STRONG WARNING!!! This may be the longest and most boringly detailed report you ever attempt to read-it was 10 pages long on 'Word'. Proceed at your own peril!

This trip takes place between Sunday, January 11 and Thursday, January 15.

I started planning this trip based on finding a great airfare from United for $188 round trip from Minneapolis through Denver. I have traveled to LV enough to know that there are slow times during January, so I booked the airfare and started looking for good room offers. One came to me through the mail to stay at The Cal for two nights for free and then while cruising around on different websites and discussion boards, I found a discount code to use to book Barbary Coast on-line for $35 a night for the other two nights.

I thought I would try to be cheap and rely strictly on public transportation for this trip, but as the departure date drew nearer, I got a bit cold footed about waiting at bus/shuttle stops and taxi stands. I am only there for a limited amount of time as it is, I really shouldn't waste time waiting for rides. So, I rented a car from Dollar for four days for $62.00! I even joined their FastLane club to speed the process a bit.

So, the first flight (Mpls to Denver) was fine. Layover was fine (except for the rude individual who farted in the jetway and left about 40 passengers languishing in his/her smelly wake.) Second flight was bumpy getting over the mountains and (as usual), bumpy while approaching and when landing in Las Vegas.

From the "D' terminal, I hopped on the tram to baggage claim and while waiting for my luggage, checked at the Dollar desk to make sure my reservation was set for the car. Grab the luggage and catch the Dollar shuttle to the car rental lot. The driver tells me to pick any Neon in row 2. “You have your choice of this white one, that white one, and, oh, over there is another white one…” Funny driver. Actually one of the attendants drove a silver one over to my "row' so I snagged it.

Out of the airport and up Paradise. Oh no! I missed that pesky turn off and am now on Swenson taking a tour of UNLV!!! Luckily it intersects with Flamingo after awhile and I am headed west toward the Strip.

I always try to make my first stop at Caesars Palace. CP represents the epitome of Las Vegas to me. It is the original mega casino, has stood the test of time and remains in a class by itself. If they would just stop reconstructing already!

So, I drove through the construction to the parking structure in the back, grab an elevator to casino level and (big breath), I have arrived.

I peruse the remodeling to get my bearings. Caesar's Magic Empire, the Palladium buffet and a Cashier's Cage are gone and a bright new bar and more slot space has replaced it. They have also removed the lowered floor area that held a large grouping of dollar slots and (long ago) a bar. Now, instead of only being able to walk by Cleopatra's Barge (don't forget to pinch the nipple-gently, of course) to get to the Forum Casino, you can now hang a right and walk through a whole new area that leads you around to the sports book and, more importantly for Caesars management, to The Coliseum. I always have to go to the main entrance and shake Caesar's hand for luck… Actually, it's more like pulling his finger because of the way his hand is positioned, but luckily he is not the rude sort, unlike some United passengers I have known…

There used to be a bank of quarter Double Bonus VP Progressives in the hallway near the Shadow Bar where I won a Royal Flush a few years ago. During various remodels, they moved this bank down by the sports book and then, eventually, they vanished completely. I found though, that they did still have DB Progressives in their Gamemakers, so that is where I started my gambling… $40 in, $20 out-no great shakes and no four-of-a-kinds. Over to the 50-cent Wheel of Fortune machines, $20 gone in nothing flat. An actor playing Caesar is hawking the "Caesars Gold' $1 slot machines near the entrance to the Forum Shoppes. I take the bait and in less than 15 minutes, lose $50. Oh well, at least Caesar was kind of cute (in a mature sort of way.) I thought I should head downtown so as to stop the bleeding. I stopped at a 5-cent Sphinx slot on my way to the parking ramp and put in $20. Within a half hour, I had my $100 back! I am thankful for "Ticket In Ticket Out'.

I drove downtown (via Industrial and Main St) and park at The California “The Cal”. Check in is pretty simple (except for the rude Hawaiian lady that took cuts and then dragged five of her closest friends into line with her…). A bell man was called and I was in my room in no time. The room is standard and has wooden slotted shades on the windows. I have no complaints for the room except there was a continual white noise from the air conditioning units between the two towers.

I love downtown. I have been going to Las Vegas for the last 12 years and have been there at least 25 times. I always try to go downtown on each trip because there are so many gambling options and they are all so close together. There are many good restaurants and snack bars and always a seat at a bar somewhere in the vicinity.

I went to The Cal's snack bar and had an order of Bento with sticky rice. Just what I needed before a flurry of gambling.

My first stop is The Cal's bank of 25-cent Double Bonus VP progressives. They are a bank of 6 machines on the west wall near the Main Street entrance. They are always busy and it is difficult to get a seat there. For me, on this trip, it was difficult to get a win there, let alone a seat! $40 in, no return, and not even much play time for my money.

So, undaunted, I head next door to the Las Vegas Club to their bank of 25-cent Double Bonus VP progressives. I have my first drink of the trip while playing here. I will drink in a pattern on this trip-Vodka Tonic, bottle of water, Vodka Tonic, bottle of water. Works for me, no hangover, no headaches. Anyway, $40 in on the DB, $20 back after about ½ hour. Then I head to my LVC "bank'- the 1-cent Wheel of Fortune video slots by the Black Jack tables near the Fremont Street entrance. $20 in, $50 out-just like magic!!!

I went down to the Four Queens to check on their Double Double Bonus Poker progressive-it was over $1,400 for the Royal Flush and not a seat to be had on the entire bank. (I think there are about 14 machines.) Over to Fitzgeralds, I am looking for Multi-Strike Poker machines and find them here. I don't play them because they are very short pay-even for a novelty game.

I went back up the street to the Golden Nugget and stopped to play their 25-cent Deuces Wild progressives. A Vodka Tonic and a $10 profit, not bad for a ½ hours play

Take a break and call Kevin. Cricket, Belle and Billie are all good and it is raining in Minnesota.

Back at The Cal and back to the DB VP progressives-$40 in, $0 out! Will I ever learn? Across the skyway to Main Street Station (they always play great music there) and to the bar for some Jacks or Better. A nice drink and a $20 loss, but did I mention the music is great? Back over to The Cal to Dave's Bar and a final bid for a profit for the day. But it is not to be-$60 later, I get a bowl of Saimin at Aloha Specialties and head for bed.

The day's totals: $$ in = $390, $$ out = $260.

Day 2: (Monday, January 12)

Monday morning I got up and went to Starbucks at Golden Nugget for a Vanilla Latte and a stroll down Fremont. There was a long line of employees at the back of Binion's waiting to pick up their paychecks. It was a very unfortunate scene.

I wandered into the Golden Gate to check out their diner. It was quite busy and had a line forming, so I moved on to the Plaza. They have Multi-Strike Poker here and, while not "full pay' the payouts are better than Fitzgerald's. I make a note to return here to try these machines. The Plaza has moved it's gift shop to the back wall and put in more slot space. It also took out a bar that was in the nickel area on the northeast end of the building (by the McDonalds). I will miss that bar because whenever it was really crowded downtown on a Saturday night, you could always count on a spot at that bar.

I bought a USA Today at the relocated gift shop and commiserated with the shop attendant about the loss of her prime space. Then, I walked down Main to Main Street Station and had breakfast at the buffet. I was a little bit disappointed with the buffet. It didn't have the variety that I was used to seeing here and it didn't seem as fresh.

Back to The Cal and to the car. I drive south on Fremont to Boulder Highway and down to Sam's Town. A couple of wrong turns and I am finally in Parking Ramp number 34 or something like that… Sam's Town is a great big ol' place and I can always rely on it to have good video poker inventories and interesting slot machines. I was not disappointed. I found Multi-Strike here and played a nickel machine on $20 for over an hour. The game is very volatile, but riding out the dry spells is a good challenge. I also found a 1-cent 100-play VP machine here and (not max betting) managed to recycle a $20 bill through it about 4 times.
I then left Sam's Town and went further down Boulder Hwy and then west on Lake Mead Blvd to Fiesta Henderson. This used to be "The Reserve' and was a lot more fun (and, I think) a lot busier then. I found a bank of VP machines called "Dancer's Favorites' (or something like that) and figured I could make my money last a bit longer there. An hour and $50 later, I hit the road.

I drove back downtown and parked back at The Cal. I walked over the skyway back to Main Street Station and checked out the 777 Brew Pub for lunch. The service sucked, but the soup and sandwich special was good.

Over to The Cal and back to that same DB Progressive bank… Nope, nothing. I thought I would try some roulette and bought in for $20 at a 50-cent table. The dealer (spinner?) explained all of the odds to me and said I should be lucky because I was a beginner. In the end, the dear young Chinese girl said, "Oh! So sorry! You no have beginner luck!' Need I say more?

Back over to the Las Vegas Club where a 1-cent "Jockey Club' slot caught my eye. I put $20 into it and proceeded to hit the bonus at least 5 times. In the end, I had over 10,000 credits on the machine and a $100 hand pay. Fun!

Over to the Golden Nugget to try and get some points on my slot card as I will be staying there this summer and could use a line pass for the buffet… I went back toward the sports book area and listened carefully for falling dollar tokens in the $1 slot area. This is a trick that Kevin taught me-when the machines start paying it seems like all of them hit at once back here. So, I quickly put $60 in a "7' (sorry, I don't remember the exact name of this one) machine, and hit a "7' combination that gave me back $100. Feeling unnecessarily cocky, I try to further my bankroll by hitting the $1 Blazing 777 progressives. Foolish boy! $80 gone in no time!

Next I went over to the Plaza to try those 5-cent Multi-Strike VP machines. I experience another quick $20 loss and not much action. A large sign points to “New games, try "em”. I played a 1-cent slot called IC Cash with characters like penguins and walruses and polar bears that, in the bonus round, slide down a slippery slope and crash into trees and boulders worth x-amount of credits-entertaining, but costly in the end.

Back to The Cal, another (are you kidding me?) try at the quarter DB VP progressive bank. I should just hand my money to the player next to me!

I went up to my room and took a short break to call Kevin. Everything's "cool' at home.

Back downstairs for dinner at the California's Market Square Café. I order the $5.99 Prime Rib special (which is actually $6.99). It is still a good deal and there are some rather exotic items on the salad bar that make this an interesting meal. I didn't, however, get my advertised Cherries Jubilee! Curses!

Over to the San Francisco Pub in the back of The California for some more VP. This time I try quarter Treasure Chests (which, I think, are an exclusive of Boyd properties.) A couple of Vodka Tonics, a bottle of water, a Straight Flush and a four-of-a-kind (5's, I think) with a 140 coin payback and I turn $20 into $50.

Finally, for a nightcap, I go to the Beer Bar at Golden Nugget and play some quarter Deuces Wild while sipping a final Vodka Tonic. Again, $20 turns into $50 and I ride the winning wave back to The Cal and bed.

The day's totals: $$ in: 420 $$ out: 300

Tuesday, January 13 started with a Starbucks and a trip to the gift shop to buy a USA Today newspaper. I walked around the Golden Nugget for a bit and found a nickel "African Treasures' machine with good graphics and a generous nature. I turned $20 into $100 while sipping my coffee.

Breakfast was at Carson St Café. It was not good, not good at all. I asked for over-easy eggs and got raw runny ones. The sourdough toast was the only saving grace at this over-hyped establishment. Bummer!

I went back to the "African Treasures' machine, but someone was playing it. I tried my luck at a 5-cent "Dragon Slayer' slot. It had a cute bonus where a knight fights a dragon that looks suspiciously like Godzilla. Godzilla torched the good knight and I said good-bye to another $20.

Over to those beckoning 25-cent Deuces Wild progressives where a ½ hour session of mostly 4-of-a-kinds (Deuces Wild, remember) I had recouped my losses from Godzilla and also paid for my Starbucks.

Over to The Cal to checkout and then I drove down the Strip all the way to Mandalay Bay. I went to Shark Reef (which I have been to before and enjoyed), to see the Hammerhead Shark they had acquired. I spent more time listening to the self-guided tour and spent a lot of time in the sunken ship admiring the Hammerhead. I have a question, though. Is it just me or do some people have no idea what personal space is? I was standing near a corner of the display when one of the tour guides pointed out the Hammerhead to some hammerheads who couldn't see it for themselves. They then proceeded to press up against the glass (and me) and ask bizarre questions in very loud voices. These were full-fledged adults, not children. Ei-yi-yi!!!!

I drove up the Strip and parked at Barbary Coast. (This is easy and free parking-a very little known convenience to The Strip.)

