Having been to the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in the fall of 2022, we decided to take in a second “just over the border into West Virginia” poker experience by dropping into the Wheeling Island Casino poker room in October of 2023. Instead of taking an excursion from the Maryland line, now we crossed into West Virginia from Pennsylvania. We knew little of Wheeling West Virginia other than the fact that (we thought) it was the birthplace of Billy the Kid. At least it was according to a Billy Joel song. As it turns out, Billy Joel made that up. Once in Wheeling ourselves, we took a brief tour of downtown, grabbed some food, and then headed over to the casino.
Wheeling West Virginia is a little over an hour southwest of Pittsburgh. Once you get out of the Pittsburgh area, the drive is pretty easy, with lots of rolling hills and nice foliage in the early fall. Wheeling itself does not have a lot going on. The downtown was as desolate and unpopulated as any small city I have ever seen on a Saturday afternoon. The main road in the center of town was ripped up from construction and looked like the project was a long way from completion.
We stopped by the Wheeling Artisan Center which only had a single store and the “artisan” part was a bit of a stretch. There was a nice small market with healthy and fresh goods across the street with a really good roots band playing in the common area. But Wheeling is not a mecca of activity, it turns out.
The casino is only five minutes from downtown. You cross a bridge from Wheeling onto an island (who knew?!). Then pass through a small neighborhood on the main road and start to wonder whether you have gone the correct way. Trust that you have. At the end of the street, a surprisingly nice and moderate-sized casino awaits. The grounds around the casino appear very well-kept.
The Wheeling Island Casino is an all-service casino with a significant number of slots and about 15 table games. There are several dining options including a buffet, a sports bar, a food court, and a slightly more upscale restaurant (The Pointe). The food court was populated by interesting local operators. Adjacent to the casino sits a greyhound racing track and simulcast area that was very active on the Saturday we visited. Heather even put down a twenty on a dog! Sadly, it came in last.
Wheeling Island casino has its own attached small hotel which gets reasonable ratings on Hotels.com. The hotel is “adults only” – no one under 21 is allowed to stay. Probably not much reason for families to stay at this hotel anyway. There is really nothing other than the casino and a football field on Wheeling Island.
Wheeling Island Casino Poker Room Comfort
The Wheeling Island Casino’s nine table poker room sits in a remote corner of the casino. It is completely open to the casino floor, although it is at least in a non-smoking area which helps with the air quality. There is a half wall that offers some visual separation from the casino floor. There are only a couple of TVs on one wall. Loud classic rock was piped in to the casino during our visit. This was not entirely unpleasant but combined with the slot machines, it made for a pretty jarring environment.
The tables are pretty tightly packed in a small space. The room is dark despite the high ceilings with an open industrial design. However, the lighting on the tables compensate for that a bit. The chairs are very basic (no wheels, not adjustable) but fairly well-padded. Tables, chips, and cards are all branded. The tables sports nice-looking clean felts. There are no USB ports or cupholders, but rails are padded. Most of the chips were clean during our visit, but a few needed a wash.
Play in the poker room is 9-handed. The poker room is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays at all, and does not open until 5pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Poker Room Staff
Sitting on the sidelines of play, the dealers seemed skilled enough. The floor who was overseeing the two table tournament and the one table of cash play, was circulating a bit. He was observing the tournament and seemed to be available in case an issue arose. Wait staff circulated the tables at least twice while I waited for an open seat. Unfortunately, because I never got off the waitlist, I can not comment much on the quality of the dealers.
Players at Wheeling Island Casino Poker Room
Players at the Wheeling Island Casino poker room skewed quite old. There were a few women playing in the tournament, but none at the cash table. There was no turnover on the cash table for the hour or so that I waited for an open seat.
The Saturday at 1pm $145 ($125 entry plus $20 staff add-on) green chip ($25) bounty tournament sported 18 players spread across two tables. Players start with 30K chips (including add-on) and there are 15-minute blinds. On Sundays, the tournament costs $170 ($150 plus $20 staff add) with a 30K starting stack and 15-minute blinds. There is no bounty in the Sunday tournament.
Cash Game Activity
On the early Saturday afternoon of our visit, the Wheeling Island Casino poker room was running one active $1/$3 cash table during the hour we were there. A second table did not seem even close to starting after I gave up after an hour on the waitlist.
From our recent tracking of cash games (see our cash game activity update), the Wheeling Island Casino poker room has only 1-2 tables of $1/$3 going on most days when it is open, but will get up to 3 tables on Friday and Saturday nights. They rarely, if ever, spread any other games.
Overall Assessment of Wheeling Island Casino Poker Room
The Wheeling Island Casino poker room is a humble little slice of a casino floor. The room is nothing fancy: open to the casino with very basic comforts. Clearly, poker is not a major priority at the casino. The poker room is not very active, with only 1-3 tables of $1/$3 cash poker on Friday and Saturday evenings. The weekly Saturday and Sunday afternoon tournaments appear to be pretty small events.
In short, if you happen to be in Wheeling West Virginia on a Friday or Saturday night, sure, you may be able to drop in and grab some cash play. And if you want to visit one of the last casinos in America to feature greyhound races, this might be the place for you. But this is not a room to put on your poker bucket list.
The Wheeling Island Casino poker room is a humble little slice of a casino floor. The room is nothing fancy: open to the casino with very basic comforts. Clearly, poker is not a major priority at the casino. The poker room is not very active, with 1-3 tables of $1/$3 cash with Friday and Saturday evenings being the peak times.