This is my first posted trip report ... I'd like to say how much I enjoy reading and learning from others' trip reports - Thanks!

Las Vegas, 3-9 December 2011

As has become our custom, we (me, 'J' and husband 'B') decided that we would return to Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) - not that we actually attend the rodeo, but we like the people that do. We find the casinos more fun/less-formal and the patrons very nice, fun to be around and, most of all, 'regular folks'.

Pre-trip arrangements

Early in 2011, I booked flights from our hometown using a companion ticket - Total for both tickets came to $522.60. We had an early morning departure on Sat, 3 Dec with a connection in Minneapolis. Our arrival in Las Vegas was at 10:30 am. Our return would be mid-day on Fri, 9 Dec.

Normally we stay on the strip, as we like to put the car away when it gets dark and then be within walking distance of our room. We have found ourselves gambling more-and-more at South Point, so decided to book the last two nights there. Checking specials early in the year, scored us four nights at the Monte Carlo for $298.38 (includes tax and resort fee). The remaining two nights at South Point came to $179.20. As the year went on, the rates went up and/or rooms were unavailable - so it was a good thing that I got them booked in March/April.

Now the rental car - I used various codes and had bookings at National, Alamo and Budget for most of the year. Things started around $220 for the week, got down to $140, and ended up two days before departure with a National car (my preferred vendor) for $67.66. I think that has to be a record.

We like to play black jack, but sometimes have a problem finding a $5 pitch (or even one with good rules) once you get past noon - I was really open to learning a 'new' table game. Well, in one of the trip reports that I had read on-line I found that Pai Gow Poker was a favorite because it was easy to play, a slow-play game, etc. I found instructions on how to play and B and I spent some time 'practicing'. (This would prove to be a 'life saver' on the trip!)

For something new, B suggested we visit the pawn shop (Pawn Stars) as seen on TV and I wanted to walk across the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge - and possibly stop at some casinos out in Boulder City.

A trip to the bank and some time spent organizing coupons (from the 2011 and 2012 American Casino Guide and the internet) took us up to the day before our trip. Batteries on the cell phones and camera were changed and everything packed. Boarding passes printed and we are off to bed.

Day One - Sat, 3 Dec
Travel to Las Vegas and Let the Fun Begin

We are up and dropped off at the airport in plenty of time. We get through Security without any problems; I fill my empty water bottle from the drinking fountain and then get a large cup of coffee from the café ($3) for B and me to share. Boarding is fairly quick and the plane takes off on time. Our flight attendant is very nice and offers us cookies and coffee, not once but twice.

Upon arrival in Minneapolis we head right for our next gate as we are only on the ground for one hour. We follow the signs and when close to our gate, stop off at McDonald's for breakfast (two Sausage Egg McMuffin combos= $10) to eat at our gate. The area slowly fills up with people who are headed for Orlando as well as those for our flight. We try to figure out who all will be on our flight - there are a few cowboys but many slim young-ish women. We're wondering if there is a cosmetology convention or something. Once boarded (Zone 2 again), B lets me have the window seat (Thanks, B!) and he settles into the middle seat. We are joined by a slim young (early 20's) man - he is flying to Vegas for the first time with his girlfriend to participate in the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas Marathon (half and full). Okay, now it makes sense - those young ladies are all runners! We find out that they moved the race to early evening and will be shutting down the strip on Sunday - about 44,000 runners in the event this year vs previous years where they have had 29,000 for the early morning run.

I brought my noise-cancelling headphones and put them on to enjoy the movie 'Larry Crown' with Tom Hanks - cut movie. B naps and only wakes up when I need to use the bathroom. It's good to get up and move around.

It's about 10:00 am and the pilot announces that we are starting our approach. Up to the gate and off the plane.

This is the best part of the trip - exiting the jet way to the sounds of slot machines and sad faces of those on their way home. Not us - we've just arrived and have the whole week ahead of us!! Hello VEGAS!!!

A quick stop at the restroom and then off to the tram and baggage claim. It seems that we waited 10 minutes for our bag, but it does arrive and we proceed to Door #10 and the Car Rental Facility shuttle. We have a female driver who is only half-heartedly helping with bags, so I just carry mine on board and stow it. I have a tip out for her, but when we got there she was nowhere to be found. Okay, so I'll just keep it.

Off to National for our compact car and we are told to pick one out of the intermediate aisle. We take a dark grey Toyota Camry and approach the exit booth. A few dings on the door but the attendant says, don't worry about it - just wear and tear. She also asks, where are you headed? I tell her that we are going to The M Resort first and she said that is a good choice as the Santa Run will be underway soon and by going south we should avoid the resulting traffic.

Going south on Las Vegas Boulevard, we pass our favorite place (South Point) and proceed to The M Resort. Our first order of business is to turn in one of the coupons we got from them - we picked up our free t-shirts.

Then it was off to South Point for our first BJ session of the trip. We sat down at $5 pitch BJ; I know that I really struggled and couldn't get anything going - After three hours, I think my loss was about $100. B won about $200. Before leaving the area, B asked the pit boss if we had earned any comps. He put two dinners at the café on one of our cards and two breakfast buffets on the other card. Okay, that made me feel a little better.

From there we headed to the Monte Carlo to check into our room. I tried the $20 trick but was told that they were all filled up and couldn't help us. We got room 14210 which was nice, clean and pretty standard. After unpacking, we headed back to South Point for our comped dinner. I think I ordered a shrimp cocktail, and filet mignon - B got an equally expensive dinner. Our wait staff was friendly enough; however, the food was very slow in coming out. It really wasn't all that special. We left a $15 tip.

I'm not sure how we ended the day, but believe that I went to bed early. I'd been up for many hours and was also a bit frustrated with the results of my first day of play. I have come to realize that when I am tired, I start playing 'stupid' - not necessarily bad plays, but bad betting! As usual, B stayed up a little longer.

For the day I was down $110 and B was up $250. Not a good start for me.

Day Two - Sun, 4 Dec
Church, Gambling, Marathon, Margaritaville

Just because we are in 'Sin City' doesn't mean we forget about God. We are up and ready a few minutes early. Pining for a cup of coffee before church (the room does not have a coffee maker); we sit at a machine near the aisle, put some money in and wait for the waitress. She comes along, takes our drink order and then returns with my $20 cup of coffee!!! I just can't get anything going!

We got the car out and drove to the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer for their 8:00 am Sunday mass (across from the Luxor). I tell God that I know I shouldn't ask to be a winner, however, please let me have 'fun.' I'm sure he knew what I meant, don't you?

After that we headed back to South Point and our comped Sunday Brunch buffet. While waiting in line, I note that champagne and mimosas are being offered. When I am near enough to discretely get one without trampling anybody, I ask B if he would like one. He says 'no' so I proceed to get a glass of each for myself. In this way, I can begin to drink the mimosa and 'refresh' it with more champagne. Clever, huh! We get a booth and then blindly get in the line - or should I say 'I' get in the line. I put a few fried shrimp on my plate and proceed to munch on it all the way to the front. After 10 minutes I'm to the front and discover it's the omelet/eggs your way line!! Well, now that I'm here, I'll get an omelet. The stuff I really wanted was just beyond - corn beef hash! B got the prime rib, but I was too full after my other stuff. So for my second plate, I headed right for the ice cream. Okay, yeah - whatever, I'm on vacation.

Once again, we head for the BJ tables. Again I can't get anything going, but seem to know enough to get up before I lose it all. B also lost. We asked the pit boss if we had earned any comps, but he was mean and said we already got a breakfast. Well! I guess we'll have to be picky about which guy we talk to in future!

I think we must have gone back to MC to park the car about 2:00 because we knew they were going to start blocking off roads at 3:00 for the Marathon. We took the tram from MC to Bellagio where we got some pictures of the Christmas-decorated conservatory. Then we played some machines (me BJ and B video poker) while enjoying some nice beverages. We visited Caesar's Palace - you know I really hate that place. I can't find anything to play and then I get lost and can't find my way out. We got into the Forum Shop area and then had a hard time finding the exit! It happens every time!! Maybe we need a GPS or something. Once out in the fresh air we decided it was time to eat and how about Margaritaville? We didn't have any coupons, but thought we could eat reasonably enough if we just got the nachos. Their nachos are huge and are more than enough for two people. We were seated right away and our server, Sean, didn't seem at all put out by our ordering two ice waters and nachos to share; nice fellow and very attentive. We left a nice tip (total $22). I can't remember a time when the place has been that empty. Well, you have to know the reason was that 44,000 runners and their fans were busy at the moment!

Upon exiting the restaurant we spent some time watching all the runners going north on the strip. We got quite a few pictures - pretty amazing to see. The rest of the night we would see runners going through the casinos with those silver 'blanket' things returning to their hotels. It was pretty chilly out.

At some point we stopped into the Cosmopolitan. It was okay, but really not our thing. We did a little more machine play at the Bellagio before I was ready to call it a night. Again, B stayed out later.

Gambling for the day: I'm down another $60 (down $170 for trip) and B is down $105 (up $145 for trip).

Day Three - Mon, 5 Dec
Ellis Island, Pawn Shop, Downtown, Palace Station, M Resort Buffet, SP

Since we didn't have a comped breakfast, we decided to go to our favorite breakfast place - the Ellis Island Café. Instead of getting their steak-n-eggs special we used an ACG 2-for-1 coupon. I got my corn beef hash and B got an omelet. Everything was very yummy! With tip and lots of coffee, we spent $14.

Before leaving, we went to the players club to turn in some free play coupons (ACG); she took them and said we would have the free play in 24 hours - but that we had $10 in free play from the previous year. Well, okay! That's what we want to hear. We head for the bar and sit at a corner - get drinks and begin to play. While B goes to the restroom, some lady comes by and says that's where she sits for bingo! She rearranges the chairs and settles herself in next to us. Apparently there are a bunch of locals that come in for 'free bingo' and that is her spot! I'd probably do the same thing. Before leaving, we did notice that there were a lot of people with their bingo sheets pasted to the machine screens playing.

Originally we had talked about going across the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, however, the weather report said it was about 20 degrees colder than normal and that it would be quite windy the first part of the week. Because of that, we decided to go downtown. A bit reluctantly because the last time we were there it was looking quite seedy and just didn't have many places for us to play.

Since we were on our way downtown, we decided that this might be a good day to visit the Pawn Shop. It was still fairly early (about 10:00), so we were hoping the lines that we hear about wouldn't be there. Sure enough, we get there and people seem to be going in without a wait. We park and notice that there is a camera crew filming someone in the corner of the parking lot. Our assumption was that it was somebody that sold something - they were filming the side commentary. We took our pictures with the pawn shop sign in the background and then proceeded into the store.

Again, there was a camera guy filming some documents laid out on the counter. None of the principals were around. We were told not to take any pictures until the camera person was done but then could take any we wanted as long as we didn't point the camera in the direction of the office area. Like others have said, the place looked a lot smaller than what you see on TV. You were directed down one side (guns, etc) to the back (gift shop with t-shirts, etc) and then up the other side (jewelry, etc). Both of us had just read the book by Rick Harrison and really had a new respect for these folks. The book was for sale there - both signed and unsigned; however, I was hoping to buy a Chum Lee t-shirt. None of them really looked like something I would wear, so I ended up with a pink Pawn Stars t-shirt for $23. I don't really feel the need to go back, but am glad that we took the time to visit.

Once downtown, we parked in the Main Street Station surface lot. We had to pay the parking fee and were told that we would not be reimbursed since the NFR was in town. We started out at Main Street Station and found a BJ table to play at. From there we went to the Plaza which is making the effort to come back from the dead. We didn't have player's cards, so got in line to enroll. For the first time ever, we did a slot tournament, but didn't do well enough to place. We played our free money and then took our match play (ACG) to the table. I think I won and B lost. Next up coupons at The Vegas Club; we may have played a little BJ there as well. In and out of the Golden Nugget and Four Queens. Not too impressed - all the decent tables were full. I did a quick run through a gift shop without finding anything I needed. I believe that I had some minor success with my gambling downtown. Not enough to make up for the losses, but looking up for me at this point.

We stopped in again at Main Street Station to play some more BJ, but all the tables were full with no sign of any openings. We decided to get the car and head back but somehow decided to stop at Palace Station. This was a bad move as they pretty much cleaned our clocks at the BJ table with nary a sniff.

