Having given you all the things to be aware of, I have to say: It is still the best place for poker in the Caribbean. That wasn’t true 5 years ago, but it has grown into the best in the islands since then. That’s not saying much when you compare it to Vegas or U.S. casinos, but there are multiple games, (at least for most of the night), there is action, some nights more than others. The locals are fairly mild manner (Chinese Tony slaps the table and screams in a dialect that no one knows or understand for no reason at all sometimes). During a hand, it is mostly English only. The cocktail service is excellent, if slow in delivery. The waitress will even bring you free (delicious) grilled ham and cheese sandwiches to keep you at the tables.
It is also the only island to spread a Pot Limit Omaha game. The games tend to move along quickly. More tables active and more tourists than any other Caribbean poker room (which translates into slightly less expertise and more disposable income). None of the party-like insanity of screaming Spanish in Puerto Rico (see earlier article). Full tables unlike St. Martin. Longer hours than anywhere else in the islands. The pots are smaller than the 2/5 games in the states (closer to $50-$400 than the $200-$1600 in Vegas) but I walked out with $50-$500 about every night, and very few players cashed out more than $1000 ahead (with an occasional $1500 big winner). You’re not going to get rich, or go broke.
If you are looking for an island to play poker, I heavily recommend the Holiday Inn Aruba. Here are a few pointers to make it more enjoyable:
- Stay at that end of Palm Beach. Cab fares can eat into your winnings and there are more restaurants in that area than anywhere else within an easy walk.
- Get there by 8pm to get a seat of your choice. I prefer the 2, 3, 7 or 8 seats due to being to study all the players.
- Walk in to the poker room and sign your own name to the white board list for whichever game you want.
- Be prepared to be called down to the end. It’s going to happen, even if you have a tight image like I do.
- Bluffing and advanced poker psychology tricks are rare there and less effective than the states. I did buy a few pots, but lost with that tactic more than I won.
- Be prepared to rebuy. I did several times and then would end up +$500 by the end of the night. Figure $300-$600 per night in buy-ins. Smart play and hand selection will give you a positive return on investment.
- Take an iPod to drown out the cantina noise sometimes.
- Pick your seat early and out of a traffic path… or be trampled.
- With very few exceptions, everyone sitting knows the game fairly well. If you are a beginner, you could get in waters too deep. There are no $1-3 games there to work up from.
- Take your sunglasses. Besides the obvious benefits of them not getting reads off you and not being able to see where you are looking and who you are studying, the lights are damned bright. I started bringing a ball cap to shield my eyes from the overhead glare.
- Relax and enjoy it. They don’t take the game as serious as they do in the states. Don’t let weak players poor decisions and lucky wins rattle you.
Enjoy the gorgeous weather in the day time, the wide selection of restaurants and then head to the H.I. to play some cards. Good luck.