Secured three free rooms in late summer from the Monte Carlo (MC) through my
MGM/Mirage card and booked for the weekend of Nov. 14-16. Was able to get airfare out
of Cleveland (non-stop) for $198 USD.
Day One - Saturday November 14 2009
We arrived at McCarran around 2 p.m. local time and unfortunately hit Las Vegas Boulevard
traffic en route to the MC so our cab fare was inflated at $18.30 so we dropped him a
Check in proved fairly uneventful. I was a bit disappointed to learn of a $9.50 'resort fee'
for my comped rooms meaning I was going to have to pay over $30 for what I thought to
be free lodging. Of course the bottled water and newspapers were included in the fee as
well as the closet safe. Personnel at the check-in desk was fair and courteous and had
most of the lanes open. We waited five minutes at the most.
Room was on the 18th floor and the MC gets high marks from me for having a floor-
specific elevator system. It would breeze past all the lower floors and take us right to our
block of floors to save time. We had a double queen smoking room but I was pleased to
discover very little to no remaining cigarette odor. View was of the pool area and the off-
strip venues such as Rio, Gold Coast and Palms. Beds were above average, television was
easy to operate and the outlets were well placed. The bathroom was very spacious with a
fine magnifying mirror and rapidly flushing toilet. Just a bit disappointed in the water
pressure from the showerhead but the water temps were fine and the shower was
efficient. After a small tip the maid was liberal with the towels, shampoo, conditioner and
My Vegas plan is to sleep upon arrival for a few hours to get myself on west coast time.
However I started watching college football in the room and couldn't quite fall asleep. My
traveling partner Martin ventured downstairs to get the lay of the MC land and hit up
some slots and, at my urging, scout the table games. He couldn't ht on any slots and at
about 7 p.m. we headed over to Hooters to take advantage of the fair prices and generous
portions at Dan Marino's restaurant. He signed up for the Hooters card and played $0.50
roulette while I played a few heads-up hands of blackjack at $10 before realizing I'd run
into a hot dealer and cashed out down $30. We then attempted to hit some of Hooters'
notoriously loose slots. Yet another fail. I missed on Big Money Pay $0.25 machine and
Super Jackpot Party $0.01 machine but recouped it all by hitting an early bonus on Lucky
We discussed possibly checking out Excalibur or NYNY but our memories of 7:5 blackjack
at Excalibur and the unfriendliest dealers on the strip at NY made us reconsider and we
headed back to MC as jet lag had caught up to us. The MC blackjack tables were filled and
the roulette wheel was a bit too expensive for our health so we decided to call it a night
and move to day two.
Day Two - Sunday November 15 2009
This was almost a surreal day. Still ever so slightly on east coast time, we both staggered
out of slumber around 4-5 a.m. local time. Martin headed down to the food court to read
the paper and maybe try some slots and offered to wait until I was fully awake to join him.
That moment came quickly though and I soon headed down as well and started looking at
the blackjack tables. I found a $25 table with absolutely perfect rules: aces resplit,
double after split, dealer holds on all 17s and blackjacks pay 3:2. I bought in for $300 and
played one hand heads-up and won. Then another player sat down without asking and
slammed two greens into the betting circle at first base. He was given 6-6, I was hit with
a hard 19 and the dealer had a king up. To my horror, the man waved off any additional
cards, standing on a 12. After staring at him in disbelief I waved off my 19 and the dealer
flipped a 3 for 13 and then hit herself with a 7 to beat me by one. I forced my chips out to
color up and disgustingly walked away. I'm a firm believer in a bad player affecting my
hands so I refuse to play when one of them sits down.
After Martin and me were reunited we took the deuce to Bally's to reactivate our Harrah's
cards. Harrah's Inc. has absolutely the most miserable blackjack rules in the universe so
we didn't even check their tables. We played slots long enough to keep our Total Rewards
cards activated and walked back behind the strip to Ellis Island for the breakfast
restaurant. The breakfast was sensational. Terrific prices, great food and great
waitresses. Played $5 double deck blackjack pitch game for an hour or so and eventually
found out they don't permit doubling after splitting. That's the only way one can make
money in blackjack so that kind of stipulation is murder on a player. Pit boss was a
grumbly old man who didn't like the way I was making my signals and thought he was
entitled to give me a free, condescending lesson. I decided I was entitled to slide my
chips out and color up.
