May 31, 2004

Rendition's Corner: Guide to Casino Poker Rooms by Rendition

Welcome to the first Renditionís Corner article. I hope to get off my lazy butt and write a weekly column on whatever topic suits my fancy at that moment. The topic today is the white hot Texas Holdem Poker.

Youíve all read about Chris Moneymaker and last weekís winner of the 2004 World Series of Poker, Mr. Fossilman. This patent attorney from Connecticut took down the $5 million grand prize for first place. Not too shabby for playing cards.

We can now all look forward to watching ESPN re-runs of him with his strange reptile sun-glasses pumping fists fill of cash at 2AM morning for the next 12 months instead of watching our favorite late night infomercials. Oh fun. In the meantime, you can prepare for next yearís WSOP by sharpening your skills at these casino poker rooms. No matter what anyone tells you, the best way to improve is by playing good players in real-life. Internet sites can teach you the basics in betting and reading flops, but you need the experience of staring down your opponents and reading tells to have a viable chance (Moneymaker being the lucky exception that proves the rule). And these casinos are the way to do it.

Lucky for you, I slaved away the past year with a new poker addiction, gambling my life savings, tipping waitresses, and looking eye to eye to with hustling gamblers and Hollywood celebrities from coast to coast of this great country of ours to give you the skinny on the best places to play. Itís a tough job, but somebody had to do it.

Foxwoods, Connecticut
Smoking: No
Number of Tables: 76
Service: 3 (1-5)
Ambience: 4
Dealer Quality: 4
Player Quality: 4
URL: http://www.foxwoods.com/Gaming/Poker/

The largest casino in the world has one of the largest poker rooms in the world. That is the biggest advantage as there are plenty of tables and games to play. The ambience is basic, no frills, plenty of room, and clean.

I enjoyed my time at Foxwoods, the service was good and the competition was solid. Be careful, as there are many professionals lurking the crowd more than willing to take your money. Be sure to play a solid, tight aggressive game.

Borgata, Atlantic City
Smoking: No
Number of Tables: 34
Service: 5 (1-5)
Ambience: 5
Dealer Quality: 3
Player Quality: 3
URL: http://www.theborgata.com/

Do you want to be pampered? Do you want to play in the nicest, most gorgeous environment possible? The Borgata is your poker room them. Service is quick, the room is amazing with new tables, chairs, and sky high ceilings with large plasma TV screens all around to catch the latest game. This is the only place that has an automated computerized queue system, so you never have to keep asking the floor person to see how long you have to wait.

The dealers are bit raw, the players are a mixed bag of good and bad, but overall the total package is perfect. Add in the best luxurious casino hotel on the East Coast, youíre golden. Borgata often has $99 weekday hotel rates, take advantage of it.

One warning about the tournaments. Borgata seems to be using them as training for dealers, so be prepared for a flurry of rookie mistakes.

Bellagio, Las Vegas
Smoking: No
Number of Tables: 30
Service: 2 (1-5)
Ambience: 4
Dealer Quality: 3
Player Quality: 3
URL: http://www.bellagio.com/pages/gaming_poker.asp

With Bellagioís reputation I expected much, much better. At first glance, the poker room looks beautiful with nice old Italian decor. However the upkeep is poor. I sat on FOUR different chairs and all of them were worn down and broken, where the seat kept swaying off tilt. When I tried, to tell a floor person about my problems they would ignore me and tell me to find an open seat.

The waitresses were SLOW and hardly ever came around, often they would mess up my order. The dealers can deal, but had off-putting, arrogant personalities. Even the players tended to be on the ďjerkĒ side.

Maybe I just had a bad experience, but a search on the internet shows Iím not alone. The players I played with were very loose, Iím sure over time a tight aggressive player could clean house here. However with this kind of service, I rather spend my time in a place I can have more fun and not come out annoyed.

Mirage, Las Vegas
Smoking: No
Number of Tables: 31
Service: 4 (1-5)
Ambience: 4
Dealer Quality: 5
Player Quality: 5
URL: http://www.themirage.com/pages/gaming_poker.asp

This is my favorite poker room, next to the Borgata. The dealers are fun, have dynamic personalities, and best of all the most experienced. They hardly ever made mistakes. Service is solid and the tournaments are just the right size for the intermediate player.

