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Canterbury Park Review: Minnesota Live Poker? You Betcha!

Minnesota Map

ProfessionalRakeback is focused on all things related to online poker sites. Indeed, the ambit of our interests extends to all sorts of related topics as well, such as online casino games, major live poker festivals, and not least, brick-and-mortar cardrooms where you can physically sit next to the fish rather than merely viewing them on your computer screen. It was this interest in terrestrial poker rooms that led us to the Canterbury Park Poker Room in Shakopee, MN, just southwest of Minneapolis.

Canterbury Park is a racetrack that operates as a racino – that is, it's legally allowed to offer casino table games in addition to parimutuel wagering on horse races. Slots, bingo, and video poker are excluded from its product offerings, but fortunately, peer-to-peer poker is allowed at racinos according to Minnesota law, and Canterbury Park takes full advantage of this fact.

Keep reading our Canterbury Park Poker review to learn all about the games spread, promotions, tournaments, and other details of this racino/poker parlor in the Minnesota River Valley.

Canterbury Park Poker Review

Website: https://www.canterburypark.com/cards/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/canterburypark/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CanterburyPark
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/canterburypark/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/canterburypark
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/265993921715284200/
Location: Shakopee, MN, about 25 miles southwest of the center of Minneapolis
Hours: 24/7
Promos: High Hand, Progressive Board, Bad Beat Jackpot, Tournament Jackpot, MVP point comps
Tables: 32
Rake: 10% to $4 + $2 promo drop (low stakes), $10/30 min. time charge (high stakes)
Miscellaneous: Restrooms near poker room. A couple dozen televisions inside the room. No smoking.
Food/Beverage: Food and drink delivered tableside but must pay for both
Pros: Wide range of fixed-limit games, many interesting promos, good comp earning rate
Cons: Only low-stakes big-bet poker, few dining options

Canterbury Park Poker Room Location

The Canterbury Park cardroom is adjacent to the Canterbury Park racetrack in Shakopee, a suburb of Minneapolis. It's just north of U.S. Highway 169 and about 15 miles southwest of the Minneapolis city limits.

There are no accommodations connected to Canterbury Park, but there are about a dozen motels and hotels within a 10-minute drive, and restaurants both no-frills and upscale abound in Shakopee. It's basically about what you would expect for a fairly prosperous suburban community, and so you have access to the typical amenities and services that you would figure to encounter in such a location.

Canterbury Park Exterior ImageCanterbury Park in Shakopee, MN

Canterbury Park Cards contains both casino table games as well as poker, and there's no physical barrier between the two. Once you pass through the main entrance, you'll walk through the casino games area as you proceed to the back. Then turn left, and you'll be facing the poker section and its 32 tables.

Canterbury Park Games

Strange as it may seem in the current poker environment, No Limit Texas Hold'em isn't really a prominent cash game at Canterbury Park. Due to unusual provisions of Minnesota law (which we'll explain later on), it's difficult to run true NL-style poker. Therefore, the bulk of the tables running at any given time are for limit games. Tables are eight-handed.

Limit Games Roundup

$3/$6 is the most popular Limit Hold'em stake, and there are usually between two and four games running. At least one $8/$16 table is generally going around the clock too. Both of these blind levels typically feature a kill.

$10/$20, $20/$40, $40/$80, and $50/$100 LHE also start up sometimes although between these four blind levels, there's usually only one or two tables active.

You will often see one populated game of $6/$12 Omaha/8. Mixed games occur frequently too with $40/$80 or $50/$100 filling up on weekends and evenings and a secondary table of $10/$20 sometimes starting. The exact mixture of games in the rotation depends upon the preferences of the individuals at the table, but Limit Hold'em, Limit Omaha-8, Stud/8, and 2-7 Triple Draw are some of the crowd's favorites.

Canterbury Park advertises the ability to deal 7 Card Stud, but we've only ever saw one small-stakes game of seven card poker run. Stud and its variants (Stud 8 and Razz) appear to be mostly played as part of a Mixed Game rotation as described above.

Spread Limit

Canterbury Park is one of the Minnesota poker rooms that feature spread limit games. This is a workaround to the Minnesota law that racino poker is limited to a maximum bet or raise of $100. With stacks of $200 - $400, which is what most people buy in with in a $1/$2 blinds game, the restriction of $100 per bet/raise gives sufficient betting leeway to create what is effectively a No Limit game in all but name.

Canterbury offers Spread Limit $2 - $100 Hold'em, and it's often the most widespread game in the house with more than half a dozen tables sometimes simultaneously running. $2 - $100 Spread Limit Omaha Hi has its adherents too although this game runs only sporadically.

Both of these games have blinds of $1/$2. With the max bet capped at $100, any higher blinds would transform the game into something totally different from NL. There may or may not be merits to such higher-stakes spread limit games, but they have not caught on at Canterbury, which seems to always run spread limit with $1/$2 blinds exclusively. Straddling UTG for $4 is permitted in this game.

Poker Rake

At the smallest stakes, anything below $8/$16, the rake is 10% up to $4. There's an additional promo drop of $1 whenever a flop is seen and a further $1 when the pot hits $15. This is about standard for low-limit live poker.

Higher games, those above $8/$16, levy a time charge of $10 every half hour instead of a traditional rake. This works out better in the long run than a rake for all but the nittiest players.

$8/$16 has its own rake structure: 5% up to $4 plus the promo drop of up to $2. This is pretty decent and is better than most B&M cardrooms.

Survival Tournaments

The clever folks at Canterbury have come up with another way to circumvent the betting maximums established under Minnesota law. Their survival tournaments are a reasonable solution to hosting NL ring games above the $1/$2 level.

They are called “survival tournaments,” and tournaments they are – barely. Essentially, a survival tournament is a tourney that has been adjusted to incorporate as many features of a cash game as possible while still technically fitting the definition of a tournament. In many ways, these survival games are similar to the Live Cage events hosted by the Winning Poker Network.

Entrants pay a buyin of $500, $1,000, or $2,500 to play a survival, and the tournament starts whenever a table fills. The players decide the length of the tournament, but it must be at least two hours, and there's an entry fee of $25 per hour. Each player receives a number of chips equal to the buyin value.

After each hour of play, a new round starts at a blind level marginally higher than the previous one. For instance, the blinds might start at $2/$5 in a $500 survival and then increase to $3/$5 for the second hour. Any time a player has less than the starting buyin amount in chips, they may rebuy and pay a $10 fee.

The survival tournament ends after the designated time period is over. All remaining participants then trade their tournament chips in for an equivalent number of dollars.

Because the restrictive betting rules pertaining to Minnesota poker only apply to cash games, survival tournaments are exempt from them. This means that they can feature true No Limit and/or Pot Limit betting structures.

Canterbury Park says that survival tournaments are available on Fridays and Saturdays at 5 p.m. Actual availability varies depending on the number of people who sign up and what game/buyin they wish to play.

Tournaments

There's at least one low-stakes tournament per day in the regular weekly tournament schedule at Canterbury Park. The smallest are the Sunday 6:30 p.m. and Monday 10:30 a.m. unlimited re-entry $85 buyin MTTs ($61 prize pool + $15 entry fee + $2 tournament jackpot + $7 staff appreciation). Tournaments get larger on other days of the week, culminating in the Saturday 10:30 a.m. $250 Deep Stack. Most of these tourneys attract between 40 and 120 entrants.

During certain times of year, the normal weekly schedule is partially or totally replaced by series events, such as during the Spring Poker Championship Series, which culminates in a $1,110 two-day Main Event. Canterbury also participates in regional series like the Mid-States Poker Tour and the Minnesota State Poker Championship.

Canterbury CardsThe Poker Area at Canterbury Park

Canterbury Poker Promotions

The promotional rake of up to $2 per hand is used to fund a variety of promos. The currently active promos at Canterbury Park are:

High Hand

The High Hand is active every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The highest cash game hand every hour wins $200. The minimum qualifying hand is Aces full of Deuces. In case multiple hands of the same rank are hit during the hour, only the first one gets a prize. Should there be no qualifying hands during a High Hand period, the $200 prize pool is not carried over to the next hour.

Late Night Progressive Board

For the night owls among us, Canterbury Poker has established a series of 10 separate progressive jackpots that pay out for straight flushes in hearts. Every straight flush from Ah-2h-3h-4h-5h to Th-Jh-Qh-Kh-Ah has its own jackpot available, and they're ready for players to hit between 10 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. every night.

Each jackpot begins at $100. Once a jackpot is hit, it becomes temporarily deactivated until the entire pool is reseeded. Every day, $100 is added, divided evenly among the remaining jackpots. Once all 10 of these jackpots have been hit, they are all reseeded at $100 apiece.

Bad Beat Jackpot

Canterbury Park has established not one, nor two, but three Bad Beat Jackpots for its cash game players. Actually, survival tournaments count too in addition to regular ring games. One of the jackpots is for Hold'em, another pays out to Omaha players, and a third is devoted to Stud.

The Texas Hold'em jackpot is triggered by any quads beaten at showdown, and Seven Card Stud uses the same guideline. The Omaha jackpot requires a higher threshold of quad Jacks beaten to activate. Both hole cards must be used to compose the final hand.

Whenever a jackpot is hit, it awards the loser of the hand 50% of the jackpot pool, 25% to the winner, and 25% split up among the others at the table. The jackpots tend to be in the mid-five figure range, but occasionally, they exceed $100,000.

Tournament Jackpot

Any number of live cardrooms boast cash game bad beat jackpots, but few of them extend the jackpot possibilities to tournament players as Canterbury does. As of April 2022, the Tournament Jackpot is open to entrants in seven specific weekly tournaments although the particular events that qualify are subject to change.

The Tournament Jackpot pays out whenever quads goes to showdown and loses. However, both hole cards must be used in both hands. According to the Canterbury Park Cards website, this jackpot pays “40-20-20-20,” but it's not clear what this means.

The jackpot is funded by a $2 charge collected at the time of tournament registration. All re-entries also must pay this $2.

MVP point comps

Anyone who signs up for the MVP Rewards Program (for free) can earn comps while at the poker tables. As you play more and more, the rate of comp accrual increases.

At first, as a “Classic” member, you will only get $0.40/hour in food vouchers. However, once you play as little as four hours of poker in a year, you will advance to “Bronze” tier where you will collect $2/hr in food credits.

As you advance to “Silver” and “Gold,” you will get an even better rate of return. At “Gold,” you will be able to redeem $2.80 in food comps per hour of play.

In addition, members of MVP Rewards get a discount on food and drink that starts at 5% off and goes up to 20%. Thus, your comps are really worth more than their face value of, e.g., $2/hr might suggest.

There are additional items you can exchange your reward points for, like the daily racing form or casino table free bets. Nevertheless, food vouchers are the most popular and versatile points redemption option.

Canterbury Park Poker Room Atmosphere

Canterbury Park is first and foremost a racetrack with a cardroom just tacked on, and this helps to explain why there doesn't appear to be any specific theme or unique characteristics in the décor or arrangement of the space. The vibe is just a general casino atmosphere although a bit quieter than usual because of the lack of slots and video poker machines.

The tables and seats are comfortable and functional without much to really distinguish them from other rooms apart from silhouette images of race horses on the table felt. There are neither phone chargers nor cup holders at the tables. One oddity is that there's no betting line on the tables, but this isn't as much of an issue as one would think; for the most part, the verbal communications and gestures of the players make it clear what actions they're taking at any point during a hand.

One minor annoyance is the prevalence of $2 chips in low-blind games particularly the $2 - $100 Spread Hold'em. Indeed, some individuals' entire stacks were composed entirely of $2 chips. With a bright yellow hue, offset by brown highlights, these chips manage the non-trivial feat of being reminiscent of multiple forms of human excrement at the same time. Seeing hundreds of dollars' worth of $2 chips piled atop each other in a pot is certainly an eye-jarring experience.

$1 Poker Chip From Canterbury ParkThe $1 Chip Is Fortunately More Aesthetically Pleasing Than the $2 Chip

The action in low-blind games is about par for the course with frequent limping, multi-way pots, and straddling. Some of the higher-stakes tables at $20/$40 and above see more competent play, however, with a cast of regulars turning up day after day hoping to fleece the occasional fish.

Almost everyone in the room – players, dealers, staff members – appears to subscribe to the philosophy of “Minnesota nice.” Disputes at the tables are rare and are generally resolved to everyone's satisfaction by the dealer without the intervention of floor staff. Newcomers to the room are made to feel comfortable, and their questions, no matter how basic, are answered with a combination of friendliness and patience.

The dealers are competent and mostly able to keep the pace of the game fast. All the routine tasks involved with dealing, like making change, handling side pots, and reading hands at showdown, are performed speedily and almost always without error.

Food and Drink

You can order food and drink and have them delivered to you at the table. However, drinks are not free as they are in many poker halls throughout the country. Instead, the waiter or waitress will take your order, go gather your food and/or beverages, bring them to you, and inform you of how much you need to pay.

Most of these orders are fulfilled at Chips Bar, which is right next to the poker room. This restaurant offers burgers, pizza, soup, sandwiches, and similar items. Prices are reasonable for a casino with a pizza or burger costing around $10 and a bowl of soup or fries about $5. The quality of the food is much better than expected for the price.

There are other restaurants on premises, but they are only open during racing season or for special events. This is a minor drawback because as good as Chips is, it's better to have some dining variety to choose from.

