My Vegas Vacation – Trip Report, Part 2 – The Good, The Bad and the “What the _____ ?

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip from high up in Mandalay Bay.

Part 2 delves into praise and sarcasm, the good, the bad and the “what the?” in our five day trip to the gambling mecca that is Vegas. First let’s take a look at the gambling.

GAMBLING

The gaming gods did not look down in support of our play.  As George Costanza would have said, “the sea was angry that day (week), my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli!”  It was a battle all week. But let’s start with the positive.

Top 3 of GOOD GAMBLING 

  1. Red-Rock Resort Casino, Summerlain – Our best gambling was off-strip – surprise, surprise. I love Red Rock Resort.  Full pay Bonus Poker and 9/6 Double Double Poker.  It’s a large casino, always with the newest slots and table games.  Most table games are favorable compared to the strip, including 3/2 blackjack.
  2. Main Street Station, Downtown – the best gambling this trip was at tried and true Main Street Station.  I consider it the nicest casino downtown.  Always great beer (go for the porter), scratch offs for every video poker quad ($1 -$2 mostly), friendly staff, and great gambling.  They even have some video poker with good paytables using coins, in case you like dirty hands and coins dropping into the coin through.  Five quads in two hours for me, 3 for my wife.  Three of my quads (DDB) were Aces (no kicker). We’ve been visiting MSS since the 90’s and it never gets old.
  3. The Palms – used to be a place that had full pay everything, even for the $.25 player. I was very surprised to see at the new Palms, now owned by the same company as Red Rock Resort, the video poker pay tables diminished.  With a look around the Racebook – Eureka! there they were.  Some full pay Deuces,  JOB, DDB, NSUDueces, etc.  To me, the Palms was back.  Stations casinos now has an presence on the Strip, almost.   Across from the Palms is the Gold Coast, a good VP property from Boyds casinos. Video Poker is alive and well on Flamingo Road.

These were the exceptions of an otherwise dismal gambling trip.

Top 3 WoRST GAMBLING 

  1. Mandalay Bay, South Strip – Pai Gow Poker at Mandalay Bay kicked my butt – quickest Pai Gow session EVAH!  Slots didn’t pay, except for one of my faves – Little Shop of Horrors.  It’s hard to find these days, the bonus usually pays well, and max bet is only $1.50 to get all the perks of the machine.  The sounds from the plant are funny and entertaining.
  2. Planet Hollywood, mid Strip – If you’ve played Video Poker on the Strip, you know how abysmal it can be.  Both M-Bay and Planet Ho. The few playable at Mandalay at $.25 are in Spin Poker and multi-hand games.  Full pay Bonus Poker starts at the $2 level. Planet Hollywood is worse – NO FULL PAY ANYTHING. How about 6/5 JOB at the bar tops? Terrible.  Besides that, most Caesars Properties have their little light system that tells bartenders if you deserve a free drink!  To be honest, $10 through, or 8 hands of VP max bet seemed to do it. But kiss away those low play Keno breaks with a beer.
  3. Bally’s, mid Strip – Supposedly, this casino has gone through renovations.  My question is “How can a property go through renovations and still be one of the most non-descriptive, boring casinos on the strip?  Slots need to be upgraded, the VP has been downgraded since there last from bad to terrible, and overall – blah. Needless to say, I should have paid attention to the sucking sound I heard upon entering, because it soon found my bankroll.

NETG Vegas Bad-Beats – This refers to the kind of things you just shake your head, amused but muttering “I don’t GET IT.” 

  • Men’s underwear – Do I really need to say it.  I thought that fad was gone.  I guess some boys refuse to grow up and dress like big boys.
  • $.75 for water – At Della’s Kitchen, you don’t have the option of free tap water.  You water is $.75.  Be aware, they pour before you have a chance to know! Sure, I know, it’s a little thing, but just one of many.  Parking fees, resort fees, paying for drinks while gambling……..is water the next thing we will be charged for?
  • Seabreeze at Mandalay – Looking for a good, quick breakfast at M-Bay? Stay away from Seabreeze.  Our breakfast was horrible.  The breakfast special was so small, we ordered a side of turkey sausage – for $7! The special was $9.99. The sausage tasted like Jimmy Dean microwaved (luke warm and was quickly brought out) bread was dry and obviously from a store bought loaf, and service was slow and not engaging. Again, stay away!
  • Resort fees – Yeah I know, beating a dead horse.  Don’t get me wrong, I like getting comped rooms from Caesars Entertainment. But even at Diamond status, I paid $150 in resort fees & taxes at Planet Hollywood.

