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May 2019 Trip Report - Featuring - Ethel M's Garden, Testing my lucky pig, the Naked Man

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by zignerlv, May 31, 2019.

  1. zignerlv

    zignerlv High-Roller

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    My Trip Report

    I'll start with my usual disclaimer:
    My reports concentrate on people, places and things we encounter on our trips. Although I play a lot, especially video poker, I find any trip reports filled with details of royal flush near misses (which are very common btw), ordinary four of a kinds, etc, to be boring. As such, I don't post much on my play and do not post pictures of hands. If those things are important to you, it's probably best to skip reading this report!

    Unlike the trend of people looking to make income off others viewing their trip reporting, I receive no financial benefit for posting this report, just like 99% of us! My reports, however, are my property and not to be copied to other websites.

    I will be posting this in probably 2 parts to this thread as I finish it up. The complete report will be posted on my trip blog https://deamonlv.blogspot.com/ in the coming days. One section of the report will be posted on the blog only.



    Ethel M's Cactus Garden

    It has been many years since we had taken a trip to Ethel M's cactus garden at any time other than Christmas season at night. Since the weather was mild, and we were relatively close by, we visited again. Being Spring, it was a good time to go, as many varieties were in full bloom!

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    Downtown Market is Closed

    I believe I was the first to post after visiting the Downtown Market after it opened in 2014, across from El Cortez. There was a thread or two on it how people thought it was a great idea, and that they wanted to visit and shop there. But, I can count the actual posts where people actually mentioned visiting it for real on one hand. After subsequent visits I reported the conditions, predicting it wouldn't last given the empty shelves and lack of customers. September 2016 - "Prediction - Downtown market will close" https://deamonlv.blogspot.com/2016/10/september-2016-trip-report-killer_6.html#market

    Then I reported last October when they reduced their square footage by about 2/3rds, yet still had many partially empty shelves. Well, no surprise then that the Downtown Market has now fully closed, yet I haven't seen a single mention of this closing mentioned anywhere. The only surprising thing is that it stayed open this long. The closing couldn't be recent because Siam Square Thai Food opened in its place on February 20th.

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    Testing my lucky pig!

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    In my last trip report, I wrote about receiving a Chinese New Year Jeweled Pig in the middle of a bad, losing trip. Subsequently, I hit two royal flushes in less than 24 hours, and then hit another one on my next short trip to Atlantic City. Since then, I have not played until this trip. Of course, I packed my jeweled pig for this trip, and was hoping her powers would still be working.

    This was a 7 day trip, and days 1 & 2 were losers, but not outrageously bad. I have a hate-hate relationship with NSUD video poker, as I nearly always lose despite playing it on a machine with a good payscale. On day one I managed to hit four deuces, for the mini jackpot, yet managed to have a losing day (inducing more hatred for the game)! On day two I faced an early decision playing Double Double Bonus, as I hit a ridiculous amount of four of a kinds in the first hour or so. In the last trip I took my profits when this happened, and moved to play the rest of the day at much lower volatility games and protected my win. Hindsight is 20/20, and this time my initial luck was so quick that I wanted to give this game a longer shot before switching over, but it cost me, as I ended up being down for the day. I ended on a good note when I played the last 15 minutes of the day back at double double, and hit four 4's with a kicker to cut the losses, and called it a day. I admit, I was starting to question my lucky pig.



    Food highlights

    Bellagio buffet breakfast/lunch


    Time and time again I've read in reports and reviews about the Bellagio buffet being no longer a premium buffet, for reasons including supposedly now having self served beverages and no servers. Well my experience was that while all buffets have changes over time, this one is still near the top.

    The ironic part is that on this occasion, I can say that we received the BEST service ever at any buffet, at any time, by our server at the Bellagio! Ironic, because others have mentioned in reviews that there was no longer any beverage service! We found while there are self serve beverages available, the servers were still coming by each table to take orders for drinks, making this the best of both worlds, immediate self service, and waiter service.

    Forgive the focus issue, but I built a nice dish with smoked salmon, tomato, guacamole on a half mini bagel with a dab of creme cheese, which I came up with on the spot, and was my favorite bite. The picture doesn't do it justice.

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    We stayed until the lunch items were brought out, and I snapped two pics of something you won't see at lower end buffets. Sure, Bellagio is no longer a premium buffet, I'm sure they have a similar area at Palace Station's buffet, right? (heavy sarcasm)

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    Aquarius Laughlin Brunch

    There was a recent trip report posted by someone that mentioned that they heard great things in advance about Aquarius' weekend seafood brunch crab legs. I had advised that they were going to be disappointed. However, in that trip report it they reported that the crab legs were excellent during the visit. I made sure to note them in this trip's visit and snapped the following picture which I think says all! I have never seen such skinny low quality crab legs before. These are small even for snow crab legs! While the shrimp at the brunch are actually very plump and tasty, the crab legs have more weight in their shells than meat inside, and are very salty. I will maintain my negative review on these!

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    Emeril's New Orleans Fish House

    This was the first time we've eaten here, and part of the attraction is that like Bobby Flay's Mesa in Caesars, the pricing is relatively reasonable. For appetizers, we went with his classic BBQ shrimp and a bowl of gumbo, both excellent!

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    For me, the entree highlight of the week was the lobster pot pie that we had there, but again, the picture will not do it justice. It was a deconstructed take. The server brings over a pot with the contents, and pours it over a puffy pastry shell which then deflates with the weight and moisture. The sauce/broth in particular was light and delicious, and nothing like the gluey contents you'd find in a chicken pot pie. Mini onions and mushrooms, and other assorted veggies were part of the lobster mix as well.

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    Our other entree was his famous pecan crusted redfish over grits.

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    Finally, we split the legendary Banana Creme Pie, which is a must try dessert, and easily an all time top dessert for me, which we first tasted many years ago in New Orleans.

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    Second Street Grill - Last of the Boyd value restaurants

    We had dinner at one of our favorite long time restaurants, and really one of the last of the Boyd value restaurants, Second Street Grill. One by one Boyd has redone most of the restaurants at each property, and when they re-open the good values are gone, the prices are up, and the menus are a la carte. So far the Fremont restaurants are untouched. The dinners include the most amazing sour dough bread with butter or garlic eggplant spread they make, which is amazing. The entrees come complete with a salad, starch and veggies, and the pricing is old school. My go to there is the Ahi Tuna, which is $30, and in these days, sounds insane.

    Crab cakes appetizer

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    Blackened Ahi Tuna

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    Rack of lamb

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    In lieu of dessert we each had a cappuccino, and it was the best one I've ever had. I don't think you could even compare theirs to Starbucks version in the same breath.



    Bellagio Conservatory


    Favorite flower in the current exhibit

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    Special limited time "lit cigar" exhibit at Bellagio
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    Boars Head Bar discussion - Main St Station

    I played a while at the Main Street Station Boars Head bar. I managed to be entertained by the two men, each travelling solo and meeting each other for the first time. One had a LOT to say. I just bore down at the machine and played while listening to some gems. I learned (true?) that if flying back to the US from London, you are better off flying to Amsterdam, and then to the US to save on airfare. He liked Amsterdam, did not partake in the red light district, but would go there to "research" how the girls marketed themselves to the men! (I had to try hard from keeping from laughing out loud when I heard that one!)

    One of my favorite parts of the conversation was when the big talker discussed his current international travel philosophy. He doesn't travel much anymore in part because he found that when you travel, you find that people in the other countries are just like "you and me", so that really travel wasn't very interesting or worthwhile! Oh, I said to myself, this was going to be a fun session! He talked about how he traveled to Las Vegas from the Midwest two 4-5 day trips a month with his wife remaining home alone!

    To add to the experience, I should mention that the big talker resembled a slightly slimmer, younger, Wilford Brimley, including his voice! So picture hearing the above coming from Wilford, for the full picture!

    The other gentleman told a story about how he was in Australia for a period of time, and met a woman who was at the time naked on the beach. They had a long-ish term relationship until one of her friends told her, when he goes back to the US, your relationship will end, so why are you in it? She must have agreed, as she ended the relationship right there.

    I know I am next to alone on this thinking, but please, I do not understand how seeing pictures of 4 four of a kinds can be more interesting than overhearing this conversation. In 2 years, will anyone remember that they got X four of kinds on the X day of their trip in 2019? However, in 2 years, I will still be entertained thinking back to this conversation!

    Having said that, I had a run of four of a kinds at the bar, requiring waits for scratch cards, including about 3 in 15 minutes (and 10 of those minutes was time waiting for the attendant to bring the scratch cards). I figured I'd get some comments from the bar mates, but they just went on with their stories seemingly without noticing, which was fine by me!


    Random Notes:

    I've always been fascinated by these dust devils that stir up on the dry lake on the road to Laughlin. We missed taking a photo when it was at its peak, but got this one before it died out.

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    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
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  2. Syringe Monkey

    Syringe Monkey Hero of the Baggage Carousel...

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    Diggin' the cacti and Pitcher Plants.
     
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  3. bshowell

    bshowell VIP Whale

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    Well, I'm entertained by your TR!
     
    Dunno what trip this is or where we're staying 100% but WHOO HOO!!
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  4. carolineno

    carolineno VIP Whale

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    Oh I love Ethel M's! Sad about the Downtown Market, I like that little area.
     
    Part One - Ballys Strip View!
    Part Two - Aria Sky Suite!
  5. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Good stuff so far!
     
  6. Sonya

    Sonya Queen of VMB

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    Nice blooms at Ethel M's. Lucky to be there when it's happening.
     
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  7. UnicornTX

    UnicornTX Low-Roller

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    Interesting so far, following along.
     
    I was born on Friday the 13th. My lucky day!
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  8. luck.ofthe.draw

    luck.ofthe.draw VIP Whale

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    Thank you for the Ethel M’s pictures!! Gorgeous!
     
    Annual Trip with Boyfriend & Family - Vision Expo 2019!
    Possibly Some 4th of July fun! Pre-gaming for my birthday!
  9. miss_sonja

    miss_sonja High-Roller

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    I do enjoy those overheard bar convos.
     
    First Comp, I couldn't NOT book it, could I?
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  10. Housecat

    Housecat Low-Roller

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    Agree with the Bellagio boofay rating, still one of my fav boofays on the strip. That emerils food looks so good...
     
  11. spicole

    spicole No shirt, no shoes... NO DICE!

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    I'm adding "boofay" to my Vegas vocabulary!
     
    Great Western Road Trip 2019!!!
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  12. btodd

    btodd High-Roller

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    Great report, always love the bar top conversations!!
     
    PGA Shriners Open for third great year!
    Last Minute trip to celebrate daughter's 21st!
  13. zignerlv

    zignerlv High-Roller

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    Thanks for the comments, all. Wasn't sure if I would be the only one who appreciated the bar chatter. Glad I put it in.

    I probably should have added to the report that the big talker reminded me of a slightly slimmer, younger, Wilford Brimley, even his voice, which made the experience even more entertaining!

    I should have Part 2 up tomorrow or Monday AM.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
  14. marcianofan

    marcianofan Low-Roller

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    Haven’t been to Ethel’s in many years but I’m always thinking about going back , after seeing the pictures I’ll make sure to do it next trip!!! And I do agree with you on the pictures of VP hands, unless it’s a royal it’s just ehhhhh to me (but there sure is a lot of vp players on VMB and god bless them) but even ehhhhhh pictures of Vegas and gambling that we’ve all seen many times is nice when we’re stuck at home counting days until the next trip. Thanks for the pictures...
     
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  15. zignerlv

    zignerlv High-Roller

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    Full report is now posted at https://deamonlv.blogspot.com/2019/06/may-2019-trip-report-featuring-testing.html

    I will be copying about 75% of the content here. The blog includes an Atlantic City Epilogue as well as the other 25% of the report not posted here.


    ....... Part 2

    On day 3, I played relatively early and was dealt a straight flush before breakfast. This was my first straight flush of the year, despite having 3 royals! After that, it was pretty much downhill for late morning and afternoon. Then, just before dinner I held two to a royal, and my pig took over, giving me a royal flush!

    I made sure my pig could not see the name of this establishment below. Obviously it would be too upsetting for her!

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    "The Smashed Pig"


    Day 4 was uneventful, with a small loss. Day 5 wasn't going that well, and although I had already hit one royal flush for the week, I was a bit frustrated, as I was counting on my pig to provide another during this week long trip. I started calling out to my lucky pig while drawing 3 or 4 to a royal, but it wasn't helping. I was losing faith in her!

    We saw this bride playing blackjack, but what was really notable is that no one from the wedding party, including the husband, was anywhere near her. She was totally alone playing heads up in her wedding gown!

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    The sign on his cart says all!
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    My quirky "fan"

    As I played on this long day 5, I encountered an interesting fellow near my machine. Some background first. I like to load the machine with a nice bankroll to start a long session, as it is easier to track wins/loss vs repeatedly, periodically (painfully) sliding bills into to the machine over and over. If I get some decent hands early, my total might look to a stranger like I was way up when in fact I wasn't.

    I was playing, minding my business when I heard a voice from behind me "you got the straight flush?". It caught me by surprise. "What was that?", I asked, not understanding the context, as I did not hit a straight flush on this day. "You must have hit a straight flush, eh?" I then realized he probably saw my credit total, and had assumed that I must have hit a straight flush to get this level of credits on the machine. I paused, turned slightly and just said "no", and turned back to play, not wanting to strike up a conversation with this potentially nosy person.

