If you’re a card counter you’re going to end up in Vegas. For 10 years I went from airport, to casino, to casino, to another crappy casino, back to the airport. I didn’t explore outside of this narrow target because I thought I was wasting my time and I didn’t know where to go. Well, I’ve learned that life is bigger than blackjack and this world has more to offer than casinos….EVEN in Vegas. So, if bankroll pressures get high, you want to stop the plus ones and minus ones, you get sick of feeling watched by black domes, you want to turn the EV machine off, or you just want to see some cool stuff, Colin and I offer your our Top 10 NON-Casino places in Las Vegas. No strip clubs, no secret game intel, just some places we think won’t kill your bankroll and will be good for your soul. We hope you enjoy them and send us your recommendations.
This is an absolute no brainer for an advantage player in Las Vegas. We’ve hosted team meetings, met casino surveillance personnel, and taken out bootcamp graduates here. Don’t let it’s simplicity and low price confuse you with value. Having spent time in Southern California this became a staple for both of us in our younger years. There’s a few things basics about In-N-Out you should know. They literally have like 3 menu items. For the casino laden, comped out, fake temporary luxury advantage player lifestyle the limitations in decisions for menu items is an asset not a liability. They don’t have freezers. Which means the food is fresh AND you can get a pretty amazing meal for less than $5. And the best part is that they’re everywhere. In Vegas there’s 10 locations. What this means is that no matter what casino is frustrating you you are no more than a 10 minute drive from eating a burger prepared just for you under the warm fluorescent glow and familiar red and white formica. All the locations look the same so it feels like coming home for Christmas.
PRO TIP: Order the Double Double “animal style” with extra pickles and a side of fries. If you go multiple times in a weekend consider adding “protein style” (which uses lettuce instead of a bun) for subsequent visits.
2. Red Rock Canyon
In my 10 years of playing blackjack in Vegas I never knew about this place. Please note, I am NOT talking about Red Rock CASINO!!!! That place has slot machines. This place is beautiful. There’s a big difference. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the strip but is totally worth it and you will feel like you are on a different planet. It’s technically a National Conservation Area but rivals many things that we’ve seen in remote and expensive national parks. The website is terrible and looks like it was built in the 80’s (which somehow still manages to look more beautiful than the Red Rock Casino website which I will not link too) and information can be hard to come by but it’s about $7 for a full car of people. There’s a ton of hikes that you can climb around and see amazing stuff that are all moderate and take less than half an hour.
PRO TIP: Bring a camera. We did the Calico Tanks trail which could take an hour round trip if you’re booking it and is great for kids. At the end of the trail you can see the strip and it will serve as a good reminder that there’s still plenty of places to count cards on this planet.
3. Container Park
Located in the revitalized art district downtown the great thing about Container Park is that it is cool AND not a casino. Predominantly an outdoor venu there’s a coffee shop, killer outdoor playground for the kids, music and fire at night, and free wifi as well as some interesting shops to look at. If you’re looking for a place to kill 15 minutes to 2 hours go and check it out. While the park is free, one of the most offensive things about this place to an advantage player is that you have to pay for parking. Who even knew such things existed in Vegas but a modest $2 will get you as much time as you need. Also, if you must you can walk the 2 blocks to get to the downtown Vegas Freemont experience you can see plenty of males walking around in thongs, elvis impersonators, and slot machines. Highly recommend. Kidding.
PRO TIP: If you’re at Container park and looking for something to eat go to Chill Spot and get the Coconut Raspberry snow. Once you get through the first layer of coconut and raspberry go back and ask them to put more of the good stuff on (for free) because they never put enough on the first time. You’re welcome.
There’s drinks that quench thirst and then there’s drinks that you’ll be telling stories about 10 years after the fact. This place specializes in the story kind. Situated in the heart of China Town about 5 minutes off the strip Bambu offers a cheap and memorable experience for almost any visitor to Vegas. They specialize in bubble tea which is a fruit flavored smoothie with tapioca balls that you pound through a giant straw but they don’t stop there. They have these things that they call “desert drinks.” This is a mixture of sugar, coconut, chewy things, some pokey things, and a bunch of colors all in a cup that you can take through a straw but generally need the assistance of a spoon. Average drink is about $3.
PRO TIP: Go for the milk tea smoothies with tapioca. Our favorite is coconut and green apple. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to add another dimension to your drink order the “Bambu Special.”
5. Gambler’s General Store
This is like the Library of Congress for professional gamblers. But it doesn’t look like the Library of Congress. It looks like a souvenir shop, meets bookstore section of the Goodwill meets convenience store. The Gamblers General store is one of the historical benchmarks of the city and is between the strip in downtown in the wedding chapel and strip club part of town. 10 years ago this is where I went to buy my first blackjack felt. It’s a behind the scenes into the gaming supply world. You can buy shoes, decks, felts, and discard trays and I would bet that they have more card counting books than amazon (not joking). Also, did I mention you can pick up your very own copy of Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians there on DVD?
PRO TIP: The big white wall outside is #selfie central. Check out the pic Colin and I took there.
6. Sura BBQ Buffet
Do you know what’s better than going out for a steak to celebrate? Going to a buffet of raw meat with your friends, trying to guess what 85% of the items are, discovering the most delectable treats, and then cooking the meat in the middle of your table. Located 10 minutes from the strip in the heart of China Town. Full disclosure here. I am half-korean and these types of Korean raw meat BBQ’s are a bit of a past time for me but I have invited enough people in the past to now know that this has a very high likely hood of changing YOUR life. Cost is high. Both in finances and in emotional buy in. This is not in the $5 burger category. This is a splurge night. But if you compare it to a steak dinner it is actually very reasonable. Especially since you don’t have to may for apps/desserts/sides/salad etc. One price of about $35/person covers everything. The other nice thing is that it doesn’t feel fancy. You know how everything in Vegas is 5 star? This place is 1 luxury star. But it’s 16 adventure stars. It’s not just a better progressive betting system.
PRO TIP: We listed our favorite Korean BBQ in the title but there are others and almost any of them will fulfill 10+ adventure stars just make sure it’s a raw meat buffet and you cook the food yourself at your table.
7. The Imperial Spa
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have not been to this place, but I have sent my my wife and my mother. I dream of going there someday.
MORE FULL DISCLOSURE: I am half-korean and some of you non-half-koreans may find this post offensive. This is an advanced, non-rookie move here. This is a full Korean day spa. If you don’t know much about these things (which most people don’t) you take your shoes off at the door (shoes on clean floors are the most offensive things to koreans) and walk around in the buck exposing yourself to the most wild spa experiences you can imagine. (You can watch a video of Conan visiting a very similar korean spa here). Warning: This is not the Bellagio spa. Do not expect seaweed wraps, ying yang energy bullshit, or people to speak english. This is legit. What you can expect: Many tubs of water and rooms that are many different temperatures. To feel like you are on a different continent. To be able to sit in a pizza oven for humans. To be able to fall asleep in a bunch of tiny clay balls that will burn you. All for around $20 for a full freaking day!!! That’s how much Bellagio charges for their strawberry shortcake. If you’re sick of casinos and adding plus one and minus one or you’ve had a big win or a big loss and you want to get your mind off of the hell that is Vegas take the leap.
Pro Tip: I heard the food is good but more pricey so consider grabbing some thai or sushi outside of the venue in China Town somewhere.
8. Zion National Park
This is about a 2.5 hour drive from Vegas BUT before you write it off I want to say a few things. This is the best national park my family has ever been to in terms of dollars, miles, or time required and we have been to a lot. Once you get to the park with a 45 minute hike and a 30 minute drive you can see some of the most amazing things on the planet. If you have an extra day in Vegas you can drive to Zion National Park ($30 all day)in a rental car ($30) spend 6 hours there and then drive back ($40 for gas) in time to count down some decks all for less than $100. I know it’s a drive. I know this is technically a “Vegas” list. But it’s worth it.
PRO TIPs: On the way to the park stop at River Rock Roasting Co. for a coffee, killer cinnamon role, to enjoy the view, and to say hi to the owner, Jim. It’s our favorite coffee shop in the country.
When you get to Zion there’s two things you need to do: 1. Hike to the narrows and get your feet wet. Wear tennis shoes you don’t mind walking in and hike up as far as you can in the river. The further the better. 2. Take the Canyon Junction (through the tunnel) and drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to the east park entrance. It’s about 45 minutes roundtrip and worth EVERY SINGLE minute.
9. Hash House A Go-Go
Vegas is all about shock value. Biggest gun garage. Drive a tank and blow up some race cars. You can do it all in Vegas. Well, if you want the most shocking and delicious breakfast you should go to Hash, House A Go-Go. The food is so shocking it has been featured on the internet (and real life television). They’ve won a million awards and have dishes that have been featured on reality shows blah, blah, blah. You’re going to pay $10 – $20 but entire families can share the pancakes.
PRO TIP: We recommend ordering one of their Sage Fried Chicken dishes. It’s the famous one. Also, there’s numerous locations. We obviously recommend the ones NOT found in casinos. duh.
10. Snow Canyon State Park in Saint George
This is another wildly other worldly place that will expose you to some of the hidden beauty of the desert. Also, there are no slot machines or surveillance cameras. If you go the speed limit this is a serene 2 hour drive from the strip. You’ll find so many different environments all packed into a tight area, many that you can see from the car. It’s the highest rated attraction in Saint George and costs around $12 per vehicle. We recommend driving around and getting out of the car and taking some 10 minute walks from the parking lot wherever you see fit.
NOTE: Like Zion, watch out for the hour time difference once you cross into Utah.