I arrived at Caesars during my marathon trip to each of Atlantic City's many poker rooms. Caesars had been one of my favorite places to play during my last major trip to the area, about two years ago. The casino itself is nicely appointed. The poker room is elevated and away from the rest of the casino floor. The games tended to be lively. And the floor staff, though sometimes a bit overwhelmed by the noise and commotion of the crowded and busy room, had always been eager to help.
This visit was no exception. The room has 24 tables, tightly crowded together in a generally clean, well-lit and nicely appointed room. There were only eight tables going when I arrived near noon on the Saturday of a three-day Veteran's Day weekend. But it seemed like there were many more players than would be accommodated at only eight tables. The place felt packed – with players squeezing by, the floor shouting out when seats were available, and a general feeling of mild chaos. That's not a bad thing necessarily – it keeps up the level of hype that propels action. But it was a far cry from the sleepy feeling of the Hilton and even the Tropicana earlier in the day.
Part of the crowding and bustling sensation is caused by the room's silly system for buying chips. Players can't buy chips at the table but must go to a cashier's window located away from the poker room. So I waited around to be called to a table, went to the table when I was called. Put my things down. And then I had to get up and squeeze by the same players to make my way to the cashier, stand in line, and then walk back with my chips, squeezing by the players once again as I got to my seat, a bit uncomfortably crowded at my table against the wall. The chair itself was comfortable, and the table was even luxurious. But the crowding was annoying.
Players must post if they want a hand. I did this immediately, in the cutoff seat. I glanced around and noticed that all of the players at my table were men. About 25% of the room appeared to be Asian; about 70% white; about 5% or so were black or Hispanic. I saw only a couple of women out of the 100 or so people in the room. About 60% seemed under the age of 30.
All the players at my table were watching ESPN GameDay. My school, Amherst College, was featured. A good omen for my poker session? I wondered, but didn't count on it.
I rocked around for a few hands – getting nothing worth speaking of. I watched the other players during this time. At my table, at least, they seemed very tight and cautious. There was a lot of calling and little raising of the blinds pre-flop. After the flop, typically, one player would bet $10 and his opponents would fold. Frankly, this table of primarily young white guys played like a bunch of retirees waiting for a bad-beat jackpot – which they have by the way: Aces full of Jacks beaten wins it. It stood at $75,000 or so when I was there.
I finally hit a borderline hand in the cutoff seat. I was dealt . I called the $2 big blind. The button folded and the blinds did not raise. Six of us saw the flop; it was K-6-4 rainbow. It was checked to me. I bet $10, eager to have everyone fold. Uncharacteristically, I got two callers. The turn was a three. It was checked to me. I checked too – was I turning into one of those timid players? The river was a king, and it was checked to me again. I bet $25.00; everyone folded. Yay – I won a pot.
I played a few more orbits where little happened. Unlike the somewhat raucous feel to the place, the trash talking at my table, and the young demographics, the place was a rock garden. I couldn't tell if my table was unique, but I'd like to come back again to see.
There was a 1:00 PM tourney. Many of the players at my table were going to be playing in it. Maybe they had tightened up as they just waited for it to go off. It cost $175, $25 of which went to the house. It was a deeply stacked event, with $10,000 in chips and $25/50 starting blinds. They got about 70 players. I was told that it tended to last four or five hours.
On Monday through Wednesday there are twice-daily tournaments, the first at 3PM for $50 ($40 plus a $10 entry fee), the second at 9PM for $75 ($60 + $15). On Thursday, they have the same schedule but the price of the first tournament jumps to $95 ($80 + $15). There's only one tournament on Friday, at 3PM for $95 ($80 + 15). Saturday also only has the one $175 event. Sunday, though, has two tournaments, the first at 1PM for $120 ($100 + 420) and the second at 9PM for $75 ($60 + $15).
I'd like to come back to the room, if only to see if my experience at a table of young guys who played like retirees was an anomaly or more the rule. In any event, it would be a comfortable place to play – though I'd make sure to buy my chips before I went over to the room in the first place.
Caesars Atlantic City
2100 Pacific Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401