HOTELS: Las Vegas Club â€“ 4 days for $15 each using LVA on line coupons and then three free. Had fine rooms in the North tower. Iâ€™m really loving this place. Fairfield Grand Resorts â€“ invited to stay a week by a buddy who bought a share there. FOOD: Really a mix this time. Ate at Paris and Bellagio and enjoyed both as always. Especially remembering the Paris brouchette sausage and peppers grilled on a stick and those cheeses at Paris. Finally got to Wild Wild West for that great $1.99 hamburger and fries and $1 rolling Rock draft. Had a two for one coupon to use up so it was a cheap meal. Great burger and fries cooked exactly to order. What a contrast to Albany where the last thing I had before leaving was a burger and fries at Maxieâ€™s on Wolf Road. I requested crispy fries and got strips of limp rubber. Ellis Island steak: wonderful piece of meat and a $5 matchplay made the meal free. Hilton buffet: nice but seemed to have less of selection than last time. Harrahâ€™s buffet: Two free coupons and not bad at all. A good feast. Texas Buffet: Went twice and it was different. Only one time found Buffalo Breath Chili. Also had a crisp duck that was the best I remember anywhere. I use my Fiesta points and 2-1 coupons as the gambling is not very good at Texas. Palms: Unique in all ways. Really exceptional for a price of $6.99. A whole section of humus and related eastern-veggie specialties. Unique dishes and especially good small bites of pastry. Monte Carlo Steakhouse: Great porterhouse and tasty snails in French sauce, but when a â€œfreeâ€ meal ($100 comp) ends up costing $25 (tax, tip) because the prices are inflated, Iâ€™m off to Ellis Island for steak. There the sides are not an extra $8. Binionâ€™s coffee shop: had the roast chicken special on a poker comp and it was tasty. Las Vegas Club Deli: Two slices of pizza, Two hot dogs, two scoops of ice cream, a frozen drink all on scratch cards received by hitting quads at VP. Good ice cream. Free breakfasts in LVC Upper Deck â€“ Fine free meals. Good service. Gold Coast 75 cent hot dog with sauerkraut, onions and everything else. One of these and a couple free Coronas using Orleans funbook coupons and Iâ€™m set for an afternoon of Dixie land music. Unfortunately the band quit early the day I went there. RENTAL CAR: Tried US Rent a Car. Donâ€™t do it! The computed price on line was not what they charged me. What I thought was free shuttle from the airport cost $4. And no one seemed to know what they were doing. I had to ask especially to have the car noted for damage (which was all over) before I took it. I could not figure out who was checking it in. And the car I got was a Hondai Accent with no power and back seats that banged forward on every speedbump. This was their midsized (not economy and not compact). Iâ€™m running back to Dollar next time. COMPANIONSHIP My 28 year old son and two gambling buddies at various times in the two week period. Great to gamble with them and have company for meals. But I tried to do too much and got too exhausted and confused on directions, coupons, planning, etc. I wake up at 7 AM daily regardless. If Iâ€™m going to gamble until 4 AM, then I have to plan a nap time. The kid brought me a neat hat for vegas with a band that identified the Chicago Bears. Keith and his wife are big sports fans. I looked quite the character. But I am not a football fan. The hat kept generating football conversations, the kind where they ask you about past game results, or team chances. Iâ€™m possibly the only male in America who knows so little about football. Asking me about a teamâ€™s chances is like asking the Amish how to tune up your caddy. So the conversations were a little odd. The final irony was at the Orleans Lounge. My buddy struck up a conversation with a pretty woman from Israel after recognizing her accent. He had family in Israel not far from where she had been raised, so we joined her at the table and I expected some interesting conversation. What did she ask me? Only questions about American football!!! A Packers fan from Israel. GAMBLING Iâ€™m giving up the live poker in casinos. I donâ€™t know if it is me, or so many locals, or being tired, or the high rake, but in the first three days I was down $600 and it took me the rest of the two weeks playing VP to catch up and leave down $237. I find the 10/7 VP with perfect strategy a paying game in spite of the volatility. It is volatile, but I can get back. I get to think on every hand. And as solitary as it might seem, I meet other players, especially at the Palms. This time a