Sharkey's has four poker rooms in New Hampshire. This one, in Hinsdale, near the border between Vermont and Massachusetts, is located in a greyhound racetrack . The nearest city is Brattleboro, Vermont, less than five minutes away.
This room promotes itself as a mini-casino, with roulette, blackjack and Let It Ride, besides poker. In fact, the blackjack is unplayable for all but the most compulsive gamblers, with house rules that have ties going to the house. The roulette and Let It Ride seemed to be played like the standard casino games, though they attracted few patrons. The action here is centered on poker – and greyhound racing, I suppose – though the races were canceled for the day I was there because of a power outage.
New Hampshire law limits the stakes that Sharkey's can offer to $2 maximum. They are allowed to offer tournaments for much greater buy-ins. Customer interest limits the type of games that are usually spread to hold 'em and Omaha8. Stud and Stud8 are offered but, according to my observations and conversations with players and the house, these games never have enough players to get started.
While I was at Sharkey's – Hinsdale, I observed and played in three games: a $2 limit Omaha8 game, a $75 no-limit hold'em tournament and a "freeroll" no-limit hold'em tournament. The first game I played in was the scheduled $75 multi-table. It started at 5:30. I was told this tournament was often poorly attended because players generally arrived for the 7:00 freeroll. I figured that I'd have a better chance of winning money in the 5:30 tourney because of the few players. It only managed six entrants including me. It paid two places. I managed to get knocked out in fourth place after about 90 minutes. I couldn't even whine about the fast structure. Blinds were 20 minutes. Players started with $4,000 in chips. I played much too aggressively for the structure, encouraged by what I saw as unduly tight play. They weren't. Two of them were just better than I was at using selective aggression to win pots. I went a bit nuts and managed to blow off nearly my entire stack with some poorly timed and poorly executed semi-bluffs. Oh well.
I went right into the 7:00 PM freeroll. This seemed to be a great deal. Players paid nothing to enter and started with $1,000 stacks. They could rebuy any time they were at or below $1,500 during the first hour $20 and get another $1,000 or rebuy for $40 and get $4,000. At the end of the first hour all players could add on $10,000 in chips for $40.00.
This event had 70 players. Not bad for a Wednesday night, I thought. The room offered a 75% payback for all of the re-buys and add-ons. Theoretically, one could spend nothing and make over $1,000 – the typical first-place price. It would be tough, as a practical matter, to compete against the majority of the players who spent the $40 for the $10,000 in tournament chips after the first hour. But for the low roller it could be done. Plus, you could have a great deal of fun for free even if you didn't make the money.
About 90% of the players kept themselves in chips until the add-on period and then spent the $40.00. The first 11 levels lasted 20 minutes; thereafter, they lasted 15 minutes. It occurred to me that the game might go well beyond the 1AM closing time. Other players told me that if that happened they just decided the winners by chip count. It had happened once to their knowledge.
I lasted for four hours – until the game was down to two tables. They typically chopped the pot only after the game got down to one table. So my exit shortly after the two tables were seated was a disappointment, but not a serious one.
I spent my last 30 minutes or so playing in a $2 limit Omaha8 game. It was enormously loose, with nearly every one of the nine players calling the blind. It was raised occasionally – in which case nearly everyone still called. I would have liked to have stayed longer. As it was I finished up $20 for that brief session.
There is a restaurant on premises with a snack bar-like counter for sales in the poker room. They had pizza and sandwiches and drinks. They also had restaurant entrees such as a haddock combo, a chef salad and chili. The regulars dissuaded me from ordering anything – though I noticed a couple of folks eating hot dogs. The drinks were in the $4 and $5 range. The sandwiches were $7-8. And the dinner entrées were $11-17.
The room has a nice view of the racetrack and a lot of natural light from the large full-length windows that open up onto the track. The room itself, however, seems a bit shopworn and tired-looking – kind of like the grandstand of an aging track – which is what it really is. The staff members were friendly, if of varying experience levels. And the floor is always available to settle disputes and keep things calm. I observed one potential fight broken up with the participants calmed by the floor staff.
The level of play tended to be poor – improved not at all by this writer's performance. All of the folks I met were locals and regulars. There were none who seemed to make their living doing this, though maybe 10-15% were very serious about their play and quite good. I'd gladly go back, though I wouldn't make a special trip for this room unless I was within 30 minutes or so.
Sharkey's poker room at Hinsdale Greyhound Park is open from
Wednesday until Sunday, from 1:00 PM until 1:00 AM.
Sharkey's Poker Room at Hinsdale Greyhound Park
Post Office Box 27
688 Brattleboro Road
Hinsdale, NH 03451-0027
(800) NH-TRACK or (603) 336-5382