This being my first trip to Vegas since New Yearâ€™s Eve 2007, needless to say, I was super excited. My cousin was getting married, so it was a family trip, but my dad had to work and my brother is still in college, so it was just my mom and I. We stayed at the Monte Carlo, as all the wedding arrangements, special room rates, etc. were step up there. Friday, 2-20 We flew out of IAH (Houston) on Continental, around 9:00 AM. I thought there would have been a meal, but just pretzels and beverages. Good thing I ate breakfast, but I still had 3 bags of pretzels. Landed around 10:30 AM, Las Vegas time. Now, my parents had just been to Vegas on vacation about a month prior to this visit, and they both talked about how slow Vegas was then. This trip, my mom said that it was a lot busier than last time. To me, it seemed like normal Las Vegas, nothing like New Yearâ€™s but pretty crowded. After gathering our luggage, we bought tickets for the shuttle and headed for our line. I wasnâ€™t sure if I was in the right line, so I ask the guy at the end of the line if it was line 2 and he confirmed this. The guy I talked to looked just like Willie Parker, running back of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. I paused, thought to myself how much he looked like Willie Parker, and then decided to ask him, â€œAre you Willie Parker?â€ He said, â€œYeah.â€ So I said, â€œCongratulations. Big fan, I watch you all the time.â€ He was really cool and super nice â€“ he talked to me and asked me questions, and didnâ€™t just answer my questions. I got a picture with him and he signed an autograph for me. This trip was already a great one! The wait for the shuttle was a little long and had to wait for the 2nd shuttle for our line, but then we were on our way. After two stops, we were at the Monte Carlo. There was construction going around the back entrance of the hotel â€“ they looked like they were working on a parking garage. When we got to the hotel, it was almost noon so I decided to see if I could check it. Did the $20 trick and asked if there were any complementary upgrades available. The desk clerk said that she could certainly check for a high floor room. She said that she had a room on the 20th floor and that it was ready now. So, Iâ€™m not sure if the $20 trick was really a success. She also mentioned that I could wait for a room on a higher floor. I asked if there was any difference in the room, and she said no, so I said the 20th floor was fine. After we settled into our room, we were starving, so we decided to head down to the Wynn for their lunch buffet. I had been, but my mom had never been. The walk to the Wynn was a lot longer than I remember, plus there is the construction between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio. After about 20 minute wait in line, we were in business. The only other time Iâ€™ve eaten at the Wynn Buffet was for lunch also, I remember they had a homemade fried chicken that was pretty good. This time they had a section of breakfast foods out. My mom enjoyed the buffet, and afterwards we hit the casino at the Wynn. My mom only plays slot machines, but Iâ€™m mostly a blackjack and sportsbook bettor. I also had grand plans of trying out craps this trip, as I had been reading up on it. I used to play poker, but sometimes I just find it unpleasant in the casino â€“ grown men talking trash to each other across the tableâ€¦I really enjoy playing poker amongst friends. The line to sign up for the Wynn red card was pretty long, but I was just glad to be back in Vegas, so I didnâ€™t mind. My first order of business was to put $10 on red at the roulette table (like the boys do in Entourage). What do you know, it lands on 00. After scouting out the players at different blackjack tables, I find a one with a few players and buy some chips. Normally I bet $15/hand, but this trip I decided to go with $25/hand, because as my best friend likes to say, you canâ€™t win big if you donâ€™t bet big. Plus, there werenâ€™t any football games to tie up my bankroll. Normally, I have a separate stack of chips where I put extras from blackjacks and trip the dealers whenever I leave the tables. But after reading up on the forums here, I made sure to place bets for the dealers throughout my play. Most of the dealers I encountered on this trip were very thankful for the bets I placed. I played for about an hour a half, and ended up $90 down. We had to head back to the Monte Carlo, because we had to be at the rehearsal dinner in a little bit. So we take a taxi back to the MC, shower, and head down to Brand, the steak house in MC. I had checked out Brandâ€™s website before our trip, and it looked like a cool spot. Brand is part of the Light group, has a lounge attached to the restaurant and is