By Scott Long
New Mexico is an arid state with beautiful deserts and forests, influenced by a rich, tribal heritage. Colorado to the north features the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains, with tiny towns that celebrate its role in the gold and silver rushes of the 1800s. Both share a border, and a tournament-hungry poker population that supports many options for rounders.
Albuquerque is the heartbeat of the poker action in the Land of Enchantment, but you won’t want to miss rooms to the north and south of the state’s largest city. Tournaments rule the tables in this state, but cash-game players should relish rakes that rarely exceed $3 a pot.
Buffalo Thunder Resort | 877.848.6337
buffalothunderresort.com | @BTRpoker
The only poker action near the capital city of Santa Fe, this resort just hired casino veteran Larry Mundy to oversee its new room, which will open on Oct. 1 but have a soft opening on Sept. 21. Cash players can hit a progressive bad-beat jackpot and are entered in a $5,000 freeroll tournament for 50 hours of play. Splash the Pot will be offered during NFL games, and aces cracked payouts are offered during specified times Monday-Thursday. Tournaments are 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and the last Saturday of the month is a deepstack tournament (Sept. 29, 1 p.m.) with 15K chips/20-minute levels. All players enjoy plush accommodations, tableside food and beverage service and several TVs to watch.
Hard Rock Albuquerque | 505.724.3800
hardrockcasinoabq.com | @abqhardrock
Dave Holliday has seen a lot in his long poker career, and it shows in how he runs the Isleta Poker Room. The room is near the casino floor, but enclosed by doors for a quieter poker experience.
Tournaments with $20-$50 buy-ins are at 2 and 7 p.m. daily, many with rebuys and/or add-ons and some with house-added money. Bigger events are a couple of times every year in the nearby ballroom, and draw hundreds of entrants. Cash games feature buy-ins as little as $20, with no maximum on no-limit games. Beverage and affordable food service is available in the room, as is a bad-beat jackpot with a liberal qualifier.
Inn of the Mountain Gods | 800.545.9011
innofthemountaingods.com | @innofthemtgods
The southernmost poker room in the state, set high in the Sacramento Mountains of the Mescalero Apache Reservation, Inn of the Mountain Gods features new dealer’s choice live-game spreads with half hold’em and half Omaha/8. Any quads or better earn cash, and the bad-beat jackpot is aces full of 10s beaten by quads. Tournaments are daily, with $20 single-table shootouts at noon on weekdays and $25-$55 events in the evenings except Saturdays. Qualifiers for the $550 buy-in Inn of the Mountain Gods $100K Poker Championship on Sept. 28 are several times a week for $60.
Route 66 Casino Hotel | 505.352.7866
rt66casino.com | @rt66casinohotel
This Albuquerque room, quietly set behind an Irish bar, carries that theme throughout the room in fine fashion. The room features high-hand, bad-beat and aces-cracked cash-game promotions, with additional promotions on Tuesdays, but it caters to the tournament player. Tournaments are daily, with two a day on Mondays and Tuesdays and three on Wednesdays. Buy-ins are $25-$40, with many events featuring house-seeded prize pools or high-hand bonuses. The room also does big events, including a Heartland Poker Tour event won by world champion Greg Raymer.
Northern Edge Navajo Casino | 505.960.7000
The newest casino in New Mexico is also the farthest north, not far from the Colorado border, just five miles southwest of Farmington on the vast Navajo Nation. The six-table room features cash games and tournaments, with plans by manager Myron Yazzie to bring even more promotions, tournaments and World Series satellites to the room.
Sandia Resort & Casino | 505.796.7500
This Albuquerque room is the biggest in the state, and like all others, tournaments are king. Four times a year it features its $150 Play with the Big Dogs tournament, which has satellites every Monday. Other large tournaments are held throughout the year. Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings feature $40 tournaments with $300 in house money added, and $50 tournaments are Thursday evenings. There’s a $40 Omaha event the first and last Wednesday of the month.
Santa Ana Star Casino | 505.771.5353
santaanastar.com | @SASPokerGuy
This Albuquerque room isn’t bashful about telling you why you should play there (just ask for the flier), and it’s equally aggressive in designing unique promotions and tournaments. Promotions include the requisite bad-beat jackpot and high hands, but also feature more than $5,000 drawings on Saturdays, up to $200 back for playing 40 hours or more and flop bonuses every day but Saturday. A $30 tournament with a $20 add-on is 11 a.m. every day, plus a nightly tournament. Thursday’s Head Hunter features bounties, Saturday’s Survivor means you just have to make it to the top 10 percent and in Tuesday’s “Trash Talk” event, you can slow-play and egg on opponents without penalty.
