Considering Reno is the epicenter of slot machine production in the U.S. (IGT, the largest American slot manufacturer, is based there), it’s no wonder Northern California is home to some of the most exciting slot experiences around. I’m not about individual machines; for me, it’s all about the overall vibe. With that in mind, here are my favorite regional places to pull the reels. Read full article »
Casinos & Gaming
Casino resorts aren’t just casinos anymore. These days, the gambling meccas offer top-notch amenities from luxurious spas to killer golf courses. Another popular feature: upscale restaurants. While not every casino eatery is worthy of focused attention, some establishments deserve the spotlight and are among my favorites around Northern California. Read full article »
If you’re like me, you probably remember playing bingo with your grandmothers using marker daubers on paper boards. Well, folks, the game of bingo has come a long way since those glory days.
Nowadays, many casinos have fancy netbook-size Traveler machines from a company called GameTech that actually play your boards for you and beep at you when you’re about to win. It cost us nothing extra to play with the machines, and they can do the job of daubing as many as 60 or 70 boards at once.
The technology keeps tabs on which balls are being called via wireless network—a central computer near the front of the bingo hall reads balls as they come out of the hopper and sends the signal to Traveler machines all over the room. Read full article »
The notion of playing live cash poker games against total strangers might intimidate you, but getting started involves the same steps for everyone, whether you’re a card-room novice or a card-room regular.
The steps? Checking in and buying chips.
Everyone’s visits must begin at a host station. There, players are required to check in with a host, who’s usually sitting behind a computer screen. If there’s an open seat at a game in progress, the host will slot you in and instruct you where to go. If there are no open seats, the host puts you on a waiting list. Read full article »
How much of the money we wager at Indian casinos actually stays on the reservation? It all depends on the kind of gaming we’re talking about.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was enacted in 1988 after tribes and states reached a compromise that gave states unprecedented regulatory participation through the negotiation of agreements called “compacts.”
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act also created three classes of tribal gaming: Read full article »
In most places around the world, Blackjack, or 21, has the same set of rules: beat the dealer to 21 without going over, and you win. Here in California, however, an obscure gaming law makes the game a little different.
The law dates back to 1873, when the California legislature outlawed the game of 21 throughout the state. Though this law does not apply to Native-American casinos, other casinos and card rooms simply can’t play the traditional game. Read full article »
After meals at fancy (or even not-so-fancy) restaurants, none of us thinks twice about leaving tip for deserving server. Strangely, however, many casino guests have trouble tipping dealers and servers when they play cards.
Tipping these folks is not mandatory; there’s no law that says we gamblers must fork over extra cash for good service. Still, considering that in many cases, dealers (and food servers, for that matter) earn 30 to 40 percent of their annual salary in tips, spreading a little love every now and then is expected, and a dip in gratuities means a hit to the money these people need to live.
Customary tips in a card room or casino vary depending on the person whom you’re tipping. Read full article »
By now, almost all Northern California card rooms and casinos have what they call “player’s clubs.”
The clubs all have funny names and take themselves far more seriously than they probably should. Members get cards and are encouraged to swipe them every time they arrive at the casino or sit down for a new gambling experience. Behind the scenes, the cards sync up with software that charts play and doles out rewards based upon customer loyalty.
Most of these rewards come in the form of special deals: 50 percent off a hotel, or a buy-one-get-one-free promotion in the on-site restaurant. Sometimes, however, the rewards are actually some pretty worthwhile free stuff. Read full article »
Lake Tahoe Hotel Casinos
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
Understatement is not a word that crosses your mind at Harrah’s, the most luxurious and glitzy of Tahoe’s casinos. Harrah’s takes great pride in its special blend of luxury, beauty, unparalleled guest service, and casino entertainment. Large rooms have two bathrooms, each with a TV and telephone, with those thick, fluffy, white towels Sinatra always demanded. Most have bay windows overlooking the lake or
the mountains. The casino has an enormous fun center for kids, with the latest in video and arcade games, virtual reality, and an indoor “playscape” for young children. Weddings and parties can be scheduled aboard the private yacht, the Tahoe Star. The newly renovated South Shore Room hosts showbiz stars, and last, but by no means least, the casino is a gambler’s dream. P.O. Box 8, Stateline, NV 89449. 800/427-7247 or 775/588-6611. Fax 775/586-6601. www.harrahs.com. 525 units. $159–$349 double; $396–$596 suite. Packages available. AE, DC, DISC, MC, V. Amenities: 8 restaurants; cafe; deli; coffeehouse; indoor pool; full-service health club/spa; family center; game room; shopping arcade; salon; room service; in-room massage; same-day dry cleaning. In room: A/C, TV/VCR, coffeemaker, hair dryer, iron, safe. Read full article »
They sound alike, look alike and even in some cases feel the same, but California’s casinos and card rooms are two vastly different beasts.
Casinos are larger. They almost always have slot machines. They also exist exclusively on Native-American land. But perhaps the biggest differentiator is what happens when you lose your bet: in casinos, the money goes to the house; in card rooms, it goes to another player.
It’s that way by design; card rooms are the result of state laws that prohibit fullfledged casino gambling off of Native-American reservations. With these laws in place, card room managers have devised two alternate methods of revenue: a rake (portion of the pot from each hand), or a charge levied against each player for a specific time period, typically each half hour.
Though traditional poker variants such as Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha Hold ‘Em and Seven-Card Stud are by far the most popular games offered by card rooms (and sometimes the only games), other facilities might offer games such as panguingue, Pai Gow Poker, Chinese Poker, and variations on blackjack. These so-called “California games,” or “Asian games,” resemble traditional casino games as blackjack, baccarat and even craps, but have different rules that comply with various state restrictions.
It’s important to get your terminology right: casinos and card rooms are not the same thing.