Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vegas trip report: April 2013

Trip report:

Let me get this out there early: I'm a cheapskate. Especially on solo trips like this one, the cheaper I can make my Vegas trip, the better, as long as I'm not sacrificing time. Also, I get antsy staying in one place too long -- I always want to go! go! go! to the next adventure. That said...

I had a conference scheduled for work on Tuesday through Thursday of last week, and chose to pad both ends of the conference with a little Vegas vacation time. I arrived on Friday morning, grabbed a rental car, and drove to Cosmopolitan, because it's my favorite place on The Strip. I wandered through there, played slots for a few minutes, and won $10 freeplay in their "unlock & win" promo.

Next, I headed over to Bellagio and redeemed a myVegas reward comp for a "lunch buffet for 2" at the Bellagio. Redemption was easy. Although I asked, they couldn't change this into two separate buffet passes, so one of the two passes was burned. Not a big deal; I expected it. The buffet was OK but non-notable. Wicked Spoon has spoiled me.

I left Bellagio and went to Caesars Palace to buy tickets for the Matt Goss show that night, using a $10 off coupon from the "American Casino Guide". With the coupon, the cheap seat was a very reasonable $30.

Next, I crossed The Strip and wandered through The Quad. It's looking really nice, except for their (temporary?) plain tan carpeting. Every leaf or piece of lint seemed to show up, making it look pretty bad. I like the stainless steel and red lighting vibe they've got going, and the construction walls are designed and wallpapered well enough that it's hard to tell that there's construction going on once you're inside. I played some slots and some Three Card Poker, which put me ahead for what will turn out to be the only time this week.

I wandered down to Casino Royale, where their "fun book" slot bonus coupons have an additional restriction now: you have to play max coins. If I'm playing max coins anywhere, it's not going to be at Casino Royale.

Back to the car, and onward to my hotel: Circus Circus. Don't laugh -- the room for Friday and Saturday night, plus $50 food & beverage credit, was comped through a myVegas reward. The check-in line was long, but I saw a sign in the VIP area indicating "Players Club member check-in" and only one person in that line. I have a Circus Circus players card from nine years ago, so I hopped into that line. Check-in was uneventful, except for two things: the clerk didn't know how to handle the F&B credit ("go check at the players club", he suggested), and he never took a credit card for a room deposit, which I though was a little strange.

The West Tower room I received was clean and functional, although the blanket was a little worn. The view was of Fontainebleu and what looked like an old monorail track (any idea what it is? This book says it opened in 1981 and was still used as recently as 2009, but I don't believe it).

I headed downstairs to talk to the Players Club desk about my F&B credit, but the guy there had to call a manager, telling me to come back in 15 minutes. It was a profitable delay, as I pulled $30 out of a "Plants vs. Zombies" slot machine. The manager typed away on his computer, and then called *his* manager for additional help. She told him that the Players Club didn't need to do anything -- charge it to my room, and VIP services would credit the bill on checkout. Easy enough.

I crossed the street to Riviera to play single-zero roulette, and was bummed to learn that they'd gone back to double-zero last fall. I played and lost a match play coupon there. Back to the car, and valeted the car at Mirage. From there I walked to Caesars, where I lost $25 video poker, and caught the Matt Goss show, which was exactly as advertised: a Sinatra/Blublé-esque crooner with a great voice. I wasn't disappointed, but it's not a show that I feel I must see again. After the show, I wandered to Harrah's, Wynn (amazing people-watching on Friday nights!), TI, and back to the Mirage, and then drove back to Circus Circus in the early morning hours.

I hadn't had dinner yet, so I stopped at the deli to buy a sandwich. Because the front desk hadn't taken my credit card number, I didn't have room-charge privileges. Sigh. Back to the front desk to fix that, and then back to the deli for a decent French dip, which I ate upstairs.

Saturday morning, I grabbed breakfast at "Barista," a small place at Circus Circus. I then drove over to Palace Station and signed up for a players card, because they were giving away free digital coin-counting jars. The place was underwhelming, and the coin jar was, not unexpectedly, cheaply made. It did, however, give me a place to put all of the pocket change I collected during the week, which was nice. From there, I drove to Luxor, where I was unsuccessful in the 12:30 poker tournament. (Hat tip to AllVegasPoker, which is a great source to find out what poker tournaments are going on in Vegas at any time.)

I wandered to Mandalay Bay, caught the tram back to Excalibur, used a match play (losing again) at Hooters, lost money at Tropicana, and then redeemed a myVegas reward for dinner at Nine Fine Irishmen at NYNY. The food was good, but I ended up with a seat next to the kitchen *behind* the stage, with SportsCenter on a large TV to my right, which kinda ruins the atmosphere of the place.

I then drove up to Wynn, lost money there on slots, and called it a night.

Sunday, I woke up, grabbed breakfast at the deli, and grabbed three bottled beers to get to my $50 F&B limit. Upon check-out, surprising me not in the slightest, they had no record of the $50 F&B credit. The VIP desk clerk called the Players Club desk, they talked for about five minutes, and finally I think he gave up and just applied the credit on his own, not knowing if it was correct to do or not. (Hint: if you know the credit's got to come from somewhere, don't make the customer wait. Give him the credit and deal with the internal paperwork later.)

I drove to Cosmopolitan again (I love this place), played slots for a bit, and then headed upstairs to Estiatorio Milos, a Mediterranian seafood place with a $22.13 prix fixe lunch menu. Service was top notch, the tomato salad was the best I've ever had, and the lavraki (a European seabass) was spectacular. Heading to the other end of the spectrum, I next headed off-strip to Terrible's, whose roulette wheel gave me my single-worst session of the entire trip.

