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Poker Trip 2008 6/25 - 7/02

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by bigalbr, Jul 4, 2008.

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  1. bigalbr

    bigalbr VIP Whale

    Jan 13, 2005
    Trips to Las Vegas:

    My Trip Report

    Just got back from my annual solo WSOP trip to Vegas 06/25-07/02. I don't play the WSOP events; I just enjoy being in Vegas when it's relatively empty of regular folks but has more poker action than any other time. I'm going to divide this TR up into sections by category instead of just doing a meandering stream-of-conciousness daily report. I'm an engineer and have no illusions about the quality of my prose, so hopefully your ability to skip entire sections that don't interest you will help you get through it.


    I spent the first two nights at Bally's on a Summerfest offer. The offer was for two free nights + 2 free entries in a slot tournament. No problems with the room, but the AC was a little weak. I was comfortable because of the low humidity in Vegas, but the AC was set as low as possible when I checked in and I never felt a need to adjust it. I keep my house at 78 F at night here in Louisiana, so if you really require a cool room to sleep in Bally's may not be for you. I was on an early flight out of NO, arriving at McCarran around 10 am. Due to fast luggage service and the fact that I'm finally done with the shuttles, I was at Bally's before 11 am. No problem checking in on a Wednesday before lunch.

    I spent my final 5 nights at Bill's Gambling Hall (formerly Barbary Coast). I'd stayed at BC before they redid the rooms and thought it was a great value. I was able to book Bill's at 99.95 Friday and Saturday and 59.95 for Sunday-Tuesday. Originally I booked the Fri/Sat nights at 119.95 each, but by checking rates after booking while looking at this board I was able to get the rates reduced with a couple of phone calls. I wasn't able to check in early at Bill's, so I had to check my bag and go play some poker for a few hours before returning to check in. I ended up in a handicapped room, so no bathtub just a walkin shower. The room was also right by the elevators, but except for the first day that wasn't an issue. As opposed to Bally's, the AC here was meat locker cold. I checked the thermostat and the thermometer was buried at 60 F. I kicked it up a couple of notches, but if my room was typical you won't have AC problems at Bill's. The room was perfectly fine, just not quite as nice as Bally's. It did have an excellent flatscreen TV if you care about that.


    On a solo trip, I generally don't want to go to too many good restaurants. I'm more interested in getting food fast, eating, and getting on with my activities. I eat two meals a day in Vegas, so you won't see any breakfasts in this report.

    One difference I've seen over the last few years in Vegas is the improvement in water/soft drink service at restaurants. Water glasses are bigger, and the frequency that they come back to fill it up is much higher. When you stay in Vegas for a week, managing your hydration is key to enjoying your trip. It's nice to see that the restaurants are helping out.

    Bally's Sidewalk Cafe -- I ate lunch here the first day. I really don't understand Vegas coffee shops at all. After you're seated and the busperson takes your drink order, it seems like forever until the server shows up to take your food order. Then the food is delivered licketysplit. I'd understand not taking my order if the kitchen was backed up, but it almost seems like they just don't have enough servers. I ordered a burger with slaw. It was pretty blah. I'm not a huge fan of Bally's Sidewalk Cafe. BTW, it's not on the sidewalk.

    Bally's Steakhouse -- I had a bunch of Harrah's points that I generally don't use in NO since they always send me meal vouchers/buffet coupons, so I decided to splurge and burn the points. I ordered the French onion soup and bone-in ribeye with a diet Pepsi. I really enjoyed the French onion soup, but the ribeye just wasn't good. It was somewhat tough, and just didn't have much flavor. At first I thought it might not be medium rare, but it wasn't horribly overdone. Just not a good piece of meat. When I got the check, I found out that the Bally's Steakhouse is one of the remaining places that charges your for every glass of diet Pepsi. That tacked on 2.99 per extra glass. The service was excellent, but I can't recommend the Bally's Steakhouse unless you want to go and just order water and 4 French onion soups. That's not a bad plan. I'm sure the steak was just an unlucky break. I've bought bad steaks before and you just can't tell sometimes. Probably I should have complained, but I wanted to eat and get on with my evening.

    Ichiban -- This is a suishi bar/Japanese restaurant in the Bally's mall between the casino and sportsbook/monorail station. I ate here because a pit boss at Bally's offered my entire Pai Gow Poker table an $18 voucher. This wasn't a comp, I was playing $10 and had only been there about 10 minutes waiting for my poker seat to open up. Ichiban is pretty cheap, two people could have eaten there for lunch on the voucher. Since it was just me, I got their breaded calimari and a chicken teriaki bowl. The calimari was a calimari steak breaded, fried, and sliced. It was like the calimari you get at a Japanese steakhouse versus the fried calimari you get at an Italian or Mediteranean restaurant. I enjoyed it, but I like calimari. The teriaki bowl was pretty good also, but I'm not a fan of short grain sticky rice. There wasn't enough teriaki sauce to flavor all the rice, so unless you're a fan of plain white Japanese style rice you may not be pleased.

    Panda Express/Chipotle -- I ate a bunch of lunches at this place. It's between Harrah's and Casino Royale. Upstairs is a McDonald's, downstairs is a Panda Express/Chipotle/Pizza. I ate my first lunch at the Panda Express. It's fast food Chinese. Nothing spectacular, but cheap, filling and fast. That's really what I'm interested in for my first Vegas meal of the day. Chipotle was more of the same, but Tex/Mex versus Chinese. I know nobody's going to eat here for a dining experience, but it's $8.08 for a burrito and soft drink at Chipotle. Given the dearth of low cost fill-your-belly options mid-Strip, I feel this warrants a mention.

    Cortez Room at Gold Coast -- I went by there for their prime rib special. It was OK. Given the cost, I'd rank it substantially higher than Bally's Steakhouse. It didn't feel as nice, but the service and food was good. I'd say the Cortez Room PR is equal to what the Victorian Room at Barbary Coast was prior to Harrahfication. The price was right and I wanted to see the Amazon Room at the Rio. No complaints, but I wouldn't make a special trip to the GC for this.

    Harrah's Coffee Shop -- Harrah's was running a couple of specials. $10.99 Steak and Shrimp for dinner and a $7.77 lunch special that you had to ask the server about. I had the Steak and Shrimp. The food was fine for the price, but the service just wasn't there. Refills on water and soft drinks were infrequent. I didn't really feel like they gave a crap whether I had a good experience or not.

    Earl of Sandwich at Planet Hollywood -- I had the Beef and Bleu Sandwich. It's a roast beef with blue cheese sandwich. I thought the sandwich was excellent. It was small, but adequate for a light lunch. Price was around $6 for a sandwich without drink. This was a perfect choice for me on a day where I just needed to get something fast that was tasty but not too heavy.


    I'm not going to put buffets in with dining, because I don't rate them like a restaurant. Excellent buffet food is generally only as good as decent restaurant food.

    Harrah's Flavors: I generally go to buffets to eat crab legs and prime rib. Harrah's has decent/good prime rib, but the crab legs were snow crab and not good at all. They had some decent steak skewers and Chinese, but I'll not be returning. Price of 21.99 was lowest of the dinner buffets I ate at, but doesn't make this a bargain.

    Wynn Buffet: I had this buffet as a first day Red Card member. By earning 150 points, I was comped two buffets. This buffet was incredible. My comp ticket said it was 23.77 for a Thursday dinner. If that's true, you need to hit this buffet if you're a buffet person. I didn't have a single bit of food that I wouldn't have been happy to be served in a restaurant. They had excellent buffet prime rib and split king crab legs. I hadn't had king crab for some time, so I'd forgotten how much better it is that snow crab. I also thought they had excellent potstickers. I've only eaten potstickers at Vegas buffets, but I liked all the potstickers I had this trip and the Wynn's were the best of the bunch!

    Mirage Cravings: I was desparate for food 20 minutes before closing to new business. The buffet takes the food away 20 minutes after that so I was pressed for time. I just grabbed some potstickers (my new gotta taste-em food), a slice of prime rib, and mucho king crab legs. The food was good, but not quite the Wynn. Whether this was because of the time or my state of inebriation, I don't know. Regardless, it you want to go to the Mirage buffet I'll accompany you.

    Bellagio buffet: I had this buffet for lunch on the end of a last night/day no sleep bender. The food was good, but my sense of taste was probably lacking. No crab legs due to it being lunch, but the other standard offerings were there. I'll probably try to hit this buffet again for a weeknight dinner.


