Well, here I am at the Plaza for the first five of my twenty three days. I met DonD, a board poster here and he bought me lunch and we hung out and talked a bit. I also met his sweet wife and another friend. He took me to the new Omelet House here at the Plaza and he arranged a bit of a tour of the Plaza improvements with his host. DonD has many years of experience in downtown and in this particular casino and has hope that this new spirit of change will revive the place. Firefly is not yet open, but it will open before I come home, and I'll get to see it when I come back downtown near the end of my trip. It will feature some of the tapas which made them famous in their other locations. Most of the work is done. The glass in the dome is replaced so that it will be easy to see the Freemont Experience. The outside sign outside is nearly finished and will soon be what greets folks walking across the street at the end of the Freemont Experience canopy. Firefly hours will be short at first and expanded into the late night as the place settles in and attracts folks. I did discover that it was better to ask, â€œWhen will Firefly open?â€ then, â€œWhen is the new tapas place going to openâ€ No one hears â€œtapasâ€ correctly, and they think I am asking about a strip club. I have corrected the expectations of many folks, even some who work in the casino, who have been talking about the coming â€œtoplessâ€ night spot. Rooms at the Plaza are scheduled to be renovated, one floor at a time. Some improvements have already been made, but much of those are hidden in walls behind new sheetrock. The signature smell is gone. My guide speculated that it was due to poorly maintained air filters in past years. Gradually, all rooms will be made new complete with flat screen TV. All new drainage systems will take care of the slow drain issues of tubs. The poker area will probably stay tucked into an area of the floor, but they expect two more tables and expanded hours. Already, if they have the players, they can stay open after midnight rather than be forced to close, and I played into the early morning before the games dissolved. I liked this game and the friendly dealers. They too seemed to be happier and enthusiastic about the new leadership. These two-four games seem to attract tourists rather than a group of regular locals, and they are easier games with loose calling stations. POKER/GAMBLING DETAILS I did well some nights and just about broke even others. The games were generally loose and the pots were huge. With good cards, I would generally get paid, but it seemed often I could get few good cards and when I did, I lost anyway. My trip sixes I folded on the river and a straight flush took that hand. My turned straight was beat on the river by a full house. Two hands I remember winning were 7-3 and 7-4 blinds. One went to two pair that held up; the other to four sevens. The players are a mix of solid limit players with some totally clueless players and others who are easily confused. Sometimes these will add a bit to the pot because they miss what has happened, like the guy who raised on the river when his K-4 saw a river 4. He missed the significance of the pair of tens that developed on the turn. My K-Q took the pot because as a kicker his four was useless. I suppose the bad reputation of the Plaza sorts out the players some. Regular players search out the lower rake at Binions and rooms open most the day. Also, the fact that few regular Vegas visitors stay at the Plaza helps. There were always some inexperienced and poor players at our table. We had only one truly angry player. This was a fellow who misread the sign on cracked aces and thought that they only paid from 4-9 rather than that they paid all day. For $4 he would have lost and the house have paid him $25, but he folded before calling the river and showed us his cracked aces pain. So then he whined and whined and finally left in a huff. Listen, no matter how long it takes, ask the rules before you play. Find out if there is cracked aces, and what the bad beat pays, and how much needs to be in the pot for a bonus payment to be accepted. You might even ask twice. At Binions regular players thought it was twenty dollars in the pot, a dealer did not know, and then a dealer came who told us it was only ten dollars. That makes a big difference if your one opponent is weak and you don't want to bet him out until after the river. Here at the Plaza the minimum is fairly unimportant as it will generally be met preflop, but in tighter games, it is important to know and play with that in mind. Also, don't play low chipped. I heard another story this trip of the loss of a bad beat because one opponent was all-in and when only two were left and there was less than the minimum in the pot. They had a cracked aces bonus, which is a very good bonus in such a loose game. I had pocket aces twice and won good sized pots. Once five hearts came on the board, and I held the ace of hearts. I bet out on river and the fellow with the king raised me and a third fellow check raised me without even holding a heart. Players who regularly had cards develop made good money, and yet I could throw away hands for long stretches and still be paid when I bet a well developed cards. I did not get too much respect. At times I got enough to clear half the table on a mid position raise. At other times even a reraise would see most of the callers. No bluffing at this game. In all my days of playing I stole just one pot and I picked my opponent carefully. He layed down his small pair to my 4-5 and nothing. I did it as much to let the table see me bluffing, as to steal, but I was happy with the win and not quite sure if the table would see anything even if I pointed it out with â€œFive high! I dare you to beat it!â€ The most entertaining guy at the table was bob, a bus driver with a tour group from Winnipeg, Canada who was full of mischief and engaging. Another driver Wayne was also a regular and very friendly and fun. While I sit here at McCarren waiting for my bus to Laughlin, these two Canadians are driving straight home and that means 36 hours of travel with some breaks but no overnights. Whew! And I thought that this Laughlin trip was going to be long. Also Brian, a dealer to keeps good control of the board, was often as good as a stand up comedian. The interaction was great. Overall dealers were pretty much on top of the action. But there were some errors and always they need to be watched. Say what folks will about those electronic poker dealing machines that just left Excalibur, there is less monitoring of common errors and more time to just think about the poker. A mother daughter combo comes every day and plays with little money, buying in for twenty dollars. They were not really skilled players. I was the only rock and then not often enough I guess as I ended a few dollars down overall. My other downfall was I went off my frugal schedule as I went on a bit of a VP tilt chasing the Royal at the Four Queens one day. Their 10/7 DB full pay table is enhanced by a progressive royal, and the royal was up to $1131. But it cost me money I should be saving for my VP play in Laughlin where I need to satisfy my host Janella. My two comped weekends there are the only five days that require some play, and I want to keep that as part of each trip if I can. I did a similar thing at the Vue where I used the POV coupon for a 2 for 1 potato chip supper and played Bonus 8/5 while I ate and drank a few beers. This is also a full pay table with a progressive royal and it was up over $1200. I lost. No taxes to pay anyway. Add in a bit of slot play where I never left up chips, and I left this portion of my trip behind. I played the blackjack machine while waiting for a poker seat one night and I did not like it. I found the betting unresponsive and some of the buttons did not light on this nearly new machine. Simulating a dealer also seems incredibly tacky. The poker machine does not have a video of a pretend dealer. It just does the work well. I played no limit at Binions and found it crowded with folks on a poker convention for an on line poker group called Barge, so the competition could be quite tough. I lost my first $100 in one hand and the rest of the afternoon tried to just break even but ended down $12. I thought I played well, but gradually only the best players were left. I saw on huge hand exchange hundreds of dollars. A flopped straight was up against a set of tens and a set of jacks. Then two queens came. One of the losers was a fellow from this group who was somehow allowed to play our table and another table at the same time. He arrived with over a grand on the table and seemed to not be very confused running back and forth between seats. He was intimidating and I would have preferred that he not be allowed that privilege, but I suppose it is one thing Binions offers to this group. He had a big Pokerstars shirt on. I am not ready to play in this community of seasoned high rollers. So once the more moderate folks lost their money and left, I left the table. I also played no limit at the Golden Nugget and did well but those were good players too for the most part. One night there was a no limit at the Plaza and that was very comfortable as I knew half the players from other nights and some of the others were not very good and perhaps confused because they generally play a limit game. The loss at the Four Queens VP tells me that for most of my trip, I am much better off just paying these small amounts for rooms and not using the VP to generate comped rooms. I do suppose that I may start to get some offers again from the Four Queens as I played just one day. Last night the Canadian drivers talked their way into havng a no limit game at the Plaza. It was a fine game for me because the players were folks I had played with all week in limit, and there would be no hotshot NL pro's coming to the Plaza for NL because there was no NL game there regularly and no sit n go yesterday. I did very well and had a fine time. DonD grabbed an offer from the Encore where at first it looked as if they would not honor an email offer, and then after he complained about it in a board post, he was contacted and the Wynn made good. So folks read things here. Don is as fine a fellow in real life as he is here on the boards. He offered to drive me around more of Vegas, but I figured I had imposed on his hospitality enough. Also, I am pretty much a solo traveler and have relatives to visit here too. So I guess we won't hook up again. For one thing I