Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pai Gow Poker fun and easy

(From Destination: Cache Creek magazine)

When you walk the casino floor at Cache Creek on a weekend, you’ll likely notice the Pai Gow Poker tables are full and surrounded by players waiting for their chance to play. Cache Creek Vice President of Table Games Bill Harland says the game is popular for many reasons. “You don’t have to make a lot of decisions, but the game still incorporates poker hands into play and you can play a fairly long time because there are a lot of ties.”

Harland encourages anyone who likes poker to give Pai Gow a try, and dispels some of the mystery surrounding the game. “Pai Gow Poker is easy to play. If you understand the rankings of a poker hand, then you can certainly play. For example, an Ace High hand beats a King High hand, a Pair beats Ace High, and so on.”

At its base, the strategy is to beat the dealer’s two hands with your two hands. “You’re dealt seven cards from which you form your two hands: a five-card hand (back hand or high hand) and a two-card hand (front hand or low hand). The five-card hand must be higher in rank than the two-card.” Adding to the possibility of constructing a winning hand are the Jokers, which can be used to complete a straight, flush, or as an Ace.

If you beat both of the dealer’s hands, you win. If you only beat one of the hands, don’t worry – it’s a push. “There’s a 5 percent commission taken on all winning hands,” Harland reminds new players. You can play the Fortune Bonus of $1 to $25 to increase your winnings, so the 5 percent doesn’t reduce payouts much. Fortune Bonuses pay out for hands such as Full Houses and Flushes, regardless of whether you break them up between the high and low hand.

One aspect of the game that Harland is excited about is the Pai Gow Progressives which were recently added. “For example, today our jackpot is over $425,000 and climbing. To win the jackpot, you must wager $5 on the progressive. If you make the $5 wager on the Progressive and are dealt a seven card Straight Flush, you can call for the Brinks Armored Truck to help you haul away the loot.”

There’s more than one way to win a share of that big money, too. “If you’re dealt five Aces and make the $5 Progressive wager, you take home 10 percent of the progressive amount,” explains Harland. “Someone recently won almost $43,000 on that hand.”

It’s easy for beginners to get a little help on a tough hand. If you’re stumped, just ask about the “house way” to play. “If you have any questions please ask one of our dealers – they’ll be happy to assist,” says Harland.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

‘All aboard!’ the Sacramento River train

(From Destination: Cache Creek magazine)

Re-launched in July 2005 by the Sierra Railroad Company, the Sacramento River Train in Woodland is one of the newest dinner trains in the country. Trips aboard the train feature food and entertainment, enjoyed while passengers view the countryside gliding slowly past their window at the leisurely pace of 15 miles per hour.
“It’s a very special memorable occasion,” says Sierra Railroad President Chris Hart. “People are there for the entertainment, but also the experience. It’s like a three hour cruise. What I love about it is the sense of completely getting away from what’s normal and going on a journey with others.”

Fraught with history, the train operates on the 16-mile “Woodland Branch” between Woodland and West Sacramento, originally constructed as a link between the fertile farmlands of Yolo County and the developing city of Sacramento. The Sierra Railroad is comprised of two other trains as well: the Skunk Train which operates on the North Coast of California, and the Sierra, based 70 miles south in Oakdale. Each of them is a working preservation of our country’s love affair with this nostalgic mode of transportation.

Hart says that each trip for the Woodland train includes three phases. “First, we leave Woodland and go across the Fremont Trestle, the longest wooden trestle in Northern California – a mile and a half long. The next portion of the trip, we go along the Sacramento River. For the remaining portion we go through farmland.”
In addition to beautiful scenery, the Sacramento River Train features a variety of daytime and evening trips with food and entertainment. “We run sunset dinners,” says Hart. “We do murder mysteries – a zany, loud, fun show – where you have the actors come right into the cars. And we do a great train robbery that’s more of a daytime barbecue trip with a bunch of western characters. We also do a Sunday Brunch.” Different seasonal and special events are scheduled around holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

With all of these offerings, there’s something for riders of all ages to enjoy. “You show me someone and I think I’ve got a train for them,” says Hart. “We’ve created different trips that we think will appeal to everyone.”
Located 15 minutes from Sacramento and a half hour from Cache Creek, the train boards in Woodland and goes on a 32-mile trip lasting 2 ½ - 3 ½ hours. There are open air and lounge cars to explore, so riders don’t have to worry about sitting the entire time. Trips are offered every week of the year. Call (800) 866-1690 for reservations, or for more information surf to: