I visited the Sky City Casino in Acoma, New Mexico after a playing session down the road at Route 66 Casino. Sky City is about 15 minutes further west, a little less than an hour west of Albuquerque on I-40 on the way to Gallup.
As they say about real estate, location is everything. Let me paint you a picture.
Imagine, if you will, an oasis in the desert. There are no permanent large population centers abutting this oasis. It is only reached by truck or car by travelers and truck drivers looking for a nice place to spend the night on their way to somewhere else. Imagine an elaborate and inexpensive buffet, free gifts, and modestly priced rooms used to lure in travelers and truckers as they drive past.
And now image a casino in the middle of that oasis. No movie theaters, no stage, no bowling alley or dance halls (there's an occasional concert in the Bingo Hall) – just a casino. It is the only place for entertainment or distraction for the ensnared truckers and travelers.
Now imagine a poker table in the middle of that oasis. There are no games on it during the week. Not enough truckers stop over during weeknights to support a game. But on Friday and Saturday nights – when the truckers can take a night off, kick back, and spend their paychecks with a little gambling – well, then the table rocks and rolls.
This is no place for your tidy poker nit, carefully playing the odds in the well-cushioned comfort of the modern smoke-free, well managed, decorous poker room that we've come to expect these days. This here's a truckers' game – with smoking, and cussing, and drinking, and loud talk. It's a truckers' game of big pots, friendly sharing of hands, insults, and drinking. Did I mention the drinking? There's lots of that.
I mean, what else is there to do? It's about an hour from the nearest sizeable city. And poker is sure a lot more fun that feeding money into a machine where you don't even pull the arm or drop in coins any more.
But hold on to your hat. As I mentioned before, this is no ordinary poker game. Throw out the books and articles you've read about semi-bluffing or raising to get the pot heads-up. Don't expect folks to roll over just because you are raising with your pocket rockets. And if you don't like getting sucked out on – well then don't even think about stopping at this place. It's not for you.
A few specifics are in order. The game is $4/8 limit Texas Hold'em poker. That's right – just $4/8. But believe me when I tell you that the game plays more like a rocking $10/20 or even $20/40. Can you say eight-way, capped-pot action all the way until the river? That's right, cowboy. Pots of more than $500 are not unusual.
Oh, and in keeping with the Wild West flavor of the game, the players can raise the stakes by mutual consent. The night I checked in, things started out at $4/8 but ended up at 11:00 am the following morning with folks walking away from a no-limit hold'em game. Seems the remaining six players got bored and decided to switch it to no limit at 2:00 am. Try doing that at Hollywood Park, Foxwoods, or the Borgata.
The other details almost don't matter since it's such a wild and crazy game. But just to be thorough, let me fill you in. Poker dealer tips are pooled with the blackjack dealers. So you can't reward the guy who dealt you the winning hand. You don't get comps for playing. Hey, having a game like this is compensation enough, isn't it? Rooms in the nicely appointed hotel are between $65 and $120. It's cheaper with the players card discount, so make sure to get one from the casino when you arrive. They gave me a free gift, too. I had a choice of a coffee mug or a nice notebook. I have dozens of coffee mugs so I took the notebook. They also gave me $5, just for signing up. You can't beat that.
There is a spectacular seafood buffet for $16.95 and features everything you'd expect to find at the fanciest buffets in Las Vegas (except the $29.95 price tag). There's a prime rib dinner as well for $9.95. Other menu items are similarly reasonable.
There are no poker tournaments. In fact this isn't even formally a poker room. They just have one poker table located right next to some table games where smoking is rampant. So though you officially can't smoke at the table, you can lean back and catch a few puffs during the hand. In fact, even if you don't come to the table with any cigarettes, you can probably get in your nicotine fix just by inhaling deeply, the room is so thick with smoke. Do not come here if you can't take that.
The rake is a very modest $3 per hand. There's a $40 minimum buy-in. But let me tell you that if you actually buy in for that minimum you could well be out of chips by the turn of your first hand. I recommend that you buy in for at least $300.
Sky City is not your typical poker room. If the action weren't so good it wouldn't even rate a stop. But seeing that the game is the wildest legal one I've ever heard of, it's surely worth a side trip if you're in the Albuquerque area and can drive over for a Friday or Saturday night.
Sky City Casino
Interstate 40 Exit 102
Acoma, New Mexico 87034