What a great trip! Both my sister and I love to travel more than our respective spouses do, so we often take short trips together to get away from it all. She flew in from her home in Madison and I flew in from Portland. For my sister, this trip was a way to get away from her job stresses for a bit. I work out of a home office and take care of our 2 year old while my wife is at work. I needed a break from changing diapers! My wife dropped me off at the airport in Portland for my morning flight. Our son enjoyed this, as he is crazy for airplanes. I didn't have any luggage to check, so I used the machine to get my Alaska Airlines boarding pass. I looked at the short security lines and realized that I had time to kill, so I went with my son and wife to a nearby window to watch the planes. As an added bonus, there was some construction equipment around, so my son was in male toddler heaven. I eventually said my goodbyes and went through security. Security was efficient and quick as usual in Portland. The flight took off on time and was comfortable and quick. I landed about an hour and a half before my sister, so it was off to get the rental car. I am a Dollar Fastpass member, and this experience was stellar. I walked out of the terminal right on to the bus. The driver hadn't seen me and closed the door on me, but no harm was done and we were quickly on our way. The driver had my name on the list, and told me to take any car in row 2. This was an unexpected free upgrade, which I was happy about. The only car on row 2 was a Saturn, which was fine. My two complaints about the car are the brakes and the window controls. The brakes were grippy. What I mean is that they were too easy to lock up. At least twice I skidded on gravel when I was not expecting to. The window controls made me feel like an idiot. After jumping in the car, you sign the paperwork at the gate. However, I couldn't find the controls to lower the window. I had to open the door, and then the Dollar person told me that the controls are on the center part next to the shifter! I would have never figured it out if she hadn't told me. From airport gate to driving out of Dollar, it couldn't have been more than 15 minutes. Fantastic! Since I still had a bit of time, I decided to run over to Green Valley Ranch. Before the trip I had heard about Cash King Checkers ( www.cashkingcheckers.com ), so I wanted to give that a try. I knew that they had some at GVR, so thats where I wanted to go first. They only had two of the machines, and neither one worked very well. This game requires constant use of the touch screen, and it must have been really dirty or something because it was hard to get it to work. It made the game too frustrating to be fun. It was time to pick up my sister, so back to the airport I went. Conveniently the garage across from the airport has parking meters, and I just pulled in and waited. I had arranged with my sister to have her call me on my cell phone when she arrived, which she did about five minutes after I pulled in. I told her how to find the car, and 5 minutes later we were off. We then headed to the Orleans, our hotel for the two nights. Check-in was easy, and they had an evelope with our coupons waiting for me. We had the LA times $30 deal, which included two buffets (one for each of us) and a fun book. In no time we were in our room. We had room 535, a room overlooking the pool. The room has a nice little sitting area, and was in very good shape. I thought the bed was very comfortable, but I suspect some people might not like it at all. The top mattress felt like a very firm foam rubber rather than a traditional mattress with springs. A little unusual, but I liked it just fine. I am very sensitive to mattresses that are too soft, and although the top one seemed to be foam rubber, it was reasonably firm. We then had lunch at Terrible Mike's, a fast food grill in the Orleans. My sister had been fed on her longer flights, so she had Nachos as a snack. These tasted like Nachos everywhere. I had a burger which I thought was much better than average. Everything there is a bit greasy, but I mean that in the best way possible After playing a few machines, it was off to Aladdin. We wanted to try the free slot tournament and afterwords the buffet. The slot tournament is a good deal. It costs $25. They have a bunch of special roped off machines that are used for the tournament. These are reel machines that are set incredibly loose. You get 100 pulls, and you can play at your own pace. In general I don't like to play reels, but it is fun to play a loose one, even if it is just for credits. Our score wasn't good enough to win anything, but I'm glad we did it. For taking part, you get some coupons and your choice of some logo merchandise or a $20 food comp. We took the comp, and they accepted that for the buffet without paying anything extra. This was especially good as the buffet was $19.99 before tax, but with the certificate it meant that we didn't have to pay the tax. Finally, you also get $10 free play on regular machines. You need to find machines that will take the free play, but there was a huge variety of machines so I don't think anyone would complain. I turned my free $10 into $30 on Austin Powers, so