Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Best Place to Do Some Light Reading in Vegas: Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill

Here’s the best reason not to leave your reading glasses in your room when you’re visiting Las Vegas, courtesy of Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace.

Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill hostess

Lighten up. It’s Vegas.

The hostess uniforms at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill were designed by Allison Leach, who has also served as a costume designer on shows like “Mad Men” and “Glee.”

Leach also designed the uniforms for Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris and BurGR at Planet Hollywood.

Double Ball Roulette at Tropicana: A New Way to Play a Classic Casino Game

There’s a new way to play roulette, and it’s spicing up what is perhaps the best-known of all casino games.

Double Ball Roulette recently made its debut at the Tropicana as part of a “field test” required by the Nevada Gaming Commission prior to the game being more widely available.

This new take on roulette is familiar enough to keep it from being daunting. It’s traditional “American” (0-00) roulette, but with two balls rather than one, plus new bets, different payouts and an added bonus: Players get to remotely control when the balls are dropped onto the wheel.

Double Ball Roulette

The right mix of familiar and new.

The look of the layout isn’t dramatically different from traditional roulette, except for a side bet that pays off if both balls land on the same number. This bet pays 1,200-to-1. Two balls land on one number roughly once every 38 spins, so it’s not too uncommon. The chances of picking that number when it hits, though, is 1-in-1,444.

Beyond differences in the layout, you’ll know you’re at a Double Ball Roulette table because of an eye-catching addition to the wheel itself. The balls are shot with compressed air through a tube (see photo, below), as opposed to being spun by a dealer.

A wireless remote is circulated around the table, and players get to press a button to release the balls. We love this new element of the game! Anything to make a table game more interactive, we’re up for it.

Double Ball Roulette

The dealer drops both balls into the hole into the top of the thingy at left. Then, when a player hits the remote, the balls are shot through the tube and into the ball track. It’s a little like the movie “Rollerball,” but without all the bell bottoms.

Of course, this remote control doubles as an ingenious way to keep players at the table longer, awaiting their turn to hit the button, just as craps players stay at the table longer awaiting their next roll of the dice.

We’d love to show you the remote button device, but photos are forbidden in casinos. Ha, ha. That jokes never gets old. This Las Vegas blog doesn’t live by society’s rules.

Double Ball Roulette

Even if the two ball thing doesn’t pan out, we’d love to see these remote buttons on every roulette table in Vegas!

Because there are two balls, one might conclude there’s double the chances of winning on any given spin. While that’s true, a closer look at the payouts shows the casino isn’t giving up anything extra. In fact, it’s taking a little more of a commission for all the fun we’re having.

For example, in traditional roulette, a win on a straight up number pays 35-to-1. In Double Ball Roulette, a straight up number pays 17-to-1. (Two balls, two resulting numbers, roughly half the payout.) So, in its payout, the casino gets a little extra something by rounding down.

For a single number, the house edge is 5.33% in Double Ball Roulette. In traditional roulette, it’s 5.26%. So, not much worse, and there’s definitely no bet in traditional roulette that pays 1,200-to-1.

Check out all the probabilities for this new game over at Wizard of Odds, and all the pay tables at the Double Ball Roulette site.

The Double Ball Jackpot seems unlikely, but during the first 16 days of Double Ball Roulette’s operation at Tropicana, the jackpot has hit nine times. An individual player, in fact, won three times. On the same day.

Oh, and yes, there’s room for two balls in any of the wheel’s number “pockets.” Double Ball Roulette uses a traditional roulette wheel.

Some of the other bets and payouts take a little getting used to. Two numbers, split, pay 8-to-1. Three numbers (a line) pay 5-to-1, four numbers (a corner bet) pays 3-to-1. Five numbers (called “first five,” otherwise known as a basket bet) pays 5-to-2, and six numbers (line) pays 2-to-1.

Double Ball Roulette

So, to win on red, both balls have to land on red numbers. Ditto black. A split result pays 1-to-1.

It only takes a minute to get used to two results for each spin. The dealer uses two dollies (or markers) on the layout, and a video display shows both winning numbers overhead.

Double Ball Roulette

Double your roulette stimuli.

Overall, Double Ball Roulette brings some new twists to a vintage casino game. Roulette tends to get a little repetitious at times, so we find this new take refreshing.

