Poker at the Ameristar in Blackhawk, Colorado

By Steve Beauregard

Ameristar Casino and Poker Room in Blackhawk, Colorado

The Ameristar Casino and Hotel in Blackhaw, Colorado

Black Hawk’s most popular poker room is the one that doesn’t offer any tournaments. No matter; when it comes to poker in Colorado, the Ameristar is the Aria or Bellagio.

The casino has 17 rooms and claims to be Colorado’s “biggest” poker room, which is odd considering the Golden Gates has 20 tables. Perhaps they mean by square footage?

Their website says they offer such games as $3/$6 limit, 8/16, 10/20, and 20/40, but this must be by interest, and I’ve never seen those run there. What they do have, is a never-ending supply of the $1 – $100 spread limit games. On most nights, there will not be a long wait to join in this game.

On the limit side, Ameristar is one of the two places (Lady Luck being the other) that regularly runs low limit hold’em games. Those of us too scared to potentially face a $100 check-raise in the spread game flock to the Ameristar to play the $4/8 limit game, of which there is usually one or two tables.

Unfortunately, the demand often exceeds the casino’s supply of games, creating long waiting lists. I’ve been to the Ameristar on a Saturday night, when there was 12 people on the $4/8 list, but only one table running. After an hour and a half wait, I had moved up to fifth in line, and decided to go elsewhere before I wasted my one night of poker sitting at an empty nickel slot machine, impatiently staring at the waiting list monitor.

Blackhawk’s version of “The Big Game” runs at the Ameristar. It’s a $30/60 limit hold’em game with a 1/2 kill that runs every night. Surprisingly, it seems to run more often, and with more tables, than the $4/8 game.

Having a very large sample playing this game (two hours total), I can say it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s usually filled with Asians from Denver, some of whom like to get their gamble on with the red chips (No $10 or $20 denominations here). It’s the kind of game where I think a 100 big blind win for the night is entirely possible.

The only downside of the $30/60, which usually has two tables going on weekend nights, is the lack of enforcement of the “English only” rule at the table. I don’t know if the rumors of collusion are anywhere accurate, but the soft, perhaps unintentional collusion of telling your friend or relative across the table what you folded is sharing valuable information not available to those of us who don’t speak Vietnamese. I hope the Ameristar addresses this at some point.

Like other rooms in Black Hawk, the room has a progressive Bad Beat Jackpot. This ranges from $100,000 on up. I realize many professional poker players do not like the jackpot rake taken out of each pot, but it does bring in a ton of players, and the room gets packed when the progressive gets huge.

The bad beat jackpot qualifier is quads beaten. The loser of the hand collects 40% of this, while the winner of the hand scores themselves a nice payday of 30% of the BBJ. The other players at the table (no room share on this BBJ) get the remaining 30%.

In 2011 a woman collected $177,000 when her straight flush cracked quads when the BBJ was over $400,000. Coincidentally, her husband was at the table and his share was nearly $17,000. In 2010, another straight flush over quads hand gave an Evergreen, Colorado man $300,000 in cash, when the BBJ had drawn in a big crowd after hitting the $750,000 range.

Other features of the poker room at the Ameristar include free drink service. Don’t laugh – I mention this because I’ve been surprised to stop in some Indian casinos where you’re charged for your drink. In a casino!

Tableside food service is available, as is a massage (for most buys nights I assume). There are a few TVs, but the place is not surrounded with them like you see in a lot of poker rooms. If you’re wanting a side order of football with your cards, you’re going to have to be seated in a few select seats to avoid cramming your neck.

The Ameristar poker room is usually hopping, especially on weekend nights, and has good, entertaining atmosphere. The folks dealing and working the waiting stand have always been courteous and efficient. Now if only they’d get more $4/8 or some $8/16 going….