Now, I'm faced with a choice. I've got a "vintage" room booked downtown at El Cortez for $24, and I've got two nights booked at The Cannery (five miles past downtown) for free. Both came with $15 food credit, so I chose both. I first drove out to The Cannery, and the room was decent, much like a Comfort Inn or Best Western. Soap and shampoo were from liquid dispensers, which I'm not fond of, but otherwise, the room was fine. In the casino, I played video poker, slots, and, as part of the room package, got $25 in free slot play and a bottle of wine. Nice.

I headed from there down to Fremont Street, where I had low expectations for the El Cortez Vintage room, but it still fell short. The wire/glass window, the 1940's plaster walls, the rusty fixtures, the dim lights... I ditched my stuff there, knowing I'd be back a few hours later to grab it (and the soap, shampoo, and scratch paper) and head back to The Cannery for the night.

Dinner was the chicken parm sliders at Mob Bar that I've heard good things about on the Five Hundy By Midnight podcast. The sliders were good, but maybe my expectatons were too high, because they weren't *great*. I wandered Fremont Street to the Plaza and back, losing match plays at Plaza, Vegas Club, and Golden Gate. Construction of Slotzilla is really messing up pedestrian flow in the area.

After losing even more to slots at The D, I decided to call it a night and head back to The Cannery (grabbing my stuff at El Cortez first). Using my $15 food comp there, I had an early morning cheeseburger, which was decent enough.

Monday morning rolls around, and I've got to return the rental car. I pack up and leave The Cannery without checking out (in case something happens and I need a second night there). First, though, I need a haircut, so I fire up the GPS and head to a chain east of town on Desert Inn Road. Chop, chop, and then I drive to Planet Hollywood, check my bag at the bell desk, and then continue to the airport to return the car. I catch a cab to MGM, where I use my final myVegas comp for the champagne buffet. I'm still pretty full from the two dinners the night before, so I don't eat much. It's kind of a waste, but I'm on the company dime from here on out, so I feel I need to use it.

I wander the south Strip for a bit, and then settle in at the Monte Carlo 2:00 PM poker tournament. Two hours later, I'm knocked out, four away from the money. I walk back to Planet Hollywood ("the P-Ho"), where check-in is fast and I get a "Happy Days" themed room, with a view of the south strip.

As I'm settling in, I get a text from the vendor running the conference inviting me to join him for dinner at Todd English PUB at Aria. The place is loud and the waitstaff is jumping to keep up, but do a great job. The deep-fried pickle slices, as recommended by Five Hundy listeners, are as good as promised.

After dinner, I head to Cosmopolitan to lose money on their roulette wheel. I'm down a good chunk of change on the day, and with the conference starting the next day, I decide to be a responsible adult and get to bed before midnight.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the conference runs until 6:00 each night, and my after-conference activities are fairly uneventful. Tuesday night, the vendor rented out Haze nightclub at Aria, so I hang out there for a couple hours, talking shop, eating their food, and drinking their booze. The place is probably quite amazing when its full of twenty-somethings of the Vegas party crowd, but with the middle-aged folks of the conference, it's pretty tame and a little dull.

After that's over, I catch a cab to and from the Hard Rock to get a ticket to Thursday night's Orianthi concert at Vinyl. Unfortunately, the box office is closed, and the cab fare was more than the Ticketmaster fees ended up being.

Wednesday night, I ramble and gamble my way up the east side of the strip (with stops at Paris, Bally's, Flamingo, The Quad, Casino Royale, Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn, and Encore) and back down the west side (just TI and Mirage). It gets to be too late, and I'm craving Secret Pizza from Cosmopolitan, so I head straight there. It's as tasty as I remember.

Thursday night, I catch a cab from the P-Ho to the rental car center to get a $20 car for my last night in town. From there, I drive to Cashman Field in North Las Vegas to watch minor-league baseball: my home team Tacoma Rainiers take on the Las Vegas 51s. I hang around until the end of the fifth inning, when we're losing by something like 2-6 (apparently they had a 9th inning comeback to win 13-12), and head to the Hard Rock for the Orianthi concert at Vinyl. The concert isn't as packed as I expected, and the crowd trended older than I expected. Her guitar playing is reminiscent of Santana or Jimi Hendrix, although she's got several years left before she attains their level of skill.

After the concert, I head to the Gold Coast (yawn) for another losing match play, and then to Palms (match play loss *again*). I drive back to P-Ho for the night, hoping I'll have enough energy to wander the strip until sunrise, but I end up getting another slice of Secret Pizza from Cosmopolitan, hanging out there until almost 3 AM, and drag myself back to my room at P-Ho.

Friday's my last day in town. I sleep in, check out, and head to Ellis Island for my last match play of the trip. All others have lost, but this one wins. Finally. I also get $15 in freeplay for signing up for their players club. The casino is small and non-notable. I don't see any reason to return. From there, I head to The Quad for their 11:30 poker tournament, where I finally end up in the money, but go out in third place by challenging the big stack when he held AK. I should've suggested a deal.

A little more strip-wandering to finish out the trip (Venetian, Palazzo, Caesars, Flamingo, Casino Royale), and then it's off to the airport. I return home with only 1/3 of the bankroll I arrived with, but it was a fun, fun week -- totally worth it.

No comments: