Poker Pirates

Myrtle Beach, S.C. is a Disneyworld full of attractions for people of all ages.

It's the only place in South Carolina that offers legalized gambling. I made the two-hour drive from Charleston to Myrtle Beach yesterday to see what the attraction was all about.

The beach highway was filled with tourist traps. One business had a large sign that offered FREE SHARK TOOTH. There were miniature golf courses patterned after pirate themes, water slides, innumerable restaurants and cafes offering lobster, crab cakes, shrimp and every other food you could think of.

POKER PIRATESSCarolina

Myrtle Beach is a favorite vacation spot for my brother, Legs. He has gone there in the past to take advantage of golf packages. The area is rife with golf courses and my brother is an avid golfer. He recently traveled there with his friend Dave, a businessman who lives in Phoenix, AZ.

The Big M casino boat is not located in Myrtle Beach. It's actually docked in Little River, S.C. about 20 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I discovered the company actually operates two casino boats. One of them is a three-deck vessel that can accommodate around 400 people. One of the employees told me the ship originated in Ft. Myers, FL. and was moved to Myrtle Beach some years ago.

'I have sailed on this boat,' I said.

When I lived and worked as a reporter for the Marco Island Eagle, a weekly newspaper in Marco Island, FL., I used to go on cruises to nowhere. For less than $20, I could board the ship, have a free buffet, enjoy live entertainment and play poker, blackjack or dice in the ship's casino. We would leave around 7 p.m. and return to the docks around 2 a.m.

The new owners of the ships do things a bit differently. They don't include a free buffet for one thing. That costs an additional $15. But the crew is friendly and there is plenty of action on board. So I paid my $20 and entered the pirate poker ship.

I signed up for the poker game. Once the ship got past the seven-mile marker, the lights in the casino went on and the action began.

The poker players were a mixed breed. They ranged in age from their 20s to 70 and they played a lively game of no-limit Texas Hold'em. The game was $2-5 no-limit and the buy-in was a minimum $200, maximum $500.

There are certain changes one must adapt to on a gambling cruise. For one thing, the movement. You can see the ocean through the windows and the constant movement of the vessel through the water can be disconcerting at first. I had no trouble adjusting to it. I was a saddle bronco rider in Arizona and New Mexico, and the constant movement of the ship beneath me reminded me of riding a horse that wanted to buck me.

We played for about four hours before the ship sailed back to the port. I ended up a winner at poker and dice and made some friends. If you're ever down South Carolina way, try Myrtle Beach. You won't regret it.

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