I was very excited to be heading back to Vegas, after a much too long hiatus. After going twice a year for the past 4-5 years, this was going to be my first trip in 16 months. I thought it was never going to happen, as I had two previous trips planned that I had to cancel (the first in Oct 2011 about two weeks out because my seminar was canceled and the second in January 2012 TWO DAYS before we were going to go). The wife and I finally locked in on a date and got clearance to take the time off work. So it was on to booking a room. The only criteria for the room from the wife was ‘not someplace shady’ (which I think means no Excalibur) and someplace with a ‘nice pool area’. Well, I started getting emails from a lot of the Mlife place and thought I found a nice rate at NYNY…but apparently the pool area was not nice enough, so it got shut down. Eventually, we decided on Monte Carlo, as we have stayed there several times before and enjoy the casino, hotel and pool. Found a good rate online for $132 total (Sun / Mon nights) that included $50 in dining credits. I called Mlife VIP to see what they could do, as last time I was there I got a great deal during March Madness. I was offered $112 total (note: before taxes/resort fees) but no food credit. I figured I’d rather pay $20 more for the $50 of food, because certainly we would eat there, or at the very least, drink there! So come Tuesday night before our trip and for whatever reason, I was checking rates again, and my deal dropped by about $15. I called and got it, and chalked it up as my first win of the trip. The next night, however, I was Twitter and saw that the Tropicana was having a huge sale. I looked up the rates, at they were even cheaper at $45/night, plus their resort fee was less and came with something I was actually interested in using (wi-fi). Since I knew the wife had enjoyed the Tropy last time we were in town, all I needed to do was get approval on the pool. This was secured quickly and I booked it and canceled Monte Carlo. (Note: Factoring taxes / resort fee in, the MC was $40 more. So it was technically a better deal to stay at the MC because of the $50 food credit, but for only a $10 benefit, I didn’t want to be locked in to eating there if we didn’t want to, plus we had never stayed at the Tropy). Sunday finally arrived and we were out the door just after (my) planned departure time of 8am. After a not so quick stop at Smith’s in Kingman to pick up some supplies (some beverages and we forgot our sun tan lotion at home, doh!), we were crossing the dam about four hours after we left. No issues at all with traffic the whole time, so that was nice, plus I didn’t even see that cop lurking at the speed trap just south of Wikieup. We had heard about a bakery / café called Bread & Butter in Henderson (maybe from a QoD on Las Vegas Advisor?) and decided to meet S there for lunch. There was a pretty good crowd there, and once S arrived we ordered. Other than a slight mishap with the wife’s food (I ordered her a ‘Beet and Cheese’ flatbread and they heard ‘Three Meat and Cheese’. You’d figure that they would clarify with those things being on the menu next to each other, but oh well. Anyway, it got corrected, and everyone liked the food. I brought home a red velvet bagel so hopefully that will be good. After chatting for a bit, we finally parted ways, and we headed off to the Strip. We arrived at the Trop a little bit after 2PM and were surprised to find a decent sized line for check-in. They came and gave everyone in line water, and fortunately, the line was fairly quick moving. Check in was fairly easy and we were quickly headed back to our room, which was in the Club Tower in the back. I was concerned at first that it was a little bit of a hike, but it turned out well because it was very close for pool access and when I went to MGM later, and timed it from leaving the room and was walking into the MGM approximately 8 minutes later. Anywho, we get into the room and it was nice, you could tell it had been recently remodeled. I also thought that the bathroom was a good size, and the huge shower had very good water pressure. Our view from the 9th floor was of the airport, which I was cool with as I like watching in ingress / egress of planes. Unfortunately, whatever they put on the outside of the windows to keep it shady make for a not quite clear view, so it wasn’t the best for that. I’m not there for planespotting, so not that big of a deal. We had a few celebratory drinks that we were back in Vegas and decided to head down to the pool. I was very excited as I had seen tweets that they were offering swim-up blackjack at the pool on Sunday’s from 12-6. Unfortunately, when we came downstairs, the dealer at the table was just fooling around on her phone, and the chips were locked up. Turns out that the pools had been temporarily closed due to either lightning of the threat of lightning, so instead of having the dealer wait it out (she’s on dry land), they closed the game. Most people had cleared out from the pool, but we must have missed the worst of it as there was only a little bit of drizzle and the sun came out shortly thereafter. It was definitely a nice day, not too warm because of the earlier rain. We stayed there about 90 minutes before we headed up to get ready for going out. I got ready first and while I did that, the wife researched shows. We weren’t sure what we would see, but on the way in, noticed that David Copperfield was playing for a week over at the MGM. She looked online, and said that tickets would be about $240 with taxes, which is certainly less than what we’ve paid for Cirque shows in the past, so while she was getting ready, I headed over to the MGM to see if they had any tickets available for Monday night. They did, and I went with the late show, as those seats were about 6 rows off the stage, versus 12 rows off for the early show. The seller told me that would be $240ish, so I handed him my mLife card to at least get credit for spending some bucks there, and he says, ‘oh, you get a discount’, that will be $180. Nice, another win for the trip, and I haven’t even gambled yet! I start to wonder the casino, and pay homage to Sigma Derby, putting a quarter each on the 3-4 and 2-4 quinellas, but unfortunately, the favorite one this time. I can’t understand why Sigma is near extinction in Vegas. I mean, I know the D just added one, so now there are a grand total of two, but I probably walked by this machine over five times over the course of two days and other than that first time where I was able to find a spot, every spot was full each time, and people were having a great time. You would think they could modernize there with touch screen betting and card readers and it would be a thing. Another trend I noticed at most places is the demise of Rapid Roulette. I definitely saw it at Monte Carlo, and maybe at Bally’s, but other than that, it appears to be going away, replaced by Organic Roulette. (Not sure if I’m feeling the name…) Basically, Organic Roulette is the same exact thing as Rapid (touch screen betting / payouts) but there is no dealer. I believe I saw this at every casino I went to, and also its sister game, Organic Craps, which is craps with real dice but no dealers and touch screen betting. (Check out their website for some videos that show the dice / roulette mechanics, it’s kind of interesting). After some more wandering, I ended up at a $.25 Double Double Bonus VP game near the buffet entrance. I was hitting some good small hits and was ahead a little. Drink service came by so I put in an order for a 7&7 and started to slow play my machine to ensure at least a break-even by the time my drink came back. Well, soon after this, I hit a 4OAK of 2’s, which on this machine was worth $100! I was pretty excited. Imagine my enjoyment about 4 hands later when I hit the same hand again for another $100. I was now seeing Copperfield on house money baby! Soon after that, my wife texted that she was about ready, so unfortunately, no drink for me. Make the quick trip back to the Tropy and grab a drink for the road. We were debating going to Andre’s for dinner, so made the walk over to Monte Carlo. (Note: An inordinate amount of the escalator’s for the pedestrian bridges were out of order most of the time we were in town). Played a little bit of VP and video keno with nothing notable happening, other than not seeing a cocktail waitress the whole time. Checked out Andre’s and thought we might end up back there once we got hungry. We decided to head up to Bellagio to check out the Conservatory and then swing back through the Cosmo to sign up for Identity and try to do their ‘$100 on us’ deal. Conservatory was fine, crowded as per usual, nice display. We headed out and also as per usual, there were guys ‘giving away’ their cd’s at the bottom of the moving walkway. As I walk past a guy puts a cd in my hand and says “Hey, take this cd, man”. So, I grab it and keep walked, when he says “hey, hey, we are out here trying to get donations”. I am totally cool with that, but don’t hand me your cd and tell me to take it THEN hit me up for donations, the only thing that gets you is a donation of $0. Make it to the Cosmo soon after that, and find the Identity sign up. The girl wasn’t doing a very good job of explaining that the promotion is on a ‘net loss’ basis, or maybe she is just used to explaining it to the least common denominator. Either way, here’s how it works, if you lose $100 in a day (net loss means if you have win $10 on one machine then switch to another machine, you know have to lose $110 on the new machine), they will give you $100 in free play that same time. The catch is that you must lose the full amount. A cool feature of this deal didn’t expire on the day you sign up for the slot club, just on a day that you lose $100. We headed over to $1 VP and my wife lost her $100 in fairly quick fashion. On the other hand, I was able to make $60 during this time period, so I walked with the cash. During this time, we did not see drink service, even though we were playing at $1 