27.10.06

Out and about

So today was the grand opening of the newest casino in the Edmonton area, the River Cree Resort at Enoch. I took a spin over there with my friend Rob and we took a look around and marveled at the place. It's actually quite nice, and has a good variety and amount of gaming there. Like every casino I've been to (save one in Vancouver), it was dominated by slot machines. It's no secret that casinos make the most money from slot machines (despite some of them offering guaranteed payouts in the high 90% range), so that's to be expected.

I didn't look closely enough to see what more esoteric games were available, but there were no shortage of Blackjack or Baccarat tables. I saw one Three Card Poker table and two Craps tables as well, along with a handful or Roulette tables, but I didn't notice things like Pai Gow or Caribbean Stud there. I'd like to think those were represented, but I just didn't see them if they were.

The place has 3 or 4 restaurants, a couple bars, and two ice rinks. I didn't bother to sample the fare since we weren't there for an extended period of time, but it's good to know there are choices nearby (especially considering the place is in the middle of nowhere relative to other commercial operations; there are no nearby fast food places for instance). I can't say I cared for the prices, at least the ones I saw on the menu for the poker room, but nothing was really out of line compared to most sit-down establishments.

As far as poker goes, it was nice to see they had the largest poker room in the area (that I've noticed; I've not yet been to the Yellowhead casino to know if it's any larger), and they also had a nice mix of games going. While they had options such as 1/2 No Limit, 4/8 Half & Half and an uber-cool 6/12 Dealer's Choice, I went to my regular haunt, the 3/6 straight hold'em table. I didn't fare overly well, winning about 4 or 5 pots for the time I was there, but after buying in with $100 and playing for well over 4 hours, I finally left the table with $98, down only $2. It of course would have been nicer to leave when I was up (which I was a couple times, but never more than $35 or so), but it's not often you can spend over 4 hours doing any sort of recreational activity and depart with $2 less than when you began.

Still, there were some definite and serious flaws with the poker room. I'll grant that it's early days yet, being the place had been open for less than 6 hours when I sat at the table, but some of the things wrong were frankly inexcusable even for a new establishment.

Firstly, there was a lack of consistency when it came to new players sitting at the table and whether or not they should post. The rule in play, according to the houseman, is that anyone sitting down needs to post the equivalent of the big blind unless (a) they've come from another table, (b) are sitting in the seat that would otherwise be getting the big blind, or (c) they're sitting under the gun for the next deal. Some people who came to the table wound up posting, and others did not when they should have per the rules. Something as basic as that needs to be enforced and done so consistently.

Next, there was an issue regarding the kill button. There was one pot where the player had won, and it was their second pot in a row. The procedure at most places I've played has been the second pot needs to be $30 or greater (including the rake); the dealer announced kill after shipping the pot to the winner, and I questioned whether or not that was the correct course of action given what I'd seen elsewhere. After conferring with the houseman, the rule there is that as long as the second pot won has a flop, then the kill is live.

Thirdly, the dealers at my table were mostly far too inexperienced and in my eyes received insufficient training. The one male dealer was fine and knew what was going on and how to proceed at all times, but the two female dealers had less of a clue. I'm not gender-bashing here, but when a dealer doesn't know that two cards need to be dealt face-down for Texas Hold'em there's a problem. Other issues were at play as far as procedures, realizing which was the winning hand, and so on as well.

The largest complaint I had was that there were no free beverages in the poker room. It's standard fare (and frankly expected) that you can get up and grab some free coffee or soda in the poker room, but no such things were available at River Cree. There was a nearby bar charging $1.50 for a soda (and I'm not sure how much for a coffee), but that's just not good enough.

Still, it was an enjoyable afternoon out, and while it would have been nice to see Rob fare as well as I did, if not better, I was content with my play and had fun. However, since all I'll play at a casino is poker (although I keep meaning to hit the craps table when I go), I think I'd prefer to stick to Palace Casino at West Edmonton Mall. As I write this, the staff at Palace are on strike (and have been for a while), so I won't go there while the strike action is going on (I'm not overly pro-union, but I've mostly worked union jobs in my life and I respect the rights of the workers). However, when things are settled and back to normal I'd certainly consider going there before I'd consider returning to River Cree.

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