Wednesday, December 18, 2019

So I Guess I'm a Slot Player Now? - Final

Wednesday morning we got up about 9:00 and got showered up and headed downstairs to enjoy a 2 for 1 brunch buffet at Aria.  I gotta say it was just okay.  The selection was not as varied as I expected and the food was only of slightly above average quality.  The highlights for me were the fresh pineapple juice and the gelato.  If I had paid $40 per person for it I would have been a little miffed.

We checked out and headed back over to Bally's. I got into the afternoon poker tournament in the Bally's poker room.  I never take notes when I play and it's been too long for me to remember actual hands.  I remember I made it past the first break.  I remember that at least 4 or 5 people reentered the tournament.  I remember I shoved a suited ace with a short stack at the end and ran into pocket queens.  That was about 2.5 ish hours of my afternoon. 

After the tournament I dropped $100 or so on a few random slots and some video poker, then I made another pit stop in the CVS next door to Bally's to get some more drinks and snacks.  I grabbed another short nap before getting cleaned up for dinner. We decided to try to find something to eat at Venetian before heading across the street for Cirque du Soleil's Love.  We requested a Lyft and the first ride it offered me was in a driverless car.  I declined and went with a traditional Lyft, but kind of wish I had tried the driverless option. 

At Venetian we checked how long it would take to get a table at Trattoria Reggiano in the Grand Canal Shoppes. We opted not to wait the 45 minutes they estimated since we had a show to catch. We wandered around a little and considered Yardbird, but nothing on the menu tripped my wife's fancy, so we went with an old standby at the Grand Lux Cafe.  I got the pasta carbonara and my wife branched out and got some kind of bourbon chicken dish.  I think she thought it was going to have a bourbon glaze, but I think the bourbon part of the name referred to bourbon street as it turned out to have some cajun spice to it.  We were both very happy with our choices.

We were going to order a Lyft to cross the street to Mirage since it was raining, but the rideshare pickup at Venetian was very hard to find and then very confusing once we did find it.  I pointed out that it didn't seem to be raining at the time, so we just walked across the street.  We found the theater and there was already a huge queue of people waiting to get into the show, so we joined them thinking they must be about to open the doors.  We wound up standing in that very hot and uncomfortable line for another 20 minutes at least. So pro tip....if you go to see Love don't bother showing up until about 10 minutes before the scheduled start time. 

The show was phenomenal.  Our tickets cost $185 even with a discount, but it was worth every single penny.  We were seated about halfway up in the lower section which turned out to be almost a perfect vantage point.  The show is so well crafted and flows seamlessly from one song to the next.  There was really only one lull near the end of the show when they showed an extended video of the Beatles performing a song. I think it was to allow all of the cast to change costumes.  Aside from that it was pretty much nonstop performances. 

I don't want to give away any of the surprises built into the show, but even if you aren't a huge Beatles fan you will enjoy it.  So many thrilling, touching, funny, entertaining parts that I wanted it to just keep going on and on.  I've always been too big of a cheapskate to spend the scratch to go see a Cirque show in the past.  I'm now trying to decide which to see next time I'm in Vegas.  I'll definitely budget for tickets to Mystere, KA, O, or maybe the new'ish Michael Jackson show One.  (I've heard Zumanity is awkward and uncomfortable, so I'm not really interested in that one.)

Our flight home left the next morning around 9 AM which meant a relatively early departure for the airport.  We got back to the hotel a little after midnight.  My wife went straight to bed, but I just couldn't picture myself going to bed without gambling a little more on my last night in town.  I headed down to the casino with an eye towards playing some kind of table game or poker, but I couldn't bring myself to play blackjack for $15 a hand with their crappy rules.  I almost jumped into a 3 card poker game, but reminded myself how bad the house edge on that is.  The poker room had a list, so I opted for some more slots.

There was nobody sitting at the Autumn Moon Dragon Link game near the poker room that had the maxed out $1,000 major jackpot all week.  I put in $100 and started playing $1 a spin at the 1 cent denomination. I pretty quickly got a hold and spin that paid about $80. I got one or two more bonuses and was approaching $300.  I told myself if I got above $300 I would switch to the 10 cent denomination so the mini and minor would go from $10 and $50 to $100 and $500. I can't remember too many details of how I got there but I wound up cashing out at just over $600 for a $500 profit.

I played a little while longer on a few other slots like the piggy bank lock it link and my other new favorite, Dancing Drums.  I wound up giving about $100 of my profit back and then headed to bed. 

My wife makes fun of me for it, but I use the notes feature on my phone to keep pretty fastidious notes of every penny I spend and all of my gambling wins and losses.  That way I can definitively say if I turned a profit or not for the trip.  After all was said and done I was up about $150 for the trip on gambling. If I had avoided the poker rooms altogether I would have been about $500 up for the trip  With food, drinks, snacks, show tickets, and transportation charges I wound up bringing home about two thirds of the money I had budgeted that I was willing to spend/lose.  So all in all a very fun and pretty successful trip from a gambling standpoint. 

I'm already planning the next trip for the week of Memorial Day in May.  This time it will be me and my two sons who will be making their very first trip to sin city.  I played just enough slots to earn some comped rooms from MLife at their bottom tier resorts so we will be sharing a room in the resort tower at Excalibur for just the cost of the resort fees.  I'm hoping if I give them some more play when we are there I might be able to get them to refund some of the resort fees too.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

So I Guess I'm a Slot Player Now? - Part 3

Tuesday morning we slept in until around 10 o'clock or so  My wife had cashed in an offer from some slot app she played on her phone to get us one comped night in a standard king room at Aria. She got an email saying our room was ready super early at like 11 AM.  So we packed up some stuff in my backpack and her larger purse and headed across the street to catch the tram from Bellagio to Aria. We checked in using one of the kiosks and found the guest elevators to go check out our room on the 8th floor.

