Artichoke Joe’s values its players

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In 1916, Joseph Sammut opened “Joe’s Pool Parlor and Telephone Exchange” in San Bruno, Calif. Along with poker, a person could wager almost any amount of money on almost any type of sporting event, including horse racing. When someone asked Joe how he would manage to pay off a big bet if he lost, he said, “in artichoke leaves.” So, in the mid ’40s, when the focus of the club shifted to poker, it seemed only natural to change the name to Artichoke Joe’s.

I spoke to Josh Cerone, lead hold’em floor for the club, and he was eager to discuss some new promotions that are among the most aggressive in the industry.

“We understand that people have choices, and we want to do something that sets us apart,” he said.

So, along with the existing $100K bad-beat jackpot, AJ’s is offering a “mini” $5K bad beat for aces full of jacks beaten by any hand (provided both hole cards play for each hand) from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. There are also daily bonuses for any quads ($100) or straight flush ($200) from 5-7 p.m. and midnight-8 a.m. If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself with a royal flush, you’ll not only win the pot, but an extra $599. This bonus is in play 24-7.

A tour of Artichoke Joe’s reveals two distinct themes. The bar area still hosts a “Wild West” feel, while the cardroom area is contemporary. You may also witness a table full of dealers working to improve their skills.

“People tend to lose sight that this is an entertainment industry,” Cerone said. “We are pushing to get back to basics, especially striving toward outstanding customer service.”

To facilitate this, there are weekly training sessions. His perception may stem from being relatively new to the industry, gaining most of his perceptions from a player’s point of view. After two shoulder surgeries ended his hopes of working in law enforcement, he decided to pursue a career in gaming. When I asked about his vision for AJ’s, he said, “We want to show our existing customers that we appreciate them, but we want to continue to grow.”

This is easy to see as the staff acknowledges the regulars by name and go out of their way to make the newcomers feel welcome. With daily tournaments beginning at 11 a.m. Mon.-Tue.-Thurs., and evening tournaments at 6:45 Sun. and Wed., everyone should be able to find something to fit their schedules.

The formats vary for each day, so check out artichokejoes.com for the particulars. They offer a menu inclusive of American and Asian foods, including a darned good hot dog with all the fixings. Make sure to stop at the fish tanks right next to the cashier windows and check out the enormous eel. I have it from a reliable source that they feed it dealers who burn and turn before the action is complete.

— Bret Miller is the Ante Up Ambassador for Northern California. Email him at anteupbret@gmail.com.