OneAngryDwarf
OneAngryDwarf
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January 9th, 2011 at 3:54:49 PM permalink
Hi everyone! I'm taking a little trip across the country for the next few weeks and stopping in various nearby casinos along the way. I just finished a trip to New Orleans. Well, actually, I'm still in New Orleans right now, but it's raining extremely hard and I don't feel like leaving my hotel right now, so I decided to go ahead and write this review of Harrah's.

BACKGROUND: According to Wikipedia, Harrah's New Orleans casino opened in 1999, with the attached all-suite hotel opening a few years later. The casino was apparently damaged and closed for a few months after Hurricane Katrina, but it has been very well renovated and there is no evidence of any damage at all. The casino is located right in the heart of downtown New Orleans, across the street from the Riverwalk and about 6 blocks from Bourbon St. and the French Quarter. It is the only casino in Louisiana that is not on a riverboat, Indian reservation or horse track.

HOTEL: As mentioned, the hotel is nothing but suites, and very pricey ones at that--I was quoted over $500 for a two-night stay. Fortunately, there are many hotels nearby which are also bookable through caesars.com, so I instead stayed at the New Orleans Marriott--just a few short blocks away from the casino--for a more reasonable $125/night.

On a totally unrelated, but interesting side note, the elevators in the Marriott work a little differently than most others. There are no floor buttons in the elevators themselves...instead, there's a keypad at the elevator bank where you type in the floor you want, and it tells you which elevator to wait for. I thought this worked pretty well in general, although sometimes I had to wait a while to go down to the lobby from my room. (I'll try and edit this post to add a picture of this system later on.)

CASINO: The casino itself is very large, probably comparable in square footage to that of Caesars Palace or Aria. Harrah's did a commendable job in realizing the New Orleans theme, both inside and out. Each of the different sections has a different theme and name--one part with a colorful Mardi Gras theme, another with crazy "Haunted Mansion"-style antique chandeliers and fixtures, and so on. There are lots of great little touches too, like the field bet on all the craps layouts--which is instead labeled "Bayou." Overall the gambling atmosphere is a very fun one. I also found the casino workers to be friendly and fun for the most part as well. Some of the craps dealers on Saturday night, in particular, were a lot of fun and gave the game a real "N'awlins" flavor. Drink service was also plentiful, fast and friendly.

I didn't count the exact number of tables, but I would estimate there were about 60 or so tables on the main floor, plus another 15 or so in the High Limit Area. The main floor had mostly blackjack, as to be expected, plus about 6 each of craps and roulette, a few mini-bacc tables, and a pretty wide selection of carnival games. High Limit had blackjack and midi-bacc. There was also a special room at the back of the High Limit room with about 8 big-baccarat tables. This room looked to be pretty empty most of the time. One thing I liked was that the Masquerade bar/nightclub at the center of the casino also had a small gaming pit, which I guess is supposed to be their "party pit." Unlike the party pits in Vegas, there were no scantily-clad female dancers or dealers around, although the dealers in this area were a little bit louder and more enthusiastic than on the main floor.

Here are the details on the game rules and minimums:

Blackjack--Unfortunately, as is typical for a Harrah's/Caesars property, the blackjack rules were pretty mediocre. The best I can say is that at least there are no 6:5 games. The main floor tables were all 6 decks, H17, no surrender or re-splitting Aces. On a Saturday evening $15 looked to be the standard table minimum, with a few $10 tables lingering from earlier in the day (jam-packed) and some $25 tables. By Sunday morning they were back down to mostly $5 and $10 games, with a few $15 tables as well. The High Limit room had all 6-deck S17 games, usually one $50 table and two or three $100 tables open.

Craps--5x odds across the board. The field...er, bayou...was the stingy type, paying only 2:1 on the 12, and the vig on 4/10 buy bets is charged when making the bet. Tables were all $15 on Saturday, though by Sunday a few were down to $10.

Roulette--No single-zero wheels that I saw. Mostly $10/$15 tables here too.