supposed to have a DJ spinning on Friday and Saturday nights. The ambiance of the place is nice; it would be a good place to go on a date. There were about 30 people at the rehearsal dinner. I was disappointed in the food. We had the choice of a fried chicken, salmon, or a filet mignon. Of course, being in a steakhouse, I had to go with the filet. We had a salad and an onion soup as starters. I was disappointed in the steak (medium) â€“ pretty bland. A couple of people had to send their steaks back for not being cooked properly. There were a variety of desserts, which were nicely plated/presented. There was a mini-coffee crÃ¨me brulee that was really good. It was probably the highlight of the meal. Afterwards more chit-chat, I hit the tables at Monte Carlo. The casino floor was smaller than I remember, but the only time I stayed at Monte Carlo, I was still a kid and everything seems big then. After scouting out the tables and players for about 10 minutes, I settle on a table right across from Brand. This table had the best rules at MC: 6 deck, S17, DAS, and Surrender. The only drawback is that itâ€™s a $25 minimum table. There are actually two identical tables with these rules next to one another. On a side note, you could hear the music playing from the Brand Lounge, so I found that to be a plus. There were 3 other mainstay players at the table: a husband and wife (who played basic strategy with surrender, which was nice to have) and another player who was from China. Played for a couple hours and ended up $200 overall (so, up $300 for the session minus the $90 I lost over at Wynn). It was only 11:30 PM west coast, but I was exhausted and decided to hit the hay early. I actually got in before my mom, which was surprising. Saturday, 2-21 I was awake by 6:00 AM (8:00 central) and so was my mom, so we decided to just go ahead and get an early start. We headed down to Paris for their breakfast buffet. Luckily, it was only $15 and they didnâ€™t have their more expensive brunch running. Iâ€™ve always enjoyed their buffet, and this time was no different. Although, their coffee was super strong in my opinion. My mom and I decided to split up, because she wanted to play a little bit at Paris, and I wanted to go check out Palazzo. I was really impressed by the Palazzo. I really like the high ceilings in the casino. After signing up for the playerâ€™s card I found a blackjack table to play at. Unfortunately there was this one guy who was obliterated at 8:30 in the morning. I laughed as he must have been still drunk from last night, as it was way too early in the morning to already been that wasted. I felt bad for the dealer, as he was harassing her and even one of the female players. So we switched tables, and that guy soon left the casino. This table was a good one, everyone having a good time and I quietly made a run and was up $400 for the trip ($200 this session). I decided to take a break and check out the shops in the Palazzo/Venetian mall. As I was looking through the stores, I thought, I could buy some stuff now and have something to show for itâ€¦or I could possibly lose it back to the casinos. I decided not to buy anything yet, and walked over to Encore to check it out. I really like their casino also. With the red color and the butterfly theme, itâ€™s very visually pleasing. I sat at a blackjack table with 4 other players. I didnâ€™t play for very long this session because I had to get back and get ready for the wedding. I ended up down $100 this session (still up $300 overall). I walked back to MC to get ready for the wedding. Before heading up to the room, I stopped by the sportsbook and put $110 on Oklahoma (+1.5) against Texas. Now, I went to Texas, and normally donâ€™t bet on them in basketball (I donâ€™t like having my heart and my head conflicted), but they just got beat really badly by Texas A&M, and Oklahoma was ranked #2. There was a charter bus to take us to the church, and there were about 50-75 people total at the wedding. Afterwards, the bus took us back to MC, and we headed up to one of the ballrooms for the reception. The reception was fun; the food was alright. The cake was great â€“ a coconut german chocolate cake. There was also a chocolate/fruit mousse. There was also an open bar; I donâ€™t drink, but I can appreciate having an open bar at a wedding. Also, I had my brother texting me the score of the basketball game, and I ended up losing the bet, so I was only up $200 for the trip. Afterwards, I hit the casino at MC with a couple I met at the wedding. I wanted to play at the table with the optimal rules that I played at last night, but I also wanted to play with the people from the wedding. So we played at a table with some people who didnâ€™t play correctly (hitting a 16 against