FINALLY!!!!!! Day 0 has finally arrived. I've been counting down the days for this trip for a little over 7 weeks now. The majority of those weeks were spent reading these Las Vegas trip reports at work, and occasionally from home. I suppose I'm not a very good employee! :-)

This is my 3rd trip to fabulous Las Vegas. The first two trips (august 2001, august 2002) were for the USA National Checkers Tournament, which was held at the Four Queens both years (I'm a master rated checker player). This was my first 'real' trip to Vegas, and this time I was travelling with 3 other guys, Shaun, Peter, and Steve. We were also meeting up with another guy named Mike, who travelled to Vegas with his Mom and stayed at the IP.

We had decided to leave on the Wednesday evening instead of the more usual Thursday so that we could have an extra night in Las Vegas. We also decided to get as late a flight as possible on the Sunday coming home (11:30 pm), so we had basically 4 full days and nights to waste our hard-earned life savings in the Las Vegas economy, stuff ourselves silly from the wide assortment of buffets, drink until we can barely stand straight, and see how sleep deprived we could get without dropping dead!!!

Of course, one of the most amazing things to us is the free drinks at the casinos in Las Vegas. It's a really nice change from the Canadian casinos back home where they aren't allowed (by law) to serve free booze. But, we all know why they do it. They want to get you so liquored up that you can't tell a 6 from an Ace. Last year Peter managed to hit a hard 17 against a dealer's 6 after a large number of free beverages, but he somehow managed to pull a 4. Things that make you go hmmmm.

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DAY 1 - Wednesday, November 12th

The flight there was rather uneventful but left a half hour late and took an hour longer than expected, perhaps due to the bad weather. I was just happy to get there! Thankfully it wasn't the horror story I had to face last year.

To make a long story short here's a summary of my 'nightmare on Buffalo runway'...
1) The plane was half an hour late, no big deal
2) Everyone got on the plane, everyone was happy!
3) The plane went to the runway, waiting to takeoff...looking good!
4) While waiting on the runway, the pilot announced that we would have to wait 30 minutes for weather to clear over Pittsburgh. DAMN!
5) 30 minutes later, STILL waiting on the runway, the pilot announced that we had to wait another 30 minutes...by now I was worried about missing my connecting flight in Washington. DOUBLE DAMN!
6) 30 minutes later, STILL waiting on the runway the pilot announced the flight was cancelled. Won't be getting that connection now!!! Son of a %$@#!
7) Everyone has to go back to the airport
8) Since it was the last flight out of Buffalo, there is no rebooking of flights until the next morning...Somebody shoot me!!!
9) Since all the hotels in buffalo are booked, I stay up all night in a 'kids playroom' watching TV with 10 other pissed off passengers who couldn't find hotels either, waiting for our 6AM flight the next day)

What a nightmare!!! I just hope I never have to go through that again.

Anyways, we arrived in Las Vegas Wednesday Nov 12th at about midnight Vegas time and got to the hotel at about 12:30 AM. This year we decided to stay at the Barbary Coast, which has a great location and is very affordable for former students with large student loan debts to pay off (that's me!).

As a side note, we booked the hotel on the Internet a month before the trip and were quite surprised to see that the hotel is ranked 10th out of 49 hotels on the strip (http://www.ratelv.com/hotels/hrank-strip.html), higher than hotels such as Venetian, MGM Grand, Flamingo, Treasure Island, Luxor, LV Hilton and more. Well, I've never been one to trust what other people say, so I guess we will see!!! I'm pretty sure we paid a lot more than we could have if we went bargain hunting, but with 4 guys sharing a room, we weren't too worried about hotel costs. I've heard the BC is hard on card counters, but since I don't count cards I have nothing to worry about. I am not a card counter, because I can't count with all the gibberish and noise in the background. Everyone knows, there are 3 kinds of people in the casino: those who can count & those who can't. I'm the latter.

