Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nevada slot machine house advantage

(A short post, mainly so I'll know where to find this info later)

> The Palms asked the Las Vegas Advisor to conduct a study of slot machine payouts. The results show the following.

LocationHoldHouse edge
Clark County93.7%6.3%
State of Nevada93.9%6.1%
North Las Vegas94.0%6.0%
Balance of County94.7%5.3%
Boulder Strip94.8%5.3%

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twenty tips for Vegas noobs (and infrequent visitors)

A group of my friends and I are going to Vegas in January. Some of them have never been. For them, and for anyone who finds it useful, I've put together 20 tips that will help make it a better trip.

This will be my 7th trip to Vegas, and I seem to learn something new every time. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, so take everything I say below with a grain of salt and a jaded eye. Also, has some additional good suggestions.

1) Your vacation time has value.
Wasting your time in Vegas has a cost. I'm not talking about wandering around, taking in the scenery; that's a valuable being-a-tourist time. I'm talking about time spent doing non-fun stuff, like waiting in line. Don't park your car when you can valet. Don't wait in line if you can do it later. Don't show up to the airport 2½ hours early. This tip is inherent in many of the tips below. For example...

2) Couples shouldn't take a shuttle bus from the airport
Shuttles cost $12.50 per person. Cabs to the center strip cost about $25. With two people, it's a wash if not for the fact that the shuttle buses can make two or three lengthy stops before they reach your hotel. Take a cab instead, but...

3) Don't let the cab driver long-haul you from the airport.
When the cab leaves the airport, they should be turning left to get to the strip. If they turn right, they're headed for the tunnel, which will add about $5 to your fare. If they ask to take the tunnel or the freeway, just say no.

4) Try the $20 trick.
When checking into the hotel, slip a folded $20 bill between your credit card and drivers license, and say the magic words, "Do you have any complementary upgrades available?" The worst that can happen is you get snubbed (right, Becca?). The best? It happened to me at Caesars: an upgrade to a four room suite. See for success and failure reports.

5) Collect and use coupons
You'll find coupon books at the airport, in the cab, and in your hotel room. There's some great coupons in the 2011 American Casino Guide and in the 2011 Las Vegas Advisor Pocketbook of Values. (The 2011 Vegas Entertainment Book... not so much). Many of these are good for first-time players club signups only. Also,, with promo codes, has some great deals (e.g., House of Blues or the Stratosphere rotating restaurant for $22 off a $35 purchase). The most ubiquitous "coupon," however, is...

6) Collect and use players' club cards
Every casino offers players cards for tracking your play, similar to Safeway cards. Play enough, you'll get free money on the card (although at my play level, it's minimal). However, many players cards come with free sign-up bonuses. The two big casino chains on the strip are Harrah's (their "Total Rewards" card is usable at Harrahs, Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Bally's, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Caesars, and Rio) and MGM (their "Players Club" card [soon to be "MLife"] is usable to at MGM, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, New York, Monte carlo, Aria, Bellagio, and Mirage). Some casinos also track your non-gambling spend, so hand it over when you check in, at meals, or if you buy something stupidly expensive at the casino's mall. The best offer going right now is at Tropicana, so be sure to...

7) Take advantage of Tropicana
For a limited time, they're offering an "Even the Odds" promotion for people who've never had one of their players cards. Sign up for the players card, lose money at slots, and you'll get 50% of your net loss back the same day (as free slot play, up to $100), and another 50% of your loss back after the third day of the next month (as free play, up to $100). Strategy: Make stupid big bets on high roller machines, and if you end up above $200, cash out and don't look back. If you lose all $200, take the 50%, and grind it through slowly on a penny machine, then come back within a year and do the same with the second 50%. If you enjoy slot play, then...

8) Odds on slots are based on three things: Location, location, location.
The airport airport has the worst slot payout in town, because it's got a captive audience. Slot machines on the strip are better, but still bad, paying about 89%. Downtown pays about 92%. Off-strip pays about 94%. That house edge adds up. Speaking of which...