am just not feeling right. I have been overtired since I arrived and not sleeping as well as I want. I am up at 6:30 which happens in this old age life regardless of when I hit the sack. I have not felt my usual peppy self. Each day I feel a bit better, so maybe it is just jet lag. FOOD I tried Plaza's new Stuff It buffet for the evening meal applying a poker room $7.77 lunch comp to the evening meal price. These food comps are good for forty eight hours and you get a credit of two dollars an hour at the poker table. When the game breaks up, you can get the comp, have it dated for that day, and have plenty of time to use it. It worked for the casino too as it kept me here and playing. Other days I had lunch at Stuff It covered completely by the comp. The food there was also very good. I asked for the end piece of the herb encrusted beef and enjoyed some well flavored and tasty bites. Chopped spinach with ground beef was good as was the braised pork and mushrooms. Mussels topped with butter and parsley were moist and wonderful. Blueberries made a fine desert. I pretty much get by on just one buffet a day. On the last day I had breakfast at the buffet. This was well below par. Everything tasted fine, but the selections were poor, the bacon rubbery, the biscuits hard, the nice evening and lunch ham was gone and there were just some deli like thin sliced pieces, the iced cream machine was shut. Where we once could go to have an egg cooked at a station, that space was now part of the omlette house. Perhaps they will put in a station as I saw work in one corner, but for now I'd use my comps at the Omelet House rather than the buffet. I keep nuts and prunes in my room, and I have a snack for supper like the 99 cent shrimp at the Golden Gate where I watched the dancing girls for a while. And, Yes, that is still the price as long as you pay with your player's card in hand. They serve until 3 AM. FREEMONT BUFFET Since Freemont started to take the coupons for 50% for solo eaters, I decided to grab the evening buffet there. The prime rib was excellent. The rest was rather mediocre. I got plenty to eat and my waitress Sue was really attentive, but the choices seemed limited. Vegetables in particular seemed limited. The whitefish was good. The salad was one choice of lettuce. No baby spinach. Nothing was bad, I just don't see this buffet having any advantage over the Main Street buffet which generally I think is cheaper. DonD is definitely a Plaza supporter. I think I am fairly objective, and I like this place. I have been keeping up with the talk about it here and know that as well as letting the place run down, there was a time when long time players were just not treated right. I have to say I don't think that would happen in the spirit of this new Plaza. Since I don't play much at all on machines, I can't really judge such things and I won't connect here with a host because I could not satisfy anyone's requirements for room comps let along RFB. However, I think downtown folks who gamble would be satisfied here, especially if these renovations go the way they are predicted. The food was good. I had a chorizo filled omlette and it was served with a choice of banana nut bread. The bread came in a four inch by four inch square and would be a great light meal all by itself. The omlette was huge. Don's wife did get an overly salty burger, but everyone else enjoyed omelets. I saw the lobster omelet loaded with lobster meat. My room key gives me a 20% discount at this place. I went to Stuff It on the Southern Fried night really by accident. I see what they are trying to do. The buffet is small, but each dish expressed the flavor of the South and I thought the tastes were quite wonderful and the dishes a good change from the usual buffet. I remember the fried chicken at the old buffet, and I would always stay away from it. This was light and tasty and cooked Southern. The greens were cooked right and the black eyed peas had large chunks of ham hocks for a real soul flavor. I liked the veggie pie with mashed potatoes and the ham. They carved ham and brisket. There was chicken fried steak and biscuits with cream gravy. I also liked that I could get my own drink, so I could balance my orange juice and water. The coffee was very good. I'll have to ask what it is as this is not standard buffet coffee. For desert I fixed a large bowl of the raspberry blueberry mix and topped it with soft iced cream. Overall it was a fine meal in a comfortable small setting. DonD generously arranged for me to get a ticket to Rat Pack is Back. I was seated in the VIP section, and it was quite a show. The music and the comedy reflected the sense of that group and the songs were wonderful. I listen often to this music and their takes were right on. I love Dean Martin music and that was a bit under par, but I may be a bit too particular. This Joey Bishop fellow looked just like him and told the old fashioned jokes. I did not want the show to end. I also caught a set of the Filipino band. The lead Ricki sure can sing. I caught the last set and the three cute girls danced and made contact with the audience, sometimes having a dancing conversation with someone and repeating certain moves. They were delightful. The new lounge is much nicer. I was not hassled to buy