Category Archives: Las Vegas

Everything You Need to Know About Stadium Blackjack

Stadium gambling is now a thing in Las Vegas casinos, and we figured it was time to check out Stadium Blackjack at Venetian.

In Stadium Blackjack, up to 44 players compete with one of two live dealers in, wait for it, stadium-style seating.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Oh, all right, it’s nothing like a stadium. Just play along.

As with most games in a casino, Stadium Blackjack accomplishes a couple of key goals for The Man.

Casinos make more money when labor costs are lowered, and when there are more hands dealt. Since casino games have a built-in advantage for the house, more hands means more profit.

Here’s how Stadium Blackjack works at Venetian Las Vegas.

There are 44 seats for players. Each player has their own terminal, and selects which of the two dealers they want to play against, blue or red.

Once a dealer is selected, the player has 30 seconds between hands to place a bet. A big benefit of Stadium Blackjack is the $5 minimum. Most standard games at Venetian have $15 minimums.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Get ready to play blackjack with 43 of your new best friends.

Once bets are made, each screen reads “No More Bets.”

Then, three cards are dealt from a six-deck, continuous “smart shuffle” machine.

Two cards go to the players, one to the dealer. One of the intriguing aspects of Stadium Blackjack is all the players get the same two cards. (That is, all the players who chose the red dealer get the same two cards. All those who chose the blue dealer get different cards.)

Now, each player makes their own decision about what to do next. Players can hit, stand, double down or split.

Here’s where the game veers into new territory. Since everyone has the same two cards, and can make their own decisions about what happens next, additional “Community” cards are needed. Community cards go to players until all the players have chosen to stand (or have been eliminated because they busted). After all the players’ hands are locked, additional community cards go to the dealer until the hand has a result.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

The “Community” cards (upper left) are really the only perplexing part, but just let the dealer do their thing.

Example time!

Say the first cards are dealt and all the players get a queen and a king, the dealer gets a five. That’s 20 for the players, so everyone’s going to stand. (Feel free to split them, though, that’s part of what makes Stadium Blackjack so fun, no peer pressure.) The dealer takes additional cards and busts. Everyone wins, cheering ensues, annoying all the players in the nearby poker room in the best possible way.

Here’s a more complicated example.

Players get a king and six, dealer gets a queen. Some players stand on 16, some hit, right? (You’re supposed to hit.) The players who choose “Hit” on their display get another card (a “Community” card). Again, those who “Stand” don’t get another card. Each player is doing their own thing. Say, that next player card is a two. Everybody stands with 18. But the fun part is you don’t have to! You can “Hit” again. Only after all the players have finished does the dealer then complete their hand and a result is shown.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

If Stadium Blackjack isn’t your thing, there’s stadium baccarat nearby. Again, $5 minimums are hard to pass up on The Strip.

A lot of this happens on the dealer’s display. Players just see their own hand and how it’s stacking up against the dealer.

Once the hand is done, all the cards go back into the shuffler and the fun begins again.

So, that’s a long-winded way of saying, “It’s just like regular blackjack.” The fact others have the same two opening cards, or how dealers decide which cards are communal, is rather irrelevant. It’s you against the dealer.

Let’s get into what’s really important about Stadium Blackjack, the pros and cons.

First, the pros. Stadium Blackjack is great for groups and couples! Where else in Las Vegas can you and 43 friends all play blackjack at once? During our visit, the majority of players were couples.

Again, low table minimums. That $5 minimum is tempting and it never gets raised, even if the game is busy.

Also, no glares from other players if you do something stupid. Stadium Blackjack is anonymous, and players make their own decisions.

Another pro for us is the machine adds up your cards. We hate math, so this is a great aspect of the game.

We also like that you can take a break between hands, sitting out then jumping back in at any time.

There are some drawbacks to Stadium Blackjack, but opinions vary about how important these cons are.

The rate of play, if you play every hand, is fast. After you get your cards, you have 10 seconds to decide whether you’d like to hit or stand. That’s a lot of pressure! If you do nothing, the machine automatically stands. It won’t hit or double or split for you, though. More hands means you can lose more quickly, but it also means you’ll win more quickly when you’re on a lucky streak.

It’s interesting to note that while the game is called “Stadium Blackjack” on the player terminals, it’s called “Rapid Blackjack” on the dealer’s screen.

Another potential downside is Stadium Blackjack pays 6-to-5, rather than 3-to-2. Then again, that’s true of the majority of blackjack games on the Las Vegas Strip.

Also, serious blackjack players dislike six deck, continuous shuffling machines. Card counting is impossible with such machines.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Another look at the layout. Make a bet, hit or stand, rake in the big bucks.

