I’ve been writing about casino games for 14 years, and I wanted to see if Soaring Eagle met my personal criteria as a place to play:
- Do blackjack rules and video poker pay tables give the skilled player a shot to win?
- Are there games that give me a good run for my money? Is the player rewards system easy to use?
- Do the rewards offset some of the house’s mathematical edge?
My journey through those questions started at the player rewards booth, where in addition to the $20 in premium play I received at check in, a club representative added another $10 for joining the club.
Looking for the best deal to use my premium play, I found an old friend: 9-6 Jacks or Better video poker, with the “9-6” meaning full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1. It returns 99.5 percent with expert play, and it worked for me. Once I’d made the required $60 worth of wagers to use the premium play, I had $60 in credits that I could cash out —my premium play was now real money.
- Blackjack players have three choices: hand-shuffled six-deck games, six-deck games with a continuous shuffling machine and single-deck games. The single-deck game pays only 6-5 on blackjacks instead of the usual 3-2. With fewer hands per hour, the hand-shuffled game is the best bet for most players.
- In addition to the main casino, Soaring Eagle has a Slot Palace with more electronic games. A free shuttle takes players between facilities. One of the resort’s best games, a version of Deuces Wild video poker which returns 99.7 percent with expert play, is in the Slot Palace.
- Premium play—free play that comes with some room packages—can be taken either in downloadable slot credits or in special table chips. Slot play is a more efficient use of it and you’ll get the most value at the best video poker games.
- The biggest crowds are weekend nights, and minimum bets may go up during peak times. However, a blackjack dealer told me $5 tables are always available.
- Soaring Eagle Resort and Casino offers room packages such as Gas & Gamble, with a $50 gas card, plus premium play included with your room rate.
- For those visitors who want to immerse themselves in the culture, the Ziibiwing Center, a Native American museum, is next door.
- I dined at Siniikaung Steakhouse (which means “House of Stone”) and enjoyed a perfectly done, medium-rare ribeye and tasty asparagus-bacon soup.
John Grochowski is the author of half a dozen books on casino games, including the “Casino Answer Book” series, writes a weekly column and is known to Chicago radio listeners from his “Beat the Odds” tips that air on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780.