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Live Casino Play in New Zealand: Top 5 Casino Experiences

So you're thinking about venturing into a New Zealand casino for live poker play. There are a few things keep in mind to make the most of your visit. First, remember that the staff, including the dealers are there for you and to help make your game play experience a good one. Don't hesitate to ask for help or directions. Second, review the house rules to avoid unknowingly crossing a line of play while at the table. When sitting down at a table, watch the game play until the big blind reaches you so you get a feel for how your opponents play.

Let the dealer control the table by collecting your cards and pushing chips won your direction. You can sidestep potential embarrassing moments like accidentally mucking a winning hand or raking chips that aren't yours. Also, remember that poker dealers work for tips the same as waiters or bartenders. It is good form to tip your dealer pulling in a winning hand. A $1 or $2 is usually a good tip for lower-limit games. The most important consideration is to have fun. After all, that's why you're there!

If live poker play is your passion, you don't have to travel to the United States to hit Las Vegas or Atlantic City. You don't have to hit Monaco or Macau. You don't even have to hit Oz. There are a number of quality choices for the Kiwi poker player or for those visiting New Zealand. Below are our picks for the top five casino experiences in New Zealand.

Kiwi players have some great choices when it comes to live poker and casino experiences. With poker's growing popularity in New Zealand it is great that players have some amazing options close to home. While exotic destinations like Macau will always attract the high stakes sharks and Las Vegas will always be a major live play destination, New Zealand offers some fine live poker options for Kiwis with the itch to slide some chips across the felt.


5 - Christchurch Casino

Christchurch Casino

The number five casino for live players in New Zealand will have you heading to the eastern shore of the south island to New Zealand's third most populace area. The Christchurch Casino is 43,998 sq ft of game play and entertainment. Set in the city's Victoria Street District, Christchurch Casino, which opened in 1994, strives to the area's go-to entertainment destination offering visitors three restaurants, 4 bars, live sports on 140" giant screened TVs, live music on weekends, and most importantly to you, 36 game tables including tournament and cash Hold'em and Omaha games and over 500 slot machines. The casino is open weekday 11AM to 3AM and is open from 11AM Fridays until 3AM on Monday offering tourists and Kiwi regulars 24-hour play all weekend long.

Christchurch Casino attracts some of the biggest names in live and tournament poker play and plays host to the Wellington Poker Championship and is home to the New Zealand Poker Championship. While Christchurch doesn't tip the scales with the number of live tables, they do offer a rotating array of satellite tournaments and cash games. When there are tournaments scheduled during the day they endeavor to start live games by 6PM. Options available to players seeking live games are Texas Hold'em and Omaha. The stakes range from $1/$2 to $2/$5 for Hold'em with rakes at 10% with caps at $10/$15. The Omaha games go from $1/$2 rotational with Hold'em and $5/$5 pot-limit. Christchurch gets some extra points for their "learn how to play" poker instruction program that is available for newer players Friday to Sunday. A downside for Christchurch is that they had not separated off their poker room so there is a tendency for random patrons to wander through after getting their drinks. But the enterprising player might be able to encourage an inexperienced passerby to sit down and lose a few dollars at the table.

If you're in or around Christchurch and are looking for quality live poker play mixed with top-notch entertainment, look no further than Christchurch Casino. It is also notable that Christchurch Casino does employ a dress code to encourage a sense of appropriateness, so leave your sandals, beanies and ripped, frayed or stained clothing at home.

