Hello all.
Six months of planning a trip to LV and it seemed to be over in a flash. Not to worry, though, as I’m on the “six month” plan and should be back in June! Here’s my report from Jan.15-19:

Went out to Vegas from New York with two buddies. Gambling, drinks, and fun were the objectives and Vegas didn’t fail. Things got going very well on the trip out on Southwest when the flight attendant held a $1 raffle. We all wrote our seat numbers on a buck and she drew the winner. My friend and I had Sarah, a fun woman heading back to California, sitting between us. We agreed to split the winnings if we were lucky enough to win....and we did! Not too shabby. An $18 win per person before we even touched down....it was omen of things to come.

My friend MJ was comped two nights at Harrah’s and two nights at the Casino Royale. I stayed with him at Harrah’s and, of course, had no complaints about the room. It’s always clean and well located. I do like the place. With regard to Casino Royale, at first I was very skeptical. Sure I’ve gambled there (probably too much), but stay there?! It is kind of skanky isn’t it? Well, contrary to my initial feelings, the room is a clean, no frills, remote-control-is-bolted-to-the-nightstand kind of place. It takes less than a minute from the sidewalk on the strip to your room. Damn, that’s impressive!! Try doing that in the MGM! (I once forgot my wallet in my room at the MGM and had to go back and retrieve it....I think I burned a half day and 1,500 calories doing so). Anyway, rooms at both Harrah’s and Casino Royale are more than adequate.

I am a huge fan of the buffet. It fits my eating style in Vegas perfectly. I call it the “snake diet”....eat once a day in a huge quantity and then take 24 hours to digest until the next meal. With all the walking and other activities, I never gain a pound. Plus, it leaves more time for gambling and socializing. With this in mind, for the five days we’d be there, I had to make sure we hit my top two buffets: Bellagio and Aladdin. Well, er, that never panned out. We were so fortunate to do well gambling, that we ate comped buffets at the Orleans (once) and The Palms (three times!). Contrary to some of the posters on this board, neither buffet is anything to write home about....especially if you are not a red meat eater, like me. The food was free, though, so I’m not complaining.

The place I’d love to rave about, though, is Makino’s. Thanks to advice from this board, my friends and I took the 8 minute rental car drive to get there from the strip and were not disappointed. It shall forever be considered the absolute nirvana of sushi/Japanese buffets. I was astounded by the selection of sushi, the freshness, and the cleanliness and courtesy of the staff....all for an $11 lunch! Did I mention it was all you can eat??!! It was incredible. The sad part of the story is that it closes at 3pm for lunch and we arrived at 2:30. In a desperate attempt not to be denied, I piled my plate very high before they took away the food. I’m still full.

We’re not much for shows, but, once again, based on your good advice, we saw Mac King at Harrah’s. The show was well worth the time. Mac King is funny and original and, at about 50 minutes, was the perfect length. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Here’s the good part. We are all Vegas veterans and are more focused on better gambling odds and atmosphere than we are with the sites of the Strip. Yes, the usual stuff like the Bellagio fountains and Mirage are great and hold more allure when our wives and other friends are with us....but we wanted FPVP and double deck BJ! Needless to say, then, our destination was off-strip via the Alamo rental. Our home base was the Palms and, to a lesser extent, the Orleans. We also sought out the Green Valley Ranch based on the positive words we’ve seen about it. (We have written-off Downtown for a while. It seems to get seedier all the time; and three visits of horrible luck down there has cemented our ambivalence towards Freemont Street).

Regarding the Green Valley Ranch, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I do agree the place is beautiful inside. Perhaps it’s because we all got whacked pretty hard on the tables, but none of us was impressed with the gaming, the location (as tourists, that is...I’m sure the locals think it’s great), or the surroundings. I remember a post that was running a week ago about any of us wanting to live out in Vegas permanently....after driving to the GVR and seeing the depressing desert landscape of dirt and rocks and a bizarre palm-treed “ranch” just off a packed highway, it would be all too plastic for me to bear year round. Oh, how could I forget....what’s with the overly annoying habit of badgering table players for their stinkin’ players card every time they sat down. It was very, very annoying.

As for the Orleans, how can you not like that place? Even though I think I ended up losing there, it’s still close enough to the other casinos to be convenient; and the place is roomy with a good mix of customers and gaming.

My favorite of all, though, is The Palms. The music, the décor, the drink service, the FPDW, and the double deck BJ all combine to be the near perfect experience. Maybe it was too good to be true — I’m still pinching myself — but I came out way ahead playing BJ. I played for two days there, 8-10 hours a day, at $150 average a hand (all for initial buy-ins of $400!). I’m so surprised I lucked out and lasted that long. I guess it’s due to hitting those key double-down and split opportunities — a few of them going the wrong way will definitely wipe anyone out. Anyway, I guess I played long enough for the attention of a casino host. This is a new thing for me (thanks to two lucky days), but not being familiar with comps, I’m hopeful I can stay there on their tab when I come back in June.

-- The Forum Shops is still a wonderful place to window shop and people watch.
-- Must remember to make time next trip to visit Aladdin buffet...and back to Makino’s.
-- Southwest must have 20 staff checking in people at McCarran. Very quick and efficient.
-- GVR should implant bar code bracelets on their table players if they are so concerned with tracking play.

Thanks for reading!!