Checking Washington off My Casino List

I travel a decent amount for work and this month had me going all over the U.S.  Every time I have a trip planned I scout out the potential for a casino visit.  I started the month with a slot hall in Alabama, and to end the month I had a trip to Seattle.

This Seattle trip was a little odd since I had to take a red-eye from Seattle to NYC before heading home.  That scheduling oddity set up an opportunity to check Washington state off my personal list of states where I’ve gambled in live casinos.  After my meetings I had several hours to kill before my flight and a free rental car day on my account.

I picked up my car in downtown Seattle and set out for Snoqualmie Casino which is about 30 minutes east of town.  The weather was a typically awful rainy afternoon so I didn’t get to see much on the drive, but I have a feeling it is a beautiful place when the sun comes out.

The casino was about the same as most regional casinos I’ve visited over the years.  Big parking deck, a Pacific Northwest motif, truckloads of slot machines, a bar in the center, and a decent amount of table games.  Since I was only playing for an hour or so I didn’t bother with the high-limit area and picked a seat at an open $15 blackjack table.  The table filled up pretty quickly, and as usually happens at these regional places, most of the players bet nearly as much on the side bets as they do on their hands.  I was basically even for my hour of play until losing a final split/double/double hand sent me to my car down a bit.

Overall, the casino was fine, dealers were friendly, and they only offer 3:2 payouts on blackjack so if I have the opportunity in the future I’ll likely visit again, but really this visit was more about checking off state #13 on my list of casinos: AL, AZ, CA, CT, FL, IA, KS, MD, MS, NC, NJ, NV, and WA.

I’ll keep making the trips, reporting back, and keeping tally until I visit every state that offers casino gambling.


Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Bought My Loyalty for $160

Apparently, $160 is the price it takes for me to spend a day playing blackjack.  I get Total Rewards offers in the mail and online on a regular basis since Caesars is my casino company of choice.  Usually, it is free rooms at their hotels or a $20 free play.  This past month Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River upped the ante and in both April and May sent me $100 and $60 free cash offers.  They were valid for specific dates and on one Thursday each month they overlapped.

As I’ve mentioned before Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River is my closest casino at 2 hours from Atlanta.  It isn’t much, just a big open room with slots and tables, no frills, just gambling.  I figured for $160 it was worth the $20 in gas money to make the trip both months.

My April trip was exactly what they wanted – I took the $160 went to the $25 tables. lost 3x the free play and headed home.  Yesterday I tried my luck again, took their $160 went to the $50 table in the high-limit room and won 2x my buy-in.  Overall, the two trips combined I doubled their free cash so the drive was worth the effort and the free money turned out to be a winner.

So there you go casino companies, my price for visiting Vegas is a free room and my price for spending a day playing blackjack near my home is just south of $200.  Speaking of which, next week I’ll be in Vegas at a free room in Paris so hopefully that pays off on my side as well.

Playing Blackjack in London

This week I was in London for a family vacation and as luck would have it we stayed a couple of blocks from the Hippodrome casino near Leicester Square. I have played blackjack in 11 U.S. states and really wanted to add a new country to my list.


Since it was a family vacation I didn’t exactly have casino time built into the schedule. I managed to carve off 30 minutes while the family was shopping for my 2nd day and drop by for a quick session.

The casino was very nice, not huge by Vegas standards, but 5 stories full of cozy table games, bars, and a poker room. The staff was friendly, the crowd was decent but not hectic, and overall it had a nice vibe.

I found a $25 blackjack table on the main floor and took a seat. Immediately 2 other people joined and we played a couple of shoes. I played my standard style and stayed near even for most of the time and when I had to go meet the family I ended the session up $45.

There were a few similarities and differences I noticed from U.S. games. The game was 6 deck shoe, hand-shuffle, 3:2 blackjack, dealer stays on soft 17 so generally a good game. Some interesting things of note were the amount of side action including 3 different side bets for pairs, high-hands, and 21s. You are also able to play behind other players with designated slots on each position. Also, when the cards are dealt each player gets 2 cards, plays out their hand and the dealer only has one card face-up. Once all the players act the dealer gets her 2nd card. Otherwise, most of the play was what I expected. One other minor item of note was a $10 chip which I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

I enjoyed my session and was able to get back for another hour my last night where I won another $70. So my first European gambling effort was a success with a minor win. Hopefully, I can keep these winning ways going for my U.S. trips which continue again this week in Vegas and one day I hope to get to play in more countries.

