Charles Town, West Virginia; 800-795-7001
Distance from DC: 73 miles
Best reasons to go: This is the region’s one casino where you can find a rollicking poker game any time of day or night—and a big score; a new, 30-table poker room features a wide variety of games. Bad Beat Jackpots ranged up to $500,000 this summer if a hand of four sevens or better was beaten at a table.
Other bets: If slots are your thing, Charles Town isn’t the best choice; except for a few good machines like More Hearts, More Chili, and Alice, many are relics of the 1970s. All major table games are here, but the minimum bets are usually too high for casual players. On one recent Saturday night, four of the five craps tables had $25 minimums. Because you customarily make several wagers on each dice toss, that could mean a real-life minimum of $100 per toss.
The scene: The racetrack, one of the few in the Mid-Atlantic with night racing, feels like an old-fashioned rodeo. The Saturday-night scene is lively in the casino, too, especially at the H Lounge, where there’s loud live music and dancing. The Skybox Sports Bar has TVs tuned to the track or sporting events—plus great wings. In most areas, though not the poker room, smoking is permitted. The dim lighting does little to brighten the brownish walls.
Take a break: It’s always good to take a respite from gambling. A quick drive lets you stand on the banks of the Shenandoah River or see historic Harpers Ferry.
What you should know: Driving to Charles Town involves winding two-lane roads. Time it wrong and you could get stuck in traffic.
Bottom line: Proximity is Charles Town’s strength—it’s about an hour from Washington. With its high table limits, you may not be able to survive a losing streak for long, but you can always go home and try another day.
This article appears in the November 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.