Harrah’s Cherokee poker room is not a “we’ll just stop by” experience. Tucked into the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina, it requires a clear intention to visit. As we were driving back east through Tennessee we decide to make this our intention.
Setting and Non-Poker Amenities
Harrah’s Cherokee lies on route 19 in the mountains about an hour west of Asheville North Carolina. Asheville, by the way, is worth a stopover if you’re headed to Harrah’s. It has a nice downtown to walk around and a vibrant arts and food scene. The last 10-15 miles into the mountains on the way to the casino is a winding, somewhat nerve-wracking journey. The weather was fine when we went, but if this was an icy winter day, I would not make this drive.
We stayed at the Harrah’s Cherokee hotel for the night. This was easily the worst hotel we stayed in during our trip back from Las Vegas to Massachusetts. The bed was hard, the room was dark and kind of dingy, and there was a lot of noise from hallways and adjoining rooms. We believe this was the older hotel of the two complexes on-site. We read afterward that the more recently built section is very nice. Take caution when you book your room to reserve on the “new” side.
The sprawling casino itself is full-service with slots, table games, and a sportsbook. The dining options are mostly casual and fast dining. The chain Ruth’s Chris Steak House is their one “upscale” offering, so take that for what it’s worth. Several of the fast and casual options appeared to be shut down due to COVID. We visited on Veterans Day, so many of the remaining options were packed with long waiting lists. We ended up grabbing sandwiches at Starbucks for a quick dinner, then after our tournament, had appetizers and beer at the Wicked Weed Brewpub. The Wicked Weed food and beer were quite good, and the service at the bar was excellent.
Harrah’s Cherokee Poker Room Comfort
The Harrah’s Cherokee 32-table poker room is set off from the rest of the casino, adjacent to the sports book. The room is nicely designed with very high ceilings and well-spaced tables. TVs festoon the large columns in the room. The chairs are pretty simple – no wheels and can not adjust – but they are decently padded and comfortable. The tables feature auto-shufflers, padded rails, drink cups, and USB ports. The felts are clean and looked new. The chips, however, were old and dirty. Lighting was also a bit dim over the tables, making it hard to see the flop from an end seat.
Poker Room Staff
Harrah’s Cherokee poker room dealers exhibited wide range of skill – some were decent while a couple of others made notable errors. One dealer pushed the pot to the wrong player that ended up getting incorporated into the player’s stack. That took some unwinding by the floor. The floor, however, in general, was a bit lax and seemed disinterested in running the tournament. Even though the clock was visible to all, dealers were not allowed to increase the blinds until the floor announced the increase. On one of the 20-minute levels, it took 5 minutes before the floor made the announcement. Waitstaff did not circulate very often, and some players groused about this.
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Players at Harrah’s Cherokee Poker Room
The crowd at the Harrah’s Cherokee poker room tended to be older and not very ethnically diverse. About 10% of the players were women. Players in the tournaments tended to be weak-passive calling stations and a couple seemed only marginally aware of the rules. Multiple players were confused about the big blind ante.
Harrah's Cherokee is not a poker room you should go out of your way to visit, especially given the challenges of getting there.Click To Tweet
Cash Play Activity
Cash play was very active on the Veterans Day evening we attended. It appeared that there were 12-15 cash tables active much of the time, mostly consisting of $1/$2 No Limit.
The Harrah’s Cherokee poker room currently holds tournaments Monday through Thursday at 7pm ($140/12K starting stack) and 10pm ($80/10k starting stack). They also have a Sunday 2pm ($250/20k starting) tournament. All tournaments have 20-minute levels and unlimited re-entries until the start of level 8. In the tournament we played, the big blind ante kicked in on the second level. This was a fairly short-stacked and aggressive structure for a $140 buy-in. Rakes for the $140 and $80 are 25%, with a 20% rake for the Sunday $250.
Overall Assessment of Harrah’s Cherokee Poker Room
After making the trek through the Smoky Mountains, Harrah’s Cherokee poker room presents you with an attractive, well-designed space. However, the overall experience did not live up to the setting. Chips are dirty and lighting poor, and the dealers, floors, and wait staff all leave something to be desired. Given its location and these times of reduced labor pools, it may be challenging for Harrah’s Cherokee to adequately staff, both in the poker room and in the casino at large. The tournament structures are poor compared to many places we have played with similar buy-ins such as Filotimo Casino in New Hampshire and Resorts World in Las Vegas.
Harrah’s Cherokee is definitely not a poker room you should go out of your way to visit, especially given the challenges of getting there.
After making the trek through the Smoky Mountains, Harrah’s Cherokee poker room presents you with an attractive, well-designed space. However, the overall experience did not live up to the setting. Chips are dirty and lighting poor, and the dealers, floors, and wait staff all leave something to be desired.