Nine days, wow, our longest trip yet. The offers kept coming, we were driving, we work for a University that was on break, why not? We had 5 days off of work BEFORE our trip to Vegas began. Okay, it included Christmas and stuff, but damn-n-n-n that was a long wait to leave. Weâ€™re leaving from the Sac area, this time of year down through Bakersfield in California, rather than the up over the Sierraâ€™s and down through Nevada. Weâ€™re anxious, so weâ€™re up and on the road at 5:30 AM. Nice drive, weâ€™ve learned the stinky cow spots and take the vents off of fresh (hah!) air in. Most of the rest stops are closed, so careful gas/food/pee combo stops are had. Our nine days begin with the Riviera for two, followed by Ballyâ€™s for 5 and ending with Encore for two. We have zero expectations for the Riv. Weâ€™ve stayed there many times in the past, though itâ€™s been several years, and this offer was a lure to â€œget us backâ€. The offer included a newly remodeled room, $25 in food, two show tickets and $200 in gas cards (however the gas cards had many hoops to jump). Man I hate the check-in at the Riviera. They are the meanest in town. They really donâ€™t give a $hit about customer service. Iâ€™ve actually come to expect hearing the reservationist insult and demean the confused customers. With a game to who is the nastiest worker there. They put you through this ridiculous self check-in that works for no one and confuses everyone. Honestly, I didnâ€™t see one person successfully â€œself check-inâ€. They all tried, they failed, they waited for one of the meanies, and then the meany made fun of them for all to hear, especially making fun when there was a language barrier if the folks were Asian or European. When it was our turn for abuse, the lady confirmed our room choice, wrong of course. I told her we wanted smoking (which we do in Las Vegas), she was mad. She corrected the room choice and I asked if it were a remodeled room as the offer stated. NO! You want a smoking room, none of our remodeled rooms are smoking. Well, I didnâ€™t even know if Iâ€™d actually smoke in there; but I wasnâ€™t going to have her change it again, so off we went to the Monte Carlo tower of old rooms. Now Iâ€™d been trying to stay in this tower forever, and now that it is relegated to â€œoldâ€ it is mine. Surprisingly, it was very nice. Large, clean, triple sheeting, and a very comfortable bed. Part of our paperwork included a begging letter stating how â€œgenerousâ€ Riviera had been to us in giving this promotion, and we needed to use our playerâ€™s cards while we played. We chose to stiff them. We had our â€œcan you believe weâ€™re in Vegas?â€ first drink, and headed to Ellis Island for our traditional BBQ dinner. Stanley was 600 points from HET platinum, so we left Ellis Island, which was not helping that cause, and went to Caesars. We had spent many hours practicing Rapid Roulette, hoping to find a game that would score us tier points while hedging our bets. Caesars had such a game, so we jumped in. I hated this experience on every level. First, Iâ€™m easily confused, and hate mechanics and a lot of sensory. I thought Iâ€™d go up and put some money in, my playerâ€™s card and punch a few bets, with sometime between for the re-bet. Nope. First, you canâ€™t put money in, the dealers take your money, and do some chip buy-in, transfer to machine, thing. Also, you canâ€™t put your card in, they do. Itâ€™s backwards to you, and shows no thread of points accumulating. You also donâ€™t see the ball going around physically, (though itâ€™s there) but only on a screen, which lands the ball AFTER the dealer already announces the number. So whatâ€™s the point? Stanley and I hedged our bets against each other, betting $11 each spin. We lost $100 in a half hour. We got one drink, and since the dealer had put my card in incorrectly, no points scored. Oh, and there was both a single green zero and the double zero on every game we saw on the strip. As usual, we lost more than we should have, being the first night and all, and then retired back to Riviera and bed. The next day, since we had only earned about 130 points on Stanleyâ€™s card so far, we were on a mission. Today we would only play HET properties until Platinum was made for him (I already have it, earned in the Tahoe area). Weâ€™re thinking two Platinumâ€™s might make a Diamond? Or at the minimum, I had the Tahoe area covered on offers, and he, Vegas. We began breakfast at the dreaded Emperorâ€™s buffet at Imperial Palace. Again, no expectations, and were pleasantly surprised with the quality of food- ACG coupon of B/G and the balance on points got us out for a $2 tip. I think their trick is they have only a few choices, so they are hot and fresh. Of course I wanted to sneak my coffee out and began plotting the strategy. When Stanley pointed out that not only was there a separate un-manned exit, the coffee was self-serve, I almost abandoned the game for lack of a challenge. Again, Imperial Palace was a nice gaming joint too. It had many of