Things looking up for poker at Harrah’s Chester

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By Cris Belkewitch

Players in the Philadelphia area have been getting their fill of poker at Harrah’s Chester for a few months now, but in 2011 things are really beginning to take shape. The buzz in the room is at a fever pitch as the room was expanded to house 10 more tables and the long-awaited addition of daily tournaments has arrived. The new schedule features two daily tournaments (Thursdays are bounty events). All of this has without a doubt been done to get the staff and players ready for the World Series of Poker Circuit event making its way to the property in late April.

The tournament scene isn’t the only thing that’s been upgraded recently at Harrah’s Chester as the room is spreading a $20-$40 hold’em game on Thursday nights. Slowly but surely it’s rolling out the perks for players. One of the more popular ones is the free buffet. By playing four-plus hours of $1-$2 NLHE or two-plus hours of $2-$5 NLHE you can earn a buffet comp. This is in an effort to help offset the problems with not being allowed to offer free drinks (as ruled by city ordinance). Kudos to Harrah’s Chester for trying to help rectify what many saw as a problem that wasn’t its doing in the first place.

NEW JERSEY: It’s just after 11 a.m. on Jan. 20 and the Borgata poker room is full. With the first two events of the Winter Poker Open drawing huge fields (including 1,472 in Event 1) this comes as no surprise. While the mass of tournament players jockeyed for big pots and tried to dodge bad beats throughout the day in the convention center, the biggest and baddest of them all was taking place at a $1-$2 NLHE table downstairs in the poker room. The Borgata’s bad-beat jackpot was at a healthy $260,314 and expecting to grow as the hours passed.

But that all changed when Ronald Cusick’s quad kings outpipped Frank Martin’s quad queens. Martin was rewarded for his loss with $104,128, while Cusick took home $52,063 along with what was in the pot. The remaining six players at the table each took home a cool $17,354. Nothing pads your bankroll like hitting the bad-beat jackpot, and surely nothing can make losing feel as good.

With the Borgata Winter Open in full swing the high-limit area saw its fair share of action, so much so they had two $300-$600 six-game-mix tables going. When the Borgata has a tournament series running everything becomes bigger and better. Aside from the main events running each day they offered second-chance and survivor tournaments that received tremendous turnouts and saw many players walk away with thousands of dollars.

• It’s not easy to take the poker action away from the Borgata in Atlantic City during its big events, but that’s just what a growing bad-beat jackpot compiled from four casinos is capable of doing. With all four casinos under the Caesars Entertainment banner (formerly Harrah’s Entertainment) being linked to one bad-beat jackpot it pays to find yourself seated in any one of them. So Caesars, Harrah’s, Showboat and Bally’s had their share of rounders thanks in part to a jackpot that found itself as large as $331,613.

With the Showboat’s new glass walls in place to keep the outside noise level to a minimum it is positioning itself to move up a few rungs on the ladder of power poker rooms in Atlantic City. The addition of an Omaha/8 tournament every Friday night is a nice touch to offer its players a little something different from the normal daily schedule spread throughout the boardwalk.

LOOKING AHEAD: With the Atlantic City and Pennsylvania-area casinos getting off to such huge starts, a prosperous 2011 is expected. As New Jersey surges forward with imminent online regulation with the land-based casinos at the helm, a new source of revenue stream can be expected and every brick-and-mortar player hopes some of those newfound riches find their way into the poker rooms in the form of some key renovations and upgrades. A few of the rooms can use the makeover and players tend to get giddy about things like that.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s just bask in the bright light and big year that stands before us. First on the list is the World Series of Poker Circuit stop at Caesars Atlantic City. Taking place from March 2-13 the schedule boasts 10 ring events, including the $1,650 main event and the NLHE ladies event with a coveted WSOPC pendant up for grabs. The WSOPC has seen a resurgence this season, and with Caesars Atlantic City having always been one of its more popular stops, big numbers are expected. Poker is alive and well on the East Coast and 2011 is going to be a monster year at the tables. See you there.

— Cris Belkewitch is a professional poker player and writer from New Jersey.A member of Team Bustout, his insight can be found at thepokerjourney.net.