machines, right next to blackjack tables. Weird. My wife redeemed her Identity play and found a VP machine to play. I wander a bit and came back just as she had hit a 4OAK. I then noticed that she had forgot to activate her Identity play. Haha, she then started and eventually made back her $100 loss and a little bit more. At this point we began to get hungry and didn’t really feel like going to a fancy dinner at Andre’s, so we ended up at Holstein’s, where we had eaten last time we were in town. There was about a 20 minute wait for a table, but open seating at the bar, so we decided to do that. We each got a drink and a burger. Wife got the Urth burger, which is whatever vegetarians get at a burger joint I guess. I got the Nom Nom burger, which is a Kobe beef burger, with cheese, potato chips and thousand island dressing. Pretty good stuff. The fries that came with it were okay. After dinner, we decided to make our way back to the Trop. For some unknown reason, we decided to head over to the east side of the Strip to hit up the MGM on the way. Maybe it has been awhile since I walked this portion of the strip (specifically between PH and MGM) but man, it was sketchy. Not only were there a ton of people rocking kids in strollers (which I just don’t understand in Vegas…) but it was a combination of Times Square, the street scene in Waikiki and Mann’s Chinese Theatre. Street performers, people dressed like characters (Spiderman, Transformers, Hello Kitty, etc, etc) for pictures. I guess people probably judge me for stuff I do on vacation so different strokes, I guess. Made it through the masses and went into the MGM to trip to catch lightening in a bottle at my VP machine from earlier. Unfortunately, the secret was out, and some guy was playing it. I found another machine and broke even. We headed back to the Trop and the craps table was $5 and wide open, so I played for a little bit. Choppy table, but one good shooter (not me, that’s for sure) helped me make a couple bucks back, and only lost $15. After this, we headed up for the night. I woke around 6 in the morn, and was debating whether or not to go play while letting the wife sleep in. While pondering still, around 620, the intercom in the room BLARED ‘May I have your attention please, an alarm has been reported in the building, and we are currently investigating the cause of the alarm. Thank you.’ Ummm, wtf? A fire alarm, a bomb threat, what? The info was clearly lacking as to whether we should stay put or wait. The announcement goes off every two minutes for the next 10 minutes and since it obviously woke the wife up, we decided to go get breakfast just in case. We were heading out the door when they gave the all clear that it was a false alarm. Already up and ready to head out to evacuate, we decided to continue down to grab some breakfast at Starbucks. After grub, we decided to head over to Hooters, as we saw some ads for a $100 on us slot play deal (as well as $3 blackjack, which suits my wife’s limit preferences). Got there and it was one of those deals where you get reimbursed over three days (50/25/25) so we decided to pass. The $3 blackjack was completely full, so our trip was short. I did see some interesting things there that I had never seen before. At both roulette and blackjack tables, the games were live, but there were no chips and the betting took place via touchscreens that were embedded in the table. Weird, especially the blackjack one where the dealer was physically dealing the cards and the player had to hit buttons on his monitor that made the words HIT or STAND show up. We left there and decided to head over to the Excalibur. On the way in is an advertisement for the Thunder Down Under that says ‘dinner and show packages for $54.95’. Why not kick it up a notch and say ‘Have we got a package for you?’. I mean, maybe that is not appropriate for a ‘family’ type casino, but there was a big picture of a male stripper anyways, so what would be the problem? Get into Ex and quickly find a wide open $5 craps table and start to shoot. In the brief time, I was there, three people shoot the dice, and I never got paid a single chip, so that was a quick $75. Played a little bit of roulette, hit my first spin, but nothing after that and walked away even. From there we headed down to the Luxor did see what was going on there. Plenty of $5 tables were to be found (around 7-8 a.m. on Monday morning) and I sat down at a blackjack table with one of the worst players I had ever seen. This guy had multiple golden double down or split opportunities and refused them all. He also had a penchant for hitting 14’s against dealer 5’s. Fortunately, none of this bit me too bad. I started off slow, maybe losing half my buy-in before I went on a nice run and got my bets up to $35/hand before losing. (Note my betting strategy for 21 is to increase my bet one unit each win, so 5 / 10 / 15 / etc.). The only time it really hurts is if you W/L/W/L. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, and when I went on my run I made some bucks and ultimately cashed out up around $50. I then took the $50 (above and beyond my $100 buy-in) and made my way over to the $5 craps table. My luck at shooting finally turned around a little bit and I was hitting some numbers and the dealers were nice and friendly, giving me love for my shirt (which has dice on it). I shot twice and then some random guy walked up and he was pretty hot. I started come betting with odds after a bit and by the time he 7’ed out, I had everything covered with between 2-3x odds. Ultimately walked from this table up $96, so I had a good trip at Luxor. We headed back to the Trop to get some pool time in. Unfortunately, no swim up blackjack during the week, but the weather was nice, not too hot. I actually spent a little bit of time in the hot tub. Of note at the pool was a gal who came with photographer’s to do a swimsuit shoot. Interesting. Headed up to the room to get ready to meet S for lunch. We were a little bit early and my wife signed up at the Trop club to do the $200 on us deal (same as Hooters, 50% / 25% / 25% over three days). Like the Cosmo, the slot club lady had difficulty explaining the ‘net loss’ concept, but we finally convinced her that we understood. The way it works is that on the first day, you can lose up to $200 until 3am, then you can collect over the next couple days. So, I ask her how late the booth is open and she says ‘we close at 2 am’. Then as we are leaving, she makes it clear that, ‘you need to be back here by 3am to get your free play’. I clarify that she means 2 am, as there is no way to collect between 2-3am. She was kind of snotty about it when I pointed that up, but to me that’s like a restaurant saying ‘free drinks between 2-3, but we close at 145’. Anywho, we went outside to hop in S’s car and drove up the Strip to see it, as we usually do once a trip. Headed over to Buca di Beppo on Flamingo for lunch, which was average, and now that I think about, probably below average as my waiter never brought the garlic mashed potatoes I ordered. At least he didn’t charge me. After the meal, we had S drop us off at the Cosmo, so I could see if I could make some more money playing relatively risk free. Unfortunately, someone had found my lucky machine from the previous day and the $1 DDB that I ended up on was not so lucky, and I lost my $100 post haste. Went to the desk and got my $100 on to my card and ended up at a $.25 machine. Got a drink (finally at the Cosmo!) and played for awhile. Hit a couple 4OAK (Q’s both time) and ended up making back my $100 from before plus another $10. So ultimately, I made $70 at Cosmo on a sort of a free roll. Yeah, there was some risk, but I was pretty conservative with it. Overall, I liked the feel of the Cosmo and thought their slot interface with the slot club was pretty slick. Wish the table limits were a tad lower but I realize that’s it’s me (low roller) and not them (fancy place). Left the Cosmo and wandered briefly through the Aria and then into the MC. A ton of $5 tables were available here, and I sat down by myself at a shoe game and proceeded to make $40. My session was very similar to my Luxor one, down at first, then hit another nice stretch of wins. After this, we headed back to the Trop to regroup. The wife was tired, so she took a quick nap, while I went downstairs to help her with her slot loss (she was already down a small amount at this point). Unfortunately for her cause, but fortunately for my bankroll, I hit another two 4OAK (4’s) on DDB (Nickel triple play this time) and made around $50. After that, I headed upstairs to wake wife and to head out for dinner and a show. We grabbed some drinks and off we went, with a destination of Paris and Mon Ami Gabi for dinner. We strolled through the MGM to take the monorail. After a two minute wait, we were on our way to Paris and up there in no time. The monorail is pretty slick, too bad you have to walk for days and that it doesn’t go to the airport or downtown… Anywho, we got to Bally’s / Paris stop and made the stroll to the Paris. Once there, I saw Mr. Cashman and had to pay homage. Played a little while, though the Cashman did not pay me a visit, so no bonus round for me. The cocktail waitress did pay me a visit, however, and I had a delicious 7&7. We headed over to Mon Ami Gabi and surprising there was immediate seating for the patio so we heading there. Great table with an optimal view of the Bellagio and fountains (as well as the slappers on the street and the Jack Sparrow going to his shift taking pictures for tips, I guess). The food was good, I had the steak / frites with a béarnaise sauce and the wife had some sort of soup / salad. The weather, by the way, was perfect. At the time we were there, the sun was behind the Bellagio, so it wasn’t too bright and the temperature was perfect for mid-July. We finished and made our way up the Strip (east-side again, ugh) to MGM for the Copperfield show. On the way, we stopped at Planet Hollywood and saw another crazy touch-screen roulette table. While we were checking it