Less smoke pleases poker players | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Less smoke pleases poker players

Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune A snowplow clears a path for morning commuters heading up Kingsbury grade.

By Susan Wood

Tribune staff writer

Players have opted to do less with their hands at the Stateline casinos these days.

Smoke-free specialty rooms and climate conditioning systems have been cropping up left and right – all with the well-received idea of improving air quality at businesses in a state known for the tobacco habit.

Horizon Casino Resort made its 40-seat poker room around the corner from its hotel lobby smoke-free on July 1.

The change has been welcomed by players, poker room manager Jim Arnold said. The room touts 7-card stud, Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha Hi-Lo Split.

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“Smoke has always been a problem in poker rooms. You’re playing right next to each other. It creates tension among the players,” he said.

Sitting down at a Horizon table Tuesday night, Ross Coopwood agreed. A gambler for 25 years, Coopwood plays about once a week.

“I’ve moved when some people have been excessive,” the South Shore man said. “I patronize this place because it’s smoke-free.”

Coopwood doesn’t smoke. But smokers like John Bruder have embraced the change, too.

“It’s a good game here,” he said, adding that if he wants to smoke, he just takes a few steps beyond the entrance of the room to light up.

“Poker is making an enormous comeback,” Arnold said, referring to the flood of television coverage bringing viewers closer to the game.

Arnold believes the on-screen popularity of the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker has opened up the game to a whole new market that may have been intimidated by the game or shied away from the experience.

Harveys Resort & Casino went smoke free over a year ago in its poker room, with the Race Book doing the same last spring.

“Everybody loves it – even the smokers,” casino spokesman John Packer said. “A majority of our players from California have become culturized to it.”

Lakeside Inn & Casino and Caesars Tahoe have gotten in on the act, too. Even though the latter received a mixed reception when it designated smoke-free areas, the casino passes out fans in the table games area. Caesars has no poker room.

We’ve had a good response. We need to make it comfortable for everyone,” Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Eckman said.

The latest in air-quality improvements – Lakeside is installing an air filtering system Dec. 15 as a means to accommodate casino guests. Honeywell pledged the system, which costs at least $100,000 and takes 85 percent of the smoke from the air.

Lakeside President Lon Rusk said the upgrade was made in response to customer concerns.

“We’re so small. It’s so hard to divide up the areas,” he said, adding the climate system seemed like a better solution.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com