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=========================================   Thursday, May 24, 2001

Best of Vegas

Hello everyone,

Spring is all around (at least here in Canada, everywhere else seems to be going full fledge summer), bringing with it longer days, warmer nights and an explosion of new life everywhere.  Speaking of life, what place has more of all the things that make it worth living than good old Las Vegas, Nevada?  Every year, the so called “Golden Spade awards” are given to selected sites, that constitute the best in Vegas.  This report is an update and comparison to last year’s sites. 

Best Overall Resort seems to be still Mandalay Bay.  The bottom floors of this resort are taken up by three entertainment properties:  the House of Blues; a 12,000 seat sports complex; and a 1,700 seat theatre.  Up on top is the International House of Blues Foundation Room – quite possibly the hippest private bar you’ll ever see if you can get access – and a view of the Strip that might be the best in town.  Scattered throughout are the eateries, bars, clubs and other world-class amenities that make Mandalay Bay the recent resort of choice of for the coolest of jet-setters, business people and long-weekend warriors from every walk of life.  And its casino is the only one that smells like coconuts.

Best casino on the strip is again Caesar’s Palace.  It’s dark, it’s classy and it’s got the ghosts of the old school still hanging around.  This fondness for the classic look and feel of the casino at Caesars Palace is remarkably widespread.  While many of the other heavy hitters on the Vegas Strip are covered in thematically appropriate cobblestone or frescoes, there’s something to knowing when to let the theme go and just play cards.  The dealers and pit staff had been reliably friendly from year to year.

Best casino off the strip is still Binion’s Horseshoe.  With billion-dollar empires now dotting the strip, Binion’s feels pretty much the same as it did 30 years ago.  The table minimum’s are always low, the cocktail waitresses are always on the ball and the best poker in the world is still played there every April at the famous World Series of Poker.   Add 100 X odds at craps, single-deck blackjack and a full steak dinner for $3, and you had the complete no-frills package. 

Recently, though, it has seemed as if the golden age of the Horseshoe has been in danger of passing into history: they have raised the price of the famous $3 steak dinner, and removing the display case with the World Series of Poker’s $1M prize was like taking the torch away from the Statue of Liberty.  Yet, Binion’s is still universally recognized as the place to play Downtown.  Some observers said: “I always win here, the drinks come fast and it reminds you of a different Vegas”.  And the rules are always player-friendly: you can usually find single-deck blackjack and big-time odds in craps at “the last true gambling hall left in Vegas.  Best craps and blackjack are rated to be at Binion’s.

Best rooms on the Strip: The Venetian.  Standing out in a town where hotel rooms just keep getting bigger and more ornate, The Venetian’s victorious lodgings were lauded as exquisite, with bathrooms bigger than some Vegas hotel rooms and great views of the Desert Inn golf course (alas, not for long.).  It all adds up to a room that can make you forget there’s a casino downstairs.  And if you judge strictly by the numbers, the Venetian comes out on top again:  Its standard rooms, with an average size of 700 square feet, are the biggest on the Strip.

Best rooms off the Strip:   The Rio.  Big and comfortable, the rooms at the Rio shine for their awesome views of the Strip and the floor-to-ceiling mirrors that create all kinds of possibilities.  Others like the little touches like the coffee machine, the couch and the window in the shower.  When making  your reservations, make sure you’re in the new building and ask for a Strip-side vantage point.  The Rio is still one of the best properties in town.

By the way, if you would like to get up to 70% discount in hotel reservations, consult the site:

Last year’s best newcomer was: Paris Las Vegas.  The miracle of Paris is that it brings you many of the great things about France (excellent food, the Eiffel Tower, real roulette (single zero)) in a user-friendly, fun-loving atmosphere.  The high ceilings in the casino earned praise as well.  If only for the French bakery, JJ’s, has some of the best baguettes this side of the Atlantic.  If you ever come to visit me in Montreal, you can compare their taste to the ones in Au Pain Dore.

This year’s best newcomer is selected to be: Aladdin.  Although the Aladdin is actually a retread of an imploded predecessor, its great location and wide-open, wildly lit casino where the dealers had non of the new-casino jitters have earned it the newbie nod.  Kudos have also gone to the Desert Passage shops, the bazaar-like mall where it rains indoors.  With imported extras like the New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace restaurant, New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club and the high-end London Club casino, the rebuilt Aladdin beats the old one hands down.

