Having only been legally allowed to gamble since about two years ago, I’ve somehow managed to visit just about every casino in the United States from coast to coast. I’ve been to tons of casinos including many in Las Vegas and Atlantic City as well as a few in North Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Rhode Island and Arkansas to name a few. At this stage of my gambling escapades, I’ve been mainly playing blackjack, slots and video poker but have been known to dabble in sports betting, paigow, let it ride, craps and other table games.
Having recently relocated to California, I’ve never been to Reno and it peaked my interest after learning it was just a short 3 hour drive from my apartment. Last weekend me and my friend decided to head over there to see what it was all about, for better or worse. Being that California generally offers more in the way of card rooms than it does traditional casinos, it seemed like our best bet for a quick weekend trip versus other options like flying to vegas.
After doing some basic Google research, we decided to stay at Harrah’s which is essentially right in the middle of everything. Harrah’s is located just off of what you might compare to Reno’s version of the strip, which includes several other popular casinos that are within walking distance and is also home to the famous “Reno Arch.” Upon arriving on a Friday night, my first impression was that it was somewhat empty for “America’s Biggest Little City,” especially when compared to other cities like Vegas or Atlantic City.
My general casino strategy is to build a bankroll (or lose it all) at high-limit slots, and re-invest it all into blackjack. Needless to say, my first stop was the high limit room, which offered some great slot options like triple-double diamonds and the likes, as well as my new favorite; a re-spin Wheel of Fortune variation. I was sad that they did not have a single Top Dollar machine in the whole casino. (I would later have to visit El Dorado to play).
Overall I would say that the high-limit slots room is slightly above average; not great but definitely not disappointing. One thing that did throw me off was the fact that there were no high-limit blackjack tables running, even on a Friday night.
After getting settled in and heading downstairs to play some high-limit slots, I was fortunate enough to hit the max on Wheel of Fortune for $1,195 which for some reason was a handpay. This is pretty unusual given the standard for a handpay is generally $1,200 (hence the $1,195 top spin-payout at most casinos). I now had my blackjack bankroll though and could degen my face off for the rest of the night.
After carefully inspecting all of my blackjack options at Harrah’s, it was hard to find a 3-2 table. I did eventually find one (double deck), but they have some pretty lame rules like not being able to split or double after the first split/double. This would in turn limit my downside I guess, but also my upside and is generally not what you want if you play often. In the whole casino, there was only one 3-2 blackjack table which was pretty annoying ($25 min $1,000 max bet).
I had a good run overall at Harrah’s and was up roughly $1k. After getting bored of Harrah’s, we decided to walk around N Center St to find some other casinos. We eventually stumbled across Cal-Neva, where I played some more 3-2 double-deck blackjack. We experienced the same issues here as we did at Harrah’s; a lot of 6-5 tables and annoying rules (i.e. can’t split/double after first split/double etc.). If you are ever in Reno, I would recommend visiting Cal-Neva’s Karaoke Night; not for the music but for the interesting characters you’ll find here and the bar fights (cheap entertainment).
The second night we visited El Dorado, which seemed to be packed and a lot more lively compared to Harrah’s on Friday. Here, once again, they had similar blackjack tables so I didn’t have the chance to play a ton. They did however have a Top Dollar machine which I played for a bit. There was only one machine here, which was $15 per spin vs the $10 machines which I generally prefer (same top prizes etc. but $5 less per spin).
Overall, despite the shitty blackjack tables, I would probably visit Reno again in the future. For me personally, it’s more efficient to hunt down the elusive 3-2 tables here than it is to pay up to $1 per hand in a California card room. I would definitely recommend visiting Reno at least once in your lifetime, especially if you live in California or another close-by state and have comped rooms or offers.
Aside from gambling, you can generally get free drinks (plus tip) and hotel rooms are fairly inexpensive (if you can’t get comped). I do think you need to have a Diamond Card to get free drinks at Caesars properties here, as I heard them asking people next to me if they had one throughout the trip. At other properties, like El Dorado and Cal Neva, drinks were also free (regardless of your player card level).
In case you’re curious, I ended up +$300 or so, which for me was a big success.