This blog does not love commercials. We use our Tivo remote to blow by commercials on TV, and have clicked “Skip Ad” links since the very invention of the “Skip Ad” link.
But the ads in this blog post are different. They’re for Horseshoe casinos around the country, which is cool and all, but somewhat beside the point, because these videos actually transcend geography or a specific casino, even one with as sweet a history as Horseshoe. What are we talking about? Why, here’s one of the ads now.
Anyone who loves casino games recognizes this moment. It’s the moment of anticipation of a result, the outcome of your bet, whether it happens at a blackjack table, or craps table or slot machine.
Yes, that moment.
Funny you should mention slot machines (well, somebody mentioned slot machines), because there’s also an ad featuring (wait for it) slot machines.
Who hasn’t had those moments? And if they haven’t had them, what sad planet are they from?
And just when all the craps players were starting to grumble about how they feel left out of the fun (not that a craps player would ever grumble about anything, of course), another video appears, as if by magic.
People sometimes say to us, “Pulse of Vegas, you’re an award-winning blog, right?” “Yes,” we reply, humbly. They continue, “Why do you seem to love casinos so much?” We sit them down, and try to describe that feeling when the decision is about to happen, when fate is in charge. That moment of anticipation, when anything is possible.
At which point, they tend to look at us like our hammock doesn’t reach both trees.
But, now, we can show them these videos. And they’ll get it. And hopefully, they’ll join us at the craps table.
The popular hotel, at the corner of Flamingo Boulevard and Las Vegas Boulevard, is set for a multi-million dollar renovation and will re-open with a new name (we vote for “Pulse of Vegas Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon”) in early 2014.
Temporary sad face.
That means all the things we’ve loved doing at Bill’s will have to be done elsewhere, at least for the time being. Here’s our top 11, probably because we don’t entirely grasp the metric system.
1. Beer Pong
It’s a captivating combination of alcohol, balls and trash talk, and now we’ll have to seek out another location for all our beer pong needs. Two great options are inside The Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, just south on The Strip a bit. Blondies Sports Bar & Grill and DB’s Pong and Pool have everything serious beer pong players (oxymoron, if ever there were one) could desire.
Look at the ball jokes we're not making. This blog's maturity level is truly epic.
2. Big Elvis
Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee, was a talent too large for Bill’s to contain, so he moved to Harrah’s Las Vegas a few months ago. Catch his free show at the piano bar. Phew. That was an easy one. By the way, when we asked Pete how many shows he did while at Bill’s (and before that, Barbary Coast), he said 7,000. Wow.
B.E. T.C.B. at H.L.V.
On a related note: Another Vegas institution, lounge icon Cook E. Jarr, will also grab a spot at Harrah’s. He’ll perform each Saturday and Sunday, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., starting Feb. 9, 2013.
If you haven't done a Cook E. Jarr show, you haven't done Vegas.
3. Rapid Craps
A hybrid version of craps, Rapid Craps, has been exclusively at Bill’s for years, and loyal fans of the game were worried it would disappear when Bill’s closes. However, we’re pleased to provide a Pulse of Vegas blog exclusive: There are tentative plans to move Rapid Craps to The Quad. Crisis averted.
Rapid Craps is expected to re-emerge at The Quad, like an electronic phoenix of some sort.
The intimate poker room at Bill’s hosted many lively games, but there are plenty of alternatives nearby. Poker fanatics can try the famed poker room at Caesars Palace, across the street, or the poker rooms at Bally’s Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood.
You were small, but nevertheless adorbs, Bill's Poker Room.
We hear Drai’s Nightclub at Bill’s will take up temporary digs while Bill’s is being renovated, but a location hasn’t officially been announced yet. Until we get more scoop, get up off your thang (if people still do that) at Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace or Chateau Nightclub at Paris Las Vegas.
Vegas is full of places to get your "oontz" on.
6. Show Tickets
The Tix4Tonight Half Price Shows booth was a hit at Bill’s. There are other locations around Las Vegas, including downtown. Check out the alternatives here.
