This post has been a rather long time coming. The Commerce Casino has been my most frequent playing location since September, and in the past I've usually gotten casino reviews up after playing there just a few times. In the case of the Commerce, though, I haven't quite been able to settle on what my own opinion of the place is. I've never been able to feel completely at ease at the Commerce, or at least not as comfortable as I am in any of the poker rooms in Vegas or even Atlantic City or Foxwoods. Recently I decided to put some more thought into it and discuss it with some friends. Here is what I've come up with:
The Commerce is not a tourist destination. It attracts locals. This immediately sets its whole business focus apart from Las Vegas casinos. It seems to consider itself to be primarily in the gaming/entertainment industry, while Vegas casinos are primarily in the tourist industry. I don't really know anything about either industry, but this may help to explain some why the feel of the two places seems fundamentally different. The Vegas casinos are extraordinarily inviting and friendly, while the Commerce kind of feels sparse and anonymous. The walls are covered with promotional advertisements instead of attractive murals or artwork.
Another thing about the commerce is that about 60% of the players, 75% of the floor people, and 98% of the dealers are Asian. Now, I have no problem with Asians in general. In fact almost all of my non-Jewish friends are Asian (I'm neither). The problem is that while all of my friends speak fluent English (except Ben, who speaks British), only about 2% of the Asians at the Commerce speak fluently. In my opinion, it's important to be able to speak clearly when you are in a service industry. It is annoying for me to have to think for a few seconds after each sentence spoken to me before I can decipher what I am being told. This is no knock on the employees themselves. I have quite a bit of respect for them, as I imagine it's a challenge to make a new life for oneself in a foreign land where you don't speak the language. This, however, doesn't change the fact that it makes the experience at the Commerce less pleasant for me. Another thing that is nobody's fault but is rather annoying for me is that my initials are "KW". When spoken with an Asian accent, almost every pair of letters ending with W sounds like "KW," and a lot of Asian people seem to have last names beginning with W. The result is that every thirty seconds I think I hear my initials being called.
The other players are generally a lot less pleasant at the Commerce than in Vegas, although this is much more pronounced at lower limits than the games I play. Again this probably traces back to the Commerce being a gaming industry more than tourist. In Vegas I'm playing with people who genuinely like poker but who don't often get a chance to go to a casino. These people are on vacation and having a good time, so they are often interesting and pleasant to talk to. At the Commerce everyone is local and, especially at the low limits, seem to be playing because they've given up on their lives and they just want to gamble, but there are no slot machines to play. All of those miserable would-be slot machine players have taught themselves poker. I can't ignore them like I did in Vegas. Now I have to sit with them. Some of these people get unfathomably angry at every non-winning hand as well as the player who won instead. They disrupt the game by shouting and banging the table. The non-English-speaking dealers are completely disregarded when they try to regain order at the table. Then the obnoxious player might win a hand, become friendly, and try to make conversation with me. Suddenly I'm in the awkward situation of actually having to socialize with him. The problem is so bad at the lowest limits that my girlfriend is hardly even willing to play. I might not be willing to either if I played 4-8 limit and lower. Those people are truly horrible. In the no limit games I play the situation is not nearly so bad, although many of the players there are apparently unabashed cocaine users, although these people usually aren't particularly unpleasant.
Another problem is that the employees at the Commerce are generally not as friendly or accommodating as the ones in Vegas poker rooms. This exacerbates the feeling of anonymity in the enormous rooms of the Commerce.
Okay, on to the standard review format.
Games I play: $2-3 NL with $100 buyin; $3-5 NL with $200 buyin; $5-10 NL with $400 buyin.
$2-5 NL $100-500 buy-in
Enormous room, usually about a 5 minute wait to play.
Parking is not well marked but there are usually spots somewhat near the "front" door, and always spots to be found if you are willing to walk a bit. The real problem is the drive to the Commerce, which is impossible between 2:30 pm and 6:30 pm.
Bathrooms nearby, but usually unusably disgusting if you aren't using a urinal.
Rather unpleasant opponents, but this problem is not as bad at higher limits. Slightly loose aggressive players on average.
Floor people are unhelpful. Dealers are competent but have difficulty with English.
Shuffling machines and well-maintained cards and tables.
Food is mediocre but low-price compared to Vegas. It is very common for players to eat at the table.
Rake is highest I have ever seen. All other casinos I know of take at most $4 out of each pot. The Rio was among the worst, taking the fourth dollar out when the pot reaches $40 while the Wynn takes out the fourth dollar at $120 I think. As of last week, the Commerce now rakes $5 at 3-5 NL and higher. All tables also take $1 a hand for the jackpot, of which the Commerce keeps as much as 25% in administrative fees I think. If you actually win a jackpot, you are expected to tip a bit as well. Thus about $5.25 of each pot goes back to the Commerce and its employees, and this is before tips! With tipping it's more like $6.25. If you're a good player, the jackpot is even worse for you because you are now competing for .75 of the $1 jackpot fee in a game of pure chance (ie, the jackpot) rather than competing for the full $1 in a game of skill (ie, poker). I go to the casino to play poker, and I'm forced to submit myself to negative-sum lottery on every hand. The only benefit I can see is that the jackpots occasionally make the other players play poorly.
I think I'm going to start going to Hollywood Park Casino more. It has less appealing atmosphere, but only marginally. On the other hand, it's a quicker drive and people there can generally speak English. I might also try the Hustler Casino, which is a bit further.