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My Vicksburg trip..Ameristar Casino..Diamond Jack's Casino..Duff's Tavern

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Casino Hotels' started by RebelDiceMan, Jul 14, 2012.

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  1. RebelDiceMan

    RebelDiceMan VIP Whale

    Mar 30, 2004
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    It was time for the Summer Leadership Institute that we do for Executive Board members of my professional association and that meant that I was on my way to Vicksburg, MS where the 3 day institute was being held. The good news was that Vicksburg is home to four casinos. We also held our Leadership Institute in Vicksburg last year and the one day I spent gambling a year ago was still getting me free room offers from the Ameristar Casino (where I spent the majority of my gambling time a year ago). I was still getting mailout offers from Diamond Jack’s casino but they did not include free rooms, just discounted ones. I mention this to illustrate how generous the casinos in this market are with comps. Because they are a little off the beaten path, they really seem to appreciate the customers that they do get. Not many other places are going to be offering you free rooms a year after your one day visit.

    I had time for a little lunch in Jackson so I went to Hooters to get a bite and play a little satellite NTN Buzztime trivia. There was a coaches conference being held in Jackson that day so when they broke for lunch, the restaurant filled up to the point that there was a waiting list for a table. As you can imagine, with a room full of mostly football coaches being served by scantily clad young women, the testosterone in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife. By the time I finished my cheeseburger and baked beans, I had the top 3 scores for the month of July on the Sports Trivia game. Knowing they needed to turn the tables with people waiting, I left and proceeded on to Vicksburg.

    Once in the Gibralter of the South, I went straight to the hotel hosting our institute and spent the rest of the afternoon doing counselor business. I wasn’t staying at the host hotel because I had the free rooms over at the Ameristar. I figured I might as well save MCA the couple of hundred dollars it would have cost for me to stay at the host hotel. Plus, I wouldn’t be tempted to drive home from the casino since I would be staying there. I did stay at the host hotel for about an hour after we finished our meeting. They had a “happy hour” for anyone with an MCA I.D. badge and I took advantage of that for a couple of free Michelob Lights.

    After a quick 5 minute drive, I arrived at the Mississippi River and the Ameristar Hotel a little before 6 PM. Vicksburg has some huge bluffs above the river and the Ameristar has their hotel up on top of the bluff while the casino is below the bluff and on the river. This necessitates a shuttle system for those who do not want to walk or drive down the bluff. It is a pretty short distance but that walking back up that hill would be mighty strenuous. I took the shuttle every time I went and the ride was only a minute or two long. For some reason, I had the mistaken impression that the Ameristar had purchased an old Holiday Inn and renovated it. I was wrong because they have a very pretty “built from scratch” hotel. It is 8 or 10 floors tall with somewhere around 150 rooms.

    Check -In took less than 3 minutes and I was headed up to the fourth floor. It may have been because I had lowered expectations but I was almost floored when I entered my room. We have stayed in a whole lot of casino hotels the last 10-15 years stretching from all the Mississippi markets to Las Vegas (8 different properties), New Orleans and even the Bahamas. Other than the Bellagio, certain Caesars towers, & Wynn, this room would compare favorably with just about any room we have stayed in. The only aspect that it would have fallen short on was the bathroom area. That area was nice enough but didn’t have quite the attention focused on it that most of your more upscale casino properties have, mostly size wise. All the carpets and artwork in the hallways looked very fresh and bright with a sort of Southwestern color scheme. The room décor continued that use of Southwestern desert colors. There was nice artwork on the walls, a work table with two upholstered chairs, a lounging chair with accompanying ottoman, and multiple decorative mirrors on the walls. There was a safe & a coffee maker but they were sort of hidden away in a cabinet beneath the flat screen TV. The bed was a huge King and had 7 (count-em) pillows. I love a lot of pillows and kept all 7 on the bed when I slept. My view technically included the Mighty Mississippi but it was only a small portion that I could see. OK, I am sure by now you know I was favorably impressed with the Ameristar rooms.

