A little background: This is my second trip to Las Vegas. My first was a quick 48-hour stopover with the family on the way to San Francisco last August. We stayed at Mandalay Bay and had a great time despite the 107-degree weather, and I was severely bitten by the Vegas bug. So when my buddies and I were planning our annual 4-day Spring Training trip to Florida, I was trying to decide whether to replace it with a trip to Vegas when I came upon a brainstormâ€”weâ€™ll do both! Two of us (out of three) were turning 50 this year, so this would be our birthday trip. We invited the wives to fly out and join us in Vegas, but they declined, probably not wanting to be embarrassed by our behavior. So after four great days in South Florida, we headed over to the Fort Lauderdale airport to board the 8:25 PM flight to Vegas on America West. The flight was on time, fairly smooth (except for some thunderstorms over Texas) and longâ€”almost 5 Â½ hours. We arrived in Las Vegas about 10:45 PM local time, which was almost 2:00 AM to us, but when I saw that skyline, the adrenaline started to kick in. We took the Dollar Shuttle over to their lot to get our rental car, but they were all out of full-size cars, so we had to settle for a PT Cruiser. The lady said we could return it the next day for another car, but I knew we wouldnâ€™t take the time to do that; besides we only needed it for getting around to the casinos. We checked in at the Orleans and received our funbooks and buffet coupons that came with the $30/night LA Times deal. Since there were three of us, and the rooms were so cheap, we got two rooms which included four free buffets. We had a little mini-tournament that night of blackjack, craps, and video poker to see who would get the king-bed single room. Needless to say, soon after the contest I was trudging off to my room with my roommate. The rooms were quite spacious, with two queen-size beds and a sofa and coffee table. Our room, 1024, had a great view of the Strip. I especially liked the window in the shower that would open for some fresh air and sounds of the city waking up (if a city never sleeps, does it wake up?). Even though I got to bed late, I was still up early enough Wednesday morning to take advantage of the $.99 graveyard breakfast special at the Courtyard CafÃ©, served from midnight to 7:00 AM every day. Two eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns, and toast for less than a buckâ€”and you can add steak or ham for another dollar. After cleaning my plate, I did a tour of the casino in search of full-pay deuces wild machines. The main reason I decided to stay at the Orleans was to try my hand at video poker (ok, ok, the real reason was the cocktail waitresses, but I wanted to play video poker too). I had studied the charts and played innumerable demo games, so I was extremely disappointed to read 5-Cardâ€™s posting that all full-pay deuces wild machines had just been removed from the Orleans the week before. And he was right, I couldnâ€™t find any. So I settled in to play a little blackjack and managed to donate about $100 to the Orleansâ€™ coffers. Then it was time to drive over to Harrahâ€™s to catch the 1:00 Mac King show. We got our discount tickets at the Carnaval Court and by the time we got to the showroom, it was filling up fast. After a tip, the maitre dâ€™ squeezed us into some seats right in front of the stage which were great for me, but unnerved one of my buddies who was afraid he was going to be pulled up on stage. For anyone who has not seen Mac King, let me tell you, he is incredible. His magic is terrific, and I was laughing the whole time. Being right next to the action enhanced the experience, Iâ€™m sure. After that great show, we walked down to the Barbary Coast where I was able to find my full-pay deuces wild. I played for a while and was just about to stop to listen to Big Elvis when I hit a wild royal, so I was able to cash out for a $60 profit. We watched the first half of the Large Kingâ€™s show and I was quite impressed with his voiceâ€”the guy really sounds like Elvis. He only got out of his chair a few times to shake his 500 pounds, and I had to wonder where he was able to buy a jeweled jumpsuit that size. We said, â€œThank-you-very-muchâ€ to Elvis and walked back to Harrahâ€™s to pick up our car and drive back to the Orleans. We hit the buffet a little early because we thought it might be crowded, and using our free tickets discovered it was steak night. The steak was nothing special, but there were plenty of other choices around along with a great selection of desserts. And food just tastes better when itâ€™s free. From there, we headed over to Fremont Street, parking at the Golden Gate. We were too stuffed to get the $.99 shrimp cocktail, so we walked out to the street and caught the overhead light show. There were lots of things going on Fremont Street; as we walked down we stopped and listened to two different bands along the way. One of the boys wanted to play craps at the El Cortez, so we walked away from the relative safety of Fremont Street into a little seedier part of town where we passed two guys handcuffed next to a police cruiser. Once there, two of us lost some more money at blackjack, while the other one made a few bucks at the craps table. The El Cortez will definitely never be confused with Bellagio, but it has an earthy charm all its own. We returned to the Orleans from there, and actually got to bed at a