Trip Report: 07/13/04 to 07/21/04
'Jones, who'?

As you might recall, I dropped off Rachel and the kids at LAS for their Michigan trip 2 weeks ago. Well, it's time to pick them up. Their flight was scheduled to arrive on Friday, July 16th, so I decided to come in a few days early to make the most out of my trip... make it 3 days early.

In a nutshell, I stayed at Gold Strike (in Jean), MSS, Silverton, and The Rio, all for free. I made some money and did quite a bit of family stuff after they arrived.

Since this was going to be an extended trip, the objective was to simply have a good low-rolling time by playing smartly, while at the same time conserve the bankroll for Crapsfest 2004, coming up on July 31.
Other objectives included helping the B-I-L get his brand new church ready for dedication service, baby-sitting while Rachel attended a teacher's conference, and simply hanging out with the kids. All went well, and after 9 days in Vegas, I can assure you that my jones had been taken care of.

jones (jÔnz) n, vt. A habit of an activity, a craving or urge to perform an act often to the point of excess. An addiction, esp. to drugs, sports, gambling, and other enjoyable activities. Borrowed from the cartoon 'Fat-Albert' and the drug-ladened 60's and early 70's.

TUESDAY 07/13/04 (Day 1)

Arrived at Gold Strike around 7pm and decided to give James Stungazed a call to see what was up for dinner. He was staying at the Orleans, which is 25 minutes from Jean. I wanted to eat at the newly upgraded buffet, but the damn lady wouldn't let us in after 9pm. It was 9:01. Anyhow, we ate some decent grub at the coffee shop, played a bit more, and called it an early evening.

FPVP: -$100
BJ: +$125
SLOTS: -$20
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, etc): -$10

WEDNESDAY 07/14/04 (Day 2)

After taking care of some work in the morning, I headed out to MSS to see if I could get an early check-in. No problem. Headed over to The PLAZA for their free breakfast. They don't send these out anymore, and I've only got about 3 left!!! Bummer. Checked out the CALIFORNIA for a while and couldn't find the FPDW machines near the slot club. The one near the LVC entrance is still there.

Headed back over to MSS to start my FPDW sessions (S59k). Met Steve from LVT board. Nice guy. Session went extremely well, as I hit quad ducks and plenty of other higher payouts (+400). Ran into Tom & Susan Sims and Don & Brenda Forsythe from VPfree. We all decided to eat some lunch at the MSS buffet.
(10/10 is perfecto, 7 = good, 5 = barely passing, less than 3 = not fit for human consumption)

1. Lasagna (7)
2. Sun dried tomato concoction (6)
3. Chicken chow mein (6.5)
4. Marinated Artichoke hearts (7.5)
5. Chinese Chicken wings (7.0)
6. Collard greens (6.5)
7. Pasta w/ sun dried tomatoes sauce (7)
8. T-bone steak (6)
9. BBQ pork (7)
10. Ham (7)
11. Creamy spinach (7)

Over to LVC where James was to check in today. We planned on just hanging out around downtown today. I had a few coupons for the EL CORTEZ funbooks, so we killed time walking down Fremont Street and checking out various gaming conditions... pretty much the same as a few weeks ago. BINIONS was still dead, as expected on a Wednesday afternoon.

The ELCO slot club lady gave us a nice dayplanner notebook. Maybe I'll ebay it. Better yet, I'll give it away as a prize during the Crapsfest dinner. Won the BJ MP and walked out (+10).

Back to LVC. Ran into Don & Brenda again. She hit a royal on BP and gave us an upper deck meal comp for later. That was real nice of her. I played 8/5 bonus poker for about 2 hours while staying pretty much even (+40).

Back over to MSS... played DW for quite a while until we started getting hungry (-186). So we went back over to LVC to eat the 20 ounce T-bone at the Upper Deck. The T-bone was excellent, but there were some shortcomings. For the second time in a row, there were fruit flies buzzing around my food. The waitress (Paula) gave us NO service at all. The appetizers came at the same time as the main course (oh, we have to ask her to bring it 'before' the meal???), never gave us a drink refill, never removed a single dish, a miniature 4 piece chicken tender appetizer was $6.50, the wonton soup didn't taste like anything oriental, the beans were like Van Kamps, and the mash potatoes were dry as heck. There were a few other things, but I'll skip them.

