I boarded the Showboat Casino Hotel In Atlantic City in the early evening after having played in each of the poker rooms on Atlantic City's boardwalk. I was a little tired and, frankly, a little weary from all of the poker rooms I had visited. The Showboat seemed a bit like an afterthought in the poker world, after experiencing the madness that is the Taj. I was looking forward to relaxing for a couple of hours before proceeding to the two poker rooms off the Boardwalk, Harrah's and the Borgata.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find an excellent poker room with lots of energy, spirited play, a fun atmosphere, and a lot of variety to keep even the most energetic poker player amused.
The Showboat is owned by Harrah's, but it has an identity very different from the other Harrah's properties I have visited over the years. In general, Harrah's tends to run a careful corporate room, with little exuberance, tending to favor the more sedate game. This room, by contrast, was loud and robust. The Showboat has 23 tables and they spread limit and no-limit hold'em. While I was there they had $2/4 and $3/6 limit games along with $1/2 and $2/5 no-limit games.
The room was very crowded and there was still some buzz going on about the $75,000 bad beat jackpot that had just been hit. As a rule, I don't care for bad beat jackpots – I believe they suck money out of the game and turn poker into a lottery, with everyone just waiting for the big prize to be won. But, for what it's worth, it had a positive effect on this room. There was a lot of talk and a lot of energy generated by the bad beat. So it accomplished its purpose of keeping people interested in the room.
I suspect that players would have been interested in this room even without the bad beat. The lighting is terrific. The poker room staff practically fall over themselves trying to be helpful. "Hello, sir!" said one employee greeting me. "Are you signed up for one of our games? Are you a tournament player? We have a tournament going off soon." He was only one step more relaxed than a carnival barker – practically drawing players into the room who happened to walk by.
Not that there was a lot of foot traffic by the poker room. It is up on the second floor of the property, completely isolated from the noise and bustle of the slots and table games below. This is, in my mind, a good thing, though I suppose it cuts down on the number of gamblers who happen to wander into the poker room to try their luck… not that the poker room seemed to be hurting by its physical isolation. The games were all going strong when I arrived. 19 of the 23 tables were in action when I was there. There were also some waiting lists.
I was quickly seated in a $2/5 no-limit game. A floor person asked me if I'd like some chips. The buy-in limit for the $2/5 game was $500. I bought in for that amount. A couple of the players had much larger stacks — $1,000 or more; most had $200-300. One guy was very short-stacked with $40 or so. The crowd was young; most were in their 20s or early 30s. A few looked to be teenagers, though the legal age for gambling in Atlantic City is 21.
I quickly realized that I was not going to easily become the boss of this table. I was dealt in the small blind. Three players called the big blind, as did I. The big blind checked. Five of us saw a flop of . I figured I was in the lead – though I knew I had to be cautious without an ace kicker. Also, with five of us in there was a good chance that someone may have had two pair. Someone may have hit a straight or flush draw. I was happy to win the hand immediately. I bet $30. I got one caller – the player on the button.
The turn was the , making the board . A straight was surely possible – but not as likely as if a queen or eight hit. Would the button have called my larger-than-pot-sized-bet with only K-Q? Who knew? I didn't want to risk giving a guy with a draw a free card. So I bet $50.00. He called. I was admittedly confused. Could he have been on a flush draw? Could he have been sucking me along with trips or a straight?
The river was the , making the completed board . If he was drawing for a club flush he hit it. If he had a queen, he had a straight. Hell, he could even have had a straight flush. I figured I was dead and checked. He bet $150. I thought about calling just to confirm how prudent my check was, but then good judgment took over and I folded. Could he have been stealing with nothing? Who knew? As I said, I was not about to become the boss of that table.
I played for another hour or so and managed to hit a few hands. The level of play actually tended to be pretty mediocre – as there are many tourists in the game who really didn't know what they were doing (though my opponent in that early hand and a couple of other young guys clearly did). I left up $50.
Just as I was getting up to leave I noticed a great jazz band playing down the hall. They were strolling the full length of the hallway and came right by the poker room. They were very good and having a fun time of it – the same kind of attitude I tried to bring to my poker game.
All in all, the Showboat is a great, fun poker room surely worth a visit.
Showboat Atlantic City
Atlantic City, NJ 08401