This trip had been planned for over 4 months! You don't know how painfully slow time goes by when you have a T-time over four months away. Eventually, the time did pass (verrrry slowly) and we made it to Las Vegas (once we were there though, time seemed to fly right by).
We booked our flights via Air Canada using Aeroplan points. I had accumulated enough points for my wife and I to fly return from our small town to Las Vegas via Toronto, ON. All we had to pay was the taxes and airport fees for each ticket which came out to about $125 Cdn each. This was not a problem for us as we had checked to see what the flights would have cost if we were to book direct and not with the Aeroplan points. I couldn't believe the price.... $1199.70 per person. After seeing this I was very happy to be an Aeroplan collector. That saved us over $2000!
I had us booked at the Flamingo in one of their GO Luxury rooms for the first two nights (comp) and we moved to Treasure Island for the last three nights on an offer of $59, $59, $99 (Wed, Thurs, Fri), with $50 Freeplay and 2 comped buffets.
We also had a rental car reserved for the whole trip. The total cost for the midsize rental including all fees was $116 (5 nights, 6 days) which I thought was a pretty good deal (using the VISA discount and a $30 off coupon I had found online).
My wife and I were traveling with my bro and his wife (let's call them A & B) and another couple (let's call them C & D). All were Vegas virgins except for D who had been there once for a convention. Also, D's brother E was coming in to join us for a few days.
On with the show......
Day 1 ~ Monday, May 28, 2007
The flights were on time and everything was fine. We had what I am assuming to be a newer plane as each seat had it's own LCD TV mounted on the seatback of the seat in front of you. I though this was an awesome idea. We were able to pick from a variety of movies, television shows, or music, which included satellite radio and a variety of CD's. I thought this was great as we were able to watch whatever we wanted when we wanted and it really helped to pass the time.
We landed in Vegas at 2:30pm. For the first time ever, our baggage was the first out. I couldn't believe it. We headed out to catch the shuttle to the Car Rental Facility. Man it was hot out there. I felt like I was in a Mazda commercial as the first few shuttles Zoom-Zoomed right on by.
Got to the rental facility and checked in at Alamo (about a 10 minute wait in line). There was a discrepancy between my printed receipt and what was showing up on their screen. I had booked using the VISA discount code as well as the $30 off coupon. The guy said he didn't understand how I could have booked using a coupon that was expired, but he made the adjustments and took the $30 off. He tried to sell us an upgrade which was tempting but we passed on it. We got out to where the cars are and the nice man there said we could pick any full-size car which was nice as we had a mid-size reserved. We got a Grand Prix GT and we were off.
Took the strip, which wasn't as busy as expected. 15 - 20 minutes later and we were at the Flamingo (after a quick stop to buy some beer). We checked in and were told out room wasn't ready yet and to come back at 6pm (I was surprised as it was 4pm, but could understand as it was a holiday Monday, coming off Memorial Day weekend).
We met the rest of our party, A, B, C & D at Bugsy's Bar as planned a few minutes later then went up to one of their rooms for a couple drinks. We decided dinner at Maggiano's in the Fashion Show mall was what we wanted. D's brother E was getting into Vegas at 7:30pm and we had to pick him up at the airport. So the plan was for the girls to walk down to Maggiano's and the boys meet them their after picking up E.
Before we left for the airport I checked in our room and found that it hadn't been cleaned yet. I told the lady down the hall that was cleaning the rooms and she said she'd take care of it once she was done with the room she was in.
Well, here's where plans got a little screwed up as D didn't have the flight info for his brother E (actually he didn't have any info). We wasted almost 2 hours at the airport waiting for D's brother and he didn't show. D had no flight info or anything so we weren't even sure what airline he was coming in on or what time. How the hell could you not have this info?? Wasting 2 hours is one thing, but wasting 2 hours in Vegas is another. I didn't let it show, but I was not impressed at all (and wasting time seemed to be a repeat phenomenon for this trip).
We stopped at the IP on the way to Maggiano's to drop off a room key for D's brother in case he just showed up.
We finally met up with the girls at a little after 10pm at Maggiano's. I didn't think they'd still be there waiting, but they were. We had a quick bite and took off. We walked back to the Flamingo and everybody retired for the evening, except for me. I had to get some gambling in before bed.
I went down to a $25 blackjack table and played for about 30 minutes losing my $200 buy-in. The rules weren't the best (hit soft 17) but there was nothing good at any of the tables at Flamingo so I had to bite the bullet. I moved over to the high limit area at sat at a $100 table. Bought in for $800 and left about 30 minutes later with $1400 (which was shortly after I realized that the rules in here were the same, hit on soft 17). Went to the cage to cash out the money and the cashier asked me where I was playing and called the pit to verify that I got the $1000 yellow chip from there. Everything was fine, I got paid and went to bed.
Day 2 ~ Tuesday, May 29, 2007
We got up and met for breakfast at some Crepe place in the Flamingo (near the elevators at the back towards the Valet). I ate almost all of a gross breakfast crepe, and it seemed the others weren't too impressed with theirs either. We found out that D's brother got in around midnight the night before.
The day was pretty slow as we just hung around center strip. We went to the IP to pick up E and hung out there for awhile playing some low limit blackjack. We then walked over to the Bellagio for the first-timers to check that out. Across to Planet Ho (where we played a little again), then to Paris and Bally's before hitting up a small store at the back of Bill's for a couple cans of beer on the way back to the rooms.
We all kinda went our separate ways at this point and the plan was to take a nap (we had a late night planned) and meet at 5:30pm at Bugsy's Bar to head over to Caesar's for the buffet (this was a selfish decision on my part as I had a coupon for $50 dining credit).
In the meantime, we went to the Boulevard Mall for some shopping. We weren't too impressed with the place and our shopping experience didn't last long. We headed back to the room and took a nap for about an hour. That was the best nap I've ever taken and I'm yawning right now just thinking about it. Who woulda thunk an afternoon nap in Vegas was possible!
We met up with the group and headed over to Caesar's. I have to say that the buffet here pretty much sucked. The food was ok but the selection sucked. I had expected a lot better.
I found out during dinner that the other three guys didn't take a nap during the afternoon as originally planned. They went over to Carnival Court and drank their asses off. I was telling them that they were going to be in bed by 10pm and they objected in their drunken banter. Next thing we know, C runs over to tell D that his brother is almost puking on the other side of the buffet. Hahaha I had a good laugh at that and D had to bring his brother to his room at IP to hit the sack.
Dinner was followed by some aimless walking around and low limit gambling. We ended up sitting as a group at a $10 BJ table in Flamingo for about an hour or so (bas rules). We had this dealer that looked and sounded like Borat. He was pretty funny and we had a good time there.
We ended up back in the room getting ready to go out. I got our names on the guestlist at PURE and we were all pretty excited about going there. On the way over we stopped at the IP to get E. The 3 hour nap helped him out and he was surprisingly ready to go again.
PURE was fun. Drinks were expensive ($15 + tip for a Vodka Red Bull). There was some NFL player there and I think a basketball player. They were throwing stacks of money in the air. It was neat to see this as the bills just slowly fluttered to the ground and everybody was grabbing at them. My brother picked up $40, enough for 3 drinks. Thanks for the drinks whoever you were.
We ended up out of PURE at 2am. I headed over to gamble a bit at a $50 BJ table in Caesar's (BJ pays 3-2, dealer hit soft 17). I blew my $500 buy-in in about 45 minutes and headed back to the room for some sleep.
Day 3 ~ Wednesday, May 30, 2007
We were checking out of the Flamingo this morning. We moved our bags over to my brother's room and headed out for lunch at the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Ho. I had this buffet once before and it is still tops on my list. 100 times better than Caesar's buffet. For those of you who have been there you know what I'm talking about, for the others... what are you waiting for?
We cruised down to the MGM Grand where I picked up my tickets for KA. I had bought these tickets a couple months back on a 50% off TravelZoo promotion and I had no problems. I'm glad I did as 3 other people from our group ended up buying tickets for $110 each in cheaper seats.
We ended up walking through the Tropicana, Excalibur, Luxor, and out to Mandalay Bay before cabbing it back to the Flamingo. We watched a bit of the WPT at Mandalay Bay. There were a couple of big name players still in the tournament playing and D took a bunch of pictures of them. I think one of them was Berenstein or something like that (I heard he donated all his winnings to charity), and the other was John Juanda (I checked and neither of them won).
It was now about 3pm. We grabbed our bags and picked up the rental and headed over to Treasure Island. There were 3 or 4 people in front of me at check-in. I took out my CC, driver's license, and a $20 and put it on the counter, told the girl I would like to check in and she started typing away. I asked her if it was possible to have a room facing the strip. She said she had a panoramic view room on the 32nd floor facing Wynn (the north strip) and overlooking the pirate show. Sounded good to me. Gave her the $20 and she seemed surprised to get it even though I had in out on the counter in plain view the whole time.
Our room was nice and the view was great. I like the fact that we had to use the room key in the elevator to get it going. More secure. We had a call from the others saying that they were going to come over and meet us in the lobby of TI before we headed back out the MGM for the show. By the way, my brother and his wife (A & B) had tickets to see Celine at Caesar's.
We were sitting in section 202, row DD, seats 16 & 17. These seats were great. I didn't enjoy the show as much as Mystere. I would give KA a 6 out of 10 rating. The others all seemed to like the show. The one thing I liked about the show was the stage. It is amazing.
Following the show we headed back to valet to car at TI then went out to meet the rest of the group at Carnival Court. We headed over to the Venetian to check things out there for awhile before heading back to the room for the night. No gambling before bed tonight.
Day 4 ~ Thursday, May 31, 2007
We had told the others not to bother us before noon today as we had plans to sleep in a little and head down to the pool for awhile. Those plans worked out fine and we headed back to the room the shower and change around noon. We had a message from the others that they were going back to the Spice Market Buffet for lunch again today (I guess they liked it as much as we did). We had already eaten at the Café in TI after the pool.
We decided to go to the Premium Outlets for a little shopping before meeting up with them. I would have had second thoughts about going had I known that everything was outside (it was hot outside). I thought it was going to be like a shopping mall. In any case we had a good shopping experience here and I will definitely go back on our next trip.
Back to the room around 3pm and there was a message to meet the others at the IP for some low limit gambling. We joined them and Elvis took my $100 without even a Thank You, Thank You Very Much... Bad BJ rules here but it's always fun gambling as a group.
We ended up at Margaritaville for dinner which was good. It's a fun place with a good atmosphere for a group of friends.
We took the Duece down to the Riviera and low-limit gambled there for awhile. I think I blew another $100 there but again had fun as we were all together. Everybody was leaving Vegas that night on the red-eye (except for my wife and I) and I thought it would be nice for them to see an older property on the strip. The group agreed that we should have come down this way earlier in the trip for some fun low-limit gambling. Oh well, note for next time.
We ended up walking across the street to Circus Circus and the group caught a cab back to the Flamingo to get their bags and head to the airport. The wife and I decided to go inside to check out the blackjack tables. I had no intention of doing any real gambling here and I knew the rules would be horrible, but the wife likes to play $5 or $10 blackjack and I knew she'd be able to play here for awhile.
We walked back up the strip to Wynn for some slot play. I very rarely play slots, but once in awhile we like to sit together and throw a few dollars in a machine. Nothing paying here, but we did play for about an hour. We walked around the tables on our way out and I was kinda surprised to see that there were no tables with good BJ rules (even at the higher limits of $50 or $100). That disappointed me, but I still love the place as it has my Vegas virginity.
We headed back to TI and retired for the evening.
Day 5 ~ Friday, June 1, 2007
First day alone with the wife. We got out of bed late (10:30am I believe) and got cleaned up for the day. We ate a quick lunch at the Café in TI before grabbing the rental and heading out to the Hilton. I had to go see the Elvis statue, which we took pictures of and with. They have a bit of Elvis memorabilia inside which we took in during our walk through the place. I'm not sure if the Hilton is my cup-of-tea but it was ok (I'm not at all a Trekkee, or whatever you call it).
We left and went down to the Hard Rock. Now this is more like it. We parked the car and walked by the outside area where the Killers were doing sound check for their performance that evening. Inside it was almost like a club, the casino is pretty small but there is a lot of stuff to look at memorabilia-wise, and the music was blasting. It seemed like it would be a pretty cool place to stay if you're younger and like to party.
