Blacklisting the Desert Oasis

Over the last eight or nine years, I have really enjoyed visiting the poker room at Agua Caliente in Palm Springs. Technically, I believe the casino is in Rancho Mirage. A small room with only 11 tables, the action has always been good and the rake reasonable.

One Saturday in February, a large group of us all met up at Agua Caliente to play poker and enjoy the day. Several of the wives, sisters and girlfriends were playing machines and taking advantage of the spa facilities. My friends and I were there to play poker. We planned to arrive early to avoid the long lists that often occur on the weekends in this small card room that operates at capacity on the weekends. Winter and early spring is prime time for the Palm Springs area, with many retired people coming to enjoy the weather.

Our group arrived before noon and found the rest of the party already at the casino. Everyone quickly went their separate ways and I got on the shortest list I could see, a $1-3 No-limit game. I was seated in less than five minutes. The game was good and probably just a little tight. I enjoyed a conversation about hot rod cars with Terry Ellis a regular and owner of a beautiful 1940 Ford coupe. The average player in the card room is a little older than most places but it’s still a very good group.

As the afternoon wore on toward evening, my stomach reminded me that we had not eaten all day. I decided it was time to call a dinner break. Vince was at my table and he was reluctant to cash out, preferring to eat at the table.

This was the point where things went horribly wrong. The dealer informed us that we would not be able to eat at the table. I could see at least six or seven people eating at tables around us. The players began protesting, saying we could eat at the table. The dealer insisted that it was not allowed.

The dealer called a floor man and said, “Please tell the players it is not my rule and that they are not allowed to eat at the table and I am just doing my job”. The floor man of course backed the dealer much to my chagrin. We decided to go eat and were told we would be picked up on the third missed blind. Because it is a nine-handed game and two of us were leaving we would be picked up very quickly. We decided to cash out. I asked the floor if I could have a milkshake at the table and was told no. I felt this was a totally unfair application of the rules and obviously biased towards the locals who were eating at almost every other table.

The second injustice occurred when I posted my small blind and ran to get a Kleenex, knowing I would be back before it was my turn. The dealer pushed my dollar back and gave me a missed blind button. I had posted my blind. Once again this was very selective enforcement of a rule.

The third insult was the dealer dealing me out over the phone rule. My phone was on vibrate and I had gotten a text. I took the phone out of my pocket and looked at it and the dealer dealt me out without even a warning. This rule was enforced in spite of players talking on phones during hands and not even drawing a warning. I did see the offending player throw the dealer a dollar for allowing the rules deviation.

Another thing that really irked me was the local players being able to jump from table to table without direction from the floor. I had asked the board for a table change and was never offered a table change. A player actually moved into my game from the other table and I was not offered the seat he vacated. The same player later moved again back to the table from which he came and I still was trying to get to that table. I understand that regular players are going to get preferential treatment but I was truly feeling like I was getting screwed around just a little too much.

After dinner I came back to the tables with a bad attitude and shared with everyone what a joke the card room had become and the fact that we would not return and we would no longer recommend the room. I asked each dealer if they thought I should tip them based upon how bad the treatment was. To his credit one of the dealers declined to accept tips from me his entire down. As I was discussing the poor customer service a floor man actually called the players “CHILDREN” in a very derogatory manner.

While our schedule had us playing until midnight I could take no more and cashed out and made my friends leave. These complaints were all attributable to the card room. Have no fear we were abused by other staff also.

Just before dinner I asked one of my friends, who had just lost a few thousand dollars playing slots, to see about getting us a dinner comp. He went to the players club and was told because we had not been to the casino since September 2009 our points had all been wiped clean. This is a really poor policy and affects all of us as we usually travel together. To rub salt in an open wound, my friend was told that no points had registered on his card during the three hours he played the machine with his card properly inserted. As a group we had exactly zero reward points for all the play we have ever given this casino.

I can accept that mistakes are made and people make bad decisions. I am included in those making mistakes. I asked to talk to a host or supervisor and the girl at the next terminal stepped up to answer the request and declined to do anything at all for us. Her badge certainly did not identify her as a supervisor.

We have learned our lesson and we will not be going back to Agua Caliente Casino for a long time. I will do what I can to make sure that nobody else ever takes the time to drive eight hours one way to that casino to be treated like an unwelcome stranger.

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