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The New Poker Room at the Blue Chip Casino

14 January 2003

A couple of Fridays ago, just a week after returning from the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, I found myself on the road to Michigan City, Ind. I'd been alerted that Blue Chip Casino had opened a new poker room on the third level of its boat, and I wanted to check it out. I arrived shortly before 10 a.m.--not yet prime poker time--and poker manager Dennis Jones took time out to show off his new card room.

"I feel it's going to go over," Jones said, during the third week of operation. "At this time of morning, we have just one or two tables going. It picks up around noon or 1 o'clock."

Indeed, as we entered, only one of the 12 tables was in use. But I couldn't help but be impressed. The room is spacious, with its own cashiers' cage and bathrooms. The four televisions had not yet been mounted on the walls, although Jones expected them within a few days of my visit. No smoking is permitted--a hot trend in card rooms, where customers frequently play for long stretches.

"Even the smokers like it, although you can't please everyone," Jones said. "When you play for eight, 10 hours, you don't want to go home with your clothes all full of smoke."

Blue Chip deals seven-card stud, high-low split 8s or better, Texas hold-'em, Omaha high and Omaha high-low 8s or better. In the first few weeks the room was open, play was split fairly evenly between Texas hold-'em and seven-card stud.

"We haven't had a lot of Omaha yet," Jones said, "although we have had guys calling about Omaha."

There's a progressive bad-beat jackpot, paid off when a player with a high-ranking hand loses a pot. In Texas hold-'em, the losing hand must be Aces full of 10s or better, in seven-card stud it's four 2s or better and in Omaha four 8s or better. The jackpot builds with play until the bad beat happens. A lighted board on one wall lists the jackpot amounts.

"Stud hit the first week we were open," Jones said. "Four 8s to one customer, four Jacks to another."

Limits depend on demand, but Jones said stud had been running $1-$5 and $2-$10; hold-'em at $4-$8, $6-$12, $10-$20 and $20-$40, and Omaha at $5-$10.

Interest has been building since the room opened. Jones expected all 12 tables to fill the Saturday after I was there, after filling 10 tables the previous Saturday and nine the previous Friday. The night before my visit, seven tables were open, while in the first week the average was only three or four. Part of that was by design. Blue Chip was low-key in promoting the room at first, not wanting to swamp new personnel before they could handle it.

"We ran our own dealers' school for three months," said Jones, a native Texan who had been a card room manager at Sam's Town in Tunica, Miss., and at Binion's Horseshoe in Shreveport, La. When the Horseshoe closed its poker room--slots are much more profitable than live poker--he helped a friend open a small place with four poker tables in Oregon. Boyd Gaming, which owns Sam's Town as well as Blue Chip, was his ticket to Indiana.

"We have a mix of experienced dealers and break-ins," Jones said. "The poker room has 50 employees, 25 or 30 with experience. We didn't want to overwhelm them at first. We needed a little seasoning. But now I feel they're coming together as a group."

If Indiana Gaming Commission approval is forthcoming, Jones hopes to start tournament play in late November. "Tournaments are going crazy," said Jones, pointing to the World Poker Open in Tunica as an example. "Our tournaments will be small, but who knows? Looking forward, we could have a bigger tournament."

That will be something to look forward to, in a terrific facility that is off to a good start.

MORE BLUE CHIP: Next to the poker room on the third level, Blue Chip has opened a table games room and a high-limit area. Table minimums range from $5 to $25 in the main room. They start at $50 in the high-limit area, which also has a lounge area with a couch, chairs, television and snacks. I couldn't stay, but this looks like as comfortable a place to play as there is in the area.

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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski