Review of Harrahs Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy NC

Review update July 30, 2018: I’ve taken several trips to Harrah’s Cherokee River Valley Casino in the past year, however, there really wasn’t anything to add as part of this review until this month.  This was the first trip I’ve stayed in the hotel which is attached to the casino on a comp last Thursday night.  The entire hotel review can be summed up with imagining any Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, or Holiday Inn Express that you’ve ever stayed in – yep that’s it.

The newest addition to the property is very nice – they now have an Ultrastar entertainment center.  This is a welcome new way for visitors to do more than gamble when they come here.  There are about 10 bowling lanes, a full-service restaurant, and an arcade for kids.  It’s not Dave and Busters or Top Golf, but at least it gives the place a little more of a destination vibe.

Another update from my last visit is the Diamond Lounge.  They have expanded the hours and it is now open 3-10pm every day.  It fits about 50 people and serves a different dinner menu each night.  The options aren’t huge, but the food was decent and drinks are half price versus the casino floor so I bought drinks inside and took them on the floor while I played.

Overall the updates are a nice addition to the relatively limited experience at this property.  The area has plenty of good outdoor activities during the day and they are working to add more options so this becomes more than just a gambling hall.

Review update December 21, 2017: I took another same-day up-and-back trip to Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino today and so it is time to update the review.  Still no poker room and no sit-down restaurant options, but some work is in progress.  From the casino perspective. not much new or different from the information below, a few new slot/video gaming options have been added and there are more baccarat tables than previous trips.  On the outside, they are in the process of adding more amenities like a bowling alley and that elusive full-service restaurant which are slated for early 2018.  I’m sticking with my overall assessment that this casino is made for day-trips and serious gamblers – I will add that if you are river-rafting or doing other outdoor recreation nearby it could be a convenient home-base and the cute downtown of Murphy isn’t more than a 10-minute drive away.

Review update October 26 2016: I went back to Harrahs Cherokee Valley River Casino this week for a quick one-day trip mainly to help push my Total Rewards points over the finish line to make it to Diamond for the first time.   It looks like they have made a couple of improvements since my last trip and still have a couple of gaps.

First the good news, they have added more tables including $50 minimum blackjack tables in the high-limit room.  Also, the dealers are now much more comfortable and competent so the play is more consistent.  Talking to the dealers and pit bosses it sounds like they are doing decent business during the day, but not much play at night since there is still not much else in terms of entertainment to keep people around the area.

On the less than exciting side, there is still no poker room and no timeline to have one.  The dining options are still pretty bleak and they are working on a ‘flagship’ restaurant without much luck since they want a nice place that would serve all three meals, or stay open 24/7, which is probably a hard sell with their clientele and lack of evening crowd.

I’m going to stick with my original recommendation that Harrahs Cherokee Valley River Casino is purely for gamblers, a decent place to go for a few hours of slots, blackjack, roulette, etc, but if you are looking for more than just gambling and want more of an experience it’s worth the extra hour drive from Atlanta to Harrahs Cherokee.

Original review October 2015: The newest addition to the Caesars casino family is now the closest live casino option for Atlanta.  I visited Harrahs Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy NC yesterday Oct 3, 2015 which was only its 6th day of operation.

Travel Time: it’s exactly a 2 hour drive from buckhead to the front door which is a huge plus – I think you could make it in 90 minutes if all goes perfectly, but 2+ hours is also an easy possibility with traffic.   I went early on a rainy Saturday so there was light traffic, but had to slow down at times due to conditions.

First Impression:  you arrive by driving around a large hill that hides the casino from the road and I assume they are still working on signage since it was sparse.  My best description of the building architecture is an upscale self storage facility.  No parking deck so it’s like parking at your local Walmart (which is right down the street btw).  I parked near the back where buses  unload since it was closest spot I could find to the doors and shortest run through the rain.

Walking Inside: I entered through the back and the first step inside is right next to slots and baccarat tables.  There really is no decor or design to speak of – a giant open room with more slots than you can count, video screens advertising upcoming events and  a view through to the other end with an escalator up to the hotel.  It’s made for gamblers pure and simple.

The 5 Cent Tour: it’s like my first condo – what you see is what you get.   Slots and table games on the floor, food court in the back, small diamond lounge on the side, escalator up one level to hotel.   That’s it – I’m not exaggerating for effect.

Gaming:  tons of slot machines , they aren’t my thing but my guess is they have them all.   Tables games include all the regulars, mostly low limit including $5 blackjack and craps which was probably due to the first week and midday – once they get rolling it will likely be higher limits like at Harrahs Cherokee.  There were plenty of tables and open seats – I played at a $10 alone for a minute until a guy sat down and split queens against the dealers 8 showing.   There are no table games in the high-limit nook so I played at a $100 blackjack table out in the main room for a minute with poor results.  They also have a ‘tobacco free’ area which is maybe 20 slot machines right next to tables and machines with ash trays so there is no escaping the smoke.  Also – no poker room – floor supervisor said it is in the future plans but no timeline.

Overall: the people are friendly, dealers are learning on the fly and I had to tell them what to do a few times and some were visibly nervous.  They are doing their best, but it will take time to have them up to speed.  The food court is fine for a quick bite, Earl of Sandwich is a favorite of mine from Planet Hollywood in Vegas.  Hotel looks basic but I didn’t go in.  Honestly I’ll probably continue going the extra 45 minutes to Harrahs Cherokee to have a more true casino feel if I want to gamble locally.  This is a place to gamble – nothing else.   I may come back for a quick one day blackjack fix if I have a day off during the week or if I can’t stay overnight.

Let me know if you’ve been or go and have a different opinion – and if you drive up there and go the speed limit please move to the right lane so I can pass!

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Why I’m Not Counting Cards…Yet

When I talk about my blackjack playing with people for the first time they almost always ask the same question: ‘do you count cards?’  They’ve seen the movie 21 or read articles about Ben Affleck getting kicked out of casinos and assume that anyone who is as passionate about blackjack as I am must be a card counter.

I’ve read a bit about counting cards and my math skills are probably solid enough to keep pace, but as of today I’m not interested.  I’ve never really thought about why I haven’t tried card counting until I recently started a new job.  The new job is good, but the money makes it nearly impossible to walk away even if I wanted to.  Basically it’s a job.  And that is what I’m afraid card counting might do to blackjack – turn my passion into a job.

I enjoy the idea that every trip to the casino brings the opportunity for wins and losses and the thought that my ‘system’ gives me some advantage over the average player.  I know that no system is truly mathematically sound and over time I’ll likely never make any real money unless I go the card counting route, but the illusion of control keeps me going.

I want my hobby to be fun and if I think that I have to win every time I play because I’m counting cards it will lose some of the attraction.  It’s like my golf game when I was in high school, I expected to go out and shoot a score every round and when I didn’t it drove me nuts until the game wasn’t fun anymore.  Now when I go out and play golf I have low expectations so I can appreciate the good shots and when I have a blow up hole its out of my head as soon as I step up to the next tee.

Maybe when I retire I can dedicate myself to counting cards and use that as a way to generate extra income to make up for the failures of Social Security.  Until then I’ll keep playing my system, hoping for the best and having fun.