Arizona Charlie's Decatur is located on Decatur Blvd,, 1/2 mile west of the US 95 Decatur exit. It features a medium-sized hotel and a large casino. There is ample parking in an open lot to the south, and a smaller lot to the north.
Arizona Charlie's Decatur ("ACD") was one of the first exclusively "locals'" properties in Vegas. From its opening in 1988 and its expansion in 1994, it was always envisioned and marketed as a frequent-visitor, low-roller hangout rather than a tourist gambling destination. In fact, most Vegas visitors have never even heard of the place--it is isolated from the major tourist areas of Vegas. The property is smack in the middle of a busy commercial district, and there is heavy traffic going past it on Decatur at all hours.
ACD has always offered low limits, lots of good video poker, cheap eats, and a relaxed atmosphere. The whole vibe is definitely downscale, and there are plenty of local customers with the classic I'm-gonna-blow-my-paycheck mentality. The employees have seen it all, to the point where they're kind of numb (see anecdote, below).
ACD used to send shuttle buses to the local retirement homes to fetch seniors who wanted to play the slot machines. Those seniors would, unfortunately, gravitate to the fullpay nickel video poker games and proceed to whomp the hell out of them, playing almost perfectly and squeezing the house out of, maybe, 50 cents an hour and the occasional free drink. Now, I'm convinced they send those buses to the local mental hospitals instead.
ACD feature the "Naughty Ladies Saloon", which is a cabaret-style stage performance venue. The shows are free, and often feature very high-quality entertainment. During performances, the music can be heard throughout the casino.
Table games are concentrated in one pit, roughly in the center of the casino. They offer double-deck blackjack, usually with $5 minimums, but occasionally with $3 minimums when things are slow. They also deal a shoe game with a $3 minimum (this game is busy just about all the time), as well as a couple of 6:5 single deck games that nobody goes near. Craps was 10X odds with a $3 minimum at the time of my visit, but I've seen it at only 5X odds with a $5 minimum on weekends. There are two tables available. The pit also features Let It Ride, Ultimate Texas HoldEm, and Pai Gow Poker, all with $5 minimums. There's probably a roulette wheel. I forgot to look.
Video poker offerings are fair. There are a very few fullpay 10/7 Double Bonus and 10/6 Double Double Bonus, as well as NSUD, in .25 denominations, as well as 10/7 DB in $1 denomination. However, a player earns virtually no slot club points on these machines. There is the usual assortment of worse to much worse machines as well, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors, most of them returning well below 99%.
The slot club is pathetic. It has called itself many things in the past, and its chosen name is now "AcePlay". Whatever. Its base return is 0.083%, or less than one-tenth of one percent. However, if you play the decent video poker, you only get one-fourth of that, or slightly above 0.02%. To put this into perspective, gamble $1000 at the slots and you will earn 83 cents in comps; gamble $1000 at video poker and you will earn 21 cents. This will seem very impressive when you play for five hours and earn enough for one complimentary doughnut.
OK, now we get to the heart of things. The real meat n' potatoes of AZ Charlie's-style gambling--the round-the-clock upstairs bingo hall. Games are held on the odd hours, all the time. As in, ALL the time. Christmas, New Year's. World Series and Super Bowls. During and after earthquakes. NOTHING stops the bingo game. There are LOLs with sharpened knitting needles and contact-poison daubers who have been playing there every day for twenty years. Enter at your own risk--this is the hardcore, the planetary nexus, the seventh circle of bingo. Free beverages are served.
ACD has a kind of desultory poker "room" that has wandered all around the casino in the many years of its existence (it has never had an actual "room" to call its own, just a cleared area with a couple or three poker tables). One unusual feature that has been in vogue for some time is the prevalence of 4-8 Limit Hold 'Em with a half kill, and 3-6 Omaha High. These games often go into the wee hours, and particularly on paycheck-cashing day, are surprisingly loose. I've never understood why some people don't learn to throw away hands like K9 or 76 before the flop, even after twenty years of losing with those kinds of hands, but they're all there on Friday night, waiting for you: human ATMs.
They have Keno. Many years ago, somebody won once. Maybe somebody will again someday.
The Sourdough Cafe is a Vegas institution. By "institution", I don't mean "place where they keep crazy people"—that would be the casino itself (see below). In any event, it's your basic coffee shop with lots of really cheap specials, such as the steak and eggs for $3.49. The food is of better quality than you might expect, and service is brisk and efficient. This is actually my favorite cheapo coffee shop in Vegas, and is worth a trip to ACD just to eat there. The only drawback is that the lines can be pretty long early in the day; many (often many, many, many) local seniors come down to have breakfast.
The "Frisco Market" buffet is not nearly as horrible as it used to be. It now features edible food, and is quite reasonably priced ($6-12). There are worse places to eat in Vegas. I had breakfast there twice during my visit (driven there by the lines at the cafe), and it was actually quite good.
Ron's Steakhouse: this pseudo-upscale eatery occupies roughly the same space as the former Yukon Grille. While the Yukon served you large slabs of carnivore-pleasing fare without pretension, Ron's Steakhouse seems to be pitching a more fancified product. I didn't get a chance to eat there, but it wasn't for lack of trying by ACD: signs were everywhere, and they kept pushing the place: "You get 10% off at Ron's with a player's card" said the boothling. "I highly recommend Ron's for dinner," said the front desk clerk. "BLAUUUUUGH....Ron's is (urp)." said the drunk swaying by the penny machines. "RON'S RON'S RON'S," cawed the crows in the parking lot.
