advertisement

Casino choice is a personal thing. Some like to find their lucky place and stick with it, while others love to take advantage of the nearly endless choices that Las Vegas offers. Everyone should casino-hop at least once to marvel (or get dizzy) at the decor/spectacle and the sheer excess of it all.

Virtually all casinos make sure they have no clocks -- they do not want you to interrupt your losing streak by realizing how much time has passed. Of course, we've all heard the legend that Las Vegas casinos pump in fresh oxygen to keep the players from getting tired and wanting to pack it in. The veracity of this is hard to confirm, but we can only hope it's true, especially when we think of that time we looked up after a long stretch of gambling and discovered it was Thursday.

Don't be a snob and don't be overly dazzled by the fancy casinos. Sometimes you can have a better time at one of the older places Downtown, where stakes are lower, pretensions are nonexistent, and the clientele is often friendlier. Frankly, real gamblers -- and by that we don't necessarily mean high rollers, but those who play to win, regardless of the amount of said win -- head straight for Downtown for these precise reasons, caring not a whit about glitz and glamour. Even if you don't take your gambling as seriously as that, you may well want to follow their example. After all, it's getting harder and harder to find cheap tables (where you can play a hand of blackjack, for example, for less than $10) on the Strip -- so take your hard-earned money to where you can lose it more slowly!

We would also call your attention to less glamorous, less readily accessible casinos, such as local favorites Sunset Station, Texas Station, The Cannery, Fiesta Rancho, Fiesta Henderson, and Fiesta Santa Fe, where payoffs are often higher than on the Strip, and the limits are lower.

You can expect to find in every casino the usual and expected assortment of games -- slot machines, of course, video poker, blackjack, table poker (making a big comeback after years of decline), a race and sports book, a keno lounge, a poker room, baccarat, minibaccarat, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, craps, roulette, Pai Gow, and more, more, more. If you want a particular game, and it's not one of the most obvious, you might want to call before heading over to a particular casino, just to make sure it's available there.

Casino Royale

When it comes right down to it, all casinos are basically the same—they all have slot machines, table games, too many people (often), lots of cigarette smoke (usually), and a general sense of hullaballoo that is completely unlike anyplace else on Earth.

But not all casinos are created equally. Some are big and feel like it, some are big and don’t feel like it, some are loud, some are bright, some are light, some are cheap, some are overwhelming, and on and on it goes. Where you decide to gamble away little Billy’s college fund really is a matter of taste, budget, and timing, but here are a few of our favorites, and not just because we have won money in them. Well, not entirely because we have won money in them.

If you are looking for a classic Las Vegas casino, go no further than Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.caesarspalace.com; [tel] 702/731-7110). The domed ceiling over the main pit just off the lobby dates all the way back to 1966, but has been kept up-to-date and sparkling. Plus, you might still see a toga-clad wench or an armor-plated gladiator wandering around posing for pictures.

If you prefer modern, try either Aria Las Vegas, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.arialasvegas.com; [tel] 702/590-7111) or the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com; [tel] 702/698-7000). Both offer dramatic, art-inspired rooms bursting with eye-candy, with Aria’s dramatic sculptures and natural lighting and the Cosmo’s three-story chandelier and evocative decor.

The themed madness has been toned down at most casinos, but you can still get a geo-location giggle with the Big Apple silliness at New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.newyorknewyork.com; [tel] 702/740-6969), complete with the facades of famous Gotham landmarks looming around you; the walk-like-an-Egyptian madness of Luxor Las Vegas, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.luxor.com; [tel] 702/262-4444), which is still there if you look hard enough for it; or the Gallic-inspired romance of Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.parislasvegas.com; [tel] 702/946-7000), including legs of the Eiffel Tower replica sticking down into the casino.

If luxury and high limits are your thing, go to the fraternal twin casinos at Wynn Las Vegas/Encore Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.wynnlasvegas.com; [tel] 800/320-7125). The former is a large garden-inspired space with luxurious seating and fabrics, while the latter is a more intimate, European-gambling-parlor–style room infused with natural light.

If you prefer your gambling more down-to-earth and affordable, check out one of the Downtown or locals’ casinos. Our personal favorites are the lovely earth-toned space at The Golden Nugget, 129 Fremont St. (www.goldennugget.com; [tel] 702/385-7111); the retro-modern industrial chic at The Downtown Grand, 206 N. 3rd St. (www.downtowngrand.com; [tel] 702/719-5100); the richly textured stunner at Red Rock Resort, 10973 W. Charleston Ave. (www.redrocklasvegas.com; [tel] 702/767-7773); and the warm Mediterranean-inspired space at Green Valley Ranch, 2300 Paseo Verde Dr., Henderson (www.greenvalleyranchresort.com; [tel] 702/617-7777).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.