September 28, 2008

Best Sports Bar in San Diego

Decided to check out the new Sports Pit Bar at Harrah’s and make it an overnighter. Although it was a Saturday night, my room was discounted to $29 with my Harrah's Players Club Card.

So—what’s the new Sports Bar like? Well, the back wall is completed covered with flat screen TV’s showing different channels and different games. My thought was that it would be a great place to watch college football on Saturdays, NFL on Sunday and Monday nights. There wasn’t too much going on in the way of games Saturday night but they still had a decent crowd.

The Sports Pit area is nicely laid out over a very large area so you don’t feel claustrophobic. There is the TV Wall with lots of comfortable chairs and tables, a large simulated golf game where, for $20 an hour, you & your pals take a swing (real golf clubs) at the ball and the simulation tells you how far your ball went, where it went, etc. The Sports Bar has a small pit with 2 blackjack tables and a “the Flop” table—which is a fairly new table game based on 5 card stud.

If you like Texas Holdem, there are two multi-player Heads Up Texas Holdem video slot games---I didn’t try it so not sure if you play against the dealer or other players. Finally, there is the Sports Bar itself with bartenders in umpire shirts. Pretty strict about no more than one drink every 20 minutes; this is monitored for your safety and casino liability. I sat at the Sports Bar for a while and played Cleopatra Keno and Deuces Wild Video Poker. The bar was nearly full most of the time and it’s always enjoyable to chat with other players as they come and go.

With my work (review) done at the Sports Pit Bar, I headed over to my favorite casino table game – Ultimate Texas Holdem. The table was a $10 minimum (Saturday night) and I bought in for $200. Now $200 will not last very long if you lose a few hands since you place 4 bets per hand (that’s $40 per hand—and $10 to $30 more if don’t check through the River Card).  All and all, I played about 9 hours and won quite a bit overall, mostly because I hit a straight flush (pays 90 to 1) with four cards to the straight flush on the Board. My Russian pal sitting two players down hit a Royal Flush same night – paid off about $5000 on her $10 bets.

Although it was a good night – there was one thing that really annoyed me. Harrah’s has never been overly generous on comp points for table play (unless you bet $100+ per bet). Still, I usually do get a comp for a free breakfast after playing all night at the tables---I mean that’s really not a big deal is it--$15 for breakfast after betting $40+ per hand for 7 or 8 hours?. Not this night—they must have lowered the table comps or something—lowered to practically nothing. I played for about 9 hours that night, betting anywhere from $10 bet X 4 = $40 per hand to $25 per bet x 4 = $100 per hand. When I asked for a comp for breakfast at 4 a.m., the pit boss checks and says I have earned only $2 for the night. The dealer and other pit boss think there must be a mistake and they double-check. Nope, only $2. Unbelievable. So I bought my own breakfast with my winnings.



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September 27, 2008

Ultimate Texas Holdem Strategies

One of my favorite Ultimate Texas Holdem pals is The Count. I love his style---the cognac he sips while playing at the table, his freshly pressed white shirt, his charming wife who stops by to tell us about her latest slot win, his laugh---win or lose, and his game strategy.

If the Count is dealt a high pair (AA,KK,QQ,JJ) hole cards, he plays 4X his bet before the Flop. Big Slick or Ace-Face or Suited Face Card or smaller pair is a 3X bet. I've played hours and hours and hours with The Count and his strategy is quite successful. His secret is his consistency in his wager amounts---which do not waver on whim, fear, desperation, or success and his optional 3X and 4X bets before the Flop on premium hands.

A contrast in strategy and success is Big K. Although quiet, Big K is fun to have at the table too because he knows the game inside out and his bets change constantly. It's an interesting diversion. He will bet 3 Reds if he gets really low (that's $60 per hand) but he prefers 2 Green or, in a perfect world, Black ($400 per hand). The changing colors and size of his chip stacks is impossible to ignore--for both the players and Big K.

Although Big K plays a similar strategy to The Count, his bets vary constantly. If he loses a few hands, he'll go down or even up in wager size. If he wins, he usually goes up until he loses a few again. So Big K doesn't win overall most of time---he needs a premium hand to win for the night. And of course if he does get paid off on Quads or better, he's disgrunted if he didn't bet at least 2 Greens. On the other hand, if he bets 2 Greens and gets paid off on a good hand like a Full House (about 13-1) but had a Quad possibility, he's disgruntled that he didn't get Quads.

The Count gets my vote on strategy, money management and enjoyment of the game.  



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September 26, 2008

My Love-Hate Relationship with Player Club Cards

I have a Love-Hate relationship with my Players Club Cards . My collection of Player's Club cards is impressive---I have one from every casino I've visited. The colorful cards are snugly tucked away in my dresser drawer.

The Hate: There's something comforting about being anonymous at the casino. After all, gambling should be a personal, private experience, shouldn't it? I don't know that I want the casino knowing and recording every slot I play, every bet I make, every dollar I put in a machine and every ticket I cash out.

The Love: Free food---like the scrumptious Buffet at Valley View Casino, Free or Discounted Rooms at Harrah's Rincon & Pala (Pechanga and Barona are a bit more stingy with room discounts).

The Question: Is privacy worth more than a Free Buffet or Hotel Room? Well, since I'm a moderate budget gambler and don't play regular slots very often (there is where you get most of your card points), I've figured out a way to get both privacy and the buffet!
  • I always take my Player's Club Card to the casino
  • I use my card for a small period of time while I'm playing machines so the casino will know I was there and I'll still get discounts, free buffet and room offers.
  • I always give or use my card while playing Casino Table Games because there is no privacy anyway.
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September 25, 2008

The Other Side of Gambling

Her name for this blog will be Bridgette. Her name is not real but she is. I didn't take her for a compulsive gambler when I sat down next to her at the Ultimate Texas Holdem Table at Harrahs. She bets the minimum $10 bet like I do and she's attractive, mid 30's--blond hair, pleasant personality.

I order a cocktail but she doesn't because she said she's driving home soon. We talk while we play cards and she tells me her husband is in the service and away in Iraq. We both have daughters and we talk about that for a while. We talk to the dealers, we play, we hope we hit a Trips Bonus hand, we talk to the other players, we bet, we play. Her cell phone rings. It's her daughter, 12, wondering when she's coming home. Her daughter is at home alone with her younger child. Bridgette tells her daughter she'll be home in about an hour.


The table gets "hot" in that lots of Trips Bonus hands are paid off and everyone's having a blast and you can't get a seat if you're not already playing. Hours go by and it's not that we're winning alot--we're just not losing and a bit ahead. Bridgette's cell phone rings again and she talks to her daughter, hangs up and says she has to leave soon---her daughter wants her to come home.

We play some more. It's around 2 a.m. and I'm getting tired. I decide to cash out, leave the table and go up to my room. Bridgette says she's leaving in just a minute too.

The next morning, I relax, take a dip in the pool, have breakfast and pack up to leave. I walk through the casino on my way out and I see Bridgette at the Ultimate Texas Holdem table, in the same seat, in the same clothes. Her face looks tired and tense.  This was months ago but I still think about Bridgette and the other side of gambling.


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