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A Not-So-Live Trip Report : Encore & Aria Late February

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by CaptainJack, Apr 16, 2011.

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  1. CaptainJack

    CaptainJack Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Trips to Las Vegas:
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    My Trip Report

    I wrote this trip report days after I arrived back home and wanted to add some photos in for the posting here. Unfortunately, I never got around to it...and the TR has sat on my laptop waiting to be uploaded for more than a month. So in the age of live trip reports...here's one that's long dead. Hope you still enjoy it.

    The Skinny
    Here's where you can decide if it's worth your time to read this trip report:
    - First class flight from PHL
    - No limo this trip...a Rolls Royce Phantom.
    - 3 nights at Encore Resort King
    - 3 nights at Aria Corner Suite
    - Dinners at Sinatra, Mesa Grill, and Wazuzu
    - A visit to Fremont Street
    - Winning, losing, and upgraded to RFB
    - $172,000 slot jackpot
    - Drinks with Steve Wynn
    - Bad room in Caesars Augustus Tower
    - Unseasonably cold...again.

    Background
    This is my 29th trip to Vegas. Accompanying me will be my girlfriend, making her 4th trip in less than two years. We got engaged two weeks before the trip...that turned the trip into a sort of celebration. We tend to go twice a year, once in the summer, once in the late winter. Going forward, I think I'll shift our trips to April and October to lock in some better weather. Joining us halfway through the weekend would be another couple on their second trip to Vegas.

    Flight
    For the second straight trip, I decided to upgrade from coach to first class for the 5 hour flight from Philadelphia via USAir. We were flying through the afternoon, so lunch was served. It seems everytime I fly first class, they run out of the meal I'd prefer to have. Kind of annoying that they can't stock enough of each option...but hey, it's a free meal, and by the time we're passing Ohio I've had enough Jack & Cokes to make it a very minor annoyance. Facebook was free on Gogo Inflight Wifi in February, so that was a nice diversion. Two movies kept the GF occupied. I read the book Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley (good expose of Wynn, Kerkorian, and Loveman). The flight flew by (which is better than the alternative both literally and figuratively).

    "Sir...your Phantom awaits..."
    I had previously not stayed at Wynn or Encore...although I was no stranger to playing there. Prior to my trip, I contacted a host to get everything setup. I gave him my level of play (~$50k coin-in per day on Video Poker) and made arrangements to review my play at the end of the trip. I also asked for a limo from the airport. Sure enough, when descending the escalator at McCarren there was a gentleman holding a placard with my name on it. While we waited for my luggage we talked about the book I had been reading. He relayed some Steve Wynn stories. He had followed Wynn from Mirage to Bellagio to Wynn. After the luggage arrived, we headed down to Zero Level and out to the car...it was at that point I remembered that Wynn has a stable of Rolls Royce Phantoms at their disposal. Sure enough, we'd be headed to Encore in a beautiful V-12 Phantom. The backseat was spacious to say the least. Complete with a desk that folds out from the back of front seat and beautiful hidden drawers in the seat that housed chilled waters.
    When we arrived at Encore, my host ran over to open the door and welcome us to Encore. He escorted us to check-in, got our room assigned and made sure we had all the contact information we needed and that we were as happy as we could be. Wynn certainly does service better than anyone else in town.

    Room #1
    We had a Resort King room facing south. Our view spanned from Trump down to approximately the Mirage. We could see the Lake of Dreams, Sirens of TI, and Mirage Volcano shows simultaneously. Overall, it was a very nice room. We enjoyed our stay at Encore very much. There is a very noticeable attention to detail at Wynncore that other resorts just don't have. I can see us adding Wynn to our rotation of resorts going forward.

    Fremont Street Experience
    My girlfriend wanted to see Fremont Street...being from the east coast I said it resembled a lot of Atlantic City but offered to take her down there. We caught a couple light shows and probably a couple communicable diseases. I know downtown appeals to a lot of people, but it's just too much like AC and Reno for me to enjoy it. The pathetic street acts don't add to the appeal.

    Dining #1 - Sinatra
    This was our celebration dinner for our recent engagement. As we walked to dinner, we realized we maybe should have picked Botero, as we were both in the mood for steak. We were seated at a nice table for two by the window overlooking the outdoor garden. I definitely appreciate how Steve Wynn always designs views into his envrionments. We overlooked a very nice flower garden that made for a peaceful dining experience. Of course, being an avid FiveHundy fan, I had to try the Sinatra Smash. It was delicious. My GF had the filet, I had the NY Strip. My GF prefers her steak well-done, but doesn't like butterfly cuts. I've warned her that cooking a thick cut of meat like a filet mignon to well-done specifications while not butterflying is extremely tough. However, kudos to the kitchen at Sinatra...the steak was done perfectly for her. Dinner came to about $400.

    Gambling #1 - Wynn/Encore
    I do most of my serious gambling in the morning. First, I like the uncrowded conditions, and secondly, I don't have to worry about getting my play in the rest of the day. Typically, I can play $50k coin-in in about 2 hours of $5 denom single line video poker. Sometimes I'd bump up to $10 denom, sometimes I'd move over 3-line $5. The first day went well, I made about $500 in $55k of wagering. The second day didn't go so well...lost about $8k in $80k of wagering. Not a big deal, just some bad variance. The third day, I put in another $70k of wagering and lost about $2k. So at this point I was down about $10k at Wynn/Encore. I knew this was the perfect time to head off to see my host. I tracked him down and we reviewed my play. He was anxious to remove all my room charges up to this point (about $800 so far) and offered to bump me up to RFB with one night left on our visit. Memorable (and hand payable) hands included a straight flush and a dealt quad at 3-line $5. No royals this trip (obviously).

    Dining #2 - Society Cafe, Terrace Pointe Cafe, Wazuzu
    While playing one morning, I ran into a fellow player I am friends with. He lives in Vegas and plays poker, sports, and video poker professionally. I offered to buy him breakfast. We went to Society Cafe and had a quick $50 breakfast. Definitely a very good breakfast, but $50 for a quick two egg breakfast is a bit much. Service was top-notch of course.
    My GF and I went to Terrace Pointe Cafe a couple times for lunch. We enjoyed it each time. I had the fish tacos one day and they were excellent. Again, not cheap, but worth it (especially since I was quite sure all food charges would be taken care of).
    We also had dinner at Wazuzu on our last night at Encore. My local friend had told me it was the best Thai food in Vegas next to the legendary Lotus of Siam. We started with some sushi and then each had Thai dishes (which escape my memory). Wazuzu asks you how spicy on a scale of 1-5. For some reason I said 4 even though I was thinking 3. Yikes! 4 was pretty damn spicy. Wish I would have said what I was thinking. Dinner came to about $200 and was excellent.

    Drinks with Steve Wynn
    After dinner at Wazuzu we went down to Eastside Lounge for the dueling pianos, which we had walked by the night before and thought it might be entertaining. We knew we were RFB, so the the two drink minimum wasn't an issue...nor were the inflated drink prices. We settled in with our drinks while the talented piano duo got started. Suddenly I noticed most faces in the room turn towards the entrance. Walking in was the legendary Steve Wynn. I've long been an admirer of Wynn...and of course, after this stay, I was even more impressed. Steve paused at the entrance and waited for someone to lead him the rest of the way. I read in Winner Takes All that adjusting to dimmer light is very tough for him so he relies on other people to walk him through dim environments. Steve and his party of 4 were seated at a table near ours. I actually turned my chair so that Steve was more in my line of sight. He's just fascinating.

    Gambling #2 - $172,000 jackpot!
    Both Wynn and Encore have a site-wide progressive called Windfall. I've noticed that this progressive is on slot machines ranging from $0.25 to $5 denom. I'm not much of a slot player, so I have no interest in playing it. However, while playing some VP at Wynn one night, my machine faced a bank of $5 Windfall machines. I was taking a short break from playing and mindlessly was watching an older woman playing the slot. She hit MaxBet and up came WINDFALL-WINDFALL-WINDFALL. She froze and started calmly saying "Ohmygod,ohmygod,ohmygod." At first I thought she won $10k, then I saw the big progressive board reset to $100,000. She had just won $172,000+. Within seconds, slot personnel were by her side, calling in supervisors. People gathered around and pretty soon she was mobbed. Here's the most amazing part. There was a guy playing the slot machine next to her. He paused a little when she hit...but then refused to acknowledge her win AT ALL. He continued to focus on just his machine and kept playing while this big circus played out around him. I guess it's jealousy...it was almost as if he was saying "eh, I wasn't trying to hit $172k anyway...it's no big deal...I'm going to continue playing because that's what I came here to do."

    Room #2 - Aria Corner Suite
    After three nights we were ready to move over to Aria. Although my host offered it, I didn't take the Rolls over to Aria. Arrival and check-in at Aria was very smooth. We were given a Corner Suite on the 18th floor overlooking Cosmopolitan. I had asked my host to give us a high floor, but it wasn't a big deal to only be on 18. The Corner Suites are often at the end of LONG hallways, but luckily ours was the shortest hallway possible of the four. We've stayed in Corner Suites before...it's a nice layout and we both like the bathroom with the jetted tub and heated toilet. We last stayed at Aria about a year ago and we were happy to see they continue to make improvements.

    Room #3 - Caesars Augustus Tower
    It was this day that our friends joined us for the rest of the weekend. I had set them up in a room at Caesars. Personally, I'm not much for CET properties, but the ease of room comps often makes them easy choices when I give away a room to travelling company. They were supposed to arrive around 2pm, but bad weather back east gave them a hellish trip that wouldn't see them arrive until 9pm via a different airline. Around 3pm I went over to check them in. Check-in on a Friday is always crowded, even in the Diamond Registration. As the clerk searched around I made it clear that we didn't mind waiting for "our" room to be ready. Finally after a few minutes she said, if you don't mind waiting I will make sure you get upgraded to a better room. That was fine by us and we returned much later, 9pm, to pick up the keys. I decided to go up and check out their room to see what kind of upgrade they got. Bellagio Fountain view? Suite? High floor? Well, imagine my disappointment when I found they were put at the west end of the hall on floor 24. Their view consisted of looking at the butt-end of the uncompleted Octavius Tower! The room may have been a little bigger being on the end, but in a CET room that just gains you empty space. Worse yet, there were two half-finished water bottles left in the room. Not the kind the hotel leaves for a $4 conveinance charge...but the "dollahwuttah" kind you buy on the overpass between Caesars and Bellagio. Embarassed, I disposed of them out of the room before bringing my friends to the room.

    Gambling #2 - Aria/Cosmopolitan
    I gave Aria about $40k coin-in each day. Having had the big loss at Wynn earlier in the trip, I wasn't anxious to go out of my way. I also knew our meals and entertainment at the resort would be light, so I didn't want to overplay. I did dip down about $3k at one point and contacted my host and asked if she could give me some freeplay even though the offer I came in on didn't include any. She gave me a token $200, which I thought was fair for the amount I had played and lost. I ended up recovering most of my losses and booked an $800 loss for my time at Aria, a little closer to expecation than Wynn.
    I also decided to get established at Cosmopolitan. When signing up I flashed my CET Diamond, Venetian Gold, and MLife Platinum and asked to speak to a host. I waited for about 10 minutes and no host appeared. Finally the clerk said she could take me to Gold and the host would review my play. A little annoyed, I said fine. I ended up playing video-poker for a couple hours and gave them my usual $50k coin-in. I also played about 2 hours of blackjack with an average bet of $100. That wasn't so much for the rating as it was for the entertainment. I really enjoyed the dealers at Cosmo, I look forward to playing there again. I lost $200 total between VP and BJ there. Given all the reports of room glitches, I'll let them sort their stuff out before attempting to stay there.
    My opinion of Cosmopolitan is that it will do very well if it can adhere to the market strategy it currently places itself in. Boutique hotel, hip environment, entertainment heavy, very beautiful amentities. If it gets Harrahized or MGMed, it'll just blend in with all the other polished turds.

