I started writing this blog at the beginning of 2008, and the fourth post I published concerned a gaming analyst who was predicting that table games would one day come to Pennsylvania. Here we are two and half year later, and tomorrow morning, casino poker in Pittsburgh will finally become a reality.
The time in between has been, to say the least, interesting. We've seen original Rivers owner Don Barden (back when it was to be the Majestic Star) default on his loan, Neil Bluhm come to the rescue, a change in casino name, Rep. Bill DeWeese push for table-game approval again and again, a state financial crisis come into play, the drafting of a Pennsylvania budget that included table-game revenue even though table games weren't yet legal, lots of feet-dragging by the state House and Senate, threats by the governor to lay off 1,000 state workers if a table-games bill wasn't passed, and then, finally, this January, approval.
But all that is in the past. Tomorrow: The future. Gamblers heading to Rivers and The Meadows no longer need have their fortunes decided by the luck of a slots pull. There will be blackjack, roulette, craps and the rest. And, most importantly, there will be poker. The one game where we don't play against the house. The one game where skill and wit and patience actually count for something. I've added both The Meadows and Rivers websites to this site's sidebar under Poker Rooms. Once they've got tournaments and promotions up and running, you can expect to find schedules and additional info at those sites.
I expect this weekend to be kind of crazy at both locations. I'm not sure how crazy. Wheeling Island was an absolute madhouse on opening day, with a poker room waiting list that stretched nearly 100 deep. I don't expect the wait to be quite that bad at either Pittsburgh-area location come tomorrow and into the weekend. Remember, back when Wheeling opened, there were no other local legal gambling options, whereas Rivers and The Meadows will be competing against each other, as well as the established West Virginia casinos. The player pool will be fractured.
Still, we've all been waiting a long time for this, and I expect enough madness that I'm waiting a week to check out the new rooms. My full impressions will come shortly thereafter, although if you brave the crowds to play this weekend, please feel free to post your own thoughts below. I've heard from more than one person now that the Rivers poker room looks nicer than the one The Meadows put together. I'm not one to always agree with the majority, though, and will get to make up my own mind soon enough.
Pittsburgh-area poker is finally here, people. I've been waiting a good while to be able to write those words. See y'all at the tables.