I visited the Carson City Nugget late on a Wednesday night as I drove back to my hotel in Reno after a day in Lake Tahoe. I'm very glad I took the slight detour and stopped in for a couple of hours of play.
The Carson Nugget is a casino in Nevada's small capital, Carson City. The downtown is small and seems to attract few tourists – unlike the nearby cities of Lake Tahoe and Reno. The poker room reflects the local quality of the casino. There were no tourists when I was there. The poker manager was playing with three locals when I arrived. He was quick with the type of remarks that make a stranger feel welcome, warmly asking me about myself and why I was visiting his room. He was also generous with his information about the place and his personal experiences in the poker industry – that were extensive.
The room itself is surely not remarkable. There are just two tables. The cards, chips, chairs, and the tables themselves are serviceable but nothing special – in good condition but well worn. The lighting is not terrific but adequate. The dealer was very efficient, had a positive and jovial attitude, and kept the game moving, which wasn't hard since we were all well-behaved and eager to play.
The game of choice is nearly always $2-6 spread-limit hold'em. On occasion they have a $4/8 fixed-limit game or a $3/6 game with a half kill. They spread a $1/2 no-limit game with a $300 maximum buy-in – but it's unusual – maybe once a month on a Friday or Saturday night, I was told.
The game is raked at 10% up to a maximum of $3, which is a pretty good deal for a public poker room these days. There are progressive high-hand bonuses for straight flushes and quads – the highest of which stood at $3,000 when I last checked. The bonuses are funded with a $1 drop from all pots of $20 or more. Both cards must play and there must be four players in the hand when it's hit to qualify.
The poker room is open every day of the week except Mondays. They open generally at 9:30 or so, and have daily tournaments that go off every day (except Monday) at 10:00 AM. The tournaments generally last an hour and a half to two hours. They're $25, with $20 going into the prize pool. Players start with $1,000 in chips; blinds start at $25/50. According to the poker room manager, they attract two tables or more each day. When they have more than 20 entrants, they take alternates.
There are a few rules worth noting. No reading is allowed at the table. They enforce this rule even for poker-related material and even if it's not slowing up the game. Headsets are okay, as is eating, as long as the food comes from one of their restaurants. There is tableside drink and food service from any of the Carson Nugget's restaurants, except the buffet. They have a steak house, a coffee shop and a newly added Mexican restaurant. I honestly did not stay for a meal – late at night as it was when I left – but the poker room manager assured me that all the food was good. Players receive $.70/hour in comps that can be used for food.
My sample size of two hours against three regulars and the poker room manager was admittedly small. But I found the locals pretty loose and passive. They seemed to be in the game for fun and for company more than to make money. They were very friendly and welcoming to me, even though I was aggressive and tight. The poker room manager did not play like a prop player or shill. He was just as loose and friendly as the locals. I suspect that they may have been loosening up just to encourage me to return.
If that was their strategy, to soften their game to seduce me into coming back, then they surely succeeded. I plan on making a stop down in Carson City at the Carson Nugget the next time I'm up in Reno. I heartily encourage all poker players who like a nice friendly low-limit hold'em game to do the same.
507 North Carson Street
Carson City, Nevada