From there we drove south on I-5 to The M Resort. I had a coupon for a free buffet and B had one for half-off. We got there right before they switched over to the dinner pricing (4:00), so only spent $14 for two buffets (including tip). I personally think that the M Buffet is the best one in town - doesn't hurt that they include beer and wine in the price. I wasn't real hungry, but managed to try a number of items before I attacked the dessert section. I had at least four of those mini tiramisus, mousses, etc !! So good. I finished it with a half-scoop of ice cream. YUMMM.

We stopped by the players club with our coupons for free wine - B got the white and I got the red. Since we were getting free drinks while gambling, we didn't feel the need to open the wine and so planned to take the bottles home in our checked luggage. (I won't keep you in suspense - they made it home in good shape!)

It was getting dark, but darn if we weren't going to be driving by South Point! Well, let's stop. Again we played BJ. Again, I lost. Again, we asked for and got a comped breakfast for the next day.

Back to Monte Carlo and bed for me, a little more gambling for B.

For the day: I'm down another $65 and B's down $60 / For the trip J down $235 and B up $85.

Day Four - Tue, 6 Dec
SP Café Breakfast, Bypass Bridge, Hacienda, Nathans

We got up and went to South Point to the Coronado Café for our comped breakfast. We both ordered eggs Benedict - glad I tried them, but I think I'll get something else next time. Just a note about hanging out at South Point during the NFR. It is so much fun to see all the cowboys and their families. You see older guys who may or may not be participants, younger gals who look like they compete, young guys with their wives and young children. All of these people seem like hard-working family folks. Cost of breakfast for us was $5 for the tip.

This was the day we were going to walk across the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge - the official name is the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Colorado River Bridge).

Construction on the nearly 2,000 foot long bridge (with a 1,060 foot twin-rib concrete arch) began in late January 2005 and traffic began using the Hoover Dam Bypass on October 19, 2010. This signature bridge spans the Black Canyon (about 1,500 feet south of the Hoover Dam), connecting the Arizona and Nevada Approach highways nearly 900-feet above the Colorado River.

The last time we were at the Hoover Dam, they were in the middle of the bridge construction. After 9/11 they began having all the vehicles go through a check-point before proceeding across the dam. You can still drive across the dam; however, this new bridge is now the regular way to go from Nevada into Arizona.

Okay, we head out with our directions in hand. We miss the turn to bypass Boulder City, but still enjoy the quaint town and recall a previous trip where our daughter had been sick on our way back from the Grand Canyon. Then, on that same trip, we had to pull over because her nose was bleeding. Okay, that was probably too much information, but I'm just saying what we were talking about as we went through Boulder City.

Enroute to the bridge, there were beautiful, sweeping views of Lake Mead - so I had to take some photos out through the windshield. You can see how low the water level still is by the markings around the lake. I thought some of the lake had recovered, but it actually looked lower than I remember from last time (3-4 years ago). So we see the casino 'Hacienda' and agree that we want to stop there with our coupons on the way back. We are looking for the Hoover Dam signs where we know we have to turn, but find ourselves entering Arizona. Okay, we went too far - we didn't see any signs and it wasn't obvious when we went over the bridge because of the cement barriers on each side. A couple miles down the road we find a place to turn around and even saw others doing the same thing. We head back into Nevada and then see the turn-off. I think they were still doing some construction work and must not have gotten all the signs up.

Anyway, we pull into the parking lot and I announce that I need to use the bathroom (all that morning coffee). They have permanent pit/chemical toilets, so I enter one. OMG! The smell! I try holding my breath for as long as I can - I think I had to take a small breath - before bursting out of the building!! Ugh!! That was bad! B said he overheard others saying the same thing.

We proceeded to the walkway from the parking lot to the top of the grade to walk across the bridge. I do have to admire how they incorporated this walkway into the design of the bridge. They had a cement switch-back trail in the event that you were in a wheelchair, stroller, etc. - but then they also had stairs to reach the top. We took the stairs and, of course, I was huffing a bit by the time I got to the top. They had some lovely memorial placks, places to sit, etc before you got to the actually bridge. We, like many of the other visitors, were pausing to take photos and some nice people took our picture in front of the 'Entering Nevada' sign.

