Harrah’s Joliet could not have timed the spring 2011 opening of their World Series of Poker room any better. The Department of Justice had just shut down online poker in the US and players, like me, were left scrambling to find a place to play. For a few weeks I bounced around between The Horseshoe, Majestic Star, and Hollywood Joliet, while waiting for Harrah’s grand opening. When it did finally open its doors I was there and have been a regular ever since.
I live much closer to Joliet than Hammond, so convenience was the biggest draw to Harrah’s. Once I started playing I found many more reasons to continue. Due to its smaller size (8 tables) it is very easy for the players to get to know the staff, and vice versa. From the poker room manager, Doug Walters, down to the dealers, the number one priority has been to cater to the regular player’s needs and requests. From lowering the initial rake, to starting a weekly poker league, adding more chips to the starting stack of the tournaments, instituting tier credits for poker players (17 per hour), and most recently adding additional cash games, Harrah’s has been taking the advice of the players and changing the room accordingly since they opened their doors.
For the first few months as the room was still in its infancy, the standard games were 1-3 NL Holdem, and a nightly 3-5 NL Holdem. The 1-3 is their most popular game and most days have 2 to 3 tables running. The games play nine handed with a $100 minimum and a $300 maximum buy-in. The rake on this game is 10% with a $6 cap on a full table. If you are an early bird they reduce that rake to a $4 cap from 9am-12pm.
The 3-5 is a completely different game. It runs most nights, and occasionally gets two games on the weekends. The game plays up to ten handed, with a $300 minimum buy-in, $500 max to start the game, and once the game is running players can buy in at up to the largest stack at the table. This game pays a time rake of $7 per half hour on a full table. Due to the deep stack buy-in and time rake, this game plays much deeper and more aggressive than any other 2-5 games in the Chicago area.
In the last month or two, some new games have started to pop up in the room. This may have been triggered by the much publicized “Big Game” which ran on Dec. 16th. The “Big Game” was a 10-20 NL Holdem game with a $5 ante and $2,500 minimum, and no max buy-in. There was also a 5-10 feeder game running with a $1,000 minimum buy-in. This game drew a lot of attention from the higher stakes players in the area. In the weeks prior to the “Big Game”, the interest list exceeded 30 players. The game was a success; with over $40,000 on the table it was by far the largest stake cash game Joliet casinos have ever seen. The “Big Game” is expected to become a bi-monthly event, with the next game scheduled for Feb. 17th 2012.
Since the “Big Game”, the 5-10 game has become a regular game on Friday and Saturday evenings. The game starts around 6pm, has a $500 minimum, $2,500 max to start, and like the 3-5 game once play has started players can buy in at up to the largest stack. A recent addition to the Harrah’s Joliet Poker Room is Pot Limit Omaha. Within the last few weeks it is not unusual to see a 1-2 PLO, or 1-2 PLO/NLHE mix game running. The game has a $100 minimum, $300 max buy-in, with a $6 cap rake. This game has become very popular with a lot of the regular 3-5 players, and has been running more and more frequently.
The newest game, which has many of the regular players excited, is a 1-2 PLO/3-5 NLHE mix game with the same buy-ins and rake as the 3-5 game. This game just hit the room in the last week, and from what I have seen, this could quickly turn into one of the biggest regular cash games in the Midwest.
Whether you are a casual player, or a high stakes rounder Harrah’s Joliet is a room that all poker players should at least come and check out. The staff is as friendly as they come, and they know how to take care of their players. They have made a regular out of me, and I hope to see many more of you up there in the near future.Follow Brian Ehman on Twitter @Behman1123