Poker madness in Colo.

Jan 24, 2006 2:00 AM

Is poker on the decline? Much like with the premature reports of Mark Twain’s death, poker’s alleged untimely demise is greatly exaggerated. You wouldn’t know poker is dying in Black Hawk and Central City.

I remember working for my favorite palindrome in Laughlin when the decision was made to remove the "unprofitable" and "comp-sucking" poker room. Well, at the Laughlin property, poker is back. The boom has hit Colorado with sledgehammer-like, management philosophy changing force as well.

With Golden Gaming opening the most recent poker room (equipped with historically themed gaming art work, large flat screen televisions, and most impressively, an electronic "tote" board to alert players when their seat is open), poker seems to have become the Lindsay Lohan of gambling, the new "it" game.

Of course, in the highly regulated Colorado gaming markets, the wagered amounts do not even get close to those in other markets. The majority of casinos, due to the statutes of limited gaming not allowing for any bet greater than $5, spread 2-5 and 5-5.

What is most noticeable about these poker rooms is first there is smoking allowed, and secondly tournament play is big; the latter possibly being a reflection of the popularity of WPT and WSOP.

The presence of smoking was somewhat surprising. Since most Las Vegas poker rooms like at the Bellagio survive and thrive without allowing for the inhalation of smooth flavored carbon monoxide, I question the rationale of allowing it in a confined forum.

The second point is of more interest. Sitting down at the black jack table last night at Fortune Valley, a young and attractive woman sat down next to me. First of all, the whole limited stakes agenda is somewhat skewed, with the "bizzaro" black jack games offered, a considerable amount more than $5 can be wagered on each round or decision.

At some tables, there are progressive betting schemes, and at other tables, one can play the equivalent of two hands at each position. On a full action table, the casino has the equivalent of 14 hands being played.

Anyway, like the Big Lebowski, I was drinking a Bailey’s and milk and having my bankroll (more like instant loan blood money) pounded. I was about to leave the table when the fore mentioned cutie sat down. I am a sucker, and a pretty girl will make me stay longer at the baize than I should.

Since the majority of players on the casino floor are "boomers," I asked the new player, in a polite manner, what she was doing there. She informed me that she was returning from a visit to meet her boyfriend’s parents and was still on Christmas break from college (DENIED!). She proceeded to tell me that her boyfriend was upstairs playing in the evening poker tournament. After my chips dwindled to nada, zip, zilch, ATM visit time, I ventured to witness firsthand the tournament action.

With the typical perception (stigma?) of poker, one expects a conclave of old men sucking on cigars, oxygen, or both. Shockingly, the majority of players at the tournament were young.

The interactivity desired by the Nintendo has made poker the partial domain of the youth. As with the increase in group friendly table games (e.g., blackjack, craps, Caribbean stud) even taking the place of the casino workhorse of slot machines at Borgata in Atlantic City and the Palms in Vegas, the newest generation of gamblers has discovered the pleasure of "real gambling."

The emergence of poker has provided the necessary hook to bring in the next generation, and Black Hawk and Central City are not missing the (full) boat.