MGM, Aria, Halloween, 4 shows, BJ & pics We ventured out for five nights from 10/31 to 11/5. I’ll try to re-construct the highlights and low lights the best my addled brain can recall in a more or less day by day fashion. The flight out of Boston was just the way I like it. Plane went up, plane came down, no drama in between. My only complaint is someone needs to let JetBlue know there is this new fangled thing called wi-fi that actually lets you access the interwebs during flight. The cast for the trip started out with just me & DW and grew into 5 couples. Couple #1 were staying at Luxor had been to Vegas five times previously, couple #2 was at MGM and visited Vegas once about six years ago, couples #3 and #4 were virgins staying at Aria and we were on our twenty-fifth or so trip. You’d think we would be sick of it by now…..nah, not even close. We landed at the new terminal and quickly got our bags. The new terminal is nice and spiffy but lacks the same “juice” and buzz the old terminal has. I much prefer the old terminal where you walk by lots more slot machines with people heading home playing them. I get to scoff at them knowing they are getting their last fix in or desperately trying to catch up one last time, and I know I have five days before I will be joining them. But until then, riches and fortunes await! In the old terminal it’s down the hallways by the crap shacks selling trinkets then down the escalator to luggage where the giant video screens advertising the shows. It just feels way more Vegasy compared to the shiny but sterile new terminal. Oh, well. After collecting our bags it was off to a no wait taxi line and into the cab with couple #2. The driver begrudgingly said “hello” and didn’t seem thrilled when we said “MGM. So as to avoid a problem later I informed him upfront that we were to skip the tunnel. Even though he did not say anything in return or even acknowledge me I sensed an even stronger chill in the air, maybe his turban was wrapped a bit too tight. Oh well, I didn’t take a cab to make friends. We leave the airport and where do we go? Not the tunnel, nope, but we drive right be Swenson. I immediately ask where he’s going as he pulls onto Spencer and he tells me that “all the cabs go this way”. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say we had words, DW was not pleased with me, couple # 2 in the back didn’t know what was going on or what the problem was, they just wanted to get away from the turban and the ranting lunatic sitting next to him. Arriving at MGM I decide not to make an issue of it with the threat of a call to TA and just paid him the meter with $0 tip. Like everyone says, “it’s not the money”, I just don’t appreciate being blatantly ripped off. Unfortunately the whole taxi racket in Vegas is so corrupt, but I blame the cabbies the least. The companies, our guy was from Desert Cabs, encourage long-hauling and the drivers have to keep them happy. Taxi Authority ignores it, why crack down when long hauling puts more money in your pockets? The politicians are in on the skim through the “campaign donations” from the companies and tourist don’t vote in Nevada. The unions bosses are in on it so they can collect fat checks and don’t have to get real jobs. A simple flat rate would solve the problem but that will never happen. There would be less money for everyone in the hack-a-rama. So the solution is; just shut up and be happy with the status quo and keep letting the dumb tourists take it in the shorts, or somewhere else…over and over again. Rant over. I was somewhat concerned about staying at MGM because of 1. the size of the place and 2. the location on the south end. I needn’t worried about #1. While massive it doesn’t take any longer to get to the strip than Aria, Caesars or Mirage. Maybe a minute more or less than any mega resort. #2 was a minor inconvenience. I still prefer to stay closer to Flamingo than Tropicana, for me the center strip just screams “Vegas” more, but that’s just personal preference. As my four nights were comped it trumped staying at the Flamingo/Blvd corner. Our room was adequate in pretty much every way, housekeeping maybe a bit below average, even with leaving a few bucks each day. The only real annoyance was during my first shower when the water was lapping at my ankles. I forgot to call maintenance but during my second shower I flipped some little lever thingy by the faucet and waddayaknow…the water disappeared from the tub….DUH! I had heard horror stories about long waits for elevators but that also was a non-factor and we were there during a busy time, Halloween and the SEMA show. My drug of choice is Blackjack so the first thing I did was check out the new Whiskey Down lounge in MGM. It’s very nicely laid out with comfy chairs, sofas and a bar. The blackjack tables are spaced out with lots