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My Return to Las Vegas

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by CapnDave, Dec 2, 2010.

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  1. CapnDave

    CapnDave Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Messages:
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    Location:
    Meredith, NH
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    7

    My Trip Report

    The background:
    I used to go to Las Vegas several times a year. About 5 years ago, things changed in my personal life that made my Vegas jaunts impossible for a while. Happily, that has now changed. In July, I realized I had an expired SWA rapid rewards ticket that I could re-activate for $50. Since this would be cheaper than any round trip I could possibly purchase, I decided to do it. After long and careful consideration (at least 2 minutes worth, I swear!), I decided to get myself a trip to Las Vegas. I figured I would use it over Thanksgiving, so I could get maximal benefit of holidays and weekend days, with minimal impact on vacation time. Based on this, and SWA's policy of RR tickets only being usable on certain days, this fixed my travel days to Nov. 25 - 30. Going out on Thanksgiving Day and returning the following Tuesday. Not bad. Now, I just had to find a hotel room. Because it had been so long since I had been out there, I figured it would be pointless to call any of the players' clubs (besides, I had no freaking idea where the cards were, so I couldn't give anyone my account number), so I just began looking at some of the bigger travel sites and the individual hotel websites. The best deal I found was at Fitzgerald's, so I booked it through their website. I later saw a deal on the website that was only bookable over the phone, which included breakfast. I called and asked if I could change my reservation - apparently, I could not, but the person I spoke with could add the breakfast to my existing reservation, so I figured that was good enough. After a trip to Atlantic City in September and minimal use of my Total Rewards card (maybe 2 hours of blackjack and video poker play at Bally's), I checked my TR account when I got home, and found an offer for 3 nights at the lower-end Harrah's properties. While I consider myself to be primarily a downtown guy when it comes to LV, I figured doing 2 nights on the Strip wouldn't kill me, and might even be interesting since I hadn't seen it in so long (last time I was on the Strip, I gambled at the STARDUST, fer cryin' out loud!). So, I took Harrah's up on their generous offer of Sunday and Monday night at Bally's and cancelled the Fitz for those 2 nights. And then the waiting began......

    The Trip
    Finally, the big day arrived. I left my house around 7AM for the hour drive to MHT. Got there and through security swiftly. Crowds in the airport on Thanksgiving Day were pretty minimal, I thought. No issues, just had to wait for flight time to actually arrive....

    And it did. Off to LAS without a hitch, landed right on time. The pilot was kind enough to give us score updates of the Pats - Lions game along the way, and, despite some initial gasps of despair that went through the jet, there were ultimately some huge sighs of relief. I'm kinda sorry I missed the game, but as I explained earlier, my travel dates were constrained by my ticket, and when I booked, I didn't think the Pats would have a Thanksgiving game. Oh, well. Off to baggage claim (did that walk get significantly longer, somehow????), and only had to wait a couple of minutes to see my bag once I finally located the carousel. No line for a taxi, told to driver to take me to the Fitz via Paradise, and off we went. This trip is a win already! Final fare was a touch over $20, maybe $21 and some change? Regardless, much cheaper than I remember downtown trips being when taken via I-15, so there's a win again! Got checked in and headed up to my room. 1501, view out the east side of the tower of the very end of the FSE canopy and the Fremont East section. Nice room, nothing too fancy or interesting about it, but also absolutely nothing to complain about, either. Shower head was about chin height on me, so that was a little....interesting. Made my way down to the casino to get a shiny new Club Fitz card and check out the gamblin'. Played a bit at the Fitz, got some raffle tickets they were giving away for an antique Chevy truck and a new saddle (wtf am I gonna do with a SADDLE if I win that?!?! Yes, a horsie saddle. Like you'd use to go ridin' on the range. Anyone know what saddles are getting on ebay these days?). I left the Fitz to go complete my "Welcome to Vegas" ritual. Greek dog at Mermaids, followed by a shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate. Oh, and ogling the fried-twinkie-eating showgirl on the big marquee outside Mermaids, too. Stroll down Fremont, taking in the sights and relishing just being there. Walk up to Mermaids... WTF?!? The big video display is turned OFF! The sign itself is still there, but it's just... black. Goddammit. How could they get rid of THAT? It was a classic! Ah, well... One must accept change in Las Vegas, I suppose. Greek dog was still good, though. Now only slightly disgruntled, I head over to the GG to finish the ritual. Shrimp cocktail there is as good as it ever was, though less of a value at $1.99 vs. $0.99. Still a good deal, though! Hung out at the Gate for a bit, then decided to walk down to the El Cortez to check out the changes there. I was VERY impressed with all the changes to Fremont East on the way over there. WOW, what a difference from a few years ago! I want to check out the bars along there on my next trip. This trip was to be all about the gamblin', however, so I continued down to the 'Tez. I was wowed once again when I stepped inside, MAN, did they go all out redoing this place! I sat down and played here for a couple of hours before taking a break to eat at The Flame. Another good choice! Great food at reasonable prices, that's exactly what I love. Was able to get a table on Thanksgiving night with no reservation (I'd say the restaurant was maybe 1/4 full at 7PM), so I'm kinda hoping this remains an undiscovered treasure. Shh, don't tell anyone I told you about this, let's keep this place our little secret. Left the 'Tez around 9PM, quite happy. Made my way back up Fremont St, stopping in at the casinos along the way, occasionally dropping a $20 in a slot machine as the mood would hit me, picking up new player cards as I went.

    Went back into the Golden Gate, and.... EGAD! Those dealers are different! Gone were the dress shirts and suspenders, and suddenly the pit was so full of women in skimpy fringey flapper outfits that the only place to put some of 'em was up on a box, until they were needed in relief elsewhere! My heart sunk as I realized this HAD to mean that the good games were gone, as they were every other place that had scantily-clad dealers, but I figured, hey, it's a small place, I should at least walk around the pit and make sure. That'll only take 30 seconds or so, and then I can go somewhere else. What a pleasant surprise it was to find that they DIDN'T change their tables when they changed their dealers! Same decent rules to be found. I'm a half-assed blackjack snob. I don't care much about decks, since I don't count, so I'll play double deck, 6 deck, or even CSM, it doesn't make much difference to me. What matters is that 3:2 payout on the blackjack, that's the one I won't compromise on. Well, OK, that and a low minimum. I'll play anything from 5 to 25 min, but at 25, I start to sweat it a bit. My bankroll is just barely big enough to play at that level, so I try to avoid it whenever possible, but don't mind doing it if it's the only option.

    At this point, I'm going to take a break to wax rhapsodic about 3 people that really made this trip a lot more fun for me. Gabby, a cute, very friendly blonde, that just couldn't seem to stop pushing chips my way. Angela, an absolutely gorgeous fireball of energy, always bouncing and fun, if a bit stingier with the chips. And Rachel - tall, dark, sultry and silent. She had a way of teasing you with the cards, coaxing the good ones out with a little bump of her hip, keeping them hidden until the last possible moment. These three ladies made my time at the Golden Gate a true treasure. I strongly encourage everyone to seek them out if they ever play there! **delirious sigh**

    Anyway, back to my story...
    I played at the Golden Gate until about 12:30 (first night, I'm allowed to be still on east coast time), at which point I was totally exhausted, so I went back to my bed at the Fitz to crash for the night.

    On a side note... Las Vegas was COLD!!!! I don't think it got above 45 or 50 degrees the entire time I was there. Fortunately, for this hardy New Englander, I could handle the brief walks from casino to casino without a jacket (personal pet peeve, I hate having to worry about my jacket while sitting at a table!). But I sure got a lot of funny looks doing so.

    Friday dawned, and I went down to the Fitz's Courtyard Cafe for my free breakfast. My choice here was limited to a single basic offering, their “double down†special – 2 eggs, 2 sausage (or bacon), potatoes and toast. I was happy with that, especially since I couldn't beat the price. Played at the Fitz for a bit, then went to pick up my rental car for the weekend. I scored a great weekend rate from Enterprise, $9.99/day, Fri – Mon, only catch was that the deal wasn't available from the Enterprise rental counter at the Fitz, I had to go to a “local†office to pick up my car, although I could still drop the car off there for no extra charge. Hopped a cab down to the corner of Eastern and Sahara, and picked up my Ford Focus, not a real big deal. From there, I decieded to take the afternoon to see Valley of Fire state park. Wow, what spectacular vistas there! Definitely worthwhile! Checked out the petroglyphs and rocks, then drove back to town. About an hour each way, and highly recommended. Bopped around downtown for a bit, then treated myself to dinner at Hugo's Cellar. Fantastic, as always. Or at least, as good as I remember it being 5 years ago. Spent the rest of the night gambling, mostly at El Cortez, Fremont, and Golden Gate. I love this town!