Hardcore roulette players might opt to skip the novelty of Double Ball Roulette because of its slightly higher house advantage on certain bets, but for the recreational player, it’s a fun variation we hope will start cropping up in other Las Vegas casinos soon.

Get more details about the game at the official Double Ball Roulette site, as well as some enticing hints about future prize possibilities (how cool would it be to win a jet ski at a roulette table?) which will really make this game stand out among table games.

If you get a chance to play Double Ball Roulette, let us know what you think! And while you’re sharing your thoughts in the comments, please feel free to also share your shock at the fact we didn’t make even a single “ball” pun in this entire blog post. It’s called maturity, thanks.

Jason Alexander to Perform Limited Engagement at Harrah’s Las Vegas

Actor and comedian Jason Alexander, best known as George on “Seinfeld,” will do a series of comedy-variety shows at Harrah’s Las Vegas, starting Apr. 11, 2014.

Alexander’s one-man show has one of the greatest titles of all time, “An Evening With Jason Alexander and His Hair.”

Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander, sans the aforementioned hair. We got this photo at a poker event here in Las Vegas. Among his other talents, Alexander is a skilled poker player.

Jason Alexander’s show includes stand-up comedy, music, improvisation and audience participation.

The multi-talented comedian will perform Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings through May 4, 2014. Check out an interview with Jason Alexander about his show at the Las Vegas Sun.

Alexander’s hair, or lack of it, has been a popular topic of discussion since “Seinfeld” ended, and the comedian has often found it challenging to get other roles because he’s so closely identified with George Costanza.

Thankfully, Alexander has a sense of humor about his hairpiece, and is expected to use it for comedic effect during his show.

At one point, we took a photo of the back of Jason Alexander’s head. We have no idea why, other than our gift of prescience.

Jason Alexander

Well, that’s random.

Jason Alexander has been performing this one-man show for some time now, internationally and across the country. It sounds like the show has been fairly well received.

One reviewer said of the show, “There’s no lazy trading on his alter-ego’s legacy here. Yes, there’s plenty of Seinfeld trivia, but Jason Alexander is also a very good stand-up comedian.” Read more.

Shows at Harrah’s Las Vegas will start at 9:00 p.m., in the same theater used by “Million Dollar Quartet.” Tickets are $39.99, $59.99 and $79.99, with a meet-and-greet package for $125. Visit Ticketmaster for tickets. Because fees and surcharges are what make America great.

Unless you’d rather just show up and get tickets from a scalper. Because, yeah, “scalp.” Which, as you might have guessed, is why we have never had a one-man show on the Las Vegas Strip.

Carnival World Buffet at Rio Las Vegas Has a Major Renovation Ahead

The Carnival World Buffet at Rio Las Vegas was arguably, at one time, the most well-known and acclaimed buffet in the world.

In recent years, it’s been overshadowed by a new breed of buffets, including the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace and Wicked Spoon at Cosmopolitan.

Soon, the buffet at Rio Las Vegas will receive a major overhaul in an attempt to regain its position as a buzzworthy Sin City dining destination.

The massive renovation at Carnival World Buffet will begin in April 2014, with no word on when it will be completed. We trust a revamp of this scale will result in a temporary closure of the buffet.

Carnival World Buffet

The former champ of Las Vegas buffets will soon attempt to reclaim its title. Yeah, we hate sports analogies, too, but it was the best we could do on short notice.

The Rio’s buffet has already undergone some significant changes behind the scenes in recent months, as a number of key members of the buffet’s management team have been replaced, possibly in anticipation of a new direction for the buffet.

This renovation is the first of its kind for the buffet since the Rio opened in 1990.

Rio buffet

Renovate all you’d like, but please make sure there’s a bar, thanks.

Talk of the renovations comes on the heels of the Carnival World Buffet ceasing its breakfast service as a result of Hash House a Go Go restaurant opening at the Rio. One of the contractual conditions of Hash House moving into the Rio was that the buffet couldn’t serve breakfast. The buffet does serve a brunch on weekends, however, as the “brunch” designation somehow helps skirt the limitations imposed by the Hash House A Go Go agreement.

Preparations for the Carnival World Buffet renovation are already well under way, even to the point of new carpeting being purchased and put into storage at the Rio.

Rio buffet crab legs

The Rio’s buffet serves up 1,200 pounds of crab legs each day.  More useless trivia: The Rio’s buffet is 100 yards long, employs about 60 cooks and 100 members of the waitstaff, and has a rotisserie that can cook more than 40 chickens at once.