    By now it was time for some GAMBLING. Since it was raining (which it did all 3 days I was in Vicksburg), I opted for the shuttle instead of taking the hike down to the casino. One couple and I were the only passengers as we made out way over the edge of the bluff. The road that goes down to the casino is a very steep grade. I would not attempt it in icy weather. In fact, one of the shuttle drivers told me that they take another longer, less steep route when there is the chance of ice. As I mentioned earlier, the ride from hotel to casino is very short and we were unloading in no time. Once inside the Ameristar, I decided to take a thorough walk throughout the property to see just what they had available. Last year, my available gambling time had been pretty limited and I had not really looked around that much. Just in case you are considering visiting the Ameristar, it has 3 floors in the casino. The main floor is the 2nd and that is the floor you are on when you first enter the property. It includes a large slot area, all of the table games, a café/coffee shop/bakery/snack bar and The Bottleneck Blues Bar. The coffee shop/snack bar place also serves beer and has a sort of sports bar feel to it due to the multiple TVs all tuned to sports channels. The Bottleneck Blues Bar is an entertainment venue with a stage for the bands that play on the weekends and is actually a pretty nice place. During the week, it mostly serves as a VP bar with more than 20 playing spots.

    The 1st floor has a lot more slots (including the non-smoking slot area), the poker room (with ten or twelve tables), and The Cabaret Lounge. The Cabaret Lounge is another entertainment area that has a stage for the weekend bands as well as a dance floor surrounded by low tables and chairs. It also serves as a VP bar with machines set into a long bar that winds its way around the stage all the way to the other side of the room. I would guess that there are over 25 playing spots at this bar.

    The third floor is home to the buffet and their upscale restaurant featuring the requisite steaks & seafood. Both looked good from the outside but I did not eat at either.

    As I usually do, I started my gambling off with VP and The Bottleneck Blues Bar seemed the perfect choice. I wasn’t all that concerned with establishing a presence here because I knew our Leadership Institute would be held in Biloxi (at IP..Yaay) next year and it would probably be a long time before I made another visit to Vicksburg. Therefore, I was determined to limit my gambling bankroll’s exposure and play only quarters while here. After all, next Friday we are going to Harrah’s New Orleans for 3 days and I will need as much bankroll as I can get for that trip. Unfortunately the quarter JOB I was going to play was a measly 7/5 paytable. The .50 table was 8/5 but I stuck with quarters and just ate the extra house advantage. At least there was a progressive jackpot but it was only $1,006.68 . So after putting a $100 in, I ordered my first Miller Lite. Here is where I was reminded of one of the few things that shouts “cheapness” about the Vicksburg market in general and the Ameristar in particular. At Ameristar VP bars you can only get draft beer served in flimsy plastic cups. (Diamond Jack’s has a different issue that I will tell you about later) I love draft beer but hate plastic cups, especially the thin-walled ones that feel like they are going to collapse at any moment. I can’t find my cocktail napkin with the results from this session but I did play for a couple of hours on that hundred. One thing I do remember is hitting quad fours but that is about all that sticks out. I had a very nice bartender (Faye) who kept my cup full but it was a pretty uneventful session. There weren’t a lot of other customers and for some odd reason, not even a lot of foot traffic. I eventually got a little bored and decided that I wasn’t playing big enough to hold my interest. At the time I was down to $40 of my original investment remaining and switched to half-dollars. I quickly burned thru that last forty dollars without even hitting a hand as high as a straight. The only thing that I made a note about on that losing run was when I got a hand that always makes me stop and think for a moment. That hand is when you have (1) Four to flush, (2) Three to a Royal, (3) A winning made pair all in one dealt hand. Although I will occasionally take a chance on the Royal if I am feeling froggy, I usually take the winning pair and that is what I did that time.

    Since I had lost that hundred, I got up and looked for something better to do that still would not expose my bankroll to too much danger. I expect to at least break even every time I play live poker so off to the Poker Room I headed. Taking the escalator down to the first floor, I made my way to their sign-up area. Looking at their board showing what games were available, I saw no limit hold-em games such as 3-6 or 4-8. The only limit game available was a $2 - $10 structure in which you could bet anywhere from two dollars to ten dollars at any time. I was totally unfamiliar with this structure. With a 3 bet cap, you could be forced into putting $30 in the pot on every round of a hand. That didn’t seem like a good way to keep the risk to my gambling money at a minimum so I passed on the Poker Room after watching the game for a while.

