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Top-10 Las Vegas Casinos

31 August 2007

By Ryan McLane and Vin Narayanan

10. The Stratosphere

Sure you might get shot on the way into this casino, but you can't beat the view from on top of the largest U.S. building west if the Mississippi River. Seriously, it's worth the potential bullet. The Strip is amazing from the ground, but you don't get a true appreciation of Las Vegas until you've seen it from nearly 1000 feet. For added thrills, buy the all-access pass to the rides on top of the casino. There's nothing like dangling unnaturally over the side of a really tall wobbly building to make you forget how much money you lost in the blackjack pit.

9. Binion's

It's hard to beat a classic. It's not very pretty, there's a ton of damage and stale air from the years of smoking patrons and the people inside this place are quite frightening. But I love it nonetheless. This is where the World Series of Poker was born and it's not quite a Las Vegas trip until you pay homage to poker's Mecca. -- RM

I go here exclusively for the poker. The 2 a.m. $60 with one rebuy is my favorite tournament on the schedule. It's like poker's version of the booty call, always there when you need it. It's also a great place to be when the sun rises. You won't see it of course, trading one of life's great visions for one of an old man hooked up to an oxygen machine, but hey, that's why imaginations exist. -- RM

8. New York, New York

The best things about this casino have nothing to do with gambling. New York, New York has the best food court on the Strip. From New York-style pizza to Coney Island hot dogs, this is the place to go if you want good, quick and affordable meals.

New York, New York is also home to an outstanding indoor roller coaster. At one point, it looks like you're going to run into the wall before the coaster suddenly turns away and heads back toward the middle of the building. It's so much fun that most people can't ride it just once. They get off the ride and get right back in line to try it again. Sure, it might keep people of the gaming floor for a few extra minutes, but it gets people in the door. And that's what counts. -- VN

7. The Mirage

This place has taken me for more money that I care to share, but still, it holds a special place in my heart because I had an epiphany in front of the giant fish tank that showcases the hotel's front desk. The epiphany is a secret between me and the fish, but if you haven't walked the Mirage floors, you haven't seen Las Vegas.

Speaking of fish, you won't find many in this beautiful gambling space and world class poker room. The poker tournament schedule is a little restrictive and the sit-n-gos can fill slowly, but the cash-game action is intense and ripe for people who know how to play. Esteemed poker author Michael Craig claims to have learned about The Big Game (the subject of his classic The Professor, The Banker and the Suicide King) while playing in this room, a testament to the knowledgeable rounders who fill these tables. -- RM

6. Caesars Palace

This is the ultimate Vegas experience that you have try at least once. The hotel rooms are big and well appointed. The bathrooms are HUGE and look like Roman baths. The shopping is fantastic with all sorts of fashionable stores. And the location is spectacular. It's the in heart of the Strip, making it easy to travel anywhere you want.

The sportsbook at Casesars huge, and it's well worth watching a few games there – if only to see angry bettors tear up slips when they lose. But the best thing about Caesars is the dealers. On my first trip to Vegas, I was the only English-speaking person at a blackjack table. The dealer noticed that I understood the basics of blackjack and took it upon himself to teach me the finer points of the game. He was a great tutor, and I've been winning ever since. I've seen other dealers at Caesars help out newbies, and have always marveled at their patience. Their attitude makes Caesars a great place. And I'll always have a soft spot for it in my heart. -- VN

5. Treasure Island

The pirates draw me to the casino and the poker keeps me there. This small, but vibrant gambling space offers casual gamblers the perfect atmosphere. There is a small closet for high-stakes gamblers, but this casino is more of a haven for the $100-play-for-fun-blackjack player. Since I am that guy, I like this place. And I like their poker room too.

You're not going to get rich playing in the tiny Treasure Island Poker Room, but you will find cheap tournaments with reasonable structures and solid payouts. The 10 p.m. $60 is my favorite. My girlfriend, an official Ryan McLane protégé, won her first multi-table tournament here and would kill me if it didn't appear in this top-ten list. -- RM

4. Hard Rock

This is where the beautiful people come to play. Not all of them are rich. But they're all gorgeous. The people watching here is so good that it's must-stop on any trip to Vegas.

Much like the people at the Hard Rock, the gaming floor is beautiful as well. Sure it's small, but they've fit plenty of tables in a small place and it doesn't feel cramped. Quite the engineering feat. And the players generally tend to be on the happy side. No grumpy sore losers to contend with. And that makes the Hard Rock a refreshing and relaxing stop that should never be missed. -- VN

3. Mandalay Bay

You can't help but fall in love with this casino. The massive gaming floor has an icy cool, modern flair that makes you never want to leave. The tables are youthful but elegant. The carpets are plush, the chairs are comfortable and the service is impeccable.

And as good as all of that is, the best thing about Mandalay is it's affordable. You can find tables to play blackjack or craps for relatively low stakes. And you can generally get good rates on the room. Combine that with great restaurants and clubs and you get a resort that you don't have to leave during your visit. -- VN

2. The Palms

This casino is second to none in my humble opinion. From the beautiful pool to the amazing night life to the good chance you'll spot a celebrity – the Palms offers something for everyone, including a very classy gambling space. Be prepared to pay for your drinks though if you venture away from the tables. We're talking $10+ for shots or martinis (not that I drink girly drinks or anything).

I like to play blackjack here because the poker room is small and the tournaments offer terrible payouts for larger-than-normal-buy-ins. However, the table games are very nicely laid out and are often filled with classy looking people if you're into that crowd. -- RM

1. Bellagio

I confess. I've spent more time eating at the Bellagio than gambling there. But that doesn't stop it from being the best casino in Vegas.

The casino's primary attraction isn't actually inside the casino. It's outside, where thousands gather daily to watch fountains dance to the music of Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Johnny Mathis and others. In fact, you've never officially been to Vegas unless you've seen fountains dance to Sinatra's "Luck be a lady."

The Bellagio only gets better when you go inside. It features a botanical garden, an art museum and a large, plush gaming floor that looks like it's the playground of billionaires. You can find some affordable tables at the Bellagio, but generally speaking, this casino floor is for people who can afford to lose money. Don't let that deter you though. The Bellagio is so elegant and beautiful that it's worth the visit – even if it is just to eat. – VN

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