of room to walk around. I hate it when they jam the tables so tight that people are bumping the back of your chair as they walk by. I like to play $50 but that is kind of a no mans’ land in the blackjack world. I find plenty of $100 and $25 tables but not many $50’s. Whiskey Down tables were $100 in the afternoon and stayed there until late night/early morning. I rise fairly early by Vegas standards and at that time the minimums were $50 so it worked out perfectly. Our plan was to wander down to Aria to meet the rest of the crew so we headed across the bridge to NYNY and met up with couples #1 and #2. It was very strange seeing the lake empty and no fireboat floating around the Statue of Liberty. They were painting the torch gold while we were there, pretty cool. I touched down about 1-1/2 hours ago and had yet to place a bet so I was jonesing pretty good! The solution was to hit the high limit room in NYNY. One cabernet and two quick deals of a $50 double deck game and I was on my way to Aria with an extra $300 weighing me down. Yee-Haw! Wanting to conserve energy I suggested we cut through Monte Carlo and take the tram to Aria. And surprise, surprise we had to walk by a $50 double deck in the Monte high limit room, and I don’t dare insult the gaming gods by failing to pay homage. A second cabernet and two deals later they re-pay me with another $300 in the fund! I generally try to come out with a gambling budget of $1,000/day but due to some….ummm, reversals shall we say recently at my local Indian joint I only showed up this trip with half that. I was concerned I might have to take the ATM walk of shame early if things started badly. The two quick hits gave me some breathing room and the hope it might be avoided. Next stop was Aria to hook up with the virgins to head downtown for the Halloween festivities. A few cocktail later, $600 more in my kitty from the Aria double deck and it’s time to go. The only hand of note was $75 up and get 7-7 vs dealer 7. Split, another 7, split again and 3 on the first 7 and double yields a 4 for 14, 2nd hand gets a 10 for 17 and third hand gets a 4 which doubles to 19. I’m hoping for a ten underneath the dealers 7 for a push but she flips a 9 then crushes it with a 10! That one hand counted for over half my win. I wandered outside to splurge on a limo with Arias cash and asked some random limo guy how much to downtown. He hesitated then said $100. I told him I’d talk to the group and might be right back. I had a feeling he might have been trying to upcharge a bit so when I went inside to gather the crew I called a limo guy I have used before called NY Joe. He answered, I asked him how much to downtown, he says $80 and he can be there in five minutes. Done. We all walk out and I see the the first limo guy chatting with NY Joe who as luck would have it pulled in next to him. The first guy notices me and the crew heading his way, breaks into a smile and opens the rear door. Ooops, uncomfortable, he first looked confused then pissed when we walk on by and get into Joes limo but I just said “sorry, got a better offer”. I felt bad for the guy, but not so bad I was going to burn $20. I told NY Joe to go right down the strip so the virgins could take in the sights. By the time we got downtown I thought the virgins were going to need a chiropractor to fix their whiplash from checking everything out! It’s always fun with virgins…if you know what I mean. Joe dropped the ten of us off at the Nugget and we went to find something to eat. We have always enjoyed the Grotto and they could seat the 10 immediately. Perfect….then it all went downhill. Ten minutes went by before anyone came by to take a drink order, then 20 minutes to order dinner, then 30 minutes before dinner was served during which no one came back to see if anyone needed a drink refill. I prefer a slow casual meal but this was ridiculous. The meals arrive and seven of nine entrees were either cold or wrong. I finally gave up waiting for the check and had to track our waitress down for the bill. My rule is if I like a place but have a bad experience I will still go back a second time on the chance it was an off night. I have enjoyed the Grotto so will give them another try in the future. But they won’t be getting a third chance if they screw up that badly again, too many other options. I hit the Nugget blackjack room up before checking out the canopy and they slapped the crap out of me for a tune of a quick $600..ugh. It used to be my go-to never lose room but lately I can’t win anything there. A couple trips back I played there next to a 20 something kid who came downtown with 2k ran it up to 20k at 4 Queens then sat next to me at the Nugget and ran it up to 100k in 20 minutes playing max bet. I’m convinced someday it will be my turn…..yeah, I know, dream on. BTW, for the bj players they hit 17 on the 2deck game. For those that play $50 and up the I think the games on the strip at MGM props are better than downtown….and that includes the sweaty 1 deck at the Elco. Now we have been to Vegas for the last two Halloweens, and it has been crowded both times. But, never like this! Wall to wall crowded, people bouncing off each other crowded and rubbing up against you in a way that would get you arrested in most states crowded! There was no casually strolling, taking in the sights with a drink, checking out the bands or gawking at the costumes. You just sort of needed to go where the surge took you. Everyone was in a good mood though and I do like downtown on a normal weekend night. I think it’s just the right amount of crowded and gives off just the right amount of party vibe. We’ll be back the next trip. We watched the new Heart video and Bon Jovi. I’m a Heart fan and found the video a little under-whelming. I was also disappointed not to see my favorite video, American Pie. The street is a great place to be when thousands of people are humming along….Take my Chevy to the Levee..dah, dah, dah dee dah dah. It puts a smile on my face every time. Anyone else feel that way or have a favorite? Carl Ferris was rockin’ his sax…and why isn’t he playing in a lounge somewhere? He’s just a great talent. This is taking forever so I’ll wrap up day one. A call to NY Joe and it was back in the limo to MGM. A quick stop at a $50 table on the main floor at MGM near the Ka theater netted half my losses from the Nugget back so the head hit the pillow up $900 for the trip, perfectly acceptable. Friday – 11/1 Veronic’ and a Jackpot First things first so it was into Whiskey Down for blackjack and Irish coffee. I played for maybe an hour with slow up and downs then got up around $800 and walked away up $300 after a couple tough beats. So far the trip is going well and no ATM runs in sight, that will change soon. The only notable thing during this session was that I was playing with a guy I would peg at about 26, and if a cop stopped him driving he would have blown a 2.6…absolutely hammered. He was betting pretty serious money, two hands at $500 to $2,000 each and though hammered seemed to be a good guy. He was up and down also and two cocktail waitresses were being sure never to leave his side, giving him back & neck rubs and generally being super flirty. On his first double I found out why. Before his double card was flipped over he asked them what he wanted, for example if he doubled an 11 they would say a 10. If he beat the dealer each waitress would get at least a $25 and sometimes a $100 chip. As luck would have it he had lots of doubling opportunities and in the ½ hour each waitress must have gotten $500, a chip at a time. Hell, I would have given him a neck rub too! Unfortunately he hit a cold streak and pretty quickly was wiped out. I would guess he dropped 15k. Ouch. The waitresses were understandably sad to see him go busto! Next was off to the Avenue Cafe for breakfast. I don’t expect anything fancy from a café, just good solid food reasonably priced. I do enjoy corned beef hash. Most places can’t make it properly but those that can deserve a 4**** rating. Corned Beef hash has to be shredded just right and fried so it’s crispy on top, yep thats my idea of heaven. So I ordered it and look down at my plate and see some kind of perfectly square cubes about the size of a small crouton that they are trying to pass off as corned beef hash! The horror! It looked like someone passed spam through a wire fence. Disgusting! The rest of the day is pretty much lost in a Vegas fog. At about 5:00pm six of us were heading down to the Veronic’ show at Ballys and across the street the culinary union was picketing Cosmo. My guess is there were about 3,000 of them picketing. They ended up shutting down traffic on the strip and blocking access to Cosmo and generally making a PITA of themselves. Nice way to get the locals and tourist behind their cause. I wanted to cross the street at PH and head into Cosmo for a drink as my own little anti-picket protest but was over ruled by my saner half. Probably just as well. We met up with TA friends who were in town and joined them for a drink at the bar just inside Ballys. Wonderful Wisconsin people except for their taste in football teams! While chatting with them the distaff half of couple #1 wanders away and five minutes later came running saying she thought she just hit a jackpot. We’re all skeptical but over we go and it turns out she hit for $1,250. It was cute she was so excited, especially as she is not much of a gambler, just $20 here and there. Turns out she put $10 in a machine and lost it. She put $20 in a 2nd machine and hit on her 2nd spin. I wasn’t expecting much from Veronic’, especially as I only paid $2.50 per ticket on the