New Mexico has a nice cluster of poker rooms situated within 30 minutes of the corridor between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. There are seven rooms in all – though some don't operate full time, and only one has a full host of games. Still, each is worth a visit and has something to recommend it.
The first room I visited was Route 66 – the newest of the rooms in this area. It's a flashy new casino located about 30 minutes from downtown Albuquerque out west on Interstate 40 (which parallels the classic old road Route 66 – hence the name of this casino).
Like all New Mexico casinos, Route 66 is open from 8:00 am until 4:00 am during the week and then 24 hours on Friday and Saturday. The poker room struggles to attract players during the day, scheduling tournaments daily at 1:00 PM. I played in the tournament. It was no-limit, $40 to enter, with contestants beginning with good-sized stacks of $3,000 tournament chips and blinds at $25/50, escalating every 20 minutes. The level of play was about average for getting a bunch of buddies over for a local tournament. There were a few regulars who knew the rules but I didn't notice anyone who seemed particularly good, but then again, I didn't place in the money so who am I to judge. We had 18 players on the Saturday I played.
The room is non-smoking, like all rooms in New Mexico.
The room is very nicely appointed, with a bar right in the room, comfortable chairs, a well-carpeted and clean floor, cushioned roller-based chairs, and slick artificial felt. There were a bunch of old-fashioned paintings on the wall. There was room for many more tables than the two they had going while I was there. I think the place could probably accommodate eight or nine tables – though I never saw more than two going at one time during my three visits to the room.
The rake is standard for New Mexico: 10% with a maximum of $3. One dollar is taken out for the bad beat and high hand jackpots. The bad beat was $20,000 while I was there (aces full of jacks beaten). The high hand promotions rewarded straight flushes with $200 or so and quads with $100. One was hit while I was there. They also have a morning promotion: if you get aces cracked you get $50.
An experienced professional, trying very hard to bring in players, ran the room. There seem to be more games in the area than are needed for the total number of players. That's not necessarily bad for players – since it means that the rooms routinely try one promotion or another to attract them. Still, it can be frustrating not to have a regular room with a bunch of games all of the time.
There are some great meal deals here. They had a Johnny Rockets with a reasonably priced menu. There was a buffet that I tried which was fantastic – truly. There was also a snack bar with very inexpensive food: a beef taquito for $2.95, or a fruit bowl for $3.95.
The room also boasts the only stud game I could find in the area – a $2-6 spread-limit game. I was told that it went off a couple of weeknights so call in advance if you'd like to play.
There is a brand new hotel right next door. And the casino itself is only four years old. While I was there they had a promotion going in the hotel. Visitors with Route 66 Casino Players cards got a room for only $66. I don't know how long the promotion lasted but you might want to inquire about it if you're visiting. Two guests told me that the rooms were "very nice but not luxurious".
The big room in the area, with the best players, the most games, and the biggest limits is Sandia. But for some low-limit games, some good company, and low-limit tournaments this is an excellent destination. I'd come back here again if I were visiting the area.
Route 66 Casino Hotel
Address: 14500 Central Ave SW
Albuquerque, NM 87121