Tiger Tours the Tables - cities of gold, santa fe, new mexico; santa ana star, albuquerque, new mexico

this is a long report. stay with me, folks, i promise that i'll talk about poker sooner or later. ;)

i have flown over the great southwest many times, on my way to vegas, calif- ornia, and back. but i've never driven in this area before. what an exper- ience it is!

texas is a very big state. starting in bossier city, louisiana, i drove straight across, past dallas/fort worth, and ran out of steam in abilene. the next day, about 30 miles west of abilene, i actually saw my very first working oil well. soon thereafter, i turned right on route 84, heading towards santa fe. almost immediately, the terrain turned ugly. there just wasn't anything around except this very long, very straight, four-lane high- way. and then i noticed that the fuel gauge was very close to empty. uh oh. but the map shows several towns right on route 84. i'll be ok.

nope. i pass three towns. well, at least the sign said that they were towns. but all i saw were signs, and miles of emptiness on either side of the high- way. as they say, "there's no *there* there!" fuel gauge is now flashing red.

i see a sign for hermleigh, texas. aha! i see buildings! sure enough, i find the gas station and fill 'er up! i don't know why i was worried. i had a quarter of a gallon of gas left....

more wasteland. more desolation. more barrenness. suddenly, i'm in the middle of a little town....and almost miss the stoplight. local cop eyeballs my new york state license plate.... i'll bet that a significant element of the budget of post, texas, depends on traffic tickets given to out-of-staters.

i have lunch in lubbock, texas, at the santa fe restaurant. burrito, refried beans, rice, and an enchilada are the best! back on route 84 - lonely and, in its own special way, quite beautiful. i finally get to interstate 40. when i stop for a drink at a dairy queen, i ask the clerk how far is it to santa fe. i'm not wearing any of my casino paraphernalia, so she actually asks me, "what kind of rig are you driving?" lol!!

the closer i got to santa fe, the more interesting the geography and scenery became. i saw miles and miles of empty plains...and huge mountains...and lots and lots of rocks. there wasn't any green, but it sure beat the hell out of northwest texas!

i get to santa fe, and check into my motel. at long last (two full days), it's time for some poker! the camel rock casino is one of the casinos operated by indian tribes in the area. it's about ten miles north of santa fe. i learn that their poker room closed about four months ago. :(

five miles further up the road is the cities of gold casino, another indian casino. the room has seven tables, for flop and stud games. when i arrive, about 8 pm, there is one table in action. they've got a no-limit hold 'em tourney in progress. when the tourney breaks, we crank up a 4/8 hold 'em game. the rake is 10% to a maximum of $3 (they take an extra dollar for omaha pots in excess of $100). they also take one dollar for their bad beat jackpots. they offer high hand bonuses, and high hand daily drawings. although the room offer various limits of stud, hold 'em, omaha/8 and stud/8, i doubt that much else is played besides 4/8 hold 'em, with a 1/2 kill which goes into effect when one player wins two consecutive pots. the killer always has last action, unless there is a raise before it gets to him. the poker room has its own bathroom, which is nice. seats next to the dealer are not no-smoking seats. the room offers daily tourneys, some of which have money added. they use the dead button rule in the event a blind busts out. cash plays.

only the one game ran all evening. i only saw two dealers, chuck and seth, both of whom were pretty good. i saw two rulings from the floor when i was there, both of which were easy. the quality of play was terrible. most players would play any pair, any hand with an ace, any hand with a king, and any suited hand. they didn't know how to read the board, and they didn't know what they had. so i only lost $91 in four hours. ;)

today, wednesday, i stopped by the georgia o'keefe museum. she's one of the most famous artists from the area, and the museum houses the largest collection of her works. terrific!! then it was south towards albuquerque. you can't miss casino san felipe hollywood, located immediately adjacent to interstate 25, about 20 miles north of the city. they don't have poker here. back to the car.

ten miles outside the city is santa ana star casino, in bernalillo. it's a nice little room, with 5 tables for stud and flop games. in the morning, they give $35 in chips for $20 to the first twelve players, so there's often a line! they've got a 1-5 stud/8 game and a 1-4-8-8 hold 'em game in progress. gimme that ol' flop game, anytime! };)

the room is separated from the rest of the casino, so it's quiet. :) the rake is 10% to a maximum of $3. seats next to the dealers are not no-smoking. cash doesn't play in games less than 10/20. on weekends, they often get a game that size, and frequently spread a pot limit hold 'em game with blinds of 1 and 2 ($100 buy-in). everyone in this room knows each other, but they *still* always ask to see the other guy's hand. note: even when the winner asks to see the unshown and mucked hand, the loser's hand remains dead. the laughter never stops. :D they use the dead button rule.

the game runs all afternoon, and the quality of play is worse than at cities of gold. we're shorthanded most of the time, but off-duty dealers usually fill in the empty seats and play (quite loosely) with their own money. when in the box, most of the dealers are pretty good. "stoney" the room manager, is retired from the military *and* a retired cop. he's also the only one at the table who has an inkling of how to play. after being stuck a rack-and- a-half of whites, i hit a couple flops...my high pairs hold up twice..and i make a big flush on the river. four hours of play nets me a win of $210. :)

stoney tells me that, due to the intricacies of the compact which allows gambling, the casino operators may not offer any comps to players - even at the table games in the pit. free drinks are all you can get. so i bought a baseball cap as a souvenir. you'll be able to tell which casinos i liked; check out my collection of baseball caps!

the best part of santa ana star casino happens when you leave. you get into your car, leave the parking lot, and turn left onto route 44, heading back towards interstate 25. you are suddenly confronted by this massive, huge rock structure, basking in the glory of a cloudless sky and direct sunlight. wow! whatta sight!! the highest point of the formation, sandia crest, is over 10,600 feet! and there's a tramway which goes there from downtown!

and it's time to check out casino sandia!

stay tuned!