Saving Money with the American Casino Guide 2013

American Casino Guide 2013 Front CoverThe American Casino Guide is a paperback book published annually by Casino Vacations Press and authored by Steve Bourie. It contains all the basics on the major casino games, with honest and accurate information about how to play, what the odds are, and what strategies to use to maximize your chances of winning. It also has detailed contact and property info for nearly every casino in the country. For the third straight year, this edition includes an entertaining and informative seven page story by Dewey Hill of Dewey’s Vegas Adventures (pages 22-28) which tells everything you need to know about resort fees in Las Vegas and how to avoid/protest them – definitely worth educating yourself about.

This is where I first noticed that the editing of the book is not quite perfect. The final paragraph on page 22 and the first two paragraphs on page 23 are a repeat of the earlier text. There are a few other errors, like the reference in the Las Vegas section that points to the wrong page for this article, but please forgive these small foibles. The value of this book far outweighs any annoyance caused by the little errors within. Hopefully, you feel the same about this blog.

American Casino Guide Las Vegas ExcerptGetting to the Las Vegas section (pages 233-256), Steve offers some tips on the best deals in Vegas, the best places to play, his favorite free attractions, and information on nearly every hotel/casino in the valley. Pages 255-256 feature an article by Gaming Today columnist H. Scot Kraus with more free things to do and see in Vegas.

Steve also reports annual statistics for the payback percentages of slot machines broken down by region and bet amount (page 235). These percentages can help give you a clue where the best games are found at each denomination – the higher the better. Las Vegas has some of the highest payback percentages in the country. If you want to know where to find highest payback in Vegas I’ll give you a hint: As a general rule, you’ll have to get off the Las Vegas Strip. Seems like you’re reading the right blog.

Since I first discovered it in 2008, I have bought a new guide every year. In fact, I pre-ordered my copy of the 2013 edition in September. Why? Do I care that much about the payback percentage of penny slots downtown? Do the strategies, rules or games vary that much from year to year? Do I need to know if there are any new casinos in Montana? Nope. In fact, every year since that first year I have torn out the last couple hundred pages of the book and given the rest away.

Don’t get me wrong. The information in the front of the book is great, and I read every bit of it when I first got my hands on this book five years ago. Now I pass it on to friends and keep the best, most valuable part of the book for myself. You see, the back of this book is loaded with coupons, and roughly half of them can be used at casinos in Las Vegas.

American Casino Guide 2013 Discount CardThe coupons come with a card which you will need to show, identifying yourself as a purchaser of the book. You will need this card along with the coupon in some places, so it’s best to just cut it out and keep it in your wallet. The coupons themselves are divided up by state, then region (Las Vegas has its own section) and are listed alphabetically by the business name.

American Casino Guide 2013 El Cortez CouponsHow good are the coupons? This year there is a coupon for 50% off your meal at the Flame Steakhouse in the El Cortez that offers up to $25 in savings. This coupon alone can save you more than the cost of the book. While you’re at El Cortez you can also get $10 free slot play in the casino. There’s even a coupon to give you a hefty discount off of a hotel room.

Bring your coupons to the Four Queens and you can get two-for-one Mike Hammer tickets, two-for-one lunch or dinner entrees at Magnolia’s, and double players club points for a day (up to 500). There are $5, $10 and $25 table game match plays for casinos all over the valley, two for one show tickets, food and drink discounts, bonus slot club points and free slot play. There are even some nationwide coupons you can use on car rental and buying gambling goodies online.

This book easily pays for itself every year. I’ve discovered great places I had never been (like The Flame), and I’ve never had any trouble using the coupons. I was so confident that I would get my money’s worth out of this book that I pre-ordered my personal copy not knowing what this year’s coupons would be. It’s probably the safest bet I’ll make all year.

Thanks to Steve Bourie and Casino Vacations Press for providing a complimentary review copy at my request so that I could share this with you before the book arrived in stores.

Three great ways to get the American Casino Guide:

  • Buy it for $18.95 at your local bookstore when it becomes available (likely mid-late December).
  • Place a pre-order for a discounted copy from Amazon and help out this blog. (A small percentage of your total purchase made after clicking through the affiliate link comes back to LasVegasOffStrip and helps support the costs of providing this site.)
  • Win a FREE copy before you can buy one (US/Canada Residents only) in the next Where In Vegas contest. Stay tuned.

Tips:

  • The El Cortez hotel room coupon states it is for a Vintage or Pavilion room, but when you call for reservations you can use the coupon for a nice discount on the swankier Cabana Jr. Suites as well. Also note, this only applies for a Sun-Wed arrival and a minimum 2 night stay. Details like this (restrictions) can be found in the text on the front and back of each coupon. Though most of the restrictions are quite reasonable, it pays to read closely.
  • Many casino coupons require a trip to the player’s club (and membership, which is free) to redeem, so make sure the player’s club will be open when you get there.
  • Updates to coupons and other valuable information for bargain hunters can be found on the American Casino Guide website. Follow the link below.
  • New this year! Download the free American Casino Guide App for iPhone.

