Philly-area casinos trip report (long)Last weekend I caught the Amtrak train across the state to Philadelphia to check out the casino offerings there. Overall it was an enjoyable trip, although I'm not sure I'd go out of my way again.
My starting point was the relatively new casino at Valley Forge Resort and Convention Center, about 40 (by car) or 60 (by bus) minutes west of Center City Philadelphia. There are quite a few unique things about this casino...it is one of only two in the state to have a hotel attached (the other being Mt. Airy Casino in the northeast). It is also the only casino in the state--and one of a very few nationwide--to have an admission charge. Locals, or anyone who wants to visit a lot, can purchase a 3-month pass for $20 or 1 year for $59. For one-time visitors, the charge is $10, which you immediately get back in the form of a $10 gift card to use at any of the restaurants on the property or the gift shop. Admission is also included for guests either of the hotel (the entire length of your stay, including until midnight on check-out day) or one of the conventions being hosted there (24 hours the day of the event).
I'll admit I was drawn here mainly because of billboards I saw on the way back from AC last month, advertising $100 in free play for new player's club members. After checking in and chucking my suitcase in my room, I went to down to sign up for the card and the representative asked if I play slots or tables; I say (of course) tables, and she hands me two $50 match plays. Not exactly "free," is it? Oh well, I bet both of them on the don't pass in craps and the shooter 7'ed out both times, so who am I to complain.
Aside from being a bit smaller, with an emphasis on tables, once you pay the admission charge and get past the security guard, the casino feels largely the same as any of the others in the state...8-deck blackjack, with standard PA rules; minimums were either $15 or $25, with $100 being standard in the high-limit room. 3-4-5x odds in craps. The usual carny games, 3CP (6-3-1 Pair Plus), Let it Die, UTH (8-6-5 Trips paytable) all at $10 mins. One pit is dedicated to Asian and Asian-oriented games (southeastern PA having a fairly sizable Asian population), including mini-Bacc, pai gow and pai gow poker, all at $25. The dealers were a mix of break-ins and experienced transplants from the various established Philly and AC houses...the craps crews seemed a bit indifferent, to be honest, but the other dealers were quite friendly and personable.
After using up the match plays, I head over to UTH for a couple hours and wind up down $100 or so. Yes, the same $100 I won with the match plays...meh. I decided it was time to rest up in my room and get something to eat.
There are actually two hotel towers at Valley Forge, the older casino tower, and a newer Radisson-branded tower on the opposite side. They are advertised as two separate hotels, with separate amenities, but they are connected via a passageway and share a few facilities, namely the pool, gym and a TON of conference rooms. I stayed in the casino tower, which was about $20 cheaper than the Radisson, and also a much shorter walk down to the casino, perfect for degenerate gamblers like me. I tend not to be too picky about hotel rooms, as long as they're clean and have a comfortable bed I am happy, and the casino tower was just fine in those respects, even though it was definitely dated. The bathtub was also a HUGE jacuzzi, a pleasant surprise. There was free wifi in the rooms, just as it should be in every hotel...some "luxury" properties that should have it (coughcoughCaesarscough) don't.
After my nap, I headed down to the Valley Tavern, an Irish pub in the lobby of the Radisson. Since I was in southeast PA, I thought they would have Yuengling Black & Tan there...unfortunately, they didn't, but the bartender made one for me anyway by mixing regular Yuengling with Guiness, and charged me the same price as a regular Yuengling. Not too shabby! I also ordered a bacon cheeseburger, which was also very good.
