Rather than give a day-by-day accounting (which would rapidly become boorrriiiinnnnngggggg for a two-week visit) I'll touch upon the highlights, not necessarily in chronological order. Hope you like it ... ----------------------------------------------------------- - Sometimes you're the winshield, sometimes you're the bug ----------------------------------------------------------- Quarter FPDW is my primary play, I dabble in blackjack, and play craps when the urge hits me. The first five days, I hit five sets of quad ducks and had two "holy sh*t, look at all the small cards!" double-deck blackjack shuffles I was able to take advantage of. I found myself +1050 at the end of day 5 and thinking about cracking the 2k mark. I knew my lucky streak wouldn't continue forever, but I was on a roll and was going to take full advantage of it while it lasted! My lofty ambitions came crashing down rapidly when an 8 day losing streak followed. I backed off, dropping to nickel FPDW, cheap blackjack, cheap craps, small sports bets, and spending time by the pool, which enabled me to reduce what would have otherwise been catastrophic losses. At the end of day 13, I was at +400. No matter what I tried (I even resorted to video keno one morning!), I couldn't win. Coupons (see below) helped me keep my spirits up during this time. Looking back at my records, I lost $500 playing FPDW on days 6 through 13, $300 in quarters on days 6+7 followed by another $200 in nickels on days 8-13. And I got very little play for my money, too; it was mostly just one bad hand after another. Had I stayed at the quarter machines and gotten the same results, that $500 loss would have been $1,300. On my last day, I managed to have a winning day again with a small win of $25. I was playing hit-and-run, leaving whenever I got just a few dollars ahead. This was an attempt at therapy for my losing streak since I wanted to leave on a positive note. I managed to eek out small wins at nickel FPDW, cheap blackjack, and cheap craps by dinnertime, and spent the evening at the pool. So, I left knowing my last play at everything was a winner. Getting my ass handed to me after such a great start sucked, but from a financial perspective this was one of my best trips ever to Vegas. Total cost (airfare, hotel, rental car, gas, food, tips, misc.) was about $1,225, so subtract my $425 win and get a total cost of $800 for two weeks. Not too shabby... ------------ - Couponomy ------------ First of all, thanks again to those that traded coupons with me. This was the first time I'd ever subscribed to LVA and went on "coupon runs". Overall, the gambling coupons I played netted me about $150, and helped me keep my mood positive during my losing streak. In many places the pit critters would welcome the gambling coupons, though there were exceptions. Early in the trip (before my losing streak started), I would respond as follows: make me feel cheap, and I'm outta there as soon as I use the coupon; treat me well, and I'll hang around and play for a while (btw, both of the "small cards" sessions I mentioned above took place after starting with a coupon). After my losing streak started, however, I admit to playing the coupon and then leaving no matter what response I got; I was in survival mode. Places I was treated well: Sahara , the Fiestas, Imperial Palace, Frontier, Santa Fe Station, Hard Rock, Longhorn, Ellis Island, Nevada Landing, Poker Palace, and Terribles (craps table). Places I was made to feel cheap: Terribles (blackjack tables), Texas Station, Barley's, Plaza, and Cannery. Sahara was the best (I used several 50-40 coupons and was treated the same as anyone with "real" chips at all times); Barley's was the worst (pit critter demanded to see my id, muttering something about there being "millions of these things out there"). Best result: turned $10 free play into $60, won a $10 MP, and then another $50 at the Hard Rock; walked out the door +130 in about 20 minutes Worst result: going 1-for-9 in a matchplay run mid-strip and nearby (4 @ Imperial Palace, Ellis Island, 3 @ Terribles, Key Largo) Roller coaster result: with my Golden Gate 2-1 BJ coupon, I chose to play only $5/hand (this was towards the end of my losing streak). Chose a $5 shoe table (CSM table was full) and played head-up against the dealer the entire time. Bought in for $100, and was down to $20 at the end of the first shoe. You know the story, I have a stiff, dealer is showing a ten, I hit, I bust, repeat. I'm not sure exactly when my luck turned (I never "felt" any momentum shift), but I slowly clawed my way back to having $125 in front of me with about 5 minutes to go. I lost the next three hands, decided to quit, tipping the dealer $5 and taking a $5 profit for myself. I didn't keep exact track of the number of blackjacks I received, but it was somewhere around 7. -------------- - Tournaments -------------- I entered 11 tournaments: 4 video poker, 2 blackjack, 2 pai gow, and 3 slot tournaments. Free entry to all using coupons. A good thing, because I didn't even come close to winning any of them. At both blackjack tournaments and one pai gow, the dealer wiped the whole table out before the allotted number of hands had been played. Better luck next time ... ---------------------- - Paths Less Traveled ---------------------- Information about casinos, some new and some old, that are off the beaten path: 1) Longhorn: it isn't much to look at. The carpeting is about as worn and dirty as that at the Gold Spike, the clientele isn't much better, and the convex mirrored ceiling blocks make you think you're in an all-stainless-steel kitchen. But they have quarter FPDW, 0.2% CB, and are currently offering something called "quick start" where you get a free breakfast after earning 200 points, a free lunch after 300, and a free dinner after 400, all without redeeming any points. In July they were offering 2x points; in August it's 3x. I found the staff to be very friendly. If you're a quarter FPDW player, risk a $100 bill and unless your luck is unbelievably bad (at 3x points, you'll earn 300 points even if you lose every hand) you'll get at least three decent meals out of it. 2) Hacienda, Nevada Landing, Gold Strike: I last visited these casinos years ago when they were dumps and found them to all be drastically improved now. NL and GS I visited to use free ace coupons and eat their free buffet (how much would I have paid for the free buffet? about $3 thanks to the decent desserts, certainly not the $7.49 retail price!), and Hacienda during my losing streak when I didn't feel like going to the pool. I saw FPJW at the Hacienda; if my understanding of their slot club is correct, it's worth a drive out here to play. Didn't see anything playable at NL or GS, but I wasn't looking very hard either. 3) Casino MonteLago: I visited when the temp was approaching 110, so I didn't look around as much as I would have liked. It would appear to be a beautiful area. The casino itself is nothing special. All TITO is nice, but I couldn't find a VP machine to play that didn't have a glare problem. I'll reserve judgement on whether this is worth visiting for now until I return when the weather is cooler. 3) Cannery: way out on its own on Craig Road in North Las Vegas, I found nothing that would draw me back here. Some FPVP, the standard casino games, etc. Location is a problem for this joint; not near any highways. 4) Poker Palace: what a dump! I was drawn here by an LVA coupon for a free funbook. I walked in the door and took the coupon to the slot club booth. Slot club looks at me like I'm a martian and tells me to go to the cage. I wait forever in line at the cage while low-life's fingerprint checks and spin a bonus wheel. The cage examines my coupon (for so long I was wondering if they were going to make me fingerprint it), then gives me my funbook. Before arriving, I thought I might use some of the food coupons, but by now I'd decided to use the blackjack matchplays and split. Two tables open, one single deck "dealt all the way to the bottom" (blackjack pays even money) and one shoe game. As I start to remove the coupons, the pit lady (who I must say was very nice, I wonder why she is working in a dump like this?) came running over asking if I'd had the book validated. Turns out I had to go back to the slot club booth. Back to the slot club booth where my out-of-state license completely confuses the slot club clerk. After about 15 more minutes, I finally get a card with my name on it and some punches through the coupon book. Back to the shoe game about a half-hour after I first walked in the door. How long has the Poker Palace existed? The table felt was so dirty, it must have been "original". I win the first matchplays thanks to the idiot on my right (dealer showing a ten, I have hard 15, he hits hard 17 and gets a ten, I then draw a 6 to beat the dealer's 20), then the second. I lose the third but decide to hang around because the dealer can't count (she also wanted to pay quadruple on my match-play wins but the pit lady stopped her) and the idiot on my right has made three wrong decisions in a row and I find it amusing (especially since it seems to be helping me). Anyway, I'm dragging this out too long ... idiot finally seems to realize he's wrong, and I decide to leave +5 at the end of the shoe (considering the rookie dealer's skill, it would have taken 20 minutes to shuffle the cards). Back to the cage where I get a smile (whoah!). I leave the funbook on top of a slot machine in case someone else wants what's left and leave, never to return. 5) Fiesta Henderson: They've begun converting the jungle-themed rooms to a (presumably) mexican theme. The jungle paintings were removed from my room during my stay, and I saw plain brown carpeting on one of the floors instead of the leopard print. If you see leopard-print bedspreads or giraffe lamps on eBay, you'll know where they came from. And don't play any of the machines near where the pizza place used to be; the slot staff just ignores that section of the floor. I waited 45-minutes for a hopper fill one night, and the slot staff was mad at me when I took my time getting out of their way (yes, on purpose) when they finally showed up. Maybe it's just me because my luck was so bad there, but it seemed that the staff wasn't the same "happy" bunch they were in the past. A lot of new faces this time, and I didn't see any of the usual banter between staff and locals that I always saw in the past. The coffee shop was the only place I encountered the same friendly bunch from past visits. Oh well, I guess "all good things must come to an end". This has been my favorite casino for the past several years; it might be time for a change. 