The good, the bad and the ugly

Dear Mark,
All casinos have slot machines, blackjack tables, etc. Is there a difference between casino A, B and C? Michelle R.

PLENTY, Michelle! My goal as a player-advocate columnist is to develop players who can identify beneficial gaming situations, not only the bets you make in a casino but the casinos themselves. So are all casinos the same? No, no-the correct answer is this: No two casinos are alike. Some are good, and some, well let me describe the differences:
The Good: Though more come to mind, I'll give you two examples: the Club Cal Neva in Reno and Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas. Here's what they offer their cherished players-that's you and me, Michelle. Besides some of the cheapest food prices-99¢ breakfasts and $3.99 steak dinners-they offer great gaming plays like 25¢ crap games with up to 10 times odds, single-deck blackjack with liberal rules, single-zero roulette, excellent video poker pay tables, loads of loose nickel and quarter machines and comps just for breathing.
These casinos, the ones that treat you like a treasured commodity and are always trying to increase buyer value, are casinos I hope you, Michelle, will migrate to.
The Bad: Quite possibly, this is the casino you normally play in. Gouging table limits on the weekends; tough getting comps (stale popcorn and lucky dogs don't cut it); poor pay tables on video poker machines; and tight slots. Basically, they put out games for your convenience and count their money. Plus, the practice of my #1 rule of casino management-who's the boss, you the customer-is limited. If your favorite casino has any of the above symptoms, maybe it's time to change.
The Ugly: Casino Windsor. Knowing full well they have the only game in town, Detroiters who cross the river to Canada-and all players for that matter-are being ripped off, big time! For starters, charging $40 for valet parking and instant admission versus parking two blocks away and waiting up to two hours to get in is absurd. Hopefully that has changed.
But I'm just warming up. They opened with $15 table minimums/$200 maximums-which can deplete a modest bankroll in mere minutes; zero nickel, very limited quarter and mostly dollar slots; and very poor pay tables on video poker machines equaling what you would find in airports and grocery stores. Finally the triple whammy: I found food service at the buffet slow, quality only fair, and prices high. Unequivocally, two thumbs down on Casino Windsor.
But even I get the worst of it once in a while, Michelle. After spending the day lounging poolside at the Mirage Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas, my friends and I decided instead of watching a sporting event in their sports book-we were just too tired (lazy) to leave the room-that a some beer and a few snacks in our room would do the trick. We each threw in a few bucks and sent our runner (scissors cuts paper) down to a convenience store called "Impulse" in the Mirage Hotel. Noting here that all the "buyer impulse" merchandise we purchased wasn't priced, the cost of two six-packs, one small package of Jerky, and two eight-ounce boxes of Cheese Nips: $29.43! Thought I would pass along my lesson learned to you.
So, Michelle, the key here is shopping for value, not only on your bet selection, but learning to shop casinos. Warren Nelson, owner of the Club Cal Neva in Reno, has lived by a simple principle most of his career: "Give the players the best bet (lowest odds for the house) that you can while still making a profit, and they will play longer, leave satisfied and come back bringing their friends." I applaud his sound reasoning and, Michelle, that's the kind of casino where you should play.