August 4, 2007

A Couple Of Great Days

My two days at Harrah’s Joliet were awesome, so much so that I intend to go there whenever I need to get away for a bit.

When I lived in Nevada and worked in a casino, gaming establishments became a run-of-the-mill sort of thing, nothing special, day-to-day, etcetera, etcetera.

Since then (over ten years ago), I’d only gone into casinos during a two week visit to Atlantic City back in 1998. It was still pretty much same-old, same-old, except I enjoyed the Boardwalk and the Jersey shore atmosphere, falaffel and funnel cakes (yum!). If you’ve never had a funnel cake, you have no idea!

However, visiting Harrah’s in Joliet nine years later was another story entirely.

First, I have to say that having stayed in a gazillion hotels over the last few years, I found the staff at Harrah’s to be the friendliest, most customer oriented I’ve ever met, folks who really bend over backwards (figuratively, don’t start!) to make sure a guest has a flawlessly fantastic time.

It turned out that the only room service they provide is for alcoholic beverages, but if a guest wants to dine in the room, people who work strictly behind desks would be more than glad to deliver a meal from any restaurant in the house (I didn’t take them up on it, but the offer was there).

Even the pit bosses are outgoing and affable, and all employees make a point of learning your first name and interacting on a friendly basis. They all remember all the customers’ names, even at a crowded bar or craps table, it’s amazing.

Speaking of craps, here’s a bit of history: The game, originally called “galloping dominoes”, was invented in New Orleans in the late 1800s by a Frenchman. The slang for Frenchman was crapeaux, meaning “toad-frog”, and that name became the popular name for the game, then was eventually shortened to simply “craps”.

Between visits to the dice tables, I spent some time drinking at a long bar at the back of the casino that had multi-game slots built into the bar. Whenever I was there, I played $1.00 video bonus poker, and sort of lucked out by finding a good machine at the first stool I occupied — no royals, but lots of playing longevity between inserting C-notes in the slots ($5.00 max bets per hand). It’s not the same as it was during my last visit to a casino, instead of coins filling a tray when you cash out, you get a validation slip that can either be inserted in other machines for play or redeemed for folding money at a cashier’s window. I must admit that it’s weird to me to be in a casino without hearing the cacophony of thousands of coins clattering incessantly into hundreds of slot trays.

“Progress” marches on…

I didn’t get to try their best restaurant, I felt my time was better spent gambling, though I did do the buffet the first day. It was adequate, but unfortunately it was an inordinately slow Wednesday evening and the food had gotten a bit old, and tasted such. Bummer. The steam tables are divided into several different types of cuisines, and of all, I enjoyed maybe two items.

However, Ace’s, a cafe/snack bar located in the casino itself puts out a good roast beef and peppers sub, and is open 24 hours. They have free coffee ’round the clock, but alas, it tastes almost as cardboardy as the coffee bags provided with the in-room coffee maker. However, there is a Starbuck’s on the premises, and being the improviser I am (staying at beaucoups hotels teaches one many useful things) as well as a lover of coffee, I had them grind me a pound of “house” and absconded with a stack of their “official” napkins which, properly applied, double well as filters for said in-room coffee makers. Housekeeping, as customer service intensive as the rest of the staff, provided me with a sufficient number of condiment packets to make it work.

If you want a decent cup of coffee in the casino proper, get it at the above mentioned bar.

Anyone who’s read my blog for a couple of years knows of my travails with hotel Internet access. Well, after a few minor problems at first (no fault of Harrah’s, the outside ISP they use mistakenly classified my room as a meeting room rather than a guest room, and once the error was addressed it was smooth sailing), their wireless access was impeccable, on a par with that flawless access I experienced at the Lenox in Boston some time back. I was majorly impressed.

Among the differences between Nevada casinos and Harrah’s Joliet are that at the latter there are no live poker or keno parlors and there is no race and/or sports book. I was told that these are not approved by the Illinois state gaming board. State law also forbids them from serving free alcoholic beverages (wow!), period, and they have to stop serving alcohol altogether at 3:30 a.m. on weekdays and 4:00 a.m. on weekends. The casino itself is closed from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. daily for cleaning. I laughed when a bartender in the casino told me that, thinking that in Nevada, they’ll clean and even do carpentry around you rather than make you stop gambling.

Despite any shortcomings described above, I would profoundly recommend Harrah’s Joliet as a great place for a hotel/casino getaway. The staff there, from gaming to hospitalty, are so exceptional that they make it an awesome experience.

Being as ultra-suburban as they are, they enjoy a large local trade, and at the tables and bars one meets all kinds of down-to-earth, friendly people who frequent the casino as a social focal point. I never felt at all “lonely” at the bars, conversation was consistantly animated and enjoyable.

For the days leading up to my 52nd birthday, I have to give a zillion star rating and now, at going on 5 a.m. on the day, I will say that my visit to Harrah’s Joliet was the best 48 hours I’ve enjoyed for as long as I can remember.

by @ 4:05 am. Filed under Uncategorized
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3 Responses to “A Couple Of Great Days”

  1. Shoprat Says:

    The only casino I have been in in many years is the “Soaring Eagle” in Mount Pleasant Michigan, and I couldn’t believe the prices of everything except for the gambling, like they want to discourage you from leaving the machines. (Drinks were expensive in the lounge, but free at the tables and machines . . . hmmm.)

  2. Seth Says:

    Shoprat –

    That’s the point of free drinks where they’re legal — not only to keep you from leaving the game, but also to loosen you up. Many a bettor has awakened hung over, wondering what they did with that durned rent money…

    Before the corporate weenies took over the gaming industry, in fact, comps were legion as the only departments in a casino/hotel that had to show a profit were those dealing with gambling.

  3. A Couple Of Great Days — All about Gambling Says:

    [...] My two days at Harrahs Joliet were awesome, so much so that I intend to go there whenever I need to get away for a bit. When I lived in Nevada and worked in a casino, gaming establishments became a run-of-the-mill sort of thing, nothing special, day-to-day, etcetera, etcetera. Since then (over ten years ago) source: A Couple Of Great Days, Hard Astarboard [...]