Gambling Along The Mississippi
When it comes down to heading to one of the gambling "meccas" of the United States, most people look towards the bright lights of Las Vegas or the East Coast "Las Vegas", Atlantic City. Some may even look a little further north to the New England area and the Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods Resorts. You would be amiss not to look to the South and the Grand Casinos of Mississippi.
The Grand Casinos, with three different locations in Biloxi, Gulfport and Tunica, are a part of the Caesars' family of hotel and casino chains, thus any player's cards that a player has from the sites in other areas can be used there for comps and player points. The Grand Tunica, which I had the privilege of staying at for two days, was by far the best of the threesome.
It is an easy trip to find your way to the Grand Casino Tunica. After arriving in Memphis, it is a straight shot from Interstate 240 West to Highway 61 South (yes, the same highway immortalized in the Bob Dylan album title, because of its proximity to the birth of the blues in America). It takes approximately thirty minutes to make the run from the Memphis International Airport to the gates of the Grand Casino.
Once you arrive there, you are shocked to see the size of the Grand Casino itself. Indeed, it is grand! At over 14,000 square feet, it is the largest casino between Las Vegas and Atlantic City and has gaming action for any taste. All games, whether it is table, slots or poker, are easy to find among their four themed locations. Table games spread run the gamut from three and four card poker, Pai Gow, blackjack, craps and mini baccarat (among other games) and all are a challenge and very rewarding to the victors.
The slot machines are the dominant sight and sound as you stroll through either of the two floors of the Grand Casino. In fact, if you spend much time in the slots area, the ringing of the tumblers and the wins seem to resonate through your ears for hours after your departure! They range from the smallest amounts (one PENNY!) to much higher limits and pay out prizes ranging from coin (with the smaller games) to their very convenient "EZ Pay" system, where the machine actually gives the player a ticket of value, good for use on another game or for any of the amenities that the Grand Casino offers. Additionally, you can win some great prizes, including cars and even a Hummer 2!
The poker room is quite nice and, for being on the second floor near the slot machines, is surprisingly quiet, except for the riffling of chips. "We have had a poker room since 1996, and we built the room we currently use about five years ago," said Terry Wildman, the gracious and helpful Day Manager of the Grand Casino Poker Room. While it may appear small to some (and, my having seen the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles and its wall-to-wall poker tables, it appeared that way), the fourteen tables that make up the poker room are constantly in action at any time, day or night.
"We spread pretty much any game, from Texas and Omaha Hold 'Em to Seven Card," continued Wildman. "There is a No-Limit game going on most of the time, but we have more requests and players for 2-10 Stud and 4-8 Texas Limit than others." The tournament action is constant in the poker room, with daily tournaments going on that range from a buy in of ten dollars to those of $100 (with rebuys in some tourneys). "We constantly have those tournaments filled with somewhere between forty and fifty players, which is the cap on tournaments in the poker room."
For major tournaments, there is a special ballroom opened up for those events. It is excellent, as once the doors are closed to the room, all outside noise from the casino is shut out. The tournament staff is efficient and does an outstanding job of conducting a first class tournament for the players in attendance.
Dining at the Grand Casino is a pleasant experience, with fine dining being covered at the excellent Italian restaurant Murano's. For a more casual dining experience, you can step over to Replays, the Grand's sports bar (excellent sandwiches with multiple televisions tuned to many sporting events and the in-bar NTN gaming system) or the Delta Blues Café (possibly my only disappointment, as it was a little overpriced for what you were getting). Finally, to keep your food budget in check when you are at the casino, you can enter the Grand Buffet, where any palate can be satisfied well and for a very good price. Pasta, ribs, sushi and a grill providing seafood or burgers are just a few of the many options that can take care of any person's hunger.
The trio of hotels on the grounds (the Veranda, the Terrace and the Casino Hotel) are near the casino and very much worth the price paid. The rooms are comfortable and the staff, from the front desk to the maintenance people, are all pleasant and polite, aiming to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Other amenities include a spa, a children's arcade, skeet shooting and golf, all located within a few hundred yards of the casino and the hotels.
One criticism that I would have overall is that, while you have everything that you need around you, there is pretty much nothing to do outside of the casino or golf. For those of you that would like to sightsee or visit other areas, it is a drive to either get back to Memphis and see the attractions there (such as Graceland) or a drive to get to much anything else. While people that come there are there for the express purpose of the gambling, a little more diversity would make the area much more entertaining for more people.
When you get ready to make those plans for your next trip, you might find it worthwhile to make a trip to the Grand Casino. It is a relaxing area, the costs are reasonable and the gaming action, including the poker, well worth your time!
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