Mohegan Sun has poker for the first time in over four years. But there still is no Mohegan Sun poker room.
Mohegan Sun used to have a great poker room, but that room closed on Labor Day, 2004, with the announced reason that there wasn't enough interest in poker in New England to support two poker rooms. This left Foxwoods with a monopoly on live casino poker in New England. This also meant that Mohegan Sun's poker room was closed, allegedly due to lack of a player base, during the period that will be remembered for the greatest increase in poker players in the history of the game. It's a curious circumstance at the least.
As of October 2007, however, Mohegan Sun has poker once again. Well, sort of. They have PokerPro™ poker machines. No dealers, no chips, no cash at the table, and no cards. Everything but the play itself is done by a computer – like playing poker on the Internet, only with the opponents all facing each other around a large table that is in essence a large computer screen.
For Mohegan Sun management, they might have the best of both worlds. They have poker tables that generate revenue and that also make the casino an acceptable destination for poker players. But they don't have any poker room dealers, cashiers, chip runners, floor people, or other staff, which may have contributed to the earlier difficulties regarding the room. Who knows, it may catch on.
There still are plans to open a separate, enclosed, poker room. Different people claim different dates. Officially, it will open some time in August, but it might be earlier, later, or never – especially if these automated poker tables generate a decent income. My guess is that these tables won't catch on. Let me explain the setup and you can decide for yourself.
The 'poker area' is not in a segregated room but on the main floor of the casino, nestled in and among slot machines. There are eight PokerPro tables. These tables can be programmed for any limit of stud or hold'em, including no-limit, with any blind or ante structure desired. They can also be set up for tournaments – in which capacity they are used perhaps twice each day.
The machines work much like an individual's computer screen at home, but with some significant differences. Players need to create an account with a cashier, which they can easily do at a window near the poker room. There was a separate cashier handling nothing but poker players when I signed in early on a Saturday morning. I gave her $1,000. She gave me a password and explained how I would sign on to the machine. My name was called in about 20 minutes when a seat at the one table in use opened up and I sat down. My name was displayed on the screen. I punched in my password and up popped a screen with $1,000 worth of poker chips.
Each player has an individual screen before him which displays his individual two cards. They are face down until the player touches the image of the card on the screen, at which point a corner is turned face up revealing the card to the player. A player needs to shield his virtual cards from players on either side to make sure that his hand isn't inadvertently exposed – just as with real cards. This is not hard to do, though it does take a small amount of attention.
Each player indicates his betting action and the size of his bet by touching the screen in the appropriate place. It takes a little getting used to but is quite intuitive, especially for the poker player used to playing on the Internet.
There is a large screen in the center of the large table around which the players sit. The large screen displays the community cards. It also shows the virtual chips that have been wagered and displays the pot size, just as in an Internet poker game. The only difference is that the image is significantly larger than the actual size of a standard casino playing card – making it easier for a player with poor vision to read the board.
There are a couple of things I liked about the room. First of all, the games were dealt more rapidly than in a conventional poker room. They would have been even faster, but some of the players were still stumbling around with the unfamiliar technology and so didn't act as quickly as they might have. I also liked being able to see my opponents, something I can't do online.
I did not like the lack of cards, chips, or a dealer. I like the tactile sensation of the chips and cards while I play. This is probably no more than a matter of liking what I'm familiar with. But I missed the physical sensations of tossing cards into the muck and stacking my chips.
I liked very much the fact that the game is cheaper than a conventional poker room. There is no tipping the dealer. This saves me a couple of bucks an hour, which adds up over time.
Just to be clear, the game is still raked, and rather significantly, considering that no dealer, cards or chips are provided. Players pay $4.75 per half hour of play. There are no comps given to players. The house figures that the $.25 a half hour less than $5.00 a half (the rate charged at Foxwoods) is essentially the same thing as a $.50/hour comp to players. Though there were only no-limit games being spread while I was there, they also offer limit hold'em, most commonly $3/6. There is a rake in those games of 10% with a maximum of $3.50 per hand. Though they have the technology to offer stud, they have no plans to do so.
I spent about two hours in the room. The scheduled morning tournament did not go off. There was only one table in play – the $1/2 no-limit game that I played in. There were four players in the game who did not have a clue. Two of the players seemed like solid no-limit players – though surely not professionals. The rest were run-of-the-mill players that would probably do well in a home game and break even in a typical casino no-limit game. I had a winning session and felt that I could consistently beat the level of play in this game.
I'd recommend this room to anyone who likes no-limit – especially now before the poor players lose their money or the really excellent players find out about it and start to play regularly. It's convenient to get here. Mohegan Sun is located right off Route 395, only a few exits off Route 95. It's about two hours either way from Boston or New York. There are plenty of low-cost motels within 20 minutes, and, of course the beautiful rooms at Mohegan Sun itself, though those can run up to $200.
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT 06382