Starting the Year Off With a Win

Nearly every year I attend CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas and nearly every year I start off with a big gambling loss.  I’ve written about this before, too many drinks, too many days, too many sessions with co-workers at bad tables, and too many dumb losses.

This year I went into the show with a different mindset.  I decided to spend more time working and not fall into the typical gambling traps that come with playing with cheap co-workers after open bar parties.  Unfortunately, my willpower was tested immediately.  My hometown Georgia Bulldogs were playing for the National Championship and after drinking all game then watching a crushing defeat in OT I stumbled down to the $100 tables at Planet Hollywood.  This was exactly what I wanted to avoid, and sure enough, I ‘hate gambled’ away 16 yards in about an hour.

After this poor start, I regrouped and didn’t drink for the next 48 hours.  The lack of alcohol and focused play at my favorite tables in Bally’s high-limit room over day 2 & 3 got me back slightly ahead going into the final day.

I was feeling much better about my week heading into the final day and had only one meeting before making a last run at profitability.  I started my day at The Cromwell where I played at an 8-deck table (never a good choice) while waiting to say hello to my favorite host.  This cost me several yards, but it is always good to see a friendly face and that fun interaction started my day off on the right path.

After leaving The Cromwell I was drawn back to the Bally’s HLR and their $50 table.  I made a nice run, nothing spectacular, but it did put me solidly in the black for the week.  At this point, I had a choice to make so I grabbed a slice of pizza, walked past the $100 tables at Paris and then u-turned back to Ballys.  I decided to make my last stand at my favorite table.  This turned out to be a good choice.  After a few solid shoes I hit a major hot run and started putting black chips in my pocket while growing my working stack.  Once I hit 4X my buy-in I chipped up and headed to the Diamond lounge for a snack before bed.

As a nice little post-script, I put $100 in the Wheel of Fortune slot at the airport and won $50 before catching my flight.

This was by far my most profitable CES and now that I’m off to a winning start to the year I’m going to focus my efforts on making 2018 my most successful gambling year ever.

Quick stop in Baltimore makes Maryland my 11th live casino gambling state

I had a short work trip to Baltimore last week which gave me the opportunity to add another state to my personal list of live casino gambling visits.  Unfortunately, this trip didn’t go well for my bankroll with a poor performance at the $100 high-limit tables which I’ll attribute to trying to cram in a session when I didn’t have the time to play strategically.  Probably over-justification, but I’ll stick with that story.

This brings my tally of states to 11 with AZ, CA, CT, FL, IA, KS, MS, NC, NJ, NV and now Maryland.

This also extends my personal streak of continuous months visiting a casino to 19, which I like to pat myself on the back for since the closest casino to my hometown is a 2-hour drive.


That One Killer Winning Blackjack Shoe

I’ve played enough blackjack to see shoes* that have contained the good, bad and the ugly in terms of wins and losses.  In most cases the results stay within the realm of reasonable expectations even if that means taking a chunk out of your bankroll.  I’ve had shoes that have gone well before, but this last trip to Vegas was my all-time biggest positive swing on one shoe.

*A shoe in blackjack is the plastic card holder where the dealer places and then pulls cards for play on the table.  A shoe is measured in decks of cards (I play 6-deck hand-shuffled shoes) dealt before the next shuffle.  As a side note I’d recommend never playing more than a 6-deck shoe and avoid continuous-shuffle machines at all costs.

I wrote earlier about my climb back to even money for the year and this is the brief tale of the shoe that got me there.  I was down a decent amount for the trip, it was getting late on my third night in town, I was playing at a $50 limit table in Bally’s, and I was down $500 on this one shoe alone.

The first 1/3 of this last shoe was looking bleak and I was about ready to throw in the towel and accept a losing night.  At that point I started a nice winning streak that got me back to even for the shoe in a few hands with a couple of splits and doubles.  Once I was back to even, things got exciting in a hurry.  I don’t recall exact hands very often and this was the case tonight as well, but one thing I clearly remember from this run was being dealt 4 straight blackjacks!  That streak of easy wins built my bet size up quickly and the wins kept coming after that run with nearly every hand.

I was getting fired up, the dealer was nearly shouting on every hand when it seemed like I couldn’t lose and the chips kept flowing my way including a 2x split with 2 doubles that hit for another big hand win.  The last few hands of the shoe cooled off until the last hand came up as a blackjack to finish off a great run.

When all was said and done I went from $500 down to $2,500 up in the last 2/3 of that one shoe for a $3K swing.  I’ve never had a single shoe with that big of a win and that is a rush I won’t soon forget.

Now I’ve set a very high, and probably unrealistic, bar to judge my future shoes against, but I’ll keep playing to try and match, and then exceed, the rush and win from that one elusive killer shoe on my next Vegas trip!

The Long Climb Back to Even Money

My 2017 blackjack year started off extremely poorly with a big loss that dug me what felt like an insurmountable deficit.  I use yards as my public unit of measure and I started the year 55 yards down during a weeklong Vegas trip in early January.  After that rough start I took stock of my strategy and used data to evaluate options for improving my results.  With that foundation I began a nearly 6 month climb out of that hole.

It is hard enough to sit down at a $50 or $100 blackjack table, but the stakes jump quickly when you are already in rough waters.  Luckily, I can afford to lose a decent amount and still pay the bills, but it hurts the ego and makes the trip so much more painful when the bankroll is shrinking.

I started my climb with short trips to Harrahs Cherokee Valley River to test out my revamped strategy and claw back some cash.  By taking small steps I was able to go on a solid run of 7 straight winning sessions before hitting a slight 10 yard hurdle before my latest Vegas trip.

So heading into Vegas last week I was only down 20 yards for the year and feeling good about my strategy.  This was another relatively long trip of 4 nights so I didn’t need to rush, but of course I was ready to hit the tables within 15 minutes of checking into my room at Caesars.

Day 1 was a short session so I stopped by my favorite high limit area at Bally’s.  Unfortunately, the first round began slowly and sure enough I dug myself a deeper hole.  Nothing notable during the short session, just a run of the mill poor night which added about 8 yards to the deficit.

Day 2 brought 117 degree heat – and it doesn’t matter at that temperature if it is a dry heat, it is just brutal, and so was my day of blackjack.  After my conference I went through another couple losing rounds at Planet Hollywood and Bally’s which left me hurting and back down 35 yards for the year – ugh.

Now we’re back in the danger zone, down a significant amount and second-guessing my strategy going into day 3.  The day started with a pep talk from none other than Dr Phil at the conference and maybe that was just the thing to get me back on track.  I began the climb at the Paris high-limit room and had a nice run to cut into the lead a bit, then had a very short, but productive stint at The Cromwell HLR .  My comeback was on track and after dinner I kept the tide rolling with a return trip to Paris HLR which closed the rest of the gap and got me back to even in a round that included my largest single bet (without a split or double) on one hand of $750 which was thrilling and terrifying at the same time.  Now was it was decision time.  I’m even, I’m on a roll, it’s getting late and I have to get up early for work tomorrow and I’m walking back to my room.  So of course I walk by my favorite seat at Bally’s and it’s open so I’ve got to see if I can keep the roll going.  After 2 hours it was looking bad, down 10 yards and getting tired I kept plowing forward.  Then I hit the best shoe in a long time…about 1/3 through it was meh, but then I couldn’t lose, including 4 straight blackjacks, and that 2/3 of the final shoe took me from 10 yards down to 25 yards up in under 10 minutes.  Every card hit, the dealer busted, and doubles and splits came up winners – it was amazing.  The dealers, pit boss and other players in the small high-limit area all were watching in relative amazement – it was a huge swing and sent me to bed well ahead for the week and even for the year.

On day 4 it was a packed work agenda and so I kept my play to a minimum with not much excitement except for a nice last shoe that swung down and then barely made it back to even for the day with a solid double-up on the very last hand.

It was quite the rollercoaster of a trip.  Now I’m even for the year and I’m looking forward to my next Vegas trip in September to move into the black for 2017!