    Saturday morning, I had reservations for a tour at the Neon Museum, at the ungodly hour of 9:30. The 11:00 tour was full when I tried to book, but they had space left in the early one. I wonder how that happened? Took the Fightin' Focus up to the boneyard. I'm glad I did this. The guided tour was full of fun little factoids and a good bit of history, I enjoyed it a lot. They're doing a lot of work to take it from a lot full of old signs to a “real†museum, and it's neat to see it in its transitional state, I think. Back downtown to spend the rest of the day/evening eating, drinking, and gambling up and down Fremont Street. Saturday night, after midnight, produced an interesting event for me. I returned to the Golden Gate for another gambling session, and shortly after sitting down, when the pit boss returned my card to me, a host handed me her business card with instructions to call her if I needed anything. I thanked her politely, but told her I was all set, since I already had my rooms planned for the entire trip. I continued playing until the wee hours, thoroughly enjoying myself.

    Sunday. This was to be largely an administrative day, I figured, since I had to move from the Fitz down to Bally's. The thought of this kinda bummed me out, since I REALLY prefer to be downtown, but I was also psyched to spend some time checking out the Strip, too, so not all bad. And then I remembered getting that host's card last night. Yeah, I decided to give it a shot. I called her up around 9:30, and (not surprisingly) got her voicemail. Left a message asking if I could have a room for Sunday night so I could stick around for their football party. The Golden Gate had been doing a thing since I arrived where they'd put your name on a football squares board when you bought in to different games, with the Sunday night NFL game being the focus. By this time, I had my name on several squares, and thought it would be fun to stick around for. By staying at the Gate on Sunday night, I wouldn't have to worry about getting a cab back to Bally's afterward, and I'd be downtown already on Monday morning to drop my car off, saving me a trip. Went to play a little bit downtown (Four Queens, I think...) and got a call back around 11 – not a problem, she'd get me a room, but whether it would be comped or not would, of course, depend on my play. I was OK with this, since she wasn't calling me from the office and wasn't able to look up my play right then and there. She called me back again about 45 minutes later to let me know that the room was reserved, and not to worry about the comp, she took care of it up front since she remembered how I was playing the night before. I thought that was pretty darn nice of her. For the record, I'd be surprised if my “official†betting levels were recorded as more than $15 a hand. While I would press my bets a bit if winning, I'd drop right back to the $5 or $10 minimum during cold streaks, and it wasn't often that I was sitting at a $25 table. Drove down to Bally's to check in there (hey, that room was free, too, I wasn't gonna let it go to waste!) - got a standard room in the south tower, facing south. Great view of the Paris pool next door (which was empty due to the temperatures) and a partial view of the Bellagio fountains across the street (I'd say I could see about 2/3 of the lake). Room was nice – VERY spacious. Slightly nicer than the Fitz room, but not a whole lot nicer, in my opinion. Nothing particularly special about it (best part was the views, I think), but nothing wrong with it, either. Played a bit at Bally's to say thank you for the room. I was able to find 3:2 blackjack there, but only at the $25 level, which kinda bummed me out. Back downtown to check into the Golden Gate and hang there for the night at their party. The room at the Golden Gate was easily the most interesting one that I got during the entire trip. The hotel, as many of you know, is over 100 years old. This makes for some intriguing features. The rooms are VERY small. Big enough for a queen sized bed and enough room to walk around it on all 3 sides. The bathroom fixtures are OLD. Yet, the whole room had clearly been redone recently. It was the only room of the 3 I had that had a flat LCD tv in it. It was also the only room that had a coffee maker in it (Keurig one-cupper). I'd say it was my favorite of the trip, and now that I've seen it, the Golden Gate will be the first place I call for future trips. That being said, I have to throw the caution out there that it's not for everybody, and if I was to be staying there for a long trip, I think the size of the room might get to me after a few days. Spent the rest of the night at the Gate, having a blast. The “football party†didn't end up being anything particularly special, in my opinion – they just hung the squares behind the bar, and somebody from the players' club came out to circle the winners at the end of each quarter. No, I didn't win, I had sucky squares. No announcements of the winners or anything, and no announced specials or anything like that. For a “party†it was kinda “just another night in the casinoâ€. Which, don't get me wrong, is plenty fun and fine with me, I just had slightly higher expectations for some reason.