We're pretty sure tearing your ticket in half invalidates it. We're just saying.
7. Western Union
Yes, Bill’s had a full-fledged Western Union office. While weird, people liked it. Come to find out, you can pick up money wired through Western Union at the cashier cage at Harrah’s Las Vegas. Which we should have known before an Internet search two minutes ago. Hey, you try fitting all this stuff in one brain.
Western Union may have other signs, but they'll never be as fancy as the one at Bill's Gamblin' Hall.
There are plenty of other restaurants in Vegas that will take care of your meat. Umm, about that maturity thing.
9. Slushy Drinks
We’d grown emotionally attached to some of the great beverages at Slush inside Bill’s, but Las Vegas has never been at a loss for those frosty diversions. Drop by Numb at Harrah’s or Caesars Palace, Margaritaville or Carlos’n Charlie’s at Flamingo and Fat Tuesday at The Quad. Also try Cabo Wabo Cantina or PBR Rock Bar at Planet Hollywood. Oh, and let’s not forget Evening Call at Rio and Bally’s. Vegas definitely knows slushy.
You'll still be greatly missed, Vegas Vice.
10. Craps Lessons
The free craps lessons at Bill’s drew crowds. But here’s the thing: They were at 10:30 a.m. Chances are, if you visit ANY craps table in Vegas at 10:30 a.m., you’ll find idle dealers more than happy to give you a craps lesson. During lulls, dealers are happy to share the basics and their insights from years of watching the highs and lows of the world’s greatest casino game. Objectively speaking, of course.
Craps, the cause of, and answer to, all of life's problems.
11. Go-Go Dancers
Oh, no! If we can’t see go-go dancers at Bill’s, where on Earth will we ever see go-go dancers in Las Vegas? Yeah, right. Sin City always has a back-up plan. Find a slew of shimmying seductresses in the Pussycat Doll blackjack pit at Caesars Palace, onstage in the casinos at Rio and Flamingo, in the Pleasure Pit at Planet Hollywood or in the Ooh La La Party Pit at Paris. Please note, we’re only sharing this video because we like the music.
So, after an appropriate period of mourning over the loss of Bill’s, get out there and find other great places in Las Vegas to play, eat, drink and drink. Oh, did we say “drink” twice? How ever did that happen?
It’s National Dice Day! Each year, on December 4, casinos across Las Vegas celebrate this momentous occasion by hosting “craps games” and “providing complimentary beverages when certain gaming thresholds are met.”
Dice are one of the oldest known gambling devices, along with domino tiles and the middle finger.
“Why are dice called bones?” you ask. The Greeks and Romans made dice from sheep anklebones, and the name stuck.
“What are the dots on dice called?” you ask. The spots on dice are called “pips,” we answer. You make a pip by drilling a small indentation and filling the hole with paint.
You take photos of your kids, we take photos of our dice.
“How deep are those indentations?” you pester. Exactly 17/1,000th of an inch deep. Yes, we measured.
“What’s it called when someone tries to predict the future using dice?” you ask. Sort of a weird question, but the answer is “astragalomancy.”
“Do the sides of dice have names?” you inquire. “Why, yes,” we answer. “The six sides of a die are called ace, deuce, trey, cater, cinque and sice.”
There is a high probability you’ll win a bar bet with that one someday.
In craps, a pair of fives is also known as "puppy paws."
On the subject of “die,” you inquire, “Where does the term ‘die’ come from?” Actually, “die” comes from the word “datum,” which means “something played.”
“Hey,” you shout. “Is there a name for the pattern of a five on dice?” My, you do ask some peculiar questions, which we don’t mind, because you’re only asking questions we know the answer to. That pattern, with four pips in the corners and one pip in the center is called a “quincunx.”
“Dice clocks and Vegas,” you ask. “What’s all that about?” We’re not sure, but we know these popular Vegas souvenirs were invented by Reve White, although that’s the subject of some debate among dice clock enthusiasts. (Hint: Never invite them to a party.)
