In 2017, my husband Paul and I dreamed of spending a year traveling across the country visiting as many poker rooms as possible along the way. At the time, we still had children in the house and did not have the freedom to travel extensively. However, we loved playing poker and visiting new poker rooms in our home region of New England. We thought that others might be interested in our poker experiences, travels, and ever-evolving plans for our poker pilgrimage. So we started a blog! Poker Pilgrims was born in November of 2017.
From the start, we knew we wanted to gather and share information for the benefit of other recreational poker players like us. Our first large data gathering project was to identify all of the poker rooms in the United States and place them on a Google Map. Over the years we have kept that map updated and it now includes all poker rooms with 6 tables or more in the United States. That’s over 300 rooms!
We also thought players might appreciate thorough and non-biased reviews of poker rooms. Our very first review was of the now-defunct Hampton Falls poker room in New Hampshire. We quickly followed with reviews of all our local New England poker rooms. In addition to written reviews, we thought it might be helpful to create a review rating system. We now rate each room on comfort, personnel, and tournament structures (we do love a good poker tournament), and have created a table to make it easy for viewers to compare poker rooms they may like to visit. Our site now contains full written reviews of over 70 poker rooms across the country and we add more every month.
Ed. note: About half a year after Heather and Paul started Poker Pilgrims, I became acquainted with them and their site. I found their story interesting and got to know them a lot better via this interview. We then met in the summer of 2018 at the World Series of Poker. In the summer of 2021, Heather began working behind the scenes here at Cardplayer Lifestyle, taking on various editorial duties, and she’s done a phenomenal job! — Robbie
For a couple of years, we focused our site on our map and reviews, along with weekly blog posts about poker, travel, and a variety of poker lifestyle topics. We visited and reviewed poker rooms up and down the East Coast and in Las Vegas where we made an annual pilgrimage (and made sure to attend the WSOP every summer).
In 2020 the poker world, and many other things, came to an abrupt, if temporary, halt. We were actually in Tampa, Florida on one of our early poker trips when we first heard of the Coronavirus. Shortly after we got home, the world shut down. We decided to take advantage of our enforced time homebound to plan for the future of Poker Pilgrims.
As extensive users of PokerAtlas and Bravo Poker Live, we knew how helpful it was to be able to access poker information on a convenient centralized site. We used both of these apps extensively whether planning our poker travel, or figuring out what tournament we wanted to play on the weekend.
Over time, we became more aware of some of the limitations of these key poker resources. The primary one being that they both offered only real-time (as opposed to historical) data. When we knew we were headed to Vegas, we could not simply look up whether the Venetian, or the Aria would have more $1/$2 tables on a typical Friday night. And did any casino run Crazy Pineapple tournaments? We love a good game of Crazy Pineapple.
So we decided to create this resource ourselves. When poker rooms opened up again from late 2020 through 2021, Paul and I spent months tracking numbers across the country and creating a resource to help recreational poker players find the most active cash poker games every day of the week. Last fall, we finally completed this task, and our website now offers this information in all regions of the US.
Cash Games and Poker Tournaments, Too!
Almost as soon as we completed this task, Paul said to me “shouldn’t we track tournaments as well?” Of course we should! We thus spent much of 2022 into 2023 identifying all of the regular weekly poker tournaments across the country and creating a resource to help players both identify and evaluate their tournament options. In addition to tournament time, buy-in, blind levels, and rake, we went the extra mile to evaluate structures (through S-points) and typical field sizes as well.
Finally, after a couple of years of intense poker travel, we started to do the work to put together a series of recommended poker road trips. In these road trips we share our suggestions of potential poker rooms to visit and places to experience in different parts of the country. At some point at the end of 2022, Paul and I looked at each other and realized that our little poker blog had turned into a substantial resource for recreational poker players.
Much More Than Just Our Pilgrimage
Players can use our Poker Pilgrims website as a resource both to evaluate their local poker options and to plan more extensive poker travel. Just last month we completed a complete overhaul and redesign of our website to bring all of these resources to the front and make them more accessible for the casual visitor.
What’s next for Poker Pilgrims? Who’s to tell? You never know where a poker journey can take you! We certainly plan on doing more room reviews, poker road trips, and regularly updating our resources. Meanwhile, we will be searching for the next poker players’ unmet need that a little research and elbow grease will allow us to fulfill.