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Poker Room Reviews 3: Montbleu, Harvey's
CTO "Maniac" 11.05.2007

Surprise! Vegas isn't the only place to play poker in Nevada. Yes, I've been to Reno, but didn't actually play much poker there. Tahoe seems to have more poker rooms, and in general seems to be a little swankier. Too bad I hate snow. I'd go there more often if it had a warmer climate year-round.

Stateline, Nevada

It used to be called Caesar's, and lots of it actually still is Caesar's-ed out. All of the old Roman designs are still right there in the guest rooms and hallways. This may be different now, but when I went there in August 2006, SQPR was the motif.

The Place: The poker room is pretty small, just a clearing between the slots and sports book where they've set up 8 tables and a p.a. system. Oh, and also a TV. They say they comp you $0.50 per hour but I didn't get any even after they "clocked me in". They don't have a visible board, just a hand-written list on a clipboard. Who cares? Bellagio does it the same way.

There are three $40 + $6 tournaments every day: 11am, 2pm, and 5pm. The average number of players in each is about 40 to 50, you get 1000 in chips, the blinds start at 25/50 and increase every 15 minutes.

They also offer live 3/6 and 2-6 spread limit hold'em all day and 1/2 or 2/3 no-limit in the evenings if there are enough players. Minimum buy-in for the no-limit games is $100 and there apparently is no cap.

The tables themselves are all-new and the ones I played on had shuffle machines. The felt has an attractive "Montbleu" logotype with a water splash motif, but the surface feels like bad fake suede so the cards don't slide well. The padding is too thin so the table top feels hard and cheap.

The tables are also too small to fit 10 players comfortably, the rail is thin and flimsy, and instead of letting you use drink tables they give you plastic cup holders that slide under the rail. I have no idea if there is any food service in the poker room but I doubt it.

Another odd thing about Montbleu's poker room is the glare on the cards. For some reason the lights are at just the right height to cause glare on the board cards from many different angles. I wasn't the only one who noticed that problem. Just another symptom of a brand new poker room. At least they use really nice new Paulson chips.

I played the 5pm tournament and finished out of the money. Then I sat down at the 2/3 NLH table that evening. We started 5-handed and had a maximum of 10 at the table. But that was unbearably cramped due to the small size of the table. When a guy busted out we removed a chair and kept it at 9 players max. I was one of 2 non-locals at the table. There were 3 dealers and a bunch of locals the dealers all knew by name. I recognized one of them as a local guy who was the first bust-out at the 5pm tourney. Good!

The Players: An old guy on my left bought in for $300 and insisted we play 2/3 blinds. Some of the other guys wanted to play 1/2 but "Mr. Big Buy-in" got his way so 2/3 it was. I was OK with that and only bought in for $100 anyway. We used $1, $5, and $100 chips, and I'm sure we could have used $20 chips as well.

The Other Tourist
He was the other non-local at the table, and was the weakest player at the table, but just barely. He'd call all the way down and muck when someone showed 2nd pair no kicker or king-high. He just kept busting and rebuying. He looked like he knew what he was doing but obviously didn't. He appeared confused when he lost. It could have been an act, setting us up to win it all back plus more, but he lost too much for it to be just "advertising".

Mr. First Bust-Out
Kept playing the same way he had in the tournament: calling down with ace high or any piece of the flop with or without a kicker. He played almost every hand regardless of position, managed to win a few small pots by bullying but lost big pots against real hands. He reloaded twice then busted a third time and quit. Too bad.

Mr. Big Buy-in
Bullied us when we opened the table short-handed, but tightened up appropriately as more players sat down. he was obviously very experienced and never made a mistake as far as I could see. a crusty old guy all the dealers knew, he was the best player at the table. I think his nickname is "larry the legend."

Speaking of the dealers:

Mr. Live Straddle
Kept trying to stir up action by putting on a $6 live straddle. didn't bother me much since he was 2 to my left so he was only raising my small blind. I won a few small pots when he did that when I flopped top or middle pair and made a pot-sized bet. he busted 3 or 4 times and threatened to quit and go to work dealing. this guy truly "played like a dealer."

The Chirper
Was the second of the dealer trio at the table. He talked a lot, played well, and also live-straddled. He built up a pretty good sized stack, sometimes bluffing but usually flashing a card to show us when he wasn't. He played big slick very fast, once winning a big pot at the showdown with just ace high. Most of his talking was rationalizing his play, not analyzing others' play.

