Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pechanga Resort and Casino is on notice!

Thanks for getting my back, Colbert.

I went to Pechanga Resort and Casino last night. Actually, first I went to Valley View Casino, and lost some money and ate their wonderful buffet while I waited for traffic to die down. I arrived at Pechanga around 8:30. I had a free room for the night, and was looking forward to scouting out the place. I'd only been there once before, for a George Jones concert. The casino was pretty busy for a Tuesday, not packed, but brisk business, especially at the tables. I decided to check into my room and rest for a bit before playing. When I checked in, I was informed the only room available was a Jacuzzi Suite, which sounded nice until I was informed the Jacuzzi Suite has a fold-out couch instead of a bed. I was uncertain about this, but decided to be a sport. The room was nice. The sofa bed was uncomfortable, but the bathroom was quite large. Quality shampoos and soaps (Gilchrist & Soames), a sewing kit, and even a bowl of candy, among other amenities.

The casino was nice, too. I remembered from my previous visit appreciating the amount of empty space in the casino layout. Casinos try to maximize the amount of money every square foot of casino floor makes, so it is always refreshing when a casino has wide aisles and walkways, and generally avoids the claustrophobic atmosphere of other casinos (Valley View, I'm looking at you). I was also happy with the table games. In particular, I was happy to see that they had double-deck games, which offered surrender. So I sat down and played, losing most of my cash, then winning it all back, then suffering a modest reversal. By 1 AM or so, I was very much in the pro-Pechanga camp.

Then came Magdy, a casino pit boss. What happened was, I was playing a double-deck game with one other woman, and several empty seats. The other player sat out a few hands, so I was playing heads-up. The other player came back and wanted to play, but the no mid-deck entry rule requires new players to wait for the shuffle to begin or resume playing. So I played another hand heads-up, when two people sat down to play, and were told that they, too, would have to wait. I lost that hand, and while the dealer collected my bet, the new player suggested I sit out. With no players, the dealer would have no choice but to shuffle, and the new players could begin playing. So I pulled back my bet and asked the dealer to shuffle. As dealers must anytime they shuffle prematurely, this dealer called over a pit boss for approval. And so Magdy enters the story.

Magdy immediately smells a rat. Clearly, this "shuffle" strategy is a brilliant con, designed to rob the casino of millions. He points angrily at the discard pile, stating that it's far too early to shuffle, and forbids the dealer to shuffle. I'm angered, not so much by the pit boss' decision, but by the anger evident in his expressing of said decision. The dealer was visibly uncomfortable, and the other players also seemed taken aback by the rudeness on display. I tried to shake it off, laugh if off, and placed a bet, which should have ended the situation. But another player asked, what happens if he goes to the bathroom or leaves the table. Magdy's reply: "We'll wait for him." They would allow one of the six crowded double-deck tables grind to a screeching halt for an hour, potentially costing the casino thousands of dollars (while I was not one of them, there were people at my table routinely betting $200-$300 a hand), all while I pretended to take a crap, rather than allow a dealer to spend ninety seconds shuffling a deck of cards. I quickly pulled back my bet, threw my players club card on the table (which I would no longer need, since I would never bet another penny at Pechanga), and colored up my chips, shaking with anger. What really infuriating me about the entire exchange was, none of Magdy's comments were directed at me. He seemed to make a conscious effort to ignore me the entire time, yelling at the dealer and another player at the table, but barely even looking in my direction. Why this is, frankly, baffles me. But I took it as a personal offense, and it is largely why I let this matter so upset me.

And make no mistake, I was upset. After I cashed in my chips, I went back up to the room and paced for a bit. I intended to go to bed, drive home in the morning, and just put this matter behind me. But as I steamed for fifteen minutes or so, I decided I would not tolerate the situation. So I went back down, got Magdy's name off his name tag (when I asked him his name during the incident, he ignored my request and turned his back to me, apparently considering the matter closed and me irrelevant), and then checked out of the hotel and went home. I was surprised that the desk clerk, while perfectly pleasant, didn't ask if there was a problem when I checked out of my room at 1:30 AM, but later it occurred to me that visibly upset people probably check out of the hotel in the middle of the night pretty frequently, after losing all their money, and the desk clerks are probably trained not to add to their burdens by asking if anything is wrong. Which is probably a sound policy. It's just over an hour drive home, so around 2:45 or so, I arrived home, much to Tanner's relief. I then proceeded to write a complaint letter to Pechanga, which I mailed off this afternoon.

I intended to reprint the letter in its entirety, but I realize now most of the letter will be redundant, following this post. Perhaps I will print the letter later, if I receive a response from Pechanga to share. For now, I'll just offer this snippet:

Again, I am not writing to object to casino policy. I personally believe permitting an occasional courtesy shuffle is good business, both for goodwill, and for getting in more hands per hour (by allowing additional players to join the game). I realize shuffling slows down the game, and the casino has other reasons for prohibiting shuffles early. You are welcome to set your own policy. Had Magdy said no, the dealer cannot shuffle early, I’m afraid our policy forbids that, I wouldn’t have cared. In fact, I’m rather shocked how angry I was at the conclusion of this incident—I merely asked for a shuffle at the request of another player who wanted to join the game (though I personally dislike playing heads-up myself, and thus was not opposed to the shuffle). Magdy went out of his way to be hostile, and create a situation where being in Pechanga made me intensely uneasy. Enough so that I would rather drive home at two in the morning than spend another minute there.
That's the crux of the situation. Magdy managed to take something I really didn't care about, and did everything he could to make it impossible for me to not care anymore. This, after I'd decided I liked Pechanga, and would like to come back sometime. But that won't be happening now.

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