$5 BLACKJACK TABLE
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-891-1111
The newest of the pickup pools is more Ibiza than Nevada, such is the constant thrum of the European house music. The best party is, believe it or not, on Sunday, when the pool invites celebs, artists, and D.J.’s to entertain the sunbaked crowd. Board shorts are the norm for guys. Girls wear their teeniest bikinis, accessorized with high heels and lots of bling.
3663 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-836-0830
The largest gay club in Vegas also hosts its most outrageous events—sometimes with aerialists suspended from the ceiling—not to mention “the city’s hottest go-go dancers,” says Earl Shelton of QVegas magazine. Fridays are packed for V.J. Alpyne’s seamlessly woven dance tracks and videos, while Saturday’s Candybar party is strictly for the ladies.
The Forum Shops
Caesars Palace, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-893-4800
A 1.5-mile-long three-level labyrinth, with shops ranging from Abercrombie to Zegna, the megamall beneath Caesars is where locals disappear for a few hours or days to shop. Says Blend boutique owner Alexis Vayda-Assayag, “If you want to spend $10,000 on artwork from Peter Max or $50 on a pair of American Apparel leggings, you go to the Forum.”
The Spa at Trump
2000 Fashion Show Dr.; 702-476-8000
Vegas has a lot of superspas but not many intimate, nine-room affairs like this one. A personal attaché gets your shoes shined and clothes pressed while you’re being pampered, then makes tea and wraps you in a heated throw after the treatment. Hour-long massages ($150) are actually the full 60 minutes (as opposed to 50 at most Vegas spas).
Planet Hollywood. 3367 Las Vegas Blvd.; 800-745-3000
The weeks-old burlesque review starring Mel B of the Spice Girls and Kelly Monaco of General Hospital has got “plenty of T&A,” says local TV reporter Alicia Jacobs, but also “loads of hot men. I was kind of going, ‘Wow.’” In other words, it’s just naughty enough to go with a bachelorette party, but still rocking enough to bring your husband.
It Happened in Vegas
True stories from the comments section of nymag.com.
“I was staying with my boyfriend in one of those ‘lovers suites’ with a giant bathtub. After dropping E, we came back to the room around 3 a.m. and started the bath. Long story short, we passed out. We were woken by hotel security. The room three floors below us had awakened to find their ceiling dripping and TV sizzling.”
“I got married in Vegas, to a guy I knew for two weeks. On our wedding night, this very old Rat Pack–looking dude stopped us at Caesars and prattled on about true love. Then he offered us his hooker, Gina, for the night, free of charge.”