I’ve spent the last couple of nights in Germany casinos. It has done untold damage to my already frazzled sleep pattern, but such is my dedication to you, my loyal readers, to bring you the story. In short, Germany casinos are very different than what I’m used to.
To start off, I had to get to the first casino. I chose the most famous casino in Germany, the Speilbank Casino in Baden-Baden. Getting there was a treat, probably better than actually being there, because the route from Heidelberg to Baden-Baden whet straight down the Autobahn. I hit 200 Kph (about 125 Mph) once and cruised at 160 (100) which is probably being overly safe, but it’s still a hoot to look down at the lights to see 200 shining back at you.
I had been warned through my research that getting in wouldn’t be a simple as going into a Vegas shop. For starters they have an entrance feel I had to pay 3 € to enter. Some of the better casinos have a strict dress code. B-B is among the most strict requiring a jacket and tie on all the men. I didn’t bring that type of clothing on this trip, but they had jackets and ties available to rent. I cost me 11€ for jacket and tie. I also knew I’d be paying 4€ for parking, so I’m down 18€ before I even get in the door.
It was a very nice door. Elegant is the word that comes to mind. From the high artistically painted ceilings to the huge chandeliers, to the art covered walls and the plush carpeting, this place oozed class. Also unlike Vegas, this place was very quiet. There was no yelling. No loud machines. No music. They had a stately atmosphere that reminded me of the early James Bond flicks. Unlike the Bond flicks, there was an almost total lack of drink service.
There was also far to little room for playing. Seems to be for the rich, not the masses.The limits were high, but not outrageously so. There were 4 French roulette tables (one zero), 2 blackjack tables (one 5€ min and one 10€ min), 3 poker tables (though only 2 in operation), and one ‘ultimate hold-em’ table which really seemed out of place. There was no baccarat.
The blackjack table were very odd. Each station had three circles and rectangular ‘twins’ bet area. I quickly learned that spectators can bet with player by placing their chips in one of the circles. The twins bet hit when the player got a pair on the first 2 cards. It pays 6:1 (ouch). I couldn’t believe how many players played it. Here is the closest I could find to this layout:
Players can’t split pairs and apparently can’t hit hard 17. Every time I got to 17 or more, the dealer wouldn’t even ask if I wanted to hit and went on to the next player. Dealer stands on all 17s and blackjack pays the standard 3:2. Each table had at lease 15 railbirds at all times. They could have filled 3 times the number of tables than they had. A lot of folks were happy to bet on other players.
I had to wait an hour for a seat. Once seated with about 20 min bets in front of me, I did okay. I played profitably for about an hour. Then a new dealer came to the table. He took 4 of the next 5 hands. 5th was a push. I was back to even and stood up at that point.
The two poker tables that were in operation were both 5-10€ no-limit tables, way too high for my roll. They were both back in the glass enclosed smoking room. This room also held on blackjack table and the ulitmate texas holdem table. The poker tables were also behind a velvet rope, so you couldn’t even watch the action very well. I just moved along.
The biggest surprise was the overwhelming popularity of roulette. This is only a marginally better game than the total rip-off american version (5.26% v. 2.7% house edge) because they have one zero on the board in this version instead of 2 for the american version. Half of the tables in the casino were roulette table and they were busy.
Bad, Bad Durkheim
Last night took me to Bad Durkheim, only about 45 minutes from my hotel. This casino had a much more relaxed feel, though it was tiny compared to American versions. The whole place was only 5000 square feet with another 1000 square feet closed off for renovation. They had 3 big roulette tables, 2 blackjack tables, and 3 poker tables.
The roulette tables each had 4 tux clad men running the table: two chip pushers, a wheel spinner, and a boss man in a raised chair. I kept thinking that the boss man was ready to shine some shoes by the looks of the chair.
The blackjack layout was more normal with no twins bet and a single rectangle in front of each player. However, this square did the same job as the circles in B-B. Spectators were reaching over players’ to put money on one of the four corners of the rectangle with the middle reserved for the players bets. It was a mad house.
Since two of the poker tables were 2-4€ no limit (yea, not 2-5 as we are used to), I was able to entertain the hope of playing. I put my name on the list and was #5 for the low limit game. It took an hour and a half for me to get my seat and that only left 2.5 hours in the evening with which to play. The closed the gaming at 2 am.
I sat down with 300€ and proceeded to have an epic fail of a run of cards. I won 2 hands in the 2.5 hours, neither of which were at showdown. It was a small miracle that I left with any chips at all. I probably wouldn’t have had I known about the closing time. It was still fun and I get my european poker cherry busted. Winning can wait for next time. I’ll need to learn my German numbers before I try that again.
Even they speak German at the table, they still use the English terms for most everything in the game including big blind, small blind, flop, turn, river, and donkey. Okay, I made up the last one.
That will be it for my casino visits for this trip. It was worth it even if my luck was somewhat mixed.