The ongoing saga of the Trump Taj Mahal bankruptcy has claimed another casualty. Effective Sunday, February 15 at 11:59 pm, the poker room at the Trump Taj will shut down, closing one of the more iconic American poker rooms.
Allen Kessler shared a photo of the poker room closure via Twitter, stating, “Sad day in poker. I played here for several years during the 90s.” The Taj poker room was immortalized in Rounders when Mike and Worm took their trip to Atlantic City to blow off steam.
It was also home of the United States Poker Championship from 1996 to 2010. The USPC was one of poker’s top tournament series’ and was broadcast annually by ESPN until 2006.
Taj Poker Room on the Decline in Recent Years
At one point in its history, the Trump Taj poker room was one of the best in Atlantic City. If you were a Stud or mixed game player, this was one of the must-play rooms in the city.
Allen Kessler stated on Facebook that he used to have a safety deposit box full of $100 chips from the $100/$200 Omaha 8/Stud 8 game that used to run there. Mid and high stake Stud and mixed games were a norm at the Taj, with many pros cutting their teeth or perfecting their skills there.
Following the poker boom, the Taj became a regular stop for tournament players and pros due to several solid events held annually including the United States Poker Championship.
One of the draws for these events was a solid spread of tournaments. Where some casinos focused almost exclusively on NL Hold’em, the Taj would offer events in the most popular forms of poker.
Following the loss of a TV contract in 2006, the poker room started to experience a decline, and over the next few years most events were completely phased out. The USPC was last held in 2010.
The popularity of the Borgata poker room also didn’t help the Taj. With many of the games that used to run at the Taj moving over to the Borgata, the poker room became mostly a lower stakes affair.
Loss of My Home Poker Room
I must admit that the announcement of the closure of the poker room was not unexpected due to the financial troubles of the Taj, but it is saddening nonetheless. This was the one poker room on the East Coast that I considered my “home poker room.”
While not the first live poker room that I played, it is the room that I felt the most comfortable. It lacked the antiseptic feel of many “corporate” poker rooms in modern day casinos.
The tables were worn, the chips were dirty and the locals were grouchy. This made for some great poker. I could also find most games that I wanted to play, at least the first few years I went there. It wasn’t until 2010 that I finally watched Rounders in its entirety but I totally understood why they chose the Taj. In my opinion, it was a poker room in the truest sense.
My personal hope is that this move becomes a temporary one and the room reopens once financial matters are resolved, assuming that the casino doesn’t go out of business. However, if that doesn’t happen I still have the memories of hands played and lost, and friendships gained playing at the Taj.