Are you an avid poker player with an incredible summer road trip atop your bucket list? Where do you start, and how do you plan a dream tour? We suggest you program your GPS to the great Southwest, be sure to allow plenty of time and brace yourself for the price of gas, as the poker rooms are scattered widely on a landscape unlike any other on the planet.
Driving from East to West, you must decide whether to begin in the beauty of extreme northern New Mexico, at Northern Edge Navajo Casino near Farmington (almost in Colorado), or in the lush oasis of extreme southern New Mexico, at the Inn of the Mountain Gods near Ruidoso, (2.5 hours from Texas and Mexico). New Mexico is a huge state, but a bonanza of exciting poker rooms are clustered just north of center, with relatively few miles in between. North to South in this area are Buffalo Thunder near Santa Fe and the Albuquerque hot-spot casinos of Santa Ana Star, Sandia and Isleta, with Route 66 a little east.
Arizona is another large, scenic state, with most of its amazing rooms conveniently gathered in the central/southern area. Cliff Castle (south of Flagstaff) is northernmost, and the Tucson casinos of Casino Del Sol and Desert Diamond are almost two hours south of Phoenix. Clustered in the middle near Phoenix (“near” being another relative term) are Casino Arizona Talking Stick (Scottsdale), Harrah’s Ak-Chin (Maricopa), Ft. McDowell (Fountain Hills), Vee Quiva (Laveen) and Wild Horse Pass (Chandler). Road-trippers will find each of these poker rooms super-friendly and unique.
TALKING STICK RESORT: The Arena Poker Room hosts its ninth annual Arizona State Championship (Aug. 9-13). Entry is $1,080 for 16K chips. Staff appreciation is $30 for 10K more. You can sign up for this tournament by calling 480-850-7734 or you can buy-in at the poker room. Tournaments the week before the state championship include a big-stack event (Aug. 3, 11:15 a.m., $330); Super Satellite Sunday (Aug. 4, 11:15 a.m., $130); plus warm-up events (Aug. 5, 11:15, $120; Aug. 6, 11:15, $225; Aug. 7, 11:15, $330; and Aug. 8, 11:15, $550).
BUFFALO THUNDER: On Aug. 11 (2 p.m.) is an Omaha/8 event ($100, one re-entry allowed), and $100 added per table. A special 1 p.m. Last-Saturday-of-the-Month deepstack tournament is $150 on Aug. 31.
SANDIA: This poker room has Sizzlin’ Summer Thursday Nights (Aug. 1, 8, 15 and 22) 7 p.m., $60 buy-in with $500 added to the prize pool. And, on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m., the $100 main event has $1K added.
— Mary Bradley is Ante Up’s Southwest Ambassador. You can email her at email@example.com.