The Gambler’s Bar Hall of Fame

It’s Year Two of Seven’s Bar Hall of Fame, which means it’s time to catch up on The Deal’s Bar Hall of Fame for Gamblers. If you’re a player, ambience and drink prices don’t matter much: You don’t pay attention to the surroundings, and you certainly don’t pay for drinks.

What’s important to you are the three “Ps”: paybacks, promotions and perks.

When considering paybacks, you’re facing tough sledding in most bars, where the games typically return only 95-96 percent (and significantly less if you’re playing slots or keno). Hence, the following bars with options in excess of 98 deserve attention.

At Sonny’s Saloon, select machines with 9/5 Jacks or Better return 98.45 percent. Durango Lodge offers a 13-10 Deuces Wild Bonus schedule that returns 98.8 percent, and you’ll find the same game up Durango at Brewske’s. And while one of my two top picks in last year’s Gambler’s Bar Hall, Rounders on Buffalo, has reined in its program significantly, it still offers a 9/7/5 Double Bonus game that returns 99.11 percent.

Moving on to promotions, these days you’re usually looking at the players clubs and sign-up bonuses for best value. There’s more competition in this area than there was a year ago, so there are more opportunities. I’ll do a specific column on this in the future, but a good example is Home Plate on Blue Diamond Road. Play here and you’ll get good match-play offers for return visits, which is a lot like being given a free stake to play with. Another common promotion is a spin on the big ETT bonus wheel. Most places have one or two cards of the day, but the Crow Bar on Rainbow and Charleston has six cards, which elevates a couple of its better games to a return that’s above 99 percent. Another of my favorite ETT plays is at Dean’s Place behind the Silverton, where, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, four-to-a-royal spins the wheel, generating another 99 percent-plus opportunity.

As for perks, the lunch-comp deals are the best. These come and go, but they’re currently available for a $20 play at Home Plate, Ricardo’s, Sagos and the Crown & Anchors on both the east and west sides. Sago’s is interesting: Its $20 comp is also available for breakfast, plus the place has a lone blackjack game that pays 3-2 on naturals, where almost all bar blackjack games pay even money.
As good as these recommendations are, the clear-cut Hall of Fame inductee this year is Bar 702 (formerly the Sand Dollar). Following its makeover on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, 702 now has the best bar payouts in all of Las Vegas, with every machine having at least one schedule returning over 99 percent, along with a sampling of powerhouse machines, such as 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54 percent), 15-8 Loose Deuces (100.15 percent) and 10/7 Double Bonus (100.17 percent). We’ll see if this holds up till Bar Hall of Fame 3.