our fav games, ample cocktails and fun music heard above the slot machine noise. We hadnâ€™t been in here since a bartender with attitude (imagine that?), refused to comp our daughter a drink at the front bar, on her 21st birthday. In front of him, we put a C note in the 25 cent VP machine too. We wanted to show her how it was done. He wouldnâ€™t comp the drink, we paid the $6.50 for the mudslide, and havenâ€™t been back in 8 years. Anyway, we left here pretty even and with 200 more tier points. Next, it was Flamingo, 200 more points, some losses and time to cross the street to Caesars to bring home the Platinum. Correspondences from Vegas HET properties always start with an acknowledgment of our â€œhomeâ€ casino, Ballyâ€™s. If theyâ€™re going to give us a home, give us Caesarâ€™s! Thatâ€™s where Stanley got his card a couple of years ago, and it was only proper he should advance, and I should get Augustus tower rooms. Once accomplished, we took our poor losing selves back to Riviera, clutching the new Platinum card and feeling all that. We still had to spend the $25 food comp. Charge it to your room, it would magically come off the bill. Okay. We already had done a buffet that day, so we headed to Kadyâ€™s coffee shop. While waiting in a very long line of scary people, the fellow in front of me began digging in his nose. Now for some unrelated reason, I began to associate his nose adventures with Kadyâ€™s quality, and begged off. Walking a bit, we found their Asian restaurant (not my term, it actually says â€œAsian Restaurantâ€) and had a seat. The service was bad, the food was wonderful. We ordered up to the $25, and when putting it on the room, was told they donâ€™t do that. Okay. Food was good anyway. Bedtime. The next day we selected the cover show of Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra, showing that night, as our free show. We used the $25 for room service for breakfast, and checked out of Riviera, with a plan to return for the show that night. On to Ballyâ€™s for 5 days! I kind of sweated the North/South dichotomy of the Ballyâ€™s towers. We did not take them up on the offer to upgrade for $30 a night, at the advice of a blogger here. Since we were Platinum, I selected that empty line and proceeded to my namesake at the desk. After we laughed at our same name, made fun of our husbands, and became life-long friends, she pooh-poohed the silly room I had been assigned, and gave me a room with a view â€œI would really likeâ€. Cool, canâ€™t wait. Oh my gawd. It was on the 25th floor of 26 floors. These two floors were extended out with balconies and floor to ceiling, wall to wall, windows. We turned the sofa and large ottoman so that we were literally facing a wall of glass, staring at the Bellagio fountains. Okay, the stupid South Tower was in the middle, but HALF of the fountains were mine! If you didnâ€™t talk, have the TV on, and pressed your ear up to the glass, you could hear the music. We made a game out of identifying what the song was. And folks think thereâ€™s nothing to do but gamble here! Mission accomplished, we had a fine room, had achieved Platinum, so now we could get off the strip! We started with an ACG run on the North strip. Well, it wasnâ€™t the North strip, it was north; it was on Vegas Blvd, but WAY north, the other side of downtown. In all the years weâ€™ve been going to Vegas, we had never been in this area. But now I was armed with some pretty cool coupons, and thinking I was Yahtzee or Stungazed I began a coupon run. Stanley was skeptical, and didnâ€™t want to go to these places: Jerryâ€™s Nugget, Silver Nugget and the Opera House. But the coupons were good! $10 matchplays, $40 promo chips if you played $20, stuff like that. As we passed downtown and began our search for these casinos, we saw some of the saddest sights Iâ€™ve ever seen in this town. Whole areas of homeless communities, shopping cart parking lots for acres. The closest bathroom to this area was Jerryâ€™s. Hmmmâ€¦.no, letâ€™s keep going. Oh! Thereâ€™s the Silver Nugget, letâ€™s go there. We had to get a playerâ€™s card to use the BJ promos. After this, we found a $5 table, had a confused dealer call a grumpy pit critter, who eyed us suspiciously, and then made up some rules on how to use them, which involved me betting $10 at a time. I luckily got over 19 on each hand; however the dealer upped me by one on each hand too. In the space of 5 minutes, we were done, $80 poorer, as we headed for the doors. The dealer, pit critter and one other patron snickered, our backs burned as we made our wait out of the stank, and I apologized to Stanley. We did not stop at the Opera House. We had planned dinner at Magnoliaâ€™s at Four Queens, so we stopped downtown. We couldnâ€™t get a seat in Chicago Brew pub, so we, gasp! bought a beer to go. We played, lost for a couple of hours, running up to buy more beer, and then took a stroll around downtown, playing/losing as we went. When the IPA ran out, we returned to Magnoliaâ€™s for the prime rib and ACG coupon B/G. Good