Poker and card rooms are somewhat undersold among the Bay Area’s local businesses. We certainly wouldn’t think of San Francisco and the surrounding region as a casino hot spot, and it’s likely that even a lot of locals are unaware that card rooms are even operating. As we move toward what will hopefully be the waning days of the pandemic though, it’s interesting to consider these card rooms among so many other in-person activities people will enjoy getting back to.
That’s not to sound flippant regarding the pandemic. The U.S. is still in rough shape, and widespread vaccine hesitancy, mask obstinance, and so on are worsening the situation in some places. Right now though, the San Francisco area is seeing relatively low case counts, as well as encouraging reports from schools (where COVID surges have not yet been an issue). To say “the end is in sight,” as so many of us did back in spring, would be premature. But those in the Bay Area can at least sense what that end will look like, and have moved back out into the world accordingly.
This has brought about all sorts of talk about local bars and restaurants, sporting events, outdoor gatherings, returns to the cinema, and so much more. But here we want to highlight a few of the local card rooms simply as additional options for in-person entertainment and social activity.
Oaks Card Club
Oaks Card Club is located in the Emeryville neighborhood in Oakland. It’s a vibrant, active gaming venue featuring poker and a variety of “California Games” including ZooBac, Pai Gow Tiles, Pai Gow Poker, Blackjack, and Three-Card Poker.
Artichoke Joe’s Casino
This is a South San Francisco venue that’s more or less in the airport’s backyard. It’s built a bit more like a standalone casino, however, making it something of an unusual draw (in a fun way). Gaming revolves largely around Texas Hold’em at this venue, though Blackjack and the Pai Gow games are present as well.
Lucky Chances is situated in Colma, just at the edge of Cypress Lawn Memorial Park. It’s more of a full-fledged poker room, with a number of varieties of the game active on tables at any given time (though Blackjack, Baccarat, and Pai Gow are also part of the equation). It’s also got arguably the trendiest on-site dining of all the card rooms. The Colma Café offers a variety of satisfying American and Asian dishes and keeps guests satisfied 24 hours a day.
Palace Poker Casino
Palace Poker Casino is actually located in Burbank. The focus is on Texas Hold’em, Blackjack, and Pai Gow, and games are open 24/7 — though the venue itself is a little less impressive than its counterparts.
There are a few more legally operating card rooms around the Bay Area, but those four are among the highlights.
We do have two recommendations for anyone who considers venturing out to one of these venues when it feels safe to do so. The first is to study up on the games. Knowing how to play no-limit Texas Hold’em is the most important thing if you’re heading to a venue like this, because it’s far and away the most popular game. Fortunately, basic rules and strategies are fairly easy to nail down! That said, as you can gather from the descriptions of the card rooms above, you’d also do well to have an understanding of games like Blackjack and Pai Gow.
The other recommendation is to have a separate plan for dinner and/or drinks if you’re looking to make an evening out of it. While the venues we listed do have in-house drinks and dining, they’re not full-fledged casinos with high-end dining options. They basically specialize in comfort food. That’s fine of course, but if you want to prolong your night out you might consider finding a better restaurant close to a card room. There’s an excellent place called Townhouse near Oaks Card Club, a “long-time local haunt” in Molloy’s near Lucky Chances, and so on. Look around a bit and you’ll be sure to find a good option.
At any rate, there you have it! The card rooms in the Bay Area don’t generate a whole lot of attention, but they may be pretty appealing to people who are beginning to get out and socialize again. Should you have any interest, we hope this brief guide will point you toward a fun night out.
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