With my sleep and hunger needs taken care of, it was time to head back to the tables. From about 10PM-2AM, a DJ sets up in the center bar of the casino and spins an...interesting mix of tunes. He was all over the place, going from Sir Mix-a-Lot to Shania Twain to Barenaked Ladies...all in the course of about 6 minutes. It was bizarre, but kinda fun and at least it was only really loud near the bar area. I decided to try craps this time...big mistake. Blew through $400 in 20 minutes...I think I hit maybe one pass line and one come bet the whole time. I went over to UTH again and WOULD'VE gotten slaughtered...if the dealer actually knew how to read poker heads. This particular dealer (don't want to give away too many specifics as I don't want him to get in trouble) paid me when I shouldn't have been AT LEAST three times. I actually don't really like situations like this, since I'm always paranoid that some suit will come over later and insist that I give the money back or leave, and I also can't tip the dealer since it looks too much like I'm "thanking" him/her for the mistakes. So I get out of that pretty quickly and give blackjack a try. I will never understand why people chastise others for surrendering...things like "that's a sucker bet, you know" (so why doesn't every casino offer it?), "thanks for giving me your 10" (why should I make myself lose so you'll win?)...all in all, I go down another $200 and resolve not to play blackjack again, just like the last time I played blackjack. I went back up to my room and turned in for the night.
The next morning I woke up around 8AM and went down to the Italian station in the casino food court, which my room's restaurant guide says is open at 7AM...but it's closed. So I again walk down to the Radisson and the breakfast buffet at the Nosh Deli, consisting of pancakes, french toast, bacon/sausage, oatmeal, fresh fruit, and some weird scrambled egg-croissant things, which actually end up being pretty good. After that, it was time to venture out to the other casinos...
...once I figured out where to actually catch the bus. SEPTA has a very extensive and convenient transit system in the Philly area, and visitors can buy a one-day pass, giving unlimited rides on the entire system, for a very reasonable $11. But the problem is, neither the bus shelter in front of the casino or the one across the street doesn't indicate which direction the bus is going! No signs, no maps, nothing. So I took a guess and crossed the street to the other shelter...only to see bus 125 to 13th & Market heading the other way. Crap. Well, I had to wait another 40 minutes for the next bus, which thankfully arrived on time.
I departed the bus at 30th Street Station and hopped on the Market-Frankford subway line, which stops within a few blocks of the Sugarhouse Casino in Fishtown. While it is walkable and I had no problems doing it, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone at night. The surrounding neighborhood is...interesting. Some hipster-type bars and clubs around, but it mostly consists of warehouses and empty buildings, and is best described as "up-and-coming." Nobody gave me any trouble, but I would still take a taxi after 11PM or so just to be safe.
The Sugarhouse, once inside, isn't bad. Kinda small, but classy with an urban feel. I liked that the music over the PA consisted mostly of music from Philadelphia or with a Philly connection (John Coltrane, Hall & Oates, the themes from "Soul Train" and "Rocky," etc.). I love little things like that, that make the casino feel like a local hang-out and not just a place to take your money (though I'm aware that's all it really is in the end...). I have less praise for their smoking policy, however. While it's great in theory to have 75% of the tables designated as non-smoking, the dealers at these tables were letting players just get up and smoke right behind the table...blowing smoke right back into my face. Very frustrating! I didn't spend too much time here for that reason, but they do have UTH with the 8-6-5 Trips, and the dealers (aside from the smoking issue) were pleasant.
Time to check out Harrah's Chester, which proved more difficult than it seemed. From the Sugarhouse, I had to take the number 15 trolley (which uses pretty neat-looking vintage PCC trolley cars) along Girard Street, transfer to the Broad Street subway line to South Philly, and transfer AGAIN to bus number 37. All in all it took about 90 minutes to get to Harrah's...pretty deceptive of them to try and pass it off as "Harrah's Philadelphia" when it takes so long to get there, so I'm not going to refer to it as such.
I got a bit of trouble from the security guards when I go in, who claimed that the picture on my DL isn't really me. While I do look a bit different than when the picture was taken, having shaved my beard and lost some weight in the last two years, I didn't think it was that different! They were very friendly about it, though, which was surprising...would've thought being a guard at that casino was a stressful job, given the surrounding neighborhood.
I arrived at a blackjack table and, much to my surprise, a man in a tie whose namebadge read "Shift Manager" was standing in front of it. I asked him why the shift manager was dealing blackjack, are they really that short-staffed? He laughed and said he was just filling in for a dealer who had a bathroom emergency. It was also amusing to have to get approval from the floorperson, his "boss," to change money. The real surprise was just how rusty he was as a dealer. Twice, when he had an Ace/10 showing, he forgot to check for blackjack. He said it was because he was a dealer before they installed the card-checking mirrors on the tables and wasn't used to them! He was a nice guy, in any event...couldn't say the same for the real dealer who came back 10 minutes later, unfortunately. Worse, I grind it out and go bust after an hour or so, down $500. I grabbed a late lunch at one of their restaurants which used to be a generic sports bar, which has since been re-themed as a country-western sort of place with TONS of craft brews on tap. While the beer selection is great, I was unimpressed with the chicken nachos I ordered...very soggy and flavorless.
If getting from Center City Philly to Chester was a bit tough, it was a walk in the park compared to trying to get from Chester back to Valley Forge. I took bus 113 to the 69th Street Transit Center...then waited 30 minutes for the next train on the Norristown High-Speed Line to arrive...then took that all the way out to Norristown...then took bus 99 to Valley Forge. Total travel time: 3 hours. While I prefer not having to drive if I can avoid it (hence why I also took Amtrak there in the first place...more relaxing and cheaper than the PA Turnpike), having to transfer so many times and waiting around for connections was an exercise in Zen thinking. I was so "transitted-out" that I didn't really feel like trying to make it out to Parx, the fourth area casino...maybe next time.
Back at Valley Forge, I gave UTH another try...and I'm glad I did. I bought in for $500 and proceeded to have a MONSTER session. No huge single hands, but just had a steady stream of winning, mostly 4x bets...the way it ought to work! I shared the table with four young Indian guys who were very entertained by my playing...they were shocked when I went in 4x on J10 offsuit, missed the board completely, and still beat the dealer! They commended me on my "gutsy" playing...I was a bit surprised myself, since the correct strategy didn't seem to raise as many eyebrows in AC as before and people there seemed to finally be getting used to it (even if they didn't play it themselves)...guess that hasn't made its way here yet. About 2 hours later, I color up over $1800...Certainly made up for the bad sessions here and at Harrah's.
The next morning I checked out of my room. I asked the front desk if there were any comp dollars to apply to my room charge, she said I had a grand total of...$6. This was after at least 7 total hours of play at not huge, but not insignificant, average bets. Ugh...what is it with PA casinos and stingy comps? Overall I liked the Valley Forge resort, but there were two small issues that I hope they sort out eventually. One, they really should make the casino access card (the card you scan as you enter the casino) the same as the player's card. Two separate cards is too many to juggle around, and makes it easier to lose one or the other. Two, even though I had casino access during my entire stay, my access card still invalidated itself every day and I had to go back to the front desk to re-activate it. Surely it's not too much trouble for them to just activate the card for a certain length of time...is it?
I had some time to kill before catching the bus to the train station, so I needed a game that would pass the time without being too stressful...Pai Gow Poker, of course. I was the only one at the table, so I banked half the time, had a good time playing and talking with the dealer, and wound up down only $14 when I had to leave.
So that's (some of) the Philly-area casinos for you...while they aren't bad as a group, I would come back only if they gave better comps as a whole. The day after I booked my room at Valley Forge for about $100 a night, non-refundable, Resorts AC sent me an email offering me a free weekend stay, and I kicked myself. Ah well, live and learn...
I'm surprised you found your way to Harrah's Chester by public transit. It is in the middle of a industrial area. I would have tried the Tony Luke's sub shop there. Great subs, and you can use your reward credits 1:1. Nice casino, although I played blackjack for 1.25 hours at $10 a hand and only earned 15 points, which wasn't enough for my check-in, and had to leave without getting the check-in. Not happy about that.
SEPTA just won an award for best public transit system in the country.
