Brenda and I returned from 5 days/nights in Las Vegas several days ago staying at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Casino & Spa (12/16 - 12/21). This was our ninth trip to Vegas since May, 2002 and our second trip to the Green Valley Ranch (GVR) and we had a great time. You can check out their website at: http://www.greenvalleyranchresort.com This trip was to celebrate both our birthdays in December. We had received an invite in the mail for their $15,000 Video Poker Tournament (12/17 - 12/18). This included two comped nights and entry into the tournament. We also received a calendar with some 'free' nights and pretty good rates on other nights. I called GVR and arranged our 5 night stay to include this tournament, plus another 'free' night and we'd pay $75 for two of the nights. That's $150 + tax for 5 nights which I thought was pretty darn good at GVR. Day 1 (Thursday, 12/16) We're up by 6am and I actually got a pretty good night's sleep. We left the house heading for I-Hop at 7:10am. Our flight wasn't until 10:45am so we decided to eat breakfast before arriving at the airport. Finished breakfast and head to the airport. This was the second trip on Southwest where we printed off our boarding passes at home before leaving for the airport. Brenda (a.k.a. Wifey) printed off the passes at 12:30am and we were #5 & #6 for this flight. We were group A which is what we wanted for the flight to Vegas. I did the curbside check-in while Wifey parked the car and returned via the shuttle from long term parking. We get through security without a problem around 9am. We get to our gate and Wifey decides to do some shopping while I settle in to start a new paperback. Before we know it, we're boarding and take off on time and I use our drink coupons to have a double bailey's on the rocks. Life is good. We land right on time (11:45am) and head to baggage claim. We'll be taking the GVR shuttle at 12:30. We pick up our bags and head to Zero Level. The Zero Level is located down the escalators behind the Baggage Claim Information Desk. The shuttle will pick up and drop off across the driveway (to the right) across from stalls #21 and #22. The shuttle is right on time and there's another couple and the two of us ready for pickup. GVR is about 5 miles from the airport and it's about a 10 minute ride. I tip the driver and leave our bags with the Bell Cap folks. Head to the lobby and there's no line. Our room is ready, we get the keys, and we each are handed an envelope before heading up to the fifth floor. We arrive in our room and open up the envelopes. What a pleasant surprise - we're both entered in the video poker tournament this weekend. When I booked the reservation, I was lead to believe only one of us would get to play. The only video poker either of us have ever played in a casino is Deuces Wild. I found out when I booked the reservation that the tournament will be played with 'Double Double Bonus' video poker. I didn't get a chance to practice playing double double bonus until about four days before our trip was to begin. But at least I got a little bit of practice in with Bob Dancer's Video Poker software so I wouldn't appear totally clueless. Uh oh - Wifey didn't practice at all since she didn't know she'd be playing. Today is Thursday and we won't play until Friday morning so I'll point out some basic ideas of how to play this game while we're having dinner tonight. It's the best we can do. Our luggage arrives a few minutes later and we unpack before starting our gambling. From out room, we have a mountain view. Every day, there was a new assortment of goodies (nuts, candy, water, etc.) sitting next to the coffee pot along with a price list and no, we didn't touch any of these goodies although they were tempting. Plus, there was a private in-room honor bar. Since this was in a small refrigerator, the only thing we used it for was to store three small candy bars (chocolate with almonds) that I picked up at the airport once we arrived in Vegas and some cheesecake that we were too stuffed to eat after one of our dinners. The bathroom area was large with a separate shower with lots of water pressure. We also had plush robes in the rooms. Here at the Green Valley Ranch, there is twice-daily Housekeeping Services. We always had plenty of soft plush towels and we were left with two small bottles of water each evening in the room. We left a $5 tip on the pillow every morning which I'm sure was appreciated. Overall, the room was very nice. At 1:30pm, we head over to the deuces wild 'optimum' machines and we begin playing side by side. Before long, a waitress comes by and we order our first drinks here at the GVR. The drinks were coming fast and furious today (and later this evening). We play until 4:45pm and decide