Pechanga: Cha-ching!!

Higher minimums, tight slots but still a good time

Posted by Chuckmonster

If you live in Los Angeles, like I do, traveling to Las Vegas can be a bit of a pain. The 5 hour hung-over-and-driving-on-three-hours-sleep Sunday morning bumper-to-bumper caravan from Barstow to Burbank in triple digit heat will steam your brain, melts your car and adds insult to injury if you've just been cleaned out at the BlackJack table at the Golden Nugget. Fortunately for those of us who live in Southern California, the Tribal Casino scene out towards Palm Springs is thriving and its three hours closer.

The Pechanga Resort and Casino [ http://www.pechanga.com ] is one of the larger Tribal Resorts in Southern California. Located just off the I-15 freeway in Temecula CA, Pechanga offers wall to wall slots and table games in well appointed smoking and non-smoking gaming areas.

Miss Monkay and I set out for Pechanga from L.A. at about 1pm, traffic was heavy at times on I-10 East, but cleared up as we hit the 15 South. In total the drive took us approximately 2 hours and change. We found the casino pretty easily, it was about 2 miles from the freeway nestled up into the base of a very pretty mountain. On the way we saw numerous billboards for Pechanga (the same ones that are scattered throughout Los Angeles - the Pechanga Tribe knows how to advertise.) Entrance to the property is quite easy, however the covered parking garage is a bit far from the resort entrance. While walking through the parking lot we overheard one Valet parking attendant say to another.. Hey Man, have you ever driven a SAAB? Miss Monkay said to me under her breath 'They suck.' Valet #2 responded Nope. To which Valet #1 said... They SUCK. Nyuk nyuk. We giggled our way past the waterfall and koi pond outside into the front vestibule of the resort. Pechanga's interiors could be best described as a hybrid of a church, a casino and an art gallery done up in dark woods sort of like Binions Horseshoe. Unlike the Horseshoe, this place is spiffy, brand new and mega mega clean. Keep in mind that we LOVE Binions.

The high ceiling vestibule, with waterfall, is surrounded to the hard-left by a hotel check-in desk, to the soft-left a walk way to large ball rooms/restrooms, to the center a seafood restaurant, and to the right the walkway to the casino and a small gift shop where you redeem your Pechanga Players Club Comp points. We took a quick walk through the gift shop... nothing much to see, and headed towards the casino.

The kling-klang of slot machines always makes me smile and Pechanga has em in spades. All your favorites are here in all denominations (I don't recall seeing any penny slots though) Immediately to the right upon entering the casino there are a bank of table games... Double and Multiple Deck BlackJack (4 decks in continuous shuffle - yuck!) PaiGow, Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Mini Baccarat and a couple of Craps tables. Further back is the Non-Smoking gaming area that had a handful of table games and slots under some seriously bright lights. To the left of the casino entrance were banks and banks of slot machines (the current - May 2004 - legal limit in California is 2,000 machines, but this is about to increase.) some more table games and yet more slot machines (Video Poker, Video Slots and Reel Slots).

After casing out the joint, visiting the restrooms (clean and large - no valet) we grabbed some coffee from the bar/snack area (also clean, nice and comfortable) Miss Monkay and I cased out the table games in search of some decent minimum BlackJack. Minimums in the main casino ranged from $10-$25 with standard Las Vegas rules (double after split OK, split 4x, dealer stands on all 17s, BlackJack pays 3-2). Unfortunately there was only one $10 minimum table and there was a crowd two deep to get on it. We decided to give the floodlit non-smoking area a chance and bellied up at a $10 table for some action. Miss Monkay immediately hit a creative multiple split/double situation and the dealer busted, I had a hurtful run of losses, then she did as well. Eventually we fought ourselves back towards being flush with our stake, then took big downward hits. I walked away from the table with $35 of my original $100 left. Ouch. At least the dealers were nice (one of em).

We wandered back to the Main Casino and saw an open third base space on the sole $10 minimum table, and I hopped on. I dropped my two red chips into the circle and never looked back. At first base and second position were two Asian ladies who barely knew how to play, and didn't know how to speak english, the dealer (whose name I think was Brian - great funny guy) was patient with them and they motioned Surrender when they wanted a hit. In center position was another really nice younger Asian lady with a stack of Greens and knowledge of the game. Meanwhile, behind me Miss Monkay used her Jedi Mind Trick skills to get the guy sitting next to me to leave. He did and she parked it and colored up her cash. The guy sitting next to her was a curious sort, he stood on all soft 17s, NEVER doubled down, never hit 16s, never Split anything except Aces, and kept losing. Basic Strategy... learn it, love it, play it. Not playing Basic Strategy or something like it is like playing baseball and never using your bench or bullpen. Just keep the starters in there no matter what happens. Jeez.

Our tablemates bad decisions aside... we played a good two hours at this table, I converted a nice 6-6 split to three hands (a hand I affectionately call The Iron Maiden) all double downed against a dealer five. Hole Card: 10, next card 10. Dealer bust. I just doubled my $15 x 3 + $15 x 3 (double downs) to a $90 jackpot. It was pretty much up and down for most of the run, but I never had to break the original $25 Green chip I came to the table with... it was an upward and sideways climb the whole way. Eventually I was up to about $190 when I bet $20 on what was going to be my 'last hand'. I double downed my A-5 against a dealer 3... got a 6... 12. YUCK. Dealers hole card: 5, first card 10, 18. I lose. We colored up our chips, toked the dealer and cashed out.

After signing up for the players club and a little more wandering around we decided we wanted to partake in some of the slot action. We actually had to do the rounds 3 or four times to find some games to our liking that weren't occupied. There wasn't an empty chair in the joint... and every Wild Cherry and Red, White and Blue was occupied. Eventually we found some and like an ATM in reverse, we deposited most of our blackjack winnings into these mega tight slots. By tight we mean... really tight. Like not one pay out at all. Not even a 2 credit single cherry. Not even a non-payline Wild Cherry, not nuthin. Spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin... money gone tight. After about 20 minutes of this we decided that we were done and it was time to go home.

All in all we had a pretty good time out at Pechanga, we'll probably go back at some point, but if the slots don't start to give some money back, we won't go back a third time. Even my Senior Citizen Dad's Senior Citizen Girlfriend said to me that the slots there were tight when we told them that we went there. I imagine that when Casino Morongo finished building their new casino and hotel, the Pechanga folks will face more competition as they are pretty much equidistant from downtown L.A..



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