This was a two-week (5/5 - 5/19), solo, nothing-to-do-but-gamble visit. 13 of 14 nights were spent downtown "in the belly of the beast", thus the title for my trip report. A day-by-day accounting would quickly get boooorrrrrring for a two-week visit, so I'll just hit the highlights, not necessarily in chronological order. Hope you like it. --------------------- - An Inexpensive Trip --------------------- Hotel was $275 and rental car $325, both including tax. Miscellaneous expenses (gasoline, food, waitress/housekeeping tips) were about $150. Add $300 airfare, making my total $1,050 for a two-week stay. -------- - Hotels -------- I had three reservations at the Las Vegas Club, two at the Plaza, one at Main Street Station, and spent one night in Jean. I never tried anything like this like this before and wasn't sure if I'd like it. It worked well!!! Moving frequently was only a minor inconvenience since I packed light, and I got a "fresh perspective" every few days even though I stayed in the same general area. I'm glad I tried it, and will definitely do something similar again. At LVC, I stayed in both the North and South towers. For those of you unfamiliar with LVC, the North tower rooms are larger and newer, and most importantly don't have that "depressing" feeling of the South tower, for $10 more per night. I stayed in the South tower only because I got a dirt-cheap weekend rate of $35/night through a re-seller. A word of warning: if you're a light sleeper, request a room facing away from the FSE. At 10:30pm on my first night (1:30am body clock time), I was calling the front desk looking for a room on the opposite side. I thought I'd be far enough from the FSE that it wouldn't be a problem (my view was of Sassy Sally's roof, a part of Binion's, and a small part of the FSE canopy), but I was wrong. I can only imagine how noisy those rooms directly under the canopy at the Four Queens and Golden Gate must be! At the Plaza, my first stay was in a "deluxe" room. Slightly larger than a standard Plaza room, with refridgerator and clock radio; furniture and carpeting was as beat-up as any standard room I've been in. My second stay was in a "super deluxe" room: an even larger room with a comfy chair and foot stool. The carpeting and furniture were in noticably better condition (for the Plaza, that is; they were still kind of beat-up). There were two bottles of bubbly in the fridge, which the previous occupants presumably left for me, and which I left for the next occupants, having no reason to sit in my room by myself and drink champagne. Both rooms were in the North tower on low floors. I have no idea why I got these rooms rather than regular rooms, but I was happy to get them (even though it wasn't the same as getting a fancy suite in a fancy strip hotel because no regular rooms are available, which happened to me about 7 years ago at the MGM). This was my first stay at Main Street Station. I knew enough to ask for a high room, and I let chance dictate whether I'd be facing the train tracks or highway (it turned out to be the train tracks). Train noise was much more evident than at the Plaza, but no problem except for when they blew the whistle. I liked the wall-to-wall windows, and the room had obviously been remodeled recently; the furnishings were by far the best I had during the entire trip. The room was also the smallest I'd had. I didn't care for the casino here, nor the location (staying at the Plaza or LVC provides much easier access to the FSE area), nor the parking garage (it just didn't feel "safe" to me). I won't stay here again unless I can get it cheaply again (read coupon section below). In Jean, I'd made reservations using LVA free night coupons at both Gold Strike and Nevada Landing (on the same night, so if one stunk, I could go across the highway to the other ...). I checked-in to the Gold Strike first, and found the room just fine, so I never checked-in at Nevada Landing. The room was the largest this trip; included a sofa, chair, and end-table, and everything was in good, if not new, condition. My biggest complaint was having a shower only, and that's because it took forever for the water to warm up! I doubt I'd stay here again, even for free, because of the location and limited game selection (see miscellaneous section below). --------- - Coupons --------- Some people take their gambling bankroll, divide it by the number of days they're staying, and put each day's funds into an envelope. I had so many coupons, I divided them into envelopes by casino, and created a "check-off list" so I could easily determine which coupons hadn't been used yet! I used 2-for-1 hotel room coupons at the Plaza, LVC, and MSS, and a free night coupons at the Gold Strike. Those 7 nights of hotel cost only $95+tax, which is at least half of what I would have had to pay otherwise. Estimated savings: $100 I had a bunch of matchplay, freeplay, and bonus coupons, but ended up using far fewer than expected (see the gambling section to find out why). The few I did use netted about $25. I didn't pay "full price" for any meal my entire stay. I didn't set out to do this, it just happened on its own. I would look at my coupon check-off list, decide where to play/eat, and retrieve the necessary coupons. By the end of my trip, I was eating free buffets from slot club points almost exclusively. Estimated savings: $150 In the "goodies" department, I came home with a total of five items (t-shirts, mugs, etc.). To give them some value: 5 goodies * $1 each = $5 Estimated total coupon value: $280 ---------- - Gambling ---------- Quarter Deuces was my primary game, and my primary financial outlay. I also played a fair amount of nickel ten-play and quarter Jokers. For entertainment, I played cheap craps and blackjack, found a few banking slots, and jumped on the "live poker craze" this trip, participating in a handful of cheap tournaments. VIDEO POKER: Not much happened the first week. I saw quad ducks several times, but that was when playing JW. I saw quad aces with a deuce kicker about half a dozen times (three times the first day, no less), but that's when I was playing DW. It looked like it might be "one of those trips". I was consistently getting lots of DW play for my money, however, so it wasn't that bad. I remember playing 3 hours per night on consecutive evenings, breaking even one night and losing only $25 the next. I don't think I ever got less than 1.5 hours play for a $100 bill at any time during the first week. The "worst" casino visit I had was a drive to Primm; I got breakfast and lunch for "free", but left $150 behind in their machines after 4 hours of play. Thanks to small wins at JW, coupons, and other games, I was only about -$200 after week one; taking into account the hours and hours I'd played, I couldn't complain. The dam finally burst on day 8 with four sets of quad ducks. On days 9 through the morning of day 13, I added another set of ducks, three nickel royals (all on 10-play machines), and one nickel LDW set of ducks. I was hoping to pop a quarter royal this trip (it is statistically overdue for me), but it didn't happen. But I didn't play anywhere near "enough" to hit a single royal even at 10-play, yet hit three, ditto for the LDW hit, and I'm ahead of expectation on quarter quad duck hits, so I can't complain. The morning of day 13 turned out to be my final win, and also the end of getting lots of play for my money. I gave back $300 in the 24 hours following the morning of day 13, and got very little play for it (not just on VP, but everything I tried). My luck had obviously changed, so I backed off and spent my last night in my Plaza room, sitting in my comfy chair, watching TV. I hate leaving Vegas on a losing note (five trips in a row now), but it at least has the advantage of making it easy to pack up and leave. LIVE POKER: I played in three tournaments. I finished in the money one time, enough to cover all three buy-in's plus give me a $3 profit. I made all kinds of mistakes, I realize, which makes me wonder how many mistakes I made that I didn't realize! I had fun and got many hours of play, which was what I wanted. I'll do it again. I find it interesting that at each tournament there was one person who donned hat and sunglasses, and was the first person out each time. BIG SPLIT POKER: I had fun with this game on the internet, and wanted to try it for real. I saw it only at Terrible's, and the paytable was, well, terrible. According to the website, it could be found at Boulder Station, but I couldn't find it. So much for those plans ... HOLD'EM CHALLENGE: I did find this game at Boulder Station. It didn't impress me. I watched someone play for about 10 minutes; it seemed that suited cards or connected cards were more important than high cards would be in the "real" game (for example, 67 offsuit seemed to be a better starting hand than AK offsuit, but perhaps it was just short-term volatility I observed). It seemed that luck played more of a factor than skill (I saw 27 offsuit be the big hand one time), vs. regular VP or poker where luck is certainly a factor but skill will take you a long way. Maybe if you could bet again after the