I was just in Las Vegas in July for the family's annual trip but found out my dad was going to go back for an education convention so I decided about a month out to join him.

I was able to get Southwest airfare from Cleveland for 149.70 and Continental for the return flight that was 139.70 - both booked online. I originally made a reservation at the Imperial Palace with my Harrah's card for 218.40 but two days later received an offer from Mirage through my MGM card for $55 a night and $25 free play. I quickly switched over, as the Mirage offer was clearly better.

Sunday October 10 2010

My flight from CLE headed west at 3:10 and it was flawless. Very minimal turbulence around the Rocky Mountains when it normally gets bumpy. I believe we landed so early our gate wasn?t quite ready.

Since I was only staying for three days I didn?t check any bags so it was a quick jaunt to an empty taxi line. I was asked where we were headed and said Mirage. He then asked if I wanted to go the fast way or the long way. Going solely on some information I learned through this web site, I just responded with ?doesn't matter just not through the tunnel.? He grumbled something in Russian and off we went.

I swear we hit every single stoplight possible so my fare was 20.10 and gave him $23.

Check-in proved very good at the Mirage. I tried the $20 trick but was informed by Elaine that they were sold out of complimentary upgrades. I also only use a Visa debit card and there is a $300 deposit for that which took a hit on my $1500 gambling budget. I told myself perhaps that's a good thing; at least I leave with no fewer than $300. The resort fee was $15 and I was given a room on the 11th floor with a view of the pool, dolphin paddock and south strip.

I met up with my dad who was staying at the Imperial Palace and we decided to grab some dinner over at Gilley's Saloon at Treasure Island. I had the chilidog with fries and for the price it was very satisfying. The shoestring fries were especially good. There was then a bikini bull riding competition but my lawyers advised me to refrain from commenting further.

My dad's friends tried TI's three-card poker and I decided to get the player's card and use the $10 free play. To my surprise I was able to hit for $50 on the free play using a new WGT Super Jackpot Block Party penny machine. Due to my big July winnings, I had a sense of ?wow here we go again!? So I took the voucher and used it to buy a nifty cowboy hat from the Gilley's gift shop.

Monday October 11 2010

I wasn't surprised when I woke up at 8 a.m. local time at the Mirage and let me tell you: those beds are not only as good as advertised, they are better. Man oh man what a great night's sleep.

I headed downstairs for some cheap table play just to get into a groove. I found a single deck blackjack table for $5, which was, empty and bought in for a hundred. I played for four hours with a pair of fantastic and friendly dealers - Larry from New Mexico and June from Nevada. Over the four hours I bounced up and down and eventually left with a green chip for a loss of $75. For some reason this session made me remember to collect my $25 free play that I did and headed for a video poker machine.

I played double double bonus at max credits and after a few hands was able to land quad sixes for a nice $160 payout. That meant I'd won over $200 on free play - something that never seems to happen. Sadly for me, that would serve as my peak in terms of wins for this mini-trip.

My dad met me for lunch at the Paradise Café that is inside the Mirage pool area. He had the boneless wings while I decided on just appetizers. Both were very god and we lounged around the pool for a while before headed back to our respective rooms.

I wanted to watch some of the Monday Night Football game from the Caesars Palace Sports Book and grabbed a seat while that game and the National League Division Series was on as well. It was just as great an environment as everyone says it is. We crossed the street and grabbed the free shuttle from Bill's to the Gold Coast.

We walked from the GC down to Rio for the Carnival World Buffet due to the current Harrah's deal where you can eat at any buffet for 24 hours for just 40 bucks. The Rio buffet is the best in town and still doesn't disappoint. I particularly enjoyed the clam strips, as it's the only real seafood I'm not allergic to. From there we played a little at Gold Coast thanks to its fair blackjack rules and lack of tourists. I played on a $5 double-deck game for a while with a very unfriendly dealer named James and it was so unpleasant I would have walked away except I was winning. I won $25 there and dad came out even on slots and we both lost across the street at Palms. I wish they would upgrade their table areas soon. Through Club Palms I had an invitation to the Playboy Club that I may or may not have utilized.

Once back on the Strip I checked out the Harrah's Carnaval Court Bar for a bit before heading back to the Mirage and getting my clock cleaned on a $10 Let it Ride table.

Tuesday October 12 2010

Another early start and $5 single deck with dealer Larry yielded a modest loss. I played for a couple hours until 11 a.m. when I headed over to the Venetian to get free craps lessons. I understand the game much better now and will be looking to try it on my next trip. I walked over to the Palazzo trying to recapture some of my summer magic on the Let it Ride table but instead donated about $150. Instead of regrouping at a buffet lunch, I bought into a $10 blackjack game at Venetian. The dealer's name was Pamela and a treat to play cards with. She was an old-time dealer who had worked at Venetian since it opened and arrived there via the Tropicana. It was another long session of about three-four hours but a losing one nonetheless. I grabbed lunch at the Harrah's Flavors buffet before sulking back to Mirage for a nap.

Reenergized by the nap and optimistic that the losing skid has to end soon, I met my dad and his associates at Harrah's to sneak in one last buffet visit before our passes expire. From there it's a walk to Gilley's at TI for some karaoke, bull riding and gambling. I whiffed on two slots before gathering up the nerve to play some $25 blackjack in the TI high roller room. I only play $25 hands if I can play alone so I went for it. I actually did well at first, going up $150 before a bad streak arrived, knocking out my profits and a slab of my buy-in.

On to Caesars Palace where my dad's friend and me try some $15 blackjack out of a shoe and it's the worst shoe ever shuffled. Six hands in and we've lost five of them so we ask for a courtesy shuffle and she does it. Things don't improve so I get the hell out, ripping through $200 like a kid in a candy store.

To make matters worse, I get lost by trying to use a fire exit and end up in the parking garage with no access to the Strip. When I finally descend some secluded stairs, a prostitute corners me and before she can offer her sales pitch I say 'young lady I am sure you are very good at what you do. But I am very tired, I can't stop losing and I don't even want to deal with this right now. You could be Pamela Anderson and I'd still not give you the time of day. Good night.'

Then I turned on my heel and tripped on the curb.

Wednesday October 13 2010

I woke up and checked out and was able to get my full $300 back from the front desk. I joined my dad and took the monorail behind Harrah's down to MGM where we grabbed the tram to Mandalay Bay. He needed to get some things from his convention before leaving and I wanted to do anything but gamble. But we did stop at Hooter's on the way back and I got $50 back on a Haywire slot. It was my grandmother's favorite game and she passed away in 2004 and I regret never being able to hit the casinos with her but somehow I always seem to win money on that machine.

I decided to launch one more attack to regain some of my losses and knew I could only do it with a full house or straight flush on Let it Ride so I bought in for $300 at Imperial Palace. I couldn't hit water if I fell out of a boat. The guy beside me wasn't betting either bonus and still hit a straight flush for over a thousand dollars. Had he been playing both bonuses the way I was it would have been a five thousand dollar payout. It was a brutal slap in the face to end the gaming for the trip.

Our flight back to Cleveland was very good except for a lady which insisted on getting out of her seat every 10 minutes. I finally asked if she wanted the aisle seat but she said no thanks. I knew I was whining and crabby at this point so instead of yelling at her I pulled my cowboy hat over my eyes and tried - unsuccessfully - to fall asleep.

Vegas Trip Cheers and Jeers

CHEERS to most every Vegas hotel for the vast reduction of room rates. $55 a night at the Mirage is phenomenal.
CHEERS to the dealers at Mirage. I had some miserable luck but the blow was softened by their persona and professionalism.
JEERS to people who cash their slot vouchers in at the cashier's cage. Those of us with chips to cash in shouldn't have to wait extra long just because you are afraid of the voucher redemption machine.
CHEERS to Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book. It's as iconic and festive as everyone describes it. If I were allowed to bet on sports I'm sure it would be even more fun.
JEERS to me for breaking every personal rule I created for myself. I read dozens of books, online guides and stories on gambling successfully and follow rules such as three strikes and you're out, get up when you lose half your buy-in, don't chase losses, etc. but I inexplicably stopped following every one of them on this trip. As a self-imposed penalty, I brought home a black ($100) and two green ($25) chips from the disastrous session at Caesars. I taped the three chips to the wall above my door with the words 'Never Again.' Now every day I am reminded of m stupidity and God forbid if there's a situation in the coming months where $150 would be nice to have it will be right there in the form of plastic above my door reminding me of the night I stopped following my own rules.

In the meantime I wish you all better luck than I had! May all your hole cards be aces and your slot pulls be winners!