Colorado! Skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, marijuana, live music, and poker. If you like any of those things, then Denver, Colorado should be your next travel destination. The mountains are a short drive away from Denver, which makes the city a perfect hub for your next holiday. And whether you're getting your legal cannabis fix, or busy exploring the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, it's comforting to know that there's a 24-hour poker game within reach in Black Hawk.
Black Hawk, located 45 minutes west of Denver in Clear Creek Canyon, is a couple miles from Central City. The defunct mining town was found in 1859 during the gold rush in the Rocky Mountains. The mining industry severely declined during the 20th Century and Black Hawk was transforming into a veritable ghost town. In the early 1990s, the state of Colorado legalized gambling. Black Hawk was one of the old mining towns that got targeted for privatization and became a perfect location for casinos and hotels.
The narrow geography of Clear Creek Canyon forced several tiny casinos to snuggled together with majestic mountain scenery surrounding the town on all side. The casinos have an old-timey wild west atmosphere. Heck, on the outskirts you can even go panning for gold! Several small casinos are located on the main drag in Black Hawk. The Ameristar is the exception to the small/quaint vibe. If anything, Ameristar is the closest you'd get to a proper full-blown Vegas casino environment. It sort of reminds me if a Vegas casino attempted a rustic Colorado wilderness theme with stone and wood everywhere.
If you are going to visit Denver and want to play poker, then you set aside a day/evening to visit Black Hawk, Colorado. Simply put, if you're looking for tournament action then Golden Gates Casino is for you. And if you're a cash game specialist, then head over to Ameristar Casino.
I've played at both casinos, and each poker room has friendly and experienced dealers and staff. The only catch is the $100-max bet rule. If you're a low-stakes player, then that really isn't much of an issue. If you're looking for high-stakes action, then Black Hawk might not be ideal. Unfortunately, it's the only game in that part of the mountains, so your options are limited.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a half-baked trip report for my On the Road with Dr. Pauly column for Bluff Magazine. That article was titled Black Hawk, Colorado: Pot, Chowder, Poker and Asshats.
420 AND DRINKS
The best part about Black Hawk are the free beverages. You can find various stations in every casino offering soft drinks, tea, and coffee.
Colorado is a 420-friendly state. You can purchase cannabis and products at legal dispensaries. You cannot smoke marijuana in your hotel rooms or inside the casino. Smoking in public is also frowned upon. However, if you are slick you can figure out a way to maintain a buzz. Edibles and vape pens are highly popular, but it's not uncommon to catch a whiff of dank nugs.
DISCLAIMER: Be careful of edibles! Cannabis-infused edibles might taste delicious, but if you do not pay close attention to the dosage, then you could possibly be in for a very long head trip!
GETTING THERE: DENVER TO BLACK HAWK
If you take the shuttle, it cost $23 but you also get $20 in free casino play. So it's essentially $3. For more info on the shuttle, click here.
Please take caution of the weather and seasons. Always check local weather before you drive up to the mountains, especially in the winter.
And if you're on a 420 holiday and intend to consume copious amounts of cannabis, find a designated driver when heading up into the mountains. The roads are dangerous for sober visitors, let alone those completely lit on Death Star OG Kush.
111 Richman St., Black Hawk, CO 80422
Phone: (720) 946-4108
- Tables: 22
- Games: NL, LHE
- Limits: $30-60 LHE, $1-2 NL, $2-5 NL
- Max Bet: $100
- Tournaments: None
The best cash games in Black Hawk are located at Ameristar. Sure, it's filled with mostly locals, but there's a steady flow of not-so good poker enthusiasts donk off a buy-in or two to make the trip worthwhile. The $1-2 NL and $2-5 NL tables have a nice mix of juicy action players and nitty locals. Colorado has had an influx of oil and cannabis money over the last few years, so there's a lot more disposable income floating around than ever before.
$30-$60 LHE is sort of a joke because of the $100 cap rule. But there's plenty of locals who play in that game. Be careful though!
During peak hours the poker room will be busy. They offer you pagers or text you directly when your seat comes available.
Ameristar has a hotel, but rooms are limited during peak hours. Sometimes they can accommodate you in a sister property, but make sure you check in advance if you want to book a room.
GOLDEN GATES CASINO
261 Main St, Black Hawk, CO 80422
Phone: (303) 582-2906
- Tables: 17
- Games: NL
- Limits: $1-2 NL, $2-5 NL
- Max Bet: $100
- Tournaments: Three daily (10am, Noon, 7pm). Buy-ins starting at $40
Golden Gates Casino and Poker Parlour is really the only spot in town to play tournaments. Golden Gates is the home of the Colorado Poker Championship. They have series running every other month it seems. Visit their website for specifics, such as the Heartland Poker Tour.
The elevator from the parking garage opens up in the poker room! Super cool, especially for lazy poker players. The Golden Gates has a woodsy theme. There's a small cafe adjacent to the poker room, and like all casinos in Black Hawk, soft drinks are free and self-serve.
Golden Gates spread cash games, but the locals are there for the tournaments. Golden Gates typically runs three daily tournaments starting as low as $40. The 10AM is popular among the retired folks and it has an affordable $40 buy-in. The 7pm tournament is $60 on the weekdays and $140 on the weekends. There's a noon tournament that has various buy-ins ranging from $80 to $300 depending on the day of the week. The Saturday nooner is $300 and it's juicy!
Golden Gates offers an hourly high hand jackpot.
Golden Gates does not have its own hotel, however, they do offer comped rooms at a sister property. Lodging is limited in Black Hawk, so check in advance.
Golden Gates is 24 hours on the weekend, but they close from 4am to 5am on the weekdays.