Reviewing West Virginia poker rooms

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The poker scene in West Virginia continues to gain popularity, thriving from gamblers in larger neighboring states such as Maryland and Virginia. As long as these states remain poker-free, West Virginia’s rooms should see plenty of action. Its casinos cater toward the everyday player and solid low-stakes players should find the rooms profitable. Here are my impressions of each room after a recent tour:

MOUNTAINEER CASINO AND RESORT: Limit hold’em and Omaha were spread at $2-$4, with no-limit hold’em at $1-$2 stakes. Stud is offered as low as $3-$6, but games are rare. It’s the largest room in WV with 40 tables. Tip: Weekday afternoons average about three $1-$2 tables and one $2-$4 limit game. Weekday nights saw anywhere from two to six $1-$2 tables in action and weekends are considerably busier. There were no viewable TVs, however.

WHEELING ISLAND CASINO: The poker room spreads hold’em, stud and Omaha (be sure to ask about some of the fun variations). Limits start at $1-$5 for stud and $2-$4 for hold’em. Tournaments run Sunday through Friday at 11:30 a.m. with a $40 buy-in. The 20-table room offers a bad-beat jackpot and comps of 70 cents an hour.
Tip: Check out the great promotions, such as ladies-only events. There were no viewable TVs here, either.

HOLLYWOOD CASINO AT CHARLES TOWN RACES: The room is open 24 hours, offering $3-$6 limit and $1-$2, $2-$5 NLHE. Tables have auto shufflers and adjustable seats. There are plenty of TVs but no player comps. The most popular tournaments run Tuesday and Wednesday ($125-$250). Tip: Royal flushes pay $500 and $100 each to other players at the table.

MARDI GRAS CASINO & RESORT: The Big Easy Poker Room spreads limit ($2-$4) and no-limit (starting at $1-$2 and all the way to $10-$25), Omaha and stud. There’s a New Orleans atmosphere and plenty of TVs. The 30-table room has a great view of the dog track. Tip: Check out the Sunday deepstack tournament ($70, 2 p.m.).

BAD BEAT HIT AGAIN: Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races hit its third bad-beat jackpot since its inception in December, this time for $115,186 on Jan. 26.

Timothy Bolland of Boonsboro, Md., held quad threes but lost to quad jacks. He walked away with $57,591. When asked what if felt like when he realized he’d won the bad-beat jackpot, Bolland said, “When it happened I think I was the first to react to it. I was just overcome with sheer joy. Tears came to my eyes, literally.” Bolland plans to use some of the winnings to pay for his education.

The winner of the hand received $28,796 and the remaining players at the table each won $4,114.

— Mike Owens is the Ante Up Ambassador for Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He’s a poker player, journalist and creator of CheckRaze.com. He can be reached at anteupowens@gmail.com.