Other table games: There was a pretty wide selection of carnival games, including 3-Card Poker, 4-Card Poker, Flop Poker, Caribbean Stud, Mississippi Stud, Texas Hold'em Bonus (with the good rule of the ante paying on a straight or better), and Pai Gow Poker (but no Tiles).

Video Poker: I'm not much of a video poker player, so I can't say too much about the selection here, but what few machines I glanced at looked pretty terrible (think 6/5 Jacks or Better).

Poker: The poker room is separated from the main floor, though not completely walled off, so it still gets a little noisy. On both Saturday and Sunday they had spots open for $4-8 Limit Hold'em and both $1-2 & $2-5 No-Limit games, as well as $4-8 Limit Omaha Hold'em. Tournaments are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

RESTAURANTS: One would expect a casino in New Orleans to have some good food options, and Harrah's doesn't disappoint in this area. The buffet is well-stocked with plenty of seafood options, including crab legs, shrimp (both peeled and natural), and mussels, plus typical Southern dishes like jambalaya, red beans and rice, and catfish stew. There were also the usual options, including a huge salad bar and brunch station. I paid $32 for a Sunday lunch buffet, which is on the pricey side, but it was definitely worth it for the quality. Only one minor complaint: the server was a bit slow in bringing my orange juice.

Other dining options included the Besh steakhouse; "Bambu," a casual-dining place with a swampland-ish theme; and a fast-food court with Fuddrucker's, Starbucks and McAllister's Deli.

MY OWN GAMBLING:

For my first casino trip in over 6 months, I did pretty darn well if I may say so :-) After arriving in NO on Saturday afternoon, I headed over to the casino and sought out a decent blackjack game. Since all the games on the main floor were H17, I decided to check out the High Limit area. Usually $50 minimums are a bit rich for me, and on top of that the dealer at the $50 table was one of the fastest dealers I've ever seen. I bit the bullet anyway, and bought in for $500. Thankfully I didn't regret my decision, as I colored up for over $1500 about 1 1/2 hours later, after varying my bet rather randomly between $50-$100. There were two other players at the table, who generally followed Basic Strategy for the most part. Thankfully, they were pretty quiet and didn't give me any crap about making unpopular Basic Strategy plays (e.g. hitting 12 against a 3, doubling soft 18 against 6), even though I was sitting at third base.

I stopped at a $15 craps table on the way out, which was unfortunately pretty cold, and I lost $500 of my previous winnings in about 40 minutes. The dealers, as mentioned, made it pretty fun at least.

I went back the next day at about noon, first eating lunch at the buffet, then heading back to the $50 blackjack table. This dealer wasn't as fast as the guy last night--a good thing, since I was the only player at the table this time. Of course, that just meant I lost a little slower...bought in for another $500, was up to nearly $1000 at one point before getting greedy and pressing my bets to the point where I lost it all. I took out my last orange $1000 chip and headed back to the craps table, which by now had become a $10 table. I played pretty conservatively...minimum pass line bets with full odds, plus $30 place bets on the 6/8 (or, if 6/8 is the point, a $30 place on the flipside and two come bets), pressing them up after they hit once. This time it payed off, as I caught a couple of hot rolls and colored up over $1800 in two hours. Unfortunately the dealers on this shift weren't as good as the ones the previous evening. They weren't terrible, just not as good. There was one bizarre incident where the stickman asked the player on his left to move down a bit so he could have a bit more elbow room. The player started going off on him and accused him of being a racist, using foul language and making a scene. Thankfully the boxman supported the dealer and backed the player off the table--"you have no action here." Wish they would have done that more often at the casino I used to deal at. The dealer wasn't completely without fault though, since he kept fixating on the incident and openly complaining about it--even after he came around and started dealing on my base a full 40 minutes later. That struck me as a bit unprofessional.

Since I didn't play for very long on either day, I didn't bother to inquire about comps.

