Monthly Archives: January 2021

Eight Casino Games and the Psychology of Why People Play Them

Las Vegas casinos are an absolute blast. Each has a slew of games of chance to choose from, and there’s something for everyone.

One of the great things about casino games is each differs in why they’re appealing, and players of various games often have very different reasons for playing.

The psychology of gambling is one of the best parts. Well, that and hand pays. And free drinks. But mostly psychology!

Here, then, are eight of the most popular casino games and why players play them.

1. Craps: When You Enjoy Meeting New People

Craps, referred to as “dice” by the cool kids, has some of the best odds in the casino. But that’s not really why most people play the game. Craps is social! Because most players have money riding on the same bet, it’s a team game and the camaraderie is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. If you have a hot roll at a dice table, you’re guaranteed to have a new batch of lifelong friends.

Casino Royale

Remember when crowding around a dice table was a thing?

2. Roulette: When You Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

One of the reasons roulette is so popular is it requires virtually no skill. Just put your chips on the numbers and hope Lady Luck is on your side! People sometimes get bent out of shape because a roulette table will have three zeroes. While this is a disadvantage to players, critics don’t seem to understand these two words: Who cares? People who play roulette are having a great time. It’s not about rules or odds. It’s about fun.

Roulette

You don’t have to play all your hunches. Hunches can be real jerks sometimes.

3. Baccarat: When You Really Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

Baccarat pretty much has two bets: You bet on the “player” or the “banker.” So, pretty much like a coin toss. The dealer does the rest. Whales love baccarat and fortunes have been won and lost playing this game. Ultimately, though, it’s pretty much a 50/50 game and what’s not to love about a game that takes five seconds to learn?

Baccarat

We learned baccarat at Lucky Dragon. Which closed shortly thereafter. They should’ve put quotation marks around the “Lucky.”

4. Keno: When You Really, Really Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

Remember how we said craps has some of the best odds in a casino? Well, keno has some of the worst. The house advantage (also called the “house edge”) for live keno is around 25 percent (and can be as high as 35 percent). In layperson’s terms, that’s an avalanche of suck. Still, keno can provide a low-cost form of enjoyment and, as we’ve said, that’s really the point of gambling, not merely the financial ROI. The strategy in keno involves: 1) Marking numbers. That’s the whole list. Just as with the lottery, winning it out of your hands, so just enjoy the ride.

world's largest keno board

Will you please grow up?

5. Blackjack: When You Like Math

Blackjack, unlike some games we’ve mentioned, involves a degree of skill. That means a player with knowledge of the game (basic strategy) tends to do better than one without. One of the biggest barriers to blackjack is it involves math. Every hand involves addition. Dealers do a lot of the heavy lifting, but it’s still up to players to make a decision, whether to hit or stand, for every hand. If you’re not up for sum math, blackjack may not prove to be of value.

Casino newlyweds

In addition to people who like math, blackjack is also popular with newlyweds.

6. Sports Betting: When You Want To Have Skin in the Game

Lots of people who aren’t this blog absolutely love sports! And many of the people who love sports enjoy betting on sports. Here’s why: Sports betting makes sports a lot less boring. Rooting for your favorite team is one thing, but having money on the line inspires a whole new level of enthusiasm. Proof? During the pandemic, as major sports were shutting down, sports bettors shifted their attention to offbeat sports including ping pong and Belarusian soccer. No, really. The sports themselves don’t matter all that much, it’s all about the wagering action.

Circa sportsbook

If you’re into sports, the new Circa resort has a metric hell-ton of it.

7. Slots: When You Want an Escape

It’s a scientific fact playing slot machines can put gamblers into a trance-like state. Slots are a great way to escape our daily lives, to enter the “zone” where our concerns are set aside while we take a mental vacation. Slot players often lose track of time (casinos aren’t mad about that) as well as their surroundings. Slots are like self-hypnosis, where worries melt away and we’re freed up to reap the rewards of our labor and dispose of our disposable income. Everything in moderation, of course, but slots are a popular diversion from all the WTF in our everyday lives.

Cosmopolitan high limit slots

Cosmo is one of our favorite mental vacation destinations.

8. Video Poker: When You Love to Drink

Video poker has some of the best returns in a casino, but that’s not really why people play and it’s just one small part of the experience. The best part is the drinking! When you sit at a casino video poker bar, it’s expected you’ll play a reasonable amount per hand (in most places it’s a dollar per hand), but if you do, the drinks flow freely. Video poker provides a great value, and while there’s always a risk of “decision fatigue,” video poker players almost always have a great time because Las Vegas never runs out of libations.

