Las Vegas, Nevada is a weird place to live. I know it's a funky place to visit on vacation, but living in this place has definitely been a wild ride so far.
I haven't lived here long enough to write a book on the subject, but I can dispel lots of myths, and mention some positive aspects of the place. Las Vegas surely isn't
what most people expect it to be.
Foreword: My wife and I moved here on December 27, 2002, because the opportunity to do so came up, and because we had vacationed here often enough to know we at least
liked the climate, the sights, the surrounding area (the place is in the middle of a little valley; lots of mountains nearby), and we knew the place couldn't suck any worse
than Denver, Colorado did for us. We knew some of the following things when we moved here, but others caught us by surprise. All told, we still like it here. It's just a
little different than we expected.
Common Misconceptions About Las Vegas
You can easily get rich here.
No (legal) casino game in the whole state of Nevada, much less the city of Las Vegas (and the surrounding areas) offers anything better than a 0.5% house edge for
the average gambler. By "average," I mean "guy who walks up with two hundred bucks to play some games." There are only a few legal ways to reduce this edge, and each
of them has major downsides.
Learn to count cards, and play Blackjack at a table with favorable rules. - Hard(ish) to learn, nearly impossible to accomplish these days without
being noticed. Casinos cannot have you arrested, or take your winnings, if you are believed to be counting cards (it's not cheating; see the entry below). They can
blacklist you and ask you to leave (and if you return, then they can have you arrested). If you're willing to lose a few hands you could have won to throw
the pit critters off, you don't win as much. Other downsides: statistically even the best card counters only nudge the house edge down to -1% or so, so it takes a
long time to make any money. By the time you have, they're already plotting how to get you out of their casino.
Play at a low-minimum craps table that offers 100x odds - This offers a near-zero house edge (approaching 0.08%), but comes at a stiff price --
taking 100x odds on a don't pass bet (the lowest house edge bet on the table) at a $0.50 minimum table means you could be risking $250.50 per round(!). You'll get
some raised eyebrows from the low-rollers and you'll impress the pit critters, but unless you walk around bleeding $100 bills, even a brief downswing will cause you
Find full-pay video poker machines and play perfect strategy on them. - Theoretical payback of 100.8% to perfect strategy players who never make
mistakes (know any?) yields an expected hourly profit of $7 or so for a fast player. I can find more comfortable desk jobs that pay better than this and don't involve
nearly as much second-hand smoke. Note that profit figure includes comps too. Combine this with the fact that most casinos these days are phasing out these machines
(sure, they make more money than they lose because for every 100 players who think they're master video poker players, 99 of them will screw up and lose, but when
tourists will play 8-5 and 7-4 jacks or better machines, who the hell needs full pay anymore?), and you've got a losing proposition.
Play baccarat or mini-baccarat at a casino that offers 4% vig (or commission) - Yielding a 0.60% house edge on the banker bet, this is one of the
most favorable bets an average player can make. Over the long haul, though, you'll still lose. Other disadvantages include: 1) high minimums on most tables (I've
never seen this game priced lower than $5 per hand); 2) uh, have you ever played mini-baccarat? It is boring. Put up your wager, wait, collect
winnings if you win or replace your wager if you lose, repeat.
Slot machines are entirely for suckers; good luck finding payback better than 94% (average). If you see a bank of machines labelled "100% payback!", I wish you all the
best of luck in finding which one of that bank is actually set to 100% payback. It'll cost you to find it, as the others will not be set so favorably.
Still, I'd like to encourage the idiot gamblers to keep coming out here; you're financing the fun free stuff we get to enjoy here.
Prostitution is legal here.
Bzzzzt. The damned police here occasionally make a big deal out of yet another bust. They arrest both Johns and prostitutes here. Prostitution is illegal in all of
Clark county, which includes Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Downtown Las Vegas, Henderson, and many outlying areas. The nearest legal prostitution to Las Vegas is
found in Pahrump, Nevada, about an hour away on a well-maintained, speed trap funded highway.
This doesn't stop literally thousands of companies and individuals from trying to scam unwary tourists; you can't walk the Strip (unless it's 4:00am) without a dozen
hispanic workers of questionable nationality thrusting full color glossy cards and big newsprint booklets filled with ads for nekkid girls. You have to wade very
carefully through the phone book looking for a massage therapist as most massage parlors in this town are clip joints that offer poor massages and little else apart
from some nudity for a very high price. Escorts advertise on the strip, on buses, billboards, newsstands, strip clubs, the yellow pages, even outside hotels, but usually
the "scam" is that for $80, a relatively attractive woman will appear, and ask you for more money if you want her to stay and take off some of her clothes. If you want
sex, you'll be disappointed.
Card counting is illegal here.
Negative. A casino has but one recourse against someone they suspect (or know) to be counting cards: they can ask him to leave. If he stays, then they can have him
arrested, but otherwise, that's it. If you count cards to help edge up your blackjack game, whatever you win before they catch on is yours, and you can't be thrown in
jail if you bow out politely when asked.
You can get lots of stuff here free or cheap.
This used to be true, but it isn't anymore. Hotels are only cheap if you book in advance and don't stay on the strip. Gambling is never cheap. Those "free" drinks may
not seem expensive until you start playing like an idiot because you're not sober anymore. Dining is only cheap in a select few hidden spots now, and it's becoming
increasingly difficult to get the cheap menu items (one place I know of only gives you its $2 burger & fries special if you have their players club card handy when you
order). All the shows here are expensive. The strip clubs here are insanely expensive. The days of lots of freebies and cheap eats are long gone; this is a leaner,
meaner Las Vegas now.
It's a "24-hour" town.
Oh, no no no. This place winds down at around 1:00am and is firmly asleep at 4:00am. There are five types of business that stay open all night: 1) restaurants, 2) bars,
3) casinos, 4) strip clubs, 5) Wal-Mart. That's it. If all you're after is some food, liquor, gaming action, nudity, or Wal-Mart, you'll find some of it
available day or night. Anything else though, and you're on daylight hours only.
Most hotel pools close down at sundown, even during the summer (which is incredibly stupid -- in the summer it can sometimes stay at 90+ degrees at night and is the
absolute best time for a swim). No attraction (roller coasters, thrill rides, tourist traps, etc.) stays open past 11:00pm, and many close earlier. The "gourmet"
restaurants, and even the shitty places like McDonald's close early too. Nothing at Bellagio will satisfy a fat cat at 2:00am, or even 11:00pm. Your dining choices
are limited to the 24 hour cafes most of the strip casinos have, the Denny's lurking around the city, and the hidden gems off-strip that still offer cheap but good
eats. Forget about buffets; the only one that stays open 24 hours a day is the Boardwalk's, and people are afraid of it.
Bellagio's fountains stop at midnight. So does Mirage's volcano, and Caesar's Palace's Atlantis show at its acquarium. All the upscale shopping malls close down
at 11:00pm. Mirage packs in its cute kitties at 11:00pm, too.
The night clubs taper off in the wee hours, too; don't expect to find a hopping, happenin' place at 4:00am.
For the rest of these items, I'll be making comparisons against Denver, the last city we lived in before coming here. Take these with grains of salt appropriately sized
for where you live.
Things That Suck About Las Vegas
It's not as cheap to live here as you might think.
Get ready for sticker shock when you move your car insurance policies to this town. We moved from Colorado, an insanely overpriced state insurance-wise (second highest
in the nation), and our rates haven't budged a bit. We both have no accidents, no claims against our policies, no marks on our driving records, and I'm over 25 (she gets
the over-25 rate because she's married). We have multi-line discounts, multi-car discounts, good driving record discounts, low claim count discounts, accident free
discounts, and our cars' safety features gain discounts too. We still get reamed, every single month.
Rent is actually a little bit cheaper here than most places, when you look at per-square-foot cost. We ended up paying just a tad more in rent than we did in Colorado,
but had a much larger apartment. It was still a shitty apartment though. Housing is insanely cheap here, which is good. The house I sit in now cost $159,990. In
Colorado, the same thing would have run us $300,000+ easily.
Gas is pricey here because it's a giant tourist trap and the fuel retailers can get away with it. Groceries are average. If you stay off-strip, prices for most other
things are usually pretty reasonable. There is no state income tax here (wooo!), which rounds off the list of benefits for the cost-of-living scale here.
Entertainment here is insanely expensive. Shows run $80-$100 per person for shitty seats.
There are con-artists and pushy salesmen as far as the eye can see.
If you think you have it bad where you live, visit the strip for a day to meet the scummiest assholes ever to curse the Earth. These bastards park themselves at busy
intersections (pedestrian traffic), like the main walkway in Rio, in front of tight sidewalk spots at Harrah's and outside Tropicana, and quite literally block your
path to force you to stop just so they can sell you timeshares. They are just the beginning.
Every few feet is someone handing out cards with naked women on them. Normally this is a good thing, but it's just advertisements for those crappy escort services where
you get very little and pay a whole lot. In shopping malls sales minions wander freely pouncing on passersby whenever they can. A squirt of perfume here, a snotty comment
there (when you ignore the salescritters here, they insult you to try for your attention one more time), and having to shove your way through somebody are par for the
If you are an angry person easily annoyed by pushy salescritters, this place is not for you.
