so last weekend was my wife and my big 30th birthday party trip that we've been planning for the past few months. originally it looked like we'd have 20-25 people show up, but as is always the case, as the time got closer people started to cancel. we were down to about 14 and then about a week and a half before the trip, several others also cancelled. so it ended up being a much smaller more intimate group than originally planned, but it all worked out. there were 8 there the entire time with several others just to stop in for just a night. most everybody that showed up we have known for at least 15 years or more, so it was a good group. originally with all the people we were hoping for the 2BR Terrace Skyloft, which is a perfect party space. but with only 8-10 people, that seemed like overkill, so i talked to my host about putting us in a 2BR Mansion instead. since it was an off-weekend, he managed to make it happen. we ended up in the same villa that we had toured a couple of trips ago and it is amazing. about 5000 sq ft, has a baby grand piano in the living room, dining table for 10, 2 balconies over looking the atrium, a theater room with 70" TV and of course the 2 bedrooms each with full spa bathrooms. it's everything you think a villa should be and more. we arrived Wednesday afternoon and hopped in the Rolls Royce Phantom to the Mansion. that never gets old. most people were getting in Thursday or Friday, but one of my buddies was coming Wednesday so we could go to Le Cirque for dinner. i never miss a trip to Le Cirque when i'm in Vegas, but i didn't want to foot the bill for the entire group as that would get quite pricey. another buddy was in town for business and said he had too much work to finish and didn't have time for dinner. but when he came to the Mansion and saw the villa and i told him Le Cirque was the best restaurant in the city (JMO), his schedule quickly opened up and he joined us. lol. dinner was fabulous as always. our favorite waiter Maurice was off unfortunately, but Freddy the sommelier always takes great care of us. we had the 6 course degustation menu and 4 bottles of great wine. bill only came to about $1500 plus tip, which i think is more than fair for 4 people. a similar meal at JR cost me twice that and we didn't enjoy it half as much. we'll never go back to JR when Le Cirque is just a quick limo ride away. late wednesday night my buddy had 4 friends driving in from LA to work a gig the next night. they got in about 330am and we were sleeping, but we found out the next morning they didn't waste any time starting the party. the best thing about staying in the Mansion is there really aren't any rules. large groups and all night parties are the norm and they accommodate anything you want. with camera phones and Facebook and everything, what happens in Vegas often doesn't stay in Vegas anymore, but what happens in the Mansion is another story. my wife and i headed to breakfast about 8am and they had just gone to sleep, lol. breakfast at the Mansion restaurant is another thing that just never gets old. sitting in the atrium with the blue sky overhead, 70 degree temperature, citrus-gardenia scent wafting around, drinking freshly squeezed watermelon juice and eating some fresh udon noodles with sliced beef in soup and BBQ sticky pork buns is about as close to perfection as you can get. after breakfast my wife and i went for a walk, but we ended up with a slight detour at the tables. i saw a shoe that looked really good, so decided to sit down. i was playing with this spanish guy that i had seen before on previous trips. it started out nicely and i was up 5k pretty quickly, but then it turned choppy and next thing i know i was down 5k. but i weathered the storm and was able to turn it around a little and get back to even and actually win about 1k, so i decided to call it quits for a decent first session. i knew i wouldn't have a lot of time to gamble this trip with all the friends and activities, so my goal was hit and run style. short sessions, get up a little and leave. although it would have been nice to leave up 5k, any winner is good, so i was satisfied. after a quick dip in the pool, our first friends arrived and i told them i'd meet them outside the Mansion. of course, while i was waiting, i decided to hit the tables. i was only there about 10 minutes, but hit a good streak and picked up 5k before they showed up. so far it was perfect hit and run gambling. thursday night we headed to Bellagio to have drinks and dinner with my host there and his wife. we have been trying to get together for dinner the last 3 trips and it hasn't worked out, but this time we finally managed to put it together. we had drinks at Hyde and watched the fountains and then dinner at Prime in the private dining room. in all our trips to the B, we've never eaten at Prime and it was amazing. we started with the seafood platter, which was the biggest platter i'd ever seen in my life. pounds and pounds of fresh king crab, lobster, clams, oysters, shrimp, mussels, etc. for dinner the bone-in filet was just out of this world and definitely the best steak i've ever had. we had bottles of Silver Oak, which is a good classic Napa cab. the more bottles we had, the better the party got. my buddy and my host are both pretty wild and i knew they would hit it off and i wasn't wrong. the only thing that kept the party from migrating to bottles of Patron was my host's wife. but that's probably a good thing, lol. the best part is my host signed the bill to his account so it never even hit my comps and all i had to cover was the tip. after dinner we met up with my friend's 4 buddies who had finished their gig that night and we all headed over to Aria for a table at Haze. we were up top overlooking the dance floor, which was pretty nice. even though we were 10 people, i managed to get a 2 bottle min since it was Thursday night. we left about 2, but the 4 buddies stayed until late friday was pool day and the Mansion pool is a great place to relax after a long night. we spent pretty much the entire day there, drinking, eating, swimming, lounging and the entire day we were the only people there. it's pretty nice to have your own private pool party. before dinner i decided to hit the tables and go for another hit and run session. it worked out perfectly and i hit them for 15k in under an hour, now up 21k total for the trip. unfortunately i forgot to take a picture of that shoe and don't really remember much about it. dinner was at Diego's which is a decent mexican place. i only go there for the margaritas and fresh guac. i actually didn't even order a main course because i never eat it anyway after all the guac and other appetizers. after dinner i was really tired, but decided to hit the tables for hopefully another hit and run session. it was a great shoe, but i was just out of sorts a little. player went on a tear winning 14 out of 16 hands, but i wasn't really pressing and actually bet banker a couple of times. i was up 5k but really should have been a lot more with that shoe. i thought about quitting then, but we still had some time before dinner, so i stuck around. pretty soon the spanish guy came over and saw the shoe and decided to sit down and we started playing together. he plays very similarly to me so it works well. we both like to analyze the charts and look for patterns and develop camraderie, etc. pretty soon the shoe was settling into a nice pattern and we started to hit it hard. every once in a while he would look at the chart and say, this is a 20k hand. so i'd put out 3-5k, which is a good sized bet for me, but he chickened out and didn't put 20k. every time he said that we got a natural 8 or 9 and he kicked himself for not putting out 20k. the only thing that kept it from really being an epic shoe is twice i bet 5k and lost. those big ones are the ones that hurt. but we won quite a few big hands and many others and before the pattern broke, i was up 25k for that shoe and 46k for the trip. i attached a pic of the shoe, player 41, banker 20. after that shoe it was only 11pm, but the problem is that we'd been staying up late, but my body was still on EST, so i was waking up at 5-6am anyway. so 2 nights of little sleep and i was ready to crash early. but you always sleep well when you're sitting on a big winner. more to come later.