Hawaiian Gardens is so improve from my last visit in 2012 that I hardly recognize the place. Back then it looked like every other dingy card room in California. Now while there is still much construction going on to the grounds and the facade, the inside is huge and clean and even classy.
The hardest part was trying to figure out where to go to find the right game. I wound up in $100 NL limit game when I really wanted a $300. It turns out that the games of $300 or higher are in the even nicer high limit room. I spent an hour at that table before moving on to the bigger game. The place was packed and the gamblers on this Friday night were out to hit their gut shots. I think having no player’s card made me look like a fish to the regulars because they didn’t believe my bets and raises.
I played at this casino on 4 different days and although the players were all smart they had some gamble in them and didn't mind chasing with the wrong pot odds or throwing the obvious semi-bluff your way.
I hail from Florida where they play traditional 1-2 and 2-5 NL games with a variable buy-in range. Hawaiian Gardens plays their games with an exact buy-in. I played the $300 NL in which the blinds are $3-5. I like this game much better than Florida. If you sit at a new table you are on equal footing with all of the other players.
I went to three southern California casinos on this trip and the drink service was slow at all of them. The free drinks in Vegas at the Aria or even Bally’s were faster than anywhere in southern California. Considering the drinks are far from cheap you'd think the casino would have a stacks of waitresses to sell them.
I had the fried chicken one night at the table and some grapes. Both were pretty doggone good. A guy next to me had a New York strip that looked great. He had no trouble polishing it off.
The staff seemed pretty competent. There was an argument Saturday afternoon after someone hit a 2-outer for a $1,000 pot. A Slovakian guy flopped a set of 3s against an Asian lady’s pocket kings. The pocket kings hit trips on the river after the all-in. The Asian lady said she put the Slovakian on a straight draw and for some reason the straight draw comment irked the Slovakian. He kept @#$% about it and the Asian lady was quiet for a time and then she started @#$% back. Finally the floor came over and tried to ease tensions in kindergarten sort of way. “Okay everyone, let’s have some fun. Why don’t we try and hit a jackpot?” As silly as it was it eased the tensions. The argument was just emotion anyway. No way the set of three or the over pair pocket kings were going to drop after the flop.
Let me recommend the valet parking for $2.50. It took about 10 minutes to get my car, but the parking lot is such a mess with construction and it’s a little dark. If you were a winner you wouldn’t want to try to make it to the nether reaches of the parking lot. Even better if you arrive earlier they will valet you for $5 and keep your car near the front entrance for an easy out.
If I had known I would play here on 4 different days I would have signed up for a player's card. I have no idea what the comps were as a result.