'Low limit' tournaments fun for some, frustrating for others
Dealer Stanley Larkin, left, manages the poker table at the Seabrook Poker Room for players Mike Keith of Exeter, center, and Kevin Currier of Seabrook Beach and Andover, Mass. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)
Sure, there's money at stake. He once won $1,200 in a tournament.
The money makes it "thrilling," he said, but that's not why he and many other players come to New Hampshire's charitable gaming rooms.
The poker room is hardly Foxwoods or a Vegas-style casino, but it offers a place where customers 18 and older can get together without the high-stakes pressure, chit chat and share laughs and a playing strategy or two, and hopefully go home with some cash.
"If you've never played before, this is definitely the place to learn because it's a low limit," said poker room employee Kenny Lacroix, 27, of Saugus, Mass.
Under state law, 35 percent of the gaming operation's daily gross proceeds after prizes are paid out must be given to charity.
There's currently a five-year waiting list for charities looking to benefit from the proceeds, said Paula Nicolacopoulos, general manager of the poker room at Seabrook Park, which is owned by Rockingham Gaming LLC.
"He does a good job of floating a lot of different charities through to make it fair to give everybody a slice of the pie," Nicolacopoulos said.
The tournaments are no-limit Texas hold 'em games, in which players spend a certain amount to enter the tournament and the money goes into the prize pool. For instance, a player Thursday could spend $60 and receive 8,000 non-monetary value pay chips.
In cash games, the most a player can wager is $4, unless the particular game has a limit of less than $4.
Nicolacopoulos said the limits have made it hard to compete with gaming operations elsewhere that can offer larger prizes.
Nicolacopoulos recalled the biggest prize at the Seabrook Park was paid out in October during a two-day tournament, when a player bought in for $250 and won $12,000.
The poker room still manages to draw players, with more coming from Massachusetts than New Hampshire. Many are regulars who bounce around from one gaming establishment to another.
Poker player Mike Keith, 57, of Exeter likes coming to Seabrook and said the most he's ever won was $1,600.
While some players didn't mind sharing their experiences and their names, others were hesitant, and some wouldn't give their last names.
Players joked with those who were reluctant to talk.
During a game of Boston 7, one player who looks a lot like Santa Claus and actually works as a Santa at Christmas recalled how he became a "habitual gambler" in 1994.
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