Inside San Francisco's high stakes underground dice scene
James "Big Dog" King of Black Horse London Pub alongside a few dice-loving regulars.
James "Big Dog" King, longtime proprietor of The Black Horse London Pub, agrees with Mattiassi. After splashing a die off the bar top of the smallest bar in the city, he warns that "dice smack is the best smack."
Although mathematicians would disagree, the consensus of every bartender interviewed was that 4s are much more common rolls than 1s or 6s. "Four are easy, so if they take that 4, that's a good tell that they haven't played before," says Lola Lugo-Gomez, who tends bar at Black Magic Voodoo Lounge. Their games typically begin after midnight, once the neighboring Black Horse closes and players relocate looking for more "smack."
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The Black Horse London Club in the Marina is minimalist, “beer and cash only,” with a clawfoot tub stocked with bottled beers in an ice bath.
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The Black Horse is well on its way to becoming legendary: the claw foot bathtub behind this six-stool bar has served as the icebox for their half-dozen bottled beers since 1996. The fire department thinks the max occupancy at this dive is 22, but you know they pack them in like sardines in this teensy dive.
The Black Horse London Pub, Cow Hollow
With less than 200 square feet to work with, The Black Horse has only nine stools, the food menu consists of a cheese plate only, there is one cask beer on draft, and the remaining bottled and canned stock is iced in a claw-foot bathtub behind the bar. Whether it’s the pint-sized space or the winning choreography of James and Cassandra, who work the bar, you will leave entertained and restored from a visit to this neighborhood spot. The bar fosters conviviality, conversation, and the occasional 1-4-24 dice game. There’s also a dart board, though you might be re-enacting William Tell to use it. A few other items to note before visiting: Cell phone use is forbidden, men are expected to give up their seats to women, and the bar is cash only. If you’ve never been to this pub before, don’t wait for a foggy day, just go. // 1514 Union St
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Use this space to tell people more about what you do or For what it lacks in size (it's the smallest bar in San Francisco at 19ft x 7ft), Black Horse London Pub makes up for in being one of the best bars in California. Really though, it's hard not to like everything about this place, from the bottled beers they pull out of a bathtub full of ice behind the bar, to the bathroom you have to pretzel your way into, to the dart board that is basically impossible to play. Oh, and you don't just need to drink here before you die; you need to drink here and play 1-4-24 with James "Big Dawg" King here before you die. Actually beating him: optional. featured service.
7 bars you will never get a seat at
If, like Olga Kurylenko, you prefer stuff super-small, then it's time you put your big-boy scrolling pants on and start checking out the below: the definitive, with-pretty-pictures-iest guide to the smallest bars in America. They're all 10 seats or less and have very little room for activities.
Equivalent Size: The cockpit in Flight of the Navigator
The Skinny: First -- it's not a deli, despite what the sign says out front. Second -- beer's only available in bottles and they're all kept in a small, antique bathtub full of ice behind the bar. It seats maybe eight people, and standing fits probably another minus-two. Pro tip: ask for "Big Dog".