That’s about it. Each display has a bunch of other buttons, but probably the most important for first-time players is “Help.” Beyond the two people dealing the cards, there’s another dealer that roams the floor and helps players with questions.

There’s a button for dealer tips, another to call for service, one to “Re-Bet” and others. There’s also a button so players can see the game in Chinese.

There are a couple of side bets as well, Royal Match 21 and Bet the Set 21. Blackjack side bets tend to be sucker bets, but only if they don’t hit!

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Side bets are for entertainment value only. Don’t go nuts.

Overall, Stadium Blackjack is a fun new twist on blackjack, and its social component could make it a draw for groups seeking to gamble together.

If you’d like to know more about Stadium Blackjack, check out these stories from VegasFanboy.com and our bud Marc Meltzer. We also talked about Stadium Blackjack on the Vital Vegas Podcast, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Our first story about stadium gambling (at Palazzo) was way back in 2013, and we didn’t have the best time. While we didn’t win playing Stadium Blackjack, it wasn’t a bad experience.

Let us know what you think of Stadium Blackjack. Some believe it’s the future of casino gambling. For us, interacting with the dealer is often half the fun of playing, so unless we were with a group of friends, we’d probably bite the bullet and find a traditional, higher limit table.

Got questions? Ask away!

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 39: Stadium Blackjack, Giordano’s, Redneck Riviera and Something Missing at Paris

It’s a metric ass-ton of Vegas, and yes, we weighed it.

This installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast includes all the latest news and WTF you need to get the most from your next Vegas visit.

The show includes scoop about In-N-Out opening at Linq promenade, Redneck Riviera at Grand Bazaar Shops and stadium blackjack at Venetian. Then, we talk smack about Giordano’s, absinthe service at Sage inside Aria and something missing at Paris Las Vegas. Mysterious, right? Listen in!

Giordano's Las Vegas

The bar’s been set high for pizza in Las Vegas and Giordano’s limbos right under it.

Our perfunctory round-up of Las Vegas news includes the impending opening of two locations of Chick-fil-A in Las Vegas (Jan. 26, 2017), broken Las Vegas visitation records, the closing of “Pin Up” at Strat (Mar. 4, 2017) and Serendipity 3 at Caesars Palace, a new virtual concierge at Cosmo, changes at Downtown Grand’s Commissary and so much less.

We also tap dat Las Vegas history with tidbits about the opening of Rio Las Vegas (Jan. 15, 1990) and the closing of The Dunes (Jan. 26, 1993).

The Vital Vegas Podcast is more than just a podcast. It’s an immersive, interactive, game-changing tour de force, assuming “tour de force” translates as “way to kill an hour or so.”

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Alto Bar Opens at Caesars Palace With Virtual Reality On the Menu

Caesars Palace recently unveiled its new Alto Bar, replacing the decade-old Seahorse Lounge.

Alto Bar Caesars Palace

Replacing the Seahorse Lounge at Caesars was especially good news for the seahorses. Let’s just say they went through a lot of seahorses.

Alto Bar is the result of a multi-million-dollar renovation, and the bar is located adjacent to Omnia Nightclub and Searsucker, a restaurant you never hear anything about, which is always a good sign.

Alto Bar Caesars Palace

Officials haven’t said what inspired the name “Alto,” but recent bar names (Vista, Apostrophe and Fizz) have intentionally steered clear of the resort’s Roman Empire theme.

Alto Bar is the biggest bar at a resort with lots of great bars.

Booths throughout Alto have adorable TV screens because god forbid you go 15 minutes without access to sports.

Alto lounge Caesars Palace

There are six people on staff just to keep track of all the remotes.

The bar has 18 video poker machines. The machine we played was looser than our sister, but your results may vary. With the machines. Our sister is pretty much a sure thing.

The cocktail menu features wildly overpriced drinks, and by that we mean sort of typical prices at Strip resorts these days. Remember, you’re not just paying for a drink, you’re paying for an experience!

Alto Bar Caesars Las Vegas

We don’t know what all those symbols mean. We are a Las Vegas blog, not an Egyptologist.

We had the expertly-prepared Alto Margarita. Hey, $16 is the new $8, but it was delicious. The margarita features Caesars Select Patrón Reposado tequila, Cointreau liqueur, agave nectar, lime juice and a floater of Grand Marnie, whatever that might actually be.

Alto Bar Las Vegas

In awesome news, video poker players can get the signature drinks comped when they play (drinks up to $16). This baby definitely qualifies as a panty-dropper cocktail.

