For our eighth trip to Vegas, my wife and I decided to stay at the Flamingo, where we had stayed once before. Reasons: great location in the center of the Strip, great pools, and beautiful wildlife habitat. Trip started out well, as our Russian cabbie took us from McCarran to the hotel via the back route, instead of the freeway. (Sadly, a number of cabbies have pulled that trick on us). A bit disappointed on check-in to find that we did NOT book a deluxe room (even though I was positive we did). Also a bit puzzled that the number of pitchmen (and women) on the streets seems to have grown exponentially since our last visit. It was enough to make me keep my hand in my wallet pocket the whole time! We try to arrive on a Monday to avoid the weekend crowds, but that didn't seem to make much difference this time. After a so-so meal at the Flamingo buffet which cost us around $45 (I see they raised their prices for the buffet as well), we did the smart thing and took the free shuttle outside Harrah's to Sam's Town, where the Firelight buffet was a good deal better -- and more affordable. Sad to report that we fell victim to the old 'bait and switch' regarding the 'free' Nathan Burton tickets at Planet Hollywood. When I showed up at the box office, I was informed that -- surprise -- the free tickets for Tuesday and Wednesday were all gone, but for a small fee. . . I stopped her right there, pointing out that, in anticipation of this, I had called them the week before to make sure we would have tickets waiting for us, and was assured that they would. Not! We were so turned off by the whole experience that we left without any tickets, but not before enjoying the $3.99 breakfast special at La Salsa Cantina in the Miracle Mile Shops. Great deal, unless you're stupid enough to order a small orange juice and coffee, which will just about double your cost. (Learn from our mistake, and stick with the free ice water!) As for the Flamingo itself, we spent a great deal of time relaxing around the pool and the wildlife habitat. Even though the majority of people there were middle-aged, the deejay insisted on playing cranked-up rap and hip-hop, to the chagrin of many patrons. Fortunately, had time to check out the Auto Collection at the Imperial Palace (which they are now rebranding as the Quad). A must see, even without the free passes that you can print online. Paid an extra $54 plus taxes for 'resort fees' at the Flamingo, which is really just another way of padding your bill. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone who actually made use of any of the so-called amenities that they offer under the 'resort fee' heading. Even simple things like printing boarding passes and being able to use a long-distance billing card will cost you extra. And God forbid you should arrive earlier than the 4:00 pm check-in time, unless -- you guessed it -- you're willing to pay an exorbitant 'early check-in' fee! All in all, felt very fortunate that we came away ahead at the slots, because it seemed that everyone was trying to stick their hand in your pocket! At least some of the 'old' Vegas is still present, like receiving superlative service when you tip. Case in point: tipped the doorman who summoned our cab for us on leaving for our return flight, and he not only helped us with our bags, he told the cabbie not to take us on the 'long' route! Ah, Vegas! You love it, and you hate it. But something tells me we'll be back!