Jan 11-27 SCORE 17 days of gambling. Under $7 daily average for food and food tips. Free airplane flight 16 casino hotel nights for a total of $54 Lost $1097, most of it on days 11-16. Had I stayed only ten days, Iâ€™d have left up or down less than $50. Worst losing streak was to put $200 in at Main Street Station, running $1600 thru the 10/7 DB machine and never hitting a quad, skip a day and then lose $300 more over two days at the Orleans with only one quad in the whole $500 wagered. Best winning streak was on my last day at the Fiesta to take a $25 matchplay coupon and roll my 9 point on the craps table for $50 which then was put in the 10/7 DB and earned another $50 on two quads in less than a half hour, which was then put on the 3-6 table at the Plaza and earned another $138 in less than 45 minutes with two King high spade flushes that I check raised on the river, and a pair of pocket kings that i bet aggressively to the river and that held up. It is hard to figure that this is my worst trip to date in losses and yet one of my favorite trips. Some of that is being with my son and his girl for the first part, and then with two old good humored, Silver Strike collectors for the rest of the time. And I really love the interaction with strangers at the poker tables. I also felt my game has improved enough to make live poker at worst an even money game with free beer and food. The volatility is so much less than that of the 10/7 Video Poker. But I canâ€™t earn free rooms on a live poker table, except maybe at the imperial Palace if I donâ€™t ever sleep. I finally remembered that economic term â€œutility.â€ I guess that says it. I lost money but I got good â€œutilityâ€ out of the week. HOTELS Rooms ranked in order of quality: Orleans - always comfortable and bright even if they have changed their nicely logoed shampoo bottle for boring skinny bottles. El Cortez Tower - Very much like the Orleans only a bit darker Four Queens - More than adequate. Average. Heard a faint bit of the music from Freemont Street. Needed the toliet plunged. Fiesta Rancho - Nice enough but small, double beds, not much sink room. Las Vegas Club- good enough but clearly this entire casino is in transition. Watch the room doors; they donâ€™t close by themselves. Needed the toliet plunged. This trip I decided to trade room views for a shorter ride in the elevator so most of the time I was looking at solid cement walls. That was fine with me. Most of the time I spend in the room, I have the drapes held tightly together with duck tape so my afternoon naps are not affected by rays of sunlight creeping thru the crack. i know where the VooDoo Lounge is if I hunger for a good view. FOOD I ate for the most part free, so I ate nothing very exciting. I ate a lot of graveyard steak and eggs which seem somehow to always be a treat for me. Ellis Island steak was as fine as always especially washed down with a microbrew. Next trip I am going to make a list of all the days that the buffets overcharge: champagne breakfast, steak night, seafood night and then I will avoid them on those nights. The food is not very much different. Only the price changes. OFF STRIP FOOD Local friend Larry treated me to a Grand Irish corned beef Sandwich at McMullenâ€™s Irish pub across from the Orleans. Mustard with Guinness in it complimented that corned beef perfectly. They had a great selection of brews of which I drank Fat Tire to remember the time my kid Cory took me to that brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. This is a great pub break from the casinos, with nice little private nooks and fine wooden panneling all around, odd contests, great homemade potato chips and just everything you want in an Irish Pub. for details check these sites: http://www.mcmullansirishpub.com/ http://www.newbelgium.com/eventscolorado.php Orleans offered their usual good buffet. I ate regularly priced lunch there on seafood day and found most of the $16 special buffet seafood offerings were already out on the cheap lunch menu. Great Mexican at Don Miguel's in the Orleans. Two free margaritas using ACG coupons. Fine hamburgers at Wild Wild West. Terribles was adequate. I like their beef and the Cajun trout was great. Fiesta Rancho was very disappointing. The buffet is under construction and closed. A little buffet is set up in the Mexican restaurant, but it is not up to the usual Fiesta standard. You can get fajitas for free with the reduced buffet price. That was a good deal, especially since I had a free coupon that covered the entire thing, but the staff was so