Posted by rdw4potus
Aug 12, 2020

Casino Conditions around Minneapolis

I had the recent opportunity (read: boredom) to visit several Minneapolis-area casinos. Here's a brief review of each, focusing on Covid-response items:

1. Mystic Lake MN. Masks are required & free at the door. There's a non-invasive temperature check. The temperature check machines are aimed very low. As a tall guy with bad knees, that was an issue. Every machine is on, but half the chairs are gone. In places where there's a reason to want each machine to be playable, like when the bank of machines is 2 wide, there are plexiglass shields between the machines. Those are actually pretty nice. They're tall and deep, and the plastic is thick. I leaned on one to gain leverage to move a chair and it held me without wavering. The smoking footprint has been very significantly reduced. But, that's been accomplished in part by flipping what used to be the non smoking area with what is now (in-part) a smoking area. It'll be interesting to see if they return that to non-smoking when things can adjust back to normal. Valet is closed, and there's a corral there with 6 foot markers to control foot traffic waiting to enter. I haven't tried to go on a friday or saturday night, but I have never seen it busy enough to suggest that the corral is necessary. Kudos to Mystic - the 6 foot marks hold up in 2 dimensions, so that people in the next row up or back in the snake pattern would be 6 feet away just like the people directly in front or behind me would have been. The self service drink stations are closed, and/but they seem to have increased the drink service frequency to compensate. Table games are 3 to a table. Players touch chips but not cards. Dealers wear masks and gloves, but there's no physical barrier between people. All in all, this is pretty well done. That's especially true given the property's size.

2. Treasure Island MN. Masks are required & free at the door (they were $1 at the door for about a week). There didn't used to be a temperature check but there is now. Half the machines are off, and half the chairs are missing. In cases where machine banks are small, machines are still off. There's no discernible change to the smoking footprint, except that the table games pit is now non-smoking and the first row of machines by the door to the enclosed super-non-smoking room are also non-smoking. I wish they'd do that with the machines next to the regular open-to-the-rest-of-the-casino non-smoking area. Like at Mystic, the valet is closed & that area is set up for a queue to gain entry to the casino. Unlike at Mystic, the 6 foot markers aren't 6 feet apart in width - only in length. But, like at Mystic, I've never seen them needed. Treasure Island is frustrating in that they've changed the "main" entrance door at least 3 times in the last 10 years. It's currently the one with the valet/queue at it. That makes the most sense since it's in the middle, but it's farthest from the hotel and player's club. The other doors are closed (the hotel entrance is also open). Self serve drink stations are closed, replaced with vending machines. Pricing is $2/20 oz soda. So, not free but not more than market either. Table games are 3 to a table, all hands dealt face up. Players touch chips but not cards. There's mandatory cleaning/wipe-down when players leave or when the dealer changes. Dealers wear masks but not gloves. TI has a hot-seat promo where 4 players each hour get $20 free slot play if they're correctly wearing masks - that seemed like a fun idea. The logistics around entering the casino could be better - the current setup makes about 1/2 of the parking lot unusable. But the rest of the changes are done pretty well.

3. Grand Casino Hinckley MN. Masks are required & free at the door. They're self-serve, with the expectation that people will pull them out of a box. That's not exactly ideal, but there's a mask mandate in all of MN, so just about everybody is coming with their own mask anyway. There was no temperature check. Every machine was on and every chair was in place. There was a high-frequency audio recording about social distancing, but the casino took no steps to enforce it. There are several entrances to Grand Casino. Only the valet entrance and the entrance at the back by the hotel were open. The valet is closed, but there was no corral system there. I think they just don't want to expose staff to unknown cars; it's not that they wanted to use the valet's space for something else. The entire casino floor is "non-smoking" but there was no enforcement. There were also no ashtrays, so it was pretty gross. The self-serve beverage stations were open and unattended. I watched a stack of cups fall to the floor. Then a woman picked them up with her bare hand and pushed them back into the dispenser. That's not what I'd want to see happen to soiled cups in the best of times, let alone now. Table games were 3 to a table, dealt face up. Players touch chips but not cards. The dealers wore gloves but face shields & not masks. That was actually kind of nice. Not as effective re: covid, but it was refreshing to see their whole faces. I could see that being helpful for times when they needed to prompt players to act, too.

4. St. Croix Casino Danbury WI. Masks "encouraged" and provided by the temperature check staff for free at the door. About 1/3 of the patrons were wearing masks.
About 99/100 of the patrons are from Minnesota, so it seems likely that they were there explicitly for the purpose of not wearing a mask (they're mandated here, but not in WI). Half of the machines were off and about 1/3 of the chairs were missing. Table games were open. St. Croix has a really big pit for a little casino, but all that was open was one un-played blackjack game. There was a plexiglass screen between the dealer and the players side, but there was no divider between the players. Markers indicated that 3 spots were available. It's a 6 deck shoe, so I assume players would touch chips but not cards. I was interested to see how the dealer would deal with reaching under the divider to take/pay chips, but not interested enough to make them unfreeze the game. It must be easier than it appears, I guess. The slot/VP section has a wide variety but only a couple hundred machines, which means there are only 1-2 machines for each title. The attendants seemed to be willing to close/open slots if someone's favorite was turned off. The casino was very quiet, so that was a nice touch. One of the 2 self-service beverage stations was closed, and the other was loosely attended by a staff member. I'm not sure if the open self-serve station was really self-serve or if that staff member would have handled the dispensing. I suspect the latter.

5. Diamond Jo (Worth County) IA. Masks are optional for players and floor staff and required for dealers, cashiers, and restaurant staff. About half the guests were wearing masks, and about 75% of the staff were. Of those, precious few were wearing them correctly. Maybe they don't teach Iowans that there's a connection between the nose and the lungs. Speaking of lungs, at one point the guy next to me pulled up his mask, cleared his throat, and spit on the floor. So, yeah. Iowa. Half the machines were off, and about 1/3 of the chairs were missing. I do actually like that setup, since it'd let a couple sit next to each other without taking a chair from a usable game. There was no flexibility with turning games on and off. Table games were 4 people to a table, dealers masked and gloved. There was also a plexiglass thing that separated the dealer from the players and also separated the players from the waist up. So the players each had their own cubicle, basically. The cubes did not align to the betting areas on the game. So the person in the cubicle in spot 2 on a BJ table kind of had to reach/bet right under the cubicle divider. Cards were dealt face down, players touch cards and chips. I guess that's not bad if the chips were going to be shared anyway, but putting up the cubicle thing seems less needed if the cards were going to be touched and shared anyway. The touching of the cards was especially bad with the mis-aligned space issue. I had one dealer who kept dealing my cards to the other side of my betting circle. And then she'd get mad that I hadn't checked them or bet. I couldn't reach them. At all. It was obvious to all but her & she kept doing it even though all the players and the floor kept telling her what was happening. All of the self-serve beverage stations were open and unattended. One lady spilled down the side of her cup, licked the cup, licked her hand, then switched hands and used the licked one to push the button to dispense more soda. I know that wasn't intentional, but that's a level of thoughtlessness that is just frightening in the current environment.

I don't think I'll be going to Diamond Jo again any time soon. Hinckley wasn't awful, neither was Danbury. They each had issues, but they seemed to genuinely be trying. I suppose it's no surprise that the two big casinos in the Minneapolis metro did it best. They have the strictest rules to follow, and they had pretty good systems in place for following them. I'd feel comfortable returning to TI or Mystic any time.


rdw4potus Nov 16, 2020

Update 11/13/20 - Diamond Jo now requires masks and enforces proper wearing. There's still beverage stations on the floor, and smoking is still allowed, but that's big progress.

Posted by rdw4potus
Jun 09, 2015

Blog/review of Greenbrier (WV) and Rocky Gap Resort (MD)

This past weekend (June 5-7), I took a driving trip from SC and visited several casinos in MD, PA, and WV. My trip involved stays at the Greenbrier and at Rocky Gap Resort. I rented a car for the trip (lest I exceed the allowed mileage on my leased vehicle). From a gaming/casino standpoint, not a lot happened on this trip. So a typical WOV trip report doesn't really seem to me to make sense. But, I do want to highlight some things about the trip, especially about the two properties where I stayed. So:

I picked up a car at CAE on my lunch break on Friday. They didn't have the class I rented, so the options I was presented with were a sub-compact for the rate on my reservation, or a Dodge Challenger or +$10/day. After a (for me) heated discussion with the rental guy, I begrudgingly took the Challenger and agreed to the surcharge. My original plan had been to leave work at 4:30ish and get to the greenbrier at 9ish. I should have known better...after a last minute call with a customer, I walked out of the office at about 6:30. So, I arrived at the Greenbrier at about 11pm.

The Greenbrier is a nice place. But, there were many things about my stay that make it unlikely that I'll ever return. Here is a list of my thoughts about the Greenbrier:
1. $380 for a 400 sqft room?!?
2. Upon arriving, I was forced to drive to the front door and drop off my tiny bag. There was no option to just park first. At the front door, I was severely harassed by a group of drunk female guests. They were waiting for the courtesy shuttle, and they decided that if I was going to park myself, I could just take them to their cottages. This was not pleasant. Many employees were on-hand for this incident. None of them did anything about it. I pretty much just wound up driving away while the ringleader was still trying to lean in the window and convince me to give her a ride. The next morning, I learned two things. These people's cottages are RIGHT out the back door of the main hotel. And *someone* keyed the door of the rental during the night.
3. The bellman does a little room tour thing upon arriving with the bags. He far oversold the room. It was nice. It was comfortable. It was average. The closet was huge. I think my sophomore year dorm room was smaller than that closet. The bathroom was below average. He sold it as "very nice." It was smaller than average, with an ugly prominently-placed toilet and a weak and plain showerhead. One truly "very nice" thing. I don't even know how they do this - but there is instant hot water.
4. The casino is below average. It's small, it's ugly, it's poorly laid out, and there is bad game selection (even for WV). Most notably, the cashier is hidden away behind the dance floor. Oh, yeah, there's a dance floor. And a DJ playing every 50 year old woman's favorite party tunes 3x too loud. I could not verbally communicate with the cashier over the music. Men have to wear jackets at all times in the casino at night. Not have jacket - wear jackets. No matter the temperature, no matter how much reaching is involved in a game. Jacket on. I shortened my session as a result of this rule.
5. There are no ice machines. Ice is delivered to the room daily at 3pm. I had a bucket of water when I checked in.
6. The mini-bar's default condition is empty. You can order the food/drink that you want them to fill the bar with, and they deliver it the next day. I get that 1 day stays are uncommon, but that was annoying. I thought about drinking the water/ice at 2am.
7. On checkout, they told me that my initial deposit more than covered my stay, and I should expect a credit of $17.xx. I've now received that credit, but they also charged my card for $29.xx. I have no idea what that charge is for.
8. $380 for a 400 sqft room?!?

On Saturday, I drove from the Greenbrier to Rocky Gap via Baltimore. Horseshoe was at least twice as nice as Maryland Live. Better games, more selection, less rude staff, easier access... Hollywood Perryville was the least "Hollywood" of the Penn National casinos that I've ever been to.

My room at Rocky Gap was great. $0 for a 900 sqft room. 2 room suite. Great, complete living room, and a bedroom with a second desk and additional sitting area. I'm not sure if they're all like that, but I was very impressed by the room. I played UTH to get my chip. The dealers were pretty weak. I probably had an advantage on that game. I also had $200 in slot/VP freeplay to burn through. I have no idea whose list they bought that made them think I was worth that as a new/unknown customer. But I was happy to take it from them. Unfortunately for me, luck was not on my side and my $200 in play wound up being $135 in cash. I did have a very frustrating situation at Rocky Gap. I had skipped dinner and decided at 11pm that I really did need food. Rather than go sit alone in the sportsbar, I ordered roomservice. I signed a slip for a $21.xx tab. The girl was kind of awkward, and she did not let me hold the receipt long enough to add a tip. She also did not leave a copy. When I checked out, $31.xx was charged to my room. That included a $5 room service charge that IS on the menu, but was NOT on the receipt that I signed. OK, that's annoying but whatever. The room charge also included a $5 tip that was written onto my receipt but that was not there when I signed it. That put me in a very awkward position. I had to explain that $5 is what I'd have tipped if I'd had that option, but that I wasn't given the option and that I didn't like being robbed. In the end, I wound up talking to the F&B manager. He asked me "OK, sir. So you want my employee to work for nothing?" and I said back "well, I don't think she should work here anymore because of the whole theft thing. But, also, she doesn't make nothing without tips..." That was a very sour end to an otherwise great stay. FWIW, the food was great.

Then I drove home from Rocky Gap via Nemacolin and Charleston. I don't know why, but I thought Charleston was MUCH closer to home that it is. Turns out it's a solid 5 hour drive from the middle of WV to the middle of SC. At least it's all one highway.

Next trip is 3 days in OK with the fiancee from July 1-July 3. She may kill me...

6/16/15 edit - I filled out a post-trip survey from the Greenbrier. I do those after every trip - they hit my inbox and I fill out the form. I obviously had some negative things to say about the phantom $29 charge, about the drunken harassment, and about the broader value of the property. Less than a day later, I received a lengthy and personalized email from a high ranking executive at the property. It was effusively apologetic. The $29 charge has been reversed, and promises were made re: the harassment incident. Kudos to the Greenbrier for following through on data collected from their customer surveys.


teddys Jun 10, 2015

Thanks for the review. I'm probably never staying at the Greenbrier. At least on my dime. And now I have no desire to visit the casino either. Re: mini bar. Everybody should do it like Harrahs Cherokee. Seven Stars guests get a crate when they check it and you can carry up as much juice and pop as you want to fill up your mini fridge - all free.

Rocky Gap's a nice little property. Nice of them to give you a comped suite. They decimated their video poker, though. Did you check out the lake and park? Beautiful.

Doc Jun 11, 2015

Thanks for the report.

I have been to the Greenbrier just once, two months after I joined this forum in 2010. I reported on my visit in a thread located here. At that time, they had only the Tavern Casino, which is/was underneath the steak house. I think that tiny casino is now only operated for special occasions, or maybe private events. The main casino was under construction while we were there. I posted some photos of our visit in the last post of page #1 of that thread. I got a construction-time promo room rate in April, so I did not have your thoughts/complaints #1 and #8.

I have also visited the other casinos you mentioned, but I have never stayed at any of them.

odiousgambit Jun 11, 2015

We've been several times to the Greenbrier. My wife liked a lot of things about it so, you know, it gets to be a 'thing' in a marriage when you both like something and it brings back memories too. I liked some things about the place, but mostly just the dining and the Craps table. Lately regulars at the G. are quite upset with a new "historical" tax that is being added to everything - everything. My wife is refusing to go back anytime soon as a protest, which is going to save some bucks.

Sorry to hear things were not right. It was overpriced even before the new tax, so I have always said it is nuts to think of it as a gambling destination.

Was just at Rocky Gap and will continue to blog about it. Did not stay at the Hotel, they don't much want to comp me for my play and have never given me a room offer. BTW the Greenbrier does not comp well as a matter of policy right from the start.

Posted by rdw4potus
Sep 29, 2013

September trip report (MN, IA, MO, KS, IL, IN, MI, OH, AR, MS, LA)

I recently took a series of trips to various casinos in the Midwest and South. The following is a trip report/synopsis of those trips.

August 29 – Flew from ABE to MSP via EWR. This was my first time on the UAL-operated bus from ABE to EWR. It was pretty awesome. From when we got on US22 until when we left I78, our driver used a method that was quite interesting. I’m pretty sure his foot never left the floor. We couldn’t go faster than about 75, but we NEVER SLOWED. The bus is something like a rental car shuttle so it’s not a huge motorcoach or anything, but it’s still bigger than you really want to be slaloming through traffic in.

When I arrived at MSP, I went to Budget to pick up my rental car. There was only one person at the counter, and a line 8 people deep. At the front of the line was a young guy who was desperately trying to look cool by asking about every possible car. Finally, the guys behind him started heckling him for taking so long and not booking in advance. Even once that guy left, we still crawled forward as the desk clerk apparently had to drive the cars up from the prep area to the pickup area. Kudos to that guy for not going postal on his coworkers who were supposed to be doing some of that work. And, yay, he forgot to run my credit card in advance so I went without the usual $200 hold during the term of my rental. My car was a Ford Taurus, which they consider to be a premium car. They were going to give me a Volvo S60, a VW CC, or the Taurus. While the car was fine, it absolutely does not belong in the same sentence as those other options.

From MSP I headed down to my parents’ for the weekend, stopping at Mystic Lake to collect a bit of free play. Mystic has made some big changes in the last year – Now that alcohol is served, they’ve put in a couple great bars. The one by the hotel lobby is especially cool – it has a clean, modern look with the requisite backsplash of bottles. It pretty much looks and feels like a downtown hotel bar, but with a 150,000 sqft casino right behind it.
August 30 – I had a meeting in Minneapolis, which meant that I found a way to put Treasure Island into my path. Unlike at Mystic, not much at all had changed at TI. In fact, the only difference from before is that my tier and rewards points had expired and that regardless of my prior standing, I couldn’t get anything from them on this trip. That was sad. But, I found a Golden Monkey game with 8 of 10 steps already illuminated and won a net of $90 on that. So the blow was slightly lessened.

August 31-Sept 2 – I hung out with my family over the holiday weekend. Parents are good, grandparents are good. Grandpa finally talked his doc into cataract surgery, then went out and shot a 74 (he’s 82). Wow. Just wow.

Sept 3 – Stayed the night of the 2nd at Mystic, then had another meeting in Minneapolis on the 3rd. Mystic no longer requires a deposit on comped rooms. That was pretty awesome. Grabbed the week’s freeplay there and headed to Kansas City after my meeting.

On the way to KC, I stopped at the Lakeside Casino just south of Des Moines on I-35 (formerly Terrible’s) and snagged a chip from that property. They have Texas Shootout, so I played that to collect the chip. I still just love that game. Expect a pic of the chip when the CoD thread gets to IA. The property has a gas station on a hill, then down the hill is the casino. Something about it reminds me of the Titty Twister from Dusk til Dawn. I’m not sure what it is, but I think of the reveal from the back of the TT every time I drive down the hill to the casino.

I stayed at Harrah’s NKC on the night of the 3rd. That’s a great hotel there, with a decent casino attached. They also have Texas Shootout, but they require the players to play their cards all face up. I don’t know why they do that, but it’s nice to be able to use that info to inform the decision about whether to split.

September 4th – I left Harrah’s at about 2 and headed to Saint Joseph to visit the former Terrible’s property there. Played more Shootout, collected another chip, and hung out for a bit. I’m a big fan of the pizza at Casey’s convenience stores, so I grabbed a couple slices on my way out of town. Then I headed into KS to visit Casino White Cloud. That property had only electronic games the last time I was there, but now has a small table games pit. I arrived at White Cloud at about 4pm, and needed to wait until 5 for the tables to open. I killed that time by walking around the casino. By doing that, I noticed 3 things: 1. The bingo hall is HUGE – as big as the casino itself; 2. They have more new slots than I’ve ever seen in a casino that small – sort of a one-of-everything take on slot placement; 3. Walking around a tiny casino in circles for an hour is a good way to get noticed by security. They just laughed at me when I explained what I was doing. I didn’t play for long, but the BJ game was pretty fun. There was lots of light banter between the locals and dealers.

After leaving White Cloud, I headed north up the river to WinneVegas. Last time I tried to visit that casino, it was an island in the middle of the Missouri. This time, it was hard to even see where any damage remained from the floods. Even the roadway was in better-than-expected shape. I collected a chip by playing BJ. I don’t know why, but I thought the chips would be in relatively good shape; almost like they’d have been reissued post-flood. They were very worn, which is OK, but I spent a while just finding one that was in fair condition. Like with the Lakeside property, this chip will be shown when the CoD thread reaches Iowa.

I left WinneVegas and headed to Argosy Sioux City. I don’t know where my chip from this property went, but I couldn’t find it so I stopped by to grab another one. Last time I visited this property, the water was so high that they had to fashion stairs in the ramp from the ground to the boat. This time, with the water at normal height, that ramp went slightly downward from the ground to the boat. I played BJ for a couple minutes, then headed on my way. By this time, it was about 11:30pm, and I was scheduled to fly out of MSP the next day at 10am. I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to work since I was 3 hours from Minneapolis. I left my housing decision open that night, so that I could stay wherever I was when I got tired. It turned out that was Albert Lea, MN. I also decided to push the flight to noon the next day. Check-in in Albert Lea was…interesting. It was about 2am when I got there, and the desk clerk kept saying “your reservation was for yesterday.” I kept saying “yesterday was 2 hours ago. This is still the night of the 4th, give me my room key.” Finally, the night manager/auditor had to step in to complete my check in. The hotel is right at the intersection of I-90 and I-35. I can’t believe I’m the only patron who’s checked in after midnight. In fact, I’m pretty sure I checked in after midnight 3 other times in the stays covered by this trip report.

September 5th – I woke up in Albert Lea and drove to Minneapolis to catch my flight. I made it to MSP with about 90 minutes to spare, returned the car, and headed to the counter to check my bag. I drove 1,450 miles on this rental car. That’s much more than I’d expected to see, but I think the intra-minnesota driving added up to more than I’d accounted for. I used the TSA Pre-check program to go through security. Wow is that slick. Just leave belt & shoes on, empty pockets into cup, and put cup & bag on conveyor. Definitely gave me enough time to hit the United Club for a free banana and some cheese.

From MSP I flew to ORD. The plane was an Airbus A319, which had been upgraded to have UAL’s inflight wifi. Cost was $4 on this flight. I would have bought it, but we were more than halfway to Chicago before the signal became available. So, instead, I settled in and watched the random Big Bang Theory episode that was on the overheads. It was one of the Fun With Flags episodes, and included the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. I find it very annoying when the National Anthem is played in situations under which it is impossible to stand.

In Chicago, I grabbed my rental car as soon as possible and hit the road. I rented from Alamo this time, and got a Chrysler 300. I asked for a fuel efficient car, and they gave me that. It did much better than I thought it might, but Seriously. One customer actually says “no, really. I want a Chevy Cruise. I knew what I was doing when I made the reservation” and they still get a bigger car for free…when does that ever happen??

I left the Alamo lot at a little before 3 and one problem quickly became apparent with the rental car situation. There was no kind of plate pass device in this particular vehicle. Coming from MN and MO, I hadn’t considered the toll situation in IL and IN. I had a couple big bills in my pocket and about $4 in change. I wound up wasting time and stopping at a rest area to use the ATM to get smaller bills.

I headed to Dowagiac, MI to pick up a chip from the Four Winds facility there. The casino is new, and the casino is very small. It also carries over some of the design elements of the other Four Winds properties. Really, it looks like a scale model of the Hartford property. I played BJ to grab my chip. I played for 10 minutes, won $40, and ran off with my new chip.

After visiting Dowagiac, I headed off to Columbus to visit the Hollywood casino there. That’s a long drive, and I killed the time by listening to the Sox/Yanks game on internet radio. I was interested in the game – specifically in rooting against NY – but I didn’t care what radio feed I listened to. I picked WCBS, figuring that the flagship of the world’s largest broadcast company would offer quality. I don’t know the play-by-play announcer’s name, but his cadence was maddening. Most announcers would say “and the pitch is…a strike! He swung at a ball there, but the count is now…0-1!” This d-bag says “and…the…pitchisastrikeheswungat…a…balltherebutthe…count…isnow0-1?” I made it through about 4 innings of that before changing to the Sox broadcast, which was excellently presented.

The drive to Columbus took about the same amount of time as the game (so…5 hours. Gotta love it when Boston and NY play each other!). I guess the Hollywood has had very high turnover since it opened. The other players and the dealer were discussing that when I sat down. The dealer was explaining that Columbus isn’t a casino market where experienced people were available, so there were a bunch of employees who weren’t prepared to work holidays and weekends, or to stay at work when/if a coworker had to call in. Then a player deadpanned “Yeah, plus it’s Hollywood. This is a 6:5 CSM $15 BJ table. It’s almost worth driving to Cincy to avoid this shit.” Shame on me for not realizing that a CSM table with a $15 min could possibly also pay 6:5. And, really, shame on Hollywood for creating that situation in the first place. At any rate, I took wry guy’s advice and drove to Cincy.

Horseshoe in Cincy was about as different as possible from Hollywood in Columbus. The location was central, the staff was friendly, and the games were fair. The casino was almost too great – Horseshoe Southern Indiana is also well above average and is pretty close by. One of the two properties, probably the one that isn’t brand new, is now easily expendable. I spent too much time at Horseshoe Cincy. I played BJ, and the dealer was infectiously charismatic. I wound up playing for her whole rotation, instead of just for the half-shoe that I’d planned on playing. It was about 3am when I left Cincy to head Horseshoe Southern Indiana to check in for the night. I arrived just before 5, and was checked in with no problems. They even offered to let me check out late, at 1pm.

September 6th – I woke up at about 10am and headed out from Horseshoe. I stopped at the Trop in Evansville to pick up that chip. The casino itself is almost completely unchanged from when it was the Aztar. They did get all the Aztar name info taken down, but I didn’t notice any renovations or upgrades to go along with the name change. I guess Trop had owned Aztar for a while, so it’s not like there was an ownership change where the incoming corporation felt the need to put their own stamp on the property.

After leaving the Trop, I headed to Harrah’s Metropolis to check into my room there. I had originally made my reservation at Metropolis for 2 nights. Then I decided to spend the night of the 6th in Tunica. But the Total Rewards website wouldn’t let me reduce my nights in Metropolis because “I already have a reservation at one of (their) properties for this night.” So I instead did what Harrah’s apparently wanted me to do and took up space in their room inventory at two different properties on the same night. I got to Metropolis relatively early – about 3pm - but a room was ready for me. Since I was running ahead of time, I decided to go to the Trop Isle in Cape Girardeau on my way to Memphis and later Tunica.

I always forget how awful the drive from Metropolis to I-55 is. It’s all short stretches of county roads, small towns, and corn. When I was leaving Tamms, IL, I got pulled over for going 43 in a 30. The officer who pulled me over was almost embarrassed about the whole thing. He literally said “look, this is the last thing I want to do. I know you had a clear shot out of town, and the limit goes up right there. But I have the Chief with me, and he’s my father-in-law…” The ticket amount wasn’t terrible, but the payment rules were interesting. Payment was to be made more than 10 business days after the date of infraction (so that the ticket would be entered by the time that payment was recorded) but not less than 5 days before the court date on the ticket (so that payment could be recorded before the court date). That left a 7 business day payment window, from 2 weeks to 3.5 weeks after the date of the ticket.

The Trop Isle in Cape Girardeau was a cute little casino. It was in good shape, but didn’t feel like a brand new casino. It’s obviously a big building, but they did a good job of making it feel like it fit into downtown. I played BJ and grabbed a chip, which will eventually find its way into the CoD thread. The session was interesting for a couple reasons. First, I went straight up to $5 under my win limit. Then I fell down to $5 over my loss limit. Finally, I reached my time limit and left exactly even. And, maybe more interestingly, the other players were a smoking hot basically naked girl and her BF. I couldn’t quite figure out what they were celebrating, or how/why she was allowed to be there in a bikini, but it was her first time at a casino. She was doing everything wrong (touching cards, touching bet, touching the BF’s chips, CRAZY play decisions) but she couldn’t stop winning. The dealer was actually kind of mean, refusing to let the girl stand on hard 15 against a 6 after accidentally signaling hit and refusing to let her hit on soft 13 after signaling stand. The girl won both hands. After about an hour, I left the Trop Isle and headed back to the interstate.

On the way from Cape Girardeau to Tunica, I stopped in at Southland Park in West Memphis, AR. That was an interesting and somewhat sketchy place. I’ve seen digi tables before, most recently at Harrah’s Cherokee, but those pits were only BJ. At Southland Park, I played digi UTH. It took a while to learn the buttons and flow of the game, but then it pretty easy. One thing that could have been different was that it only let each player go in turn. There’s really no reason for that, and it just added time to the game. I’m sure that logic is there because of BJ, where waiting for other players to hit/stand is required. Some players were tripping all over the game, both in terms of strategy and technology usage. The dealer was trying to help, but she was advocating a terribly strange methodology. The two prongs of that method were: 1. Never bet more than 2x, and 2. Never fold. Needless to say, that wasn’t working very well for the other players. Also probably needless to say, they were all mocking me for playing correctly and going 4x with “garbage” like K6 and Q9. The whole game at Southland Park is digital, but cashout is handled with chips. So, after my session, I cashed out for $340 and took those chips (minus $5) to the cage. West Memphis is NOT a good area. The parkinglot at Southland Park did NOT feel safe. Large groups of people were loitering in the lot, and one guy followed me from the cashier (he didn’t have a transaction) and then joined one of those groups. This was as nervous as I’ve ever been leaving a casino, though ultimately nothing happened.

After leaving West Memphis, I headed down to Tunica and checked in at Harrah’s. I’d been ahead of my schedule pretty much all day, but I slid back to pretty much on-time and arrived in Tunica at midnight. I can never seem to get the check in process at Harrah’s right. The 3 hotels are not physically connected, they all have their own lobbies, and there’s really no way of knowing which one your room is in. Even with a “reservation” in one of the hotels, there’s still no guarantee that Harrah’s won’t just put you in another one. So my method is to go to the hotel attached to the casino, go to the desk, act innocent, and check in. This time, they were able to check me in, but my room was in one of the other hotels. So I went back out to the car and drove over to the second hotel. By then, it was about 12:30. Normally, I try to play at least a little at the casino I stay at. But, this time, there was just no way I was going back to the car to drive back to the casino. So I just caught up on WoV and crashed.

September 7th – This was the day on the trip that I most looked forward to. I had the whole day to drive a simple (but long) loop from Tunica to Greenville to Hot Springs to Metropolis. I really like Greenville. It’s a very very poor town, but everyone is so friendly and happy. I knew that Bayou Caddy’s had closed, but I didn’t realize that the boat had been taken away and the dock had been removed. There were a number of people fishing where the boat used to be, and the parking lot and its steep grade were being used as a boat landing by some folks. I’m not sure if that’s actually supposed to be a landing – there’s NO dock, so I suspect not – but it seemed to be working OK. There’s a park downtown between what used to be Lighthouse Point and where Bayou Caddy’s Jubilee used to be. Parked in the Bayou Caddy’s lot and spent about an hour in the park watching the river and watching a group of kids practicing a choreographed dance to Katy Perry’s E.T.

Eventually, I walked over to the new Trop casino where Lighthouse Point used to be. The boat is still there, but is closed. The Trop is land-based and is directly in front of the walkway to the boat that used to house Lighthouse Point. The Trop has a small pit, with BJ, 3CP, and craps (that I noticed). Only one BJ game was open, and it was completely full when I arrived. I killed time by playing a Deal or No Deal Join & Play slot. I’m not sure, but I’m relatively certain that it was +EV. The progressive for 5 howies was $1,4xx. I’ve never seen that over a couple hundred dollars before, and it was not more than $100 on any of the other three seats here, either. I hit a lucky string of bonuses, and made it to the case game even and with a 25x multiplier. After 3 rounds, I took a deal for about 1,700 credits with the 5,000 credit case still in play. It was revealed that the big prize was in my case, but correct strategy would eventually have been to switch away from my case. I cashed out after the case game, up about $370 but without having every even come particularly close to winning the howie progressive. At that time, a seat had opened at the BJ game. The players were great! They all played perfect BS, goading and mocking each other into making the borderline plays. I played for a couple solid hours, and it was really hard to leave that table. But, I had to get on my way. After the BJ session, I left Trop still up about $300 net. My chip from the Trop will eventually make it into the CoD thread.

I headed from Greenville into Arkansas en-route to Hot Springs. That drive was much prettier than I’d expected it to be. Some cotton fields, lots of trees, rolling hills…I could get used to that. I’d left Greenville at about 3pm, and arrived in Hot Springs at about 6:30. Oaklawn was very cool. The parkinglot and façade were not too special, but one step through the doors and you can just feel the history of the place. In the lobby, there’s a little museum highlighting the evolution of the track and of horse racing in general. On the second floor of the property is the casino. The casino is small and kind of hokey. It’s nice enough, but the games are all off-brands. I didn’t see a single slot that I recognized as I was walking around. The BJ pit is digital and very similar to what I’d seen at Southland Park, except that cashout is done by ticket and not by chip. Turns out I’d driven halfway across Arkansas to visit a place that didn’t even use chips anymore! I would have stayed in Greenville longer if I’d known that, but at least the drive through Arkansas was pretty.

When I left Hot Springs, I wasn’t sure quite what I was going to do with my evening. I needed to be in Metropolis eventually, but I didn’t know quite how or when I’d head there. I wound up returning to Southland Park for another digital UTH session. I had the table to myself this time, which was both good and bad. On the one hand, play was super fast. On the other hand, play was super fast! Variance was not my friend in this session. I won most of my 1x bets, and lost most of my 4x bets. I played for about 90 minutes, lost about $100, and ran away. They more-or-less forced me to get a players club card, which I used in this session. I’ve now received a pair of coupons for $15 in free slot play. That’s more than fair given my theoretical loss during this session. But, it also is an example of the odd table play = slot credits casino promotions mechanism.

I went pretty directly from Memphis to Metropolis, and called it a night pretty early at the hotel at Harrah’s there. I had an odd experience at about 3am. There was a very loud group in the hall. They were loud enough that I stuck my head out to say something. I’m 32, and they were 70 year old women. I made eye contact with one, and we both just started laughing at the situation. They quieted down after that, but stayed in the hall. I’m not sure what was up with that.

September 8th – I left Metropolis the next morning after playing a bit in the casino. I lost a bit on the tables, and used a freeplay coupon on a slot. The freeplay win didn’t quite offset the tables loss, but I still got a heck of a deal on the true cost of my hotel room. After leaving the casino, I visited the giant Superman statue and headed toward Saint Louis.

I got to Saint Louis at about 1pm, and stopped in at Hollywood there. For the most part, it’s exactly like Harrah’s was. But, it’s clear that they’re working on changing that. I tried to take pictures of some of the construction that was taking place off of the floor, but I guess there’s no photography allowed anywhere on the property now. Basically, there were scaffolds everywhere in the lobby area, with a well-marked pedestrian channel through the construction area. I played BJ and collected a chip, which will be shown in the CoD thread at some point.

After my stop at Hollywood, I ran up to the Mark Twain casino in La Grange, MO. I picked up a new chip from the property (without the Terrible’s name), and played UTH for a while. They have a shootout table, but it was completely full. I’d originally planned on hanging out and playing shootout for a while, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I did play UTH for an hour or so, but then I got bored and headed out on my way to Joliet.

The route to Joliet was much shorter and faster than I’d expected. I arrived at Hollywood Joliet in the early evening. It was a much nicer place than I’d expected. I was less than impressed with the dealer at my BJ table. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but basically he was obsessed with speed and much less focused on accuracy or even common sense. He certainly was speedy, but he was also removed from the table after a call from surveillance following a ridiculous hand where a player was allowed to bet less than the minimum, and then increase her bet and double that amount after seeing her 11 count hand. I collected my chip and headed over to Harrah’s to check into my room.

I’d never stayed at Harrah’s Joliet before this, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was generally impressed with the hotel. The room was big and clean, the lobby was convenient to the casino, and everything was smoke-free. I did have two small gripes: 1. There is insufficient signage for the hotel parking ramp. I didn’t even know it existed, and I lugged my bags from the casino ramp to the hotel lobby; and 2. The elevators were very slow. Waits were long, and ride duration was also long. I played the new Spiderman slot at Harrah’s, mostly because it looked cool. And, it was pretty entertaining. They use the images of the movie characters, and what sounds like some of the voices, but Spidey sure isn’t voiced by Tobey Maguire. I never hit the free spin bonus, but I did get several of the in-game bonuses, including one that created a full screen of Peter Parkers for a nice win. After doing my part and showing play to Harrah’s, I called it a night.

September 9th – I left Harrah’s at about noon and headed to O’Hare. I flew from O’hare to Allentown in the afternoon, and spent the next 2ish days at home. I’d put about 2,100 miles on the rental when I returned it to Alamo. The intake kid just looked at me and said “Dude…HOW?!?”

September 12th – I flew from Allentown to Houston via O’Hare. I thought I’d be able to work on the flight from ORD to IAH, but there was no Wifi. So I just hung out and watched the overhead entertainment. That meant that I lost a half-day of work that I wasn’t planning on losing. I’m still not sure that I’ve fully caught up.