NETG “GOOD TIMES” SUGGESTIONS

  • Taking JetBlue non-stop from Boston to Las Vegas and ending up in the newest terminal D is awesome.
  • How good is Earl of Sandwich?  not good – Outstanding
  • Yardhouse is a chain and has great salads and outstanding beer.  Order two flights – 8 beers – and share! Find it at the Linq and Red Rock resort.
  • Planet Hollywood Kiosks for checking in worked very well. If you’re early , concierge holds bags, they email/text you when ready.
  • Banger Brewing downtown is a must for beer aficionados. The El Heffe (a Jalapeno hefeweizen), the Morning Joe (a blond coffee kolsch) and the One Off Series (brown ale with mint chocolate) are NETG Recommendations. 
  • El Cortez – great gambling in a place out of old Vegas. Low minimums and good gambling. What trip is complete without a visit?
  • Best little breakfast at the Miracle Mile (Planet Hollywood) – La Cantina. $4.99 for 2 eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns and two tortilla.

KENO CHALLENGE or “How to pass the time on $20 when your bankroll dwindles.”

Caveman Keno

Bert and Bin made up a new game for passing the time, whenever needed. It’s called the KENO CHALLENGE. Those competing insert $20 (it could be any amount, but same amount for all). The one at a time, play taking turns. Continue until one playerThe one left with money wins. What do they win?  Does’t matter? Meanwhile, drinks keep coming, since this can last a long time. BIG SUGGESTION – don’t use your players card unless playing $1 bets and up, (depending on your personal Daily Theoretical.)

SUMMARY

It was a great trip, not financially, but in all other aspects.  If you can’t come back from Vegas and still feel happy about going, then you’re not going as a vacation, Advantage Players not included. Can’t wait for next summer.

Binbin

New England Casino Appreciation (While Waiting for the Ghost of Vegas Yet to Come)

Enjoying Vegas Christmas Present

Last year, I ranted about the changes in Las Vegas in 2016.  I felt it was getting farther & farther away from what I thought an epic gambling destination should be. Yes I know – things change quickly in “lost wages.” But, I don’t have to take it with a smile.

In thirty years of visiting Las Vegas, I have seen more changes than I would like to remember. From staying at the Hacienda & the Riviera in the late 80’s, to staying at Aria & Cosmo now, the differences in the Strip alone are mind-boggling. There are still things that I wish were part of the Vegas fabric.

Remember When….

Before my previous rant last year (see Las Vegas – No Christmas Cheer, Just More Scrooge ) free parking in Vegas became a thing of the past. This, for some reason, put me over the edge in rage. It just seemed that a sacred Vegas staple had fallen – what would be next???

Remember these changes on the Strip during 2016?

  • Paying for self-parking, paying for valet parking and paying for parking even as a hotel guest (oh, the humanity)

    On the Strip, it’s paid parking at all MGM, Caesars properties, as well as Cosmopolitan. Atlantic City has had paid parking for years, but at $5 and free pass for next garage.

  • Porn slappers being replaced by “performers” or buskers all over the sidewalks and pedestrian bridges
  • Economic level Strip properties like Boardwalk, the Sahara, Monte Carlo, Barbary Coast, and Imperial Palace replaced by up-scaled versions like Mandarin Oriental, SLS, Park MGM, Cromwell, and the Linq respectively.
  • More 6/5 blackjack than 3/2, and tighter rules up and down the Strip.

I could go on, but………why?  What’s done, is done.  I imagine I can belabor the point. I can criticize Jim Murren of MGM, CEO’s at Caesars Entertainment, and Steve Wynn for the monopolies they present on the Strip and the changes they have been able to forge, but it would just be an exercise in futility.

Reconciliation Arrives

Instead, I wish to consider two directions that will help me come to my senses.

