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Category: 2011
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A group of four of us (all guys in their mid-30's) went to Vegas for our third guys-only trip to Vegas. Overall, this was my 10th trip, and I was looking forward to it for months. Our Spirit Airlines flight left O'Hare at 9AM. It was the first time I had flown Spirit and loved their low fares, but the extra cost of the bags (for carry-on or checking) and even charging for a non-alcoholic drink showed me why they were so cheap. For a group of guys, it was not a big deal, but I would not book this airline if I was flying out with my wife.

After an on-time departure and arrival, we took a cab to Treasure Island. My boss at work goes to Vegas numerous times each year and got us comped and checked-in at Treasure Island before we arrived. We met him at the TI bar, got our room keys, and went to put our bags upstairs. We had an incredible view facing the south end of the Strip from the 24th floor. It was even more impressive, as always, at night.

We met up with the 4th member of our group and headed out to find a bite to eat and do a little gambling. After talking about whether to just grab something quick or sit down for dinner, we ended up at Denny's in Casino Royale. None of us cared that it was a chain we could go to anytime, we were all hungry and the food came quick and was just what we needed. We stopped in Casino Royale to play blackjack and BJ Switch. I like the second pit of table games they added since last year. It seemed much roomier and was always a favorite low-roller place for us. After winning a quick $50 at BJ Switch (the others dropped at least $50 each), it was off to Bill's.
At Bill's we all bought in to their $30 poker tournament. It is a small tournament that takes out too high of a house percentage, but it was a very cheap game and we were all just looking to play a relaxed tournament. One of my buddies knocked two of us out (he got me when I went all-in pre-flop after his initial raise with A-K. I was happy to see him call me with only A-10 until a 10 on the turn did me in) and took down second place. We then settled in for a long 5-hour BJ Switch session. I love this game, especially with the number of BJ games paying 6-5. BJ only pays even money in Switch, but you make up for it by setting your hands to get an advantage against the dealer. 5 hours and countless rum and cokes later, it was time to call it a night (about 4AM)...but not before taking a walk through the new Margaritaville Casino at Flamingo, which was impressive to see for any Parrot Head.

Saturday saw us splitting up. Two of us went north on the monorail to check out that end of the strip. We stopped by Circus Circus, Stratosphere, and the Riviera. It was sad to see the Sahara boarded up because that was one of the first places we had gambled on our first Vegas trip back in 2001. Not many memorable blackjack sessions or anything else, but it is always fun walking the strip and going into a number of different casinos. We got back a couple of hours before the UFC event (Monoz vs. Leben) was going to start and saw Emeril's Stadium was advertising a watch party. We were disappointed that they ended up not showing it because of the Alabama-LSU game. In fact, nobody was showing the fights because it was on Spike, which none of the bars or books seemed to be able or willing to get.

The four of us met up again to head downtown on the bus. The 24-hour pass is a good deal and all of us took advantage of riding the bus that night and the next day. We ate dinner at Tinoco's Kitchen at the Las Vegas Club and it was excellent. Two of us (including me) had the steak and shrimp special, one of us had the prime rib special, and the other had a pasta special. Everything was very good. We didn't plan to before the trip, but we actually were able to sit down together and have a good meal each day we were in town. In the past, we just grabbed whatever we could on the fly, but it was nice to actually sit down and catch up with each other each day.
When we finished dinner, we walked past the zip lines (looked like fun, but we took a pass this trip) to El Cortez. We like El Cortez because it is a nice atmosphere and has plenty of BJ games with good rules (3:2) dealt from a shoe, as well as good single or double deck games. That being said, none of us could get anything going that night and all left with our wallets a bit lighter. We went to Bally's and my friends played blackjack while I tried a little 1-2 no-limit cash poker. I tried a few ill-timed moves and couldn't get anything going. I ended up dropping about $150.

When we got back to TI, I placed Sunday's NFL wagers and went to bed (about 3AM). I woke up the next morning by 7AM to catch some of the Fulham (English Premier League soccer) match before our day of watching football. I did quite a bit of pre-trip research this time trying to find a great new place to watch the NFL games. None of us had ever been to the LV Hilton and every review of their 'Football Central' I looked at seemed to rave about the set-up and promotions. Let me tell you, they were not lying. The Hilton sets up a giant screen on the stage of their 1,500 seat theater that is divided up and shows all of the games. They have a betting window set up just outside the theater so you do not have to walk all the way to their impressive sports book. Their drink and food specials are great too with boneless wings, nachos, hot dog, and cheap beer. It was a great way to spend a Sunday (minus the brutal gambling losses) and will DEFINITELY be where I spend my future Vegas NFL Sundays.

We walked back to Imperial Palace when the afternoon games were finished and met up with our buddy who was on a long, drunken blackjack bender. We ate dinner at Hash House in IP and I highly recommend it. The portions are as big as advertised and none of us finished what we ordered. We decided to walk south and check out City Center, as I was the only one of us who had seen it before. We ended up finding our was back to Aria and through the back hallways to Monte Carlo. By this time, we were ready to do some more gambling and wanted to find a good place to play blackjack together again.

We checked out Monte Carlo, then Excalibur, then Tropicana, then Hooters, and finally settled in back at the Tropicana. They had a good $10 blackjack game that paid 3:2 dealt from a shoe. We all had a lot of luck with the four of us, another 30ish-year old, and an older gentleman who was betting $100 per hand and getting numerous double down hands and cashing in each one. We were cheering for each other, cracking jokes, high-fiving, and it was one of those blackjack sessions that is both profitable and a lot of fun. We finally finished up and two of my buddies cabbed it back to Treasure Island while my other buddy and I decided to walk since it was our last night. On the way back, we stopped at most of the casinos just to walk through and see what was new in them.

On Monday, we got up and played a bit at Treasure Island, then decided to eat at a buffet before our 3:00 flight home. After we were walking around deciding where to eat, we ended up at Harrah's. I had always considered Harrah's to be middle-of-the-road across the board: casino, hotel, food, etc. It was the first time I had their buffet and was surprised it was $19 for lunch. It was one of the best surprises of the trip with good California rolls, prime rip, seafood, desserts. Everything was excellent and was a great last Vegas meal before we headed home.

Overall, I ended up winning some money at blackjack/BJ Switch, but left Vegas with less money than I came with because of bad sports bets, a bad poker session, and general spending money. Overall, I came back down only $250, so a very cheap Vegas trip. Everything for the room was comped, including the Resort fees, so it really turned out to be a great cheap trip with a good group of guys I don't get to hang out with enough anymore. If you made it to the end of this long report, thanks for reading. I am hoping to get back to Vegas with my wife sometime in the next year.