Thoughts on my first time at Mad Earl poker, plus info on a charity poker tournament and a tattoo convention

Last night I played poker at the Mad Earl for the first time. I’ll share my thoughts on the game at the end of this post, but first of all I want to mention a charity poker tournament I was told about while playing. It will be this Saturday, September 28, at the Hard Rock Cafe to benefit Mid-South Pride. The grand prize will be $500 in Amazon gift cards, with 2nd through 8th place also receiving prizes. Pre-registration and mixer at 4 PM, and play begins at 6. $35 pre-registration, $45 at the door if space available (limited to 50 players), $20 add-ons and re-entry. Go to for more details.

The first annual Memphis Tattoo Arts Convention happens Friday-Sunday, October 18-20 at the Cook Convention Center. There will be tattoo contests, seminars, live music, vendors, and of course tattoo artists. Featured artists include Amy Nicoletto from LA Ink, Alli Baker from Best Ink, and James Vaughn from Ink Master. Reverend Horton Heat will play Friday the 18th at 9 PM.

The remainder of this post will be a review of my experience playing poker at the Mad Earl. They have games at 6:30 and 8:30 on Monday, run by the River Rat Rounders. I have played at the other Downtown locations that run live poker nights (Silly Goose, Blind Bear, Double J, Jerry Lee Lewis). My assessment of Mad Earl poker is that it’s not better or worse, but different, and everyone who enjoys the aforementioned games should try Mad Earl at least once to see if they like it.

The first-place prize in the games is an Amazon gift card. That’s a good prize because people from out of town who stop in and play will have a much easier time redeeming their prize than if they win bar bucks. Starting stack is 1500 – only 30 big blinds at the first level of 25/50 – but there are a ton of ways to earn extra chips. These include using your card guard, bringing a new player, wearing River Rat apparel, putting a sticker on your car, arriving early to help set up, answering trivia questions, buying the featured shot, buying food, putting money in the jukebox, checking in on Facebook, and bringing cash game or tournament slips from Harrah’s. By the time I got all the “extras” I’d qualified for, I had a starting stack of 4000, or 80 big blinds. Matt who runs the game told me that the Nuh-Uh Girl is usually there on Mondays, although this week she’s in California. Since you get extra chips for buying food, I would imagine she’s the chip leader at the tables most weeks.

When you get to the final table at a weekly game, you earn points toward the 12-week league final table that encompasses all the games the River Rat Rounders run. Grand prize at the final table is an entry to the Harrah’s $15,000 Guarantee Tournament in Tunica.

As for the playing experience, I really enjoyed it. Everyone was super-nice, from Matt who was running the game to Clay who runs the Mad Earl (and who played at my table) to the people behind the bar. The players were a mixture of good and inexperienced, typical of what you see in bar games. It seems like there is less random, kamikaze play from people who should know better compared to the other bar poker games Downtown (this is why I’ve quit coming to a few of them). The game was over in just over 2 hours.

The Mad Earl handles latecomers differently than the other Downtown games. They placed stacks at the empty seats, and dealt them in and blinded them off. So, if you want to show up 30 minutes late, you can do that, but you might be starting with a stack of 1250 rather than 1500. I LIKE THAT. LIKE IT A LOT.

They also have two decks running simultaneously so less time is wasted on shuffling. As the dealer dealt, the small blind would be shuffling the other deck, to have it ready for when he/she became the dealer next hand. Of course, as the shots started flowing, people would forget to shuffle, but for a while it worked. As soon as the first person got eliminated from the final table, Matt sat down and dealt for us.

All in all, I enjoyed the game at the Mad Earl. I won’t be there all the time since I have a standing non-poker engagement on Mondays (Pint Nite at the Saucer) but now and then I’ll be back. (Disclosure: When I went to pay my tab after the game, they told me I didn’t have one.)

Oh, one other very important piece of information I forgot to mention: They have PBR on draft.

Downtown poker players: I’ll be playing at the Blind Bear game tonight at 8. I’ll get there a few minutes early, so if you have any questions about the Mad Earl game you can ask me then.