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Reno: the ‘biggest little poker city’

Jul 23, 2001 11:35 PM

Ever since nearly five years ago when I’ve began playing video poker professionally, I’ve experienced times when I felt like just getting away from the hustle, bustle and crowds in Las Vegas when I play. Laughlin is always a good escape from all this, but that town seems to have at least a nine-month summer. That’s what made me look north, only I usually had my sights focused on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. Who wouldn’t? But then I discovered Reno ”” a virtual video poker player’s paradise.

While the casinos of Northern Nevada are nearly 800 miles from my home in Arizona, I look forward to making that drive at least six times a year. It’s such a peaceful, spacious, and historical ride, with snow-capped mountains in every direction. When I arrive in the Reno area, the seemingly more natural atmosphere always makes me feel welcome. And it’s nice to see that the plethora of pickup trucks and SUV’s rumbling around the streets and highways actually have a valid reason for being there, and are not simply an attempt to impress your neighbors.

Although much of Reno’s attraction is geared towards vacationers and visitors from Northern California, the focus in many of the casinos seem to be on the local clientele. Most of these places recognize that locals prefer a healthy selection of good video poker, and that’s exactly what they serve up ”” some more than others, and the best are usually found just off the main drag.

My favorite spot in the Downtown area is far and away the Eldorado. While it has its share of video poker scattered throughout, if you enjoy breweries that have a machine at every seat at the bar, check out the Brew Brother’s Brewery. Even though the games are not usually full-pay versions, the bar is very lengthy, the food is great, and the atmosphere is always lively. Did I mention the fabulous beer? And it’s not a place for the serious gambler either ”” all the games are quarters ”” so fun is the name of the game here.

For those who refuse to play anyplace but where full-pay machines can be found, a few minutes drive up Virginia and you’re at The Peppermill. Very glitzy, very colorful, and loaded with serious games, it’s every bit a gambler’s heaven as anywhere downtown ”” except with better video poker pay-tables. I keep reading articles saying they have reduced them recently, and they have, except that there are also plenty remaining that have not been reduced. With its cool, dark and spacious atmosphere, The Peppermill is exactly the kind of comfortable place I love to stop by for a break after a long drive.

Maybe in a class by itself in Reno is a rather spectacular property just a few moments further up the road ”” The Atlantis. With it’s unique Oyster Bar located on a walkway over the main road, and other fine dining which includes Monte Vigna Italian Restaurant, you would think that alone makes this place stand out. But once the player realizes the video poker here is actually better than any other location on the planet, it all adds up to my all-time favorite in Nevada. In all denominations from quarters through $100, nowhere else offers higher pay-tables. And with all the on-going promotions for the locals, it’s hard to see why they would play anywhere else. It wouldn’t hurt Southern Nevada if several properties adopted some of the policies we see at Atlantis. Until that happens, I’ll just have to keep my cooler packed and head North every eight weeks!