Finally Gambled in Charles Town
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Slots, that is.
About 8 years ago, being in the area, I had walked in to the place while it was under construction for expansion. I was too early for Craps, the construction made the experience suck generally, I had no time, and a Suit managed to smart off to me for no good reason. All this at a time when the place had a bad reputation as a clip joint with everybody else it seemed. I didn't gamble and vowed to not go back anytime soon.
Time has gone by now though and my curiosity has increased due to the increase in competition from other casinos in the area. Clearly the previously denounced-by-all high table minimums and problems of that nature would likely be improved. Yet I rarely have excuse to be in the area, and I've really decided these days that to travel much distance just to go to a casino, with no other need to be in the area, is stupid.
By chance I was given some contact information for a bus going up there twice a year for next to nothing, thanks to reasonable upfront cost and a coupon for free play. So I bit for a Thursday excursion.
This time was different. Now that no construction is going on the place is agreeably nice enough inside, and plenty big. The dealers and other employees are definitely now nice as can be, while it would seem the table minimums* have come down. The joint that sells the burgers and similar food is reasonable enough, and if you are playing you can get rail drinks free. Anybody know what the policy was before? Call liquor was priced OK if playing.
Somebody warned me about the smoking, which indeed was allowed. The ventilation, though, is good, and I was not bothered at all unless the person next to me smoked - but there was that, admittedly; but a minor thing to me.
I used my freeplay coupon for VP, and as expected the paytables were lousy. JoB was 7/5, ugh, and the best return seemed to be Bonus Poker at the paytable that the Wizard simply labels as "Bonus Poker - 96.87%". This one at least pays 2 units for two pair; when it only returns your bet, same as a high pair, that bugs me! But clearly the VP there is just going to suck, which, I guess it has to be said, is very likely where the state gets a big piece of the pie. Did not see Ultimate X, didn't ask about it either, but I'm fairly sure I would have seen it.
Slot machines in enormous numbers there, but you already knew that. The table games offered are Blackjack | Craps | Mini-Baccarat | Big Six Wheel | Pai Gow | Let it Ride | Roulette | Three Card Poker | Four Card Poker - according to the site, and pretty much what I saw with at least one table open for each. There is a poker room as well. Of all this, I only am really interested in Craps, and I did play. Since this is TLDR-ish already, anybody interested in the outcome can check it out at the bottom.
I had to make a decision as to whether I would go for the Hollywood $500 loss rebate on slots. After talking to someone about it a few weeks back, it was out of the question due to having to make several trips back - as many as 4 trips back, I think he said. Now that I have looked into this bus, and other buses, the cost factor for the travel has come down if it could be coordinated with the preset dates the buses use. So I wanted to find out if the use-by dates could be known ahead of time, how many trips back would be required, and whether VP could be used for either generating the loss or recovering it. Alas, they couldn't confidently tell me any of these things, and nothing in writing. Even after pulling somebody from the back office, the VP questions could not be answered; that person did say it would be 2 trips back, but in a manner that suggested "no guarantees". So, obviously, if it turned out to be 4 trips instead I'd just have to either grin and bear it or go through hell trying to get it changed. I would obviously also say the intention is just to try to screw people by expecting them to work with as little information as possible; people you would ask about it pretended to know or did know next to nothing, wanting to hand you this brochure with incomplete information. That the full details were to be a surprise is part of the plan, with a $50 round-down rule easy to miss in the fine print to boot.
I'll let others take their chances with this kind of deal, life is too short to go through the hassle, ymmv. To top it off, it's not the kind of bet I like anyway. I call it "lottery style" gambling, where for the most part you can expect to just grind away while waiting for the big unlikely payoff. At least that's what I can glean about this, member MangoJ having posted this table showing that for a 90% return slot machine, playing it correctly [with $100 pulls] still 95% of the time you can expect to bust and be left with trying to get your money back. I suppose I too would have to go for it under ideal circumstances, the +EV nature of it being what it ideally would be, but I am inclined to pass on such things at the first little thing I don't like.
MangoJ posted this at:http://wizardofvegas.com/forum/gambling/slots/11304-500-slot-loss-rebate-strategy/2/#post183064
*oops, forgot to check the table minimums for other games besides craps
My Craps Play
I just knew, even though it was a Thursday, the minimum would not be $5. What if it was 15 or 25? I would still want to play, so I had a plan to try to keep my total action close to the same. That means making one bet, no come bets, and maybe choosing some shooters to bet nothing on, etc. I've found one good way to keep the betting down is to bet only the Come or the DC; with no line bets, you have to wait sometimes to get your bet down.
It turned out to be a $10 minimum, and 3x4x5x - in the beginning it was 2x and has only recently changed I hear. This is a reasonable minimum, and I don't complain when faced with it - but I still cut down on the Come betting.
On my first session of 3, since I had planned to maybe only bet the DC, and the table not being busy, I just went ahead with that.
The DC, I find, can be maddeningly prone to have moments where you get clobbered with a 7 after placing your bet, a 7 that is in fact a 7-out for the right-siders on the line. You get to see the House take everybody's money and this went on for at least the first 30 minutes. I always vow never to switch sides in a session, having a superstition about that being bad luck [the dice hate side-switchers you see]. The dice finally went my way, respecting my steadfastness, and I only was down a bit this first session - I then took a break.
The next session saw a full table, and in that circumstance I like to be a right-side bettor. I was on the line sometimes, sometimes just a come-bettor or non-bettor, depending on the shooters I sized up - just superstition again to think that matters. In fact if you only saw my play, and found out I was a poster at WoV and not knowing which, you would maybe think I was one of those guys claiming to follow the energy and flow, the hot table and the cold table, and all that. I absolutely play like that - it entertains me. However, I freely admit it is all hogwash. The table was cold though; I was down about $250 overall at this point and took another break.
I didn't think I would play another session. But as I was killing time slow-playing VP for 25 cents a pull, I started pondering how I liked my new throw - kind of a shot-put thing [yes you should reference the superstition bit again]. So I returned for a third time and my shooting indeed was working - the other players noticing I think how weird it looked. But the whole table was hot this session, and I correctly picked the one lousy shooter. Everybody else that shot [half didn't] was killing it, including one man who had the signs of being so drunk he wouldn't remember being there. Some guy was following him around; I wonder if he was a host? This observer, whoever he was, tells the dude to flick his ashes in the ashtray, pointing out where it was. Yet it was clear this player was an old hand at a Craps table! Just blotto in the quiet way that would have some people not realize he had been drinking. This guy made a lot of money for me, as did my own shooting, as did almost all the other shooters. I did color up when my fortunes started to slide and this session had me taking $540 away [for the session] and up overall nicely for the trip - I left a happy camper.
Back to RG
Went back to Rocky Gap* on March first. It seems if you wait long enough RG will hit you with a free room offer. I am stuck solidly in the bottom tier of player's club status, so getting the room is not about that, but perhaps you have to live a good way's away like I do. And they do consistently have a 'stay and play' offer going on their website for anyone on slow periods that covers a room cost with freeplay [except tax].
Yeah, there are some good things about RG. You can get a room if you don't need a weekend much of the year, the table minimums have stayed low, more than zero freeplay given, and the people are about as friendly as it gets at a casino. If I had a magic wand I'd change a few things, better VP paytables for one, and certainly I'd love to see them get Ultimate Texas Holdem back. The absence of that now is making a huge difference for my enjoyment. Sorry, Mississippi Stud just isn't my game - didn't play it once. And they pounced on the chance now allowed by Maryland to trash what was once pretty nice rules for BJ - didn't play that either. The Lucky Lucky side bet now has a huge HE. I had previously concluded it wasn't half bad, but to be fair I think I just failed to get the paytable right at first. In any case, even if BJ had the old rules, since I flat-bet I just can't take the low variance and if playing before would only sit down for a bit at it. The admittedly un-wizardly fix of using the side bet to boost variance is also 'out' at that HE.
So, for me, it's only the Craps table that really beckons. My magic wand would change the free odds higher, but at least it's 3x4x5x and during the week at least it is always a $5 table. I wound up down a couple hundred+ for my efforts, but it was definitely fun.
Played some VP, mostly slow-play at a quarter - what sense does it make to do max bet at bad paytables? BTW their Ultimate X machines are set so you can't easily see if someone left multipliers. If you touch the screen you get a glimpse for a split second, but in order to actually check it all out un-harassed you have to put some money in. That does make you wonder about what you're seeing for the glimpse.
