Monday, July 23, 2018

Quick thoughts on a Lake Charles Weekend

If there's a thing as a casino being "too" successful, the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles might have found it.

My partner and I spent the weekend as a paid-in-full guest of the L'Auberge Hotel and Casino last weekend and were both thrilled and disappointed.  The details.....

1. L'Auberge hotel:  The rooms were comfortable, the AC worked great, and we had hot water when we jumped in the shower etc.  The bathrooms are a little on the tiny side, and housekeeping was uneven at best.  Play over/under on the number of towels you get each day, trust us, it's fun.

2. L'Auberge casino:  The vastly underrated Globar in the center of the casino has the best odds for video poker in Lake Charles bar none.  They're a full coin better than what you can find anywhere in the Golden Nugget, and even better than what one finds at the tiny Lantern bar a few steps away.  Where L'Auberge hits rock bottom are their slots.  They're too tight, feel like the payback is set at the State minimum of 80% tight. Two $200 sessions with an average bet size of $2-$5 per spin gave back only a handful of pays that were larger than the bet size, and no pays higher than $20. Their table games are not set up, or ran, all that well, and they have too many Baccarat tables versus blackjack, which is what a ton of people in Lake Charles want to play.  Their high-limit salon is laughable. What they do have is on of those new "video based" roulette/blackjack set-ups where two to three dealers can deal for more players than can fit around a regular table. 

This helps them save in labor costs, which they desperately need because the casino is hardly ever full.

3. Golden Nugget Casino:  The Golden Nugget is the most popular casino in Lake Charles right now.  But it's hard to see why. They have the worst odds of any local casino, horrible limits on the games, and it's often impossible to find a seat at one of their bars, or to find an open slot game where someone isn't camping.

Notice I didn't say playing.  Because they fit a lot of people onto the casino floor but only a small fraction of them appear to be playing. You might have a bank of slots with all four seats taken, but only one person has money in, and is only hitting the button when the cocktail server comes around. It's the same at the Video Poker bars, where people sit and talk, and then hit play once when the server comes around.  This is frustrating for people who want to play (raises hand) but seems to be OK with GN management who don't do anything to stop it.

4. Golden Nugget Restaurants: IF you can get in, and odds are you can't, the food is standard Landry's fare. But the wait at the Cadillac Cantina (no reservations accepted) was 2 hours when we arrived.  Plus, if you've been to Grotto, Saltgrass, Landry's or Vic $ Anthony's in the past in other locations, you'll find the food quality and service to be a notch below.  As time goes by I'm spending less and less time here, and more over at L'Auberge.

5. L'Auberge Restaurants:  Favorites Southern Kitchen is consistent, if not spectacular, while Jack Daniels is highly underrated.  Ember Grille might be the best casino/restaurant in town that very few people visit. They certainly have it in the menu/food section over Vic $ Anthony's and their bar/wine selection is superior as well.  A bonus: Favorites also does breakfast a darn sight better than does Claim Jumper.

6. L'Auberge pool:  This is a gem.  Cabana rentals run $250 during the peak season but it's the best $250 you'll spend all trip.  We spent 8 hours at the pool eating, drinking and having a grand time. If you do this, and don't have children, try to reserve a cabana in the "adult pool".  You can still go across to the kids side and ride the lazy river if you choose, but you won't be surrounded by little kids running around and screaming.

When visiting Lake Charles my advice USED to be this: Stay at Nugget, play at L'Auberge.  But I'm amending that now.

My advice going forward is this:  Stay at L'Auberge, play at L'Auberge, EAT at L'Auberge.  Only go to GN if you want to play slots. Better yet, save your slot play for Las Vegas and just avoid the Golden Nugget altogether. It's a hectic, noisy, crowded scene that has no interest in catering to people who like to actually gamble. L'Auberge has quietly taken advantage of GN's hubris and are re-establishing themselves as a superior property.  Get there now before more and more people start to figure that out.

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