Playing the Rock

May 22, 2006 1:35 AM


One of the problems I’ve always had with going off the Strip to play my strategies has been driving to some of the locations. After all, I’m driving nearly 300 miles each trip just to get to Las Vegas. So why would I want to be required to go through or park in some of the more depressed areas of town when the most beautiful resorts in the entire world are in the same city?

Earlier this year the South Coast opened after an unusually long period of hype. It is, to me, a slightly upgraded version of the Suncoast — which of course is a huge compliment. In this column I wrote how it had plenty of video poker machines, but nearly every one had the exact same games and denominations on them! I’ll be going back there in time, hopefully after they complete their high limit slot area and give their video poker inventory a little variety.

Last month the highly anticipated Red Rock Station opened, and because it was billed by some as a Green Valley Ranch on steroids, I couldn’t wait to check it out. After a lavish grand opening party where invitees got to try out samples from every fabulous restaurant inside the property, the doors to the public opened to the typical onslaught of overly anxious casino fans. Of course, that means gamblers.

What was curious was how most of them, rather than take a walk-around to discover the newest billion-dollar resort to grace their town, rushed right to the machines and began banging away as if they’d been there hundreds of times before. Good thing their in-hand Stations slot club cards were valid here.

Everything about Red Rock is just a cut above. In fact, if you didn’t look outside you’d think you were smack dab in the middle of a spacious new Strip resort. Maybe even better. Out in the courtyard where the beautiful pool complex is located, the first class cabanas come equipped with plasma TV’s. I didn’t go inside the nightclub, but from all the excitement, it’s clearly another top-notch piece of the overall pie.

Those who follow my video poker gambling advice know why it’s important to take some time away from the machines after attaining goals when you’re in town and on a travel schedule for a few or more days. That break sometimes comes in the form of a movie or two for me. Red Rock has even kicked that event up a notch or two by giving patrons the option of reserving special private booths for the show. What? No cell phones going off, no youngsters constantly getting up and down to pay visits to the snack bar, and no one sneezing into my popcorn? Sounds like fun!

But now let’s get to the reason the crowds will come to this beautiful resort up in the Summerlin area for a long, long time: The video poker. Yes, it’s a locals’ casino, and that automatically means there’s plenty of it. For those who consider themselves advantage players I saw at least two banks of over 100% games, including the ever popular and very profitable overall for the casinos, Full Pay Deuces Wild (FPDW) in quarters.

Included within those banks are several of the 25¡/50¡/$1 over-100% advanced bonus games such as 10/7 Double Bonus and 10/6 Double Double Bonus poker. These banks of six or so machines were back-to-back with similar machines with shorter pay tables, yet in each case, there were more players on the short pay side. Could be that the smokers who seem to always sit down and puff away like a chimney at the FPDW games, chased the others away.

In my case, I wanted to sit and give some trial play to these games, but for my own comfort I chose the short pay side. Either way, every machine on the floor is of the new anti-glare variety and is very comfortable on the eyes. Good choice as it turned out. I won a quick $297.

I noticed several bars that had three denomination levels — good but not great. In the main high limit slot area I saw something I’ve never before seen — $50 machines. That got me thinking about how they might be inserted into one of my play strategies. But then I discovered that each multi-denominational machine had five levels of play from $5 to $100 ($5/$10/$25/$50/$100) but maximum bet for each game was only three credits. Unfortunately, that left no compatibility with my method of play.

Yet, when I walked into the other high limit area that was mainly table games, I noticed there were video poker machines at the bar. These were more to my liking. They featured five levels, $1/$2/$5/$10/$25, and they had the games I like to play to boot. Just to get a quick taste I ran a few bucks through and left with a $10 profit. These machines will see me again.

To say that Station Casinos has a winner would be an understatement. They knew what they wanted, they knew what the people wanted, and they definitely did it right. No, it is not an easy drive from the Henderson area, especially with the I-215 single lane construction and stoplights along the way. But it is worth the trip. Hey, I’m going to be making the drive many times in the future, and I’m coming from Phoenix! Gas prices be damned!