Vital Vegas royal flush

We’ve gotten two royals in 20 years, so we’re definitely in it for the hooch.

There are lot of other casino games, of course, but the number eight is lucky, so we don’t want to screw with our mojo. As soon as this story goes live, we’re heading to the casino! Shocker.

We’d love to hear why you play your favorite casino game. Do you prefer solitude or interaction? Math or no math? Do the odds matter most or is the experience that gets your blood pumping?

Whatever game you play, Vegas is the place to do it. Otherwise, it would be Vital Des Moines, and that would just be awkward.

Gender-Neutral Playing Cards: Field-Flattener or Philosophical Flop

A forensic psychology graduate in the Netherlands has proposed replacing the king, queen and jack in decks of playing cards to challenge gender inequality.

The king, queen and jack would be replaced by gold, silver and bronze.

Let the public outcry begin!

Gender-neutral playing cards

First Las Vegas casino that gets them wins.

We know a little something about outcries, as we have a long history of outcrying. (Shout-out to resort fees and paper straws.)

When we first heard about these gender-neutral playing cards, our reaction was a knee-jerk, “WTF? Somebody’s hammock doesn’t reach both trees! Playing cards have always had a king, queen and jack!”

Then, sadly, we spent a little more time pondering this. Damn it.

The inventor of the gender-neutral cards, Indy Mellink, says the fact a king is more valuable than a queen is a subtle inequality. It implies a man is of higher rank than a woman.

Which is usually the point where our outrage would kick in. Nonsense! Face cards are royalty. It’s history! Don’t mess with tradition!

This is political correctness run amok, right?

Four Queens

Who knew Four Queens was ahead of its time, equalitywise?

But then Mellink raised the fact these gold, silver and bronze cards are also race-neutral.

Aw, crap. It’s hard to get too mad at that one. The vast majority of playing cards are awfully, well, pasty.

Here’s Indy Mellink talking about her playing cards.

Just when you think you’ve got a solid case for indignation, Indy Mellink hits us with, “It’s a deck of cards for everyone.”

Wow.

We hate thinking about things in a new way!

Why shouldn’t people have choices when it comes to their playing cards?

Why are most face cards white?

Why should kings trump queens? Or for that matter, why should queens beat jacks?

Once this started sinking in, it turns out our knee-jerk reaction may have been more “jerk” than “knee.”

Honestly, we feel like a bit of a bronze-off.

Plaza loyalty club cards

Fun fact: About two years ago, Plaza Las Vegas revamped its loyalty club from card-based tiers to Bronze, Silver and Gold (bottom row, above). Mind blown.

Some of the greatest strides for equality have involved ending things that have “always been that way.” Often, biases are so entrenched in our culture (including in our casino games of chance), they’re invisible.

Interestingly, our reaction to these new cards says a lot about who we are. Where do these emotions come from, and why?

So, damn it, we’re probably going to buy one of these gender-neutral decks of cards. Here’s the official Web site.

Will you be seeing them at your casino’s blackjack tables anytime soon? Unlikely, but maybe you should.

They not only show us a new way of looking at playing cards, but also a new way of looking at ourselves.

Update (1/20/21): Following our story going live, Indy Mellink stopped in and left a comment. She’s shown herself to not only be smart and creative, she’s also a great marketer and clearly has a keen eye for talent.

Indy gender neutral cards

What’s not to love about Indy?

Al Solito Posto Opens, Tasty Triumph From Chef James Trees

Al Solito Posto restaurant has quietly opened at Tivoli Village, but it won’t be quiet for long.

The restaurant’s official opening is Jan. 27, 2021, but it’s Italian food from the guy who brought us Esther’s Kitchen downtown, so we sure as hell weren’t going to wait.

Al Solito Posto Tivoli Village

Al Solito Posto is all your favorite things, just better.

So, about the name. We have said Al Solito Posto about 800 times and still can’t remember it.

Yes, we’ve mentioned the name thing to the team at Al Solito Posto, but they’re going with it, anyway.

We’ve taken to calling it “Solito” or “Posto” for short. Or possible “Al.”

Al Solito Posto means “in the usual place,” and from what we’ve sampled, this new restaurant is definitely going to be The Place.

Al Solito Posto Tivoli Village

Our new home away from home.

Chef James Trees is the culinary mastermind behind Al Solito Posto, as if the aforementioned Esther’s Kitchen weren’t enough of an accomplishment.

As this blog is mainly geared toward Las Vegas tourists, we don’t tend to write a lot about off-Strip restaurants, but this place is worth the 10 minute rideshare or taxi ride.

Tivoli Village is near Suncoast casino in Summerlin, and Al Solito Posto sits in the space formerly occupied by the shuttered Brio Italian Grill.

Let’s dive headlong into the glorious food and drink at “Posto.”

The menu has an East Coast Italian vibe, with lots of dishes even we recognize.

For starters, though, one must revel in the magnificence of the focaccia.

Al Solito Posto Tivoli Village

When the bread accompanying your meal could be, you know, a meal.

As always, we encourage filling up on bread.

As if the focaccia weren’t enough (it will be), there’s also a magnificent garlic bread.

Al Solito Posto Tivoli Village

The secret is the garlic panna (or cream). Although, it’s not a great secret given it’s on the menu, but just play along.

While we’ve just begun our meal, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share this photo of our beloved Captain Morgan and diet.

One, we’re relieved they have Captain (Esther’s Kitchen doesn’t carry it). Two, this photo is bomb.

Captain Morgan and diet

We showed someone at the restaurant our photo, they said, “You can see the love in it.” Guilty as charged.

Chef Trees is known for his breads and pizza, and the pizza (more of a flatbread) at Al Solito Posto doesn’t disappoint.

Al Solito Posto pizza

The crust is thin and crispy, which means the calories don’t count. It’s science.

Pizza (sorry, “Pizzette”) is served at the bar, so here’s a look at the bar menu.

Al Solito Posto bar menu

You are so lucky to have us.

The meatballs are, as anticipated, great. You’ve already seen a photo of them, if you were paying attention. Which we’re pretty sure you weren’t. You know how you are.

The meatballs come with fried polenta. Polenta originated in Northern Italy and is made of coarsely ground yellow cornmeal. Which we totally knew off the top of our head without the use of Google, probably.

Another highlight on the regular menu is Rigatoni Alla Vodka, with calabrian chili and basil.

Hey, as we always say, if it’s not calabrian chili, why bother?

Al Solito Posto pasta

We actually have no idea what calabrian chili is, but we know the impact on our taste buds, so we’re a huge fan.

The star of the show at Al Solito Posto, at least for us, was the chicken parmigiana.

“Parmigiana,” of course, is Italian for “parm.”

Just the right amount of breading, the perfect proportion of cheese and sauce, and the side of pasta really made this entree a home run. It’s easily one of the best chicken parms in Las Vegas.

Al Solito Posto chicken parm

The chicken parm utilizes rosemary breadcrumbs. It’s worth noting Rosemary Breadcrumbs was a popular burlesque dancer in the 1960s.

The cocktail program at Al Solito Posto is top notch as well, and we veered from our default cocktail to try C.M.P. We’re pretty sure that stands for “Clarified Milk Punch.” Highly recommended. As the bartenders how it’s made. There’s a lot of chemistry involved.

Al Solito cocktails

You know we loved this place if we’re not slamming them for using paper straws. Nobody’s perfect.

The grand finale of any meal at Al Solito Posto has to feature the Italian Rainbow Cake.

We had low expectations for this dessert when we saw how photogenic it is. Turns out, it’s incredibly moist and flavorful, with just the right about of chocolate buttercream frosting and dressed up with a cavalcade of toasted almonds.

Al Solito Posto rainbow cake

Big enough to share, but why would you want to do that?

Other desserts include cheesecake, tiramisu, chocolate budino, gelato (made for the restaurant by Gelato de Milano) and what seemed to be a very popular Apple Crostata.

