There’s no tomorrow without today. The building blocks for life happen one day at a time. The casino business is no different. Casinos don’t look the same today as they did 10 years ago. They certainly don’t look the same as they did 30 years ago. Casino operators are always looking to offer amenities for today’s customer with hopes that something will stick for the future.
Casinos and slot machine manufacturers are gearing up for a busy summer. The next time you walk into a casino you should expect to see a lot of new slot machines. The games feature new and unique themes and the most advanced technology we’ve ever seen in slot machines.
We are in a Generation X slot machine renaissance of sorts. This generation is comprised of people born in between 1965 to 1976. This is the generation between Millennials and Baby Boomers. We grew up in the 1980’s and hit our prime in the 1990’s before settling into adulthood in the 2000’s.
Not everyone who visits Las Vegas today comes for gambling. The lavish shows, massive nightclubs, five-star restaurants, different sights, golf courses, fantastic bars, shopping, spas and so much more can keep anyone occupied for a day and night.
Many still enjoy gambling in Las Vegas but it’s not the main reason why people visit Las Vegas today. This wasn’t always the case. Gambling used to be the main reason to visit Las Vegas. This was an activity special to Las Vegas and then it wasn’t. Not too long ago, casino gambling was only available to a few states in America. Now you can gamble in almost every state in the country. However, there’s still nothing like gambling in Las Vegas.
Just because you can do something everywhere, doesn’t mean you should do it everywhere. There will always be something special about the casinos in Las Vegas. The variety of casinos cannot be replicated. It’s not everywhere you can gamble with dancing girls and cross the street to gamble under a multi-million dollar chandelier.
Las Vegas isn’t the same kind of outlier it used to be. That doesn’t mean the casinos are square buildings that all look and feel the same. Here are some places to gamble in Las Vegas that are unlike gambling anywhere else in the United States.
Video Poker at The Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan
There may not be a more beautiful setting in the world for video poker players. You won’t find the best odds at these video poker machines. Regardless, this is among the most fun places to play video poker in Las Vegas. Just about everything at the bar is available complimentary while you’re playing video poker at a pace deemed fast enough for the casino. Even their $16 signature cocktails can be comped. The video poker bar is located on the first of three levels under the fabulous chandelier with over 2 million crystals.
Blackjack at The D Las Vegas
There are party pits with loud music and dancers all over Las Vegas. Many of those party pits offer worse rules than other parts of the casino. The house edge in some games may be worse and the minimum bet may be than you might want to play. Almost the entire table game area at The D is a party pit. The music is loud, the drinks come quickly, the minimum bets are low, the gambling rules are fair, and the dealers dance in-between dealing shifts. Blackjack games often start at $10 when the dealers are dancing and pay 3-2 when you’re dealt blackjack, which is better most other party pits. This is one of the most fun environments to gamble in Las Vegas.
Sports Betting at Cosmopolitan
Sports betting is unique to Nevada casinos. This unique environment goes to another level when you visit the sports book at The Cosmopolitan. Once hidden on the second floor, the sports book was moved to the first floor. The sports book has a center bar with a sports ticker and video poker. There are multiple large viewing areas on either side of the bar which also offers free games like shuffleboard, billiards, and foosball. A few steps away is a small pit of blackjack tables. Of course, you can just sit back and watch the games with a wager as low as $5.
Craps at the Golden Gate
This small old school casino-hotel is operated by the same people that operate The D. The casino floor is a similarly fun with dancing dealers. However, the close quarters create a unique energy that isn’t found in any other casino. Forget the dancing dealers and play the most fun craps game in Las Vegas. The minimum bet is $5 and you can place 10x free odds on your bet. The game is so much fun that even the dealers are in on the party.
Gambling At A Pool – All Over Las Vegas
Being inside of a casino all day can get old for some people. The summer is the perfect time of year to head outside to do a little gambling. There are casinos all over the Las Vegas valley that offer some form of gambling outside. You can play $5 blackjack in the shaded bar area at Red Rock Resort where drink service is super fast since there aren’t many tables. You can play poolside craps at the Flamingo and Plaza for a minimum bet as low as $5. If you prefer being inside of a pool and gambling there’s swim-up blackjack at one the many pools at Caesars Palace and Hard Rock.
Casinos in Las Vegas look different today than they used to. You may have noticed some changes on your last visit to Las Vegas. Frankly, the casino floors all around Las Vegas have evolved a lot in the past five years. Casinos are no longer exclusively gigantic rooms of slot machines and table games that they used to be.
You may notice that casinos are broken up into smaller areas. Many traditional gaming floors have specific gambling spaces dedicated to certain games. Some casinos like The Linq create “pods” that make this somewhat obvious to the naked eye.
A casinos like MGM Grand simply segments their main gaming floor by different table games and slot machines. This makes it a bit easier to navigate around the property. Some casino floors like Encore break things up by adding gaming lounges outside of the main gaming floor.
The casino floor at MGM Grand is so large (170,000 square feet according to their fact sheet) that the casino operator has taken the gaming space to another level. They’re combining all strategies in order to make a unique casino.
In addition to breaking up the gaming floor, they’ve added gaming lounges. Whiskey Down was one of the very first gaming lounges with a mix of bartop video poker and blackjack tables. Last year MGM Grand opened The Level Up gaming lounge. The new bar and gambling area offers traditional bar games with new and old casino gambling.
Planet Hollywood recently took a more loungy concept right to the middle of the gaming floor. They recently installed social and skill-based games from Gamblit Gaming in between the traditional table games and slot machines. This is currently a planned field trial for the new games. If successful, we can expect these games to appear in more casinos.
These skill-based games aren’t traditional casino table games or slot machines. The small area of three tables includes Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure. Here’s a description of each game:
Gamblit Poker tests skill and speed while allowing players to win up to 240x their bet in a single hand. Each player starts with two cards, followed by a single deck of cards shown in rapid succession in the middle of the table. Players have to quickly virtually grab the cards they need in order to complete the best possible poker hand.
Cannonbeard’s Treasure engages players in a fast-paced game of cards, skill and naval warfare. This game is similar to blackjack but on a whole new level. Cannonbeard’s Treasure challenges players to fill their hand without winning or busting, initiating a burndown. During the burndown, a set of additional cards will be dealt. The player who gets closest to the objective, without going over, wins a chest of gold.
Between two and four players can compete against each other for a head-to-head gaming experience at these tables. Each gaming terminal offers a unique, multi-player – multi-game machine with access to a shared 42” touch screen, plus a USB charging port, purse hook and two cup holders for each player. I’ve played slot machines and bartop video poker simply because they have an outlet to charge my phone. This is a modern amenity that every game should have.
MGM Resorts has interactive tables which include some skill-based but non-gambling games at some of their casino bars and sports books. Almost every visit to The Mirage sports book takes me to these tables. I’ve wished that I could wager a few dollars on some of the games while relaxing with a drink and sports on TV. Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure seem more appropriate for this kind setting than the middle of the gaming floor.
While Caesars Entertainment touts the new games as the first skill-based games in Las Vegas, they’re actually second. Earlier this year MGM Grand introduced a skill-based gambling version of Frogger at their Level Up lounge. If the field trial is a success, these games will be placed at The Linq and Caesars Palace.
Casinos aren’t what they used to be. There are new places to gamble and new games to gamble on. These skill-based games are still new to casinos but could become a new way to gamble. Like most new technology, the games are targeted to a younger customer. That said, I know plenty of older casino visitors that enjoy a relax, have a drink and throw a few bucks on a game of skill.
Low rolling shouldn’t be thought of something to do when they you’re running low on money in Las Vegas. Regardless of your financial situation you should really consider a night of low rolling in Las Vegas. Beyond the financial savings a long session of low rolling can be the most fun time you have in a Las Vegas casino. For some reason, the loudest people in the casino tend to be the people wagering the least. That can be you!
A day or night of low rolling in Las Vegas begins with your location. It’s easiest to go low rolling in downtown Las Vegas because there are a plethora of inexpensive restaurants and casinos in a walkable area. Options can always make an experience better. In addition to the Vegas Strip there is one other area where you can go visit multiple casinos if you want. The trio of casinos (Rio, Gold Coast, Palms) just off the Vegas Strip on Flamingo.
If you’re not in the mood to bounce around casinos, you can keep to the same location. Casinos like South Point, The Orleans, and the aforementioned Gold Coast each offer cheap gambling and a variety of inexpensive dining options.
I started low rolling days and nights in Las Vegas before I even realized it. There was a visit to Las Vegas that began with day drinking and gambling at the El Cortez. Between the $3 blackjack (now $5) and 25 cent roulette (still $0.25) we gambled for hours. I don’t remember much else after the El Cortez but there was probably a steak involved.
Another night of low rolling madness happened at the Gold Coast when I learned how to play Pai Gow. I knew I was onto something special. Here are some examples of where to enjoy a day or night of low rolling in Las Vegas.
Downtown Vegas Low Rolling
As I mentioned this is the best location for a day, night, weekend or week of low rolling in Las Vegas. There are so many options to choose from, but I’ll share my current favorite. The evening begins at Pizza Rock Happy Hour. You can enjoy personal pizza with a craft beer for about $10. You can add more drinks and still remain under $20. After you’re done eating and drinking you can head to The D for $5 blackjack. The rules are player friendly so your money should last awhile. If you want a break, just head back to Pizza Rock for their late night Happy Hour.
Off Strip Low Rolling
I’ve mentioned the Gold Coast is one of the birthplaces of low rolling in Las Vegas for me. Dining is only a part of the night. I typically eat before reaching the Gold Coast for low rolling. However, there are some good and inexpensive options. The $5 Pai Gow table is the game of choice here. The game is slow, there are a lot of hands that push (nobody wins or loses) and the cocktail service is super fast. After a few hours of gambling you may tip the cocktail waitress more money than you play in the game. That’s what I’m talking about!
Vegas Strip Low Rolling
You can find cheap gambling at a few locations on the Vegas Strip but there’s only one casino devoted to the low roller. Casino Royale has cheap gambling, drinks, and food. What more could a low roller want than a casino that’s like a dive bar? Call this a dive casino if you wish. You can play any table game for $5 here and enjoy a variety of inexpensive places to eat. This is a small casino and if you feel claustrophobic after a while you may be able to find some good low rolling games across the street at Treasure Island.
Las Vegas is changing every day. Sometimes we all have a desire to hold onto the past. Most casino operators don’t make that very easy as they try to keep up with current customer preferences. The hotel and resort sections of most Las Vegas properties have been renovated over the years to become more modern. Even if there’s a vintage feel to the property they’re probably (hopefully) working with modern amenities.
However, if you’re looking for a true vintage Las Vegas experience you can head into five casinos in downtown Las Vegas. There are still a handful of casinos who offer vintage coin-operated video poker or slot machines. The vast majority of casino machine games have been modernized with the TITO (Ticket In Ticket Out) system.
Coin-operated games are now so vintage that The D no longer offers them in their 2nd-floor vintage casino. Last year The D added vintage machines that were equipped with TITO systems. The ticket system is convenient so that you don’t have to deal with lugging coins around or dirty fingers when you cash out.
While most people gambling in Las Vegas enjoy the ease of the TITO system there are still some people that are nostalgic for the clanking of the drops dropping. Even the dirt from the coins can bring back some old Las Vegas memories. Part of the fun of Las Vegas is remembering the good times you had before. The noise and filth sometimes bring back some great memories.
You can still find coin-operated video poker and slot machines in the following downtown Las Vegas casinos:
- The California
- El Cortez
- Main Street Station
I’m always looking for a way to work Sigma Derby into my day and coin-operated slot machines are a good excuse. The old mechanical horse racing games still run on quarters. Both Sigma Derby games in Las Vegas still operate on actual money, unlike most video poker and slot machines. You can still find Sigma Derby at MGM Grand and The D. This is the only coin-operated game in either casino for the time being.
Downtown Las Vegas has been adding new businesses and renovating casinos a lot over the past five years or so. However, the operators know that keeping a vintage atmosphere is what separates the area from the Vegas Strip. The coin operated video poker and slot machines are just one way you’ll enjoy vintage Las Vegas downtown. Even with renovations over the years each of the casinos I’ve mentioned here has kept a very different old Vegas vibe without actually being old.