There’s a small selection of draft beer ($9), bottled beer ($8), wine and non-alcoholic offerings.

There are also snacks, including mixed nuts ($7), classic ketel chips ($7) and a “Chef’s Selection” of meats, cheeses and heath breads. Psst, it’s not about the snacks.

The best thing about Alto Bar at the moment is the virtual reality lounge!

The adjoining Oculus Virtual Reality Lounge is easily overlooked and a complete and utter blast.

Alto Bar virtual reality

Oculus Touch, owned by Facebook, uses a pair of tracked hand controllers that give you the feeling the virtual hands are your own. It’s freaky and addictive. Sorry, it’s fire. Or possibly lit. We have trouble keeping up.

If you haven’t tried VR yet, now’s the time, and not just because it’s free. Although, that certainly doesn’t hurt. (Ads for the Virtual Reality Lounge say it’s free with the purchase of a cocktail, but tell them we sent you and they’ll probably let it slide.)

Basically, VR requires that you don a goofy headset and wear two hand controllers. Motion sensors track the movement of your body and create a virtual interaction with your surroundings.

The VR lounge at Alto Bar offers several demos, including The Unspoken, The Climb, VR Sports Challenge and Bullet Train.

Alto Bar Caesars Palace

We’d say virtual reality is the best thing, ever, but we’ve been with actual women. Yes, plural, thanks to a little something called red wine.

The VR lounge won’t be there forever, so take full advantage before March 28, 2017.

Alto Bar is open Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m and 24 hours Friday through Sunday.

Alto virtual reality lounge

Caesars doesn’t seem to be heavily promoting the VR lounge, so that means more playtime for you.

The virtual reality lounge operates from 4:00 p.m. to midnight during the week and stays open until 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Guests must be 21 or older to use the virtual reality system.

Kudos to Caesars for giving guests some added value at Alto Bar. Virtual reality is mesmerizing, and once you’re in, you’ll never want to stop. Trust us on this one!

Caesars Palace Las Vegas

When you’re at Caesars, check out the swanky new carpet. It definitely doesn’t steer clear of the Roman theme.

Expect to see more VR cropping up at Las Vegas casinos. There’s a new VR Adventures shop at Linq promenade, and MGM Grand has been promoting its “Ka” show with virtual reality stations in its lobby.

It’s only a matter of time before there’s a virtual reality strip club in Las Vegas. Not that anyone would be interested in something like that. At all. Especially not this Las Vegas blog. Ever. Probably.

Alto Lounge at Caesars Palace

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15 Las Vegas Casinos Once Named Something Else

In the grand scheme of things, Las Vegas hasn’t been around that long. It has managed to cover a lot of ground when it comes to the names of its casinos, though.

Casinos are bought, sold, rebranded, imploded and rebuilt. Along the way, they often change names.

Here, then, are a hastily slapped-together batch of Las Vegas casinos formerly named something else. And in some cases, several something elses.

1. Planet Hollywood Was Tally Ho

That’s right, Planet Hollywood was originally the Tally Ho. After that, the hotel was called King’s Crown, then the more familiar Aladdin Resort & Casino. Are we having fun yet, we asked, rhetorically?

Planet Hollywood

We get the weird feeling we mainly wrote this blog post to show off some of our casino photos.

2. Westgate Was the International

The hotel we now know as Westgate opened in 1969 as the International Hotel. For years, it was known as the Las Vegas Hilton. For a minute, it was LVH, or Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Hey, naming things is hard.

Westgate

We were there the day the LVH’s letters came down and the Westgate sign went up.

3. SLS Las Vegas Was Sahara

SLS Las Vegas is a relatively recent development. For nearly 60 years, 1952 to 2011, it was the Sahara Hotel and Casino. You’ll never guess which we like more, “hotel” or “casino.”

Sahara

Some days we sort of miss the Sahara’s fancy porte-cochere.

4. Harrah’s Was Holiday Casino

Never heard of Holiday Casino? Well, you’re in good company. The Holiday Casino came to be in 1973, thanks to Shelby and Claudine Williams, former owners of a classic Vegas casino, the Silver Slipper. Harrah’s got its name in 1992.

Harrah's Las Vegas

The Holiday casino had a riverboat theme, while Harrah’s has a Mardi Gras theme. Someday, we hope to do a story about themes that were formerly other themes.

5. MGM Grand Was Marina Hotel

What’s now on big-ass hotel, MGM Grand, got its start as the Marina Hotel and Casino. The Marina opened in 1975. Later, the hotel was called the MGM-Marina Hotel. The Marina closed in 1990, but still exists as the west wing of the MGM Grand.