stressed and crabby that my waiting for my single chair seat in non smoking seemed to drive the hostess up the wall. I got free food at the Fiesta cafe for poker play so I ate there, but in the morning you have to shout to order breakfast because they are working with loud grinders and such on the buffet room next door. The Caesarâ€™s salad was very sparse there, one of the worst in my memory. The cafe was quiet in the late evening. The graveyard specials ran right up until 11 am. If I really wanted a buffet in that area of Vegas, Iâ€™d walk over to Texas Station for all that barbecued beef and great chili. FOOD DOWNTOWN I had the seafood buffet at Freemont and it was good, but I would not fuss about it nor pay $17 for it again. Main Street Station Buffet was great as usual. I love the southern greens and the Hawaiian pulled pork and the M&Mâ€™s for the ice cream. Everything is fresh and fine and the open room with fine light and an easy relaxed staff makes for delightful dining. I discovered that a free buffet comp is based on daily play and not on points. You canâ€™t get one except on the days you are playing, but then it is completely free- no points deducted. If you put 1000 through the machine, free lunch- 2000 points, free supper. Golden Nugget Buffet was good as usual, but I got caught in that damned Sunday Brunch price so my live poker comp was short for breakfast, and I paid for champagne which I donâ€™t like. There was nothing else special about that morningâ€™s food. I ate on a free comp at the 4 Queens. Check their parking ticket for a coupon offer. If you earn 50 points, they give you a free comp to Magnoliaâ€™s which was good for a $14 great sirloin steak entree. It was yummy, especially with a generous sampler of their home brews, about seven glasses for $7 dollars. All the flavors, but unlabeled, so I did not learn much. We ate there with 6 at the table and they put the tip on the bill. We did not notice until we got to the cashier and then it was too late. Pay attention so as not to tip twice. I ate a couple free breakfasts at the Upper Deck in the Las Vegas Club and one late steak and eggs graveyard. I like their link sausages. The waitress taught me that ordering my eggs over MEDIUM would get the runny out of the white, but leave the runny in the yoke. They did seem to undercook everything by one step. At the Stratosphere I ate nice warmed blueberry pie and ice cream after a steak and egg graveyard special. Fine free buffet at the Southcoast. Part of a promotional mailing. Chinese buffet at the Plaza was fine for a graveyard treat on a free comp from the Plaza poker room. GAMBLING - I only play 10/7 double Bonus and Live poker. I was about even for 10 days and then hit a video poker slump putting $500 thru and hitting only one quad. On the morning of the last day of the trip I was down $1300 and something. The last day I hit a $50 craps matchplay at Fiesta, scored for $100 on video poker, and then sat in a Plaza 3-6 game and caught great cards, leaving after 45 minutes ahead $130. I ended down $1097. NEW COMP STRATEGY I have decided to focus my play. I play heavy at one place on one day and not at all at any other time in that particular casino. I donâ€™t eat there, collect cashback there or do anything to let that casino know I am in town other days. If this works right, I should manage to get more free room mailings from some places where I have not played much in years. This time I especially targeted Main Street Station. They have good 10/7 DB with a bonus scratch off for 4 of a kinds. They have a fine buffet that is free for play. No points deducted. They have the Berlin Wall just where it deserves to be. And I always liked the place. Only the trains used to bother me when I wanted to sleep in the morning. I sleep now in the afternoon, so perhaps that will make their rooms a comfortable place to stay next trip. I am home just two days and I have an email from them asking for me to evaluate my visit there, so maybe my strategy worked. Last trip to Vegas I used that same focused comp strategy at 4 Queens and subsequently got great offers for this trip, two nights free and any more I wanted for $22 a night. I hope they continue. My goal is to stay downtown for free or cheaply and skip any rental car. POKER ROOMS - PLAYED ONLY LOW LEVEL LIMIT POKER I donâ€™t play no limit. Perhaps later. I tried one nice cheap tournament at Fiesta Rancho, $23 and no rebuys. I did well but after two tables were eliminated and the blinds getting pretty stiff, I got in that place where I felt I needed