Posted by rdw4potus
Mar 07, 2011

HSI Trip report

...OK, so half-assed HSI trip report would be a better name.

I spent he week from 2/27/11-3/4/11 at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana. Here are some notes from the trip:

1. Check-in: I was upgraded to a jacuzzi room without asking. Too bad it was surrounded by rooms with small children. Also too bad I was traveling alone. Still, a nice gesture.

2. Meals: I'm a big fan of JB's cafe. Burgers are great, desserts are huge, and service is relatively quick. I also ate at Legends. The food was good enough, but the price was also somewhat high. I still haven't managed to eat at the steakhouse - their hours are too restrictive for me, I guess. I have no interest in the buffet, but I hear it's better than the old one.

3. Play: I played about 25 hours of Pai Gow Poker over 5 nights at an average bet of $200/hand on two hands ($400/round). I tried a new method this time around, which I kind of liked (probably because I won...): After each evening's session of play, I'd go all in on the last hand. That resulted in me betting, and winning, 4 of the biggest hands of my life on Wednesday and Thursday. All total for the week, I finished net up about $3k. Not bad for a "business" trip:-)

4. Rating: I almost never play at this level, and the one thing that stands out to me is exactly how poorly Caesar's rates its table games players. I *did* stay for free all week, but the cash comps were laughably bad. 25 hours * 30 hands/hour * 2 spots * $200/spot = $300,000 handle. If the HA in PGP is 2%, then I "should" have lost $6000 (not for nothing, but that's over my BR for the trip). I received $80 in points for the trip, which is about 1.3% of my theoretical loss.

5. Odds & Ends: On Thursday, I played with a guy whose wife had had a baby on Saturday. He was taking some good-natured ribbing from the dealers and his host about being at the casino 5 days after the birth of his first child. After a few minutes, he got a kind of confused look on his face and said "Y'all *do* know that my wife is here, too, right? She's just eating right now." wow.

*edit* I DID now receive word that I achieved diamond status as a result of my daily play during this trip. HSI had previously told me that I didn't qualify, but I guess that they've now sorted out my table games play and upgraded me. To their credit, they did this without further prodding from me.


FleaStiff Mar 07, 2011

That new method sure worked out well.

Rating? At 1.3 percent (when "average" is supposedly 22 percent) I'd have said something to them! What do you have to lose? Had their computers been asleep for awhile or something?

The new father? Heck, one woman got comped to a Vegas show by her Father in Law and between the excitement of a trip to Vegas, the free show tickets, the alcohol, etc. she and her husband got a little too relaxed and later discovered a new meaning to the phrase Vegas, Baby.

rdw4potus Mar 08, 2011

My play was good for about 8000 tier credits. Is there a ratio of 1 tier credit to $.01 of comp dollars? That math works out almost exactly, when I factor out the 3 hours or so that I played video poker.

teddys Mar 11, 2011

You should ask for a host if you don't already have one there. When I played a bunch of video poker there, they assigned me a host. I haven't used her services, but it's nice to know it's there.

Posted by rdw4potus
Oct 24, 2010

Vegas trip report

I just returned home from a 9 day trip to Vegas. In that span, I visited 108 casinos. Here are the highlights of my trip

Day 1: Arrived at Paris at about midnight on Friday, 10/15. I'd booked through harrahs.com and paid in advance to "guarantee" my reservation despite my late check-in. They still managed to give away all the non-smoking rooms. So my girlfriend and I sucked it up and stayed in a smoking room with 2 queen beds for the night, and changed rooms on saturday.

Day 2: We started the day walking south down the east side of the strip, hitting Planet Hollywood, MGM, Hooters, and the Trop. Then crossing and going to Excaliber, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay. After a brief return to Paris and Bally's, we crossed to the west side of the strip and went to Caesars, the Mirage, and TI. Then we headed down to the Stratosphere for dinner at Fellini's and a trip to the observation deck before heading downtown. Fellini's was excellent, but the tables were literally turned the wrong way. We were sitting about 5 feet apart at a table for two, which is not exactly romantic... Pics of the strip would be awesome from the Stratosphere, but the rides make the whole building shake so badly that exposures are blurred.

We made it downtown by about 10pm, just in time to see the Fremont light show. It was pretty cool. I would put it slightly behind the Bellagio fountains on the list of free vegas entertainment. We hit up the Fremont, Four Queens, and Fitz, then walked down to the El Cortez. I wanted to go to the Western, but the girlfriend talked me into going back to the Four Queens.

Day 3: We walked from Paris down to the Venetian, then back to Paris, stopping at Harrah's, Flamingo, Casino Royale, Bills, and OShea's. I ran into an old friend and business associate at Casino Royale. That was fun. We went to O at Bellagio in the evening and ate at Fix. Both the show and the food were great. Fix is a confusing place to me. I liked the lighting and the vibe, and I liked the darkwood all over everything. But that is a LOT of very rare and exotic wood to light so dimly that the grain is not even visible. It rained all evening, and it was very very slippery. Vegas is definitely not built for rain.

Day 4: Got the girlfriend to the airport in time for her 6am flight home. Checked out of Paris and went to the Westin, Tuscany, Terribles, Hardrock, and Ellis island. Then drove up the strip and stopped at the Wynn and Encore on the way to the Riviera, Hilton, Slots-a-fun, and Circus Circus. I was in a hurry, so I grabbed a meal at the McDonalds at Circus Circus. Then I continued on to Sahara on the way back downtown. I had a lot of fun downtown, and thought California and Main Street Station were especially fun. The Golden Nugget was very confusing to me, with doors facing on 3 sides and an odd shape. Stopped at the Palms and Gold Coast on the way to the Rio. Checked in and found my room, which was exactly as requested.

Day 5: Took the shuttle back to the strip and went to Aria, NYNY, and the Monte Carlo. Went to the Orleans, Silverton, M, South Point, and Boulder Strip casinos.

Day 6: Burned out on Vegas, decided to drive to Pahrump, Primm, Jean, Searchlight and Laughlin. It seems odd that there's no way to get from Pahrump to Primm without going all the way back to Vegas, but that was what the GPS said to do and I did it that way. I really liked the drive from Primm down to Laughlin through CA. And the drive into Laughlin from the west was very pretty with storms in the background the whole way. I stopped at the Hacienda on the way back from Laughlin. Got a speeding ticket (67 in a 45) on the way through Boulder City. 1. There is no way I was going 67, with the cruise set at 58. 2. I was pulled over literally under the "speed limit 55" sign. What a crock. $198 ticket. damnit!

Day 7: Casino list for the day included Mesquite and the east-side and North Las Vegas casinos. Some seedy places. Didn't want to take all my cash with me. The room safe was still closed and locked by the previous patron, so I put the excess cash ($700) in a second wallet. Put the wallet in a zippered pocket inside a zippered compartment in my backpack. Put the backpack on the shelf in the closet. I'm pretty sure the maid stole my money. The bathroom was cleaned, but the bedroom was not. The closet was between the two rooms. I talked to the front desk, security, and the head of housekeeping. They all agreed that was probably what happened. They all told me that since it was cash, there was nothing that could be done. $700. damnit!! And for what it's worth, I had an absolute blast at the Poker Palace and Lucky Club. I should have just carried the cash with me. I felt completely safe at all times at those establishments.

Day 8: I cleared off the remaining list of vegas-area casinos. Holy crap, were they far apart. Santa Fe Station was so far from anything that it could have actually been in Santa Fe. I played there for quite a while, $5 Pai Gow Poker. Broke even, had some free beers.

Day 9: Checked out of Rio, headed to rental car return. HUGE lines. I gave myself 3 hours to get from the hotel to the gate, and needed 2:45 of it. Turns out the President's trip to Vegas created a big mess. Got home around 8pm. I had been planning on NOT going to my local casinos this weekend. I decided that after losing the $700 and paying the $200 ticket, I could use the value of the week's free play. So I headed to Mystic Lake and downloaded my $40 onto a $1 DDB machine. I figured I'd end up with $25-$50 after my 8 plays. I had nothing after 7 plays. 8th play held 55 and got 55A, for $250. Nice! back to down $650. I collected the $$ and drove across town to Treasure Island. I got there at 2am expecting a pretty dead casino, but it was PACKED. I couldn't find an open VP machine, so I sat down at a slot machine in the same bank that I won $7k in earlier this month. Before I got through my $30 in free play, I'd hit the bonus for $600. SWEET! Up $50.

