Some of the fondest memories of my post-first-marriage years involve playing poker in Desert Diamond Casino's old rickety, wobbly, cramped quintuple-wide trailer that served as a poker room for several years in the mid-2000s. With its own bathrooms, parking away from the rest of the casino and a door blocking out all the slot player smoke, that room was the hotbed of poker action in Southern Arizona for years.
But when Desert Diamond tore down its Nogales Highway location to build a newer casino-hotel version, the poker room was 'upgraded' to a spacious room that had close to 20 tables when it opened in fall 2007.
Sadly, the room never looked that full, even on the busiest of nights.
So it's not surprising to hear that the Diamond has booted poker out of those digs and relegated to a smaller room wedged between the food court and the bingo hall just inside the casino's front entrance. The official transfer of the room occurred overnight Wednesday into Thursday, and only eight tables made the trip over.
(Compare that to Casino del Sol's poker room, which increased to 14 tables with its most recent remodel this past year.)
Despite the downgrade, the poker powers-that-be at the Diamond seem to finally be wising up to its increasingly crummy tournament schedule, which hadn't changed much in six years other than to eliminate tournaments due to lack of interest and lack of house-added funds to beef up the prize pool.
A new Tuesday night tournament is in the lineup, replacing the old $135 buy-in that had a horrible structure, horrible starting chip stack and even worse payout schedule. Who wants to play a tourney where you 'make the money' but lose money if you finished 8th, 9th or 10th?
Now Tuesday is a $115 buy-in, with a $4,000 guarantee to the prize pool and a cap of only 50 players. The top eight get at least $210, with first place collecting at least $1,000.
This tourney goes along with Monday and Thursday morning, and Monday and Wednesday night 'Cup of Coffee' tourneys with a $35 buy-in, 40-player cap and $500 added to the pot. These quickie tourneys usually split the $1,700 prize pool among the top four players.
Hopefully the smaller Desert Diamond poker room will lead to an improved atmosphere. Having regular players earn comps for their hours logged at the table might help, just ask Casino del Sol.