Trip Report Paris 4/14-4/17 I started writing this and it got really long before I knew it. So I am doing a two parter. Hereâ€™s part one: This was a trip that my wife 'J' and I started to plan after the holidays in celebration of our 10th anniversary. We havenâ€™t been to Vegas in about 5 years so we are looking forward to seeing the new places. It would also include stops in San Francisco to drop off our kids with my parents and pick them up on the way back to Seattle. Pre-trip I originally planned to book a package with MGM Mirage Vacations for 3 nights at the MGM with airfare traveling out of Oakland for about $700. All the combinations of trying to put it together individually were more expensive. I check with America West Vacations to see their price and see that they have a sale through the end of January. MGM is about $640 at AWV and $700 can put us at Paris. As it is 1/29, I book the package for Paris confident I found a good deal. Several days later I check their website to see how much the price has gone up, but I find that the price has actually dropped $45. This gets me steamed as one would expect that once the sale period was over the price would have went up. Itâ€™s not like it was a going out of business sale. Had there been no indication of a sale, I would not have been upset. I wrote a letter (and faxed it) to the CEO of America West and my thoughts about their pricing policy. I thought it was very professionally worded and stated my position clearly. To date, I have not received a reply. As written in previous posts, I planned to get my wife a nice ring, as ten years ago, well you get the picture. I have decided early on, that I want to go all out and get her something from Tiffanyâ€™s. Two problems: how do I spend that much money without my wife noticing and how do I get the ring from Seattle, to SF and then to Vegas without my wife finding it. I ended up using some stock options from work to fund the purchase and the local Tiffanyâ€™s was kind enough to send the ring to the Las Vegas store at the Bellagio. I should also mention that I am a huge baseball fan. (I guess the board name does give it away). Born in San Francisco, I am foremost a Giants fan and have been to at least one game a season for over 35 years. Living in Seattle for the last 7 years has made it tough, but I still manage to see at least one game. So we plan to take in a game in SF, before going to Vegas. 4/12 Monday J, our two kids, and I get picked up by a car service and arrive in plenty of time for a Noon flight from Seattle to Oakland on Southwest. Security and the flight are no problem. We get â€œBâ€ tickets but since our youngest is under 5, we donâ€™t have to line up and we get to pre-board as well. My Dad picks us all up and brings us into SF. My parents have some relatives over for dinner. The kids are tired when everyone leaves so we call it an early night. 4/13 Tuesday We spend the morning at the SF Zoo with my Mom, my sister, and her oldest of two. In the afternoon, J and I do some last minute shopping for some things we want to bring to Vegas. That evening J, my oldest, my sister, my Dad and I see the Giants take on the Milwaukee Brewers at SBC Park. For baseball fans anywhere, the park is a must see. Giants win 4-2 and the highlight of the game is Barry Bondsâ€™ homer out of the park into Mc Covey cove/San Francisco Bay. Itâ€™s the 661st HR of his career putting him in 3rd place all time with only Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron ahead of him. 4/14 Wednesday My Dad drops J and me off at the Oakland airport in plenty of time for a 9:30 AM flight on America West. The flight is very bumpy on take off and landing. (Also, this is one of the places I might have left a library book on Holdâ€™em. I hate having to buy a book Iâ€™ve lost. It defeats the whole purpose of going to the library in the first place. ) We are off the plane a little before 11:00 AM. J and I walk down to baggage claim. I leave her at the carousel and I go and find the airport check in for the Caesarâ€™s properties. There are just a few people in line and I donâ€™t have to wait long. I ask if there are any upgrades available as I give Priscilla my credit card with the $20 underneath. I also explain itâ€™s my 10th anniversary. She places my credit card and cash next to her and tells me she will see what she can do. She says she has a room thatâ€™s ready on the 12th floor overlooking the pool, the Eiffel Tower and Bellagio in view. She pockets the $$ and gets me the keys. I thank her and go and meet J who got the bags while I was away. Side Note: We didnâ€™t get a suite, but got a standard room with a great strip view and that was ready before 11:15 AM. I had mixed feelings when I discovered this when we get to the room. Give and take I guess. Next time I will be more specific in my upgrade request. It also may have been the best the Priscilla could have done. She clearly did not put the money in her pocket until she was sure she could do something for me. As part of the America West package, I pre-purchased RT transportation to and from the Airport on Couch USA/Greyline. They were very easy to find and got us going pretty quickly. It was one of those 25 people jobs with every seat filled. The driver tries to get us going with a little trivia. â€œName the four states that have capitals that start with the same letter.â€ I shout Dover, Delaware immediately. He mixes in clues and humor as he asks questions. Aside from J and me, only a few others chime in with answers as he asks more questions. The driver is definitely driving to make $$ in his quest to be a stand-up. Come on people, weâ€™re in Vegas have some fun! First stop Aladdin and a few get off. Second stop Paris, we off with a few more couples. Of this group we are the only ones who checked in at the airport. Gotta do your research people! We take a few minutes to get oriented as we find our way to the elevators and our room. We drop off our bags and go downstairs to cash some travelerâ€™s checks. Little did we know at the time that it would be the only time we needed to cash any for gambling funds. We then catch a cab to the Venetian for 2:30 PM reservations at Delmonicoâ€™s. I waited too long to get dinner reservations so we do lunch here instead. Everything goes so smoothly with the flight and check in that we are at Delmonicoâ€™s before 1:00 PM. I ask if they can take us early. No problem right in. Aside from a private party of 15 or so Real Estate agents, the place is pretty much empty. The main dining area is maybe 35% full. J has the Bone in NY strip and I get the Rib Eye without the bone. We start with Homemade Mozzarella Bruschetta and add mashed potatoes and green beans to go with the steaks. These steaks were not the best we have ever had, but pretty close. Their homemade Worchester sauce was the best I have ever had. J has the first good quote of the trip: â€œThis steak is so good; I want to pick it up and eat it like a dog!â€ We skip dessert (soon to be an ongoing theme) and settle the bill in cash. After lunch we walk around the casino and sit at a $10 blackjack table. Relatively quickly we both lose about $50 and decide to head out. We walk along the shopping area and see some of the shops as well as the indoor gondola rides. To tell you the truth, I was expecting a little more that it really is, back and forth in a straight line. The plan is to walk outside and make our way back to Paris and gamble here and there along the way. First stop Casino Royal. As soon as we get inside, J is accosted by a timeshare representative. I try to give her the â€˜high signâ€™, but she quickly discovers why they are willing to give us show tickets and walks away. We walk over to the tables and she sits at a $5 blackjack and I go over to the craps tables. The dealer at my end of the table looked like an old high school math teacher who should have retired 15 years ago. You know the kind, has no idea what the students are doing in class because he canâ€™t see or hear. One time the stick had to scream at him 4 or 5 times â€œ$4 change your first!â€ before he finally paid it. I was placing the 6 and 8 after the point was established and then placing one or two come bets. I was planning to use the place bet proceeds to press the odds on the come bets (take advantage of the 100X odds). I was treading water at first. I like dealers who notice your betting habits and can anticipate. If the line went down, the math teacher would pay my come bet, place half of it on the line and give me the rest. After about the third time I wanted to tell him, â€œHave you seen me put a bet on the line since I have been here?â€, but I knew he wouldnâ€™t hear me. We finally get a shooter and I make back the $50 I dropped at the Venetian plus another $50 or so. J walks over and says sheâ€™s getting creamed at the table. She goes and signs up for a playerâ€™s card. When she gets back we head on out. She makes a quick visit to the cosmetics store by the Venetian and picks a few things up. We next head to Harrahâ€™s. Donâ€™t worry Mikey; we didnâ€™t spend much time here. We walk through and look around heading for the other side of the casino. I make a stop in the restroom and J says sheâ€™ll wait for me in the bar. She gets a drink and plays some VP. When I get there, I buy in for $5 and try to play that Keno strategy I read in another post (pick 4 spots and play 25 cents). I give up after several games and play some VP. I hit a few flushes and 3 of a kinds and cash out for $12. J burns through another $10. Next we head to IP. This place has been on my â€˜donâ€™t set foot in there againâ€™ for sometime. I have always had bad luck in here and I just remember it being a dark run down place. Well, I will be the first to say when I am wrong. Either my memory is bad or they have cleaned the place up. The main casino floor looked nice and kept up. The tables and chairs looked well maintained. I am pretty sure that I only tipped the cocktail waitress $2 for my first beer, but she kept coming by at regular intervals with refills like I was toking with red chips. We start at a $5 blackjack table with a shoe and do pretty good. I ask the dealer about the Champaign Pit. He explains that itâ€™s really just a reason to have the dealers dress differently (Think Blues Brothers without the jacket). We go over as I find out they have double deck