out, a parade of female dealers clapping and blowing whistles paraded through the pit on some sort of shift change. They were all wearing bustiers and such, so I wasn’t complaining. Left the PH and made our way to the MGM with about an hour to kill before the show. I was able to get on my lucky VP machine from earlier, but had a choppy round and walked away even. Sigma Derby was still mad packed. Then I made a strategic mistake. As you can probably tell from this report, I’m somewhat of a low roller. While I will play higher limits for roulette and blackjack depending on the situation, I don’t like playing anything higher than $5 for craps, just because of the way I bet, I feel like it is too much action for me. BUT, I got seduced by an empty $10 craps table. I did play for a little bit, but it was a pretty painful experience and $153 later, I whimpered away. I took the remaining $7 from my buy-in to the Big 6 wheel (clearly I wasn’t thinking straight at this point) and put it all on 2. And after the wheel stopped, the arrow was barely pointing to 2! The dealer started to pay me, but as she did, the arrow moved into the 1 category and YOINK! After this we headed into the theater for the show. We were about six rows back and seated with a nice couple from Philadelphia who was visiting Vegas for the first time. The show started a little bit late and I was generally impressed with it. Copperfield interacted well with the crowd and the illusions were good. One was so impressive to our table mate that he literally said to me six times ‘How did he do that, how’d he get over there?’. So the show ended and we headed back to the Trop. The wife had a cash out ticket that she wanted to play, so she hit the VP while I checked out the table games. The Trop has recently (as far as I can tell) added a ‘tub’ craps game in their pit. Basically, it is the size of a blackjack table, but it’s craps. Kind of weird. Anyways, they had opened it before noon that morning and there were at least two guys playing there at 11PM that I saw playing there at 11AM. But there was a few seats available and sat down to play. It is much slower paced than regular craps, and I ended up only playing for one shooter and broke even. Not sure if I didn’t like it because the table or because I was still smarting from my MGM session. I could see myself with a group of friends trying to take over the table and having a very good time. Went back to find the wife and she was towards the end of her credits. She hoved around $1 - $3 in credits for awhile (nickels) until she got dealt JsQs and 3 randos. She kept those two, and boom, next thing we know she is collecting 4000 credits and she hit a royal! Pretty exciting, too bad it didn’t happen while on the dollar machines at Cosmo! I have to say that I was jealous, as that was her 3rd Royal ever and I play a ton more than her and have never had one! Her first two were within 12 hours of each other at the Excalibur and Mandalay Bay maybe six years ago… After that she cashed out and we called it a night. Luckily, no false alarms this night, and we woke up around 730 and packed up and checked out of the room. We headed to Sunset Station (traditionally stop on the way out of town) to meet S for brunch and to get our last minute gamble on. S and us both pulled up at the same time and we were to The Feast to get our feast on. Well, ideally. I thought the Feast wasn’t as good of a selection as normal…maybe I usually only go there on weekend, I guess. It was fine, but not spectacular. And for $15 for the three of us, there is not much to complain about. After we ate, the wife signed up for the slot club (and got a whopping $3 in free play!), while S and I went and sat down to play some blackjack. Usually, I would sit at 3rd base if I don’t know who I’m playing with, but didn’t since I know S and he sat on in the 3rd base position and we were the only ones at the table. Well imagine my annoyance when he hit blackjack on the first two hands and another two throughout the rest of the shoe! Plus the dealer hit two blackjacks herself. I managed to finish the shoe winning my last two hands and then I cut the cards for the next shoe and got hot, winning the first six hands including a blackjack on the first hand out. Had a decent run through this shoe and during it the wife came out after losing a few bucks on the VP machines. I cashed out and took a couple bucks to the roulette table but broke even. On the way out I did a couple quick video poker sessions to get that one last boost to the system, and then we hit the road. The drive was easy, now with the bridge complete, all we need is a four lane highway from Wikieup to the 40, and bypasses around Kingman and Boulder City and this would be a really easy drive! Wrapping up, we had a great time. We both came home with more in our bankrolls that we started. Being there for only 48 hours, though we had a good amount of time split between pool / gambing / dining. Can’t wait to do it again, hopefully before the year is out. Thanks for reading!