special mentioned on TA and even less when the show started 20 min late. It turned out she was late because of the union causing the massive traffic jam on the strip so not her fault. The show itself was very good, worth way more than $2.50. I would put it at around a $50-$75 ticket as a fair price. She has a few back-up dancers and clever videos incorporated into the show but it is 90% her show. Her impressions for the most part are spot on. The only thing I would have liked better would be if she did an original song in her own voice, just to see what she would have sounded like. I think she would have been terrific. After the show it was up to the Mandarin Oriental to blow some of our friends jackpot money. On the way in, there were two new Bugatti Veyrons parked side by side by valet. Well the Veyron is about the coolest car on the planet so a buddy and I had to have a picture standing between them waving a few hundred around like we just won them…and basically just acting like a couple of 12 year old goofs. Much to my surprise no one from valet stopped us, they merely sneered with that “We are the Mandarin Oriental, sniff, sniff, and that isn’t appropriate here, sniff,sniff” attitude. Can’t say I blame them. Then I got home and found out they cost $1,700,000 EACH! I can’t believe they let two drunks anywhere near them. Hopefully my drool didn’t damage the paint! The Mandarin bar was excellent as usual, great service, great cocktails, and a great view. I think the night ended there and it was back to MGM for a last run of bj. I had been playing short hit and run sessions during the day with zero luck and ended hitting the pillow up $300 for the trip having re-distributed $900 to various needy casinos. Sat 11/2. Mac King Up around 8:00 and down to Whiskey Dow to see if I could reverse the slide. I couldn’t and dropped $500 to put me in the hole for the first time since landing. From there it was off to Luxor to hook up with friends at the café there for breakfast. Nothing fancy but I would give it a nod over Avenue Café at MGM. I have never stayed at Luxor but always wanted to ride the inclinators. Maybe I do need to get a life….hmmmm. Our friends were staying in the tower so we used their room key to get us by security and up the top of the pyramid we went. There is only one inclinator that services the top floors so it took us two trys to get the correct one but we made it. I’m not a big fan of heights, I get that “I’m being sucked over the edge feeling” and all I can say is WOW, that’s a looooong way dooooown! Impressive though and worth doing for the view. From there it was a slow strip stroll, down to Harrahs for Mac King. Along the way dropping a few hundys here and there…now down about $800…can you say “Helllllooooo ATM? We get to Harrahs and I go to the players booth and ask for 8 free tickets which are handed over without a problem. They are not really free as you have to purchase a drink at $15. No problem, in my mind even if the show sucks, with a drink it has to be worth $15. Ya know what? The drink was strong and the show was worth far more than that. Mac starts a little slow with a silly rope trick everyone has seen a million times before and with a goofy, nerdy schtick. But he builds and builds and pulls off some neat tricks and keeps everyone entertained. He’s not going to make white tigers or buildings disappear but for $15 bucks it’s a better value in my mind. Besides it kept me off the tables and making any more donations for a couple hours. Just a few observations, they chased the vendors out around Carnival Court, much to its detriment in my view. I’m sure CET doesn’t want them competing with the pricey shops they plan on opening at the Linq. Just what Vegas needs BTW, another overpriced shopping mall, and that goes for MGM’s project between Monte Carlo and NYNY and Treasure Island as well. Get rid of the under rated Sirens show and replace it with a CVS. That will bring the crowds in. Way to think outside the box guys. And let’s take the London ferris wheel, excuse me, observation wheel, make it a few feet higher and sell it as something ground breaking. We cut through the Quad on our way out and I have to admit they’ve improved the place. The two things I noticed was that it’s still a pain to find your way out but you get there sooner because your feet don’t stick to the carpet any more. No idea what the night brought, dinner someplace, and more losing blackjack. Finished the day down $1,200 for the trip, uh-oh. Sunday – 11/3 Absinthe & Strip Strollin’ Up at 8:00ish and off to Whiskey Down. I played about an hour and after going up and down ended dead even. I counted this as a win and maybe things are turning, or maybe not. Next stop Bellagio but the Café is mobbed so it’s into the Buffet for breakfast. Everything there was good. Food, service, cleanliness, selection, blah, blah, blah. Can you tell I’m not a buffet person? But I can appreciate how some people love them with the variety they offer. Me, I’d rather be served. Different strokes, that’s all. Off we go on another strip crawl hopping in and out with stops at Monte Carlo and Bellagio putting me another $500 in the hole and down $1,700 for the trip. A trip to the ATM to get some $$ from the grim reaper feels inevitable, won’t be the first or last time. The only thing notable was some clown at the B insisting I shouldn’t hit my 12 vs 2 and I was costing him money, yap, yap, yap. Usually I’m able to ignore those dopes but after having my a$$ handed to me for two days had put me in a foul mood. Then he repeated it again, and with a with a nasty tone. Suffice to say I can get nasty back if the situation calls for it. Folks, it’s just bad form to tell others how to gamble their money away. Next stop was the V for a wander through the canals and cocktail in St Marks Square then a stop to play some bj with the last of my gambling bankroll. After going in the hole $300 or so I recovered, caught a good couple shoes and walked with a $600 profit getting me down $1,100 for the trip. Take THAT Grim Reaper! Off to Stevies place next door. Oh how I wish he would stop being so cheap and flip me a one night comp. Doesn’t he realize these are my peeps staying here? I can put on hush puppies, a white belt and blend with your crowd! I promise I’ll behave, Stevie, I promise! Just Show Me The Love! Fat f’in chance. A quick stop at Parasol Down for a drink allows me to breath in some of Stevies oh so refined air. Then it’s time to head back to the ghetto, i.e. MGM not so Grand. It’s time to get ready as the ten of us are hitting Olives and Absinthe. We get to Olives and $20 convinces them to put a couple tables together so we can be on the balcony. It was a little cool but they had the heaters going so not too bad. I thought the virgins would like to see the fountains from there. They played a couple of my favorites, Billy Jean and Luck Be a Lady so that was good but to get the full effect I think you need to be on the street directly in front. The meal was very good as was the service. I had some broiled scallop deal served on a fancy boat plate do-hickey thing. I am most definitely not a foodie, I rank my meals by 1. Ambiance, 2. Service and 3. Food and 4. value. I’d give Olives an 8 for ambiance, 8 service, 7 food and solid 8 for value, it came to $180/couple. I’m sure we will be back and recommend Olives as an upscale but not stupid money kind of place. But remember…I’m NOT a foodie so your mileage may vary. Next stop is over the bridge for Absinthe. Speaking of the bridges, will someone let the homeless guys know the “Why lie, I need beer” signs aren’t clever after you’ve seen it a thousand times. Like anything, you need to be willing to change with the times to be successful in life. This was my third time at Absinthe and first for couples #2 #3 and #4. It’s still a terrific show but with a couple caveats. Early in the show it has changed from the Gazzillionaire doing a “motorboating” bit to one where he has a girl and two guys come out and do a lap dance routine. I think at least one of the guys is a plant, maybe both, who knows, maybe, maybe not. Either way the motorboating bit was better and I don’t care if they were plants. The 2nd downer was the high-wire act at the end has been dropped because of some drama with one of the aerialist getting bounced due to an arrest. I think that act was one of the real highlights of the show. That saying, if you hadn’t seen one of the earlier incarnations of the show you would think it great, which it still is. Just not as great, in my opinion. Back to MGM and after some fortunate splits and doubles at the $50 table on the main floor and $100 table in Whiskey Down and I lock in an $800 profit to bring me within striking distance of even. My hold your breath hand was at the $100 table and look at A – A vs dealer 2. Split and get 2’s on both aces. Dealer flips 9 for 11, then A for 12, and 10 for a sweet 22. Nice to win with a pair of 3’s! Monday 11/4 Stratosphere and Million Dollar Quartet Being a creature of habit, I rise and head to Whiskey Down for coffee and a couple hands. That turns into a $500 win and I’m back in the black by a couple hundy. After that it’s off to Mandalay Bay and Verandah for breakfast. I’ll take this any day over a buffet. A peaceful cup of coffee and with eggs benny served by a stunning waitress overlooking a shimmering pool…..ahhhhh! Nice and relaxing so one can plan for the days degeneracy, Love it! On the way out the door I take MB for $200 so I’m crawling back, now up $400 for the trip. Today is also move to Aria day. MGM check-out was smooth and I think I had rung up about $116 in various charges. The girl at checkout said I had twenty something points or dollars or something on my m-life card so I told her to knock them off the bill. She then asked if I wanted her to call a host to see if anything else could be taken off. Knowing I hadn’t put in as many hours play as usual on the tables, my initial reaction was to tell her to forget it. I then told her to go ahead but I would be surprised if they did anything. After a few minutes she said the host took everything off except $22, which I guess was for tips. Where else does one vacation, stay in a 4 star hotel, spend money in restaurants, have a blast, and leave with more money in your pocket than you walked in with…and they charge you less than 6 bucks a day? And some people still don’t get why we are on trip #25?! We left the bags with the bell at Aria and off to the tables I go. I managed to lock in a $600 win and am now breathing easier and up $1,000 for the trip. The one timer couple and virgins are off to the dam so we and the other couple plan on trekking to the Strat. Back home I had received an offer of $80 in play money from the Strat with no strings attached so it was a no brainer to stop by, and except for the location I like the Strat and think the place is underrated. Yeah, I’m way in the minority on this. I then perform a magic trick of my own on the tables and made the $80 disappear in a blink of the eye, two hands…poof….GONE! Mac King would have been proud. Another half hour found me exactly even so it was time to move on. We were all getting hungry so we decide on TOTW for lunch. Don’t remember what we had but it was decent, the view even in the daytime is spectacular and it was an enjoyable experience and will do it again. Now it’s back to MGM to change to get ready for Million Dollar Quartet at Harrahs. I had moderately high hopes for MDQ as the reviews have been pretty good. They perform in Mac Kings theater which is fairly small. We picked up the tix at the half price booth which turned out to be the 75% booth after fees, still not bad. I tipped the girl at Harrahs $20 and asked if she had any better seat so we ended up a little closer and at a table. The show itself was terrific, certain aspects I’d put above Jersey Boys. The staging isn’t quite as elaborate as Jersey Boys and the focus in MDQ is more on the music as opposed to the story. But I think the music is even better than JB, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend Million Dollar Quartet. Everybody is probably bored silly by now so I think I’ll try and wrap this saga up. We went back to Aria and DW agreed to go up and pack for tomorrows flight while I hit the tables. No hands I recall but I headed up to the room with a $1,300 win for a total of +$2,300 for the trip. 11/5 Back to the real world day Last morning and its Café Vetro for breakfast, I think it was pretty good but my mind was on getting back to the tables for one last shot before its time to go. My SOP on my last morning is to buy in for $1,000 at a $100 table and play it out. I went into Club Privada, Arias high limit room and after dropping $500 I went on a bit of a tear. Blackjack players can appreciate the way the chips stack up if you can catch and press during one of those 15 minute heaters. I turned my buyin into a $3000 stack, of which I gave $800 back to net a win of $1,200 and a grand total of +$3,500 for the trip. Very sweet. Off to the airport we went and with an hour to kill I stuck $20 in a VP machine. I never play VP and don’t understand proper strategy, but when the gods are smiling I figure it doesn’t matter and sure enough I hit this little gem. It’s the only four of a kind I’ve ever hit for an $80 win. Well that’s pretty much it for the five days. BUT we didn’t get to the Chandelier bar or secret pizza at Cosmo, Oscars at the Plaza, High limit room at the Golden Gate, dueling pianos at Harrahs, Shadows at Caesars, Hash House A Go-Go at the Quad, Penn & Teller at Rio, a high end burger anyplace, no poker tourneys and who knows what else. The only solution is to get back ASAP! I’m home a month and starting to plan again! If you’ve read this all the way through you probably need to re-evaluate your lifes priorities …just kidding and Viva Las Vegas….and hope to see you on the strip! Addendum (or whatever the hell it’s called)….. Since I wrote this up but never posted it, we returned in January, during which I lost $2,500 and the Linq and High Roller opened. Both seem to be getting pretty positive reviews so maybe I need to reserve judgment until I can get back and check them out. The other encouraging news is I had given up on Harrah prop BJ due to their crappy rules. I’ve heard they recently changed the rules for the better to 3:2, S17, DoA etc so that will be worth a look on our next trip. Hope it’s true. Here’s hoping for early June.