Christchurch Casino

30 Victoria Street
Christchurch Central
Christchurch 8013
New Zealand
PHONE: 64 3-365 9999
Website: www.christchurchcasino.co.nz/


4 – Skycity Wharf Casino

Skycity Wharf Casino

Stepping away from Christchurch, we travel to Queenstown for our number four casino stop in New Zealand. This listing is actually two separate facilities. The third spot is shared by the SkyCity Wharf Casino and the SkyCity Queenstown Casino located just a couple of minutes walk up Beach Street. The Queenstown Casino, being the smaller of the two properties offers game play Noon to 4AM daily. The Wharf Casino is open daily 11AM to 2AM. At the Queenstown casino you'll find the WildThyme restaurant serving regional classics and inspired contemporary cuisine. The Queenstown facility is 15,000 square feet housing over 80 gaming machines and 13 table games and boasts tables of Texas Hold'em and Caribbean Stud Poker. The Wharf Casino offers a smaller "boutique" casino experience for players with 70 machines and 6 tables including a dedicated Hold'em table, all with exquisite lakefront views.

Both facilities offer the SkyCity Premier Rewards Program. This is a great program that will provide bonus money to regular players or individuals buying drinks or food at the casino's eating and drinking establishments. Every dollar spent translates into Premier Points that will translate into bonus money returned to the player once a particular threshold is hit. The prime location and two-facility options afforded to players make the duo SkyCity casinos in Queenstown our fourth pick for New Zealand live casinos.

SKYCITY Wharf Casino
88 Beach Street, Steamers Wharf
Queenstown, 9300
Phone: 64 3 441-1495
Website: www.skycityqueenstown.co.nz/wharf-casino

SKYCITY Queenstown Casino
16-24 Beach Street,
Queenstown, 9300
Phone: +64 3 441 0400
Website: www.skycityqueenstown.co.nz


3 – Sky City Hamilton Casino

Sky City Hamilton Casino

Capturing the number three spot in our top Kiwi casinos for live poker play is the Sky City Entertainment Group's Hamilton Casino. The Sky City Hamilton Casino opened in 2002 and became New Zealand's third live casino destination. Like other Kiwi casinos, Sky City Hamilton is a clear focal point for the local community on social, gaming and entertainment levels. Although not nearly as big as their sister casino in Auckland, Sky City Hamilton offers a lot to players and visitors in its over 16,000 sq ft of casino space. They offer roughly 340 gaming machines and 23 live tables. Another unique feature of the casino is its floor to ceiling windows which offer its visitors spectacular views. Setting the Sky City Hamilton Casino apart from some of New Zealand's other casino options is that the facility is open 24 hours a day (with only a couple holiday closings). While the properties three bars and four restaurants will operate on separate hours, visitors and players can occupy their time at machines and tables day or night.

Sky City Hamilton offers a trio of poker games at regular tables. Walking into their card room you will be able to sit down and play Three-card poker, Caribbean Stud Poker and the expected Texas Hold'em at a variety of stakes. They also offer weekly Hold'em tournaments as well as low buy-in tournaments and satellite tournaments offering seats at larger events as prizes. Making poker (and other distractions) more appealing at SkyCity Hamilton is their Premier Rewards club program. When you sign up for Premier Rewards program you will receive a card that can be swiped at machine, presented at bars/restaurants or handed to dealers at a table game. For each $1 spent or for each game or hand played you will receive Premier Points. Every 100 Premier Points you accumulate $1 will be added to your account. It doesn't qualify as a windfall, but if you're going to spend money at the tables or on other entertainment, you might as well get some coming back to you.

SkyCity Hamilton
346 Victoria Street,
Hamilton, New Zealand
PHONE: 64 7 834-4900
Website: www.skycityhamilton.co.nz


2 – Dunedin Casino

Dunedin Casino

The first thing that will grab your attention about our number two Kiwi casino destination is its architecture. The Dunedin Casino is located in a building erected in 1883. They took great care to retain a lot of the building's original flair when the Dunedin Casino first opened its doors in 1999. The casino offers top-notch gaming paired with award-winning dining and bar service, and being located in the Southern Cross Hotel, the facility also offers opulent luxury accommodations as well. It is not the biggest casino in New Zealand, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up in style.

