As the infamous Sin City tagline goes, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
And while that’s largely true for most of the 40 million annual visitors who flock to America’s casino capital each and every year, every so often something so strange happens in Las Vegas that prevents the culprit from ever coming back.
Within the local hospitality industry, casino resort operators like MGM, Caesars, and Stations have learned to let guests indulge their baser instincts for the most part.
Along similar lines, overly boisterous behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated anywhere else – yelling and shouting, partying all night, etc. – is perfectly acceptable so long as it remains within relatively loose limits.
You can even smoke cigarettes (and other substances for that matter) indoors, despite that practice being largely prohibited in every non-Las Vegas locale.
This town – at least in its tourist destinations along The Strip and Downtown Las Vegas anyway – was designed specifically to offer adults a perpetual playground all their own.
For all intents and purposes, unless you’re attempting to cheat the house, or otherwise committing a criminal act, it’s practically impossible to get yourself banned from a Las Vegas casino.
And that’s why I find myself so fascinated whenever a visitor manages to beat the odds and get “86’d” from a Las Vegas casino resort. The level of difficulty it takes to draw the ire of security staff and resort management sets quite a high bar, and yet, people still find a way to clear it and earn the dreaded property-wide ban.
As a Las Vegas local who loves the casino industry, both in my capacity as a gambler and a gambling industry writer, these stories never fail to capture my imagination. Maybe I’m just your classic “rubber-necker,” a passerby who can’t help but gawk whenever a truly bizarre scene happens to play out in my own backyard. In any event, I’ve spent plenty of time studying the oddest stories out there involving Las Vegas casino guests getting themselves kicked out for good.
On that note, I’d like to pass along four of my personal “favorites,” so strap in for a lowlight show for the ages with my list of weird and wild ways people have been banned from Las Vegas casino resorts.
1 – World Series of Poker (WSOP) Player Pulls Pants Down and Throws Their Shoe at a Dealer During the $10,000 Buy-In Main Event
For millions of recreational poker players out there, and even many professionals, competing in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event tournament at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is a definitive bucket list goal.
The most prestigious tournament in all of poker for the last 50 years and counting, the WSOP Main Event is used to crown the World Champion of No Limit Hold’em. And along with the most coveted WSOP gold bracelet of them all, the Main Event champ takes home a staggering prize of $10 million.
Unlike other WSOP tournaments that have transitioned to the rebuy / reentry format, allowing players who get eliminated to buy back in for a limited amount of time, the Main Event remains a pure freezeout.
Thus, you can imagine the excitement Pittsburgh poker enthusiast Ken Strauss probably felt as he took his seat at the WSOP Main Event this summer. A recreational player whose Hendon Mob page showed just a pair of cashes in sub-$100 buy-in events before 2019, Strauss did what poker fans everywhere plan to do one of these days – he saved up and paid five-figures to chase the largest life-changing score Las Vegas poker tables have to offer.
Unfortunately for him though, Strauss showed up for Day 1 of the Main Event apparently suffering from some sort of mental strain. It’s not my place to diagnose anybody else’s psychological or neurological state, so I won’t even attempt to do so, but let’s just say Strauss wasn’t right when he began his 2019 WSOP Main Event journey.
Early on Day 1 – when players are simply trying to play “tight” and survive while slowly building their chip stacks – Strauss did the unthinkable. Before his cards had even been dealt, Strauss announced himself “all-in blind”, meaning he would commit his entire chip stack preflop – without ever seeing his two-card starting hand.
That absurdly dangerous play alone would be enough to prompt an appointment with a shrink, but what happened next put Strauss on a short list of players to earn themselves an outright ban from the WSOP.
Here’s how the PokerNews live reporting blog covered the action that unfolded after Strauss went all-in blind:
“Patrick Eskandar was contemplating his decision holding 5-5, a favorite with information about the exposed hand, but he still had a limper to contend with.
‘I’m all-in blind! Look, I’m blind everybody,’ Strauss yelled while he covered his eyes and turned around. He then lowered his pants and mooned the table, yelling ‘I’m all-in blind!’ again.
Then, while Eskandar was still considering his decision, Strauss took off his shoes and threw them around, with one of them actually hitting Eskandar as he was in the tank.
The floor stepped in at that point. Strauss was escorted off the premises and his stack removed from the tournament.”
Yep, you read that correctly… Strauss dropped his drawers and let his freak flag fly, exposing his buttocks and genitalia to a jam-packed room filled with hundreds of fellow players. Not to be outdone, Strauss went on to take off his shoe and toss it toward the table, smacking the unsuspecting dealer in the shoulder to cap off the sorry spectacle.
And if you still can’t quite believe things happened how I’ve described them, just check out this smartphone video footage shot directly from the scene of the crime.
As you’ve gathered by now, Strauss’ decision to disrobe show his junk to the world constituted indecent exposure, while the shoe toss was effectively assault on casino staff.
Naturally, WSOP officials moved quickly to disqualify Strauss from the WSOP Main Event, while the Rio casino and parent company Caesars Entertainment levied a property ban that extends to all Caesars-owned casinos nationwide.