food, we eat here every trip with these coupons. However, this time, the cashier wouldnâ€™t take it without it being validated first. That was new. I smiled, grabbed the coupon and left Stanley standing there. I figured he would be my collateral. While in line Stanley walks up. You left?! Yeah, the cashier left, so I left. 15 minutes later, I had my coupon redeemed and took care of the check. The cashier really didnâ€™t care about my return. Weird. We promised ourselves we would do more BJ and Pai Gow, conserving the bankroll. A little gun shy from the ghetto run, Stanley still gave blackjack switch a try. 4 hands and $40 later, he say $%^! BJ. I agree, itâ€™s boring to us, and obviously not our game. Now itâ€™s time to return to the Riviera for the Barbra cover show. During our 2 night stay there, we didnâ€™t play any money. We donâ€™t usually stiff a place, but we figured Riviera isnâ€™t long for this world anyway. The show was in the teeny tiny little show room right next to the box office. I mean this was a small room, the smallest show room I have ever been in, and Iâ€™m including the kidâ€™s lunch room Christmas plays. The show was supposed to start at 8:30, with the doors open at 8. Late, at 9 they began seating. During the Â½ wait, we played for the first time, and actually won $30. First win of the trip. We took it in to buy the first round. They wouldnâ€™t let you carry drinks in this room, so we planned to get some beers. About 20 minutes before the show ended, a cocktail waitress came around, too late! This was my only complaint of the show, otherwise, it was really good. Iâ€™ve been to a lot of â€œcoverâ€ type shows, I mean, who hasnâ€™t who has gone to casinos for 20 + years? This was the best. The Barbra character was so like her in sound, gesture and humor, that I was actually thinking it was her. Now not intellectually thinking it was her, but emotionally. When she referred to her producing Yentl and asking who had seen it and who actually had it, I was pumping my hand in the air, yelling out like a nimrod. She wanted suggestions for songs, I yelled them out. Not like me at all. The Frank portion was just okay. Kind of a dick, but maybe the real guy was too. That was it for this day and we didnâ€™t even play on our return to Ballyâ€™s. Since we had 9 days here, we were careful not to overtire, over drink or play the family nest egg in one day. Besides the next day was New Yearâ€™s Eve! We knew it would be a late night, so we wanted to coast by taking in a movie. We had some gift certificates for the Century movies and Chiliâ€™s, so we headed south. The Chiliâ€™s was closed for problems, and the manager was outside handing us $5 Iâ€™m sorry things- On to South Point to their Baja restaurant, and then their cinema. We caught the Bond film, skipped popcorn due to the chips and salsa pigfest and had a nice respite from gambling. It was too early to head to our NYE casino of choice, Ellis Island, so we stopped at Silverton. I really like this casino, but never win here. I must actually like it for other reasons. We noticed it was getting dark and figured we better get our car to where it was going to sleep for the night, or forgetaboutit on NYE. Weâ€™ve had our cars locked up before, unaccessible on this night. We like watching the fireworks from the Ellis Island garage top. The crowd is goofy, the champagne flowing, and the view very good. But, we had the Ballyâ€™s room with a Bellagio/Caesar corner view, complete with nice sofa and a foot rest. So we werenâ€™t sure where weâ€™d end up. Our gambling dollars bled slower this night. We noticed a homeless (looking) guy playing one nickel at a time, slowly (not drinking), probably just trying to stay warm. When we left that area of machines, Stanley gave him $10 saying it must be that guys. At the rate he was playing, it would have got him through the night. I hope he hit a royal! By 11 we decided to grab some Metro pizza and go back to the room where a bottle of wine was waiting for us. The trek back was fun, people tried to buy our pizza, I only let them smell it. We had our sofa positioned to the wall of glass, our feet up on the ottoman, wine in hand, pizza in stomach with a view Iâ€™ve never had before on this night. When the Ballyâ€™s sign began the countdown, the roar from the street broke through our glass, the people filled the street and looked up anxiously, and thenâ€¦.nothing. Well, some low floating fireworks behind Caesars, but that was all that was viewable from that corner. We spoke with folks on the street later, and they confirmed. The fireworks were a bust. The new regulations, placing them low, basically has ended something pretty spectacular. I wonder how this will affect next yearâ€™s turn-out? Anyway, New Yearâ€™s came in notwithstanding, we called our loved ones, terrorized them about our place in this moment in time, and called it a night. We had parked at Ellis Island the night before, for ease of coming and going. We returned for their delicious steak and eggs ($4.99) free