A Card Counters' Guide to Getting Around Las Vegas Without Driving on the Strip
The Blackjack Routes of Las VegasBy G.K. Schroeder
(From Blackjack Forum Vol. XIV #3, September 1994; updated 2012)
© 2012 Blackjack Forum
Some years ago I made the mistake of taking a three-day trip to Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo. The main casinos on my play list at the time were Circus Circus, the Sands and Aladdin. They cover about three miles of the Strip. I ended up spending eight hours playing blackjack, eight hours cursing at the full tables that seemed to be everywhere, and another eight hours waiting for lights to change on Las Vegas Boulevard.
I did have a good time playing blackjack with the cowboys, however. Cowboys call all women including dealers and floorladies "honey," and say things like "wir's that li'l gal with mah Bud Laht?" They tend to split pairs and bet wildly, like someone trying to outguess the weather in Texas.
I got some useful tips for my western act ("Ah always split mah tins") and, in fact, I now try to be in town whenever the cowboys are there, but I don't play much between noon and 2:00 a.m., and I never, never drive on Las Vegas Boulevard.
After the rodeo experience I realized that in addition to learning how to avoid Las Vegas Blvd., it would be helpful to concentrate on one section of the Strip at a time, and to have a plan of attack for each trip--in my case, usually trips of two or three days. Divide and conquer, as somebody once said.
In order to do this, I divided the Strip into three areas, with each area having at least three reliable main places to play and several alternates. By rotating these areas from trip to trip, or from shift to shift, I would be able to devise a general battle plan that would both maximize playing time and keep me off of Las Vegas Blvd.
The map at the bottom of this page will hopefully help the following make sense. If you don't already know where Koval Lane, Harmon Road, Paradise Road and Industrial Road are located, take a look at the map before reading on.
Las Vegas Driving Route 1: South Strip and Paradise Road
Main Casinos: Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, NYNY, Monte Carlo, Cosmopolitan, Aria, Planet Hollywood, LV Hilton, Terrible's, Hard Rock, Hooters
Park at Hooter's (take Koval Lane or Paradise Road to Tropicana and turn right). Often times you can find a parking slot right in front of the casino entrance. Check out the Hooter's games. The place is low-stakes but the penetration can be okay.
Walk to the Excalibur and play single and double-deck. There are several pits and lots of confusion—most of the thousands of folks you'll see wandering through the pits are lost ("...I told you, Little John's is next to the Sword in the Stone, not next to the red Corvette"). You can move from pit to pit for at least a couple of hours.
From here you can check out the Luxor next door or walk down to Mandalay Bay to try out their games. Just be aware, the distance is further than it looks on the map, so don't undertake the journey at high noon in mid-July. Head back across Las Vegas Blvd to your car at Hooter's. On the way, if you wish, you can stop by the MGM Grand, NYNY, and/or Monte Carlo to take a look at their six-deck shoes.
Leaving Hooters, exit right on Tropicana and then turn left on Harmon and come into Planet Hollywood from the back off of Audrie (it's easier than it sounds and takes less than five minutes). Park in the enormous parking garage in back of the casino, and start on your trek through the endless shopping mall. (There's no way to avoid going through half the mall on your way to the casino.) Check out the blackjack, and make sure to keep some energy in reserve for the long trek back to your car.
Next, you head back on Koval Lane to Harmon then east for about a half a mile to Paradise Road and stop at Hard Rock. After checking out the blackjack there, turn north on Paradise toward Terrible's and/or the LV Hilton. At the Hilton, use the valet parking. (The walk from the parking lot, when you finally find a spot, can be very long.) The blackjack games here are iffy, so you may find yourself immediately back out front waiting for your car.
The Excalibur area also offers good access to the South Strip games at South Point and especially MResorts, where the blackjack , games have been excellent for a couple of years now. To get there, take Koval Lane south to Reno, one street south of Tropicana, and turn right to Las Vegas Blvd. There's an easy light there. Turn left on the Boulevard and take it south to these casinos. This is also a good way to get to the I-15 from the South Strip.
An alternate approach to the Tropicana area of the Strip is to take Frank Sinatra from either Industrial (Frank Sinatra splits off near Caesars) or from Russell (Russell connects to Frank Sinatra at the southern edge of the Mandalay Bay property, a block or so from the Strip). Take Frank Sinatra to the Excalibur parking lot (the big open one directly behind the casino) and leave your car there.
Las Vegas Driving Route 2: Center Strip/Flamingo Road
Main Casinos: Imperial Palace, Mirage, Harrah's, TI, Caesars, Bellagio, Bally's, Paris, Wynn, Venetian, Palazzo
For these games you can park in either the Caesars Forum Shops parking garage (better yet, the valet there), accessed from Frank Sinatra/Industrial Drive, or at Harrah's, accessed from Koval Lane, depending on where you're coming from. Whatever you do, avoid the Venetian parking nightmare and any parking, such as the Bellagio garage, that requires driving on the Strip. The TI parking garage is also good if you're driving east on Spring Mountain from west of the Strip.
If you are going solely to Wynn and/or Venetian, you won't suffer too much if you access the Wynn parking structure by turning north on the Strip from Spring Mountain. However, you'll suffer greatly leaving the Wynn if you need to go anywhere but straight north on the Strip to Sahara.
If you're approaching the Harrah's parking structure on Koval, it's worth a right turn on Flamingo en route to check out the Tuscany.
Las Vegas Driving Route 3: North Strip/West of the Strip
Main Casinos: Circus Circus, Palace Station, Riviera and north to Stratosphere and Fremont Street
Take Circus Circus Drive off of Industrial Road and park in the Circus Circus Skyrise Tower parking lot (on your left). If you park on the second level you will walk directly from the parking lot into the Skyrise Casino, which has one of the four blackjack pits at Circus Circus. The Circus is good for at least two or three hours per shift, both single and double-deck. Not only are there four pits, but there are three cashier's cages, which can come in handy if you hide chips or have had a large win.
After the Circus, you may want to walk across the street and check out the tournament schedule at the Riviera. You can then travel a relatively uncrowded section of the Strip (the only exception to the never-drive-on-the-Strip rule) to get to the Stratosphere. Follow the signs to their parking garage, and later, when you emerge from the parking garage, be sure to take the left back to the Strip. Don't get lost in the maze of not-so-good neighborhood streets in the area.
If you turn north on the Strip (left), you can take it to Main and the downtown casinos. Downtown, your best bet for parking is the big open parking lot for Main Street Casino at Stewart and Main (just turn right onto Stewart from Main and drive half a block to get to the lot entrance) or give your car to the valet at the Main Street Casino (left off Main). That open lot is two short blocks north of the Fremont Street Experience and downtown casinos.
If you opt for the big open lot, there is usually a charge of a couple of bucks, but you can get reimbursed for the charge at the Main Street cashier on most days and nights (unless there's a special event going on, in which case you'll be warned by a sign at the lot entrance). Just take your parking receipt across the street the casino cashier. It's a short walk, and fast.
Alternatively, to get to Palace Station from Circus, depart from Circus the same way you came in (on Circus Circus Drive back to Industrial Road). Then turn right on Industrial Road. Immediately after you cross under Sahara Ave., you will see a small sign on the right directing you to Sahara West. Take the street at that sign up to Sahara West, where you will turn to the right into the flow of traffic.
After a short way you will cross Interstate 15 and turn left into the Palace Station. There's ample open and garage parking there.
Alternative Driving Routes to Downtown Las Vegas
If you are on the west side of the strip, take Industrial Road north to Wyoming or Utah Streets (past Sahara but just before Industrial Road ends) and turn right. These streets are not on the map below, but you will be able to find them. At Main Street turn left and follow it down to the Main Street Casino. Either give your car to the Main Street Casino valet or park in their big open lot on Stewart Street, a half block from the casino and two short blocks north of the Fremont Street Experience and downtown casinos. From there you can walk anyplace downtown.
To get to downtown Las Vegas from the east side of the Strip, take Paradise Road all of the way to Las Vegas Blvd. (Paradise briefly turns into St. Louis just before it reaches LV Blvd.) Cross Las Vegas Boulevard diagonally onto Main Street and then take Main Street north to downtown.
Note: When you get to the intersection of St. Louis (Paradise) and Las Vegas Boulevard, you will see two lanes to your right on Las Vegas Blvd. that say "Downtown." Don't take them.
Las Vegas Driving Routes Out of Town
All of the freeways in and out of Las Vegas from the Strip area are accessed from the Interstate 15. If you are on the west side of the Strip, you can catch the I-15 from any of the major cross streets running west off of Industrial Road, but it's preferable to jump on around Sahara or Spring Mountain Rd. rather than risk a nightmare at Flamingo or Tropicana, where it seems like there's an accident or some other kind of traffic jam every day all day.
If you are on the east side of the Strip and want to head south out of town, take Koval Lane to the end and turn right on Reno. You will come almost immediately to Las Vegas Boulevard where, as I mentioned previously, there's an easy light. Turn left onto the Strip and then right onto the I-15.
If you want to head north on the I-15, take Paradise Road to Main Street, as if you were going downtown. Turn left on Charleston and continue to the freeway. ♠
For more information on visiting Las Vegas, see the book Eating Las Vegas: The 50 Essential Restaurants by John Curtas (updated annually) and Topless Vegas by Arnold Snyder (e-book updated quarterly) about Las Vegas strip clubs.
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