Back over to MSS for more DW (exactly 0). Hit the BJ for a while (+125) and finished up at 8/5 BP at the bar (exactly 0). 3:45am.

VP: +$254
BJ: +$135
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, etc): -$5

THURSDAY 07/15/04 (Day 3)

Up at 7:30am for my therapy session. My favorite time to play VP. Old Days, Golden Years, I Saw the Light, Ventura Hwy, Midnight at the Oasis. It doesn't get any better than this.

James stayed up later than I did, so I knew he was going to sleep in until at least noon.
After playing to a 2 hour draw on FPDW (+7), I went up to take a short nap. Just what I needed.

At around noon, we headed out to Henderson to run some errands and to eat the free Barley's pizza for lunch. No pit, but it's still a pretty darn good pizza. We tried to hook up with Mike hockeystl (since he was in the neighborhood), but his schedule was just a bit too demanding for us so we never hooked up. That's Vegas. Oh, it's started to rain for a while. That's just weird. 100 degrees out and pouring rain.

Over to the Cannery to take advantage of 5x day, MP coupons, and some other good deals. It's about this time that I saying to myself, '...I'm up a little, I've got 6 days left, so I better put it in neutral'.
Yeah, right.

After about an hour of banging away at the 3 play 8/5 BP, I was down nearly 2 bills (-175, +20). James already lost a few bills and went for a stroll somewhere. I walked around this small casino and found him at the craps table... figures. Damn, now might have to play/risk more of my winnings.

When I walked up to the fairly empty table, I think he was down another few hundred, and warned me that the table was ice cold. So I decided to watch craps and bought in for $200. One hour & 30 minutes later (4 shooters), while betting conservatively, I colored up $1410 (+1210). James must have been up over 1700. This was more fun than hitting a royal.

It was now getting dark and after getting in the car and driving a bit, I said, 'hey, let's just eat here on a table comp'. Damn good idea. Made a U-turn and went back to eat at the Victory Café. The steak here was much better than MSS's Pullmann Grille. Good chocolate malt. Man, I love the Cannery. Out of my 4 or 5 trips to this place, I don't think I've lost here yet. Sh!t, now I jinxed it. (Roulette MP +10)

Back over to MSS and my favorite FPDW machine. Hit quad ducks again (+170), but gave a little back on 8/5 bonus (-40) and BJ (-50). Man, that dealer was on fire. I got out quick. Gotta protect those gains. Called it an early evening around 1am. (E67k)

VP: -$-13
CRAPS: +$1210
BJ: -$50
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, etc): -$3

FRIDAY 07/16/04 (Day 4)

Up early to check out and meet my B-I-L's wife at LAS to pick up Rach, our kids, S-I-L, her husband, and their 1 year old.

After hanging out with the family all day and checking in at Silverton, we all went over to Suncoast to use up my 5 free buffet coupons for Seafood night. Since I was treating, it still cost me ~$20 to get in the one extra person that I didn't have a coupon for. So much for free buffet's. I know, I know, I feed 6 adults and 4 kids for $20, but I still had to fork out the cash. I was up good, so it really didn't matter.

Since I was taking care of my 2 girls, I couldn't take food notes, so no rating system this time. Let me tell you this much. It was good, but I would never pay that much for a buffet for myself, let alone a whole family. One observation I made was that these Summerlin folks were pretty savvy crab eaters. At all the seafood buffets that I've been to, people would just grab a plateful of legs. These folks scoured through the entire station de-clawing the giant pile! The heated crab was awful. The prime rib was just ok. The Chinese & Italian food was ok.

Got back to Silverton pretty late. The kids went right to sleep and I went down for a few hours to play. The DW progressive was $1500, making it a positive play. I was fortunate to play to a draw (0). I thought I would make some money playing their average DD game. No such luck (-$100).