You have two regions to get your card fix in the Centennial State. Black Hawk, a small mining town west of Denver, has the largest concentration, but don’t miss Cripple Creek, which is south of the capital city near Colorado Springs. Bad-beat jackpots in Colorado borrow from the state’s famous landscape, with cloud-clearing amounts of $600K or more in a room.
Ameristar Black Hawk | 720.946.4000
ameristar.com/Black_Hawk.aspx | @ameristarBH
You won’t find tournaments here because it’s just too busy with cash games. The well-appointed room consistently packs players in with a variety of live games, including some at nosebleed stakes, which can be a challenge with Colorado’s $100 bet limit.
Golden Gates Casino | 303.582.5600
thegoldengatescasino.com | @thegoldengates
This Black Hawk poker room is the place for tournaments. You’ll find four of them every day, and all allow late entry through the second break. The 10 a.m. events are $40, while the 3 p.m. ones are $70. Tournaments also are at noon and 7 p.m., with varying buy-ins and level lengths. The noon events are $80 most days, but $160 on Fridays, $210 on Saturdays and $310 on Sundays with as many as 40K units to start. The 7 p.m. tournaments are $130 most nights, but $160 on Fridays and Saturdays. Weekend events routinely get more than 100 players. The room hosts the biggest fields for Heartland Poker Tour events (next one is Sept. 3-17, with a $1 million prize pool expected), and three times a year runs its Colorado Poker Championship events. Cash players with at least 20 hours a week earn additional cash back on top of the $2 per hour in comps.
Isle Black Hawk | 800.843.4753
black-hawk.isleofcapricasinos. com | @blackhawkpoker
The newest room in Black Hawk has a self-contained bar away from the bustle of the rest of the casino. The room hosts a World Poker Tour Regional event twice a year, and gives players a free buffet for playing in its 10 a.m. $45 Omaha/8 tournament on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The room offers several cash-game promotions, including Aces Cracked on Mondays and Wednesday, Splash the Pot on Tuesdays and Fridays and bonuses for winning 7-2 hands on Saturdays and Sundays. Players get free hot dogs and soup while playing and discounted hotel rooms with four hours of play Sundays through Thursdays.
Lady Luck Casino | 303.582.2141
black-hawk-ladyluck.isleofcapr icasinos.com | @ladyluckbh
Manager Deb Johnson, a veteran of the Denver-area poker scene, takes great pride in making this Black Hawk casino that shares ownership with Isle “the friendliest poker room in Black Hawk.” Johnson has carved out a niche for the small room as the place to play for low limits. Its $2-$5 spread-limit game takes only a $3 rake, the best in town. It’s also the only room in Black Hawk with a room share for its bad-beat jackpot: 50 percent split among all players in live games. Also, the house funds an $8K pool for players who have full houses beaten. Several comp promotions run throughout the week to augment the $2 per hour players get. Players 50 and older get $10 food vouchers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and players 49 and younger get the same treatment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Bus redemption vouchers and $10 bounce-back coupons also are available. Tournaments are daily.
Midnight Rose | 800.635.5825
The largest poker room in Cripple Creek features nine tables, a large bad-beat jackpot and other promotions. Tournaments are every night at 7:30 (5:30 on weekends) with $20-$80 buy-ins. Some tournaments have rebuys, guaranteed prize pools or bounties.
Lodge Casino Black Hawk | 303.582.1771
thelodgecasino.com | @lodgecasino
Tim Mix, the former tournament director at Venetian Las Vegas, recently took over this 12-table Black Hawk room that offers free snacks to players. Cash-game players also get $2 an hour in comps or $1 in cash, and can double that if they’re a member of the Premium Choice Club. At press time, this room has the largest bad-beat jackpot in Black Hawk. Tournaments are 11 a.m. daily for $55, and 2 p.m. for $70 Sunday-Thursday and $90 on Fridays and Saturdays. At 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, $90 tournaments are offered.
Reserve Casino Hotel | 303.582.0800
reservecasinohotel.com | @ReserveCasino
The Central City casino recently opened a four-table boutique poker room that features a Jackpot Vault, which consists of 14 quads or better jackpots and one main bad-beat jackpot. Aces always win from noon to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, plan to be there at 7 p.m. every Friday for “poker parties” featuring free food and $50 to the high hand every hour from 7-11 p.m.hour in comps or $1 in cash, and can double that if they’re a member of the Premium Choice Club.
Tournaments are 11 a.m. daily for $55, and 2 p.m. for $70 Sunday-Thursday and $90 on Fridays and Saturdays. At 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, $90 tournaments are offered.
Other Colorado poker rooms
WHERE: Cripple Creek
WHERE: Cripple Creek
Sky Ute Casino
WHERE: Cripple Creek