by Ashley Adams
This is the fifth installment of my chronicling of a visit to 25 poker rooms in Central California. Frankly, by this stage of the journey I was getting tired and sick -- having come down with shingles.
Following a relatively quick stop at an emergency room to treat my painful virus, my friend Andrei and I visited the poker room/bowling alley/bar/restaurant known as Folsom Lake Bowl (511 East Bidwell Street, Folsom, 916-983-4411). The poker there is played in a separate five-table card room behind the restaurant. They typically have a morning game of $1-$3 no limit that starts by 11:00 AM, with a $40 bonus for players after they have completed three hours of live play. A later game begins at roughly 4:00 PM. They run a house-funded regular $10,000 freeroll tournament for the forty players with the most hours of qualifying play. There’s a bad beat promotion as well, funded out of the $4 + $1 maximum rake. They have a nice little Saturday night $30 tourney with a $1,000 guarantee. The poker room had just taken over the kitchen when I visited – and they were in the process of developing a poker player’s menu. If I lived closer I’d return to try it out.
We left the FLB and drove south to the Lodi Casino, (1800 S. Cherokee Lane Lodi, 209-334-9777). It’s located right on route 99, a 15 minute walk from a surprisingly nice Motel 6. It has seven poker tables. I enjoyed playing in a great, lively, $1-$3 no limit game. My buddy played some $4/8 with a half kill – and enjoyed his session as well. To help promote the room they have $3K, $10K and $50K freerolls, as well as comps of $2 an hour for live play. There’s a kitchen with a full menu. I sampled the $1 tacos. They were perfect as a snack. Later, I had the inexpensive prime rib dinner. It was outstanding.
The following morning, Andrei and I went to the Cameo Club (552 West Benjamin Hold Drive, Stockton, 209-474-1777). There was a line of poker players outside, waiting for the four-table poker room to open at 10:00 AM. I also played at the Delta Card Room (6518 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, 209-956-6990) – just half a block away. Both are gritty, urban rooms, with a crew of short-stacked regulars. The Cameo struck me as a throwback to the earlier days of California card rooms, when there weren’t big casinos, there were hardly any tourists, and the card players all knew each other and the dealers. The Cameo is the room for limit hold’em – both $3/6 and $4/8 with a half kill; Delta hosts the no limit games – typically $1/2. Each place also has the typical California Asian games of blackjack, baccarat, 3-card poker, and Pai Gow. There are no player’s cards, though there are bad beat jackpots, Aces cracked bonuses, and “early bird” promotions that get you $60 in chips for a $40 buy-in. The Cameo has a full service bar and a “greasy spoon” restaurant – with a $2 sausage and pancake breakfast special and a $1.50 fish taco special on the menu. I also spied an interesting sign that may be unique to the Cameo: “No begging or lucky chip.”
The $3/6 limit game at the Cameo rarely had tourists like Andrei and me. The players all bought in for the minimum of $30 and seemed to be playing just to hit the bad beat jackpot. The Delta had two tables, both of $1/2 no limit – the second one, that they started for me and five others, was spread on a pai gow table. They never get limit poker – sending people over to the Cameo for those games. The players at each table bought in for the table minimum of $40 or so – and were not even a little aggressive. I was the only player who raised the blinds pre-flop during the hour that I played. The Delta did not have a kitchen but brought food in for players from nearby restaurants. The poker room manager told me that they had to plans to move the room fairly soon – to an undisclosed location.
Next up: Casino Real, Livermore, and Stars