The Hard Rock was followed by one of my longest afternoons in Vegas. We went to the outlet mall down past the Car Rental return. The place is huge and there are not any name brand stores in there (ok, maybe 1 or 2). My wife went into every store, yes, every store to look around. We were there for almost 4 hours! Most of that 4 hours I spent waiting for her, and crossing my fingers that she would walk by a store without going in. That is not how I envisioned spending my second last day in Vegas. But, she wears the pants ;)
We left there just past 4pm and headed straight into traffic. It was unbelievable. I am not going to tell you how we ended up back at TI an hour and a half later because I am embarrassed, but it wasn't pretty... and I wasn't a happy camper.
We ate dinner at the buffet in TI (comp) and I have to say that it wasn't bad at all. We enjoyed it. This was at least 60 times better than Caesar's buffet and not too far off the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Ho.
This was followed by some gambling. Somewhere during the day I caught on fire and it showed at the blackjack table. I couldn't lose. I sat at a $25 double deck table (good rules, stand on all 17's, BJ pays 3-2) and played for about 2-3 hours, just betting between $25 and $50 per hand. A lot of time was spent using my special, newly discovered 'Rainbow' bet. I can't tell you exactly what the Rainbow is, but I will tell you that for some reason it worked. I ended up clearing a little over $900 during that session. The Rainbow Man was born. There was only me and another guy at the table and when he started to lose he'd throw in a Rainbow Bet and start to win. I made a believer out of him!
I followed this by picking up my $50 freeplay for the slots. As I stated earlier I don't hardly ever play the slots but this was free so what the hell. I played on quarter slots all over the casino for about 2 hours and in the end I cashed out for a $120 profit. I think that was my first ever slot win.
I went into the little high roller lounge place and played for about half an hour at a $100 BJ table with good rules (double-deck). I bought in for $800 and left with $1000. By the way, both times I cashed out the yellow $1000 chips at TI there was no problems or phone calls made like at the Flamingo. Not sure why the Flamingo does this.
We wanted to go see the fountain show at the Bellagio so we jumped in a cab and went down the just in time to catch the Star Spangled Banner show at midnight. Went into the Bellagio and it was packed. This was the first time I have ever seen it full. I couldn't even find a $100 table to play at! The 'O' show had also just let out which made it almost to busy to even walk.
Walked over to Caesar's and it was busy here too. Not as busy as Bellagio but close. We walked around the Pussycat Dolls Casino (which is basically a blackjack pit in the middle of the hallway) and I laughed at the very bad rules they have (but enjoyed the entertainment). We then walked back to TI and went for a cheap late night snack (or what I thought would be a cheap late night snack). We ended up at Social House where the wife had a small portion of sushi and I had 8 wings and two very small skewers of teriyaki chicken. The food was tasty. The total with a drink each came to $80 with tip. So much for a cheap late night snack! Following this snack the wife retired for the evening and I began my search for a good blackjack game.
I know they have good blackjack rules at TI but I wanted to go back to Wynn to play a little there at a $100-$200 table. Well, I was again surprised that there were no blackjack table with good rules anywhere to be found (and they were mostly shoe games, up to a $500 minimum). I know I was here earlier but I didn't really check everywhere. This time I went everywhere and there was nothing. I was really disappointed.
So I went back to TI without playing at Wynn and thought they might have some good blackjack at the Venetian. Well, I was wrong again. Nothing with good rules there either. What a huge waste of time on Friday night. Imagine that, I want to play $100+ blackjack with good rules and the only place I could find it is at TI. None at Wynn or Venetian. This really made me like TI even more. By the way, all night Friday night at TI there were $5 blackjack tables open (not the best rules but still $5). I was impressed with that also (as I stated earlier my wife likes to play $5 blackjack). So, after all that I ended up going to bed at 3:30am without getting my gambling fix.
Day 6 ~ Saturday, June 2, 2007
Again, we woke up late (10:30am, I think it's the beds, they are really comfortable) and got cleaned and packed up for check-out as this was our last day in Vegas (we were taking the red-eye out at 11:30pm). I still had half a bottle of Grey Goose that I had bought for the room. Now, I'm still not sure about the official rule on this but I thought that we were not allowed to bring any liquids on the plane that was more than 100ml. So, I was wondering what I could do with it (I did have a couple drinks that morning but couldn't drink too much as we had the rental). We asked the cleaning lady if she wanted it and she said she couldn't take it so I took it with me. We went to put our bags in the car at Valet after checking out (quick and painless FYI) and we asked the young people at Valet if they were interested in the bottle. They were happy to take it. I'm not sure if they drank it or not but I hope they did as there was absolutely nothing wrong with it (but I'm sure they were wondering).
