Category Archives: Gambling

Tropicana Opens Swanky New Trago Lounge

Tropicana has opened its new Trago Lounge, and we had to swing by for cocktails, video poker, a live DJ and mostly that first thing.

“Trago,” of course, is the first person singular present indicative of “trazer” in Spanish. As if that weren’t obvious.

Trago Lounge Tropicana

Make sure to roll the “r” when you say Trago. It will make you seem worldly.

“Trago” means sip or swig. In Portugese, it means “to quaff.” And if that made you giggle, please grow up. It means “drink with enthusiasm.”

Nailed it on the name.

Trago will be open 24 hours a day, the way Mother Nature intended.

The new bar sits just off the casino floor, in the footprint of the former Tropicana Lounge (which closed Sep. 10, 2018), and the space has gotten quite the overhaul.

Trago Tropicana lounge

Trago’s exterior design is composed of 1,114 interlocking squares. Related: Admit it, you believed us for a minute. Um, hello, it’s a photo caption. On the Internet.

It’s a relatively small space by Las Vegas lounge standards, about 3,500-square-feet, and can¬†accommodate 120 guests, which ups the intimacy factor.

Trago Lounge at Tropicana hits a lot of the right notes.

The vibe has a little touch of glamour, but without being pretentious.

The music level is refreshingly perfect. The night we visited, a Vegas fixture, Lydia Ansel, was doing DJ duty. Ansel is a classically trained violinist, and accompanies the music she’s playing. The violin is unobtrusive, and most guests weren’t even aware Ansel was playing live.

Trago Lydia Ansel violinist DJ

Some random anonymous dude just sent Lydia all those roses. Hint: It’s the violin.

We should probably get into the beverage aspect of the Trago Lounge before your head explodes.

The menu is fairly limited, but the drinks we tried were excellent. All are in the $16-18 range, which is the new normal for Strip casino lounges, so don’t freak out.

Trago Lounge Tropicana

The more you drink, the more interesting you become. To you, mainly.

A favorite was the Purple G&T (gin and tonic). We are not a gin or tonic person, but it was delicious.

It had Express gin, Italicus liqueur, fresh lime and Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic. Which is, apparently, a thing.

Trago Lounge

Young flowers should respect their elderflowers.

The Tropical Margarita was also top-notch, and should appeal to tourists looking for a drink that matches the hotel’s beachy theme.

The Tropical Margarita had Don Julio Blanco tequila, Contreau orange-flavoured triple sec liqueur, fresh lime, passion fruit and Red Bull Tropical Edition. Now, you know why we take photos of cocktail menus.

Trago Lounge cocktail

Party in a glass.

The drink menu also has “Bourbon and Whiskey” and “Scotch and Cognac” sections, as well as draft beer, craft bottle beer and wine.

Trago Lounge also offers bottle service for $250 a pop. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

Video poker fans will be happy to see the Trago bar lined with 22 machines, although we trust seasoned players will wince when they see the pay tables (6/5 Bonus Poker). Then again, seasoned video poker players wince at just about everything.

While Trago won’t comp signature drinks for video poker players, they do comp bottled beer and well drinks.

The pours are watched closely, so no free pours here.

We hear Trago will be getting an automated drink monitoring system, but at the moment, you can get a pretty steady supply of drinks if you’re playing at a reasonable pace.

A definite selling point: The servers, hostesses and bartenders are all very attractive, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Trago Lounge waitresses

Thanks for playing along, you two.

And while we’re on selling points: Tropicana still has free parking. Hang in there, Tropicana!

Plus, that glorious stained glass above the casino.

Tropicana stained glass

Glorious.

Trago Lounge is a refreshing addition to the offerings at Tropicana, and aims to appeal to a younger customer than has been typical at the Tropicana Lounge and resort overall.

It’s great to see Tropicana making moves, investing in new venues and making an effort to keep pace with other casinos in the neighborhood, while taking care not to rankle longtime customers, many of whom still regularly use the word “rankle.”

If you pop into Trago, let us know what you think.

Trago Lounge at Tropicana

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Confirmed: Total Rewards Will Become Caesars Rewards

Caesars Entertainment has been kind enough to confirm a story we first broke back in October 2018: The company’s loyalty club, Total Rewards, will be rebranded as Caesars Rewards.

