I’ve been a fan of Ellis Island for decades, but Ellis isn’t the only Island in town. Way out in Henderson is Emerald Island. Dedicated local casinos follow certain protocols that resonate with their customer base, the tried-and-true areas being dining and gambling. Emerald scores big in both.
The 24-hour Emerald Grille is old-school, functioning as a loss leader for the casino. Daily specials include pot roast for $10.99 and a rack of ribs for $14.99. From 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., a big ham & eggs or a burger & fries are $5 each. But the meal deal that stands out is the Fridays-only $19.99 steak & lobster (which requires a players card). It starts with a shrimp cocktail and choice of salad or homemade clam chowder. Both the steak (a filet) and the lobster tail are at the high end of the quality scale for a special in this price range, and they come with a baked potato and green beans. The meal is topped off with the dessert of the day. This special is famous and the restaurant is packed on Fridays, which gives you time to check out Part 2 of the local-pleasing formula.
The gambling at Emerald Island is like none other in Vegas. There are no live table games, only machines—and just about every one of them, both on the floor and at the bar, can be played for pennies. Penny play almost always spells trouble in terms of payback percentages, but that’s not the case here. In fact, these aren’t just the best penny video poker schedules in town, they’re among the best at any denomination. The 9/6 Jacks or Better schedules return 99.54 percent with perfect play; the best Deuces Wild pay table—a game known to experts as NSU (“not so ugly”) Deuces—returns 99.73 percent; and the 10/6 Double Double Bonus game has a 100 percent return. That’s virtually unheard of at the 1-cent, 2-cent and 5-cent levels.
You can play these games from 1 to 100 coins, but even loaded, you’re playing only $1 per hand, as opposed to $1.25 on a 5-coin quarter game, so over time your money will absolutely last longer. For video poker players, it’s a low-roller’s paradise!
On top of the low minimums and the choice paytables, Emerald Island is a promotion machine. Different daily gambling promos offer point multipliers, spins on a valuable cash wheel and merchandise from a laundry list of Henderson vendors that have partnered with the casino. And whatever you do, be sure to get and use a players card. For relatively low levels of play, you’ll move up the club-tier ranks and start to get free meals in the restaurant.
Even at the introductory (Jade) level, you get one free entrée on your birthday month. No one else does that.
Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and LasVegasAdvisor.com.