Where’s The Best Place to Play Video Poker?
There is no ‘right’ answer—it all comes down to personal preference
by Bob Dancer
Every month I get at least three emails with some variation of the following: “I’ll be in Las Vegas next month and I want to know the best place to play video poker.”
It’s very understandable why this information is desired. After all, if you only have ten playing hours in a trip, you don’t want to spend eight of them scouting for a good game to play. But I can’t help with the problem unless I know a LOT more information than was included in the email. Information such as:
What denomination do you play? If you only play for quarters, and I tell you the best game for ten-dollar machines, it doesn’t help you at all.
What game(s) do you know how to play? Many players only know 9/6 Jacks or Better, for example. This is not a profitable choice for Las Vegas, by and large, but knowing ANY game well is better than not knowing a game well. Still, if I tell you where a good Deuces Wild game is, it doesn’t do you any good.
Do you already have a room reservation? If you’re staying in the northwest part of the Vegas valley, good games in the southeast aren’t particularly attractive. If you don’t have a room, are you planning to stay where you play? Some casinos have much better hotels associated with them than others. Is this a priority for you?
Are meal comps important to you, and if so, how much of a lesser game are you willing to tolerate to get better meals?
Is security an issue? Some casinos are in a rough part of town. This is less of a concern to young, healthy males than to senior couples.
Is breathing mandatory? Some casinos with otherwise acceptable games are extremely smoky. Does this eliminate them from consideration for you?
Do you have another agenda for the weekend other than good video poker? Do you care how old and/or wealthy the other patrons in the casino are? Do you care if the pool has optional topless sunbathing? Do you care whether the cocktail waitresses serve your particular brand of beer? Is country western music playing in the background a plus or a minus?
Where have you obtained preferred status? Although names vary, many casinos have a regular card, a gold card, and a diamond card. These sometimes come with extras that can affect which game is best. Similarly, if you need to play $50,000 at one casino on this trip to maintain your preferred status, that strongly limits where you can play.
How frequently do you come to Las Vegas? This can affect what kind of slot club is useful. Some casinos in Vegas offer same-day cashback and others send you checks in the mail, for which you must come back to collect them. If you are an irregular visitor to Vegas, this affects the choice.
Are you planning on having a car for the trip? If not, do you have an aversion to riding the city bus or monorail, or paying higher prices for a cab or limo?
Do you have travel companions that affect your choice? Some casinos don’t welcome children, for example, and others have movie theaters, child-watching facilities, and video arcades. Sometimes being near a shopping center or being in a casino with a great sports book is mandatory for someone in your party.
Even if you give me all of this information, the choice of where to play might not be unique. There are “chocolate or vanilla” decisions where different people will come up with different conclusions. How can I possibly know all your preferences?
I spend time each month scouting casinos, but when I do, I’m generally looking at $5 and higher machines, which are the ones I’m personally interested in playing. I am reasonably familiar with the best quarter and dollar games in most casinos, but it’s not a priority to me to stay up to date on this. And since I live in the southeast section of the valley, it’s often four or five months between scouting trips to the northeast.
For the casinos I frequent, I know what kind of mail they send to Las Vegas locals or at least the high-roller locals. But they often send very different offers to out-of-towners, or the low rollers or the mid-rollers. And the casinos I don’t frequent, I often have no idea at all. And this can affect where to play.
I teach regular classes alternating between the two Fiesta casinos, which at the time of this writing rank first and second in the number of 100% games in Las Vegas. Although the classes are free to the students, I am well paid for teaching them. Both Fiestas are legitimately in the top few casinos to play at for dollars and less, but if I recommend them to you, do you think this is just because they’ve bought me? If I recommend one of their competitors, is this biting a hand that feeds me?
I have no idea what the casino promotions will be next month. I am fairly fluent on current promotions (I co-write with Jeffrey Compton a weekly column about these at www.casinogaming.com), but if you are asking me a month in advance, I often have no way of knowing what these will be because the casinos themselves haven’t decided, let alone announced, what they will be. If you wait until the last minute to make your plans, airfare is considerably higher and some hotels are sold out.
Sharing information about video poker is part of what my professional career is all about. But sometimes I’m asked to share more than I can possibly deliver.