Undeterred, Strauss made his way to the MGM Resorts owned Luxor casino, where he climbed atop a craps table and exposed himself once again. This time, his antics resulted in a swift arrest by the Las Vegas police department to put a (temporary, stay tuned for more down below) end to Strauss reign of error.
2 – Comedian Doug Stanhope Gets Blacked Out Drunk, Causes Chaos, and Leaves One-Star Yelp Reviews of the Rio
Sticking with the Rio for now, the slightly Off-Strip casino was absolutely ripped by comedian Doug Stanhope, who used review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor to tear the property a new one.
Here’s just a sample of what Stanhope – a third-rate standup comic who is “best” known for co-hosting “The Man Show” during that program’s final years – had to say about the Rio’s accommodations:
“The rumor is that this hotel is about to be torn down. Staying here will make an ardent atheist pray that this is true.
You can even see it in the eyes of the employees. As friendly as they are, you can tell that nobody wants to be here.
The Rio is like being in 1984. By that I mean it’s like you were still driving your 1986 Ford Tempo 33 years later, held together with gaffer’s tape and surgical mesh, riding on the rusted rims.”
That scathing review was posted in February of 2019, and by June, Stanhope took to Twitter to post a letter he received from Caesars Entertainment management. As he told the tale, Stanhope’s brutal review prompted Caesars to ban him not only from the Rio, but all Caesars owned properties across the country.
Initially, the story sounded like your classic case of executives responding way too sensitively to criticism from customers. Fans rallied to support Stanhope’s cause, citing free speech protections and pledging to boycott the Rio and Caesars until their man had his ban removed.
As he later revealed, Stanhope wasn’t banned by Caesars for speaking out about a bad trip, he simply got smashed during an all-night bender spent making a complete fool of himself.
But sufficed to say, smoking pot in his room, drinking to the point of blacking out and sleeping in the hotel hallway, stiffing a sushi bar for an expensive tab, THEN verbally and physically harassing Rio staff was enough to earn a ban.
3 – Woman Drives Her Winnebago through Casino Entrance After Being Asked to Leave
In a less convoluted – but no less crazy – Sin City story, a 50-year old woman named Jennifer Stitt found herself gambling at the North Las Vegas casino Cannery a few days before Halloween this year.
At some point in her session, Stitt drew the ire of security staff and was asked to leave the premises. Details on what led up to that encounter aren’t known as of yet, but what happened next is quite clear.
Stitt walked through the parking lot, started up her Winnebago recreational vehicle, and proceeded to plow through the front entrance of the Cannery at a high rate of speed. In the process, the aggrieved gambler collided directly with a custodian who found himself cleaning the glass doors at precisely the wrong time.
That 66-year old man suffered serious injuries and wound up hospitalized, but fortunately, his wounds weren’t life-threatening.
Stitt’s collision was hardly accidental either, as witnesses and surveillance cameras confirmed that she continued to floor the accelerator in an effort to break through the breezeway.
Asked about the potential for further mayhem had Stitt been able to maneuver the RV into the Cannery’s interior, police spokesman Eric Leavitt told local media outlets that Stitt could’ve easily inflicted additional violence had she not gotten stuck:
“She kept gassing it. A little bit farther and it would have been into the table games.”
Stitt was charged with attempted murder, among a litany of other crimes, and she has obviously been banned from the Cannery and all Boyd Gaming owned casinos.
4 – Ken Strauss Threatens to “Destroy” the Venetian Casino in Bizarre Breakdown
When the WSOP Main Event was interrupted by Ken Strauss’ mooning and shoe-throwing, most poker people assumed he must have lost a particularly bold prop bet.
Then, when he resurfaced hours later at the Luxor and exposed himself atop a craps table, the consensus began leaning toward mental illness and missed medication.
Eventually though, Strauss’ story transformed into something much more sinister, as the Pittsburgh poker player spiraled out of control in extremely scary ways. Over the course of a week shortly after his WSOP escapades, Strauss continually acted out and found himself banned from casinos like the Aria and Red Rock Resort.
In the latter case, he reportedly attempted to lure a young boy up to his room, drawing an immediate intervention from security staff and police. Upon his release for that alleged crime, Strauss went on a social media rant in which he made the following cryptic claims:
“Shootings are taking place all over Las Vegas. Please leave me alone @VenetianVegasI have no place to go currently. And all Casinos that have me banned will be destroyed effective immediately.”
Obviously, locals in Las Vegas don’t take kindly to threats of this nature in the wake of 2017’s mass shooting at Mandalay Bay. After tipsters directed his Twitter feed to the FBI and local authorities, Strauss was arrested and charged with “one count of making threats or conveying false information concerning acts of terrorism.”
Things only got worse from there, as Strauss refused to attend court hearings and was eventually deemed incompetent to stand trial.
Stauss’ case is especially tragic given the likelihood that he suffers from schizophrenia or another mental malady that has gone untreated.
There’s another famous saying about this town that declares “some people just can’t handle Vegas.” And while that’s undoubtedly true, the stories listed on this page don’t describe run of the mill inability to maintain one’s composure. When people decide – willingly or otherwise – to flout the law in a Las Vegas casino, property bans are the only course of action operators can take to protect the rest of us from harm’s way.