by Ashley Adams
In my last installment of this seven-part series, my friend Andrei and I were playing our way through Stockton on a 25-room poker trip in Central California. We left the two gritty rooms there and headed south to Casino Real (1355 North Main St., Manteca, 209-239-1455). This seven-table room struck me as being a blend of a modern casino poker room and a traditional local California card room. There’s tableside food and beverage service as well as a reasonably priced player’s menu, with $6-$8 sandwiches and $8 Asian dishes like pho. They spread $1/1/2 and $1/1/3 no limit, $3/6 limit hold’em, and $4/8 Omaha with a ½ kill. There was a prop in the Omaha game I played in – but other than he, the action was good and the quality of my opponents was, at best, tight and predictable. After an hour, I moved over from Omaha to $1/1/3 no limit. I managed to lose a large contested pot with a full house but ended up winning money when I was awarded $100 by the poker room thanks to a neat little bad beat promotion they had going. Sweet! The other distinguishing feature of the room is Ernie’s, the high-end gourmet restaurant located on the premises. I didn’t have time to sample the menu, but everyone I met in the poker room raved about it.
Andrei and I left Casino Real and drove to the former Comstock Casino, now known as Stars Casino, (775 Clover Road, Tracy, 209-777-7777). When we arrived at about 2:00 PM on a Tuesday afternoon, only one of its two tables was going. There were exactly two seats open – so my friend and I both sat down. We played in this extremely tight game consisting of a bunch of local rocks who didn’t seem particularly pleased with my aggressive play. The dealer was competent, but not at all welcoming to Andrei or me – in spite of my eagerness to strike up a conversation. I was lucky enough to meet the owner. He told me that he was eager to build up the room and take advantage of his great new space. They were offering a $1,000 freeroll tournament on Sunday. He shared with me that his number one objective was to create a welcoming room that made new visitors feel at home. Judging by the mood in the room among the regulars and staff, he has his work cut out for him. I wished him well – but left soon thereafter to visit the rooms in and on the way to San Jose.
Our next stop was the Livermore Casino (formerly the 580 Card Room), 3571 1st Street, Livermore, 925-447-1702. This is a great, busy, 10-table room, with a wide variety of games. When I visited late on a Tuesday afternoon, there were seven games going including $4/8 limit hold’em, $6/12 Omaha with a half kill to $10/20, and $3-$200 spread limit hold’em. The room is limited in what they can spread because of a local gambling ordinance that does not allow no limit poker. So they have this very broad spread limit game instead. I sat in the Omaha game and had a ball – with a bunch of very talkative, fun, and engaging players. The room does what they can to promote action – allowing straddles up to any amount. Players take advantage of this. In my two-hour Omaha session I saw players straddle to $30 when there was a kill pot that raised the stakes to $10/20. I was lucky enough to win one of those hands – raking in a large pot in the process. I also got to sample some soup and a burger – each reasonably priced and delicious. The shift supervisor whom I spoke to described the place as the Cheers of poker rooms. This Boston boy would have to agree. I’d gladly play here regularly if I lived in the area.
Andrei and I concluded the day by driving to San Jose and the Bay 101 casino. More on that place and the other casino in the area, the M8trix, next time.