My Top 5 From AC2LV In 2013

Last week I looked at the 5 most viewed blogs on AC2LV this year. These may not be the most read (okay, one is) but they are my favorites in no particular order.

Tweet me with your favorites from 2013

Mississippi Stud Poker Is Your Next Popular Casino Game

Mississippi Stud Poker
Mississippi Stud Poker

I stumbled onto Mississippi Stud Poker last year. The night is a little hazy but if I remember correctly a friend and I were stumbling through Harrah’s looking for a low limit table game to play while we had a few drinks. Even though the table may have a $5 minimum you can have as much as $55 in play at a time. We had no idea what the game was but there were some open seats so we sat down. A couple purple chips later and I was sucked in.

Let’s not get twisted – Mississippi Stud Poker is as awful as it is awesome

The house advantage on Mississippi Stud Poker is almost 5% according to Wizard of Odds. By contrast a good game of blackjack will have a house advantage around 1%. Mississippi Stud Poker isn’t a smart game to play but it can be damn fun. The game has huge swings – usually to the downside. However, the jackpots hit more often than you’d expect.

Earlier this year my friend hit 4 of a kind twice in one 7 or 8 hour session. 4 of a kind in Mississippi Stud Poker pays 40-1 and you can have up to 3 bets of $15 – each of which get paid 40-1. This isn’t chump change as you can see from the photo of her winnings on the first 4 of a kind. There may have been some yelling, running and jumping around afterwards.

Moving forward to last weekend I noticed that there are more Mississippi Stud Poker tables in casinos than ever before. This used to be the kind of game where there was a maximum of only one table in most casinos. A few larger casinos might have two. More casinos seem to be offering Mississippi Stud Poker now than ever before. The casinos that were already offering Mississippi Stud Poker are beginning to have multiple tables.

3 Card Poker has made the jump into the mainstream of casino games. I think Mississippi Stud Poker will be the next table game to step out of the fringe/carnival status.

Get to know Mississippi Stud Poker:

For odds and strategy read Wizard of Odds.
Read about my excitement when I found the game last year on Vegas Chatter.

Outdoor Blackjack At Downtown Grand Doesn’t Look Awesome

Outdoor Blackjack at Downtown Grand Las Vegas
Outdoor Blackjack at Downtown Grand

When I first heard about outdoor gaming at Downtown Grand I freaked out a little. I envisioned a closed off street with a pit of blackjack and craps tables. My initial thoughts were grand. I saw a big street party surrounding my favorite leisure activity.

My visions of grandeur were quelled a little as the PR people repeated that there would only be two blackjack tables and a non-craps dice game. That’s okay, I still had grand visions. I’m a dreamer and I like awesome things.

The outdoor gaming area wasn’t open for the soft opening over the past few weeks but grand opening of Downtown Grand is today and the blackjack tables have been placed outside. The dice game isn’t available to play just yet. Both blackjack tables face a wall with a TV on a raised part of the sidewalk with a bar separating the space.

I don’t want to stare at a wall when I gamble and I don’t want to leave my back exposed to anybody just walking down the street. Anyone on the street could sneak up on players and do whatever without them having any idea that they could be in harm’s way. Downtown Vegas may be safer than it was 10 years ago but it’s still not the safest area in Las Vegas.

This feels unsafe. Facing a wall and gambling feels unsafe even when it’s inside the high limits room at Downtown Grand with security personnel nearby and hundreds of cameras. There’s less risk inside but facing a wall and not seeing what’s around doesn’t feel comfortable.

Underwhelming and unsafe seem like appropriate descriptions of the outdoor gaming at Downtown Grand. Maybe that feeling will change when the tables are up and running but I doubt it. At least the blackjack inside Downtown Grand pays 3:2, is dealt from a shoe and has $5 minimums. 

Let’s Relegate Vegas Casinos Like The Premier League

EPL Football Logos
EPL Logos

The Premier League begins this weekend and all of the discussion about it got me to thinking how we can implement a similar relegation and promotion system with Las Vegas hotels and casino.