MGM Grand

MGM Grand is the largest hotel in the United States. If you slept in all 5,044 of the rooms at MGM Grand, all in one night, you would have both multiple restraining orders and severe chafing.

6. The D Was Sundance Hotel

Lots of folks know downtown’s D Las Vegas was previously a casino called Fitzgerald’s. Before that, though, it was the Sundance Hotel. The Sundance opened in 1980 on land owned by a mobster named Moe Dalitz. Later, Sundance became The Fitz, and eventually it was owned by Don Barden, the first African-American casino owner in Las Vegas.

Fitzgerald's

How weird is it we appear to have never taken a photo of the exterior of Fitzgerald’s, but we somehow have a photo of the carpet?

7. Stratosphere Was Vegas World

Las Vegas eccentric Bob Stupak whipped up the idea of the Stratosphere as an addition to his Vegas World casino. At first, he wanted the Strat to look like the Eiffel Tower, but the site was too narrow. While impressive, the Stratosphere was designed to be much taller. The FAA got their undies in a bunch, so the height was decreased to its current 1,149 feet.

Stratosphere

You sort of can’t miss it.

8. Bally’s Was MGM Grand

Stay with us, now. The site where Bally’s sits was, at first, Three Coins Motel. Then, it was the Bonanza Hotel and Casino and later, New Bonanza Hotel and Casino. MGM Grand opened on the site in 1973. The hotel was sold to Bally Manufacturing in 1986, hence the name. It’s now owned by Caesars Entertainment.

Ballys

Bally’s, back when it had some bling.

9. Cromwell Was Barbary Coast

Caesars Entertainment owns the Cromwell, too. Way back when, a place called Empey’s Desert Villa sat on the land. In 1979, Barbary Coast came to be, it later became Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon. Before the Cromwell name was finalized, the casino was going to be called Gansevoort. That name was tanked when regulators discovered connections between a Gansevoort Hotels investor, Arik Kislin, and the Russian mob. Good times.

Cromwell

Barbary Coast cleaned up real nice.

10. The Linq Hotel & Casino Was Flamingo Capri Motel

That’s right. At its inception, what’s now the Linq was the Flamingo Capri. In time, the resort became the Imperial Palace. It was named The Quad from 2012 to 2014. Funny story, mainly involving the word “oopsie.”

Linq hotel las vegas

The Linq swallowed the former O’Sheas. O’Sheas was originally called, well, O’Sheas. One less thing to memorize.

11. Golden Gate Was Hotel Nevada

Golden Gate, in downtown Las Vegas, is about as far back as Vegas goes. Its address is One Fremont Street, in fact. In 1906, it opened as Hotel Nevada, then became Sal Sagev Hotel and Casino. That’s Las Vegas spelled backwards. Told you naming things is hard. It got the name Golden Gate in 1955.

Golden Gate Las Vegas

Warned you about the showing off thing.

12. Casino Royale Was Nob Hill

Technically, the casino’s current name is Best Western Plus Casino Royale. Say that five times fast. From 1979-1992, the place was called Nob Hill. It closed in 1990, and Casino Royale opened in 1992, becoming a favorite Strip destination for value-seeking low rollers.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale isn’t your typical Strip casino. The words “White Castle” spring to mind.

13. Delano Was THEhotel

God, how we despise that affectation, THEhotel. Mandalay Bay’s sister hotel isn’t technically a “casino,” but we sure weren’t going to create a list with just 14 things on it, so there you have it.

TheHotel

It seems like they were screaming the wrong part.

14. Downtown Grand Was Lady Luck

Downtown Grand was, at first, the Lady Luck Hotel & Casino. Against all odds, Downtown Grand opened on Oct. 27, 2013.

Downtown Grand

We were there as Lady Luck transformed into Downtown Grand. We have clearly been around.

15. Hooters Casino Hotel Was Howard Johnson Hotel

If there were an award for “Casinos Previously Named Something Else,” Hooters would need a bigger mantle. What began as Howard Johnson Hotel eventually became Paradise Hotel, 20th Century, the Treasury, Pacifica and Polynesian. At the end of that run, it was renamed Hotel San Remo, and that one stuck, at least for awhile (1989 to 2006).

Hooters

The Hooters rewards club is called Rewards Club. Told you naming things is hard.

Sin City’s collection of casinos previously called something else continues to grow. Sometime in 2017, for example, Monte Carlo will be called Park MGM. The now-closed Las Vegas Club will get a new name, too.

Serious fans of Las Vegas have to keep on their toes. Or have access to the Internet. Whichever.