    From my dining reviews, you may think I'm not a drinker. Not true! I'm pretty much a beer guy and restrict most of my drinking to comped drinks at the poker table/pit/slots. That said, I frequently availed myself of a couple of excellent beer promotions. The first is $1 Michelob/Michelob Light at Casino Royale. This is a well known and longstanding offer, but as a native of St. Louis who has a significant financial stake in AB I feel a that it must be trumpeted to the skies at every opportunity. The second special was at Bill's. They're offering the 16 oz aluminum bottles of Bud/Bud Light for $2.25. Given that a bottle of beer runs a minimum of $4.50 pretty much everywhere on the Strip nowadays, I feel these are decent values.

    Slot Tournament

    My offer with Bally's included 2 entries into their Summerfest slot tournament at Harrah's. After playing my 2 entries, I have to say I am not enamored of the slot tourney concept. I did notice that they had other games including poker tournaments offered for other time periods. If I do the Summer/Winterfest thing again, I won't be playing a slot tourney. In case it needs to be said, I did not win the slot tournament.

    Blackjack Conditions

    Tropicana: This may be the go to place for low limit BJ on the Strip. I didn't find a single layout that hit soft 17. I played a 5-200 game for a few minutes. Late surrender was allowed. I didn't see any DAS or RSA opportunities, but I'd assume that DAS is allowed but RSA isn't. Regardless, this was the best $5 BJ I saw.

    MGM properties: Good blackjack was available at the $25 level. DD didn't allow late surrender, but shoe did. DAS allowed. No RSA. MGM also has a lot of crap blackjack, so pay attention.

    Everybody else: No surrender. Hit soft 17. Complete crap games, but they're not empty. Surprisingly, Palazzo had some low limit ($10) games during the day when I walked through. If you've got to play bad BJ, the Palazzo may be your goto spot.


    I've managed to wean myself off of slot machines for the most part, but I found a new favorite slot machine at the Wynn. It's Double Dragon. I played this machine to get the points for my Wynn Red Card comped buffets. I won $130.0 on the DD while accumulating my 150 points. Sweet! Unfortunately, I didn't see any other DD machines anywhere in Vegas. Even at the Wynn, there weren't any others that I saw and there was a lady hanging around waiting to play the machine I was on. BTW, Mr. Wynn has some nice slot machines. They have wider display screens than anybody else and you consequently get much more personal space at your machine. Cudos, Mr. Wynn!

    Slot Clubs

    Harrah's -- As usual, Harrah's slot club efficiency trumps all others. Although I agree that Harrah's gambling offerings are always the worst in the market, their slot club is very efficient. You always know where you stand, and if you value the marketing offers you receive they're not a bad place to do business. As far as I'm concerned, Harrah's doesn't offer any comps besides marketing offers. I play, I earn points, I get cashback when I cash the points. I enjoy weekend poker jaunts to NO, so the free rooms that Harrah's offers for a couple hours of BJ makes it worthwhile to me. BTW, Harrah's offers much better BJ in NO than LV. This pisses me off to no end.

    Wynn -- Wynn offers new members a wheel spin at 25 points and 2 buffets at 150 points. Buffets and/or a free vacation are possible on the wheel, but $10 free play is by far the most common. When I signed up, they gave me $10 free play for signing up with an email, a wheel spin at 25 points, and 2 buffets at 150 points. Quite a value, but I ran good and Mr. Wynn essentially paid me $130 to play his machines and eat his buffet. Obviously, you could crap out and lose a lot trying to get the buffets comps. Unfortunately, the Wynn slot club seems to be run by complete morons. During my initial signup, the poor guy taking my information couldn't get the computer to properly process my information. After 3 tries, he finally just decided that he would put the $10 free play on my card and I don't have any idea if they have any of my information for future promotions. When I went to get my wheel spin, and then my free buffets, they were incredibly slow to process these transactions. The line wasn't more than three people deep and I waited 10 minutes each time. Harrah's would have processed me through these lines in less than two minutes.


    All of this information is somewhat suspect because it was the week before the WSOP Main Event. There are more poker players in town than any other time of year. I restricted most of my play to the Venetian, Bally's, Mirage, and TI, but I also played at Caesars, Bellagio, MGM, Bill's, Wynn, Paris and Rio. As a player, I gave up online poker when the Feds cracked down on Neteller. I was a breakeven online player at that point, but I had lost a good chunk early and made it back. When I quit the online thing, I was beating 6 max limit up to the 10/20 level and 100 NL. As a live player I've never had a losing year and play up to 5/10 NL or 15/30 limit.

