My First WSOP Event (Spoiler: I Didn’t Win)

I have, what I believe to be, a similar bucket list of most avid gamblers, and one of those items is to play in the main event of the World Series of Poker.  Yes, I’m a blackjack player, but I like to dabble in other casino games and no-limit hold-em tournaments are always a fun distraction.  At some point when the kids are out of the house I’ll cash in some of my 401k money and pony-up $10K to play in the main event.  Until that happens the best option I could find was a $365 1-day event at the WSOP Circuit event at Harrah’s Cherokee.

I headed up for a Saturday night with 3 buddies and since we arrived a couple of hours early I had to play a few hands of blackjack to kill time.  I played at a $50 table in their high-limit room which had 8 tables open all night as well as 8 $100 limit tables.  I had a nice opening run which earned enough to pay for my tournament entry plus a couple bucks for drinks.

This casino is apparently the most profitable in the Caesars chain which I can believe based on the number of players.  In addition to 16 full high-limit blackjack tables they also had 6 craps tables at $15 or above without a spot open, and nearly every other table and slot section was close to capacity.  The volume and high-dollar play was impressive.

After the quick win at blackjack I was feeling good going into my WSOP debut so I headed to table 2 seat 8 to start my run.  Once I entered the room it was a bit overwhelming.  The tourney was held in their events center where once-famous rockers and country singers play every other weekend.  Picture a hockey rink sized floor with a small stage above the floor, and now imagine that scene completely filled with poker tables…plus more tables in the hallways and waiting areas outside the main hall.  It was stunning.

I headed on to the stage to find table 2 and grabbed my seat a few minutes early.  One of the players was clearly a regular in these events as he had ‘bagged’ for the main event on an earlier day.  Everyone else seemed to be more like me and we started playing pretty much by the book.  It took about 30 minutes for me to pick up anything worth playing (KK from big blind) and of course the entire table folds except the small blind who only called then folded to a min bet after the flop.  After that it was fairly routine up and down and I made it to the first break a few chips ahead of the original stack.

Shortly after the break I had several playable hands in a row and made a slight positive run.  Then the wheels started to come off.  I picked up A10 suited and my 3BB bet was called by one other player.  Ace plus 2 nothing cards on the flop so I bet again, getting a call, 4 on the turn, I bet again and get a call, another nothing card on the river and I’m feeling strong so I check to induce a bet and sure enough he bets so I call and he flips over an A4 off-suit…OUCH.  I’m now crippled and hang around for a few more hands, fight off an all-in for almost nothing then go all-in w/Q10 suited vs. 6s and the 6s hold-up.

My dreams of making it big in poker were quickly dashed, but it was a lot of fun.  I’m going to delay any hopes of the main event until $10k isn’t as big a deal, but when the circuit comes back through I could be talked into playing again.  Until then I’m going to stick to blackjack as my gambling fix.



Review of Harrahs Cherokee Casino North Carolina

Harrahs Cherokee casino is the closest legit casino to me.  I hadn’t made a trip up to NC to gamble until they added live cards to their blackjack tables about a year ago.  I’ve mostly gambled in Vegas, but I’ve also visited casinos in Kansas City, Connecticut, Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City, Biloxi, San Diego, and Miami so I’ve seen about every level of gaming house whether their average player rides in a Bentley or a Rascal scooter.

It is a 2.5 hour drive for me to get to Harrahs Cherokee so I’ve got to have a full day available to make the trip worthwhile.  I’ve never stayed overnight, but the nice people at Harrahs Total Rewards  keep offering me rooms so one of these times I’ll have to take them up on it and stay overnight – I have booked a free room even though I knew I had to be back the same night just so I had a smoke free place to relax between blakcjack sessions.  The room was nice, about what you’d expect from a mid-level chain hotel along the lines of a Doubletree or Courtyard.

I’ve been to Cherokee a handful of times in the past year and overall I’m impressed with their operation.  It is bigger than I had anticipated with a very large gaming floor.  They have too many slot machines for my liking, but considering their location and the relatively high average age of  their clientele it is probably fitting.  I’m a fan of people watching and in general it isn’t that great here since you have a bunch of early retirement guys playing table games and an older tour bus crowd playing slots and not much entertainment to speak of so it doesn’t draw out the young locals or unemployed odd-balls that some other places draw in.

As far as gaming goes they have a decent selection of table games going at any time of the day or day of the week.  I’ve only been out here during the day and honestly I don’t think I’d enjoy a weekend night since the crowds can build pretty quickly even on a Sunday afternoon.  I’ve found that to play blackjack by myself as I prefer it usually has to be during a weekday at the $25 tables or I have to increase my limits and play in the high-limit room at $50 tables.  They do have a nice touch with the $25+ tables which don’t allow mid-shoe entry which helps to keep out the swoop and poop guys who just want to place one bet and take off.

All of the blackjack tables are auto-shuffle and there is no surrender available anywhere in the casino.   This isn’t my preferred set-up, but since my local options are limited I’ve adjusted my strategy to find a way to make money while not using surrender.

Overall rating for Harrahs Cherokee B

Gaming: B+

Atmosphere: B

Food: C

Dealer/staff friendliness: A-

People Watching: C+ – might be better on a weekend night

Nightlife: no thanks