to make a play, so I called an all-in bet by a guy who was too often going all-in to be believed. There was an Ace and a Jack on the flop and I had Jack- King. He had Ace-ten but no Jack or King came on the Turn or River so his low kickered Ace held up. I played a lot of 2-4 and some 3-6 when I felt comfortable. I really got the sense that it all depends on the people who happen to join the table. At El Cortez I played the 1-3 spread limit game with 6 on the flop. One time the pots were $5 with all tight players. Another the preflop betting was capped almost every hand. I played 3-6 in games when after playing tight for an hour I could steal a pot with the right bet or at least pay a $3 pot flop raise on the button to see 2 free cards. And I played 3-6 at Paris where the betting was nuts. I used to think of Texas Hold Em as a game for grumpy old men. Iâ€™m almost 60. If I want to talk to grumpy old men or look at them, I can talk to myself in the mirror. On this trip I was amazed to find myself sitting next to some of the sexiest young women. I just seemed to get lucky. Of course, I kept my mind on the game. In fact, I improved my game because I tend to spend too much time looking at the cards and not enough studying the faces of the players. So I studied these women carefully. I think live poker is the only place in American society where you can spend long minutes gazing into the face of some sweet young thing and not be breaking social protocol. My favorite 3-6 games were at the Plaza and I want to play there again when I go back. Comps were easy, rake reductions radical, and the players I met a good mix. EL CORTEZ - If you can take the smoke, these games are fun because they are full of characters, not the least of whom is Jackie Gaughan himself who comes down to shout, â€œOne for the money!â€, then misread his cards, and finally call you when he should know better. all the way to the river. The rake is low here. I played next to a sweet faced Black girl with a good humored personality and Cute embroidered on her shirt. Very pretty and funny, but she needed to clean her nails. That is the El Cortez. PLAZA - Rake is $3 and then $1 that goes back out in high hand awards. When we got down to 5 players on the 3-6, I asked for a rake reduction and the woman dropped it to just the dollar for the high hand. You could not ask for a better game than that. I liked every game. There was one Black guy cursed with an incredible get-in- your-face attitude; he berated another old scruffy beard white guy when that fellow dared to explain why one more bet to call was needed. Mr. Attitude also kept trying to remove a hundred in bills from the game, and the dealer had to repeatedly call the floor to get him to keep the money up and playable. On top of that he was a poor player. I only saw him take one pot in a showdown. He had an eight-five off suit. the Plaza was easy with food comps. The woman gave me one even though I just got tired and only played for a couple hours one late night. I used it at the Chinese buffet. Such a contrast to the El Cortez idea of food comps. There one must play a consecutive 4 hours and ask the old beauty there for a comp, youâ€™d think that she had to take it out of her salary. You get just $5 which is not enough to buy anything at Careless Kittyâ€™s where the food is not that great anyway AND if you get that $5 comp one day, you canâ€™t get one the next day. The woman said they wanted me to come back and play, but I guess not two days directly in a row. CAESARâ€™S - Very nice and comfortable with a mix of very good players and guys who just thought they were very good. When at about 2 AM the table got down to six players, I indicated that I would leave if I had to play at a short table as did another fellow. They broke up the table and we drew cards for open seats at the other table. One fellow got irate at this policy and there was an hour of bedlam even though a seat soon opened for him at the other table. They took my name and card number to be able to defend themselves against this irate jackidiot. You earn a dollar comp here per hour on your card, but donâ€™t try to go to Caesarâ€™s buffet on it. It is only good for food served in the poker room. The staff is super friendly and one young woman in particular was enough entertainment for me to fold hands for an hour and just watch her walk across the floor. I liked getting large cans of Guinness or Bass. Most places did not have any dark beers to bring. I saw a fellow drinking Johnny Walker Black. I played one 3-6 with a half kill, but I really donâ€™t like the kill pots. I donâ€™t know how to read them. IMPERIAL PALACE- They offer $3 in comps per hour, but you should act quickly. The poker room is ready to be moved soon and that might mean a comp reduction. The entire casino is scheduled to be demolished by Harrahâ€™s in 2007 as they have bought most of the entire LV Boul./Flamingo corner for some megaproject that you and I will pay for in poorer video poker schedules and fewer comps. But I managed enough comps on my card to pick up the $69 tab for a room I need in April when I am coming in on a Saturday. Imperial Palace will rent to me for just the one night and my comps will make it free. The 2-4 games were fine here, not too loose with enough space to actually play poker and very friendly folks so the banter was great. I sat next to a couple of guys from Wales and listened to the music of their accents and exotic vocabulary and next to a very good player, a beautiful Chinese woman. She beat my pocket jacks with pocket kings on one hand, but two hands later I later took her and her husband down when another pair of pocket jacks went to trips and neither her pocket kings nor his pocket queens could touch them. It was a profitable hand. The Imperial Place is one place where I believe you could go and pay for your rooms and just play live poker. In fact, if you play there, look for Dennis from California who knows all the dealers because he does that often. They also offer free flavors of coffees and nice cookies and finger sandwiches as well as a small bad beat bonus that is not raked. They also fixed any drink that was described to them, and I had a few weird ones suggested by a young fellow who had had a few too many. He did not always know what cards he had, but he did seem to always win. It was strange. I tried a 3-6 game there but it just seemed hard to figure and tight, so pots were not very big anyway and I went back to the 2-4. PARIS- a few tables squeezed right in the middle of the casino. I played 3-6 on a Saturday night. It was wild. The players were the most terrible I have ever seen. But if you wanted distraction during the long waits between playable hands, this is the place to play. I liked it. Iâ€™ll try again when perhaps there are a few sane people at the table. While there I raised with A-J in middle position in order to push out some of the calling stations, and found that they had no clue that I had established myself as a tight player, and no respect for the raise. I was reraised by something that soon folded and that person was again reraised by pocket tens that bet into my Jack flopped pair right thru the river. All the raises put too much money in the pot for me to fold, but I was very shocked when I won with just a pair of Jacks. I would like to play there again in calmer waters. They comp a dollar an hour and I expect that it could be applied to that fine buffet they serve. BALLYâ€™S - I heard a lot of good things about this place, but they did not have a 3-6 game when I showed up early on Saturday night. They directed me to the Paris game. FIESTA RANCHO- A very smoky table but very interesting. I had avoided most locals games because I did not want to play with people who played every day with each other, but this was like a kitchen table game transported to the casino. It was a 2-4 game and pretty loose but not filled with maniacs. Most people wanted to see the flop. Many would pay to see draws. Some times against the people they knew, instead of trying to maneuver for a check raise on the river when they held the nuts, these folks would be â€œniceâ€ and show their nut hands early. It was strange to me. Here a young Black social worker named Tania started a conversation with a reformed member of the Aryan Nation complete with a swastika tattooed on his hand. That was interesting!! Had pocket kings on the button when the first to act had placed a blind straddle and then raised in the dark. Oh, I love those blind straddles. He put money in the pot, pushed out the trash hand holders, and in the end had nothing as my kings held up. Later 4 fours got me an $8 food comp which had not been raked. Also my play earned a $10 food comp over a couple days and it was immediately posted. I used it my last morning there. It may even be that those folks sending out the free nights will consider my live poker play as well as the video poker. I am not certain if that improves my rating or if they would rather avoid having live poker players in free rooms, but Iâ€™ll see. GOLDEN NUGGET- A good spot to play always with a fine mix of good and bad players. I lost one full house to a bigger one held by a Caesarâ€™s dealer who later remembered me. I was dumb and bet into the higher house even though I should have sensed it was there. They do have some Sam Adams drafts. I donâ€™t generally like that beer, but the drafts were great. The good trick here is to play 4 hours and quit after midnight. 