a dealerâ€™s 2, it was ugly). We hit a rough patch right away. Iâ€™ve never gotten the crap kicked out of me that fast. The dealer was hot, and I stuck $300 right away. We changed tables, and I bought in for another $300. Stuck another $250 before I said no mas. All of this happened within 20 minutes, my head was spinning. We decided to walk around and take a break. We just chilled out and sat in the sportsbook. After a while, they got tired and went to bed, and I decided to get back on the horse (currently down ~$350 for the trip). I went to the table I was at last night, and the guy from China was playing there and his girlfriend was sitting with him. We recognized each other and said hi. I bought in for another $200 and had $50 left from last sessionâ€™s beating. We played a few shoes before the guy and his girlfriend left to play some machines. Normally, I donâ€™t like to play heads-up, but the other table with good rules, had some idiots who donâ€™t play properly, so I decided to stay put. Iâ€™ll admit it was kind of scary playing heads-up, knowing how fast I could be sent home empty-handed. But it grew on me, because there was nobody to mess up the shoe, and I stick to basic strategy. I went on a nice run, and my â€œfriendâ€ and his girlfriend came back. I continued to play for several more hours, and decided to call it quits around 3:00 AM. I had turned my $250 into just over $1100. It was the best streak Iâ€™ve ever been on. I was up $500 for the trip at this point. Sunday, 2-22 We were up by 6:30 AM, got packed up, and checked out of the Monte Carlo. We took a cab over to Palazzo, where we had them hold our bags for us. We walked over to the Guardian Angel Cathedral (next to Encore) for the 8:00 AM Mass. Afterwards we had breakfast at the CafÃ© in Wynn. It was standard stuff (I had the oatmeal with cranberries and sliced almonds); the line was pretty long, but it moved quickly. I held off on getting coffee with my breakfast since I knew I could order one at the tables. We headed off to Palazzo to play until it was time to leave for the airport. Since Palazzo has free Wi-Fi, I was checking my email on my phone, and not wanting to walk or crash into anyone, I pulled off to the side by a table game. After fiddling on my phone, I put it back into my pocket and started walking through the casino again. I look over, and walking right next to me was Drew Barrymore. So Iâ€™m walking and looking over at her, and she sees that Iâ€™m looking at her, and I say, â€œHey, big fan.â€ She says thanks, and I respond, â€œCongratulations on all your success.â€ She says, â€œThat was a really kind thing to say.â€ Then she veered off to the right with her people, and I went off to the left. She was really short; Iâ€™d say about 5â€™ 2â€ â€“ 5â€™ 4â€. She was looking really thin these days, and she is really pretty in real life. So I settle on a blackjack table with a couple guys and a girl who had been playing and partying since the night before. They were fun and friendly and the dealer was really cool and was hamming it up with us. Everyone was having a good time. I buy in for $300, and after about a $200 downswing, Iâ€™m up $100 for this session (up $600 for the trip). I get caught daydreaming about all the cool stuff I was going to spend my winnings on. I end up losing $300 for the session, and the other players decide to call it quits. I sit some hands out, and decide to buy in for another $100. I burn through that and sit out some more. Now, Iâ€™m only up $100 for the trip, and figure may as well try and at least double that up. But I run through that, and decide that Iâ€™m done. I check the time, and itâ€™s almost time to meet my mom and head to the airport. Ties really are like kissing your sister. The whole time before our flight â€“ in the taxi to the airport and waiting at the airport â€“ I was sick with myself for squandering all my winnings after my epic session the night before. But at least I didnâ€™t lose any money, so that is a positive. Plus, I am going back to Vegas at the end of March, and itâ€™s going to be a boysâ€™ trip with my best friend. In fact, the plane was overbooked and they were offering a $250 voucher to be bumped to a later flight. I thought about how I could use that voucher for my plane ticket for my March trip, but the next flight wouldnâ€™t get back until after midnight, and I was already exhausted. I had a blast this trip, but I canâ€™t wait to go back and have more free time and be with the boys. Both my parents have gotten complementary suite offers for the Venetian and/or Palazzo from their trip in January (the letter said it was for signing up for the playerâ€™s club). Hopefully, Iâ€™ll get a similar offer in time for my upcoming March trip. I canâ€™t wait to go back!