I'm a low roller, so I hope this helps those who (like me) enjoy gambling but are financially challenged. I went with my fiance, her sister and brother-in-law and their 5-month old, and my fiance's friend. We met up in Vegas with my fiance's mom and stepdad, along with 2 buddies of mine from college. We decided to stay downtown so that we could gamble cheaper. Because we bought airline tickets from priceline, we couldn't set the time and subsequently got in about 10:00 Vegas time. We checked in at the Plaza. Tried the $20 tip upgrade for the first time and the lady was adamant that she couldn't do it with our package. She said she'd ask the supervisor (who then came over and said they had 1 but just before gave it away). I believed her since it was late Saturday night on the Rodeo weekend. She was able to give us a room next to my friends who'd previously checked in, though. The room was pretty decent sized- only amenity was soap so bring your own shampoo. Then we're off to the tables.

While I'd been to Vegas about 5 times before, some of my friends hadn't, so we checked out some of the different casinos. I like to play $3 blackjack but couldn't find an open table anywhere (all $5, likely due to the many cowboys floating around). We meandered down to the El Cortez (where I'd stayed for a night on a previous trip). They had an open $2 blackjack table and were quick on the drink. If you don't mind the extra 3 block walk, I'd recommend it to any low roller. The clientele never appears as bad as advertised. Broke even for a few hours and went back to LV Club. One of my friends only wanted to play at places with favorable BJ rules, so we stayed there until about 5:30 a.m. I left the table up about $80 (playing $3), my friend $150. Off to bed up after 1 night for I think the first time for me.

Sunday-- it's sunny and high in upper 50's which meant shorts weather for a Wisconsin guy like me. We headed to the Stardust to watch football. My best bet was the Bills-- naturally they stunk up the place. I was more ticked off though that my Packers choked against Carolina and I didn't even have money on that game. (Aside: Hey Ray Rhodes, do the words "TIME OUT" mean anything to you??? Gee, I wonder why Philadelphia let him go?) After the game, went down the Strip to meet up with a few other friends in town for a few days. Before meeting them at Casino Royale (another nice low roller place when it's not packed-- I liked it when they were all on strike, wasn't as busy then), played a bit at Imperial Palace. Left the table up $69 (you always remember an amount like that). While the IP is without a doubt one of the ugliest casinos in town, the dealers are nice and they have tons of $3 tables-- primo for the cheapos like me. Met up with my friends at CR and walked back toward Stardust, stopping at Westward Ho on the way (hereinafter affectionately referred to as the 'Ho). They have a nice $3 double deck game there and took about $50 from them, covering my football losses. One of the dealers called my friend a "steamer," hadn't heard that before. I guess that's someone who ups his bet when he loses. That's funny, I always thought the term for that kind of person was "moron." Anyways, our group then all met up and we went to MGM Grand for dinner buffet. Decent prime rib. My friends went off to check out NYNY and Mandalay Bay-- they liked the scenery MB so much it was thereafter called Mandalay Babe. Apparently it was because of a waitress named Emma who I never saw but heard tons about. Some of us returned downtown and played some more at LV Club. I played craps and found the guys in the pit to be very helpful and friendly. Lost a little bit that night at craps and blackjack, but still ended the day up about $80.

Monday- went down to Luxor for lunch. I've always found their hotel/casino (aesthetically speaking) to be the most pleasant in Vegas. I loved their lunch buffet-- all the food was very fresh and well worth the jaunt down the Strip for it. Took the walkway to Mandalay Babe and found the scenery to be as my friends described. It's true that they inject some kind of coconut smell into the air because it hits you about halfway into the walk. Took the monorail back to Excalibur and walked down to the Coca-Coca place to meet up with the group. Those in our group who went in really liked it. Went down to the Boardwalk and played a little BJ. The dealers weren't the nicest so I was glad to take about $20 of their money. We went back to the IP and lost a bit for a few hours. Went back downtown at had buffet dinner at Main Street Station-- it was pretty tasty but kept repeating on me all night (of course, combining it with all the beer I drank may have had something to do with it). I went to the Golden Gate and played a little BJ. It took me a couple hours to realize this was where the dealer had gotten shot the previous month-- the staff seemed to realize it could was just bad luck that it happened there and could just have easily have took place in her home, on the street, etc. Overall, pretty quick on the drink and nice enough staff. Good 2-deck $3 BJ game. I was in there briefly the previous night and they had one heck of a good jazz band right next to the tables. Monday night they had a piano player. Those little things create a great ambience that really reminded me of what I picture of "old time" Vegas. I think I probably like GG best of all downtown. My fiance and I went on a tour of some of the other casinos downtown, too. Main Street Station has a beautiful interior, Lady Luck is well lit, but above all else remember this: if you want to know the true meaning of the word "dive", go to the Gold Spike. The place had an awful odor to it, and you could tell the people gambling couldn't afford to. I felt sad for those saps and left about 2 minutes later. Returned to LV Club to meet up with my friend who had napped. I played some more craps and BJ, during which my good luck came to an end. (Aside: LV Club cocktail waitresses have a good sense of humor. On both Sunday and Monday night when my buddy said he didn't want anything to drink I called him a wuss, after which the waitresses on both nights also said "come on, you wuss." We found it very amusing.) My little woman had to return to Plaza to get our travelers' check so we could blow some more on our last night in town. I ended up down $40 for the trip by the time I went to bed at the end of the night.

Tuesday, played some craps and BJ at Golden Gate and won about $10. The craps guys there are also helpful and friendly for the most part. Took a limo back to the airport. All in all, I lost about $30 gambling (including tips), and rest assured that was the equivalent of what I drank for free (my definition of a good trip). Flew home on TWA and not surprisingly got back over an hour late into O'Hare (I've come to expect that from TWA- last time I flew that airline 3 of our 4 flights were late). I'm getting married (no, not in Vegas) in July 2000, so probably no Vegas excursions for me until earlly 2001. Already counting the days, though!