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Trip Report (4/13-4/16)

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by buckeyefan, May 3, 2004.

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  1. Got a lot of help from this board before. Thought I'd share our experience, for what it's worth.

    The players: My wife and I, both 28. I’ve been to Vegas once before on a weekend bachelor party, but my wife was a Vegas virgin.

    My wife is a teacher and had the week off for Spring Break. So we decided on Vegas so she could see what all the fuss was about. I figured that Vegas with the wife has got to be different than bachelor party Vegas, and was curious to see how she would like it. She’s never gambled (not even slots) before, but I go to the riverboats here in Chicago a few times a year. I play mostly craps and blackjack (strict basic strategy – I’m not experienced enough to count cards). And I play low minimums. My cheap butt can’t stand hemorrhaging too much money, especially at the rate that a craps table demands!

    We booked our flight and hotel online, separate travel sites. This ended up saving us $200 over all the “air-hotel†packages. I would look into trying this, rather than just assuming the “air-hotel†package is the best deal.

    Tuesday, April 13

    Of course, we were all fired up to get going, and barely slept the night before. Our flight left Chicago at 6:30 am, so we had to hop on the “El†at 4:30 am to get to O’Hare by 5:30. Needless to say, we were exhausted and slept the whole flight to L.A., then a quick hop to Vegas. We sat on the right side of the plane, and got to see the strip in its full glory as we landed.

    At the end of the runway, we could see Mandalay Bay RIGHT THERE ACROSS THE STREET – let us off the plane, we’ll walk, dammit!!!! But the plane taxied all the way back around to the terminal and we ended up taking a $12 taxi ride to the hotel. On the way, the cabbie told us about Bellagio: their electricity had been down for several days – casino, hotel, shows, fountains, all shut down.

    Sure enough, when we got to Mandalay Bay (12:15 pm), the lobby was packed. At least 3-4 groups around us had had reservations at Bellagio, and had to find other accommodation – looked like a lot were coming down south to MB. Check-in starts at noon there. It looked like a lot of people got there early and went out to the pool until noon. The lines weren’t too bad – it took about 30 min to check in.

    The girl at the desk looked swamped, and the New Yorkers ahead of us were classic East Coast obnoxious (don’t be offended – you all know people like this). They obviously frustrated the girl with their demands. They were p.o.’d because the lobby was crowded, their room wasn’t ready, the Bellagio said such and such, maybe we’ll go somewhere else, b*tch-b*tch-b*tch. We smiled, turned on the Midwestern charm, asked for king bed, non-smoking, oh and is there any way to get a view of the strip? Bam! 14th floor, Fiji wing, no problem! No need to try the $20 trick even.

    We read in reviews of MB that waiting for elevators is a nightmare, but not once did we wait more than 3-5 minutes, and they were never full. The room was awesome – floor to ceiling windows, view of the strip from Luxor to MGM to NYNY to Paris, all the way up to Treasure Island – beautiful! The bathroom was the nicest I’ve seen in a hotel (of course I’m usually at Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, etc) – granite counter, double sink, separate water closet, separate shower and bath. Big closets – his & hers. And light, airy décor. We loved it.

    Next we decided to check out the pool. We got there at 2 pm, and it was packed. All the little kids on spring break that week were swarming the pool. Although it was crowded, there were people leaving the pool area for the day around that time, so it wasn’t hard to find a pair of lounges. If I had to find 4 or more, though, it would’ve been a nightmare. Great pool area – little dinky waves from the wave pool, though. Plenty of attention from the cocktail waitresses out there, too. You better tolerate little kids well if you stay here. They are everywhere. I don’t know what the attraction of this city is for those who have kids. The main reasons people come here – gambling, shows, nice restaurants, and perhaps topless-type activities – are basically not kid-friendly. Hanging out at the pool all day with a visit to M&M world, and maybe to Excalibur’s jousting show - this cannot be that much fun for the kids.