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The Spazmatics (Las Vegas): Nerds Rock!

Spazmatics Logo (from FSE screen)Nerds: Coke-bottle glasses, crash helmets, suspenders, bow ties and all other manner of socially awkward. Rock: Sweet electric guitar riffs, bangin’ drums and righteous vocals. Mix them together and what have you got? Mix them together!?!

Mix them together and you get the Spazmatics. And the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Far greater. You don’t believe me? See for yourself:

That’s the Spazmatics schtick, and it works. They dress like nerds, they act like nerds, but they rock. I was dumbfounded the first time I saw them on stage. They cover a wide variety of music from the decade that brought us “Revenge of the Nerds”. For their revenge, these nerds crank out amazing renditions of everything from “Take on Me” by A-ha to “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol and draw cheering crowds beyond the wildest fantasies of actual nerds. Their repertoire is so vast and varied that it’s fun just wondering what they will do next. Sideways baseball cap? Maybe some Run D.M.C.? “Rusty” the guitarist stepping up to the mic? Could it be an AC/DC rock anthem?

Their show is polished, it’s campy, it’s unexpected (at least the first time), and it is highly amusing. In fact, they’re so entertaining that the original Spazmatics band has spawned numerous others around the country to keep up with the demand for their unique brand of geek-n-roll.

But which is the original? Will the real Spazmatics please stand up? Yes, on stages all over this fine city. The original S to the P to the A to the Z started in L.A., but Vegas is their home now. Catch them on Friday nights at Sunset Station (free), Saturday nights in the South Point Lounge ($5 general admission, $10 VIP) and throughout the year at the Fremont Street Experience (various days/times). Don’t be a Poindexter, get out and see a show!

  • If you’re going to South Point, go VIP. $10 VIP admission gets you into the short line, with two drink tickets and a reserved table and chairs. It’s well worth the $5 premium.
  • The shows on Fremont tend to be PG-13 (if the kids get the jokes it’s not the band’s fault), but their show at other venues can get a bit more risque. Leave the kids and the easily offended at home.
  • The various Spazmatics bands are managed by Perfect World Entertainment. If you’re not in Las Vegas there may still be one in your neighborhood. Check out their website and see.
  • The Spazmatics will be headlining NYE 2013 at the South Point Casino. Last year’s show was a sellout, so get your tickets early!

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Viet Bistro: Another Culinary Gem in a Strip Mall (Vietnamese)

Viet Bistro Las VegasMy love affair with Vietnamese cuisine began when my girlfriend’s sister attended college in Cambridge, MA. She discovered, and soon shared with us, a Vietnamese restaurant in Harvard Square, then called Pho Pasteur. The food was fresh, healthy, had great flavors (but was not spicy) and it was cheap – fill your stomach for 7 or 8 bucks kind of cheap. I was hooked! I love to try new things, so I worked my way through their menu discovering many new favorites.

Fast forward to today. I’m always on the lookout for good, inexpensive eats in my favorite city, so it’s only natural that I began working my way through the Vietnamese restaurant offerings in Las Vegas. I’ve tried many of the fine Vietnamese restaurants up and down Spring Mountain, and many are very good. However, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Las Vegas is located in a strip mall at 7175 West Lake Mead Blvd.

Viet Bistro is a small mom n pop restaurant with just a few tables. Unlike other Vietnamese restaurants that I frequent, I often see other non-Asian patrons there. The general rule of thumb with ethnic restaurants is that if most of the clientelle matches the ethnicity of the restaurant, then the food must be good. This restaurant renders that “logic” worthless.

The food is excellent. Everything I have tried there has been delicious. The reason I believe there are so many non-Asian diners there is the service.  The owner and chef, Kevin, also makes time to interact with customers front of house, and always makes me feel welcome. Kevin is an expert at making his food approachable. The menu is primarily in English, with the translated Vietnamese names in small print below. Traditionally spicy dishes are prepared mild, with the spice on the side. He will suggest substitutions to suit your taste, and he pays attention to what you like, so that he can tailor his suggestions to your tastes.

Bun Bo Hue (Hue Style Spicy Beef Noodle Soup)Dining in his restaurant is like visiting a friend – A friend who is an excellent cook. When Kevin is up front making all of his customers feel at home, his sister keeps the kitchen running, preparing the restaurant’s amazing food.

Despite the prominent “Pho” advertised at the front entrance, the restaurant’s specialty seems to be “Hue Style Spicy Beef Noodle Soup” (Bun Bo Hue), a noodle soup with deep, flavorful broth, lemongrass, tender meats, cliantro and green onion. Fresh sliced peppers, lemongrass and sprouts are served on the side. It’s a large hearty bowl of soup that will fill you up for a mere nine dollars. For those familiar with pho, this noodle soup is similar, but uses a different (softer, white) style of rice noodle. Viet Bistro also offers Pho dishes of course, in many varieties like shrimp, oxtail, even filet mignon!

Goi Bo Tai Me (Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio Salad)Another standout is the Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio Salad (Go Bo Tai Me), with thin sliced rare beef over shredded cabbage and other fresh vegetables, topped with carrots and onions; all smothered in a brown (tamarind?) sauce. I’ve shared this $9.50 appetizer with my girlfriend on three separate occasions and it is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes that I have tasted anywhere. I really recommend you give it a try! Next time we go I’m ordering one all to myself.

Bun Cha Gio, Bo Nuong (Vermicelli with grilled beef and egg rolls)The vermicelli bowls (Bun) are fantastic as well. A large bowl is filled with warm rice pasta, fresh vegetables (sprouts, carrot, lettuce, cucumber, green onion, mint) and topped with chopped peanuts, meats, fish and/or spring rolls depending on which bun you choose. Fish sauce and peppers are served on the side. The first time I dined at Viet Bistro, the staff offered to make my bun with beef, which is how I often order it, but was not on the menu at the time. The result was amazing, simply the best bun I have had anywhere, and it has since been added to the regular menu – Grilled Beef Bun (Bun Bo Nuong). The bun prices vary from $8 to $10.50 depending on the toppings you choose.

Tips:

  • If you are new to Vietnamese cuisine, you may need to get used to fish sauce. This is a common component of Vietnamese dishes and it has a very nice flavor, but the scent takes a little getting used to. If the scent bothers you, just try to ignore it and enjoy the food. Getting past this initial hurdle opens the door to many delicious dishes. It’s worth it.
  • Most Vietnamese food is mild, and peppers are offered on the side so you can season to taste. If you find that your dish has become too spicy for you, the Vietnamese iced coffee (made with sweetened condensed milk) tastes great and does a good job of cutting the spice.
  • If you have concerns about specific ingredients or the level or spice, or even if you don’t see your favorite Vietnamese dish on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask. I have found Viet Bistro to be very accommodating.

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Note: This post was updated on Nov 23, 2012 to correct inaccuracies regarding the relationship and roles of the owner and staff.

We Have a Winner!

Eric was the first to answer correctly. Congratulations, Eric! You’ve won the very first “Where in Vegas” contest.
West Flamingo Road in front of the Rio Las Vegas
The location in the photograph is West Flamingo Road by the Rio. The contest image was cropped from the bottom of a larger image, shown at left, which makes that fact a bit more clear:

Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Look for a new contest next month. Join the RSS feed so you won’t miss it. I’m hoping to secure an even better prize for that one.

Contest: Where in Vegas?

There was a blog I used to read years ago, I can’t remember the name of it any more, that used to post a picture each month and ask the readers to identify which Las Vegas casino the picture was taken in. The pictures were always tightly cropped shots of obscure bits of decor inside the casino – the sort of details you might never notice, and no-one would think to take pictures of. It was a fun little contest, but it came to an end when the blogger was harassed and nearly arrested because one of the casinos thought he was casing the joint and didn’t buy his “well I have this blog and I run this contest” spiel.

Where in Vegas?He decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, and I don’t blame him, but I think this sort of contest is kind of neat. So, I’m going to give it a shot here. The pictures can be from anywhere in Las Vegas, except the strip, of course. Since I’m not limiting myself to casinos, I plan to offer pictures with a bit more detail. I’ll be filling space in my blog with this about once a month.

So here it is, the inaugural “Where in Vegas?” photo contest. Give your answer in the comments of this post. The first person to correctly identify where the photo was taken wins… Bragging Rights! And a small prize. This month’s prize will be a collection of Las Vegas guides and coupon books mailed anywhere in the US or Canada. The guides are mostly from October, but many of the coupons do not expire before the end of the year. There is also information about many great things in Vegas. Some of them are even off the strip! You could collect all of these guides for free while in Vegas, but it’s much more fun to get them delivered to your house, and you’ll be able to use them to help plan before you arrive. So check out the photo and tell me Where in Vegas it is, and this lovely prize package could be yours!

Be sure to include an accurate email address with your entry so that I may contact you for a shipping address if you win. Also, comments are moderated, so your post will not show up immediately. One post per person, please.

Sorry, those outside the US/Canada must settle for bragging rights as their only prize. It is simply too costly to ship overseas. Maybe we can work something out if you’re willing to contribute to the shipping cost.

The Prize:Photo Contest Prize