A long-time poker room in Manchester, N.H., has had a total transformation. Manchester Poker, now known as Manchvegas Poker, has moved to what once was a movie theater. The room has all new poker tables and chairs, as well as other table games such as blackjack, three-card poker and roulette.
What makes Manchvegas Poker unique is it adjoins a restaurant with a full-service bar and a gaming room with a video arcade and pool tables. A short walk down a corridor is a bingo hall that seats 650 people.
In a previous incarnation, the room, known as Sharky’s, was reputed to draw a rough crowd. That’s no longer the case. Peter Jennings, senior shareholder of Manchester Poker, said dealers have had rigorous new training.
“Foul language or any antagonistic behavior will not be tolerated at the tables,” Jennings said. “Violators will be timed out. We want our players to have a fun, enjoyable time while playing serious poker.”
The room is offering new tournament formats, too.
“We’ve introduced some higher buy-ins that draw a more sophisticated crowd,” manager Dan Katsekas said. “These tourneys have fewer participants but bigger prize pools. We’re still offering the $5 rebuys, too, so everyone has a chance to play. Plus, there are cash games, including Omaha.”
The room has 11 strategically located TVs so players can watch their favorite sports teams. Players can take a break at Jokers Sports Bar & Bistro right next door. Executive chef Robert Bean, who has earned an outstanding reputation around town, is running the kitchen and adding a special touch to traditional pub fare.
“Jokers offers both gourmet and traditional pub foods, such as wings, but with new spices and flair,” Jennings said. “Basically, it’s upscale food at pub prices.”
If visitors are looking for more than poker and good chow, they can adjourn to Club Intrigue, which features live entertainment and dancing.
“There will be different entertainment every night,” he said. “Besides dance bands, we have comedy, acoustic and Latin/salsa nights each week.”
Manchester is often referred to as “Manchvegas” by locals, though no one seems to know the origins of the term (the comparison to Vegas seems a stretch for a small city with weather more like Moscow).
“Manchvegas Poker offers more of a casino experience,” Jennings said. “There are a variety of entertainment options now, from gambling to dining to dancing. What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas; it’s here at Manchvegas Poker, too.”
Manchvegas Poker is located at 1279 S Willow Street and is open seven days a week from noon to as late as 1 a.m. Call 603-668-6591 for more information.
MASS. POKER UNCERTAIN: The legal status of Bay State charitable poker gaming rooms seems a bit shaky after an investigation by Attorney General Margaret Coakley’s office caused the poker room at Raynham Racetrack to close in April. JRM Charitable Gaming, which ran the room, voluntarily ceased operations when the AG’s office opened the investigation.
Under Massachusetts law, non-profit organizations can run three “Monte Carlo” nights per year to raise money. Compliance with law mandates a cap of $25 for cash prizes, a five-hour limit and unpaid volunteers must run the games. Poker players know winnings typically exceed $25 and serious poker games need experienced dealers.
Several charitable gaming poker rooms operate in the state (South Shore Poker Room in Holbrook, Helping Hands Poker at the Vegas Lounge in Norwood, the Silver Fox in Everett and at the Portuguese National Club in Stoughton) and most have a rotating roster of non-profit sponsors.
Three weeks after Raynham closed, Legislature once again was debating legalized gambling, and the poker rooms were still open. When asked to comment, all venues declined, playing their cards tighter than a stone cold rock.
What makes legal compliance murky is jurisdiction over the events. The non-profit must get a permit from local authorities for the gaming event.
The AG’s office summed it up this way:
“While our office continues to monitor this issue, some of these matters may be better addressed at the local level through the permitting process, and we are in the process of contacting communities to provide guidance about the laws relating to this issue.”
According to the attorney general’s spokesman, Harry Pierre, Raynham has closed permanently and no further action is planned. He could not comment on what prompted the Raynham investigation.
— Kay Fitzpatrick is a journalist and avid player at New England poker rooms. She recently wrote a series of strategy blogs for Everest Poker, and is a dealer at the River Room in Milford, N.H.