I took out a marker there for the first time. Although approved for it when I last was there, it took about 10 minutes to produce a ponderous pile of paperwork to sign, none of which looked like a counter check to me. I'll have to see what it looks like once it hits the bank. The Craps dealers said they might see a marker taken out maybe once a month. Naturally, the cashiers aren't used to asking about paying off markers. That means a net free loan for 14 days in this case, no biggie, but kind of nice. It'd be nuts to abuse it though. As I've written about, the credit system proves disastrous for so many, yet I've given little thought to this aspect of it. Does it play a role, this short loan thing, in getting players to drop off the deep end? The first step? Maybe so.
*casino/resort near Cumberland, Maryland
Duplicity, Debt, Homicide
James Grosjean often writes about the duplicity of casinos when it comes to various categories such as how they are taking advantage of problem gamblers, but I haven't seen him sound off about what I keep harping on, casino credit abuse. Nor does the Wizard, and very few gambling writers at all, all of which suggests they don't really agree. No doubt the personal responsibility aspect plays big with everybody, but also it has occurred to me that anybody who actually gambles, gambling writers being likely included, does not want to see changes in the marker system - they use it. As a matter of fact, I know have myself set up with approval for markers in three casinos, the ones I am most likely to visit in the future. I can't say I want it to be more like other systems of credit, and will feel chagrined if it comes to pass with possible fees and interest too.
Rocky Gap MD is the latest to set me up, and the experience was "in between". At MGM's Gold Strike [MS] the process was easy and fast, and generous; at Harrah's Cherokee [NC] it was churlish, ungenerous, and slow. RG was friendly enough, though a bit slow, and not so generous either. Never minding the other aspects, the generosity level variation has me wondering about state laws. Certainly it seems to me New Jersey may be similar to Nevada, judging by how Clinton Portis was dramatically portrayed by NJ media as a scoundrel writing bad checks [markers] - someone not entitled to include his casino debt in bankruptcy proceedings. On the other hand, do the laws in MD and NC allow more lenience in such matters? in MS, more like NV/NJ? Just judging by generosity, by which I mean the willingness to set liberal limits for markers, I am largely concluding it varies just like that, with NV/NJ/MS in one category and MD/NC in another. This is very hard to confirm just with online searches btw - I've tried.
I'll say more about what made me more sensitive to the subject of casino credit system abuse - the murder of someone I knew some 36 years ago. The guy was not a close friend, just someone I was running into frequently enough to know his name. A gas station manager about my age it seemed - in his twenties or maybe thirty something - he ran a good station with service bays as I remember. I can get real testy about mechanics, so this place passed that test.
This was Youngstown Ohio - illegal gambling in the form of 'the number' and sports was alive and well.
Let me stop here to say I know many are objecting that 'illegal' makes a world of difference - just stick with me.
One day I see this guy's name in the paper - a homicide. Now, I can't know anymore what got reported in the papers and what was scuttlebutt; somebody would have to dig through newspaper archives. I can say for sure he was found in the backseat of a car with his pants around his ankles and a bullet in his head. The thing with the pants was believed to be to keep him from running. Clearly this was the Mob, and everyone seemed to know he was into gambling, so putting 2 plus 2 together meant he was killed deeply in debt to them. He was making late gas station bank deposits - later and later, indicating he was using the cash. At the time, I assumed that he was killed because he owed money he couldn't repay and they wanted to make an example of what happens. But now I realize he was probably killed to keep him from talking to the police, who were getting involved by then no doubt. But since I had this impression, I started asking this question that I still see repeated today: "why did they continue to let him get deeper and deeper into debt"? It didn't make sense! After years of reflection, I know better now - it makes plenty of sense. Those arguments are laid out in older blog posts here, so I won't repeat them.
Now, when I read about people who get into trouble with their markers, especially those who had a lot of money at first like professional athletes, I get to read that same question in the news. "Why did this continue"? "Who would loan money not knowing if it would be repaid"? Well, then my memory gets jolted. This is not illegal gambling I'm reading about this time, and that does make a difference, sure. Murder is one hell of a lot less likely. But I am going to say that the motive is the same - and it is still ugly mendacity. And thus we are all asking the same questions in either case.
The guy was just an acquaintance, and now I don't even remember his name. But that murder came close enough to me to make a big impression - a good guy gets killed. In the big picture maybe it amounts to very little, but for me enough to keep telling it like I see it.