One interesting observation... the entire south side of the pit was 6:5 BJ. The entire north side of the pit was 3:2. Both sides were equally populated. The 3:2 side was quiet and older. The 6:5 side was filled with young drunk kids. Figures.

VP: $0
BJ: -$100
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, parking, etc): -$23

SATURDAY 07/17/04 (Day 5)

Breakfast at Silverton's Sundance Grill was decent and was taken care of by a $25 food voucher.
This was uneventful day... just helped moving stuff from the old church to the new church and helped clean up the new church. The carpet was just laid just the day before, so there was plenty to do.

The kids and I watched THE coolest lightning show ever. I've never experienced such violent rain... totally horizontal... flooding everywhere, and I was actually cold in Vegas in July.

My S-I-L's husband, Kris, and I, went over to MSS for dinner. I still have $50 in food vouchers to use up. We were going to hit Pullmann, but decided not to risk it. We hit the sure thing, the buffet.
(10/10 is perfecto, 7 = good, 5 = barely passing, less than 3 = not fit for human consumption)

1. Kalua Pork (9.5)
2. Manapua (6)
3. Beef & Broccoli (7.5)
4. Chow mein (6.5)
5. Marinated artichoke (7)
6. Moo goo gai pan (4)
7. Brisket (8)
8. Pork chops (7)
9. Lasagna (6.5)
10. BBQ spicy wings (6)
11. Won ton (6)

This is the first time I tried that Kalua pork. Damn, that's the single best item I've tasted in a buffet in quite some time.

Picked up Rach and the kids and headed back to Silverton. Again, the kids went out pretty quick.
The DW progressive was up to 1700, so I chased it a bit (-100). Finished up at BJ (+38).

VP: -$100
BJ: +$38
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, parking, etc): -$5

SUNDAY 07/18/04 (Day 6)

Got the family up early for 9:30 service. Hit Sundance again and paid for it with points. That cleaned out my balance.

After church, we all headed to the Silverton pool and just hung out a while. Dedication service was at 5:00, but we had to be back by 4:00 because of choir practice. The packed service went smoothly, and we had a pot-luck dinner afterwards. No rating system here, but I think I'd rather eat at a buffet than a pot-luck.

Headed back to Silverton and again, the kids went right to sleep.
The DW progressive was up to ~2200. I wasted a bill and didn't feel like playing anything anymore (-100).

VP: -$100
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, parking, offerings, etc): -$40

MONDAY 07/19/04 (Day 7)

Up real early to pack, get the kids ready, and drop Rachel off at the Mirage for her teacher's conference. On the way back to Silverton, Samantha puked while on the freeway. That's just great. She felt better, so we went to Jack-in-the-Box (JIB) for some breakfast jacks and fries.

After packing the car and checking out of Silverton, made a quick drive-thru JIB and then hit the Rio to see if we could check in early (11:30am). No dice. We walked around the place for a while and checked out the pool. The kids were starting to get tired and we had no place to go, so I spoke with a manager and of course there was a room available. The kids were out in a flash.

Upon inspection of the room, I noticed that it wasn't vacuumed very well. Upon further inspection near the bed shams, I found quite an assortment of garbage... tater-tots, napkins, marbles, bottle cap, misc junk. The shower section of the bathroom had 40% of the lights burnt out, and both sinks had slow drips. I called maintenance to at least take care of the lights.

Now, here's the winner of the year.

Under the bathroom counter, I saw a hand towel. I picked it up and noticed some blood on it. I looked closer, and guess what kind of hair was on it. That's right, a bunch of pubes. This was the nastiest single item that I've ever encountered at ANY establishment, PERIOD!!!

I immediately called housekeeping and asked for a supervisor to pay my room a visit. I pointed out the unvacuumed carpet, the garbage near the bed, and then I walked her to the bathroom and had her pick up the rag. She immediately dropped it, and for a second, it looked like she was going to puke. She used another towel to pick it up and then she left with an apology and told me that she'll have someone back in here to re-clean the room. You think?