Apart from pushy salesmen, there are countless scams and frauds in this city, moreso than in most places. The Red Rooster Too springs to mind; the Red Rooster is
a famous swingers club in Las Vegas. The Red Rooster Too, a bar about a half mile from the strip on Sahara Blvd., is not affiliated with or owned by the Red Rooster,
charges $12.50 just for a "tour", another $12.50 to stay, even at the bar, for even a minute to see if anyone comes by to occupy an otherwise empty club, and sells
condoms for $1 a piece (real clubs give them away, and while real clubs charge more for admission, none require up-front non-refundable payment for a tour). Strip clubs
hint at prostitution without crossing the line, and leave many men teased but unsatisfied. Many escorts hint at the same thing but sap money from wallets without showing
much flesh. Pyramid scheme pushers, work-from-home scamsters, and more await your arrival here.
Stay alert, trust no one, keep your laser handy.
The drivers here are nuts. The cabbies are worse.
I know, I know, New York cabbies are worse, but these pricks here aren't too good either. I am convinced that I will be involved in a collision with one of them
here; it's only a matter of time. They don't look where they're going, they're aggressive, they're rude, and they don't care. Hope they have good insurance.
Other drivers aren't much better. Tourists abound, and because they don't know the place very well and they don't care much about it anyway, they drive like asses. The
locals know this, and compensate by being aggressive themselves. Impatient drivers are the norm here. Expect to be honked at if you take too long to make a left turn here
without the aid of a traffic signal.
It is not a 24-hour town.
See above for more, but for a pair of cheap, easily bored people with little disposable income, there is officially jack shit to do here at night. It's not as bad during
the day, since at least there's lots of hot women to look at, but at night, this place is dead. Seriously dead.
The strip clubs suck.
...and not in the good way. Low milage, low contact dances from disinterested 4's to 6's, in overprices joints that want $10 or more for each guy, don't give discounts for
women, and still expect you to buy one or sometimes even two or three drinks. $40 lap dances are the norm, and the hustle is always fierce.
With that out of the way, here's why Las Vegas is still a great place to live.
Things That Do NOT Suck About Las Vegas
The weather is wonderful.
It's October 28, 2003, 3:56am. It's 63 degrees out, and that's the coldest it's been since January. It still hits 90+ during the day here. It won't get to where the locals
call it "cold" until late November, early December. Even then, no frosts here.
The summer is downright awesome ... several months see triple-digit temperatures.
The women ... oh, the beautiful women.
The ones you really want to see stripping are never in the strip clubs, but there's tons and tons of hot, gorgeous women to drool at here. You name the body type, it's
represented here en-masse. Like big breasts? Come and get 'em! Like 'em small and petite? Got plenty of those, too. And everything in between. And most of them are
so clueless or happy to be in Vegas that they don't notice you drooling at them, and they tend to dress up really nice too. They love to show off what they have here.
Must be a vacation thing.
Lots of stuff to do during the day.
During the day, there's tons of free stuff to do here; just don't expect lots of excitement for it. There's free pulls (that never pay, of course), some free shows (but
skip Treasure Island's (er, sorry, "ti's") newly revamped pirate show, which is now a 30 minute advertisement for their damned dance club, featuring women prancing
around lip synching to a cruddy "story"), and lots of stuff to look at. It does get boring after awhile, but it takes a long while.
There are still some bargains here.
I can name three restaurants that can feed my wife and I good, filling food (half pound burger and fried, etc.) for under eight bucks. The kind where you sit down, a
waiter or waitress takes your order, it's cooked to order, and brought to you; the whole nine yards, not a fast food venture. Pretty nice.
There's a Fry's Electronics here, a very big one, and they occasionally have good sales on assorted gadgets.
Locals sometimes get pretty good discounts on certain things, though not any of the on-or-near-strip attractions give much of any kind of discount (the exception to
this is the Race for Atlantis -- half off for locals. Some strip clubs in town waive their cover charge (still charging you for drinks, if that's what they do to
everyone) for locals, too.
Housing is cheap here.
Booming market. Low real estate prices. I'm broke and I could actually get approved for a mortgage here. 'nuff said.
Generally good cable modem/DSL coverage and cell phone coverage.
Lots of competing cellular companies in this market means reasonably good selection and choice of carriers. Both the local phone company and the local cable company are
at each other's throats trying to kill the other's broadband offerings by offering lower prices or higher speeds (sometimes both. Even without a discount for having
cable TV (I have a satellite dish), I only pay $60 a month for 3mB/sec down, 384kB up.
Lots to do in the surrounding area.
If you tire of Vegas, head to the mountains nearby, or go to Laughlin, or the Grand Canyon, etc. There's lots to see here; more than you could possibly experience in
an entire year. I know; we've tried.
All in all, it's not a bad place to live. It's just not the mecca of free-flowing cash, booze, and sex people think it is. "What happens here, stays here" is Las Vegas'
new "slogan". This is probably the case because nothing terribly exciting happens here anymore.