There is no doubt that poker is the most established card game ever. Nevertheless, those not into it may not know that it gets different legal treatment than casino-style gambling. That is because lawmakers consider it a game of skill and not of chance.
Thankfully, while California Legislature prohibits commercial casino-style gaming, it has no issues with people playing poker, as card action has always been legal on this stretch of US soil. In 2019, 66 legal cardrooms were functional in the Golden State, and 21 more had licenses but were not operational. The California Gambling Control Commission regulates the state’s poker industry, which pulls over $850 million in annual revenues.
What follows below is a list of what many consider the three best cardrooms in the state. All are terrific options that provide an excellent poker atmosphere and tournaments. Remember that those who love card action but do not enjoy crowds can forgo visiting land-based venues and opt to play at American poker sites.
The Gardens Casino
You can find the Gardens Casino on Carson Street in Hawaiian Gardens. They have been a Southern California staple since 1997. The initial venue boasted a gaming floor that stretched close to 60,000 square feet. However, in 2016, this spot underwent a massive renovation and expanded to 200,000 square feet.
The Gardens Casino is home to over 300 gambling tables, of which 110 are poker ones. These host options such as 7 Card Stud, No-Limit Hold ‘Em, and Omaha. Given that this is a casino, it also offers casino-poker variants such as 3 Card Poker and Pai Gow Poker. All tables use auto shufflers here, regardless of their type.
The establishment has an upscale bar and a lounge area. Players can break from playing to visit these sections and enjoy a handcrafted cocktail or pick from over 24 California craft beers. Locally sourced wines are also on hand. Sadly, there are no noteworthy sights nearby the Gardens Casino.
Bay 101 Casino
The Bay 101 Casino first opened its doors in 1994 at 1801 Bering Drive. Yet, in 2017, they moved to where the San Jose Airport Hotel used to be, 1788 North First Street. The spot’s floor covers approximately 68,000 square feet, incorporating energy-efficient lighting and giant flat-screen TVs.
The 30 card tables here offer a decent variety of cash games and daily tournaments. They also have built-in tablets that allow customers to order food and drinks 24/7 from their seats. Many consider this the top Limit Hold ‘Em destination in the Bay area, as the rooms here are competitive and well-maintained. A side note is that no-limit games are illegal under San Jose law, so do not go into this establishment expecting to play Texas No-
Limit Hold ’Em.
There is a full-service bar located on the casino premises, situated next to the gaming floor. The Province is this spot’s premium dining choice, a 5,000 square feet restaurant with an outdoor patio. Their menu mainly consists of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines. If Asian food does not do it for you, you can explore outside dining options. There is a Pho Bel-Air restaurant and a Chipotle Mexican Grill within walking distance of the Bay 101 Casino. Attractions that you can reach in less than a 10 min drive from this venue include the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
California Grand Casino
According to Card Player Magazine, the California Grand Casino is the world’s oldest continuously operating poker room. They have been active since 1854. You can find their current facility off Interstate 680 at Highway 4, which opened in 2009. The fourteen poker tables that this locale offers are mainly Limit Hold ‘Em ones, but it also has a few No-Limit Hold ‘Em games with a max buy-in of $500. Hi-Lo Split and Omaha 8 or Better are also an option here. Please note that this casino offers poker jackpots and has paid out more than $23 million in such prizes.
The Grand Casino’s gaming floor is large and comfortable. Casino table enthusiasts can find 3 Card Poker, Pai Gow Poker, blackjack, Buster Blackjack, and EZ Baccarat inside it. This smoke-free spot has claimed the Best Casino in the East Bay award seven years in a row.
The on-site refreshment and dining choices here get made up by only a full-service bar and the Grand Cafe. At the latter, you can treat yourself to American and Asian cuisines. Snagging a $2 breakfast or lunch is also a possibility if you walk in at the right time. A few steps outside the casino, you can discover more Asian food at Moa Korean BBQ and Chef Choy. The Six Flags Hurricane theme part, the Sunvalley Shopping Center, and the Todos Santos Plaza are about a mile away from the California Grand Casino.
To Wrap Up
The three cardrooms mentioned above are the ones that most experienced players will recommend. However, there are plenty more quality poker venues in California for you to explore. Other decent picks include the Turlock Poker Room, the Casino Real Card Room, and the Palace Poker Casino.
About the Author
Shelly Schiff has been working in the gambling industry since 2009, mainly on the digital side of things, employed by OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com. However, over her eleven-year career, Shelly has provided content for many other top interactive gaming websites. She knows all there is to know about slots and has in-depth knowledge of the most popular table games. Her golden retriever Garry occupies most of her leisure time. Though, when she can, she loves reading Jim Thompson-like crime novels.