As we rapidly approach our year-long poker pilgrimage, Paul and I have begun to spend more time traveling and visiting poker rooms around the country. Our first serious poker road trip featured ten days in Southern Florida back in 2018. In 2020, we spent another ten days in Tampa Bay. And about a week after we returned, the world shut down. Last fall, we were finally able to get back on the road for our most adventurous road trip yet. We planned out a month-long visit to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. On our journey out in September, we would take the northern route, following route 80 across much of the country. On our return in November, we would dive South via route 40 and visit some national parks along the way. The current post describes our adventures traveling the northern route. We have also shared our experience of a month in Vegas during the WSOP and the details of our trip home.
Poker Road Trip Day 0
I call this Day 0 because you will find it nowhere in our carefully thought-out Vegas road trip plan. In the spring of 2021, the pandemic appeared to be lifting and the WSOP announced that, after a one-year interruption, the poker world would gather once again in Las Vegas in the fall. The day the initial dates were published, Paul and I hopped on Airbnb and nailed down a long-stay rental for the month of October a mere mile from the Rio. We then began plotting our drive across the country. We would travel across route 80, stopping first at Turning Stone which had recently reintroduced tournaments.
A couple of weeks before our journey we received an invitation to visit an old friend in the Poconos, noted that Mohegan Sun owned a casino nearby, and re-routed the first couple of days of our journey. Kudos to Hotels.com here, which typically allows cancellations up to 24 hours in advance of your stay.
Then, the day before our planned departure, we sat at our desks at home trying to figure out how to avoid working any more than necessary. Ok, maybe that was just me. “Oh look,” I said. “There is a casino that we haven’t visited between here and the Poconos!” And Hotels Tonight has an excellent rate this evening. Thus our visit to Resorts World Catskills came to be. We made the reservation, packed the car in a blind rush, and headed across Route 84 through Connecticut. That first day was a bit of a bust. Travel across Connecticut was typically awful, with rainstorms thrown in to snarl travel even more than usual. The casino hotel was comfortable enough, but most of the restaurants and other amenities were still closed due to the pandemic. But we were on our way!
The next day we traveled only a couple of hours to our originally planned first stop, Mohegan Sun Pocono. We did not find much to recommend in Wilkes-Barre. We stayed that night at a Hilton Garden Inn after playing a ridiculously fast tournament at the otherwise nice casino.
Day 2 & 3
Day 2 was spent visiting with our friend Tina in the Poconos. Here we would like to note the amazing restaurant, Glass in Hawley, Pennsylvania. Excellent food, wonderful views, and impeccable service made for a lovely evening out.
Day 3 finally got us moving west to Cleveland, Ohio. We certainly could have made it to Cleveland faster, and likely will in the future. In Cleveland, we stayed over at an interesting hotel, called The Arcade, which we would recommend, and played cash at JACK Cleveland. JACK was notable in that it was a nice little poker room set in an awful casino in a sketchy location. The next day we visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before hitting the road again. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is one of the country’s great pop culture museums; if you have not been there, go.
Poker Road Trip Day 4
On day 4 we made some serious progress west. We drove almost seven and a half hours from Cleveland to Davenport, Iowa. The driving was a bit rough at first, but once we got past the Chicago area, it was a breeze. This was our first indication of how much better the highways are in this country once you get away from the East Coast. Sure, construction remains ubiquitous, but the traffic is lighter, the drivers are more courteous, and even trucks pull over to get out of your way.
Why Iowa, you might ask? Well, take a look at a map of the US, and take a look at our map of US Poker rooms. There just isn’t anything out there. And the rooms that are along the way were largely closed at the time. Davenport sits on the Mississippi River and offered a great little hotel with a rooftop restaurant and bar. We highly recommend The Current, Iowa, and will visit again if we find ourselves in the area.
Day 5 presented another long but easy drive from Davenport, Iowa to North Platte, Nebraska via the Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs. This was an eight-and-a-half-hour journey end-to-end. The casino, right on the border between Iowa and Nebraska made for a welcome break in the drive. This was both the longest and most boring day of driving on our road trip from Boston to Las Vegas. And unfortunately (for me) ended at a Tru by Hilton that Paul enjoyed much more than I did.
Day 6 took us from North Platte to the poker mecca of Black Hawk, Colorado. The town of Black Hawk presents a rather stunning view as you snake into this valley amidst the Colorado mountains. The entire valley is lined by casinos, one after another as far as the eye can see. In fact, we were unable to identify a single building in town that did NOT house a casino.
If you are not familiar with Black Hawk, Colorado, it is a town of 127 residents and 18 casinos. It thus has the highest casino to permanent resident ratio of anywhere in the United States (take that, Las Vegas). Four poker rooms reside in those 18 casinos including The Monarch, Ameristar, Bally’s, and the Isle Casino. Three of these were in operation the day we visited. So, of course, in addition to taking a trolley tour of the town, we played a little poker in all three.Thinking of taking a poker road trip from Boston to Las Vegas? Here is where to stop, where to stay, and where to play along the way.Click To Tweet
Poker Road Trip Day 7
Day 7 took us from the mountains of Colorado through Vail and Grand Junction to the canyons of Utah. We saw some snow in Colorado, despite the fact that it was only September, and arrived into some real heat in Moab. Moab’s draw is, of course, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Between the two, we chose to spend our limited time in Arches, and did not regret it. Our hotel in Moab was easily the worst of our poker road trip, but our dinner at the Trailhead Public House was fabulous.
The final day of our drive took us from Moab all the way to our poker road trip destination, Las Vegas, Nevada. This last day was a long-ish one at close to seven hours, but also the most beautiful of the trip. Utah presented us with landscape after stunning landscape of mountains and valleys featuring an incredible variety of colors and textures. And when the day ended, we got to settle in to our home for a month in Las Vegas!
Summary of Our Poker Road Trip
Days Spent: 9
Miles Travelled: 2,770
Poker Rooms Reviewed: 7
Would we do it again? Definitely. However, we would make a few changes. Nine days was a lot of time to be moving every day. Especially when we had work to do on many of our travel days. We could easily shorten this trip by two, or even three, days just by making more progress east to west at the beginning of the trip. Alternately, we could move more slowly across the country (as we did on our trip home), spending more time to see the sights along the way.
Also, while we visited seven poker rooms on this trip, there are certainly others that we missed. We decided to push through Indiana and skip rooms around Toledo and Chicago. Next time, we will certainly visit rooms that we missed on this trip.
Overall, however, if you are considering traveling from the East Coast to Las Vegas, there are many great stops along this particular drive.
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