OK. Now the kids were all rested up and it was time to pick up mom. The plan was to meet BIL's family down at the kids pool at 5pm, but they closed it at 5pm. One other pool was roped off for some reason.
There are 4 pools at the Rio and TWO of them were closed down at 5pm on a 110F day??? I don't get it. After all, this is the peak of the pool season. I asked a lifeguard, why the shut-down? 'It's time to clean the pool', he replied. I'm thinking that it's to keeps costs down. You only need half the staff to operate half the pools.

We all get ready and head to the Palm's buffet. While passing by the Rio buffet, I noticed that the line was at least an hour and a half long, and $22 EACH!!! We go across the street to The Palms where there is ZERO line and the 10 of us eat for $35 total (with the LVA coupon). Of course it's not the same class of buffet, but line-avoidance is worth something to me. Plus, the Palms buffet has some interesting stuff for dinner.
(10/10 is perfecto, 7 = good, 5 = barely passing, less than 3 = not fit for human consumption)

1. Carved Pastrami (8.5)
2. Braised Brisket (6)
3. Prime rib (7)
4. Chow mein (7)
5. Chinese chicken wings (6)
6. Pork egg roll (5)
7. Vegetable egg roll (7)
8. Sweet & sour pork (6.5)
9. Kugel (5)
10. Labnehi (4)
11. Baba Gineush (4)
12. Hummus (4)
13. Sauteed cabbage (6)
14. Chinese BBQ pork (7)
15. Won ton (5)
16. Pasta Penne with Alfredo sauce (7)
17. Pasta Penne with marinara (7)
18. Chicken Parmigian (7)
19. Stuffed grape leaves (4)
20. Beef Barley soup (7.5)
21. Bread pudding with real whipped cream and vanilla ice cream (8)
22. Baklava (8)

Headed back to the Rio. The bathroom lights were not fixed yet. Whatever.
The kids went right to sleep and I headed down to see how bad the gaming conditions were.
While looking for the 8/5 Bonus near the Masquerade elevators, I couldn't believe how packed and noisy this area was. I didn't find the 8/5 bonus, so I settled on some 9/5 DDB progressive near the Ipanema tower. Hit a few quads and got in some play, but just had the feeling that I wasn't going to win on such a short-pay game (-200). It's funny how this place advertises '97% payout' on their VP machines. I guess that's the best they can do. Damn, that music for those bevertainers scared the crap out of me. If anything, it's a nuisance.

Played $10 craps for a while, mainly flat betting the don'ts (+40). Most of the clientele were business-looking characters with lots of money to blow. Most were buying in for over 500. I just bought in for 100, and played longer than many of them. Quite a few people were playing the field, which pays 2:1 on BOTH 2 and 12. What a joke. That 6:5 BJ was all over the place, but I did spot some 3:2 BJ at the $25 level and above. No thanks.

I called it an early night.

VP: -$200
CRAPS: +$40
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, etc): -$40

TUESDAY 07/20/04 (Day 8)

Got the kids up early and we headed over to The Mirage to drop off Rach at her conference at 8:00. The strip is under some kind of construction near the Mirage, so by all means, find an alternate route (especially northbound between Flamingo and DI).

After dropping off mom, the kids and I headed back to the hotel to relax a bit. We ended up sleeping in until about noon. We hit the pool and had a blast. Man, the sand near the kids pool was hot... like walking on ash. At the kids pool, there was this mom who was wearing this way-undersized bottom. It was quite amusing because she knew it, her friends knew it, and so did everyone watching. She was a little embarrassed, but hey, it's Vegas. Let it go!

After picking up Rachel and her old boss, Judy, who was also attending the conference, we headed back to the Rio to hit the Carnival World buffet. We stood in line for about 20 minutes and determined that it would be at least another 30 minutes until we ate, so I made the executive decision to eat at Bamboleo's instead. No line. Good Carnitas platter. Used a $30 food voucher. I had gotten tickets for Rach and Judy to see Trent Carlini at The Hilton tonight at 7:30, so we had to hustle. They got to their front row seats with time to spare and said it was an excellent show. I wish I could have gone, but I'm getting used to baby sitting in Vegas.

