By Steve Beauregard
From $40 one table affairs, to prestigious and nationally-televised events where the winner receives a quarter of a million dollars in cash, there are plenty of options for the Colorado poker player who loves to play tournaments.
If you’re new to the area, or just traveling through, looking for some action, you should know that Colorado has a $100 maximum bet on all casino games (including poker). What this means is that $1 – $100 spread-limit hold’em has become the bread and butter of most card rooms in the state, including Blackhawk. The second most commonly-found game is the $2 -5 – $100 spread limit game. There are no, “no-limit hold’em” poker games of any kind in a licensed Colorado casino.
Those of you not familiar with the spread-limit game may want to brush up on it before heading for the hills, but basically a $1 – $100 game is just like regular limit hold’em game, only instead of a fixed amount, you’re allowed to bet anywhere from $1 to $100 on each and every round. Raises and re-raises have to be in increments greater to, or equal than, the original bet on that street.
Blackhawk, Colorado has five poker rooms:
The Isle of Capri
Each of these rooms, except for the Ameristar, offers tournaments, (with varying amounts of success). More importantly for those of us who love to play, all have managed to keep their poker rooms open, and in some cases thrive, despite the poker slowdown from its boom days in the early to late 2,000’s.
Here’s a quick look at each of these Blackhawk poker rooms.
The Lodge Casino and Poker Room
For years, back when Colorado had a $5 limit on all bets, the Lodge Casino’s poker room was the biggest, and busiest in town. For some reason however, almost all of the traffic has moved across the street to the Ameristar.
That’s a shame, because the poker room at the Lodge was always well run, and usually had a huge bad beat jackpot. They’d also provide the players with two different kinds of delicious soup. I know it sounds like I’m joking about having soup as a feature, but it was really good soup.
Today the Lodge and their 12 tables is much quieter, and on a Sunday afternoon you’re likely to see only one table running (the requisite $1 – $100 spread limit) game. Players receive $2 per hour food comps, or $1 cash instead.
Occasionally, when the bad beat jackpot gets huge, (as it was recently when management combined the three different jackpots into a $400,000 plus monster), The Lodge sees the hustle and bustle of its glory days. The room has recently has been designated as the exclusive WSOP satellite poker room in Colorado, so that may help too, at least during the weeks leading up to the World Series of Poker.
On the tournament front, The Lodge’s hosts a daily Noon tourney, ($80 entry fee), Monday through Friday, and a nightly $100 tournament at 7 p.m., also Monday through Friday.
On Saturday, they run one tournament, a $100 buy-in at Noon, while on Sunday, they offer a Noon and 7 p.m. tournament – both of which have $100 entry fees.
Ameristar Casino Blackhawk
While not the biggest in terms of number of tables (that honor goes to the Golden Gates), the most popular card room in Black Hawk deserves its own page, and it gets one here: Ameristar Blackhawk Poker Room.
But as a general overview, the Ameristar does not offer any poker tournaments. This 17 table room does offer the most cash games in the Black Hawk, Central City area, mostly of the $1 to $100 spread limit hold’em variety.
They also run the $2 – $5 – $100 spread limit game, $4/$8 limit hold’em, and $30/60 limit, of which there seems to always be at least one table going, and often two tables.
Other limits are available should there be interest, (but aside from the occasional $50/$100 limit game, there never is). The Ameristar gives poker players $2/hour food comps, and they have a bad beat jackpot, where the qualifier is quads beaten.
Golden Gates Casino and Poker Parlour
The largest poker room in Blackhawk is also the most famous, as this 20 table room annually hosts two stops in the televised and increasingly popular Heartland Poker Tour. The timing of these stops changes from year-to-year, but roughly they’re scheduled in April and September. This is one of, (if not THE) most well-attended HPT stop, and the main event first prize is usually in the 1/4 million dollar range. Not bad for a $1,650 buy-in.
The two weeks leading up to both HPT stops sees the Golden Gates bursting at the seams with wannabes like me, trying to satellite into the main event. Satellites into the qualifier run until late at night (but not 24/7), and both single table and multi-table satellites are spread, with the lowest starting at $50 if I remember correctly.
Besides the two HPT events, the poker room as the “Colorado Poker Championship in May.”
While I don’t know the exact square footage numbers, the Golden Gates appears to be that rare casino in which the poker room is larger than the casino floor. This poker room has carved out its niche as THE destination for tournament poker in Colorado. They’ve done this by hosting the Heartland Poker Tour, and by running by far the most tournaments in Blackhawk/Central City areas.
Every day, seven days a week, the Golden Gates has 4 tournaments:
3 p.m.: $70
7 p.m.: $130 entry fee ($160 on Fridays – Sunday).
These are all no-limit hold’em of course.
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the $80 Noon tournament is abandoned in favor of a deep stack tournament, costing $160 on Fridays and Sundays to buy into, and $210 on Saturdays. The blinds last 30 minutes a round, and you start off with $35,000 in your chip stack.
The Golden Gates recently used to run an Omaha Hi-Lo tournament on Tuesdays and Thursdays (both at 5 p.m.), for a $70 entry fee, but that has since been discontinued.
The cash games sort of get drowned out by all of the tournament buzz, but there are always spread-limit games, and even some limit hold’em games on occasion.
Isle of Capri
The new kid on the block in the Blackhawk, Colorado poker scene is the best, in terms of promotions and player comps.
Here’s a full page devoted to the Isle of Capri Blackhawk Poker Room, but we’ll summarize their poker tournaments below, with the caveat that they aren’t guaranteed to run. As I’ve experienced firsthand, there’s not a lot of demand for their $60 10 a.m. tournament on a Monday morning. (All games are no-limit unless mentioned otherwise).
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 11 a.m. Turbo for $60.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 6:30 p.m. for $60. (On Wednesdays the entry fee is $75, as it is a bounty tournament, with a $15 head on each player you send packing).
Thursday – Pot Limit Omaha 8 Tournament at both 11 a.m. (a $60 entry fee) and 6:30 p.m., where the buy-in is $100.
Saturday – 1 p.m. $100
Sunday – Pot Limit Omaha 8 – $100 at 1 p.m.
(Go here to find out driving distances and directions from Denver to Blackhawk)
The Lady Luck is across the skyway from the Isle of Capri, (they’re owned by the same company), and is your low-limit hold’em headquarters.
This comfy, cozy little room upstairs seems to always have either a $2 – $5 spread limit game (the lowest limit hold’em game in Blackhawk), or a $2 – $10 spread limit game.
The room attracts a loyal following – maybe because they’re the only ones who regularly run the low limit games. They’re also the only room that has a room share with their bad beat jackpot (I believe). Their BBJ qualifier is just Aces over Jacks, the last time I played.
The Lady Luck runs tournaments on weekends only, and these $60 buy-in events are fast-moving affairs, with just 15 minute rounds. I lasted an hour, with a decent chip stack, but was still only 10 BBs deep.
The tourneys run Friday: 7 p.m.
Saturday: 4 p.m.
Sunday: 2 p.m.
Cash game players get $2 an hour food comps here, but $10 food vouchers are given with just one hour of play on Wednesdays and Fridays (if you’re over 50), and on Tuesdays and Thursdays (if your 49 or less).
This is a relaxing, friendly, low-limit room, even if some of the regulars are jerks.
Overall, the Blackhawk, Colorado poker scene is doing well, both in the number of cash games offered, as well as tournaments suiting any budget. Between the generous comps, comfortable rooms, and soft play – and trust me there IS soft play – you may want to head up to the hills for some hold’em.