If you are gambling in Nashville, you’re doing it illegally. There are no lawful gambling establishments in this area, and the few that I may or may not know about I will not discuss because of the legal implications involved. However, like many other people in my hometown I frequently take the reasonably brief 2-1/2 to 3 hour road trip to visit the legal casinos located in Indiana and Mississippi. This is a review of some of my favorites and one of my not-so-favorites, listed in order of preference, one through five.
1. Gold Strike Casino. Tunica, Mississippi.
One of my favorite casinos and my overall favorite in Tunica. The Gold Strike has a nice poker room in addition to the traditional table games most folk expect, they also have a great room deal for poker players: special rates for players who play 6 hours at the poker tables. Call the casino for details. The restaurants at the Gold Strike are the best in Tunica; the seafood buffet is outstanding in my opinion and my standards for excellence in seafood preparation were set during my culinary apprenticeship in New Orleans, LA at the world-famous restaurant- Commanders Palace, so my opinion is not completely uninformed. The action at all of the tables, poker or otherwise, is lively; and the hotel and casino staff are courteous and professional. I nearly always stay at the Gold Strike when I’m in Tunica, even if I’m not planning to do most of my poker playing there.www.goldstrike.com/
2. Horseshoe Casino. Tunica, Mississippi.
Binion’s Horseshoe has always been poker-friendly, appropriately so for this is the casino chain that gave us the world series of poker. The horseshoe in Tunica lives up to this heritage by providing a comfortable and spacious poker room and an excellent staff. The poker room is large and the action at the tables is lively indeed, which makes this one of my favorite poker rooms in tunica.www.horseshoetunica.com/
3. Casino Aztar. Evansville, Indiana.
Ahh, Aztar. Fond memories of cutting my poker teeth in the pit. Ok, I have to admit that it’s a boat. Anyone familiar with riverboat casinos knows what this means. For the rest of you, lets just say that space on the gambling floors is a little more limited on the riverboats than it is at land-based casinos. But at Casino Aztar, it doesn’t matter. Table games are rowdy and fun, and most of the restaurants are technically at the dock so space isn’t an issue there. There are four floors to this particular riverboat, so there are plenty of slots and table games available. The poker room is spacious when compared to other riverboat casinos and like any good poker room, smoking is not allowed. I refer to the poker room at Casino Aztar as “the pit” because it is all the way downstairs, directly above the engine room; and because it’s full of sharks. But don’t let this deter you, because predators only congregate in large numbers when there is plenty of prey around, and there is lots of easy prey at Casino Aztar. The central location of Evansville and the many events that the city hosts attract many novice poker players to this room and so naturally, this attracts stronger players. Poker tournaments are held on the 1st Sunday and 3rd Thursday of every month, and the poker brush has been known to provide a good deal on a room as a comp. The restaurants are fairly good, Max & Erma’s revamped their menu at the start of 2012 and they have some outstanding dishes now to accompany the standard bar fare they’ve always offered. I try to make it up to Evansville every so often just to keep my game sharp. You may love it, you may hate it, but I highly recommend giving this place a try.www.casinoaztar.com/
Harrah’s Casino & Resort. Tunica Mississippi.
Formerly known as The Grand Casino and Resort, this Harrah’s property is host to a fine poker room with an extremely large bad-beat jackpot that entices quite a few players to play there regularly in the hopes that someone will take a bad beat and win everyone in the room a bunch of dough. For those of you who are unfamiliar with bad-beat jackpots, it is a jackpot that is provided by part of the rake from each hand played at a certain game. When qualifying conditions are met, and an extremely good hand is beaten by a better hand(the minimum worst hand is usually a full house, aces full of jacks or better), then the jackpot is paid out. This casino has been known to be fairly generous with comps in the past, providing meal comp and good deals on hotel rooms for poker players.www.harrahstunica.com/
Harrah’s Casino. Metropolis, Illinois.
I must include this casino in my review even though it is not one of my favorites. In fact, it is one of my least favorite casinos in the entire country. The poker room is tiny, I’ve never seen more than five tables crammed into the inadequate space they devote to the poker room. The staff is the least competent of any casino I’ve ever played in, and I’ve played poker in over 30 casinos in 14 different states. The restaurants are mediocre at best, and the comps are not managed well. It continues to amaze me that Harrah’s can operate some of my most favorite casinos in the United States( Harrah’s New Orleans, Horseshoe Hammond Indiana), and yet also operate my least favorite casinos( Harrah’s Metropolis, Harrah’s Cherokee NC). Perhaps it is the location that defines the quality of the Harrah’s experience. I highly recommend that you avoid this particular venue.