CONCLUSION

Overall I enjoyed my stay in New Orleans and had a great time playing at Harrah's. I think the casino is a good model for an "urban" casino...incorporate the local culture into the design as much as you can. Of course since New Orleans has such a strong, clearly identifiable culture to begin with, this isn't hard to do, but it's still better than other centrally-located casinos I've been to that are nice, but in a totally bland way. (I'm looking at you, Meadows...or in the case of Wheeling Island, dumpy in a completely bland way.) The only things I would change are better blackjack rules at lower minimums, and maybe lower prices for the food options as well. Still, for most New Orleans tourists Harrah's is a fun experience, and easily the most convenient option for gambling. (There are also two riverboat casinos in the suburbs of NO, but I didn't have time to make it out to either one, and it seems rather difficult to do so without a car.)

So tomorrow morning I'm off to other places, unfortunately without casinos nearby. Next stop after that, though...Vegas!
"I believe I've passed the age/of consciousness and righteous rage/I've found that just surviving was a noble fight... I once believed in causes too/I had my pointless point of view/And life went on no matter who was wrong or right..." --Billy Joel
Croupier
Croupier
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January 9th, 2011 at 4:29:22 PM permalink
Great review. I hope Lady Luck stays with you on your trip.
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teddys
teddys
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January 9th, 2011 at 5:45:03 PM permalink
Nice review. I walked through there years ago when I was in New Orleans for the first time. Seemed pretty good.
"Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe." -Rig Veda 10.34.4
DorothyGale
DorothyGale
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January 9th, 2011 at 6:24:47 PM permalink
Very nice review ... I was there in May ... took a little drive ... the biggest challenge I had was getting there once I got into N'awlins proper ... parking in the Big Easy is tough ... what a location though, however they got there, it must have cost a lot of favors ... and you are right about its size, much larger than I would expect given its location ...

was Flop poker there? I thought I saw it on my trip ...

--Ms. D.
"Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!"
mkl654321
mkl654321
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January 9th, 2011 at 7:29:12 PM permalink
Next time, get a player's card and make sure you get rated. With your action, you should definitely get room offers. Harrah's casinos are garbage for gambling, but they do take care of their customers.
The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.---George Bernard Shaw
OneAngryDwarf
OneAngryDwarf
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January 10th, 2011 at 6:15:40 AM permalink
Thanks MKL. I did indeed hand over my Total Rewards card each time I played and it looks like I earned a few points for my action. I tend to prefer short sessions (get bored easily), so I just figured I hadn't been playing long enough to get a buffet. In retrospect, though, I guess it wouldn't have hurt to ask.

I did stay in Vegas at the Flamingo last year for free...that offer really surprised me, since before that the only time I had played at a Harrah's property was very briefly at the Horseshoe Hammond in Indiana. I have also gotten a few offers for comp rooms in AC and Lake Tahoe, but my work schedule didn't allow me to take advantage of them.

Dorothy: There was indeed one Flop Poker table. It was dead most of the time, even with a $5 minimum.
"I believe I've passed the age/of consciousness and righteous rage/I've found that just surviving was a noble fight... I once believed in causes too/I had my pointless point of view/And life went on no matter who was wrong or right..." --Billy Joel
FleaStiff
FleaStiff
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January 10th, 2011 at 6:50:33 AM permalink
> There are no floor buttons in the elevators themselves...instead, there's a keypad at the elevator bank where you type in the floor
Sounds like a security measure, not just efficiency.

>There are lots of great little touches too, like the field bet on all the craps layouts--which is instead labeled "Bayou."
Cute. They got nothing to lose doing things like that.
>Overall the gambling atmosphere is a very fun one. I also found the casino workers to be friendly and fun
Thats what can make or break a casino.
> Drink service was also plentiful, fast and friendly.
Great!

>There was also a special room at the back of the High Limit room with about 8 big-baccarat tables.
Strange. Vegas would have far fewer Baccarat tables for that size of a casino. Perhaps a local thing?