    We headed back up to the room about 5 or so to clean up for the night. Our plan was to go to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris and sit out on the patio so we could watch the fountains at Bellagio, but that plan was shot with the whole “Ocean’s Eleven†power outage at Bellagio. So we decided on the Buffet at Paris. Neither one of us is a big buffet lover, but we figured, “while in Rome,†right? We got there around 8 pm, had to wait about 1 hour for seating. At 9, though, there were barely any folks behind us. The food of course was very good, especially for only $22 apiece. The crepe station is ingenious. I wouldn’t call the quality of the food anywhere near what you’d get at a French restaurant here in the US, even the little bistros we have all over Chicago, but it was a good deal for the price.

    Later that night we wanted to go a nightclub. Ghostbar has some event on Tuesdays, so we decided to head there. But first, we checked out Paris’ gambling. I hadn’t made a single bet yet in Vegas, so I was getting itchy, and the craps tables were calling to me. So we found a $5 table (3x4x5x odds) and found a spot. I bet pass line only, with full odds. Every once in a while I place 6 or 8 or make a come bet with odds. After about one hour, I was up $117, and the wife was excited when I kept passing back chips and telling her to put them in her pocket and don’t let me gamble them.

    At one point a pushy, fifty-something, fanny-pack-wearing lady squeezed her way in between me and the guy next to me. Now, the table was very crowded, and I had waited about 15 minutes just to get a place, and here she comes muscling her rude butt in. She put both elbows on the table, leaning way in, so the guy and I couldn’t even see the table. She started throwing money on all the worst bets – Big 6 & 8, all the hardways, field bets. She didn’t understand the pass line or Come bets. She even grabbed my winnings at one point – I knew that was coming, so I kept a close eye on her. Unreal. I took it as bad karma when someone that rude and stupid starts flushing money away, and sure enough, the table went cold.

    In the hour I was there, saw one cocktail waitress. By the time she delivered the drink, I cashed out, up $60. One hour for one drink – that might be the only thing I didn’t like about Paris. Overall, a very nice casino, lots of fun. And it looked like some pretty good restaurants, too.

    That was fun, time to go to Palms. My winnings paid for the taxi fares we accumulated through the day – next time I’d consider renting a car. At 11-11:30 we got in line for ghostbar, and waited a total of 2 minutes. I heard the waits can be unreal, but not on this Tuesday. The place was cool, and the crowd was certainly not what I expected. Instead of a bunch of LA club kid wanna-be actors and hotel heiresses, it just seemed like a lot of fun people like us. A few beautiful people, but not exclusive. The DJ’s were playing Old School hip-hop (De La Soul, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Tribe called Quest, etc), which for my generation brings back memories of high-school and college. We had a blast drinking their $8 cocktails, taking in the views. We even got our picture taken for their website (they took almost all the guests’ pictures, so don’t be impressed by us – but it still made us feel like bigshots).

    On the way out through the Palms casino, passed a $5 craps table. I just had to shoot a little, still being fired up from earlier tonight. Cashed in for $50. First roll – point established, put my odds down. Second roll – seven out. Third roll – point established, put my odds down. Fourth roll – seven out. OUCH. 50 bucks gone, just like that. The wife was not impressed.

    Back to MB around 2 am (4 am Chicago time) – a long long day.

    Wednesday, April 14

    We must have been dead tired because we didn’t even stir until 10am. We wanted to get around and see the casinos today, so we started at NYNY – small, kinda cramped. Nice theme, though. All the blackjack I saw there was paying 6:5 (they call it “21â€) – be careful if you go here. Next we went to Aladdin. We wanted to try the “no-risk slot tournament†they have there. I never do slots, but the wife was interested, so we both signed up. That was an OK deal – for the two of us, a $50 buy in got us no cash prizes from the tournament, but $20 free slot play which won us $20. We also got $20 in meal voucher, and then two cheapo gifts – I got a pen set, and the wife got something else, don’t remember. We then ate at Zanzibar Café – sandwiches and fries for “free†using those vouchers.

