Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Where’s the Variety?

Posted by hyperpat on August 21, 2006

Just prior to going to the California State Open Bowling championship detailed in the prior post, my wife and I took a little vacation in Las Vegas. After all the pressure of getting our house ready for sale and trying to purchase a new property, we needed it.

Now Vegas is an odd place. It has only one reason for being there, and that’s gambling. When they started putting up the first major casinos there, everyone thought they were crazy. After all, it’s smack in the middle of the desert, and one of the most desolate areas in the United States. But the casinos have thrived, and with them the town – now one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. But I wonder how much longer the allure of the place will continue. It used to be that each casino had something that was at least slightly different from all the rest – different slot machines, different specialty card tables, better (or at least different) headliners for the shows, better deals on eats or rooms.

Now, however, it seems the only real difference between any of them are the contracted stars. All the casinos seem to have standardized on what slot machines they have – many of them are cross-linked to produce higher progressive jackpots. If all you want to do is play slots, there’s really no need to go to more than one casino. And they’ve made the slots incredibly complicated: play 20 different lines at 20 coins each line (which means you can be throwing $4 per play on on a penny machine), with five reels, four different kinds of wild symbols, 30 different main symbols, and a payout chart that you really need an Excel spreadsheet to decode. I don’t like these types of machines.

The tables are more of the same: minimum $5 tables whether you play blackjack or baccarat, about the only difference is whether they deal from a shoe with four decks or from the hand with only two (a very few casinos still offer single deck – but anyone who has looked at the odds knows that this makes only a tiny difference). Craps, roulette, all are standardized (unless you know the casino owner and have a couple hundred thousand to throw around).

Room rates and other amenities are very similar from hotel to hotel. The days of the $10 room with free breakfasts are long gone. And the headliners for the shows seem to move from one hotel to another, and ticket prices for seeing them are as high as what you’d find in New York or Los Angeles.

With all this sameness, I begin to wonder if there are enough dedicated gamblers out there to support all these giant casinos. And if the casinos die, the town will too.

Still, we had a good time there (almost broke even, not bad for a four day stay), and accomplished our primary goal: Relaxation.


4 Responses to “Where’s the Variety?”

  1. I wonder if the allure of Las Vegas has grown because of this country’s growing obsession with poker. Within the last few years, poker tournaments have been popping up on TV making the regulars huge stars and inticing people to play poker with friends and online gambling sites.

    Also, isn’t one of the main reasons they deal from multiple decks is to deter from card counting?

  2. hyperpat said

    Yes, the reason for the multi-deck is to discourage card counting, as it becomes more difficult to get a ‘count’ that is strongly in the player’s favor. However, my own research into this has found that the difference between single and double deck for a card count of +10 in the player’s favor only means a difference of about .3% in winning odds, from about 57.3% to 57.0%. Blackjack is still the only game in town where there are times that the odds are in your favor.

    The poker thing has certainly helped maintain the current traffic in Vegas, but I think this is a fad that will die out in the next couple of years as most people come to realize that they’ll never get good enough at the game to make real money at it; besides being a lot of work, it takes a certain type of risk-taking personality to play it well, and most people are very averse to risk when they are talking serious money.

  3. True. Maybe a baccarat craze will set in within the next few years. That would be weird.

  4. hyperpat said

    The baccarat thing came and went with the James Bond craze; now a lot of casinos don’t even have a baccarat table. They need to develop a new game that everyone likes, something that offers the opportunity for the players to really have a chance (unlike Keno, where house odds are a ridiculous 40-60%!), but can still generate enough ‘take’ for the casinos to cover their costs. What that would be I don’t know – maybe I should try and develop one?!

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