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I Should Know Better: August 1-5 downtown and on the Strip

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by sageblue, Aug 15, 2015.

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  1. sageblue

    sageblue High-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    27

    My Trip Report

    We had an early flight out of DCA that took off late and landed early. The flight was uneventful, other than a mother who mid-flight decided to entertain her toddler by parading him down the aisle, asking passengers if they wanted some of his candy. The child was not really into it, and neither was I. We managed to be in our room Downtown Grand and ready to head out at 11:30am.

    We were hungry, and my partner is recently pescatarian, so we headed over to VegeNation on Carson for lunch. I tried their special "Chicken" and waffles, which were a little dry, but tasty.
    vegenation.jpg
    My partner raved about the "meat"ball sub he had. Service was good and the kitchen speedy, so I'd recommend it, especially if you have vegans and their kindred in your party.

    From there, it was over to El Cortez for the beginning of our gambling, and, more importantly, free strawberry pie.
    pie.jpg
    I felt sorry for the poor woman doling out pie on her cart, as she was constantly accosted by people coming up to her, impatient for their pie: "You have to be at a machine! Go sit down!"

    After downing our pie, we headed north, dropping by The D (which is still too loud for my taste) on our way to the Plaza, where I met Curt and got my offer matching the one I received from Downtown Grand. No big hits on the freeplay, but it made up for losses at the other places. I had a fine time at the Plaza--good drink service, decent selection of slots and video poker--and would consider it for next time. We will see...

    We headed then to Main Street Station for some disastrous video poker and craps before deciding to recuperate by using my freeplay at Downtown Grand. Again, no big hits, but I was back even again. Around that time, a friend who had been in town for a convention made it downtown. We did a little gambling and then walked down to Bocho where we had (unnecessary) reservations. I am not a huge sushi fan, but enjoy the rolls. I had some tasty gyoza dumplings and spicy tuna and Las Vegas rolls. Both were delicious, but the Las Vegas roll was appropriately sinful and quite tasty. My sushi fan of a partner deemed the sushi very good. The service was very good and the space well-appointed. This seems like a good place for sushi downtown, especially since the sushi options downtown are pretty limited. If we had been downtown during the week, I bet we would have destroyed their all you can eat offer.

    After dinner we toured downtown a bit with my friend, hitting El Cortez and Downtown Grand before heading to Fremont Street where he was catching a bus back to the Strip. It was very crowded with the Cherry Poppin' Daddies performing, but we managed to navigate our way to Mermaids, where he'd never been. I had only been once to try some deep-fried treat, but had never gambled there. What happened next is something of a blur, owing to the persistent and fast cocktail servers. I think we were there for no more than twenty-five minutes, and we each had four drinks and four shots. I swear there is a cocktail server for every four customers. So, if you want to throw a twenty into a slot machine and get a lot of drinks very quickly, Mermaids is the place.

    We ambled back to Downtown Grand where I did some ill-advised drunk gambling (drambling?) before making it to bed, having seemingly conquered my jet lag. We woke up only a little worse for wear, but decided to not travel too far for breakfast (see you next trip, DuPar's) and use some dining credit at Stewart + Ogden. I was surprised by how good the food was. After breakfast, we did some ultimately ill-advised gambling at The D (I hope some good offers come out of that) before heading back to Downtown Grand to check out.

    Next we cabbed to The Cosmopolitan, where I had a deal for three nights for around $200 total (this deal came after my query in this thread; we hadn't been to Cosmo in a while, and we decided that the price, its location, and our love of the rooms won out over Wynn and Caesars). We tried to get a free upgrade to a terrace suite, but stuck with the terrace one-bedroom after the offer was for an extra $75 a night. She did let us check in early (at 11am) for no charge, which I guess is a deal?