Once everything was thrown in the room, we decide to go to bed since we are all very tired from the long trip here...JUST KIDDING!!!! We decide to keep our LV tradition of gambling all night long on the first night. Of the 3 other guys I travelled with, I believed Peter and Steve to be the 'high rollers', while Shaun and I are more interested in the free drinks and having fun without depleting our entire bank accounts (I didn't want to have to pawn off my clothes before the trip was over). I am mostly a blackjack player, but in the past I've played roulette on occasion. This trip I was hoping to play craps a few times as I had been learning the game on the Internet in the weeks preceding this trip.

I had planned my daily budget for the Vegas trip and was determined to stick to it as much as possible. To me, a budget is a method for going broke methodically, but it's better than losing everything at once!

To start off the night, Shaun and I headed off in search of lower limit blackjack (anything under $5), while Pete and Steve went in the opposite direction. We must have walked in and out of a half dozen casinos before we entered the Frontier, which had a $3 table much to the delight of Shaun. After losing the majority of my daily limit in a single hour of blackjack, stupidity took over. I should have left the table. I didn't. If stupidity can get me into this mess, why can't it get me out? I've always had a hard time leaving a table, I guess it's because I'm not a quitter. Quitters go to rehab, right? I quickly donated another $200 to the casino. Shaun managed to play at the original table for a couple hours with only $50 buy in. I then wasted another $50 on roulette and decided to call it a night. You know the saying "money talks"? It's true. Money DOES talk -- it says goodbye.

There's nothing like getting spanked at the BJ tables the first night you get to Vegas. It's not the start anyone wants with 4 days remaining, but it always seems to happen! Maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty sure the odds of winning money in the first hour is considerably less than the odds of Michael Jackson winning Father of the Year. Thankfully, on many occasions I am able to claw back some of the losses after the first hour. I guess the first hour can be considered the 'gambling tax'. Both of my two best blackjack sessions ever ($1600 and $1500 profits) both started off with a quick $100 loss. It sure would be nice to have a good start one of these days. But I tried to look at my first day's losses in a positive way: The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up! All I'm asking for is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy.

Of course, my goal was to end the trip even, but in the back of my mind I knew it was too much to ask. So, I tend to follow a simple rule. If at first you don't succeed, redefine success. I didn't expect to win any money on this trip. In fact I expected to lose my limit ($350) every day. If you expect to win, you should be doing something else with your money! Since I had lost my limit for the day, we decided to head back to the Barbary Coast for a quick power nap (heck, we paid for the room, we may as well get SOME use out of it!).

Day 1 Summary:
Blackjack: -300
Roulette: -50
Total: -350
Daily Mojo Reading: Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield. This day, I was the bug.

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DAY 2: Thursday, November 13th

Thursday morning Shaun and I wake up at about 10pm to find Peter and Steve still not back in the room (not at all surprised since they slept on the plane). We watch a little TV for an hour when the other guys finally make it back. After 30 minutes of sleep, they are ready to go again, so we all head out down the strip looking for the next casino to lose at. We were supposed to meet Mike in front of the BC at noon, but we had some time to waste before then.

Shaun and I have a 'rough' plan of what we want to do each day since we want to do lots of rides, roller coasters, a couple shows, at least 4 buffets and a number of other 'top 10 Vegas values' we have found from reading this board as well as from browsing the numerous Las Vegas websites. Oh, and I can't forget the highlight of the trip (for me anyways)...Bungee jumping!!! Thursday was our day for the South end of the strip, Friday was for the central part of the strip, Saturday was for the North end of the strip, and Sunday was just for doing whatever the hell we felt like doing. I know as well as anyone else that it's almost impossible to plan your stay in Las Vegas (and even harder to follow it) because everything is 'spur of the moment'. Planning a wedding sucks. Planning your career sucks. Planning everything basically sucks. But, planning for a trip to Vegas is actually pretty fun. Well, we had been suffering for 6 weeks waiting for this vacation and it was the only way to pass the time!