    Next, we kept wandering north on the strip. Some very bland casinos in Bally’s, Flamingo, and Harrah’s. Just a million slot machines in these places, older crowds. We didn’t even make a bet there. I was getting ancy to make some kind of bets, so we went to Casino Royale next door to Harrah’s.

    What a dump. But $2 minimum craps with 100x odds, I’m in heaven! The wife wandered around playing some slots for a while. I was having a blast playing craps. The bar is right next to the table, and the cocktail waitresses were bringing drinks faster than I could drink them. I was basically doing $2 bets and $20 odds. You can lose money fast even with this, but you hit one or two points, and you’re back in the game. I spent 2-3 hours on my $100 buy-in, and cashed out with only $40, but what a blast. Friendly dealers, fun players around the table. Did I mention the cocktail service? Stick with the little 8-oz beers, though – the cocktails were watered down.

    The wife was bored and not interested in watching me continue to lose money, so we decided to head back. We got on a 301 bus, $2 each, and took us right down to MB’s front door.

    After a quick power nap, we got ready for the evening. We were stuffed from the huge lunch at Zanzibar, and possibly from the beers at Casino Royale with Cheese. So we weren’t really ready for dinner yet. We saw a coupon in “What’s On†for the Comedy Stop at the Tropicana, and headed over there. For $19.95 you get two tickets and two drinks, not too bad. Boy, the Trop is a throwback to the 70’s, huh? I think the clientele was gambling there in the 70’s when they were our age. Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Tom Jones on the speakers, whoo-boy. A nice cloud of second-hand smoke hangs over that place like ozone over Chicago at rush hour.

    I think we were the last pair to arrive at the Comedy Stop. For some reason the Maitre’d (I never know how to spell that) decides to put us right up next to the stage. I mean, front row, center. The place was packed full, we show up at 8:01 for an 8:00 show, and for some reason he waltzes us by all the schlubs who got there at a reasonable time, and puts us right on the stage. I had a bunch of 20’s in my wallet, and a couple ones, so I only tipped the guy $2. I figured we were going to get it from the comedian for being late or something. Well the first guy comes out and, sure enough, starts making us part of his act. Nothing too bad, just questions about what it’s like to be young and married, and do we ever argue about this-or-that, and does she ever nag you to do such-and-such. He was funny, but a lot of clichés I’d heard before, but I liked him. The second guy was our favorite – very dry humor. Example: “So the Bellagio’s power is out, huh? The Trop’s looking pretty f*cking good now, isn’t it?†And the headliner, Carl Strong, was very funny also, but more physical humor. All in all, a great deal and a hell of a lot of fun for $20. And, you can’t beat the seats.

    Now it was after nine, and we still had no dinner plans. And we still weren’t even that hungry. We ended up at a little café between Luxor and MB, and had a light, thin-crust fancy pizza – excellent. We got these VIP passes to “Ra,†the nightclub at Luxor, but I wanted to gamble before going there, so we went to Luxor’s casino. Lots of $5 tables everywhere. I was going to try BJ but the wife actually wanted to throw the dice at craps. You know what they say about Virgin Lady Shooters, so I couldn’t turn her down.

    We step up just to the left of the stickman, and lay down $100 for the two of us. The wife’s got the hang of the game, understands passline and come bets, but still too chicken to make odds bets. The dice get to her, and I announce “Virgin Shooter!†The whole table gets excited, everyone’s yelling at her, some are even increasing their bets. She gets nervous because she has to throw it to her right (backhand), and I was telling her to just make sure she hit the back wall. She picks them up with two hands, got a stern lecture from the stickman for that, and sends the dice FLYING underhand with her left hand (she’s right-handed). These suckers broke the sound barrier, and one of them heads off the table! She covers her head in embarrassment, and tries it right-handed this time – again, No Roll, Off the Table!!! Two in a row, you gotta be kidding me! Now everyone’s beginning to realize the folly of the big bets they just made. After three rolls, seven out!! D’OH!! So much for the good luck of the Virgin Shooter.

    After about 2 hours and down $70, we cash out. Not much luck here either. Excellent cocktail waitresses though.

