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Top 10 favorite casinos

31 Jul 2023

By Dan Ippolito
Just a few weeks ago I made a trip to Saratoga, New York and made a stop at Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady. Two weeks from now, I will be doing the same thing and it got me thinking about the different casinos I have been to and where Rivers Schenectady ranks.

Here, my list of 10 favorite casino resorts that I have visited.

10. Mohegan Sun
Living in Massachusetts, before MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor popped up, Connecticut was the most attractive option to go and play some table games at a casino.

Roughly about a 100-minute drive from my home, Mohegan Sun was one of the first casinos I attended. When I was 21, the Connecticut property was getting ready to unveil its new Earth Tower.

I have gone a few times over the years and have always been able to find a table with an open seat at the minimum I want and the game I want to play.

In all my times visiting the property, I have never ended up staying at the hotel but I would imagine it is nothing short of excellent as Mohegan Sun was voted the Best Casino Hotel in 2022 by USA TODAY’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, marking the fifth year in a row the resort won the award.

9. The Mirage
It wasn’t my first casino, but it was my first Las Vegas casino. I know it may shock you, but, yes, Las Vegas has a different feel and vibe to it than Connecticut.

Staying in one of The Mirage’s two queen strip view rooms, we had a view of both the Strip and the pool. The pool itself was great, you just have to make sure you get down there early enough to grab a seat that has some shade or else you will cook in that Las Vegas sun all day.

The casino was a good size and even at night I was able to find $15 blackjack tables, which was a win in itself compared to some minimums at other casinos during prime hours.

As the place I first stayed in Las Vegas, it will have a special memory to me and it will be sad to see it transformed into a Hard Rock International property as MGM Resorts sold it last year.

Nothing against Hard Rock, it is more about the changes to The Mirage and the iconic volcano show out front that will definitely be missed by many.

8. Caesars Palace
You can’t really have a list without arguably one of the most well-known casinos in the world and it is smack dab in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip.

I have been through this property several times, played at the tables here and also eaten dinner at Caesars Palace. I have yet to have a poor experience during any of those activities.

The dinner was located in the Forum Shops at a little Italian spot, Trevi. I think my entire table ended up having a red sauce dish throughout the meal and couldn’t get enough of it.

As far as the casino, be prepared to have the table limits push passed $15 and $25 at night on a weekend.

If you want to relax, hit the Gardens of the Gods. It has seven, yes seven, different pools for everyone to enjoy. If you want to mix relaxation and play, the Fortuna Pool has a couple of swim-up blackjack tables.

7. Aria Resort & Casino
Another property I have stayed at in Sin City is Aria Resort & Casino, and it was actually my most recent stay in Las Vegas.
Now, I will admit we did luck out on pricing for this five-star property as we booked well in advance during COVID so the price was in our favor.

Having a nightclub in your hotel does make it a little easier when planning a night out. JEWEL Nightclub was right downstairs for us. We were able to jump the line as hotel guests and get right in, definitely a small little perk.

The three pools at Aria allowed for us to not have to sprint down there first thing in the morning to find a few seats together, we never had an issue finding a spot to post up and perhaps start the day with a mimosa or something like that.

Moving over to the casino, the dealers at Aria were fun and talkative at the blackjack table, which made the experience better.

6. Encore Boston Harbor
As I said before, before Encore Boston Harbor opened its doors, us folk in Massachusetts didn’t have anything very close by, but now that is different.

You have to understand something. If you go on a weekend night thinking you are finding $15 tables, you are headed to the wrong place. It is an expensive place to play, but it is a very upscale property.

One thing that stood out to me the first time I went was the cleanliness. Another was how popular it is. I am not saying it is overcrowded where it becomes a negative factor, but you see a lot of full tables and the bars are always hopping, which is a good thing.

In fact, just this last Friday I had a few friends visiting and we made our way there to end our night. Found some open spots at tables, took a few innings of the Red Sox in at the WynnBet Sportsbook since they were on the west coast, and played a few slots. Leaving with more money than you walked in with is always the goal and luckily our entire group was able to do that.

5. Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady
I usually aim to go to Saratoga Race Course at least once a summer to spend a day at the races. From now on, any time I plan to do this, I will be sure to include Rivers in Schenectady as part of my trip.

I mentioned cleanliness as a positive for Encore Boston Harbor, but Rivers Casino in Schenectady has probably some of the cleanest bathrooms I have seen for a casino.

While not the biggest casino, I had no issue finding a spot at a table. The drink service at the tables was also extremely quick.

There are a few quick food options attached to one end of the casino but during the night, we noticed that a Nathan’s Hot Dog stand propped up right outside the sportsbook and that was a must.
I have to admit, at first, I didn’t think Rivers Schenectady would impress me as some of the other casinos I have been to, but it checked off a lot of boxes.

4. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
The Cosmo is probably one of the nicer casinos located on the Las Vegas Strip and is in a great location, near the center of all of the action.

Similar to Caesars Palace and Encore Boston Harbor, you probably won’t be finding $15 minimum tables too often but if you know that going in, then you won’t be disappointed.

If you are in search of a party style pool, you have the Marquee Dayclub that turns into an outdoor lounge with a DJ.

I began many of my days in Las Vegas at The Cosmo a lot because of one reason and one reason only, Eggslut.

This grab n go breakfast spot was a game changer. Yes, you are probably going to walk toward it and see a hefty line but don’t let that discourage you, it is worth the wait. One of the breakfast sandwiches is a perfect way to kick start your day.

3. Foxwoods Resort & Casino
This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include the first casino I ever stepped foot in. Since my first time when I was 21, I have been back down to Connecticut a handful of times to stop at Foxwoods.

One of the largest casino-resort’s in the U.S., Foxwoods has something for everyone. You can gamble at any of the four casinos, go place bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook, take a dip in the pool, play some golf and more! They also have a Topgolf Swing Suite that opened four years ago.

This resort is also home to my favorite blackjack side bet, Match the Dealer. I have definitely lucked out with some success playing this side bet and I will say, if you plan to play the side bets, either do it all the time or never because the time you pull your bet back is when you would’ve hit.

2. The Venetian Las Vegas
Have I stayed here? No. Has this casino definitely taken some of my money while at the tables? Yes. So why is this so far up my list?

Well for me, it isn’t about making money when I go. It is about entertainment, but don’t get me wrong, sure, making money would be a lovely bonus. One of the nicer properties I have walked into, The Venetian has a massive casino that is adjacent to its sportsbook.

If you are looking for nightlife, TAO Nightclub is one of the more well-known and well-rated nightclubs on the Strip and can fit up to 3,000 people.

Another reason I love this resort, is because it is home to one of my favorite burgers that I have had in Las Vegas. Black Tap served me, twice, a great bacon cheddar burger with outdoor seating that overlooks the Las Vegas Strip.

1. Bellagio
Speaking of views, the best view I’ve had in Las Vegas was when I stayed at the Bellagio a few years back. A fountain view room was the correct choice. Being able to see the fountain show from my window was nothing short of breathtaking, and you’d think it would get boring after seeing it so many times, but you’d be mistaken.

With five pools, I was at peace relaxing with a mudslide in my hand by the main pool. It really is difficult to find stress in that setting.

Similar to some of the other properties I have mentioned, for the most part, you are going to find $25 and up for blackjack tables with the possibility of snagging a $15 roulette potentially depending on the day.

The hotel room itself was very clean, spacious and we never had to call down and ask for anything, before we could even think of something we needed, it was in our room.
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