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House of Cards
by Ashley Adams

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Poker in the Western Prairie, PART 1

by Ashley Adams

 I just completed a six state poker trip. I flew out to Minneapolis and drove west on (what I had planned as) a six day poker road trip to visit poker rooms in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota—four of the nine remaining states in which I had never played poker. I’d gone online to read up on what they spread and where they spread it—and frankly, I wasn’t terribly encouraged. None of those four states had legal public poker rooms that spread no limit hold’em— and there surely was no stud. So I had planned on a relatively bland diet of low limit and low spread limit hold’em. As it turned out, however, the experience was far from bland. It included what I now consider to be the best place in the world to play poker.

 My first port of call was the Dakota Magic Casino in the southeastern corner of North Dakota—about a three hour drive northwest out of Minneapolis.

 Dakota Magic is a relatively large circular casino that dominates the small town of Hankinson, ND. They have a hotel and convention center attached to the casino, and an 18 hole golf course nearby. The casino has within it a five-table poker room. The room itself is relatively plain, with standard cushioned chairs, well used (but not ratty) felt, cards, and chips, excellent dealers and a very attentive floor person.

 When I was there on a Saturday night, they were spreading three games: $2-10 hold’em, $2-10 dealer’s choice (Omaha-8 or hold’em) and $5-20 hold’em with a full kill. They rake 10% up to a $5 maximum with an additional $1 coming out for the bad beat. The room also hosts daily tournaments and occasionally hosts bigger events.

 The clientele are almost exclusively regulars and locals. Of the 30 or so folks playing when I was there, maybe two or three were under 50. There were many retirees. My table had a few deeppocketed players as well—including a very successful farmer and the gentlemen who is the owner of the largest goose farm in the Americas.

 Curiously, however, I’m finding that no matter how remote the poker room, there are still many players who really know how to play this game. Here I was in this barely populated section of North Dakota—and four of the guys at my table had played in the World Series of Poker—and two of them had cashed!

 The game was fun; the players were engaging, friendly, and one was as garrulous as I. A few of them were filled with gamble— making the session highly profitable. It also didn’t hurt that I was hit by the deck—starting on my very first hand. When I sat down in the big blind, I was dealt Qd Td. Eight players called me, and I checked my option. The flop was KJ9—giving me the nut straight. I bet the maximum, $20, and was called by three people. An Ace hit on the turn, I bet, got called by two people, and got called again when I bet and was called on the river. Up a couple of hundred dollars in three minutes… Can I play this game, or what?

 The night continued with great conversation, good hands, and some loose opponents. I left up a few hundred dollars. I had a delicious steak for dinner, and then, after checking in, quickly fell asleep in a hotel room that was larger and more nicely appointed than I expected—a step above the standard rooms of the chain motels I normally stay in.

 All in all, this was a great poker destination—with an excellently run small poker room, affable and affluent opponents, fine dining, and a most comfortable hotel room in which to say. Great poker at the Dakota Magic Casino—who knew?!

 Dakota Magic Casino, 16849 102nd St. SE Hankinson ND, 1-800-325-6825,

 Ashley Adams is the author of Winning 7-Card Stud and Winning No Limit Low Limit Hold’em. He hosts the radio show House of Cards, broadcast Mondays at 5—6 p.m. in Boston, MA, on 1510 AM, and on the Internet at

 Contact Ashley at

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