The aptly named Rivers Casino is a premier 450,000 square-foot gaming and entertainment destination located along the Ohio River on the North Shore of downtown Pittsburgh. The casino opened on August 9, 2009 and is owned by Holdings Acquisitions Co., LP.
At the time of its opening, as per Pennsylvania law, slots were the only form of gambling permitted at Rivers Casino. However, when table games also became legal in Pennsylvania casinos in 2010, Rivers Casino introduced its first table games in July of that year.
Like all of the other legal land-based casinos in Pennsylvania, Rivers Casino is licensed and regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).
Location and parking
Rivers Casino is situated within easy walking distance of both Heinz Field (home of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and PNC Park (home of the Pittsburgh Pirates). The proximity is obviously very convenient for fans who would like to attend a game and visit the casino on the same trip.
However, the result is heavy traffic congestion and premium prices for parking at Rivers Casino whenever either the Steelers or Pirates are playing at home. Otherwise, self-parking at Rivers Casino is free for all guests, and valet parking is free for guests with higher level players cards, $3 for other casino cardholders, and $6 for the general public.
Rivers Casino also offers sufficient food, beverage, and entertainment amenities for guests who want to do more than simply gamble in the casino. Visitors can choose from these five dining establishments:
Andrew’s Steak & Seafood
Winner of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, this fine dining establishment, open for dinner Wednesday-Saturday, specializes in prime steaks, fresh seafood, innovative appetizers and salads, and decadent desserts.
Wheelhouse Bar & Grill
This is good place to gather with your friends to watch your favorite Pittsburgh team in action. The extensive menu includes appetizers, soups, and salads, signature sandwiches, burgers, and hearty entries.
Hours of operation are Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Happy Hour runs Monday-Thursday between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., during which the Wheelhouse offers draft beer and cocktails for $3 and select bar bits for half price.
Grand View Buffet
The reasonably priced buffet at Rivers Casino is open daily for lunch and dinner, except on Sundays, when brunch is served instead of lunch. These are the hours of operation and prices:
Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch $14.99*
Sunday-Thursday: 3-8 p.m. Dinner $19.99*
Friday and Saturday 3-9 p.m. Dinner $19.99*
Sun. 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Brunch $14.99*
*$6.99 optional extra for l lb. serving of crab legs
West End Café
This casual eatery, open daily from 11 a.m. until the wee hours of the morning, serves soups, sandwiches, pizza, and salads.
Ciao is open from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. daily for those who simply want a quick meal or snack to grab and go. Homemade gelato is offered as well.
The entertainment at Rivers Casino is fairly low key. Levels, a multi-tier lounge in the center of the casino, offers live entertainment from local bands every Thursday night from 7-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight. The Drum Bar has floor to ceiling windows with a view of the Ohio River as well as live DJs on Friday and Saturday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 am.
Both places also have the same Monday-Thursday 5-7 p.m. Happy Hour featuring $3 drinks as the Wheelhouse Bar & Grill.
Otherwise, the only scheduled entertainment consists of free summer outdoor concerts at the casino’s amphitheater, which also overlooks the river.
There is no hotel on the premises. However, for the convenience of guests needing a place to stay overnight, the casino offers discounted rates at its partner hotels in the Pittsburgh area, along with $20 in free slot play. The following are the three closest hotels:
- Bed & Breakfast about .6 miles from the casino
- Amenities: Free parking and free Wi-Fi, breakfast are included
- Rooms start at about $160 per night
Residence Inn North Shore
- All Suite hotel about .8 miles from the casino
- Amenities: Complimentary transportation to and from the casino, free high speed Internet access, and hot breakfast buffet
- In walking distance of many Pittsburgh attractions and fine restaurants
- Rooms start at $199/night, ask for the Stay and Play package
- About .8 miles from the casino
- Convenient to area attractions
- Rooms start at about $149/night
- Discounted rates are available for government employees, AAA members, seniors, and Hyatt Gold Card members
Keep in mind that if the hotel doesn’t provide shuttle service, you need to provide your own transportation (car or taxi) to and from the casino.
Who can play in the casino?
The minimum age to gamble at Rivers Casino, as set by the PGCB, is 21, the same as at all of the licensed Pennsylvania land-based casinos. This age requirement is strictly enforced.
Security and fairness
All Pennsylvania land-based casinos, including Rivers Casino, are licensed and regulated by the PGCB and required to abide the agency’s strict regulations regarding security and fairness. Further proof that players at Rivers Casino have nothing to worry about comes from the multiple awards for excellence this casino has received. Rivers Casino was named the Best Overall Gaming Resort in Pennsylvania by Casino Player and Best Overall Casino in Pennsylvania by Strictly Slots. Rivers Casino was also voted the Best Casino by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review readers in 2015 for the fourth consecutive year.
Rivers Casino is open 24/7. This standalone casino is one of the larger casinos in Pennsylvania. With a choice of 2,900+ slot machines, 100+ table games, and a 30-table poker room, even without a racetrack, there is more than enough action to keep anyone who enjoys gambling happily occupied.
Regardless of whether your own personal tastes in slots are for the latest high-tech creations or for simpler traditional games, finding games to your liking should be no problem at all at this casino. There are enough slot machines at this casino to suit the preferences of almost any player. Whether you’re a high stakes player, low stakes player, or in between should not matter either because, with denominations ranging from one cent to $100, your preferred bet size should be covered as well.
If you are a frequent player, you will see familiar favorites. You might decide that today is as good a time as any to see if you can finally hit an elusive progressive jackpot or perhaps try your luck at a brand-new game. The slots designated “Red Hot” are the ones that are currently featuring the largest jackpots.
These are some of the most popular slot games at Rivers Casino:
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Walking Dead
- Willy Wonka
- Cash Spin Quick Hits
- Sphinx 3D
High rollers can head for the high limit slots area offering machines in denominations from $1 to $100 featuring some of the casino’s top games like:
- Double Top Dollar
- Quick Hits Platinum
- Wheel of Fortune
The only negatives coming from slot players at Rivers Casino are the same two that keep popping up at all of the Pennsylvania casinos. The first complaint that many players have is the smell of smoke even in nonsmoking sections. The second is that the slots are so tight that a playing stake of $100 disappears in practically no time.
Why the slots payouts aren’t higher
Unfortunately, the complaints about the slots being too tight appear to be more than a handful of disgruntled players letting off steam; they are coming from many different players at all 12 Pennsylvania casinos, so there must be some validity to them. Many of these same people have probably played slots at casinos in other states, so they have a basis for comparison, and over and over again, it is their experience that the Pennsylvania slots offer the lowest rate of return. It is hard to argue with that conclusion because the average return to the player (RTP) for slot machines in Pennsylvania casinos is only 88-90 percent.
Actually, the payout could be worse because according to the regulations of the PGCB, the minimum payout for Pennsylvania casino slot machines is only 85 percent. One problem is that casino operators in Pennsylvania are assessed a 55 percent tax rate on slots. This cuts substantially into their bottom line, but so does the fact that many slot players have switched to table games with a better chance to win.
Another reason for the lackluster payouts of slot machines in Pennsylvania is the increased popularity of penny machines. Even though the payout percentages for these machines are known to be inferior to those on higher denomination machines, they still receive a lot of play.
Along with the many varieties of slots, Rivers Casino also offers many varieties of video poker. In addition to the regular banks of video poker machines, the Spiral Bar, located in the middle of the casino floor, and open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., gives video poker fans a chance to play this game while enjoying their favorite beverage.
No all-purpose casino is complete without a good selection of table games as well as slots, and table games players at Rivers Casino won’t be disappointed. The wide variety of table games you can choose from include all of the following:
- Mini and midi baccarat, including Dragon Bonus side bet
- Three card poker
- Four card poker
- Let It Ride
- Mississippi Stud
- Crazy 4 Poker
- Pai gow poker
- Big Six wheel
As you can see, the list includes not only the most popular casino table games, but also a few specialty games. In order to maximize your chances of winning, be sure you familiarize yourself beforehand with the basics of whatever game you are playing.
