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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Live Poker Is the Real Deal in NW Indiana

29 December 2004

When television producers sunk their teeth into poker in their quest to satisfy America's voracious appetite for reality shows, they started a revolution. More people are playing poker today than at any time in history.

Interest in the game has reached such heights that casinos were forced to re-think the low visibility to which poker had been relegated in recent years. Poker rooms in Las Vegas, which had been downsized or even closed, are returning bigger and more high profile than ever before.

Seats in poker rooms once occupied almost exclusively by regional professionals and the World War II generation are being replaced by younger men (and an increasing number of women) in their 20s and 30s. The merchandising of products associated with poker has reached an all-time high.

Even though poker can be played almost anywhere a table, some chairs and a deck of cards are found, it's the real-life casino experience and the thrill of competition that seems to have captured the public's imagination.

In the greater Chicago area, the Northwest Indiana gaming market reigns supreme in providing that experience. The dedicated poker rooms found at Harrah's East Chicago and the Trump Casino in Gary make their counterparts on the Illinois side pale by comparison.

The two live poker venues on the outskirts of Chicago are the Hollywood Casino in Aurora, which has six tables, and the recently opened Argosy's Empress Casino in Joliet, which has four tables. Hours of operation are restricted, choice of games is limited and they are closed on weekends. Furthermore, they aren't really "rooms" but rather part of the casino floor.

Contrast that to the dedicated, vibrant, spacious rooms in Northwest Indiana, which are open twenty hours a day, seven days a week.

The completely remodeled room found on the top level of Harrah's East Chicago is home to 16 tables in a bright, player-friendly environment that features a variety of amenities including a trio of plasma screen televisions.

The poker room at Trump, which celebrated its grand opening earlier this year, is an equally attractive 17-table setting that is going to expand to 21 tables sometime within the next two weeks, which will make it the largest poker room in the Midwest.

"Harrah's East Chicago had a 'stranglehold' on live poker in this region for a long time," commented Jason Gregorec, casino manager at Trump. "The poker market grew so quickly in such a short period of time that we opened our room to satisfy a demand."

Today's most popular poker variations include Seven Card Stud and Omaha, but because of its exposure on TV the most popular by far is Texas Hold'em, a game that has been described as the easiest to learn, simplest to play but the most difficult to master.

Both Harrah's East Chicago and Trump spice up their action with regularly scheduled tournaments and promotions, but it's their corporate affiliations with the nationally televised competitions that attract the most attention.

Trump, for example, held satellite tournaments in September that attracted standing room only crowds. At stake were four coveted $10,000 seats in the United States Poker Championship at Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, including airfare and five night accommodations. The event took place earlier this month and will be televised on ESPN.

"We are also going to be holding satellite tournaments for seats in the World Poker Tour to be held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas," Gregorec revealed.

Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. tapped into a veritable marketing gold mine when it purchased Binion's Horseshoe in Downtown Las Vegas and acquired the rights to the World Series of Poker, the oldest and most famous of all poker competitions.

Their East Chicago location is capitalizing on its fame by holding a series of satellite tournaments starting this month. At stake will be grand prizes that include cash and a seat in the 2005 World Series of Poker.

If you've ever had the itch to give live casino poker a try, or if you'd just like to be a spectator to see what all the commotion is about, stop by Harrah's East Chicago or Trump Casino Gary and you'll get a taste of the 'real deal'.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp