This is another in a series of reviews of the sleeping accommodations of parking lots of casinos throughout our nation’s western states. It is directed towards those amongst the cardplaying community who, like the author, are adventurous and poor. However, in the interest of incorporating a wider audience, I’ll also include some description of the casino itself and maybe some amusing anecdotes. Why not.
Yuma, Az. Paradise Casino
I have to congratulate myself on some productive internet research. Before leaving San Diego for my favorite aunt’s house in southeastern Arizona, I dug up an article on pokerpages.com (shameless plug) entitled “ARIZONA POKER: A mecca for the poker connoisseur.” Perfect, considering I play poker and that I was headed to Arizona.
As it turns out, one of the casinos mentioned in the article is Paradise Casino in Yuma, AZ. Well, Yuma hadn’t seemed so attractive since it ended its reign as the spring training site for the San Diego Padres (clearly the darkest day in the town’s history). This little piece of heaven in the middle of North America’s most arid expanse would definitely have to be my first stop.
I left San Diego at around 7:30 pm, intending to get some miles under my belt at night while it was nice and cool. I figured that my ’86 Ford with the broken thermostat would thank me for it. When I finally hit the desert floor and it was still well into the nineties, I really felt smart.
It was no less balmy when I crossed the Unique Casino Colorado River three hours later. The exit for Paradise Casino was clearly marked and after winding my way up a short road, I was there. A bright little oasis of neon and whitewashed walls nestled in a little valley just off the highway. Yuma at 11:30 pm on a Tuesday: paradise. I tried to park my truck – at this point overflowing with camping gear, clothes, and food – under a streetlight and strolled in.
I already had a plan. After locating the poker room (incidentally, there appeared to be two poker rooms – one on the “Arizona” side of the casino and another on the “California” side – but I didn’t take the time to inquire further about the other room or the way in which the casino was split), I found a nearby blackjack table and approached.
“Fifty in red, please.”
Then I walked away.
I intended to work a little tourist routine for the next few hours. You know what you think when you see some kid approaching the poker table with a stack of $5 chips: fresh meat. Let the locals try to sink their claws into the poker machine that is Mr. B!
Well, my plan was foiled on two fronts. First, the poker podium refused to exchange my red chips for a rack of ones. No problem; they could decorate the table for awhile. Second, and probably more importantly, they weren’t spreading any games at which I was any good (not hard considering I only play hold ’em). So it’s $3-6 Omaha high-low or nothing? I had to ponder this one.
I sat there for ten minutes or so, clicking my ‘blackjack winnings.’ On one hand, I’d played very little Omaha-eight. But, on the other hand, I **** at the games I do know well.
As I weighed the pros and cons, a kindly dealer walked up just then and began to explain the intricacies of the game. I begin to lay it on. Yes, I’ve played before (a little defensive). Omaha? Never. There’s a low (confused, yet interested)? How does that work (innocently curious)? Ramon is perfectly willing to assist.
With my image as a novice firmly established, I figured I had at least one advantage. Besides, did I really intend to go to sleep right now?
I grab a seat and go through a few hands. I finally pick up an A-2-K-Q double suited red, which I understand is a decent enough hand. I limp along and it’s raised behind me. Five players see the flop.
It comes A-Q high, and has also provided me with a draw to the nut diamond flush. Can’t go wrong, I think. A diamond on the turn. I’m already stacking the chips in my mind as its checked to me on the turn. I bet. This should be a decent haul. Sixty, maybe more in the pot right now…Huh. Board paired there on the river. Let me look again. Yep. A three on the flop and another there on the river. I check and, lucky for me, someone else bets behind me. I give what even I know is only a crying call. Turns out the preflop raiser didn’t have nothing, as I’d presumed. She flopped three aces and filled up on the river. Nice. I guess you can’t fake beginner’s luck.
After another hour and a half of play, I’ve caught very little. My dwindling stack is making me feel more and more like the tourist I’ve been emulating. Finally, fourhanded with $16 left, I pull up stakes and break the game.
It’s good to be on the road.
Sleeping accommodations: I wasn’t sure how kindly security would take to my presence, so I chose the less conspicuous confines of the truck cab as opposed to the camper (really just a shell with a makeshift bed). A word to the wise: vinyl seats and hundred-degree heat equate to lots of sweating and little sleep. Throw in the paranoia of getting caught (there was an RV park next door, so I wouldn’t have been moved far) and I probably didn’t find dreamland until three.