The players are also fun and competitive. In just a few hours there, I struck up friendships with a few professional who were more than willing to give tips on my play. Best people, best tourneys, Mirage is the place to be. Famous people know this too, as in my time there James Woods and Ben Affleck were seeing playing on multiple occasions.

Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City
Smoking: No
Number of Tables: 50?
Service: 3 (1-5)
Ambience: 3
Dealer Quality: 4
Player Quality: 3
URL: http://www.trumptaj.com/casino/CasinoPoker.asp

This is one of the most famous poker rooms as shown in the Matt Damon classic, Rounders. However with the advent of new casinos, the Taj has passed its prime with a run-down look and chips that are basically falling apart. The dealers however are experienced and the quality of players are solid.

Harrahs Council Bluffs, Iowa
Smoking: Yes (open air with rest of the casino)
Number of Tables: around 7
Service: 3 (1-5)
Ambience: 2
Dealer Quality: 2
Player Quality: 3
URL: http://www.harrahs.com/our_casinos/cou/gaming/tables.html

This is the smallest casino during my tour with just a handful tables. Ambience is old, loud, and a bit tight on space. I got wiped out here as two professionals cleaned me out. The players tend to be really good professionals or really bad beginners.

Remember what they say, ďif you canít see the chump, YOU are the chump.Ē As a new offering for the casino, the dealers are inexperienced made a lot of mistakes. However if youíre in the Iowa area, you donít have much choice to play poker other than here.

Harrahs, New Orleans
Smoking: Yes (open air with rest of casino)
Number of Tables: 20
Service: 3 (1-5)
Ambience: 3
Dealer Quality: 3
Player Quality: 1
URL: http://www.harrahs.com/our_casinos/nor/gaming/index.html

Two words. Easy money. Even though the service and ambience is average at best, this is the place to go to make your killing. A ton of older retired clientele and tourists and nary a professional in sight. I almost felt bad taking their money... well almost. The casino is right in the middle of downtown New Orleans, so make a part of your next Mardi Gras vacation.

So there you have it, a quick guide to a half-dozen casinos across the country. My favorites are the Mirage for fun, Borgata for ambience, Foxwoods for sheer size, and Harrahís New Orleans for easy money.

Iíd love to hear your feedback on my thoughts. Please, please write questions, your own experiences and casino poker room reviews on our discussion forum. I promise a quick reply on the forum. Till next time, shuffle up and deal. Permalink - Discuss

May 28, 2004

Pixar Story

Wired has an interesting article on the producer of Simpsons and Iron Giant, who went off to Pixar. "But once Walt died, watching Disney films get made, as Mike Barrier said in Funnyworld, was like watching master chefs cook hot dogs," Bird says. A Disney scholarship sent him to CalArts, where he studied animation and met Lasseter (Stanton and Docter graduated a few years behind them). After school, Bird faced a tough choice: return to Disney and "do beautiful, full animation of really lame ideas," or work on The Simpsons and "do really fast, write-some-instructions-and-send-it-to-Korea stuff with great ideas." Read

X-box PC Hybrid

CNN writes that Microsoft is testing the idea of a PC/X-box hybrid machine at the price point of $599. Basically it would be a fully fledged multimedia center PC that can play DVDs, X-box games, and run PC programs on a HDTV television or normal monitor. Sounds a like a good idea to me for X-box 2. Read

Poker Mania

Bloomberg covers the recent popularity surge of online poker, brick and mortar poker rooms, and this weeks $5 million 1st place prize World Series of Poker tournament. Hundreds of this year's WSOP entrants came from online poker sites. Shuffle up and deal baby. Read

May 21, 2004

Professional Gamer

The Wall Street Journal today has an article about Korean professional gamers who make up to $300,000 a year from tournament winnings and commercials. Not a bad gig, but it seems the rigourous training and skill levels are obscene. One of the gamers averages almost 7 moves a second in Starcraft. I don't think I have 2 thoughts per second. Read

May 17, 2004

Music Plasma

Music Plasma is a neat site that visually maps out artists you may like after you enter in musician you already like. It's seems pretty accurate from what I tried and works better than the Amazon.com "others have bought" function. Link

Samsung Satellite TV Phones

Samsung announced that they will come out with a phone in the fall of this year that will be able to receive 40 stations of satellite TV for a flat monthly rate. I wonder how well this is going to work inside buildings because DirectTV sure doesn't work well if the dish isn't pointed directly. I doubl many people would love watching TV outside in the sunlight all day. Read