We are not a psychic, we just play one on the Interwebs.

The switch from Total Rewards to Caesars Rewards will take place Feb. 1, 2019.

Here’s a look at the new Caesars Rewards cards.

Caesars Rewards

Caesars Entertainment is resting on its laurels.

Beyond the name change, Caesars Entertainment assures the program itself won’t change. “You will continue to receive all of the same great benefits with Caesars Rewards and more,” says the Caesars Rewards Web site.

Most Caesars Entertainment loyalty club members will barely notice the rebrand, and they can continue to use their Total Rewards cards until they take part in the time-honored casino tradition of forgetting them in a slot machine.

There are a couple of tweaks to the loyalty club for certain tier levels. For example, Platinum members will now get a free night in Las Vegas or Atlantic City (so, a free night in Las Vegas, because Atlantic City) for every 5,000 tier credits earned in 2019, up to seven nights.

Diamond tier members will get that new perk, plus they’ll get two free nights at the new Caesars Resort Dubai. Which is an inexpensive freebie for Caesars, as only four Caesars Rewards members are likely to take advantage of the offer, ever.

Seven Stars members, the folks who gamble the most at Caesars Entertainment casinos, already get some great benefits, and will get even more as the Caesars Rewards rebrand rolls out. Translation: Some of these folks might actually take Caesars up on its Dubai benefit.

That’s about it. It’s a name change.

It’s worth noting Caesars Entertainment spent about $40 million to relaunch its Total Rewards program in 2012.

Total Rewards Diamond

The Caesars Entertainment loyalty club, with 55 million members, employs an aspirational strategy designed to get players to seek higher tier levels. The higher the tier, the greater the level of ass-kissery.

So, why is Caesars Entertainment tossing a valuable and established brand like Total Rewards? We can only guess.

It’s likely the powers that be have simply decided to make the most of the Caesars brand. It’s the name on the company’s flagship casino resort in Las Vegas, and has international heft as well. Caesars has casinos on four continents.

The company’s most recent deals have involved slapping the Caesars name on non-gaming resorts like the aforementioned Caesars Resort Dubai and another in the works, Caesars Palace Puerto Los Cabos.

As the Caesars Entertainment business model moves from building and acquiring to licensing, the value of its Caesars brand is more important than ever.

Overall, Las Vegas casino companies are pivoting toward being perceived as entertainment companies rather than casino companies. Hence, it’s not Harrah’s Rewards or Horseshoe Rewards.

The outgoing CEO of Caesars Entertainment, Mark Frissora, has said we’ll be seeing more of the Caesars brand, including the possibility of adding “Caesars Entertainment presents” to the name of all its hotel-casinos.

So, get ready for Caesars Rewards!

Since you’ll be replacing your Total Rewards cards, it’s a great time to take another look at our 11 Alternate Uses for Your Casino Players Club Card. You’re welcome.

Player Hits Rare Sequential Royal Flush for $217,000 Jackpot

Lots of video poker players dream of hitting a royal flush. Some of us have even played on and off for, oh, 20 years and have never hit one.

Not bitter. At all.

One lucky video poker player at Red Rock Resort not only hit a royal, they hit a rare sequential royal flush.

The player’s $5 bet reaped an incredible $217,591.55 jackpot. And the Internet went wild.

Sequential Royal Flush

The stuff gambler’s dreams are made of. Photo Red Rock Resort.

We shared a photo of the sequential royal on our Twitter account, resulting in more than 130,000 Tweet impressions. This has nothing to do with the story, we just like to show off.

The sequential royal flush jackpot is remarkable for several reasons.

First, it’s remarkable we didn’t even know this existed.

Apparently, some video poker games require sequential royal flushes appear in order, left to right. The player at Red Rock nailed a “reversible sequential,” reading right to left.

Second, that’s a metric hell-ton of money.

Third, seriously, 20 years. Just saying.

The jackpot was won on a game called Video Poker Deluxe. Note to self.

How rare is a sequential royal flush? Well, the elusive royal flush (where cards can appear in any order) is 1-in-40,000. No small feat, obviously.

The odds of getting a sequential royal are about (wait for it) 2.4 million-to-1.