a good deal got much better for me. Before eating the buffet, we explored the strip. We went north, hitting Paris and Bally's. We also caught a few minutes of Big Elvis at the Coast. What can I say? He is BIG. And he sounds like Elvis. He was putting on a great show, but time didn't permit us to linger long this time. We then saw the pirate battle, and had a great spot right next to the pirate ship. A super show. We then walked through Ceasars to see if there was any electricity in the air for Celine Dion's opening night. It actually seemed pretty dead, although it was still a bit early. Just for fun, my sister asked at the box office when the earliest date was that tickets were available. Believe it or now, the lady said that they had some for the next day! Maybe people cancelled due to the war, but that still doesn't sound real good for Ceasars or Celine... We headed back to Aladdin and had their great buffet. Personally I would rate this buffet better than Bellagio. I like the variety and everything I had was "good" or better. I especially liked the Tandoori chicken. Everything seemed fresh. By the time we were done eating, my sister was pretty tired so we headed back to the Orleans. After hanging out there for a while, I decided I wanted to drive a bit, so I went out to Palace Station and played a few slots while my sister went to bed. One of my goals this trip was to play craps, something I have never tried in a Casino. I had practiced quite a bit using the free version online from http://www.wagerworks.com (no, they don't give points or anything), so I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do. Of course, playing it in a Casino for money is a lot different than playing for fun at a Casino. After Palace Station, I decided to give craps a try at the Orleans. Serious craps players don't like the Orleans because they only have 2X odds, but my style of play I worked out on the computer put more of an emphasis on placing the 6 and 8, so this wasn't a big problem. The advantage of playing at Orleans is that the minimum pass line bet is only $2. Here is my "system". I put $2 on the pass line. When a point is rolled, I put on full odds and I place $12 on the 6 and 8 (or just the one of them when the point is 6 or 8). If the 6 or 8 is rolled, I drop down the 6 and 8 to $6, "locking in" some profit. From then on, I press the 6 or 8 1 unit every time they are rolled. If the point is made, I increase my pass line bet by $1 until I lose, and then I drop back down to $2. I always played full odds at the Orleans. This first session started with a $100 buy in, and I walked away with $130. Nothing to write home about, but no one got on a good roll, and I am pretty sure I was the only one at the table who made money. After that I called it a night. The next morning I played again and also made about $20. We skipped breakfast and had an early lunch at the Hard Rock Hotel. I had the unlisted $7.77 steak and shrimp special I had heard about, and my sister had country fried steak. Both were very good, and I would definately recommend the special. We also got a coupon for a free desert for signing up for the slot club which made the meal a real bargain. My sister decided she wanted to do the Aladdin slot tournament again. She wanted some things to bring back for her husband, and she thought he would enjoy the embroidered hat. She got a shirt along with it as her premium (instead of taking the $20 food comp). No luck either in the tournament or with her $10 free play, but she had fun. We explored the strip some more, and then headed out to Sam's Town. We saw the laser and water show there, which I would really recommend. I think it is worth the trip out there to see it once. They also added a 2nd show right after the main show, which was kind of a salute to America. Without getting too political, it wasn't my cup of tea. Still, it obviously had a huge impact on many of those around us. People were singing and cheering and getting all gushy. I guess if it makes people feel better in these troubled times, then hats off to Sam's Town. We then ate our buffet at the Orleans. It was pretty good, but nothing to write home about. We had a coupon for a free bottle of wine, but it was pretty nasty. Pretty much the kind of wine you get on an airplane. My sister had an early night, and I went out to see the Cannery. It is in the middle of nowhere, but I really enjoyed the drive out there. The lights of the city are really pretty from the Interstate. The casino itself is pleasant enough. It is easy to navigate, as it is just a big square with restaurants and so on along the sides. They have a great variety of new slots, most of them using tickets. The only real negative is that the slots without tickets were hand pay only! That means if you put in $20 and want to cash out $5, you have to get paid by hand. Rediculous. After getting back to the Orleans I had another craps session earning about $10, and I went to bed. Thursday was our departure day, but I didn't leave until 6:30 PM. All told, I was down about $25 gambling, which was ok. I won small amounts on craps and Cash King Checkers, and lost on VP and slots. Being the last day, I was determined to take my best shot, knowing full well