Poker as a Popular Mind Sport in Cleveland

The reality is that, for the vast majority of us, we were never going to be shooting three-pointers for the Cavs, Pitching curveballs for the Indians or sacking quarterbacks for the Browns. We simply weren’t born with the natural ability, nor grew into the physical dimensions, required to become a professional athlete.

And so ‘sports of the mind’ are where many people find their niche, and that perhaps helps to explain the continued rise in popularity of poker, both online and in the various clubs and games rooms that Cleveland has to offer.

There’s a good reason for that too. For the most part, we can improve our abilities on the poker table – we’re not going to grow an extra six inches overnight to play point guard for the Cavs, or suddenly be able to run the 100m in 10 seconds flat and find ourselves as the running back for the Browns!

We can’t all be LeBron James, after all…

‘LeBron James’ – Keith Allison via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) – The King in his Cavs heyday

For the many, mind sports like poker offer the adrenaline release that athletes get out on the turf or court. They enable us to use our inherent skills – problem-solving, intuition and, for some, deception – in order to profit, whether that’s simply by beating friends and family in a home game or winning real cash prizes in tournament and sit-and-go play.

You may be a complete newcomer to poker, however, who feels a little unsure about how or where to get started. No problem! This article gives you the skinny on everything you need to know about the game, whether you plan on playing online, at home with friends or at one of Cleveland’s dedicated poker clubs.

Soon enough you should have the confidence and the competence to take your opponents down!

Poker in Cleveland

There are a number of different ways to enjoy poker in Cleveland. For those who want to play online via laptops, smartphones or tablets, there are myriad sites and apps you can enjoy in your own time and on the move.

But if you really want to immerse yourself in the physicality of poker – the tells, the bluffs, the clinking of the chips as they are stacked your way (or not!), there’s no substitute for playing in a licensed premise designed for the game.

Poker buffs in Cleveland have two main options. First up is the JACK Cleveland Casino, formerly known as ‘the Horseshoe’, in Public Square. This venue offers tournaments throughout the week and cash games, with a rewards programme and comps at $1 per hour ensuring that those who are loyal to the brand are well rewarded.

In addition, poker players at JACK’s can enjoy food delivered to their table, discount rates for hotel suites and a range of complimentary services including massages. There are 30 tables in all, with tournament buy-ins ranging from $60 to $300 and prize pools up to $30k.

Cleveland Public Square‘ by Erik Drost (CC BY-SA 2.0) – Public Square in Cleveland

And then across the state of Ohio in Ontario, there’s the Mansfield Gemini Poker Club. This is open four evenings per week and features eight different tables, with a 100% rake free promise ensuring that all prizes won are yours to keep in full.

There are both cash games and tournament play at the Mansfield Gemini, with food and drinks brought to your table. There is a phone in list for tournaments which guarantees your seat.

Heading Online

When it comes to online poker in Ohio, it’s worth noting that the game has not been officially legalized in the state. While this means US-based firms can’t set up residence in Ohio and offer their games to poker buffs on state soil, Clevelanders can access poker platforms operating from an off-shore jurisdiction – so you should have no fear in enjoying the game online with one of these providers.

The differences between online and land-based poker are evident, but there are plenty who enjoy both elements of the game and many who actually prefer playing online.

Yes, it is harder to tell when somebody is bluffing or giving yourself an edge by reading your opponents’ body language, but there are numerous benefits to online poker – particularly for those who are new to the game.

The main advantage is the sheer variety of tournaments that you can play. These tend to be available around the clock, so no matter when you find yourself with some spare time to enjoy a leisurely game you will no doubt be able to join a table or participate in cash play.

This proliferation of available games lends itself to players of all budgets too. Buy-ins vary wildly from the conservative to the extravagant, so you can at least be comfortable in knowing that the poker game you are playing is affordable to you.

Indeed, you can even find freerolls and fun games, where the emphasis is on simply playing for the love of poker. If you are completely new to the sport, these are an excellent way of learning the ropes without having to invest any of your own hard-earned cash.

If you are an absolute newbie to poker, there are plenty of resources that you can explore. There are countless guides and poker tips for beginners out there. It has to be said that some are more useful than others. We always prefer those written by people who have been there, done it and got the t-shirt: this one, for example, was written by Chad Holloway who is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner – so when he teaches you about the psychology and the strategy of poker it is well worth taking heed.

From simply relaxing with friends to the ultimate endorphin rush of winning a tournament, poker offers so much to everyone regardless of their motives for playing. With numerous opportunities to play and improve your game in Cleveland, there has never been a better time to get involved!

Ohio’s Most Famous Poker Sons

Our state has a rich heritage in producing winning poker players.

Should you need any inspiration to start playing poker, look no further than Toledo’s David Peters. He taught himself how to play the game back in 2004 – fast forward 15 years and he’s banked nearly $4 million in prize money! He has won bracelets and rings on the World Series of Poker and has ‘cashed’ more than 50 times in tournament play across the US and Europe.

Kevin Stammen learned his craft in the poker clubs of Ohio as a young man and he put that tuition to good use by winning a WSOP bracelet back in 2009, beating off competition from the likes of Phil Ivey and Roland De Wolfe.

Byron Kaverman was born and raised in Fort Jennings and he has gone on to pocket more than $15 million in prize money from tournaments around the world. He’s a WSOP bracelet winner with 34 career cashes and numerous Main Event appearances, so it goes without saying that the psychology degree earned at Tiffin University has come in rather handy at the table.

And now, sadly no longer with us, the final word must go to David ‘Chip’ Reese, who was widely regarded as one of the finest cash players on the planet. The Centerville player was famous for being admitted to Stanford Law School, but just a week before his studies were supposed to begin he won $60k in a cash game and decided to become a poker pro instead.

In the end, he accumulated more than $1.5 million in winnings, with no less a judge than Doyle Brunson calling Reese ‘the best poker player that ever lived.’

Who knows? Maybe you can take the poker world by storm and rep Cleveland alongside these other Ohio greats.

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