The walk across the bridge was awesome!! I get scared of heights, but felt very secure with how they had everything set up. We had a good, solid cement barrier between us and the highway, and then a very solid railing overlooking the canyon and dam. It was really breathtaking! We took many pictures and walked the whole way across (really not that far). They have a cement barrier on the Arizona side - access to the pedestrian portion of the bridge is from the Nevada side only. I am so glad we took the time to do this!

Even though the weather was a bit cool for Nevada this time of year, it was still sweatshirt weather and the sun was out. A bit of a breeze, but overall it was quite nice for us Michiganders to soak up the sun. (Back home it was fairly mild, but gloomy most of the time.)

We got back in the car and agreed that we'd like to walk across the dam as well. We've been on the tour about three times, so did not feel the need to pay $30 each to do it again. Some more enhancements had been made to the dam area. We were charged $7 to park in the ramp (don't recall that before) and they had moved the gift shop and added a concession area to the parking ramp area as well. We took our time crossing the dam, admiring the view, and taking photos. Again, you couldn't help but notice how low the water was in Lake Mead.

All done at the dam, we headed back with the goal of stopping at the Hacienda. We pulled into the lot and walked over to the edge overlooking Lake Mead to admire the view. Note: Later in the week we would hear that a Sundance Tour Company helicopter would crash near this site the next day. Five would be killed. It was of particular interest to us because my brother-in-law used to fly for them.

From the outside, the Hacienda reminded me of a motel for truckers - don't know if that is the mainstay of their clientele or not. Anyway, it is fairly quiet - not much in the way of slot machine noises, etc. We had match-play coupons and quickly found a $2 pitch BJ table. Okay, now that's more my speed. We sit down and do our match play and proceed to settle in for a while. We went through a few dealers, but one of them was a gal called 'Suzy-Q' who was originally from California. She left her daycare business, came to LV, took a $10k dealer course, and now loved being a dealer. She was a riot. Another dealer was called 'Neil Diamond' and I guess actually sings as a Neil Diamond impersonator!!

Speaking of 'riot' the other people at our table were great. There were two guys from Wisconsin - they were suppose to fly home with their wives, but the airline offered them comps to give up their seats. The guys took the offer, while sending the wives back. They had one extra day in Vegas and apparently had spent some time at a bed and breakfast in Boulder City, so had been patrons of the Hacienda before. We especially bonded with them because one (we called him 'Milwaukee Mike') was associated with hockey and had been to our town many times. Anyway they seemed to know some of the dealers. For a short time, another fellow from Wisconsin sat at the table as well.

While at the first table, a young guy sat down next to me. We knew he was new to BJ because the dealer had to show him how to signal what he wanted to do with his cards. At first, he appeared to be playing basic strategy but then started to get kooky! At one point he insisted that he wanted to split a Queen and a four!!!! What! Now that was a first for us. I think that was when we had the crazy lady dealer - she pushed back and said, it was not allowed, that the two cards had to be alike. He still seemed not to understand why it was not allowed.

Later - and you knew this was coming - he wanted to split face cards. The dealer said two or three times 'Are you SURE'? He responded that ' yes, I'm sure; I'm not an idiot; I'm going to win. We are all sitting there trying not to laugh and rolling our eyes. This guy's friend is standing near him by now and, I'm sure, could see us all doing this. Anyway, the kid DID win and shortly afterward left the table.

We are all having a good time and periodically shout out or high five each other (I know, I know - it's only a $2 table). Apparently one customer did not appreciate the volume of our enjoyment and we are told to keep it down by both the dealer and the pit boss. At least one of the Wisconsin guys was really pounding the beers.

One of the guys decides he's not doing well at our table and so moves to the next one. Well, we all get up and move too. Our hilarity continues for a while - we are again told to keep it down. Well, Milwaukee Mike challenges this idea that we keep 'quiet' at a casino and ends up calling the pit boss a Douche Bag! Security was called to escort him out, so we ALL got up and immediately left the establishment as well.

I have to tell you, this is why we come to Las Vegas and like playing the table games! Anything can happen! You meet the most interesting people who all come here and just let their hair down. What a riot!

I think we must have been at the Hacienda for five hours because I recall that it was already getting dark when we left to return to the Monte Carlo.

