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Laughlin Table Report
 Part I

A man staggers into an emergency room with two black eyes and a five-iron golf club wrapped tightly around his throat. Naturally the doctor asks him what happened. "Well, it was like this," said the man, "I was having a quiet round of golf with my wife when she sliced her ball into a pasture of cows.  We went to look for it, and while I was rooting around, I noticed one of the cows had something white at its rear end. I walked over and lifted up the tail, and sure enough, there was my wife's golf ball…stuck right in the middle of the cow's butt.   That's when I made my mistake." "What did you do?" asks the doctor.  Well, I lifted the tail and yelled to my wife, “Hey, this looks like yours!"

Before I jump right in to how the tables are in this mini gaming Mecca, let us look at a primer on what Laughlin is all about.

v      Laughlin, Nevada is a gaming destination about 90 miles south of Las Vegas.  It’s on the southernmost tip of Nevada, right at the Arizona and California border.  The Colorado River separates the three states at this point.

v      By the way, it is pronounced “Loff-linn”.

v      In 1966, Don Laughlin bought a long-bankrupt eight-room motel and bar.  The nearest population-center was about 35 miles away.  A couple of years later the Postmaster-General needed a destination name for this outpost on the banks of the Colorado River…and so Laughlin, with a 1968 population of 1, was born.

v      The Riverside Motel & Casino opened with 12 slot machines and 2 blackjack tables.   Most of his original employees came from Bullhead City, Arizona or they made the then four-hour (now 90 minutes) commute back and forth to Las Vegas.

v      In ’67, The Bobcat Club (the current Golden Nugget-Laughlin) opened.

v      As more and more people moved to southern Nevada and western Arizona for retirement, Don Laughlin expanded the Riverside Hotel to it’s current size of 1400 rooms.

v      There was a building boom in the mid-‘80’s and very early ‘90’s that saw eight major casinos built.  Everyone from Boyd Gaming with it’s Sam’s Town-Gold River Casino (currently the River Palms Resort), to the Flamingo Hilton-Laughlin, Harrah’s Del Rio and Circus Circus’ (now Mandalay Bay Resorts) own Edgewater Hotel and Colorado Belle Resort Casino built large gaming destinations.

v      Greater Metropolitan Laughlin has a current population of 11,731.

v      There are now over 10,000 rooms and suites at these resorts, in addition to over 4,000 fully-serviced RV spaces for the retired continent-roving recreational-vehicle set.

v      There’s enough shopping to keep your wife AND your girlfriend happy for a little while at least.  A 55-store Outlet Mall with the de-rigueur likes of The Gap, Polo, Reebok, Levi, Corning, Bass, IZOD, and a 9-theater cinema is right across the street from the casinos.  Everything is within a 5/8-mile action-strip.

v      All of the casinos are within walking distance of each other, plus there is a water-taxi shuttle that stops at each casino.  No need for taxis (although they are available) when you can hop on a pontoon-style open-air shuttle-boat.

v      Hotel rates range from $12 to $49 for first-class accommodation.   There aren’t as many suites available in these houses, but all of the rooms are either river-view or mountain-view.

v      There are over 60 quality casino-restaurants that cater to all tastes and preferences.  The ubiquitous buffet is found here in EVERY casino just as God intended.  The best is Harrah’s and the Golden Nugget (no surprise), while the worst is the Colorado Belle and The Edgewater (again, no surprise as they are both part of the Mandalay Resort family (read “Circus Circus”)…corporate-slop “same-crap, different plate” low-quality buffets.

v      There are really only two expensive restaurants in town, where a meal will run two of you in the $80+tip range.  The Gourmet Room at the Riverside, and the Lobster Bar at Tarzans in the Golden Nugget are definitely fine high-end restaurants.

v      All the other restaurants in town are very moderately priced, and the quality is generally good to very good.

v      Comps are pretty much free-flowing at all of the resorts in this town.  Even low-rollers will have their game-play rated MUCH higher here than at their Vegas counterparts. The difference between Laughlin and Vegas player-comp requirements is about the same as the difference between Strip-comps versus Downtown LV-comps.  Expect moderate craps play here to get you good to excellent comp-treatment.  I’ll comment specifically on each resorts comp policy in a moment.

v      The best comp-savvy houses are in this order:


The Riverside Resort


Pioneer Casino


River Palms Resort


Edgewater Hotel


Colorado Belle Resort


Ramada Express Casino


Flamingo Hilton




Avi Resort Casino (located about 10 minutes away from Laughlin)


Golden Nugget


The Regency Casino (their craps table is not usually open)


v      Water-sport activities are king in Laughlin because of the Colorado River at the front door of each casino. Jet-Ski (Waverunner and Sea-doo) and jet-boat rentals are widely available, as well as riverboat sight-seeing and dining cruises.  There are several decent beach areas at Harrah’s, the River Palms Resort, and especially at the Avi Resort.

v      There is also a number of widely attended spectator/participant events like the “Hot August Nights” car show (similar to Reno) and River Run cruises; several off-road desert-racing events, hydroplane boat races, and a number of rodeo events.  For the events where admission is charges, these are all easy comps for minimum casino-play.

v      Weather is generally 10-to-15 degrees warmer than Las Vegas.   In the summer, that can be a bad thing as temperatures get into the 120-to-135-degree range.  Fall through Spring temperatures are in a more reasonable 70-to-85 degree range.

v      Generally the staff that you encounter in Laughlin is much friendlier than you’ll usually find in Vegas.  Now this is all subjective, as I find that I am treated quite well no matter where I go, but I find a kinder, gentler, lower-key attitude here than in Mecca.  As you travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Laughlin, the down-home Western friendliness seems to increase exponentially.

v      The 5-million visitors here each year are generally lower-key and a little older than the Las Vegas Strip crowd, but that also means LOWER TABLE LIMITS and more SOLO-SHOOTING OPPORTUNITIES for Precision-Shooters.

Okay, that’s the primer on Laughlin.

One of the reasons that I play in Laughlin quite a bit is because of those last two points.  The low table limits are especially attractive when my Precision-Shooting is less than precise; and the tables present a higher-percentage and frequency of solo-shooting opportunities.

Even on a busy weekend, and yes, I am also talking about holiday weekends, the tables in Laughlin are not that crowded.  And if some of them are, you can simply seek out the higher limit $5 tables for some lesser-crowded conditions.  Sure the 25-cent game at the Edgewater will be packed as it usually is, but just use the Riverwalk to stroll over to it’s next door neighbor, The Flamingo Hilton, and you’ll pretty much have the tables to yourself.

So let’s take a look at the playing conditions in Laughlin.  We might as well start at the first casino that brought gaming to this part of the Colorado River:

Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino

riversidehotel.jpg (4329 bytes)

The Riverside Hotel has decent playing conditions.  Their tables are of the 16-foot variety, and their dealers are veterans of the green felt jungle.  Expect to find $1 tables here most of the time.  During busy periods, they may open additional tables at $2 minimums.  I haven’t seen a $5 table here in quite a while, but I was told that they had one set at that level during the 2002 Labor Day Weekend.

Dice-setters are free to set the dice as they wish.  There is absolutely NO problem at all.  A courteous toke for the boys is always greatly appreciated.  Generally the dealers toke-rate in Laughlin is about 70% to 80% lower than in Vegas, so ANY tokes are appreciated.  Just don’t take too long to “school” the dice when you set them, or any social-goodwill that you’ve built up, will quickly evaporate.

What else can I tell you about this joint?  While their pool is not that great, Don Laughlin has assembled an excellent car-collection.  If you are interested in purchasing any of the cars, most display their sale price.  So if you are interested in a concours candy-apple red, 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz 390 cu. in. 3x2 Tri-Power convertible for under $80,000; then this is the place.  They also have antique slot machines and a variety of other historic casino collectibles on display. 

A nice feature of this hotel is that most of the rooms, and all of the suites have fair-sized balconies.  It’s nice to have an early morning coffee or late night libation overlooking the banks of the mighty Colorado on your own balcony.

I’m not a big fan of their buffet, but it’s an easy comp, as is their 34-lane bowling alley and 6-plex movie theater.  Speaking of comps, their “USS Riverside” dinner cruise is a fairly easy comp for a bettor who normally spreads $15 to $35 on the layout.  In addition, their headliner acts which run along the lines of Freddy Fender, the Kingston Trio, Ricky Van Shelton, Oak Ridge Boys, The Lettermen and Gallagher are also compable shows for $10 to $25 players.

Flamingo Hilton Laughlin

flamingolaughlin.jpg (96947 bytes)


The Flamingo Hilton Laughlin (now just called The Flamingo-Laughlin) has short tables, and almost always has new table felt.  Expect to find very professional dealers and pit personnel, and NO hassles for setting the dice.  

They do get their fair share of medium-to-high rollers, and you will see them give extra service to these players.  If the big-player wants the dice to move quickly, then expect the dealers to get the dice returned to you quickly.  This is not the time to be fiddling with the dice.  If you are not as adept as you should be in your dice-setting speed; then more AT HOME PRACTICE is required.  Again, game speed is “big-player” dependant here, in a similar manner as it is in Atlantic City at Taj Mahal.

You can expect to find $2 minimums here, although there have been several times when the only table that is open is set at a $5 minimum.  There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason to their variation of setting either a $2, $3, or $5 table, as it is rarely busy in here.  When it is, you can expect their two main tables to be locked-in at $5.  Like I said, their veteran dealers are highly-skilled and proficient, which means that they show extraordinary appreciation and accommodation for a consistent toker.

Their two main hotel towers are named The Arizona and The California Towers.  Combined, they total 1900 rooms and 30 suites.  I can tell you that the suites are in much better condition than their Las Vegas or Reno namesakes.  I would think that the suites here get significantly less wear and tear from infrequent use. 

A $10 to $25 base flat-bet player is considered a “medium-strength” player as far as player-hierarchy is concerned in this 60,000 square foot gaming-house.  Full-suite RFB+++ from the Flamingo Hilton requires about $25 in action for 4 hours a day to warrant that comp.

Food here is comparable to the other two Flamingo Hiltons.   You’ll find Alta Villa, the usual 24/7 diner (Lindys), the standard Hilton Buffet and the Beef Baron, just as you will in LV and Reno.

Current entertainment runs the “what-ever-happened-to” gamut of the Four Tops, Harvey Corman/Tim Conway, Neil Sedaka, Englebert, the Smothers Brothers and Kenny Rogers.  Though not terribly exciting, entertainment-comps are quite easy to get for low to moderate play.

Colorado Belle

cbelle.jpg (77652 bytes)

Colorado Belle is part of the Mandalay Resort Group which includes Luxor, Monte Carlo, and Excalibur in its family.  Unfortunately, it also includes Nevada Landing and Gold Strike  (in Jean, NV near the California border) in the same family.   The Colorado Belle and it’s sister property in Laughlin regrettably take after the lower end CircusCircus and Nevada Landing side of the family a lot more than the Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo siblings.  That means that it serves the low-end of the market, and it cuts as many corners as it can.   This affects nearly every aspect of your stay in this 70,00 sq. ft. gambling den.

On the good side of the equation, that means that they have good, cheap tables.  Short, beatable tables and low $2 limits make this a good-payer. If they have more than one table open, you can expect at least one of them to have a $3 bet minimum instead of the standard $2 one.

The tables are predictable and consistent in their dice-reactions, and I have never had any trouble finding a sweet-spot that brings in the winnings.   For Laughlin, I would have to rate these tables in third-place just behind the Flamingo tables for winning-potential.  I rate the Pioneer tables as the current best in town.