In brief, if a team performs poorly in the Premier League they’re relegated to a lesser league and if they perform better in the lesser league they step up to play with the big boys in the Premier League. If you’re really curious about specifics of the Premier League system this Yahoo Answer should do the trick.

The Las Vegas casinos aren’t all in competition with each other (Wynn and Circus Circus don’t compete for the same customer) so it makes relegation a little difficult. It may make sense to relegate by class. So perhaps there’s a Las Vegas luxury hotel league with an upper and lower tier as well as a budget and middle class league. Here’s my breakdown of the leagues from strip area properties.

Luxury
Aria
Bellagio
Caesars Palace
Cosmopolitan
Encore
Mandarin Oriental
The Palazzo
The Venetian
Vdara
Wynn

Middle Class
Flamingo
Hard Rock
Mandalay Bay
MGM Grand
The Mirage
Palms
Paris
Planet Hollywood
Rio
Treasure Island
Tropicana

Budget
Bally’s
Casino Royale
Circus Circus
Excalibur
Gold Coast
Harrah’s
Hooters
Luxor
LVH
Monte Carlo
New York New York
The Orleans
Palace Station
The Quad
Riviera
Silver Sevens
Stratosphere

Now to separate each league into two tiers or divisions. I’m breaking the divisions down by the hotel/casinos I think are better and worse. Division A features the newer cleaner hotels that have a casino while Division B features older, dirtier or hotels without a casino.

Luxury

Division A
Aria
Cosmopolitan
Encore
The Palazzo
Wynn

Division B
Bellagio
Caesars Palace
Mandarin Oriental
The Venetian
Vdara

Middle Class

Division A
Mandalay Bay
MGM Grand
The Mirage
Palms
Planet Hollywood

Division B
Flamingo
Hard Rock
Paris
Rio
Treasure Island
Tropicana

Budget

Division A
Bally’s
Gold Coast
Harrah’s
Luxor
Monte Carlo
New York New York
Silver Sevens
Stratosphere

Division B
Casino Royale
Circus Circus
Excalibur
Hooters
LVH
The Orleans
Palace Station
The Quad
Riviera

So, why are we doing this incentive and relegation for hotels and casinos?

There has to be an incentive to move up from Division B to Division A. I propose that casinos in the lower tier are penalized with the potential to make less money.

Division A hotels can charge any resort fee that they want and have any gaming rules they want. There is one caveat with this structure. Division A properties would have to disclose all additional fees upfront. None of this hidden fee crap. It’s my league. :)

This would mean that only half the casinos on the Vegas strip would have resort fees and half would be allowed to have 6:5 blackjack. Not every Division A hotel would implement a resort fee or bad gaming rules because that may cause them to lose customers and get relegated to a Division B.

I’d somehow like to reward good housekeeping and customer service but I’m not so sure how to quantify them. There’s still some work to do here but I think we’re off to a good start for the Premier League season. Tweet or leave a comment with any ideas to make the Las Vegas Premier League more awesome.

Photo: GoolFM 

Word Of Advice To Slot Players

Hot Hot Penny Slot Machine
Hot Hot Penny!

One of my go-to references for gaming odds and strategy is Wizard of Odds. I often reference their strategy guides when I’m unsure of the specific math behind game strategy. While looking for some information on slot machines over the weekend I found something that I needed to share.

Most players play penny video slots. Based on past research, I find the house edge on those to usually be set from 6% to 15%. In general, the nicer the casino, the tighter the slots.

I’ve noticed this over the years on both ends of the spectrum. Even though casinos have to meet specific return minimums from slot machines within legal parameters of their respective gaming commissions but I’ve noticed that all hotels cater their slot machines to their customer.

As the quote states I’ve also noticed that the nicer the casino the tighter their lower denomination slot machines tend to be. At the same time the higher denomination slot machines in those high-end casinos tend to be a little looser. The same can be said for some of the lower end casinos who cater to penny slot players. Their penny slot machines will likely return a couple more percentage points.

Casino companies are just marketing to their customer. Wynn, Encore and The Venetian want a higher end customer than Circus Circus, Luxor and Excalibur and their gaming reflects that.

This is just low roller and high roller hotels catering to their customer. There’s nothing shady going on but it is something to be aware of when choosing where you gamble. 

Don’t Chase

Video Keno Game At Red Rock Las Vegas
Video Keno

Poker has taught me a lot of lessons that I can apply when gambling and in the real world. Knowing when I’m on tilt, slow playing and not chasing come in equally as handy with friends and business associates as they do when gambling on other games. One thing from poker that comes up way too often in other casino games is chasing. Chasing losses specifically.

Losing sucks. There’s nothing we want to do more than avenge our losses. It’s human nature. After listening to so many smart gamblers say not to chase losses I finally buckled down and stopped. Playing poker on tilt and chasing losses rarely turns into making good decisions. Chasing losses in the casino can happen anywhere from the sportsbook to the blackjack table.

We all gamble to hopefully make money but chasing losses rarely turns into money. Making irrational decisions is rarely fun and rarely profitable. Fool me once shame on you, fool me 100 times, shame on me. Chasing losses is out of my system but chasing isn’t.

Over the weekend I was drinking coffee and doing a little work on the photo blog at Red Rock Resort (more on the photo blog another time) when I decided to play Keno while taking a break. I don’t play Keno because it’s boring and has a huge house advantage. I only played because I saw that a jackpot that had to hit by $100 was up to $93 and there was nobody playing. I figured I can play a few minutes and snag a few bucks. Not so fast my friend.

2 hours later (yeah, 2 hours!) I was down almost $100 and a little old lady sat down and snaked my bonus in about 3 games. Not only did I lose money but I was now cranky. However, I learned a valuable lesson - Don’t chase progressive jackpots. 

Like 99% of gamblers, I’m not a professional. I gamble to have fun. Sure I want to win but I want to have fun. Chasing never leads to having fun. Results from chasing losses in sports betting are rarely fun and don’t usually pay off over time. The same can be said for chasing bonuses.

Lesson learned.

No more Keno, no more chasing losses in sports betting and no more chasing jackpots. Sometimes it takes real life experiences to realize something that should be obvious.

Bally’s Flea Market Coming Soon

Bally's Las Vegas Grand Bazaar Shops
Bally’s Grand Bazaar Shops

Vegas Chatter has been sharing news about Bally’s Grand Bazaar Shops for a while but the info wasn’t anywhere else. They had renderings and everything, so surely this was legit. Right? Right.

Well, last week www.grandbazaarshops.com went live with less information than Vegas Chatter had been reporting. At least they have nicer renderings then this.

Ballys Grand Bazaar Shops Night

Bally’s Grand Bazaar Shops is going to be 175 glorified flea market booths set up in front of Bally’s. I envision this to be like a less forced Harrah’s Carnival Court since you can walk past it if you don’t want to deal with the people shopping.

Caesars Entertainment has decided that low brow temporary shopping is the right way to monetize the space between the Bally’s casino/hotel and the street. Some companies may have looked into a long-term infrastructure expansion of the building but that’s probably not possible when you’re saddled with huge amounts of debt.

The Grand Bazaar Shops may not be the best way to expand Bally’s to the street but it should work for the typical Vegas tourist and typical Caesars customer who is your average American consumer. They’re not looking for anything too fancy. In Vegas they buy  the cheapest booze they can find (usually in the ugliest containers they can find) and playing the cheapest games in the casino.

The average Caesars customers are not the same people staying at Wynn or The Venetian or Cosmopolitan. Instead of elevating Bally’s by making a beautiful property, Caesars has decided to meet their customers at their spending level. A flea market may not be the worst idea – for Caesars and Bally’s. It’s a different story for me.

