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Rating the Casino Venues6 April 2002
The top three gambling venues in the country are Las Vegas, Nevada (including downtown, the Strip, Off-Strip, and suburban sprawl areas); Atlantic City, New Jersey, and, hold onto your hats, Tunica, Mississippi. These are followed in no particular order by Biloxi, Mississippi, Reno, Nevada, and clusters of Midwest casinos here and there. Of course, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are right up there in lucrativeness as one would expect in such a well-healed state as Connecticut.
But if we stick to the big three, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Tunica, it is not hard to analyze the games and come up with a ranking of each venue in terms of blackjack, craps, roulette, and other games. Obviously, these rankings are the opinion of your intrepid writer who has visited the various venues and are not based on detailed surveys of players' opinions. But I know I'm right!
So how does tiny Tunica fare in head-to-head competition with its closest economic rivals, those giants of Atlantic City and Las Vegas, in the table game department? Our rating system is a scale of 10 to 1, with 10 being a "gambler's dream" and 1 being a gaming nightmare.
Las Vegas: The ritzy Strip casinos offer games with 3X, 4X and 5X odds on the 4/10, 5/9, 6/8, respectively. Table minimums even at swanky joints such as Venetian, Mandalay Bay and Bellagio range from $5 to $25. Even on weekends you can find $5 tables. You can "buy" the 4 and 10 for $25 or more and pay the commission only on winning wagers. That makes this bet better than placing the 6 or 8! Downtown and locals casinos (such as Sunset Station) will offer 10X up to 100X odds with minimum bets of $2 to $10, rarely more. They also allow buying the 4/10 with commission paid only on the winning wagers. For craps, then, Las Vegas rates a strong 8.
Atlantic City: You will find some 10X odds games on occasion, but several casinos have 5X odds, and some 3X, 4X and 5X like the Strip casinos. You'll be hard pressed to find any $5 tables on weekends or week nights, unless the action in a given casino is really slow. Most games go for $10, $15 and $25 minimums. You can buy the 4 or 10 for $35 paying a one dollar commission, but this commission is paid on all wagers, winning and losing ones. This is mediocre at best. For craps, Atlantic City rates a 5.
Tunica: Craps heaven. Most casinos have 10X or 20X odds with $2-$3 minimums during off-peak hours and $5 minimums during peak hours. You'll find some $10 minimums as well, but there are almost always more $5 tables than any other denomination even on the weekends. Like Vegas, you can buy the 4/10 with commission paid only on wins but, unlike any venue in the country, you can also buy the 5/9 with the commission paid only on winning bets as well. This reduces the edge on the 5 and 9 substantially. For craps, Tunica rates a dazzling 9.
Las Vegas: You can still find single-deck games all over Vegas, some for minimums as low as $3! Most casinos have double-deck games in addition to six-deck games, with lows of $5. Even the haughty Strip casinos will have an abundance of $5 blackjack games. Table maximums are usually very high, too, so high rollers love to play blackjack in Vegas. Some few casinos have the abominable eight-deck games but you'll be hard-pressed to find them. The rules in Vegas range from good to extraordinary but with so many casinos to choose from, you must shop around. Vegas is a blackjack player's wonderland. For blackjack, Vegas rates a scintillating 9.
Atlantic City: No single-deck games. Few if any double-deck games. Sands has been experimenting with a three-deck "heads-up" game with $25 and $100 minimums. Sands and Claridge have also offered four-deck games, although the Sands limit of $300 for maximum bet is an insult to the word "gambling." Otherwise, it is usually six-deck games in the high-roller rooms only and the awful eight-deck games for the low to medium rollers. You'll rarely find $5 games, except at really off-peak times like 4:15 AM to 4:16 AM. Even $10 games are a rarity on weekends in many AC casinos. While the rules for AC are good, the table minimums and the diversity of games aren't. For blackjack, AC rates a forlorn 4.
Tunica: A few casinos offer single-deck games, but just about all the casinos offer double-deck games with $5 minimums and fairly high maximums ($1,000 or more). Some casinos have the dealers hitting soft 17 and some have the dealers standing on soft 17 on the single and double-deck games. Six-deck games are also in abundance and these usually have the dealers standing on soft 17. Even on weekends you will find many $5 games and an abundance of $10 games. During the week, it is not unusual to find minimums under $5 at off-peak times. For blackjack, Tunica rates a solid 8.
Las Vegas: You can find some single-zero wheels at a handful, a small handful, of casinos. The rest of the town is the traditional American double-zero wheel without the "surrender" option that allows you a return of half your bet on the "even-money" bets should the 0 or 00 appear. Table minimums are often 50 cents and even on the Strip, you find many $5 and $10 tables. For roulette, Vegas rates a 6.
Atlantic City: All the casinos have the "surrender" option on the double-zero wheels which cuts the house edge in half on those even-money bets such as Red and Black. You can also find single-zero wheels on occasion as well. Table minimums are usually $10 and up during peak hours, but you can find $5 games on off-peak hours. For roulette, Atlantic City rates an 8.
Tunica: Isle of Capri has a single-zero wheel with en prison (the European equivalent of surrender), which makes it the best casino to play roulette in the country. Unfortunately, all the other casinos have double-zero wheels with no surrender. Table minimums are often $3, mostly $5, and occasionally $10, rarely more. For roulette, Tunica rates a 5.
OTHER GAMES OVERVIEW
Most of the other casino games such as Pai Gow Poker, Caribbean Stud, Three-Card Poker and the like are more or less standard throughout the three venues. You will find some differences here and there on occasion, but they are based on the individual casino's choices and can change with the wind. So to pick one venue over the others for any of the above games would be difficult.
THE FINAL ASSESSMENT
Tunica -- with its 9 in craps, 8 in blackjack and 5 in roulette and average of 7.3 -- comes in just a shade under Las Vegas, whose average was 7.7; but Tunica is far ahead of Atlantic City with its 5.7 average. For blackjack and craps players, Tunica is really the next-best place to play, after Sin City.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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