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Posted by on Aug 6, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Best Slots To Play During The Warmer Months

With summer well and truly underway and the heat building, many of us automatically think of pursuing an outdoor hobby. But if you fancy staying cool out of the sun and in front of the fan, then here are some seasonal new game to play to keep the summer theme going.

Extra Chili Slot 

Don’t be fooled by the title, Extra Chili slot does not revolve around cold weather instead it’s a game that will leave you hot under the collar. This Mexican chili pepper themed slot is great to play in the summer because of its themes colours and settings. The stars of this slot are the crystal chilies that come in an array of different colours. This Big Time Gaming entry is yet another addition to the megaways slots and the graphics and style closely follow in the footsteps of Bonanza. The most noticeable thing here is the removal of the upper reel that sits across the main reel frame that is a common trait of megaways slots. Instead, here it sits at the bottom of the reels. The free spins bonus round has great potential thanks to multipliers and the 115649 megaways available on the 6 reels. Along with the peppers, you will also find the standard deck of cards symbols as well. Fireworks represent the wild symbol and there are three scatter symbols represented by the letters H, O and T. If you manage to spell the word HOT on the reels, then you will receive 8 free spins. Any other golden scatter symbol containing any of the letters, will add to the free spins during the bonus feature. 

Amazon Queen Slot 

Keeping the hot and humid theme going is Amazon Queen. Here amongst the heat of the rainforest setting you can expect close encounters with snakes, tigers and gorillas. Amazon Queen is a 5-reel 20 payline video slot by WMS. The base game can offer some big wins courtesy of wilds and the most valuable symbol of them all, the silver back gorilla. Other symbols include a tiger, parrot, snake, durian fruit, diamonds, spades, clubs and hearts. The alluring amazon queen herself is the bonus symbol and 3 nets you 10 free spins, 4 gives you 25 spins and 5 throws 100 free spins your way. 

Great Rhino Slot 

The searing heat and sundrenched land of the rhino features heavily in the Great Rhino slot. The sun kissed setting of this Pragmatic Play slot is also home to flamingos, meerkats, crocodiles and big cats. This 5 reel, 20 payline slot also includes a respins streak feature and a free spins bonus round. To activate the free spins feature you need to land 3-tree scatter symbols on the reels. The bonus consists of 10 free spins and during these spins the rhino symbol becomes a wild. The Super Respin feature is triggered if you land 2 or more full stacks of rhino symbols on the reels. If this happens, then you are awarded 3 free spins on a screen displaying nothing but rhinos and blank.

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Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 in General Poker | 0 comments

Ways in Which the Gaming Industry Shall Function Post COVID-19

Since the time the pandemic has hit humankind and proved itself to be a more fatal virus than the common cold (COVID-19 is not the flu), the world has come to a sudden halt. The virus has not only claimed lives around the planet and severely impacted the health of millions, but also cause a major slump in the world economy. Industries have found themselves going out of business and families have lost their primary source of income. A pandemic of this scale was probably never anticipated or seen before, and that is what has shaken the core of our very lives. The only way to survive the tanking economy is to adopt appropriate social distancing measures, frequent hand-sanitizing, wearing masks and including these same in workspaces. Let us just face it, we cannot live all our lives inside our homes and without going to work. Therefore, what we require at this point in time is education and awareness to combat the spread of the virus in the workspace.

Speaking of industries shutting down and families going out of work, one such industry that has been impacted by the pandemic is the gaming sector. Not many of us might know, but the gaming and gambling sectors contribute a significant amount to the economy of the world, and with these land-based establishments shutting down for an indefinite period of time, the economy has taken a hit. Therefore, what we must look forward to right now are the ways in which this sector will resume work once things start settling down. 

 

Masks, Sanitization, and Social Distancing:

This needs no telling, but for the sake of a wholesome discussion, we need to bring into light that land-based casinos, sports betting centers and other gaming establishments shall function keeping in tandem with the appropriate social distancing and sanitizing measures. Visitors to these gaming floors who are not wearing masks must not be allowed inside, and pre-booking of the floors could be very much entertained as a possibility. With a few number of people on the casino floors or any other gaming center, social distancing measures can be followed easily, and the spread of infection could be curbed. This way, the gaming centers do not have to shut their businesses down, and neither do they have to run the risk of community transmission. 

