French Lick is best known for one thing, and one thing only: being the hometown of Hall of Fame basketball player Larry Bird. I suspect, however, that it will soon be known for two things: Larry Bird and the French Lick Resort Casino.
French Lick is now home to a beautiful new casino and poker room. The French Lick Resort Casino is a spanking new, 84,000-sq.-ft. river boat, with 1,200 slot machines, plenty of table games, and a 12-table poker room. The resort boasts two-and-a-half golf courses, eight restaurants, two grand hotels, a spa, mineral baths, and full salon services. It is truly a place worth visiting.
This is a destination resort in the grand tradition. French Lick is reputed to have been where 1920's era gangsters such as Al Capone retreated to when they were trying to get away from the heat of Cook County, Illinois. The 700-room resort hotel on the premises and the other Victorian style hotel just down the road in West Baden Springs surely look the part.
It's not in a large city, but it's close enough to a few major metropolitan areas to make a day trip or weekend jaunt convenient. It's just a little over an hour from Louisville (the nearest major airport), two and a half hours from Indianapolis, three hours from Cincinnati, four hours from St. Louis and five hours from Chicago.
The poker room isn't the largest or busiest I've been to in the area – not by a long shot. If that's what you're interested in — a busy, high rolling poker room — you're much better off in nearby Elizabeth, Indiana at Caesar's Indiana, across the river from Louisville. But if you want a nice room, a relatively laid-back atmosphere, with soft competition, a lower rake, and an obsequious poker-room staff, all set in a luxurious resort, then this is the spot for you.
The French Lick poker room lists two tournaments a day, one at noon and the second at 7pm. Either costs $80, with $15 going to the casino and $65 going into the prize pool. Attendance varies, but has been as high as 100, I'm told, by shift manager Wesley Anderson. Monday and Tuesday are the slowest days. I attended on a Tuesday and the noon tournament didn't go off.
They do have live games. They spread $1/3-blind no-limit hold'em, with a $100 minimum and a $500 maximum buy-in. They also spread $3/6 limit hold'em. They told me that they're willing to spread any game, including stud and Omaha, at any stakes if the players want it. They've been known to get a $2/5 no-limit game going, though it's not usually available.
The rake is extraordinarily reasonable: 5% up to a maximum of $4.00. That compares well with the larger room at Caesar's, which has a 10% $5.00 maximum rake.
I played some $1/3 no-limit, which had a full table at noon. (No games were being spread before that). The game was a relaxed, friendly affair. The players were, for the most part, passive and timid, but not complete newbies. I earned close to $100 in 90 minutes of play. I don't think serious players would have a hard time beating the game.
Weekends and latter weekdays were much busier, Anderson told me – with five or six tables going regularly on their busier nights. This is a well-appointed room, with a beautiful casino, in a lovely part of the state. I recommend it highly to anyone thinking of visiting the area. It would be worth a special trip if you wanted to come to a restful gambling destination, or worth a weekend trip if you were looking for a luxury getaway. Anderson mentioned that there might be promotions offered in the future (though they were generally tight-lipped about it – lest their competition elsewhere in the state get wind of the it and steal the idea). If they sponsor a major tournament, it could be well worth a special trip for a few days.
French Lick Resort Casino
867 West State Road (route 56)
French Lick, Indiana 47432
1-888-MY HIDEWAY (694-4332)