@RandomPoker finds family-friendly rivalry in the shadows of Sin City
Out in Henderson, deep in the southeast edge of the Vegas Valley, there’s a competition between a pair of lesser known casinos for small-stakes cash-game action and low buy-in tournaments.
As Aria, Venetian and other monsters of the Strip try to lure in the most tourists, Jokers Wild Casino and Club Fortune Casino clamor day after day for all the poker-loving retirees and locals on the outskirts of town.
“We’re friends, but there’s a little bit of a rivalry,” Jokers Wild poker room supervisor David Miller (@silentraise) said of his competitor, Club Fortune.
The two casinos sit about 4 miles apart, some 20 miles from Las Vegas Boulevard: Jokers Wild just east of the Outpost Motel on Boulder Highway, and Club Fortune across the street from a Kmart on Racetrack Road.
Both are 4-table rooms that offer $2/$4FL and .50/$1NL games to a crowd of mostly locals from Henderson and nearby Boulder City (which happens to be one of only two cities in Nevada that prohibits gambling). Both rooms spread $30 buy-in tournaments every day — Jokers Wild at 11:30 a.m., Club Fortune at 2 p.m. Both have recently fiddled with these starting times in an effort to bring more action.
I stopped by Club Fortune on Thursday after seeing a tweet from poker room manager Chad Harberts (@chadharberts) about tournament overlays, bounties, a $5/hr comp deal in cash games and free food.
Every Monday, there’s a $45 “Beat The Boss” bounty event, in which $10 is awarded for each knockout and $100 is awarded for busting Harberts.
Starting this month, cash game players at Club Fortune can earn tickets for entry into qualifying events for an eight-player single-table on June 20. The winner of that event receives entry into a $10,000 “main event seat” tournament — they’re prohibited from using the WSOP name — while the second place finisher gets a $1,060 “main event satellite seat.” Those who play the daily tourneys also can earn entry by accruing the most points or hours played.
No cash game had started by the time my buddy Chris (@chrisabramski) rolled up, so I suggested heading down the street. (I wanted a $1 Jokers Wild chip for my collection, which has grown to about $50 from all the casinos I’ve visited in the country. And I haven’t even played in California yet!)
You wouldn’t pick Chris out as a pro — he’s a jovial middle-aged guy, loose and conversational — except that he sometimes wears Beats headphones and carries a backpack. I’ve encouraged him to ditch the headphones at the table, and I’m pretty sure he just keeps them in his backpack for when I’m not around.
The 4 pm $40 tournament at Jokers Wild never got started, which is a rarity according to the staff. So Chris and I played heads up at .50/$1NL while Miller told us about the monthly bracelet event. Wait. The what?
The Joker’s Wild Monthly Bracelet tourney is a $115 buy-in with 10,000 starting chips and 20-minute levels. With only 4 tables, the number of entrants is limited, though they will make room for alternates. Top prize is usually about a grand, and this shiny silver bracelet. (The event is not televised — yet.)
The next one is being offered up at 6:30 pm Friday.
Cash games are “hit or miss,” Miller said, but the bracelet tourney is definitely a hit.
A couple locals wandered in (neither sporting the JW bracelet) and each slapped a Jackson on the felt before quickly stacking off to Chris. The heads up match was quick, and Chris asked to quit after I grinded him back down to his original $100 buy-in.
We headed back to Club Fortune, and the $2/$4 game was full, so we splashed around at the $1 minimum craps table before seats opened in the poker room. I tend to avoid the pits on the strip, with their minimum bets 15 times the size, but didn’t fear going busto in Henderson if the most I could lose at a cold table was $20.
“It’s a good little room,” Harberts said. “Few tourists come through here. It’s a real casino, but it’s got a locals feel to it.”
There’s certainly a more home-game than Vegas vibe, more of a friendly local card room than a corporate rake machine. The staff knows the locals who know each other.
Finalists for the $10,000 main event seat tourney get their pictures tacked onto the chairs in a poster of a green poker table on the wall, “so they really feel like this is their room.”
The locals picked up around 10 pm, to retire for the night to their normal lives and families. That was a bit different from what I’m used to on the Strip, where the best action generally starts around 10 pm, as the tourists arrive to forget their normal lives and families for a bit and begin getting drunk.
With the inner-Henderson action coming to a close, Chad from Club Fortune let Chris and me play heads-up limit hold’em. This was my online specialty before Black Friday, and Chris has admittedly little limit poker experience, so I felt it gave me an edge. Having played for a little more than an hour, we had barely earned $5 in comps when that promo ended for the day, to make room for other promotions in the pit.
It seemed a good time for us to call it quits, too.
Chris might have nabbed the last couple chicken wings, but I got his chips.