Playing cross-country with Harrah’s

Oct 22, 2007 3:59 AM

Still griping about Harrah’s pay tables and like to whine over what they’re doing with their Diamond Lounges? Then you have little knowledge about how to take advantage of what they DO offer the player. Generally, it’s the people who lose that come out with all the knocks, and that’s why today you’re going to see the positive side of what Total Rewards has to offer.

We left early on the first day to get to Harrah’s Rincon in San Diego. Other than for the traffic over there, it’s a nice ride. We had a coupon for a comp meal and I had a whole $10 in free-play — which I ended up with $15 for playing two hands of $1 Bonus Poker (BP). I’ve never had a bad room at this location, but one night was all I could spare given what lies ahead.

When we got up the next morning we headed over to Harrah’s Laughlin for more comped meals, a few drinks in their Diamond Lounge, and a pick up of $85 in bounce back cash. As per what will be commonplace on this trip, I ran $10 through the $1 BP machine — this time for a $5 loss.

In the morning we headed to the Rio in Las Vegas for lunch with some friends at the all American Grill. Before I left I put $10 into a $2 BP machine and was dealt a straight for a profit of $30. After stopping at Sam’s Town to scoop up $45 in cash back and cashing a $10 coupon at Arizona Charlie’s Boulder, we drove to the Stratosphere for the night.

When we awoke we took my favorite ride up to Reno. At Harrah’s I cashed a $40 coupon and I did not play. I did the same at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe with a $100 coupon, but we used my points for an excellent meal in their Steakhouse. Afterwards, I went over to Harvey’s and tried playing a hundred bucks. I lost it on dollars with nothing better than two pair.

The next morning the real travel began. After setting up the GPS navigation unit we were off for Harrah’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa. We were in no hurry, took enough for a couple picnics, and a day and a half later we arrived. I’m no fan of Riverboat casinos because they make little sense to me, seeing that they never leave the dock.

But this Harrah’s was comfortable although the casino was not. As usual, food is always free with Diamond card points — which we used on the buffet — and I even won $310 in the casino just fooling around with a $1/$2 machine.

We departed early in the morning for the long drive to Caesar’s in Indiana — another riverboat of some sort that never moves. This was a welcome two-night break in the most comfortable bed on the trip. It’s an upscale location with four levels of casinos and a very crowded Diamond Lounge — especially when the free drinks come out after 5. I never took a seat in the place because I didn’t stop there to fight freebie-seeking gamblers for anything.

I did, however, get my first taste of being state-taxed on winnings after hitting a $1200 W2G jackpot. It was an odd amount of just over $44 and I didn’t think anything of it. The win is what counts.

In the very early morning hours we left for Harrah’s Cherokee just outside Asheville, North Carolina where my wife’s parents and sister live — which was the primary purpose of the trip. Cherokee’s really not my cup of tea as far as casinos go, and its type of video poker machines are mostly unfamiliar to me. I did play 5 minutes on dollars during my four days there and was lucky to hit four 7’s for a $30 profit. I was also happy not going into the place any more after that.

After a relaxing visit to Hillbilly country and lots of gift-shopping, we drove on down to Harrah’s Grand Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi, where we met up with my friend Cody and his wife Valerie who used to live in Las Vegas but recently moved to Nashville. Having never been to Tunica before, I was surprised to find Harrah’s to have their hotel a mile away from their casino and restaurants, but it was the only resort of that type.

We had a great time at Murano’s for dinner and both Cody and I lost playing "fun" video poker afterwards, using no particular strategy. I lightened my wallet by about $1600. After a long night’s sleep we went into Memphis for the best BBQ dinner we’ve ever had at a place called Corky’s.

But just before that, Cody hit four Aces with the kicker on $1 DDB and I was dealt a 50¡ Royal using $40 in free-play that I had earned from the night before. Once again we both witnessed a state tax deduction on $2000 wins — this time at a straight 3%.

The next day we said goodbye and Cindy and I headed down to Harrah’s in New Orleans. We went out for several great Cajun-style meals, I played until I won $25, but in town things were just not the same as we remembered. Enough said.

For all the bad-mouthing Harrah’s takes because of so-called poor pay tables and belt-tightening at their Diamond Lounges, there IS a way to take advantage of what they do offer that’s positive in a big way. On this trip we paid for nothing at our hotels, I won a few thousand just by sampling the machines and playing maybe two hours overall, and each Harrah’s location had something unique and interesting to experience.

At a time when players seem to like to complain about a lot of what certain gaming companies do for their bottom line, I find it easier and far more enjoyable to seek out how to take maximum advantage of what they do have to offer. And it doesn’t take an arm and a leg to do it.