This trip was about my 40th. Never mind that. I get like a kid in a candy store, with anticipation, prior to every trip. Endless planning, detailing and bargain hunting returned the following results:

1 night MGM comped.
3 nights Monte Carlo comped, with $30 food credit and 3x points.
Airfare $225 roundtrip, non stop, via Air Tran, Milwaukee/Vegas.
Golf four times on various courses.
Van rental from Thrifty totaling $235 for the week.
Armed with various ACG and POV coupons because of the nice folks here willing to trade.

The one thing I did not plan for was the lousy cold I came down with on Friday. It hit me so hard, that I relished in the fact that I wasn't in Vegas on Saturday or Sunday. By Monday morning, I felt much better, having laid low all weekend.

The cast includes myself, and three fellow golfers (W) (T) and (R), that have made this trip an annual affair for the last decade or so.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Back home day. Up at 4 am, because I was certain the alarm, set for 4:45 am would fail for the first time ever. OCD ish? Did the usual morning things and finished packing the last of the essentials. On the road at 5:30 to pick up (W) and drive to (T)'s house for a consolidated ride. The trip to the airport is about 45 minutes. The plan was to check luggage, then leave the airport for a decent breakfast at a restaurant. The flight was scheduled to depart at 8:50, so we had plenty of time.

Air Tran, like most airlines now has hidden charges galore. The most conspicuous being the checked baggage fees. We all had one bag and a set of golf clubs. Figuring the airline would object to us storing our clubs overhead, we checked everything. I knew the fee would be $40 each way per person. Part of the due diligence in trip planning, I found that Air Tran advertised 'web special' fares often between our original booking in December through the end of March. I found two occasions where the 'special' significantly reduced our fare to warrant rebooking. We went from $290 per person originally to $225. This resulted in two credits of $65 per person in my airline account. I intended to use this credit to pay for luggage checking fees.

The plan worked properly in Milwaukee, but it took about 15 minutes for one of the three airline staff to figure out how to accomplish it. I kept my cool, because I'm not the sharpest at 6:30am everyday either. But I seriously doubt I was the first person to have attempted this monumental feat.

On to a local restaurant for breakfast and some rowdy bravado, just because we were off to Vegas in a couple hours. We parked our vehicle in a remote lot, without paying attention to our location due to our excitement. Will we EVER pay for that brain fart on our return. Because we were headed to 75 degrees from 30 degrees, and the shuttle was parked behind us, waiting to escort us to our gate, it was obvious to all of us that we should leave our coats in the vehicle, as we sure wouldn't need them in VEGAS. Having raised 9 children amongst us, wouldn't you think one of us had more common sense at that moment?

Security, a snap. Another 'gotcha' Air Tran has is a $6 fee each way for pre assigned seating. We're all 50 and 60 something's and not about to be seated in middle seats. So we had selected two rows of aisle seats. It worked to perfection. My first win seemed to be that of the four empty seats on the plane, one was next to me. More room, I thought.

Shortly after we took off (timely), the elderly woman sitting in the window seat to my left struck up a light hearted conversation. Seems she couldn't understand why the clerks at check in told her there were no adjacent seats available for her and her companion. As soon as the seat belt sign was turned off, she decided it would be a great idea if her companion could sit next to her. She asked if I minded, and, of course, I didn't. She mentioned that her companion wasn't a 'large woman', so I wouldn't feel cramped. I just laughed. The 3 wafer snack was more than anyone could ask for. Talk about full. NOT! Otherwise, the flight was uneventful and arrived about 15 minutes early.

We arrived at the D concourse, and upon deplaning, I commented that the airport seemed deserted. Here it was 10:30 am, and not crowded in the concourse, not crowed on the tram, and not crowded in baggage claim. I used the 10 minutes I knew I'd have to check in at the MGM counter near baggage claim. No, bang, boom.......done in 2 minutes. On to the carousel, only to find our bags and clubs going for a ride. Awesome!

We exited the airport, and walked to the car rental bus. No wait, loaded and departed for the facility. As a Blue Chip member, I walked immediately upstairs to the Thrifty lot. 30 seconds to receive the paperwork with instructions to pick any van in the line. Again, no waiting at all. I drove up Las Vegas Blvd to get to NYNY, where I'd drop the others for check in. Due to road construction on Tropicana, a couple lanes were closed, so it was a little congested for a while. I let the others off at their hotel, and drove across the street to MGM. When in Vegas, I ALWAYS use valet. No hassle, a few bucks per trip, no wasting time searching for a parking place.

After dropping the car at MGM valet, I went up to unpack the foldable clothes, because I was only there one night. I was impressed with the size of the standard room. A few extra nice touches made it superior to Monte Carlo or NYNY, my usual hotels. The room was a little bigger, the bathroom was a little bigger, and the vanity kit in the bathroom were low cost items, but a nice touch. By 11:30, I had put my shirts in the closet, used the room safe, and promptly headed back to NYNY to meet up with the guys for lunch and some gaming. I tried to reacquaint myself with the casino after its remodeling. Frankly, I don't care for it. Talk about searching for an identity. I played some slots for about an hour, then called W to hook up for lunch. It seems the NYNY computers were down for about an hour and a half, and they couldn't check in. WTF? I told him to call me when he's settled, but to hurry, because it was costing me $100 per hour to wait. Freakin' Monopoly, Hot Pennies, reel slots, etc.

We finally connected after his check in, and headed upstairs to use my first ACG coupons at the Nathan's hot dog stand. A tasty little hot dog wrapped in a pretzel dough, with soda for a mere $5 per person after the 2:1 coupon. What a bargain! I mean, no matter what you do to a hot dog, it's still intestines, eyeballs and jowls, right? We goofed around on various slots at NYNY and Monte Carlo. I hit $110 in a bonus round on the Happy Days slot in Monte Carlo. A decision was made to eat dinner at El Diablo's outside Monte Carlo. I'd describe is as abundant portions of a little above quality food. However, it was very pricey. We averaged $25 per person for servings of a burger, fajitas, and a chicken sandwich, with sodas.

I had made arrangements to meet my BIL tonight. He's in the pit at The Trop and is off Monday and Tuesday. We decided to meet at Silverton. We all got the players card and he and I went to play $10 BJ. It was 3:2 double deck with good splitting and doubling rules. The dealer was absolutely ice cold. One shuffle, she did not make a hand. Bonus for us, and I cashed out plus $200 in about 45 minutes. My SIL is a slot player, so I played a couple 1cent slots with her and was up $30 more. My BIL and I went to a nickel VP game. He encouraged me to play DDB. Almost on command, I was dealt 3 Aces. I drew rags for the two discards. The next hand I was dealt an Ace on my draw. My BIL told me the machine was ready to give me 4OAK Aces. Sure, whatever. The next hand I was dealt 3 Aces. My draw was another Ace and a 3 kicker. I just laughed as I cashed out another $100 on a nickel machine.

We dinked around on a variety of machines, and I eventually left for MGM about 9:30. I was two hours off of Vegas time, I was tired from the trip, and ahead for the day. I dumped $20 into some nondescript quarter machine at MGM on the way to the elevator. I updated the notes for the day, and went to bed.

Tuesday April, 7

Resurrecting golf day. I woke at 4:15. Checked in with the little Mrs. back home. All is well there. Gosh it's great she's on board with my excursions. Checked out via TV. Ya gotta love ZERO. It's already 5 am, the day is half over. Am I nuts? I got the van from valet and drove to the treasure hunt site. For those who aren't familiar, a poster here put a challenge in her trip report. She hid a $25 chip under a chair in a mysterious hotel, on a mysterious floor. I planned on finding the chip, and relocating it, with new instructions in this report. I got to the hotel, took the elevator to the proper floor, and found these two blue chairs Great, this is going to be a success!. NOPE. Either housekeeping or a scavenger found the chip earlier. Not even dust mites beneath the cushion. I appreciate the challenge anyhow. It was fun.

I called W, knowing he'd be up and walking around. He was just down the street at Treasure Island. I picked him up and we went to NYNY. Took $30 from a Money to Burn machine. T & R came down about 7:30 and we went to Ellis Island for our annual breakfast there. Using two 2:1 ACG coupons, the meal came to about $5 per person. Quality? It's breakfast, how bad can eggs or pancakes be? Certainly worth the $5. I had accumulated 4 match plays in trades, and proceeded to the BJ table.

Single deck, and as Julio, or whoever, the dealer explained, the game had all good rules. Meaning doubling anytime, surrendering anytime, but, obviously, as I found out later, one big flaw. I lost the first $10 match play. Then the second. I waited a couple hands, then played the $20 match play and lost. I finally won the last match play for a net of minus $20. I played a few more hands until I found the flaw. I was dealt a black jack, on a $20 bet and got paid $20. HUH? I guess that part didn't translate into English well, because he must have forgotten to tell me that little point. I cashed out my $100 buy in even, and left the joint.

We drove over to Mirage. The main purpose was to get some time and points there in anticipation of getting better offers from them, and staying there next year. We've found the corner of Tropicana and LV Blvd getting stale after a decade of staying there. I sat at what I thought was a 1 cent Monopoly Big Event machine, only to get to the Big Event Bonus, almost immediately. To my surprise, it was a nickel machine, and I won $80 during that bonus. I cashed out and moved to a bank of 5 machines back in a corner. There was an African American woman sitting at the 4th of the five. Her large purse was sitting on the 3rd machine seat. I sat down at the second machine. She immediately reached for her purse and asked if I was with someone. I figured she asked because she expected someone I knew to sit at machine 3, so I replied that 'no, I wasn't'. Dorky, stupid me. To that, she asked, where I was from. At that point, it hit me. She wasn't just being friendly or protective of her purse. She was a business woman, trying to do business. I laughed and said, 'yes, I'm with someone, but I don't expect them to sit at that machine. She apologized, and I played uninterrupted for a while. Talk about radar not working. I guess that happens when you're 61 years old.

We left the Mirage after a few hours of point's accumulation, and I was up about $100 there. I had to check into Monte Carlo. It took all of 2 minutes, since it's like deserted in there. We left for our first golfing in 5 miserable, cold, wintery months. Rhodes Ranch is south and west of the strip, just off I15. We've played here annually for several years, and love the openness and non dessert landscape. I won't bore you with details, but we have a standing bet that the first to hit a residence with a golf shot buys a round of drinks. It took me 10 holes to do it, but I won the bet, errrrr, lost the bet. My tee shot clanked off the roof of someone silly enough to build about 200 yards down range. I'll describe that round of drinks later.

When we were done, we decided to go to The Silverton to eat their buffet for dinner. I had two 2:1 ACG coupons. The meal was unanimously approved and cost about $7 per person. I won $20 playing BJ for a while, and we all left for our homelands.

At the MC, I played a goofy Monopoly Bonus game for a gain of $40. I then moved to the only empty seat at the EBay game. A bonus hit pretty quickly, while I was at 4 times pay, giving me a profit of $110. I was satisfied being up a couple hundred for the day, and went to bed about 10:30.

Wed, 4/8

Biker bar day. Awoke early again, 5:30. I'm an early riser back home, and the two hours difference doesn't work in my favor. I went downstairs early only to loose $100 between a few hands of BJ and some slots. We went to the Gold Coast to eat the buffet for breakfast with our 2:1 ACG coupons. T won $1900 on a slot just before we left, so he sprung for breakfast, all $11 of it for the four of us. Very generous of him, don't you think? The food quality was what I remembered, decent and filling. I won on the ACG match play coupon and won $40 playing a few hands of BJ.

We spent the rest of the morning at the Rio. I hopped all over on slots, only to lose $80 in there. The first one I tried was Star Trek. I'm not even remotely a trekkie, but those had outstanding audio and video. Unfortunately, they sucked $40 from me for that pleasure.

We had to drive all the way up to Aliante for golf. What a joke that place is. If it was located in Wisconsin, we'd refer to it as a cow pasture. $70? Don't waste your time.
After golf, we decided to go downtown to visit a spot we'd heard about. All of us in the group ride Harley's. The place is called Hogs & Heiffers.

It's located just north of Fremont, near Lady Luck. What a dump! We walk in, see about 4 patrons, and get greeted by one of the bikini clad bartendresses with:

First, turning down the blaring music.
Then grabbing a megaphone and shouting in our direction....'Welcome to my f'ing bar. I'm the one with no t*ts and she's the one with big t*ts.'
Talk about a warm, fuzzy feeling.

My wonderful friends decide its time for me to buy my round from the condo hit on the golf course. $30 for four beers. Not bad in Manhattan, but in this joint? Yikes!

We drank them rather quickly so we can leave, partially because they don't serve food, partially because of the cost, but it's decided for us that we need to buy ourselves a shot, and, oh, by the way, ourselves now includes both bartendresses. Thanks Mr. $1900 richer for the $45 shots. The beauties decided it's time to get on top of the bar and do a Coyote Club style dance. We're instructed to take our drinks and back away from the bar for this extravaganza. On that note, we moved far away from the bar, like to our van.

We drove up LV Blvd just to see the lights. It wasn't crowded, just congested due to the construction. We valeted the van at NYNY, and descended on the food court with a fistful of ACG coupons. Pizza sounded good to 3 of us, so we got in the soup Nazi line to get our food. We got to checkout, with 20,000 people behind us, only to find out the coupons expired at 6pm. Huh? We weren't about to deplate, so we paid full fare. I suppose the $3 or so we would have saved will somehow not be missed.

I went back to MC, sat in the sports book and watched the Milwaukee Brewers win my bet for me. I played a few slots and cashed $147 out of a Happy Days machine. I head up for bed around 11. The days of heavy drinking and cavorting are over it seems.

Thursday 4/9

Elvis sighting day times 100. Awoke early again, and went down to loose at Let It Ride, Blackjack and slots. The group met at 8 to leave for the Orleans 2:1 ACG buffet. We like the Orleans, but only go there for this one reason. We went directly to the buffet and noticed something unusual. Dozens of men with jet black hair slicked back, and up in pompadour styles. Some wore black and white checkered sneakers, others with tight t-shirts with the sleeves rolled up. Each person drew looks and smiles from anyone who saw them. Found out that the Orleans had a hot rod rally going on and these people really lived for the moment. Kudos to them! Upon leaving, we saw one rat rod parked in valet. It consisted of a frame, an aluminum body, a German military style helmet for a top, a straight eight engine with 8 carburetors. Talk about a rocket. Very cool.

We headed over to the Mirage for more time. Today was the losing day, however, and I lost on everything I touched. Ended up being another couple hundred down on BJ and slots.

Today we played Angel Park Palm golf course. We've had the opportunity a few times now. It is noticeably more windy up in Summerlin. The service here sucks, and this will be our last visit.

We've typically gone to Rampart after playing here, and I had 4 or 5 match plays to use. But we decided against it and headed back to town. We agreed that we all wanted something a little unique for dinner, and went to the Outback Steakhouse next to the M&M store. It's like every other Outback in the country, but none of us wanted to spring for the $100 steak.

After dinner, we split up and I spent time at Monte Carlo and NYNY. It had been a lousy day in the casinos so far, but this was my last night. I sat down at a Pai Gow game for 2 hours. Because of the commission, I was able to gauge my winnings. After two hours, I had won 8 hands and lost 2. I tied the other billion hands. Incredible way to spend time, with little risk I guess. The game offered a bonus aspect. Payout was based on the strength of your dealt hand. I never played it until I was ready to leave. I put $5 in the bonus and was promptly dealt 4 10's. $100 thank you very much. I went next door to NYNY and noticed an EBay set of machines that had an empty seat. Just like the other day, a bonus hit pretty quickly, and I left $125 ahead. I played various machines here and MC after that.

One thing to note, there are 'Survivor' machines scattered all over at casinos. I think I hit for a profit on everyone of them. A little unique, and fun. Another unique slot is 'Dean Martin'. I hit a couple, but stuck a lot into others. Overall, I went to bed down a little for the day, after a crumby start. It was about 1:30.

Friday April 10

Departure day.

Got up about 7 and got the suitcase together for a quick exit later. Played BJ a while and was even. The offer included $30 of room charges for myself and W had the same offer and moved from NYNY to MC on Wed. We bought the buffet for breakfast for all of us. It still left some availability, so we got some snacks for the golf course later.

I checked out via TV again, another big ZERO. We went to the car rental center, as T was renting a van to use for a family trip beginning today. Dropped him off and headed to Tuscany for our final round of golf. This place is a sister course to Rhodes Ranch and well run and a decent track.

I'll describe the tournament we created for ourselves. We all contributed $50. Every round, we selected a par three, four and five to add our scores. At the end of the trip, the lowest accumulated score for the 12 selected holes won the $200. The hitch was, that the winner had to select a bet on Friday night, and place the $200 on that bet. If he lost, he lost. If he won, he'd return the $50 to the others, and keep the rest. If I had won, I'd have done a hard 6.

We headed for NYNY to eat at the deli. Very good as usual. R won our tournament by 1, and bet one hand of BJ, a game he never plays. With two blacks in the circle, he was dealt a straight flush, 7 & 8 of diamonds. Wrong game for that. Dealer showed a face card. R asked for a card, and was promptly dealt a Q. So much for drama.

I won a few bucks on various slots that night at NYNY. I cashed out my points play, and won $40 with that. I had my only moment of a large potential win at NYNY. I was on some slot with several progressive pots in bonus land. I got the bonus and had to touch the screen for every one of a certain symbol. I had 10 free spins. By the time I had reached spin 5, I had accumulated some credits as well as 2 grand prize and one major prize symbols. 3 were needed to win the progressive. So I had 5 spins to gather that last grand prize symbol for $3900. It never happened, and I only won $10 or so. Still, fun food for thought at that moment.

We headed to return the van about 10 pm for a midnight flight. Flawless. We boarded and left timely and found the airport surprisingly empty compared to prior trips. The flight arrived 30 minutes early at 5 am. We headed to the remote lot via shuttle, only to realize how dumb we were to not recall where we parked. To make things worse, we're in shorts and short sleeved shirts because it was 75 degrees when we departed. Now it was dark and 30 degrees. Here we are, 3 mature, semi intelligent guys walking around freezing looking for our car that contains our jackets. What a laugh for someone who saw us.

We chose the redeye so that we could recuperate on Saturday. It works out fine for us. Already looking forward to the next trip. Thanks for reading, I intended it to be detailed, which is why it took so long to write.

PS. As part of T's family vacation, he returned to Vegas from Phoenix with wife and adult children in tow. I got a call from him on Thursday morning. While he was sitting at a slot in NYNY, waiting for his crew to come down for breakfast, he won a progressive jackpot. Get this. $29,000. Congrats to him.