and they know their regulars are only going to play limit
anyway. If they keep the limit players happy, they will have their
regular daily client base. Meanwhile, they know that the tourists
will want to find NL HE games that don't scare them. At each stakes
level, they don't want the tourist intimidated by the big stack. They
tolerate the players who stay and build a stack, but that's not really
the clientele they want or care about. They want the games to play
small to keep people buying in one-buy-in-at-a-time and
losing it, all the while throwing their time right from that stack
into Foxwoods coffers. They want them lose a moderate amount on the
trip, and come back six months later and do it again.
In other words, they don't care about the poker community, or running
games that serve that community. What they care about is their own
internal competition with the blackjack pits, the craps pits, and the
roulette wheels. It's well-known that the Foxwoods poker room has
long been treated with contempt by dealers and floor people from other
parts of the casino. They don't make as much money, and because of
the requirement that all dealers throughout the casino pool all tips,
everyone feels that the poker room free-rides on the huge tips
received at the high-limit gambling games elsewhere in the
Foxwoods is just a poorly run poker room. They are the poker monopoly
of New England, and therefore have no reason to change their terrible
policies. I still enjoy the place, because it has special meaning to me.
My weekly bus trips there taught me how to win at poker beyond pennies on
a dining room table. But, tradition can only hold one for so long when a
place is run so poorly.
It's not to say that the games aren't beatable. It's not to say they
aren't relaxing. I enjoy going there for the limit games from time to
time, because the resort as a whole is nice and when going with a
group who aren't poker players, there are opportunities for everyone
to do something they enjoy. But, I think my Foxwoods days are done
beyond that. I'm going to write a letter to the poker room manager
and explain my reasoning, and perhaps there might be some hope of
getting a reasonable response.
Anyway, thanks, Foxwoods, for helping me build my bankroll so I'm well
beyond the $2/$4 limit games where I started, but I think you don't
have much to offer a poker player anymore. Especially if your goal is
to make up silly rules that help you only in the short run. I gave
you more chances to improve than I really should have. Shame on me
for actually thinking you were trying to make the place better.