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Gulf Coast Poker Report

by Ashley Adams

 I spent two days playing poker in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi—in Biloxi and Bay St. Louis. My first port of call was the IP, the first place off Interstate 10 coming from New Orleans, Louisiana. I wrote about it in my last article. Across the street was Boomtown, a small locals casino with the distinction of not having a hotel. No matter, they had a poker room, and so I enjoyed myself.

 Boomtown’s poker room, the only smoking room in the area, is on the second floor of the modest casino. They pride themselves on their $1-4-8-8 spread limit hold’em game. When I arrived at 7:00 PM on a Saturday night, it was filled. The game has a $4 maximum rake with a $2 drop for bad beat jackpot and other extensive promotions. Players earn $1 an hour for live play and are provided with free hot dogs and popcorn.

 For smoking players who enjoy low limit hold’em, this is a fine place to play. The players are generally there to enjoy themselves—not pushing a highly skilled version of the game. I saw little trickery or serious aggression. Nearly all were of the older generation of poker players—either loose calling stations or straightforwardly betting their strong hands for value. The spread limit allows the skillful player to often see draws cheaply, while making others pay to draw against him—making the game at least slightly more skillful than the standard $4 - $8 limit hold’em game. If I didn’t find cigarette smoke anathema to playing poker I’d eagerly return.
Boomtown Casino, 676 Bayview Avenue, Biloxi, MS. 228-386-7092

 I played in four other poker rooms during my stay in Biloxi. But the two rooms in nearby Bay St. Louis, Mississippi were the most like Boomtown, so I’ll report on them here. Bay St. Louis is about 40 minutes west of Biloxi, en route to New Orleans on route 10. It has two small, limit poker rooms— the Silver Slipper with two tables—one of which was going on this Sunday at about 6:00 PM, and the Hollywood Casino, which had two tables going about two hours later.

 Both rooms spread $1-4-8-8 spread limit hold’em. The Silver Slipper sometimes has an Omaha high only game. The rake in both rooms is identical, 10% up to a maximum of $4, with a $2 drop for the bad beat and other promotions. (Though the Omaha game is raked at a $5 maximum with only a $1 drop for the jackpot). The Silver Slipper has a drink dispenser near the poker room—saving tips for the waitress. There’s a small display of “The History of Poker” on the wall—with a few old decks spread out for inspection. There are no tournaments at either room. Both had games filled with friendly, local, senior citizens. Though I’m 55, I was one of the youngest players in either room. The Hollywood Casino is part of the large Penn National Gaming chain that is soon to be divided into two components.

 This room is looking to move into a new and larger space within the next few months. And they’re looking to link their promotions with other Hollywood rooms—like the Station casinos do in Las Vegas. This change will link all of the Hollywood Casinos nationally, for a freeroll tournament in Las Vegas. I’m eager to see how they make that work. It could distinguish small rooms like this one in Bay St. Louis from the competition.

 I was able to snag a comped buffet at the Hollywood Casino. Though it wasn’t quite up to the standards of the incredible Caesar’s Bacchanal Buffet that I was lucky to sample during my recent Las Vegas trip, it was a cut above just about everyone else’s—with great steaks, chicken, and fish, as well as excellent Creole and Cajun dishes. I was glad I had a nearby room in which to crash—since I was too stuffed to play any more poker.
 Silver Slipper, 5000 South Beach Blvd., 866-755-4773. Hollywood Casino, 711 Hollywood Blvd., 866-758-2591.

Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-Card Stud. He hosts the radio show House of Cards, broadcast in markets throughout the US and on the Internet at http://www.houseofcardsradio.com Contact Ashley at asha34@aol.com.

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