Black Hawk Trip Report

My wife and I spent three days in Black Hawk, Colorado in September. We live in Las Vegas and took a working vacation there to report for Colorado Advantage. We flew into Denver and drove from the airport to Black Hawk. The drive is about an hour with no traffic.

It started with a free hotel room

The Eldorado merger with Caesars Entertainment gave me access to offers at Isle Casino and Lady Luck in Black Hawk. My Caesars Rewards card gave us free rooms for three nights, although it took calling Isle Casino as the offer was not in my Caesars Rewards account; mergers always create loose threads like that. These casinos still use the My Fan Club card, a part of Eldorado, though it will merge with Caesars Rewards in the future.

First impression of Black Hawk

The drive up the mountains to Black Hawk from Denver is scenic. The road runs through a canyon with a stream and plenty of sites offering outdoor activities. The first building you’ll see on the way into town is the new Monarch Casino hotel tower. Once you’ve passed Monarch, the other major casinos spring into view.

The parking decks for the major casinos in Black Hawk are well-disguised. Each has the appearance of being an old building that looks like a hotel; some casinos have built their actual hotels on top of these parking decks.

We checked into our room at Isle Casino. It was a basic room, clean and comfortable. We were on the fifth floor, right above the parking deck.

I was expecting Black Hawk to be smaller. It is a moderate-sized gaming market. There are several modern resorts within a small section that resembles an old downtown area. I think it is a great town for casino players to visit. It has about everything, including good value at video poker and table games. 

We quickly discovered the restaurant options in Black Hawk are limited. We ate at the Dash Grill at Isle Casino, which is a snack bar.

After lunch, we headed up to Central City. We checked out the north end of Black Hawk after that. This northern part consists of smaller casinos in old storefronts. We parked in a public deck on the edge of Black Hawk and walked the entire area.

Checking out Black Hawk casinos

All casinos take the patron’s temperature upon entry as part of the ongoing COVID-19 protocols. If the casino company owns multiple properties in town, a wrist band is given to the customer, and the band works at all casinos under that same ownership. Some casinos ask for contact information for tracing purposes, though this can be bypassed if you have a players card.

I learned that it is easy to get a free drink in these casinos. You do not even need to play. You will be offered one when you arrive. Another is offered later if you begin to gamble.

We started at Sasquatch Casino, which is a small casino with all slots and video poker. It also has an arcade that was closed. It is an odd casino, to say the least. I suppose calling it Sasquatch is a clue. 

Z Casino was the next stop. This was a larger property, with three floors of slots and video poker. The bottom level also has live and electronic table games. The live table games were closed during our visit.

Saratoga Casino is next door to Z Casino. It is home to the only sportsbook in this part of Black Hawk, which is operated by Betfred. Saratoga also has a small table-game pit that was open during our visit.

Gilpin Casino is next to Saratoga. Gilpin offers mostly slots, with a section of video poker in the back. There are no table games.

We did not find anything we wanted to play at any of these casinos because we were looking for something unique. I imagine most players will feel differently. There was little difference between the above casinos; all are modest in size and selection. Z Casino offers the most gaming options with its table games and sportsbook.

We headed back to our hotel and Isle Casino. We went back to Dash Café for dinner. A friend joined us.

After dinner, my wife called it a night. My friend and I walked around Isle Casino. We found some full-pay Jacks or Better machines but not two that were near each other. We ended up going to Ameristar, where we found 9/6 Jacks or Better. However, after a while, my friend noticed the game short-paid a royal flush. It paid 500:1 instead of the 800:1 you normally find in many casinos. After a loss, we called it a night.

The next day we checked out the larger casinos in Black Hawk. We started at Isle Casino, where the table games were mostly open. I found a wide variety of tables there. Lady Luck’s tables, however, were not open. It seemed like that is a weekend thing as I later found the tables active on Friday. The best video poker at both casinos is $1 through $10 denominations of 9/6 Jacks or Better. Lady Luck also offers $1 and $5 9/6 Jacks or Better, and Bonus Poker Deluxe.

We moved over to the Golden Mardi Gras Casino group. The two large casinos in that company’s portfolio here are Mardi Gras and Golden Gates. Both had table games open. The DraftKings sportsbook at Mardi Gras had just held its grand opening. Mardi Gras and Golden Gates are connected by an indoor bridge.

Golden Gulch, a slot parlor, is owned by the same company. However, patrons must enter it from the street. It is next to Golden Gates. 

We then hit The Lodge. We had lunch in its café. It was good and priced lower than what we found at Isle Casino. The pit at The Lodge was open: it was the only place in Black Hawk where I found blackjack games that stand on all 17’s. The Lodge was also home to the only Pai Gow Poker game at any of the three Colorado casino towns.

Ameristar is across the street from The Lodge. It is the largest of the casinos in Black Hawk. The table games were open, as we expected. The best video-poker game I found there is 8/5 Bonus Poker, which is available in the $1 denomination. There was a small sportsbook area on the second floor; kiosks are available in the bar area downstairs.

The large poker room was upstairs, along with some electronic table games and video poker. A Barstool Sports sportsbook is under construction in the center of the second floor. 

The last casino on our tour was Monarch Casino, which is undergoing a massive renovation.

Like many Black Hawk casinos, Monarch has two stories. The table games are all downstairs, and the rest of the downstairs is all slots. The upstairs level is a mixture of video poker and slots. The best games there are $1 and $5 9/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe, and Jacks or Better. These games are also on multi-hand machines. 

Conclusion

Black Hawk casinos are more modern and larger than I imagined. There is a wide variety of slot titles, as well as many video-poker variants. The best video-poker game is 9/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe, which is available at multiple casinos in town. The best blackjack is at The Lodge, where the dealer stands on all 17’s. 

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