    We dropped our bags at the room, looked out onto our east-facing view from the Eastside Tower at Planet Hollywood and Britney's face, and headed back down for our typical walk down the Strip. We went to Bellagio and saw the Conservatory's undersea display (verdict: impressive, but needs more actual plants), followed by walkthroughs to escape the heat at Cromwell, Flamingo, and The Linq, where we saw a wedding party waiting to be seated at Guy Fieri’s (not my pick for a reception).
    fieri.jpg
    We saw a $5 three card poker at Harrah's and decided to sit for a spell and play a game we enjoy, but are often too cheap to play on the Strip. At first, we were making our usual bets, but then we started betting the "sucker" bet on the six-card hand of yours and the dealer's. Well, the sucker bet worked for my partner, as he hit a full house at one point, and I did fairly well at it. However, he also got dealt three queens and a straight flush, so the pair plus bet garnered him $500 in profit and his first purple chip.

    We then made our way to Casino Royale for the life-saving dollar beers before heading to Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn, and Encore. The details here get a little fuzzy because a) my gambling luck continued to stink and I gave up on my ledger recording wins and losses and b) we had been drinking a fair amount by mid-evening. Tired and defeated, we decided we couldn't bear walking back to Cosmo, so we cabbed back from Encore. Once back there, we decided we should eat, since we hadn't done so in about twelve hours (I know...but we just didn't feel hungry--stupid filling alcohol). We didn't want something super fancy, and we had had a great meals at DOCG years ago, so we opted for that. Behind us on our way up the escalator, we were treated the loud, idiotic rantings of the worst kind of jerks Cosmo is sometimes known for. We got seated right away at DOCG, got our water poured... and the pair of jerks sat down next to us. Not wanting to be treated to their scintillating conversation, we asked to be moved and were moved out of earshot. We started with good Caesar salads; partner had a very good margherita pizza (at least the crusts I had were very good), while I had a stupendous pici with duck sauce and black truffles that did the trick of filling me up and making me sleepy. After two tries, I can happily recommend DOCG: it's not cheap, but it also won't break the bank. The service was very attentive (LOTS of water) and the food very good.

    After thinking I had conquered my jet lag, I was in bed by 9:30pm--I know, of my own doing--but not before taking this panorama shot from the terrace:
    panorama.jpg

    We were up pretty early to get the day started. We hadn't been to Wicked Spoon in quite a while, so we decided to try that and have that last until mid-afternoon. I continue to be impressed by the variety and quality of Wicked Spoon, and it's still in my top 2 of buffets (we almost only ever do breakfast). My ranking: Wynn, Wicked Spoon, Bacchanal, Bellagio, Aria, Cravings, Spice Market, and everything after. On this day, after some gambling at Cosmo, we headed south, stopping first at Aria. Aria was disappointing this trip, and I'm glad we didn't stay there. I knew beforehand that they were doing construction along the side wall near registration, but I didn't know it was going to cut into so much of the casino. Further, in the back section near the sports book, they had torn up the carpet and there were basically only a handful of slot machines. If this had been my home casino, I would have been disappointed, because there just wasn't that much I wanted to play. Next was Monte Carlo where we didn't gamble, but did use a MyVegas reward for Minus5. As I believe I've read on the forums, it was sort of interesting but sort of boring. Drinking out of a glass made out of ice was fun, but it is small and, once you get over the novelty, just kind of another bar--where you can't have your cellphone. So, we had a shot that we got for free by texting them (look for the codes on the screens in Monte Carlo) and a drink and headed over to NYNY for a quick pass-through (man, that mezzanine level at least is a faithful recreation of the Port Authority, which is not a compliment) and then through Excalibur as quickly as possible. At Luxor, I had some random freeplay, so we gambled for a bit, remarking at how much we don't really get Luxor anymore, and it's not a place I'd want to spend a lot of time at. My second trip to Vegas in November 1997, I stayed at Luxor, and I thought it was so cool. We stayed again in November 2004, and while it wasn't necessarily all that cool anymore, we had a nice stay in a suite and enjoyed it. Now, there's no way I would stay there. Obviously, my tastes have changed, but I also think there was a moment when Luxor could have been another high-end place, instead of in the tier below Mirage in MGM's portfolio.

