Saturday, December 24, 2011
Big, Bad Odds And Loses The Kitsch Factor Quick: The Excalibur Casino
The Good: Decor, Friendly floor staff
The Bad: Surprisingly light game assortment, Atmosphere, Unhelpful player's club staff
The Basics: Huge, with stingy video slot machines and overpriced shopping, the Excalibur Casino continues a tradition of Megacasino experiences that are indistinct and dull in Las Vegas.
Having returned from my annual trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, my regular readers know this may only mean one thing for travel reviews . . . new casino reviews!!!!! This year, my wife and I (the first time I've traveled out to Las Vegas with a wife, as opposed to a family member, so that raised the enjoyment instantly!) drove to and from Las Vegas together and en route and in Las Vegas, we stopped at five new-to-me casinos which I shall gladly be detailing here! I am relegated to starting my reviews with one of my least-pleasant Las Vegas casino experiences: The Excalibur Casino.
We found ourselves at the Excalibur because my wife was avoiding us attending movie premieres while we were in Las Vegas. As well, I think she might be a little bit of a gambling addict. We went to the MGM Grand and as we prepared to sign her up for a player's club card there, we were informed that if we went over to the Excalibur, we'd actually get ten dollars worth of free play there. So, we left the MGM Grand, which I had not enjoyed the prior year, and went to the affiliated Excalibur Casino. Unfortunately, sometimes "affiliated" means "clone of." Outside the architecture and entertainment options, the Excalibur Casino is virtually identical to the trendy, giant MGM Grand.
Excalibur Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $0.00. (My wife came with $10, received $10 in free play and left with $0.)
The Excalibur is a massive hotel and casino located at 3850 Las Vegas Boulevard South in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, Las Vegas Boulevard is more commonly referred to as The Strip, the highest concentration of the most famous casinos in Las Vegas. The Excalibur is one of the largest casinos on the Strip, dwarfing many others near it. It is kiddicorner to the MGM Grand.
The Excalibur has a parking garage, but my partner and I just parked at the MGM Grand's and walked over - there were two skyways we had to pass over. There is a multilevel parking garage in the Excalibur, but we did not experience it. The Excalibur boasts over three thousand video slot machines and that makes it one of the larger ones in Las Vegas. The thing is, when one is in such a large casino, they often forget that the casino is trading on name and flash and they don't need to have great games or great odds on them. It did not take long for my partner and I to lose at the Excalibur and it was only as she was leaving that she realized what I figured out early in my tenure on "Crystal Enchantment:" for all of our spins, we weren't winning ANYTHING. On the two games I played, I did not hit for any wins . . . on two games I traditionally do very well on!
The Excalibur Casino is a fairly large casinos in Las Vegas and it feels like it is capitalizing on the space it has. All of the ceilings are high, all of the carpets are clean and the place feels like one massive hotel lobby . . . in a castle. The casino is spaced and dressed up like a castle and the lighting is bright and flashy. The lights from the video slot machines play off bright wall lights so one feels very safe and visually overwhelmed. The main gaming floor is huge and situated with massive numbers of video slot machines headed in different directions to make traveling through them difficult; no matter how fast you want to get through this casino, you'll be obstructed by a bank of video slot machines if you keep moving forward. Believe me, I know; I went through all of the video slot machines looking for my partner when I had to go back to the car for some things!
The high ceilings should help dissipate the cigarette and cigar smoke that is prevalent in the casino, but for some reason the place still has a rather pungent tobacco scent. For those sensitive to such things, this remains a drawback to the Excalibur. There is at least one nonsmoking poker room, but to my knowledge, there was no nonsmoking video slot room. One wonders if there is a Las Vegas casino that would try that; if they were able to clean out any space sufficiently, I am certain there would be a market for a nonsmoking slot area, if not an entirely nonsmoking casino!
As for the "atmosphere" of the Excalibur, I swear, I don't recall seeing a serving woman in the casino on any of my trips to the Excalibur. In fact, the only people I saw on the floor were two information/help people wearing a suit and a pantsuit each. They were strolling around the floor, directing people where they wanted to go, observing, etc. They were very helpful and they knew exactly where the beerpong tables were - which was the only landmark I could recall when coming back for my partner.
As far as other aspects of "atmosphere," this is a relatively nondescript casino, outside the architecture. Entering the casino is like entering a castle, but after one makes it to the gaming floor it is a remarkably generic casino.
Gaming Options/Player's Club
I have a very simple gambling philosophy: I sit down at a slot machine with $5.00. I work it up to $10 or down to zero. I know my limits: I can afford to lose $5.00. So, when I am above that, I'll usually work it up or whittle it down to the next even $5.00. Have a strategy, know your limits: the Excalibur Casino worked quite well for me. I arrived, tried my hand at my favored "Crystal Enchantment," lost $2.50 and used the rest on Survivor, which is usually quite easy to do well on as one may stop the reels as soon as they see two like symbols in the first two rows. I did not get a single win off the entire $5.00. The only thing more insulting was my wife lost $20 playing and did not get a single payout!
I'm primarily a slot machine player and I have no shame in admitting, I tend to like the ones that are more girly themed or video game-like. The Excalibur had a very standard selection of video slot machines, including Enchanted Unicorn, Goldfish Gold, Alien, Wheel of Fortune, Deal Or No Deal, Survivor, Happy Days, "Money Storm," and hundreds of others. The Excalibur had a pretty decent selection and I recall when looking around upon first entering that there were several banks of virtually every game they had. The Excalibur is especially proud of its progressive slots, which offer a huge jackpot when they hit, but those are not truly my thing. The thing is, the more experience I've had with casinos, the more I tend to notice how the selection of games is and the Excalibur seemed to have a lot of older video slots. Even its sister casino, the MGM Grand, had newer ones than the Excalibur.
For those who might be into games of chance and card games instead of the fun and controlled reinforcement of video slot machines, there are several tables with table games, including a nonsmoking poker room and Saturday night strip poker tournaments! As well, they have the standard tables of blackjack, roulette wheels, seven card stud, Texas Hold-em, and Omaha. This is definitely a place not only trading on slot/video poker play as they devote a fair amount of space to the card/table games. There is also a sports betting segment, but that's not truly my thing.
There is a player's club at the Excalibur, which is the MGM Mirage Players Club. Signing up is easy, but the incentives were not clearly told to us before we arrived. After waiting in a line for twenty minutes, we were informed that to get $10 in free play, we had to present cards from other casinos when signing up. So, I ran out to the car, leaving my wife there and by the time I came back, she had lost her ten dollars.
Points here are accrued based upon how much money one bets in combination with time spent at a machine. The points accrue through some mystery formula and after two years of gambling with my MGM Mirage Players Club card, I've accumulated a single point.
The Excalibur Casino has a whole castle/Renaissance fair theme to it, so the setting is somewhat entertaining in its own right. Each night, they have a jousting tournament during dinner. In addition to being the Las Vegas home of Louis Anderson, there are performances by an Australian male revue, Defending The Caveman and comics like Jon Lovitz.
There is also a spa, adjacent hotel, and a theme park which is centered around a Spongebob Squarepants 4-D ride. As my partner noted when I commented on how we did not try that for reviewing purposes, "we are a child-free couple, write the review for adults." There's a pool and an Australian stripshow! That's entertainment enough, yes?
The Excalibur was part of a five casino day for us, so we did not eat here, despite the $25.00 all you can eat, all-day buffet pass. In addition to the buffet - which those leaving seemed quite satisfied by - there is a steakhouse, Italian restaurant, standard cafe and a whole food court with fast food options. The latter appeals to those looking to save money and snack and they have such mall-favorites as Starbuck's, ColdStone, and Aunt Annie's Pretzels. One need not go hungry at the Excalibur.
The Excalibur has a few big names to shop at outside the hotel gift shop. As one of the casinos at the base of the Miracle Mile, they feel the need to compete with all of the big name stores on the Strip right above it. There are places like a kitschy magnet store, a shop where everything is $10, clothing stores and swag for the Excalibur itself.
Like most shopping at a casino in Las Vegas, it's ridiculously expensive to shop at the Excalibur.
Big, loud, crowded and lighter on the theme of the castle environment than we thought before we went over, our Tuesday afternoon gambling experience at the Excalibur Casino was remarkably unpleasant and bland. Happily, we found many smaller casinos which we enjoyed more.
For other casino and Las Vegas reviews, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Comfort Inn North – Las Vegas, NV
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© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.