with our points, and picked up the car. Once again we left the strip in hopes of finally having a winning day. We left $20 up from Ellis and were actually a bit giddy about our good fortune. We did our annual stop at Walgreens for their 75% of Christmas stuff, had fun, filled the trunk with next yearâ€™s paper and doo-dads, and continued on to the Eastside Cannery. They let me use the ACG coupon for new members even though I was a cannery member at the other joint. I even told her I had a card there, she said letâ€™s start over so I could get my freebie stuff. Scared me, Iâ€™ve never had a playerâ€™s card host be a human being, much less friendly. Her name was Edna and I love her. The first stop was the bar. They actually had Fat Tire beer, cool, this place is getting better all the time. We played and drank and enjoyed the newness, we left only a little down. Samâ€™s is a must this time of year, we like the atrium. After a meander through, we picked out machines where I could still see the lights. Within a few minutes, Stanley had his first 4OAK, then I did, then another and soon we were $300 up. Finally! We played a little more, preserved the win by stopping for dinner at Chiliâ€™s across the street, and went back to Ballyâ€™s. Again we did not play, but watched a movie via our DVD player hooked into their TV. The next morning we thought weâ€™d better get some HET points in for this 5 day comp over NYE (well, we paid a little over $200 for the 5), so we began back at Imperial Palace. We tried the Emperorâ€™s buffet again, using a coupon, but the lady said we had no points. We knew we did, as Stanley had made Platinum this trip and we had also used some coupons for free slot play. You canâ€™t argue with them, so we paid the bill and the food didnâ€™t taste quite as good, ya know? After inquiring at Harrahâ€™s about the missing Total Rewards, she let us know they were there, just not at Imperial Palace, huh? Anyway, she said the lady only had to call and have them sent over, whatever, hope it doesnâ€™t happen to you. Itâ€™s aggravating, only two (real) meals we paid for were two we werenâ€™t supposed to (Riviera and Imperial Palace), so I guess I canâ€™t bitch. Well, I can, but Iâ€™ll stop now. After some play at Imperial Palace, we took some ACG coupons for 25 point play earning T-Shirts at Harrahâ€™s and Flamingo, these $300 T-shirts werenâ€™t what we expected. We were done with HET, so we gave Bellagio a go. Theyâ€™ve sure added a bunch more penny machines, we lost in short order, so visited Caesarâ€™s. Stanley won, I lost, we were done. That wonderful smell in Ballyâ€™s basement/shopping area finally won us over, we picked up some Sbarroâ€™s whatever, and ate in the room. Once again we had the Ellis Island steak and eggs and then returned to walk Paris and Ballyâ€™s. This was our 5th day here, and we had yet to gamble there. Iâ€™m not sure why. We walked around both casinoâ€™s played a $20 here and there, and split. We decided to take in another movie and see Aliante casino. We had gift certificates for Regal theatres, and this was the newest one in town. It was about Â½ hour drive, easy on the highway. We saw Twilight again, good movie and had some nasty popcorn. I mean nasty, burnt, hulls and seeds, all for $7.75 a bucket. Seriously, Iâ€™m still not over it. We liked the casino; I thought I was in Red Rock. Weâ€™ll go back, no we didnâ€™t win, but we were losing slow, and that has become to feel like a win. We decided to eat at Silvertonâ€™s buffet, we like it. It took Â½ hour on 215 to get there. The nasty popcorn would not leave our stomachâ€™s freeing up buffet room, so we didnâ€™t eat right away. We had to put our names on a list as Silverton is doing B/G meals all January, and are busy. We finally felt like we could eat at 9:01, the buffet closed at 9:00. WTF?! Isnâ€™t this Saturday night in Vegas? Shouldnâ€™t the name taking guy have told me when he took my name at 8:00 to come back in an hour? We left, got some Del taco and were fine. This whole trip weâ€™ve been double tipping, feeling bad for the lack of money and action for everyone. We have also been leaving the room for 4 straight days, at Ballyâ€™s by 9 AM. However, this day, check-out day, the maid set our alarm for 7:30 AM. They had given us a letter saying they expected heavy departures this day, she must have wanted to get her peeps out. After thinking about leaving a nasty note in place of the usual large tip, I changed my mind and left the tip. I didnâ€™t want the bad karma. Sigh. Today we move to Encore for our final 2 days. We could have taken 3, but we really needed to get back to work, so did not. I wish now we had. The parking was a little confusing, it is way down there, past all the entrances you think you should be turning in. We schlepped our own bags because I did not want to wait an hour to unpack. Most people also had their bags, but remember, these were some low class people checking in, I know, we were two of them. Apparently most of the offers went to non-players, or