9) Friends don't let friends play 6:5 blackjack.
Getting 6:5 on your money when you hit an Ace and a face card shouldn't even be called blackjack. The proper payoff is 3:2; your $10 bet should be paid $15, not $12. But 6:5 "blackjack" has invaded the strip like a virus over the last 18 months. Just. Say. No.

10) It's further away than it looks.
Sure, you can see the Eiffel Tower from Mandalay Bay, and the Venetian and the Sahara look "only" a few blocks apart. It's a long walk. The strip is four miles long. That said, it's worth it to take the better part of a day walking between Mandalay and Encore. North of that, though, it's acres of desert and crappy casinos. But when you're walking...

11) Obey pedestrian controls as if you were in Seattle
On average, a pedestrian gets killed in Vegas every four days. Not good odds for the price. Take a hint from the chicken -- there's better ways to cross the road. And while you're hoofing it to the next casino...

12) Ignore the porn slappers and time share weasels
Be rude without feeling bad. There's sleazy people on the street handing out cards with porn on them hoping you'll call their client for a good time. If you take one, the rest will surround you like a pack of hyenas trying to get you to take theirs, too. There's weasels on the street offering free show tickets in exchange for watching a time share presentation. If you waste your time doing this, well, see tip number 1. Don't say no, don't acknowledge their presence. Just keep walking.

13) You can't catch the bus at the casino; you can't catch a cab on the strip; you can't catch the monorail anywhere convenient.
Cabs aren't allowed to pick up passengers on the strip. Catch one at the nearest hotel. On the strip, you can catch the double-decker bus ("The Deuce") at $5 for a two hour pass, or $7 for a 24-hour pass. During busy times, the Deuce isn't much faster than walking, but it will get you there. There's also free trams between Treasure Island and Mirage; between Monte Carlo, Aria, and Bellago; and between Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Excalibur. The monorail is expensive and sucks. The Deuce is the most cost effective way to get downtown, but...

14) Save Fremont Street downtown for later.
If this is your first time in Vegas, you'll be doing too much to waste time downtown. Save it for next time. Instead...

15) Watch the Bellagio fountain show.
It's the best free show in town, hands down. Pirate wenches, sleeping lions, and fake volcanos are distant wannabes. Bellagio also has a beautiful conservatory and great Chuhuly glasswork in the lobby. It also has good food, like most of Vegas. So don't forget...

16) Splurge on a good meal
Some of the best chefs in the world have their restaurants on the strip. Your tastes certainly vary from mine, but you're sure to find what you're looking for. After you drop $100 on a meal...

17) Max out the Buffet of Buffets
Harrah's is offering the "Buffet of Buffets" for $39.99: 24 hours of all-you-can-eat access to seven of their buffets:

  • Harrah's Las Vegas: Flavors
  • Flamingo: Paradise Garden Buffet (nasty! don't do it!)
  • Imperial Palace: Emperor's Buffet (even worse!)
  • Paris: Le Village Buffet
  • Rio: Carnival World Buffet
  • Caesars Palace: Lago Buffet
  • Planet Hollywood: Spice Market Buffet (yummo!)
For the most value, start with a late dinner one night and finish with an earlier dinner the next. Follow it up with a show. And by the way...

18) Don't pay full price for a show has booths up and down the strip. Your hotel magazine or the coupon book you grabbed in the cab probably has a discount on their service fee. They sell show tickets at between 20% and 50% off.

19) Buy a case of water for your room.
Get it from the ABC store, or Walgreens, or somewhere cheap. You'll want it when you wake up with a hangover, or even with no hangover. Even though it's winter, you're still in the desert. Drink up.

20) A final tip: Tip.
Tips are the grease that lets the Vegas machine work smoothly. That $20 tip in number 4 above is a good example of this. Among some others you'll encounter:

  • Waitresses: $1 a drink. $2 will be remembered. Starting $5 will get you instant drink service for your next several.
  • Table game dealers: $5 an hour. Or make a bet on their behalf.
  • Poker dealers: $1-$3 per pot, when you win. 5-10% of tournament winnings.
  • Housekeeping: $1-$2 a day. Maybe I'm a jerk, but I find it a good way to get rid of my change so I don't have to carry it back through the airport.
  • Cab drivers: 15% of the fare.
  • Valet: $1-$2 when you retrieve your car.
  • Slot machine attendants: For handpays (i.e., winnings over $1200), $20 or 1% of your winnings, whatever's more. I should be so lucky to have this problem.

(Edit: formatting clean up)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

New old poker room in Lakewood

I was reading the Western Gambling Journal at lunch this afternoon and was surprised to see an article/ad for Bowlero Card Room. I walked through there several weeks ago and nothing was happening, so they must have just recently re-opened. There's no talk in the article about blackjack or Pai Gow or any of the other house banked games, so I'm guessing that it's just an old-school poker room.

The regular game, according to the article, is $3/$6 with a kill, Hold 'Em or Omaha. The last time I was there, they seemed to spread Omaha exclusively. I've got no idea if this has changed. Unlike every other card room I've been to in the northwest, their rake is a timed rake -- every 30 minutes, players pay $2.50. It's unusual for here, but I hear that it's not uncommon on the east coast.

They also tantalizingly mention a "quarter game", which I first thought meant $25/$50, but the Journal's poker room listing shows as a 25¢/50¢ game, with a $1.50 per half-hour rake. I'd play Omaha at that level.

Another surprise: twice a day, they're offering a $5 buy-in tournament. Realistically, with add-ons, it's a $25 tournament, but I can see some folks buying in for the minimum.

South sound tournaments

I couldn't find a good, comprehensive list of tournaments in the south sound, so I compiled my own. ( is the best I've found). My list follows. Note that Emerald Queen, Red Wind, and Great American Lakewood don't have poker rooms, so they're not in the list.

CasinoOut-of-pocket max buy-inWhen?Game
Bowlero (Lakewood)$25Daily, 2:00 PMHold 'Em
Bowlero (Lakewood)$25Daily, 7:00 PMHold 'Em
Freddies (Fife)$40Daily, 11:30 AMHold 'Em
Freddies (Fife)$65Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, 7:00 AMHold 'Em
Hawks Prairie (Lacey)$100Tuesday, 7:00 PMHold 'Em
Hawks Prairie (Lacey)$60Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, 6:00 PMHold 'Em
Hawks Prairie (Lacey)$40Daily, 10:30 AMHold 'Em
Little Creek (Shelton)$35Sunday, 5:00 PMLimit Omaha Hi/Lo
Little Creek (Shelton)$25 + $20 rebuysMonday, 7:00 PMHold 'Em
Little Creek (Shelton)$35Tuesday, 7:00 PMHold 'Em (bounty)
Little Creek (Shelton)$45Wednesday, 6:00 PMHold 'Em
Little Creek (Shelton)$55Thursday, 7:00 PMHold 'Em
Little Creek (Shelton)$35Friday, 10:00 AMHold 'Em
Little Creek (Shelton)$35Friday, 6:00 PMHold 'Em (bounty)
Little Creek (Shelton)$35Saturday, 10:00 AMHold 'Em
Little Creek (Shelton)$35Saturday, 5:00 PMHold 'Em (bounty)
Lucky Eagle (Rochester)$40Tuesdays, 6:00 PMOmaha high, bounty
Lucky Eagle (Rochester)$135First Wednesday, 6:00 PMHold 'Em
Lucky Eagle (Rochester)$40Wednesday-Friday, 6:00 PMHold 'Em
Lucky Eagle (Rochester)$60Saturday-Sunday, 1:00 PMHold 'Em
Lucky Eagle (Rochester)$60Monday, 6:00 PMHold 'Em
Macau (Lakewood)$35Daily, 11:30 AMHold 'Em
Muckleshoot (Auburn)$60 + unlimited $20 rebuysSaturday, noonHold 'Em
Muckleshoot (Auburn)$65Monday-Thursday, 7:00 PMHold 'Em
Palace (Lakewood)$22Monday-Friday, 8:30 AMHold 'Em
Palace (Lakewood)$42Saturday, Sunday, 8:30 AMHold 'Em
PJ Pockets (Federal Way)$20Daily, 10:15 AMHold 'Em
Point Defiance (Ruston)Unknown

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Supremes, Pokerstars say no to Washington poker

How'd I miss this? From the September 23 Seattle PI:

High Court upholds state ban on Internet poker, online gambling
The state ban on Internet gambling does not violate the U.S. Constitution, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a decision released Thursday morning.

Hearing a lawsuit by a Washington online poker player, the state's high court heard argument that the Legislature violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution when it enacted a ban on Internet gambling. ...

Writing for the court, Justice Richard B. Sanders disagreed, finding that the Legislature did not overreach in restricting online gambling.
The immediate result? As of September 30:

Same for real money tournaments. (EDIT: And freerolls.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Happy Days: paperwork filed, but back taxes remain

According to an October 2 story in the News Tribune, Happy Days finally filed their accounting paperwork with the state on September 16. Expect a slap on the wrist from the Gambling Commission.

Its next deadline: paying the city of Lakewood $35,500+ in back taxes before the end of October, or risk losing its business license.

And, well, these contrasting paragraphs don't sound good:

Happy Days owner Douglas Searle said the Aug. 28 closure is temporary and that interest is high among potential investors who could provide capital to help reopen soon.

[T]he Washington Recreational Gaming Association of Washington, a card room trade group, said the chief “killers” of the businesses are the economy and Indian casinos, which can offer more games – including craps and roulette – higher limits and more tables than card rooms. “Happy Days is a complete victim of that... It just can’t compete with the Emerald Queen,”

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dave and Busters in Seattle?

Interesting tidbits from this quarter's Focus on Gambling newsletter from the Washington State Gambling Commission:
  • Dave and Busters is asking for changes to amusement game rules. Does this mean the chain's planning on having a restaurant closer than Sacramento?
  • Texas Hold 'Em wagering limits won't increase to $100 until at least May 2012, except for those casinos in a pilot program.
  • The number of "house banked card rooms" (i.e., non-tribal casinos) in the state dropped from a high of 96 in 2006 to 66 this year. This is the largest change -- positive or negative -- since 1999, the year after they became legal.
  • No news about Happy Days, because it's only reporting April, May, and June violations.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another Lakewood poker room down

Happy Days has been closed since August 30. According to the state Gambling Commission, they've yet to file their financial statements, which were due April 30. Perhaps not coincidentally, the WSGC filed a Notice of Administrative Charges against Happy Days. No telling if they're closed for good, but I'm not optimistic.

See WSGC Pending Cases and Final Orders > then to Organizations > 2010 > Happy Days.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

One less poker room in Lakewood

Great American Casino has gotten rid of their poker tables. There's only three poker rooms in Lakewood now: 8 tables at Palace, 4 at Macau, and 3 at Happy Days. Great American replaced them with a Let It Ride table and another blackjack table.

This isn't much of a surprise, since I never saw all three tables running, and they replaced one of the three with a blackjack table last month. The last three times I've tried to play poker there, there hasn't been a game going, and the dealers were just sitting around watching the clock. I think we have a good sense of how many tables the economy in Lakewood will support.

I might as well update y'all on the local poker room status: There are other poker rooms nearby at Freddie's in Fife, at Hawk's Prairie in Lacey, and I think there's still Omaha being spread at the Point Defiance Casino near the entrance to Pt. Defiance Park, in Ruston. There are no poker tables at either Emerald Queen location. The next nearest, as far as I know, are Red Wind near Yelm, and Muckleshoot, the largest poker room in the state. PJ Pockets in Federal Way is currently "closed for remodeling" according to the sign out front, but the reasons were really economic. Federal Way recently cut its gambling tax from 20 percent to 10 percent in order to help the casino return to profitability, and so the city won't lose 100% of the casino's gambling revenue.