Next we caught the deuce downtown to play some quarter roulette at El Cortez. El Cortez
quickly entered my Top Ten list of Vegas casinos. The quarter roulette was a blast to play.
I bought in for $24 and played mostly inside. At one point I was up to nearly $40 but
pressed it and eventually left with a green chip. The dealer never rushed the pill toss and
the drink service was flawless. We took our roulette money over to a $3 double-deck
blackjack table that still paid 3:2. Another fine experience. Good dealers who enjoyed
themselves, friendly floor men and again, quick drink service. El Cortez gets high marks
and I'll make it a point to return soon. Also took a moment to play some quarter
machines at a little crack in the buildings called La Bayou. I've never played quarter
machines where you can actually drop individual quarters in. I was lucky enough to hit a
$35 payout so I watched in glee as the machine spit tons of silver coins into the tray. That
was pretty cool.
Now the bad news. A place I really enjoy downtown is Four Queens. They, along with
sister casino Binions have destroyed any chance the player has by tilting blackjack rules in
favor of the house. 6:5 blackjack on both single and multi-deck has arrived downtown.
From downtown we returned to the center strip and Caesars Palace. I picked up a free
medallion and scouted the tables. I love playing at CP and do very well there but the rules
are just awful. We walked through Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Liefer's display
museum and got the chance to meet him as we was on hand for a book signing. We
walked over the bridge to Bill's Gambling Hall. At that point we took the free shuttle from
Bill's to the Gold Coast. Wanted to get into a game or two there but found no tables to our
liking. Did, however get to watch a heated exchange between a belligerent player and pit
boss. It was highly entertaining.
Took the very short walk to the Palms and bought into a wide-open $10 blackjack table
with good rules. I asked the dealer if he was running hot or not and did not get a
definitive answer. Should have interpreted that as an omen. I lost the first four hands and
legitimately had no prayer on any of them. We quickly cashed out and made a mental note
that if every other blackjack table has people on it and one is empty there's probably a
Next up was the small walk to the Rio and the well known Carnival Buffet. It's still as good
as I remember though some woman from Alabama criticized my choice of a county fair-
style corn dog. After dinner Martin realized he'd failed to check his Keno results at the
Four Queens and headed back that way while I'd started to drag physically so I opted for a
hopeful nap at MC.
Once we met back up we happened into a $10 blackjack game at MC with a wild group of
middle-aged folks. After a modest start I found one of my famous hot streaks. I could do
no wrong, turning 16s into 21s and 15s into 20s - all the while raising my bet
significantly. The table was literally hot to the touch for 20 minutes. Once it finally cooled
I cashed out with $495 to nearly get me even for the trip. It was a fine end to day two.
Day Three - Monday November 16 2009
I'd heard good things on the Tropicana breakfast bar so I talked Martin into making the
trek where we were lucky enough to hit the breakast buffet and be in there in time for the
lunch buffet transition. You can request whatever omelet there and they have tremendous
French toast. After printing our boarding passes at a kiosk we checked the tables. Found
an empty $5 blackjack table with good rules that paid 3:2. This time we asked dealer
Francisco if he was running hot and he said he'd just opened. We bought in and
thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We never got red hot but won enough to stick around and
tip a very good dealer. Pit boss was equally nice and easy on the eyes. Think Leslie Ann
Warren from the movie 'Pure Country.'
I was creating quite the collection of player's club cards so I thought the Club Grazie card
should be included. Martin also advised the Palazzo had very good blackjack rules at $10
a hand. Once inside the Venetian we were bombarded with an intoxicating perfume odor
that flashed me back to when my second-grade teacher used to hover over our desks
during a test. Absolutely stunning smell. It seemed to be the worst near the poker room
and Club Grazie sign-up area. At one point my eyes were watering.