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Milk Bar Opens at Cosmopolitan and It’s the Ideal Time to Lower Your Expectations

There’s a new way to satisfy your cravings for sweets on the Las Vegas Strip, Milk Bar at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

Milk Bar opened amidst quite a bit of hoopla, but as with too many things in Vegas, the reality veers a bit from the hype.

We popped in to Milk Bar to give it a taste.

Milk Bar Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Bon Appétit named Milk Bar “One of the Most Exciting Bakeries in the Country.” Yet another reason we probably shouldn’t trust the French.

Milk Bar is the brain child of owner and noted chef, Christina Tosi. And by “noted,” of course, we mean we also have never heard of her.

Milk Bar is part of a chain, with seven other locations in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Toronto, which we’re relatively sure is in another country.

Milk Bar Las Vegas

Milk Bar seats three people, so everything is grab-and-go. Like your sister.

Milk Bar is touted as being a “playful, approachable spin on familiar home-style desserts and savory snacks using quality ingredients and locally sourced dairy.”

Because if there’s one thing on your mind when you’re eating fattening treats, it’s where the milk came from.

Here’s a look at the Milk Bar menu.

Milk Bar Cosmo Las Vegas

Nothing says party like a six-inch cake for $56.

We tried a few of the items on the Milk Bar menu, and we can assure you they were all perfectly adequate. Please feel free to use that on your advertising, Milk Bar.

We dove headlong into the soft serve ice cream, and while adorable, it wasn’t anything spectacular. Here’s a look at the Fruity Cereal Milk soft serve with cornflake crunch.

Milk Bar Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

“Soft Serve” was our nickname in college. Long story.

Milk Bar serves four different flavors of soft serve, the aforementioned Fruity Cereal Milk, Cereal Milk, Crack Pie and Sweet Potato Pie.

The stand also offers “MilkQuakes.” They’re basically Dairy Queen Blizzards, but at a Las Vegas Strip price (an absurd $10).

We tried the Birthday Cake MilkQuake. Again, nothing to write home about, but then again, nobody has actually written home since 2004. MilkQuakes flavors include Strawberry & Corn, Crack Pie, Bkfst (sic) and Sweet Potato Pie.

Milk Bar Las Vegas

Milk Bar’s McFlurry was McCeptable.

Milk Bar also serves alcohol-infused “Fancy Shakes,” like the Cereal Milk White Russian, Fancy Fruity Shake and Fancy Chocolate Malt Cake Shake. We’re fairly sure we’ll be back to try one, or all, of those. Because fancy.

At this point, we figured we’d make a Hail Mary to ensure we found something to love, so we tried a cookie. Yes, they’re $3, but certainly a venue known for its desserts would make a killer cookie.

The closest thing we could find to a chocolate chip cookie was the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookie, and it was spectacularly meh.

Milk Bar Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

We have tried every known cookie in Las Vegas and this was certainly one of those.

What the cookies lacked in succulence it more than make up for by having a metric hell-ton of ingredients.

Milk Bar Las Vegas

Say that five times, fast.

Milk Bar is located on the second level of Cosmopolitan and is open 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily. This information is especially useful if you’re a time traveler.

If you give Milk Bar a try, we’d love to hear what you think, even if you disagree with our infallible opinion.

Milk Bar Las Vegas

When in doubt, merch.

We suspect Milk Bar would fare well anywhere else, but its competition in Las Vegas has set a ridiculously high (wait for it) bar.

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Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Unveils New (Wait for It) Parking Lot

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) recently sent out a news release where it excitedly announced the unveiling of a new parking lot. No, really.

The LVCVA’s new Diamond Lot, of course, is better known to Las Vegas fans as the site of the former Riviera casino.

This is what the lot looked like in May 2016.

Riviera Las Vegas

Riviera resort, just before it went on an aggressive weight loss program.

Months of work and a dozen dismantled and imploded buildings later, here’s a look at what “progress” has wrought.

Riviera demolition

It wasn’t paradise, but it’s definitely been paved to put up a parking lot.

Yep, it’s a parking lot all right. A parking lot with 3,100 spaces, to be specific.

The new lot is more than just a parking lot, of course. It’s also an outdoor exhibition space, and part of a larger, much-needed expansion to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Officials say the convention center expansion will “increase economic activity in our community.”

We get all that. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a few minutes to remember the Riv.

With that in mind, we’ve culled highlights from our somewhat obsessive coverage of the Riviera demolition to create the ultimate Riviera demolition timeline.

So, time moves on, and Las Vegas continues its evolution.

It would take a lot to convince us a parking lot is more valuable than even a fading casino like Riviera. All due respect, LVCVA.

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