    Monday. Last full day. Darn. Hauled my sorry butt out of bed and checked out of the Gate, quite pleased with myself. Drove over to Hash House A Go Go on Sahara to see what all the fuss was about there. Yeah – it's worth it. I'm going to have to get back there at least once a trip, now. Amazing breakfast, best of the trip! Had the fried chicken benedict, and it certainly lived up to its billing. Yum!!!! Back downtown to drop the car off at the Fitz Enterprise counter, and then caught a cab down to Bally's. Played some pai gow poker there for a bit, then began wandering up and down the Strip. Walked up to the Imperial Palace before turning around and heading back. In hindsight, that time would have been better spent getting a monorail ticket and checking out the Wynn, since that wasn't built last time I was here, and I do enjoy a good monorail ride. Spent the rest of the night at Bally's before crashing early, to be well-rested for my flight.

    Tuesday was going home day. Got some breakfast at the Bally's coffee shop, and packed my stuff, then left for the airport around 11AM. Flight home was delayed about a half hour or so as the mechanics had to fix one of the various electrical systems on the plane. Most of the time was able to be made up on the flight back, and we were only a little late landing. Got my bag and drove home, another trip in the books and time to plan the next one!

    In summary:

    Fun things to do: Both Valley of Fire and Neon Museum should be on every visitor's list at least once.

    Dining: Hash House A Go Go is now a must-visit for me. Not sure if the satellite location at Imperial Palace is as good as the original or not, I'd appreciate hearing opinions from anyone who's been to both. The Flame at El Cortez is a high value option if you're downtown, I think I'll be eating there a lot in the future. Hugo's Cellar is always a treat, and needs to be experienced! Courtyard Cafe at the Fitz was fine, but nothing special. If you've got free coupons because you're staying there, don't be afraid to use them.

    Casinos – I'll treat these one at a time to give my thoughts on each:
    Plaza – took a walk through here once. I really hope the rehab that they're doing works, it would be sad to lose this place, but right now, in the midst of construction, it's a dump, and not worth visiting.
    Las Vegas club – The Plaza's sister operation is also in a bit of a sad state of affairs. The girls in their Fetish Pit were definitely hot... but the rules there were unacceptable, so all it's good for is a nice ogle. Seems dingy and depressed in here, in general. Hopefully, once the Plaza is back, they can redo the LVC as well, it definitely needs some help.
    Golden Gate – my new favorite place to play. The only casino downtown with both dancer-dealers (danslers?) and 3:2 payout on blackjack. I had more fun here than anywhere else. I'll be back.
    Golden Nugget – If upscale is your thing, this is your place. The new Rush Tower addition/expansion is nice, and everything here seems a little nicer than any place else downtown. I also found it to be usually the most crowded place downtown, which some may find a positive. I found it a negative, personally. Also, the nicest, biggest sports book downtown, if books are your thing.
    Binion's – Benny would weep to see what has become of his place. I don't think even Becky would like it.
    Fremont – Ah, the Fremont. It hasn't changed a bit. I don't know what it is about this place. I really, really, really want to like it. I always play here. And yet, I always get crushed here. I don't know what it is. It's not emanating any sort of really fun vibe inside. But I feel this need to play here for some reason. And I always walk out thinking, “Damn, what did I do that for?â€
    Four Queens – Another place that hasn't changed too much, I don't think. There's a lot more 6:5 blackjack than there used to be, and that's a big negative, but it's still bright, and fun, and I enjoyed the time I spent here.
    Fitzgerald's – Good for a cheap room. The casino was usually fairly empty. Good blackjack games to be found, as long as you avoid the little party pit by the door. I didn't have much luck here, but I'll keep on trying!
    El Cortez – easily gets the award for Most Improved. Now new, and clean inside, I enjoyed my time at the 'Tez immensely.

    Planning: Looks like Southwest has reasonably cheap fares through April. If I can replenish my bankroll by late February, and the fares stay where they are, I'll likely be returning in mid-April. Ideally, I'll do the Strat's Sky Jump on the next trip, and maybe take one of those night-time helicopter rides along the Strip.

    If you've made it this far, I applaud your stamina! Hopefully, my experiences can help someone else have a little bit better trip!

    --Capn Dave
     
  2. Jinx

    Jinx VIP Whale

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    Thanks for the great report, glad you made it back out to Vegas, and alway good to hear a good story on a quick comp "room for Sunday night" that worked out during a trip. I haven't been to the original, but I thought the IP location for HHAGG was good, in the top 5 for breakfasts on the strip, more for their originality then for the perfection of some other spots, but very good.
     