I'm not sure what we did except that we went over to the MGM to get something to eat. We went to Nathans in the food court with our 2-for-1 coupons. While in line I provided coupons to a couple of other patrons as well. Later one of them approached me and asked for another coupon for a friend. I love to do this - kind of paying it forward. Nathan's sandwiches are huge and come with fries; Adding ice water our total for dinner was $13.

The American Country Awards were being held this night. B hung around a bit and thought he saw Clint Black, but wasn't sure. We tried hanging out one year but never saw anybody, so I didn't bother.

I finished the day down $50 and B was about even / For the trip J down $285 and B up $85.

Day Five - Wed, 7 Dec
Change hotels, Ellis Island breakfast, coupon run, Pai Gow Poker

This is the day we were going to check-out of the Monte Carlo and into South Point. Our total bill for the four nights (including a Saturday night) came to $298.38. We really didn't gamble that much at MC or any of the MGM properties, so didn't bother asking for any comps.

Just a note about the MC: After the first two nights, housekeeping quit leaving us shampoo, etc. I seem to recall this happening last year. Not quite sure what that is about, but given the $18 resort fee, you would think they could leave toiletries EVERY day. So I would guess you can just say that our daily newspaper cost $18 because that's all we got for the resort fee. Additionally, some of the towels were a bit tatty as well. Otherwise, it seemed clean, comfortable and convenient.

With the suitcases in our trunk, we proceed on to our favorite breakfast place, Ellis Island. Again, we use a 2-for-1 coupon and I get the corn beef hash and B an Italian omelet. I'm glad B tried something new, but we probably won't get that particular omelet again. It had marinara sauce with mozzarella cheese. Somehow, it didn't really seem to go with an omelet. Not bad, but just something I wouldn't order again. One thing I do love when I come to Las Vegas is getting the Sour Dough toast! We had it first at Ellis Island two years ago and try to remember to ask for it at the SP Coronado Café. So good. I think it must be a bit of a regional thing, because you don't find it that often here. Breakfast with tip came to $15.

Bingo was in full swing. We found some machines to play our remaining free play and then left to see where else we wanted to go. I noted that the Tuscany was just around the corner and that I had match plays for that. We went there and used the match plays - I think B won but I don't think I did. Earlier in the trip, I was having some success with match plays but now the tables were turned.

From there it was just a block or two to Terribles, where we again had match plays. Since visiting last, it appeared that Terribles had rearranged things as it seemed to be a bit brighter and more opened up. Very nice. We found a $5 pitch BJ table and sat down. Actually things started looking up for me because I won the $10 match play and I played the whole time on the casino's money (putting away my original $10 bill). My winnings went up (maybe to $75), but I decided to walk away when they dropped down to $50. [After the first few days of losing, I decided to be a bit more conservative with my gambling, so scaled back the risk a bit.] Not sure how B did, but we left after about an hour or so of play.

Because check-in at South Point had a 3:00 pm check-in time, we thought we'd stop at some other off-strip casinos with our coupons. We visited Palms, Orleans, and Gold Coast and did match plays and a bit of gambling. After this round, I was still up $45 for the day.

It must have been about 2:00 when we decided to head to South Point. We did not take our luggage in with us, as we didn't know if a room would be available yet. Only a couple people in line and then I was at the desk. No problems with check-in and we were assigned room 415. Back out to the car for our luggage and then to our room. Wow! These rooms are huge. The décor is a bit 'dated' as it is in the gold scheme; however, everything is super nice, clean and, did I say, big? Great set-up in the bathroom where you enter the door into the vanity area, then another door with the toilet and tub/shower. Closets are big, dresser drawers are plentiful, couch, table/chairs, desk and lots of lighting. The bed was comfortable and had recessed lights above the pillows for reading, in addition to the bedside lamps. I'd heard the rooms were nice, and was not disappointed.

After unpacking, we headed to the casino. This being Wednesday, we were heading into the last weekend of the NFR and the place was BOATED with cowboys and their families and friends. We have been coming to South Point to gamble for a couple of years now and recognized many of the same dealers, pit bosses, and waitresses. Also, many of the same patrons. Earlier in the week, I had introduced myself to someone I'd played with before. She was a local and gambled at South Point frequently. I would see her regularly during our stay there as well. Later on she told me that she had won $2,000 playing bingo; then the next day $400. She did say that she goes through some long dry spells though.