    It was late afternoon and we had dinner reservations at 6, so we decided to take advantage of a Restaurant.com gift certificate I'd bought YEARS ago and tackle Hussong Cantina's happy hour. This is really a great deal: their delicious (and literally) original margaritas are only $6, and appetizers and tacos are cheap too and good. The problem became how we were going to get to the $50 for the $25 off, but we did excellent math and got right to $50 after 4 original margaritas, an order of nachos, two orders of their insanely good corn, and one tamarind margarita that was also excellent.

    Pretty heavily buzzed and no longer starving, we used another MyVegas reward to go to the Shark Reef. We had been to the Ripley's aquarium in Tennessee weeks ago and were impressed by their shark exhibit (and where we also got to pet a penguin!), which made it difficult to not be disappointed by the Shark Reef. I was expecting a lot more tunnels to see the sharks. There were good displays and some really interesting animals I don't think I'd seen before (what is that nasty shark ray thing?), but I'm really glad I didn't pay $18 for it (and also glad I didn't have to stand in a long line to buy tickets, but could go right to the will call booth with our MyVegas vouchers).
    shark.jpg
    After that, we returned to the casino and gambled a bit before it was 6pm and time for our reservation at Fleur to use another restaurant.com certificate for $50 off $100 I'd also bought ages ago. We were seated in the main part of the restaurant and got through the inevitable rigmarole that takes place with restaurant.com certificates ("they say it's been redeemed." "That's because you just clicked it being redeemed on my phone before you called it in."), we settled in for a lovely meal, punctuated with a glimpse of Mr. Keller himself. We split Peruvian potatoes (just OK) and escargot (good). My partner had the oysters, presented in dramatic fashion, and the yellowtail crudo, while I had the magnificent onion soup and very tasty sliders. It wasn't the best meal of my life, but it was very good and worth the price tag with the certificate.

    We gambled a tiny bit before it was time to see Baz: For the Record. My friend had seen it and raved about it, and we had already been thinking of seeing it. So, that morning, we checked at Tix for Tonight to see if their price could beat either the price with the discount code he got from a cast member after the show or the price on Goldstar. Goldstar won, with tickets being just under $50 each after fees.

    Our seats were on the very side of the stage in section 301, but once the lights went down, we were able to move to the center for a much better view. I'd say the tickets in the middle of the section below that would have been the best for viewing, but I was good with our section, especially because a lot of the action takes place all around the club, so all of it was in front us or even next to us.

    If you don't know Baz Luhrmann's movies (or the plots from their sources) Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby, you might have trouble following the plot threads, because basically all three plots are interwoven and the actors all play different roles (hey, Gatsby is the tango dancer now!). That being said, you can just let it all wash over you because the performers have really great voices (especially the woman who plays Daisy Buchanan) and you'll know most of the songs. Also, they do a good job of using Light's lights and effects, and it was fun to be in a real Vegas nightclub, without having to actually go to a Vegas nightclub and dance, do bottle service, and stand in line for hours (we didn't take advantage of our free admission to Light following the show). They also really use the space well, and are constantly moving among the audience, like at this point when all three couples were basically right next to us:
    baz.jpg
    If you really are interested in this show, go fast: the room was maybe 1/3 full, and the cast was really encouraging us to post positive reviews on social media and take as many pictures as possible. I really like the movies and the songs, so I had a great time and posted accordingly.

