The 8th annual Vegas trip for our group numbering 7 took place this past weekend. We are in our 40's and 50's and all fly out on different airlines depending on deals. Two guys took the new Spirit airlines which offers 8 cent flights and it was a decent experience. All of us stayed in the Barbary Coast renamed Bill's and probably will be re-renamed when they blow it up and rebuild. The other two guys were at Treasure Island. Here are the highlights:

Flight- I flew on Delta out of Atlanta. Others took US Air, Spirit, and Air Tran. No problems. I hit the jackpot when we rolled away from the gate on time, took off immediately, had my luggage sitting there in McCarran, no cab line... it was beautiful. Abdul the cab drive didn't want to take Koval St as the back way to the hotel. In the end, he did and it cost me $12 and I triped him $5 for not pissing me off.

Hotel- the renamed Barbary Coast is the best secret on the strip. They now have 42" flat screen tvs in the room and it is the easiest to get in and out of. Also, the coffee shop (Victorian Room) is great for breakfast. We have all made this our base camp for 5 years. When Expedia dropped rates at the last minute, the hotel took care of ours, too. Highly recommend this place. Did spend time in the Palm to check out the local talent during Hugh Heffeners 82nd birthday party. Looks like a place to be seen at if you're young and rich. The Gold Coast and the Rio have shuttles back to the strip and are both well worth a close look.

Restaurant- every year we try a top steak place. We've been to Binions (now the Range at Binions), the Range at Harrahs, Blackstones at Monte Carlo, and this time it was Gallaghers at NY, Ny. The signature bone-in steak was $32 and was the very best steak we've had. It was huge, perfectly cooked, and came with a clove of elephant garlic to spread on top. The side dishes were fair, the atmosphere was noisy. Appetizers were crab cakes (recommended) and calamari (good). I would have preferred not sitting in a room that directly opened onto the hotel's pedestrian mall but overall the steak was magnificent.

Gambling- what is with all of the hotels featuring this Double/Double bonus video poker with the progressive jackpots? The payouts are terrible. Most gambling was at the Barbary, Flamingo Hilton (hit a Triple Bonus for 4 OAK with ACE kicker for $500 on a quarter machine), the Gold Coast (great craps), and O'Sheas which is a little place between the IP and Harrahs. One of our crew played at the Barbary and hit $1100 at the craps table the last night. Blackjack at all places was sparatic. Too much single deck, 6-5 payoffs for BJ. Sports gambling was pretty good from my standpoint (not bragging) as I hit 6/8 games. Good sports books included Bally's (food is right behind you), Caesars, and the Palm (very nice).

Entertainment- saw Jay Leno at the Mirage. Very good and stayed on stage for 1 1/2 hours. Show started at 10:30 pm but who is there to sleep? Warm up acts was excellent. A 5 man Doo-Wop band without any accompanying instruments had the crowd laughing the whole time. Leno works very hard and fast. He is one to see if you get the chance.

Various observations-
Pete Rose signing autographs in the Forum Shops mall at a sports nostalgia store. Seems like a nice guy. Should be in the Hall of Fame in my opinion.

Playboy Bunnies at the Palm. If you are over 50 and want to test your eyes and heart rate, this was where to do it. Honorable mention goes to Drais at the Barbary who lets out at 8 Am. What comes out of that place looks like live fashion magazine show. When I asked the change lady about Drais, she replied "you don't want to know." Enough said!

The Aladdin is becoming the new Planet Hollywood casino. Its all stripped down and we didn't even consider going in. They need to hurry up and finish that place!

Bellagio and the Wynn-- the cream of the Vegas strip. Bring lots of money.

Buffets- only did two of them. The Big Kitchen Buffet at Ballys and the buffet at the Gold Coast. Both were decent. Did thoroughly enjog the coffee shop at the Barbary. If you want to try Bally's coffee shop, it CLOSES AT 9 PM!!! You got to be kidding!!!

The casino at the Flamingo Hilton. This place was jumping and I really had never played there. Lower limit tables and lots of slots. Its entrance faces the Barbary's casino entry and is easy to get in to. I need to play there more on the next trip.

Overall, another fun time by a bunch of guys (and an occasional wife) who proved to the world that picking basketball games is easy if no money is involved. Once cash is out there, it all goes to hell. In a few months it will be time to begin planning next years extravaganza!! Hope you haven't fallen asleep rading this.