4 hours of play will get you a $10 buffet comp which can be used the next day for a nice brunch at the Nuggetâ€™s fine buffet. And the comp is a line pass so you get to go right in. I met a cool young guy on a table here from Nova Scotia. BINIONS- Fine tables but some of the most uptight crabby players I have ever seen. Why do no limit players come down to the limit table and then run a steady stream of complaints about how it is not â€œreal pokerâ€ there. One woman was totally obnoxious, but got some better when she started to get cards and win. Another old, thin, Jewish fellow was so intense and so unfriendly and so mad when he did not get cards that I wanted to tip the dealer when the disdainful grump finally gave it up and left. He is a regular. He knew the dealerâ€™s names. If I were that miserable playing poker, Iâ€™d find something more fun to do, like walking over hot coals barefoot or hanging myself from a light fixture. There were other friendly tourists there, but after that one game, I did not want to go back. One cool collectible there is the $4 binions chips which are just used by the dealers for the rake. The dealer will sell you one if you ask nice. ORLEANS- I just watched. I love this casino. I hope I can get so these tight and skillful locals donâ€™t intimidate me so much. STRATOSPHERE- My plan was to take the Deuce from downtown and play poker there for a while, then take my comps from last April, see the Huck Daniels Review in the lounge and use the comps for a good graveyard 3 AM breakfast afterwards. But the Stratosphere has not yet posted the comps from LAST APRIL. So donâ€™t expect to play there and get anything except what you earn that day. The staff was very friendly, and actually, after a lot of very polite talk, the fellow gave me an $8 food comp instead of my earned $4 so it worked out, but I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ll make the effort to go again. I will write a letter of protest and urge you to do the same. What is taking them so long to get a little swipe technology up and running? The more people who ask, the better. Also, I learned not to play there on Mondays because the high hand awards had been sucked dry on the weekend and not had time to build up again, so you donâ€™t get much value for the high hand rake if you play on Mondays. SOUTH COAST - I did not play here but did check it out and liked it fine. I wrote down the comp policy but I cannot find it. It was complicated, like $1.25 each hour for the first four hoyurs and 50 cents per hour after that. MEMORABLE POKER HANDS Check raised twice on the button with king high spade flush in a 3-6 at Plaza. I was called the second time because they thought I was trying to bluff. 4 fours at Fiesta Rancho with a nice full house betting into me. 4 Aces at Paris and no one even interested. Slow played and still nothing. Check raised with a river caught nut straight at Fiesta and was reraised by a guy with 3 tens. I almost assumed that we had the same hand and almost did not reraise, but too often I lose money by quitting early. He called me and then acted very surprised even though the nut was not necessary for victory; a hand as weak as trip kings would have also beaten him. ENTERTAINMENT +Huck Daniels Monday night review at the Stratosphere was great as always. +Free ticket to Etta James at Orleans. Her voice is great but the rest of the act is very sad. She cannot remember what she is doing and asks the band a dozen times. It reminds me of how Billie Holiday looked in her last days. + great lecture and demonstration of an authentic printing press like the one Ben Franklin used. This was in the morning at the Freemont experience. It was a freebie to advertise a printing museum in California but I lost the brochure. Great speaker and great demonstration. + doo-wop.com at the Fiesta Rancho. If you like old 50â€™s songs and/or like to swing dance this is the group. Best I have ever heard. +I like that alien Freemont experience story. I donâ€™t like the flag waving one, maybe because every time they wave the flag here we seem to kill off some of our best in a needless war. +a friendly Black security guard from Las Vegas Club asked me to