    We head to Ra at this point. It was fun getting into the “VIP†line in front of all the poor schmoes who did not have the connections I have. Namely, I bought these passes for $0.99 on eBay, plus $0.37 shipping. Also, instead of $20 cover each, it was only $5 each. This was a pretty cool club, very industrial feel to it. Pole dancers on either side of the dance floor. The DJ’s started out with good music, but it degenerated to music you hear at Cousin Sherry’s wedding – we left when Pat Benatar and ACDC “You shook me all night long†came on; not what we had expected after hearing the great house and hip-hop earlier from the same DJ.

    Back to the MB to take in the view up the strip – awesome.

    Thursday, April 16

    Our last full day in Vegas. We were up and at ‘em early today because we wanted to go to the pool first thing. Everyone warned us about the pool in the morning, but we shrugged them off. That is no joke. The pool opens at 9am, and we mosey down about 8:55, and the line stretches all the way back to the THEhotel building. We found a second entrance by that building that had a line certainly shorter than the one right by the main hotel. We didn’t have too much trouble getting seats, but those who got there at 9:30 or so, good luck!

    It was damned windy this day. We were shivering at times. The lifeguards were in pants, windbreakers, with towels wrapped around them to stay warm. Once the sun warmed things up, it was comfortable, though. A newspaper said Chicago weather was sunny and 80 degrees, and we’re here in the desert at 70 degrees shivering in the wind!

    The wife wanted to do some shopping, and hopped on a shuttle bus from MGM to Primm Nevada which has a huge outlet mall. So while she took that little excursion, I decided to spend my day hunting out low limit tables. I caught a bus all the way up to Sahara, supposed home of the $1 minimum blackjack tables. Except on Thursday afternoon, when they were home of the $5 minimum tables. That was frustrating for the low roller who wanted to make his last $150 gambling budget last all day. So I stomped out of there down to Slots-a-fun right next to Circus Circus.

    This place is what it is. No more, no less. It is even more of a dump than Casino Royale with Cheese. But I know that it's where you're at but whom you're with. I found a $3 BJ table and sat for about 3 hours with the friendliest group ever. One 40-something guy brings his “one club†card out, and wanted to be rated. What the…?!? Then he starts throwing out $50 bets while the rest of us 20-something clowns were making $3-10 bets. Eddy, a very funny dealer from Mexico, kept us entertained. He wasn’t phased by the guy next to me who always split 10’s, or by the girl who asked why she got the extra little coin (a fifty-cent piece) when she got blackjack. Very fun. Did I mention the excellent cocktail service? These poor ladies were at least 55 years old, and a hard 55 at that. They come to work every day to give fast, friendly service to a bunch of drunken idiots like me. Bless their hearts.

    Of course, the big draw to this dump is their $1 minimum (2x odds) craps table right on the sidewalk. This was also very fun to play. If you decide to be high roller and bet $2, you can back it up with $5 odds on 6 or 8. Now you talk about a freak show, look around this table sometime.

    At one point, two 10 or 12 year old boys came up on the sidewalk, and were yelling, “Dad, are you winning some money?†I yelled back, “No, Daddy’s gambling away your dinner money!†The guy next to me yells, “Go get your mom’s purse, and bring Daddy her last $20!†Then, “All right kids, your college money is on the line with this one roll right here – say a prayer!†The Dad was not amused by us, needless to say.

    I stumbled out of there down $50 after 4 hours or something ungodly like that. Only in Vegas can you spend 4 hours in a hole like that and have as great a time as I did.

    All right, back to home base. The wife was already there. A little nap, a shower, and we’re ready for the night. Electricity was up at Bellagio, but again the plans at Mon Ami Gabi were shot because of the fountains were down, this time because of the wind. New plan – stay down on the South Strip to eat.

