ROAD TRIP: Mid-South – Shreveport and Arkansas

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Much of the poker buzz in Louisiana comes from New Orleans, but you can’t forget Shreveport, which has two gems in the Eldorado and Horseshoe. And while we were there we hopped the state line north and looked at the two Arkansas rooms.

By Christopher Cosenza

Horseshoe Bossier City

Oftentimes when you talk to a poker room manager who works within the Harrah’s corporation the first thing they mention is the World Series of Poker. How could they not? It’s an ace in the hole. The brand recognition alone draws the players, and when you combine that with the history of the Horseshoe it’s a win-win situation.

Dennis Jones, who has run the Horseshoe Bossier City poker room since its inception in 1997, is no different.

“Probably the biggest thing (we’re known for) are the WSOP satellites that we run,” Jones said. “We run them every week in April, May and June, but in the fall we run them on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Usually we give away between four and five seats a tournament to the World Series ($10K main event). It’s been real successful. Players really have enjoyed it and it’s worked out well for the room.”

But the Horseshoe is more than just satellites.

“We offer a variety of games,” he said. “We offer daily promotions (aces cracked, splash the pot, bad beats) except Saturday, and we offer tournaments Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We do a $400 buy-in tournament the last Sunday of every month, which is 10,000 chips and brings in the bigger players from the Dallas-Houston area.”

The poker room, which actually closed for about 18 months before re-opening in 2005, spreads 14 tables and offers tableside dining off the room-service menu. The Casino Club Sandwich is the most popular item at $10.95, but dollar-an-hour comps on your Total Rewards card will cover that fairly quickly.

Like most Horseshoe cardrooms the action is always there with a good mix of players.
“We have an excellent staff,” he said. “The dealers are well-trained and run a good, clean game. As far as the players it depends. I hear people talk all the time that Shreveport has some real loose players and then (I hear) we have tough players. Overall we have a mixture of both that come into our room on a daily basis. And then I think we have some people who enjoy playing poker, and love to come down and have a good time every day, too.”
Jones works the WSOP in Vegas and in Europe so he’s away for about two months of the year. But don’t worry, he’s in constant contact with the room to make sure it continues to run as smoothly as always.

“It works out well for me because I get the experience of running the World Series and doing some of the global events.” And, yes, he will be in London this year for WSOP Europe.
But since this after all is a Road Trip, what else can you expect from the Shoe?

“We have great concerts here and the food is excellent,” he said. “Harrah’s has like 40 properties and our (Jack Binion’s Steakhouse) is always rated No. 1 of any steakhouse Harrah’s owns. A lot of people come just for the food.”

But be sure to stop by the poker room for a taste of history, too.

WEBSITE: horseshoebossiercity.com
PHONE: (800) 895-0711
POPULAR GAMES/LIMITS: $4-8 limit ($20-$40 on weekends); $1-$3 and $2-$5 NLHE. Also $2-$5 PLO gets going a few nights a week.
MANAGER: Dennis Jones
STAFF: 60; TABLES: 14

Eldorado Casino

In an industry whose turnover rate makes H.R. departments use pencil instead of ink, it’s always refreshing when someone who opened the building 10 years ago is still there and running your poker room.

Tia Gurvitz helped launch the Hollywood Casino in December 2000, way before it became the Eldorado.

“I’ve been here since Day 1,” said Gurvitz, who worked in the main casino before becoming one of the first poker dealers on the property. She worked her way up to tournament director before finally taking over as manager in January.

For those who haven’t been to the poker room lately, it’s now on the first floor with nine tables, moving from the third level when it had 15 tables. But the reduction in tables doesn’t make the room any less accommodating.

“We’ll spread anything,” said Gurvitz, who sort of chuckled when asked about limit poker. “When we do get a $4-$8 limit game going it’s rare. It seems that $1-$2 no-limit has taken over for us. A lot of times we’ll do a $5-$10 no-limit/PLO mix, but we just don’t get a lot of demand for limit games.”

As for tournaments ($75-$150), they run four days a week, including a new $2K guarantee on Mondays (11 a.m., $130), and Gurvitz said the room is running a deepstack event every other month.

Promotions include a bad beat ($114K at press time), which requires quads be beaten, and aces cracked. (See the Where to Play pages at the back of the magazine for more information). Players also are rewarded when they use their Club Eldorado card, being comped on hourly play, and those comps can go toward tableside dining.

“Our players can order food from the diner and the brush goes and picks it up for them,” Gurvitz said. “The Asian menu is very popular at night and on the weekends. We have a lot of people who order the sandwiches, too.”

Room rates are $69 Sunday-Thursday, based on availability. “They just finished redoing all of the rooms,”she said. “If you know you’re going to be here, make your reservation at the regular rate and inform the poker supervisor when you get here and they’ll give you the player rate.”

Gurvitz said her room is different from competitors because “it’s an open poker room. Anyone who’s played in riverboat rooms knows the ceilings are lower and you feel very enclosed. This room has a very spacious feeling. We are friendly, professional and we want to make you feel at home.”

And if that’s not enough to get you to visit, perhaps you love the nightlife.

“We have THE hottest club in Shreveport,” she said. “Our Celebrity Lounge and the Allure have live music, and on the weekends the line is all the way into the lobby and around it. It’s the hottest club in town!”

WEBSITE: www.eldoradoshreveport.com
PHONE: (318) 220-5274
POPULAR GAMES/LIMITS: $1-$2 NLHE ($5-$10 night or weekends)
STAFF: 37; TABLES: 9

Arkansas

There are no poker dealers in Arkansas, yet legal poker is being spread at two facilities. How can this be? Welcome to the age of electronic poker tables.

Oaklawn Racing in Hot Springs and Southland Park in West Memphis each use the latest in poker gadgetry, installing electronic tables to give their patrons the poker experience. There are many pros and cons to using these tables, as you can imagine, but it depends on which side you stand since one person’s con could be another’s pro. Whatever your viewpoint, if you want to play live poker in Arkansas it will be in front of a computer screen.

How do you get started? Present your ID to the cashier who will issue you a plastic card on which you deposit cash. That’s it. Now let’s get to know the Arkansas rooms a little better.

Southland Park Gaming & Racing

WEBSITE: www.southlandgreyhound.com
PHONE: (870) 735-3670
POPULAR GAMES/LIMITS: $1-$2 NLHE, occasionally limit and PLO.
MANAGER: Chris Moseley oversees the poker room.
STAFF: 6 (no dealers); TABLES: 8
TOURNAMENTS: “Our tournaments are very popular with the best return on investment of any tournament in the Mid-South,” floor person Jennifer Gay said. On Mondays and Tuesdays (2 p.m., $20 with $20 rebuys) the house adds $200 to the prize pool. On Wednesdays (7 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m.) there is a $1K guarantee $35 freezeout where $200 is added to the prize pool. “There is nowhere else you can play through such a small field of players to win a prize pool that large,” she said.
PROMOTIONS: The bad beat (aces full of jacks beaten by at least quads) was more than $170K at press time. This month (Thursday-Saturday) there’s a mini bad beat (sevens full of deuces) to win $1,000 ($400 to loser, $200 to winner, $400 table share).
TABLESIDE DINING: “We have the absolute best steakhouse in the Mid-South, Bourbon Street,” said Gay. “It’s the best-kept secret in West Memphis. You can place your order from the poker room and the steakhouse will deliver it tableside. We also have the World Market Buffet and Quin and Ella’s Cafe where players can go to take a break from the poker room.”
PLAYER COMPS: Players earn 100 points per hour while playing in the poker room. Points translate into freeplay and food comps, as well as hotel stays with local hotels.
ROOM RATES: Southland doesn’t have a hotel, but it does have a partnership with Comfort Suites, which offers players a static nightly rate of $89. 

Oaklawn Racing & Gaming

WEBSITE: www.oaklawn.com
PHONE: (501) 623-4411
POPULAR GAMES/LIMITS: $1-$2 NLHE, but occasionally Omaha/8.
MANAGER: Matt Clement oversees the poker room.
STAFF: 6 (no dealers); TABLES: 7
TOURNAMENTS: “Our signature event is the recently completed Arkansas Poker Championship,” Clement said. “Our next big event, which starts in September, will award a seat to the WPT Southern Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage.”
PROMOTIONS: Aces cracked, high hands and a bad-beat jackpot. Call for details.
TABLESIDE DINING: No tableside dining. “Though we offer full drink service,” Clement said, “and our full-service buffet is just feet away.”
PLAYER COMPS? No.
ROOM RATES? No hotel.