I wanted to let the whole "Be The High Roller" championship blow over before posting this because I sound like I'm the non-deceased Billy Mays of Reno with all the positive things I have to say about that town. This post is aimed to give a potential Nevada visitor some advice as to why they would go to one place over another if they wanted to place some wagers, eat some great food, and drink until the casino cuts you off and escorts you back to your room.
Las Vegas - I've been to Vegas a few times. I've stayed at Circus Circus (this was for a business trip, not my choice of hotel), the Luxor (I went with my buddy Mike for a few days to play poker and party), and Mandalay Bay (my friend Harrison's bachelor party.) These were three wildly different trips and different points in my life. The business trip happened before I knew much about gambling, the Luxor trip happened when I was still a bit green overall but had been playing lots of poker, and the bachelor party happened a year ago and I believe I posted about it here.
In my trips down to Vegas, what I realized is that the city is awesome. You can do pretty much anything you want. You just have to have deep pockets and you will have a fantastic time. There is relatively no great value in Vegas. Sure, if you're an actual high roller you can get great comps. But if you're just some guy rolling in for the weekend looking to spend $500 and gamble $500, that's probably not getting you much in the way of free comps. It is possible I haven't gone there enough, but my one sentence review of Vegas is:
Everything is great- except for how much it costs.
Tahoe - Tahoe has a GREAT reputation in the Sacramento Area. People LOVE going to Tahoe. I understand the draw, but let's be very clear about the difference between great looking natural surroundings and the actual casinos. I'm certain that there are people who have a positive association with the Tahoe casinos because of that one time they went boating on Lake Tahoe that time they were 13. The gorgeous nature has NOTHING to do with the casinos. Here are the breakdowns:
Harrah's - The only great casino in Tahoe and yet it has a small booth for a Sports Book and no Poker room. Also, you are not allowed to bet on the Celtics because the owner of the casino owns a share in the team. Club Vex is awesome and so is their buffet (though it is costly.) The breakfast place is very good as well. Harrah's is connected to Harvey's (and owned by the same folks)...
Harvey's - This houses the larger Sports Book and Poker room. I do not like Harvey's because the environment is quite cramped. I'm not sure if the ceilings are too low for my liking or what, but I always feel cramped in there. I prefer to play Craps at Harrah's if I'm there.
Monte Bleu - This is the old Caesar's Tahoe that Harrah's Entertainment had to sell for anti-trust reasons. Besides the x5 Craps tables, I see no real reason to go there. They haven't remodeled many of the rooms so it still looks like Caesar's and a much douchier crowd hangs out there. Not recommended.
Horizon - This casino feels like a nuclear bomb went off inside. They have NO table games. I couldn't find a Sports Book or Poker room. Essentially, they have all slot machines and a movie theater. Their most redeeming quality is the karaoke they run on Thursdays and Saturdays. This is HIGHLY recommend. Every other aspect of this casino should be avoided.
These are the four best casinos that Tahoe has to offer. Yikes.
Reno - Reno has a bad reputation in Sacramento. Many people say, "Why would you go to Reno when you can go to Tahoe?" Well, that's an easy question to answer, but first, let's talk about the term "The Strip."
In Vegas, "The Strip" is the place to be. It allows you to go from one casino to the next and they are all located on Las Vegas Blvd. Recently, other casinos have been popping up off the strip. The Palms, The Rio, and many others offer a great experience just off the main drag. People take cabs there and no one thinks about it (in fact, most people take cabs from one casino on The Strip down to others still on The Strip. Those walks are deceiving and long!)
In Tahoe, "The Strip" consists of the casinos I just named. More than likely, you would end up hanging out one of the four if you go to Tahoe. It is known as the place to gamble if you're headed that way.
In Reno, "The Strip" sucks. No two ways about it. Because people think that "The Strip" is code for "Best Place In Town To Gamble," visitors to Reno will head to "The Strip" and think "This is awful." Reno's Strip consists of Circus Circus, Silver Legacy, El Dorado, Harrah's, The Cal Neva, and other sad looking casinos. I'm not saying that there are no redeeming qualities to any of these places, but what I am saying is that it looks like a dump whereas Tahoe looks cleaner from the outside in.
HOWEVER, if we take "The Strip" out of the equation and cruise further down Virginia St, you will find FAR better casinos. The Peppermill is my obvious favorite, but let's take my biased opinion out of it. You can also go to The Atlantis or The Grand Sierra and both of those casinos have great things to offer. All three of these Off The Strip casino/hotels have more modern looks to them, great deals to be had, and great amenities. Both the Peppermill and the Atlantis have great Spas and Pools. All three have restaurants worth checking out. All three will start giving you decent comps early on.
I'm obviously a Peppermill customer for life after my great experiences there, but just remember- if you go to Reno, DO NOT go to "The Strip." Go to the place that has the nice casinos right down the road.
To sum up: Vegas is obviously the best if you have the cash. Tahoe is great if you like outdoor activities but their casinos aren't great. Reno has the best value for great casino experiences, but you have to go away from "The Strip" to get there.
Happy gambling... damn, writing that post makes me want to make another trip!