By Kay Fitzgerald
Poker junkies visiting northern New England can still get their card fix away from home. New Hampshire has several poker rooms where you can play tournaments and cash games.
All poker rooms in New Hampshire are charitable gaming rooms and regulated by the state’s Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission, which also oversees bingo and off-track betting. By law, a certain portion of the money collected in each poker game, be it tournament or cash game, is raked off the prize pool or pot. The rake is typically 20-25 percent off tournament prize pools and 10 percent off cash game pots, usually with a $5 cap, so the rake is comparable to a casino’s take. Of that rake, 35 percent goes to the sponsoring charity of the day, and about 13 percent goes to the state. The state’s largest poker room, Rockingham Park, reportedly paid $1.7 million to non-profit organizations last year. Cash bets are limited by law to $4 per bet and capped at four per round. No-limit cash games are not permitted in New Hampshire gaming rooms.
Salem, N.H. | 603.898.2311
Games: Hold’em tournaments, $2-$4 and $4-$4 hold’em and Omaha, blackjack, Let it Ride, Boston 5.
Open: Seven days, Mon.-Wed., 3 p.m.-midnight, Thurs. 2 p.m.-midnight, Fri. 2 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat. noon-1 a.m., Sun. noon-midnight.
The horses have long since departed from Rockingham and the only live races are the heads-up coin-flip kind. The largest poker room in the state, the Rock offers a wide range of tournaments, from $40 SNGs to $250 deepstack events, which draw several hundred players to compete for the substantial pool. A $50 freezeout 4:30 on weekdays typically fills around 10 tables. There are always Omaha and hold’em limit games going plus blackjack and other table games. The Rock shares a bad-beat jackbpot with the Seabrook poker room, and it can exceed $20K.
This is an off-track betting facility with simulcasting from tracks around the country. Upstairs a bingo hall is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Food service in an adjoining snack bar and upstairs at the main OTB concourse. Dozens of flatscreen TVs are tuned to simulcasting and local sports teams when in season. Conveniently located at the first exit off I-93 about 45 minutes north of Boston. Canobie Lake Amusement Park is nearby and there’s a large shopping mall across the road from the park.
Milford, N.H. | 603.249.5548
Games: Hold’em tournaments, dealer’s choice cash, blackjack, roulette, three-card poker, Let It Ride and NH Hold’em.
Open: Mon.-Thur. 5 p.m., Fri. 3 p.m., Sat. and Sun at noon.
A banner on display at the River Room reads, Live Free, Play Cards, offering a fun alternative to the state’s Live Free or Die motto. This room draws a regular crowd of 50-plus players to its weeknight freeroll and $5 tournaments. The players and dealers seem to know each other by first name, making for lively home-game style banter. Most of the tournaments are rebuys, so the play is pretty loose for the first hour until the rebuy period is over.
Cash games happen on the fly between tournaments, though one usually breaks out on weekend nights. When it does, it’s dealer’s choice with stud and Omaha in the mix, and the play is pretty loose. The River Bluff Café serves sandwiches, beer and wine. There’s a bowling alley and an old-fashioned drive-in movie nearby.
The Lodge at Belmont
Belmont, N.H. | 603.267.7778
Games: Hold’em tournaments, blackjack, Let It Ride, roulette, three-card poker and NH Hold’em.
Open: Mon.-Tue. 4 p.m.-1 a.m., Wed.-Sun. noon-1 a.m.
There are freerolls, $5 and $10 rebuy tourneys Mon.-Thurs.at 4:30, with Super Stacks and Bounty contests at 7 p.m. Each Saturday features a special event at 4 p.m., and the room has a bad-beat jackpot. An adjoining sports bar offers entertainment on weekends, including live bands, DJs, comedy nights and karaoke. Bingo plays on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 2, with a special Sunday brunch served from 11 a.m. The Lodge is six miles from Laconia, and is five miles north of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which has racing events scheduled through mid December.
The Poker Room at Seabrook
Seabrook, N.H. | 603.474.3065
Games: Hold’em tournaments, $2-$4 hold’em, stud, stud/8, Omaha/8, blackjack, three-card and roulette.