So, total for the trip:

106 *$5 chip collecting = down $530
speeding ticket = down $198
Rio hotel theft = down $700
General Vegas gambling = up $80
ACG/Vegas Advisor Coupons = up $180
Minneapolis casino playing = up $850
Net = down $318


teddys Oct 24, 2010

You are nuts man, I love it. Sorry to hear about your non-gaming losses. At least you can try getting out of the speeding ticket with the advice on the board. I also like Poker Palace. Great restaurant. Main Street Station is fun, of course, but Cal? Unless you like Hawaiian food, I don't see it.

rdw4potus Oct 24, 2010

It was the dealers that made California special. The casino itself was average at best, but the game play was very fun.

Ayecarumba Oct 25, 2010

Thanks for the great report. How do you count tickets for "O"? a win, loss, or wash?...hehe

You must have an awesome chip collection now. Did you go to the cages to buy uncirculated chips? Do you bite when casinos (e.g. Hard Rock) have "series" of chips for collecting?

Please post pictures of your collection. I would love to see it.

rdw4potus Oct 25, 2010

Did not bite on the Hard Rock series chips. Thought about the Hooters series chips, and the Playboy chips at the Palms. Decided to get the most "basic" chips I could at each casino. Still ended up with the Hooters Miss March chip and a show-related chip from the Mirage. I'll probably try to replace those when I'm back in town in January for CES or, barring that, in June for WOVcon.

Posted by rdw4potus
Sep 29, 2010

My very good (and bad) luck

I'm working this week in Louisville, and I stayed Sunday-Wednesday at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana. I spent the evening yesterday playing PaiGow Poker. When I play, I almost never bet the fortune bonus. One exception is that I'll bet it on the last hand of the night or when I want to tip the dealer. Yesterday, I was playing with the idea that I'd quit when I got to be + or - $500 from my starting point, betting $100/hand. After 4 hours, I made it to +$588. I decided to bet the $88 as $80/$5 bonus/$3 dealer's bonus and leave when the $80 bet resolved. On the first hand, we hit trips and pushed. I pressed the bonus bet and tipped again. I hit a flush and pushed. I pressed the bonus bet and re-bet the tip. I hit a full house and pushed. After tips, the bonus run had netted me $320. I decided to call it a night. As I was coloring up and leaving, the guy next to me said he wanted to take my spot and play the "hot hand." I stayed to see what happened. The next hand was a royal flush. I really don't know what I'd have bet if I stayed for that hand (pressing again would have taken me over the cap on the side bet), and if the timing were different the action could have fallen on a different seat. But I'd bet $75 on the bonus bet the hand before, and $75*150:1 is a LOT of money...


FleaStiff Sep 29, 2010

Well, we know there is no such thing as a hot hand anyway. I would have lingered a bit longer and waited for my "luck" to turn. You were apparently either Winning or Pushing, not Losing. Under those circumstances, I'd have continued.

Ofcourse the main point is you did walk away in the plus column! Thats something most people don't do.

Posted by rdw4potus
Jun 19, 2010

Horseshoe Southern Indiana review

I stayed at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana (10 miles northwest of Louisville, KY) for 4 nights from June 6th-June 10th. I've been travelling to Louisville for work this spring, and my play at Harrah's casinos had somehow qualified me for 4 free nights. This was not my first time gambling at this casino, but it was my first time utilizing the hotel and restaurants. Because I have now had the full experience at this venue, I have decided to write a review.

I arrived at Horseshoe Southern Indiana (hereafter, HSI) at about 8pm EDT on the night of Sunday June 6th. Not knowing any better, I parked in the casino ramp and dragged my bags all the way through the property to the hotel. There was another smaller parking ramp in the back of the property near the hotel. That was in no way clear from the signage that I passed at any point in the process.

Check in was efficient and the hotel staff were very friendly. They took great care to warn me that the minibar sensors were very precise, and there was no way to waive a restocking fee if I had an accident. The hotel room was larger than I'd expected, but lower than I'd hoped for. My view was of the parking structure, but higher rooms have river and/or golfcourse views. The bathroom was very large and well laid out. I'm never sure why hotels do things this way, but the coffeemaker was on the bathroom counter. I have 5 issues that I look out for when I stay in hotels. They are: 1. is the TV a flatscreen? 2. Do the drapes close completely? 3. Is the mattress firm enough? 4. Are fitted sheets used? 5. Is free wireless internet available? In this case, the answers were mixed. The TV was a tube, but it was HUGE. The drapes did not close completely, so I used my cellphone holster to clip them together at night. The mattress was outstanding, but two flat sheets were used. And wireless internet was not available at all. The lack of wireless was a big disappointment for me, as it forced me to gamble a bit more than I was hoping to for entertainment. And the flat sheets are a frustration because my feet hang over the bottom of the bed and the lower flat sheet always comes undone and inches up the bed in the middle of the night.

I had hoped to try both the buffet and Binion's Steakhouse during this trip. Unfortunately, the Buffet was closed for remodeling (the new buffet will be branded to utilize Paula Deen's name, and opens in September). Binions looks to be a very nice restaurant, and I'd heard good things from my local coworkers. But it was not open past 9pm during the week when I was there and I never arrived back at HSI before then. So the restaurants I tried were Legends and Graeter's. Graeter's is a regional ice cream shop that came highly recommended. The restaurant is located in the Promenade area of the complex. I ordered a strawberry cone. It was quite possibly the best ice cream I've ever had. Basically, if Cold Stone's ice cream was as good as their toppings, it would be Graeter's. Legend's is a sports bar. It is located next to the buffet. During the time that I was there, the NBA playoffs were on TV. I ordered a local specialty, the Hot Brown. Alcohol can't be comped in Indiana, so I washed it down with a coke. The sandwich was enormous, and served in under 5 minutes. For those who don't know, the Hot Brown is like a turkey commercial, served openfaced with copious amounts of cheese, tomatoes, and bacon on top. The food was excellent, and my server was very nice. Unfortunately, my server was neither attentive or competent. I finished my coke in 10 minutes and never did get another. I finished the sandwich 5 minutes later and waited for 20 minutes for her to bring my check. She brought the wrong check, and I almost signed to charge another table's $350 tab to my room.

The casino is large and well laid-out. I understand it's the largest riverboat casino in the U.S. The "main" floor is floor 3, which is home to 2 of the 3 table games pits, and most of the high denomination slots that are on the floor. Floor 4 is home to the high limit rooms and a few slot machines. Floor 2 has many low limit slots, and a "party pit" in the Envy Bar (irony: there is no PGP table in the pit.) Floor 1 has the poker room and more slots. There are cashier's cages on floors 3 and 4, and the player's club booth is on floor 4 (there is also a location in the Promenade, just off of the boat itself. All lines are McDonald's style, with heavy preference given to higher card levels. Because of this, I found myself using the cashier on floor 4 where there was never a line and avoiding the booth on floor 3.

There is a nice variety of slots, and I was impressed by the number of games available at low denominations. Along with the free stay promo, I had also received $30 in free slot play. Since it was about 11pm on sunday by the time I finished dinner, I decided to skip the table games and play off the free slot play for the evening. I found a $.01 Power Strike and decided to play the max with my $30. I hit the minor jackpot near the end of the (very short) session, and escaped with $27 remaining once I'd spun through the $30.

In the main pit(s) I saw the following games: Craps, BJ, Three Card Poker, Crazy Four Poker, Rapid Roulette, Spanish 21, BJ Switch, Pai Gow Poker, Pai Gow Tiles, Baccarat, Ultimate Texas Hold'em, and Let It Ride Bonus. If that sounds like a lot of games, rest assured that it felt like it as well. And I think it kind of frustrated some of the non-locals. To me, it's rare to find a casino where BJ accounts for less than half of the tables. People were having a hard time even finding the BJ tables. I only played Pai Gow Poker during this trip, but I did note a few details about some of the other games:

Craps- 100x odds were offered, but the minimum was never less than $15. I can't fathom the amount of variance you'd have to accept to play that game using ideal strategy...

Three card poker- flush pays 3x on the pair plus

BJ- H17 (S17 in high stakes), DAS, no surrender, split 3 times, resplit aces, 6 deck shoe (4 decks in high stakes).

VP was mostly 8/5 JOB, but there was 9/6 at $5 in high stakes.

I like the Pai Gow Poker game at HSI for a couple reasons. First, $20 chips are just cool. Second, the bonus meets my qualifications for playability. On the Fortune bet, 3 pair pays 1:1, 4 of a kind pays 25:1, and a straight flush pays 45:1. To offset those bumps, a natural seven card straight flush pays *only* 1000:1 and the other top payouts are reduced as well. Based on this paytable, I calculate a house edge of just under 4%. To me, that's worth throwing money at to liven up the game. While I was playing on Wednesday, I saw a royal flush with royal match get dealt. This was the second time I've seen one AT HSI the last 3 months (and, you know, in my life...). Both times, the hand included the joker subbing for the J or 10. Both times it was mis-set as royal/KQ instead of KKQQ/AA. Both times it pushed. With the envy that I got on that hand, I ended up even for the week.

For the most part, I enjoyed my stay at HSI. I would go again. In fact, I am going again next week. A few notes:
1. I do not understand Harrah's comp system. At All. On this stay, I played 10 hours of PGP at an average bet of $75/hand. This level of play got me $20 in comped food and 200 total rewards points. My theoretical loss was $500. I can't even imagine what I'd have to do to get to 7 Stars.
2. The smoke was, at times, overwhelming at HSI, but I don't recall ever seeing anyone actually smoking.
3. Everything seems to run on a short clock, at least during the week. Restaurants close early or don't open at all, hosts go home at 9pm, etc.
4. The minibar prices are actually reasonable...and identical to those in the hotel gift shop.

If I were going to rank the quality of the casinos that I've been to (sorry, never been to Vegas or AC, but trying to give context), I would put HSI slightly above the Chicagoland casinos (very close in quality to Blue Chips) but lower than Belterra or Mystic Lake.


notes from 6/28-6/30 stay:
ate at JB's cafe on deck 2. burger, fries, and brownie totaled $15. Meal was excellent, and could easily have fed two people (probably with extra brownie remaining). I preferred it to Legends, even without the availability of alcohol.

Room issues were a little rockier this time around. A/C was out hotel-wide when I arrived on 6/28. It kicked in at about 4am, and my room was frigid when I got out of bed at 6. My neighbors on 6/29 were horrid. Left their small children alone in the room and went to play. Kids fought and baby cried non-stop. I called the front desk to ask about a new room, and when I told them why they called the police. I did get a nice quiet room, but I also had to stay up later than I wanted to so I could give a statement to the officers. I guess it's nice to see that Harrah's is really comitted to their responsible parenting policy.


ruascott Jun 21, 2010

Have you been to Hollywood over in Lawrenceburg? Their old boat was very similar to HSI, but their new casino is not really a boat at all. Its all one level and huge, with high ceilings. Not really different than being in a Vegas casino. High ceilings eliminate almost all the smoke issue.

teddys Oct 24, 2010

Thanks for the review. I just got an offer for 2 weekday nights + $15 FP from them. I'm probably not going to use it, as it's far and the place just does not excite me all that much. Bet it's nice to get those rooms for your work trips, though.

Posted by rdw4potus
May 30, 2010

Chicagoland trip

I recently completed a weekend gambling trip in the Chicago area. I flew into O'hare at about midnight on friday, and flew out at 8am monday. I visited 11 different casinos in 4 states during my trek. My reviews will be somewhat abbreviated due to the fact that I did not stay at any of the casinos. I also play a fairly narrow range of games (Blackjack, Pai Gow Poker, Three Card Poker), so details about the others may be kind of dodgy. Here are my notes, with approximate time of visit:

Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Milwaukee, WI (3am friday night): The casino is separated from the parking garage by an in-use alley. The alley is also on the vallet service circuit. It was unusually difficult to get across and into the casino. Upon arriving in the casino, I was blown away by the smoke. I was under the impression that Milwaukee had a smoking ban. The casino is right in town, so I was expecting it to be smoke free. I was so overwhelmed, I did not stay very long. While I was there, I joined the Fire Keepers club. The line was short and Wendy's style. I received a $5 match play coupon for joining. The coupon was good on a future visit, but I doubt I'll go back.

It was late evening on friday when I was at the casino, and it was still quite busy. Also, the table limits were still quite high by WI standards (BJ was $15-$50 on the floor, $10 craps, $20 PGP, $10 TCP). I settled into a PGP game with fortune side bet. I noticed that the table did not have $.25 chips or quarters. It has been my experience that the commission is rounded down when that is the case, so I bet $105 to win $100. I won. I received $99.50. I complained and was greeted with a surly "it's basic math. do you round .5 up or down? UP or down?" to which I replied "well, if I'm counting from 0-9 I round it up, but here we're counting from 1-10 so I think it should go down...just like at every other casino in WI..." (aside: including the other Potawatomi owned properties). I lost the argument. The dealer had just rotated on and she was not nice at all. Also, they play with the unfavorable houserules where a straight/flush is played with A-face even if 2 pair are present. So I colored up after about 20 minutes. I was up $200 (to $700) and the dealer tried to exchange for 6 blacks. I was pretty burned out from the flight and drive, so I retired for the night.

Stoplights in milwaukee are not smart lights. I'm used to major cities having radar or pressure sensors so that lights turn green faster in the absense of traffic. That was NOT the case here. I hit every light red and I was the only person on the road.

(please see related post about the horrid condition of my hotel room)

After an event filled night at the Econolodge in Milwaukee, I headed back south to IL for a day of driving and gaming.

Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin, IL (10am): I arrived at the Grand Victoria at about 10 am. The casino is not open 24 hours, and I didn't check the hours before arriving so I made sure I was late enough for it to have opened for the day before arriving. I expected some sort of breakfast/light fare, but the only restaurant I could find that was open at 10 was the diner/cafe. They were serving burgers and hotdogs. I decided to play first and then eat. I joined Club Victoria, and there were no freebies. The line was McDonalds Style, but there was no wait. I think they might put up the Wendy's cordons later in the day, as there were some retracted and stowed by the wall.

All casinos in IL are smoke free. There is a statewide smoking ban, and they're commercial casinos so there are no tribal waivers like in MN (my home state). Unfortunately, the tradeoff to the clean air seems to be bad games. Craps was offered at $10 with 1x odds only. BJ rules were stingy (H17, no DAS, RSA was offered, but no late surrender. BJ paid 3:2). The only carnival games I could find were Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold'em. Of the two, I prefer TCP. The HA is higher, but the variance is lower. Since this was my first stop of the day, I went for bankroll preservation and sat at the TCP table. The dealer was cordial and polite. He was a music buff, and we played name that tune with the casino's selections. The game itself was nothing special. I got lucky and hit a winning straight on my last hand to get back to down $50. I colored up at about 1130 and grabbed a bacon cheeseburger from the cafe. The beef was excellent, but I'm not sure if they did anything more than warm the bacon. It was quite raw.

Hollywood Casino, Aurora, IL (12pm): I arrived at the Hollywood casino in Aurora at shortly after noon. Their parking lot was excellent, and I was able to park very near the door. The casino was almost deserted. I had joined Club Hollywood at the related property in Lawrenceberg, IN in March, but they couldn't find me in the system on saturday so they signed me up again. That resulted in me receiving a new $20 free slot play coupon. I played played 7 pulls in a $3 Wheel of Fortune and literally won nothing. Like the Grand Victoria, Hollywood's rules were stingy. I forgot to look at the craps tables, but the BJ rules were the same as at Grand Victoria. Again, I sat at a TCP table. The minimum was only $5, which I decided fit my pace for the middle of the trip. I noticed that the PP paid 6/4, so I bet that occasionally as well. After an hour, I was up $10. I tipped the dealer the $10 and headed on my way.

Empress Casino, Joliet, IL (1:45pm): The Empress didn't...ummm...impress. It was old, kind of run down, and it was only about half open even by 2 when I got there. I was under the impression that they'd remodeled after their fire, but it sure didn't seem like things were redone anytime recently. The club counter wasn't open, so I couldn't join the players club. The line would have been wendy's style if it were available. The pit with the carnival games was closed. There was only one craps table open, and that only had 2 players. I wound up getting my play in by sitting at a BJ table. I found a 4 deck table for $25/hand. That was more than I wanted to play, but I figured it was worth it to cut down from 8 decks to 4. I caught a bit of a hot streak (in a negative count, too. it was pretty awesome), and got up $337.50. Unless the building is on fire, I will not enter or leave mid-shoe, so I stuck around for a few more hands. The shoe ended with 5 consecutive hands with 20 or more for the dealer, and I lost them all. I cashed out up $150 for the session. Oddly, the line at the cashier was McDonalds style.