Cherokee Casino Credit and Trip Report
I finally talked the Missus into checking out the Smoky Mountains in NC, and checking into the Cherokee Casino/Resort to get a way for a while. The first days of August turned out to be a quick meet-up with member RaleighCraps and his wife. G and J have turned out to be quite the waterfall enthusiasts btw; they wanted us to check out Catawba Falls and I have to say it was a nice excursion, a not-so-demanding hike too [although it was a hot day]. I think member 2Feathers may deserve credit for the waterfall idea; quite a few of them in the area, although on our short 2 night visit we only saw the one.
We had to leave some time for Craps, you know! For me the table game scene at Cherokee is a desert otherwise, with minimums too high and no UTH, but the Craps tables lure me with 10x odds. Being during the week, it wasn't hard to find an uncrowded $10 table, and I have no complaints at that minimum [although it means 5X then for me to find a comfort level]. R-Craps on our first session was killing it, making his point 6 times in one roll IIRC, a roll where there was no come-out 7 rolled either, no 7s at all, very rare and very beneficial for the way I was betting - odds 'working' on come bets. Bankroll benefit was substantial enough that I stayed up for the trip even though later sessions were choppy at best. We nearly did ourselves in as we just had to check out the newer casino about an hour south. Chances to find a $5 table seemed better, and, you know, gotta check these things out. Unfortunately, as it turned out, no $5 table, a $10 table was too crowded, and we had to play at a $15 table to find room. As we were playing, some guy hit a 4 point fire bet, but oddly somehow I didn't seem to benefit much, maybe we got in late on that; and then the table went ice cold. We headed back considerably lighter in the wallet.
That second casino and hotel is a contrast to the original, which is extremely nice with all the stops pulled out during construction to create a real gem. The southern version seems to have considerably lacked the same resources, just having a courser, racetrack-like feel to it by comparison. We didn't get to see the rooms in the hotel, of course, but judging by the outside I have to guess the typical room is adequate but unimpressive. There were signs that business was picking up, with lots of GA plates in the parking lot.
As for the difference a $15 table makes, I later looked at the effect on my typical hour's betting, which is somewhat consistently a flat-betting 50 bets. If I have done it right, to my surprise a player's exposure to variance increases geometrically for the same amount of time at the table.* Vowing now to avoid $15 mins whenever possible.
I had a brief amount of time to check out some video poker, only playing some 8/5 Bonus in a short session. I couldn't help but notice there were a lot of Double Double Bonus machines put in since the last time I was there. I'm not used to playing those and didn't realize a regular Bonus Poker strategy wouldn't cost me much [coincidentally the Wizard has a web-page about that now]. Plus I didn't really have the time to get into going online and checking out the paytables. Plus I admit the $12 wi-fi fee was off-putting. But next time, I'll check out DDB.
I applied for Casino Credit [the ability to take out markers] at this casino, as I have decided I want to set this up at any and all that I sometimes go to. I had noticed that you can apply online with Harrah's casinos, but that Cherokee NC was excepted. Sure enough, they said they didn't do it on site, but had to fax it to the main headquarters. The experience was quite different from the one at MGM, which was professional, courteous, fast, and frankly, affirming. At Cherokee, they seemed to begrudge doing it at all. A feeling of suspicion pervaded, the application was nosier, and it was really slow, causing me to check back at inconvenient times. Final approval, which I later realized may have been delayed by clerks not knowing how to activate an approval, was 12 hours later and took 15 minutes standing at the window while someone 'activated' it, whatever that was about. I was approved for only $2500, pretty ungenerous if you ask me and certainly it stank compared to the limit MGM set. As it turned out, I didn't need a marker. I'm guessing the usual experience at other properties isn't like this.
So, Cherokee NC has never been the perfect place with +'s and -'s; but I am happy it isn't too far away, and by golly the wife liked it!
*I think I'm doing this right,
Square root @7
SD at 5x odds @ 6
2 SDs = 12
7 * 12 = 84 units
84 * 10 = $840
$15 table, trying to keep av. bet the same
sq rt 50 bets, same
SD at 4x odds @ 5, 2 SDs = 10
10 * 7 = 70
70 * 15 = $1050
that means a large deviation due to luck could mean you're up or down some $840
to $1050. Roughly, since to say 50 bets is not precise.
to be correct, you subtract EV from these figures, but that's a small effect on a rough estimate
what's interesting is to figure how much shorter a session is required to keep 2 SDs about the same, even with combined bet size about the same. The sq rt needs to be about 3.7 then, to make the product with 15 = 56, as 56*15=840. That's about 14 bets! At the same rate of 50 bets an hour, I would need to stop at about 17 minutes instead! That is non-linear.
