Poker’s sprawl in the United States is substantial, with about two-thirds of states having some form of legal card room. Our neighbors to the north are not short of poker options either, with a strong casino presence in several provinces. Of course, some notable Canadians have also turned into pretty good poker players, with Daniel Negreanu leading the Canuck contingent.
A while back, I saw a WPT tournament that took place at the Playground Poker Club in a Montreal suburb, and a little research indicated there was also a downtown casino in the city, the Casino de Montreal. They both looked interesting, so my wife and I decided to take the five hour drive north to see what poker was like over the border.
Montreal itself is an interesting city, having both a typical modern business district and a very quaint Old Town, replete with interesting shops and plenty of good restaurants. The infrastructure, though, has taken a beating from the harsh winter weather, so driving can be a pot hole dodging thrill ride with highway construction projects suddenly dropping roads into nothingness. So if you are staying downtown, as we did, I suggest leaving your car in the hotel garage as much as possible. You can get to the Casino Montreal via a free shuttle bus with several downtown stops, and there are taxis aplenty.If you are in Montreal, check out either or both of these rooms Click To Tweet
If you are accustomed to Vegas casinos or even some of the large East coast venues, the Casino de Montreal will not blow you away. It is moderate sized, nothing fancy in design or atmosphere. However, it will fill all of your gambling needs. Its outstanding feature is the dinner buffet on the top floor. Now, I’m not a buffet person normally, but we read some decent reviews of the place and took a shot, and boy did it perform. This summer I thought I was going to need medical attention due to the massive amount of shrimp cocktail and quality prime rib I was able to ingest prior to a 7:30pm tournament. The buffet is not cheap, but reasonable and worth every penny.
The tournament we played that evening (and again a couple of nights later), had about 80 players and the quality of play was fairly wide. The biggest challenge was adjusting to the face cards: Kings are Rs (Rois), Queens are Ds (Dames), and, my personal favorite, Jacks are Vs (Valets). Figuring out whether you have a Broadway draw is a challenge, to say the least. Although the dealers are kind to English-only speakers, as were most players, the very sociable atmosphere is generally conducted in French, so I had to leave my keen table talk assessment skills behind.
The room felt a bit cramped, but service was consistently solid and the tournaments well run. It may be that I feel kindly disposed to the Casino de Montreal as this summer I took home the largest share of an ICM equity chop with the 5 final players our first night and participated in an even money chop with the final 8 players on the second. Last year, my wife carried the load and moneyed both times we played at this casino as well. Amazing how profitability can influence your assessment of a room!
Each year we also played in a tournament at the Playground Poker Room. The Playground can be a challenge to get to and from if you hit the construction schedule at the wrong time. The bridge construction over the river is an ongoing nightmare. As you approach the Playground, you have little indication of what awaits, as it looks like a large storage facility and the surrounding area is pretty humble. Inside, however, it is a true treat for the avid poker player: two large rooms with about 80 tables between them. The ceilings are high, space between the tables considerable, and the seats very comfortable. There are even phone chargers built into the tables, and lights alerting the waitresses to all of your food and beverage needs. Best of all for me, it’s all poker, with no slot machines or other table games to distract.
The tournaments we played were very well run, dealers were skilled, and the table service prompt. The quality of player was much stronger than those at the Casino de Montreal, and play was more focused with less chatting. Face cards are back to English, and the dealers also use more English than those downtown, but the players still spoke mostly in French. Perhaps my assessment of venues is not totally driven by results, as in neither year did we make a dime at the Playground, but loved the experience both times.
So, if you are in Montreal, check out either or both of these rooms for a different kind of poker experience. They are definitely worthy of your time.
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