There's also a Subway and a Noble Roman's Pizza for those who want to really live it up.
The Wizard wanted me to add that one of his favorite restaurants, The Original Pancake House, is within each walking distance. This place is a Vegas legend for gigantic pancakes, but everything on the menu tastes delicious and homemade, and served up in quantities to please the most enormous of appetites. It is just south of Arizona Charlies, on Decatur and Charleston.
There are worse places to stay. My room was comfy, quiet, and cheap--though at $37/night, there were better deals available elsewhere. Your mileage may vary--the vast Icahn Vegas casino empire (ACD, Arizona Charlie's Boulder, Stratosphere) makes up for the awkward geographical location of its properties by offering pretty good room rates.
There's a decent little pool, in an open area near the entrance to the hotel room tower. It has a jacuzzi and lounge chairs. It was closed during my visit, so I was unable to approach to get a decent picture, which probably wouldn't have turned out too well anyway, given that it was driving rain and about 38 degrees out.
I had the pleasure of sampling the myriad gaming delights offered by ACD during a Kafkaesque 48 hours spanning December 26 and 27, 2010.
I first wanted to play a spot of video poker. I knew that the slot club was near-worthless, but I thought that running up some points might get me a room offer in the future or something. Plus, I don't mind playing 10/7 DB even if I don't get diddly-squat from the slot club. I had no trouble finding such a machine, and I inserted a $100 bill and my slot card, and pushed BET MAX. The machine dealt me J4567, and I pushed the hold buttons to draw to my strai--
HACK HACK HACK HACK HACK
I turned to my right, where the sound was coming from, and I saw an obviously very ill young woman leaning over a penny slot machine and coughing violently. She did not cover her mouth, and did not stop coughing. Uneasily, I turned back to my machine, and got ready to press the DRAW but--
A person three feet to my left had developed the sure-fire strategy of hitting the face of the glass on her machine before every hand. The sound reverberated throughout the room. This fortunately only happened every six seconds or so. I was busy observing this when
A huge cloud of what appeared to be oil smoke was blasted in my direction. Upon closer observation, after I regained consciousness, it seemed to be coming from a woman who had found a brand of cigarette made from old tires. I hunched myself into a little ball and tried to concentrate on my
HACK HACK HACK
HACK HACK HACK
but it was in vain. The ventilation system at ACD is primitive, and the ceiling is relatively low, so I began to feel ill. Plus, I was worried about catching the bubonic plague or whatever Opera Heroine to my right had. Between her, the Thwapper, and Stinkbomb (I gave all these people names), I couldn't concentrate on, to say nothing of enjoy, my play. I cashed out the $60 I had left, and staggered over to the 25¢ NSUD machines. The sound level over here was much lower:
hack hack hack
though it still stank in there. I grimly resolved to play the $60 until I lost it or got even, then quit for the day. I pressed the BET MAX button--
BLAUGH HA HA HA HA
BLAUGH HA HA HA HA
BLAUGH HA HA HA HA
Where the hell was that coming from? It was as loud as a passing truck. I looked up and around me, but none of the other customers seemed to be paying any attention to it whatsoever! I couldn't believe that nobody
BLAUGH HA HA HA HA HA
BLAUGH HA HA HA HA HA
hack hack hack hack hack
BLAUGH HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
was saying or doing anything about it! I got up and tried to find the source of the maniacal laughter. I found it, in the person of an immense, tall man who was sitting in a stool in front of one of the penny slots. He was dressed virtually in rags, albeit wearing a heavy coat. He was surrounded by three friends who looked like death camp inmates, and smelled like dead cats. He was holding court there, and every few seconds would burst out
BLAUGH HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAA
in apparent glee, at which point one of his friends would embrace him.
I was appalled. I decided to call over a slot floorperson. I asked her, "What is it with that guy? Is he crazy or something?" She said (by way of answer), "He's here all the time." Rather than voicing the obvious question, I asked to talk to her supervisor. After a ten minute wait, the slot supervisor came up to me, wearing a sympathetic expression. I asked her if she could do anything about Laughing Loony Bird. She said that she would ask security to ask him "to be a little quieter". Fifteen minutes later, nothing had changed. I then asked for the casino shift manager, obtained an audience with him, and told him that I couldn't believe that such a situation would be tolerated, and that the casino was losing me as a customer as a result. The response I got was, "Well, if you come back in a couple of hours, maybe he won't be here any more." WTF?????? I couldn't BELIEVE that they weren't actually planning to do anything about this. Yet, I suppose it made sense, in light of the fact that none of the other customers seemed to be affected by the noise---even though he was REALLY loud!!
I did play bingo later that night, at 3 A.M. (the room was actually somewhat crowded at that time), won nothing, and later tried to play a little blackjack. But I had lost the taste for it--I was more than a little frazzled and unnerved by my experience the previous night, as well as the rather incredible indifference shown by the casino's employees.
Not a bad place to eat, not a bad place to stay, but all I can say about the casino itself is
BLAUGH HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAA
Hack hack hack hack hack
BLAUGH HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAA
The Wizard would like to thank Kevin L. for the review and Lisa Furman for modeling in the pictures. Lisa invites you to visit her page at ModelMayhem.com
Address: 740 South Decatur Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89107
Web site: arizonacharliesdecatur.com