Odiousgambit Takes Out a Marker
Recently I decided to experience for myself so called Casino Credit: the ability to take out markers in these places. The promise of it essentially is the convenience of being able to have the pit produce a counter check to sign in exchange for chips, a check that will be presented to your bank for payment in [my case] 30 days; no fee, no interest. No other way of accessing money to play with is so inexpensive and safe both, not ATM, not check cashing for a fee, and not bringing your own cash.
So it sounds good, but when it comes to the gambling world, I have tended to see caution flags along at times and sometimes have been reluctant to take certain steps. It was years before I would even get a player's card, leery of the loss of privacy that might entail. But to do markers, thus getting a credit history in some form at a casino? That notion had been rejected without real examination, I'm afraid; to accept the idea that my credit report would possibly now feature something that could be taken as a negative? No way!
Looking into the Clinton Portis case, and also asking about markers at this site, however, I kept getting assurances that Casino Credit is not like what I was fearing. And I started to feel that if I was going to blog about it critically, I really needed to know more about it, learning the hard way if necessary. So I decided when the time is right, I'd accept the assurances that the effect on a player's credit report would not be damaging, that the gaming industry had its own ways of determining risk, and that they would live up to what they were presenting at face value. I had to admit that getting a player's card has been an "all good" thing, that it hadn't meant I found myself getting unwanted phone calls etc. The gambling business had passed that test anyway.
Recently I made my first visit to the Tunica establishments, and sure enough I forgot to bring my bankroll. Nothing to do now but check it all out; I went to the cashiers at Gold Strike [MGM] to begin the process and filled out an application. In response to my having a lot of questions, a manager came out to explain it all. When I needed chips, I was to just present ID and player's card, and the pit would have me sign a counter check for the amount needed. She said for the modest limit I was asking for [but an amount large enough to often be pared down in some requests, I'd guess] that check would be presented for payment in 30 days. I asked her if I would be asked to pay any markers when cashing out chips, and she said yes. However, they did not prepare statements or have any regular or frequent procedure to examine standings.
She called my bank and I was good to go for the amount requested in about 30 minutes. I got the feeling she was happy to be talking to someone who presented no issues such as having some bounced check history or whatever, mentioning that the bank is quite prepared to answer these kinds of questions and that this along with account age is largely the info the casinos are looking for, in addition to the player's average amounts on deposit. Noting where the bank was, she went on to ask if I had plans regarding soon-to-open MGM National Harbor. I said possibly so, and she indicated it would be a quick matter to get approved there, that it helps that I got started in Tunica.
I had a few hundred on me but was soon running bad at Mississippi Stud and took out a marker for $1000; all went smoothly as promised. I am happy to say I did not need to take out another marker for the evening/next morning. Each time I cashed out for about that same $1k, there was no mention of paying off the marker. I actually asked the cashier the first time if I should pay off the marker, and she pretty much said "why would you want to do that?" I take it that cashing out larger sums is more of a trigger for a request to pay off a marker. Yet it seems obvious that if a player's purpose was to wind up with more cash than he came in with, as a winner or as a loser, it would be pretty easily done, and in fact I did do that while losing more than I usually do, several hundred, even though I did not need the money after gambling was done. I did want to see just when the marker would hit my bank, on the other hand.
As I waited for the marker to finally be presented, I checked my credit report with one of the three outfits, it being something I like to do anyway, what with the law now that you can do that free once a year. That's annualcreditreport dot com, for the record. There was in fact no record whatsoever of an MGM inquiry. Whatever MGM's system wanted to know, it was all gleaned from the call to my bank it seems [although I only checked Equifax]. This topped the list of my concerns, and I feel I can say in this matter the process passed muster for not doing something I would not want.
The counter check cleared today, over 30 days after I drew a marker, no fees, no interest. I'll definitely do this again, and quit carrying so much cash.
Two things to still be curious about:
*Will it have me gambling more? Pretty sure not, but we'll see. Perhaps a small effect.
*Will I find out what a problem gambler with access to markers goes through? No, because I'm not willing to make myself look like that. Unless someone wants to stake me LOL.