that it could get ugly. And ugly it got. I played craps and lost $100 very quickly. The slots felt like ATMs running backwards. I had to break off the carnage to drop my sister off for her earlier flight back to Wisconsin, but I was ready to give it one more shot. I was now down $225 as I walked into my favorite casino, Sunset Station. Would my luck change? No. I walked up to the craps table, and walked away $100 poorer. One guy had a decent roll, but nobody could throw the dice more than twice after establishing a point before hitting a 7. I left the table and put $20 in a slot machine, but no joy. I looked at my watch, and it was 3:15. I figured I should head out around 4 to have enough time to drop off the car and get through security. I went back to the craps table and decided to go out fighting. This was going to be my last $100 no matter how quickly I lost it. The decent shooter from my previous session was still there and was to be the 2nd guy to shoot, so there was a glimmer of hope. But it started out badly. The first shooter set the point and sevened out without rolling a single number. I put $3 on the pass line as Eddie, the decent shooter from the previous session, selected his dice. He set the point at 9, and I put down $15 odds, and placed the 6 and 8 for $12 each. Eddie rolled a bunch of numbers, including the 8 once. As this was getting near the end, I decided to pin my hopes on Eddie. Instead of my usual dropping down to $6, I pressed the 8 to $18. A few moments later, Eddie made his point. I put $3 on the pass line, and Eddie now sets the point at 8. Looking at my watch, I see that I have about 20 minutes left, so I decide that when Eddie sevens out, I'm done. So when the point is set at 8, I tell the dealer to add the $18 from the 8 to the $12 on the 6, giving me $30 on the 6. And Eddie starts hitting the 5, 6, and 9 like crazy. Every time he hits the 6, I press it $6. After a little while, I put $5 on the 5 and 9, and they start paying off. Every time Eddie is throwing the dice the dealer is pushing money at me. The money on the 6 is growing, too. Now I am collecting $25 chips, and table is getting electric. I look at my watch and it is 4:00. I look up from my watch, and Eddie sevens out at that instant. Hi rolled for 35 minutes and made exactly 1 point. Many on the table didn't make much money from Eddie's roll because they weren't pressing their numbers and/or were playing hardways that didn't hit, but Eddie was my hero. I colored up for $440, and just about every cent was made on Eddie's roll. It was a beautiful thing, and it made me about even for the 3 days. What a way to end a trip! Unfortunately high winds meant that there were air traffic controller delays, so I spent far more time in the aiport than I would have liked. But the flight was smooth and I made it home safe and sound. Miscellaneous Comments: * Alaska Air non-stop from Portland is the way to go in my opinion. * I really like Sunset Station, and I wish I would have gone out there earlier in the trip. * I asked at checkout at the Orleans if our play helped at all (not really expecting anything), but I was surprised when she said that I would have to talk to a pit boss. I figured they would have that at their computer, but I guess not. I didn't bother as I doubted that my play would have helped. The bill from the Orleans was only $70, so I wasn't worried. * There were many beginners at the craps table at the Orleans, especially in the morning. This was probably good for the first few times as a beginner myself, but the dealers seemed tired of explaining things and correct mistakes. Those who weren't rookies tended to be grumpy old men. * The atmosphere at the craps table at Sunset was much better. The dealers were also more fun and better IMHO. * At Sunset, I recognized the pit boss and boxman from the Travel Channel. It was fun to talk to them about it. If you have seen the one where the security expert tries to switch dice as a test and boxman catches it, the boxman and the stickman from the show were the pit boss and boxman respectively when I was there. Looks like they have since promoted they taped the show! * Craps is fun. Even when I was losing I had fun. A long roll that make you money is one of the great experiences in life. * Aladdin is my favorite place to play on the Strip. It is a great combination of being nice and shiny, but with lots of low roller options. * I was last in Las Vegas about 10 months ago, and I have noticed many more multi-denomination video slots than before that go down to $.01. These things are great! It always seems that there are times when one person has to wait for someone else. When this happens, you don't always feel like blowing a lot of money, but you don't want to twiddle your thumbs either. If I was waiting for my sister, I'd put in a $5 bill and play $.01 on all of the lines. Great fun! If you started winning, you could always turn them up to more on each line, or $.02 or $.05 per credit. * Thank God there is no craps table in the airport. I am sure I would have given all of money back before the flight left. * Craps is the best game in the casino. If you haven't tried it, you owe it to yourself. Thanks for reading. Feel free to ask any questions.