We headed into the Flamingo, where we managed to find a $5 blackjack table that was calling our names. So, Peter, Steve, and I sit down while Shaun watches us. This starts what I consider to be my luckiest blackjack session ever. We must have played about 5 shoes (Peter cut each deck), and I only remember losing 4 or 5 hands, although it might be more than that. I turned my $50 buy in, into $600!! I was definately 'feeling it', and more than made up for the spanking I took the night before at the Frontier. From this day on, spot #2 (where I was sitting) would be my seat of choice at the tables, and Peter would always cut the deck whenever possible.

Although I wanted to stay longer here, we all got up and left to meet Mike at BC. We made our introductions and then headed down to New York New York. Shaun and I wanted to get tickets to Rita Rudner, and we convinced the other guys to get them too. We got the tickets ($50 each) for the 8PM show, and then grabbed a bite to eat from the food court there (excellent place!) and then went searching for a blackjack table. Again, we managed to find an empty table, so all of us sat down (again, I took spot #2), except for Shaun who again watched us.

I have a progressive betting system that I try to follow when I'm playing blackjack, which basically means I raise my bet when I am winning, and lower it when I am losing. So, I started off small ($5 a hand) but after quickly winning my bets were approaching $25 a hand. We played for quite a long time and I managed to win another $500!!! In fact, we ALL walked away winners. My friends all took profits of $50 to $200 so we were all feeling great and we all had a new favourite casino for the trip. Before I forget to mention it, I think the dealers at New York New York are great, much, much better than some of the other casinos, where you don't know if the dealer is human or a robot.

Since we had some time to kill before the show, Shaun, Steve and I left to try the Manhattan Express Roller Coaster. I hear a lot of complaints about this ride, but we all loved it. It was quite long, and was designed well with lots of loops and twists. Well worth it! Speaking of roller coasters, you know blackjack is like a roller coaster. When it's good you never want to get off, and when it isn't you want to throw up.

After that we went across the street to the Excalibur to do one of their motion simulation rides, the Haunted Mine. It was only $4, which seemed like a bargain, but there was nobody in line and we ended up being the only people in there! It was a bit rough, and made me feel a tad dizzy on the way out, but I guess it was worth the $4 price.

We then headed back to New York New York, to see Rita Rudner. I wasn't too impressed with the seating setup, since I was sitting behind some tall guy and had trouble seeing Rita on stage. She is really funny and we all liked the show, but it's really not targeted towards our generation, let alone men. If you are an older woman, this show is definitely for you, because 90% of her jokes are based on things older women like to do. Since I'm not an older woman, it wasn't really worth the $50 price for me.

After the show, we reluctantly left New York to go over the street to MGM Grand. I wasn't too eager to gamble here because I expected the minimums to be much higher than I liked, but we did find some $10 tables in there, which isn't too bad I guess. For a change, we tried Casino War, which isn't all too common in the casinos. It's a real no-brainer game, and it's rather boring if you ask me. You either lose lots of money fast, or win lots of money fast. I managed to win $200, which felt good considering everyone else was losing.

All in all, day 2 was one great day for me. I definitely had the blackjack mojo going full speed ahead. After day #1 I was $350 in the hole, but after today's wins, I was now up $950. Excellent!!!

Day 2 Summary:
Blackjack: +1050
War: +200
Total: +1250
Daily Mojo Reading: I am a blackjack God!

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DAY 3: Friday, November 14th

Today Shaun and I were spending the day together, since the other guys had left earlier in the AM to go somewhere else. First on our to-do list was to pick up Amazing Jonathan tickets at the Flamingo, but they said he was on vacation! That's two years in a row we have been there when he is on vacation. Since Shaun hadn't been able to gamble much yesterday we went to find a cheaper casino so he could have some fun too. We made our way down the strip and again ended up in the Frontier. This time I managed to win $150 at the BJ tables. I was officially on a roll!!!