Or as we call it in Las Vegas, Saturday.

Defying the odds is what Vegas is all about. Well, that and cleavage. But mostly that first thing.

Sigma Derby is Done at MGM Grand

A popular, old-timey horse racing slot machine called Sigma Derby has finally been put down for good at MGM Grand.

Sigma Derby has a passionate following, and until recently, there were just two in Las Vegas (and possibly the country).

And then there was one.

An MGM Grand rep confirmed to us Sigma Derby won’t be back. The company said it has “done everything possible to prolong its active lifespan but that’s simply no longer possible.”

Sigma Derby MGM Grand

MGM Grand’s Sigma Derby was in its Level Up lounge for a minute. Guests were less than whelmed. It was moved back to the main casino floor for the remainder of its life.

That leaves just one Sigma Derby standing, the one at downtown’s The D Las Vegas.

Sigma Derby has built a fan base for a number of reasons.

There’s a communal element to the game, because up to 10 players can join in the fun. The cheering at Sigma Derby is about the only sound louder than a dice table in a Las Vegas casino.

Also, the machines only take quarters, so guests can play for an extended period of time (while enjoying free beverages) for relatively little cost.

The game is easy to understand as well. Players wager on two horses in each race. The horses they pick must finish first and second, in any order.

Sigma Derby

One of the great things about Sigma Derby is, no matter how much you drink, it’s hard to screw up too badly.

Noting the popularity of Sigma Derby, a company called Konami attempted to make an updated version of the mechanical horse racing game, Fortune Cup.

It’s fine. But it’s no Sigma Derby.

While fans of Sigma Derby will bemoan its passing at MGM Grand, we have to believe the casino is relieved to have it off the floor once and for all.

The machines break down frequently, and parts are nearly impossible to get, and many of the parts have to be fabricated from scratch.

Sigma Derby

Sigma Derby isn’t so much a slot machine as a cult.

In addition, casinos have moved away from coins to TITO (ticket in, ticket out) systems because of the cost of labor and maintenance involved.

Sigma Derby

You never know what people will grow attached to. Welcome to Sigma Derby.

It’s unknown how long the sole remaining Sigma Derby might last. The D installed Fortune Cup right next to the classic machine, possibly hoping customers would migrate to the new game so the old version could be retired.

That didn’t happen, and now there’s an additional incentive to keep Sigma Derby around. There’s major P.R. value in being the only game in town.

Hard Rock Rolls Out Painless Drink Voucher System

The first time we ever saw a voucher system for free drinks on a video poker machine, we had a minor meltdown.

That was at Mirage, back in 2015.

Then Caesars Entertainment made a splash when it rolled out drink monitoring to all its casino bars.

We still had sort of a meltdown, but we learned some deep breathing exercises and started asking questions.

Let’s just say we’ve done a 180 since 2015, largely due to understanding more about why drink monitoring systems are necessary and how, surprisingly, they help players.

This knowledge came in handy when we learned Hard Rock casino has implemented drink monitoring in all its casino bars. (Thanks to Lisa H. for the tip!)

Here’s a look at the new message guests see when they sit at a video poker machine at Hard Rock.

Hard Rock drink vouchers

What once gave us palpitations now elicits a “La-dee-dah.” Don’t judge. We used to musical theater.

No meltdown. Either we’re mellowing, or we’re starting to get a clue. You decide, because we’re drunk on comped drinks.

See, drink monitoring accomplishes a lot for casinos.

One, it cuts costs. Gone are the days when players would slip a dollar in a video poker machine and try to drink free all night. These systems assure players are actually playing, which is part of the deal to get drinks for “free.”

That’s the way it’s always been in Las Vegas, by the way, the monitoring was just never automated before.

Two, it takes the drink monitoring burden away from bartenders. Their reaction to drink monitoring systems has evolved much as ours has over the last couple of years, by the way. It’s no fun being a gatekeeper.

Three, drink monitoring systems prevent over-serving. The default in Las Vegas now seems to be players can earn about three free drinks per hour with continuous play. That’s how it works at Hard Rock, too.

So, what do these systems do for players?

One of the best benefits is monitoring systems keep freeloaders from taking up seats where you want to play. You know, to gamble. Which is sort of the point of having video poker at casino bars in the first place. They’re for gamblers.