Mr. Solid
Was the third dealer. He was quiet, thought a lot before acting, folded most of his hole cards pre-flop, and when I told him it was his turn to do a live straddle he said "No, I don't like that." Wow! He didn't play like a dealer! He also didn't really win much. He was on my immediate right so I could fold for free when he raised.

In general, the table was active but most pots were fairly small (below $50). There were some "You can't run over me" advertising calls but not for very much money. But the worst players played small and big pots equally badly.

The Verdict: Montbleu's poker room is small compared to most other card rooms. They need to get things together, like the comp system and food service. Right now it's just barely adequate. At least the game was good, the floor people were friendly, and the dealers were well-trained. I'll gladly play there again if there's just one more reason to drive up to Tahoe other than just poker.

Stateline, Nevada

Overall, Harvey's Lake Tahoe is to Montbleu what Bally's Las Vegas is to Bellagio. It's downscale, old-school, and owned by Harrah's. But that's as far as the analogy goes, since Harvey's is ground zero for poker in Tahoe. In Vegas, Bally's definitely ain't.

The Place: The poker room has more than 40 tables, or more than 5 times the number at Montbleu. About half of them were being used for the WSOP Circuit event. For odd reason #1, Harrah's brass decided to hype Harvey's instead of Harrah's itself. And for odd reason #2 they decided to schedule the WSOP Circuit event on the same weekend as the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open. Go figure.

The result is that I only recognized three name players at the WSOP event: John Esposito, Howard "Tahoe" Andrew, and Hans "Tuna" Lund. But maybe I wasn't looking closely enough. I also recognized a dealer and regular player at my local casino. The dealer was one of the chip leaders on the eve of the final day, but busted out before I went back on the final day.

As for the cash games, Harvey's spreads several limit hold'em games and several low and high-blind no-limit games. $2/$3 ($50 - $300 buyin) was their smallest game, so that's what I played. I believe they also spread various blinds and buy-ins up to $10/$20 with no cap. Apparently there is a "Big Game" where $180k has been on the table and $30k all-ins are not uncommon.

The Players
Several of the players had busted out of the WSOP Circuit $5k buy-in main event and left to play the last $200 second chance tournament. One of them said he was Mike Matusow's cousin but later admitted he wasn't. He played reasonably well but didn't quite break even. I'm sure several of the players were locals, but the dealers didn't address them by name.

There were all kinds of players: an older lady ("The Cowgirl") who had busted out of the main event, several young Asian guys, older rocks (probably locals), East Coast tourists, Californians, etc., etc. Here are some of the more memorable ones:

A middle aged Caucasian guy, he had a small cruise ship paperweight for a card cover. It said "Puerto Rico" on the side. He also had a mountain of red chips, and I saw his stack grow from 800 to 1600 by the time I left. He was very solid, making tough but correct laydowns. The only time he showed his cards other than on showdowns was when he laid down a set of 7s that he'd flopped. The other player got there on the river when the flush draw hit in addition to the straight that was already on the board. Good fold, I'm sure.

The New Yorker
30-ish guy with a NY accent. He took seat 4 after I had moved from 4 to 3, and started catching cards and winning big pots. Nice guy, but he talked just a little too much. I didn't mind since I played so few hands due to card deadness. He won up to about 900 at one point after buying in for 200.

Mike Matusow's (fake) cousin
He did something I'd never seen anyone else do: he poured Lite beer into a glass full of ice and drank it through two straws. He was pretty good at putting people on hands but called when he was beat and knew it. He said "I need to lose 200 before I start to play good. Might as well get it over with early..." He quit just about even on the last call for the $200 second chance tournament.

The Geek
Skinny 20-something kid with curly hair and thick-framed glasses. He made a lot of money while I sat there card dead 2 seats to his right. The first thing I saw him do was bluff off about 100 with king-high. His opponent just kept check-calling, aka "Walking the dog" until showdown. The Geek just mucked without showing and said "Good call."

But at one point he had AS7H vs another guy with QS7S. This is the hand I wrote about in the Straight Flush blog. He ended up making the steel wheel and busting an older player. The Geek left soon after that, after less than 2 hours of play, with about 800.

Within an hour of that straight flush, another steel wheel hit. Too bad there were no bad beat bonuses that day. During WSOP Circuit events there are no bad beat bonuses. I guess it sense, business-wise, since there is so much side action that they don't need to attract locals with jackpots.

Summary: I liked Harvey's poker room. There was plenty of action, the dealers were friendly and efficient, the wait was very short since there were plenty of games running, and it's just a stone's throw away from most everything else on the Tahoe strip. As far as I know, that's the place to go for poker in Tahoe.