I recently took a 5-week long trip to Villahermosa, Mexico. Although the purpose of the trip was to visit relatives, I did get the opportunity to play some poker while I was there.
Villahermosa, Mexico Poker Room Summary
The value of the Mexican Peso ($) varies significantly. At the time of writing this article, the rate is $18.9889 MXN for $1 USD, although when I was actually there (a little over a month ago), the rate was closer to $20 MXN for $1 USD. These are the USD equivalents for the games offered:
I borrowed Pesos from my relatives, and was lucky enough to win, so I cannot comment on the best place to exchange currency.
The only casino in Villahermosa, Mexico that offers poker is the Crown Casino. Although the Taj Mahal looks like a decent sized casino on the outside, on the inside it's far too small to have a poker room. There is also a casino in Euro Plaza Cinepolis, but it's exactly what you would expect from a casino in a mall (i.e. just slots). We drove past another casino, but was informed it's located in a pretty shady part of town, so I didn't bother checking it out, but I highly doubt they have poker.
Other than the two nights a week at the Crown Casino, the only other poker I am aware of are home games. However, I would never suggest playing in a home game unless you are very familiar with everyone playing. This goes double for Latin America, and triple for Mexico. Even a relatively small city like Villahermosa is not free from the influence of the drug cartels.
Villahermosa translates into "beautiful village", which is a fairly ironic name when you consider it's not a particularly attractive city with a population of just over half a million people! This isn't to say it's an ugly city like San Jose, Costa Rica, it's just not particularly "beautiful". Most Mexicans would say Villahermosa is a place you need to drive past on your way to Cancun!
Since it's not a tourist hotspot, and there are very limited opportunities to play poker (and at relatively small stakes), you are unlikely to visit Villahermosa unless it's for work or to visit family or friends.
Playing poker in Villahermosa, Mexico is like taking a trip back in time! It's not uncommon to see 7 players limp in to see a flop, and they still allow smoking at the table!
The incredibly loose passive play would make this an excellent poker destination if it wasn't for the fact that there are just 1-2 games/week and the games are so small. The buy-in for a game of $25/$25 NLH is just $1,000 (~$53 USD), and most players buy-in for just $1K to $3K. As a result, there's not much money on the table.
Poker Players in Villahermosa, Mexico
The players in Villahermosa are very friendly, but don't expect to hear much English. Since Villahermosa is not a tourist destination, there is not much incentive for the locals to speak anything other than Spanish. Maybe 30% of the players speak at least some English.
The vast majority of the players I met were casual players. Even though most online poker sites accept players from Mexico, only a handful of those I met played online.
The best online poker site for players in Mexico is undoubtedly Americas Cardroom, where players can earn 27% rakeback with no requirements:
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Avenida Paseo Tabasco y Avenida 27 de Febrero, Villahermosa, Mexico
The poker room in the Crown City Casino (as well as the upstairs table games) is run by a Costa Rican named Dennis Bonilla Chaves. This is the second time I've run into a game run by someone I knew from Costa Rica (the other being the poker room at the Luckia Casino in Bogota).
Dennis has done a good job setting up the game and training the dealers. Considering that they only have 1-2 games per week, I witnessed surprisingly few mistakes.
The rake is pretty reasonable at $25 for every $500 in the pot to a maximum of $150. Although a max rake of $7.83 USD is pretty high, the $25 increments means you are often paying far less than 5%! For example, if you're playing $25/$25, there's no rake on any pot smaller than 20 BB!
They take an additional $25 at $750 to pay for the jackpot and other promotions.
Food and drinks are not complimentary, but are reasonably priced ($70 - $85 MXN), and the food is excellent!
Each month they select one day of the week for a tournament. The tournaments are usually pretty cheap (such as $250 MXN with rebuys), and they frequently add a decent amount to the prize pool ($3,500 in each of the tournaments I played).
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Summary of Poker in Villahermosa, Mexico
Although there is not nearly enough activity to justify a trip to Villahermosa specifically to play poker, there is poker available if you find yourself there for other reasons. Playing in a game with multiple limpers is a refreshing reminder of what poker used to be like before everyone started studying the game and hiring poker coaches. However, the excessive smoking at the table is a reminder that the "good old days" weren't as good as we remember!
Ever been to Villahermosa? We'd love to hear your thoughts on Mexicos "beautfiul village" in the comments below!