Two Gambling Trips in One Week

I got a new job – #excited!  I was lucky enough to have 2 weeks off between jobs which gave me some down time.  Of course when I get down time that means a trip to a casino.  In this case I was able to get 2 trips in.  First was a 36-hour Vegas jag, 2nd was a quick guys trip to Harrahs Cherokee.

First trip first, Vegas has gotten to be a solid routine for me.  Stayed at my favorite, Planet Hollywood, and spent time at PH, Paris and Ballys.  Started at the $100 tables which didn’t go well, but then broke even for the next 12 hours at the $25 tables.

Interestingly the 2 places I came out ahead in day 1 were poker – 2 place chop at PH tourney – and Craps where I came out with 3x buy in on the first craps game I’ve played in at least a year.

Morning of day 2 started out strong with wins at the $100 tables, but then gave it all back.  The trip ended with a solid win at $100 tables to get back to roughly even for the 36-hours.

After that solo adventure it was fun to have a guys trip to Cherokee NC.  The guys are poker players so I spent 90% of my time in the poker room.  We played $2-5 NLH which was fun after not playing live cash games in years.  We played 3 separate long sessions.  Session 1 was a nice win, session 2 was not well played and ended in losses, and session 3 was another solid win.

I was happy with my play.  Haven’t played in a long time and was making moves both with and without good cards.  It was nice to get a different gambling experience and see that I could win in another venue.

Will keep my blackjack focus, but nice to branch out and get new gaming wins under my belt.


Blackjack beatdown – Lessons Learned

If you were one of the very few people following my blackjack beatdown via @blackjackroi on Twitter you know it was not pretty.  On the looong car ride home I had time to think about what went wrong and it was rather simple actually.

Lesson 1) Don’t play over your target level no matter how busy the casino.  In this case I was prepared for $25-50 tables and when seats were not available I played at the $100 tables.  This limited my swings at the plate and made it almost impossible to win unless I came out of the gate with big winning shoes.

Lesson 2) If you do get ahead – take it and leave.  In this case I had a nice little run and was up a few hundred dollars and instead of standing and leaving I kept going and the inevitable happened.

There are a few more things I observed and learned which I will write about in future posts, but had I followed these two simple things I would have walked away even or ahead instead of way down for the day.

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


New Way to Win at Harrahs Cherokee April 2014

I’m a loyal Totalrewards member since my friends at Ceasars give me free rooms, food, beverage and credits from time to time due to my level of gaming.  They also run my favorite Vegas casino – Planet Hollywood – more on that in a future past-tense post.

Sunday April 6, 2014 there was a WSOP event at Harrahs Cherokee which made the place a madhouse with more people than I’ve experienced in my 5 or so visits in the past two years.  I’m from Atlanta and it’s a 2.5 to 3 hour drive one-way so I was afraid I’d just wasted a long trip for nothing.  Arrived at noonish and every single $25 blackjack table was full.  I prefer to play mano y mano with the dealer so this was not what I was hoping for.

Harrahs Cherokee blackjack set-up:

  • Main Floor
  • Several $10-15 tables, mid-shoe entry available
  • Handful of $25 tables, no mid-shoe entry
  • High-limit room
  • 4-8 $50 tables, no mid-shoe
  • 4 $100 tables, no mid-shoe
  • No surrender available in any situation, one split of aces, all tables auto-shuffle with a shoe, no single deck or manual shuffle that I’ve seen.

I waited until a new $25 table opened and played by myself for one shoe – promptly losing $250.  From there took a break and decided to play in high-limit room to have opportunity to play without others at my table.  Without surrender the strategy is less effective so tried a new tack.  Looked for open $50 tables that were mid-shoe and the previous player had been busted.  Using this strategy moved between 3 different tables and made back the $250 plus $600 in winnings.

Overall Harrahs Cherokee is a nice place, plenty of chain smoking slot stuffers, but there is enough open space to not feel like you’re in a SC truck stop.  The decor is upscale riverside casino, dealers are friendly, and there are plenty of tables to choose from as long as you are willing to bet $25+ per hand.