Open: Mon.-Thur. 3 p.m.-midnight, Fri. 1 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun. noon-midnight.
Under the same management as Rockingham, this is New Hampshire’s second largest poker room. Tournaments start at 3:30 Mon.-Thurs., with a $100 deepstack at 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. They offer a variety of SNGs ($40-$150) and special events include $200 deepstacks. The room draws anywhere from 50 tournament players on weekdays to 150 on weekends, and there’s generally 40-80 in the cash/pit game area. Like Rockingham, this is an OTB, though the only dogs found here are at the poker tables. Center Plate serves up chow and has a full-service bar. The room is conveniently right off I-95 (Exit 1) and close to Hampton Beach.
The Poker Room
Hampton Falls, N.H. | 603.601.2486
Games: Hold’em tournaments, Omaha, stud, $2-$4 hold’em, blackjack, roulette, three-card poker, Let It Ride and craps.
Open: weekdays at 3 p.m., 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, 11 a.m. Saturdays and noon on Sundays.
This room draws a regular crowd for its popular $90 Friday Frenzy at 1 p.m. with 24K stack and 20-minute blinds. The $50 Mini Mega at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday sometimes has 150-plus players. Besides hold’em tournaments and cash games, they spread Omaha and Omaha/8, and stud and stud/8 according to demand. There’s a bad-beat jackpot for tournaments (quad deuces) and a restaurant and full-service bar on site. It’s just off Exit 1 on I-95 and close to Hampton Beach.
Manchester, N.H. | 603.668.6591
Games: Hold’em tournaments, hold’em and Omaha cash, blackjack, roulette and NH Hold’em.
Open: 4 p.m. weekdays, noon on Saturday and Sunday.
This room is remodeled with all new tables and furnishings. It offers a variety of hold’em tournaments, including rebuys that typically draw 40-90 players. Cash games usually break out at night, the most popular being Omaha but sometimes hold’em or dealer’s choice. There’s an adjoining bistro and bar with billiards, a nightclub with live entertainment, video arcade and a bingo hall open seven nights a week.
Keene Poker Room
Keene, NH | 603.357.3038 ext. 195
Games: Hold’em tournaments, roulette, three-card poker, blackjack, hold’em, Omaha, Omaha/8 and stud cash games.
Open: Wed.-Thurs. 5 p.m., Fri. 3 p.m., Sat. 3 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m.
This room is inside the Best Western near downtown Keene. There are rebuy and freeroll tournaments on weeknights. Three tournaments play on Sunday at 1:15, 3:30 and 6:30. On the last Sunday of each month at 1 p.m., the room holds a $150 event with 25K chips and 25-minute blinds that typically draws 80 players. Cash games break out in between tournaments. The Irish pub next door provides waitress service. The location is near the Mt. Monadnock area and about 20 miles from Brattleboro, VT.
Dover Poker Room
Dover, N.H. | (603) 742-9632
Games: Hold’em tournaments, roulette, three-card, blackjack, hold’em, Omaha, five-card draw, stud and other cash games.
Open: Mon, Thurs. and Fri., 5:30 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. at noon.
This venue offers something for the whole family. It’s in a bowling alley that has a large video arcade and dance club. The poker room draws a regular crowd of 30-50 players. The tournament schedule varies, with there being one rebuy each day. On the last Saturday of each month there’s a $120 deepstack with 25K stack and 30-minute blinds. Cash games break out by chance and it’s dealer’s choice. A miniature golf course and Water Country amusement park are nearby.
Hampton Beach, N.H. | (603) 601-6690
Games: Hold’em tournments and cash games, Omaha, Stud, blackjack, craps, roulette, Let It Ride
Open: Thurs.-Fri. 4pm, Sat.-Sun. noon (expanded hours in summer)
This poker room is on the beach with food and drinks served on a deck overlooking the ocean. The lounge is open daily. Hampton Beach is a fun summer destination with full bath-house facilities. Live bands perform free concerts on weekends and fireworks are scheduled regularly. There are special events such as the annual Seafood Festival the second weekend in September. And when you’ve had enough sun and surf, you can duck into this gaming room to play with poker sharks.