Poker

Do you know where you can find over one hundred poker games, ready to go? Just a couple of hours' drive up the motorway beyond the city? Not London, of course, but New York. There are 75 tables in operation at Foxwoods and now 39 tables at the Mohegan Sun. These two "native American" casinos on Indian reservations are located a mere 10 miles apart in the greenwoods of Connecticut.

Foxwoods, run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, is one of the wonders of the gambling world, the biggest and most successful casino in the Western world. The Mohegan Sun is a new arrival, just one year old this week, run by the survivors of the famous "last of the Mohicans". It turns out that the Mohegans (modern spelling) were not consigned to oblivion after all. Instead, they have found a new way of life, in partnership with Sol Kerzner, creator of Sun City in South Africa.

It is significant that among the thousands of slot machines, both properties have given time and space to poker. The games are mostly low limit, running from $3-$6 and $5-$10 hold 'em and seven card stud for casual players and tourists, through $10-$20 and $20-$40 for more experienced players, up to high action games at Foxwoods, where the pros and the gamblers like to play $75-$150 and $300-$600 limit. At weekends, the tables are jammed at all times of day.

As many British players have found to their cost, there is a huge difference between limit poker, as played in American card rooms, and pot limit, as played in this country. At pot limit, one big hand can change everything, making you a fortune if you get lucky or sending you home broke if it all goes wrong. It is a much more dangerous, trappy and exciting kind of game.

At limit poker, the idea is to make, or to save, one extra bet per hand, and do it again and again. The top players' hourly win rate is about one and a half big bets ($60 at the $20-$40 game) an hour, but of course there are wide fluctuations around this mean. Best to start small and work your way up. The attraction of Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun go well beyond poker. They are located in one of the most beautiful tracts of countryside in New England.

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