Wednesday, March 30.

We fly standby, so we can't make too many plans in advance because planes fill up, etc. But flying for free is worth it. We ended up getting out on our first choice, a 7:00 am flight on the 30th on USAirways from Philly. No problems on the flight and we got our bags without trouble. We reserved the car for Thursday at 9:00 am, so we took a cab over to the WWW, which was the only cheap place around with availability. We walked down to The Orleans, which was a little longer than it appeared, and played a little poker and Pai Gow. My friend walked back to Excalibur for the 1-3 spread poker there, while I played $25 Pai Gow. For those of you unfamiliar with 1-3 spread, it is different from 2-4 limit in that there is no structure for the betting. You can bet between 1 and 3 dollars anytime, and you can raise any bet up to three dollars at anytime too. Later, I hopped on the bus to the Excalibur since I wasn't on vacation to walk around. No table open for 1-3 so I played some Pai Gow there. They had the special $1 bonus pai gow, and I got 4 of a kind, which won me $80. The dealer said it hadn't been hit in a while and $80 is a pretty good price. I went over and played some mini-baccarat and caught a run of 6 straight bankers, adding $10 to each bet and ended up betting $80 on the last hand that I lost. But I had still won close to $400 between Pai Gow and Mini-Bac so it was a pretty good first day of the trip. Later, I threw $110 on the Sixers getting 6 from Phoenix, but they got destroyed and Webber got hurt so it was an all-around disaster for both me and the Sixers.

As for food, we both ate really good burgers at the WWW and the total bill was only $11+tip. For dinner, we hit Luxor buffet after playing some poker at Excalibur and it was good, but nothing like the buffets we would see later.

Thursday, March 31.

OK, let's talk about cheap. My friend is about as cheap as they come. I am cheap too, but I would have sprung for a $15 cab ride to the Alamo Car Rental from the WWW, but my friend said it would be more fun to grab a bus and then walk from the airport road. What a disaster. We walked for about 3 miles, then got to a tunnel, chickened out on walking through it, walked back to the airport, and eventually waited 20 minutes to take the bus to the Alamo counter, where we waited 45 minutes to get the car. So two hours after we left our room at the WWW, we got in our car. Not a good start to the day. Then, the car we picked had a slow leak in the tire. When we got to the front, the lady said, "This one is not good. Please go pick another one." I said, "We should get an upgrade for our inconvenience." Amazingly, she agreed, so we ended up with a nice Impala with a moonroof. Pretty nice full-sized car for the compact price. $139+tax for the week.

Even though we were thoroughly exhausted from the long walk, we still had planned to hit Gold's every other day while out there, so we went back to the WWW and checked out around 11. We went to the Gold's on Flamingo for a week membership. They are now $35, which seems a bit outrageous, but we did it. Nice place. Afterwards, we went down to the Golden Gate for our two night stay. Small, cheap, but pretty cool staying there. We took turns sleeping on the floor though, because I had accidentally reserved a "queen" bed there and it was the size of my son's bed that is shaped like a race car. Decent auto-piano playing in the lobby. Didn't do any gambling there or anywhere else on the old strip. Walked down to the Main Street Station for their buffet. Good food, as usual, but terrible service this time. This was a theme for our trip...that the service sucked at almost every buffet. Oh well.

Drove back to Excalibur for some 1-3 spread hold 'em, which is by far the best game we saw in Vegas. Low limits, lots of fish, and good drink service. Plus, when I got bored, I could sneak over to the no limit table for some action. Also took Indiana getting 5' from Miami for $110 and the Lackers getting 3 at HOME from Minnesota for $110. Ended up -$10, because the Lackers really suck worse than those of us from the East coast can believe.

Friday, Arpil 1.

I played in an Omaha/8 poker tournament at noon at The Orleans while my friend played poker at the Excalibur. I stayed alive for almost 3 hours, but didn't win anything and it ended up being a waste of my time when my cards ran cold at the wrong time. For those of you who know Omaha, the hand that killed me went like this: I had A-2-6-7 and the flop came 3-4-5. Very nice flop for me, giving me nut high and low. Turn was K of Spades and the river was Q of Spades, giving one guy lock flush and A-2 and another guy, who proceeded to raise every bet, also had A-2, but no high. So the extra spades and the idiot raising the low cost me most of my stack. And the guy has the nerve to say "Well, at least we got 1/3." I didn't even feel like explaining to the rocket scientist that we didn't get 1/3, we got 1/6. Oh well, at least it only cost me $40.

After that fiasco, I played some Pai Gow and won $150. Picked up my friend and we hit the Rio Carnival World buffet. Very good, well worth the $23. The way they have it set up is pretty stupid. If you get to your table within 30 minutes of walking up, consider yourself lucky, no matter how crowded it is there. Bet on a couple basketball games, got killed, and put a major dent in my bankrool. Decided not to take anymore sports for the week, which I ended up sticking to, although the Final Four was a pretty big temptation.

Went back to the old strip and walked around for a little bit, but it's more of a place for couples and not really for a single guys, unless you're into the strip clubs, which we aren't. Had a quick Subway sandwich and hit Gold's again, since it is open 24 hours, which is a nice touch. Ended up getting to sleep around 3 am.

Saturday, April 2.