First, it’s time to embrace those changes influenced by the Great Recession of 2007 and open my eyes to the wonderful new Vegas Strip. So much beautiful architecture, new casinos, wonderful amenities, and fabulous dining and entertainment opportunities in Vegas to enjoy. Gambling and enjoying a rejuvenated Downtown, as well as taking advantage of all that is the ever spreading urban sprawl into Henderson & Summerlain.

Red Rock Resort Casino

Red Rock Resort Casino Hotel, the Gem of Stations Casinos, 20 minutes from the Strip.

So many new and improved options, one visit per year from the East Coast is just not enough anymore.

The second direction is accepting the fabulous gambling, hotel, dining and entertainment options right here in New England – and it’s only going to get better when the current seven casinos expend to 9, 10, or even eleven. Here in New England, we have casinos for every desire – from small convenience casinos to Mega-resorts, two (four counting the future MGM Springfield & Wynn Boston Harbor) that rival anything on the strip, without the fees, WITH free drinks, 5 star dining, enough “oonze” and clubs to get your groove on, fantastic entertainment, & FREE self & valet parking.  You can visit Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun in a few years when you want to remember what the Vegas Strip used to be like.  

I have loved Las Vegas and will continue to do so. But my friends, I have no podcast to verbally express myself (but we will see what the future brings) like so many of my favorite Las Vegas podcasters.  I will continue to listen and be guided by my friends on my iPhone –  Tim & Michele Dressen of “Five Hundy by Midnight,” Mark Wojtowicz at “360 Vegas,” , Mark & Dr. Mike at “You Can Bet On That”, Scott Roeben at Vital Vegas, Tony Snyder at “The Vice Lounge Online,” Jullian at VegasConfessions, Michael Trager & Co. at TravelZork, and even the newest podcast sensation CousinVito’s Casino Podcast. 

As I continue to depend on these experts for my Vegas news & advice, I suggest you all do, too. So I say,

Viva Las Vegas, and Viva New England!

Las Vegas South Strip.

 

Binbin – NE TimeGambling.com

 

Vegas, Baby, Vegas! – A Las Vegas Trip Report

Welcome to Las Vegas SignWondering where the NETG posts have been?  Well. 2/3’s of the staff was on the left coast doing some “research” in Las Vegas.  I know, it’s a long trip for the sake of the blog, but someone’s got to sacrifice at least once a year.  So, here’s some of Bert & Bin’s report in Las Vegas.  Of course, not all, because some of what happens in Vegas has to stay in Vegas!

Arriving at McCarran Airport mid-afternoon, we proceeded to check in at Bellagio – our first time at the resort that Wynn built, now owned by MGM.  Check-in was great, as was our entire stay at this fabulous property.  The surroundings, the dining, the amenities are all top notch. Best part of all is the service & hospitality.  Everyone was pleasant, helpful, friendly and wanted our stay to be a great one.  Bellagio exceeded all expectations in these regards.  I would stay there again in a Vegas minute.

Besides Bellagio, here are suggestions:

How To Start Your Next Vegas Trip

The beginning of a great Las Vegas Vacay – Ellis Island, east of the Strip

ELLIS ISLAND – We have found the perfect way to start a vacation in Vegas.  After check-in, drive (or Uber/Lyft) to Ellis Island Casino, Hotel & Brewery.  Originally opened in 1967, it became Ellis Island in 1985 and has been a locals and industry worker favorite behind the strip ever since. It’s brewery is fantastic with specials such as “every weekday for $1 beers whenever the temperature outside hits over 100 degrees.” Their special beer beer was a Summer Shandy Hefeweisen with added lemon & grapefruit.  Depending on the time of year, they also brew an adult ice tea and eggnog, while supplies last (which isn’t long!)  Gambling rules are much better than the strip.  Playing $5 blackjack (then raised to $10), with a “dealer bust” sidebet, I made almost $200 in an hour.  The dealers were friendly and fun.  Go check out their website, since they are adding onto this low budget casino and should be even better by next summer.  Other great offerings include terrific BBQ, a “secret steak special,” and karaoke.

Neon Lounge with fire-pit at Peppermill, north Strip.