Harrah's Casino, Joliet, IL (2:30): When I got to Harrah's, it became clear why no one was at the Empress. It can't hold a candle to Harrah's. The boat was beautiful, the tables were active, and everything was open. I'm already a Total Rewards member, so I skipped the club desk visit (though I noticed the line was McDonalds style) and went right to the TCP table. PP was 6/3, so I didn't play it. Of course I hit a straight flush 3 hands in... I bought in for $100 and busted out after about 45 minutes, so I didn't have a reason to visit the cashier.

Hammond Horseshoe, Hammond, IN (3:30): This one is another Harrah's property, and it's kind of in the ghetto. And by kind of in the Ghetto, I mean "I almost parked Valet just to not have to walk alone outside at all." I walked past the club line and cashier on my way into the casino. Both lines were Wendy's style, which is good because both were also very long. I had the chips that CallmeBufo mailed to me, so I had my stake set for the afternoon. I sat at the PGP table. The dealer was both new and condescending. At first I tried to help her out, but after a while I just took advantage of the situation. She kept splitting low low and low middle two pairs even when she had an ace. I left when the dealer changed, and I was down $50. Turns out there's no way to overcome dealer errors with 10 high paigows. I had two in 3 hands (sandwiching a full house with a pair).

Ameristar Casino, Gary, IN (4:15): I think I trust my GPS too much sometimes. IN 912 is closed for maintenance. I kept telling my GPS that I needed a detour. It kept giving me alternate ways to get to IN912. It sent me on a circle through tollways, then put me in the middle of the Mittal steel plant. I finally found my way through the plant's "streets" to the casino (it really was quite close), but what should have been a 15 minute drive took 45. I parked, went inside, joined the players club, and wandered around for a bit. I needed to cool off from the drive over before I risked my money. I'd received $40 in slot play for joining the players club (it was a promo related to a free car giveaway, double the usual amount), and I decided to play that through before thinking about playing table games. Sticking with the high denomination idea and disappointed by my Wheel of Fortune experience earlier, I decided to play a "Red Hottie Sevens" game for $10/pull. It's a $1 3 line game, but for $10 you can play the "bonus game." In the bonus, there is a simulated dice roll, and the number indicates your outcome. 1-3 is a loss, 4-6 initiate bonus games. My third roll was a 6, which started a deal-or-no-deal type game. I rejected $20, $15, and $25 before accepting a final offer of $500. Major Score!!

Armed with my newly found free money, and buzzing from my first drink of caffeine in 6 months, I found the PGP tables and sat at one. The dealer might have been the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life. Think Angelina Jolie, but less edgy. Anyway, between her, the money, and the caffeine, I kept messing up. I'm very lucky that they're a loose shop. I set a pair of 3s with Q10 and looked right through the club flush that was also there. They let me reset the hand. Then I flipped my pai gow and fortune bets, and they let me reverse them. I finally got so flustered and embarassed that I colored up and left. I was even (still up the $500 from the slots win). Both the players club and cashiers cage lines were McDonalds style, but there was never a wait while I was watching.

Majestic Star, East Chicago, IN (5:10): The Majestic Star is maaaaaybe 5 miles from the Ameristar, but the road between them is closed. I had to go all the way down to the interstate and all the way back up to the Majestic star. At least I didn't trust the GPS on that one...

I joined the players club (Wendy's style line), and went to find food. I don't usually go for casino buffets, but Majestic's was only $12.95 so tried it. It was interesting. Their chef isn't afraid to experament. That eliminates the phenomenon where all buffet food tastes the same, but it also created some options that I just did not care for. All in all, the selection was good, with 4 different stations (not counting desserts and salads). I would say the buffet was worth the $13, but not much more than that.

After eating, I went in search of the PGP tables. They used a different felt than the others that I'd stopped at thus far, and it was a nice change of pace. Their felt is the version with Wizard's bonus (same structure as Fortune bonus...is Fortune Bonus a Shufflemaster copyright?) and Pai Gow insurance. I didn't play either sidebet for myself (the dealer asked me to play the Wizard's for her tip. she hit trips on a $10 bet.). I was down about $100 after 30 minutes and decided to move on. The cashier's cage line was VERY long on both sides of the boat. I found out later that the ticket cashing machines were not functioning. Lines were Wendy's style, but they kept taking high-level players club players at any cashier and not just at the special one. So, the only time that regular people got to cash out was when nobody was in the special line. That sucked.

Blue Chips, Michigan City, IN (8:00): Blue Chips is a Boyd property, and the B-Connected players club card is accepted. It is also a resort with a spa. The hotel tower is very tall, and all glass. I walked into a parked car while looking at the reflection of the setting sun in the hotel's windows. The alarm went off.

The vibe at Blue Chips wasn't my style, and it was VERY busy, so I didn't stay long at all. It had very much of a night club atmosphere. The music was club/electronica and not at all the usual generic rock/pop that you hear at casinos. All lines were McDonalds style, but with a manager guaging wait times and directing people into the "optimal" line. He was right when he directed me, but also misjudged a few times. I decided to try Crazy 4 poker. MN has 4 card poker in several casinos/cardrooms, but not Crazy. I found it too hard to adjust from one set of rules to the other and lost my patience after about 15 minutes.

Four Winds Casino, New Buffalo, MI (9pm): Four Winds was very nice. Smoking was allowed, but I never even caught a whiff of it. I joined the players club and spun my $5 free play through a $.25 VP machine. I didn't even realize the guy next to me was smoking until he asked if I wanted one. MI is a state with progressive table games jackpots. I based my play on the state of the progressives. The Let It Ride game at Four Winds had a jackpot of $180K when I was there. The paytable for the bonus was similar to the paytable for the progressive at my home casino, where I know the breakeven to be $170K. I sat down at the LIR table. After about 2 hours, I was a little down. I'd been way down, then hit pocket trips with a paired board to come all the way back to within about $50 of even. I lost back down to $100 down and colored up. The players club and cashier both had McDonalds style lines, and both were quite busy.

I arrived at my hotel in Battle Creek at about 2am.

Fire Keepers Casino, Battle Creek, MI (sunday, 11am): Firekeepers was by far my favorite casino of the trip. It is huge, but made to feel warm and quaint. The people were very friendly. I got a club card, which came with a food coupon and an offer of future comp to equal 25% of my 1 day losses. I'm not sure if I'll ever go back (it's out-of-the-way), but I decided to try to make use of that promo. At the time I was there, only 1 of 5 table games pits was open. BJ rules were quite liberal. The only improvement would have been H17. I was torn as to what to do. TCP had a progressive jackpot at $25K, where the breakeven is about $9600 (the whole game breaks even when the progressive is about $13k). PGP had a progressive that was $250K (breakeven is about $285K). I like PGP a lot more than I like TCP, the table was full, and I wanted to bank, so PGP won out. Turns out the table was only full for about 3 minutes. On my first hand banking my hand was 2356clubs, Ahearts, A Diamonds, and the joker. That cleared about half of the people out. The rest of the session was pretty unremarkable, except for one hand. About 2 hours in, I had 4 natural aces as my cards 4-7. The person to my left had the joker as card 1, and 5 aces pays 10% of the progressive jackpot. As it was, that hand put me up 1 unit, and I maintained that through several consecutive pushes before I finally left the table.

I had asked the Floorperson how long the drive back to O'hare would be, and she warned that it was extremely variable. Between construction on I-94 in MI, and the traffic on the tollways in IN and IL, she estimated it would be between 3 and 5 hours. My flight was in 6 hours and 30 minutes, so I left and started driving back. Michigan drivers drive me nuts. I've noticed this everywhere I've gone in MI. They must not teach common sense in drivers ed up there. There were maybe a dozen times in the 100 mile stretch heading back down to IN where the person in front of me in the left lane was passing at a speed less than the speed limit and without speeding up. That just drives me nuts. Like, really, you want to go 47 instead of 46 so you're going to pass? What about the 30 cars trying to go 60 behind you?!?

Anyway, all in all it was a good trip. Net with travel costs deducted I was up about $250, which I was happy with. I got to O'hare 3 hours early, and that was a little rough. Then I let myself get bumped from the flight and took the travel voucher anyway, so I flew out to Louisville at 8 monday morning.


odiousgambit May 30, 2010

you blogged it! excellent!

gambler May 31, 2010

As I said before, great trip report! Very well written and very informative. I hope you continue to post future trips.

teddys May 31, 2010

Interesting that you had a problem with slow drivers. Usually Michigan drivers are known for going too fast.