When the Family is Away This Gambler Will Play

My wife and kids had a couple of days off last weekend and headed out of town to visit some of her friends and their kids.  I had a few items on the honey-do list, but knew that I’d be able to work in at least one session at our semi-local casino.

As their plans took shape I realized I could get in two trips with a little creative planning.  I split the weekend into 2 parts with a quick day trip to Cherokee Valley River which is only 2 hours away and then a short overnight at Harrah’s Cherokee to play a little poker in addition to my usual blackjack.

Saturday Day Trip: I got up early, walked the dog and headed up to North Carolina for a short day-trip to play some blackjack at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River.  If you recall from my previous posts this isn’t a great resort destination, but they do have a decent amount of tables and since I had some things to do over the weekend it fit into my plans.

I made the 2 hour drive and for some reason was surprised to find nearly every single seat at every blackjack table full.  This place is not for vacationers so crowded tabled made for good people watching.  I literally saw people running to get a seat when a new $15 table opened and at another table every seat was full while the dealer and pit boss opened new cards and went through the slow process of opening the table.  With that backdrop I actually played some video poker to kill time and broke-even which ain’t bad for a guy who has no clue about the right strategy for that game.

Finally, I was able to find a non-smoking $25 table with a couple of guys who seemed to know what they were doing and jumped in at first base.  The session was pretty decent with only a few bad plays from a guy who couldn’t seem to find the nerve to hit on 14, 15 or 16.  I was flat for the first few rounds and then had a couple of good shoes to get slightly ahead.  The last show before I had to get back in the car and head home was solid and as it came to an end I was on a nice roll when I got to the last hand which of course turned into a big bet, split and frustrating loss which cut into my total win, but being up a few yards overall made the drive home bearable.

President’s Day Overnight: With the holiday I was able to get my work done at the office in short order and head out in the early afternoon for a one-night trip to Harrah’s Cherokee which feels like the Wynn after visiting Valley River earlier in the weekend.  This was my first trip to a casino resort with my dog which was an interesting experience, apparently it is fairly common based on the number of people I passed on the dog trail and the fact that they have a very nice woman at the bell desk who calls herself the ‘Milk Bone Lady’.  The dog did great, which is completely inconsequential, but good to know I can do it again if necessary.

On to the gambling.  I arrived in time for their $80 Monday night NLH poker tournament which was relatively small with under 40 total entries (including re-buys) but well run.  I enjoyed the tournament, made some decent progress and then busted out with pocket 10s vs pocket Jacks in 8th place at the final table.  Not a bad result, I could have gotten away from the 10s but it was getting late and I wanted more action.

After the poker I headed downstairs to the blackjack tables to see what the action looked like.  As usual virtually every seat was taken from the $15 to the $50 tables.  I sat at the one open table on the entire floor which was a $100 6 deck.  I played one shoe solo and broke even, then two drunk guys joined me after asking if I knew how to play since apparently they ran into some of the morons I’ve also seen at the tables in the highest grossing Harrah’s property in the U.S.  These guys were pretty fun, knew how to play, and we went on a nice run which netted over 10 yards in 2 shoes.  After that a couple other people wanted to join so I wished them good luck, cashed my win and headed back to walk the dog before bed.

It was a fun and profitable weekend.  I got the honey-do list done around the house, made 2 trips to my ‘local’ casinos, and learned I could travel for gambling with my dog.  Overall I’d call it a win on all fronts.


CES and Blackjack Don’t Mix – When Will I Learn?

I’ve written at least 2 of these posts in the past 3 years.  Somehow I always start the year off with a big loss during CES.  I say somehow, but looking back at this last trip really I shouldn’t be too surprised.

As you probably know CES is the giant electronics trade show that happens the first week of every year.  I attend most years and as part of the week I find my way to the tables on a regular basis.  I don’t think I’ve ever come back from CES up on my gambling scorecard and this year was no different.

The week started off on a bad note when I played the $50 tables at Bally’s on Monday the 2nd, which for the record is the earliest I’ve started gambling in a new year.  This is usually one of my favorite places to play, but this session didn’t go well with a loss and a faux pas.  The loss was minor, but my misstep was embarrassing, guy comes in and I’m only one playing at 4 tables.  He talks to dealers and the pit boss, they all know him and as he is sitting down at other table he looks at me and says ‘should I come play with you?’  I say ‘no thanks I prefer to play alone.’  Everyone stops.  Well shit what did I do?  After a second I realized he was flirting with my dealer and wasn’t talking to me.  Crap.  I apologized, but he thought I was a douche and both of us ended up losing after that pretty quick.  I saw the guy later on the casino floor and apologized again, he was fairly cool about it, but I still feel like a dumbass – I know better – keep your mouth shut unless you have something good to say!

Day 2 and 3 had a lot of work related activities with only a quick $25 table session snuck in here and there which didn’t really move the needle either way.  Day 4 gave me a window to play in the afternoon and so I hit the $100 tables at Planet Hollywood which turned into a nice session with a comeback that got me back to even for the week.  Nothing eventful, but most of the splits and doubles went my way which makes for a winning combination.

Day 5 was depressing since I met a buddy and he wanted to play at $10 or $15 table, which on the strip at night during CES is nearly impossible so we ended up playing $15, 6:5, auto-shuffle machine at Bellagio – this was my personal version of hell.  The dealer and I were talking and he knew it was a joke so he started yelling 6:5!!’ every time someone got blackjack just to rub it in.  After that I went to play high-limit again at PH which was a mistake, I had been drinking all evening and was on tilt after Bellagio hell which contributed to a really bad loss.

On my final night again I started playing $100 tables after many drinks at happy hour and dinner which isn’t an excuse, but the game went poorly again and when I made a nice comeback I pressed my luck – losing 2 separate $500 hands on bad beats (double/split hit to 19 & 20 vs. dealer 5 where dealer hits to make 21) and ended up down again for my last night.

Unfortunately, it was another rough CES gambling trip, so what went wrong…

This trip was long – arrived at Paris Las Vegas on Monday the 2nd and didn’t head home until Sunday the 8th.  That is the first challenge – with so much time there are plenty of chances to hit the tables and so sticking to a game plan isn’t as easy as a 48-72 hour trip.

I was also very busy with work meetings and an event that our company participated in which I was leading.  Challenge #2 – I am usually distracted while at CES with work obligations and this time with a major event which means that blackjack becomes my relaxation activity from the stress of the week so I’m likely to play with less focus on my game and try to extend my table time as a way to wind down from long days.

Of course there is also plenty of alcohol flowing at every happy hour and business dinner which leads to challenge number 3, drinking and gambling.  I like to drink and gamble, but usually I don’t start until I’m at the tables and then I can pace myself, when I arrive at the table a few drinks in it typically leads to loose and aggressive play which works fine when cards are in my favor, but this time they went the other way.

The last of my personal blackjack challenges during CES (the struggle is real) is playing with co-workers and friends.  I can’t really say no when friends and co-workers want to play and I can’t say hey let’s go play at the $100 tables so we end up with the masses at $15 6:5 auto-shuffle hell holes pissing away a few hundred bucks with almost no chance of winning which chips away at the week’s bankroll.

These are all excuses,  I realize that, but I need something to keep me motivated to stick with my blackjack game plans early in the year.  It honestly sucks to start the year in a hole that I’ll be digging out of all year-long.

The good news is I have 4 planned Vegas trips through June to make my comeback so stay tuned to see where we go from here!



3rd Annual Blackjack Year In Review

It’s that time again avid reader.  We look back at 2016 and recap my year of gambling trips running down the wins and losses along the way.

This was another fun year, but unfortunately another negative result on the balance sheet.  I set a new personal best with 13 casino trips and matched my previous record of 6 Vegas trips including a cross-desert drive from Phoenix to Vegas.  This earned my first ‘Diamond’ status with Total Rewards, which likely won’t happen again until I retire.

I was lucky enough to meet @BlackChipDiary for a blackjack session at Aria in Vegas this summer.  We had our 3rd annual guys Vegas trip this summer which included a trip to DTLV and the El Cortez along with a win at Roulette which is almost unheard of.  I also added a new state to my roster of casino visits with a quick trip to Talking Stick in AZ.

Here is a rundown of the year by the numbers:

  • 13 trips with casino visits – new record
    •  6 trips to Vegas – ties record
  • Largest loss in one trip -18 yards – 15 yds less than worst in 2015
  • Largest win in one trip +15 yards – 15 yds better than best in 2015
    • Included a ‘chocolate chip’ (5k) session
  • Largest loss on one hand – 9 yards
  • Largest win on one hand + 12 yards
  • Diamond status with Total Rewards – 1st time for me
  • Total win/loss for 2015 – 42 yards (better than 2015, but still in the red)

Another fun year in the books,  with great trips and always interesting casino experiences.  I’m headed to Vegas on Jan 2nd so I have an early chance to put some points on the board in my favor for 2017.

Remember that National Blackjack Day is March 2nd and hopefully I’ll see you at the tables!