A few other thoughts about our new favorite Summerlin restaurant:

googie Al Solito Posto’s bar is perfect for solo dining, and the bartenders are a blast.

googie The restaurant isn’t really done yet. There’s more decor and artwork to come. There’s not even an exterior sign. Give it a minute.

googie The music at Al Solito Posto is just plain odd. It’s eclectic, and definitely not what you’d expect at a traditional Italian restaurant. “Nobody Spoil My Fun” by The Seeds, “I Don’t Know How” by Superlative, “The Black Five” by Roy Ayers, “El Pussy Cat” by Mongo Santamaria, “Ponta De Lance Africano” by Jorge Ben, “Sweet Beat” by Prince Buster, “Bye, Bye Blues” by Dick Hyman with Mary Mayo, “Chills and Fever” by Ronnie Love. We’re still not sure how we feel about the music, but your Shazam app will definitely be working overtime. Oh, and the app won’t be able to recognize half the songs, fair warning.

googie Al Solito Posto has a lot of staffers in blazers. At first, we thought they’d hired too many managers, but it turns out the servers wear them as well. It gives Posto the feel of a fancier joint, but at locals prices.

googie No, really, paper straws taste like butt. Las Vegas is 250 miles from the nearest sea or sea turtles. We are a huge fan of sea turtles, but let’s end the madness, already.

googie As with all Las Vegas restaurants at the moment, capacity is limited at Al Solito Posto. Make sure to do a reservation if you can, either through Open Table or by calling, (702) 463-6781.

The bottom line is Chef James Trees has done it again, and as Italian food is our spirit animal, we’re thrilled to have a new go-to in our Las Vegas restaurant rotation.

Thanks to Al Solito Posto for hosting our first visit, although we’ve been back several times since and can’t wait to work our way through the rest of the menu.

Feast your eyes on a few more Al Solito Posto photos and “Buon appetito!” Assuming Google knows what the hell it’s talking about.

Magician Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried & Roy Dies at 81

Legendary Las Vegas magician Siegfried Fischbacher has died at 81 of pancreatic cancer. The iconic performer passed away in his Las Vegas home on Jan. 13, 2021.

His longtime partner, Roy Horn, passed away a few short months ago, on May 20, 2020. Horn was 75.

The passing of Siegfried Fischbacher marks the end of an era.

Siegfried Fischbacher

Siegfried’s middle name was Tyrone. No, really.

At one time, the German-born Siegfried & Roy epitomized Las Vegas entertainment.

The flamboyant pair’s collection of white tigers and other big cats were known around the world and the duo performed before millions of people.

They were also among the highest-paid performers in the history of Las Vegas. Their Mirage contract was reportedly worth $57.5 million-a-year.

The duo began their run at Mirage in 1989.

There’s no dancing around it, in retrospect, much of what Siegfried & Roy did was just plain peculiar.

Siegfried & Roy’s reign as magic royalty came to an end when Roy Horn was attacked during a performance by a white tiger named Montecore on October 3, 2003.

Siegfried & Roy’s version of the attack has been the subject of a good deal of controversy.

As our friend and longtime Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke put it, “It was understood the last thing they wanted to do was demonize their animals since they were seen as members of their family.”

The fact is Siegfried & Roy sort of lived in an alternate universe, and it was an undeniably fascinating one.

While they never officially addressed their personal relationship, the former lovers have always been considered icons of the LGBT community.

Whatever the status of their romantic relationship over the years, Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn were inseparable friends and companions to the end.

The romantic in us believes there simply couldn’t be a Siegfried without a Roy.

Siegfried Roy

Bottoms up for two legendary Las Vegas performers. Siegfried on the left, Roy on the right.

Fischbacher and Horn met on a cruise ship. Fischbacher was performing, Horn was a steward. Roy Horn was just 17 at the time.

Even after Horn’s slow, partial recovery from the injuries resulting from the tiger attack, Fischbacher and Horn made public appearances and were spotted around town in Las Vegas.

We trust their namesake attraction, Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at Mirage, is likely to be a place fans go to pay their respects following the passing of Siegfried Fischbacher.

There’s simply never been another Siegfried & Roy, nor do we suspect there ever will be.

Update (1/15/21): On Jan. 15, 2021, Fremont Street Experience showed a tribute to Siegfried Fischbacher on its Viva Vision screen.

Siegfried tribute

A larger-than-life tribute befitting a larger-than-life Vegas icon, Siegfried.

Las Vegas Aces Sold to Raiders Owner Mark Davis

MGM Resorts has sold the Las Vegas Aces to Raiders owner Mark Davis.

In case you aren’t a sportball person, the Las Vegas Aces are a WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) team.

The WNBA is almost like real sports, just with far fewer people in attendance.

Las Vegas Aces

We kid, Las Vegas Aces. You are no more boring than any other sport!

We mainly know of the Aces because we broke the story that would be their name when they came to Las Vegas. Simpler times.