Well all of the few remaining $5 BJ tables were full, so B and I decided that this might be the time to try out $5 Pai Gow Poker. We had practiced at home, but had yet to play. We watched for a minute and then sat down. Everyone was real nice in explaining what stuff meant (like the bonus, etc); they were also real helpful when we asked for help/opinions on the hands we intended to hold. After a couple of hours, someone told us that we were pretty good for being newbie's! It didn't hurt, that we were winners. I walked away from the table up $65 and B was up $75 for the day. Later on a dealer would describe Pai Gow Poker as a drinking game - You get regular drink service, but the play is slow so you don't lose your money very fast. The only problem is that the lower chairs aren't real comfortable and your butt tends to fall asleep. Regular bathroom breaks are a must, just to get the blood flowing! LOL.

We played several hours before I decided to go to bed. B stayed downstairs a bit longer. We had completely missed dinner, but it had been a good day for both of us. Upon asking, we were given a comped breakfast for the next day at the Café.

I finished the day up $110 and B was up $75 / For the trip J down $175 and B up $160.

Day Six - Thu, 8 Dec
Last full day, Café breakfast, church, shopping, Pai Gow, hot dogs

We woke up after a restful night's sleep. The beds were comfortable and I was glad that SP provided coffee makers in the bathroom. Unfortunately, though, it was a single cup coffee maker where they just provided one regular and one decafe. I made decafe for myself and saved the regular for B. [Note to self: Next time bring some extra coffee pouches in my luggage.]

Once ready we discussed the fact that we have a comped breakfast but that the holy day mass at the Shrine was at 8:00. Well, we needed breakfast and B thought we should have time to make mass. There was a bit of a wait and then I got corn beef hash and B eggs Benedict (boring, right?). Comped food, tip $3 (service was almost non-existent). By this time it is about 8:10, so mass at the Shrine is out. I called my daughter and she checked on-line and gave us directions to St. Thomas Moore on Pecos in Henderson where they had an 8:30 mass. It wasn't very far so we headed out that way. Actually, we had been to this church before as my sister used to belong to this parish. We made it a few minutes late, but were in time for the readings. Again, I tried not to pray to win but to have 'fun'.

From here, we thought we might go to the outlet mall for a little shopping. They weren't quite open yet, so we went to the CVS drugstore to get B some new lip balm and some sinus medicine ($16). We spent a little time at the Outlet Mall - I got a new calendar and game and B selected a sweatshirt for Christmas. The sweatshirt was quite reasonable as the clerk gave us an additional 40% off the sale price coupon. We looked in the Coach store (I'd gotten a purse from there last year), but didn't find anything calling my name.

Back to South Point for gambling. Although it was still only 12:30 the tables were all packed. B and I found $5 BJ tables to sit at, but I very quickly lost $40 of my $80 buy-in. I decided to switch over to PGP, leaving B to play BJ. Things weren't going my way today - however, I did win $50 on a $1 bonus - I think it was a straight flush (with an ace). That really kept me going. Later on, I would get a $25 bonus. Had I not gotten these bonuses, I'd have been done much sooner!! Anyway, holding my own with my original BJ buy-in - B showed up and there was not a spot at our table. The other PGP tables were $10; however, I had heard that the pit boss allowed a couple to play $5. I told B to speak with the pit boss to see if we (he and I) could play $5 at the empty $10 table. The pit boss very kindly changed the table to a $5 table and I moved with B to that table where I spent the rest of the night. The rest of the chairs quickly filled up as well.

Still holding my own, I realized about 6:50 that I had yet to check-in and print off boarding passes for our flight. The pit boss called the business center and said they were open just 5 more minutes, if I wanted to head that way. The gal was very nice and even mentioned she had relatives in our town. It cost $1 per sheet, so I handed over $4 and had my passes secure in my purse.

Back at the table, I mentioned to B that we should see about stepping away from the table (leaving our chips) separately to get something to eat at the deli or from the hot dog cart. In discussing this with the dealer and pit boss, we were told that they had 'excellent' hot dogs for 75 cents near the sports book. I went down there, but they were momentarily out and that I should come back in 15 minutes. Eventually, B got me a hot dog. It was great!!! Both B and I went back for a second hot dog before the cart closed for the night. So dinner (with tip) came to $4.

