Merchant Allies

By Paul Giambroni

The wine country has always been my favorite part of the poker trail. My guess is that most people like it for the beautiful vineyards, the numerous tasting rooms, and the abundance of ambience that seems to overflow from the region. I like it because we have three advertisers in the area that are surrounded by neighborhoods aching for fresh copies of The Cardroom.

When I drive up Highway 29 through American Canyon on my way to Napa, I visit over 100 local distributors that can’t wait to get their hands on the next bundle of poker papers. I can’t help but smile every time I drive past Napa Valley Casino (our back page) and see their parking lot is jam-packed. It’s feedback that you can see.

The overwhelming consensus is that the city of American Canyon is lucky to have such a successful business in their backyard that clearly employs a lot of people and pays its fair share of taxes. From what I hear, the majority of local merchants see the cardroom as a benefit to the community and would like to see it expand. More jobs, more tourism. Case closed.

When I finish the Napa route, I head west towards Petaluma. I’ve always liked Petaluma because it’s a party town with a touch of class. It’s also home to the 101 Casino which is one of our original advertisers. Over the last six years I’ve enjoyed inundating the neighborhood with poker literature and have gotten to know a few local merchants along the way. Many would agree that The 101’s 18 tables are well known as a drawing card for the entire community. That being said, I usually make a point to visit their restaurant, City Limits.

As of this writing, I’ve been through half their menu and have never been disappointed. On my last run, I found the Kung Pao Chicken to be superb—in both taste and presentation. I also enjoyed a large salmon fillet with dill sauce that was prepared just the way I like it. It’s not a bad idea to get there in time for the Early Bird Special. That way you can save a few bucks and beat the crowd.

When I finish my tour of Petaluma, I head north to Clear Lake in order to take care of our third leg—Coyote Valley Casino. Coyote Valley has been talking about expanding their cardroom which puts them on track to become THE poker destination for the Clear Lake area. Located at the intersection of Highways 101 and 20, they are perfectly situated for any poker player traveling through the region. While there are other Indian Casinos in the area, none of them—except Coyote Valley—seem to be serious about poker.

I always enjoy working my way along Highway 20’s lakeside communities because they are all so close to the water. I feel like I’m on vacation even while I’m at work in these beautiful little resort towns. If they can ever manage to clean the algae out of the lake and make it clear again the recreation would be off the hook! Gambling, fishing, waterskiing, eating, drinking … it boggles the mind!

When I wrap up Clear Lake, Highway 20 takes me east all the way back to the North Sacramento Valley. When I reach ­I-5 there’s a place I usually stop and visit to close out our distribution—Granzella’s Restaurant in the town of Williams.

Williams is the back door to the wine country, and Granzella’s is like a monument to the area’s casino industry. They have large advertising marquees surrounding their building that are dedicated to gambling and tourism. They are also the home of the best restaurant and sports bar along I-5. Family owned and operated, I always feel at home dropping my last bundle of poker papers and having one of their gigantic McCarty Burgers. When I head home with a full belly and no more papers, I know that my job is done. Mission accomplished!