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Best of John Grochowski

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Vegas Vacation: Glitz and Glamour or Good Games?

26 October 2004

A question for Las Vegas visitors: Do you regard a trip to casino gambling's capital city a glitzy vacation, where the highlight is the glamor of the Strip, or do you like to search out the best odds while looking for a better shot to win than you'll find in other parts of the country?

A couple of months ago, I mentioned more than once that the best gambling deals in Las Vegas are found away from the Strip. That brought reaction from people who are looking for different things from their Vegas vacations.

First, let's hear from Robert, a Chicagoan who'll take luxury over a better set of blackjack rules anytime:

I think the argument of "Downtown Vegas" vs. "The Strip" is a total moot point.

I go to Vegas once or twice a year depending on what my budget allows. I'm a basic-strategy blackjack player with a progressive betting system. If I get a hot streak, I'll make money. If not, I'll either break even or it will be a long day at "the office." I know it would behoove me to play downtown since (for the most part) there's less of a house edge than on the Strip. But besides that and the incredible neon at night, the downtown experience changes drastically once you step foot inside.

The downtown casinos are incredibly non-glamorous and the play at the blackjack tables (from my experience) is much more tension-filled and competitive between players. I know this can happen on the Strip as well, but I get the feeling that "the locals" might be gambling with possible rent or utilities money, as opposed to just being on "vacation." This makes a big difference in the vibe at the tables.

As long as I'm at a table where I can double any two cards and the dealer stands on all 17s, I'll play at the Mirage or Mandalay Bay over the downtown casinos any day of the week.

Personally, I go to Vegas not only to gamble, but to stay in a modern, luxurious room, lounge beside pools that are mind-boggling in their size and sophistication, and eat at the better restaurants for three or four days out of my life. In other words, I'm on vacation!

Leave downtown to the locals. Las Vegas isn't just about gambling. If it was, I could save a lot of money by just vacationing in Hammond!

Robert has his priorities, and that's fine. The Strip as a vacation destination is a pretty incredible place, with the sheer variety of entertainment and dining options, and the 24/7 nature of the beast. Others put a higher priority on the quality of gambling. Some mix it up, staying on the Strip but playing elsewhere. That includes Bill from Springfield:

You are right concerning the decline in the quality of gambling on the Strip in Vegas. I have been traveling to Vegas regularly since 1990 and have witnessed this watering down of odds each trip. On my last trip in December, my only play on the Strip of my games of choice - blackjack and Jacks or Better video poker - came on two-deck blackjack at the Barbary Coast and some 9-6 $1 video poker machines at few casinos (none available that I could find at lesser amounts). Like you say, the big Strip casinos all have the single-deck blackjack tables that pay 6-5 on blackjacks. I'm sure a lot of people play thinking they have a big edge and don't even realize the huge house edge.

My gambling now takes place downtown, but I like to stay on the Strip for the true Las Vegas experience, entertainment and dining. It's a shame that I can't gamble there. Downtown, which had a brief revival several years ago, seems to be on the downslide (excluding gambling action).

In my opinion, the decline of Strip gambling is because Vegas has evolved into to a place where the rich, young celebrities go to party and thus the wannabes have followed. To this crowd, gambling is secondary and most don't care what the games' rules are. The Strip properties increase their edge with impunity because there is less and less competition. The MGM conglomerate just keeps getting bigger and competing casinos follow each other like sheep. I still enjoy Vegas for the overall experience, but my trips gambling locally are more satisfying.

One more reader who checked in was Mike, a local casino dealer:

Downtown (and locals casinos) IS where it's at there - the Strip is just for tourists, with games to match. An online group I participate in about blackjack has been bemoaning the 6-5s for months now, and how popular they are - some sheep just walk right into the fleecing barn! Hope you took the opportunity at Main Street Station to "pee on the Berlin Wall" (they have a piece of it in the men's bathroom, with urinals attached). Still no place like it on Earth (assuming the jets in the Fremont Street Experience keep the aliens away), though ...

Let's modify that a bit to say that downtown is where it's at - along with locals joints - provided your priority is the best deal in gambling. As for Main Street Station's Berlin Wall chunk, complete with original graffiti, well ... try finding that on the Strip.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski