The low roller's guide to gambling in Downtown Las Vegas (2024)

The casinos in downtown Las Vegas offer more compelling gambling for the average player who prefers red chips ($5) to green ($25) or black ($100) chips.

Marc Meltzer

Feb 18, 2016 • 04:13 ET

Over the past few years, gambling conditions in Las Vegas have deteriorated to the point of where it’s almost not fun to gamble in some casinos.

That may be true on the Vegas Strip but that’s not the case all around Las Vegas. I do the majority of my gambling in three places today: Red Rock Resort, downtown Las Vegas and my house (via mobile apps).

The reasoning for the three locations is simple. I do most of my sports betting with one of the various mobile apps. Even if I’m in a casino, the majority of my wagers are made through one of the apps. Red Rock Resort is my local casino and that’s where I do the majority of my casino gambling. Good odds and proximity go a long way here. When I’m looking for a day or night away from home I look to the casinos in downtown Las Vegas.

I still love the Vegas Strip, but after five years in Las Vegas I usually save my gambling there for when friends are visiting. There’s only so much time and money I’m willing to allocate to 6:5 blackjack, poor video poker pay tables and mediocre craps odds. I can find better games elsewhere in Las Vegas and I usually do.

There’s more to see and do in downtown Las Vegas today than 5-10 years ago. Downtown Las Vegas has expanded with the addition of an Arts District and the Fremont East area just past the Fremont Street Experience. There’s still an Old Vegas feel to the area but it's more of a vintage feeling than an old and dilapidated feeling.

The casinos are similar to the area as a whole. They still keep true to their Old Vegas roots with excellent gambling but have evolved with new bars, restaurants, decor and identity. I could probably talk about downtown Las Vegas for days but back to gambling.

There are 11 casino-hotels in downtown Las Vegas (13 casinos when you include Mermaids and La Bayou). Together the casinos in downtown Las Vegas offer more compelling gambling for the average player who prefers red chips ($5) to green ($25) or black ($100) chips. Let's look at some of the most popular casino games.

Blackjack

The majority of table game minimums start at $5 at just about every casino. The best part of the low minimum wagers is that you’ll find similar odds and rules that you would if you were playing a higher-limit game.

One of the best blackjack games in all of Las Vegas is a $5 blackjack game at El Cortez. The house edge on this single deck game is 0.30 percent. The game pays 3:2 on blackjack and the dealer hits on soft 17. This low-roller game is watched closely by pit bosses for sharp players so don’t expect to break the bank with large spreads.

That blackjack game at El Cortez is a great example of the kind of good odds and low limits you’ll find for blackjack in downtown Las Vegas. The last time I checked, you could find a blackjack game with a house edge under 0.70 percent and minimum wagers between $5 and $15 in nine different casinos in downtown Las Vegas.

Some casinos offer multiple games with different rules so make sure you look for the game with the most advantageous rules. The Blackjack Survey at Wizard of Vegas is a great reference if you're looking to see which casinos have the best games.

Craps

I don’t play it as much as I used to but my favorite casino game is craps. Not only is the game fun to play but it has a low house edge for the casino. You’ll find some of the best craps odds in the city in downtown Las Vegas. Coincidentally, you also find my favorite craps games in Las Vegas here.

Main Street Station has 20x odds on passline and come bets. The house edge on this game is under 0.10 percent when you play maximum odds. You’ll find 10x odds at The D, Downtown Grand, El Cortez, Golden Gate and Plaza. The house edge on this game is 0.184 percent when you play maximum odds. Besides Casino Royale the odds in these games are twice as good as any you’ll find on the Vegas Strip.

Besides Casino Royale the odds in these games are twice as good as any you’ll find on the Vegas Strip. The craps game(s) at Golden Gate are my favorite because of the intimate environment, great dealers and quick drink service. When I'm having craps fever that's where I go to play but truthfully I'll enjoy any of the 10x games.

Video poker

Not only will you find better paytables and returns on video poker in downtown Las Vegas but you’ll also find games that start as low as five cents per hand. You’ll find both good and bad games in all casinos so make sure you check the paytables before you start playing. There’s a website called vpFREE2.com that is a great reference if you’re looking for the best games.

My favorite individual video poker game is at the Vue Bar on the second level at The D. The paytables are good and the drinks are strong. If you’re lucky you can grab the seat closest to the sports book and keep an eye on the games on TV if you have good peripheral vision.

Low rollin’

Downtown Las Vegas is a great place for gambling. Besides better odds in every game than the Vegas Strip the casinos in downtown Las Vegas offer low minimum wagers. As I mentioned, you can get into a table game for $5 and a video poker game for a nickel. You can also hit the slot machines for 25 cents or less per spin at some of the casinos like La Bayou and Mermaids. If you’re just looking for cheap gambling then downtown Las Vegas should be your area to get down.

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