Also, keep in mind which games offer the best odds for the player. For example, when playing roulette, your best bet, if it is available, is European roulette, with just a single zero on the wheel and a 2.70 percent house edge. Avoid American roulette, with both a single and double zero and a 5.26 percent house edge.
Limits and extra bets
As with the slots and video poker games, Rivers Casino offers its table game players a wide range of betting options. Small bettors will be pleased to know that $5 blackjack, roulette, and craps tables are available 24/7, including weekends. Very few Pennsylvania casinos can make that promise. However, those who wish to play for high stakes are not ignored either. Blackjack, roulette, and craps are also available in high limit games.
Most of the games offer the option to make a side bet in addition to your regular bet. These extra bets are fun, and the possibility of a big payout makes them very tempting, but keep in mind that the house edge is higher than if you simply play the game the regular way. Therefore, your best bet is to make the side bets very sparingly, if at all.
Learn before you play
If you are new to casino gambling or to a particular game that Rivers Casino offers that intrigues you, Rivers Casino can help you “learn to play.” Every day from 1 to 2 p.m. Pit 7 next to Levels offers free instruction in a designated table game. This is a great opportunity for players who are new to that game or who wish to brush up on the basics. Participants also receive two $5 match play coupons to put their newly gained knowledge to the test.
Both the mini and midi baccarat tables at Rivers Casino offer an optional Dragon Bonus side bet at the same time that the regular bet is placed. Natural winners pay even money on the Dragon Bonus wager, while a natural that ties is a push for the Dragon Bonus bet also. Non-natural winners that win by four points pay even money, but the larger the margin of victory, the larger the payout, all the way up to 30 to 1 for a win of 9 points.
Casino table poker
There is a huge, multi-link progressive jackpot offered on four casino table poker games:
- Let It Ride
- Mississippi Stud
- Crazy 4 Poker
- Four card poker
The entirety of the jackpot is paid out for a five-card Royal Flush, while 10 percent of the jackpot is paid out for a five-card Straight Flush. There are also flat payouts for various other hands.
Out of all of the table games offered at Rivers Casino, blackjack has by far the lowest house edge. So it should come as no surprise that it is one of the most popular games at the casino. However, your likelihood of winning in this game depends on skill as well as luck. Therefore, knowing and applying the correct basic strategy is very important.
Blackjack can be played according to a variety of different rules, some of which make the game more favorable to the player and some more favorable to the house. However, as a player in Pennsylvania, you never have to worry about having to settle for an inferior blackjack game. The blackjack rules for Pennsylvania, as set by the PGCB, are the same for every casino and are ranked among the best in the country. These are the rules:
- Blackjack pays 3:2
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Doubling down permitted on any two cards
- Doubling down after splits
- Splits up to three hands (except aces)
- Late surrender
When the correct basic strategy is used, the house edge for this game is only about .40 percent. However, individual casinos also have the prerogative to add one or more optional proposition bets with a higher house edge. The optional side bet that Rivers Casino offers features a progressive jackpot is called Blazing 7s.
Regardless of the amount of the original bet, a bet on Blazing 7s is always for $5. In order to win this bet, at least one of the first three cards dealt to you must be a seven. However, the more sevens you have in your hand, the more you win. Two sevens pay more than one and three, even more than two. The highest payouts occur when the three sevens are colored or suited. If your hand is comprised of three sevens that are all the same color, but different suits, you win 10 percent of the jackpot. However, if the three sevens are suited (three identical cards), you win the entire jackpot.
If you take a third card and go over 21, you bust and lose your regular bet, but the outcome of your Blazing 7s bet is not affected. Therefore, if either or both of your first two cards is a seven, the correct strategy for Blazing 7s is never to stand on your two card total, even if the play is contrary to basic strategy. Always hit or double. With a pair of sevens, hit or split, hoping that your third card will also be a seven. The Blazing 7 payouts are as follows:
- Three suited sevens earn 100 percent of jackpot
- Three colored sevens 10 percent of jackpot
- Any three sevens pays 200 for 1
- Two sevens pays 25 for 1
- One seven pays 2 for 1
The Rivers Casino poker room spreads the following cash games:
- Limit and no-limit hold ‘em
- Omaha hi-lo
- Pot-limit Omaha
Depending on demand, other games, such as seven card stud and H.O.R.S.E. are also offered. Daily and other specially scheduled tournaments, a bad beat jackpot, and high hand and splash pot promotions add to the excitement.