Year End Points Chase

No it’s not the PGA or NASCAR end of season championship, it is the annual race to make it to the next tier of rewards points and this year I’m cutting it close.  You can see from the image below as of Nov 15th I’m 219 miles from Platinum airline status, which is basically the equivalent of a flight from one side of the street to the other.  And on my Total Rewards account I’m 121 points from Diamond which is maybe 15 minutes at the right table or slot machine.points

Spoiler alert: I’ll make both of these levels.  I have a work flight planned for early December and trip to casino planned for mid-December.  I wish I didn’t care about either of these, but truthfully I am a points chaser so I do care about making the cut.

These companies have the levels down to a science and they do a great job of enticing additional visits just to hit the next level.  I enjoy the perks of seat upgrades on flights and the free room and comps at casinos that come with the additional levels so I want to keep my perks next year as well.

They’ve got me hooked and maybe one day I’ll stop caring, but for the near future I’ll keep chasing the next level.

Harrahs Cherokee Valley River Casino Review October 2016

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.

Original review October 2015

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.

Phoenix to Vegas 24 Hour Road Trip, Plus Add State #10 to My Gambling Resume

I’m from the southeast, spend a few minutes on my blog and you can figure out which city, so every time I go west for any reason I think ‘Vegas’.  My latest adventure included a business conference in Phoenix, an extra day, and a rental car with unlimited miles.

I landed on Tuesday around 1pm PT, grabbed my rental car and set a course on my GPS to Planet Hollywood.  The 4.5 hour drive was uneventful and actually very beautiful with views of the desert, the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.

Once I arrived it was time for some blackjack at my usual places.  I started at the $50 tables in the Bally’s high limit room and quickly went up over 13 yards in two different tables.

I took a break to get some dinner and headed over to the Paris high-limit room to play $100 table.  That went okay for over an hour of treading water then a guy sat down and immediately asked the pit boss if he had a card with the ‘book’ plays.  WTF – if you are sitting down for $100 a hand with other players you should at least know the basics.  Now maybe he wanted me to leave and that was his way of ‘scaring’ me off.  Anyway, I played 5 hands with this guy and after losing 4 of 5 while he won 4 of 5 I cashed in down 5 yards and got out of there.

My next stop was Planet Hollywood HLR to play $100 table.  It was now getting late, I’d been up since 6am ET and of course I started drinking Bud Lights when I got to Vegas.  It was a roller coaster at PH until I got up to stretch and get some air down again and back to even.  I had a decision to make which was, go to bed and call it a day at even, or push my luck and play another round.  Anyone who has read my tweets or blog before knows where this is headed.

I went back for one last buy-in at Paris HLR and it went down the tubes instantly with a cold shoe that just ripped me apart and sent me to bed, down, drunk and dead tired at 2am PT which capped off a long 23 hour day from start to end.

Another uneventful drive back to Phoenix for my conference the next day and I thought my blackjack was over for the week, but I really wanted to gamble in Arizona to make it my 10th state where I’ve played blackjack.  I had given up on the idea when we ended early the last day of the conference and had 2 hours before dinner.  I googled casinos and found Talking Stick only 15 minutes away so I jumped in the car and headed over for a quick session.  I knew this was silly, but figured I’d buy in for a $25 table play it out and hit the road.  That first session only lasted 30 minutes before losing so it was quick, but hey it counts as playing in AZ.

This was likely my last blackjack for 2016 and it was quite the adventure.  If I’m back in Phoenix I won’t try this trick again unless I fly instead of drive.  A good trip for the bucket list, but probably a bit ambitious in retrospect.

Guys Vegas Trip Year 3 – Recap

As you can see in the post title last week was our 3rd annual summer guys trip to Vegas – previous trip recaps at bottom of this post.  It always occurs in August near my Birthday, but has nothing to do with my Birthday, it is just a time of year that works for all of us with kids back in school and typically slow work schedules.  The same three guys have made this trip each year, we’ve tried to recruit other guys, but for whatever reason it has stayed the original 3 each year.  As always it was a fun time and below is a recap of our 48 hours of drinking and gambling.

Day 1: Slow start: We had a 10am flight out of Atlanta for which I got a 1st class upgrade and when we taxied to the runway the pilot came on to announce we were turning back to the gate.  We get off, call Delta to get on 11:30 flight, run down terminal, get to gate, and gate agent won’t let us on the plane which the phone agent assures us we have seats and tickets for.  Not a great start.  Lunch and 3 beers later we’re on the 2p flight and now I’m back in Comfort+ which at least still gave me free drinks.