PEPPERMILL – Part 2 to starting off a great Vegas vacation is moving the party to the Peppermill, “a timeless must-visit stop on the Las Vegas strip.”  If you miss the old neon sights of years ago, the Peppermill is for you.  One side is a restaurant featuring fabulous and huge omelets all day.  But at night, you MUST visit the lounge at least once. Peppermill Fireside Lounge is the brightest dark room you’ll ever see, or maybe it’s the darkest bright room. You’re surrounded by mirrors, faux trees, and neon, sitting on comfy red couches.  The south end of the room features a fire pit, with flames erupting from a pool of glowing white water.  Specialty cocktails complete the feel.  I enjoyed the Oatmeal Cookie, based with vanilla ice cream.  Our party of four all decided that it had to be an ELLIS ISLAND/PEPPERMILL start to every Las Vegas Trip

Entertainment Highlight

CHER at the MONTE CARLO – Let it be known that Cher is the only reason to go to Monte Carlo during it’s renovations to become Park MGM.  But what a show it was!  With very little speaking, a historical run of her hits is non-stop.  Of course, Cher is known for her lavish outfits and hair.  So, to make the 10 or so costume changes, there are interludes by the rest of the cast – some great, but others just seem to be Cirque knock-offs that don’t necessarily fit the show.  Cher, at the age of 70+, has not lost her knack for singing like a modern Ethel Merman, and sounded great, as well the band behind her.  I highly recommend this show, although it’s not inexpensive – over $100+…….  all ages will enjoy this show.

Cher opening her show at the Park Theater.

Two Buffets

BELLAGIO BUFFET – Expensive, but worth it.  NETG has eaten at all the best buffets – Wicked Spoon (Cosmo), Aria, Cravings (Mirage) and the Paris Buffet. Outside of the Caesars’s Bacchanal (which we have not tried and is incredibly expensive), Bellagio is the best value of the big buffets.

STUDIO B BUFFET at M Resort – The selection of foods served here, at any given time, is huge, and scrumptious.  During lunch and dinner, you’ll discover a corner bar where wine, beer and cider are served. A full range of soft drinks and fruit juices are available from the waitstaff, and meals can be capped off with a hot chocolate, espresso or Irish coffee from the barista.  But save room for dessert – miniature cupcakes, crème brûlées, lemon meringue pies, molten lava cakes and tiramisus share space with cookies, cannolis, éclairs, macaroons, three kinds of crêpes and homemade gelato.  If you are gambling there, gamble first. $300 in for slots and $450 for Video poker equals a free buffet.  That may sound like a lot, but playing slots for 30 – 40 minutes at $.60 to a $1 will easily do it.  (By the way, if you have dined at the Mohegan Sun Buffet, you will notice quite a resemblance.  It seems the Sun must have visited there before renovating their years ago!).  One major consideration – it’s on the far south end of Las Vegas Boulevard. Taxi, ride-share or driving is a must.

Downtown

Three nights were spent at what I consider the little underrated gem of downtown – MAIN STREET STATION Casino, Brewery & Hotel.  It’s Victorian decor, great gambling rules, and 777 Brewpub make it a delight for staying and playing.  It’s far enough away from the insanity of the Fremont Experience, and yet a short enough walk to anywhere downtown, including the Fremont East District and the El Cortez Casino & Hotel.  It’s scratch ticket promotion for video poker players is still a great play. For every 4-of-a-kind at max bet (any denomination), you receive a scratch-off that contains $1 – $5. In one night of player, I made an additional $20 on tickets alone.  While you play, you can order a craft beer from its brewery anywhere on the casino floor, and during happy hour, 16 oz. is only $250!  One of the many nation-wide Boyd properties, this is a low-roller delight.  Great room promotions are available to Boyd card members for much less play than on the Strip.

Beautiful, calm, and classy for an exquisite dining experience – Andiamo at The D, Downtown Las Vegas

ANDIAMO STEAKHOUSE at THE D – premium American steaks and irresistible Italian favorites are what you can expect at Andiamo.  I ate the best 8 0z. filet ever!  A classic Vegas Steakhouse with a quiet, classy atmosphere.  Don’t be fooled by it’s location downtown, it IS one of the best Vegas steakhouses, hands down.  Our party decided to end our vacation at Andiamo, and it was the perfect finale to a week of highlights.  It is expensive, but worth every penny.

Leaving Las Vegas – usually a quiet plane ride.

 

So, that was Vegas, 2017 for NETimeGambling.

It’s tough work, but somebody’s got to do it.  Ciao!

Binbin