Online Casino BTDino

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hold 'em online

It's just another weekday afternoon at Foxwoods Resort Casino and the wait for a seat at a poker table is well over an hour. All 81 tables, all 810 seats at New England's only poker room, are filled.

"Look around. This place is packed," says Mark Whittaker, a home theater installer from Ashland, Mass., who drove an hour and a half to play Texas Hold 'Em but is playing Omaha instead because of the wait. "And it's what, noon on a Wednesday?"

Not too long ago, many gaming executives considered rooms like this to be wasted space. The games are too long and the casino's cut too small to make poker anything but a dud for the bottom line.

But poker's resurgence, driven by televised championships, celebrity tournaments and online games, has changed the equation. While it remains a game of incredibly small profits, destination hotels have stopped comparing poker to slot machines and are seeing it as a must-have amenity such as boxing, concerts and shows.

At Foxwoods, executives plan to add more tables and have made poker part of a marketing strategy to quintuple convention and group sales in the coming years. Last month, executives added a poker brochure to their convention packets.

"It's the hot thing right now, and they'll ask for it: 'Can we set up a poker tournament?"' said Joan Esneault, executive director of resort sales. "Maybe they have a reception on one side of the room and a gaming lesson or an actual tournament on the other side."