Although no financial details have been disclosed, we have to believe the sale of the Aces involved upwards of dozens of dollars.

In a news release, MGM President of Entertainment & Sports George Kliavkoff said, “We can confirm we have entered into an agreement to sell the Las Vegas Aces to Mark Davis and are awaiting approval from the WNBA Board of Governors. Mark is a longtime champion of women’s basketball and we believe he is the right person to lead the Aces into a new era. We will continue our enthusiastic support of the WNBA, NBA and basketball in Las Vegas.”

Translation: MGM Resorts can’t afford any loss leaders moving forward.

Here’s where things get interesting, though.

It’s always been assumed MGM Resorts’ ownership of the Las Vegas Aces gave them a leg up for an NBA expansion team.

It’s also always been assumed that NBA team would play in T-Mobile Arena.

Now, all those assumptions are out the lanai doors.

Yes, Las Vegas is getting an NBA expansion team. We put it on our list of 2021 predictions, so it has to be true. We also told you it was happening in a Tweet back in 2018.

NBA Tweet

Wow, that NBA logo almost looks like it says “NDA.” Awkward.

Allegiant Stadium can host basketball as well as football, so this leads to some intriguing permutations down the road.

Mark Davis said he’ll share more when he’s received official approval of the sale from the WNBA Board of Governors, and when he’s had a chance to speak with the team.

One big upside of the purchase of a woman’s basketball team is no way in hell women let Mark Davis keep his current haircut. Everybody wins.

There’s more to come, and we’ll leave the sports coverage to those who actually know what they’re talking about.

It feels like 2021 is going to be as weird as 2020, so keep those aforementioned loins girded.

Las Vegas Urban Myth: “Crazy Girls” Statue Includes a Dude

Maybe you’ve heard it: The iconic “Crazy Girls” statue, with a row of showgirls showing off their moneymakers, includes a man.

Even if you haven’t heard it, trust us, this urban myth has been floating around Las Vegas for years.

And it’s hooey.

Crazy Girls statue

The “Crazy Girls” statue once sat at the front entrance of the Riviera. That’s because the back door wouldn’t have provided enough exposure.

“Crazy Girls” confirmed the famous bronze statue, rubbed so often for good luck the dancers’ bottoms are buffed to a high sheen, is populated entirely by women born biologically female.

Here are the names of the dancers in the bronze “Crazy Girls” statue (left to right): Karen Raider, Debra Sill, Pat Lumpkin, Kim Baranco, Angela Sampras-Stabile, Michelle Sandoval and Chris Zytko.

So, that’s settled.

There is, however, a twist.

This urban myth may be the result of a rather shameful chapter in Las Vegas history.

See, there was a transgender entertainer in the “Crazy Girls” cast back in the day.

The performer’s name was Jahna Steele, and she had sexual reassignment surgery in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas prior to moving to Las Vegas and joining the cast of “Crazy Girls.”

Crazy Girls

“Crazy Girls” closed at Riviera on May 1, 2015. Due to its weight, saving the statue wasn’t a slam donk.

Steele wasn’t just any performer, she was named “Sexiest Showgirl on The Strip” in 1991 and “Most Beautiful Showgirl” in 1993, among other accolades.

Then, things took a turn for the WTF.

While many were aware Steele was transgender, a tabloid TV show, “A Current Affair,” outed her in 1992.

As a result, she was fired from “Crazy Girls.”

Jahna Steele’s story has a tragic ending, as she died of a drug overdose in 2008.

If there’s an upside to Steele’s story, it’s that she’s now viewed as a pioneer in the transsexual community.

We’d love to think the world is a more enlightened place now than it was 1992, but we’re curious how a transgender person would be received by adult revue audiences today.

We say strip and let strip!

Crazy Girls statue

Now that you know the background of the “Crazy Girls” statue, consider yourself a Las Vegas history buff.

It’s worth noting there was a famous billboard and poster for “Crazy Girls,” too. The line-up for the billboard and poster, for posterity (again, left to right): Karen Raider, Debra Sill, Pam Noble, Stacey Pettarutti, Shellee Rene, Angela Sampras-Stabile and LeAnne Wagstaff.

The “Crazy Girls” statue, located on the casino floor at Planet Hollywood, remains a must-stroke Las Vegas photo op.

Now you know the story behind it! Emphasis on “behind.”

You didn’t think we’d wrap up a story about brass butts without making a final crack, did you?