My Fantasy Road Trip: A Poker Odyssey

As a travel writer, I’m often questioned about my dream vacation. My answer is always a “poker getaway.” I’d skip beaches, sightseeing, museums, shopping, sporting events, etc., and follow my personal yellow brick road in the direction of a casino or card room to play in poker tournaments across the country. My odyssey would begin in my hometown, San Diego, at the four diamond Pala Casino Spa Resort.

Pala Casino Spa Resort


Heading north, I’d hit the Commerce and Bicycle card rooms in the LA area, on the way to Bay 101 in San Jose.  These three venues host major events that are frequented by poker’s elite players. I would skip Las Vegas’ 120 casinos and continue my journey to Reno, NV.  I’m familiar with the friendly, well run poker rooms at the Atlantis and Eldorado casinos, so I would enjoy returning to sit in on their daily tournaments.


My wanderings now turn east toward Montana to solve a mystery. I have to find out why almost half of the 400 licensed card rooms in the US are located there. By way of comparison, California has less than 100.


The daydream continues as I reach my place of birth, St. Louis, MO, featuring riverboat gaming.  I will stay longer to visit family, friends, eat thin crust pizza and, of course, play poker.  What could be better?


Wrapping up my fantasy tour in New York City, I’d search out an illegal “underground” game, as portrayed in the movie Rounders, to test my skills.  It will be a short stay in The Big Apple, because I much prefer tournament settings (a fixed dollar buy-in limits potential losses).


And, with that, my cross country fantasy road trip is complete.  Did I win? On this imaginary tour, I would bet the answer is yes.


Gaming Trivia:   Card rooms differ from casino poker rooms because they offer only card games; a casino also has slots and other table games, e.g., roulette, craps, etc.


Worldwide casino count:  Africa, almost 200; Asia, over 250; Caribbean, 150; Central and South America, over 500; Europe, over 2,500; North America including Canada, Mexico and the US; over 2,000; and Oceania, almost 600.

Dollar-wise, gambling translates to big business.  Estimates are for a $70 billion dollar year in 2015 in the USA.

Safe travels, never draw to an inside straight and enjoy the journey….

Howard Hian

Thanks to various websites for information and photos. Want to learn or improve your game?  Download my app, Poker Tutorial: Omaha 101.

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