Trip Report
December 11-14, 2010

December 11, 2010

I am a married 46-year-old male with two children and my wife was very much against me going on this trip as I was going alone and leaving her with the kids, but I needed a break. Spirit is a decent airline for the price. Their prices change a lot. The main fare I hade been looking at was $69 each way (plus fuel and other fees) plus baggage fees of $28 each way. Even with those fees the fare was still the cheapest of all airlines and when you add in the fact that they have nonstop flights it was the right choice for me. This was to be a quick three-day trip just to take a break from life and return Vegas for the first time in nearly three years. My last trip had been in February 2008 for a work related training meeting. Due to my wife's reluctance to let me go I was hesitant about actually leaving but on Monday December 6 when I saw the fare drop to $31 each way (+fees) I quickly booked and the trip was set. The total price of the airfare including all fees and taxes and fuel charges and baggage charges came to $162.40. I had a room offer from Bellagio that was expiring at the end of January, which was another reason that I wanted to get this trip in. The offer was for three free nights along with a food credit for $75 and $150 of free play.
I left home at 6:10pm to catch the 8:15pm flight to Vegas from FLL (Fort Lauderdale Airport). Made it to long term parking by about 6:35pm. It seemed the first shuttle that came by only covered the second half of the lot but another one came along in about ten minutes and picked me up. I made it to the terminal by around 7pm, and stood in a short line to check in my bag. There was a long line for security but it moved steadily and I made it to gate B1 by 7:45pm. I heard announcements for my flight boarding but no one seemed to be moving. Then I realized they were calling gate B10, not B1. I ran to the proper gate and got on the plane with no problem. The flight was about 80% full. I had checked in online earlier and printed out my boarding pass so I got a window seat as I prefer. Spirit tries to charge you to pick seats but usually it's no problem to get what you want if you check in within 24 hours in advance. There was a crying baby on most of the flight, and also someone was playing a computer game that I think was video poker on a volume that was loud enough for me to hear constant clicks and be annoying so I hardly got any sleep on the flight.
We made it fine to the terminal, and I took the shuttle to the consolidated rental car facility. I had a three-day reservation from Enterprise for $51.43 for the smallest class of car. They tried to up sell me to the next class for an additional $10 per day but I declined. When we got to the cars they did not have my class so they had to upgrade me anyway to a Toyota Corolla so I got the upgrade for free. They tried to sell me the insurance (and prepaid gas) but I declined that as well since I was covered by both my own insurance and the American Express credit card that I used for the reservation. Or so I thought. More about this later. I noted some scratches on the rear bumper that the rental guy said I could ignore but I made him make a note of them on the contract anyway. It can't hurt to make them do this and even though they say such scratches are normal and not to worry about them it would be my word against his if they ever decided to blame me for them. As I drove away I saw a light on the dashboard on that indicated some sort of tire trouble but since all the tires looked good when I got in the car I decided to ignore it. Another mistake.
Since I planned this trip late Bellagio was unable to give me the Saturday night room comped. The wanted to charge me $199 for that night but I knew I could find something reasonable for much less. I briefly toyed with the idea of just staying up all night playing but decided that I would rather get a good night's sleep so as not to spend the next three days trying to catch up on sleep. I originally made a reservation through hotels.com for Econo Lodge on Las Vegas Blvd north of the strip for about $40. After reading a few reviews of the place and it's location and neighborhood I decided to see if I could find something else. I found the Tuscany for a rate of $51.12 so I booked that and canceled the Econo Lodge. The location and quality seemed to be a big improvement for just a bit more money. I bought GPS service for my cell phone (Metro PCS) for a charge of $5/month and it was a nice help for the trip.
I got to the Tuscany and checked in and found out they have the latest rip off called a resort fee for an additional $12. As consumers each and every one of us must complain long and loud about this rip off and perhaps we will be listened to. If it is mandatory it should be included in the room rate. If it is optional we should not have to pay it at all. Do not just accept it as a new reality or they have won and put into place a really odious business practice that will be repeated and duplicated over and over. I took my bag to my room and even though I was tired I had to go and gamble a bit for my first night. I played a little craps and walked away up $22 and was off to sleep at 2am.

Sunday December 12, 2010

I thought I would sleep until 9am so I put in a wake up call but my body must have still been on east coast time since I woke up a little after 7. I got all packed up, checked out and paid the stupid resort fee and left. I stopped off at a grocery store and picked up $37 worth of snacks and drinks for the room, then drove to the Bellagio. My recollection is not exact so I just have general notes for some of my gambling sessions. It looks like I blew $200 on slots then $100 on blackjack, then made $200 on craps. At this point I played a quick hit machine near the room elevators. It was a nickel machine so the max bet was eating up $7.50 a spin. About half way through I hit a bonus round and cashed out $280 on that machine. I also had placed some sports bets for that day, the Bengals and the over and the Dolphins and the over. I lost three out of those four bets but they were only $10 each to make watching the games exciting so no big deal. I had the home team and the over in the Sunday night game and both of those bets won so for the day I was even in sport betting minus the casino vig. I also at some point used the $150 of free play I was given and turned it into $135 of real money. Some other notes for the day say slots down $400, craps down $500, slots down $300 and baccarat up $300. Overall at the end of the day I find that I am down $600 for the trip. If the numbers do not add up I probably did not make a note of something or forgot something.

Monday December 13, 2010

East coast time must still be with me as I was up at 6:30am. Played craps for a while and cashed out up $5. Then quickly lost $300 on the slots again. Last time I was in Vegas I bought a pair of pants at Nordstrom and they are the best pants I ever had in my life so I went to buy another pair exactly the same. I got to the mall at about 8:45am and it turns out they do not even open until 10 so I decided to go over to the Hilton to renew my card there and see if they would start sending me offers again. I have had luck at the Hilton in the past, coming in second place in a craps tournament in 1997 for a $10,000 prize (a little over $7k after taxes).
The Hilton is looking really worn. It has definitely seen better days and without even Star Trek Experience to draw people there any more I am not sure how long they will last. I got my card and lost $40 on slots but made $155 on baccarat. I decided to go to a movie to fill up some time and drove down to South Point, a casino I had never been to before. The movie was $6.75 with snacks of $10. I saw Due Date, which had a few laugh out loud moments. It was worth seeing for some light entertainment but you would probably not lose much if you waited for it to come out on video. I then played a bit at the casino, losing $100 then making $25 at the slots, then making $120 at craps. Overall I am a little up for the day. I stopped off at a small restaurant and had a quick $30 meal (calzone, drink and a milkshake plus tip) then went back to the mall for the pants. They did not have my exact size in stock so they said they would order them and mail them to me ($58.85 including tax). That turned out even better since now I did not have to take them back on the plane.
I went back to the Bellagio to my room and on my way back down I stopped back at the nickel slot machine that I won $280 on the previous day. I stuck in $100 and started watching it go down at $7.50 a spin. On my second spin I hit the bonus round and watched as many nice things kept hitting and hitting. I think I got six quick hits twice and a few other nice things but it was hard to keep track as it kept moving so fast. When it stopped I had won $1301.50 for a hand pay and a tax form. They did no take any money on taxes off the pay, they just told me I had to report it myself and I could ask for a statement of gaming wins and losses from any casino that I played at over the course of the year to send to the IRS to prove I had lost more than I won. After that win I calculated that I was $500 up for my trip. I wish I had the self-discipline at that point to do absolutely no more gambling. I could have gone home a winner. Sadly, I did not. I won $200 more at baccarat at the Bellagio before heading over to the Flamingo.
Before my trip I tried to get a room at the Flamingo for the Saturday night that the Bellagio would not give me and learned that they had many old, wrong addresses for me on file. I got it all straightened out and got a new card to play over there for a while. I lost $100 on slots then won $110 at blackjack with a really nice dealer from Romania, I think her name was Youliana. I then lost $300 on slots and another $300 on craps before leaving, disgusted with myself for blowing my profit for the trip.
Back at the Bellagio I lost $200 at slots, then another $200 at slots then another $300 at craps to end the day down $600, almost exactly where I started despite my $1300 slot win. I should have just stayed in my room and watched the Monday night football game. I had the Texans +4 and the over. Watching the whole game would probably have saved me the full $1300 since it had started while I was at the Flamingo. As it was I caught the end of the game to see my over bet win but the Texans threw an interception that was run back in overtime to lose by six points and the second bet was gone. If the had only not made the two point conversion or tackled the guy before he made the end zone to force a field goal try I would have won that bet. Oh well, it is insignificant next to the other big losses for the day.

Tuesday December 14, 2010

My last day had to be a big make-up day and it started out right. As I woke up I watched the news and saw that the Bellagio had been robbed that very morning. I went down and talked to the actual boxman at the craps table who had the gun put to his neck. A guy in a motorcycle helmet came up to a craps table and showed a gun and made off with about $1.5million in chips. The boxman claimed he would not be able to cash them but the dealers felt he would have no problem cashing the 25s and hundreds and probably even $1000 and $5000 chips if he was smart, anything above that would be a problem. I played craps and was up $100 then won another $160 at baccarat then back to craps for another $150 win. I then lost $100 at slots before going to see another movie, this time at the Palms. As I was driving to the Palms a woman in another car indicated to me that I had a flat tire so I drove into a space at the Palms lot where I could have it changed easily. I decided to wait until after the movie to get it done since I had all day and the movie was starting soon. I paid $7.75 to see Unstoppable, no snack this time. The movie was decent but a bit drawn out. I did not gamble at all at the Palms.
I went outside to take care of the tire. First, I called the nearest Enterprise office as I foolishly believed it would simply be a matter of them driving up a new car for me and they would take care of the old one. Either that or a simple tire change would get me on my way again. Boy was I wrong. They told me to turn over my contract and call the number for roadside assistance on the back. When I did I was told I would have to pay $50 for the assistance plus whatever the cost of a new tire would be. I asked them what if I changed it myself and they said I would still probably be responsible for the cost of a new tire. All this seemed ridiculous to me since I did nothing wrong in causing the tire to be flat. I then called American Express to find out what they could do to help. They told me I had roadside assistance but would have to pay for it and also pay for the tire and afterwards I would have to put in a claim for it. It would then be up to the insurance adjuster to grant it or not. So I said it sounds like all this coverage is worthless and they put me on the line with an insurance specialist who was supposed to help me understand it better. Meanwhile I noticed a Terrible's oil change place across the street so I drove the car over and asked the guy if he could put some air in the tire. He did it for no charge. The tire plumped back up, neither one of us could hear any hissing so I tipped him three bucks, hung up on American Express and was on my way with no further problem the rest of the trip. The lesson is check to make sure exactly what you are covered with by your credit card. They talk a big game but when it comes down to actual situations they may be useless.
From there I went to the Orlean's that was nearby. I usually play craps on the don't side and I have learned on this trip that people who set the dice and roll carefully tend to have better rolls on the do side than purely random rollers. It cost me $280 at the crap table there, then I won $115 at a slot machine and walked over to the food court for a milkshake. I love milkshakes and have had bad luck getting good ones lately. I went to Baskin Robbins and bought a large milkshake. The guy told me the large was humongous but it did not look so big to me. They put seven scoops of ice cream in it and it was delicious. I sat and drank it at a 25 cent blazing seven machine. The four hundred credits did not net me a single row of sevens, mixed or otherwise, so there was another $100 right back in the loss column. As I got up I realized that the milkshake had been way too big for me. I nauseously made my way back to the car and barely made it back to my room at the Bellagio where I lay in bed drifting in and out of sleep for the next three hours (I did not throw up but it was close).
At about 7:45pm I got up and packed and took my bags out to the car. I then went to the front desk and checked out and had nothing to pay. I had a little more time and I saw a casino war table. I have never played this game and decided to try it out. I bought in for $100 at a $10 table and was up and down for the first several hands. Then the dealer suddenly hit a huge streak and four Australian guys were laughing their heads off as my money said good bye.
Down $700 for the trip I decided to make one more big bet. I went to a mini-bac table with a $50 minimum and bought in for $300. I told the dealer I was only making one bet but he gave me green chips anyway. It was a brand new shoe and I put all $300 on banker and lost. I then took out another $1000 and put $100 on player and won, doubled it and won again on player so I was back to even for that table. Then I tried my original bet again $300 this time on player and won (that made four players in a row for the new shoe) so I took my $1600 and cashed in. Then I thought, what if that was just the start of a huge player streak, I should be in on it so I bought another $100 in chips and put $50 on player and lost, then tried again with the other $50 and lost again so I was down exactly $500 for the trip. I thought that was a nice even number so I quit and went out to the rental car and began to drive to the airport to return it.
I paid about $5 for gas and $1.79 for a drink at a Rebel station before heading to the car return. I got a little lost looking for the rental car terminal so I pulled into a parking lot and entered the address into my handy phone GPS and was happy to see I was less than two miles away. Returned the car with no problem, left the charge on the credit card and caught the shuttle to the airport. There was a guy talking over and over about how he was going to sue Spirit Airlines since his flight was canceled but mine was on schedule. We had a strong tailwind so the flight back only took four hours and one minute according to the pilot and I must have slept a good deal of it since I don't remember it much.
The long-term parking was $7.50/day but for some reason the four days only cost me $29.50 instead of $30. I usually love to see shows when I am in Vegas but since this was a short trip I did not get a chance to see anything. If I could only stay away from the slot machines I could probably end up with a winning trip. After I got home and unpacked I realized I had left my phone charger behind. I called a couple of times but so far it has not turned up. Luckily I have a spare charger and I am hoping that somehow it will turn up and be mailed back to me.

Totals: Gambling losses of about $500, other expenses (not covered with cash spent from winnings) about $300.

Good luck to all and enjoy your trips!