1/14/08: I departed from Des Moines, Iowa at 1:30 p.m. on 1/14/08 via Allegiant Air and arrived in Vegas at 2:30 p.m. due to the direct flight and 2 hour time difference. My flight was $338 for the round trip (I paid $22 to select my seat each way, $8.50 convenience fee for making the reservations online instead of telephone, and I might have paid a little because I checked one bag). First time on Allegiant and I was pleased with the direct flight even if I didn't love the 8:00 a.m. departure time from Vegas on Friday. Others on the plane indicated that if you watch the Allegiant website and plan in advance, you can get better deals than I did.
After arriving at the airport and retrieving my luggage, I took a $6 shuttle to the Flamingo (first stop for the shuttle). I was disappointed at the airport to see that the airport check-in for Harrah's properties had been closed (MGM still there). Really no wait to check in at the hotel, however, and if you have a Gold card (doesn't everyone?), there is a shorter check-in line. Anyway, Amber checked me in and I was off to my room in the tower further from the poker room and strip (bummer). Imagine my surprise when there was already someone in the room. Actually, imagine their surprise, lol. Fortunately, no one was doing anything to be embarrassed about. I politely backed out of the room and went back to check out. Amber felt badly and was kind enough to put me in a room in the tower close to the poker room/strip. It was not a GO room, but was large and had a perfect strip view for my troubles. Nice view of the Bellagio's fountains as well.
I decided to head out and play poker. I skipped the Flamingo for the time being as a protest against Harrah's poker rooms increasing their rakes (although the Flamingo poker room was always relatively busy). I decided to ease into poker with some $2/$4 LLHE at TI. It was nice to see that they had replaced the hideous felts on their tables. I met fellow AVPer Ace10High (?) although he wasn't at my table. I sat next to a nice gentleman from Michigan and we talked Big Ten sports quite a bit. The table broke up after an hour or two. It was the only LLHE table going and I didn't want to play $1/$3 NL with a $500 max buy-in so I took my +$62 result and moved on. I headed to the Venetian to check things out. The poker room had the usual $1/$2 NL games and the lowest LLHE was $4/$8. I stopped at the bar and listened to the band that has been there my last 3 Vegas visits. Pretty entertaining group. I left and headed back toward the Flamingo. Items of note included Casino Royale offering $1 Michelob Lagers (sp?) and $1 Margaritas. O'Sheas had $1 - $5 spread limit HE going. Went into Bill's Gambling Hall and Saloon (or whatever it is called now) and grabbed a $1 Margarita. Had a burger for dinner at the Tropical Breeze Cafe in the Flamingo. Spent a good part of the evening checking things out. The band at Bill's (free) and pretty good. Three very attractive female singers with good voices, but the band itself is where the talent really was. The Bally's bar had a Motown-type group that was really good (free). Oh, and if you watch the bar band at the Venetian, know that a beer there is $8 or $9. The Bally's poker room was busy and had $3/$6 LLHE and $1/$2 NL. The Paris poker room had two tables going. Two bad they moved that room to an out-of-the-way location by the sports book. IP moved their poker room slightly away from the front entrance to the casino, yet still a prominent location. Planet Hollywood seems to be 99.99% remodeled. That place has a good vibe, particularly for the 21 - 39 crowd (21 - 48???). The Miracle Mile of shops/restaurants is nice, the casino feels upscale, and I'm sure the young guys like the Pleasure Pit table gaming area with female dealers wearing Victoria's Secret-type outfits and a dancer wearing even less. The poker room is nice but it wasn't very busy. They still need auto-shufflers and a computerized list, IMHO. It seems to be more focused on tournaments right now. I decided to crash as I was tired from the trip and didn't feel focused enough for NL.
1/15/08: It was nice to sleep in with no alarm. Headed downstairs when I woke up in the a.m. There was one table of $1/$2 NL going in the Flamingo poker room at 9:40 a.m. Had breakfast at the Tropical Breeze Cafe. After a shower, I headed to the Venetian to play $1/$2 NL (still avoiding Harrah's properties higher rake). There were two drunk morons at the table and after playing awhile and being down $72 for the session (and down $10 for the trip) I left (decided I was on vacation and there were a lot of other casinos/tables available, particularly if I'm not winning, lol). A woman had joined the table who indicated she was a part of the local "Wednesday Discussion Group." I think I've read of that group on this site. Maybe in some of Cactus Jack's posts?