Last year’s best comeback was the Sahara.  Once a pillar of Vegas culture, the Sahara was steadily losing its luster and its favor with gamblers.   But now, a $100M renovation has put it back on the map, and a new generation of visitors is rediscovering a classic.  To top it off, a new 70-mile-per-hour roller coaster is in the works at the Sahara, along with a car racing-themed restaurant and an new 950-seat theatre for the new headliner, World Class Magician Steve Wyrick.

This year’s best comeback is Melinda, the First Lady of Magic.  Former wife of magician Lance Burton, Melinda has always been a leather-and-lace-clad blonde hottie with legs “up to here”, but her magic was sometimes suspect. Now she’s back from a nearly five-year sabbatical from Vegas (which included a stint in the mid-American purgatory of Branson, Missouri).  Now the longtime Vegas resident is “back where she belongs” in a show at The Venetian’s C2K showroom.  Great dancers with MTV energy lead the First Lady of Magic back towards her past glory.   Some of observers’ favorite part is when “Melinda gets drilled.”

Now some updates on best gaming sites:

Best Blackjack, as mentioned above is at Binion’s Horseshoe.  One longtime blackjack player muses: “It’s not the biggest or the most beautiful, but Binion’s is the best”.  If you’re looking for frills, go to the Strip; if you want the “real McCoy, hand-dealt single-deck blackjack with the lowest house edge in town, Binion’s is the place.

Best Video Poker is at the Reserve.  “It’s off the Strip but worth the trip”.  The best pay tables around, a generous club card and no wandering around trying to find the “one good machine in the middle of 15 terrible ones (as in some casinos)” made the Reserve the video poker palace.

Best Craps, also as mentioned above is at Binion’s Horseshoe again, most probably because of the astronomical 100 X odds offered.  As you read in last week’s newsletter (, this is the best bet in Craps. 

I have been just notified that presently 10 X odds are being offered.

Best Poker site is at Bellagio.  For the second year in a row, the luxurious Bellagio is the player’s pick for poker action.   Not surprisingly, many cited the atmosphere as one of the reasons they enjoy playing there.  The fact that “there’s just something stately about playing poker at Bellagio:, was secondary, though, to the fact that much of the poker scene has migrated there because of the quality competition.  The crown that once rested firmly on the head of Binion’s has moved south because, as one former World Series of Poker champion said, “The Bellagio is the only place in town that has high limit poker every day.  It’s the best poker action in Las Vegas – period.”

Best Roulette is voted to be in Monte Carlo.  Maybe it’s just a case of the game living up to the name, but roulette at Monte Carlo ruled this year.   In addition to the single-zero wheel, which, as any smart player knows, cuts the house edge in half, fans mentioned the “dignified atmosphere” and “slower pace” of the casino, while others said the game was vastly improved by “looking forward to seeing (Monte Carlo magician) Lance Burton later.”

Best Sports book is at Caesar’s Palace.  As years go by and other betting sports become the “new” new thing, the sports book at Caesars remains “ground zero for the Super Bowl and the NCAA tournament”; it’s a wonder of huge screens, huge crowds and constant activity that feels like the center of action in the casino. 

Best High Roller Area is at the London Club at the Aladdin.  A newcomer on the scene in Vegas, the London Club comes imported from (in case the name didn’t give it away) England.  The elegant, quiet atmosphere differentiates it from other high roller areas.  The female dealers in their long, gold gowns make you feel like you’re playing in Monaco.  In addition to two bars and several private dining rooms, the London Club offers 30 table games ranging from $100 minimum blackjack to baccarat that maxes out at $15,000, as well as a premium slot area.

Best Slot Club is at Harrah’s.  A winner for the past two years, Harrah’s gets the nod for best slot club once again.  The Total, Gold, Platinum and Diamond cards will get you standard room, food and beverage comps as well as other rewards that range from preferred restaurant reservations to exclusive hotel check-in areas.  This may be the Best of Vegas, but it could go so far to be the best slot club in the country, and Harrah’s covers most of it.

Now, you don’t have to spend a fortune on your Vegas trip.  Tony R. Frank has laid out a booklet called Vegas on the Cheap, that provides you all you need to know to save a few bucks during your stay and gaming experience.   It’s a small investment of $20 from your part that will save much more.  You can order it from the secure form. 

Click here to order Vegas on the Cheap. 

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Wishing you all the best.

Until next week,


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