    After Baz, we headed back north and popped into Monte Carlo to take advantage of one of the coolest MyVegas awards: the whiskey tasting at Hit. As someone who has only a passing knowledge of this beverage genre, it's a great opportunity to learn more. Last time I did the scotch flight, so this time I did bourbon. They are generous pours, so you can really take your time figuring out what you like. Our bartender (Garth?) was a little reserved, but we had some good conversations about the changes taking place at Monte Carlo: the staff is really nervous, but he's excited they're finally investing money in the place. After finishing my bourbons (I think the favorite was the Knob Creek chosen especially for Monte Carlo), we finished the night with a little gambling back at Cosmo, with me continuing to do poorly.

    New day, new approach, right? Well, not really. Actually, yes: we decided to go for a light breakfast, and grabbed stuff (a yogurt with fruit for me) at Va Bene. After some major indecisiveness (Palms to do the LVA coupon? back downtown?), we decided to retrace our northward steps with Venetian as a destination to see if we could qualify for their daily slot tournament. Part of the reason I wanted to do this was to give a little more play to V/P to see if I could get better offers, since it's been a long time since we'd stayed there, and I always enjoyed it. First stop though was the air conditioning of Bellagio. Wanting to through some play at mLife, we gambled for a bit, and I found some actual luck on some video poker and slots, so we stayed there for a while before continuing our journey to the life-saving dollar beers at Casino Royale and then Venetian, where we gambled for a while and managed to be able to see our way through to qualify. We then headed to Palazzo to get the few remaining points we needed. I sucked in my round at the tournament, but my partner got second overall after our round. We decided to wait out the couple hours before final results at Wynn, where I continued my ill-advised gambling at video poker and slots, accompanied by continued drinking.

    We went back to Palazzo to see where he stood in the rankings, and he'd slipped into the teens, which meant he wasn't going to get $400 in freeplay, but $20. At that point, my stomach was grumbling (breakfast at 8:30am... and nothing since then at about 4:30. I know, I know...but the alcohol made it seem like I wasn't hungry again!). We tried Table 10's happy hour, and my partner enjoyed the oysters, but the happy hour menu didn't really appeal to me, and I also just wasn't really in the mood to eat, even though I knew I should. I decided that I would buy a big Gatorade at Walgreen's and see if I could walk my rumblings off. By the time we got to the Cromwell, I decided that I could eat and that I could make it to Ellis Island. It had been years since I had gotten the steak special, so we got our coupon, put our name in, waited for ten minutes, and got seated to chow down. Frankly, it's still a good deal, even at $9: the steak is good, the green beans are downright delicious, and the beer is good. Unfortunately, I was still in no mood to use my LVA free drink coupons, so we headed back through Bally's (and the tunnel of sadness that is the area down by the sports book) and then Paris (where I started saying loudly at the people in the 50-person deep line for the buffet that there were better buffets; I was feeling pretty obnoxious and also sad about how far that buffet has fallen) before making it to Cosmo, where I decided that I really just needed to go to bed. So, after saying goodnight to Britney one last time, that's what I did.

    The next morning I felt much better after about a restful nine-hour sleep. Once again, we were faced with the breakfast quandary. With our flight at 1 and not really feeling like McCarran food, we opted for the big breakfast. Wanting to mix it up but stay close by, we opted for Aria. I remembered that MyVegas had a bottomless beverage award, so we added that and, after a stupid ten-minute wait to be seated, dug into what is really a pretty good buffet. It doesn't have the creativity that Wicked Spoon or the others have, but I had a damn fine buckwheat blueberry pancake made to order, and I saw too late that they also make eggs benedict to order, which is a great idea. I used my bottomless beverage to good use with some refreshing cranberry spritzers and downed about five gallons of water.

    After spitting on the sadness of the Aria casino under construction, we headed back to Cosmo and decided to gamble a bit more. Having my worst gambling trip ever and losing way more than I should, I just decided to throw caution to the wind and play double double bonus at dollars instead of my usual quarters. Someone decided to make my losses a little more palatable by sending me 4 aces for $800. We decided to play around a bit with this windfall. First, we tried The Talon Club, but upon entering found it was only for baccarat and table games, and I didn't really feel like taking a stab at blackjack at $500 a hand. So, we went downstairs to the High Limit room and tried some above-my-usual-head 100-play and Ultimate X video poker. After that and a bit more dollar DDB, I had kept the vast majority of my $800 win, so I was happy to head up to the room and check out.

    So, it was a good trip, but I have some work to do for the next trip involving better pacing my drinking and better gambling...but I think those are pretty typical goals for most people here.

    Even though I didn't plan for it, I'm glad I:
    • Visited Mermaids and had many shots
    • Used some restaurant.com certificates at places I actually enjoyed

    I might give up on gambling at:
    • Main Street Station: for the third straight trip, I've had lousy luck at both video poker and craps
    • The D: unless I get a good offer, I might just skip it from now on because I don't have good luck and it's too freaking loud.
    • /Luxor, Excalibur, and New York New York: really just abandoning them altogether; there's nothing at these places that really intrigues me.
    • Venetian/Palazzo and Wynn/Encore: I have loved staying at these places and their rooms and dining options are amazing. However, I continue to just have the worst luck at these places.

    For the umpteenth time, I didn't:
    • Take advantage of more coupons both downtown and, especially, at Palms
    • Visit Caesars
    • Get a verbena at Chandelier or some wonderful concoction at Vesper
    • Spend time at the pool, where you don't tend to lose money
    • Do more of the social hour at Cosmo

    I'm glad to have returned to:
    • Downtown Grand: my luck wasn't great there, but the room was lovely (despite their jacked shower design), the staff attentive, and the food options good. This is probably going to be our new downtown homebase...
    • The Plaza: unless we want to try here, because I think the video poker and table options are better than DTG. We will see...
    • Bellagio: it's not exciting in the morning, but we had (too) great drink service and I actually found some luck. If the DJ can play less Billy Joel and John Mayer, I might have stayed longer.
    • DOCG
    • Ellis Island, even though I think their video poker sucks now
    • Cosmopolitan

    On the next trip, I think I'm going to try:
    • To continue to keep track of my gambling, no matter how badly it's going
    • Staying 2 nights downtown instead of our usual 1 downtown/3 on the Strip, at least in part as a way...
    • To play more blackjack, three card poker, or pai gow poker
    • To insist I eat something in the early afternoon
    • To really just stop gambling sooner during a losing session (instead of chasing with one more twenty in a slot or video poker machine or one more hundred at the craps table) and to stop gambling altogether if things are looking bleak and go do something else (afternoon show? window shopping? pool? sitting in the room, enjoying its fabulousness? other attractions like the mob museum, neon museum? finding a good people watching bar and slowly drinking?). As a corollary...
    • To employ the envelope method of bankroll or something else to keep me from myself
    • One more restaurant at V/P, because they have so many good ones
    • The Cromwell, since we've only ever walked through it
     
  2. Elf70

    Elf70 Low-Roller

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    Nice trip report! Glad you had a good hit at the end. Sorry the Gambling Gods weren't with you in the beginning.
     
  3. kittyglitter_mm

    kittyglitter_mm Low-Roller

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    Great trip report! You sure pack a lot into a trip. Thanks for the report on Baz. I was curious about that show.
     
  4. VegasGroove

    VegasGroove VIP Whale

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    I absolutely LOVED your report!

    I agree with your take on the following:
    Luxor
    Wicked Spoon

    You've got me curious about:
    BAZ (I love good singing, real singing-no lipsyncing tracks)
    Staying at Cosmo (been wanting to, just not a fan of d-bs' tomfoolery)

    What I thought funny:
    The strawberry pie lady. Being bombarded about free food can make anyone tired.
    The wedding couple. No, they were in the right place. LOL!!

    Thank you for posting a great report!
     
  5. carolineno

    carolineno High-Roller

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    Thanks for the report, lots of good information. I will try Mermaids for $20 and Bocho sushi next time.
     