Insert your "hot hand" joke here.
“Oh, all-knowing Pulse of Vegas blog,” you continue. “Do you have any other amazing facts about dice you can share?” Thanks, but we are not all-knowing. We are all-knowing and humble.
And here’s another dice fact. At any given time, you can only see three sides of a casino die.
Craps isn't the only casino game that uses dice, obviously.
“Just one more?” you plead. Oh, all right, did you know that in the 18th century, in English gambling dens, there was a person whose sole job was to swallow the dice in case of a police raid?
Now you know!
Dice are the ultimate random number generator, so celebrate National Dice Day by getting out there and letting ‘em fly! Just keep your dice arc lower than eyeball level if you’re playing craps in a Las Vegas casino. Keeps the pit bosses happy.
Everyone comes to Sin City, eventually, and bigtime TV series are no exception.
“Royal Pains,” a popular show on the USA channel, recently shot an upcoming two-hour movie in one of The Strip’s most iconic hotels, Caesars Palace.
In the foreground, right, the show's star, Mark Feuerstein chats with actress Brooke D'Orsay between takes.
We breached security to bring you some exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from the casino floor during the shoot.
Craps, finally receiving the airtime it so richly deserves.
“Royal Pains,” which premiered in 2009 (recently renewed for its fifth and sixth seasons), features Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Reshma Shetty, Henry Winkler, Brooke D’Orsay, Campbell Scott and Jill Flint.
You shoot craps your way, Hollywood will shoot craps its way.
The holiday special including scenes shot at Caesars Palace, “Off-Season Greetings,” airs December 16, 2012. In the episode shot at Caesars, the show’s leads visit Las Vegas for some bachelor party fun.
Unlike a real craps game, TV craps games involve depressingly few cocktails.
Keep an eye out for your favorite Caesars Palace dealers who moonlighted as actors during the craps sequences. You can’t just call Central Casting for expert stick handling, you know.
Thanks to Paulo Costanzo (who plays Evan R. Lawson on the show) for letting us get all up in his grill without pulling a Sean Penn.
You, too, can feel like a TV star by visiting the casino at Caesars Palace, although you’re on your own when it comes to hair and make-up, sorry. (Although, a visit to Color salon at Caesars might do the trick.)
Dice are one of the most popular gambling thingamabobs (that’s the technical name) in human history. They’re an important part of craps, this blog’s favorite casino game aside from “consuming cocktails,” which may not actually be a “casino game,” per se.
But did you know just how far back dice go? In fact, dice have been found in Egyptian tombs, tombs dating as far back as 2000 B.C. Yes, that’s so far back, there weren’t even any Kardashians.
The dots are called "pips."
In other archaeological digs, dice dated from 5000 B.C. have been found, as part of a backgammon set.
So, the next time you’re “throwing them bones” (dice were originally made from animal hooves, popularly known as “knucklebones”) at the craps table, treat those babies with respect. They’ve been around awhile!
Perhaps not surprisingly, this blog loves casinos: The eye-popping carpeting, the slang, the clicking of gaming chips, the whole nine yards. This blog also happens to love dogs.
So, we were especially thrilled to discover the Dog Casino.
Why should humans have all the fun?
We quickly whipped out our wallet, stuffed with Blazing Sevens winnings from the night before, and acquired the Dog Casino to share it with you. We also thought it would make a great Mother’s Day present, but that’s beside the point.
While we didn’t immediately see the casino tie-in to this “fun interactive game,” we were comforted by a blurb on the box that said the game is slobber-proof.
Even the most modern human casinos in Las Vegas aren't especially slobber-proof.
The Dog Casino, it turns out, is like a puzzle for your pooch. The box gives fair warning that it’s challenging. Along with photos of dogs in hats. The international symbol for skill level in dog casinos.
Don't let these cloned dogs in graduation hats intimidate you.
So, here’s the “casino.” It’s a set of bones that rest on the top of a game board thingy.
Irrelevant Vegas trivia: Craps dice are often called "bones."
Doggie treats are placed in small drawers along the edges of the game, and they can only be opened when the corresponding bone is removed.
Remove the correct bone, and dogs get the equivalent of a slot machine jackpot, but without the irksome tax obligations.
Forget this ticket-in ticket-out business. It's treat time.
If all this seems a little complicated, don’t worry, there’s a training manual for pet owners included (as well as a CD we didn’t actually use).
Yes, there's some reading involved. People still do that, you know.
We found the Dog Casino game in a local store here in Vegas for a hefty $64.99, but it sells for much less online (in the $40 range). Our local store split the difference.
While the similarities to a real casino are a tad tenuous, we still think this is a fun way to see just how clever your dog is. Like the box says, it’s challenging, and our test subject, Bonnie (below), seemed to prefer receiving her treats the old-fashioned way.
Mom loved her Mother's Day present, by the way. The jury's still out for Bonnie.
If you dig dogs, too, you might want to read up on the dog-friendly PetStay program available at a number of Las Vegas hotels. Yes, treats are included. Delivered the old-fashioned way.
Here’s an important lesson: Just because it’s bigger doesn’t mean it’s better. That lesson applies to craps, too!
When you approach a craps table, two big numbers jump out at you, the Big 6 and Big 8.
Eye-catching! Hmm, any guesses why?
Craps is all about the odds, and the 6 and 8 are decent bets, because only the 7 is rolled more frequently. A bet on that giant 6 and 8 pays even money (bet $5, and if a 6 or 8 is rolled, you win $5), and your bet stays up until a shooter “sevens out.” (That never happens! Actual results may vary.)
Look, we can see our sucka bet from here!
Here’s the thing. Don’t bet on the Big 6 and 8. Yes, they’re big. We’ve established that. And red, too. It’s not a horrible bet, we know that. But betting on the 6 and 8, on another part of the table, makes a lot more sense.
Up near the dealer are a row of numbers, including the 6 and 8, and when you “place” your bet there, it pays 7-to-6, rather than even money. For betting on the same numbers.
Doesn’t sound like a big difference? A bet on the Big 6 and 8 has a 9% house advantage (hint: that’s a lot). A place bet of $6 (since it pays 7-to-6, you place a multiple of $6) has a house advantage of just 1.5%. You do what you want with your hard-earned clams, but this blog kind of has a crush on that 1.5%.
Oh, and before we forget, while it’s called a “place” bet, players don’t physically “place” a “place” bet, the dealer has to do it. Just lay your chips on the table and tell the dealer “place the 6 and 8.”
This is where place bets live. Same numbers, mo' money.
Remember, just like with the Big 6 and 8, you can take your place bets down at any time.
One subtle difference between placing the 6 and 8 and betting the Big 6 and 8 is that the Big 6 and 8 is always “working,” while place bets are, by default, “off” (or not working) during the “come out” roll. So, if a 7 comes up on the first roll, your place bets are safe (they don’t pay if a 6 or 8 is rolled, but you don’t lose them with a 7), while you can say so-long to your Big 6 and 8 bets.
Here’s a pretty good overview of the basics of craps, from our friends at the hotel formerly known as the Sahara.
So, now you know! The next time you’re playing craps, and you see someone betting the Big 6 and 8, you get to be the one to ask, “What were you thinking?” People love that.
The Riviera Hotel & Casino, on the north end of the Vegas Strip, has announced it now offers 1,000-times odds on its craps tables.
In craps, “odds” bets are used to increase a “Pass Line” bet, and are considered one of the best bets in a casino, if not the best, because of the low house edge.
Craps evolved from an Old English game called "hazard."
After an initial bet is placed on the Pass Line (say $5), and a number is established (on the first roll, 7 and 11 win, 2,3 and 12 lose), the odds bet is placed behind the line, and that bet pays according to the number being attempted. It’s easier than it sounds with a little practice. Learn more about the game, and more about the odds in craps.
Theoretically, that original $5 Pass Line bet could be backed up with 1,000 times odds, or $5,000. If the number being hit is a 4 or 10, that $5,000 would pay 2-to-1, or $10,000 (as long as the number hits before a seven). The Pass Line in craps always pays even money.
This blog loves it some craps.
Which brings up an interesting point. How many craps players actually place the maximum odds behind the line, especially when it’s more than, say, 10- or 20-times odds? Yeah, that’s kind of this blog’s impression, too. So, while it makes for a great story, we’re not entirely sure there are tons of craps fans lining up to back up their $5 bet with $5,000.
Why not announce million-times odds? Somebody get on that, please. This blog loves having an excuse to talk about craps.
By the way, the six sides of a die are called ace, deuce, trey, cater, cinque and sice.
There’s a whole subculture built around what’s called “dice stacking.” Here’s a look at an impressive attempt at a dice stacking world record. (Note: Do not try this at a craps table. Casino security guys don’t have much of a sense of humor.)
Also, did you know the oldest known dice were part of a 5000-year-old backgammon set dug up at an archeological site in Iran? Yeah, neither did we. Thank you, Interwebs, and happy National Dice Day.
With one of the best locations on the Las Vegas Strip (the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard), Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon is a fun hang-out with lots to do. Here’s our quick list of things to do at Bill’s.
1. Take a Photo
The escalators outside Bill’s give a sweeping, bird’s-eye view of the Strip. If you snap at the right moment, your photo will include Bally’s Vegas and the Paris, too.
Bill's is an unpretentious good time in Vegas.
Just across the pedestrian bridge, on the Caesars Palace side of Las Vegas Boulevard, is one of the best photo ops in all of Las Vegas.
We have an urge to stick our tongue in your ear, Las Vegas.
Yes, you can have our photo as a computer desktop image, if you insist. Click here to get the 1600×1200 pixel version. You’re welcome.
2. Learn Craps
Bill’s is one of just a handful of casinos that still offers free craps lessons. Bill’s has lessons each day of the week at 10:30 a.m. Yeah, we’re not fans of that time either, but did we mention how free these craps lessons are?
This is our favorite photo of a sign saying "craps" that we've ever taken.
Pete Vallee pays homage to The King with his larger-than-life voice.
4. Try Rapid Craps
Yes, it’s another craps-related thing to do at Bill’s, but it’s worth a mention because Bill’s is the only place in Las Vegas where you can play this high-tech version of the best casino game ever. Objectively speaking. Read more about Rapid Craps.
Craps meets "Star Trek." Or something.
5. Enjoy Some Amazing Buns
Yes, we said it. We’ve tried buns up and down the Strip (some might call them dinner rolls), and we’re fairly sure the buns at the Victorian Room Cafe inside Bill’s are the best.
Insert another "buns" joke here, thanks.
Of course, there’s a lot more to see and do at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall. Yes, we could go the extra mile and “look into what those things might be.” We could even “spend more than five minutes” writing a blog post. But that’s not how we bun! You should know better by now.
We aren’t completely sure we know what fanfare is, but we are sure there was a good bit of it as the much-anticipated Margaritaville Casino opened its doors at Flamingo Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2011.
Yay, Vegas newness.
What kind of Las Vegas blog would we be if we didn’t amble on over to the new casino to spend upwards of four hours taking photos of just about everything we could lay our hands on. (Complaints pending with Human Resources.)
Just the right amount of sarong.
The first thing one notices at the new Margaritaville Casino is the energy. The laughter, the enthusiasm of the dealers, the boisterous revelry.
The energy could result from the casino being brand-spanking new, or it could just be it resides on the Las Vegas Strip (built-in boister). Perhaps it’s that the fun-filled atmosphere of the adjoining Margaritaville restaurant naturally flows into the new casino and 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar.
But no matter what the reason, the Margaritaville Casino has a great vibe, and you feel right at home the second you step through the door.
Yes, that security guy wrestled us to the ground. We're fairly sure he meant it in a playful way.
The Margaritaville Casino is teeming with references to what’s commonly called the “Buffett Lifestyle,” including clever winks to Jimmy Buffett songs on custom banks of slot machines.
Next time, we go with a "Parrothead," so they can explain all the song references.
The new casino features 22 table games and 220 slot machines.
Of course, we made a beeline to the craps table. We love the smell of fresh casino felt! Even the craps table works in a reference to the Jimmy Buffet hit, “Come Monday.”
We played craps and got lucky at Margaritaville Casino! (That line's on the house, T-shirt department.)
The centerpiece of the Margaritaville Casino is the aforementioned 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar. Kind of like a shoreside shack, but with better hooch.
See? Who says there aren't clocks in Vegas casinos?
Flair bartenders get their flair on (see below), entertaining guests enjoying a variety of signature cocktails.
Beer is always top-of-mind at the Margaritaville Casino.
The drink menu has no prices on it, which is always a great sign, but they run in the $12 range, so not bad for a bar that has to be one of the best people-watching spots on the Strip. Cocktails include the Bahama Mama, Incommunicado, Shark Bite, Who’s to Blame, Woman to Blame and the Uptown Top Shelf Margarita (see below).
The Uptown Top Shelf Margarita. Photographers can do flair, too, you know.
Gambling nerds like us will enjoy stumbling (literally, in some cases) upon some high-tech aspects of the table games, including the whiz-bang chip separator machine at the roulette table (below).
We're adding this chip sorter to our list of great shows in Las Vegas.
Technically, the opening on Oct. 1 was what Vegas casinos refer to as a “soft opening.” We didn’t see any kinks to get out, but the official Grand Opening is slated for Oct. 14, 2011. Including, we assume, even more fanfare. We should probably look that word up at this point.
The Grand Opening will feature an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest margarita in history. That’s 2,125 gallons of tequila, by the way. This blog is so there. Read more.
Insert this blog's stunning, yet gratuitous, photo of the Flamingo here.
Stay in the loop about all the Margaritaville Casino Las Vegas news, including street parties on Oct. 15 and 22 between O’Sheas and Flamingo, by following Flamingo on Twitter or by liking Flamingo on Facebook.
Of course, you’ll want to skinny dip in our exclusive photo gallery of the Margaritaville Casino’s opening weekend.
Binion’s Gambling Hall, one of the truly iconic downtown Las Vegas casinos, is celebrating its birthday today, Aug. 15, 2011.
Binion’s is one of Sin City’s longest operating casinos. The oldest Las Vegas casino is the Golden Gate (1906), just down the Fremont Street Experience from Binion’s. The oldest operating casino on the Las Vegas Strip is Flamingo Las Vegas (1946). The Flamingo was the third resort to open on the Strip. The oldest casino in the state of Nevada, Railroad Pass, just had a birthday, too (its 80th).
Binion’s was opened by the legendary Benny Binion as the Horseshoe Club on August 15, 1951. Benny Binion set standards many casino operators still use today.
This blog has a crush on the Binion's font, we'll admit it.
Binion’s trivia: When Benny Binion opened the Horseshoe, he introduced high stakes gambling to Las Vegas, setting the craps limit at Binion’s at $500. At the time, that was 10 times higher than any other casino in Las Vegas.
Another casino innovation of which this blog is especially fond: Binion’s was the first place in Las Vegas to offer free drinks to players. Bottom line: If Benny Binion were around today, this blog would give him a giant, sloppy kiss on the mouth.
Other Binion’s firsts: Binion’s was the first fully air-conditioned casino, and the first to be fully carpeted.
Binion’s was the birthplace of the World Series of Poker, an event that has grown exponentially and which is held each year at Rio Las Vegas. The first World Series of Poker was hosted by Benny Binion in 1970. Read more about the World Series of Poker.
There’s a pretty sweet history of Binion’s on the casino’s Facebook page.
Happy birthday, Binion’s! Vegas wouldn’t be Vegas without you.