Southwest poker rooms go over and above

May 28, 2013, Chris  

Spending several action-packed hours one weekend in the small, hospitable poker room of Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino near Santa Fe, I came away wondering how certain rooms seem to leave players feeling more content than others. Of course, winning (or losing) might have something to do with a player’s mood, but in this case I left the room smiling, and barely broke even.

It’s good for all when staff and management contribute to players’ ease by working well together. Particularly in this room, each player seemed to bask in the warmth of something similar to . . . easy friendship? And a cozy, smoothly running room does seem to influence players to return soon and often.

Large cardrooms certainly have their charm, too, especially the ones that offer endless game variety, conveniences such as well-stocked snack bars and all the other pampering amenities. Bigger rooms necessarily run like well-oiled machines, but they may require more care to avoid losing that personal touch.

Speaking of large and well-run rooms, at least two of the most spacious in the Southwest region are famous for being favorites of players and at the top of their game. In New Mexico, the roomiest room is in Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque, which hosts World Series of Poker satellites through June 3 ($35 buy-ins). First and second place win seats into Sandia’s WSOP main event tournaments in Las Vegas, where each winner earns a seat valued at $10K.

TALKING STICK: June is a happening month at the king-sized Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort and Casino in Scottsdale, Ariz., so much so it’s difficult to mention it all. For instance, June 8, (and once a month, every month through December) brings the Super Turbo, Super Bounty, Super Big Stack with $100 bounty awarded for every player eliminated. This is a $200 buy-in with $25 service fee, and sign-ups begin at noon on Monday before the tournament at the poker cage. Also, the Big Stack event, which begins with 10K chips ($330) starts at 11:15 a.m, June 1-July 6. Again, players can start signing up on the Monday before the event. This month’s $150 Last Saturday of the Month tournament, featuring a $20K guarantee, is June 29 at 11:15 a.m.

• You’d better believe June is lively in the smaller cardrooms, too. Buffalo Thunder offers these tournaments: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m ($40, plus one rebuy); Friday and Saturday, 6:30, $75. There’s a Father’s Day event (June 16) at 2 p.m., with $500 added to the prize pool ($40, one re-entry allowed, 3,500 chips, 15-minute levels). Also, there’s an Omaha/8 tournament June 23 at 2 p.m., with $100 added per table to the prize pool, $100 entry (one re-entry) 5K chips and 20-minute levels. The June 29 Last Saturday of the Month deepstack is $150, starts at 1 p.m. and gets you 15K chips and 20-minute blinds. (All of these tournaments allow players to earn 1K bonus chips for two hours live play before the start of scheduled play.)

HARD ROCK: WSOP excitement at Albuquerque Hard Rock Casino awards winners of each Tuesday tournament this month a seat in the final on June 25; the winner of each Thursday tournament wins a seat in the final on June 27, but all seats in the final must be won; no buy-ins allowed. All final winners will receive a $10K buy-in to the WSOP main and $2,500 for expenses. Plus, there will be a $2,500 prize pool for each final (second-10th).

CASINO DEL SOL: This Tucson room is proud to announce the Poker Basketball promotion is continuing through June 30. Players will win $200 per half and final score, $50 per half and final score for reverses and the Super Bonus up to $1,500 per game.

— Mary Bradley is Ante Up’s Southwest Ambassador. You can email her at anteupmary@gmail.com.