We still think the Carnival World Buffet is an awesome buffet, but a facelift couldn’t hurt. No official announcement of the renovation has been made yet.

The days of the Rio buffet winning “Best Buffet in Las Vegas” awards every year have long-since past, and we’re hoping a renovation might help restore it to its former gluttonous glory.

While we’re on the subject, make sure you know how to make the most of a Las Vegas buffet.

More news to come!

The Las Vegas Place You Shouldn’t Go on National Margarita Day, Thanks to the Insidious CNF Charge

It’s that time again! National Margarita Day! It’s that time when visitors from around the world enjoy margaritas at their favorite Las Vegas bars and restaurants.

But here’s our tip for enjoying this most epic of made-up national holidays: Don’t go to Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood, or any Las Vegas bar or restaurant with the dreaded CNF charge.

Yep, just three simple letters: CNF, or the “Concession & Franchise Fee.”

Vegas visitors have long bemoaned the fact hotels charge resort fees, but Cabo Wabo Cantina and a few other Strip restaurants charge this concession fee, and it’s far worse than a resort fee because you get nothing whatsoever for it. It’s just a fee tacked onto your bill.

The CNF charge is, in fact, worse than a resort fee, because guests typically don’t learn about the gratuitous fee until their bill arrives, when it’s too late to choose another restaurant.

CNF charge

Behold, the infuriating charge that makes us want to choke someone to death. And not in a good way.

Adding to the outrage of the CNF charge is the fact it’s added to your bill before the sales tax is calculated, so you’re paying tax on a tax.

Restaurants like Cabo Wabo Cantina should provide pitchforks along with their tortilla chips.

The ridiculous, annoying and should-be-banned “Concession & Franchise Fee” runs from 3-5%, and is presumably related to fees charged to venues by the casinos they’re attached to, sort of a surcharge for a restaurant having a great location. Yes, all kinds of WTF.

Honestly, who knows and who cares why it’s charged? It’s a disgusting, shameless money grab, and we haven’t been back to Cabo Wabo Cantina since the last time we were dinged by this CNF charge.

If this charge is necessary, why doesn’t every casino restaurant include it? And why is it a separate charge, as opposed to being folded into the overall costs of food and drinks, as other operating costs are?

The sad part here is Cabo Wabo Cantina is otherwise a perfectly fine place to drink and dine, emphasis on the drink, of course. But we get prickly when establishments try such repugnant methods of extracting money from our wallet, for no additional value whatsoever. At least with hotel resort fees you get a free local phone calls. (Don’t get us started.)

Cabo Wabo CNF charge

It takes a lot for us to turn down a margarita, but the CNF charge does the trick.

Cabo Wabo Cantina isn’t the only CNF culprit.

Other restaurants with CNF charges include Rhumbar at Mirage, as well as Hexx and Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas. For shame. Read more.

Here’s a list of restaurants and bars that have a CNF (concession fee) in Las Vegas:

  • Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood
  • Rhumbar at Mirage
  • Hexx at Paris Las Vegas
  • Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas
  • Alexxa’s Bar at Paris Las Vegas
  • Chayo Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar at Linq Promenade

Want to avoid the concession fee? Ask if the restaurant charges it before you ever sit down. If you love the place, a few extra bucks might not matter. But maybe it should. If we pay this fee, we’ll be seeing more restaurants charging it, you can bet on that.

Like most things in Las Vegas, we get to vote with our dollars. So, we vote for celebrating National Margarita Day somewhere else, thanks.

Update (2/28/18): We’re pleased to report Señor Frog’s at TI has discontinued its CNF charge. It does add an entertainment tax charge when it has live music.

Update (3/14/18): Alexxa’s Bar at Paris Las Vegas can be added to the list of venues that charge a 4.7% concession fee.

Useless Trivia: How Many Bulbs Are There On the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign?

Here’s some Las Vegas trivia that just might win you a bar bet someday.

Incandescent bulbs run around the outer edge of the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. How many bulbs? Exactly 89.

Las Vegas sign

Go on, count ’em. We’ll wait.

Bonus trivia: The bulbs on the Las Vegas sign are replaced on the first Tuesday of each month.

Now you know! Wield your newfound knowledge responsibly.