>Craps--5x odds across the board.
Not bad, but 3x4x5x is so much faster and virtually the same thing.
>The field...er, bayou...was the stingy type, paying only 2:1 on the 12,
Yeah, but if the drinks come around real fast, who is going to care for long.
Yes, I know. A field connotes dry land. A Bayou is a slow flowing, highly turbid body of water, but after a few drinks no one will care.

>Video Poker: what few machines I glanced at looked pretty terrible (think 6/5 Jacks or Better).
Its Harrahs after all. They won't offer a better deal than they have to.

>I paid $32 for a Sunday lunch buffet, which is on the pricey side, but it was definitely worth it for the quality.
The "definitely worth it" makes all the difference. I'd not spring for that much normally.

>There was one bizarre incident ... the boxman supported the dealer and backed the player off the table.
Good.
>the dealer kept fixating on the incident and openly complaining about it
That is when to speak up. Whatever administrative problems the casino has should be handled out of earshot of the players. I hate it when a Floorman likes dressing down a dealer so much he goes on and on and on about it. If they can't stop their distracting bickering, speak up!

>Since I didn't play for very long on either day, I didn't bother to inquire about comps.
Well, you ain't got nothin' to lose by asking, unless you think they might take you out to the bayou!

>I think the casino is a good model for an "urban" casino...incorporate the local culture into the design as much as you can.
Its probably a reflection of nearby competition. Biloxi ain't that far away and there other casinos in town.
RaleighCraps
RaleighCraps
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January 10th, 2011 at 2:13:26 PM permalink
Quote: FleaStiff

> ..............
>Craps--5x odds across the board.
Not bad, but 3x4x5x is so much faster and virtually the same thing.



Flea,
I generally agree with most everything you post, but not on this one, for what its worth ;-)

Hardly 'virtually the same thing' if outside points are being made! 5x makes a big difference then, if you are playing max odds of course.

Also, not sure why 3-4-5 would be a faster game than 5x across the board. Sure, it works out that the payouts for every number are the same on a 3-4-5 table, but since all of the players are betting unique amounts, the dealer still needs to compute each individual payout. And when they payout, the payout has no respect to the 3-4-5. It is based on the number rolled and the true odds anyway. So, I would argue that the game is easier at 5x across the board, since the dealer does not need to know what the point is, to establish if too much odds has been placed. I would argue that incorrect odds are wagered more often on a 3-4-5 game, than on a flat 2x, 5x, or 10x game.
Always borrow money from a pessimist; They don't expect to get paid back ! Be yourself and speak your thoughts. Those who matter won't mind, and those that mind, don't matter!
FleaStiff
FleaStiff
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January 10th, 2011 at 2:28:11 PM permalink
When I sober up, I often don't agree with what I've posted.

Now as to this 3x4x5x versus 5x stuff. I guess its a question of player error and dealer error versus certainty of payout accuracy with 3x4x5x. Anyway the "net" house edge with 3x4x5x and 5x is so close that it really makes little difference. I've always assumed that since half of Vegas (well, 48 percent) is 3x4x5x, there has got to be some efficiency reason for it. Real or imagined, the casinos must think its better for the speed of the game.
MathExtremist
MathExtremist
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January 10th, 2011 at 3:54:05 PM permalink
Quote: FleaStiff

When I sober up, I often don't agree with what I've posted.

Now as to this 3x4x5x versus 5x stuff. I guess its a question of player error and dealer error versus certainty of payout accuracy with 3x4x5x. Anyway the "net" house edge with 3x4x5x and 5x is so close that it really makes little difference. I've always assumed that since half of Vegas (well, 48 percent) is 3x4x5x, there has got to be some efficiency reason for it. Real or imagined, the casinos must think its better for the speed of the game.



It often is, *if* the players bet full odds. The flat+6x odds payout is usually 2 red + green or 4 red + 2 green (or drop 1 red for 3 green). That's easy, and it's for all points. But most players don't play full odds.
"In my own case, when it seemed to me after a long illness that death was close at hand, I found no little solace in playing constantly at dice." -- Girolamo Cardano, 1563

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