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BEST PLACE TO LOSE A PAYCHECK THIS SIDE OF VEGAS

Casino Arizona at Talking Stick

Ever since the drive to Las Vegas got speedier when U.S. 60 went four-lane, local cardsharps have had more of a reason to skip town for Sin City. But why risk becoming another roadside cross when the Salt River Pimas have all sorts of ways to separate you from your weekly wages? With two casinos within a 30-minute drive from downtown Phoenix, you're just the kind of chap or chick who'd be an ace at improving the tribe's bottom line. True, Vegas has showstopping entertainers, but get enough $3 beers into you, and even Beatlemania Live will start resembling the real Fab Four.

You've probably been jonesing for an opportunity to practice your Texas Hold 'Em skills ever since watching all those World Series of Poker reruns on ESPN2, so stop off at Talking Stick -- where there's also Omaha and 7 Card Stud to be had. Two rules to remember, high roller: System players go broke systematically, and the house always wins. So when the flop doesn't go your way for the nth time, head down the 101. The main digs await, where 30 blackjack tables (from $5 to $250), 1,500 multidenominational slots and keno lounge will help buy you a one-way ticket to Tap City, population: you.

 
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