 

Online Casinos and Gaming Websites Shall Continue to Fill in for their Land-Based Counterparts:

People have turned to gaming websites and online casinos in their gaming and gambling pursuits ever since the period of quarantine began. These online counterparts of the land-based establishments have come in as a welcome relief and kept the industries afloat even in these difficult times. Gaming and gambling enthusiasts have found relief in these online sites. They do not have to make safe arrangements to step outside their houses to visit the gaming parlors because all that they would ever want to play are available right on their computer screens. For instance, online gambling California is now being treated as the primary source of gambling in lieu of land-based gambling in California, and the results have been quite impressive.

Fewer Staffs on the Gaming Floors, Weekly Rotation of Staffs:

Another brilliant way for these land-based gaming establishments to function even in these times is by involving only the necessary number of staffs on the floors, and getting them to work on a weekly basis. This way, they do not have to risk the lives of their employees, and neither do they have to lay off their staffs. Fewer people on the floors mean that adequate and appropriate social distancing can be followed and the chances of the infection to spread can be substantially minimized. Therefore, it is important that gaming centers work with less than half of their total number of staffs in order to get the spread of the infection under control and manage the pandemic to the best of their efforts.

Wrapping Up:

All that one can do right now is to be aware and enlightened about the ways in each one of us can handle the crisis and do our best to follow the protocols in the respective workspaces. It is important for industries and offices to open up if the sinking economy is to be saved from the stage of irreparable damage. Hopefully, the points that we have mentioned in this article are how the gaming industry would function once they start opening up and do their bit in the recovery of the economy. 

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

What Casino Game has the Highest Return to Player Percentage?

 

 

When playing casino games, you need to understand and know what to expect in regards to your chances of winning, and how much you stand to gain on average. This is what return to player percentage or payout percentage is all about. Based on the game you choose, there are games with high return to player percentage, while others have low payout percentage. This can also vary from one casino to the other. This is why you need to take time and understand what you are up to before you start playing.

Blackjack

With an array of casino games with a huge return to player percentage, blackjack is simply the king. It is a major. Blackjack is one of the most widely played casino games across the globe. The table game is available in different variations, and offers more chances of winning. Based on your preference, you can play live dealer blackjack among other variations that allow you to explore huge bonuses.

Most importantly, blackjack has a huge payout percentage of 99.45%. Even though blackjack is a lucrative game, its payout pays when you play well, using the right strategy and on the right platform. It is not a table game of chance but skill, and requires an optimum strategy for you to enjoy RTP. Online blackjack variations including Classic blackjack by Microgaming and Blackjack switch by Playtech are amazing options with the best and higher RTP compared to the standard blackjack.

When playing blackjack, the rule of thumb is to choose a casino that offers a great playing experience, make wise and informed decisions and build your strategy. These enhance your chances of winning and making the most of the percentage payout.

Slots

Slots also have a high payout percentage. Most slots have a 90 to 99 payout percentage. Based on the casino you choose and the slot machine you settle for, it is highly recommended that you go for slots with more than 95% RTP. Some of the best slots to explore include Blood Suckers with a payout percentage of 98 per cent. It is an enjoyable game with 25 paylines, 5 reels and amazing bonus rounds that can earn you more as you play. These are some of its lucrative features that make the game attractive to many players. Furthermore, it gives you great free spins to boost your winnings.

  • Ugga Bugga slot game has an RTP of 98.07 per cent return to player percentage. It has 10 paylines and 3 reels. Developed by Playtech, it is a slot game that is enjoyable to play, offers more chances of winning even with a single bonus feature.
  • Ooh Aah Dracula is similarly a popular Barcrest online slot game with a 99 per cent payout percentage. It comes with 10 paylines, 5 reels and exciting bonus features as well as scatter and wild symbols. Ooh Aah Dracula also offers free spins to boost your gaming or payout ratio.
  • 1429 unchartered seas is a volatile yet popular and exciting slot game with an RTP of 98.63 per cent. It is an exciting game that comes with unique, beautiful and expanding wilds that you can take advantage of when playing.