May 13, 2004

Internet Fight Planning

Here at FirstAdopter, we are always on the look out for new uses for technology. A group of 27 boys in a Dallas, Texas suburb organized a fight through an internet chat room. Good job punks! Someone should make software with time, date, place, and queues, just like a poker room or something. I can't believe that using shovels and baseball bats that the only major injury was a broken arm. Read

May 12, 2004

Sony PSP Details

Sony launched the PSP gaming handheld at E3 with not that many surprises. It seems the mockups shown on the internet were on the mark as the final version look just as thin and sexy. Electronic Arts said they will launch a bunch of PS2 sports games ports with wireless capabilities. Although the hardware looks fantastic without killer original software, PSP will not take-off. It's going to take a while, as most publishers will be too enticed to just port over their PS2 libary. Read

GTA San Andreas

It's E3 time these days. Take-two has released the first three screenshots for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Seems like there will be a gang-related plot with the game. The graphics looks nice, but one can see that we're reaching the end of the road for this generation's bleeding edge. See

Counterstrike with Half-life 2

Shacknews reports that Counterstrike will come with Half-life 2 as the multi-player portion. That is great news, I'm already salivating the prospect with killing terrorists with next-generation graphics. - Half-Life 2 multiplayer is Counter-Strike on the Source engine and will be available at the same time as when Half-Life 2 ships. Counter-Strike gameplay doesn't seem to have changed much, if at all. Graphics of course, are much improved. - Half-Life 1 is also ported over to the Source engine and will be available at the same time as when Half-Life 2 ships. - During the presentation, Gabe Newell reiterated that Half-Life 2 is shipping this summer, although no specific date was given. - Team Fortress 2 was not mentioned at all. Read

May 11, 2004

First Shot of Nintendo DS

USA Today has the first screenshot of the Nintendo dual-screen gaming handheld. Sounds like it will include a touch sensitive stylus for one of the screens and bluetooth wireless technology with the graphics power of around the level of the Nintendo 64. I'm a bit skeptical on how much of an advance this is over the Gameboy Advance *cough* and how it will succeed vs. the Sony PSP. Why Nintendo! Why couldn't you have done the obvious thing and come out with a portable Gamecube instead of an incremental machine such as this? Read

May 10, 2004

Google GMail Preview

Extremetech has a preview of Gmail, google's free email service which is currently in beta-testing phase. Bottomline, they absolutely love it with great features such as email address auto-fill, label vs. folders, keyboard shortcuts, and unobtrusive ads. I can't wait till I get my own account as soon as they go live. Read

Infinium Labs Phantom Console

Infinium Labs announced a November 18th release date for their Phantom gaming console. With a 2 year agreement for $30 a month, the hardware will come free. With no commitment, the hardware will cost $200. I'm a big skeptic as the company is targeting non-hard core gamers who "don't have time to buy games." Excuse me, how many non-hard core gamers do you know that will pay $30 a month to pay games? I know a lot of hard core gamers that don't spend $30 a month on games either. I doubt this company will last another 12 months. Read

HP Game PCs

According to Reuters, HP will launch a line of gaming PCs under the "Compaq X" brand in June or July. The company wants a piece of the gaming market dominated by Alienware, Falcon Northwest, and Voodoo PC. Frankly I think HP is just copying Dell's move last year, but at least they have a cool differentiating feature of focusing on a "quiet" PC architecture. Read

May 09, 2004

Sony Connect an Embarrassment?

Washingtonpost (free registration needed) bashes Sony's new music store for having a horrible user interface and strict playback/transfer requirements. Moreover only a handful of Sony portable players are supported and ATRAC is the music format of choice. Let's just say iTunes has nothing to fear with this lastest offering. Read

IRC Hacker Network

The NYTimes (free registration required) reports on the IRC chat network. Supposedly only 500K people use the text based chat rooms with many of them being hackers, warez pirates, and child pornagraphers. It seems the F.B.I. and Justice Department latest piracy crackdown is hunting around the IRC rooms and community. Read

May 08, 2004

Digital Camera Power

This is the first war that is showing the shock value and power of digital cameras. From the coffins draped with US flags to the prisoner abuse scandal, none of this would of probably reached scandal firestorm status without the power of a laptop, CD burner, and a digital camera. I think this is positive development because with hundreds of millions of "photo journalists" out there, people will be afraid to do sketchy things. With the technology now, the amateur photographer is as capable as a professional journalist and is operating with the same tools: Digital camera, laptop and an Internet connection," said Keith W. Jenkins, photo editor of the Washington Post Magazine. Read

