Things you should know before your first golden nugget visit

If you’ve never been to Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, you might not know what to expect. Here are some things we wish someone would have told us before our first visit.

Golden Nugget is one of the oldest and most respected casinos in Las Vegas with a reputation that extends far beyond Nevada. Locals love it, too, which is unusual because locals tend to shun tourists traps. So, what makes this casino such a big hit?

To answer that question, I spoke with several long-time visitors and put together this list of things YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOUR FIRST GOLDEN NUGGET VISIT. 

Enough talking, let’s get to it.

It’s Not the Only Golden Nugget

There are four other Golden Nuggets in the US and they’re all quite different from the Las Vegas location. The others can be found in:

  • Biloxi, Mississippi

Most of them focus on the casino/hotel experience while the Las Vegas location has evolved into more of a resort. Additionally, the other Golden Nuggets aren't known for their upscale image like the Las Vegas version.

The main reason for the difference is simple. Most of the other properties were built more recently than the original Golden Nugget (Las Vegas). And the people behind those newer properties saw fit to include more amenities.

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Golden Nugget in Las Vegas was renamed and revitalized back in 1980 after sitting empty for three years. Some of the upgrades have been made over the years, but much of the infrastructure is outdated. That said… there are plans underway to modernize Golden Nugget even further. More on that later.

Location, Location, Location

One thing you probably don’t need me to tell you is that the Las Vegas Strip is the center of the universe when it comes to tourism in Sin City. All of the older casinos, including Golden Nugget, are a few blocks off the Strip.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that everything on the Strip is designed to move people around as easily as possible. The streets are wide. The sidewalks are wide. Everything is new and well maintained.

Fremont Street, on the other hand, has narrow streets with narrow sidewalks. They’re also elevated which means you have to climb or descend steps to get onto and off of the Experience. That’s the name of the canopy that covers ten city blocks.

It’s worth dealing with a little inconvenience to see the finest preserved collection of neon signs in the world. But if you have mobility issues, Golden Nugget might not be your best option.

Here are a few positives about the location, though …

  • Parking garage underground, so you’re never exposed to the elements
  • Directly across the street from the Mob Museum
  • Next to the World’s Largest Gold Nugget (more on that later)
  • Just two blocks from the Fremont Street Experience
  • Five blocks to the Pawn Shop featured on History Channel’s Pawn Stars
  • Only hotel in downtown Las Vegas with a year round outdoor pool

Golden Nugget was smart to hang its hat on the outdoor pool feature because it really does offer something unique to downtown visitors. I mean, why go to the trouble of moving to Las Vegas and freezing to death in an air conditioned hotel?

Rooms at Golden Nugget

Remember my comments earlier about the infrastructure being outdated? Well, it shows in the rooms a bit.

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They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, ours had a great view of the city and the bed was very comfortable.

But the décor hasn’t changed since the late 90s and that becomes obvious when you start looking around the room. The bathroom is nice, but the shower door is fogged up in this picture because I took it right after my wife got done using it. She was not happy with me for taking the picture.

On the bright side, the WiFi is free and the TV is huge. We also liked having a mini bar instead of having to call for overpriced drinks and snacks.

If you plan to spend most of your time gambling, sightseeing, or swimming, then the rooms at Golden Nugget should meet your expectations. However, if you’re the type who spends most of their time in the room, this might not be the place for you.

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Rush Rewards Loyalty Program

Every casino has a loyalty program these days, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Golden Nugget has one, too. Theirs is called Rush Rewards and it’s free to join. 

You earn points based on your play and those points can be used to get discounted rooms, food, show tickets, and other perks. There are several tiers within the program, with the highest levels getting access to VIP services and special events.

I managed to get bumped up to the next to last tier just by signing up. Apparently, I’m a pretty valuable customer (wink). That meant we got $25 in free play when we inserted our card at the slot machine.

As you can see from the menu, there are a lot of benefits to working your way up through the tiers—if you’re a big time gambler.

I’m not, so I stuck with the basic level of service and was perfectly happy. In fact, I spent most of my time playing table games anyway. Earning points on table games requires you to ask a supervisor to put a tag in your player’s card case. I only did it once so I could try a new Centrifuge game. More on that in a moment.

Overall, I think the Rush Rewards program is solid, especially since it’s free to join.

Slot Machines Galore

What would a trip to Las Vegas be without a little (or a lot of) slot machine play? Golden Nugget doesn’t have the largest selection of slots in Las Vegas, but they do have hundreds of them scattered throughout the casino and in the sports book area.

Prices for drinks range from moderate to obscene, depending on where you’re seated. I sat at the centermost machine in the above photo and was brought frequent drinks and snacks the entire time I played. The price? Well, let’s just say that I tip well.

By the way, the centrifuge game was interesting, but not a winner for me. It sort of feels like a cross between a carnival ring toss game and a slot machine. Maybe that’s why it’s located near the entrance to the Arcade.

Kids love the arcade, by the way, so keep an eye on your wallet if you bring yours along. 

Golden Nugget is also one of the few casinos in Las Vegas to offer pai gow tiles. I played that for awhile, too, and ended up winning almost fifty bucks.

Incidentally, tips for dealers are not expected on non-table games. I still left a couple of bucks for our good deeler, though. What can I say? I’m a tipper.