Additional Info

Buying chips is handled by chip runners. They don't have to run very far, though, because they have carts full of chips that they move around with them as they canvass the room. Sometimes, when you hear your name called from the waitlist, you'll find a chip runner already waiting for you next to your seat at the table, which is very convenient.

Even when the chip runner doesn't have chips immediately on hand, there's seldom a wait of more than a minute or two before they're able to get chips and deliver them. During this interval, which usually lasts no more than two hands, cash plays at the table.

Redeeming your chips is performed at the main casino cage. There are usually several windows open and not much of a line, so this chore is quickly and easily accomplished.

Restrooms are near the middle of the poker room. The entire Canterbury Park Cards facility is non-smoking. This means patrons must step outside if they wish to enjoy a cigarette – a fine proposition during the summer perhaps but slightly unpleasant during bitter Minnesota winters.

History of Canterbury Park

After Minnesota voters approved pari-mutuel wagering in a 1982 referendum, Canterbury Downs opened for business in 1985. It was just a racetrack at this point with no casino games or poker. Adverse business trends made the track a dicey economic venture for several years after its debut, and it changed hands a number of times until 1994 when it became a publicly traded corporation (CPHC).

The addition of simulcast betting in 1994 seemed to be the spark that Canterbury needed to turn its flagging fortunes around. Shortly thereafter, the name was officially changed from Canterbury Downs to Canterbury Park. In addition, the racetrack was granted some tax relief by the governor in 1996.

1999 brought more welcome news as the MN legislature approved of card games taking place at racetracks. In April 2000, poker came to Canterbury Park, and it has been there ever since.

At first, the maximum single wager was set at $30, restricting cardrooms to only smaller stakes. This has since been increased to $60 and then $100. There's now scope for high-stakes limit games and a sufficient betting range to make spread limit viable.

Canterbury Park Poker Conclusion

With a friendly ambiance, competent dealing staff, and more tables than any other poker room in Minnesota, Canterbury Park is a solid poker venue. However, it's hampered by state laws, which make all but the smallest big-bet games impossible.

At the same time, the lineup of limit games is pretty robust and certainly more expansive than anything we would expect to find outside Nevada and New Jersey. If you're interested mostly in playing Limit Hold'em or mixed games, then Canterbury Park may well be enough to satisfy you. It's probably also fine for those looking to play $1/$2 NL because the $2 - $100 spread limit game is basically the same thing.

However, fans of larger NL action will probably be disappointed because even stakes of $2/$4 are too big to be captured effectively in the spread limit system with a $100 max bet. The innovative Survival tournaments are a potential remedy, but they only run infrequently and on an unpredictable schedule.

Another weakness is the fact that the card room basically stands on its own. It's not part of an integrated resort, and so the fine dining, spa, and hotel accommodations that you might have become accustomed to as a baller are absent from Canterbury Park. No free drinks at the tables either, darn!

Other Players' Opinions

Though we have attempted to perform an exhaustive review of the Canterbury poker room, we realize that our limited reviewing time may have caused us to overlook a few details. Therefore, we looked throughout the internet for comments from other real-life players to supplement our own opinions. You can find a selection of these posts reproduced below:

Review of Canterbury Park on PokerAtlas
Comment About Canterbury Park on Google
Facebook Comment Regarding Canterbury Park
Twoplustwo Post on Canterbury Park

Head Online for the Games YOU Want

Canterbury Park is a good place to go for an exciting game of poker – assuming, that is, the stakes and format you're looking for are actually among the sometimes-unusual list of tables running at the venue. If not, then you'll have made the trip for nothing and will have to return home dejected (or else degen your money away in the racebook or on -EV casino games).

Online, there's a greater range of formats and blind levels offered, making it much easier to find a game that matches your preferences. Furthermore, you won't have to spend money on gas, put up with high live rake, or bother with any of the other annoyances of brick-and-mortar poker.

To find out more about how to get started playing poker over the internet, check out our guide to online poker for American players. Rest assured, this pastime is fully legal as you'll realize if you read this informative article about online poker and the law.

Other Live Poker Room Reviews:

Photo of Jake Rake

Jake Rake is the head poker writer at ProfessionalRakeback.com.

He eats, sleeps and breathes poker and online gaming. This is a man who reads every online poker forum morning, noon, and night, for the last 17 years, trying to find fun and interesting information to share with our readers.

Jake has become an ardent student of crypto-currency since it was first introduced in the online poker world in 2013 and he thus has eight years experience covering this field!

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