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the most popular poker tournament of the year. This is a great event for both poker players and fans of the game. Caesars Entertainment, the owner of WSOP, recently announced dates for the poker tournament(s) in 2017. Once again the WSOP returns to the Rio All-Suites hotel and casino. The majority of the events will take place from May 30 to July 17, 2017.
The WSOP schedule includes gold bracelet events, satellite tournaments, cash games and three times a day deep stack tournaments running for 49 consecutive days. The most popular tournament is the $10,000 buy-in Main Event which takes place between July 8-17. When play is completed on July 17, the WSOP will take a break and return later in the year with the final table of 9 players. This group has been known as the November 9.
The opening weekend event of the 2017 WSOP will feature the return of the world’s largest live poker tournament. Colossus (dubbed Colossus III this year) is a $565 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament. The tournament features two starting flights per day for three consecutive days from June 2-4. This tournament is particularly popular because of the affordable entry fee and because it allows players to enter again if they fail to advance initially. Oh yeah, the $1 million-plus prize for winning Colossus doesn’t hurt.
Colossus has drawn 43,987 entries during its first two years in the WSOP. These have easily been the largest live poker tournaments ever. While the Main Event is popular because of the huge multi-million prize, Colossus may be the most attractive poker tournament. In a sense, this is the tournament that’s accessible to the most people because of the low buy-in. It’s also a spectacle to watch so many people participating in a tournament.
Here are some fun facts from WSOP 2016 for the poker players:
- The average WSOP gold bracelet event in 2016 featured a $3,205,961 prize pool with $555,475 going to the event’s winner.
- The 2016 WSOP featured the Top 5 field sizes of the year in all of poker with the Main Event (6,737), Millionaire Maker (7,190), Monster Stack (6,927), Crazy Eights (6,761) and Colossus (21,613) entries combining to attract a staggering 49,228 entries.
- The 107,833 entries at the 2016 WSOP were the most in the event’s 47-year history.
- A record 15,767 entrants walked away with prize money, with the WSOP’s new 15% target payout structure utilized for the first time.
The World Series of Poker isn’t only for participants. If you’re a fan of poker, you can watch the events at Rio for free throughout the tournament. This is one of those unique “only in Vegas” experiences you’ll find every now and again. Watching other people play poker might not be a reason to visit Las Vegas, but it’s a fun activity if you’re already planning to be in town.
Visit WSOP.com for more information.
Station Casinos is having a banner year. This year the casino company added a new property to their roster, announced a potential major renovation, took the company public and most recently upgraded their players club.
Red Rock Casino is my local casino and it’s always fun to observe how the parent company is doing. Since moving to Las Vegas, Red Rock Casino has undergone a slew of upgrades without changing the essence of what makes it one of the best casinos of the Vegas Strip.
While all the changes with the parent company this year should be good on a business level, they should also be good for the customers. That’s not always the case but it appears Station Casinos is on the right path.
Welcome Palms To The Station Casinos Family
Earlier this year Station Casinos purchased the Palms. While they’re mostly considered a casino chain for Las Vegas locals and this acquisition might help change that perception. The addition of the Palms gives Station Casinos two casinos within a 2-3 minute drive of the Vegas Strip. The other casino near the Vegas Strip is Palace Station…
Palace Station Renovations Coming Soon
Palace Station was the first property for Station Casinos 40 years ago. The former Bingo Hall will be renovated in three phases depending on need over the next couple of years. Plans call for a new hotel tower, bingo hall, movie theater and more over time. Like the Palms, Palace Station is located just off the Vegas Strip a few minutes west of the I-15. Together, these properties will bring Station Casinos closer to the Vegas Strip. When Palace Station is renovated, along side of the Palms, the proximity to the Vegas Strip, friendly gaming and players club will only make Station Casinos more attractive to tourists.
Boarding Pass Players Club Expansion
Station Casinos’ Boarding Pass players club expanded on Nov. 1 into “My Rewards.” You can now earn points and status credits on nearly every way you spend money at any of Station Casinos’ 20 locations including the Palms. Like the bigger players clubs, you can now earn points and credits with non-gaming spend on things like restaurants, bars, bowling, ice skating, spa, hotel stays, pools/cabana visits, catering, and concerts. This is a fantastic addition for Station Casinos. You can find more information on My Rewards here.
If you’re not a Boarding Pass member, you can sign up for the players club using Facebook. Check it out here.
Station Casinos Goes Public
Earlier this year Station Casinos began publicly trading on the Nasdaq stock market under the name Red Rock Resorts. The IPO raised more than $530 million for the company. While financial matters like this might not interest customers all that much, this offering helped Station Casinos cut debt by more than $400 million and accumulate money to make improvements to their properties (see Palace Station). I look forward to seeing more upgrades across all 20 of their casinos in the future.
A day in a Las Vegas casino can be strange. You’ll meet all kinds of people from all over the world. In the city of sin, many inhibitions can go out the door. Common sense may also go out the door. Catching Vegas fever is usually a good thing. However catching an actual fever in Vegas isn’t good.
When visiting Las Vegas you’re usually here “for a good time and not a long time.” Sometimes, good habits are thrown to the side in order to have a better time. Someone might normally spend 30 seconds washing hands thoroughly after using the restroom but there’s a strong desire to get back to the action on the casino floor when in Las Vegas. That 30 seconds may be the difference of hitting the random number generator of the slot machine at the right time to hit a jackpot. It could mean a couple fewer wins at the tables. Whatever the game, nobody wants to miss out.
While seeking those good times and not washing up, you’re also bringing germs back to the table. Those germs and bacteria touch every card, chip, dollar, surface and person nearby. Germs can similarly be passed by sneezing or coughing directly into your hands. Germs are easily passed on with so much happening in a casino.
Shortly after I first started visiting casinos, I became a part-time germaphobe. It’s not possible to control the people around me, but I can do the best time stay as clean as possible. Washing hands thoroughly became a goal. I carried hand sanitizer too in case there wasn’t a need to use the restroom. Keeping germs away is a positive value play for a Vegas vacation.
To this day I keep my hands as clean as possible in the casino and the thought of germs while at the tables and machines has vanished. However, Casinoroom.com recently tested casinos for bacteria germs and it has me thinking about this topic. The report didn’t really surprise me but it reminded me what we’re dealing with.
Casinos have more bacteria than just about everything we come across in our everyday lives. No matter which denomination of casino chip you touch, it’s germier than a toilet seat, toilet handle or bathroom door at home. The research also shows that slot machine handles hold onto just about every germ that is in the air of a casino.
Surprisingly, the slot machine spin button is among the least germy surfaces you’ll come across in the casino. On the other side, slot machine handles are the dirtiest. This is something you might want to keep in mind the next time you play old school reel slot machines. The only time I touch slot machine handles today is when I’m on a bad streak and need to change my luck.
The casino chip germ counts aren’t much of a surprise. Since most minimum wagers are in denominations of $5 ($5, $10, $15 minimum wagers are normal) those are the chips used the most in a casino. Not coincidentally, they have the most germs. Meanwhile, the highest denomination of chip surveyed had the least. I’d imagine the number decreases as you reach $100 and $500 chips.
The most surprising information found in this study is which casinos have the highest bacteria counts. The study used TripAdvisor ratings as a guide to choosing a low-rated, mid-rated, and high-rated casino to perform their germ testing.
Surprisingly, the highest-rated casino tested contained the most bacteria. The casino tested had over 20 times more than the mid-rated casino and more than double the low-rated casino. The study doesn’t point to poor upkeep, but rather high traffic as the culprit with the high-rated casino. The more people visiting a casino the more germs they bring into the property.
Studies about cleanliness in casinos freak me out for a minute. I remember the time when a friend walked into a casino without gambling and left after 10 minutes with pinkeye. It didn’t ruin the trip, but it certainly didn’t help.
This study and that story are good reminders to wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth between spins on the slots, and steer clear of people who appear sick. The worst time in Las Vegas are when you’re sick.
Image Credit:Casino Room/
Every year the casino industry from all over the country gathers in Las Vegas to purchase new products for their casinos at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E). Buyers for the casinos look for everything from new games to the beverages they serve while you’re playing and the chairs you’ll sit on. The show is quite impressive and full of things we don’t normally think about casinos shopping for.
There’s really a lot to cover at the expo but there’s one major product that occupies about half the floor space at G2E. Of course, I’m talking about slot machines. The majority of the casino floor is occupied by slot machines so it makes sense the sales floor at the expo would be.
Slot machines on display come in all shapes, sizes, and themes at G2E. However, the big name themes are the games that you’ll usually notice first. Here’s a look at 11 of the slot machines with familiar titles that you can expect to see in casinos within the next year.
My Cousin Vinny
Penn & Teller
Despite Las Vegas being known as the gambling capital of America, not everyone who visits actually gambles. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 73% of all visitors to Las Vegas in 2015 said they gambled while in town. The majority of those who did gamble when visiting Las Vegas only did so for 2 hours or less during their trip. The average person visiting Las Vegas in 2015 stayed for just over two days.
The average gambling budget in 2015 was $578.54, which is less than $300 per day. When you divide that budget between multiple casinos you’re not looking at much money in play at any individual property. This budget might seem low to some people but it can be stretched out by playing games with low minimum wagers.
Cheap gambling isn’t always the best bet in a casino because the odds may be stacked against you. However, if playing the game – regardless of odds, expected value and house edge – is what brings you entertainment from the games there are plenty of options for the average budget.
Not only is craps the most fun game in the casino, but your money can go a long way. Unlike casino card games that last one hand, a single roll of the dice can last a long time. Head to the Fremont Casino in downtown Las Vegas or Casino Royale on the Vegas Strip to play their $3 craps games. All it takes is $3 to get into the game. If you’d like to decrease the odds for the casino from 1.41% you can place “free odds” on your passline bet.
Most roulette games in Las Vegas have the same odds of 5.26% thanks to a simple layout and usually similar payouts. Low rollers can visit the historic El Cortez casino on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas for 25 cent roulette. Depending on how many numbers you play at once your money will go a long way here.
These games can appear cheap but really aren’t. Don’t be surprised when you look at a bright, shiny and new penny slot machine that has a minimum bet of $1. Look for older slot machines to extend your budget. Some penny slot machines have multi-line games that start as low as 9 cents per spin. These games won’t offer huge jackpots but they can be a lot of fun. You can find these games in many casinos but the older properties will give you the most options.
The most popular game in Las Vegas casinos can be found for just about any price point from $3 up. You just have to visit specific casinos since that $3 game is only found in 10 casinos in Las Vegas. You’ll find more games if you expand your budget to $5. Many of the $3 and $5 blackjack games have different rules which can offer a house edge as low as 0.30% and as high as 2.14%. Visit the Wizard of Vegas blackjack survey for where you can find the best blackjack games in Las Vegas.
There are plenty of reasons to sign up for a casino players club but the savings you can incur might be the best of them all. You can accumulate points by gambling and spending cash to use for future expenses but that’s not the most immediate savings available to you. You never have to spend a penny to find some kind of savings from some casino players clubs.
When you visit a casino-owned restaurant you may be entitled to a discount regardless of your status in their players club. Certain restaurants at Caesars Entertainment hotels will offer $1 off per item just for showing your Total Rewards players club card. That might not sound like much of a savings that that can be greater than a 10% discount if you’re just ordering a sandwich that costs less than $10.
Some players clubs will offer a percentage off your bill just for paying with your players club. If you’ve earned a some points with Boyd Gaming’s B-Connected players club you be entitled to a major discount when you pay for your meal at one of their restaurants using players club points. Every level of player receives a 40% discount on meals. Many of these restaurants offer lower prices than you’ll see on the Vegas Strip so the discount feels even bigger than you might imagine.
Entry level players club members with Station Casinos Boarding Pass players club get a 10% discount at the gift shop at each property. That discount grows as high as 30% when you reach the highest tier, Chairman, at Boarding Pass. If you earn Boarding Pass points from the casino you can use them to pay for your discounted prices at the gift shop.
M Life, MGM Resorts’ players club, is one of the biggest in Las Vegas. They offer discounts just for signing up to become a member of their players club. M Life offers their entry level (and all levels) discounts on hotel rooms, shows and at participating retail shops when by showing their players club card. Like other players clubs the discounts are better the higher tier you reach. It’s somewhat easy to earn points since M Life offers them for spending in all departments.
Every players club has a different way to reward their members. You don’t need to be a high roller or big spender to start saving money at different hotels, restaurants, etc. It only takes a few minutes to sign up for a players club in person at the casino. Some players clubs even allow you to start the process at home. Becoming a loyal member of certain casino players clubs allows you to reach higher tiers quicker and earn greater benefits.
Players club benefits used to apply only to gamblers and high rollers but that’s no longer the case. Unless you want to remain off the grid in Las Vegas, you should be taking advantage of these players club discounts.
Everything is easier when you plan your Vegas vacation in advance. I’d go as far as saying that planning is the key to a great visit to Las Vegas. Hotel room prices are often less expensive, show tickets are more readily available and fewer restaurants are booked early. When you plan in advance you can save money and stress.
One of the biggest events of the summer in Las Vegas just released their schedule. The 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) will once again take place a Rio and includes 69 events taking place between May 31 and July 18. There are poker tournaments all over the world but nothing compares to the size and scope of the WSOP in Las Vegas. Admission to watch the WSOP in person is free and something everyone who loves Las Vegas and/or poker should see once in their life.
If you’re a poker player and are interested in participating in this year’s WSOP you might want to be aware of some changes:
- Places Paid:
- In the Money Earlier:
- Start Times:
- Five Times Starting Chips:
- Structure Tweaks:
- Playing into the money on Day 1 of Colossus:
- Registering for only one flight at a time:
The majority of bracelet (and Deepstack) events will now payout 15 percent of the field, up 50% from what was WSOP standard. The minimum payout is expected to be one-and-a-half times the buy-in.
With payouts increasing, many events are expected to reach the money on Day 1.
Moved up one hour: Most (not all) events are on a new time schedule, with the first event of the day scheduled for 11 am and the late events now to begin at 3 pm. Deepstacks now at 2 pm, 5 pm, 7pm & 9pm.
All $10,000 buy-in events, including the Main Event, will now feature 50,000 in starting chips, up 66%. This means all WSOP events now start with at least five times buy-in amount.
With some of the above changes, structures have also been modified slightly in an effort to aid events meeting scheduled duration. Players are encouraged to review structure sheets in advance. (One example: Instead of a 100-200 level followed by 100-200-25, there will now be just a 100-200-25 level).
Each of the six starting flights of Colossus II will reach the money and begin processing payouts immediately within the flight versus a traditional hard bubble on Day 2 of a consolidated field. This will cut any congestion in payouts process significantly and also allow players who cash in a flight or surrendering their stack at the end of the flight, a chance to re-enter another flight and perhaps cash again within the same event.
In order to better manage, multi-flight, multi-entry events (Colossus, Millionaire Maker, Crazy Eights & Little One for One Drop), players may only register for one flight at a time in advance. If they are eliminated in that flight, they may go to the cage to register for another flight if they choose.
Last year’s WSOP was a record breaker that had 100,000 entrants for the first time. 2016 is set up to blow the doors off that record. Eight new events have been added to the schedule to meet player demand:
- June 5:
- June 9:
- June 15:
- June 23:
- June 26:
- June 30:
- July 1:
- July 7:
Event #4 – $1,000 Top Up Turbo No-Limit Hold’em. (2-day event) – 20-minute levels.
Event #12 – $565 Pot-Limit Omaha with re-entry. (Lowest ever price point for this variant)
Event #23 – $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em – new price point for poker’s most popular game.
Event #40 – $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball featuring Limit A-5, 2-7 and Badugi.
Event #45 – $1,500 Mixed No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha. A mix of today’s two most popular games.
Event #53 – $1,500 Mixed Pot-Limit Omaha-8/Omaha-8/Big O. A trifecta in the Omaha variant.
Event #54 A/B/C/D – $888 Crazy Eights Eight-Handed No-Limit Hold’em – $888,888 guaranteed for 1st. First time a sub-$1,500 buy-in event will be run short-handed
Event #61 – $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em. 2-4 person teams. Must register together. $1,000 per team.
The WSOP event that most people are familiar with from TV is the Main Event. The $10,000 buy-in tournament begins July 9, 10 and 11 at 11 am and is scheduled to end on July 17. The final nine players remaining will return to the Rio to play the final table live on ESPN from October 30 to November 1.
The Main Event may be the most popular event today but Colossus is closing in on the leader. The new event debuted last year and had 22,374 entries thanks to its affordable $565 buy-in. The pot for winners is increasing from $5 million to $7 million this year. At least $1 million will be paid to the winner. Colossus begins on June 2nd and will end on June 7.
Having the dates and schedule of events for WSOP a few months in advance should help save a few bucks and get you into shows and restaurants you want to visit. For more information and a full schedule of events visit WSOP.com.
Looking for a room discount for WSOP 2016? Check out the TravelVegas deals HERE.
Believe it or not Las Vegas is no longer the mecca for gambling like it used to be. Today there is legal gambling in most states in America. That said, plenty of people still come to Las Vegas and gamble. Fabulous shows and dinners may top the list of priorities today but there’s always time to hit the casino.
We’re always searching for ways to save money in Las Vegas and there are plenty of ways to do that. There are discounts to be found in restaurants and bars, there are websites like Travel Vegas that offer discounted show tickets but one overlooked way to save money, or extend your money and fun, is to play the right games in the casino. Here are a few ways to maximize your money in a Vegas casino.
Blackjack has changed a lot over the years. The traditional payout when you’re dealt blackjack used to be 3:2 everywhere ($3 for every $2 bet). That traditional payout for blackjack is being lowered at many casinos to where you only receive 6:5 ($6 for every $5 bet) when you’re dealt blackjack. This may not seem like a lot of money per wager but it adds up over time. Check the rules of the blackjack table to see what the rules are for the game.
The Wizard of Vegas has a very hand blackjack survey that details which blackjack payouts and rules you’ll find in each casino. The 1.5% difference from 6:5 blackjack to 3:2 blackjack goes a long way over time to keep you a) playing longer or b) hitting a hot streak and having a winning session. More fun and/or winning go a long way to a great time in the casino.