PA Turnpike is really that expensive? PGH-VF was only about $15 o/w when I drove it. Could always try megabus...amtrak sucks.
Euro trip, part 1BMar. 29—Lisbon, Portugal
I last visited Lisbon in 2008, and thought it was one of the most beautiful cities I had ever seen—the shimmering limestone streets, terra cotta building facades, and funky old trams making their way up and down the windy streets give the city a lot of character. Walking about town four years later, it’s very apparent that the Euro recession has taken its toll on the city. Seems like quite a bit more graffiti and abandoned storefronts strewn about now, not to mention fewer tourists out and about. There are still plenty of interesting sights to see, however, and I still highly recommend a visit for any European traveler for something a bit more off the beaten path than Paris or Rome.
My main objective this time around is to visit Casino Lisboa, located not too far from the city center. The casino opened in 2005, apparently with much controversy as the closest casino to the city previously was 30km away—people were worried about the harmful effects on both that casino and the population at large. It is true that the casino is quite easy to access: just a relatively quick 15-20 minute ride on Lisbon’s extensive and efficient subway system to the neighborhood of Oriente, a ritzy suburb with a high-speed train station, expensive shopping mall, and a very large science center for the kids. From there it’s a (brisk) 5-minute walk over to the casino, which is quite imposing from the outside—lots of black mirrored glass with the casino’s name in giant stencil lettering. To me it almost looked like some kind of warehouse:
I go up to the entrance at about 1PM, and a security guard informs me that…big surprise…they don’t open for another two hours. Judging from these experiences and research of other European casinos, this seems to be the norm here. Only we degenerate Americans believe in gambling at all hours of the day. :-) (OK, Canadians too, to be fair.) It’s fine with me, though, gives me a bit of a chance to have lunch and explore the neighborhood a bit.
Oriente is, in a word…nice. A little too nice, maybe, with big high-rises and fancy restaurants everywhere; it’s quite a bit more sterile than the grittier urban core of Lisbon. (Unfortunately I forgot to get pictures of the area…we’ll be back in about a month and a half, though, and will try to do so then. Scout’s honor.) Anyway, after a pleasant but expensive cable car ride and lunch at a restaurant that screwed up my order twice, I headed back to the casino. It seems like they could stand to open a bit earlier, as there was already a small crowd out front waiting when I arrived shortly before 3PM.
Unfortunately, as is typically the case, taking pictures inside the casino is a big no-no, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s quite nice. The mirrored black glass theme continues inside, bit it blends a bit better and gives the casino kind of a nightclub look—I imagine that was the intention to try and attract a party crowd. Table games are all the way up on the third floor—American casinos seem to like having the gaming area all on one floor, but other countries seem to favor multiple levels. (Casino Montreal has a very similar layout—Greektown in Detroit is the only American casino I’ve seen that does it.) Predictably, roulette is the most popular game by far, with 6 or 7 tables. All single-zero, which is nice if you like roulette. No craps, but two tables of blackjack and one each of Caribbean Stud and Mini-Bacc on the other side of the pit. The blackjack rules weren’t too bad, but kind of strange…6-deck CSM, 3:2, dealer does not peek for Blackjack, S17, double 9-10-11 only including after split, surrender available except against an Ace…and the most interesting rule, a suited 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 automatically pays 3:1. I can’t imagine the effect of this on the house edge is that much great, since it’s so rare, but it is a nice bonus even though no one hit it in the short time I was there (though there were a few close calls). Both BJ tables started at a 5-Euro minimum (about US$6.60), which I was pleasantly surprised about; I was expecting it to be much higher.
