The Ultimate New England Poker Road Trip: Where To Play, Stay, And Dine
The cool thing about playing poker in New England is you have three different casinos within an hour of one another. In 2018 a fourth option will open, MGM in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 2019 there will be a fifth New England poker room when the Wynn Boston Harbor opens its doors.
But for now, all the poker action is spread across the southern New England states of Rhode Island and Connecticut.
If you’re flying in, TF Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island will get you much closer to the casinos than Logan Airport in Boston or Hartford Airport in Connecticut.
Whether you fly or drive, for the first leg of the trip I recommend staying in Providence, Rhode Island for a night. Providence is a short drive from TF Green, and there’s no shortage of high-quality restaurants to choose from, particularly in the Federal Hill area.
In the morning you can wake up, have a good breakfast, and maybe lounge around by the pool for a while before you head to the first stop on your New England poker road trip, Twin River Casino, about 15 minutes away in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
First stop, Twin River
Playing poker at Twin River
Not too long ago there wouldn’t have been a reason to stop at Twin River, but in 2016 the casino opened a 22-table poker room.
Considering Twin River’s slot parlor history, the poker room is decently busy and because it’s new, and since most of the low-limit grinders play at the much larger Foxwoods, the players tend to be a bit below average.
Like most poker rooms in 2017, Twin River boasts mainly low-stakes ($1/$2 and $2/$5) no limit hold’em tables. During peak hours you’ll find $5/$10 NLHE, and even the occasional $25/$50 NLHE game.
Low limit, limit hold’em and seven-card-stud are also available.
You’ll also want to get a seat early, as the wait-lists can grow quite long in the evening.
Eating at Twin River
Twin River has one upscale eatery, Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse.
The restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday – Sunday and is owned by former NFL players and local sports TV personalities Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie – who are often wandering around.
Pricing-wise, Fred & Steve’s is on the low-end of steakhouses of this caliber. The food is good, a step below David Burke Prime at Foxwoods and on par with Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse at Mohegan. The menu is almost entirely steaks and seafood dishes, but be warned, the portion sizes are gigantic, with appetizers that could be mistaken for entrees.
Value-wise, this is a really good dining option.
You won’t always need them, but I still highly recommend reserving a table.
Staying at Twin River
Twin River is in the process of adding a hotel, so a trip to Twin River in the near future will require making hotel arrangements off-site, which explains my Providence recommendation above.
Fortunately, you’re only about an hour from Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, so after a day of cards and dinner at Fred & Steve’s, and maybe some more cards, you can drive to the next stop on your poker tour, Mohegan Sun.
Even with a late arrival, you can check-in to your hotel room, and get a good night’s sleep for another day of cards.
Next up, Mohegan Sun
Playing poker at Mohegan Sun
Mohegan Sun has a very nice 42-table poker room. Unfortunately, most of the local action takes place at Foxwoods, and Mohegan gets the low-limit leftovers.
The room has a lot of potential, but Mohegan has been unable to come up with a strategy to end Foxwoods stranglehold on poker in the region. It’s location towards the back-end of the casino isn’t much of a help.
What you’ll find at Mohegan is a lot of loose low-limit action, particularly in the $2/$4 limit hold’em and $1/$5 stud games.
Mohegan does one cool thing that most poker rooms do not: The card room rules are published online. So you don’t have to worry about obscure local rules.
Poker tournaments at Mohegan Sun
On the tournament front you’ll typically find three daily events during the week, and one or two on the weekends. The format and buy-in vary, but for the most part, they’re NLHE tournaments with buy-ins in the $75-$120 range.
Mohegan Sun also offers single-table Sit & Go tournaments, with buy-ins ranging from $60 to $5,000.
Staying at Mohegan
Mohegan has two hotel towers, the original Sky Tower, and the Earth Tower, which opened in November 2016. Both are perfectly fine for a couple of days of habitation.
The Sky Tower rooms are considerably larger, averaging 450 square feet compared to the Earth Tower’s 365 sq. ft. average. However, the Earth Tower rooms are newer and more tech-friendly.
Discounted poker rates
Mohegan offers discounted poker room rates to eligible players, but be warned, the number of available rooms is limited and the cost of an on-site hotel room during the weekend can be pricey.
Eating at Mohegan
Like its poker room, Mohegan Sun is a very upscale, clean casino. The property boasts a mind-boggling 47 dining options, including four high-end choices:
- Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain
- Todd English’s Tuscany – an upscale Italian-American restaurant
- Ballo – a trendier Italian restaurant
- Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse
You won’t go wrong with any of the above choices, but if you’re only going to choose one steakhouse I would wait for the Foxwoods leg of the trip, or eat at Fred & Steve’s at Twin River over MJ’s.
And unless you’re a true gambler, definitely make reservations, particularly on show nights.
Finish your trip off at Foxwoods
The Foxwoods Poker Room
With over 100 tables, Foxwoods is the largest poker room on the east coast.
The poker room is tucked away underneath the Rainmaker Casino, with the stairs located in a bit of a no-man’s-land between the Asian table games and the race book. The upstairs areas are used for tournament play.
In the poker room, you’ll find round the clock limit and no limit hold’em games, as well as round the clock stud games. During peak hours you can expect to hear anything and everything called over the PA system, including mixed games, high-stakes stud games, PLO, and high/low games.
Play can be very tight during the day but tends to be looser and a bit wilder during peak hours and in the wee hours of the weekend.
Poker tournaments at Foxwoods
If tournaments are your thing, it’s pretty easy to plan a Foxwoods trip around a few tournaments you’d like to play.
Foxwoods routinely offer anywhere from three to five daily tournaments, as well as playing host to multiple major tournament series (WSOP Circuit and World Poker Finals) throughout the year.
The buy-in for most of the daily tournaments are in the $60-$160 range.
Single table Sit & Go tournaments at Foxwoods range from $65 to $340, and while the rake is steeper than at Mohegan, these tournaments run more frequently.
Foxwoods is actually multiple hotels and casinos. The newest hotel is the Fox Tower, but there’s also the Two Trees, Great Cedar, and the Grand Pequot Tower.
- The Grand Pequot is the main hotel at the property.
- The Great Cedar Hotel is the closest to the poker room, and one of the more budget-friendly options.
- The Fox Tower is the newest and nicest, but walking from the poker room is quite a hike, even if you know a couple of the shortcuts.
- The Two Trees Inn is located across the street from the casino proper, which makes it cheaper, but also less convenient.
Discounted poker rates
If you play in a major tournament at Foxwoods, or if you qualify through cash game play, you might be able to score a discounted hotel rate at either the Two Trees or Great Cedar Hotel.
The rates are as follows, and are subject to availability.
Two Trees Inn:
- Sunday-Thursday $79
- Friday $159
- Saturday $189
Great Cedar Hotel:
- Sunday-Thursday $109
- Friday $189
- Saturday $219
Eating at Foxwoods
Like Mohegan, there are plenty of dining options at Foxwoods.
High-end restaurants include:
- Vue 24 – upscale dining on the 24th floor of the Pequot Tower
- David Burke Prime – premiere steakhouse in the region
- Cedars Steak House – a solid alternative to David Burke
- Red Lantern – a very busy Asian restaurant
David Burke is my go-to restaurant at Foxwoods, but I’d happily to go to any of the four listed.
As with Mohegan, you really need to make reservations if you plan to go eat during any normal hours. In some cases, depending on what’s going on at Foxwoods, you’ll need to make reservations weeks in advance.
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