The kids and I hit Baskin Robbins. About 4 or 5 people cut in front of us while we were waiting to get served, but I just let it go as I was having fun hanging out with the kids. Sam got a double chocolate cone and Alex shared her strawberry cone with dad. My kids are the best.

Got the kids to bed so I could work on this report a bit.
Rach kept calling me from the concert, but the reception was overmodulated and unclear, so I just kept hanging up. When she returned it was my turn to play.

I was thinking about walking over to GC or the Palms, but of course, marketing's free room strategy worked again. I stayed and played more short-pay garbage. This time, I only wasted one bill and called it a very early night (-100). Now I understand why some people 'expect' to lose. When there are no fair games to play, it's a pretty helpless feeling.

Here's my observation of this Harrah's thing. HET is pretty smart. They treat Diamond level folks pretty good... free rooms, special lines, faster parking privileges, etc. Here's what it costs, on the average, to get diamond. If you're a machine player, it requires 10k points per year, which is $50,000 through slots or $100,000 on VP. With a 5-10% house advantage, you're paying between $5,000 - $10,000 for that privilege. With such a wide network of casinos, it's easy to entice customers to remain loyal. I really do understand why Harrah's has such as fan base, but is it worth it? Ask yourself that question. Without decent games to play, I say no, but if you're a green chip BJ or craps player, it might be ok. I guess it's a matter of opinion.
That link is for nickels. You probably know about their less-than-stellar VP selection. You know about the 6:5 joke. You've seen all those people playing video roulette. Does this place want to give you a good run for your money? You decide.

VP: -$100
MISC (Show tickets, food, accommodations, transportation, tips, etc): -$25

WEDNESDAY 07/21/04 (Day 9)

After dropping off Rach, we headed back to the Rio to pack it up and check out. Man, there are simply no convenient places to park at this joint. With the kids in tow, I had to use bell service for the first time since my honeymoon.

After loading up the car, the kids and hit JIB for some breakfast jacks and fries. Then we headed over to visit LV Norm and Andrea, who lives over by my BIL. After a brief visit, we headed over to BIL's to pick up the stroller and let the cousins play for a while. If any of you saw a bike rack on the back of a Camry with a stroller hanging off of it, that was me.

Picked up Rach at the Mirage and headed out of town at around 4:30pm. Movie of the day was Winnie the Pooh... again!! Absolutely no traffic for the entire trip until we got within 15 minutes from home. There was a chemical spill on the I-15, which shut down both directions. We found a back road and made it home by 11:00pm.
It's was nice to be back home. The temperature was 112 F in Vegas when we left. It was 69 F in Carlsbad.

MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, etc): -$14


VP: -$259
CRAPS: +$1150
BJ: +$148
SLOTS: -$20
MISC (Food, accommodations, transportation, tips, etc): -$165



This trip went very well. Had a very good time and made a couple of bucks.
I planned on doing more with the kids, but at their ages, they just don't have the endurance or discipline yet. 'I'm tired', 'I'm 'hungery'', 'I have to go potty', etc. It just doesn't work right now. Maybe in a few years, I'll be able to do a few 'circuits' and walk up and down the strip with them.

Regarding the Rio, it was quite disappointing. Even though it was free (thanks to Billcasa), the place is really a tourist trap. It's all about the games. It's a nice place, but you'll rarely see serious gamblers play here. All my comments about the Rio are not to offend Harrah's fans. It's nothing personal. I just stated facts. Nothing more. I just hope it opened some eyes.

- I was up early on the trip, so it took all the pressure off of the bankroll.
- Kalua pork at MSS is the best single food that I've had at a buffet in quite a while.
- Whoever pays for meals, the others should at least offer to tip. (same as previous trips)
- Pedestrians on the strip have no regard for signals. they're in a different world.
- Spend 16 days in Vegas in July and you'll also be asking yourself "Jones, who?"
- I think I'll write to HET about my incident... maybe not.

Thanks for reading and God Bless America.