Also, drink monitoring systems like the voucher system at Hard Rock take much of the mystery out of how much you have to play and at what betting level before you’ve earned more free hooch. You know where you stand.

The message on the machine at Hard Rock makes it clear. You put in $20, you get your first free drink. Then, just make $1 (or more) bets continuously, and you’ll get a steady supply.

By the time we were done at Hard Rock, we had more vouchers than we could actually redeem. We also won $60.

It was yet another reminder why Las Vegas is the best place on Earth.

Hard Rock drink vouchers

If you ever let a drink voucher go unredeemed, you’re doing Vegas wrong.

Some other small print at Hard Rock: The drink vouchers are only good for 12 hours, the vouchers aren’t transferable and the “beverage selection is limited.” They’ll have what you want unless you’re a snooty 60-year-old bottle of Macallan Valerio Adami person.

And, no, we don’t actually know what that is, but you get our point.

So, has Vegas changed in recent years? Yes.

Would we prefer to get free booze anytime, anywhere? Sure.

Are drinking monitoring systems coming to all the slots on Las Vegas casino floors? You bet.

But drink monitoring systems like the ones at Hard Rock or Caesars resorts or Westgate don’t even make the top three of our “Most Bothersome Things About Vegas Casinos” list.

That would be, in no particular order: 1) No plastic straws, 2) paid parking and 3) swapping out the liquor brand we order with a knock-off and lying about it.

By the way, parking at Hard Rock (soon to be Virgin Hotel Las Vegas) is free. Plus, they poured our Captain Morgan from a bottle and even included straws without our having to ask.

Man, alive, we love this town.

Total Rewards Reportedly Will Rebrand to Caesars Rewards

In what would be a big shake-up in the casino loyalty club realm, we’re hearing Caesars Entertainment will rebrand its popular Total Rewards program to Caesars Rewards in early 2019.

There’s been no official announcement of the Caesars Rewards roll-out, but when has that ever stopped us from sharing news?

Total Rewards Diamond

Using a loyalty club card is one of the best ways to get your fair share of perks.

The Total Rewards loyalty program began as Total Gold. Later, the program was called Total Rewards II.

Caesars Entertainment’s growth into a casino powerhouse owes a lot to its loyalty club, created in 1998 by the company’s former CEO Gary Loveman, borrowing heavily from similar programs in the airline industry.

How valuable is the Total Rewards program? In the company’s recent bankruptcy, the Total Rewards database was valued at a billion dollars. Yes, with a “b.”

Caesars Entertainment reports Total Rewards has about 55 million members.

Caesars Rewards

Unrelated to anything, don’t miss our alternative ways to use your loyalty club cards, including as ninja throwing stars.

While it’s unknown when the rebrand to Caesars Rewards is expected to occur, insiders suspect it will be Feb. 1, 2019, because higher tier cards in the program expire on Jan. 31.

It’s also unknown what changes to the loyalty club might accompany the rebrand.

Caesars Entertainment is currently trying to make the most of its brand, including licensing the Caesars name for non-gambling resorts in Dubai and Puerto Los Cabos, Mexico (we broke that news, naturally).

In related news, we hear Caesars is also going to experiment with a new rewards center at Linq said to be similar to an Apple store environment. You’ll know more when we do.

Should the rumor pan out, a rebrand from Total Rewards to Caesars Rewards is a bold move given the substantial investment made over a number of years to making Total Rewards one of most-recognized casino loyalty clubs in the world, the other being M Life Rewards from MGM Resorts.

In 2012, Caesars spent tens of millions for a relaunch of its Total Rewards loyalty program. The promotion was called “Escape to Total Rewards” and featured simultaneous concerts in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans. No expense was spared, and artists included Mariah Carey, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw, Mary J. Blige, Lil’ Wayne and Cee Lo Green.

Full disclosure: We used to work at Caesars Entertainment and did their Total Rewards loyalty club e-newsletter, with about five million subscribers. Yes, that’s less a disclosure thing and more of a humblebrag, but you know how we are.

Update (12/19/18): Caesars Entertainment has confirmed out story. Our tipsters even got the roll-out date right. The rebrand takes effect Feb. 1, 2019. Read more about Caesars Rewards.