Roulette

Roulette is available in different versions including European, American and French versions. French roulette has an RTP of 98.65 per cent, European roulette 97.30 per cent and American roulette an RTP of 94.74 per cent. To enhance your chance for success, always settle for roulette version with the highest RTP. You also need to be keen on betting odds because they play a significant role in enhancing your chance of winning.

The other games with the highest return to player percentage that you can choose include craps with 98.64 per cent, Bacarrat with 98. 94 per cent and 3 card poker with 98.24 per cent.

With these options in mind, it is vital to note that an RTP is a crucial aspect of the game you choose to play. When combined with the right odds, it goes a long way to boost your chance of winning or earning more from your gaming sessions.

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Posted by on Apr 7, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal | 4 comments

Remembering the Castaways

 

Castaways

 

The Castaways Casino was open from 1963 to 1987. Here’s my recollection of that forgotten slice of the Las Vegas Strip before it was demolished to make way for The Mirage, which stands in its place today.

 

It was cramped.  It was smokey.  It was hot.  It was dusty.  It was ugly.  It was a hellhole.  And, it stank.

But none of that mattered at age 21.  None of those things were important when visiting Las Vegas legally as an adult for the first time every bit as capable of debauchery and degeneracy and depravity as the rest of America’s mad herd of merry gamblers.

I can’t identify what exactly it was that made the Castaways so damned appealing, so fun, so interesting, so compelling, and — now 36 years later — so memorable.  The Castaways wasn’t luxurious like its Haute neighbor Caesars Palace, next door.  It wasn’t famous like the Flamingo, down the block.  It wasn’t known for world-class entertainment like the Sands, across the street.  It wasn’t Ballys.  It wasn’t the Aladdin.  It wasn’t even in the class of run-down mobbed-up Dunes, soon slated for demolition.

The Castaways was a cramped square-shaped casino that resembled the inside of a bus station.  And it was loud.  Outside, the parking lot was too dark.  Inside, the casino was way too bright.  There was a small hotel, with 100 rooms, the quality about equal to a Motel 6 about five years too late for renovation.  There was a restaurant on the premises rumored to be pretty reliable, serving a truck-stop like menu 24/7 with prices starting at 99 cents for a full continental breakfast, including a tiny glass of artificially-flavored orange juice.

I made at least four trips to the Castaways between the ages 21 and 25, sometimes with $300 in my pocket and once with about $7,500 — my fate the same on each and every trip.  My final visit was in 1987, only a month before it closed down and was bulldozed to the ground to pave way for Las Vegas’ first giant mega-resort called the Mirage, which opened two years later in 1989.  The Mirage is a gorgeous hotel to look at and it ushered in what’s known as the modern era of Las Vegas with 4,000-room resorts being commonplace, famous TV chefs, circus acts, and showrooms of shopping and more shopping.

But I do miss the old Castaways.  Yes, I do.  Yeah, it was a dump.  But it was the dump where I liked to hang out.  Like an old pair of shoes or the girl you first fell in love with or a cheap can of beer, it all just seemed so real, so authentic.

castaways casino

 

The Castaways never established its own niche until perhaps it was too late and the times had changed.  Maybe that’s why some of us connected with it so easily.  As a casino, it was the orphan.  A stepchild.  More of a black sheep.  It was the ugly offspring that struggled and always had to borrow money from rich parents and brothers and sisters.  It was an oddball and an outcast.  And it eventually ended up as rubble, the spot where it once stood obliterated to the dustbin of history by a fake volcano.

Nothing seemed to go easily for the Castaways from the day it first opened.  In 1963, the casino was themed as a Polynesian Resort, with Tiki torches and palm trees surrounding the exterior.  The hit television show Gilligan’s Island with its own set of castaways couldn’t even save the casino, which struggled financially.  Things were so bad, the casino had to close its doors by the final day of 1964.  Unconnected to organized crime that was so pervasive throughout Las Vegas at the time, skimming apparently played no role whatsoever in the casino’s floundering finances.  Fact was, the Castaways was just a very poorly run casino positioned at a horrible spot on The Strip.  It sat next to a Mobile gas station.  Who would want to gamble at the little place with palm trees across the street when the Flamingo and Sands were packed with pretty people and the greatest live entertainment of the 60s?