dance in the Plaza lounge but she really did not swing dance and wanted to lead. + I like watching petite Linda play DB 10/7 with her almost bare feet and ringed toes propped up on the machine. Watch for her at the Optimum full pay machines along the Fiesta Rancho ramp. She is there almost every day and knows the strategy sheets in detail. +I love the Bellagio Chinese new year display every year. This year they took a doomed 110 foot tall Bayan tree from Palm Beach California and transformed it into a sculpture and nice little walk with water and the sounds of birds. Next it will serve as a butterfly habitat. Incredible! details : http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Jan-22-Sun-2006/living/5339150.html TRANSPORTATION Took a bump on US Air last time and got a free flight for this trip. But I forgot to go to the airport and redeem my voucher for a ticket so they canceled my reservation and I had a frantic week of trying to get a flight to go near my originally scheduled times. Ended up getting two extra days in Vegas and a better mix of free rooms. Scheduled coming home on a redeye and found it was better than coming home to Albany NY in the morning. Slept easy and was refreshed the next day. No crowds anywhere. Had 3 seats to myself. DOLLAR called me and told me they no longer have cars at the Nugget downtown so I should pick up my car at the airport instead. Good thing I no longer needed one. it would have cost me a cab ride to get to the airport. If I do rent again and want to pick up downtown for my last week and then deliver to the airport, I guess Iâ€™ll stick with Budget at the 4 Queens. The Deuce is the joint!! Upper level riding is a tour experience and the windows are clean. You stop on the strip and there are the neon lights right there. Especially at the Riviera/Circus Circus stop, I saw neon I had never noticed from the street level because it was right in my face. The conductor can hear everyone, even upstairs, and he clearly announces each stop with a good sample of all the destination possibilities including opportunities for bus transfers. There are handy little red buttons to press for a stop request. Best 2 dollars I ever spent anywhere for travel in the USA. Only drawback was once coming in to downtown at 4 AM there was construction and they dropped us too far from the Freemont, over on Ogden. No trouble, but I did not like it. Also late at night, mixed with the tourists, there tended to be on the bus a couple drunks and people who talked a bit too much to themselves, in loud lecturing tones, about the rule of the â€œgrey peopleâ€ and the future of the world order and other free associated random and abstract philosophies or people who just shouted F**** a lot. Crazy people. But harmless. El Cortez in the morning time and into early afternoon has a free shuttle for guests to the airport. 24 hour advance signup requested. My buddy Lucky Pete had a car. That is the best. Free chauffeur and no worries. I figured out that the 201 West is the bus to take to get back to the Orleans from NYNY. And I figured the 108 would be a faster trip to the Sahara from downtown than the deuce, but you have to ask for where it collects passengers at the downtown bus terminal as 108 is not listed on the signs. I think it was gate 20 and 21, but I did not ride it yet. Finally, although there are signs all over the free Coast shuttle buses, I did not get asked for a room key in order to ride the Orleans free shuttle to the strip or back. But then I was never there at a crowded time. NOTE ON DOWNTOWN I think Downtown is getting better all the time. I like the shorter walks and the ability to patch together free rooms without a car and easily roll suitcases from place to place. Soon there will be Mickey Finnâ€™s and some other interesting food/drink spots just outside the Freemont Experience. When Jackie dies, the El Cortez will be sold and no doubt radically changed, but for now it is a flavor of old Vegas as is the Gold Spike. Walgreens 24 hour at the head of Freemont Street means anything forgotten can be easily purchased and at uninflated regular drug store prices. I needed a scarf for the chilly evenings and found a great one in fleece for $3. And I got some snacks for the room that made it easy to just buy two meals a day. I bought Walgreenâ€™s knockoff version of Aleve for my back ache after ten hours at the poker table. Some of the best gambling is downtown and when you want the strip, it is just $2 away on the Deuce. And there are the details. More I am sure than you wanted to know.