I was north of Boston, had an itch to play poker, and didn't want to drive all the way to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut – about two hours away. I considered my other options. I could drive home and play online. I could choose not playing at all. I could try to hustle a game among some friends. Or I could drive up to New Hampshire and try to make it in time for a multi-table tournament.
I chose the last option. 45 minutes later I ended up in Nashua, New Hampshire – a minute north of the Massachusetts border, at Sharky's Poker Room – located inside the Elks Club on the Daniel Webster Highway.
Sharky's is much smaller than either of the other poker rooms in southeastern New Hampshire, the rooms at Rockingham Park and Seabrook Raceway. Sharky's has about ten tables, but on a Wednesday night when I visited only four were occupied. Two were hosting a 7:30 multi-table no-limit hold 'em tournament. One was the final table of a 5:00 PM tourney and one was a $2-limit Omaha-8 cash game.
I arrived just a little after 7:30, just as they were finalizing the seating into the tournament. The house efficiently signed me in, gave me a seat placard, and directed me to my seat. I was in a hand within two minutes.
The location of the room is ideal for visitors. It's right on a major thoroughfare, right off the road, which is the second exit in New Hampshire when coming north out of Massachusetts. You go from 70 mph on the highway to playing in a tournament in less than three minutes. Sweet!
The staff is competent, efficient, informative, patient in answering questions, and in my opinion, not overly friendly. The room itself is very well lit, with relatively new, functional, and adequate (if not particularly beautiful or luxurious) tables and chairs. There is a very nice snack bar that serves a large variety of sandwiches, salads, burgers, hot dogs, fries, and the like. There is a full bar – the room sharing the building with a very active and somewhat noisy Elks Lodge (the sounds of Snoop Dog seeped through the thin walls that divide the two rooms).
There are a few multi-table tourneys every day. They also are ready to spread any of a number of different sit-and-goes – including short-handed ones called turbos or minis. When I was there, there wasn't enough interest for the minis – though they are the best bargain in the place – with an 87% payback to the players (otherwise known as a 13% tournament charge). This compares very favorably with the 25% rake for the multi-table – and the 23% tournament rake at Foxwoods.
My tournament only had 14 players to start. I made it to the final table, but busted out when my pair of jacks got outdrawn by Big Slick. Even so, I lasted about two and a half hours.
I observed the one live game – the Omaha-8 game. It had a $2 maximum bet and a 10% (with $6 maximum) rake. That's pretty steep, especially for such a low-limit split-pot game. The house explained that the other games were raked at a maximum of $5 – but that with Omaha-8, they dealt many fewer hands per hour so they needed the higher rake to compensate. In my book it should be the other way around. If hands are going to be split the rake should be limited. But hey, I'm interested more in the player than in the house.
The room also had a busy roulette table paying the same as a casino – with a double-zero (American) layout. I'm not a gambling man, but the 5% house advantage might actually be tempting when compared with the rake of the poker games. If you're a gambler it would be a nice diversion.
The room was filled almost exclusively with regulars. In fact, of the 40 or so folks playing, I may have been the only one who didn't play there regularly. 75% or so seemed in their early 30s or younger. There was only one woman when I was there.
It should be noted that, like all poker rooms in New Hampshire, a percentage of the money goes to a charity. The night I was there it was a local Rotary. On other nights its been Boy's Clubs, pet hospitals, and the like. I wonder if my $120 tournament loss can be written off as a charitable donation. I bet some percentage of it could be – the rest being a business expense in my case.
The quality of play seemed mediocre – especially mine! I can't say this with certainty, but I would be shocked if anyone worked the room professionally (except the house dealers and floor staff of course). Most everyone seemed there to have fun – which isn't to say they were pushovers. They took their poker seriously – just not too seriously.
The room regularly holds large deep-stacked tournaments. I'd definitely call or go online to find out what large tournaments they had planned for when you'd be likely to visit. They now schedule a $150 no-rebuy tournament on Saturdays with a starting chip stack of $25,000. Blinds start at $25/50, go up slowly, and levels are 20 minutes each. It is said to last five or six hours. If you're interested in long-lasting poker tournaments with a premium on skill, this might be a great option for you.
The poker room is open seven days a week from 11:00 AM until midnight. There are many excellent eateries in the neighborhood – within walking distance, in fact, if you don't mind crossing a busy thoroughfare. It might be the perfect spot for a little mini-trip, taking in a nice meal before or after a tournament. I'd tend to stay away from the heavily raked cash games – but if you were just looking to kill some time and have fun, I'm sure they'd be fun and relaxing.
Sharky's Poker Room
120 Daniel Webster Highway
Nashua, New Hampshire