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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Road Trip: Choctaw Casino

I've just wrapped up a visit to the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma (100 minutes north of Dallas), where there's a big tournament series going on that culminates in a World Poker Tour event in a couple of weeks. I got a really cheap Southwest flight and Priceline-d my way into good values on a rental car and a motel room (not at the Choctaw resort), and stayed for a few nights. I haven't been to Oklahoma in almost a decade, but I was told by friends in St. Louis who had been there in previous years that there would be a large number of players and lot of action. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be true -- at least in the few days I was there.

The Choctaw Casino is so large it took me 40 minutes to make a circuit and look around. The poker room was closed because they'd moved all the action up into the Grand Theater, an event space big enough to hold dozens of tables for the tournaments, with the cash games in a ballroom next door.

When I got there, I wanted to play $5/10 no-limit hold'em, but the biggest game was $2/5 -- although most players were adding what they call a "Dallas straddle." That's a $10 bet on the button, but the blinds don't act first. Action starts under-the-gun, then goes around, skips the button, moves to the blinds, then all the way back around again, and if there are raises, keeps going until all other players have completed their action before the straddle has the ultimate last action pre-flop. Not sure if I liked it (most places when you button straddle, action starts in the small blind and the button simply acts in turn), but it did help build some pots.

On the sign-up board, they had a $1/2/5 game called "Congress." I asked what it was, and the supervisor explained it was five-card pot-limit Omaha hi-lo. I said that everywhere else I've seen it (including St. Louis and Vegas), that's called "Big O." She replied, "Yeah, I don't know why it's called Congress here. Maybe it's because the game is dysfunctional." Pretty good line!

I'd forgotten that dice are illegal in Oklahoma, but they still play craps -- with cards. There are twelve of them split into two colors with 1-6 on the face. An automatic shuffler mixes them up and the box person spreads them out and turns over the first card of each color to determine the number. So, if you're the "shooter" you don't actually do anything. Just put down your bet and they handle the "roll." Oh, and they charge you a $1 "ante" on every come out! Nice edge for the house.

Oklahoma is even more of a red state than Missouri, so when the table talk inevitably turned to politics, several players espoused pro-Trump opinions, including "He'll run this country like a business." I kept my mouth shut, but I wanted to ask, "You mean like his bankrupt casinos, his rip-off university, or his failed steaks, wine, bottled water, and airline?"

There are signs at the entrances to the Choctaw Casino warning that no weapons are allowed inside, but I don't think the two guys at my table were lying when they said they were carrying. I could hear the news report: "Innocent bystander from St. Louis wounded when shots were exchanged after a poker player took a one-out bad beat."

At the end of my trip, I had won a nice amount of money (which was the primary mission), but was disappointed there weren't more cash games and higher stakes. In fact, on my last day, I was only at the casino for 90 minutes before leaving because the tables were so terrible and the options so few. Worse, there's absolutely nothing else to do in Durant, Oklahoma, so the boredom factor was off the scale. I should have gone home a day earlier.

Sorry, Choctaw Nation, but I won't be back.