Craps appears to be really complicated but it can be one of the most simple games and one of the best ways to maximize money in the casino. The casino only has a house edge of 1.41% on pass line wagers is among the smallest in the casino. There are other wagers on the craps table with a house edge in the double digits so be careful where you place your money. Keep it simple and make smart wagers. Craps is also a smart way to extend your bankroll because each roll can take a while when you’re at a full table. The game is always fun be it’s also one home to one of the smartest wagers in the casino.
Slot machines are a tricky lot of games. Just because you’re playing a penny slot machine it doesn’t mean that you’re playing a cheap slot machine. Some of the games have minimum wagers that are more than the maximum wager at a quarter slot machine. Similarly some penny slot machines might have a higher maximum wager than some $1 slot machines. You should check the amount of money per spin to make sure you’re risking an amount of money you’re comfortable with.
This is important to note because penny slot machines have the worst return rates of any denomination of slot machine. For example casinos win about 10% of the money played in penny slots but only win 6% of the money played in quarter slot machines and even less when you play $1 and $5 slot machines. If the amount of money spent per spin is the same you’ll be wise to play the higher denomination slot machines. Like playing better rules in blackjack you can playing longer and/or hit a hot streak and having a winning session when playing a slot machine with better returns.
The annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E) took place in Las Vegas this week. There are seminars for the casino business to discuss the state of their industry but that’s not what’s interesting to most casino visitors. G2E also has an expo where casino game manufacturers debut their new games for casinos. Some of these games are concepts that we may never see and some of the ideas are ready to hit casinos. Here are a few trends in new slot machines that we can expect to see hitting casino floors in the next year.
Skill Based Slot Machines
Skill based slot machines have the biggest buzz as manufacturers and casinos seek to find games that appeal to younger gamblers. The average slot machine player is a 55 year old married woman so this change may not happen right away. While the first phase of these games might not reach millennials, the first skill based games that hit the casino floors might help bring that average age of slot machine players a few years. When you reach the Space Invaders bonus round in this slow machine from Scientific Games you can have returns based on your video game skills or you can set the game to randomly max out at a certain return rate. It’s unknown right now what range returns will be with these skill based games but they’re estimated somewhere between 90% for low skill and 99% for high skill.
Space Invaders is probably appealing to people that grew up in the 1980’s and are currently in their 40’s. That’s a slightly younger slot machine player but not drastically and not the millennial that marketers crave so much. There are other companies with less familiar skill based games that might attract younger players but Scientific Games (they own WMG and Bally Technologies) is one of the largest slot manufacturers so they have a good chance of these games hitting casinos sooner. They estimate this game is will hit casinos in the 3rd quarter of 2016.
Every year there are a slew of new slot machine themes based on familiar TV, movie, music and lifestyle brands. Many of the biggest names are slapped onto older cabinets with technology that you’ve already played. The familiar themes and familiar game play make many of these new releases immediately popular. Some of the slot machines with new skins with game play that may look familiar include Breaking Bad, Caddyshack, Cher, Downton Abbey, Elvira, Harley Davidson, House of Cards, Magic Mike XXL, Margaritaville and Orange Is The New Black. Expect to see many of these slot machines in casinos before some other, more technologically advanced, games.
While I can be easily impressed with slot machine themes that I love (like Caddyshack) the thing that I find most appealing in slot machines is technological advancement. The new slot machine for The Simpsons is the biggest advancement in mainstream slot machine technology that I saw at G2E that will actually hit casino floors. Many will simply love The Simpsons slot machine because it features all of the favorite characters from the show. The things that got me excited about The Simpsons slot machine was the technology. The graphics were as crisp as any slot machine and the game is displayed on what appears to be 4 screens. There’s one main screen with one on each side of the main slot game. There’s a 4th screen above the main screen to show even more action.
One of the more subtle technological advancements in The Simpsons slot machine is the motion sensor. When you get the Doughnut Bonus you place your hand under the the motion sensor and actually catch falling sprinkles in your hand for more spins or credits. This is a simple use of the new technology but it seems like it’s just the beginning of this motion sensor technology for slot machines. There’s always one slot machine that offers something different and awesome at G2E and this year it was The Simpsons. Sadly The Simpsons slot machine isn’t expected to hit casinos for another year.
Gambling in Vegas has changed a lot recently in Las Vegas and that’s not a good thing for those who like to partake. Before diving into the specifics let’s look at the history of gambling in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a city that was essentially built on casino gambling. There were always beautiful hotels and great performers but people visited Las Vegas for the gambling. That started to change about 30 years ago when gaming (as the government likes to call it) revenue dipped below 50% of overall casino revenue. Since that time casino operators have altered their business models to fit customer demand.
Fast forward to today and hotel-resort-casino operators are looking at gaming revenue that’s closer to 30% of overall revenue. The change is understandable as you can now gamble in almost every state in America. While this dip in gaming revenue started because of customer demand it’s being driven by casino operators who are decreasing the size of gaming areas and offering worse odds that discourage players from wanting to gamble.
It’s understandable for a business to create an environment that’s appealing to the majority of customers. While some gamblers may complain about having less space to play there’s usually an ample number of table games and machines to fit everyone that wants to play. However, the changing odds and rules in the casino isn’t appealing to anyone.
Most casino gamblers are okay knowing that the casino has an edge on the games. Most are looking for entertainment with their time gambling. The better the odds the longer someone can play. The longer you play a casino game the better your chances of walking away a winner. Over time the casino will always have the edge but in the short term it’s always possible to walk away a winner.
A recent report from the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers showed that slot players don’t gamble as much on slots as they once did. Without getting too deep into the into casino operations the casinos are looking to “hold” more money from slot machines. This makes you lose money faster and ultimately spend less time and money gambling. You can view a short press release on the report if the entire paper is a bit too much to digest.
Beyond slot machines, table games are having their odds changed to the point where it’s becoming more difficult to win. Blackjack was once a game where players could mathematically win if they played the game perfectly. That’s no longer the casino on the Vegas Strip with rules changes at just about every property.
Video poker pay tables on the Vegas Strip have been so altered that it’s almost not even fun to play. If you’re at a bar you’ll probably find better value simply paying for drinks instead of playing video poker in order to receive complimentary drinks. You’ll probably have more fun too but that’s a matter of opinion.
Let’s not get started on the rules changes coming to craps. Wynn recently decreased odds from 3x-4x-5x to just 2x. Once the casinos alter the odds for craps they’ll move on to other traditional casino games. This craps rule is likely to spread across the strip like changes to video poker, slot machines and blackjack.
So, what’s a gambler to do? I someone is looking to extend their gambling bankroll there’s a good chance that they’re heading off the Vegas Strip to gamble. Downtown Vegas and locals casinos just off the Vegas Strip offer better rules, odds and an overall better gambling value.
Las Vegas is such a great place, in part, because there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for great dinner and a show but not gambling so much then you have the Vegas Strip. If you’re more concerned with gambling and want to play with the best odds and rules then you can head to one of the many casinos off the Vegas Strip. Viva Las Vegas!
The value of a Las Vegas players club should not go unnoticed. There are more rewards for new members of a Las Vegas players club than ever before. There have been a lot of changes in the past few years to almost every Las Vegas players club because they’re now more useful to casino marketers and thus offer more value to you, the customer.
For the uninitiated, a players club is the loyalty club for Las Vegas casinos and hotels. Players clubs started off as cards to track spending of slot machine players but have evolved into something closer to the loyalty club of your local supermarket. Like that supermarket loyalty club the benefits from a Las Vegas players club are free when you sign up. Similarly you receive points to use as rewards for dollar you spend when you use the card.
Everything else to do with a players club card is different because the properties have different business models. Some players clubs will reward points for all spending on property while other only offer rewards when spending money in the casino. Check your favorite casino’s players club for benefits and how to earn rewards.
Since your information is more valuable to casino marketers the players clubs have evolved to offer more entry level benefits than ever before. These players club entry level benefits are free just for signing up. When you spend money with the property you’ll get more rewards and greater benefits but there are a few things you’ll get just from signing up.
Immediate Discounts – Just about every players club will offer a small discount when purchasing items from casino operated restaurants, bars and shops. Entry level players club discounts may start at 5% but as you become more loyal to a property these discounts will grow to become as high as 50% off items in these outlets. Entry level players club member may also receive random discounts that aren’t promoted like $1 or $2 discounts per item at specific restaurant. Every property is different and you can find a lot of these discounts on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The expanded discounts are a reason that everyone visiting Las Vegas should sign up for a free players club card. Here are a couple other benefits that entry level players club members receive.
Better Access – Another basic benefit of players clubs is access to events at a property. When a property is hosting a concert or special event they’ll often allow their players club members first access to tickets. This is mainly seen as a simple thank you but it’s a benefit when you’re looking at events that will sell out.
When you spend more money and your status with a players club grows this greater access will extend into the other areas of the property where you may be able to have a dedicated check-in area or the ability to skip long lines at restaurants. These benefits don’t hold a dollar value but the intrinsic value is a nice perk to the beneficiary.
Partnership Benefits – The larger casino players clubs will team up with partners outside of the property to offer benefits that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Total Rewards (Caesars Entertainment), has a partnership where all members can earn reward points when they make purchases from 1-800-Flowers. As your status increases with Total Rewards you can gain up to 30% discounts on cruises from their partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line. Again, check your favorite players club for their partnerships.
Sign Up Gifts – Some of the locals casinos will offer small gifts when a new customer signs up for the players club. These gifts can range anywhere from a discount book to a free deck of cards to a few dollars in slot play. These aren’t huge gifts but they’re a nice bonus.
Signing up for a players club should only take a few minutes. If you don’t feel like waiting for someone to enter your information into a computer when you get to Las Vegas you can sign up for some players club accounts online. If you’re an analytic type and want to see if the benefits are worth your time just measure the savings you receive from having a players club card versus the value of the 5-10 minutes of time it takes to sign up. You might be surprised by what you see.
Last week we told you about saving money in Las Vegas by making the right wagers. Playing games with a smaller house advantage extends your bankroll and gives you a better chance to win in the casino. This week we’re going to look at the other side of things. Making bad bets are the easiest way to lose money quickly in the casino.
Below you’ll find some of the worst wagers you can make in the casino. If you enjoy the games or specific wager or game feel free to play it but approach with caution or limit your wagers. For example, I only allow myself $20 per penny slot game. I know it has a large house edge but I love playing them. This just helps minimize the damage while maximizing fun.
If you play blackjack with perfect basic strategy you can bring the house edge to almost zero (actually 0.20% on a game with favorable rules). Blackjack is a great game that involves just a little skill. One of those skills is to avoid buying insurance when the dealer shows an Ace as their upcard. Depending which blackjack game you’re playing the house edge on insurance can be almost 8%. When you play blackjack you’ll almost always see other players wave off insurance as soon as they see the dealer’s Ace. Follow your fellow players.
Big 6 Wheel
The Big 6 Wheel is a game anyone can play. It involves absolutely no skill and you’ve probably played a similar game before ever walking into a casino. You’ve grown up seeing variations of the Big 6 Wheel at carnivals. The game is easy, you place a wager on a number (or dollar amount) and if the wheel lands on your number you win. There’s a reason this game is displayed so prominently as soon as you walk into a casino. The Big 6 Wheel comes with a huge house advantage ranging from 11% on the $1 wager to over 24% if you play the joker or wild slot on the wheel. If a casino game looks to easy that’s because it comes with a large house edge.
Craps Prop Wagers
You can make certain wagers when playing craps that take away almost the entire house edge. When you play the pass line with max odds your house edge can be as low as 0.00099% depending on the odds available in the casino. Unfortunately the craps table is littered with bad wagering options. Most of these are the proposition (or prop) bets you see in the center of the table. The hard way wagers (rolling doubles) have a house edge between 9% and 11%. The worst wager at the craps table is that “any 7” will show up on a roll. The house edge on “any 7″ is 16.67%. Avoid the center of the table and you’ll be safe from the bad wagers at craps.
