The poker room at Encore Boston Harbor is finally open after an almost two-year hiatus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the reopening is good news to many players in the Boston area who will no longer need to drive far away from home to play live poker, the room’s reduced hours and limited seating, alongside the high rake imposed on low-stakes games, have been receiving negative feedback.

Re-opening Controversy

While most of the live poker rooms and venues across the US began welcoming back customers last year, Encore Boston Harbor opted to delay the reopening of its poker room due to many factors.
An Encore representative earlier indicated that the room will resume operating in 2022 but with limited tables and hours. The casino’s initial reopening plans ignited controversy, leading to speculations on social media that Encore only wanted to satisfy the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Encore’s Executive Director for Public Relation Rosie Abrams denied the rumors, and said that the room cannot return to its pre-pandemic capacity as they don’t have the real estate on their gaming floor to go back to normal operations.
Before the pandemic hit in 2020, the Encore poker room was running poker games 24/7, but it reopened on Monday, January 31 with reduced operating times – it will only be open from 10 am – 8 pm, Monday – Thursday. No late nights and no weekends. Abrams cited staffing issues as the main reason for the shortened hours.

Long Waitlists on First Two Days of Re-opening

The Encore poker room welcomed back customers on Monday, and the games filled up quickly with long waitlists. That’s anticipated, given that players had been waiting for almost two years for the poker room to finally reopen. Another factor that led to the long queues was that the room is only running 12 tables. That’s opposed to the 70+ tables operating before the pandemic.
As of Tuesday, the room was spreading eight $1/$3 NLH games, two $2/$5 NLH, one $5/$10, and a $2/$2 PLO game. All of these games had long waitlists and with the shortened operating hours, some players had to go home unable to get in a game as the room is only open until 8 pm. This scenario will likely stay for quite a while as the room currently has no plans to add more tables or go back to its normal operating hours.

“Absurd” Rake

The biggest issue for players in the area is the high rake on low-limit games. The room implements a 10% rake up to $10 per hand, on low-stakes games. Even the skilled players will find it hard to consistently beat such a huge rake. While those looking for short-term wins can get away with it, it won’t work for the daily grinders.
Many players are hitting out at the huge rake on social media, one of them was 2021 WSOP Main Event 9th placer Chase Bianchi who posted on Twitter that he will not be playing 5/10 or lower games at Encore poker room because of the “absurd” rake.
One commenter said that Encore is trying to push away the poker community, while another said that the latest changes currently being implemented are destroying a quality poker room.

No Choice

Despite these issues, many players would still go to Encore to play because there are no other options to play poker in the area. The nearest venues next to Encore, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, are two hours away. Players in the Boston area would rather stick to Encore and take the high rake than make a tiring, long drive away from home.

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