    We heard good things about “rumjungle†and decided to try dinner here. This is one funky place. They put you in sensory overload, with beaded contraptions hanging from the ceiling (later occupied by dancers in bikinis), two drummers near the DJ, a wall of fire, at least 4 waterfall-type fountains around. Their drinks were outstanding, but $8-10, be forewarned. She got the fish special of the day, which she really enjoyed. I got the Rodizio fire-pit thing. We have a restaurant in Chicago called “Fogo de Chao†which is a Brazilian steakhouse, and basically they bring skewers of meat by your table and slice off a bit for you. This fire-pit thing was similar, but themed with more tropical meats and spices. I liked it, but I wasn’t that big a fan – the meats were, for some reason, all a little dry. I'd give it a solid "seven" out of ten. I guess I’m just spoiled from our version in Chicago, where you barely need a knife the whole meal, the meats just fall apart with your fork. This was pricey ($40) so I was expecting top of the line quality. Oh well. Still a good experience overall.

    One table near us got interesting. About 10 normal-looking 30-something guys were there milling around with drinks. All of a sudden 5 silicone-laden honeys show up, and the guys go nuts, all puffing out their chests, like peacocks with their feathers. They couldn’t buy the ladies drinks fast enough. I’m 99% sure I could get hold of these classy ladies with the phone numbers in one of those flyers the immigrants on the street smack together all day. The ladies are switching seats, doing shots, flirting with the guys. The whole table had the Rodizio thing. The bill must have been astronomical. And dinner was pretty expensive too, I bet ;)

    Since we were there late for dinner, we got to watch the place turn into a nightclub. Now, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the whole city was much less crowded than what I remember from my previous weekend trip. Thursday, the crowds began to show up. The whole casino was packed. And the rumjungle got pretty crowded too. This crowd was definitely younger than us. Here are the L.A. actors (but really bartenders) and models (but really waitresses). These wannabes strut around and act like big spenders, wearing their sunglasses inside, drives me insane.

    Our one “celeb†sighting happened here also. Four guys from the reality TV show “The Bachelorette†show up and sit at the table right next to us. Some girls recognized them and start getting pictures with them and stuff. These guys were cashing in on their 15 minutes of fame, good for them.

    Then there’s this one area of the club that turns into a VIP area – to get a table you spend $300 for a bottle of vodka and some orange juice, and you get to feel like a big shot because a bouncer keeps the riff raff out of your special area. The VIP’s happened to be a bunch of clowns trying to impress the ladies, but none of them could get any of the model wannabes to come back to their tables. So it was a whole area of dorky dudes with a bunch of empty vodka bottles. Needless to say, my cynical butt was very amused by the crowd the whole time I was there.

    We left to see what we could make of our last $100 in gambling budget. Mandalay was packed, lots of energy, but only $10 minimum tables. I prefer to gamble for longer than 10 minutes, so we hopped on a tram over to Luxor, and got in on a fun $5 table. Things were OK, left there with $80 left in the fund. The wife at this point was ready to collapse, but I was wired – everyone knows this feeling if you’ve been in Vegas. We went back to MB, she said good night, and I said screw it and sat at a $10 BJ table.

    There is a Phish concert the next night, so the whole city was overrun with Phish fans. For those of you whose kids wear Phish shirts, and are curious: Phish is basically the band that fills the gap left by the Grateful Dead. I love all their fans. Call ‘em hippies, granolas, whatever you want. Their clothes kinda smell funny, and their eyes are all a little bloodshot, and they’re always a little paranoid, but they are fun to be around. The whole BJ table fills with these guys, and we have a pretty good time. My money slowly hemorrhages away from me, a slow and gruesome death. Lots of “you gonna stand on that 15?†and “6-2-5-3-5-dealer has twenty-one.†Unreal.

    Friday, April 16
    So that was that. Back upstairs for a few hours sleep then a morning flight home. Check out was a piece of cake. Getting to the airport - $12 taxi.

    All-in-all, not a bad trip. But the gambling budget was fully exhausted ($500). Only one winning session out of about 10. And my streak of slow death by blackjack continues. In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve ever been “up†on blackjack, not once. Ever. Not for five minutes. Doesn’t the house only have a 1% advantage if you play perfect basic strategy (and I do)? Am I missing something here?