    As always, the night games were better than the day games. Good games were generally available, but you could easily end up on a bad table and need a change. I've always found it typical for players to move in and out of games in Vegas a lot more often for non-poker reasons than in my local card rooms. This year was no exception. Somebody was always leaving to go to dinner, meet the girlfriend/wife, go to a show, whatever. This makes it a little more difficult to get any useful reads on an opponent, so I found myself playing excruciatingly tight for most of the week.

    Venetian -- I really like the Venetian poker room. You always have plenty of room between tables, the staff is efficient, and I've generally found the games to be good. I played 2/5 NL, 5/10 NL, and 5/5 PLO here. The 5/10 NL may have been the softest game I was in the whole time I was in Vegas. I didn't run well, so I only made a small profit. A small profit when you run bad = weak competition. The 2/5 was OK. You have to practice game selection here. There are a lot of decent 2/5 players around. If I didn't like the game I was in, I changed tables or rooms. I played one session of PLO. I got crushed by a drunken Irishman who didn't even look at his cards before calling. One time I dropped $200 to him when he had the stone nuts. The next time I just blew myself up and dropped about $600 on top pair + OESD. OK play in hold-em, but really not good in PLO.

    Bally's -- Bally's is my goto spot for soft latenight games. I just enjoy the fishpool and the frequent drinks. It's only 1/2 NL, but there's usually a good chunk of money to be made here. Bally's has all of the rake issues that Dewey mentions, but I find the player pool more than makes up for the rake. If anything, Bally's is better than ever relative to your other choices for 1/2 NL.

    Mirage -- I liked the Mirage poker room this trip. I've never really liked the Mirage in the past, but either I've gotten the hang of how to operate in a poker room or they've made significant improvements. They have added electronic list management, which helps a lot. In the old paper list days, if you wanted to play an upper section game but wait in a 3/6 or 1/2 game you had to sign up at the upper section desk for that game and at the main desk for the low limit game. This was crap. Now you can just sign up at the upper section podium. The Mirage isn't the "it" room in Vegas anymore, but it's pretty decent. They were able to get 10/20 and 20/40 LHE off most nights I was there, which is nice if you're a limit person. I played mostly 2/5 NLHE with one session of 1/2 PLO mixed in. I'm beginning to think that I just don't like PLO live. I've played 3 sessions lifetime. I'm up over those sessions, but really didn't enjoy any of them. The game is just too slow. A lot of players have no idea about the pot limit structure (this includes me), and it takes a long time to deal.

    TI -- TI has a pretty strong presence on www.allvegaspoker.com, so it stays on my radar. They don't have a lot of tables, but I never had to wait too long for a game. They run a lot of fast tournaments there, but I just stuck to the cash games. They spread a 1/3 500 max NLHE game, so the game is a little bigger than 1/2 but the fact that they don't have anything bigger limits the number of big game players that sit in the game. On July 1, I sat in the first ever Royal Holdem cash game spread outside of the approval period. I was playing the president of the company that owns the game and a local Vegas poker player for a bit, then the game filled up (it's 6 max). Royal Holdem is standard LHE but they remove all the cards 9 and lower so that you're playing with a 20 card deck. The game was spread in a 3/6 limit format, which I liked. It's a fun, fast game. I'd played a little bit online for play money and this really gave me an advantage at a full table.

    Caesars Palace -- CP is not totally given over to Harrah's at this point. Rake is still 4 max no jackpot. I had no issues there, but one guy bought an extra $200 in chips that never showed up. He eventually asked about them, and there was much consternation as the CP staff looked for the chips. They eventually came up with them, so no harm done. I would have probably played here a little more, but I just got into a comfortable rotation with the Venetian, TI, and Mirage. As a domestic beer drinker I had no issues, but CP has severely limited their selection of call liquors available to you. If you want call drinks, Venetian, Wynn, and Bellagio are probably better choices.