    Dining #3 - Mesa Grill, Julian Serrano
    I decided to burn some of my CET comps and treat everyone to dinner at Mesa Grill. My GF and I are big fans of Bobby Flay Steaks in Atlantic City and have enjoyed Mesa Grill before. This dinner was no different than our past Bobby Flay experiences, it was excellent. Had my second steak of the weekend...we passed on dessert in favor of some liquid libations elsewhere.
    On Sunday afternoon, we went to lunch at Julian Serrano. This meal was provided by my friend who lives in town. There were 8 of us at lunch and we had a great time ordering many small dishes as well as a Paella for the table. The food was beyond excellent. The bill came to about $400, which considering there were 8 of us and it was Julian Serrano, this was a pretty fair bargain.

    Weather
    Since I'm so late posting this, it doesn't much matter what the weather was, but this was the second straight year we scheduled a trip for late Feb/early March and once again, the weather was bad. We had freezing rain one night and all the mountains rimming the valley were snow-capped. Last year we had a hailstorm blow through while we were there. Being from the northeast I'd prefer to go to Vegas to escape the winter, but I think scheduling for later in March or April is what we'll need to do next time.

    Final Thoughts
    All in all, a very good trip. Overall I gave Vegas about $400k in action, lost about $9k, and received comps, freeplay, etc totalling ~$4500. Can't complain about that. I probably assured myself of coming back to Wynn at RFL at least. I didn't hurt my standing at MGM and hopefully have added Cosmopolitan to my stable.
     
  2. chess

    chess VIP Whale

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    Enjoyed reading the thread... GLad you could get it done..

    Sounds like you and the GF had a blast !!!
     
  3. Eddington910

    Eddington910 Tourist

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    Great trip report. Thanks for posting!

    How do you measure your coin-in? Is it an estimate, or based on point accrual?

    I ask because I play at roughly your level/bankroll/time of play, but I can't be certain in terms of exact coin in. I didnt know if you had some tips.

    Thanks again for the TR. Great read!

    PS- I would have been happy for the Windfall winner. Good karma, you know?
     
  4. BackInVegas

    BackInVegas VIP Whale

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    The jackpot win

    You got me. I thought you won it.

    But the story about the guy next to her that kept right on playing. WHAT!!

    Maybe slot machine players can explain to me, I would have congratulated her and got up from the machine. I would think there would be NO WAY the slot machine I was on would hit. Even if I had been putting thousands of dollars in that slot jackpot does not get to 172K because every machine pays.
     
  5. ant1433

    ant1433 Low-Roller

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    Fun read. I also like Bobby Flay's. Especially at the Borgata. Haven't had a bad meal yet. I actually saw him in The Borgata and he had an apron on. He was working in the kitchen not just shaking hands and schmoozing!!!
     
  6. Jinx

    Jinx VIP Whale

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    Great report and I think your thoughts on Cosmo are right on, if they maintain, it has a chance to be a really nice property, if it succumbs to the corporate nature of the strip it's a step above Mirage and more because it's newer then anything else.
     
  7. CaptainJack

    CaptainJack Low-Roller

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    Eddington:
    Tracking coin-in is different at different casinos. At Wynn, I know that each point is $9 coin-in, so I track my points in each session and multiply by 9. In places where there are no points displayed to track, I estimate 800 hands/hr. I'm probably more capable of 1000 hands/hr, but this way I don't worry about breaks for cocktail waitresses or handpays. Knowing what level of comps you can get for a certain level of play varies by casino and by host. I try to accentuate losses and downplay wins.
     
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