Fun on the strip
Going to Vegas? Here is a guide for degenerates
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.
The shootings that happened Oct. 1 were beyond horrific. Our hearts go out to everyone involved. I had several friends at the concert and know the area very well. It was sad, tragic and awful.
If you have a trip set up and still plan to go, there is no shortage of things to do. Consult this guide if you 1) are going for the first time, 2) have not been in a while, or 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. (I have a strong preference for the MGM properties).
My trips to Vegas are pretty routine. Usually I get in late and catch a 10 pm-midnight poker tournament somewhere, then get in a run on the strip in the morning, 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, and I don't do clubs or strip bars.
I will be adding an NHL game or two to the routine now that the Golden Knights are a reality. 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:
Food and beer
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. 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, so if you can, go during the week. Order one omelette for two people — they are massive. 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.
Gallaghers, New York York. This is an excellent high-end steak house. It's actually very affordable for what you get and makes a nice date night place.
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:
Moneyline, Park MGM. Brand new, this place is awesome. It is a perfect sports bar with betting and you can catch all the games. A must on that side of the strip.
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 complimentary drinks. Many places have gone to the method of giving a drink coupon for a certain amount bet. That doesn't really impact me — I bet enough races to stay flush on drink tickets — but it can be a pain. You don't have to worry about that at MGM.
Bally's. If you are a horse player, Bally's book is for you. It's an old-school setup 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, almost 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 pm, which is still very good (unfortunately the show ends at 5 pm 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 pm $65 buy-in that usually only draws 10-12 players so it is essentially a sit 'n' go (and easy money).
On the other side of the strip, Venetian has two poker tournaments daily at noon and 7 pm with buy-ins ranging from $125-$300.
Usually I will bounce between MGM, Mandalay and Excalibur when on that side of the strip and Venetian on the other. Golden Nugget has a nice room, as does Aria, but I have rarely stayed either place.
Good luck on your next trip.