Harrahs Cherokee Poker and Blackjack December 2013

I got an email announcement for the Movada poker series at Harrahs Cherokee in early December 2013.  They had several events during the week and I had a few extra vacation days remaining so I figured why not try something new.  I’m not much of a poker player anymore – back in the Moneymaker days I played a couple of times a month with the neighborhood guys and would sit in a tournament or two every time I was in Vegas.  I haven’t ever cashed in a live tournament, but I can hold my own and made it fairly deep in some small events.

This tournament was a $250 buy in and had a fairly large field – I’d ballpark it at 300 people strong.  It was mostly middle-aged white guys who seemed to play events on a regular basis from the table talk I heard.  It was the usual cast of characters with the super-agro table leader, couple of quiet young guys with headphones, a loose cannon older guy who bet on almost everything, and the super friendly retiree who made a comment on every single hand.  My day didn’t last long, won a couple of small pots early and then got AK hearts – 3bet – was raised by loose cannon, re-raised, he went all in and I called down his AQ spades – I’m a 70% favorite to win so you can guess what came next – 2 spades on the flop, spade on the turn and the river just to add insult to injury and I’m gone.  This is why I’ve stopped playing poker – lots of skill, but in a tournament there is a lot of waiting for cards and then 2 ill-timed spades can tank your whole day.

Outside of poker of course I made time for blackjack before and after my quick exit.  It seems like a trend that my first few rounds at Cherokee always take a bite out of my bankroll and this visit was no different.  I lost $400 before the poker game which put me in a solid hole for the early hours of the day.  After poker I took a break to grab a bite of lunch, rehash my poker bad luck over and over in my head, convince myself that I did everything right, and get ready to play solid blackjack so the day wasn’t a total loss.

The afternoon black jack was solid, nothing exciting, but solid.  I clawed my way back slowly towards break even for the day and then the last shoe put me back to a $100 total loss for the day – not great, but not bad considering my early losses.  Overall a fun day, I doubt I’ll play any large tourny poker in the near future, this reminded me that I probably don’t have the patience to make it through a big field so I’ll stick with blackjack from here on out.

Harrahs Cherokee August 2013

I usually take the day off of work for my Birthday and play golf – this year I decided to change the routine and take a drive to Harrahs Cherokee in NC.  

After my brief Vegas stop I was feeling good about my strategy and was also becoming an avid believer in surrender as a way to mitigate losses and generate a better ROI.  This was only my 2nd trip to Cherokee and unfortunately they don’t offer surrender so I had to adjust my play.

It was mid-day on a summer Thursday so the casino floor was fairly empty.  Even with the light crowd it was tough to find an open $25 table – by open I mean empty.  WIth the no mid-shoe entry rule on the $25+ tables it makes for a challenge to find places to sit without other players.  It also creates a lot of table vultures circling looking for a seat.

The challenge when playing at tables with no surrender is that you have to make a lot of marginal decisions on 15 or 16 vs. dealer 9, 10, or A.  I’m not totally consistent on playing these hands which is a part of my game I need to improve.  On this day I started out in a quick hole – down $300 before lunch, ouch.  After a quick lunch – not many dining options to choose from which is fine for my simple tastes, but if you’re a foodie you would have to work pretty hard to find a meal to tweet home about – my fortunes were about the same and I almost quit early and headed for the door thinking that no surrender meant I was out of luck.  Luckily I had lost fast enough that I had no reason to leave immediately and stuck with it – as it got closer to my time to leave my luck turned significantly and I had a great run of three straight winning shoes that got me to break even.  Since I wanted to get home in time for dinner with the family and I had just dug out of a huge hole I called a push a win and headed for the door.   

Harrahs Cherokee blackjack set-up:

  • Main Floor
  • Several $10-15 tables, mid-shoe entry available
  • Handful of $25 tables, no mid-shoe entry
  • High-limit room
  • 4-8 $50 tables, no mid-shoe
  • 4 $100 tables, no mid-shoe
  • No surrender available in any situation, one split of aces, all tables auto-shuffle with a shoe, no single deck or manual shuffle that I’ve seen.