Due to time constraints, I’m only able to play for about 45 minutes, and after two blackjacks, a couple surrenders, and zero double downs, I leave the table…exactly even. Sadly, Casino Lisboa did follow that weird “you have to surrender before the first player takes a hit” rule that I’ve railed about before, but at least here the dealer actually asked the table if anyone wanted to surrender before starting to deal again. I was surprised to sit down next to a fellow American at the table—a tough-looking guy with a very stereotypical Noo Yawk accent, not exactly someone I would’ve expected to meet in Portugal. He turned out to be quite funny, though, and joked around with the dealer (who spoke excellent English) and generally made the table a fun experience. Overall I liked Casino Lisboa and wish I could have stuck around a bit longer—but this mini-review will have to do for now.
So that’s my whirlwind tour of Portugal for you…stay tuned for the next installment, hopefully in a few days…
Nice pics of Casino Lisboa. I visited Casino Lisboa while my wife and I were in Lisbon in November 2011. Played some Blackjack, Roulette and French Bank. Like you mentioned in your blog, the dealer does not peek for a Blackjack. I realized this when I split 8's against his Ace, pulling 18 and 19 respectively...when he turned over his Blackjack, I was livid that he didn't check for Blackjack prior to me splitting. Mental note to self: ALWAYS check the rules of a game at any new casino before you start playing.
I was praying for craps but the only dice games they have are Sic Bo and French Bank. I played some French bank, also known as the Banca Francesa, This is a Portuguese game played with three dices. It has three kinds of bettings: the "Big chance" (when the three dices total 14, 15 or 16), the "Small chance" (when the three dices total 5, 6 or 7) and the "Aces chance" (when you get 3 Aces: when the three dices total 3). All other totals are not considered valid and the “croupier” must roll the dice again. The Big Chance and Little Chance pay 1:1 respectively, the Aces chance pays 61:1. I played for about 10 minutes, breaking even, Three Aces came out once. The croupier puts the dice through a "funnel" type instrument and the dice come out on the table. There's also a screen that they use to track the totals of the valid dice rolls that appeared, similar to Roulette.
We also spent a week in Caiscais, which is about 30 Kilometers from Lisbon. I played at another casino there (Casino Estoril) which almost looks like a replica of Casino Lisboa. I believe there are under the same management because you can access info about either casino from the same website.
Both Casinos were cool. It was nice to add new casinos to my list that I've played at worldwide.
Thanks OAD, I am enjoying your adventures. Do the casinos charge a fee for admission? Is there a dress code? What time do they close?
Euro trip, part 1Yes, I’m still hanging around here. No, my “Euro Trip” is nothing like that ridiculous movie from 6 or 7 years ago, just needed some kind of catchy title. Anyway, for those unaware, I work on a cruise ship, and a few days ago we finally docked in our first European port after a grueling 7-day Atlantic crossing. Since there doesn’t seem to be too much discussion of European casinos here, I thought I would offer my impressions of the ones that I’m able to visit, along with a general travelogue as I sail across the Mediterranean for the next few months. So here we go…
Mar. 27—Funchal, Madeira
Madeira is a tiny island territory controlled by Portugal, and is actually closer to Africa than Europe. It’s a very common first stop for cruise ships traveling across the Atlantic for this reason, and sure enough we pulled into the dock alongside four other massive ships—not very ideal for just having a relaxing stroll through town, unfortunately!
I was initially unsure if there was a casino in Madeira or not, but as soon as I got off the ship I noticed the huge building on top of a hill with a sign saying “PESTADA CASINO HOTEL PARK,” so I guess that answered my question. I walked up the hill to the hotel—surprisingly, it wasn’t quite as steep as it seemed at first glance. I walked through the front door of the hotel and wander around looking for the casino. I see some signs advertising it around, but no sign of an entrance anywhere. Don’t they usually want to make it obvious? It took about 10 more minutes of wandering before I realize that it’s actually in a totally separate building. D’oh. “Casino Madeira,” the sign says out front—not clear if it’s actually run by the hotel or not. Sadly, I got to the front door of the casino to find out that they don’t open until 3PM. My ship sails at 4PM, so that’s cutting it a bit too close. So I get to save my money for another day, at least…Both the casino and the hotel do have some interesting retro-futuristic architecture, though, which I took some pictures of:
After that little adventure, I headed back down the hill and towards the Funchal city center. Funchal, the de facto “capital” and largest city on the island, is in many ways a typical European city—lots of old buildings, narrow streets—and currency exchange kiosks with horrible rates, as I soon found out. There was some interesting public art along the way, advertising what seemed to be an exhibit at the nearby art museum:
I re-boarded my ship later that afternoon and we proceeded to make our way over to mainland Europe.
