el paso, texas, is located at the southwestern tip of the lone star state. the tigua indian nation operates the speaking rock casino, located just off zaragoza avenue, several miles south of interstate 10. it's not the nicest area of town, and there's not much parking in the lot by the casino entrance. however, there are several other parking lots located within several blocks of the entrance, all of which are serviced by shuttle buses. the paranoia meter took a big jump until i saw the little security golf cart buzzing around the lot.
unlike virtually every casino i've ever been in, there was no security guard at the entrance to speaking rock. however, the poker room is close to the entrance and clearly marked. i walked in and was almost immediately greeted by floorman leo (you know how highly i value this). since virtually everyone in this cardroom is a regular, leo knows, without even asking, that i'm a newbie and he gets me set up with a casino id card, a seat, and chips.
the room spreads 4/8 no fold 'em hold 'em, 1-5 no fold 'em stud, and a lively 15/30 hold 'em game, where the same ten players played all night. there are about 15 tables in this long, narrow room, and it's rather crowded. ashtrays and drink holders are not permitted on the playing surface, but there are plenty of little tables conveniently nearby (taking up even more space between the tables). the drink holders on the tables are chained to the table, so that no one can walk off with one! lol! there are many "smoke-eater" ash- trays on the little tables, but most players ignore them, and leave their cigarettes burning in ordinary ashtrays, or by the drink holders. the ceilings are low, and smoke is a definite problem here. the room is also kind of messy, with napkins, cups, ashtrays, racks, etc., on the floor, and i'd say that housekeeping is also a little problem here.
the rake is 10% to a maximum of $4, and they take an extra dollar for their bad beat jackpot (unlike many cardrooms, there are not separate jackpots for each form of poker). cash doesn't play. the rulebook, which is not avail- able for players, is based on the las vegas hilton rulebook. :) note: all players in the hand have a right to see a called hand at the river; where the winner wants to see the loser's unshown and mucked hand, the hand is killed and remains dead. the tables have a fancy stylized "betting line" oval drawn on the playing surface. they use "speed chips" here.
there aren't any comps for players (yet), but one of the staff members swipes your card upon buy-in and cash-out. they are tracking time in anticipation of a big freeroll tourney to be held in the near future. on tuesday nights, they run a $15 + $10rb hold 'em tourney, $1000 guarantee, where you get a $10 bounty gift certificate for each player that you knock out. the bounty certificates are redeemable for food, drinks, etc., in the casino stores. *there's no entry fee for this tourney!* oh yeah, i was charged for a bottle of water at the table.
dealers carry their own racks as they move from table to table. however, dealers share tips in this room. nevertheless, almost all of the dealers i saw rated at least as b+ in my book. and all of the dealers were very friendly to this newbie in the room.
as i noted earlier, the players here all know each other. and since the city is located on the mexican border, virtually the entire town is bi-lingual. so, the "english only" rule isn't really enforced very strictly, and it's a good thing that this new yorker speaks and understands un poquito de espanol. and the fajitas, refried beans and spanish rice at the snack bar hit the spot! note: you can buy food at the snack bar, but there's no place to eat it!
terri is the night shift manager. she's a white female, mid-30s, about 5'5", medium length black hair combed straight back, dressed in long black pants, white shirt and tie, and black jacket. she works her tail off! everybody in the room loves her! recently, the senior management of the casino decided that the omaha/8 games were not providing sufficient revenue, and forbade the cardroom from spreading it. last night, terri tried to crank up an omaha (high only) game, and took a great deal of good-natured ribald abuse from everyone (your reporter included) for her pains. but she got it cranked up, anyhow, and it ran all night.
i had a chance to chat with terri for a while, and she was tickled to learn that i live in greenwich village. she's actually visited there several times! terri, leo, several dealers, and even a couple players were very interested to learn about rgp, and we may well have a few new members very soon! :)
i played 4/8 hold 'em for about three or four hours. in all that time, i was the only one who ever raised before the flop. it was true "no fold 'em hold 'em" best exemplified by frank, from fort bliss (?) in san antonio, who played every hand, every round, and who took an awful lot of my chips before giving them away to other players. i booked a $34 loss, and chalked it up to experience. frank dropped two franklins before going back to base.
cigar smoking is allowed in the room. and they play hold 'em nine-handed.
but after all, it was a fun, friendly "local" room.
as soon as i post this, i'm heading for tuscon!