blackjack at $5 paying 3-2 on blackjack. J stays at the table for sometime as I split time between blackjack and craps. J finally gets some luck at blackjack and gets most of what she dropped so far back. I go up and down and in the end I think I leave with the same amount of cash. Too late I notice that the dealer at the double deck table is dealing two hands to the table before shuffling. Too late I say, because I could have taken advantage of it as J wanted to move on. I look at the cards on the first hand. If there were a low amount of tens and aces (less than 5), then I would increase my bet on the second hand. It worked like a charm the three times I was able to take advantage of it. As we leave I make a note that we should come back here, but we never make it north of Caesarâ€™s for the rest of the trip. Next stop Barbary Coast. I was hoping we would get to see Big Elvis, but we spent so much time at IP that itâ€™s now past 6:00 PM by the time we get here. We sit at a $5 kiddy blackjack table (you know the low ones) and by the time our drinks get to us our buy ins are gone. I go to the crap table and get a little back. J stays at blackjack for a few more minutes and yanks me away from the craps table as she canâ€™t get out of there fast enough. I walk out of the BC with my drink in hand and wonder how much glassware casinos go through because of what I am doing and thousands of others do each day. For some reason, I feel the right thing to do is go back inside and leave my glass on the first slot machine inside the door and I do just that. We head over to Ballyâ€™s and play a little blackjack and some craps for me. I think I treaded water here too and J made some money back. I am getting tired at this point as we have been up since 5:00 AM and on the go. Itâ€™s probably why I donâ€™t remember how we did. Anyway we walk through the connection to Paris and J complains for the first time and not the last, that the uneven cobblestones are a bad idea for women in heels. As we passed the $1,000,000 on display, I wonder if the serial numbers on the bills are recorded or if the money itself is marked. We sign up for the playerâ€™s card and then head up to the room. We kick back for awhile and relax. From our room we can see some of the Bellagio fountain show and definitely hear the music. Even though we had a huge meal at lunch, we are both now hungry and go looking for somewhere to eat that is quick and not so formal. We walk south on the Strip and go into the Aladdin. We take a quick look around and donâ€™t find anything interesting as far as food. We walk further and go into Game Works, but it looks like the kitchen is closed. We finally settle on the MGM coffee shop at about 10:00 PM. When we are done, I want to head over to the Monte Carlo and check out the poker room. We go over the pedestrian bridge and go through NY, NY to MC. At first glance, MC looks a little worn out. The blackjack tables could use some new felt and the carpet could use some changing. We play some blackjack and I add some craps in too. I check out the poker room with plans to play the next day as itâ€™s almost midnight now. As we leave we are both up about $100 for the day. We hoof it back to Paris and call it a night. 4/15 Thursday Iâ€™m up and dressed by 7:30. J plans to sleep in and get her hair done at the Mandara Spa in the hotel and meet me wherever I am around Noon. I plan to play poker for most of the morning at MC. I check downstairs at Paris and all the quick places to grab breakfast are jammed packed and decide to grab something somewhere else. I play a few hands of blackjack and drop a quick $20. I head over to the craps table and buy in for $100. This early in the morning itâ€™s still a $5 minimum. I wait for the shooter to go down as I am next. I put five on the line, only ten behind on a point of 5. I also have $17 inside. A floor supervisor comes up and asks me if I have a card. I give it to him and think geez I only have $32 of action going, but I will take what I can get. He gives me back his card and shows me his name tag. We have the same name! He says â€œI bet you 30% of your mail comes addressed XXâ€ (a common name that often gets substituted for ours) I tell him â€œNo, 50%â€ We share a laugh and he goes about his business. I hit a few numbers and go down. A few rollers later, a guy gets hot. He is standing next to the stick and does a cool little throw. He stacks the dice and then flips them over his shoulder. It looks sort of a half Dating Game kiss they did at the end of the show. He makes a four, another four, and a ten for his first three points with plenty of numbers in between. Iâ€™m pressing my bets after each hit now. I have about $100 of action on the table when he finally goes down. I color up ahead $200 for about 45 minutes worth of work. I look to check out with my namesake but heâ€™s not in the pit and all the other times I try to find him the rest of the trip he is not there either. Damn, I was sure that he would be good with some comps. Oh well. I head outside towards MC. Itâ€™s windy! When I get to MC, I hit the food court and grab a Mcâ€™Ds breakfast. Too late I see a bagel place two places down. I get to the poker room just before 9:00 AM. Even though I am comfortable at the tables, I figure taking the daily lesson and playing with some other newbies will be easy on the wallet. I hit it off with a local, an older gentleman, who got knocked out of the tournament going on early. Heâ€™s got a ton of stories and keeps the table entertained the whole time heâ€™s there. There are about 5 other people who come for the lesson. The poker room host (Susan I think her name was) does it off the cuff, but gives a good picture of how holdâ€™em works and how to bet. We start a live game soon afterwards ($2-$4). I buy in for a rack as does most, but one guy only buys in for $20 and another for $60. I win an early pot when I flopped a set of Kings and raised to eliminate those on the draw. I mention it because it was the only time the whole trip it worked. The $20 goes out pretty early, but after that we trade pots back and forth for the next two hours. The old timer notices this and mentioned that he thinks its cool everyone is having fun and no one has had to rebuy. Heâ€™s 100% right. I had a blast. The MC poker room is cool. The rake is 3% or $3.00 max. At the $2-$4 table you only have to post the big blind, no small blind. Itâ€™s tucked away in the corner. Itâ€™s relatively quiet and restrooms are steps away. The dealers all ask your name and use it as you play. Itâ€™s a nice touch. J shows up at about 10:30 AM having gotten an early hair appointment. He calls to me from just outside the room to get my attention. One of the poker hosts quickly invites her in and places a chair right behind me so she can sit and watch. (Another nice touch.) She watches for a few minutes and heads out for some blackjack. About this time another regular shows up with plenty of stories. It turns out heâ€™s a frequent visitor to Vegas. He tells this story at the 7 card stud table and at our table when he gets there. Heâ€™s loud enough to probably hear it in the sports book next door too. He tells us how his wife dragged him to Celine Dion last night, $360 for the both of them. The show was supposed to start at 8:00 PM and they make it clear if you are not seated when the show begins, you will not be seated until 15 minutes in. This show didnâ€™t start until 8:40. This guyâ€™s theory is that it gives them more time to sell the $7.00 bottles of water they are hawking. He says youâ€™re trapped. You canâ€™t go to the restroom because the show might start and who wants to miss some of a show you dropped almost $400 on. Then there is nothing else to do but spend $7 on water that WILL make you leave your seat eventually. He also says that his wife had to elbow him a few times to wake him up. He also mentioned the stage is so huge that you can hardly see Celine herself. The other old timer says the only show worth seeing right now is Mamma Mia at Mandalay Bay. I am doing OK until one hand. I get JJ. The flop comes KKJ. I have Jacks over Kings with only two hands that can beat me. I check raise on the flop which knocks out everyone but another newbie, a woman who has been getting cards all morning. The turn and river are blanks. She slow plays me (I think it was intentional and sheâ€™s a little more seasoned than she let on) and shows KJ. One guy shakes his head and says â€œBoy that was a bad beat.â€ I play a few more hands before J comes by to get my. For this poker session Iâ€™m down $40, but had a great time. We head over to Mandalay Bay via the monorail from Excalibur. J wants to check out the shopping area and I tag along because I want to check out the Art of Shaving store. I find out they are booked for the day but can get me in at 7:00 PM. J says go for it and I make the appointment. I follow her to a few more stores and she says go off and meet me in 45 minutes (1:30 PM). I think sheâ€™s trying to be nice, but in retrospect she needs the time for my anniversary gift. I tell her I will meet her at the House of Blues box office. I go and check out the poker room just to look since I donâ€™t have much time. Itâ€™s very nice and I make a note to come and play next time we are in town. I head over to the craps table and buy in for $100. I get clobbered quickly and am down to $25, but for the 2nd time today I get a hot shooter. He goes down 2 minutes before I need to meet J. I color up ahead $175. I look up and realize I have no idea where to go. I call J on her cell and say â€œIâ€™m turned around. Donâ€™t move I will eventually get there.â€ I find the cage and cash out and finally see HOB signs ahead. I show her my winnings and then notice that the Mandalay Box office is just across the way from HOB. I say â€œLetâ€™s see if we can get in to Mamma Mia tonight. With this craps session, itâ€™ll be like its free!