(split into two parts for space concerns...next bit on its way...)
San Juan casino impressionsI had the chance to visit two casinos in San Juan, Puerto Rico yesterday. There are several more in the city, which I didn't have time to see, but I'll be returning in two weeks and hope to visit some more then and write reviews. For now, here are some mini-reviews of those two:
The Sheraton Old San Juan (not to be confused with the San Juan Sheraton, which is in another part of the city) is the only casino-hotel in the historic Old Town part of the city. It is a small casino, with about 400 slot machines and 10 table games, only three of which were open when I was there--two blackjack, one roulette. The blackjack rules were: 6 decks, dealer stands on soft 17, double any two cards, no surrender or resplitting aces, and the dealer does not take a hole card (European-style). One table had a US$10 minimum, the other $15. One unusual thing I saw on the $10 table was a $1 progressive bet, like the ones in Carribbean Stud or Let It Ride. While I had seen some online casinos offer this at their blackjack, this was the first time I had ever seen one at a brick-and-mortar casino. The paytable was as follows, based only on the player's hand:
Four aces of the same color=Jackpot
Three suited aces=2500 for 1
Three aces=250 for 1
Two suited aces=100 for 1
Two aces=25 for 1
The jackpot was at $40,855.40 when I was there. As one might imagine, this bet slowed the game to a crawl when people were playing it.
Roulette was double-zero with a $5 minimum. I didn't ask if there was an "en prison" rule, but my guess is there is none. There is one Three-Card Poker table, with the usual Pair Plus (40-30-6-3-1) and Ante Bonus (5-4-1) paytables. They do not offer craps.
The El San Juan hotel is one of the oldest in the city, and one of the most luxurious (it's owned by the Waldorf-Astoria company). It's located near the San Juan Airport. The casino has about 400 slot machines, and 15 table games. A casino of this size would rank as a small locals casino by Vegas standards, but it's actually the largest casino in San Juan. The casino is not open 24 hours a day; posted hours are 10AM-4AM, and the tables didn't get going until shortly after noon. Once again, only 2 blackjack and 1 roulette table opened. The blackjack rules were the same as at the Sheraton, except that the dealer DID take a hole card (American style). There are 2 craps tables, but they don't open until later in the evening. Signage at the craps table indicated a $5 minimum, and a field paying 2:1 on the 12. There was nothing indicating the odds allowed, but I noticed a conversion chart on the back of the table labeled "double odds," so I'm assuming that's what they offer. There is one Caribbean Stud Poker table, which is all there is as far as novelty games go. There is also no video poker, only slots.
Unlike Vegas, the casinos in San Juan are spread out in different areas throughout the city. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico does not have great public transportation, so a taxi or rental car is the best way to travel between them. Spanish is by far the most popular local language, but most employees in tourist-related professions--including all dealers and pit bosses I encountered--speak fluent English. Tipping dealers is encouraged; I was a little confused about this at first, since there was no space for them at the El San Juan, but there was a tip box at the Sheraton, so they are definitely expected. The minimum gambling age is 18.
So that's it for now. I'll definitely be checking out some more casinos in a few weeks and will report back--I'm particularly curious about which hotels deal American-style blackjack and which are European (no hole card). Until then, take care and good luck!
One of those casinos got hit quite some time back with an Oceans Twelve style robbery. Someone took advantage of knowing that if you had a bomb scare [or something similar] the security people left too. So they caused an evacuation somehow and got to the cash to the tune of millions IIRC. Unfortunately I can *not* find any link to this even whatsoever now, just remember seeing a news article somewhere in some media, presumably it was accurate.
