For years I have been going to Vegas at least once a year. A few years ago, with so many deals and comps, I realized that I could go for over 20 days once a year rather than two or three times a year for shorter periods, and so get the best value of the airfare. So that has been my habit these past few years. Today I changed the habit. This year’s trip will be to Blackhawk, Colorado. I don’t mean to blame Vegas for their part in my decision. I understand it is just business. I suspect that a frugal guy like me won’t be missed. And it was a difficult choice. Had even just Boyd come over with my usual comped rooms, I would have gone to Vegas. And I don’t mean that I’m suggesting others should make the same decision as I did. However, I did think it was perhaps helpful to share all the factors that led to my canceling my airfare and hotels today and rebooking to Blackhawk, CO. Some of the issues are just unique to me. I can’t really embrace Vegas food the way I once did. The diabetes holds me back. There are buffets in Blackhawk. I don’t drink as much as I once did or some days at all. When I turned 70, I had a new midlife crisis. I realized that if I were going to see any new places in the world, I had better act instead of just dream. That pushed me to go to Madrid this past spring. And in Madrid I had a grand time. http://spaintravelswithpaco.blogspot.com/ But some have to do with a radically changing Vegas, one harder and harder to work for a good, frugal deal. Comps dried up. Resort fees, Early check in fees, Obscure fees added to food and drink, parking fees, the end of really free drinks, well...you know the story. The last bits of gambling have faded a bit too. The live poker is less a consuming passion in my life, but those limit poker rooms are drying up. The free drinks are going to comps based on play. Full pay VP I find harder and harder to find in Vegas, and lately good pays don’t seem to generate the kind of room offers I have enjoyed, offers I was getting even just last year. Back a decade ago, I could play full pay double bonus at El Cortez, run just a $1000 through the machine each day, and be assured of three free nights for me and three for whoever I might like to bring as well. There were not resort fees clouding that value. Even last year play at Sam’s Town and the Orleans managed 5 free nights with no resort fee. This year all that dried up completely. Boyd changed its marketing. Years back I could play live poker at the Flamingo and generate cheap (under $20) strip rooms at Imperial Palace. No resort fees. Now, I the only deal on the strip I can get is from MyVegas, and there I have to pay the resort fee, and perhaps an early check in fee. Fees on the strip have just destroyed the fine, free aspects of Vegas. And prices are very high. Downtown once was a great hub for me, with plenty of buses, and cheap rooms. The Four Queens and the D both comped me a couple nights. Now they don’t. So, when I booked my trip for this coming October/ November, I could not get one free or half priced room anywhere. And when I added up what it would cost me to go, I was shocked. Last year, it cost me on average $28 per night for my rooms. That opportunity is gone. Now the best average I could get is about $70. American Casino Guide room deals have dried up. Even Laughlin stopped comping me. Their rooms are cheap, until I add in the price of rental car to get there and back. Last year I had 5 nights in Laughlin for a total of $22. No free offers from Laughlin at all this year. Then there was the airfare. Southwest stopped running the nonstop 5 hour trip from Albany to Vegas. To get there now meant plane changes and about 8 hours. To change planes in Chicago in November is a risky bet. So many cancellations, and so many delays. I just flew nonstop to Madrid from Boston and those flights were 7-8 hours but included a free, old fashioned meal, sometimes twice, with wine, and constant access to free movies for entertainment. The new nonstop Western flight from Albany is to Denver. It is cheap. I booked today for $118 each way. I have a son who lives there and is just grand to visit. Sometimes he has a friend who will rent me a car. Sometimes, he is free enough to drive me around. **************************************************************** So, today I cut my airfare price over half and my time in the air by half on a nonstop to Denver. I’ll visit with my son who lives there and stay a few nights with him. Another son will meet me for a few days in Blackhawk. I treated myself and booked the top of the line hotel for about $140 a night during the week, and I’ll probably rent a car for a week to stay there. Ameristar has a fine indoor heated pool on the roof and gets all good reviews. The rest of the details need to be worked out, and my trip will be just 14 rather than over 20 days, but my total expenses won’t be much more than my annual Vegas trips and a good bit less of a hassle. This is more upscale than I usually roll. Yet, staying with my son for five nights and grabbing a cheap weekend room in Arvada, averages down the upscale hotel price for when my visiting son shares the room with me. Blackhawk VP is not very good anywhere. In quarters, Lady Luck seems the best, with 9/5 JOB in quarters and 9/7 Double Bonus. As does Saratoga. Full pay JOB in dollars drops close to the percentages of quarter 9/5 JOB if I play just one dollar a spin. 98.38% as compared to 98.45%. Monarch has a dime game for not so ugly deuces. Reserve has quarter Bonus Poker. The VP is no good at Ameristar. I expect I will be seeding play at the Lady Luck for cheaper offers next year. The live poker intrigues me. I never have the bankroll for no limit, and yet the rake destroys my ability to make money at low limit. Colorado has a law limiting a single bet to $100. So they have a 1-2-100 spread limit game that might be in my bankroll range, if the players are conservative and not frustrated no limit players acting like maniacs. It also might mean that the tougher no limit players don’t come to town to play these games. It is worth investigating. There are eight hiking trails in the area, and the town itself is an old Western mining town with still some of that flavor. http://www.blackhawkcolorado.com/ The buffets look good. There are lots of promotions for first time card folks that give reduced or free buffets. And the food choices seem pretty keen. The Monarch buffet includes a whole lobster it its evening meal. And then there is the factor of “utility”. This is a new adventure. This is a heated pool in winter on the roof of one grand hotel. This is a nonstop flight under 5 hours. This is a chance to touch base with my Denver son, connect him with his Chicago brother. So, It will be a new adventure. I’ll also get to see if I miss Vegas, so I know what to do next year. And it could become my new yearly go to destination for father/son time and a bit of gambling. We’ll see.