Live Keno (as opposed to video keno) used to be a popular casino game but that popularity has waned over the years and you’ll no longer find a live Keno lounge in every casino. They still exist and should probably be avoided. The game is played similar to the lottery where you pick a certain amount of numbers and when a ball matches enough numbers selected you win. Prizes vary depending on how many numbers are hit and where you play. Live Keno has almost a 25% house edge depending on which casino you play. Over time you’re going to lose $25 of every $100 wagered at Live Keno. That’s more than any other game in the casino.
The casino floor isn’t filled with these bright, shiny and loud games because they’re the most fun slot machines to play. They also give the casino a large house edge without even paying a dealer. While high limits slot machines may have a house edge as low as 4%- 5%, the penny slots may have a house edge as high as 15%. A 15% house edge may not seem like a lot when you’re playing a game at 9 cents per spin but some of these games have a maximum wager above $5 per spin. Even though the house edge is the same for each type of spin you feel it a lot quicker when you’re playing that higher maximum wager.
Last week MGM Resorts and M Life announced a new partnership with Celebrity Cruises. Celebrity’s Captain’s Club and MGM Resorts’ M life players club members can choose from exclusive premium offers throughout the year. These offers include complimentary cruises for qualified M life Platinum and Noir members, and Captain’s Club members can enjoy benefits and special access at MGM Resorts’ destinations including concerts, events, entertainment venues, restaurants and more.
This partnership encourages guests to sign up for both loyalty clubs as it offers rewards for members of both. The current MGM Resorts/M Life cruise partnership with Royal Caribbean is still in tact (you can find details here). This means you now have two cruise partnerships to choose from if you’re an MGM Resorts M Life rewards member. The addition of Celebrity Cruises just adds to your travel options when you’re in the mood to cruise.
M Life has some of the most robust players club partnerships that you’ll find in Las Vegas. M Life is currently partnered with Hyatt Hotels, Southwest Airlines, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Avis, Pinnacle Entertainment (casinos), Cirque Du Soleil and more. You can find more information on these and other partnerships on the M Life website.
M Life isn’t the only Las Vegas players club with outside partnerships. Here’s a quick look at some other partnerships:
- Caesars Entertainment (Total Rewards) – Hawaiian Airlines, Starwood Hotels, Norwegian Cruise Line, 1-800-Flowers and more. You can find more details here.
- Cosmopolitan – Marriott Hotels
- SLS – Hilton Hhonors and other sbe venues across the country.
- Tropicana/M Resort (Penn National) – Carnival Cruises
- Venetian/Palazzo (Grazie) – Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG)
- Wynn (Red Card) – Southwest Airlines
Generally the larger the Las Vegas players club the better the chances are that they have rewards partners aligned with their hotel and/or players clubs. These partnerships may or may not offer you casino players club points but they will offer you savings that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Casino-resort operators are constantly looking to expand their marketing reach so you should expect to see more partnerships between Las Vegas casino-resorts and non-Vegas businesses in the future. While the big names may be leading the way you will find some partnerships with smaller properties in Las Vegas.
Right now Best Western and Casino Royale may have the most surprisingly useful partnership on the Vegas Strip. Many people stay at Best Western hotels across the country while traveling for business. Earning loyalty club points from work to use on a hotel for vacation right in the center of the Vegas Strip is a pretty sweet.
Years ago I stayed at Planet Hollywood for the first time because of their partnership with Starwood. Planet Hollywood became my go-to hotel in Las Vegas for a few years after that visit.
These partnerships allow you to try new hotels, airlines, cruise lines and more for free or at a discount just because of your love for Las Vegas. The world might be a better place if all things we loved were so giving.
Playing low limits in the casino is great but if you’re not playing the right games you’re not really creating a good value for yourself. Often times lower limit games can cost you money. On the surface penny slots sound like cheap gambling. When you dig deeper you see that A) the maximum wager can be almost $10 and B) the house edge is one of the largest you’ll find in the casino. Penny slots are fun but they aren’t cheap and the house edge means that you’ll lose over 10% of what you play over time.
Having said that knowing the right games to play can extend your bankroll and even allow you a better opportunity to win. Some games in the casino involve skill and some don’t. When there’s a game that involves a skill, you’re going to need to learn correct strategy in order to receive the maximize returns. Here are some of the best bets in the casino.
Unless you know how to count cards the casino will have a house edge on you. Even if you can count you may be asked to stop playing blackjack. Las Vegas casinos now offer blackjack games with a variety of rules that can sway the house edge from as low as 0.20% to as much as 2.3%. Obviously you want to look for games with the best rules (like 3:2 on blackjack) and snag that tiny house advantage. In order to obtain the lowest house edge you’ll have to play perfect basic strategy. You can use a strategy card at the table so feel free to buy one online or in the casino.
Craps isn’t only the most fun casino game to play in the casino but it offers a few different bets with a small house edge. The house edge on the most basic wager, the pass line, is only 1.41%. If you lay “free” odds (actual odds with no house edge) you can bring the house edge down to as low as 0.00099% in Las Vegas depending on which casino you’re playing at. There are other wagers you can make with a similarly low house edge but it’s easiest to keep it simple in the beginning.
Baccarat used to be the game of ultra rich but that’s slowly been changing in Las Vegas casinos over the years. Baccarat is now offered in a few different size games but it still offers a very small house edge. Play the banker and there’s only a house edge of 1.06%, play the player hand and the house edge is just 1.24%. Don’t play the tie (14% house edge) and you’re all set.
Sports betting has a house edge for the casino of 4.5%. The thing about this house edge is that it’s not a hard 4.5%. It’s not easy but you can beat the house in sports betting. It can be done if you have great sports handicapping skills. If you can pick winners approximately 53% of the time you’ll become a winning sports bettor. That sounds easy but you should realize that most sports bettors aren’t this good. Skill is what will make wagering on sports profitable.
Poker is a game of skill and one of the best bets in a casino. The casino actually has no house edge in poker. They take a small commission, called the rake, from each hand but that’s all. The rake in Las Vegas is usually 10% of the pot with a limit of $4 or $5 depending on the casino. You can overcome the rake and become a winning casino poker player by learning how to play the game and the math behind it.
My dad has always been
I don’t see many shows
MGM Resorts International recently started
The majority of people who
Every casino in Las Vegas