to have dinner at Trophy's. Wifey orders a cheese burger, a small salad instead of fries, and a miller light draft. I ordered a chicken burger, chips, and a sam's. While at Trophy's, I gave Brenda a quick tutorial on how to play double double bonus. Hey, I only started playing four days before this trip and only learned the basics myself. Back to our video poker machines by 5:45pm. Wifey decided to head back to the room about 7:15pm while I played on until about 11:30pm before calling it a night. Our king bed with the down comforter and down pillows are wonderful. We loved these so much on our last trip to GVR that upon returning to Austin, we ordered a set for ourselves from the same company that GVR orders them from. Each morning, we could have either a USA Today or a local paper. That first night we put the 'USA Today' card on the outside of the door. Day 1 Gambling Summary: Me - down $150.00 (11 'wild royals') Wifey - down $150.00 (5 'wild royals') Day 2 (Friday, 12/17): We both wake up at 3:30am but Wifey isn't ready to get up yet. Okay, maybe it's too early. By 4am, I can't fall back to sleep and Wifey is still awake too. I suggest we get up and start day 2. Wifey agrees. I start a pot of coffee. I've said this before but I'll say it again - this has got to be the best darn shower I've ever had. And the robes were a nice touch. Back at out video poker machines at 4:50am. We asked a waitress if she knew what time the Original Pancake House opens. We were told it opens at 7am. On our last trip to GVR in August, I was pretty sure they opened at 6 or 6:30am. And I thought it was strange that the restaurant didn't have a sign saying when they opened. Oh, well... We'll have to wait until 7 to have some breakfast. In the meantime, we start drinking and playing deuces wild. We hit the Original Pancake House at 7am and find out that they actually opened at 6am. I believe Brenda ordered the Bacon and Eggs which includes three pancakes while I ordered one of their Specialties of the House - Apple Pancake, oven baked with fresh granny smith apples and pure Sinkiang cinnamon glaze. It was very good but I couldn't finish it all. Back to the video poker machines at 7:45am. Today is day one of GVR's $15,000 Video Poker Tournament. The tournament will consist of two (2) sessions with each session composed of twelve (12) rounds with each round being fifteen (15) minutes long. Each entrant will play one (1) round per session. There were 20 machines set up for the tournament play. Session times were assigned and tournament scorecards were included in the packets issued upon check-n. I will be playing in round 2 at 10:30am and Brenda will play in round 3 at 11am. We can see them setting up for the tournament from the machines we were playing at. Players had to be present 15 minutes before their starting times. Tournament machines were randomly drawn by each player prior to the start of each round. Participants compete against others with each participant receiving 1,000 credits and fifteen (15) minutes to play. The fifteen (15) minute session time clock will activate upon the first "spin" by the player on the tournament machine. Scores are determined by the "Winner Paid" category on the player's machine, and do NOT include any remaining/non-played credits. The machines have internal credit meters that shut off after time has expired, or the 1,000 credits have been played. Scores and standings will be posted after each session. At the end of the second session, each player's two (2) scores will be totaled. The ten (10) players with the highest accumulated total scores will be awarded prizes in order of their tournament score total. The prize schedule is as follows: 1st Place $7,500.00 2nd Place $2,000.00 3rd Place $1,500.00 4th Place $1,000.00 5th - 10th Place $500.00 This was also a day where GVR had the cameras rolling. I imagine on some future episode of 'American Casino', they'll show some of this tournament on TV. I believe I heard this is their first attempt at hosting a 'Video Poker Tournament' at GVR. In hindsight, I probably should have drank less baileys and coronas before my first tournament session but I guess I didn't think of that. The first round started at 10am so when I signed in, this first round was still in progress. It looked like everyone was finished using their 1,000 credits before their 15 minutes expired. That was good news to me. Our usual video poker machines that we like to play are the slant tops but the tournament machines were uprights (I think that's what they're called). I pick my machine (#6) and let Wifey know the machine number. She's still playing her deuces wild but planned to watch me once we got started on our round. Ready set go... Oh, sh*t - I am so nervous, I'm actually shaking. I wish I drank a bit less this morning but I can't do anything about that now. I'm trying to concentrate but the cards are looking a bit blurry. This is part of the reason I seem to be playing in slow motion. After a while, I check my time remaining and the credits remaining and realize I'm in big trouble. If I don't speed up my play drastically, I will run out of time before using up my 1,000 credits. Did I mention I was nervous? I can feel myself shaking. Well, I think most of the players in round 2 (my round) had finished because I can feel their eyes watching me. I'm doing pretty well in terms of my 'winner paid' count. I actually finished my round using all 1,000 credits and I had something like 19 seconds remaining. I finished with 1,955 points which was the highest score for this round. Wow! I couldn't believe it. Wifey was up next at 11am and she wasn't nervous at all. Wifey picked machine #16. Brenda easily finished before her 15 minutes were up and ended with a score of 960. Back to our video poker machines until about 4:30pm. We head back to the room to get ready for our birthday dinner at BullShrimp. Brenda headed back to the casino at 5:15pm and I was slowing getting ready for dinner. I headed down to the casino to pick Brenda up at 5:55pm. We had dinner reservations for 6pm. We arrive at Bull Shrimp and started in on the assortment of bread and a couple glasses of wine. We each ordered their jumbo shrimp cocktail, followed by filet mignon and a huge baked potato along with bullshrimp potatoes. We had no room for dessert but decided to order their cheesecake to go. We figured that would be our pre-breakfast snack the next morning. After dinner, I squeezed the cheesecake into the little bar refrigerator in our room. I checked the scoreboard and found that I'm in 8th place after session 1 and Wifey is in 65th place. There are roughly 200 entrants in this tournament. The top ten finishers cash in so I'm wondering if I really have a chance to win some $ in this tournament. But I decided I won't do anything different tomorrow except maybe drink a little less until after my second and last tournament session at 10:30am. Back to our video poker machines at 7:30pm. Wifey plays until 9pm and I played until 10. I was so tired, and it was getting very difficult to focus while playing deuces wild. Day 2 Gambling Summary: Me - down $50.00 today (11 'wild royals', 2 'four deuces'), down $200 overall Wifey - up $250 today (8 'wild royals', 3 'four deuces'), up $100 for the trip Day 3 (Saturday, 12/18): This morning we sleep in and finally hopped out of bed at 4:25am. Wifey was awake earlier but felt bad about waking me. By 5:15am, we're back at our video poker machines. The next 53 minutes were the best 53 minutes we were to have at the machines this trip. In less than an hour, Wifey hits 3 'wild royals', 1 'four deuces', and 1 'royal flush' while I had 1 'four deuces'. We were also sharing our cheesecake that we got 'togo' last night at the BullShrimp. Yummmm. Once again, the alcohol is flowing freely. Today was also the day that I arranged with David Berman to take him and his wife, Rosalyn to lunch. We decided on IL Fornaio after Brenda finishes her round at 11am. Well, I decided this morning that I would invest $100 in a practice session playing 'double double bonus' on an upright machine similar to the tournament machines. It sure didn't take me long to burn through that $100. Oh well. 10:15am comes around and I pick machine #17. This time, I tried on my two pair of reading glasses and found that either one was better than without my glasses). Normally, I wouldn't have a problem focusing but I did have a bit of alcohol in my system. I noticed the woman to my right had a session 1 score of only 80 points less than my score. So I needed to hope she didn't beat my session 2 score by more than 75 points. This time I was still pretty nervous but I didn't have any problem finishing in my allotted time. I only finished this round with 1,055 points and the woman to my right ended her session with 1,120 points which meant I did beat her total score by 15 points. Whew, I need a corona. Wifey was up next at machine #1. Just after Brenda started her round, David and Rosalyn came by. Wifey was trying for a 'royal flush' figuring that was her only chance to move up enough to break into the top ten. I forgot what Wifey's exact score was in that last session but it was less then her first score. After Wifey finished up, we chatted with David and Rosayln and had a nice time. We had lunch at IL Fornaio and the food was very good. After lunch, we all played some video poker. After David and Rosayln left, we continued playing and grabbed some fast food at Fatburgers which was not far from our machines we were playing. We kept checking