A Guide to Poker in Tunica
Dec 28, 2005  
© 2005 Jason Kirk  

Located just inside Mississippi across the state line from Memphis, Tennessee, the gambling resort area of Tunica County is actually the third largest in the United States, following Las Vegas and Atlantic City. (The Grand Casino, one of the main attractions in Tunica, is actually the largest gambling resort located between those two famous cities.) Tunica is located reasonably close to many population centers of the South and Midwest, so if you live in one of those areas and you’re planning a poker trip in the near future you might want to consider it as an option.

Because it lays a bit off the beaten path, traveling by car is the best way to get to Tunica. There are no nearby interstate highways; the back roads are the only way to reach this gambling locale. If you are coming from any point north of Tunica, you’ll want to make your way to Interstate 40, which will take you to Memphis. Once you’re in town, Highway 61 South is the route to Tunica County - the drive takes about 15-20 minutes before you reach the Grand, Tunica’s northernmost casino. If you have to travel by air, count on renting a car once you reach the Memphis airport; Tunica is just too far away for taxi rides.

Most of the casinos in Tunica have addresses in Robinsonville, Mississippi, but those addresses are formalities at best - there’s not a real city to link them together. Instead, the resorts of Tunica are flung across the cotton fields of the county surrounding US Highway 61. This means that staying where you play is probably a good idea, especially if you enjoy drinking or don’t want to drive a lot while you’re on vacation. Considering that you can get a poker room rate at basically every room in town, there really isn’t any reason to not stay where you play. There are nine casinos in Tunica - Bally’s, Fitzgerald’s, Gold Strike, Grand Casino, Hollywood, Horseshoe, Resorts, Sam’s Town, and Sheraton. Five of these casinos have poker rooms, while the rest mainly cater to slot or pit game players.

The Horseshoe is Tunica’s preeminent poker room, having been founded by Jack Binion shortly after gambling was legalized in Mississippi. It has played host to the World Poker Open since the days before the World Poker Tour existed, and has gained the sort of reputation for taking care of players that draws repeat visitors from around the globe. The room expanded in late 2004/early 2005 to hold more tables, and the action is better than ever. There are weekly tournaments, and some of the biggest cash game action in the area takes place at the Horseshoe.

The Gold Strike, located next door to the Horseshoe, has helped play host to the WPO since the tournament grew too large for a single casino. It’s known for more than just helping to host the WPT event, however. There are tournaments every day of the week at Gold Strike, with buy-ins ranging from $35 to $335. There’s even a Red Eye Tournament for the late night poker crowd, running on Mondays at 4 AM CT.

Grand Casino is the largest resort in Tunica, and after its recent renovation is also home to one of the larger poker rooms in the area. Two World Series of Poker Circuit events are held at the Grand yearly, in January and August. There are several tournaments held each week, and hold’em, Omaha, and stud cash games are usually running at the Grand.

Hollywood Casino’s poker room is the newest in Tunica, and it caters mostly to the lower-limit players. The room is much smaller than most of the competition, with only 6 tables. Cash games are the mainstay at the Hollywood poker room.

Finally, there’s Sam’s Town Tunica. Like Hollywood, it mostly caters to low-limit players. At its 10 tables, you’ll rarely find action above the $4-8 limit. Most of the time there will be at least 2 tables of $2-4 hold’em, 1 table of either $3-6 or $4-8 hold’em, and 1 table of $1-2 no-limit hold’em. The room has also been known to spread Omaha whenever there is enough interest. Sam’s Town poker room has one of the best room rate deals in all of Tunica, with 5 hours of play per day getting you a room for under $40.

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