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GamblingThe rattle of the “bones,” then a sigh of disappointment or a cry of exultation—such are the sounds of Vegas, where gambling is by no means limited to the craps table. Slot machines, “21” or blackjack, keno, bingo, poker, baccarat, roulette and more all await the hopeful who travel to Sin City.

Gambling is easier than buying toothpaste, since casinos never close and most drugstores do. Rows of slots stand like sentries in most establishments—restaurants, gas station mini-marts, supermarkets, even Laundromats. From the airport baggage carousel area to your hotel lobby, the lure of potential fortune is omnipresent.

Tips for Beginners

Visitors who resist the temptation to gamble are rare. If you decide to take a chance during your vacation but aren't a seasoned veteran, buy a how-to book (available in most gift shops) or do some Googling beforehand and bone up. Generally speaking, beginners should never approach any gaming table without at least some knowledge of the game to be played. Many casinos provide pamphlets and some even give classes for novice players.

One downtown destination, the Golden Nugget, offers plenty of fun things to do including free daily craps, poker, roulette and blackjack lessons. For the current schedule check the casino's website, or phone (702) 385-7111. Whatever you play, keep in mind that although the state regulates casinos and gambling, odds ultimately do favor the house. We're betting you already knew that.

Poker in Vegas

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In terms of betting and playing strategies, poker in all its permutations is the most complex. Baccarat requires a high stake to be successful, though “mini-baccarat,” in which the dealer keeps the bank, provides cheaper play. The many ways of playing number combinations, the difficulty in understanding the payoffs and the speed at which it's played make craps the most challenging game of all. It also is difficult for dealers to learn. But while not for novice players, craps can be mesmerizing to watch as a spectator.

Almost every casino has a race and sports book. If you're looking for things to do, you can wager on practically any horse race, boxing or UFC match, or professional or collegiate event. Currently popular at the sports books is “In-Running” wagering, betting on sporting events already in progress. Among the sports books offering the service are those at The Cosmopolitan, the Tropicana and The Venetian.

Hitting the Slots on Your Trip

AAA/Diana Beyer
If you're a first-timer or haven't been to Vegas in ages, get your feet wet with slots or video poker machines. Though a few antiquated slots at a couple of the older downtown casinos still deal in coins, today's machines traffic in paper only. Instead of the sweet clang-clang-clang sound of your jackpot coins dropping into the metal tray, you'll feed bills into the machine's maw. When it's time to “cash out,” the machine will spit out a little paper ticket with your winnings (hopefully) printed on it. You can either take the bar-coded ticket to the cashier's window (“the cage”) or use one of the casino's ATM-style redemption kiosks.

Picking a potentially lucky poker machine can be tricky business. The most common machines are named “Game King” or something similar, and they let you choose from a variety of poker games (Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker, etc.), all with varying strategies. Before putting your money on the line, a video poker vet would advise taking a look at the machine's pay-out schedules, as some machines offer better returns than others. Complimentary cocktail in hand, we like Deuces Wild Poker. At a 25-cent machine, always bet the maximum per hand—$1.25—and always go for four or five of a kind or a royal flush. If the machine's not dealing a lot of deuces (wild), get up and walk away, fast.

Virtual Reality Gambling

Aware that some gamblers are shy and intimidated by surly dealers or fellow blackjack players behaving boorishly, the video gaming companies have rolled out machines that provide a virtual reality table game experience. Players sit around a big console similar to a regular 21 table, only the dealer is likely to be a buxom beauty projected on a video screen. Also gaining popularity are virtual craps tables, where you'll place bets on a personal touch screen and press a button to shoot jumbo-sized dice housed in a Plexiglass-domed hopper. The best part? You can typically bet as little as $1 per hand. If you need ideas for fun things to do with friends, virtual reality gambling is one group travel activity to consider.

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Las Vegas, NV

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.

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Bellagio

3600 Las Vegas Blvd S. Las Vegas, NV 89109

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Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel

3400 Paradise Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89169

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Best Western Plus Henderson Hotel

1553 N Boulder Hwy. Henderson, NV 89011

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Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Las Vegas Strip

2650 Las Vegas Blvd S. Las Vegas, NV 89109

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Travel Information

City Population

583,756

Elevation

2,181 ft.

Sales Tax

Clark County's sales tax is 8.25 percent. The county also imposes a 12 percent tax on lodgings, with an additional 1 percent tax for properties within the city of Las Vegas boundaries.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

311, or (702) 828-3111 (also valid for TTY)

Fire (non-emergency)

(702) 383-2888

Hospitals

Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center, (702) 733-8800; MountainView Hospital, (702) 962-5000; Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center, (702) 853-3000; Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, (702) 961-5000; University Medical Center, (702) 383-2000; Valley Hospital Medical Center, (702) 388-4000.

Visitor Information

3150 Paradise Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89109. Phone:(702)892-0711 or (877)847-4858

Air Travel

McCarran International Airport (LAS) is about 10 miles south of downtown Las Vegas via Las Vegas Boulevard and 3.5 miles south of the Las Vegas Convention Center via Paradise Road, just a few minutes' drive from the Strip's southern end. One of the nation's busiest airports, it serves most major airlines.

Rental Cars

Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (702) 262-7700 for the airport, (800) 654-3131 for the Strip.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc., 200 S. Main St., is the major bus company serving Las Vegas; phone (702) 384-9561.

Taxis

Major cab companies include Ace, (702) 888-4888; Checker/Yellow Cab/Star, (702) 873-8012; and Whittlesea Blue Cab, (702) 384-6111. Base activation fee is $3.50 and $2.88 for each mile, plus 54 cents for every minute the cab is waiting or traveling under 8 to 12 mph. Trips to the airport incur a $2 surcharge. Payment by credit card incurs a fee of $3.

Public Transportation

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) provides bus service to most parts of the city. The most useful to visitors are the Deuce double-decker buses serving the Strip. The buses operate 24 hours daily, run every 7-10 minutes and stop at nearly every Strip hotel property.

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