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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Ask Barney

6 September 2002



I like to play good old-fashioned poker.  Where can I find a good poker game?
       I wouldn't suggest playing in a casino poker room, mainly because you don't know who you're playing against.  A lot of people make a living at this game, and in fact one professional player told me that the poker room in one particular casino was his own little "cherry patch."

       Not only do you need to know the intricacies of the game (when to bet, when to raise, when to bluff), but you also need to know how to read the hands and intentions of your opponents, how to exact the maximum amount of money from them, how to lure them into following their emotions, how to make them lose control of themselves, how to disorient their psyches, how to bankrupt them, and how to destroy them.  (What you just read is from the preface of a how-to-play poker book that sold 100,000 copies.  So at the very least, there are a hundred thousand people out there playing poker who know more than you do.)

       You might also run into some pretty slick poker cheats.  These wise guys will short the pot on their antes, use hand signals to let confederates know what your hole cards are, or sandwich you between two pros who keep raising and raising until you're forced out of the game with a winning hand.  Do yourself, and your savings account, a big favor.  Stick with video poker.

Should I play in a slot or blackjack tournament?
       Casino tournaments can be a lot of fun, but remember you're bucking the casino odds and the other tournament participants.  Advantages of playing in a tournament: Room, meals, and special parties are usually included in the price.  Disadvantage: The price!  It can be as high as $10,000, and only the top winners end up in the money.  That's the main reason why only 3 percent of the people who come to Las Vegas play in gaming tournaments.

Do people from other countries have to pay taxes on their winnings? 
       Good question.  I called the Internal Revenue Service and got the following recorded message.  "If you're being audited, press One.  If you're requesting a tax extension, press Two.  If you're calling in a bomb threat, press Three.  If you're from another country and want to know if you have to pay taxes on your gambling winnings, press Four."  I pressed Four, and got the following information.  
"The United States has income tax treaties with a number of foreign countries.  Under these treaties, residents of foreign countries are taxed at a reduced rate, or are exempt from U.S. income taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States.  These reduced rates and exemptions vary among countries and specific items of income."       

       The casino industry puts it a little more clearly.  Read the following memorandum, which was distributed to all Nevada casinos in 1995.  Since that date, some countries may have been added and others may not even be countries now.  Your best bet is to contact the I.R.S. for detailed information before you leave the United States.


Please be advised that effective December 15, 1995, the following countries
have come to an agreement with the United States that a tax withholding
rate of 30% is not required.

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Finland
  3. France
  4. Germany
  5. Hungary
  6. Italy
  7. Malta
  8. Netherlands
  9. Portugal
  10. Russian Federation
  11. Slovak Republic
  12. Spain
  13. Sweden
  14. Tunisia
  15. Ukraine
  16. United Kingdom

What are the most popular tourist destinations near Las Vegas?
       Among tourists who visit nearby areas, 67 percent were most likely to visit Hoover Dam, followed by the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Laughlin, and Death Valley.

What is Nevada's state flower?
       The sagebrush.  When it dries, it turns into the tumbleweed.  Many residents spray- paint tumbleweeds in a variety of colors, then use them as decorations outside their covered wagons.

What is the state rock?
       The one-point-five carat diamond dinner ring.

What is the state bird?
       The mountain bluebird (Sialia Currucoides). 

What is the state fish?
       The tourist (Pocketus Humongus).

Who was the first tourist to visit Nevada?
       According to historians, it was actress Lola Montez, who came to Truckee Meadows (later Reno) in 1853.  In 1984 she changed her name to Joan Collins and starred in the TV show  "Dynasty."

What is the state capital of Nevada?
       Carson City, and no it wasn't named for TV star Johnny Carson.  Rather, it was in honor of legendary frontier scout Kit Carson -- who was Johnny Carson's uncle.

What are the liquor laws in Las Vegas?

       Unlike other states with their "last call for alcohol," there are no closing hours in Vegas.  Although drinking laws in Nevada are liberal, penalties for inebriated drivers are not.  So if you're drinking, hand your car keys to somebody else -- preferably somebody you know.

Which casino in Las Vegas has the greatest number of slot machines?
       The MGM Grand has a staggering total of 3,720 slot machines.  This compares with only 20 slots at the Loose Caboose Saloon, which isn't important.  But I had to get the name "Loose Caboose" in here somewhere.

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson