I wanted to write about my poker experience in Cabo San Lucas because it was difficult for me to find anything online about the poker scene there. It turns out that Cabo does have a poker scene: it consists of a single electronic poker table.
I was down in Cabo San Lucas for a week in April 2010. I was told there were two casinos in town; one at the Puerto Paraiso mall and another one just down the street called Casino Royale. These are both in short walking distance of the port.
The casino mall had no tables games, just slots and perhaps some sports betting – I’m not completely sure because I left immediately when I found out they had no poker.
The other place, Casino Royale, is mostly slots. But nestled in the back there are several computerized tables games: roulette, blackjack, and no-limit hold’em – all electronic.
I’d heard about electronic poker tables before but had never seen one. Each of the 9 seats had a decent-sized touchscreen monitor in front of it, and the entire middle surface of the table was a large monitor that displayed the status and bets of each person and the pot.
When I was there in the middle of the day on a weekday, there were 5 surly-looking locals playing, and they all seemed to know each other. I kind of had a weird feeling sitting down, like i was stepping into something. But the stakes were low. It was $1-2 blinds, although apparently there was no limit that I could tell on buy-in. This might have interesting if anyone was deep but everyone was sitting with only about 80 bucks on average.
The machines are horrible. The employees warn you upfront that they’re not responsible for problems with the machine, and there are similar warnings posted on the table. That should make you wary right away.
They tell you before you begin that if you are drinking a drink, the condensation on your fingers might cause the monitor interface to not recognize your finger movements. This was definitely the case; the game kept being held up as some of the players routinely couldn’t make the action that they wanted to. The guy beside me was force-folded a couple times when he was trying to stay in, frantically pressing at the buttons, only to have the time bank run out. One casino employee was over at our table for a while, trying to help the guy make actions but even she was having problems with it. (Surprisingly this guy didn’t seem bothered and kept playing even though he had been forced to fold several winners. He took it very calmly, to his credit.)
Also, the time bank was only 25 seconds, which would be fantastic for limit, but obviously isn’t that generous for no-limit. I like to think I act pretty quickly, but there were a couple of times I looked down after thinking for what I thought was a short amount of time only to notice I had 5 seconds to act.
This can especially be an issue if you are not used to the lay-out of the buttons. I played there three short sessions and on my last hand I accidentally hit the all-in button when I meant to just call a small river bet – an $150 mistake as I got called by the nuts :)
The touchscreen monitors are interesting – your cards are displayed fairly prominently, with the default set to a face-down view, but you have the ability to slide your finger up the cards to reveal the edges (a pretty cool effect), or just hit a button to reveal them all-at-once. The monitors have a polarized screen that prevents you from seeing what’s on the screen unless you are directly in front of it. It’s a pretty cool interface.
The one funny thing about the layout though was that they had positioned the poker table in the corner of the room and the walls were covered with mirrors. This made it theoretically possible to see the cards of someone directly across from you who was in front of the mirrors. Just theoretically possible because the players were usually hunched in front of their screens, but it still could be an issue if a player was moving around a lot and you were able to catch a glimpse.
Apparently gambling is not legal in Mexico, and so the way they get around this prohibition is by having all of the bets and movements of money technically take place offshore. In effect, you are playing online poker with people in the same room with you. The same with the slot machines and other electronic table games.
The poker table was pretty dead in the middle of the day. Seemed to pick up once the sun went down, as you’d expect for any indoor entertainment in Cabo. Once I got a game going just by sitting at the empty table with my buy-in deposited and pitched the game to tourists as they walked by. If you get a couple people sitting at the table, and you ask the employees, they might do an intercom announcement for a game starting.
I think playing on this table has potential, especially for taking advantage of the mistakes made by people who haven’t got used to the interface or the quick time bank. If someone as experienced with online poker as I am is screwing up that badly on that machine then I’m sure there are horrible mistakes being made by tourists all the time. Just don’t be drinking a drink when you play.