6) Plaza: not "off the beaten path", but I wanted to comment about it since it gets slammed a lot. I've read a lot of negative reviews about their rooms, and based upon this one stay, disagree. The room I had certainly wasn't Bellagio-quality, but it was clean, quiet, and comfortable. It's worth the $20/night they charge. The pit wasn't happy to see the matchplay coupons from their funbook, but I found the rest of the staff to be friendly and accomodating. I'd stay here again. ------------------------ - Enterprise Rent-a-Car ------------------------ I should subtitle this section "one good experience does not a trend make". This was my second time renting from Enterprise in LV (the first was was my last visit, about six months ago). Last time, I was very favorably impressed, so I though I'd try them again. I'd reserved a full-size car, which they were out of when I arrived. First they told me they'd give me a mini-van, which I told them I didn't want. Then they offered a compact at a discount, which I said was unacceptable (I'm not a small person). Then they grudgingly offered a Dodge Durango, which I accepted; I figured it would be better than a mini-van and I could always bring it back in a few days and exchange it for a car if I didn't like it. When they drew up the paperwork, I saw that it said "weekly: $260". I pointed out that my rate was $130 per week, and that that figure was for two weeks; was this correct? I was assured that it was correct; that the $260 figure was for two weeks, not one, it's just the wording their system uses. So off I go. As it turned out, I kept the Durango for the whole two weeks. I found it to be large, but not so large that parking it was a problem. Plenty of get-up-and-go when I stepped on the gas (gas mileage sucked, of course), and it never felt like it wanted to roll over. I didn't like the dashboard setup and wouldn't buy one of these, but it was ok for my two week visit. I forgot to mention ... playing in a VP tournament, I won one of those winshield sun reflectors for getting a 4oak. Too small to cover the whole winshield of the Durango, but helped to keep it somewhat cool. I also took a towel from my hotel room and draped it over the steering wheel whenever parked outside. At no time was I doing the "two-finger steer"! Upon returning the car, you guessed it ... I get charged $260 per week. Now, the clerk is feeding me some kind of "well, it would say BI-WEEKLY if that was for two weeks" line. I'm about to ask for the manager when she happens by. I explain to her what's happened, and that "your $130 rate was comparable to other companies when I made the reservation; I did NOT make a reservation for twice that amount". She takes care of it, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Next time I'm in town, back to Avis I will go. Avis is the only company in LV I've rented from multiple times that has gotten everything right every time. I've given this advice to others, and will follow it myself henceforth. ---------------- - Miscellaneous ---------------- 1) Want a full size craps table? There is/was one sitting in the Sahara's garage just before you exited the garage. As I drove by, I could see that the rubber-diamond wall and felt were gone, but it wouldn't be difficult to replace them. I briefly looked for cameras but didn't see any. So, if you've got a large truck and a few strong friends ... 2) Overheard while playing at the Longhorn: "I know this is ridiculous, but minors aren't allowed in the gaming area". I look to see who the security guard is talking to and see someone with a newborn baby (couldn't have been more than a few weeks old) in a carrier. 3) Playing blackjack at the Longhorn, I saw someone tip about $100 in 15 minutes. Their result in that amount of time? A loss of about $50. 4) Look to my left and see quad ducks on the screen next to me. "Hey, congratulations!" I say, get a nasty glare, then I notice the player bet only two coins and the machine is adding the winning credits; the candle is not lit. At first I was embarrassed; then I realize the other guy was the idiot, not me. 5) Watch your color-up totals. It's my own fault because I didn't watch closely the entire transaction; the dealer counted my chips correctly (which I did watch), then shorted me on the chips he gave me (which I didn't watch, and didn't realize until I got to the cage). 6) I forgot my swimsuit. Wal-Mart had ugly swim suits for $10, and even uglier ones for $6. I chose the $6 one. If you were in Vegas acouple of weeks ago and saw someone wearing this ugly striped swim suit at the Fiesta Henderson, that might have been me. 7) The Wild Wild West was offering "20 cents per gallon discount" to all slot club members. I expected the price to be "inflated", and I wasn't wrong. Regular price was $1.75, so I paid $1.55. I think the cheapest I saw gas elsewhere was $1.54, so it was still some of the cheapest gas around. I think this offer is good until the end of August. 8) Speaking of gas prices, in Jean it was $1.94 9) I visited a few casinos this trip I hadn't been to previously. With the exception of tiny joints like "Dottie's Casino", I can now count on one hand the casinos I haven't been to at least once: Mirage (for some reason, I've never set foot in here), LV Hilton, Tuscany, Suncoast, and Rampart (or whatever they're calling it nowadays). 10) When I came back, several friends told me they'd been watching this "poker tournament thing" on TV and looking for me. I didn't have the heart to tell them that it had taken place a few months ago. I told them they didn't see me because I got kicked out for making obscene gestures at the cameras.