  6. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Nice report!
     
  7. Joe

    Joe VIP Whale

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    I enjoyed your report. Admit it though, you threw pescatarian in there just to make some of us Google it. :wink2:
     
    Christmas
    My wife's birthday
  8. M0rtyC

    M0rtyC Low-Roller

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    And I did. So much easier than Webstering it!
     
    Annual end of the rodeo trip
  9. Ty

    Ty ?

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    Nice report, thanks for sharing.
    (I had to Google too.)
     
    Christmas Trip. Sam's Town & MSS
  10. Geogran

    Geogran OTD Tea Sipper

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    Really enjoyed your TR - it's a testament to your planning skills to get as much sleep as you did as well an action packed itinerary!
    Very helpful and detailed restaurant reviews. Have not done Wicked Spoon - now on my list!

    Questions:
    What kind of coupon at Ellis Island and where do you get it?
    Strawberry pie lady at El Cortez sounds cool - is that a summer special or a regular thing?

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  11. retro

    retro Low-Roller

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    Thanks for the report, re: the stop gambling during a losing session, completely understand. Something I do differently now is that I only buy in with what I willing to risk for that session. That means when I sit a VP machine I will buy in with 100 instead of 20. If I'm doing horribly I may cash out around 50. While this may sound counterintuitive, for me, pulling out another 20 after a few minutes of play makes me feel more like I'm losing. Not having to pull more money to continue play gives me more peace of mind. Probably doesn't make sense to most, but works for me.
     
    Eighth & final trip for the year. This time with real wife
  12. Geogran

    Geogran OTD Tea Sipper

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    I totally get it retro! I used to do the same thing. Feed a 20, then another, then another; after a couple of hours of feeding 20's and moving around my money tree dried up and I'm like, what? Where did all my money go.... Then I started putting in 100 at a time, and believe it or not, I gained more control of my gambling decisions - do I blow the hundred on this machine or is it time to move on? Sometimes I play it out but at least I'm thinking about it instead of mindlessly feeding 20's... I have made one change that works for me - I use the dreaded envelope...so if I do need to 'borrow' from the next day's envelope, I at least have time to think about it as I head to the room...:nono:
     
  13. retro

    retro Low-Roller

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    Geogran thanks for the validation. That's the other part that I may do, I have only so much on me leaving the rest in the safe. I do the same when playing BJ.
     
    Eighth & final trip for the year. This time with real wife
  14. sageblue

    sageblue High-Roller

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    You can get the coupon by playing on your card and getting it from the kiosk. I think you only have to play $5.

    The pie was a special day, but ElCo has these periodically, so check their website before going.

    Interesting discussion about gambling practices. I don't know if the first method would work for me, but I think the envelope method may hold promise. I think I also just need to be content to do something else: sit at a bar and people watch, where a $15 cocktail would be cheaper than a "free" Jack and diet costs me $100....
     
  15. Geogran

    Geogran OTD Tea Sipper

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    Thanks Sageblue for the Ellis Island and ElCortez info..and yes that free drink more often than not costs at least a hundred.
    Had to laugh at your reaction to the line at Paris buffet - used to love that place, haven't tried it in over 5 years..

    I really like your TR - very stylistic and good commentary.
     
  16. Geogran

    Geogran OTD Tea Sipper

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    Thanks Sageblue for the Ellis Island and ElCortez info.. and yes that free drink more often than not costs me at least a hundred - always chasing that win...
    Had to laugh at your reaction to the line at Paris buffet - used to love that place, haven't tried it in over 5 years..

    I really like your TR - very stylistic and good commentary.
     
  17. picklz

    picklz Tourist

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    Thanks for the great report sounds like you had a great trip. I too think I am going to try the envelope method for this next trip to hopefully limit the losses a bit more, I also like the idea of putting your max session amount into a machine up front vs $20 at a time, I think I may try both!
     
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