The bad beat jackpot pays out on hold’em cash games. As long as the jackpot stands at under $50,000, a hand of four tens or better must lose to a higher hand. However, once the bad beat jackpot reaches $50,000 or a designated higher amount, the minimum qualifying hand is reduced to the next lowest ranking hand.
For all jackpots of $100,000 or more, the minimum qualifying hand is quad fours. Both players’ hands must use their two hole cards. In addition, there must be at least $10 in the pot and at least four players must have been dealt into the hand.
Players who own an iPhone, iPad, or Android device can download the Bravo mobile app for poker to their smartphone or tablet and get the latest updates on cash games, tournaments, and special promotions, including the bad beat jackpot.
Cocktails and food can be ordered at the tables, and cash game players earn $1/hour in comps.
Rivers Casino has its own player rewards program called Rush Rewards. If you are new to the casino, stop by the Rush Rewards Player’s Club to obtain your card. Joining is free and carries no obligation. However, the more you play, the more you receive back in rewards.
These rewards include not only player points which you can redeem for comps, but also a wide array of special promotions ranging from giveaways for new members to drawings open to all Rush Rewards members to exclusive offers for invited guests.
Before you start playing any game, be sure to insert your card into the slot machine or present it to the dealer. You can use your earned rewards towards free play, food, drawing entries, and more. Players can keep track of their accumulated points and current offers by logging into their account online using their Rush Rewards number and PIN.
How the three-tiered rewards program works
The Rush Rewards Player’s Club has three tiers of membership:
- Rush (0-499 points)
- Preferred (500-1,499 points)
- Signature (1,500+ points)
Tier status is evaluated every six months. Unused points expire after six months of no activity.
All players receive:
- Free play
- Food offers
- Access to drawings and other special promotions
- Free check cashing
- A special birthday offer
- Discounted rates at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and on Norwegian Cruise Line cruises
Preferred and Signature members also receive the following enhanced rewards:
- Tier Club access
- Priority gift pick up
- Priority line at Rush Rewards
- Invitations to exclusive sweepstakes and events
- Entry multipliers for certain drawings
- Quarterly newsletter
- Complimentary annual Norwegian Line cruise and one complimentary room at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with free play
Signature players, in addition to receiving the enhanced rewards offered to Preferred players, receive these exclusive rewards:
- Personal host
- 25 percent discount at buffet and gift shop
- Free valet parking (excluding game days and special events)
- Special offer with United Airlines
- Priority lines at Player’s Club, Gift Giveaway Center, casino cashier, and buffet
- Priority seating at buffet and Andrew’s Steak & Seafood
- Access to the 446 VIP Lounge and no fee ATM transactions at the 446 Lounge
Judging by all this casino has to offer, it is clear why Rivers Casino keeps winning awards. While having a hotel on the premises would make this fine casino even better, the surrounding area offers lots of options for those who wish to extend their stay.
As a stand-alone casino, Rivers is primarily a place to gamble rather than visit for entertainment and other activities. Players looking for exciting nightlife or top name entertainment won’t find anything even remotely close at this casino.
While high stakes gambling is offered and there is one expensive, high-end restaurant, the vibe at this casino is definitely informal and low-key. Four of the five places to eat are reasonably priced, and every bar offers a Happy Hour featuring $3 drinks. The $5 blackjack, roulette, and craps tables are available 24/7.
What reviewers on Trip Advisor and other sites complain about most are the casino’s presumed tight policy regarding both slot payouts and comps. They also object to the smell of smoke in the casino and the high cost of parking when the Steelers or Pirates are playing at home.
Players do like the reasonably priced restaurants and the high quality of food for the price, low stakes tables, and friendly atmosphere. This is a place that not only gives players good bang for the buck, but lots of great games, lots of fun promotions, and great camaraderie at the bars watching the games and rooting their favorite Pittsburgh team on to victory. That adds up to a winning combination.
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh
777 Casino Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15212