However, lightly-experienced staff and 2X odds, may limit your fun factor at the Colorado Belle. They tend to get crowded on the weekends, with plenty of inexperienced players.  They are trying to create a party atmosphere here, so you’ll find personable dealers who are pretty good at their job.  There is almost always a $500 table limit in place, but if you ask nicely, they’ll usually raise the limit to $1000.  This pretty much eliminates the risk of hitting your head on the table-max if you get on a super-hot roll.

Like I said, the dealers are all pretty friendly and with the amount of inexperienced players; they show a lot of patience, restraint and encouragement when it comes to dealing with players who has absolutely no idea what they are doing.   I agree with their philosophy.  Even though I prefer to play at empty tables, I encourage new players to join in and play the game. 

We shouldn’t discourage new players from joining in and learning the game.  They are the lifeblood of continuing availability of craps.  The more we sneer and grunt at new players, the more that this game will die out.  The grumpy old codgers who make the game look and feel as unwelcoming as they can, are turning new players off.  Listen, it’s hard enough for a craps table to compete against the never-ending voracious appetite of the golden toilets that we call slot-machines.  We should not add to their game-killing effect by discouraging newer or younger players.

On the bad side of the Circus Circus (MBG) ownership equation for the Colorado Belle, you have the food, the rooms and the generally slightly run-down feel to everything.  Their 1200 rooms are in dire need of renovation, especially in the low-level Mardi Gras section of rooms and suites which sport decent-sized balconies right on the banks of the Colorado.

Their food is hit-and-miss.  Okay, it’s mostly “miss” on the quality target, so I would take a pass on the buffet, diner and the Orleans gourmet room unless you are close to collapsing into a diabetic coma.  This is not the place you would pick if it were to be your last meal here on God’s green earth.

River Palms Resort

riverpalmssuite.jpg (47046 bytes)

The River Palms Resort is the 1000 room hotel-casino initially developed by the Boyd Group as “Sam’s Town-Gold River”.  The early 1990’s bankruptcy of Sam’s Town was due in part to Boyd’s misunderstanding of the market.  There wasn’t a solid local market for them to reach, and they refused to be involved with the lucrative overnight-junket markets from nearby Phoenix, Flagstaff, San Bernardino, Tucson and San Diego.  This rare Boyd failure has become Laughlin’s gain.

River Palms is Laughlin’s biggest casino, so it never seems crowded even on the busier weekends.  You’ll almost always find $2 or $3 tables, even during the holidays.  They are dice-setter friendly, and their medium-length tables are decent enough to get some good consistency.  But they WILL NOT usually raise their $500 max table-limit.  At least they wouldn’t do that for a couple of higher-rolling compadrés while I was there.

I find that their tables are similar to those found at the Mirage in Vegas.  The great thing about the River Palms tables is that the dice circulate the lightly-populated tables quite rapidly.  The more you get to shoot; the more consistent your results should be.  If that isn’t the case; then it probably is not the tables, and rather your shooting needs substantially more practice.

The rooms here are in very good condition, and all of the river-facing suites have floor-to-ceiling windows.  While there are no balconies, which by this point, I gather you have figured out that I really like, the vista from the hotel tower is still outstanding.

The food on the other hand is mediocre at best.  While I have never had a bad meal here, I haven’t had any outstanding ones either.  Madeleine’s Lodge is their gourmet room and it has an up-market lounge attached to it.  And while you shouldn’t expect 5-star dining, you’ll only receive a 1-star bill.

Speaking of comps.  They are VERY generous for $10+ players.  Full RFB+++ for players with a steady $15 to $30 of “spread” action will be granted.  This is one of the few joints where they are approaching YOU to give you a comp before you have to approach THEM to ask for one.  I really like that idea.

Entertainment is low-key, but their beach is first-class and you will find all the grown-up water-sport toys are available here.  Yes, they are compable if you are a hotel guest, as is the only car-wash in town which is on their property.  Now this is the only casino that I know of that will comp car-washes.

In Part Two of this article, we'll finish our Precision-Shooters look at the rest of the Laughlin casinos.

Until then, Good Luck & Good Skill at the Laughlin Tables...and in Life.

The Mad Professor

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