Video Poker can be an important part of a Las Vegas vacation. There’s especially a good chance that you’ll play video poker if you enjoy hanging out at a casino bar and receiving complimentary drinks. It used to be that you could play video poker at any denomination at any speed and receive a “free” drink. That’s no longer the case at most Las Vegas casinos.
Drink Monitoring At Video Poker Bars
A few years ago, some casinos started implementing drink monitoring systems in the video poker machines at the bars. These systems track how much a guest is playing per hand and at what speed.
If you’re playing quickly with enough money per hand the complimentary drinks will still flow. If you slow down or only play a single credit (or 3) you won’t be offered a drink unless you pay for it.
This new system isn’t a big deal if you’re playing alone. You simply just have to play a minimum of $1 per hand at a normal pace. It’s a bit more difficult to keep up the pace when chatting with friends and enjoying the drink.
I’ve certainly decided to just pay for drinks after realizing I couldn’t keep up the pace to qualify for a complimentary drink. I also stopped playing video poker at those times. Paying for a drink is sometimes better value than losing money quickly on a game with subpar paytables at casinos on the Vegas Strip.
Not every casino bar uses a drink monitoring system. Most MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment bars use a system. So does the Cosmopolitan. These casinos make up the majority of properties on the Vegas Strip.
Most of the casino bars off the Vegas Strip (including downtown) don’t use a drink monitoring system. This is another reason to consider staying off the Vegas Strip.
Maximizing Video Poker
There can be serious cost involved in obtaining complimentary drinks at casino bars. These “free” drinks aren’t quite free since the casino always has the advantage based on the paytables on the machines.
You can no longer play 25 cent hands. The typical minimum to obtain a complimentary drink at many Vegas Strip casino bars is $1 per hand. Additionally, you can’t slow play these systems. There’s no more waiting around until the bartender walks over to makes sure you’re playing for the drinks. Steady play is the key to obtaining cocktails with drink monitoring systems.
Most bars offer in a casino offer the worst paytables for video poker in the casino. The worse the paytable, the larger the house edge is for the casino. The larger the advantage is for the casino they less milage your dollar will have when playing video poker. This is less than optimal when you’re trying to enjoy a few drinks at the bar.
I won’t bore you with the specifics on becoming a great video poker player. Finding the best paytables, understanding the difference, and playing with perfect strategy are all important. Here are a few resources:
Find the best machines: vpFree2 is a great resource to find the best video poker games in each casino. Again, the bars often have video poker games with the lowest return in the casino. This will minimize how much you’ll be able to spend on a limited budget. Most importantly, this resource should have you find the best bars to play video poker.
Understanding pay tables: This return calculator will tell you the house edge for specific games. This is useful and here’s an example of how – If a game has a 4% house edge, the casino will keep $4 of every $100 played (on average). If the game has a 1.5% house edge, the casino will only keep $1.50 of every $100 played. This is a difference of $2.50 or 2 extra hands per $100 played. Over time the game with a better paytable will allow you to play more, which will help you earn more complimentary drinks.
Playing with the best strategy: The house edge is based on playing with perfect strategy. Any mistakes playing video poker increase the advantage in favor of the casino. Wizard of Odds is a great resource to read about strategy. Practicing helps even more. There are plenty of video poker training games online. I practice on an old app while watching sports. Perfect practice makes perfect which helps keep the best house edge intact and should bring more complimentary drinks.
Great Video Poker Bars
I’m a mixed bag when it comes to video poker bars. I prefer to play the best available game if possible. There are also times where I just want the best drinks. These two don’t always mix so I play at certain casinos depending on my mood.
The Red Rock sportsbook bar has 8/5 Bonus Poker is probably the best game I play. The 99.17% return is great and I can play with almost perfect strategy. The Gold Coast, Orleans, and Palace Station might have some decent bartop video poker games near the Vegas Strip.
The View Bar at The D is probably my favorite bar in downtown Las Vegas. The vibe is chill, the paytables are good, and the drinks flow. Four Queens and Main Street Station might have better games but the more fun environment is more important to me when I’m hanging downtown.
My favorite bartop video poker on the Vegas Strip – and it’s not even close – is Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan. The paytables suck and they use a drink monitoring system. However, the bar is gorgeous, the atmosphere is fun, and the Chandelier Bar makes better complimentary drinks than any other video poker bar in Las Vegas.
The Cosmopolitan uses a ticket system for complimentary drinks. There are still plenty of single ticket options available. The fancy, signature cocktails and some premium spirits are two drink tickets. Beer drinkers looking to maximize the buzz might want to choose an Elysian Space Dust. The 8.2% ABV has more than 50% more than a Budweiser.
Learning Video Poker
I started to get serious about video poker when I saw a friend earning better rewards than I did playing craps and blackjack. Unlike slot machines, there’s a little skill involved. While I like the bells and whistles of slots, I typically like to keep my mind engaged while gambling.
I downloaded the WinPoker iPhone app for $10 to practice video poker during my free time. I’ve improved from about 80% accuracy for Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker to about 95-98%. The practice has improved my gameplay so much that I’ve probably made 1000x what I paid for the app.
Sure, winning is fun. Being able to share that knowledge with friends is a bonus. Together my friends and I have enjoyed more fun for the money playing video poker at bars.
We recently looked at a variety of hotels on the Vegas Strip for different sized budgets. It’s fairly simple to divide hotels into different budget ranges on the Vegas Strip. The hotels are easily grouped into just a few price ranges.
Even the lowest tier hotel rooms on the Vegas Strip are nice compared to similarly priced hotels in other cities. It’s something that we can take for granted when looking at Las Vegas properties. Even after adding resort fees into the price of hotel rooms there are still plenty of great deals around.
Looking at dining budgets isn’t quite that easy as hotel budgets. Sure we can point to inexpensive places to eat on the Vegas Strip. However, not everyone has the same taste in restaurants. There are also visitors looking for a different experience than a bargain might offer.
For example, Batista’s Hole In The Wall near The Cromwell, Flamingo, and Bally’s is a great value. However, not everyone visiting Las Vegas wants to eat in a hole in the wall 100 steps away from the Vegas Strip – no matter how good the deal.
Food Courts And Fast Food
Similarly, a salad at Harrah’s Fulton Street Food Hall is a great deal. The $15 salad will fill anyone for the day and you’ll still have leftovers. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to eat at a food court when visiting Las Vegas. While $15 for a salad (after tax) might not be a deal back home, it’s a relative bargain on the Vegas Strip.
Food courts on the Vegas Strip offer plenty of good priced meals if you just need something to hold you over to dinner. Here’s a post from a couple of years ago looking at how newer food courts are upgrading. (Note to self – let’s write an update)
Personally, I’m just looking for a good meal for the price on the Vegas Strip. While In N Out Burger at The Linq is more expensive than off the Strip locations, it’s still a relative bargain for a fast food meal. Expect to see a similarly good value when Chick Fil A opens at Planet Hollywood by the end of the year.
Value Is Sometimes More Than Just A Cheap Price
Not every dish is a good deal in Las Vegas. The burgers at Holsteins inside the Cosmopolitan range from $17 to $19. On the surface, none of these are a good deal. However, the Gold Standard (w/ smoked bacon, aged goat cheddar cheese, tomato confit, baby arugula, & garlic-chive aioli) is one of the best burgers in Las Vegas. To me, this is a solid deal because it’s so good.
The Cosmopolitan actually has some decent priced meals for a luxury resort. The Block 16 Food Hall (across from Holstein’s) is home to Hattie B’s Chicken. The chicken sandwich and side is very fairly priced at around $15. Just bring your own drink. They charge $5 for a can of soda and don’t have free water. The sandwich alone is filling. The side just makes this a sharable sandwich.
The Grand Canal Shops between The Venetian and The Palazzo have a few different restaurants that provide good value. Buddy V’s is a very solid option for an above average Italian meal that won’t break the bank. They have a moderately priced brunch on the weekend too.
Fine Dining Can Still Provide Value
Every casino in Las Vegas has high-end dining options. Aria, Cosmopolitan, The Venetian, and Wynn have many of my favorite fine dining restaurants. These are all luxury hotels and they offer some of the best fine dining on the Vegas Strip. I don’t think I’ve had a bad meal at any of the restaurants at these properties.
In fact, I’ve had some of the best meals of my life at each of these hotels. The short rib at Jean George’s inside Aria is one of the best dishes I’ve had in Las Vegas. Even though dinner here was pricey, it was worth every penny.
The Cosmopolitan is home to one of the best fine dining deals in Las Vegas. The lunch menu at Estiatorio Milos includes a full 3-course meal for only $29. That’s about half the price that you’d pay at dinner time for the same food.
Pro Tip: Many of the best restaurants have Happy Hour deals. Try some small bites at a discount if you don’t want to take the plunge for a full meal.
One of the most famous casino brands in Las Vegas has added a new bar and entertainment space as well as hotel rooms. Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas has quietly been upgrading the property. They recently opened Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. Earlier this year, they opened the 81 room Hotel Apache.
Not only is Binion’s increasing its entertainment but this is the first time you can get a room at the property in 10 years.
Hotel Apache Now Open
During the summer, Binion’s opened Hotel Apache. This boutique hotel features 81 rooms with vintage-style furnishings. The hotel motif is reminiscent of the original Hotel Apache that opened in 1932.
Binion’s Horseshoe was created when Benny Binion purchased the Eldorado Club and Hotel Apache in 1951. Together, the property is the Binion’s Gambling Hall that we know today.
Everything about Hotel Apache is inspired by the rich history of the property. The new hotel captures the essence of Las Vegas’ storied past. Mayor Carolyn Goodman was on hand for the opening and said: “There is so much happening in Downtown Las Vegas and I am thrilled that Binion’s is offering the new Hotel Apache experience.” She continued, “Downtown has always been the place in our city for history and the vintage Vegas vibe, so this concept is a perfect fit!”
Hotel Apache’s vintage character is evidenced in its location and the original 1932 architecture. Guests of Hotel Apache will be able to check in at the original registration desk located right on the casino floor.
Here’s a little trivia. Guests can take the first electronic elevator in the city of Las Vegas to their hotel room. Who knew?!
Visit Binions.com for more information on Hotel Apache.
Whiskey Licker Up Saloon
Whiskey Licker Up Saloon is the first of its kind experience in downtown Las Vegas. This entertainment space is a full-service saloon with a rotating bar as its centerpiece. That’s really just the beginning.
Whiskey Licker Up is more than 10,000-square-feet. Its located directly above the existing Whiskey Licker Bar and Patio on the southwest corner of the property. The new saloon will offer a nice mostly indoor complement to the bar downstairs.
Whiskey Licker Up offers drinks, dining, dancing, live entertainment, and virtual reality pods. All of the entertainment space has incredible views of the Fremont Street Experience.
Whiskey Licker Up offers fresh food from their scratch kitchen. The menu includes food choices to appeal to all guests; a classic “Licker Up” burger, Grilled Pear salad, or Ahi Poke Cones.
The rotating bar is overlooking Fremont Street and the first street stage. There are also two open-air balconies by the side of the main bar. All together Whiskey Licker Up brings Fremont Street a new and unique offering for downtown Las Vegas.
Oyo Las Vegas is now open for business. The new hotel brand replaces the Hooters Hotel and Casino. For years, this property has been a relative bargain for its location next to the Tropicana and across the street from MGM Grand.
One of the great things about Las Vegas is the variety. There’s a place for anyone no matter their vacation budget. One group visiting Las Vegas might have a budget that affords them to eat, drink, and stay at a luxury resort. A family might have a smaller budget for their annual vacation. They might have less money to spend on hotel rooms and meals. That’s okay, there’s always an option for places to stay, things to do, and things to see in Las Vegas.
The Global Gaming Expo (G2E) just ended and my feet are killing me! I walked the expo floor more than usual and I can still feel it. The gaming conference and expo bring the casino and gaming industry together. Panels discuss casino operations while the expo hall is where casinos go shopping.
We’ve discussed how Las Vegas residencies have changed over time so we won’t get into it again. The new short term residencies seem to be as popular, if not more popular, than their long-term predecessors.
Westgate Las Vegas announced that due to continued overwhelmingly popular demand Barry Manilow’s residency will return in 2020. The Grammy, Tony, and Emmy award-winning singer-songwriter, arranger, producer, and musician is fresh off a successful Broadway run. Manilow: Las Vegas – The Hits Come Home will return to Sin City following an upcoming sold-out performance in London.
So, you’ve been to Las Vegas a lot over the years and you’re looking for something different. Well, it looks like you’ll find that at the Flamingo next year.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race Live!” opens in late January inside the theater that used to be home to Donny & Marie at the Flamingo. This won’t be another show on the Vegas Strip that looks like every other show.
Video Poker can be an
We recently looked at a
One of the most famous
Bally’s is quickly becoming Las
Oyo Las Vegas is now