Interview with ATI's David Orton

Tom's Hardware has an interview with the chief operating officer of ATI, who will become CEO in June. He remarks surprise on the thermal properties of Nvidia's new design and how they are doing it different (royalty model) for the next X-box graphic chips. We were expecting Nvidia to push ahead. But I would say that there were surprises in some areas. The die size is bigger than we thought and the power consumption is higher than we expected. They also followed up architecturally to 16 pipes. We expected them to end up expanding internal processing instead. I am also surprised that they have not been able to reach a higher core frequency. Read

May 07, 2004

Comcast Lays Off TechTV Staff

According to one of the stars of Screensavers, a TechTV show, Comcast has decided to lay off the entire staff of their newly acquired cable channel. Looks like they are going to focus on expanding their own G4 gaming network. I'm an avid watcher of X-play, TechTV's videogame show. I hope they don't can that one, but it looks pretty likely. Read

May 05, 2004

Valve Visit by 20 Belgiums

20 Belgiums got an exclusive visit to offices of Valve, the creators of Half-life 2. The crazy Europeans whined about the problems with Steam, bandwidth and general slowness. It looks like Gabe Newell used the hacker attack as an excuse, as the game probably would of been delayed anyway. The game however does look fantastic. Half-Life 2 looks magnificent; the game physics look phenomenal. As an example there was this chasing scene with a helicopter in an empty water reservoir. The bullets rippled the ample water still in the reservoir around your character. After a while the helicopter started shooting rockets, debris everywhere! The deformability of the terrain is massive! Half-Life 2 comes (for selected graphics cards) with high-res textures, which will make this seem even more beautiful. The code theft wasn't the reason behind the delay of the Half-Life 2 release, as shown in the PCGamer.DE interview with Gabe Newell. The engine is finished; as good as all monsters have been created. They are actually still working on some scripted ingame sequences, fine-tuning some single players maps (as is expected, we only want the best :-) and creating some highres models. We're pretty confident they'll make the summer release. Read

PSP Thoughts by B2.0

Business 2.0 pontificates about the Sony PSP gaming handheld. According to the articles, each game will cost about $5M to develop and 89 companies have signed on to make games. However as everyone knows, the road is littered with handhelds that have tried to take on the Nintendo Gameboy monolith. Sony has the best chance to take the challenge on, but as Sega, SNK, NEC, and Atari know, it sure won't be easy. Read

May 04, 2004

Mossberg Article

One of the heros of tech punditry got a puff piece from Wired. Much deserved. Read about Walter Mossberg, the most influential journalist of personal technology. Well maybe not after FirstAdopter starts ramping up. *cough* Read

ATI X800 Demos

Download the real-time graphic demos to see what ATI's latest graphics powerhouse can do. Ruby is hot, hot, hot. Ruby Demo - Subsurface Demo

Sid Meier Pirates! Preview

Gamespy has a preview on Sid Meier's newest iteration of Pirates! I am excited for a new version of one of my favorite games for the Commodore Amiga back in the day. The open-ended Grand Theft Auto type gameplay and the simple easy to get into action should hold up to be fun in today's age. The memories of having a great Pirate career and retiring in the Caribean. I can't wait to do that again. Read

ATI X800 Announced

Gamers rejoice as the final piece of the next generation graphics dynamic duo has been announced. It looks like ATI has struck back and gained the lead by a nose-hair, but this time Nvidia is definitely in the running. At this moment, I prefer the ATI solution due to its cost, lower power, and slot requirments. However Nvidia can definitely come back with better drivers and a lower cost part, their design is capable to wonderful things in the near future. It's great for us gamers to have a race this close, which means more fun and better value for all of us. With ATI's peformance on par in older games and slightly ahead in newer games, the beefy power supply requirement, two slot solution, and sheer heat generated by NV40 may be too much for most people to take the NVIDIA plunge. The bottom line is the consumer here, and its good news all around. Tech-Report Review - Anandtech Review

NYTimes Loves Treo 600

A reporter for the New York Times (free registration required) goes off into geek satisfaction over the Treo 600. Read how she loves the freedom and the swiss army knife functionality of audio books, phone calls, mapquest, and emails. Gadget lust in all its glory. Read