Inside Palazzo was only slightly better. However the main focus was to hit the tables,
which we did. Bought in for $300 to get the attention of the pit boss and succeeded.
Again started slow but then hit another amazing streak where I counted seven 21s in a
16-hand span. This time I played the flat-bet system and eventually cashed out up $75
for the session when I sensed the deck going cold and the dealers were switched. (My
favorite casino trick, by the way.)
Also signed up for a Wynn card next door and played a few slots in there after exhausting
my free play and won one dollar. Yes, I'm that cheap. We wanted to check out Slots-a-
fun (SoF) because five months ago I had a great blackjack session that paid 3:2 and had a
great female dealer from Ecuador. We were saddened to see the full Circus Circus
takeover of SoF. Not only did they bring over the hideous purple and pink tables but their
terrible rules as well. We did not stay longer than 45 seconds.
After stopping back at Venetian to cash in my voucher, (I'm notorious for forgetting to
cash them and subsequently leaving) we ventured into Treasure Island and Mirage just
because we were there. Treasure Island is awful now, and it all started with the removal of
the pirate theme. We moved to Mirage and only found blackjack tables that deal from
continuous shuffle machines (CSMs) and I believe those to have been sent here by the
devil himself. However, tucked away in a back corner were several shoe games at $10 a
hand that paid 3:2 but they were full so we moved on.
We decided to see popular impressionist Frank Caliendo at the MC so rushed back to score
tickets and a quick meal at the food court. With still two hours to kill we combined some
10s and 20s on slot play and came up empty on a handful of machines. Undaunted, we
saddled up to another $10 blackjack table and bought in - Martin for $100 and me for
$70 because I was bringing four blacks and a green chip with me from the previous night.
The pit boss was writing things down and watching my every move, which I'm not going to
lie, kind of freaked me out. I was again fortunate enough to catch a run of very good
cards and eventually cashed out with $600 - another modest win that put me in the black
for the trip while Martin continued to have 12's and 13's pinned on him; especially when
Caliendo's show was pretty good but lacking a bit in the area of organization. I was
hoping to see him in the outfits of President Bush, John Madden, Al Pacino, etc. but it
wasn't to be. The band that accompanied him was solid but I don't know that the show
was worth the pricey admission.
After departing the theatre we got back into a $5 blackjack game just in time before the
minimum was raised to $10. We were grandfathered in by a nice pit boss and played for
quite a while with some novice players. I started the game with just four red chips and
eventually hit the $100 mark so I stopped for the session. Martin, however continued as
he had finally caught a streak. Unfortunately the dealers changed and he started to go the
other way. On what was to be his final hand he was dealt 4-4 against a dealer 4. I quickly
exclaimed 'split!' before he had the chance to check his strategy card and he obliged.
When the dust had settled on his original $7 bet, he had created three hands - one of
which included a double down. The dealer did not bust and she took $28 from him, then
said it was a bad move to split. I was wrong and the card suggested just a hit. I felt bad
but Martin insisted it was his doing.
Things didn't improve on the slots for him as he pumped a $20 into a penny slot but
played 99 cents a spin. He blew through the 20 quickly, never sniffing the free spin
bonus. After removing his MGM card and entering it into another machine to check the
balance, a woman sat down at the machine he was at and put a $20 bill in. Her first spin
was for six bucks and then she hit the bonus for eight free spins. By the time the
spinning was done, her $20 buy-in had swelled to $76 and change. I was sick to watch it
unfold but gentleman Martin rooted the woman on. It was that kind of night for him.
All in all it was a successful trip for me. With the way Vegas blackjack rules are, it's an
accomplishment to come home up any kind of money. I was able to do so and was happy
with it. The Monte Carlo is perfect for what I like to do. I don't need an extravagant room
that I spend just a few hours in. It had great blackjack tables with solid rules and good
dealers. I hope nothing changes there and we can return again soon.