Las Vegas is kind of a home away from home for me. The station sends us on several trips a year for major fights, and I have gone countless times for poker and horse racing tournaments over the years.
One of the questions we often get asked on the show is what to do on a trip to Vegas. So this post is for you if… a) you are going for the first time; b) have not been in a while; c) have been many times but want to try something different. This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive. This is just a look at the places I like to go when I am there.
My trips to Vegas are pretty routine. Usually I get in late and catch a 10 p.m.-12 a.m. poker tournament somewhere, then get in a run on the strip in the mornings, followed by a morning poker tournament and some horse/sports book time. Then we do the show, rinse and repeat. I always stay on the strip, so I can’t help much with anything not in that area. I also don’t do clubs or strip bars, so you will have to look elsewhere for help on that.
(Next year I will be adding an NHL game or two to the routine. That T Mobile Arena is an absolute palace). With all that in mind, here is a list of must-dos for the degenerates in all of us:
There is no shortage of overpriced, average food on the strip. You can pretty much assume any restaurant poking out of a casino on the strip is going to have bad service, cost too much and have average food. There are, however, some exceptions:
Burger Bar, Mandalay Bay. I hit this place up a couple times per trip. The burgers are excellent and a fair price for what you get. They also have an outstanding beer collection. My favorite lunch/dinner spot in Vegas.
Peppermill. Even though you might not have ever been there, you have seen it in countless movies, most notably Casino. Fantastic, old school atmosphere. It’s a great breakfast place, but the lines on weekends are ridiculous. If you can go during the week, try it then. Just order one omelette, though, for two people. They are massive. Also a great dinner place but I only make it for breakfast. It’s at the far end of the Trump side of the strip, so quite the walk from MGM Grand, where we usually stay. But there is a monorail that will get you there.
Hooters. Before you laugh, they have a $9.99 prime rib special. It is very solid for the price and a nice, inexpensive supper option.
Public House, The Venetian. Another place with an outstanding beer collection and really decent food. A little overpriced but this is the best place on that end of the strip.
The Pub at Monte Carlo. At one time, this was the best beer bar in Vegas. It’s still pretty good, but they no longer have cellar options with rare beer.
Beerhaus. A new addition near T Mobile Arena, they offer a really good beer menu and decent food.
RACE AND SPORTS BOOKS
In truth, any strip casino is going to have a good race and sports book. If you have a choice, however, and don’t mind walking, these are my five favorites:
Lagasse’s Stadium, Venetian: This is simply a palace and a terrific place to watch college football or the NFL. Warning: Get there early. It fills up fast. They also have a second sports book in the Venetian that is amazing as well.
Mandalay Bay: I spend a lot of time at this casino between the Burger Bar and the poker room. The Race and Sports book is first class and well worth your time.
MGM Grand: An old-school, quality book, this is where I have spent most of my time over the years. Also, if you have a wagering ticket, you get the complimentary drinks. Many places have gone to the drink coupon for a certain amount bet method. That doesn’t really impact me — I bet enough races to stay flush on drink tickets — but it can be a pain in the ass. You don’t have to worry about that at MGM.
Bally’s: If you are a horseplayer, Bally’s book is for you. It’s an old school set-up but it is heaven if you are betting on the ponies. A lot of places shuffle the horse players off into a corner. Not Bally’s.
Excalibur: This one is a little underrated. They do have the drink coupons, which is a pain, but the staff is friendly and it is right next to the poker room, so you can get some bets in while playing cards.
Like sports books, every casino on the strip has one, and it just depends on what you are looking for. I generally like to play tournaments, but because of our show schedule we are usually unable to play anything but small dollar tourneys. ($40-$85). Cardplayer has a daily schedule of tournaments you can check out here.
When I play cash in Vegas, it is almost exclusively the 2-5 at MGM Grand.
For years, the Bellagio was the place to be. At one time they had daily $500 tournaments and a $1,000 on Friday. They have scaled that back. They now have a daily $125 tournament at 5 p.m., which are still very good (unfortunately the show ends at 5 p.m. so I never get to play them). The Wynn also has some nice tournaments from $125-$225 buy-ins.
For late night tourneys, it depends on which end of the strip you are on. If you are on the MGM side, then you have lots of options. The MGM has two tourneys a night with good structure. Excalibur has an underrated tournament. Mandalay Bay has a 10 p.m. $65 buy in that usually only draws 10-12 players so it is essentially a sit n go (and easy money). Luxor has late night tournaments too but that is a casino of last resort.
On the other side of the strip, Treasure Island has a nice series of tournaments that run throughout the day (including a late-night one that usually brings in a lot of drunks and easy chip-building). If you want bigger game (and a bigger payout), Venetian has two poker tournaments daily at noon and 7 p.m. with buy-ins ranging from $125-$300.
Usually I will bounce between MGM, Mandalay and Excalibur when on that side of the strip and T.I. and Venetian on the other. Golden Nugget has a nice room, as does Aria, but I have rarely stayed either place.
So that’s it. Good luck on your next trip.