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Best of Vin Narayanan

Gaming Guru

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Vin's 2011 gambling to-do list

10 January 2011

2010 was a great year for my gambling to-do list. I visited and stayed at Aria (Las Vegas), Foxwoods (Connecticut) and Mohegan Sun (Connecticut) for the first time. I played poker outdoors in a bar overlooking the Danube in Budapest and in a poker tournament in a Prague card room. I stayed at Bally's in Las Vegas for the first time. And I played in a 24-hour poker game.

I played baccarat for the first time, hit a rare nine-high Pai Gow in Pai Gow Poker (and didn't play the insurance!), refused to bet on 20 at the roulette wheel only to watch my friend hit it big and obtained bottle service at casino clubs (twice!). And believe me, I had never had bottle service before.

So all in all, 2010 was definitely a year to remember, and I'm very much looking forward to checking off some new gambling experiences in 2011. I don't know if I'll be able to do all of these things, but I'd sure like to try. Here are the top-10 experiences I'm looking forward to.

10. The Cosmopolitan
Las Vegas' newest casino opened up on December 15, and I have to admit, I want to go see it -- and maybe even stay in it. After all, it doesn't charge any resort fees. And I'm definitely for that.

The new resort sits in a prime location between CityCenter and the Bellagio. And it looks stunning. There's a three-story chandelier with a bar inside of it. Many of the rooms have balconies. And there are video screens, complete with digital art, throughout the property.

I walked past The Cosmopolitan several times during 2010, and I couldn't wait to see it then. Now that it's open, The Cosmopolitan will be one of my first stops in Vegas in 2011.

9. The Borgata
As much as I like Atlantic City, and I do like Atlantic City, I've never made it over to what most consider the best resort there -- The Borgata. From great service to great restaurants to an excellent gaming floor, I've never heard a complaint about the property. And many patrons consider the Borgata as close to Las Vegas as you'll ever get on the East Coast. I usually make at least one trip to Atlantic City every year. And this year, the Borgata will be on my list of must visit casinos.

8. Poker at the Fitz
For some people Dublin in May means golfing, the Carling Nations Cup, the Dublin City Soul Festival and tours of the Guinness factory. For me, it means an opportunity to play poker at the Fitzwilliam Card Club. The beauty of attending a gambling trade show is that there are usually gambling-related side trips for attendees to take. And I have no doubt that some of us will end up at one of Ireland's top poker venues (which also has roulette, blackjack and other games). The Fitz is open 24/7 and offers an impressive array of nightly tournaments in addition to cash games. Club membership is free. Just make sure to bring a valid ID.

7. The Foxwoods Pairs tournament
Foxwoods offered a $400 Limit Hold'em/Omaha pairs tournament at their 2010 Foxwoods Classic. And while I didn't play in it, I was intrigued. The team begins with one stack. The game switches each level between Limit Hold'em and Omaha, with one player playing exclusively Limit Hold'em and the other Omaha. I'm guessing I'd play Omaha because Limit Hold'em isn't my strength, but that depends on who I could talk into playing with me. Hopefully, I'll be able to talk someone from the Casino City Home Game into trying this event, and I'll report on the results.

6. The Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort
Before Las Vegas was, well, Las Vegas, it was an oasis on the Old Spanish Trail between New Mexico and California and part of the home territory of the Southern Pauite Native Americans. Mormon missionaries built the fort in 1855 when the moved into the area in an effort to convert Southern Pauite Native Americans and provide a "halfway station in the valley for travelers between Salt Lake City and the Pacific Coast," according to the National Park Service. The fort was the first building in what is now Las Vegas. The fort/mission was abandoned by the Mormons in 1857 and later "served as a ranch, resort, and cement testing facility," according to the Park Service.

It's now a historical site in Las Vegas, and I'm a history buff, so count me in for seeing the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort this year.

5. Design a slot game
A critical part of the gaming experience for me is fun. If I'm not having fun, I don't like to play. Traditional slots bore me. I like being able to interact with my games, like in the Monopoly Bigger Event from WMS. I had a chance to play this at G2E in November, and I enjoyed it tremendously. Basically, you have four people playing at slot machines by themselves. But when the bonus feature is triggered -- at random -- players share four to six rolls of the dice on the Monopoly board. Each player gets to roll the dice at least once, using excellent touch screen technology. And your bonus, and the bonus games you play -- which are shared by the group -- are determined by the properties you land on in the Monopoly board. Because these are community bonus games, everyone has a stake in the outcome, making the game much more interesting. If I could design and play more games like that, I might sit down at the slots more often. And if you're reading this WMS, let me help design a game for you. It could be a good project everyone involved.

4. Play Bourre
Bourre seems to be the gambling game of choice for NBA players, and I want in.

The game itself is pretty simple. Everyone antes. Then players are dealt five cards, with the dealer's fifth card being turned face up. The suit of that card is trump. If players want to play, they toss in an additional ante. If they fold, they're out.

Players then discard unwanted cards and draw replacements. There's only one draw. Then the game proceeds like normal trump games (think spades or euchre) with a couple of bourre specific rules. The person that takes the most tricks wins.

I'm a big fan of trump-based games. I love the strategy, I love the game play, and mostly, I love the fact that I'm really good at them. I've never played bourre before, but I'm ready.

And if you think you've heard of this game before, you're right. Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo had a "confrontation" on the team plane over O.J. Mayo's bourre debt. And bourre was the card game that prompted the Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton mess last year, where Crittenton owed Arenas some gambling money and Arenas' efforts to collect weren't appreciated.

3. Cantor's in-game betting
I'm a big fan of second-half lines. It allows me to get a feel for the game before placing a bet -- or just place a bet if I'm late to the sportsbook. But Cantor Gaming's in-game betting options blow second-half lines out of the water. Cantor Gaming -- an offshoot of financial services giant Cantor Fitzgerald -- has figured out a way to deliver constantly updated odds of anything going on in a live sporting event, including current odds of whether a team will win or not. You can bet three and outs, whether a field goal will be made or whether your team will win with a 21-point lead and 7 minutes left in the game. Cantor's in-game betting technology used to be limited to the M Resort, the Palazzo and the Venetian. But this year, you'll be able to find it in The Cosmopolitan (another reason for me to go there), Hard Rock and the Tropicana Las Vegas.

2. Gold and Silver Pawn Shop
In addition to being a history junkie, I'm a bit of a TV junkie as well. And if you're a TV junkie, you've probably heard of the reality series Pawn Stars. It features the hijinks and real business of the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. And it's very entertaining. So entertaining that the Pawn Stars cast does traveling tour events, and the store has become a must see for fans of the show. I know what you're thinking -- "How depraved and indifferent do you have to be to enjoy a show about a pawn shop?" Just give the show a try. You'll be hooked. It's entertaining television. And then you'll start wanting to visit the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop yourself.

1. Betting on my BlackBerry
Nevada regulators have approved a sports betting application for BlackBerries, and the company that made the app has Droid and iPhone version on the way. The system is real simple. First, you open an account at a Leroy's Sportsbook (Leroy's is owned by American Wagering, which developed the sports betting app). They have locations all over Las Vegas (and Nevada) including the Riviera, Sahara and Hooters. After you open the account, Leroy's will send you the app, and you can use it to bet anywhere in the state of Nevada, just as if you were standing in a real Leroy's Sportsbook. And if you win some money, stop by a Leroy's Sportsbook and pick up your winnings. That's it. It sounds amazingly simple. And I can't wait to give it a whirl on my next trip to Las Vegas.
Vin's 2011 gambling to-do list is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.