reasonable hour. On Thursday, I was up again early enough to get the breakfast special, and soon after, we were on our way to the Gamblersâ€™ General Store. They have a great assortment of cards, chips, and books, and we were fantasizing about how that full-size craps table would look in our homes. From there it was on to the Palms Casino. I found a nice bank of full-pay deuces wild machines, while my buds fanned out to the blackjack tables and the sports book. I popped in $60, played for a few hours, and cashed out for $60â€”no damage done today, but I was definitely enjoying the VP. From there, we headed across the street to the Rio where we were going to get tickets to the 3:00 PM Ronn Lucas show. I had some discount coupons for the show, but when I asked someone at the casino where to go to buy the tickets, she gave me a better dealâ€”$6.95 per ticket, which included a drink. She also gave me the same deal on Mac King tickets, which was a better deal than we got the day before. We didnâ€™t get close-up seats this time, and we didnâ€™t think his show was as good as Mac Kingâ€™s, but the middle part of the show, when he pulled someone out of the audience, was quite funny. And certainly worth the price of admission. After the show, we drove over to Ellis Island to sample the famous steak dinner deal. Although we arrived at 5:00, they informed us there would be about an hour wait to be seated, but who cares, weâ€™re in a casino. We played craps for a while, then were called for dinner after about 45 minutes. Thursday was the day for the Porterhouse special--$3.95 for a Porterhouse steak, baked potato, vegetable, and salad. The boys were skeptical, but they were believers by the time the meal was overâ€”a delicious meal at an incredible price. After dinner, it was time for some sightseeing, so we drove to the Barbary Coast and left the car there while we took off on foot. We walked through Bellagio and saw two of the fountain shows (amazing!), up to Caesarâ€™s Palace and went through the shopping mall (impressive), then across to the Venetian and walked around the shops and the canals (dazzling). Then it was back to the Orleans, where I decided time was getting short, so I planted myself at a $25 blackjack table for some late-night investing. I bought in for $200, received 8 $25 chips, and after 10 hands of blackjack, I had one chip left. I fought back for a while, even going up $50 at one point, but the dealer had too many hot streaks and eventually, I was cleaned out. It was tough going to bed after such a lackluster performance, but I hoped I could turn things around on my last day tomorrow. Because of my late-evening charitable contribution, I didnâ€™t make the breakfast special on Friday morning, but even at full price at the cafÃ© was still inexpensive. We gathered our belongings and checked out of the hotel and headed back to the Palms. I wanted to make one more assault on the video poker machines, so I put in $60 at about 11:00 AM and, except for a half-hour lunch break, stayed there until 5:00 PM. I stayed between $20 and $100 most of the time, hoping to get 4 deuces for $250 or a natural royal for $1,200 (the Palms has a progressive jackpot for a natural). In one cruel twist, I had three parts of a royal in one hand, drew two cards and ended up with 9-J-Q-K-A of spades. Arrrrgggghhhh!! I finally went on a bad streak at the end and lost my $60. But at least I lost a lot slower at video poker than I did at blackjack. Since we had one buffet coupon left for the Orleans, we went back there for dinner and got another free buffet coupon from my buddyâ€™s video blackjack play on his slot card. So we only had to pay for one buffet split among the three of us. At dinner, I figured I was down almost $400, and since we were leaving in a few hours on the 11:15 PM flight back to DC, I had one last chance to cut into the deficit. After our meal, I was right back at the blackjack table and, for once, my luck was turning around. I was up almost $200 at one point, but by the time we were getting ready to leave, I was only up $100. I had noticed that no one had been at the $100 table all night, so I took my $100 profit and walked over to see what it would feel like to be a high roller for one hand. I figured if I lost, I wouldnâ€™t be any worse off than when I started the evening, but the dealer dealt me a nice 20 to her 17, and she placed that handsome black chip down in my circle. Now what should I do, one more hand? Why not, Iâ€™m a high roller now. The dealer dealt me A-2-A-7=21 for another $100. Not wanting to press my luck, I gave her a $25 tip, got into my Limo (I mean, PT Cruiser) and headed to the airport. It was a lot nicer ride back to the East Coast knowing I ended up on high note, almost breaking even for the trip. Final Thoughts: Las Vegas is such a great bargain if you donâ€™t lose your shirt in the casinoâ€”My 1/3 portion of our total cost for 2 hotel rooms (three nights), food, rental car, and 2 shows was less than $150. Mac King is the best bargain around. In fact, I still have four Mac King tickets for $6.95 per person (includes one drink). If anyone wants them, let me know. The Orleans is a great, inexpensive place to stay. I just wish they hadnâ€™t taken out the good VP machines. Walking around the canals at the Venetian is not romantic when youâ€™re walking with two other ugly guys. Thanks to everyone on this board for giving me all the great ideas on where to go.