Don’t go up against the locals
If you sit down to play poker and the dealer greets everybody at the table by name, leave. These players are locals. They play every day. They make their living off chumps like you. So ask the floor supervisor for a table change. Or rack up your chips and head to a different poker room. You want a game in which you’re playing against other tourists. Drunk ones, ideally. Use the time change to your advantage: head to the poker room at 3am, when the clubs are clearing out. Try the Venetian. Its poker room is right below megaclub TAO. All those drunk, sexually frustrated guys pouring down the two-storey escalator? They’re coming to play poker against you. You can beat ’em. You got this.
• Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 414 1000, venetian.com/poker-room
Drink for a buck at the Wynn
Vegas casinos serve free booze to all gamblers. You don’t have to sit down at a $100 blackjack table; they’ll bring you cocktails at the penny slots. So, if you’re planning to get plastered, do it before you hit the clubs. It’ll save you $75 a night. You’ll find the best complimentary casino drinks at the Wynn, as it offers gamblers free mojitos and brand name tequila. Just remember to tip your waitress a dollar a drink. Oh, while you’re here, stop by the Koi Pond. (A Koi is like a big, sensitive, fanged goldfish, and a koi pond is the aquatic equivalent of a rock garden.) It’s the most relaxing room in the Strip, but nobody knows about it – not even the locals.
• 3131 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 770 7000, wynnlasvegas.com
Lose your money in style
The Cosmopolitan is the newest and swankiest hotel on the Strip. It’s the one that looks like the Wynn, if the Wynn were bedazzled by Liberace. As long as you’re gambling away your hard-earned cash, you might as well do it alongside the pretty and the powerful. Oh, and if you’re gambling at the Cosmo on a Friday, Saturday or Monday night, do it at a table below the elevator that leads up to Marquee, the hottest club on the strip; this is the best people-watching spot in Vegas. More affordable people-watching destinations include Kokomo’s Lounge at Mirage and the coffee shop at Wynn.
• The Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 698 7000, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com. Marquee, marqueelasvegas.com.Kokomo’s Lounge, 3400 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 791 7111, mirage.com/nightlife/kokomos-lounge
Make new friends at the Circle Bar
Every casino has a Circle Bar. Usually right in the middle. This place, not the club, is where you want to make new friends. Couple of reasons: you don’t have to pay a cover, and the turnover rate is high. So if you’re being pestered by a drunk weirdo – this will happen – he’ll be out of your way soon. The only casino-goers who never visit Circle Bars are locals. And you can’t befriend locals. They come to the strip for business; they seem like they’re on the strip to have fun, but that’s part of their business. Best casino Circle Bars: Hard Rock’s Center Bar, Mandalay’s Eyecandy, and Venetian’s Oculus.
• Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 4455 Paradise Road, +1 702 693 5000, hardrockhotel.com/circle-bars. Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 632 7777, mandalaybay.com/nightlife/eyecandy. Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 414 1000, venetian.com/oculus
Bet the Pass Line
If you want to gamble but don’t know anything about gambling, play craps. More specifically, play craps and bet the PASS LINE. It’s easy: you put your money on the table and somebody rolls the dice. If everybody starts cheering, you’ve won. If everybody gets quiet, you’ve lost. It’s the closest thing to a 50/50 bet you’re going to find (except for the DON’T PASS LINE. But if you play that, it’ll piss the other players off). Head to O’Sheas, where the low-stakes craps tables practically pour out onto the strip, and where, if you crap out, you can take your final $20 and play beer pong against a team of just-turned-21 frat guys from Ohio State. Tell them you went to college at the University of Michigan – see what happens!
• O’Sheas Casino, 3555 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 697 2711, caesars.com/osheas
Act like a high roller (without rolling high)
Casinos give free stuff to high rollers – that’s no secret. But it’s hard for casinos to track exactly how much a player gambles. So they estimate. One good way to make a casino think you’re planning to gamble away a fortune is to take out a huge marker. If you plan to lose $500, consider taking out a $5,000 marker. That’ll get the casino host’s attention. And who knows, you might get offered a free room, a free meal, and free show tickets; or at worst, you’ll feel like a big shot. A blackjack player who visits Vegas all the time recently told me that Mandalay Bay has been generous with room comps the past couple months. So give ’em a call and see what deals they’ve got going right now.
• Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 632 7777, mandalaybay.com/nightlife/eyecandy.
Stretch your betting buck at the Sportsbook
Try as we might, we Americans just can’t match our European counterparts when it comes to sports hooliganism. But what we lack in aggressiveness we make up for in financial recklessness. For us, betting on sport is like driving 10 miles over the speed limit. It’s illegal, but everybody and their grandmother does it. In Vegas, though, sport betting is not illegal. The MGM Grand doesn’t have the newest or the fanciest sports book on the strip, but it’s consistently the most energetic. And isn’t that what’s most important? So if you go, go prepared to cheer. Even if you don’t know which side to cheer for. Pick one.
• MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 891 1111, mgmgrand.com/casino/race-sports-book
Mix gambling and shopping at the right place
All the big casinos have their own boutiques. Few of these boutiques have reasonable prices. They’re set up to gouge gamblers who just hit it big at the roulette table and can’t wait five minutes to give back the cash. That said, a couple of casinos have great malls attached to them – malls with unique shops and reasonable prices. I’m thinking of the Caesars’ Forum Shops and the Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood. Those malls also boast fake skies painted onto their ceilings, thus killing that pesky urge you have to go outside.
• Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 731 7110, caesarspalace.com/the-forum-shops. Miracle Mile Shops, 3663 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Suite 900, miraclemileshopslv.com. Open Mon-Thurs and Sun 10am-11pm, Fri-Sat 10am-midnight
Gamble like a local
Las Vegans rarely gamble on the Strip: usually we play cards at a locals’ casino or on Fremont Street. Fremont, also known as “downtown” hosts all the classic casinos – Binion’s, Four Queens, El Cortez. They’re not as fancy as their Las Vegas Boulevard counterparts but they do offer the cheapest table games in town and the most player-favourable rules. And as long as you’re on Fremont, stop by the local hipster hangouts: Don’t Tell Mama (piano bar), Insert Coins (video arcade bar), and Beauty Bar (local band bar).
• Binions, 128 East Fremont Street, +1 702-382-1600, binions.com. Fourqueens, 202 Fremont Street, +1 702 385 4011, fourqueens.com. El Cortez, 600 East Fremont Street, +1 702 385-5200, elcortezhotelcasino.com
Bring the excitement home with you
Sure, your hotel will have a gift shop. And sure, that gift shop will sell playing cards, poker chips, and mini-roulette wheels. But if you really want to bring some casino action back across the pond, take a trip to the Gambler’s General Store. A ten-minute cab ride at the most. They’ve got blackjack shoes, old casino tokens, multi-coloured dice – everything related to the gaming industry. Here in Vegas we call it “gaming,” not “gambling”– clever, huh? If your friends are magicians or sticklers for authenticity do your souvenir shopping here: they won’t be disappointed.
• Gambler’s General Store, 800 South Main Street, +1 702 382 9903, gamblersgeneralstore.com. Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm
• Rick Lax writes for Las Vegas Weekly and is the author of Fool Me Once: Hustlers, Hookers, Headliners, and How Not to Get Screwed in Vegas
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