Poker players are getting better in Black Hawk

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Is low-stakes play, especially on the weekdays, attracting stronger players at Black Hawk/Central City rooms?

That may be just one man’s opinion, but Eduardo Breta says it’s true: Inexpensive cash games in the hills aren’t as soft as they used to be on the weekdays. From $2-5 spread limit hold’em at the Lady Luck to $2-$5 Omaha/8 at the Lodge, these low-stakes weekday games have started to draw stronger players (and more players) in recent months, Breta said.

“It’s just been really noticeable if you’ve been coming here for a while,” said Breta, a personal trainer who lives in Boulder and plays in Black Hawk about every other weekend. “You didn’t have to used to be so selective, but it’s a little tougher now.”

Breta, 27, said it isn’t something that’s happened overnight, just a gradual change over the past six to nine months: “Yeah, it’s weird; people were saying poker’s dying off (as a trend), but I think it’s just more concentrated now, more guys know what they’re doing, and we’re getting more younger guys coming up.”

Breta said he’s surprised it’s taken so long for some of the soft games to disappear. When local laws changed in July 2009 to dump the 18-year-old $5 maximum bet limit in favor of a $100 max bet, the poker scene obviously changed overnight.

The immediate effect was to open up a loft of soft low-limit games on the tables, Breta said. Someone with a flexible schedule, a personal trainer, just for example, could pop up and find a lot of attractive options for games. Now? Not so much. For a while, Breta said, the proliferation of substantial bad-beat jackpots tended to attract a lot of fish, but that wave appears to be passing. Regardless, Breta believes the area will see a resurgence of soft games in time: “Online poker’s coming back soon, no question,” he said. “There’s too much money to be made. And that’s going to get more people into it.”

WPT REGIONAL: It’s time for the second half of Black Hawk’s big-time event doubleheader. After September’s extremely popular Heartland Poker Tour stop at the Golden Gates, dubbed the Mile High Poker Open, it’s now time for the World Poker Tour Regional event at the Isle.

The Colorado Poker Showdown has been cranking through qualifiers in recent months, and the NLHE main event runs four days this year (Oct. 18-21). Last year’s event, the first WPT Regional at the Isle, attracted 207 players and generated a prize pool of $310,500. The Isle has been running a promotion throughout the summer and into the fall that let players to reduce their tournament buy-in by amassing hours of live play at the Isle.

— Rick Gershman is Ante Up’s Colorado Ambassador. You can email him atrickgershman@gmail.com.