Once I landed in Houston, I collected my rental from Hertz. There was a Chrysler 300 in the Choice area. The one from Alamo worked so well earlier in the week that I grabbed this one as well. As an added bonus, it had satellite radio. I got a little stuck in rush hour traffic heading out of town towards Beaumont, but things thinned as I got closer to Louisiana. I’d thought about stopping in at Delta Downs, but decided against it following the traffic delays. So, I headed straight to L’auberge in Baton Rouge. My playing session was pretty miserable – straight down to $0 – but the property was beautiful. I learned pretty much right after this trip that my college girlfriend now lives in Baton Rouge. Had I known that 2 weeks ago, I’d have tried to see her. As it was, I rushed over to Biloxi to check into my room at the Grand. I got to the Grand at about 2am, got to my room, and fell into bed.

September 13th – I checked out of the Grand around 10:30, and headed off to the Golden Nugget. I thought the nugget was a bit odd. Specifically, the table games area I played in was just barely past the front door and nowhere near the cashier. That came off as unwelcoming somehow. After playing at the Golden Nugget, I stopped by Margaritaville on my way out of town. That was a very fun casino. I thought it was also well done, with a simple and open layout. My chip from the Margaritaville will eventually be posted in the CoD thread (note: “…eventually be posted…” is code for “one day, I’ll take a picture of this SOB”)

After I left the Margaritaville in Biloxi, I headed to Natchez to grab a chip from Magnolia Bluffs. That casino was very quiet when Doc visited last winter, and I commented at that time that I hoped it would last until I could visit. Not only did it last, but it was somewhat busy when I visited this month. The casino’s location is a little strange. It’s “land based” only because it is over-but-not-in the water. I collected a chip, reached my win limit, and ran for the door since it was going to rain and the walk to and from the parking garage is outdoors. The chip will eventually appear in the CoD thread.

I drove from Natchez to Vicksburg, and stayed mostly out of the rain. In Vicksburg, I visited the Lady Luck. I didn’t really like the Rainbow, and I didn’t really like the Lady Luck either. I don’t think it’s easy to get into or around in the parking lot, and the other guests at the casino aren’t particularly nice, either. The casino itself is decent, but all of the peripherals skew negative from my point of view. The Lady Luck has a bank of Aruze’s Rich Life slots. That’s a tremendously beatable game. I made a bit of money there, lost a bit playing BJ and collecting my chip, and headed out on the way to Shreveport.

I got to Shreveport around 9pm and went to Margaritaville. I was very impressed with that physical casino. It was bright and airy inside, and the layout was great. They also had a pair of Rich Life slots that were prime for vultures. I was watching one, but missed when the player left. When I turned back, a credit hawk was taking the $0.15 that the player had left on the machine. After that, the hawk moved on and I sat down to play the 1 spin needed to reach the wheel spin bonus. The spin won $100. Margaritaville also has a couple ridiculously bad protection practices on UTH. First, they do not push back the ante on ties. They even go so far as to admonish dealers who do so. Of course, this leads to lots of accidental pays. Second, they insert the cut cards under the flop and under the dealer’s cards as they leave the shuffler. The insertion motion exposes the bottom card of each packet quite predictably, even across dealers. It all kind of reminds me of what happens when little kids are put in charge and make adult-like rules but still totally miss the point of what the adults are actually trying to do.

After I left Margaritaville, I headed to Louisiana Downs to check into my hotel. I’d stayed before at the Comfort Suites and at the Holiday Inn Express, but I think this is the first time I’d stayed at the Springhill Suites on-site there. That was a great hotel. The room was large, bright, and well laid out. I always like it when a hotel room is designed with tech in mind, and that was the case here. There were a great plenty of well-placed plugs, as well as the usual desk and half-room divider that are Springhill staples. I didn’t have a chance to play at Louisiana Downs, which is OK since I don’t know what I’d have played at a slots-only establishment anyway. I guess I could have looked for a Rich Life machine.

September 14th – I checked out of the hotel in Shreveport and headed to Houston. Of course I couldn’t help but stop in Lake Charles along the way. I really shouldn’t have done that, or at least I should have gone to the Isle instead of L’auberge. I lost very badly, and the high minimums at L’auberge made it so I didn’t dare stay longer waiting for a change of variance. I drove to IAH and dropped off the car at Hertz. 1,300 miles on this one. Then things got funny. I’d pricelined the car that I was going to use for Sat-Wed during my business meetings in Houston. Hertz was the provider that Priceline awarded my bid to. So I returned a car to Hertz, then went and stood in the line again to get a new car from Hertz. Their system had a really hard time with that process, but eventually I got my new car and headed off to my hotel. Turns out that the hotel (also a Priceline bid) was well known for being a prostitution den. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear before trying to lay in the bed and fall peacefully to sleep. I’m sure glad I called my boss that evening.

September 15 – Went to my company’s picnic at the Astros game. I guess that’s a benefit of working for a guy who owns a baseball team.

September 16 to September 17 – Training at headquarters. It’s always interesting how differently things look to people in different departments. After the end of training on Tuesday, I went to the Isle in Lake Charles because…well…what else was I going to do? I won back most of what I’d lost on Saturday at L’auberge, so that was good.

September 18 – I spent all day trying to get home. It didn’t go well. I flew from Houston to O’hare, where thunderstorms caused the ground crews to suspend operations. I watched Iron Man 3 in the air and Hangover 3 and most of 42 on the ground waiting for us to be able to get to the gate. So you could say we got to the gate a little late… Luckily, my plane from O’hare to Allentown was even more delayed than the first plane was. Instead of leaving O’hare at 7:30 and arriving in Allentown at 10ish, the second flight left at 11:30 and arrived at 2. Somehow in the confusion and delays on the ground, my checked bag did not make it onto the flight with me. And, of course, there was nobody to help me with that at Allentown at 3am. So I went a couple days without the contents of that bag.

So, in total, 4,850 miles driven, 30 casinos visited, 1 speeding ticket, $0 $120 spent on hotel rooms, $120 total net gambling loss.

edit: forgot the cost of the hotel in Albert Lea. That's the only non-casino hotel I stayed at (other than the one in Houston that my company paid for).


RogerKint Sep 30, 2013

Nice find on the monkeys. I have never seen them that high.

Was the price of the ticket included in the gambling net loss? If my car went over 65 I'd probably have lots of speeding tickets.

rdw4potus Sep 30, 2013

I usually find lots of 1 or 2 on the monkeys and try to nurse them to the first decision point & quit if I'm ahead. I think I know the couple who was on this one, and they just moved on after his bonus on the machine next door, nevermind her standing in her own game. Gotta love pushy irrational guys!

The ticket is not included in the gambling loss, though I suppose speeding is a form of gambling. With the ticket, food, and gas considered in addition to the gambling losses, the trip cost about $700.

tringlomane Sep 30, 2013

Is the casino in Cape owned by the Trop too? I thought it was Isle of Capri. I keep meaning to visit it en route to a Tunica trip, but still never got there. And you're right the trip from Metropolis to I55 sucks.

Lumiere Place was supposed to be bought out by Trop...I was hoping for Boyd. :(

rdw4potus Sep 30, 2013

Is Lumiere for sale? I'd have thought that it was somewhat the pinnacle of Pinnacle. Do they want to trim down to just 1 STL property? It'd be pretty similar in quality and location to a couple of the new and/or planned Horseshoes. Wouldn't it be funny if...

That's definitely an Isle in Cape Girardeau. I'll fix those references.

Alan Oct 18, 2013

When you were at Isle of Capri in Lake Charles, were there two boats there or only one? I want to say that there was only one when I drove by it last month, but I do try to pay attention to the traffic while crossing the bridge there. When there were two boats(and I'm saying this assuming there's only one left) one boat had table games and the other one did not(slots, etc. only). So what I'm getting at here is what kind of games were offered?