Downtown: Each year we look for new and different things to try during our stay and this year we decided to spend some time in downtown for a change of pace.  After landing we stashed our bags at Paris, where we were staying, and caught a cab to Binions.  Our plan was to hit Binions – old Vegas history, The D – face of new DTLV and to piss off @_Lucky45, and El Cortez because @VegasFanboy and @WallStreetNole swear by this place for cheap fun and good blackjack games.  We started at Binion’s, but it felt small and claustrophobic so we strolled down Fremont with our drinks and ducked into The D.  One of my buddies is an aspiring blackjack player so he joined me at a $15 table where we played for an hour or so – he struggled to a small loss and I had a nice run to start the trip up a couple hundred.  Our 3rd buddy who doesn’t really gamble was ready to keep exploring so we headed to El Cortez.  By that time we were hungry so we tried Hennesseys tavern across the street from El Co (apparently that’s what the cool Twitter kids call it).  Hennesseys was pretty solid for what it is, especially when you are drinking all day, and our waitress Anne was great fun putting up with us morons.  Next stop El Cortez – expectations were low – but once we got inside we really did enjoy ourselves.  The vibe was friendly, place was chill – guy had his dog sleeping next to him at the bar, and plenty of good tables.  We played a little low-limit blackjack without much flow and then decided to try a $1 roulette table – because it was a $1 Roulette Table – and the min bet was .25 – I didn’t even know those electronic signs had decimal points!  Lost a few bucks, but really didn’t care since it was late and we had a solid time.  With a good night in the books in DTLV we grabbed a cab back to the Strip.

Day 2: Pool Time and Team Gambling: We stayed at Paris since I have Total Rewards credits that got us three rooms for two nights for less than our drink tab for the trip (almost half of that was resort fees).  In the spirit of trying new things we decided to get a cabana at the Paris pool to use as our home base for day 2.  The pool opened at 10am and we were still on East Coast time so I decided to play a little blackjack after breakfast.  It became clear that was a financial mistake pretty quickly.  I played at the Paris high limit room at a $100 table and was quickly knocked on my ass.  After a quick beat down I walked next door and Planet Hollywood then continued my losing streak at a $25 table which put me in a 20-yard hole for the day and 16-yards for the trip…grrr.  Luckily the pool was now open and I was already a few beers in so we started the day 2 drinking marathon early.  The pool was a good call, we had a private cabana with a great server – Samantha – who was a lot of fun and made sure the drinks flowed constantly all day.  We took a trip across the street to Todd English Pub for lunch which has been our tradition and quite honestly may never go back – our tab was $200 for lunch for sandwiches and 2 drinks each – I don’t mind paying more in Vegas but that was excessive so we’ll find another option to add to the mix in future trips.   After lunch we played our way back to the pool stopping at Planet Hollywood where the pleasure pit took us for a few more hundred before for more drinks and unbelievably it rained for an hour while we were in the cabana.  We were on tilt after the PH loss and so we called it a day around 5, headed to the room, changed and hit the road to make our money back.  My buddy looked at me when I walked down the hall and said – ‘dude you look ready to win’ – I was fired up and knew we were going to win.  We started with $50 blackjack at Bally’s high-limit room where my buddy who gambles and I went on a nice run and both kept building stacks and the non-gambler started to play roulette.  Every 15 minutes or so he would stop at the table with a stack of chips saying – look what I won!  We were rolling…so we took our blackjack winnings of about 6 yards each and joined the roulette craziness.  It was a $10 table and we pooled money to buy in for $300.  I played the numbers and the other guys manned the outside bets and we started crushing it.  I hit at least 5 numbers all with 2-10 dollar bets each and they were putting stacks of ones on red/black/even/odd and hitting at least 60% which meant we were getting loud and drawing a crowd.  The table started copying our bets and we rolled to 3X our buy-in then got real nuts putting $100 on odd/even/black/red and $25 on numbers which of course dented our winnings on the spins we missed, but damn it was fun when we hit – unfortunately we never hit the $25 inside bets, but when we felt the tide turn we quit up 2.5X which was a great finish to the night.  Of course I went and played the $50 table again and in one shoe made 6 yards for good measure.

That was our 36 hour blur of a Vegas guys trip, overall down a few bucks thanks to one bad run of blackjack, but well worth it for the entertainment value.  We are ready to go back immediately, but realistically it will be next August and we’ll keep Downtown and the Pool cabana in our rotation for next year’s festivities.


Previous Vegas Guys Trip Recaps:

2014: https://blackjackroi.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/vegas-trip-recap-best-of-times-worst-of-times/