Living in L.A., I try to get to Vegas at least once a month. Most of the time I'll drive (with no traffic jams, it's 3 1/2 hours from my front door to the lobby of the Mandalay Bay) but if Southwest is offering a great deal (say, under $75 round trip, I'm more than happy to fly. I like to have the option of going anywhere in the city so I usually rent a car if I fly. This last trip was a little unique. A couple of friends (Swany & R.H.)were driving out from L.A. and they met me at McCarren. The plan was to stay overnight (R.H. has a condo not far from the Texas Station Casino) and play as many coupons as we could since they were expiring in less then 2 weeks. Swany and I had acquired a large number of gaming coupons through the course of the year and had saved them for this trip. We were basically going to go casino hopping and play nothing but coupons. Most of the coupons were $5 or $10 match plays. We're low rollers but love coming to Vegas, it really seems to invigorate us (also, Swany does have a bit of a weakness for the local stripclubs). My friends actually started playing in Jean. They played a couple of "1st card is an ace" coupons and hit blackjacks on both. We then met up at McCarren (around 3PM) and headed to the north part of town (where the condo is). We stopped by to see a former co-worker (now retired). He's happy as a clam but amazed at how the town has changed in just the past few years. We then headed out to the casinos.

We started off at the Santa Fe Station then hit the Cannery, the Fiesta Rancho and the Texas Station. We weren't doing as well as we had hoped but because of the edge the coupons gave us, we were up about $40 (hey, I said we were low-rollers). Swany and I had been to the Cannery before and like the theme and the layout although we don't seem to ever win there. The other places were nice but nothing special in my eyes. We were getting hungry and had made arrangements to meet a fellow named David at the Green Valley Ranch, in Henderson. David is a former New England native and now resides in the Vegas area (but still has strong roots back east by the look of his Patriots cap). He was selling Vegas themed calendars to raise money for a worthy charity called The Shade Tree. (They help battered and/or homeless women (and their kids) get back on their feet so they can find homes and employment). I spotted his name (and cause) on a Vegas themed website and was picking up a few calendars to check them out and hopefully start lining up folks who would be interested in getting them every year. We met David, got our calendars and decided to try the Ranch's dinner buffet. Dinner was great. It certainly didn't hurt that we were famished or that we discounted our meal with a 2/1 coupon but the food was delicious with a nice variety of cuisines to pick from. After dinner we decided to head for the south end of the strip. Played at the Tropicana, N.Y.N.Y., Bally's, Paris, Imperial Palace, and Circus Circus. We were still losing more bets than we felt we should and thanks to an unfortunate choice on my part (I had a coupon for a match play on a pass line bet and played the odds bet for the max and lost), we were now up "only" $80. I was riding an incredibly poor losing streak regardless of the game I was playing. Fortunately Swany bailed me out time and time again. We decided to call it a night around 3AM. The next morning we got a slow start. let's just say that Swany felt the need for some female "dance" entertainment around 4AM). We showed our appreciation to R.H. for his hospitality by repairing a broken door in his condo before heading out. I had an early afternoon flight and Swany and R.H. had to get back to L.A. that evening. We started off for Summerlin and checked out the Rampart. I thought this place was very impressive. Definitely the kind of place I could bring the family when the weather warms up a bit. I thought the casino was beautiful as well. It has real style and elegance. I used to work for Marriott so I suppose I'm a little biased but I do like to stay in their hotels. We went from the elegance of the Rampart to the stark reality of the downtown area. We stopped a Jerry's Nugget and then decided to head over to the Castaways, where a devastating loss sent us careening, stunned and confused, into a nearby Denny's. We were going back wards financially. After a round of Grand Slams we hit Sam's Town. The guys had never been there and were very impressed. The Longhorn was next and I was amazed at how they pack that place with so many slots and video poker machines. It reminded me of old photos of sweatshops in lower Manhattan. We were running short of time and set out for a place called Barley's in Henderson. I had never seen a full casino in a strip mall before. Again, I lost while Swany saved my bacon and added to our still diminutive bankroll. Alas, it was soon time for me to leave. My 2 comrades dropped me off and then headed to the strip to continue playing. I had scheduled my flights so that I would be back in L.A. in time to work an evening shift, but the shift never materialized and now I wished I wasn't leaving until evening. Oh well, there's always next time. Swany R.H. played a bit on the strip before finally heading back to La La Land. On the way back they stopped at Jean and again played 2 coupons for first card aces. Once again they walked away with a pair of blackjacks.

The bottom line is that Swany and I each won around $65. I'd rate this trip a "7" out of "10". We won a few dollars (that's always nice) and we visited a lot of casinos for the first time (and for some, the last) and it was great to catch up with an old friend and make a new one. It was a bit too hectic though and I definitely would suggest that you not wait for the end of the year to use a lot of coupons. We did find a few gems out there, The Rampart, Green Valley Ranch, and Sam's Town all had impressive attributes but we never did get to see some places we wanted to visit (then new Westin Casuarina, the new Siren show at T.I., or The Fashion Mall), but there's always next trip. Thanks for reading. - PC