Another one of my friends was flying in this day and we were switching hotels to the Monte Carlo for the pools and location and the fact that the room now split three ways instead of two. No, we don't pay the extra $35 a night and yes, we leave the maids extra money. On the way out of the Golden Gate, we saw an occupant who tried to sneak in and was killed...a very large cockroach sitting on its back in the hallway. Thing had to be at least 3 inches long.

We picked up our friend at the airport and checked into the Monte Carlo. Even for a Saturday, they had rooms available at 10:30am, which doesn't say much for how busy they are, even on a Saturday. Went out to the pool only to find the lazy river is down and the wave pool was all they had. But the weather sucked and we only spent one day at the pool anyway.

We hit the food court for a quick bite, then it was the three of us hitting Excalibur for the 1-3 spread hold em poker. We couldn't get a table together so those two sat together and I went to play some more Pai Gow. I went over to the MGM and found it was full of Fortune Pai Gow, 3-5-7, and a Crazy 4 poker table too. I tried all three and had different results. In Crazy 4 poker, I lost $150 real fast, then hit a straight and a flush and walked away plus $50. In 3-5-7, the guy in the last seat was winning like crazy and he was betting $50 a place, so he cashed out 5 purple $500 chips. I lost the $50 I won, plus another $50 and went to Fortune Pai Gow, where I got a straight flush, 50-1 on my $5 bet, and another $20 to everyone else at the table betting $5 on the bonus. So I left MGM after 3 hours another $200 richer and found a seat with my friends at $1-3 poker.

Sunday, April 3.

We ate Breakfast at the Monte Carlo buffet, and had terrible service. They had good food there because it was the Champagne brunch, and my friend had talked the girl at the checkout into giving us some free 2 for 1 coupons like we were high class bettors or something. Funny thing was, we didn't bet a nickel at the Monte Carlo. But we ate the buffet twice using our coupon so it wasn't bad. The service was terrible. I never got a cup of coffee I asked for, and my friend asked for another orange juice and it never came.

We went out to the pool today for one day of fun and it wasn't much fun. The wave pool was nice and we threw around the hacky sack we got for 99 cents, but there weren't many people and it wasn't much fun by the pool. The lifeguards were nice and friendly and the water wasn't that cold until you got out and went near the shade. Then you froze. The hot tub is nice, but it is in the shade and not very nice once you get out. I guess when it's 100 outside, it is nice to be in the shade, but not when it is barely 80.

Next was a trip to our favorite cheap eats of Las Vegas...the Ellis Island $4.99 steak dinner. A nice piece of steak with a baked potato and garlic green beans. We go here twice every year, and it never disappoints. You have to get the steak medium-rare though, or else they tend to overcook it. My friend went for the Prime Rib and he said it was good, but it is $7.99 and not worth the extra 3 bucks when the steak is just as good. Once done, we got out of that smoke haven immediately. It feels like they pump smoke into that place and have no ventilation to get rid of it. There's almost a haze hovering above the machines.

Back to Excalibur for 1-3 poker and the cast of characters there at 3 in the morning are crazy. One guy yelling at everyone, for no good reason. Another betting everything to the river with only Ace high. If I wasn't playing loose and staying in almost every flop, I would have won some money, but instead, I got drunk and played for fun and only won $20. The drink girl was absolutely beautiful and friendly. Many of the other ones were not too friendly, and the rest were just average. But this one was cute and friendly...a good combination if you ask me. We ended up playing until 6 am, so by now it was Monday.

Monday, April 4.

After walking back to the room at 6 am, we slept until around 11 and ate something quick. Then it was a trip to the gym and then a nice buffet at Todai Sushi Buffet in Aladdin. Best place we've ever gone to. We used to go out to the Blue Wave eafood buffet, but it appears they closed that one up. Nothing lost here though. It is expensive at $26 a person, but it has everything from Sashimi to sushi to lobster to crab legs. And it is all good fresh sushi. We probably ate clsoe to $50 each worth of lobster and sushi, so we got our money's worth.

After stuffing our faces, we went back to the Excalibur for some poker. I got tired and went for some more mini-bac and won another $50. The I went to bed for a nap and ended up sleeping until 2 am. I woke up and my friends were just getting in so I went out and played Pai Gow until 6 am.

Tuesday, April 5.

Check out day and we all got up around 10. Packed up the car and checked out via the in room check out service. We then drove to Excalibur for another final session of poker, and I went to do some shopping for my son and mom. We went to the Todai buffet again (yeah it was that good) then we hit the Desert Passage shops.

Flight home was close, but we got on it by the skin of our teeth again. 930pm, and even though the pilot said it would be a quiet flight, there was big time turbulance for over an hour straight. But we made it home in one piece.

Observations from this trip...

We never even made it above the Monte Carlo this time. We usually walk down to Imperial Palace for some $10 long Margueritas, but we didn't this time.

The buffet service sucked everywhere, from the Monte Carlo to the Rio Carnival World buffet. The only place that was good was Todai, and that is because they are always good at sushi buffets...I think it is a cultural thing or something with the Japanese always having good service.

We probably played a combined 80 hours of poker at the Excalibur for the 6 days, which means next time will ask for the poker room rate there and try to get something cheaper. But I have heard bad things about the pool at Excalibur so I am not sure I want to stay there.