a drink. There is a small mod bar with odd white stools and I did not find them comfortable until I stopped trying to sit in them and used them to support me standing and leaning backwards. Some complained of this music in the poker area, as it made it very loud, but I liked hearing live music while playing. The major annoyance in the poker area for me and others was this new blackjack machine with the simulated cute girl dealing. She was always talking, even when there were no players and that constant chatter got annoying if you played on the table nearest her. I was not too bothered by smoke, but this is not as smoke free a room as other more isolated poker rooms. Folks go from the table to the rail just a few feet away for a quick puff. Drink service was just great. They were around regularly and very friendly. One very old woman used to be a dancer and is really nice and interesting to watch. I have never seen perfect legs on a woman this old before. I wish I had aged like that. Check-in is back on the first floor which means very easy elevator access to the North Tower. These are brand new elevators, and I never waited for a ride as folks once did. The pool was much better than I remember. There is a bar and cabanas so you could spend the day there and not be in the sun. Large square cement areas are padded for sunbathing. They looked comfortable but pretty hot. I like having that huge Binions clock to keep track of my time. The door to the pool is locked for key usage, however, the screen above the lock is bent back to allow someone to reach in and open the door without a key, so I suppose that anyone could use this pool. It was not crowded. Mostly families. A few good lookers. So, summing up, the Plaza is a place to watch as they renovate. It looks like this is one piece of old Vegas that won't be blown up soon. Of course, the prices may go up once they have things all spiffy. So I am happy to be here during transition when it comes cheap and still has many pleasant surprises. I'm in spacious room 919 and things work and feel just fine. There is one stain on the carpet. The television is very small. Otherwise I don't think anyone who is used to frugal places would have anything to complain about. The hallway carpet is really terrible. It is quiet here, much better than the Golden Gate. The white noise of the air conditioner helps me sleep. There are plenty of plugs for my sleep apnea machine. One thing puzzles me. I can see the railroad tracks from my ninth floor window. At Main Street Station I'd have heard those loud whistles, but I've been napping about the room and have not heard a single train. With the air conditioner off I can just sort of make out that there is some movement, look out, and see the train pass. But it would not wake me, nor are there any whistles. I remember when at ten am I could no longer sleep at Main Street Station, but I have been in the room napping at various times, and heard nothing. And speaking of napping. Those dollar store snack bag chips are good to pack here as they will close these curtains so all the light is gone and the room is dark. I can't get that at MSS or California with those infernal window slats bleeding just enough light to make napping a bit hard. I can't speak about housekeeping because I refuse service, so I don't have to pick up before they clean or arrange my sleeping around their cleaning, or take off the top cover every time they make the bed. Or worry that someone will slip in while they are cleaning with the door open. I call housekeeping each day and cancel service and that is always better than telling the cleaners and then no mistakes. At the Golden Gate if you call, insist they do not call on the telephone to check if you are serious and take you out of a good nap. I can speak to security as today for my morning swim I took my Golden Gate Player's card which did not work well as a hotel key. I went to the desk and they sent a security fellow up to open my door and verify that I was the guy who should be there. Sometimes these folks are surly and treat the guy with no key or ID as an annoyance. The last thing a fellow who has acted like an idiot needs to experience is being treated like an idiot. This fellow was perfectly professional in every way and his calm easy and friendly manner would encourage me to come here again. There is no coffee maker or refrigerator or safe. Plenty of closet hangers with clamps to hold wet, washed things. I have not needed to use the laundry room, because I am keeping up so well just by washing out things here by hand and hanging them to dry in this dry air. After Laughlin I will hit another laudromat at the Tuscany. I've been very comfortable here, and I'll come back. I gave up the luxury of the Eastside Cannery and saved over $100 over five nights. These rooms will never match those Eastside Cannery rooms, but my needs are frugal and I have no regrets. A hundred dollars will offset my losses. Twenty three days is a long time here in Vegas and money helps. Also, in this Vegas heat (103 at 8 AM) it is fine to just walk out and be at Freemont wandering about with little heat. That canopy really shelters us from the sun. It would not be the same walking to Sam's Town. BUS OBSERVATIONS: The doors are very wide, the