Maybe you could ask around?
Down on my luck in MotownJust checked out of a brief one-night getaway at the MGM Grand in beautiful downtown Detroit. Some random thoughts:
--As reported here before, the hotel is very luxurious--easily on par with Bellagio, Wynn, etc. You will pay for it though. I originally booked the "Grand Player" package, which included $100 in free slot play and dinner at the buffet, for a total of $289 + tax. When I checked in, the front desk clerk checked with the MLife club to see if I qualified for any discounts, and she said I could get casino rate for my room at $199 + tax, but no free play or buffet. I stuck with the original package, figuring $90 extra for $100 freeplay and a buffet seemed like a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, as I later found out at checkout, booking a package meant that I couldn't use my comp dollars toward the room, only for incidentals and the lunch I had at the food court.
--Kudos to the very helpful staff at MGM. The front desk staff without exception were some of the friendliest and most helpful clerks I've encountered in a hotel. A clerk named Shawnice (sp?) in particular went above and beyond when I checked in, getting me into a room right when I arrived at 7AM. I was expecting to have to store my bags and then wait until the afternoon to check in, so this was a very pleasant surprise. The players club representative was also very helpful. Dealers were a bit more of a mixed bag, but they were all competent and none of them make too many mistakes.
--Tables are way too crowded here! Just about every single BJ and mini-bacc spot was filled at 1PM, and finding a seat at any of the three Ultimate Texas Hold'em tables was nigh impossible up until midnight.
--MGM recently changed their players club, seemingly to be a bit more like Harrah's Total Rewards. They're still far more generous, though: after less than half of the play I gave Harrah's properties in Vegas, I had almost 4 times as many comp dollars on my card. The flipside, of course, is that Harrah's offers lots of comped and discounted rooms for future stays, while the "discount" rates MGM shows me on their website aren't much lower than usual.
--Bad variance got the better of me on this trip, though I guess it was to be expected after doing pretty well in Vegas last month. I started off with a hour of craps and did OK, was up a few hundred bucks, but went over to UTH and did terrible, busted my bankroll after about 4 hours. Seems like I folded over 60% of my hands. The few decent hands I got, the dealer just kept on one-upping me. The worst one: I raise 4x with pocket aces. Dealer puts three Queens on the board, and....flips over the fourth Queen in her hand. Ouch. I bet the Trips, so I was still a net winner, but it's the principle of the terrible beat that stings. I can't say I'm suspicious of the auto-shuffler, since I also played UTH at Bally's in Vegas--which doesn't use one--and had a pretty bad losing streak there too for a while.
Overall, if anyone finds himself or herself in Detroit for whatever reason, the MGM is worth stopping in to play for a bit. It's up to you if the hotel is also worth the price or not. Myself, I think I'll just stay at the Super 8 next time.
Hit me with a PM next time you want to come to Detroit. I can get you a room at MotorCity for $99 and Greektown for $70. I can also comp you a meal or two. MGM is much nicer, though. Are you going to write a review of the hotel? MotorCity has plenty of UTH for $5 at almost all times.
Teddy's hit it on the head. The other 2 places are cheaper to stay at and are within walking distance (10 minutes to MCC and 15 tops to GT) or you could ride the people mover to GT from the Times Square station right down Bagley for 50 cents and it goes right to GT. Being from the area I have no need to stay at the hotels but as for gaming, we both could have shown you better opportunities to get on a game and possibly with a little bit of AP work to go with it, yes UTH can be beaten if you know what to look for! This wont happen at MGM, as I am sure you noticed that the dealer keeps their 2 card hand in the shuffler untill after everyone stays or folds just as in 3CP. MGM laid off a lot of dealers in the past year and they dont open as many bj games as they used to. Weekend nights are plain hideous if you want a seat and for cheap. Its best to go during the week and around noon time as the day shift is starting and new tables are just opening.