I went to the Aladdin and, after some initial confusion regarding where I was, I signed up for and played in the $25 Slot Tournament. I did not do well, but I did get my $10 in "free' play and the $20 food credit. Of course, I couldn't get the "free' play to work except in a $1 Wheel of Fortune machine. What a waste that was… Then when my "free' $10 was used up, I went to a nickel Penguin machine that had those extra progressives based on a special bonus round where you accumulate points and the higher your score, the higher the special progressive bonus. Another $40 ill spent. Then, I had to ask myself why I should be trying to get points on an Aladdin slot club card that I would probably never use again… The answer, “Get the hell out of here!”

Back to Barbary Coast for some $5 double-deck Black Jack (hand held). I joined a table with a friendly group and an assertive dealer. They spent a lot of time debating my "mistake' (which was to stay on an A-7 instead of doubling against dealer's 5.) I'm glad I have a good sense of humor because they really picked my error apart. The dealer at one point commented that if I had made that mistake at a locals' casino they would have eaten me for lunch. I guess "the locals' play serious blackjack. Rather than revisit the equalizer theory, I will apologize for the error and for my lack of taking the error seriously. It was $5! Good Lord!

I went to the Victorian Room for lunch and had a soup and sandwich special. It hit the spot. While walking past the front desk, I noticed that a man was checking in. It was only 12:30 and the check in time was posted as 3:00. I decided to check in after lunch. No problem and my room was ready.

Nice room (as I know them to be at the Barbary Coast) facing Flamingo and Bally's South Tower. I could see the Bellagio fountains at an angle out of my window. If I propped open the little bathroom window (in the shower) I could hear the music that was playing for the fountains.

Once I brought my luggage up to the room and unpacked (as much as I unpack, which entails throwing my toiletry bag onto the bathroom counter top.) It was time to go back to Caesars and challenge the VP gods again.

Over the walkway from Barbary Coast and around the construction barriers and up the main sidewalk through the fountains and into the main entrance and past Caesar (with a handshake/finger pull for good luck), and I head for the quarter Double Bonus VP progressives. There are about 2 dozen of these machines. (They are actually multi-game machines and have 9-6 Jacks or Better in them as well.) They are in two banks-one by the sports book and one between the blackjack tables and the bar in the new section-with separate progressives for a Royal Flush. It took me awhile (on my first $20-thank you ticket in, ticket out) to find a machine that was allowing some play. I loaded it with $100 and played for over 2 hours. In the course of that time, I got two four of a kinds, many full houses and lots of play getting the credits as high as $185. I finally cashed out with $50. For a little diversion, I went over to the nickel section (back by the exit to the parking ramp) and played a 1-cent Sphinx II machine (lose $20) and then to the bank of nickel Sphinx machines (lose another $20.) Time for a break-back to the room and call Kevin. Yes, everyone is still doing alright. The weather is nice enough to take the dogs for a walk (that would mean that it is over 10 degrees and the wind isn't too strong.)

I went to the Spice Market Buffet at Aladdin for dinner-courtesy of my losing participation in the slot tournament. I remember this being better in the past. It still had lots of interesting food, but I think that I had over anticipated eating here and it just didn't live up to my own hype. Still good, but the earth didn't move.

After dinner, I strolled over to the Bellagio. Actually, I am too lazy to stroll at this point and took their ever so convenient moving sidewalks at the south end of the property. The conservatory was under construction with what looked like decorations for Chinese New Year-including a giant circle of bright red fire crackers. But that was about all there was to see, so I wandered on.

I went to the Fontana Bar, ordered an Absolut and tonic (one must name one's liquor at the Bellagio, mustn't one?) and played quarter VP at the bar. Dian Diaz was playing in the lounge. She and her band were very good. She did an especially good job with a couple of Tracy Chapman covers. One of the boys in her band sang an Enrique Iglesias song and had a couple of the ladies in the audience swooning. I enjoyed this band and the bar very much and will do it again.