    Going up the escalator I decided that I was going to play something I had fun at regardless of risk. With that thought in mind, I soon found myself squeezing into a three card poker seat. My plan was to start out with $10 bets and drop down to $5 bets if things went sour early. BTW- One other attractive thing about the Vicksburg market is that they have $5 tables available at all times for all the major games. (at least they did on Wed. & Thur. night while I was there) It was a pretty friendly table with a married couple on one end and a quiet but nice guy on the other end. For a while, it was just win a little, lose a little but about 30 minutes after sitting down I looked down and saw the 2-3-4 of Diamonds in my hand. Yeehaa! Straight Flush !! That paid me 40-1 on my pair plus bet as well as paying my ante & bet wagers. All together, I pulled in about $450 on that hand. Now I could continue to play at the $10 level without any concerns. Unfortunately all my luck got used up on that one hand and I never hit another straight or flush the rest of the night. On the bright side, I had outstanding service from our cocktail waitress. When I ordered a screwdriver, she advised me to request Absolute because their “cat gut” well vodka was not that tasty. That was fine with me. After that she kept a fresh screwdriver on her tray for me every time she made a loop. She was making those loops so frequently that I occasionally had to gulp down my last swallow or two when I saw her walking up. She was fun to joke with too and made our time at the Ameristar quite pleasant.

    Sometime after my SF, another couple joined us to my left and another guy joined us on my right to give us a full complement of 7 on the table. That makes for pretty crowded conditions but hey, it is what it is. This three card poker table also had a progressive jackpot that you paid an extra dollar a hand to play. If you hit the A-K-Q of spades, you win the jackpot which stood at over 5K. If you hit any other A-K-Q, the jackpot pool paid you 500-1 on your jackpot bet. The man two seats over who had joined us later looked up and had gotten the A-K-Q of hearts. He was betting $25 a spot so just the 40-1 payout for the straight flush paid him a thousand dollars. The progressive jackpot paid him 500 -1 so that was another $500 and he got another couple of hundred dollars on his back bets. Quite a lick. We were all happy for him. The only problem was it seemed like the floor person was not familiar with paying out any sort of large payment. We had to sit and wait for at least 20 (or more) minutes while they backed up the tape and recounted the payments a couple of times. As we waited, we found out that the couple were out celebrating their anniversary. Good for them. Once things finally got sorted out, we went back to playing. For me, things just went from bad to worse. I lost $200 of my winnings back before I decided to call it a night.

    Since I had not eaten anything since lunch at Hooters, I was starving. I had activated some comp dollars that came with my mailout and went up to the coffee shop/bakery to get something to eat. A hot ham and cheese po-boy with a side of potato salad seemed just what I needed. Counting my mail-out comps and what I had earned last trip (obviously they never expire), I had more than enough to cover this little meal. After a very filling meal, I went outside and caught the shuttle for the quick ride up the hill to the hotel where I burrowed into those seven pillows for a night of blissful sleep.

    I was up early the next morning to make the drive down to The Vicksburg Convention Center where we would be holding our work sessions all day. BTW- The convention center is a very nice facility in case any of you need to hold a meeting in that area.

    We finished up about 5 that afternoon and I wanted to try out a couple of local bars that I had scoped out in the visitor information packets we received. My main target was a spot called “Duff’s Tavern and Grill”. It was located in the historic downtown district of Vicksburg not too far from the convention center. I easily found the place and a parking spot in a lot across the street. Dodging the raindrops (like I said, it rained the entire time I was there) and trying not to slip on the brick streets, I ran across to my destination. As soon as I made it thru the front door, the aura of “oldness” overwhelmed me. The interior had a lot of exposed brick and dark, aged wood that always make me think of New Orleans. It wasn’t terribly large but I immediately felt at home there. Easing into a chair at the bar, I ordered a “Deep South” draft beer made by the Lazy Magnolia Brewery in Kiln, MS. (home town of Brett Favre) Bartender Bob got me a tall pilsner glass out of the freezer and poured me a delicious antidote to the 7.5 hour of association meetings and reports that I had sat through earlier in the day. It was a friendly place and Bob introduced me to every person sitting at the bar. While there was not a lot of action going on (although Bob told me that the nightclub situated on the second floor would get lively that night), I enjoyed the ambiance of “Duff’s” so much that I stayed thru 3 rounds of “Deep South” beers. Bob explained that the mirrored mantle behind the bar and the bar itself dated back to the mid 1800’s. The bar included a nice brass foot rail and had brass animal heads every 3 feet on the customer side of the bar. He also pointed out an ornate hand-carved railing enclosing a second floor balcony that came from a church dating back to the 1700’s. Duff’s definitely had some old-school stuff in it. Back in those days, Vicksburg was a major town on The Father Of Waters. By now, I figured I had better start making my way back towards the Ameristar.

    On my visit last year, I had also visited the Diamond Jack’s casino and so I had some free play/comps available. Any of you visitors to Vicksburg from long ago will remember this property as The Isle of Capri.
    They have two VP bars here, one on the main floor and one on the second floor. I took a seat at the bar on the main floor and got started. The paytable was a little better here with JOB at 8/5. I ordered my usual Miller Lite and commenced to play. The beer quirk of Diamond Jack’s is their time limit. Unlike Ameristar, you get actual bottle beer but they can be really strict about not giving you but one every 20 minutes. Last year I came here straight from my meetings and sucked the bottom out of my first bottle in about 8 minutes. It was a pain in the neck getting another beer right then. This time, I had those 3 “Deep South” beers in me so I drank at a more normal pace and got my beer without any problem. I did see the bartender I call “Little Napoleon” call the 20 minute time limit on a guy a couple of seats over while I was there this time. L.N. just seemed to feel like those beers he was serving were coming from his personal stash. He checked I.D.s on a couple of guys that looked at least 30 to me for no apparent reason other than to discourage them from coming to his bar any more. The girl bartender was much more welcoming and better for business.

    Anyway, I had beer and gambling to keep me happy. They had a set of progressive jackpots that I don’t often see but wish would spread to other casinos. Instead of just a progressive for a Royal, they also had progressives for a Straight Flush and Four of a Kind. They weren’t huge but added an interesting element to the game. The day I was there the quarter progressives at this bar were Royal…1,023.89, Straight Flush…80.19, and Four of a Kind..31.66. I am sure you have guessed that I did not hit any of them. My closest near-miss was the “four to a straight flush” hand that I drew to and missed. I checked the Royal progressives for the other denominations and they were Dollars…$4, 650.97 and half-dollars…$2,483.85. Those are both pretty good amounts and if I were at one of my regular casinos, I would have been chasing them.

    Playing quarters, I doubled my money from the $40 I had put in and then my karma changed when this drunk guy came up complaining that he was a $150 up before losing all of it and all of his other money. No matter how much he begged, Little Napoleon would not give him a beer. He was a novice enough gambler that he just could not understand why they would not comp him a beer after he lost all that money. I went into a losing spell and eventually cashed out to walk around and see what Diamond Jack’s had to offer. They have a snack shop called Lucky Bean and I had a coupon for a sandwich combo on my mailout. I got a hot turkey sandwich, chips and a diet Pepsi with which to take a quick refueling break. It was refreshing and a needed break from looking at a video screen. It was on the second floor and I had a nice perch to look out over the main casino floor and observe the action. While I was up there, I noticed some sort of Wizard of Oz progressive with a jackpot meter of $6, 437, 498.15. That is a lot and I wish I had walked over there to check it out. Instead, I went to the nearby upstairs VP bar to play out what was left on my TITO ticket. It was only $20 on the ticket and it did not take long to play thru that since this machine was not giving me anything. I lost my $40 but had a pretty good time (other than L.N) here. Having used all my freeplay and comps, it was time for me to make the short 3 minute drive to the Ameristar hotel.