Since I was winning non-stop and Shaun was again losing money, I treated him to the Seafood Buffet there. We are very likely to gain 10 pounds on this 4-day trip with all these buffets and drinks, but I'll leave the exercise until I get back to Canada. After all, I get enough exercise pushing my luck at the blackjack tables. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees. The Frontier seafood buffet is $17 and the selection is really quite bad, but they have Crab legs there, and I absolutely LOVE crab, so I enjoyed the buffet. The service there was excellent. There were always 2 drinks each on our table and our waiter kept the refills coming faster than we could drink them. He even took $4 off the price, so we gave him a nice tip. It amazes me how everyone seems to complain about the buffets in Vegas nowadays. All you need to do is find a few items you enjoy and pile your plate full of it!

After the buffet we went back to the blackjack tables, where I lost all the money I had won before the buffet :-( Oh well, at least I got 2 buffets out of it and walked out even.

We then headed down to Westward Ho. This place turned out to be Shaun's favourite casino, and the only place he could make his money last. They have $3 tables there, which isn't bad at all. I was now in 'high roller' mode, which can be very dangerous. I was betting at least $25 on all hands, sometimes even as high as $50. Today didn't seem to be my lucky day, and I realized this when I had a $75 double down (had 11, got 9 for 20) and the dealer was showing a 6 which turned into a 21. Say goodbye to that $150. Ouch! After losing another $250 at a different table, I was ready to say goodbye to the Ho. I was just watching Shaun play, and the pit boss came up to me and asked me if I had a player's card. I didn't. He told me to get one quickly before they close and he would hook me up with some free food because I had been having very bad luck at the tables. So, I went down to the customer service area, but they were closed. Damn!

Off to Slots A Fun, where I lost another $200 at blackjack. Luck sure turns sour in a hurry. That was $600 for the day, which was over my limit, but since I was still up for the trip I was enjoying the moment and didn't care too much about limits.

After our brief stop here, we travelled back towards BC, but made a stop at the Imperial Palace (where Mike was staying), to see if we could find the other guys. We didn't find them, but we did find a blackjack table with $5 minimums. Shaun and I both jumped in. The first $100 went in a flash (which usually happens to me), and Shaun was about even, so I put in another $100 expecting to survive long enough for Shaun to lose his money so we could go somewhere else. Well, I turned that second $100 into $700 and then decided to take the money and wait for Shaun to finish. I watched for about an hour, but I was getting anxious to play again and couldn't resist the temptation, so I decided to buy in for another $100. Well, I think Shaun must have lost nearly every hand, but I won almost every hand. Even the dealer was laughing at that. I turned that 100 into another $600. Boy, did it feel great walking out of there with $1000 profit. Shaun was really pissed and couldn't believe the luck he was having this trip, while I was on top of the world (so it seems). The pit boss gave me a player's card, and I managed to get 2 free buffet coupons.

It was getting late so we headed back to the BC for some sleep.

Day 3 Summary:
Blackjack: +400
Daily Mojo Reading: I should quit programming and become a professional gambler!

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DAY 4: Saturday, November 15th

Today I woke up about 6AM to Peter and Steve leaving the room. They told me they would meet us at 10AM downstairs where we could start our day. They went off to gamble while I tried to go back to sleep. Didn't happen! I got up, showered, and went down to the casino to wait until 10.

Waking up on the second to last day, I had realized there was very little time left in the city of sin. In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday and the trip will be over. Just as I counted down the days until this trip would start, I found myself counting down the days I had until I would be leaving. Rather than worry about how much time was left, I wanted to take advantage of the time we did have.

I started with blackjack, but that was going horrible (-200) so I tried roulette, which didn't get any better (-200). I needed a change of pace, so I found a row of Video Poker Machines and started to play $1 Deuces Wild. After losing most of my original $100 I hit the Wild Royal Flush, which paid $100 and left me up $40. I cashed out. So, I decided to try the VP machine directly next to the previous one. Lost some, then hit a 5 of a kind! Cashed out up $50. On to the next machine. Won another $75. Next machine, another wild royal flush. Up $50. Next machine, won again. Up $20. I won on every machine in that row, $250 in total. It was great walking away from those machines seeing the royal flushes and 5 of a kind's still on the display. It made me forget about the $400 I lost earlier. It was now 10 AM so I went looking for the other guys. Found them without much problem and went up to the room to see if Shaun was awake. He was still asleep so we decided to come back at 12 to check again and left him a note telling him of our plans.

We had 2 hours to kill so we went down to the Flamingo once again where we played some single deck blackjack. I lost $300 here in 2 hours, at which point we went back to the BC to meet Shaun. He was gone, and we couldn't find him anywhere. We waited around for an hour hoping he had just gone for some food, but he didn't show up. We left another note in the room, and went off to the IP for some more blackjack. I sat down with Steve, while Peter and Mike went off to find another table. We had a great dealer here, who busted every time she was supposed to, and gave us exactly what we needed. Heck at one point I was even predicting what she was going to give us. I walked away from that table $400 richer, and with 2 more buffet coupons. Steve also won $300, and got a player's card from the pit boss, so he was happy too. Since I now had 4 buffet coupons, we decided to check it out. If I haven't mentioned it before, I am a meat lover. I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian! I've heard a lot of complaints about the IP buffet, but all four of us really enjoyed it. I tried a number of different items, each of which tasted great. I guess food always tastes better if it's free!

After the buffet, we wanted to go back to New York New York, because we all had good mojo at that place and had all won money there a few days earlier. I don't remember how the other guys did here, but I found a table to myself and decided to try two spots at a time. When you're lucky, take advantage of it, right? Well, I did, and it worked. I won another $1000 here, and the table was really upset when I left because they were afraid the table would turn sour, but I had lost 3 in a row, so it was time to leave. We again went over to MGM grand to play some war. Let's just say, I lost the battle. $400 later, I was ready to leave this place. We went back to New York once again, but my luck was gone. I lost $700 here, which meant I had lost all of my winnings from earlier in the day.

It's times like these where you just want to quit gambling forever, but I reminded myself I was still doing much better than I had expected by day 3, so I didn't want to stop just yet. We went over to Excalibur to play some more. I was betting big now, about $50 a hand. We lasted quite a while, but i was getting really tired, so I said "All in" and put my remaining $75 out there, telling myself it was bedtime if I lost the hand. The dealer promptly deals me a 16 and gives herself a 10. I'm ready to leave when she pops out a 5 for me. 21! Sweet! I win the hand, and get to stay a few more. Three or four hands later, and up about $200, I make my biggest bet of the trip, $150. These are the hands that usually kill me. I nearly always lose my bigger bets, but this trip I was really lucky so I was rather optimistic. The dealer gives me 2 3's, and gives herself a 3 as well. Without hesitation I put out another $150 to split the 3's, and she gives me a 6, for a total of 9. Another $150 out there for the double down, and I get a 10! Phew! 19 gives me a chance at least. Next hand, she gives me another 6. This time, I don't have the balls to double down again, but she gives me a 10 anyways. Now, big bets like this usually kill me. I figured I had a 50% chance of winning both hands against the 6, but I always try to remember a special rule that definitely applies to gambling. I like to call it the 50-50-90 rule. Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of winning, there's a 90% probability you'll lose! Well, the dealer pulls out a 10, then an 8. Dealer busts! WOOHOO!!!! $450 in one hand of blackjack. AWESOME!

The win gives me some extra energy, so we all cab it over to the Westward Ho, so I can pick up my players card. I talk to the pit boss and he remembers me from the day before and asks his boss if he can give us a comped dinner for 4. Since I had been betting big there a few days already, he set it up for Sunday, much to the delight of my friends and I.

After that, it's time for bed. Sweet dreams!!!

Day 4 Summary:
Blackjack: +550
Roulette: -200
Video Poker: +250
War: -400
Total: +200
Daily Mojo Reading: Some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant. It felt great to be the dog!

