Tourists that visit the Vegas strip are generally looking for fine dining, big name shows, awesome nightclubs with a little gambling here and there. The downtown Vegas crowd is different. Yes, there are good places to grab a bite downtown but you’re not going to find celebrity chefs posting up at The Plaza. Think about it this way; You’ll find the best $6 pancakes in the world at DuPar’s inside the Golden Gate Casino while you’ll probably find one of the best steaks at SW at Wynn Las Vegas. The difference is that the steak  will run you about $50 at SW. The choices of dining is subjective but the point isn’t. People that visit both parts of Vegas are different and that’s a great thing.

Let’s get technical for a minute. Gaming revenue still makes up the majority of income for Downtown Vegas casinos. This hasn’t been the case on the Vegas strip since 1999. If you visit a casino downtown you’ll see plenty of people gambling not waiting in line for a club. Some of those people are tourists in town to blow off steam, some of those are just playing there because they’re a little older and don’t feel comfortable being on the strip and some will be the smart gambler that knows where to find the best gambling odds.

Depending on the day I can fit into one of those categories but I’m always looking for the most fun places to gamble with the best odds. Downtown has that covered at any time of the day. Craps is my favorite casino game so I’m always looking for a place to roll the dice. Main Street Station has the best odds at 20x behind the pass line or come bets.

I like to play with maximum odds because the rewards are better. Entry point at Main Street Station is $5 so 20x odds is $100. That’s not too bad. My favorite places to play craps are Golden Gate and The d. Both places have 10x odds with $5 or $10 minimums but also have loud music and go-go dancers after 6pm. The music, dancing and intimate size of the casinos make energy at both places fantastic.

When I’m hanging out with friends I’ll generally play blackjack because it’s the game everyone knows how to play. They may not know the right moves to make but the that’s okay. Mathematically what they do doesn’t matter over the long run. Limits downtown are as low as $3 for blackjack so it’s cheap to get into the game and learn if you want.

Again, Golden Gate Casino and the D have some of the most fun blackjack games because of the energy in the casino and good rules that pay 3:2 when you get blackjack. However, the fun atmosphere at these casinos make them busy and that’s not always good when hanging out with a few friends. We like playing together so we’ll often look for casinos that aren’t as busy. The El Cortez is usually the casino where we can find an open $5 or $10 blackjack table. While the game is usually great, the service isn’t always perfect. There are only a few cocktail waitresses on staff so drink service may be slow at times. If you’re a boozer you may just ask to “keep em coming” every time you see a waitress. Just tip in kind.

I don’t usually play slot machines or video poker downtown but there are plenty of good options for both. The most recently renovated casinos will also have some of the newest slot machines. The older casinos tend to have good video poker odds becaise that’s considered old school. If I’m in the mood to play video poker I check to find where the best video poker games can be found.

Generally the gaming odds are better for the player at the downtown Vegas casinos then they are at the strip casinos. Downtown Vegas visitors have come to expect this and the casinos haven’t let us down. One of my first visits to Vegas took me from a high rolling morning at Bellagio and into a limo to El Cortez downtown. Those opposite experiences is what makes Vegas awesome to me.


Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gaming and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Check out his blog at Edge Vegas.
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