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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

so what about Delaware Park anyway?

Let me preface this by saying I haven't had the chance to visit a live room in over two years - having a baby will do that to you. So I don't really have an updated frame of reference for this - but here goes.

Delaware Park is closer to NoVa/DC than any other card room except for Charles Town. That is its main good point. Because every good thing that the cardroom management accomplishes is undercut by the fact that this is an old facility with a meh environment and player base.

Now, I'm sure I could go to any of the Hollywood venues in the mid-Atlantic like Charles Town and really go ewww - and to Delaware Park's credit, it's not that blah - but it's still a converted track. It's not AC or Biloxi. It's like Florida and Pennsylvania with animal racing around an oval.

Anyway, right now there's two card rooms at DP, as they just switched out the tournament and cash rooms on the second floor. Supposedly the room in the middle of the casino will be the tournament room, and the one all the way at the west end of the facility will be the cash room.

I played the 11am in the west room, which has older tables with cupholders, quite a few bigscreen TVs, and a decent bar and rail just outside of it that's shared with the horse bettors. The West end wall is actually a large window that was screened off for more of day, which lends a light, open feel to the room (though not a gigantic cavern like the main Borgata room)

and the 7pm in the middle room, which is a darker, more upscale looking area with a lot of wood and newer tables ringed with that marble racetrack everyone hates, but without any bar or rail near it. (although a badly working beverage station is a few feet away if you want to pour yourself a Pepsi with no ice...)

Now, I'm not sure why you'd move the cash tables away from all the foot traffic - because not only do you miss out on the casual dropins from other games - but when there isn't a tournament running, there's this giant empty space in the middle of the building that isn't generating any money. Someone said that eventually both rooms would be consolidated at the west end of the building, but I'll believe that when I see it.

So, the good of playing at Delaware Park as they hit one year of table games in June.

-Autoshufflers and that check-in card system at all tables, no glitches

-Dealers reasonably good, although they struggled with dealing Omaha and chopping the split pots.

-Support staff - floor, cage, brush, people behind the desk - were all efficient and professional. You didn't even notice them doing their jobs, as it should be.

-They pay out tourney winnings in chips. less paperwork.

-Player base was generally well behaved and knew how to conduct themselves at the tables. Very little grumpy bullshit, petty angleshooting, etc. Of course, maybe I just caught a good day.


They spread an 8/16 LHE game with reduced $2 rake that ran pretty well, until the 4/8 Omaha8 table kind of cannibalized it. I know they will run mix games on occasion. They actually run Omaha tournaments twice a week.

In general, it's an extremely player-friendly room. Much kudos for that.

And the down side...

- It costs extra money to go there. Thanks to silly Maryland and Delaware, tolls from NoVa to Del Park run about $15-20 round trip, and you've got the gas for a 250mi trip as well. Drinks cost $$ as well. It all adds up. Of course, this was always true of AC as well for me.

-Drink service was pretty sketchy. Wait staff was pleasant enough, but there just wasn't enough of them. With Delaware gaming law preventing comped alcohol, you're basically in for a five spot for every beer or drink including tip. Coffee was uh, a coffee-like substance. I already pointed out the sort-of-working beverage station, which was sad and depressing.

-Tournament chips were sticky. Not Taj-level sticky, but damn, they needed a wash. It got to the point that I'd announce a bet, and by the time I could cut the chips and push them forward, the pot was already coming my way.

-There's nothing else there - for me, anyway. Meaning it's a racino and nothing else. There's a couple of restaurants, but if the deli is any indication, God help who ever eats there and pays those prices. Of course, there's no hotel or entertainment of note, and although they have a golf course and occasional live horse racing, I don't play or bet horses, and I avoid slots and the pit like the plague.

-There are few small things about Delaware Park tournaments that raise a eyebrow.

* They didn't quite make their Friday guarantees for either tourney I played, so there were slight overlays both times. They do try to give away 10 tourney seats to players at the cash game tables - not sure how many got used, but even with that, the two tourneys I played barely hit 80 players, and the PLO 3pm tourney only had 30 or so.
* Even with the $5 staff/chip bonus tacked onto every tourney, and the fact they do takeout 3-5% of the prize pool for staff - which they don't hide - I'm still wondering if they make any money hosting these tourneys. In June they will run four tourneys at day (Noon/4pm/7pm/10pm) - and while I'm hoping Del Park will remain a great low-buyin tournament room, I'm not so sure it's a viable business model in the long run.
* Yeah, the structure is what you deserve for $100. However, the end game moves too quick - blinds doubling every other level just makes for too much allin-or-fold poker. Those intermediate levels (500/1000, 1200/2400, 2500/5000, 5k/10k, etc) should get tossed back in at some point, especially once you hit the last two tables. You're only burning up one or two dealers, and that stage is where all the money's actually decided. Then again, I'm actually good maneuvering around a 10-15BB stack, so maybe this isn't such a good idea for me.

- It's just a blah buzzless, downer place - atmosphere just doesn't feel upbeat or happy. That's probably because I ended up walking around a bunch of oldster slot players and wasn't around the table games - and also because people can't get as sloshed for free. The poker areas themselves are fine, but they are attached to the rest of the building, unfortunately :-)

Of course, I'm a critical dude at heart - but despite all of that, I still liked playing at Delaware Park, and it's an acceptable substitute for AC since it's 90 minutes closer. I just wish it was another hour closer and not located off a toll road so I could run a tourney on a whim instead of doing it as a special day trip.

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