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Best of Las Vegas


The Wet Republic at the MGM Grand.  

Gambling
$5 BLACKJACK TABLE
Four Queens

202 Fremont St.; 702-385-4011
A $5 blackjack table is tough to find on the Strip. Even harder to uncover: single-deck 21 tables that give players 3-to-2 payouts when they hit blackjack, lowering the house edge to a mere .18 percent. On a typical night downtown at the Four Queens, you can find at least two of the elusive games.

SPORTS BOOK
Caesars Palace

3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-731-7110
The sports book at Caesars isn’t the biggest in town (that would be the Hilton’s SuperBook), nor does it have swank lounge décor like the Palazzo. What it does offer is the perfect combination of competitive odds, a large variety of bets, and great old-school energy. Plus, you’re guaranteed a good view of the action: Each of the lounge’s 140 club chairs comes with its own television.

LOW-STAKES POKER TOURNAMENT
Orleans

4500 Tropicana Ave.; 702-365-7111
Howard Lederer, known on the pro poker circuit as the Professor, prefers the Orleans for the caliber of the players and the “good-sized fields”—from 50 on weekdays to 175 on a Friday night, when purses can get up to $20,000. The 35-table room is relatively luxe by off-Strip standards, and with fourteen sub-$100 buy-in tourneys a week, you’re highly likely to get a seat.


Eating
BUFFET
Bellagio

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-693-7111
At $35.95 per person for a weekend dinner, the Bellagio’s buffet is one of the city’s most expensive. But it’s also by far the best, says EatingLV.com food critic John Curtas. Note: Brunch is basically the same menu for $12 cheaper, and an extra $5 gets you unlimited Champagne.

CHEAP EAT
Raku

5030 Spring Mountain Rd.; 702-367-3511
Since opening quietly a year ago, the 31-seat strip-mall restaurant in Chinatown has become one of the hardest tables to book in town. “It has the best non-sushi Japanese food in town, and it’s a steal,” says James Beard award–winning local chef Paul Bartolotta. Call at least a week in advance for a reservation, or do like Bartolotta and other off-duty cooks and walk in after midnight.


STEAK
SW Steakhouse

Wynn Las Vegas, 131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-248-3463
Eschewing the grass-fed beef craze, SW chef David Walzog uses domestic corn-fed meat that’s been dry-aged for 28 to 35 days. It seems to be working: The steakhouse at Wynn is one of the top-grossing restaurants in the U.S.


Staying
LUXE HOTEL
Encore

3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-248-3463
Steve Wynn’s $2.3 billion pleasure palace couldn’t have opened at a worse time—for him, not for the rest of us. Lower-than-expected occupancy rates at the 2,000-plus-room hotel mean guests can bed down in beautiful 700-square-foot suites for as little as $169.

CHEAP HOTEL
Golden Nugget

129 Fremont St.; 800-634-3454
The Nugget’s not just the nicest digs in perennially cut-rate downtown Vegas. It’s also got arguably the sweetest (and scariest) pool in town. The three-story, $30 million complex known as the Tank includes a slide that shoots through an actual shark tank.

HOTEL FOR A FLING
The Artisan

1501 W. Sahara Ave.; 702-214-4000
The rooms at this Travelodge turned boutique hotel are right out of the dirty-weekend handbook: mahogany headboards, crushed velvet, gilt mirrors. Everything’s just seedy enough to feel illicit—there’s free porn on Channel 69; a strip club called Treasures is around the corner—but Gothic and moody enough to feel vaguely romantic.


Partying
NIGHTCLUB
XS

Encore, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-770-0097
Everyone from Paris to Paula has been spotted at this sprawling indoor-outdoor dance spot. The cover charge for guys is $30, $20 for gals. Bottle service, if that’s your thing, starts at $475 per bottle, and there’s usually a two-bottle minimum.

LOCALS ONLY BAR
Frankie’s Tiki Room

1712 W. Charleston; 702-385-3110
The Polynesian-themed bar opened in December, and the dark rum’s been flowing ever since (literally: The doors don’t even have locks). It’s like a tiny, neon slice of the South Pacific, complete with blowfish lamps and The High Roller, a seven-foot tiki warrior sculpture with a “lucky” crotch.


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