At the tables: Tumbling dice |

At the tables: Tumbling dice

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BLACK HAWK, Colo. – Needing a quick and minor gambling fix – not to mention a break from the “Aspen Idea” – I hit the road Sunday afternoon for Black Hawk, a gaming destination off Interstate 70, a few miles north of Idaho Springs. You may have been there before.

My “mind” needed some mindless entertainment. My “body” needed some free scotch-and-sodas. My “spirit” needed the promise of big bucks and superficial conversation with people I’ve never met.

Black Hawk is an interesting little place. It’s surrounded by rolling green hills and the tall hotel and casino buildings seem a little out of character amid such pristine beauty. Like the gambling destination adjacent to it, Central City, it has a lot of history as a mining town. But as I slowly meandered into this Oz-like wonder, my thoughts were not on historic preservation.

Quickly I secured a hotel room at the Isle of Capri. Given that I was only going to be using the room for a few hours of rough sleep, I was looking for a deal. Luckily I was already in the company’s computer system from having frequented the Isle’s casino in Bossier City, La., many years ago. For once, my gambling past paid off and I got a $199 room for a mere $99.

There are many casinos from which to choose in Black Hawk, and they are all within walking distance of each other. I started out at the Golden Mardi Gras Casino’s craps table around 10 p.m. The casino was dead, even for a Sunday night. I was the only person at the table, but the stickman and his cohorts seemed friendly and so I tried my luck.

Bam! I set the point at 10. I proceeded to have one of the best rolls of my life, throwing for 30 minutes before finally casting the dreaded seven. During the stretch, I twice hit a $5 “yo,” which is slang for a one-time bet that pays 15-1 if you roll an 11. (That’s my trademark side bet.) Sixes, eights and nines were easy and I was raking in the chips in small amounts. Bam! I hit a horn bet! But I never did roll the damn point.

That’s always been my problem: I can throw all day and make very little money. It’s called being too conservative and it’s my Achilles heel whenever I gamble. Still, for having been at the table only half an hour, I was up about $250.

I didn’t give it back to the house, at least not right away. They nickle-and-dimed me as I wandered around the many places that make up Black Hawk. Everyone was uber-friendly; not once did I encounter the types of crabby dealers I’ve often found in Vegas, Mississippi or Louisiana. My only complaint: The free drinks were a little on the weak side, just short of a full shot.

Five hours of light conversation with strangers, table games and the occasional stab at penny slots with stupid themes (“Hee Haw,” “Beauty and the Beast”) left me worn out. I fell asleep quickly in my comfortable, discounted room and woke up sans hangover, primed and ready for the four-hour drive that would take me home.

All in all, Black Hawk was worth the driving hassle (stop-and-go traffic through Glenwood Canyon), time and money. Just remember to bring your own bottle.

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