to see if the tournament scoreboard with the final totals were posted yet and it turned out that we were looking in the wrong place. I found the scoreboard and was quite surprised to see that I finished in 8th place and won $500, less the $100 I invested in a practice session before my last tournament session. Wifey calls it a night around 8pm and I played until about 9:30pm. Day 3 Gambling Summary: Me - up $500 today (16 'wild royals', 1 'four deuces'), up $300 overall Wifey - up $1335 today (17 'wild royals', 1 'four deuces', 1 'royal flush'), up $1435 overall Day 4 (Sunday, 12/19): We're up at 3:15am and begin our day with coffee drinks at our machines at 4:15am. We play until breakfast time at the Original Pancake House' at 6am. I order a western omelet with pancakes and Brenda orders bacon and eggs and pancakes. After breakfast, we're back at our machines at 6:30am and guess who we see? That's correct! David Berman is there playing deuces wild. While David was there, he and I both had gotten 2 'four deuces' and then with David playing the machine next to me, he hits a 'royal flush'. That was sweet. Couldn't have happened to a nicer gentleman. David finished up playing sometime that morning and Brenda and I continued until about 12:30pm. We needed to get ready to take the shuttle over to Mandaley Bay so we could then walk to the Tropicana. We were not there to gamble. They had sent us a card in the mail with a scratch off thingy and if we brought it in during the 12/17 - 12/21 time period, we would get anywhere from $100 to $5000. What a deal! So at 12:45pm, we head to the lobby and walk outside looking for the shuttle. We're told it'll be there at 1pm as expected. The shuttle takes 10 passengers and at 1pm there were about 14 people hoping to get a ride to the strip. As it turned out, four of the people were not staying at GVR so they had to take a taxi. Just after 1pm, we're on the way to Mandaley Bay. We get there and walk to the Tropicana. We head over to the tables they had set up for this promotion and we were first on line. We waited 15 minutes or so, scratched off the card, picked up our $100 bill and we're off to find a taxi back to GVR. The shuttle cost me $5 (tip) and the taxi was $23 plus a $5 tip so we ended with a nifty profit of $67 and we helped out the local economy along the way. Plus, we got a needed break from the VP machines. At 2:30pm, we're back playing deuces wild. We play until 4pm and then head over to try the Original Pancake House for dinner. I order the Bratwurst and potato pancakes and Wifey orders their steak dinner. Neither was very good. 5pm and we're guess where??? Yup, playing deuces wild. Wifey calls it a night at 6:30pm and I play on till 11pm. My play has slowed up drastically due to the alcohol in my system combined with a lack of sleep. Still looking for that elusive royal flush. Day 4 Gambling Summary: Me - up $300 today (18 'wild royals', 2 'four deuces'), up $600 overall Wifey - down $475 today (9 'wild royals'), up $960 overall Day 5 (Monday, 12/20): We're up at 4am and decide to check our 'room charges' via the in room TV. We noticed a problem in that we were billed for two dinners at Trophy's our first evening (12/16). Since we were not given a receipt when I charged our dinner to the room, I couldn't be sure which of the two charges were ours (they were within $4 of each other). So before leaving the room that morning, I called down to the front desk to explain the problem. The girl I spoke to was very nice and was able to tell me that the two charges went on our room bill at 6:06pm and 6:10pm that first evening. Obviously, someone else's dinner was put on our room by mistake. She said she would leave a note for the Hotel Manager and she would take care of this when she came in later that morning. Back to our video poker machines. We play from 5am until about 6:10am. We head to the Original Pancake House and I try the raisin pancakes and Wifey orders bacon and eggs (I think). By 7am, we're back at the machines. Before stopping for dinner, I head to the front desk to pick up a hardcopy of our 'current charges'. I didn't have my reading glasses with me so I figured I'd review the charges during dinner. I also asked how late the 'Host on Duty' was working that day because I wanted our accounts reviewed at the end of this trip to see if we rated any additional reductions of charges on our bill. The guy I spoke to told me the host on duty leaves around 8pm and since we wouldn't be done gambling by then we both agreed that I should leave the room charges 'hanging' upon checkout the next morning at 6am so that VIP services could review our account before closing out the bill. I head back to the casino and we play until almost 4pm. We have our last dinner for the trip