â€ Robert who was working the counter says he has seats available. We settle on two at $82.50 each. He also tells me to stop by before the show and he will see if he can get us better seats for the same price. I make a mental note that the max I will give him is $10 after he switches the tickets. I am still a little gun shy from the $20 trick. J asks me if I am hungry and I suddenly realize that I havenâ€™t eaten since 8:30 AM. We plan to head back to Paris and pick up the ACG so we can use it at Ellis Island. We walk all the way back, stopping at M&M World to pick up some stuff for the kids. We pass on the actual M&Ms however, $8.00 a pound? J wants to stop at Aladdin for some quick shopping. She sends me ahead to drop off the M&M purchases and get the ACG. We plan to meet by the Playerâ€™s Club counter. I get to our floor and they are still cleaning some of the rooms in our hallway. Our room is done nicely, but I know it was after 1:00 PM when it got done. On the way back downstairs, I stop and ask the housekeeper in the hall if she had done our room. She says yes and I hand her $5 and thank her. She smiles, thanks me and I head off to meet J. Side Note: The next morning the room was cleaned by 9:30 AM with extra towels and all our stuff arranged and straightened out. We walk through Ballyâ€™s, out the back door and go down to Koval and Ellis Island. There is a short line of people waiting for the 4:00 PM BBQ special, but we are famished and decide to sit and pass on the BBQ. Once we get a table I go and sign up for the playerâ€™s card so I can use the ACG coupons. The guy behind me in line asks if he can put his name of the application as he gets 5000 points for the referral. I let him and he signs his name in the wrong spot, but luckily the woman at the counter doesnâ€™t make me fill it out again. As I had steak yesterday and will have steak tomorrow at Mon Ami Gabi, I pass on the steak special and get pasta with meatballs. J gets the Fried Shrimp. The steak special may not be on the menu, but itâ€™s advertised everywhere else in the casino. After we order I go over to the bar to use the 4 free drink coupon in the ACG. The bartender says I have to get all four drinks at once. I get a draft of the ale and a shot of tequila for J. I get a double Baileyâ€™s on the rocks. I tip her a buck and carry everything back to the restaurant. Back at the table we now have two waters, a Root Beer which I wanted to try since they make it there and the three glasses I just brought over. The food comes fairly quickly and I must say it was good. Straightforward down home cookinâ€™! With the ACG coupon, the bill comes to about $12 and I leave $17. We head over to the blackjack tables so I can use the ACG match play coupon. I pass on sitting at the $1 table as those types of players tend to stray very far away from basic strategy. I sit in the 2nd seat at the $5 table and am immediately accosted by the player at 1st base. He is a Phish fan (and I am pretty sure he is not of age). He is definitely three sheets to the wind and providing plenty of entertainment for the table. He tells me I need a fish sticker on my shirt. I am willing to play along and consent. He has a sheet of stickers with him with different kinds of fish. He puts one on me and one on J. In the 20 or so minutes we are at the table, I learn that he has seen Phish 78 times, he has tickets for tonight and Saturday and is on the hunt for tickets to Fridayâ€™s show, plus a lot more. He is too busy telling stories and putting stickers on people as they walk by to actually play his blackjack hands. So J starts telling him what to do: â€œhitâ€, â€œstayâ€, â€œtake your moneyâ€ etc. He follows the instructions as she says them and then continues with his stories. As this continues, the dealer starts to look at J for instructions on all his hands instead of the Phish fan. Right before we, leave (I leave even), Phish fan suddenly asks for the time. Itâ€™s about 5:00 someone says. He says he is supposed to pick up his buddy at the airport who is coming in for the show at 5:20, then drop off his bags where they are staying ( Phish fan suddenly realizes he is not clear on where he is staying) and get to the show at the Thomas and Mack. Everyone urges him to leave immediately, but he was still there when we left. We need to get back to the room, change and get over to MB for Mamma Mia at 7:00 PM. I want to be there by 6:30 so we can take Robert up on his offer. We try to catch a cab outside Ellis Island, but nothing is in sight so we hoof it back to Paris through Ballyâ€™s. After we change, I tell J we should catch a cab at Ballyâ€™s since getting out of Paris will probably be tough with the traffic. The line is relatively short at Ballyâ€™s and we hop in the cab. The driver tries to long haul us down the strip and I say take us down Koval is will be quicker. â€œOh you know your way around.â€ He says. I tell him I used to live in LA and have driven to Vegas many times and know many shortcuts around the strip. He takes us down Koval which doesnâ€™t have much traffic and I have him let us out at the THEHOTEL side of MB which I know is closer to the theater from earlier today. Just to make sure he knows that I know, I stiff him on the tip. Quick note on THEHOTEL: It looks cool. I love the dÃ©cor. We get to the theater and I see that Robert is working the will call counter and the line is 50 people deep. I try to catch his eye but quickly give up. We go in and take the seats we bought which were really not that bad. Had a great time at the show! If you love musicals and/or ABBA music, itâ€™s a must see. Wow this is already long! Part 2 to come soon!