step up and down is very small. Even my large suitcase, when I sat in the side seats, did not obstruct anyone passing. The 108 I caught was a single bus with a trailer that doubled the size. We left with a dozen people and lost many of them before we got to Main St. Even then it was not at all crowded. Plenty of seats and room to maneuver. I had not taken the 108 downtown before. If you have ridden the Deuce to that stop near the 24 hour Walgreen's, this 108 also stops there, so there is easy access to all the casinos. I rode on the DTC but that was a mistake. I had misremembered the distance to the Plaza. I might just as well have walked down under the canopy. Still it was an easy walk. So My plane landed at 3:25. Bathroom, luggage pickup, repacking my large suitcase, finding the elevator for ground zero and catching the 108 to ride to the DTC and then walking to the Plaza. All that and I was in check in line at 5:15. The 108 drops off right in front of the Hilton and the Sahara. Of course, the Hilton is a hike because they built it so far back from the road. The Sahara check in circle however, is directly across the street from the bus stop. That would be an easy place to access for a few days, and then there would be the 108 again to take me downtown for another few days. I have not played in recent years much in that area. The Sahara has some good acts sometimes, or at least they used to, and I also like some of the late night lounge music at the Stratosphere , especially Huck Daniels review late on Monday night. And the Sahara has a pool. I may be tempted to stay there as there is live poker at both places. The bus ride would be about half the time as it takes to go downtown. I would not take the bus from the airport if I was staying at Terribles. But that is not necessary because Terrible provides free transportation from the airport. I forget that Terribles is an easy ride on 108 from downtown, but the airport is afterwards. I am disappointed that since I am not riding the bus much from here I did not get a $25 month pass on my new senior citizen card. I was sort of looking forward to that pleasure. I got day passes and ride along Flamingo later, so it won't all add up to 25 dollars. I did enjoy using the card to reduce my airport to hotel cost to 75 cents. My return to the airport to pick up the River City Shuttle was easy as well. I grabbed the 108 steps from the Plaza and had a fine conversation with a fellow from Illinois all the way to the airport. I arrived an hour early so I have time to post this TR althought perhaps not time to edit as much as I might like. Last night the Freemont Experience included a hippie bus with music makers and aerial artists singing old 60's songs. I do like this flower power theme as it reminds me of being a kid. The music was too loud but the show was good and I certainly enjoyed the beautiful women covered in a rubbery outfit head to toe that mimics naked body painting. They swirled around over out heads. I In the light show also there was one set of simple flowers blending in colors and psychedelic mergers while they played that song that starts â€œI ain't scared of dyingâ€ and another â€œSpinning wheelâ€ Man, that really took me back to emotions I had as a young guy. It was very cool. I have a shirt celebrating this theme in downtown which the bus drivers got for me from the poker room. USED PLAYING CARDS: The Golden Gate now has dollar decks of playing cards which are not blackmarked. They are the older style, not used on the floor at the current time and so they are in very good shape. The hotel receptionist sells them and a few other small souvenirs. The Plaza too had nice clean cards for a dollar. But most other places I tried here have blackmarked them on the edges or front and that bleeds into the backs of a card or two. We use them at home for poker, but no one wants the black marked decks, as the marking will bleed into the backs and mark the cards. We use a lot of decks because in our system each poker player deals from an assigned deck, and so we need sets of cards where all ten decks have different backings. That is not easy to do frugally, so I am always keeping an eye out for different colored decks and bringing them home from my travels. Most of the discount stores have assorted decks, but all these have been marked. At the Fitz the decks were colored black and the woman let me open and examine them. Some were very clean. Others had one or two marked cards, and she let me buy just the good ones. Also I took my ACG coupon to the Golden Gate promotions and told them that I did not get the deck of cards when I was a new joiner last time because they were out of cards. So they gave me a deck this time. I had no play on my card as I really just got it for the shrimp half price deal. So another deck for the poker boys. Well, sorry for disorganized rambles here, but I wanted to post as soon as I could to thank DonD for his hospitality and to get some closure on this portion of the Plaza trip. I leave down money but content. Next is host Janela and a VP tournament at the Edgewater. I also apologize that I won't be able to answer any comments or questions for a couple week yet, but write them anyway and when I get settle at home, I'll write back. Thanks for reading.