flop, turn, and river, like in the real game, I might have liked it better. If someone has published an analysis of this game, I haven't seen it. I'll stay away for now. OTHER VP GAMES: I saw more new VP variations this trip than I'd ever seen before (or maybe the've been around for a while, but I just never noticed them). A game with an extra Ace in the deck (but couldn't be used in a royal), and two or three more I can't remember the details of. No one was playing any of them, so I took that as a sign that they were poor-paying games and won't be around long. BLACKJACK: I saw someone double on a five (he won). I saw several doubles on hard 12 (one time drawing a nine), and one double on hard 13 (he busted). I saw someone hit hard 17 (he busted). I saw someone split tens at a $1 table, totally pissing off the guy who had bet $3 (the guy who split tens won both hands, the guy who bet $3 lost). I saw someone lose $10 one dollar at a time, then $20 two dollars at a time, then $20 in one hand, then $50 in one hand, then curse the dealer and storm away. I never made a bet higher than $3, so I just laughed (sometimes silently, sometimes not) at such "serious" blackjack players! QUARTER (that's 25 CENTS, not 25 DOLLARS) CRAPS: I won a lot of money at "expensive" craps tables in my gambling past, and decided a few years ago to retire from the game without actually retiring. Craps games with quarter chips can be found at the Joker's Wild, Eldorado, and Railroad Pass (50-cent min at the first two, 25-cent min at the last, and all with 10x odds). It can be an adventure, especially at the Joker's Wild where your tablemates are all class: LOWER class, that is. Dealers tend to be break-ins or burn-outs, though you will sometimes find a crew that has sufficient skill to deal the game well but hasn't yet moved to where the tokes are better. This trip, I hit the good crews and few low-lifes (I stayed away from Joker's), and have little to report. Keeping in stride with my VP "lots of play, no big wins, but no big losses either" experience, I found the craps tables invariably choppy. I spent about 6 hours at craps tables, but didn't see anything resembling either a hot roll or an ice cold table. I pretty much broke even. This is the first trip in years where my craps play produced nothing worth reporting/remembering. BANKING SLOTS: I got only a handful of plays this trip, mostly on the highly volatile "Big Bang Piggy Bankin'" and "X-Factor" machines. I popped one Big Bang machine for over $250 (I was max-coining it on a whim and hit 250+ and 850+ coin bonus rounds), and got a handful of small wins when one-coining. I lost on X-Factor machines, catching some small wins at 6x or 7x, but giving it all back plus more to one that I ran to 10x, had 4x "stored", but ended up with only a mixed-bar payout (that one cost me about $60, when I was hoping for a big 10x payoff). I came out ahead overall thanks to the big Big Bang win, but that was gambling, not an advantage play, and won't happen all the time. I've talked to people who say it's no longer worth the effort of keeping your eyes open for playable banking slots, but I still do it since I like some periodic mindless slot play. OVERALL RESULT: With the exception of the very end of my trip, I was like the Energizer Bunny. I kept gambling-and-gambling-and-gambling-and ... This is why I didn't use many of the matchplay coupons I'd brought; they were there for "time filler", and I never had need of it. I counted my money when I returned, and found I had $1,150 more than when I left. I spent $150 on food/gasoline/misc. while I was there, so my total gambling win was $1,300. This is my biggest win to date. ------------- Miscellaneous ------------- . The night I stayed in Jean, there was a drawing for ten $500 cash prizes at Nevada Landing: one entry for every 100 points you get on your card; drawing at 4:00pm. I arrived in Jean at about 11:00am, and was surprised to find people lining up to put their drawing tickets into the 1/3 full drum already. I fed a Benjie to a FPDW machine, and played until it was gone (popped quad ducks along the way, so I was +150 for the session). Ran across the highway to check-in at Gold Strike, then back to Nevada Landing and had a free brunch using an LVA coupon. It's now about 2:30 and the casino is jammed, so I decide to get my drawing tickets right then. Back to the slot club I go, and find people with one inch and two inch stacks of tickets waiting to add them to the drum; the drum is now 3/4 full. I get my measly 12 tickets, and decide to save my FPDW play for somewhere