    About 20 hands later, I sensed someone nearby behind me. This same guy was now sitting at a slot machine seat in the row behind me, intently watching my every hand. I don't mind someone pausing and watching a few hands, but when someone parks and my play becomes a stranger's entertainment, I draw the line. Just then, the player next to me left his seat. The "watcher" pounced in, plopped down in the seat next to me, slid a bill into the machine , and played a couple of quick hands, with one or two credits a hand. At times he made impulsive quirky noises and quick, nervous hand motions as he played. Then, just as quickly, he got up from the machine and returned to the seat behind me to watch me. This upped the creepy factor, so I stood up and cashed out, figuring this would give him no more reason to stay, and he would move on. Surprisingly, he then sat down at the machine I was playing and continued to play a credit or two on each hand, for about 20 minutes. I left the area for a while.

    A bit later, when I returned to the machine that I had been playing, another customer was playing in that seat, so I instead sat at a machine in the next row, and continued to play. I was losing, but not badly. But, if the rest of the week kept going like this I'd likely be down at the end of the week despite a royal flush.

    About 10 minutes later, holding 2 to a royal (again) my pig came through for me again, with yet another royal, the 5th royal flush since I obtained my lucky pig in February! Ironically, by giving me reason to take a break from play, which then led me to play at a different machine, the creepy guy was indirectly "responsible" for me hitting this royal! I started apologizing to my lucky pig for doubting that her luck had worn off!

    Day 6 and 7 both started off good and ended badly. Usually on a week long trip, I have a least one and sometimes two days of wins without a royal flush. On this trip the only winning days were on days were I had royal flushes. I guess that is a good "problem" to have.

    My 2019 Lucky Pig Royal Flush scorecard is:
    - 0 Royals holding 4 cards
    - 1 Royal holding 3 cards
    - 3 Royals holding 2 cards
    - 1 Royal holding 1 card
    - 0 Royals dealt



    The side gate to the Circa construction site was open for a few minutes, so I snapped a quick one of the ramp leading down to the basement of the construction.

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    Electric Daisy Carnival

    I realized that the end of our trip coincided with the beginning of the EDC festival in Las Vegas. I thought that maybe by staying at the south end of the strip for the last two days it would minimize the impact, but I was wrong, as some of the hotels there had pre festival events, drawing many EDC customers.

    Raider Stadium under construction
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    The subject of the festival came up at bars at the Golden Nugget. The bartenders discussed how it was very popular time for bartenders to take vacation. The reason is that the EDC customers fill the hotels, displacing regular customers. Even more of a factor is that according to the bartenders, many of the EDC customers don't have money to spend on gambling and drinks, but instead sit or walk up to the bars asking and expecting to be served complimentary water as they recovered from the prior long night out. Even if they were to be served a glass, they usually don't tip. The result is the worst tipping income weekend of the year for bartenders! One of the bartenders was teasing the other because he had the wrong date for the festival, and took the wrong weekend off. So, he had to unexpectedly work EDC weekend.

    Another disappointing EDC story was the negative impact on local businesses. The local TV news station interviewed a couple of business owners, including one a diner owner, who said that they would close for the EDC weekend! This because the EDC customers in prior years filled his business, filling up tables, sleeping in the booths, and ordering next to no food. He had trouble asking them to leave as they would stay for hours, some without having hotel rooms for the festival. Since there was so little revenue that weekend, and he still had to pay his staff, it made more sense to just close the business during the festival days than to deal with all the headaches!


    More Random Notes

    - Can you imagine having the need for this sign in a hotel room? Almost certainly the signs were made up due to a prior incident(s). "Hey Dad, time to turn the steaks?" "Gee Son, I can't really tell with all the smoke in the room!"

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    - I defy anyone to spend a day of play at the Four Queens without hearing "Bette Davis Eyes" playing on the casino's sound system. I further defy you to hear the song in any other casino!

    - I've really thought about creating a blog recording history of casino's nickle and dime savings efforts. My latest "favorites" are how casino hotels are stocking smaller and smaller soaps. A special shout out award goes to the Aquarius in Laughlin, which gives you one small bar of soap that you are to use both at the sink, AND in the shower. So if someone wants to wash their hands while someone else is taking a shower, they won't have soap! Well done Aquarius!
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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  16. casinokid68

    casinokid68 VIP Whale

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    Perhaps the groom is somewhere there under the table?:wink2:
     
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  17. casinokid68

    casinokid68 VIP Whale

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    Very interesting report. Love your writing style. And 2 Royal Flushes? Man, I need to look for a "pig" to bring to Vegas with me on my next trip.:haha:
     
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  18. zignerlv

    zignerlv High-Roller

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    Thanks! Two, yes! I cannot guarantee that any pig will bring you this luck. I can only vouch for mine!

    It doesn't look like too many people read the blog version where I wrote about the naked man, and the nice drawing win in the following week.

    And today, I updated the TR to cover my trip to Foxwoods last week.

    https://deamonlv.blogspot.com/2019/06/may-2019-trip-report-featuring-testing.html
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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