The Dunedin Casino, open from 11AM to 3AM daily, offers a variety of pokies and gaming machines as well as table games like roulette, baccarat, and the standard poker games. It holds about 180 machines and 12 tables for gaming. Your live poker appetite will be sated with tables geared for Caribbean Stud, Omaha, and Hold'em with a choice of stake levels. Dunedin Casino also offers a great reward program called Club Casino. It works similarly to other casino rewards programs. Somewhat unique to Club Casino is that in addition to generating points by playing games, making purchases of food and drink or exchanging the points for cash or food, but players are allowed to exchange points for prizes listed in a catalogue from the casino. The Dunedin Casino is highly praised by visitors far and wide for its presentation, comfort, and service to the players and patrons. Visitors to the Dunedin Casino are asked to observe the casino's dress code which calls for smart, neat attire at all times.

Dunedin Casino
118 High Street
Dunedin, Otago 9016
New Zealand
PHONE: 64 3 477-4545
Website: www.dunedincasino.co.nz


1 – Skycity Auckland

Skycity Auckland

This brings us to the top spot on our list of New Zealand casinos. Clearly the top dog in size, respect, and offerings is crown jewel in the SkyCity chain of gaming establishments, SkyCity Auckland. The facilities of SkyCity Auckland include a 700-seat theater, 12 restaurants and bars, and offers players accommodation choices at the two adjoining hotels. But, you're interested in the gaming. Well, SkyCity Auckland is your clear destination for that as well. The casino is the star attraction with over 1600 machines and over 100 tables for roulette, Black Jack and assorted poker offerings at a variety stakes. If your taste for gambling rests at a higher level, SkyCity Auckland offers a VIP Platinum Room that is geared toward the high-stakes gamblers. As of 2015, SkyCity Auckland is finishing up a state-of-the-art convention centre. The proposed centre would add 230 more machines and over 50 gaming tables. In addition, it is estimated that the new convention centre would return over $90 million to the local economy.

The SkyCity Auckland casino is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With the highest number of machines and tables available in the country, you are sure to find a seat and a game that suits your needs. The poker room is open from 5PM to late during the week and Noon to late on weekends. The casino offers the standard Hold'em, Caribbean Stud, Three-Card Poker, and adds a unique Ultimate Hold'em game in which a player will compete against the House (akin to Black Jack) in is somewhat abbreviated version of the popular game. It also offers Lunar Poker which is a 5-card game similarly played against the house and paying out higher returns for more powerful winning hands. When you select your table, make sure you check the sign to verify the stakes of that particular game as SkyCity Auckland offers a wide array of play levels. Just like the other SkyCity Entertainment properties, the Auckland casino also offers the highly-touted Premier Rewards Program for players and patrons.

The casino offers daily, weekly, and special event tournaments for the Texas Hold'em fans. The tournaments will range from low-stakes weekly events to satellite events for larger tournament. SkyCity Auckland also plays host to the prestigious NZPT SkyCity Festival of Poker. This is a five-day poker event consisting of a Main Event no-limit Hold'em tournament plus a series of side event tournaments.

If you are wanting to get a start on playing poker live, SkyCity Auckland offers one of the best programs around. Many casinos will offer brochures or videos to teach the basics of the various games and most dealers at the lower stakes tables are happy to help an inexperienced player understand the basic rules of the games. What SkyCity Auckland offers is a series of Learn To Play packages. These packages allow a player (or group of players) to have a dedicated private table to play at and a dealer who is trained to instruct new players on the finer points of the game. Another option is to hire a private coach that can work with you personally on your game play. This in depth training to promote understanding and quality play is one more reason that we rank SkyCity Auckland at the top of the heap when it comes to live casino play in New Zealand.

Skycity Auckland
Corner of Federal and Victoria Streets
Auckland 1010
New Zealand
Phone: 64 9 363-6000
Toll-Free in NZ: 0800 SKYCITY (08007592489)
Website: www.skycityauckland.co.nz

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