    Will have to wait till next time:
    Caesar’s palace – still haven’t been in there
    Venetian – still haven’t been in there either
    Mon Ami Gabi – we have this restaurant in Chicago, but dang I wanted the wife to see the fountain shows
    Mirage - volcano, dolphins, etc
    Shows – we are not big show-goers, obviously. I would rather spend the $100 per ticket on a few hours of gambling r a classy dinner or drinks at a fun bar. Maybe when I grow up a little I’ll have a change of heart.

    The wife was not terribly impressed with Vegas. She didn’t get bit by the gambling bug (probably because we lost so much money), and got sick of the crowds everywhere and the $9 hamburgers and $3.50 diet pepsis. And, damn, are people pushy here. Truth be told, we went on vacation last year to Miami, and she had a much more fun time. Nicer weather, better restaurants, less attitude at the bars, a much more “laid-back†attitude everywhere we went. Anyway, I digress. If you have the cash to drop (not just gambling, but on hotels, meals, shows, cover charges, drinks, etc) this place is a blast. But be prepared. And come with a budget, you will blow it.
     
  2. LindainCT

    LindainCT Tourist

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2004
    Messages:
    161
    Probably one of the best written trip reports yet!

    ;)
     
  3. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2002
    Messages:
    11,671
    Location:
    Twin Cities
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    18
    D*mn, that was funny. Loved the smack at the SlotsAFun dice table. Folks, if you haven't been there, it's like that more often than it's not.

    Next time,tho, don't call out the lady shooter, it's like a no-hitter, get your money down but don't say anything about it.

    Also, you have got to go downtown next time. Go play dollar craps at the El Cortez and you will better appreciate the glitzy decor at Casino Royale.

    [ May 03, 2004, 12:44 PM: Message edited by: doctor_al ]
     
  4. hard_eight 24

    hard_eight 24 Tourist

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2003
    Messages:
    90
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    First time shooters are always fun to watch. Seeing how many rules they can break is
    amusing:
    2 hands on the dice...Not hitting the back wall...
    Dropping the dice below the table level...etc.

    One of the funniest throws I ever saw was from a gal that hit the stickman with the dice. My pal and I were crying from the laughter. I still have no idea how she did it.

    Nice Report Buckeyefan!
     
  5. earth-3

    earth-3 High-Roller

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2003
    Messages:
    997
    Location:
    Lisle
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    18
    A nice quality report. Your insights about your surroundings and the people present, made for good reading. I think you used yor time wisely, especially with the unexpected Bellagio problem. It certainly did change your eating option at Paris. Was very interested on your comentary about your Mandalay experiences. I will be there in less than two weeks. I would hope the kiddy problem will not be so severe at the pool. Were they not checking in anyone prior to 12 0'clock, or was this again Bellagio related?
     
  6. cruiser

    cruiser High-Roller

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2002
    Messages:
    593
    Great trip report! Too bad you didn't have much luck at blackjack. And too bad your wife didn't have a good time. I'm lucky in that my wife loves Vegas almost as much as I do. Six more weeks and we'll be back for Trip #7.
     
  7. buckeyefan

    buckeyefan Guest

    Yeah, I wish we had better luck gambling this time, my wife probably would be itching to go back already. Maybe I'll stick to all-guys' trips to LV for a while.

    Re: Mandalay Bay

    I believe their policy is no check-in until noon. But plenty of people checked their bags and went to the pool or casino, etc... In fact, when we checked in (around 12:30 or 1:00), our room had not yet been cleaned. That didn't bother us, we just threw our bags in the closet. We ran into the cleaning lady down the hall, and she said she'd do our room next. We ate lunch, and when we got back, the room was clean. I have no complaints about any of the staff there - very professional and friendly.

    As far as the kids go, the only place they ever bothered us were at the pool, and this was nothing major - just being loud and splashing around, and taking all the damned lounges. I have to assume that the week we went (the week after easter) was kiddo-packed because they were all on spring break...

    Good luck!
     
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