The original owner was an oilman and he realized seven wasted figures deep that there was more money buried under the ground than above it.  So, the Castaways was sold in 1965.  The new owners invested $300,000 and redesigned the outer structure, installing a colorful motif in front which was far more alluring than the simpler facade with thatched roofs made of faux-straw.  They also put in eight fresh gaming tables, plus 70 state-of-the-art slot machines.  For the next two years, the casino didn’t make much money.  But it didn’t lose money, either.

Progress.

Howard Hughes changed the Las Vegas casino landscape forever when he went on a wild spending spree during 1968, taking full control over at least five major properties.  Included in this grand acquisition towards so-called corporate legitimacy was the Castaways.  The selling price was reported at $3 million — a tidy sum which included the land, a huge parking lot, the casino, a hotel, a restaurant, and the gaming license.  Hughes might as well have stolen the property given what was later to come.

Hughes didn’t survive much longer, but The Castaways did.

It outlived Hughes by more than a decade before a new suitor came along.  His name was Steve Wynn.  He had a grand idea to tear down the Castaways and build a new casino resort, the likes of which Las Vegas had never seen before.

castaways casino

 

The Castaways was a pioneer in at least one aspect, and that was sports gambling, and this was all due to the wit and wisdom of the late Sonny Reizner.

For someone widely considered so old school, Reizner was in many ways actually a modern maverick.  He one of the most important transitional figures in the history of legalized sports betting.  Around 1976, Reizner opened up one of the city’s first sportsbooks located inside a casino, which was housed at the Castaways.  Up until then, horse racing and sports betting were thought of as far too labor-intensive and not profitable enough to dedicate proper casino floor space.  Hence, racebooks and sportsbooks in Las Vegas were tucked inside smaller OTB-style storefronts that looked like strip malls.

sonny reiznerReizner saw the future and in some ways even manufactured it.  He knew that a well-managed outlet for sports gambling could attract new customers.  So, he manned a small sportsbook called “the Hole in the Wall.”  It took bets on sporting events only.  No horse racing.

By 1978, Reizner recognized he could create and then corner a new market when he launched the first-ever NFL handicapping contest.  It cost $1,000 to enter.  The winner was declared the handicapping “world champion.”

In 1980, Riezner was posting odds on things like “Who Shot J.R.?” from a popular television show.  His novel idea of a publicity stunt even created controversy as he issued tickets on the outcome, but the gaming commission stepped in and ruled wagering wouldn’t be permitted on entertainment-related events.  He put up numbers (later, for amusement only) on where the Skylab Space Station would crash when it fell back to earth.  Indeed, Reizner was a master of generating free publicity, and his home base of operations was the Castaways.  The Las Vegas Hilton, the Stardust, and the Union Plaza also caught on to this market and helped foster it, but the Castaways was the kickoff, the tip off, and the ground central, all encased in a cubbyhole containing two betting windows, a few telephones, and a large whiteboard with the latest odds scribbled in colored magic markers.

Long after Reizner passed away (in 2002), and the Castaways was but a memory, the football handicapping contest, and parlay cards, and other fun promotions created by the sports gambling maverick have become staples inside every major casino sportsbook.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to Sonny Reizner.

……….

And now, the final chapter, and my own story and recollections.

I don’t have any big scores or life-changing moments from the Castaways.  What I remember was a horribly run-down and painfully uncomfortable casino which was the greatest place in the world to hang out.

There were some blackjack tables, a craps table, and slot machines surrounding the parameter walls.  Two poker tables flanked the casino floor, separated by rails crammed with barstools.  Every seat seemed to be filled each time I went inside and it didn’t matter if it was 4 pm or 4 am.

The Castaways was super player-friendly.  Free drinks, never a hassle.  Helpful sports betting clerks.  But the dealers and pit bosses were what I remember most fondly.  They welcomed card counters.  They encouraged new players and even helped them place bets.  I even saw dealers and supervisors openly tutoring players on “21” basic strategy.  You’d never see that anywhere else.

Oh, everyone seemed to be talking and the noise was unbearable.  Back then, all the machines used coin in, which meant dirty buckets were pawed by eager gamblers, dropping silver dollars, quarters, dimes, nickles, metal slugs, and even pennies — one at a time, making the cling-clang down the shoot — and then to really get the full effect, multiply the echo of coins by 50 or 60 or 70, and add some bells, and the occasional scream from a lucky winner or furious addicted loser — and the place sounded like a cross between a tin can recycling plant and a hospital emergency room.

Then, there was the smoke.  The smoke inside was so thick it was blue.  Like a lava lamp hanging permanently in the air, gyrating until it melded with billions of other particle-toxins until it became one giant fucking ashtray the size of a casino.  The smoke was so thick it was nauseating.  Like burn your nostrils and water the eyes — thick.  But no one complained or even cared because no one thought about smoking and non-smoking and second-hand smoke back in 1987.  It’s just the way it was.  Hell, back then you could smoke on airplanes.

And I remember the poker, played by scary-looking people.  Old ladies.  Cowboys.  People who looked like they were part of the Mafia.  They all looked like professionals.  Cigs dangling in their mouths while they played, and while they talked even, the ash burning down and getting longer until there was actually a faint glimmer of suspense at wondering just how long that crooked ash from a burning Pall Mall could hang off and extend the butt, before crashing onto either the distorted green table felt or the shirt bib of the smoking poker player who was utterly oblivious to the ash and toxicity of what amounted to working inside a Kentucky coal mine, let alone concerned about the strategic position of the closest ashtray stamped in the Castaways logo.

I can’t forget the beer at the Castaways, either.  I’ve tasted lots of cold beer in my life, but the beer at the Castaways might have been the coldest.  It was always brought by a smiling waitress in those really thick red glass bottles, where the weight of the container was much heavier than the actual contents.  Longnecks.  Budweiser longnecks.  Ice cold Budweiser longnecks.  Goddamn, that beer was cold and it was good.

It was at least 105 degrees in Las Vegas on my final visit.  Or, it could have been 110.  The black tar burned your feet through the soles.  When you pushed that swinging glass door that never seemed to close because people were going in and out all the time, it just went back and forth on its hinges, faintly cutting the hot air outside from the blue nicotine of air inside, as an outdated AC system basically said “fuck it,” that was, if it could talk.

Funny thing was, the Castaways made lots of money during its last few years.  Every spot around it was much bigger and fancier, but lots of people must have also loved slumming around in the cheap place where no one ever paid for a drink, where the beer was cold, and cigs weren’t necessary if you smoked.  All you had to do was step inside, and inhale.

I lost my last $5 chip at a blackjack table, the last shred of anything of value on my person, but I still ordered another cold beer and took it out the door at an ungodly early morning hour I don’t know since there were no clocks on the walls and time didn’t matter anyway, and I headed back to my freezing hotel room at the Flamingo Hilton, which had luxury rooms shoehorned on the backside on the other side of the pool.  When I left that summer night in June 1987, I didn’t realize that was the last time I’d see my old friend.  I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

The Castaways shuttered its doors just a month later, and by fall, the parking lot was no longer burning hot but the asphalt was buried in busted concrete and broken glass, surrendered to greater powers and in the shadows of steel girders rising in the near distance.

 

Note:  There were two casinos named the Castaways.  This location is not to be confused with the casino that opened later on Boulder Highway and torn down in 2003.  Despite the same name, there is no relation.

 

Further Reading:  For more information on the Castaways, I highly recommend visiting “The Perlowski Files.”

 

Special thanks to David K. Li at NBC News in New York for prompting me to write this story.

 

Castaways Las Vegas

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Posted by on Feb 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Las Vegas | 1 comment

Sahara Poker Room (Las Vegas): A Short Review

 

sahara-poker-room

 

SAHARA POKER ROOM (LAS VEGAS) —
A SHORT REVIEW

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Yesterday, I visited the new Sahara Poker Room, which opened the previous day. Sahara management’s bold decision to dedicate considerable space and cost to poker deserves praise. If you are a Las Vegas poker player (or a visitor), it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be supported. At the least, the Sahara Poker Room deserves a visit.