I walked back to Caesars (obligatory Caesar handshake here.) I put $20 in a 10-play nickel Deuces Wild machine and got to play a little bit on that. Then I just wandered around finally finding myself in the Palace Casino in front of the loudest slot machine I have ever heard. It was a 25-cent "Cleopatra' and someone had turned the volume up way too loud on this lady. I couldn't play for very long because I was distracted by the noise of it, so I moved over to 5-cent "Believe It or Not' slot. I got the bonus at least five times (the one where they ask the multiple choice trivia question.) I got every one of the bonus questions right. (My friend's tell me that my head is full of useless information… Well! It's not so useless anymore, is it!!!) I kind of lost track of what I did from here, but I know the cocktail waitresses were very nice about making sure I always had a drink (Vodka tonic, bottle of water, yadda yadda yadda), and I left with quite a bit less cash than I came in with.

Back to the Barbary Coast for a night cap. I played 25-cent VP at the bar long enough to score a free Vodka tonic and then meandered toward the room elevators and to the room in time to watch "24'. I decided to have one last go at a slot machine and chose a quarter Wheel Of Fortune machine that was back by the front desk. I got the "Spin' bonus and right before my very eyes, it landed on the white wedge that says "1,000'!!!! I couldn't believe it! I told the lady sitting next to me that I thought the white wedge was just for looks and couldn't really be hit. She wasn't amused, but I was and I cashed out and went upstairs to my room.

Today's totals: $$ in: 555 $$ out: 590

Wednesday, January 14 was my last full day in Las Vegas. It goes by way to fast!!! I decided to go to Paris Buffet for breakfast. Paris, just as Mandalay Bay was the day before, is bustling with conventioneers. However, they must have had their breakfasts catered because the Buffet was very quiet. I want to say that I liked this buffet (just like I wanted to like MSS and Aladdin), but I found it a bit stale and boring. Once again, probably over-hype on my part. Good juice, Lyonnaise potatoes and bacon nonetheless.

I went up the street to Flamingo Hilton and went to the Wildlife Habitat in the back by the pool complex to see the 8:30 feeding of the penguins. It was free and entertaining-almost as entertaining people watching as it was penguin watching. Why do some people smoke in close quarters? I wanted to slap this one bar fly who wandered out of the casino and lit up practically in my face.

I went back to Caesars-today is my day to play hard on the Park Place slot card. I found the 25-cent Multi-Strike VP games unoccupied, so I slipped $100 into the feeder and my card into the reader. I played for quite a while, but in the end, chose to cash out with $40 rather than sacrifice my entire stake to this new game. Then I went over to the quarter DB VP progressives and sent my $40 ticket into the slot to start another hour long session. I only hit 2 four of a kinds, but one was "4's for a $50 payoff.

I went back to Barbary Coast because a placard in my room had said that there were free Craps lessons this morning. I only waited about 3 minutes before one of the pit people began a very informative lesson. I had played Craps on the internet, but never at a live table and I thought this would bolster my confidence to give it a try. After the lesson, we were given a $5 Match Play coupon for a PASS LINE bet. I wanted to play right away while the lesson was still fresh, but the only open table had a single player and he was betting $100's at a time. Intimidation thy name is high roller. I decided to come back later.

Next I went to Margaritaville (the new restaurant/gift shop with a Jimmy Buffett theme) and bought Kevin a nice silk shirt that I thought was green, but the label said was "Slate Grey'. Color-blindness has its challenges.

I went to lunch at Cypress Market, the new quasi-buffet at Caesars (it replaced "La Piazza' food court.) When you walk in, you are handed a plastic card that you present to which ever food station you are ordering from. They will swipe the card with a description of your order. When you leave, you present the card to the cashier and pay for your meal. It works pretty well. I had a really, really good tossed mixed greens salad with Buttermilk Bleu Cheese dressing and all kinds of extra toppings. I think my bill was about $9.

After lunch, I went back to my quarter Double Bonus progressive and played for another hour and a half or so. During that time, I had to go to the bathroom, so I flagged down a slot attendant and asked him if he would turn off my machine or watch it for me so I could go. He agreed to watch it for me. When I got back, I gave him $5. He seemed very surprised, but at the time he agreed to stand there I had $185 in credits in the machine. I figured paying $5 to keep from losing $185 was reasonable. During this session, I hit 4 Aces for $100 payout. I also sat next to a woman who was complaining that she never hit anything on this bank of machines, but that her husband (who was sitting quietly and playing the machine on the other side of her) had just hit the progressive Royal the night before. This statement gave me hope. I thought it was funny that while she was lamenting her poor luck, she was dealt 4 Jacks. The proverbial "squeaky wheel gets the grease'. I cashed out with for $100-representing my 4 Aces.