    Once there, I changed from my “professional” clothes into “casino” clothes and caught the shuttle down to the Ameristar. I went back to The Bottleneck Blues Bar for some more VP. This time I took a seat on the back side of the bar and that enabled me to look out into the casino to watch people coming and going instead of looking at an unoccupied stage. That was a big improvement from last night. With my winning a little last night and only losing $40 at Diamond Jacks, I was still in the black on this trip. I put in a C-Note and fired up the quarter JOB. Since this was my second consecutive night playing at this bar, I was now a regular and got preferential service. I made the switch from beer to screwdrivers on the second round and stayed with them for the rest of the night. I rarely got to the bottom of the cup before being asked if I wanted another. This was a pretty uneventful VP session but I didn’t get tired of it this time. I got enough to keep playing but never enough to consider cashing.

    About the most amusing thing that happened was when a cocktail waitress with about a 40DD bust came jogging thru the bar on her way to a little room that they used to change clothes or refresh their makeup. When she came out, she was laughing and announced to those of us at the bar that her “ladies” had been trying to jump out. Of course, that brought several replies from some of the guys sitting there, especially some of those guys who knew her. She came over to the server’s station close to where I was sitting and I noticed something remarkable about her chest. (other than size) She had two tattoos, one on each side. Each tattoo was of a human eye. I guess she figured she had so many sets of eyes looking at her cleavage, she would have some eyes looking back at them. Anyway, it gave me a chuckle.

    I eventually got a little restless and decided to make a move down to the 1st floor to see if my luck changed. I had lost $75 of my original hundred dollar investment and was now officially in the red for this trip. Once down there, I walked over to the poker room to see if they had any games I would play. (in addition to limit hold-em, I like to play 7 card stud if it is available) All they had was the same $2-10 limit and $1-3 no-limit. They were in the latter stages of a no-limit tournament and had a nice LED tournament information board on the wall. From it I could tell that the tournament started with 64 players and that there were now 18 players left. There was a little over 9 minutes left in the current blind level and the blinds were XXX & YYY. ( I saw them but don’t remember them) It also had the payouts for the 10 places being paid but I can’t remember them. I THINK 10th paid 80 something dollars and 1st was around 4K. I watched for a few minutes and went on. I have no idea what the entry fee was.

    I took a seat at the Cabaret Bar about 5 spots down from the server’s station where I figured the bartender would spend most of his time. My ticket only had $25 left on it so I hoped I hit something pretty quick. I started off well with a full house and trips in my first 3 hands so I had a tiny bit of breathing room. Although I hit a couple more houses and a flush or two, it was just delaying the inevitable. When my credit meter eventually hit 0, I said goodbye to my counterpart bartender Ray and departed the Cabaret.

    Figuring that my play last night and today might have replenished my comp account, I went to the Coffee/Shop (I couldn’t stand it, I had to look it up..the name of this place is Bella’s Bakery Café) for a late night snack. They were fairly busy tonight and I had to wait in line to place my order. Having checked my comps at the kiosk, I knew that I had a little over $10 to use. A philly swiss sandwich was 7.50 and some chili-cheese fries were 3.50. Together that would clean out my comp account and that is what I ordered. I wound up owing a little less than $2 to complete my payment. I was going to eat in my room so I got it to go. When I had ordered the chili cheese fries I was expecting a small side order. What I got was one of those full meal sized Styrofoam containers completely filled with fries, cheese & chili. That was a heck of a lot for less than four dollars. Everything smelled great and even the shuttle driver commented on it. Back in the room, I ate on those CC fries for 30 minutes and still had plenty left. I put the philly swiss in my ice chest to eat sometime later. Completely full, I surrendered to sleep.

    All in all, I had a great time. The hotel was way above what I was expecting and I enjoyed the casinos much more than I did the previous year. I found a pretty cool locals bar with pretty cool locals in it. Since I always get a room to myself, the counselors association only pays half my room costs. Last year that cost me $130 to stay in the host hotel. This year I stayed for free at Ameristar. If you count that $130 I saved on a hotel, I actually came out ahead. If you don’t factor that in, I still lost less than a hundred. I will be ecstatic if I can say the same thing when I get back from Harrah’s New Orleans in a week or so.
  2. jpw711

    jpw711 Is that your cat?

    Mar 10, 2009
    Southwest Missouri
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great read, enjoyed it.
    Tool, Round two
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