cute little of duty waitress and I played together for a while and then I met a local woman who teaches special ed. In live poker everyone is an adversary. No royals in VP. A girl in live poker at Monte Carlo had a royal for a $1340 bonus payment. My second favorite game is craps when it is $1 on the line and $10 behind at the Fiesta Henderson, and I am trying to set the dice. This time I dominated the table. I played my slow hedge system until the dice came to me and soon only two were left, the other fellow passing the dice to me. I just was in that groove. FREE AND ADVANTAGEOUS RISKS The Monte Carlo free slot tournament is still the best deal. My buddy hit it for Lance Burton tickets one day, $100 toward a meal in the steakhouse on another, and $100 in the drawing on a third day. In between he hit the Fiesta Henderson Blackjack tournament (free with LVA printout coupons-rebuys $5) for $250. I tried the video poker tournament there and caught 4- jacks for a little decorative plate. Played plenty of matchplays from coupon books or wherever I could find them. Caught one in a cookie going in the Golden Gate and another by asking the waitress after a meal at Ellis Island. The Stratosphere changed their funbook and matchplays so only one can be used per hotel stay. They must be run by the slot club booth and noted on your playerâ€™s card. They also advertise a Viva Las Vegas deal with $10 in gaming chips. Donâ€™tâ€™ believe it. You get a ten dollar, one time, paper to play which is removed either way. Stick with the $5.95 with drink deals for that show. Mailings from Fiesta Henderson include some matchplays. Played LAS VEGAS CLUB for the scratch card promos but no free rooms. I did go to the big end of the year drawing and enjoyed it although I did not win the $10,000 or any smaller prizes. I never seem to be in town for those final Grandslam type draws. It was exciting. One morning my video poker machine was roped in for carpet cleaning. But attendent Juliet got me permission to play anyway. Just as the fellow was moving in the regular chairs, I hit the Aces. That Juliet is a real treasure. She took time to get me a duplicate card so I did not wake my room mate and a place to play and was so personable. I must write the LVC and tell them. At the Tuccany, playing all night video poker, I got every quad except the 7-8-9 for the free tee shirt and finally they took pity on me and gave me one. SHOWS: Saw the Folies again with free tickets caught on the free pull. I won the magic show but asked for the Follies and they gave it to me, but not the 10 PM topless show until I asked a long time and a lot of people. Great seats and a fine show. Saw Viva Las Vegas again and enjoyed it, but I see it too often. Hard not to take people, and it is so cheap. Enjoyed Divalicious, free at the Fitzgeraldâ€™s and drink just $3. Enjoyed the comedy at the Palace Station on a 2-1. In the lounges saw Jazmyn again but the lead Singer, sweet and sexy Debbie was less able to experiment with her voice at Mandalay Bay Island Lounge than at Brendanâ€™s Irish pub for Blues night. That strip lounge crowd ignores the music anyway so there is a constant din of talk competing. Caught Smith Brothers and Bruce Conti and a few other acts. That Conti is great! At Tuscany caught a latin group but missed the name. The place was full of people, perhaps a Latin Dance class who could really dance. Great to watch! I saw an Irish band for Jazz night at Brendonâ€™s Irish pub. Go figure! TIME SHARE EVALUATION: I should say that I started out not very interested in time share deals, so I am not objective. Overall, I see how it might be a draw for some people, but it does not meet my needs. It was nice of my buddy Mike to invite me, so I could experience the timeshare without all the hard sell and get a sense of it from the inside, without some obnoxious salesperson there telling me how to think about it. But here is what I think: 1. Too isolated: We were too far from any casino action. There was a shuttle to Harrahâ€™s until late evening. But if I wanted to play VP for an hour before breakfast or after midnight, while by buddy slept, I needed a car. Walking home from the Tuscany at 2AM was perhaps not as bad a risk as walking the Atlantic City Boardwalk, but a bad idea just the same. I stuck to the median in the middle of the road and hoped that the pimp, loudly chastising his Ho for her â€œattitudeâ€ did not take much notice of me as I sauntered by. The timeshare price is often compared to strip priced property. Strip properties offer immediate access to gambling, shows, all activities. These are not the same experiences. Off strip casino/hotels offer a more similar experience at much less cost. 2. Rooms were more spacious and comfortable than the hotel rooms I rent. Two bathrooms was great. This would be great if you wanted to bring lots of people to Vegas to share a room with you. A Jacuzzi in the master suite is a nice addition. 3. Workout rooms and pool were just adequate; they compare to those in low priced casinos like the Stratosphere and the Plaza. Two treadmills, three bikes (only one recumbent) One stepper and one television for all of those. Three weight machines. No outside view. There was nothing like the experience in the Orleans spa. And it seemed that the time share folks really used these facilities, so they would crowd up fast. The casino places have been deserted when Iâ€™ve used them. I never had to wait my turn. 4. Too much business going on. Maybe because they were still selling a newly opened tower. On my way to the pool, Iâ€™d walk by business offices and salepersons hovered around tables with perspective buyers. While swimming, Iâ€™d se perspective buyers would walk by in groups and look around or be given a terrace view of the pool. I did not like being on display. 5. Actually the most animated pool crowd was the group of salespersons on break talking strategy. Everyone else seemed just a bit too reserved for a Vegas pool. 6. Having a kitchen is an advantage in some cities, or if you have large crowds, but in Vegas I want to eat out. 7. Certainly nice to have a laundry. 8. No lifeguards. No fitness attendant unless I went looking for one. Contrast the Orleans where a fellow greets me the second day by name, asks if everything is fine and if there is anything else I need beside a hundred ice cold bottles of water, fresh fruit, two kinds of juice, razors, cologne, foot powder, spa magazines..well you get the picture. 9. Competition in Vegas for gamblers keeps everything in top condition. Once all the time shares are sold, what is the motivation to keep things in perfect shape? My buddy had some issues he will pursue with management. Things like a flood in the parking garage untouched for a week. If you own something, then there is always some responsibility for monitoring it and seeing things are taken care of. If I rent in Vegas and my place displeases, I just go somewhere else. And I canâ€™t imagine that the timeshare will decide to implode and rebuild from bottom to top when the structure ages. 10. I also like it that I can change my plans 48 hours in advance with any casino reservation. This trip started as one week and then expanded to two as people decided to join me. I changed my reservation four times just at the Las Vegas Club to match my guests, even getting two rooms for one night to accommodate the three of us comfortably. In other towns this might be expensive. In Vegas, most weeks, I can do it cheaply. This week, even with the two rooms cost me $60, which is the monthy maintenance fee my buddy pays at the time share all year around. My last thirteen days were free. In fact, Iâ€™ll bet that my five thirteen day stays in Vegas this year were had for less than the timeshare yearly maintenance fees. 11. I think that timeshare resale is a gamble. Prices might go up, and then it is an investment that pays off, or twenty years down the line you might be hoping to get what you payed for it. Then it is a loss. 12. My buddy says there are 29 places in the country he can go and use his time share. To another buddy who rarely travels that seemed like a lot. What Iâ€™ve discovered in retirement is that I canâ€™t predict where I want to go. A ukelele concert determined my last destination where I ended up eating homemade blueberry pancakes at a B and B with a German Chef and an Englishman in the music business. I guess I want to be free to plan my trips and I trust I can find a way to do it inexpensively in many places. If tomorrow, I become disabled and have to stay home, or I fall in love with Europe or Central America, my travel money is not all tied up in a finite number of places. Finally, I like the variety of being different places and meeting all sorts of people out on holiday. I am planning now for Vegas in December and I canâ€™t decide where I want to stay, if I want to bother with a car, where I want to position myself for maximum enjoyment. Those decisions are fun for me to make. If I owned a timeshare, most of them would be determined before I planned the vacation. But thanks Mike. You canâ€™t know if you donâ€™t try.