Oh, and one final thing about slots at Golden Nugget. They do have a small selection of the latest and greatest machines near the entrance/exit of the casino. These are the ones facing the street. If you like people watching, sit here and play a penny slot. You won’t be sorry.

Table Games Everywhere

This is more my style of gambling than slots, anyway. And Golden Nugget certainly didn’t disappoint. Blackjack, roulette, craps, pai gow—they’ve got ‘em. Limits vary, too, so everyone should find a table that suits their style and budget.

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The dealers were friendly and fast at every table I passed by. Same thing for the cocktail waitresses. This isn’t always the case at other casinos, so I appreciate it when the dealers and servers are good people.

One of the things that struck me as odd about the table games setup was how close everything is situated. At most casinos, the blackjack tables are grouped together away from the craps and roulette.

Not at Golden Nugget. Everyone’s crammed in together and it seems pretty chaotic. But that might just be my Type A personality acting up again.

Maybe it works better than I think because everybody seemed to be having a good time and getting quick service.

Poker is available at Golden Nugget, too, although not in the main casino area. You’ll have to go around the corner to the poker room to get your cards on. Read on…

The Poker Room at Golden Nugget

Before my trip to Golden Nugget, I read several reviews complaining about the smoke-filled atmosphere in the poker room. Being a smoker myself, I wasn’t bothered by it. But I will say this…

Every table in the room is surrounded by smoke eating machines, which tells me that management is fully aware of the problem and trying to do something about it.

Another issue mentioned in online reviews was the rudeness of the floor staff. Having spent fifteen years as a manager in various industries, I find rude employees to be a bigger red flag than … well, anything, really. So I made a point to talk to both floor managers during this visit.

Jay and Joey take their jobs seriously and seem genuinely committed to making the Golden Nugget poker room a desirable destination for players in Southern Nevada. They acknowledged the bad press they’ve received and promised that they’re working hard to change the culture in the room.

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Time will tell if their efforts pay off. I will say that I saw Joey jump over to a table with a problem multiple times during my three hour stay. Deuces wild high low was having some interpretations problems at our table, too, so I asked Joey to clarify a few things when he came over. He handled everything professionally and kept the game moving.

A word to everyone reading this—when a floor person asks if everyone is happy with a ruling they’ve made, please respect the other players and say, “Yes” even if you don’t agree. Complaining in front of the whole table slows down the game and creates a bad atmosphere.

If you really have a problem, take it up with the floor manager or the poker room manager (Eric) privately. I trust Jay and Joey when they say everyone is treated differently after complaining publicly in the past. Maybe they’re saints and can overlook being disrespected, but I wouldn’t want to test that theory.

So, stop complaining and act like civilized human beings. Is that too much to ask?

Oh, and the poker room has a lounge area with free soda, coffee, and cookies. Beer and liquor are available for purchase, along with food from a limited menu.

Golden Nugget also hosts tournaments regularly, so check the website or bulletin board inside the room for upcoming events.

The Pool at Golden Nugget

All right, this is where Golden Nugget gets an insurmountable advantage over just about every other casino in Las Vegas (and maybe even the world). Take a look at the pictures below and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

We weren’t expecting much when we walked downstairs to the third level of the casino to find the pool. Imagine our surprise when we saw a transparent tube sliding down a clear glass wall.

We followed the tube to the top of a waterfall and discovered that it continued through the casino to another part of the building. Swimmers can slide down the tube and splash into the waterfall, much to the amazement of everyone hanging out in the lounge areas.

The pool at Golden Nugget is heated and open all year long, by the way.

Now, I should mention that there are rules against certain types of horseplay around the tube. No flips or back dives, etc. Plus, only people 21 and over are allowed to use the tube.

Parents should also be aware that smaller children must be supervised at all times. There is no deep end in the pool, either. The deepest part is only 4 1/2 feet.

We met a family from Utah who were celebrating their daughter’s eighth birthday. Yep, she was eight. They’d come to Vegas specifically to use the tunnel waterslide at the Golden Nugget pool. Seems like reasonable justification to me.

The pool bar was expensive, but the drinks were strong and well prepared. I counted 6 flat screen TVs mounted around the perimeter of the bar, too, so you won’t miss any of the big game while you’re sipping a frozen drink poolside.

Lockers are available to rent for storing your valuables while you swim. Prices are reasonable and the lockers are large enough to store a small safe with ease.

Honestly, I could write an entire article just about the amazing pool at Golden Nugget. Instead, I’ll just sum it up by saying …


It’s a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world.

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Final Thoughts About Golden Nugget

Is it the best casino in Las Vegas? No, but it has its own charm and character. Would I stay there again? Absolutely. The rooms are adequate and the rest of the casino more than makes up for any shortcomings.

I didn’t eat at all of the restaurants, but what I had was delicious. See the pictures below for proof.

Golden Nugget is in the middle of a major renovation, too. When that’s finished, it will be even nicer. Keep an eye on their website for details.

Finally, if you’ve never been to Golden Nugget, you owe it to yourself to make the trip. You might be surprised by what you find.

Steve Hill is a freelance writer living in Texas with his wife, dog, and a permanent reserve of backup puns. He writes for PokerListings about all sorts of poker topics, from how to save at the poker table to the top ranked online poker sites.