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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Barney Vinson's World

13 June 2001

Planning a trip to Las Vegas in the near future? Each month we'll spotlight a different casino in Vegas so that you'll get a better idea of what each resort has to offer. This month, let's explore Caesars Palace.

With luxuriant landscaping, chiseled statuary, and sparkling fountains, this is probably the most recognizable resort in Las Vegas. It used to resemble a gigantic wedding cake, with blue lights filtering through the hotel's lacy stonework at night. But Park Place Entertainment (the resort's fourth owner in the last decade) has changed all that with an ongoing $900 million facelift. Yes, the lacy stonework is gone, but — let's face it — Caesars Palace is still Caesars Palace, and one-third of all tourists who flock to Vegas still visit this modern-day Roman Empire.

You're liable to see a movie star or a business czar, and at the very least you'll hobnob with royalty. Julius Caesar himself roams these mighty chambers. Dressed regally in flowing robes and Roman armor, he was once stopped by a camera-toting tourist. "Excuse me," the tourist said to Caesar. "Do you work here?"

Another person who works at Caesars is — me! I started there in 1988 as a dice boxman, and now I'm the "in house" gaming instructor, teaching the different casino games at posted times each weekday: craps at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., roulette at noon, blackjack at 12:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., Pai Gow poker at 2 p.m., and baccarat at 4 p.m. Don't let the casino games intimidate you; they're fun, they're easier to beat than the slot machines, and you get a chance to play for $2 a hand after the blackjack lesson is over.

Some of the other attractions worth seeing at Caesars include:

The Statue of David in the Appian Way shopping arcade. Carved from the same marble as Michelangelo's original, this life-sized replica cost $50,000 to build and $100,000 to ship from Turin, Italy. Popular photo by tourists here is standing 25 feet in front of the statue, then holding out one hand as if cradling David's private parts. Is this crudity at its height, or what? (Although the five rolls of film I took came out pretty good.)

Cleopatra's Barge. It actually bobs in a pond of water, but watch your head. There's a hand-carved buxom lass on the ship's bow, and parts of her can get dangerously close.

The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace are a must-see on your Vegas vacation. It'll cost you if you go inside the stores, but no more than it would in a regular mall. There are two fountain shows at the Forum Shops: Festival Fountain and Atlantis. Both come to life every hour on the hour, and both are free. Get there 15 minutes early for the best spot.

Even though I work at Caesars, I'm still not too keen on several of the resort's attractions. The Magical Empire (where you're treated to dinner and magic for $150 a couple) is shaky at best, and will probably be converted into a nightclub eventually. The hotel's newest destination is "Shadow: A Bar at Caesars Palace." It's like a regular cocktail bar, only with dancers silhouetted behind sheer scrim screens. So if you want muted tones, a glowing backlit bar, illuminated liquor vaults, hip cocktails, top-shelf liquors, entertaining bartenders, and mingling with gorgeous women, it's Shadow: A Bar at Caesars Palace. If you want loud music, sexual innuendos, cigar smoke, high prices, and cramped seating space, it's Shadow: A Bar at Caesars Palace.

On the planning board at Caesars is a new tower, which will give the hotel 3,350 rooms, making it one of the largest ten hotels in the world. And to think, when I came to Caesars in 1988 the hotel only had 1,600 rooms. Of course, the thinking back then was let people stay in other hotels; they'll visit Caesars anyway. Nowadays, though, Vegas resorts can't think like that and be successful.

Also under construction at Caesars is the Colosseum Theater, which will front the strip and seat 4,000 people. A contract has already been signed with Celine Dion, who I believe is one of the famous Dion quintuplets. (I heard the other four are working as change girls at the Fremont.)

Oh, and one more thing. Before entering Caesars Palace, spend a quiet moment of reflection at the Brahma Shrine. This is an authentic model of one of Thailand's most popular Buddhist shrines, and is said to ward off bad fortune. If you're planning to gamble . . . well, a visit to a shrine of good luck couldn't hurt.

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