For the second year in a row, I headed out to Vegas on a solo trip the few days leading up to Christmas (arrived Monday and departed Friday). This is a GREAT time of the year to go. As opposed to last year when I was downtown and off-strip at the Rio, I stayed near center-strip this entire trip. The Strip is still fairly busy at this time of the year, but much of the congestion is due to last-minute Christmas shoppers (I've never seen so many bags being carried around on the Strip!). I'll summarize a few things below, but I wanted to touch on 2 things first. 1. I was able to meet up with NEON from T2V and his wife right after I checked into my hotel on Monday night. We've met up twice before as it always seems like we have corresponding Vegas trips! It was a great time as usual as we were able to get some 2-4 poker in and had dinner at the Barbary Coast (the dude even picked up the tab!) Thanks again NEON! He also took me up to check out the suite they scored at Harrahs. Pretty impressive! But there was a catch as he mentioned in his trip report. 2. Much of my Wednesday night/Thursday morning was wiped out due to what I'm sure was food poisoning. Think about your normal flu, but about 10x worse, and only lasting about 12 hours! Not a fun experience! Flight Once again, took Trans Meridian Air out of Toledo. Non-stop roundtrip flight was only $176 after tax! I've had virtually zero complaints with this airline and have flown it three times now. Unfortunately they are pulling the Vegas service out of Toledo for some reason. That really sucks because my future options will be to connect through O'Hare (if I want to keep using Toledo) or drive to Detoit or Columbus. I really hope they bring that service back. Hotels On Monday and Tuesday nights I stayed at the Barbary Coast. I requested and got a single-bed non-smoking room that had a great view south toward Paris and the Bellagio Fountains!! That's by far the nicest view of the Strip I've ever had from my hotel room. The downside was that it was rather noisy. Beginning at 8:00am, The big Bally's sign starts blaring adds, including an add for the "We Will Rock You" show at Paris. I had Queen running through my head the entire trip! Next time I'll take earplugs! As for the room itself, it was very nice in my opionion. About on the same quality level as Monte Carlo. Definitely better than Riviera, Tropicana and Imperial Palace, but not quite as nice as MGM or the Rio. They do give a whole bunch of bottles of stuff in the bathroom, and there's a big window in the shower that you can open up and express to everyone on the Strip that you are currently naked......if you so wish! Total hotel bill at Barbary Coast = $27.00 using to the "last minute" deal that I had posted in the Hotel Discounts forum. On Wednesday and Thursday nights I switched to the Imperial Palace. I've stayed here before and liked it. The rooms are a step down, but still on the level of a nice Quality Inn or Super 8. Nothing fancy but not bad. Total hotel bill at IP = $9.00 after using all of the comps I acculumated in their poker room. Transportation After talking to a really nice guy on the plane (World War II veteran), he offered to split a cab since he was going to the Flamingo. He then totally refused to let me pay him once we got there, so I got a free ride! The only catch was that I had to walk to Barbary Coast from the Flamingo, which is right next door. The only other cab I caught was back to the airport from IP. That cabbie was really cool. I felt sorry for him since he was only averaging ONE fare per hour (I even looked at his log sheet) so I tipped him 50% for his trouble. Food 24-hour Prime Rib special in the Victorian Room at Barbary Coast was nice as usual. It's a little pricier than other prime rib and steak specials on the strip, but it is of very good value for the price! Highly recommended. The Pizza Place on 5th floor of IP: I ate here twice. The first was a fetuccini alfreado meal and the second was a pizza. They were nothing to write home about, but not bad (plus they were comped). IP Buffet: I went in here for the first meal after recovering from the food poisoning. It was comped. This isn't a very good buffet, but all I was looking for was a small salad and some chicken noodle soup. Ellis Island $4.95 Steak Special: Unfortunately I'm convinced this is what made me sick. I ate the salad and green beans it came with, the entire steak (cooked medium-well) and their homemade root beer. Before this meal I had not eaten since the previous afternoon, and I did not eat anything else later that day before I got sick. This really stinks because I've always loved that steak special and considered it a must-have on every trip. I doubt if I'll ever go back though. I usually splurge and eat one really nice meal on every trip. I was thinking about the seafood buffet at the Rio, but that was all put on hold due to my getting sick. Maybe next time. Gambling Poker: I spent approximately 26 total hours in the Imperial Palace poker room playing 2-4 hold 'em and another hour and half playing in one of their No-Limit tournaments. When it was all said and done, I only finished up about $50 playing hold 'em. The tourists seem to have improved in this room since July and I wasn't playing my most solid game either. I also did not catch as many flops as in July, which made it tougher. Only two hands are really worth mentioning. The first was during the no-limit tournament. Only three hands into the tournament I was dealt pocket Queens and was just left of the Big Blind. I raised aggressively, but the guy right next to me re-raised. We even had a caller before it got back to me. After thinking for a minute, I decided I was both close to being pot-committed (or committed to pot, take your choice) and had the feeling that he was overplaying a suited A-K or something. I went All-In. He called, and the third idiot took about 5 minutes to fold (and show) his A-Q. Needless to say I wasn't happy when the guy flipped over pocket Aces. The Board was garbage and I did my re-buy after only three hands! I made that last for over an hour though, so I didn't play too badly. The second hand worth mentioning was on the 2-4 table. I was dealt 10-10 in late position. I raised and EVERYONE called, so there was already some $ in this pot. The flop came 10-K-K, I flopped a boat tens over kings. I prayed that at least one person had a king, because then I would get some action. It turned out TWO people had kings. We capped the betting after the flop, and after the turn which was a 5 (10-K-K-5). Another 5 came on the river! DRAT!!!!! The first guy bet, the second guy folded (he mentioned a weak kicker, but was new and obviously didn't read the board correctly) and I called. Sure enough he beat me with kings over fives! Blackjack: I played a little blackjack in the Champagne Pit at IP. There was almost always a $5 double-deck pitched game that paid 3:2. Overall broke even at BJ. Craps: I really enjoy playing craps at IP. The dealers and boxmen are almost always fun, my experiences with the bosses have always been positive as well. I had three craps sessions (not including those associated with the food poisioning) and finished just a little on the plus side. The only problem I had was that they were breaking in a couple new dealers, and for some reason they kept forgetting to pay me when my come numbers hit. I reminded them and everything was cool. I rolled the dice at Barbary Coast a couple times as well. NO LUCK at all! Lost both buy-ins, so quickly gave up there. Sports: I won some $ when a certain team that shall remain nameless covered the spread on Wednesday night, but gave it all back when Marshall choked against Cincinnati the next night! Shopping Good God! I actually have a shopping section in my report! Yikes. Well, it just consisted of heading to the Celine Dion store at Ceasars to pick my mom up a couple of things. She likes her so much I basically just closed my eyes and walked around the store until I bumped into something.......and then bought it. Did you know they make Celine Dion ashtrays! Not a hot seller. I also strayed though the shops at Paris to pick my sister and mom up a couple more items. All-in-all it wasn't too bad, but once again I SHOPPED IN VEGAS! And I was sober while doing so! Yikes! I know this was a pretty choppy report. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions.