Poker Road Trip: Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino

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It’s been my experience that we poker players tend to be creatures of habit when it comes to where we play. If we find a place we like and are comfortable then we stick with it. We know the staff, players, poker menu and enjoy the tournaments and promotions. With nine poker rooms in the San Diego county area, we rarely feel the need to go anywhere else.

But, one Saturday morning I woke up and decided to be adventurous, step outside my comfort zone. I wanted to play somewhere different, but where? If you don’t mind an hour drive north from San Diego on Interstate 15, I may have found a little gem, a diamond in the rough: Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino.  The 15-table poker room, which also features blackjack and three-card poker, an extensive poker menu and a full bar, has been remolded and has new tables and chairs.

It features the usual games (limit hold’em, Omaha/8) but the most popular game is $2-$3 NLHE, which has a $40-$300 buy-in and no shortage of action. There’s also $5-$10 NHLE ($500-$5K) the first Saturday of the month that is striving to become an every-weekend event. If you’re willing to make the drive on Wednesday or Friday, there’s a $5-$5 PLO game ($100-$1K).

There are two tournaments worth mentioning: the popular “Head Hunter” bounty tournament, which takes place one Saturday a month (call ahead or look online for exact date) and has a $105 buy-in, $7,500 guarantee, 10K chips, 30-minute levels and $30 bounties. Players can re-enter until the end of the third level. The other one takes place the last Saturday of the month ($155, $10K guarantee, 12,500 chips, 30 minutes, no rebuys or add-ons). Both tournaments start at 5:15 p.m. 

The lounge and restaurant are being combined and will be a sports bar upon completion. There’s a Saturday brunch for $7.95 and a Sunday brunch, complete with unlimited orange juice and champagne, for $10.95. Both brunches feature prime rib, crab legs and an omelet station. The interiors of Lake Elsinore’s two hotels are being remolded and feature flatscreen TVs, mini-refrigerators and balconies. If you decide to stay the night inquire about a players rate and ask for a west-facing room so you can watch the sunset over the lake and mountains. 

The staff (casino host Mike Swyden, tournament director Billy Gillies and hotel manager Yahaira Lopez) went out of its way to be hospitable and informative about the changes that are taking place at the property. And the poker room can be found using the Bravo Poker app on your smartphone if you want to know what’s going on before you make the drive.

PALA CHARITY EVENT: The poker room at Pala Casino Spa and Resort is sponsoring a charity tournament at 2 p.m. on New Year’s Day to benefit the American Red Cross Hurricanes 2012 Fund to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The $3K guarantee tournament will have a $45 buy-in and a $15 entry fee. Players will start with 3,000 chips and there will be a $25 bonus buy for an additional 5K chips when purchased at registration. Blinds will be 20 minutes and re-entries will be allowed during the first three levels.  

WSOPC AT HARRAH’S: I profiled Alexandru Masek after he made a final table at the WSOPC at Harrah’s Rincon in March last year as he was looking to capture his fifth circuit ring. Several months later, he’s achieved that goal, doing it in Event 1 of the WSOPC at Harrah’s Rincon, which began just as Ante Up went to press. He outlasted 204 players, including eliminating me in 59th place, and he had to go heads-up with Randall Paguio, who won this event in March. Masek started heads-up play with a commanding lead, lost that lead, but then rallied for his fifth ring and $15,989. Look for full coverage next issue.

— LoriAnn Persinger is Ante Up’s Southern California Ambassador. Email her at anteuploriann@gmail.com.