at Trophy's. Brenda orders the soup (white chili) and half sandwich (grilled ham and cheese) and I order a pepperoni pizza. After we order, I review the room charges and see that that someone else's dinner from that first evening is still on our bill. This was supposed to be taken care of by the Hotel Manager earlier today. After dinner, we're back for a bit more of VP but I first head back to the front desk to get the erroneous dinner taken off our bill. The guy I spoke to said he would take care of it right away. I also asked about getting a taxi at 6am for the trip to the airport. This guy said he would talk to the doormen and we would have our taxi at 6am. Back to the casino. Brenda plays until about 9 and I stick it out until about 11:30. Since dinner, my machine was being a real big eater. I lost everything I won earlier today and then some. When I got back to the room, there was a message from the front desk and the erroneous charge (someone else's dinner) was removed from our bill. Day 5 Gambling Summary: Me - down $400 today (10 'wild royals', 2 'four deuces'), up $200 overall Wifey - down $360 today (13 'wild royals', 1 'four deuces'), up $600 overall Total Gambling this Trip: Wifey/Hubby combined for 38,827 points = $77,654 cycled through the machines Total combined number of hands played = 62,123 Total hours played = too many to count Total Winnings this Trip: $800 Day 6 (Tuesday, 12/21): We have a 5am wakeup call. Wifey is up before 5am and starts packing. I finally crawl out of bed (I am so tired). We leave the room and head down to the front desk. I ask for a hardcopy of our room charges and explain that I'm leaving the charges 'hanging' until VIP services can review our accounts. The girl at the from desk could not find our breakfast and dinner charges from 12/17. I asked her to check both names and she insisted these charges were gone and must have been comped off the bill. I told her if that were the case, I would have expected to see the charges on the bill but the bill would have showed that they were comped. I wouldn't expect the charges to just disappear. Well, she was very insistent that the charges no longer existed. I found out several day later that she was mistaken. Okay, nothing else I could do at the front desk. Head outside - no taxi in sight and it's 6am. Damn! Talk to the doorman outside and he shows me an empty clipboard. He tells me no one from the front desk said anything about our needing a taxi at 6am. If they did, the clipboard would not have been empty. Yeah, whatever.... He calls the airport and tells me a taxi will be here in five minutes. Ten minutes later, the taxi shows up and we're on our way to the airport. Arrive at airport and we do the curbside checki-in. No problem. We get our boarding passes, a 'B' and a 'C'. Since we're a couple, we're allowed to both board with the better boarding pass group letter 'B'. We got on a list to get bumped if they needed volunteers and grabbed some food for the plane ride home. We then head over to the 'Wheel of Fortune' slot machines for our $20 apiece 'entertainment'. We try to do this at the end of every trip to Vegas. Wifey gets a few free spins and decides to cash out at 160 coins (our initial $40 investment). I was quickly losing my $20 (80 coins) but with 6 coins left, I had two more spins. The second to last spin netted me two coins - yippee!!! On my last spin, I won 300 coins, so I cash out 302 coins. We walk away with a nifty profit of $75.50 playing 'Wheel of Fortune'. We board the plane for our 2.5 hr flight home. Between us, we order 5 glasses of wine and this has got to be the quickest flight home from Vegas that I can remember. I am so exhausted and I guess I slept for part of the trip home. We get home, unpack, and I sit in my chair and rest my eyes. I sleep for 4 hours. That night, I slept for another 12+ hours. This has been another exhausting trip to Vegas. I called VIP services two days after returning home (12/23) and they told me they couldn't give us any further reductions in our 'room charges'. I guess we didn't gamble enough. That's okay, but I'm still confused about the points we're accumulated on our accounts. What's the deal? VIP services told me they could use our points to reduce our food charges by about $72. The normal exchange rate is 600 points equals $1.00 but they have some discretion in this area and only removed 15,000 of our points (equivalent to $25). This means we were able to reduce our food charges by $25 using 15,000 of our accumulated points and we were comped about $47 to further reduce our food charges (without having the points taken off our accounts). In summary, we were very happy with the charges we ended up having to pay for this five day/night trip to GVR and we will return in 2005.