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How to enjoy Colorado’s casinos on your next ski trip

February 26, 2021, 7:48 am
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People don’t typically look at Colorado as a casino destination. And particularly in the immediate vicinity of Vail, there isn’t a whole lot in the way of gaming activity. However, there are some casinos in places like Black Hawk and Central City that attract a lot of visitors from those skiing in places like Breckenridge, Keystone, and the Arapahoe Basin.

Now, back in the early days of the pandemic, the CDPHE shut down virtually all public venues for the sake of public health — and this included casinos. These shutdowns contributed to the abrupt halting of the 2019/20 ski season, and lingered throughout much of the year. Now, however, skiing has picked up here and there, with plenty of slopes around Colorado once again open for business. And as more people look to squeeze in their ski trips, there’s a sense that things are easing up a little bit.

The Denver Post recently reported that Colorado is taking the first step in a “COVID-19 exit strategy” by loosening some restrictions on certain types of public venues. Select casinos have reopened as well. And so, as people begin to look at Colorado once again as a destination (even during the final months of the 2020-21 ski season), we thought we’d share a few tips and ideas for how to get the most out of the area casinos.

Plan Your Transportation

Again, there aren’t casinos at the ski destinations in Colorado. But there are some within reasonable driving distance for an evening out, and for that reason everything starts with figuring out your transportation. In the best of cases, you may have access to a shuttle (such as the Aces & Eights Casino Shuttle catering to Breckenridge and Frisco). Otherwise though, you can still set up transport via taxi or car service if you’d rather not make the drive into Black Hawk or Central City.

Know the Odds

If you’re looking into a casino as part of your vacation, and you’re not particularly accustomed to these venues, it’s essential to know the odds of the different games. You might notice for instance that casinos typically focus more on slot machines than any other kind of game — and yet these machines typically carry some of the worst odds. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a slot reel here and there, but knowing your chances of winning at any given game can help you to have the best experience.

Research the Hands

Visiting the card tables can make for some of the most fun you have at these casinos. But it also requires a little bit of game knowledge, even beyond the basic rules. For blackjack, this means knowing what the mathematically correct decision to make (hit or stay, that is) for different combinations of cards — something you can study through any number of online references. For poker, the idea is to have an iron grasp of how rare different hands are, and how they rank against each other. For this, the charts and explanations listed on Poker.org are perhaps the simplest reference points, and will quickly help you learn what you need to know. Even if you’re not an expert at casino card games, establishing knowledge of these fundamentals will help you to navigate the tables and hold your own.

Beware of the High Rollers

As was reported at The Mountaineer in December, voters in the November elections approved a new measure known as Amendment 77, which removed the $100 limit on individual bets at casinos. This amendment was drawn up in part to stop local “high-rollers” from leaving Colorado and heading to Las Vegas for their gambling activity. In theory, it means that Colorado’s own casinos will start to see some more ambitious activity, and more high-value betting. This is nothing to be afraid of or uneasy about, but it’s generally best not to wander into a game with an ambitious, wealthy bettor if you’re not looking to spend much.

Set a Limit

Speaking of not spending too much, it’s also wise to set a limit for yourself when visiting these or any other casinos. Establish what you’re willing to lose during your visit, and don’t allow yourself to go past that number. The best way to think of it is this: Your limit is what you’re open to spending for the entertainment of visiting the casino (the same way you’d spend a given amount to go to a ballgame). Then, if you do happen to earn any winnings, it’s almost more of a bonus!

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