    MGM -- I played one session of 2/5 NLHE here. I just wanted to go down to the South Strip one day and check out the blackjack conditions. A lot of people like the MGM poker room, but as usual I didn't. I always feel cramped at their tables and hate their stupid marble racetrack. The actual playable felt area is about 1/4 to 1/3 as big as a normal table because of the marble rim. I played a 2/5 day game there and it wasn't anywhere close to good enough to make me stay. I donated my $19 and got the hell out of there.

    Wynn -- I played in Wynn's 1/3 game with $3 chips. The $3 chips caused a lot of confusion and made the game play pretty small. I wasn't really enthused with the situation so I left after a few orbits. I may be back for 2/5 in the future, but unless they get rid of the $3 chips I'm done with there 1/3 game.

    Paris -- I've been in there the last two trips and since they've moved the room out of the pit, they just don't have games. The line at Bally's was kind of long and I saw on the board that Paris had a seat open so I hightailed it over there to get in action. I ended up at a table full of med students who all knew each other. There was no collusion, but the game had no action. I killed some time in the game, then went back over to Bally's.

    Rio -- I went to the Rio to see the WSOP and play some cash games. I played in the normal poker room for a couple of hours. The game was not very good, so I decided to check out the Amazon Room. When I finally got back there, I couldn't figure out how to get into a 5/10 NL game, so I left. All in all, I think I'll restrict my WSOP cash game play to the Strip in the future. I wasn't really impressed with the Rio cash games at all.

    BIll's -- This has got to be the ultimate fish pond ever. Unfortunatelly, it's a fish pond that only spreads $1 NL 200 max. That's right, 1 $1 blind. These games were incredibly easy, but gruesomely slow. It was a fun, non-serious environment, but if you're serious about poker you'll probably pass it by. Late night sessions when the girls are coming in and out of Drai's do offer some non-poker entertainment.
  2. Reston

    Reston VIP Whale

    Oct 7, 2006
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    That sounds like a great trip and lots of poker action. The Venetian and Mirage are my two favorite poker rooms, but I will swing over the TI next trip to check it out.

    P.S. You ate pretty well for being solo! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have paid for those Pepsi refills at Bally's unless the waiter told me in advance that refills weren't free.
  3. gotavegasjones

    gotavegasjones VIP Whale

    Jan 16, 2004
    South Texas
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Thanks for the TR. Good detailed report of the strip's poker rooms. Overall, seems as you had a good trip.

    later, GVJ
  4. Royal Flusher

    Royal Flusher Savvy Gambler

    Feb 18, 2008
    Flusherville, Canada
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Excellent report!

    Thanks! Read every word.
  5. rdrfn70

    rdrfn70 Low-Roller

    Jul 7, 2004

    great report on the poker!
  6. jgates8

    jgates8 VIP Whale

    Jun 25, 2007
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    I like the food part of your trip reports, LOL. Chipoltle is very popular in the college cities around here. Panda Express very popular in the malls. Sometimes it is just nice to know what you are going to get. Earl is nowhere around here to be found but we always stop there when at Disney (downtown Disney) and you ordered my fav sandwich!

    Two Questions -

    1. How did you know about the Harrah's specials (10.99 & 7.77)?

    2. Did the Summerfest provide any 'gift' such as food comps and/or a gift for playing? Considering the winterfest this winter. (The last slot tourney I entered gave $50 food comps & a gorgeous tea set).
    Fun with friends!
  7. bigalbr

    bigalbr VIP Whale

    Jan 13, 2005
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    It was on a signboard/placard in front of the coffee shop. Nothing tricky like the Ellis Island or Hard Rock specials.

    No additional gift for me, but I did hear some mutterings about a banquet in the tourney room. I'm just a low level Platinum, so it's possible there were better offerings out there for Summerfest. FWIW, I got everything they told me I would get for Summerfest, so if they offer you something more for Winterfest I would expect them to come through.
  8. Jinx

    Jinx VIP Whale

    Aug 7, 2007
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Nice report, have to agree on the change in policy for water at restaurants now, nice large glass and no push anymore for the most part on tap vs bottled.

    Great insight into a variety of things, I did the summerfest poker tourney last year, and definitely has to be better then a slot tourney hitting th buttons.
  9. bigalbr

    bigalbr VIP Whale

    Jan 13, 2005
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    I'm going to try to only go to poker or blackjack tourneys from here on. At least I enjoy those games. My problem this time is that I wanted to be in Vegas during the WSOP, and the slot tourney was my only option.
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