Las Vegas Guide
The first thing that pops into someone’s mind when Las Vegas is mentioned is the Strip. That is where some of the most expensive and luxurious hotels in the world are located. High limit games, posh nightclubs and signature chef restaurants are found in almost every Las Vegas Strip casino.
The Las Vegas Strip consists almost entirely of two gaming companies. Caesars Entertainment owns almost half of it, while MGM Resorts controls most of the other half. There are a handful of independent casinos that own a single resort.
The highest end Las Vegas Strip resorts consist of Cosmopolitan, Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Venetian and Wynn. Each offers upscale nightclubs, restaurants and top notch hotels. Most of the remaining Las Vegas Strip hotels are middle of the road and provide visitors with reasonable amenities.
Some of the best blackjack games in Las Vegas and perhaps the entire world may be found on the Las Vegas Strip. Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay and New York New York spread a double deck game that stays on all 17’s and allows players to double anything, including after splitting. These casinos also spread European Roulette and Big Table Baccarat at higher limits.
Players that would like to bet under $25 will have a hard time finding a good game on the Strip. Many blackjack games in that range pay 6-5 on a natural. Video poker pay tables on the Strip are terrible at most denominations outside of high limit salons. Craps games allow just 3-4-5 times odds at most Las Vegas Strip casinos. The exception is Casino Royale where craps players will enjoy 20 times odds.
Luckily there are alternatives for smaller players.
Downtown Las Vegas
Downtown Las Vegas refers to the area around Main Street and Fremont Street. This area became known as the Fremont Street Experience in 1995. It is where legalized gambling started in Las Vegas in 1931. That was when the downtown road was converted into a pedestrian mall. The Viva Vision television screen overhead hosts a video show every hour in the evening.
Fremont Street is also home to some great gambling. Players will find a $5 20 times craps game at Main Street Station just north of Fremont Street. There are $5 blackjack games that pay 3-2 at all downtown Las Vegas casinos. California and Fremont even have $3 blackjack that pays 3-2 on a natural.
The best game downtown is the Single Deck Blackjack game at El Cortez. It pays 3-2 on blackjack and allows doubling down on any two cards. Almost all other single deck games in Las Vegas pay 6-5 on blackjack.
Golden Gate and The D have party pits that pay 3-2 on a blackjack. These games start at just $5, which is the minimum for all of its other games. In fact, it is difficult to find table games with a minimum bet higher than $5 anywhere in downtown Las Vegas.
The video poker downtown is some of the best in the world. The highest paying video poker machine in Nevada may be found upstairs at The D. This is a full pay Loose Deuces machine with a return of 101.6%. Full pay Jacks or Better is available at almost every downtown casino. Almost all video poker machines on Fremont Street return 99% or more. This is one of the few places old coin slots may still be found.
The quality low limit gambling is not the only draw of downtown Las Vegas. Casinos are quick to give players free meals and hotel for giving them action. This is something to consider when planning your next Las Vegas trip.
Las Vegas locals are savvy and frugal gamblers. The locals’ casinos know this. That is why the table games, slots and video poker return far more at locals’ casinos than on the Strip. These resorts are usually owned by Station Casinos or Boyd Gaming. Other locals’ casinos include M Resort, South Point, Palms and Cannery. The table game limits at these casinos can be as low as $1.
Locals’ casinos are required to host at least 200 hotel rooms. These often sit empty due to undesirable locations in the suburbs. If your goal is simply to get some good gambling in and you will have a car, locals casinos are perfect for you.
Las Vegas Poker Rooms
Las Vegas is home to the World Series of Poker, held every summer at Rio. During other times of the year, poker is still popular. Venetian, Bellagio and Aria are all home to high limit games. Other large Las Vegas poker rooms include Red Rock and Orleans, popular among locals, as well as Caesars Palace, Wynn, and MGM Grand. There are nearly 50 different poker rooms located throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
The most popular game is No Limit Texas Hold’em. Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, and Omaha High/Low are also popular. A few stud and mixed games may also be found.
Las Vegas Sports Books
Las Vegas is the U.S. home to sports betting. Nevada is the only state where single game betting is legal. This makes Las Vegas extremely popular during important sporting events, including the Super Bowl and NCAA basketball tournament.
Not all sports books are alike. For example, most large sports books do not offer players comps. One exception is the Westgate, formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton and LVH. Sports bettors at Westgate receive $1 in comps for every $220 in action. Station Casinos gives sports bettors $1 for every $500 in action.
Another difference between sports books is the payout on parlays and teasers. The worst books for these exotic wagers are Caesars and MGM properties. The best are Westgate and many locals casinos.
Baseball is another reason to avoid the big Las Vegas Strip books. The Westgate, Cantor, William Hill and Station Casinos sports books have dime lines for baseball. This means the juice is only 5%, as opposed to the standard 10%.
If you do not wish to hang out in the sports book all day, there is a solution. Many Nevada sports books offer mobile apps that may be used anywhere in Nevada. That means you can place your bets while on the go around town.
Las Vegas Rip Offs
Las Vegas is full of rip offs. These start as soon as you land at the airport. Taxi drivers have been known to long haul tourists by taking them through the tunnel on the way to the Strip. This means the taxis do not take the direct round and instead drive around in a circle. This drives up the fare. The best way to avoid this is to tell the driver not to tunnel you. If a cab driver ever asks if you have been to Las Vegas before the answer is always yes. If they know you are new in town, your chances of getting ripped off go up.
Cab drivers will also pull another scam on unsuspecting tourists. There are clip joints masquerading as massage parlors that pay cab drivers a commission to bring guests. If you ever take a cab to an adult entertainment establishment then never pay for the cab ride. The clubs pay drivers to bring them guests that more than cover the fare and gratuity.
Another scam is the guys handing out “girls to your room” business cards. These advertise that a young woman will visit your room for a private show. These are extremely expensive and the lady that pays you a visit is not the girl on the card. Also, contrary to popular belief, it is illegal in Las Vegas to pay a woman for the types of services these cards imply.
There is nothing like a cold bottle of water on a hot summer day. There are vendors selling bottled water along some of the pedestrian bridges. These are unlicensed vendors. There is no telling where this water came from and some suspect the vendors are filling up empty bottles from bathroom faucets. It is better to be safe than sorry. Do not buy anything from street vendors. It is far better to pay the resort markup and know what you are getting.
The cabs are expensive. The Las Vegas Monorail may seem like a good alternative. For some it is. For example, if you are going to a conference at the Convention Center from a resort on the east side of the Strip, the Monorail is perfect and reasonably priced. For most others, the Monorail is a long walk from the destination. Las Vegas locals feel the Monorail was one of the biggest wastes of money on history. Maybe it will become useful one day by connecting to the airport and downtown, something the cab companies fought during its construction.
Sick of Gambling?
There are plenty of things to do besides gambling. There are shows across all spectrums of genres. There is cuisine from across the globe available from top chefs to enjoy during your stay. Each Las Vegas casino offers a flagship, upscale dining option.
The newest Las Vegas attraction is the High Roller at the Linq. This is an observation wheel that goes 550 feet above the Strip. The Stratosphere offers an even higher view of over 800 feet. There are three amusement rides atop the Stratosphere’s observation tower. The Eiffel Tower replica at Paris is another great option with a spectacular view. This is the perfect place to watch the Bellagio fountain show.
Circus Circus offers a full amusement park or kids and adults alike. The Pinball Hall of Fame, with games dating back more than 60 years, is just east of the Strip on Tropicana.
Hikers will want to check out Red Rock Canyon. This is just outside of the far west suburb of Summerlin.
If it is too hot for you, then you may want to check out Mount Charleston. It peaks at 11,916 feet. Hoover Dam and Lake Mead is east of Las Vegas. All are about 30 minutes away from the Strip.