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DAY 5: Sunday, November 16th

The Last Day :-(

Since we had managed to get a late checkout time, I slept in a bit more than usual this morning. It was 11 AM when I got up. I showered, and went down to the casino to waste an hour before checkout time. I sat down at a blackjack table and had the misfortune of playing at the same table as an older man who couldn't play blackjack worth a damn. He would completely disregard 'the book', and in most cases would do the exact opposite of what the book says, despite the advice of other players. I guess he was trying to make a statement: "Out of medication". When I play with people like this, I try to remember that half the people in the country are below average. I lost $200 on blackjack, and felt much better blaming my losses on someone else, then went over to roulette. I went on a nice streak here, managing to win $350 on one hit. Ended up +500 on roulette and +300 for the morning. Good start to the day!

Next on our to-do list for the day was to go down to Circus Circus for the bungee jumping. Unfortunately I had been having back pain ever since Thursday, and I didn't feel like making it worse. Shaun still wanted to do it, so we trekked down the strip and had to wait for a while before he finally got his turn to jump. As he tumbled towards the ground, the necklace he had put in his pocket so that it wouldn't fall off, fell out and went straight into the pool at the bottom. It wasn't that big a deal though, because they fished it out with a pool skimmer. Shaun mentioned that the bungee jumping wasn't as good as he thought it would be, but I still hope to do this next trip. However, a word of caution: If at first you don't succeed, then bungee jumping isn't for you!

It was 5 PM, so we had only 4 hours before we had to leave for the airport, but that was still plenty of time to get our comped dinners at the Westward Ho. We walked the short distance to the Ho, and I made sure that the comp was for 4, and it was. I ordered the full rack of ribs, Shaun had the Prime Rib, Peter had the Steak, and Steve ate the Fish and Chips. All of the portions were huge, and very tasty. Service was excellent, even though our waitress was extremely busy. The place was packed, and I can see why. We left a $20 tip since the food was free, and I can honestly say this was the best meal I've ever had in Vegas.

After the meal we stayed to gamble at the Ho, while Steve and Peter went back towards our hotel to find another casino. We arranged to meet back at the BC at 9 PM. So, Shaun and I again sat down for some more blackjack, and I again played two spots at $50 a hand. The session was good and I left after I lost three in a row, and still managed to rack up a $400 win. What a way to end the trip! Shaun got a blackjack on his very last hand, another good way to end the trip. This was the only casino he won money from.

We made the long walk back to the BC, soaking up the atmosphere one last time. Cabbed it to the airport and wasted one last $100 on the tight slot machines there while waiting to board.

One of the funniest comments of the trip happened to be on the flight home. Ready for takeoff, there was a baby crying really loud. Steve blurted out loud "sounds like me at the blackjack table". That got a laugh from everybody.

As we flew back to Toronto we quickly realized it was almost Monday. While I had the day off work, one of my most unfortunate friends had to work later that morning. SUCKER! I've come to the conclusion that Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7 of your life!

Day 5 Summary:
Blackjack: +0
Roulette: +600
Slots: -100
Total: +500
Daily Mojo Reading: I was ecstatic when we were ready for takeoff and the attendant said the destination was Las Vegas, but that was just a mistake on her part :-(

Trip Summary:
I went to Las Vegas with $700 US, came home with 2 new pairs of shoes, a new shirt, a beach towel, a sports bag, saw 1 show, went on 3 rides, had 3 buffets, had a blast, and ended up bringing home $2340 US. What a trip!!! You know, money can't buy happiness, but it sure can make misery easier to live with. I am looking forward to the next trip (probably August 2004), and expect to get some good offers in the mail thanks to my run of good luck and large betting average over the course of this trip. As I expected, we completely disregarded our 'schedule', but I think this has more to do with my luck at the blackjack tables than anything else. If I were losing, I would have been searching for other things to do.

Until next time. Cya Las Vegas!!!