When you think of poker hotspots, Maryland may not be the first place to leap to mind. Las Vegas, California, Florida, and in recent years Texas are the high-profile poker locations. However, we discovered on our recent trip to Maryland that the state has much to offer to the poker world. In addition, Maryland and the surrounding areas (most critically Washington DC) offer a plethora of non-poker activities. You can sculpt a full-on poker vacation balancing poker, fun, sightseeing, and educational activities throughout the region. Below we outline an itinerary that will meet all of your vacation desires.
Days 1 through 3 – Washington DC and MGM National Harbor
We’re going to assume you are coming from the South (maybe after your Florida Poker Road Trip!) or West and are starting in Washington DC. However, you could alternately, like us, work from a home base near Baltimore. Each of the activities listed below is no more than two hours from Baltimore, and most are within an hour.
If you have never been to Washington DC and want to absorb as much as you can, you’re going to want to spend at least two non-poker days there, maybe more. Most of the major attractions downtown are free to enter, including government buildings such as the Capitol and White House, the National Zoo, national monuments, and numerous museums. Certainly, a few of the Smithsonian museums should be on your list. Our favorites are Air & Space, the Hirshorn, and the Museum of Natural History, but there are just so many options. If you are in decent shape and like to walk, you can see every one of the major monuments and federal buildings in one long day’s stroll. Heather refers to that venture, which her son and I inflicted on her, as the “death march which I will never forgive you for.” A few of the newer monuments – like the MLK and Franklin Roosevelt sites – are worth your time even if you have been to DC repeatedly.
Your DC poker experience takes place in one of the most attractive casinos in the country: MGM National Harbor. This is a beautiful facility in a gorgeous location. Everything at MGM National Harbor still seems brand new, and the architects really nailed the design. You can read our MGM National Harbor poker room review for greater detail, but the poker play itself is a little bit of a mixed bag. However, it’s a very active room for cash and tournaments, so you’ll definitely find good action there.
Days 4 & 5 – Western Maryland and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
After a few days in one of the country’s busiest cities, we recommend that you downshift a bit and head for Western Maryland. There are many interesting towns and tourist attractions in the western area of the state. Frederick is one of the first major cities you come to as you head west. The downtown area is very pleasant with a canal walk that runs through town, nice art galleries, shops, and restaurants. If you are there around lunch we suggest the South Market Sandwich Company which had a great array of specialty sandwiches.
We spent a day wandering Western Maryland, with a little bit of poker thrown in ourselves. You can read about it here. To spice our Western Maryland day, we included a stop at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town, which is actually in West Virginia but just over the Maryland line. We found that, while the poker room is only moderately sized (13 tables) and had no regular tournaments, it provided a convenient spot to play cash. The dealers and other staff were excellent. While we would not make this a poker destination, it can be an excellent stop when visiting Western Maryland.
Days 6 & 7 – Suburban Baltimore and Maryland Live!
Baltimore offers not just a world-class city, but also some active and interesting suburbs. We spent a month in Columbia (in an AirBnB) which started as an idealistic planned community developed in the 1960s by James Rouse. We really loved this area and the principles it was designed on. In a completely different vein, the old section of Ellicott City feels like a small European village. Its architecture, restaurants, and shops, crammed in a very small footprint, are pleasant and unique. Our favorite store in Ellicott City is The Wine Bin, one of the best wine stores we have encountered. Other interesting Baltimore suburbs include Arundel Mills (home of Maryland Live!), Laurel, and Sparrow’s Point.
A small Baltimore travel hack, if you are traveling and trying to get to the north or south of the city, you can save money on tolls by taking the 695 beltway to the west of the city. The detour only adds about 5 minutes of travel time but will save you significant money on tolls.
Just outside of Baltimore and minutes from the BWI airport, Arundel Mills features not only one of the largest malls we have ever visited, but also Maryland Live! Maryland Live! is simply one of the best, if not the best, poker rooms on the East Coast. It features great staff, highly active cash and tournament action, and a very convenient location. If your stay in Maryland is brief, and you can only visit one poker room, make it Maryland Live!
Day 8 – Annapolis
Annapolis sits on the Chesapeake Bay, is Maryland’s state capital, and serves as home to the US Naval Academy. The city is only about a 40-minute drive from either Baltimore or Washington, DC. It also is a short drive from a number of quaint towns along the Chesapeake. Annapolis is definitely worth a day trip. Although not a huge city, the downtown provides a substantial number of restaurants and shops that offer a few hours of enjoyable sightseeing. While you’re there, take a quick spin through the Capitol building which will only take a few minutes. But you’ll learn all about George Washington stepping down as head of the Continental Army (they push that event hard) and the architecture is very interesting. A few minutes’ drive from downtown, is the small, but extremely interesting Annapolis Maritime Museum.
Days 9 & 10 – Downtown Baltimore and Horseshoe Baltimore
Baltimore is a perplexing city in many ways. Its reputation for political malfeasance and urban blight is not without merit. There are many areas of the city that have been hit quite hard by economic downturns, and some have never recovered. However, Baltimore is also home to many great educational institutions, including the world-renowned Johns Hopkins, great museums, and a great dining scene.
The Horseshoe Baltimore card room is a very nice room to visit to play cash poker. The space is quite comfortable and the room features excellent dealers. Unfortunately, we showed up to play a tournament which never went off, so don’t plan for a midweek tournament there. Head to Maryland Live! instead for your tournament play.Our Maryland poker trip exceeded expectations across the board. Neither the poker nor the entertainment was found lacking in any way.Click To Tweet
Day 11 – Hollywood Casino Perryville
If you end your trip heading north, less than an hour north of Baltimore right off Route 95 sits the Hollywood Casino Perryville. There is nothing fancy about this casino, one big room encompasses the entire space. It only takes a 3-4 minutes to walk around the whole thing. Likewise, the Hollywood Casino Perryville poker room is small and right out there on the casino floor, but it does have a Sunday tournament. Frankly, it was not one of our favorite rooms. It is loud and not particularly comfortable, and the personnel need some work. But if you’re cruising along 95 and want a quick stop, you could take your last Maryland poker hurrah here.
Our Maryland poker trip exceeded expectations in all ways. We discovered parts of Maryland for sightseeing and entertainment that were interesting and unique. Washington DC, of course, is DC – one of our great cities and a museum-goer’s dream. The poker was generally very good, and included one of our favorite rooms ever (Maryland Live!). Many of the poker rooms employed dealers that we ranked among our best ever. When you combine the poker opportunities and the entertainment options, there are few poker trips in the country that can compete with Maryland. We believe that Maryland is, in fact, one of the best places in the US to live if you love poker.
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