unknowns. It was four 3 free days, and $150 slot play, the offers that came later got $200. Check-in was smooth, with at least 4 people acknowledging us with little worry lines over their foreheads: concern that we had to wait a few minutes. Dorothy we were not in Kansas (Riviera) anymore. Stanley doesnâ€™t really like Wynn. I think it was because of the non-existent drink service we experienced the first few times there. He also didnâ€™t care for the dÃ©cor. He didnâ€™t feel the same about Encore, liking it, love both. As we exited the elevator on floor 34, I marveled at the pretty halls, we werenâ€™t even in the room yet and I was excited! This was my favorite room. Weâ€™ve stayed at most Vegas properties, the best 1200 sq feet suites in Tahoe, nice places around the states, but there was something about this room that beat them all. Like most faux suites (Rio and Venetian), there is not a separate bedroom, but this one was MORE separate than the others. Or, it was one big room allowing you to see out your WALL OF GLASS from your bed, if you turned the TV to a sideways position of an inch or so. Our view was of the golf course, and quite pretty. We marveled for a few minutes, then decided to hit the Red Club before everyone else went for their free slot play and the lines got too long. Before our butts were even planted at the first machine and the slot play, a cocktail waitress was taking our order. I cashed out $120 of the $150, and moved on. After a few hours of play, we wanted to explore the room, so we went back and leisurely enjoyed the room and the wine we had left chilling. Hunger took over, but we didnâ€™t want to leave the room. We ordered a Reuben sandwich to share, it was there in 20 minutes. Only $20, and nicely presented. He wouldnâ€™t let Stanley add more tip on, saying it was included. Amazing. We gave the casino one more go that night, beginning with the one of the bars. The casino was Â½ full, the bars empty. Hmmâ€¦..I asked the bartender about comped drinks. He said as of now, no drinks were comped at ANY Wynn/Encore bar. Well, it showed. The bars were dead, and the bartenders desperate looking. If they are not going to comp, take out the games! Youâ€™re just going to make people mad (especially when you can order $12 Couvoisier at the neighboring penny machine.) We played the triple play dollar machines for a few dollars a pull, stayed pretty even and turned in early. We played the morning to get my card up to over 500 for the buffet. Once accomplished, we got the buffets comped for that night, and left to see another movie at Boulder Station. We stopped at Chiliâ€™s for lunch, finishing off the gift certificate, tried to see that Curious Benjamin (Brad Pitt) movie at Boulder, but it wasnâ€™t there. Instead we visited a casino bar where there was Sierra Pale Ale on tap and a talkative bartender. He asked where we were staying, and we told him where weâ€™d been, including where we were currently. He wasnâ€™t surprised that Wynn was not comping drinks, but he was surprised he didnâ€™t know it was a losing proposition. He said MGM has tried something in the past, and gave up the notion. From the looks of things at Wynnâ€™s bars, it wonâ€™t last either. We won here at Boulder, then continued on to try Eastside Cannery again. We didnâ€™t do much here, I think we were getting bored of the chase, only happy to play certain games, so we headed back to where we really wanted to be anyway. Encore. It was too early for our buffet dinner, so we played. Stanley saw a sign that said if you get 750 or more points in one day, you got a special rate on future rooms. So we set out to do that on his card. Weâ€™d play, check out the ridiculous line at the buffet, go back and play, and return. We ended up eating after 9 PM. It wasnâ€™t good. Cold food, the crab was watery and tasteless, the service was bad. It was free, so it wasnâ€™t the money, maybe it was our choices? Anyway, we earned another buffet for two on Stanleyâ€™s card, and weâ€™ll try again for lunch next time, no seafood choices, I think. I did take out the coffee, having to act a little crazy to keep folks away from me, and played for another hour. We got his 750 + points, so weâ€™ll see what offers come our way. I now get the Wynn experience, and may be willing to pay more for it. Itâ€™s something having your every need met, plus more, and in comfort. I donâ€™t know, those free HET rooms may not cut it anymore, unless itâ€™s the higher end Caesarâ€™s or maybe Paris. This was quite the losing trip for us: 1 winning day out of 9. It was also one of the best weâ€™ve had. Nine days is not too many, you get into a groove. We slept 9 hours almost every day. Since most of the trip was free on food and hotels, drinks and entertainment, the only cost was gambling: STILL less than any place in California for a comparable stay. We drove home the next day planning our next yearâ€™s Christmas stay. Weâ€™re booked for Labor Day, but may do an impromptu trip if Encore beckons with another good offerâ€¦â€¦.