After a while, I went back over to Barbary Coast to check out the Craps action. My first pass by the tables did not encourage me, so instead I sat down to play $5 Pai Gow Poker. There was a nice group of people playing and they were patient and fun. However, I did get admonished by the dealer for twice moving my hands away from the table while arranging my cards. I didn't mean it! Geez! I played about 10 hands and walked away even (except for the 50-cents I owed in commissions on the hands I won.)

My next pass by the craps tables and I overheard a man telling two woman how to bet. I thought this was my opportunity to jump in, buy in and ante up (sorry, wrong game…) I played the Pass Line with $5 and my Match Play and won on the first roll. Then I held my own through two mediocre shooters and then (gulp!) it was my turn to throw the dice. I was sure that I would throw them off the table or knock over everyone's chips or something, but it never happened. I rolled my numbers three times before crapping out and doubled my original buy-in all in about 15 minutes ($40 in, $85 out). It was a rush for me. I will play again but I think I'll go home and read up some more about the odds bets and single number bets.

I wound down a bit with some 5-cent video wheel of fortune-$20 wasted. Then I went upstairs and called Kevin. All is fine, I will be home tomorrow, stop spoiling the dogs!

Back downstairs and back across the street to Caesars. I went to Cypress Market for dinner and had a pulled pork sandwich at the Cajun station. It was good, the accompanying coleslaw was excellent.

Surprisingly, the Multi-Strike games were both open. So I sat down and slid $100 into the feeder and played for quite awhile. At one point, I had a Straight Flush on the second line (x2). That was a nice hit. Eventually, I cashed out with a $50 loss. I took the ticket and went back to my favorite DB machines. I played again for another hour and two, but in the end, I lost my initial investment and $60 more.

I was getting tired and my eyes were starting to cross, so I headed back to Barbary Coast with the good intention of calling it a night. But, since it was my last night, I found myself playing indiscriminately around the casino and taking another hour to lose another $60 or so in various 1-cent, 2-cent and 5-cent themed slot machines. Finally, it is enough and I give up and go to my room with a bag of Lays and a bottle of water.

Today's totals: $$ in: $650 $$ out: $460

My last morning and my goal is to (again) get more time on my PPE slot card by playing at Caesars before I have to leave for the airport.

I grabbed a quick breakfast skillet at the Victorian Room and checked out of the Barbary Coast. I drove over and parked in the ramp at Caesars (I had not touched my rental car since I had initially checked in at BC.) I played $20 through those previously generous 5-cent Sphinx slots-nothing was paying this morning.

For old time's sake, I played some Quartermania. New and different slots with extra reels and more flashing lights and sounds than I was used to-the old ones were standard red, white and blue 7's and the like. Just as in the past, nothing close to a progressive appeared.

I played some 5-cent "Rocky' theme slot that had the volume turned up way too loud and every time a "Rocky' bonus symbol would land on a pay line, the machine would make sounds like when Rocky was getting slugged in the stomach. It was kind of disgusting.

One last try at my DB VP with not even a 4 of a kind in $160 and it was time to head to the airport. I cashed out my last $40 and checked with the Casino Relations booth to see what my status was. According to their records, I had 249 cash back points (worth nearly $25) and 117 comp dollars that I could use in restaurants, gift shops and at the box office. Considering my low roller status, I felt I had done a lot of work for those points…

Final day's totals: $$ in: 240 $$ out: 40

I drove back to the airport, stopping on Paradise to put $4 worth of gas in my Neon. I turned the car in with no hassle, but had to wait for a second shuttle before getting back to United. I used E-ticket check in and headed off to the "D' gates. I bought some Ethel M Chocolates for Kevin at one of the stores in "D' terminal and went and waited for my plane.

My flights were fine and on time. Only one minor incident in landing at Denver Airport-we were almost on the runway and then shot back up in the air very suddenly. The pilot said that there was another plane on the runway that hadn't gotten out of the way.

So, then as quick as it started, it was over and I was back in Minnesota and back to reality. Luckily I still had 4 more days before I had to go back to work.

I miss it already.