Thank you.

rdw4potus Oct 18, 2013

There were definitely slots and an array of tables at the IoC in Lake Charles. I only went on one boat, basically by lazily walking straight forward from the parking through the lobby and towards the security checkpoint. I'm not sure whether that boat was technically the IoC or the Grand Palais, and I don't know if the other one is still there off to the side (when walking in, it's possible to go quite far to the left, and I didn't do that).

Alan Oct 21, 2013

Thank you.

Posted by rdw4potus
Jan 20, 2013

Colorado and New Mexico Trip (1/1-1/5/2013

I recently spent 5 days in CO and NM. During that time, I collected chips from all of the casinos in CO, and several casinos in northern NM. The trip was somewhat impromptu, and somewhat influenced by airline difficulties, so things didn’t go quite how I’d hoped but I had a great time and accomplished what I wanted to.
I was in Albuquerque for the holidays, with a connecting flight in Denver on the trip home. I booked the cheapest possible flight, which meant getting into Denver at 1pm and leaving for Philly at 1am. Originally, I was upset by the duration of that layover. 12 freaking hours?!? What was a going to do? I mentioned to my brother that I was going to sit around alone for 12 hours after leaving his place, and he said “no, really, how many casinos are you visiting.” And then I realized that I could easily make it to Blackhawk and Central City in that time, so that became the plan and I was very much looking forward to it. Then, my flight from ABQ to DEN was delayed by 5 hours. And I was less certain about making it to Blackhawk and I was sad. The United gate employees were brutal in their assessment of the quality of Republic Air, who was responsible for the delayed regional flight. So I mentioned that the delay had ruined my plans, and that I was on the 1am flight (which is operated by US Air). The United gate folks offered to re-book me, and a light went off. I got them to rebook only the 1am flight, and to make it be 5 days later. And it wound up being on a 787 (more later on that…). So I spent 4 days collecting chips:

Day 1: I spent the evening of 1/1 in Cripple Creek. That is one CUTE little town. And it was still decorated for the holidays. And I saw two of the most beautiful women that I’ve ever laid eyes upon. And I won at every place I played. I thought about never leaving, but the altitude – 8,000 feet – made me decide to leave. I drove to lovely West Pueblo and spent the night there.

Here’s a pic I took in Cripple Creek:

Day 2: I drove from Pueblo to Durango via Santa Fe. I spent most of the first 2 hours marveling at how I was at 7,500 feet and in the “mountains” and there were no mountains around. Then I looked in the rearview and saw this perfectly framed in the rearview mirror (note, not my picture):

And, probably to taunt me, it stayed there for 30 minutes.

I visited casinos in Taos, Santa Fe, the middle of nowhere, and Farmington en-route to Durango. I thought that the NM casinos that I visited were a bit…depressing. They all came in somewhere between Jokers Wild and Searchlight Nugget on the quality scale. Albuquerque’s casinos are fantastic. It never occurred to me that Santa Fe’s casinos would be of a lower quality. That’s certainly not how it works with art and food and skiing and golf and…and…

I thought that the two Durango-area casinos in CO were pretty sweet. They’re pristine, they’re upscale, they’re interestingly styled. I should have stayed at one of these casinos. Instead I stayed at a Quality Inn. Note: if the word “Quality” is in the title, it probably isn’t apparent in the presentation f the item. Now, I’m a big Choice Hotels fan. I stay at Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, and Cambria about 50 nights/year. I’ll stay at the Downtown Grand when it opens because if the Choice affiliation. I even like the EconoLodge by Foxwoods. But this hotel was not good. There was a big beautiful dog (I asked and forgot…country-of-origin Sheepdog, I think. Australian?) running loose in the lobby. I love dogs. LOVE DOGS. But she was all over me the whole time I checked in. All 120 pounds of dog, licking my shoulder while I stood there. I’m 6”4. What would have happened if a petite woman was checking in? Then I got to my room. Everything seemed to be in order. I set the thermostat and went to sleep. Then I woke up at 3 am. And it was 50 degrees in my room. And the office was closed. So I put on my jacket and went back to sleep. It was almost -20F that night, so I can see how the heater would struggle, but it fell far too much behind. Behind almost to the point of danger. I probably got between 2 and 3 hours of sleep, and spent the rest of the night shivering. It definitely wasn’t restful.

Day 3: I drove from Durango to Evergreen, CO via Dulce, NM and Blackhawk, CO. I spent about half the day in Durango seeing the sights and trying to wake up. I never really did get out of my mental fog. Then I stopped at the Walmart, easily the busiest Walmart I’ve ever seen – at 2pm on a Thursday – to get provisions for my drive. Then I drove to Dulce to visit the Apache casino there. I got there at about 4pm. The tables open at 6. So I played some slots. They had The Hangover with some highish progressives, so I sat down. I won Stu’s progressive ($90) on the 4th spin. OK, enough of that. On to China Shores. 10 spins and 140 free games hit. Wow. Allllright. 20 minutes later, free spins completed and up $90. 140 free spins at $1.80/spin = $90? Gah! I guess it’s free money, so whatever. On to Godzilla. 3 spins and bonus. Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla. Terrible bonus, but last chance pick and…$50. NO, wait, there’s another 0. This thing just gave me $500?!? What the hell IS this place? Am I still in Durango and dreaming?? Still 70 minutes before the tables open. Minimum betting now, trying to be entertained while also not bleeding it all back. 360 free games on china shores. $200. Where was that when I was betting 6 times more… Now 10 minutes before tables open. Hey, there’s a vintage popcorn popper here. Tables open. Play 1 shuffle of 2 deck pitch and bail. On to Blackhawk.

That was one LONG drive. The 30 minutes that happened before it got pitch black was breathtaking. And then it was just long and dark. And kind of winding and narrow. I assumed that my GPS would put me east to I-25 and then north to Denver and then a bit west to Blackhawk. But it put me straight north up US24 instead. I got to Blackhawk at about 11:30pm.

Blackhawk was bigger than I thought it’d be, but it was still easily walkable. Ameristar looks like some sort of evil tower looming over an otherwise friendly place. I hit all the Blackhawk casinos that night, and then decided that I’d wait until the next day to visit Central City. Here's a picture of Ameristar (note:not my pic):

Day 4: Central City. It’s much smaller and more quaint than Blackhawk. Which is odd given that they’re 2 miles apart. I guess the Boulder Strip and downtown Henderson are similarly distanced. Century had Wild 6 card poker. I played for a couple hours. There were no strange hands or dealing irregularities like there were in Cripple Creek (see related post). Johnny Z’s had a 3CP game with a $12k progressive. So I played for most of the evening. And I didn’t come anywhere close to getting a premium hand. Oh, well.

Central City has a dedicated road off of the highway leading to town. It’s a 4 lane, well-lighted parkway. The road was incredibly nice, almost so much so that the city itself was a disappointment at first. It’s a quaint little city and that’s awesome. But the road would have made more sense if it led to the foot of Ameristar in Black Hawk.

Day 5: My trip home. On a lovely Boeing 787 (and, later, a 737-900). On the one hand, it really was a beautiful plane. The windows were totally awesome. The dimmer had a bit of a delay, I think because of the cold temperature. The overhead bins were huge, everything was clean, the entertainment system was free and full featured. But there were some flaws. The entertainment system reset a couple times once setting the language to Chinese. My seat was right over the wing. The wings are quite flexible. Some of the force is transferred into the hull where the wing meets the plane. It’s an odd feeling having the wall pull away from you mid-flight – even if it is just by a fraction of an inch. At 17 inches wide, the seats are almost impossibly small. It’s a 3-3-3 configuration in economy, and that doesn’t line up with the aisles in business. If it was 2-4-2 in economy, the aisles could be straight and the seats could fit a wider array of passengers. But I suppose the plane would have 30ish fewer seats. The 737-900 was a brand new plane as well. So new that they'd put it in service before having a chance to install the wifi or DirecTV units. The lighting was impressive, it had the new-style overhead bins, and the vents were excellent. But I was really hoping to see one of the Wildcard Weekend games on the flight.

Overall impressions: Colorado casinos are smoke-free (except for the native casinos by Durango). Cripple Creek is cute as hell! There are some fun/unique games in CO, and that was an entertaining change of pace. Santa Fe and Taos are great towns with only average casinos. It was nice to casino-hop by actually walking between casinos for a change. The 787 was good, but not great, and definitely had some bugs.


100xOdds Jan 21, 2013

so where are the pics of the "most beautiful women that you've ever laid eyes upon"?

CrystalMath Jan 21, 2013

Excellent blog. When I saw that you collected the chips from all the casinos in Colorado, I thought there was no way you went to Cortez, Durango, Cripple Creek, Blackhawk, and Central City. It sounds like a fun trip.

"lovely West Pueblo" is probably the nicest thing anyone ever said about Pueblo.

As for the Central City Parkway, the city paid for the road to be built so that people would drive right into Central City, and not come through Blackhawk first. Unfortunately for them, I drive right past, and go to Blackhawk.

Doc Jan 21, 2013

If WoVCon ]I[ ever gets scheduled, and if I am able to make it, I am considering adding a visit to the eastern Colorado casinos onto that trip. We could fly to Denver and spend a couple of days hitting Blackhawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek before making the hop down to Las Vegas. Maybe. Anyway, that will be long after I have posted all of the current chips in my collection and turned that thread over to you for safe keeping and continuation, so perhaps you can delay posting Colorado chips until I have a set to post along with yours?

Mission146 Jan 21, 2013

Thanks for the report and run-down of those towns, great reading!

Posted by rdw4potus
Dec 03, 2012

Northeast Oklahoma casinos, Kansas Star and Hollywood KC

I'm wrapping up a trip to OK and KS. I visited:
Native Lights
Buffalo Run
First Council
Osage (Bartlesville)
South Wind
Grand Lake
Indigo Sky
Hollywood KC
Kansas Star

Here are some observations:
-BJ rules are H17, DA2, DAS, 3:2. Not a great game, but generally well dealt and friendly.
-Downstream and Indigo Sky were much larger and fancier than I'd expected.
-There were generally no antes. Casinos that would have charged an ante in some situations either didn't if I got a players card or if I bet over $20. I thought that was a fair solution
-rules on non-BJ games in OK were nothing short of great. 9-7 UTH trips paytables just about everywhere, 6-4 3CP Pair plus paytables. With the ante out of the equation, these casinos move from being among the worst places to play to being among the best places to play.
-Kansas Star seems to lie to try to get business. I wish there were a nicer way to put that, but they just outright don't tell the truth about the casinos in Newkirk, OK. I just about got thrown out when I pushed back when an employee insisted that the OK casinos charged an ante.
-Many of these casinos are in a very small area in the northeastern corner of OK. It's a real PITA to drive to all of them. It took about 5 hours longer than I thought it would, mostly because the addresses weren't in Garmin's database. Also, because there's very little signage. And what signage there is, is...odd. There's a Wyandotte billboard right by Downstream. It doesn't say "Hey, Wyandotte is over HERE," instead it says "Wyandotte is great!" It is a pretty good casino, but I'd really appreciated some kind of directions at that point...

My play:
I played a lot. I lost a lot. Then I got to Tonkawa. I arrived at 2am, hoping to stop in and then hit the Newkirk casinos before calling it a night. They close at 2, but the security dude told me that the tables opened at 10am when the casino reopened. They don't. They open at 4pm. So I went to Newkirk around noon, then back to Tonkawa (about a 50 mile back-track). I arrived at 3pm. I needed to kill an hour before the tables opened, so I sat at a China Shores slot. I bet $0.45. On my third spin, I won 144 free games. On the 1st free spin, I won 160 free spins. When I'd played down to 280 games remaining, I won 480 free games. I tried to take a picture of the "760 free games remaining" sign, but the security kid just about bowled me out of my chair when I took out my camera. I could have taken a random award between 6800 and 350000 credits, but instead elected to play through all of the spins. I won $490. That brought me back to almost even for the trip, which was good. And it took until 4:15, which was great. But I wish I'd taken the credit award. Fair value there was centered around $1800.

After Tonkawa, I went to Kansas Star. It's an odd place. I couldn't tell if it was in an old basketball/hockey arena, or if it was just designed to look like an arena. I thought it was hard to find things in the building, which is odd since it's just a rectangle. I think a lot of the problem is that signage was so low that it was hard to see over the machines. The drive from Kansas Star to KC was quick and uneventful. I listened to the Cowboys/Eagles game on XM. I thought TV announcers were ridiculous. It's hilarious how bad radio commentary is.

I stayed and played at Harrahs NKC last night. I was even playing Texas Shootout. I still really like that game. It's exciting because of the possible combinations, but the variance is pretty low. There weren't too many crazy hands, but one notable hand saw my 22288 full house (all in hearts) beat the dealer's 228KA heart flush. Harrah's has a 50/40/20/7/6/5/3 trips paytable on their UTH table. That was a big change from the 50/40/30/9/7/4/3 pay tables that I played the day before. I didn't play the trips bet at harrah's, which just felt weird.

Today I played UTH at Hollywood. I played for about 4 hours, and left the table exactly even. They have the 50/40/30/8/7/4 trips paytable. I didn't have many bonus hands at all, but I won almost all my 4x bets. I won so many that they were questioning why I'd bet 4x with K8 offsuit. Luckily, the floor supervisor was a fan of Mike's. Honestly, that's probably the only reason I was allowed to keep playing. After my UTH session, I passed a China Shores game that was associated with the pirates treasure side game. In that game, the feature is randomly triggered and the player can then select three spaces on a grid. If the player finds a key, he chooses a box for the progressive prizes, if not, he wins $5 and the boxes he selected remain marked. I think it's a 5x6 grid, but I might be wrong about that. At any rate, the machine caught my eye because only 3 of the 30(?) boxes were unmarked. In other words, the next bonus trigger would result in a progressive win. So I sat down. I won 120 free spins, and tried the equivalent credit award. It gave me $3xx. Then 2 spins later I got the bonus and won the larger progressive ($12x).

I spent more time at Hollywood than I thought I would, so I pushed my flight home. Now I'm sitting in my hotel watching MNF. I desperately need Bradshaw to score 11 fantasy points. I hope the Giants lose this game, but Bradshaw should run for 100 yards and score a TD...


midwestgb Dec 04, 2012

Your Kansas resident Board member here....

Kansas Star just south of Wichita along I35 opened a year ago. For reasons unknown, they built their Equeatrian Center building first, and opened the Casino inside it ... While then starting construction on the casino proper. It is nearing completion just now.

Dynamite Dec 06, 2012

Buffalo Run had an 8d Early surrender table when I was there in Sept. Although only $100 max, it was the best(only) player advantage table I found in the area. I wonder if it is still there?