We went back to Maggiano's for lunch then followed that with some shopping in the Fashion Show mall. After about 45 minutes I told the wife to keep going without me and that she could find me at the blackjack tables in TI (I was not going to waste two afternoons in a row shopping).
So I headed back to TI and bought in for $200 at the $25 BJ table that I was at the day before (good rules). The fire was still with me and the Rainbow bet was still working like magic. Two hours later I cashed out a yellow $1000 chip. $800 profit on the session. The dealer was great and she was calling me the Rainbow Man because of the bet. It was a great time, but I was a little worried because the wife wasn't back from shopping yet. I walked around for awhile and played $40 in a slot machine while waiting for her. It was another 4 hour shopping session for her! At least this time she bought something!
We got the car and headed over to the Palms/Rio/Gold Coast area. This was my first time here. We parked out front at the Gold Coast and went in to do a walk-around of the place. I probably would never stay here but was fairly impressed as it seemed cleaner and nicer than I thought it would be.
We went across to the Palms. Now, like the Hard Rock, this is more like it! I signed up for the players card and was told of a 48 hour promotion they are running where you get to choose a gift if you acquire a certain amount of points within 48 hours of signing up. We were hungry so we ate at the buffet. I would put this one equal to the buffet at TI. The food was pretty good and it did the trick.
I followed dinner with some slot play because I wanted to get a t-shirt. I needed 500 points for the t-shirt and they said 1 point = $1 coin in. I put $20 in a $1 machine and got about 60 points before I ran out of money. Two machines down I threw another $20 in the machine and this one was good to me. I played for about an hour cashing out $100 and accumulating about 550 points. I went to get my t-shirt :)
It was getting late so I decided to sit down for some blackjack at a $25 table, not the best rules but it's a small place and I couldn't find anything with the good rules (I believe dealer hit soft 17, but BJ was still 3-2). Cashed in for $200 and played for a little over an hour cashing out $700 for a $500 profit. The Rainbow Bet struck again!
We picked up the car and headed out to the car rental return place. We passed by the Welcome sign and I came close to stopping but there we two limo's already there and we didn't have a lot of time, so I'll have to get my picture taken next time.
The flight to Toronto was delayed a little but we made it back ok. We came about -> <- that close to missing our connector because of the delay in Vegas but we made it home ok.
A few notes:
As a kind of selfish and very impatient guy, it's a little hard to be in Vegas with a group. It just seems like we wasted a whole lot of time doing nothing. I didn't like being alone last time either. I have had the best time when it was just me and my wife.
The blackjack conditions at TI, Mirage, and MGM Grand were all great. There were tables at all hours of the day that had good rules in shoe games as well as double deck, even a few at $15 minimum (but most at $25+). So, I would say MGM Mirage is not doing that bad a job in these regards (yes there are still plenty of bad tables at their properties, but at least you can find a few good tables).
It seems as though all Harrah's properties have bad blackjack conditions even at the $100 minimum tables. This really turned me off from Harrah's properties. As long as I get decent deals from MGM Mirage I will be staying at their properties over Harrahs.
Check-in and check-out at both the Flamingo and TI went smoothly. It seems as though the $20 trick/tip worked at TI although I may have gotten the upgrade without the $20 (but then again, maybe not). I didn't try it at Flamingo as I was already in a GO Luxury room.
TI has really moved up on my list of hotels. I was hesitant to even book there at first but after spending three nights I have to say that I wouldn't mind staying there again. The casino is on the smaller side but they offer great blackjack rules and good dining options. I like it there.
After 4 days I was down about $1000, but with the invention of the Rainbow bet on my second last day I turned things around. I made a little over $2300 in my last two days and the dealers at TI started calling me Rainbow Man!
This is good, but it is also bad because I want to go back to Vegas like RIGHT NOW! But, I'm not complaining :)
I love Las Vegas!
Sorry for the long report but I really enjoyed remembering and re-living the trip. Good luck on your next trip to Vegas... I can't wait to go back!