Bally’s has been my go-to for cheap gaming in that area of the Vegas strip. When friends walk into the Cosmo on a Saturday night they see $25 blackjack minimums and say they want to go somewhere with lower minimums. Planet Hollywood and Paris are usually too crowded for a few people to get in on a game but Bally’s usually has room. They don’t care that they’re playing 6:5 blackjack, they just want to drink and gamble.

Two weeks ago I loved the idea that Bally’s would be renovating the South Tower into the Jubilee Tower. I’m less excited about Bally’s today. The renovations should be cool but non-gaming entities invite families. I’m not sure I see myself wading through the families buying cheap Vegas swag just to get to my hotel room or to play $10 6:5 blackjack. I’d rather deal walking through their broken people mover than mass of humans.

This week I wrote about the average Vegas tourist and the gambler for Against The Number. I’m the latter. Even as a tourist I was never a tourist. That’s just not my thing. I’m also not a shopper. I have amazon if I want to shop. Non-gaming attractions bring families and tourists alike. I don’t need to deal with their derpy derping on my way into the casino.

My Vegas Strip Mall is full of casinos, not shopping. Downtown Vegas may be crowded but it’s seems like there’s not a day that goes by where it doesn’t seem more and more like my kind of strip mall.

Poker Book And Poker Movie

Straight Flush Book By Ben Mezrich
Straight Flush

There’s a new poker book out from Ben Mezrich called “Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire–and How It All Came Crashing Down…” and a new poker movie called “High Stakes – The Sam Tricket Story” about his entry into last year’s $1 million World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop tournament.

Ben Mezrich wrote one of my favorite books called “Bringing Down The House“. It’s about the infamous MIT blackjack team going to Las Vegas and winning a boatload of money. I viewed the book as entertainment going into it and not fact even though it was pitched as non-fiction. I’m cynical and don’t believe anything is 100% true or false. His new book “Straight Flush” is being promoted in the same manner. Some reviewers on Amazon are attacking his accuracy. If you’re interested in building and tearing down of an online poker empire and read it as partial truth you will probably enjoy “Straight Flush”. Here’s an interview with Mezrich from CalvinAyre.com.

Exclusive Interview: Ben Mezrich on his new book, Straight Flush Video 

 

“High Stakes – The Sam Tricket Story” is about poker player Sam Tricket and focuses mainly on his entry into last year’s $1 million entry for the Big One for One Drop tournament at the World Series of Poker. Like all gambling movies it touches on his ups and downs in the poker world. You can watch the entire movie by visiting matchbook.com and signing up for an account if you’re from anywhere outside of the United States and France. I’m sure if you want to watch the full movie and you’re American you’ll be able to find it somewhere. Here’s the movie trailer for the documentary.

Buy Links

Sports Betting Kiosks Gone, Soon To Be Forgotten

William Hill Sports Betting Kiosk
William Hill Sports Betting Kiosk

Sports betting kiosks by William Hill and Cantor Gaming are getting the boot from bars across Nevada. While there are some negatives to kiosks getting banned this it’s not really a big deal for business.

(Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill Corp.) argues that only $600,000 of the $170 million won in sports pools came in these small businesses. That’s one-third of 1 percent, he says.

I didn’t think that the sports betting kiosks were big money makers but that’s much less revenue generated then I expected. I always viewed the kiosks as more of a place holder until every sports bettor in Nevada has a smart phone with a sports betting app from their favorite casino or sportsbook operator. That time isn’t too far off.

We’re on the cusp of a mobile gaming revolution as sports betting expands and poker becomes legal again. Slot machine and video poker games won’t be far behind. The kiosks being banned by government should help expedite the move to mobile by bettors.

I mentioned that there is something negative here and it’s simply that major casino corporations have a stronghold on the Nevada government. You know, like every other major group of businesses. Station Casinos isn’t in the kiosk game and fought strongly against the kiosks. Any traditional casino operator would likely fight against any gaming that keeps people out of their casino. I don’t think that the sportsbook operators fought too hard here. After all, “it’s only one-third of one percent” of sports betting win. Their words, not mine.

Photo: Review Journal