This is the first poker room to open in Las Vegas in ten years. The Las Vegas poker market, which has been flat for quite a long time, has experienced consolidation. The biggest rooms have done fine. Meanwhile, several smaller rooms have been reduced in size or have closed.

Typically, a new poker room opening would not interest me. However, two key attributes attracted my attention.

First, this was my first visit to the new Sahara property since it was rebranded from the (previous) SLS Resort. That failed experiment turned into a half-billion-dollar disaster. Bringing back the classic Sahara name and updating the property is certain to jump-start enthusiasm for the northern area of The Strip, which has been a ghost town for anything north of the Wynn. Once some other properties in the area open up (namely Resorts World across the street), the Sahara should do quite well with both hotel stays and foot traffic.

Second, I’m a big fan of Steven Pique, who is hired as head of poker operations at the Sahara. I worked with Steven for years on the WSOP Circuit traveling around the country. He was always thoroughly professional and knowledgeable. His impact on the new room should be both immediate and long-lasting. I’m glad to support Steven, who deserves every bit of success.

So, what is it that’s special about the Sahara Poker Room. Here are a few observations:

1. Free parking and easy access from the garage. Other casinos charge for parking or require long walks. I was able to get into the parking garage easily (from both Paradise and Las Vegas Blvd.), park on the 4th Floor, and walk to the poker room within 5 minutes.

2. Comps are awarded at $2 per hour, which is a nice perk. Check with the room on exact hours, but during the day shift, the comp rate is $3 an hour.

3. I really like the giant screen television on the wall. Most poker rooms have TVs with sporting events high overhead. It’s not always easy to see the action. For those who enjoy playing poker while watching sports, the giant screen is an attraction (see photo). Whoever made that decision got it right.

4. While I was visiting, a player ordered food inside the room. Imagine that, a cart with a plate and silverware was wheeled up next to the player. So, instead of fast-food garbage brought to tableside, the Sahara offers real food with a wide range of menu items combined from several restaurants. I’m really big on food served at tableside, and this right up there with the Aria (best food service in the city) in terms of poker and dining options.

5. The room is new and will take a little while to develop a loyal fan base. However, I noted they’ve already spread Pot-Limit Omaha and are eager to expand to more games than just Hold’em. Talk to Steven or any of the managers, and I expect they’ll do everything possible to accommodate a request. Once again I stress, these are POKER people running the room, not flunkies assigned from other areas of the casino floor.

6. Tables and chairs are spacious and comfortable. I can’t stand cramped poker rooms where players are sardined into seats. This is common in Las Vegas, where players are treated like chattel. Smoking is banned, of course, and there were no signs of second-hand smoke.

7. The Sahara Poker Room initially was advertised to be a room that would close at 2 am. However, the first night one of the games lasted until 7 am the next morning. Steven noted that no poker game will ever be shut down. So, the room might close overnight during slower times midweek, but so long as a game is going, it will run as long as players want to play.

8. Not really poker-related, but I love the restaurants at Sahara. The steakhouse (Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres) is probably the best in the city. The Italian restaurant is also very good. There are also some burger places, including one inside the race and sportsbook. Again — this is another difference: Most sportsbooks don’t offer food. But Sahara has a full-scale restaurant inside the sportsbook (a carryover from SLS).

9. I love the location of the poker room. It’s right next to the casino floor, but still far enough away not to be bombarded with the noise from slot machines. It’s always a good indication as to how management feels about poker by the placement of a poker room, and it’s obvious this establishment is taking the game and its players seriously.

Let me be clear. I’m difficult to please. I’m opinioned. I don’t do fluff pieces. I blast failure. But I also praise commitment and effort. At the Sahara what I see is exactly that — commitment and effort.

I wish the new Sahara Poker Room well. They’ve spent serious money and have designed a beautiful room. If they build it, let’s hope they come. I recommend making a visit.

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