There are many poker rooms in the greater Reno area, which includes Carson City and Lake Tahoe to the south and Sparks to the east. I played in 21 of them over a one-week span. I really enjoyed myself in this beautiful part of the country. For those of you who haven't visited Reno and the surrounding cities and town, it is a great place for a vacation.
Two poker rooms vie for the top spot in this region – the Eldorado, located in downtown Reno, and the Peppermill, located a mile or so to the south. I'll write about the Eldorado separately, as it surely has much to recommend it. For me, the best room in the area was clearly the Peppermill.
The Peppermill is a large full-service casino and convention center with over 1,000 rooms, world-class convention facilities, three large ballrooms, hundreds of table games and slots, top-level entertainment, and many excellent restaurants. It is set off from the many casinos of the downtown area – located as it is about a mile to the south. It has a distinct architectural style that many would call modern.
The inside is done up with with plentiful neon, mirrors, chrome, and high-intensity lighting. There's loud contemporary music playing in the background, sometimes in conflict at night with the live band in the lounge. I suspect that the combination of the bright flashing lights and music stimulate action, which is surely a good thing in a casino. But I found the interior to be garish and overpowering. It gave me a headache.
The poker room is a 12-table affair, situated in a corner of the carnival funhouse-like main floor of the casino. It's separated from the rest of the floor with a short wall. From what I observed and heard from players in the area, this room, run expertly by the veteran manager Mike Gainey, has the most consistent action in the area. I spoke to Mike about this. He attributed it to his tournaments, which he used specifically to bring life to the room. There is at least one tournament every day (including a "ladies only" event), and two every day but Friday and Saturday. These are relatively low-stakes events – with buy-ins ranging from $60 to $100. Some have re-buys, others do not. And one tournament that I played in had the unusual structure of allowing final-table finishers to cash out their tournament chips for cash – rather than continue to play on in the tournament. They also feature two large tournaments a year, in the fall and spring.
There are numerous cash games as well. The room spreads a full range of low and medium limit hold'em as well as no-limit hold'em. There's even the occasional Omaha-8 or HORSE game. No stud went off on the four times I visited the room during my stay – though I was told (as I usually am in poker rooms) that they'd spread it if there were sufficient interest. Similarly, I was told that there were always sit-and-go tournaments. But during my visits I only saw one sit-and-go – right after an evening tournament.
The rake is 10% up to a maximum of $4. There was a bad beat jackpot funded with an additional $1 rake from the pot. While I was there I saw $2/4, $3/6, $4/8, $10/20, and $15/30 limit hold'em. The two biggest games were spread with a half kill – and had some crazy action from what I observed. I watched a few hands that were capped pre-flop. There were also $1/2, $3/5 and 5/10 no-limit games being spread. That $5/10 no-limit game was the biggest action I found in the area. There was no cap on the buy-in, but stacks were relatively modest, with no player stacked with more than $2,500 or so. Most had between $500 and $1,000.
This is officially a 24/7 room, but when I went by early in the morning, I often found no games going. I was told that during the week they generally don't start until 9:00 AM, and play lasts usually until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. On weekends I noticed action at 7:00 AM. On a Tuesday and Wednesday night I saw, respectively, seven and nine of the 12 tables going. By 7:00 PM there were often long lists for the lower-stakes games.
I played first on a Saturday afternoon. I was told by the dealer that about 80% of the players in my $4/8 limit game were locals, and the rest tourists. My observations for the duration of the week were that about half of the players in the $1/2 and $3/5 no-limit game were tourists.
I had about seven sessions at the Peppermill – divided roughly evenly among $1/2 and $3/5 no-limit and $4/8 limit. I played in the late afternoon and at various times at night, though never after 2:00 AM. During those sessions I never once experienced what I would call a "wild" game – with players either capping the pot regularly or going all in with abandon. (Though, as I mentioned, the larger limit games that I observed seemed to have this kind of action.) I found players to be split between serious and careful players and loose, passive players who didn't have much of a clue. There were a lot of deep pockets, judging by the money that was on the table and the re-buys I saw people make. When I hit a monster hand I invariably got paid off. I met one or two guys who would probably consider themselves pros or semi-pros, though neither made his living exclusively from poker play.
There are also excellent restaurants in the casino, and a great Mexican restaurant nearby as well. I especially recommend the Peppermill's Asian restaurant, Oceano, and the sandwiches at the New York-style deli. The White Orchid got rave reviews from a few folks I spoke to in the poker room about their favorite places to dine, but it was out of my price range.
Overall, the Peppermill had the most consistent action and best games I encountered in the area. I'll surely play there again when I return to Reno.
Peppermill Resort Casino Reno
2707 South Virginia Street
Reno, NV 89502