  3. Motorhead

    Motorhead Low-Roller

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    Thanks for the TR, very good reading! I haven't stayed DT in a while (7+ years??? really?) though I try to make a trip there when I'm in Vegas. Your report makes me want to give DT a 2 night stay - I think being just DT gets you into that vibe.
     
  4. macker69

    macker69 Canadian Ambassador for Sully's Bar

    Joined:
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    Seems like a triumphant return, glad you made it back. I may have to finally try HHAGG next trip, although my friend Gaggles gave it poor reviews
     
  5. VegasDiva

    VegasDiva VIP Whale

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    Excellent TR
    Glad to hear you were able to return to Vegas, and had a nice time doing so
     
  6. gmoney590

    gmoney590 VIP Whale

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    It's great to see you finally made it back to Vegas. I haven't been downtown in several years and I've got to try and do it this trip; especially since I want to play some BJ at lower than $25 a hand with good rules 3:2.
     
    Back where we belong
  7. lobsterkmd

    lobsterkmd Low-Roller

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    Great trip report!!! This is making me very excited for my trip in mid-April :) Thanks for sharing!!

    :) Kristin
     
  8. Blonde_4_ever

    Blonde_4_ever "The Welfare Queen of Windsor"

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    Awesome report.
    I love the downtown ones!
     
  9. DonD

    DonD Super Moderator

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    Great report, thanks . . . :nworthy:
     
  10. blackjacknut

    blackjacknut VIP Whale

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    Great report thanks for posting...:thumbsup::thumbsup:
     
  11. sammowhammo

    sammowhammo VIP Whale

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    That was a great TR! :thumbsup:

    The Neon Museum sounds very interesting, I wonder if I can talk DH into going to that.

    How would you describe the crowd at the Golden Gate? The dealers sound fun - would you say fun for a single fella only? or also fun for a lady or a couple? So what was the deck situation in their blackjack games- double, CSM etc? ( How do you not card count? lol!)
     
  12. BeeeJay

    BeeeJay President of The Red Lobster Hostess Satisfaction

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    I'll give HHAGG at IP a positive review for lunch I had there last Dec. Macker, I ate with Corbyn so maybe see how his opinion compares to Gaggles.

    Really enjoyed the report, I may have to use those Fitz coupons I keep getting after reading this. Totally agree Golden Gate is the big attraction downtown.
     
  13. BeeeJay

    BeeeJay President of The Red Lobster Hostess Satisfaction

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    CSM, good piped in music and just fun attitude in general. We've gone with guys, gals, had a great time every time.
     
  14. chef

    chef Resident Buffetologist

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    Fun report to read and make more special by he comparitive analysis from five years previous.
     
  15. chef

    chef Resident Buffetologist

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    Fun report to read and made more interesting by the comparative analysis of five years later.
     
  16. techie223

    techie223 High-Roller

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    Thanks for the TR.

    I love DT. We stayed at the 4 Queens last trip, and while the rooms are not what you'd call luxurious, they were fine for a 4 night stay, and the price was right.

    Did you gamble at Main Street Station? We played BJ for 6 hours one day and found the dealers and pit bosses to be very friendly.
     
  17. evoni

    evoni High-Roller

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    Enjoyed reading your trip report, thanks! I did the Neon Boneyard tour this past October and thought it was a blast, I couldn't stop taking photos and the guide we had was so entertaining about the history of the signs and Vegas.
     
  18. CapnDave

    CapnDave Tourist

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    I'd say it would be fun for anyone - I saw lots of couples in there as well as single guys. Clearly, with the outfits, it's geared to guys, but from what I saw, the dealers were engaging towards everyone at their tables.

    A wide variety of decks. Don't think I saw any single (or if I did, it was 6:5, so I ignored it). Double-deck, 6- (I think, could be 8. Once they go over 4, they look the same to me) deck shoes, and CSMs.

    I don't card-count primarily because I don't want to have to pay that close attention to the game. And I like to have a lot of beer whilst I'm playing. That being said, if I'm at a full table, and I notice a hand with a lot or a few face cards, I'm not above adjusting my bet on the following hand or 2. I just don't do it religiously. And, yeah, I know, that's likely worse than not counting at all.
     
  19. pass line man

    pass line man Low-Roller

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    Great Tr, thanks for sharing. I share your sentiment for the golden gate's rooms, they look pretty good.
     
  20. psbaldi

    psbaldi Tourist

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    I will be in Vegas soon...and was not planning on going downtown...NOW I AM...thanks for the great TR!

    Pam
     
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