Saturday, May 05, 2012

Seeing red

I was at the Palms tonight--the poker room's first day in its new location and under new management. The casino has contracted out management of both the poker room and the sports book to Cantor Gaming, which some industry observers think is a trend of the future. You can read a bit about it here.

The new room is just inside the doors from the west parking garage, adjacent to the food court.

The wall of televisions in the sports book has to be seen to be believed. It's enormous, sharp as a tack, and impossibly bright. (Notice in the photos above that it completely blows out the sensor in my digital camera, so you can't see any detail.) In fact, the brightness is so intense it's a problem for the poker room. You'll think I'm exaggerating about this until you go there and experience it yourself, but when the picture on the two biggest screens suddenly changes to something really bright--a little text on an all-white background for an ad, for example--it changes the ambient light level in the poker room so much that everybody turns to see what happened. It's like suddenly turning on an additional set of lights, or setting off a camera flash: even if you're not looking in that direction, you not only know it happened, but it diverts your attention, at least briefly.

The poker players spend a lot of time looking at the wall of sports action--far more than they used to with a couple of ordinary TVs on the far side of the room. The things occupy such a large fraction of one's visual field that it's pretty hard not to be distracted. This caused the games to lag noticeably more than they did in the old room, because people weren't paying attention.

A related problem is the sound level. They don't play sports in silence--whatever is on the biggest screens has the audio track filling the room. And it is LOUD. It was so loud that it made it difficult for players and dealers to hear each other. It was so loud that it gave me a headache after an hour or so.

These two problems interact in an unfortunate way: Players are looking somewhere else when it's their turn, but the dealer can't get their attention by saying, "Sir," because nobody can hear what is being said at the table. I'm not just being hypersensitive about this--the games were at least one-third slower than has been my experience at the Palms before, all because of this combination of overwhelming sight and sound from the sports book.

My final gripe is that the room was cold--one of the coldest I've experienced in a long time. And wouldn't you know it, this was one of the rare times I didn't take a sweatshirt with me. I saw "Titanic 3D" this week, and the Palms poker room made me appreciate what it must have felt like to jump off the ship into the icy North Atlantic. No--scratch that. I would have welcomed the chance to go swimming among those frozen corpses so that I could warm up a little.

These three problems are serious enough that if they aren't fixed, my time in the new room is going to be severely limited. One of the things I most appreciated about the old room was that it was small, quiet, and isolated. The new room is none of those things. The room launches a multi-faceted assault on one's physical comfort.

On the plus side of the ledger, the appointments are plenty nice--assuming you like your red juiced up on steroids.

The new tables don't have built-in cupholders, however, which annoys me. I dislike having to find one of the portable ones and jam it under the rail.

In one of the pictures above you can see a single table inside a glassed-in room, which I assume is for private and/or higher stakes games.

They finally have the Genesis Bravo system with card readers at the table, instead of logging in and out at the desk.

No poker magazine racks are in evidence. I'm told that that will be remedied in the future.

The entire sports book area has been designated no-smoking. That surprised me, because I can't think of another sports book in town that is smoke-free, but I'm sure not complaining. When I first saw that the new poker room was actually inside of the sports book, one of my first thoughts was that there would be a lot of smoke infiltration. I was wrong. I never caught a whiff of smoke in 3 1/2 hours of play. There's also a set of restrooms inside the sports book, so you don't have to penetrate of wall of smoke to get to them.

To sum up, the place looks really nice at first glance, and it's far more smoke-free than one would guess from the layout. However, the combination of the problems of player distraction, painful noise levels from the sports book, and a temperature that made me yearn for a big dose of global warming are daunting to me, and are likely to make me choose other venues when I would have hit up the Palms if they had stayed with the old room.

The Palms used to have a poker room. Now they have a few poker tables inside a sports book. The sports-book environment is so intrusively, unrelentingly oppressive that you are unlikely to forget even for a single second that that's where you are. This is a wholesale change in the character of the place, one that I deeply wish they had not made.


lightning36 said...

How were the games? Number of players? Is everything you mentioned typical of Cantor Gaming as far as you know?

Great report, Grump. Thanks.

--S said...

All Cantor books are non-smoking, amazingly enough!

Actually, I say all but I only know for sure that the Trop, M, Cosmo, & Palms books are non-smoking. Haven't been to the Hard Rock or the Venetian/Palazzo books...

Josie said...


Rob said...

Interesting report. I wonder if there is any way they can address the big screen and volume distractions? I also HATE the fact that they don't have cup holders. That is so stupid. But they at least have portable ones available? At Bellagio & Aria they don't even have that. First time I played at B, the game was interrupted twice by spilled drinks on the table (and cards). Dumb, really dumb.

I guess I'll check it out next time I'm in town. I can't quite envision how they put the place right next to the food court tho.

Josie said...

Whore! You aren't the only one "seeing red".

Memphis MOJO said...

In one of the pictures above you can see a single table inside a glassed-in room,

When Josie comes to town, the two of you ought to go heads-up behind the glass. Sell tickets for people to watch.