else that offers something "better" than what is obviously a miniscule chance at $500. I check out the table games, watching someone with $25-$50 in action at craps for a while (more on this later); he's doing pretty good but over-tipping in my opinion. "It's your money to waste", I think to myself. I wander over to the blackjack tables, see someone buy in for $100 and get a one-inch stack of drawing tickets. So that's where they're all coming from! I wander around the casino until 4:00 looking for anything "playable", but find nothing (craps is $5/2x, blackjack has crappy show games and a $10 single-deck poor penetration game, no banking slots of any kind, no 99% nickel VP to waste some time with, etc.). By the time the drawing came around, the drum was overflowing with tickets. Guess who gets drawn not once, but twice? The guy playing craps. No wonder he was being so free with his money at the craps table! I'd risk $25-$50 too and overly tip the crew if I "knew" I was going to win $1,000 in the drawing. Summary: I got a free night in Jean, a free meal in Jean, and walked out +150, but doubt I'll be back: nothing worth playing there except FPDW, and it's too far from anything else. . Coming out of Nevada Landing, I saw a sign saying "Goodsprings 7 miles", so I decided to drive 7 miles and see what was there. A whole lot of nothing, that's what. . I used an ACG coupon at the Wildfire Casino (on Rancho Drive, across the street and slightly south of Texas Station) for a free burger/fries. I'm not a burger eater, and used it only because I was on my way to play at the Fiesta. It was very good!!! If you have the coupon, stop in and give it a try. I think regular price is only $1.99, which I'd be willing to pay, btw. . Much of the FSE area was blocked off for nearly my entire stay. Only one weekend were all the barriers removed; it was tough to move around otherwise. What a pain-in-the-ass! . I went to Jerry's Nugget to use the LVA $5 sportbook matchplay coupon. Took a quick look at the "papers" they had, and saw nothing but basketball, baseball, and boxing. Went to the counter and asked about superbowl futures. Too early, not taking action yet. Ok, how about NHL? Not taking hockey action. Hmmm, that's interesting -- ok, how about Nascar? Not taking nascar action. Damn, how about the WSOP 10k tourney (my intention was to take "the field"). Nope. Not taking action on anything but basketball, baseball, and boxing. So, I didn't place a bet because I couldn't care less about basketball, baseball, and boxing. For the record: my NHL bet would have been on Tampa to win the Stanley Cup; they were up 2-1 in their series against Philly when I wanted to make this bet. Last night, they got beat badly in game 1 of the finals. I'll be back later this year and will make my yearly superbowl future bet then; perhaps I'll be glad I still have the matchplay coupon. . I got a coupon from BillHere for a free t-shirt at Preview Studios in the Venetian. The day I went there, they were also offering $10 cash to "qualified" participants, which I happened to meet the requirements of. I saw a show called "Amazing Births", which was a TLC-type show about mothers giving birth in difficult locations (top of a tree during a flood, back of a taxi, etc.). You give a "constant" opinion of what you're watching by spinning a dial while you watch: spin from 0 to 100 based on what you think, as well as answer a series of questions afterward. I also gave my opinion of a proposed "health shorts" program. I found the entire experience pleasant. I never looked at my watch to see how long I was there, but I'd estimate an hour to an hour-and-a-half, and considered it time well-spent. The environment was very comfortable, and the questions were never "intrusive". I think the only "personal identifying feature" I gave was my home zip code. I recommend Preview Studios to you. . With the exception of tiny joints like "Danny's Slot Country" (next to Boulder Station), I've now set foot in every casino in Vegas but one: The Mirage. Go figure ... . I like the two-week visit; there's no hurry to do anything and plenty of time to do everything you want. As I mentioned above, I found I liked moving frequently, but by the end of my visit I was getting "sick of" downtown. Next year, I'll do the same moving around but inject more variety into my stay, including spending a few nights outside of Vegas. I've never done more than a day trip to Primm, Mt. Charleston, VOF, etc. How far of a drive is it to Reno? What is the drive like? Is there anything worth seeing between Vegas and Reno?