Ultimately about 8:00 I decided to call it quits when my original $80 was exhausted. B and I discussed asking for a room comp instead of food; the pit boss said to 'check-out' of our room first and then speak with a pit boss in the morning. This didn't seem right, but we decided to do it. I'd played from 1:00-8:00 and I know B played longer.

I finished the day down $80 and B was down $110 / For the trip J down $255 and B up $50.

Day Seven - Fri, 9 Dec
M Resort, Café breakfast, checking out and travel home

We got up and while packing discussed our plans to ask for room comps, thinking that they might just comp one night. B was certain we made an error in not asking for breakfast and, again, I was uncertain of why you would check out first before asking for comps. We decided to leave our packed bags in the room and speak with a pit boss before going to breakfast. We found a friendly looking one and B explained that we had played for several hours the day before and could he help us out with the room. He did his computer thing and said we were 'all set'.

We were very pleased with ourselves, thinking that getting the $90 one-night room charge was way better than a meal. We went to the Café at this point and ordered our usual breakfast - Total cost $31. Once in the room we checked the TV for our charges and it said $(90). I wasn't sure what this was about - could it be that they took care of both nights and this was the credit for the deposit? We took our bags and headed for the front desk to check out. SCORE! She confirmed that both nights were taken care of and that I'd be getting my deposit back on my credit card. So that put $180 back in our pockets; and, as far as I was concerned, offset my gambling losses! We took our bags to the car and then returned to play some $5 pitch BJ.

While there we began talking to a cowboy that B had played with the night before. Apparently he'd walked away with quite a bit of money as had his wife. Unfortunately, most of it disappeared over the rest of the evening. Playing with us, he lost $100 while he was waiting to join his wife for breakfast. I asked if he was getting it comped and he said 'how do you do that'? I told him to speak with the pit boss - he did and walked away with two Café breakfasts. We would have never known to do this ourselves, had I not happened to speak with someone a couple years ago at a show who told me about it how you needed to ask for comps. Now my motto is 'it never hurts to ask.' I walked away from the BJ table up $50! B said he was down $80.

After cashing in our chips, we took one last trip to The M Resort with our coupons for a free 'bucket hat'. We had a little time so sat down at some machines; I put $5 into a BJ machine, doubled my money and decided to walk away a WINNER!

It was a little early to head for the car rental place, but we did anyway since you never know about LV airport security. We gassed up the car for $26 and turned it in. The total bill for our intermediate rental car came to $58.62 - $9 less than expected! Another win, as far as I'm concerned.

We took the shuttle back to the airport, checked our bag with the carefully wrapped wine bottles imbedded within the clothes, and headed for security. We still had a little extra time, so stopped to play a little keno on a machine. I left $5 there as did B.

I finished the day up $50 and B was down $85.
After recounting our money, we decided that my gambling losses for the trip were $222 and B won $35.

Security went fairly quick and smooth - onto the tram and to our gate. I decided an ice cream was in order ($6) and B got a shake ($6). Our plane was at the gate so they started boarding 45 minutes before departure. We were, again, in Zone 2 but had aisle seats across from each other. No movie but I read my book - B slept. We got soda and cookies from the flight attendant and landed in Minneapolis a few minutes early. On the way to our gate we stopped for sub sandwiches to take on the plane, short wait and then we are boarding. We have a smaller plane, so B and I are sitting next to each other and eating our smelly (sorry about that) sandwiches - they were good though. Touch down is a few minutes early, so I call home but no one answers - they must be on their way to pick us up. Our bag arrives and then we see our daughter with our puppy - he sure is happy to see us!

It has been a great trip - we can't believe it's over -


Another great trip for what I consider to be a reasonable price: Food $181, Lodging $298, Misc $36, Transportation $619, Gambling loss $222 = Total trip expense $1,355.

General thoughts:
- Did new things - Pai Gow Poker, Bypass bridge, Pawn shop
- Love Rodeo week and the rodeo people
- Love South Point (have already booked 3 nights for next trip)
- Love coupons
- Love getting the lowest rate on a rental car yet
- Love the people you meet at the gaming tables