Headed back to the Flamingo and had late lunch at the Tropical Breeze Cafe (sensing a trend here, lol?). After lunch I headed to Planet Hollywood for $1/$2 NL (still avoiding Harrah's higher rake...sensing a trend here, lol?). I ended up down $115 for the session/down $125 for the trip when I left. I've only played NL in Vegas and my last trip was my first NL venture so I'm still getting comfortable. Of course, I blew through $40 or so on one hand where I was thinking my pocket pair of 8's was a pair of 10's. So I bet out on the flop, thinking I had a set of 10's. Fortunately, I started questioning myself when I was re-raised, checked my cards, and meekly folded. My other really stupid hand of the trip was when I got involved out of the small blind with Jack/4 and, of course, a Jack flopped. I don't know how much I lost on that hand but needless to say, top pair with no kicker out of position is not a place to be. So I had a couple of good reminders to focus, lol.
Met a buddy in town for a convention/show and we decided to walk to Ellis Island for the $6.99 steak dinner. On the way we decided to stop and eat at Bassati's (sp?) Hole in the Wall italian restaurant instead. Fun/historic little place with nice atmosphere. LOTS of pics of famous people that had eaten there over the years. Had the lasagna which came with bread, soup or salad, unlimited table wine, and a hot cappacino (sp?) which was really hot chocolate with whipped cream IMHO. Good value for about $23-$25, including tip. From there, we went back to Bill's to watch the 3 girl singers and their band and smoke some fine cigars I'd brought along. Keyboard guy did some sax songs/solos that were excellent. A couple of drunk and divorced 50-something guys/nuts from Minneapolis were at the table next to us. One of them was dancing with every girl in the area that would agree to a dance (even if they were with their husband/boyfriend). It was good entertainment. They recommended that my buddy and I go to the Penthouse gentleman's club where they felt they received good value for the dollar bills given to the dancers, lol. Headed back to my room and decided to lay down before heading out to play poker. Woke up the next morning, lol. Never lay down after a few glasses of wine followed by a few beers!
1/16/08: Got up and went to breakfast at the counter (no wait) at the Tropical Breeze. Hasib (waiter) and Dan (coffee/water guy) are getting used to seeing me. Took a shower and admired my strip view for a while. Also refreshing my poker skills by reading some of the LLNL cash game book by Fox/Harker. Why I hadn't read that book another two times (and Angel L's book another two times) before hitting Vegas again, I'll never know! I hadn't played any form of poker since my last Vegas trip in June of 2007. Played $1/$2 NL at the Flamingos room in spite of the $5 rake, lol. Down $26 for the session and down $151 for the trip. Enjoyed talking to a couple older guys at my end of the table. One from Staten Island, NY and one from Houston, Texas. I didn't make any really stupid plays, just primarily blinded off. One guy at the table won $226 for a high hand jack pot (jack high straight spade flush). Another guy "won" $50 for getting his Aces cracked...which is fine in LLHE but not so great in a NL hand where you lost over $150. I guess it takes some of the sting out? Had a very late lunch at the Tropical Breeze Cafe counter.
I headed up to the Venetian and played $1/$2 NL after a very cold (for Vegas) walk. There was a VERY obnoxious player at the table. He wasn't drinking while I was there, but I'm pretty sure he had been drinking plenty. He just would not shut up. A new player joined the game and he didn't appreciate Mr. Chatty. They really got into it. Floor was called and Mr. Chatty left (although he had put the new guy on tilt a hand or two before and felted him). The table was pleasant after that. I sat next to a young guy named Ramone (sp?) who was in VIP services at TAO. He gave me his card and told me to give him a call if I wanted to go to TAO. Being solo, I didn't take him up on his offer. He did say that the most interesting time in Vegas and at TAO was during the ANE (adult entertainment) convention. Indicated that some of what went on was hard to believe, even in Vegas, lol. We had a dealer playing at our table. Good guy but he had to leave to deal $4/$8 Omaha Hi/Low (for those on this site looking for such a game). I ended the session +$46/down $105 for the trip. No hands of real note. Just attempted to play TAG.
Headed to PH to meet my buddy. Had a few beers at the Heart Bar, with a nice view of the Pleasure Pit dancer. Had dinner on the Miracle Mile at Blondie's Sports Bar & Grill. Headed back to the room and bed.
1/17/08: Got up and had breakfast with Hasib and Dan at the counter in the Tropical Breeze. Had an nice/interesting poker discussion with a couple guys at the counter (they saw my Fox/Harker LLNL book). One guy was from Florida, not sure about the other guy. Headed back up to shower.
Decided to head down to MGM (still avoiding Harrah's $5 rake) and play. I hadn't played poker at MGM in several trips. My table was pretty pleasant for the most part. I had some action junkies at the table which was fine once I figured out who they were. I was running slightly down until I was dealt pocket kings under the gun. I did a standard raise to $10 (I had rightfully earned a reputation as tight compared to everyone else, lol) and everyone folded until the cut-off (a somewhat new guy at the table). He raised to about $25. The woman on the button said something about me having to have a premium hand but called anyway. I went all-in. Cut-off said I must have Aces, Kings, or Ace/King and folded. Said he wanted to see where I was and now he knew, lol. Woman on the button thought about it and pushed all-in. She had pocket 7s against my Kings. Kings held up. Ended session up $110/up $5 for the trip.
Checked out NYNY. I'd never really spent any time there. Casino floor/shops/restaurants theme a nice change of pace from the typical strip casino. Headed back to MGM and remembered an employee of mine had given me $20 to bet for her son (I had it in my billfold with a sticky note on it). I'd avoided betting it because I hate losing someone else's money. I'd also hate winning a $5 million slots jackpot with it and having my honesty and integrity put to the test, lol. So I went to the Centrifuge bar and popped it into Video Poker so I could spend it while drinking on the house. I have NEVER won at slots or video poker, though I don't play them much. Naturally, I hit 4 aces and turned the $20 into $111.25. I called my employee and asked if she wanted me to stop. She said yes, so I'll be giving her the money on Monday. I wonder if her young son will see all of it, lol?
I met my buddy for dinner at the MGM Grand Buffet ($28). It was pretty good. We headed back to Centrifuge for drinks. I popped a twenty into the video poker machine and played very slowly so I could drink on the house instead of buying $7 beers, lol. So the way I look at it, my 3-4 beers cost me about $10. Prior to hitting the bar, we watched the MGM lions being fed. If you haven't done that, I'd recommend it. Kind of cool being about 6 inches from a hungry lion (even though, given the $9 million lion habitat, they can't see, smell, or hear you through the glass). I hadn't realized that they don't keep the lions on site, they are only there about 6 hours at a time, there are about 36 of them, and something like 28 are decended from the original MGM lion. How's that for Vegas trivia? After drinks at the bar I walked back to the Flamingo so I could pack and get some shut eye since I had to be at the airport by 6 a.m. for my 8 a.m. direct flight to Des Moines.
1/18/08: Up at about 5 a.m. Showered and checked out (no line at that hour, lol) by 5:25 a.m. Taxi (no line again) from the Flamingo to airport was $12.10 before tip for those who want to know. Checked in at the Allegiant counter (no line). From the time I got into the security check line until I was through was 14 minutes. I don't think I've ever gotten through that maze that fast. Stopped at the Prickly Pear for breakfast. All-in-all, a very smooth departure with the only negative being the very early flight. It was nice, however, to be back in Des Moines by 12:50 p.m. via a direct flight.
Parting Shots: Room for 4 nights at the Flamingo was $311 (average of about $78/night). Direct round trip flight from Des Moines was $338 (could have been cheaper if I didn't select my seats and/or made the reservation via phone). Up $5 playing poker, primarily $1/$2 NL. Vegas is not as busy as usual during this particular week of the year. The Flamingo clientle is rather old at this time of year, particularly in the poker room. In fact, I saw fewer women playing poker this trip than on any previous trip. There also didn't seem to be as many young guys with shades, lol. It could be the time of year or it could be the effect of online poker being made more or less illegal? Maybe both. In any event, it was a much younger crowd at places like PH, MGM, and NYNY (I might increase the average age at those places, versus decrease it like I might of at the Flamingo or Venetian). A better looking crowd too, lol. Something to think about if it matters to you and you hit Vegas at a slow time of year. I can say that the Flamingo, with its pool, is much different when the weather warms up. Nonetheless, I'm thinking about trying the MGM next trip. We'll see. I can't wait to go back!