Sep 17
by Rolka Nation

Oh Ellis Island.  My heart feels with warmth every time I think about it.  My soul recharges every time I walk thru its doors.  You may have read my brief musings on this wondrous little casino in a previous post, but it’s certainly deserving of a full review.  Read it, learn from it, go next time in town if you have not had the pleasure yet. 

On our recent visit, I had sold the gang on firmly committing a visit to Ellis Island Casino & Brewery before we even left Atlanta.  It didn’t take too much on my part; I’ve been singing its praises for a long time now.  So on our first full day in Vegas; Don, Lori, Kanuck, Lady Kanuck, and I all made way to the best unknown casino in town.

outside-ellis-island (2)First…some pertinents.  Ellis Island Casino & Brewery is on the grounds of a Super 8 Motel on Koval Lane.  It’s small and you certainly would never notice it unless you were looking for it.  Yes, it’s off-strip.  But, any cabbie will know it and you can actually walk to it.  It sits roughly 2 full blocks directly behind Bally’s.  If walking north on the Strip, turn right at the first street past Bally’s, pass the Westin on your left, and then hang your next right and you’ll see it beckoning for you.  If you get lost, simply follow your heart. 

Now I know what most of you snobs out there are thinking.  “A Super 8??  Hell no, I’m not going there!”  I urge you to get over that Matthew Broderick-esque way of thinking and take the plunge.  As I also mentioned in a previous post, I don’t like to splurge too much on essentials period, including in Vegas.  I’d rather not blow a ton of money on food and drink when I can better use that money for gambling and shows.  This is what fueled my original journey to Ellis Island. 

Simply put, the food at EI is incredible.  Not only is it extremely cheap for what you get, it’s also insanely tasty and hugely portioned.  The joint actually has 2 separate restaurants.  First…you have the normal, more traditional casino-style restaurant that is straight and to the left as you enter.  This place has a ton of good values such as a giant prime rib dinner for $10.99 and a steak & shrimp platter for just $8.99.  However, the best value here isn’t even on the menu.  

Just ask for the ol’ Steak Special when you order and you’re in for a treat my friends.  The Steak Special consists of a nice sized top sirloin, your choice of potato, the veggie of the day, a salad, AND a pint of one of EI’s homemade brews including root beer!  The price…$6.99.  In my opinion, maybe the single best dinner value in all of Las Vegas.  The steak is choice, the sides are solid, and throw in a freshly brewed beer to boot. 

Complete Insanity!The second restaurant truly shines as well and this is where us 5 dined on our recent visit.  The smaller patio restaurant to the right after entering caters solely to BBQ.  And people, this is some serious BBQ that would fit in perfectly in Texas, Georgia, Memphis, North Carolina, where ever.  You only have a couple of choices here, but go for the combo.  Half a rack of babybacks, half of a full chicken, baked beans, potato salad, slaw, Texas toast, and all the rich, thick sauce you want.  The platter is simply huge and can definitely be split between two if you want to go the wuss route.  Price…$8.99.  All in our party that night can attest to the sheer greatness of this meal. 

What can make all of this even better?  You can easily obtain a BOGO entree coupon (or 2 like we had) in the pages of the American Casino Guide or by hunting around online to essentially cut the price in half.  Can you imagine that meal for $4.50?!  Believe it. 

The only drawback to this is that the BBQ and Steak Special spots are completely separate even though mere feet apart.  Therefore, you cannot get the Steak Special at the BBQ restaurant and vice versa.  This can create quite the tough decision.  Being a BBQ connoisseur, that has won out for me the past few visits.  Don’t get me wrong, the Steak Special is outstanding as well so it’s your call.  I usually have a steak another night in Vegas, so I roll with the BBQ! 

I’m also an avid beer lover and this is where EI hooks me even further.  They make all of their beer onsite and have 5 different styles to choose from on tap.  A great Amber, a Light Lager, a dark Stout, a Hefeweizen, and usually a seasonal.  They also make a mean root beer as well.  The price, $1.50 a pint.  OR, free if playing.  Did I mention this place rules?  You can also get one of the best Vegas coupons as well through the same sources I mentioned earlier…4 Free Drinks.  Yep, no catch.  With the coupon, you get 4 free drinks including liqour.  Don, Lori, and I were pleasantly surprised and thrilled when we cashed one of these bad boys in for 2 beers for me and 2 Johnny Walker Black and Coke’s for them.  Stellar. 

On top of all this, EI’s casino is a fun little place to play as well.  They have a decent slot selection, a serviceable sports book, and a fun table game pit that always has $5 blackjack.  On this particular night, we all participated in our first ever Blackjack tournament.  A $25 buy-in gave you a chance at over $300.  None of us won, but we rode that $25 out for about 40 minutes and had a pretty unique gaming experience.  AND…Don got to sit next to what appeared to be a homeless, drunken construction worker with hair that would’ve made Don King jealous! 

The casino also runs great promotions as well and caters heavily to locals and off-duty employees of other casinos.  On a previous trip with Kanuck last year, I won a chance to spin a giant wheel in the pit that netted me 2,000 points on my player’s card.  That equaled $20 worth of comps in the restaurants.  We also got a T-shirt just for doing the aforementioned Blackjack tourney.  

Ellis Island is an outstanding off the beaten path casino with ridiculously good food and great prices.  I always consider it an essential 3 hour of so stop on each and every one of my Vegas trips.  The restaurant can have a wait during peak dinner times, so get there around 5ish, play a little bit, grab one of the great beers or another libation, and come hungry.  Check it out, you won’t be sorry.  And tell ’em Pittsburgh Gil sent ya!

Sep 9
by Don

Just getting back from Vegas over the holiday weekend and we have a ton to talk about. There will be reviews, observations, stories and the like, but I had to start with what I can only describe as, “The Run”. If you have been reading our blog for any length of time you know that I am a big believer of Hedge Economics. I have talked about the basic principles here, how they help you get rated and free stuff from casinos here, and have even given some real world examples of some outcomes to give you an idea of what to expect here. All of that is well and good, but when it goes right it’s a sight to behold. Well Lori had one of those runs that exemplify the pure beauty of the theory. When applied properly, under the right circumstances, and with the fortitude to remain true to the escalating betting patterns, the outcome can really be nice. 

So to set the scene it’s around 9:30 am on Saturday and we are up and ready to roll. Destination; the main pit at Caesar’s. We love this place because of the chill atmosphere, older dealers, and great player payouts in that you can split A’s up to 4 times, BJ pays 3 to 2, and you can surrender as well. But really, we mainly love this place because we win, and Lori normally wins big. There was nothing really spectacular happening. Lori survived a couple of shoes with little to write home for, but the third shoe was the magical one. About half way through that 3rd shoe (one that Lori cut, which is crazy because that normally isn’t a good thing) Lori starts her run. She wins the first 4 hands and now has her bet up to $125. So that’s a nice start, but nothing out of the ordinary. At this point she ups her hedge amount to $50 per hand. This is nice as she wins the next 5 hands and her bet is now up to $350. Excellent. Especially since the next hand is a BJ! Yes!

Even Julius is pointing the way for Lori's seige at Ceasar'sLori continues to hedge and now is up the $400 and gets a double down opportunity. Now it’s not your normal 11 versus dealer 6. That could be something that is easy to pull the trigger on. However it’s a soft Ace (A4 vs.4) and this was something that Lori would not have done in the past, but this trip we talked about playing all of angles. This means you are playing it by the book, the whole book and that includes doubling on the right soft Aces, splitting small pairs versus dealer 2-6 (or 7), and just believing in doing the right thing. So there is a moment where the dealer pauses before he pulls out the cards, but eventually he busts and boom, winner $800. Now what’s great about that is that she pulls back $1200 and then puts another $50 up on her bet and wins the next hand as well. She wins two more hands and I am just praying for the shoe to end.

Well it finally came to the end after 13 straight wins. She played out the remainder of the shoe, which was only another 2 hands left, and then takes an inventory of the rampage and decides to go to the cage. Lori bought into the table with $300 and left with $2775. I would say that qualifies as “The Run”.

Sep 2
by MDF

I will preface the following image by saying, if this happened in the real world I would have killed myself.


I was just playing a random game of my favorite iPhone app, 21 Pro, when it goes and deals the above hand…in real life to me this is worse than losing a hand. I would have been using Hedge Economics, I would have been jumping for joy to pull trip 21, and then only to watch no-one win… what an epic FAIL.