The room looked out towards the strip facing slightly southeast, so we had a view of Park MGM, MGM Grand, the Polo Towers, and Planet Hollywood.  It was a very cool room with lots of fun technology to open the blinds and turn off and on the lights, but it felt like it was half the size of our Bally's room.  I'd heard people rave about how comfy the beds were there, but it really wasn't significantly more comfortable than the bed at Bally's.  In fact I liked the pillows at Bally's better.  The view was way better though.

We stowed our stuff and hung up the clothes we planned to wear later that night and then made our way over to Cosmopolitan to try out Holstein's. This was one of our favorite places we ate this trip. My wife got her usual well done plain cheeseburger and I got their Gold Standard burger minus the tomato confit. We split a plate of delicious garlic parmesan fries.  I got a chocolate malt that was topped with whipped cream and tiny malted milk balls and she was thrilled to discover that they served Pepsi.  The best part of the experience though was the service.  The staff was so friendly and attentive without being intrusive.  And again....they kept the wife supplied with Pepsi the entire time we were there.  The bill for the two of us was around $65, which is pricey for two burgers, some fries, and a couple drinks, but well worth it. 

We stopped at the CVS next door to the Waldorf Astoria to grab some drinks and snacks for the room. The wife picked up a bath bomb for the big soaker tub in the room at the Aria.  We headed back there and burned through about $150 in record time on a few unsuccessful slot games including another stab at Buffalo Gold, Kronos, Quick Hits, and some more $0.25 Double Top Dollar.

We had the group slot pull coming up with Matt Bridger that night at 9:00 and we didn't want to exceed our daily gambling budget, so we went back to the room and watched a little TV and took a short nap.  About 6:30 PM I showered and got dressed in my fanciest casual duds for the evening's activities.  We couldn't agree on a dinner spot so we headed across the sky bridge to the Miracle Mile Shops. After doing a complete circuit of the entire mall we decided to just get sandwiches and fries at the Earl of Sandwich.  The wife was not pleased with my indecisiveness and insistence on checking out all the options.

We arrived at Cosmopolitan a little after 8 o'clock.  Matt had asked the group pull participants to arrive at 8:30 so everyone could be accounted for and we could get things rolling at 9.  To make things easy we all put $200 in any slot at Cosmo beforehand and then immediately cashed it out so instead of handling a bunch of cash he would just have 16 of the TITO tickets.  On the group pull earlier in the week at the Plaza downtown they did it in the high limit slot area.  Cosmo apparently refused to allow us to do it there because they didn't want their other high limit players to be bothered by the crowd and added noise.  I laughed at the noise comment because the music at Cosmo was blaring and near ear splitting levels. 

So the slot selected was a Dragon Link machine called Spring Festival. I think it was chosen because it had a maxed out $1,000 major.  The machine was located right near the bottom of the escalator and not too far inside the door from the strip, so there was a lot of foot traffic and the crowd gathered around one player drew a lot of curiosity from passers by.  The machine was set at $2 denomination at $20 a press.  Each player had 10 spins, or pairs like my wife and me could split them 5 and 5.  Once everybody had completed their 10 spins we divided the profits or loss. I won't steal the thunder from Matt's vlog so if you're interested check out the video here. (On the video about halfway through you can hear Matt say something like, "Excuse me they're trying to watch." It was because a lady had hilariously kind of elbowed her way to the front to see what all the fuss was about and rather loudly asked what was going on. I was surprised you couldn't  really hear her on the video.)

We hung out a little afterwards and chatted with some of the other participants.  Almost all of the others involved were from the UK and Ireland.  We had a lovely time making small talk with two friendly young ladies from Sheffield. After collecting our money and getting a little advice from Matt about what denomination he usually plays on the Dancing Drums and 88 Fortunes we headed back to Aria.  The wife turned in and I headed down to the poker room and got into a 1-3 no limit game.  I repeated the same level of success at Bally's and cashed out down about $100 after the table we were at started to fall apart a couple of hours into the session.

I wound up hitting another bonus this time on the Buffalo Grand.  I scored one of the small progressives for about $30 and then hit a 5X multiplier to make it $150.  I won another hundred on a diamond something or other lock it link machine and then called it a night.  For the third time my poor poker skills and lack of cards was rescued by the one armed bandits.  I was starving and didn't want to stray too far or go anywhere that would take too long so I went back to the CVS just on the other side of the Waldorf Astoria and bought a sub sandwich, some chips, a candy bar and a big Gatorade.  I quietly ate those at the desk in the room while watching Catfish on the TV and then crashed.

Final day coming in the next day or two.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

So I Guess I'm a Slot Player Now? - Part 2

On Monday we woke up around 8:30 AM Vegas time. I have to be at work by about 6:00 AM Central Time for my job, so it usually takes me a day or two to force myself to sleep in a little more when I get to Pacific Time.  We wanted to get some breakfast, but weren't sure where we wanted to go. We wandered over to Paris and decided to try Le Cafe Ile St. Louis. I thought it was great. I got some cheesy grits with sausage. As somebody whose family is from the south I'm very particular about my grits and these were the perfect consistency. My wife was very pleased with the choice because they served Pepsi and her drink was never empty the entire meal. That's usually her number one factor in whether or not our server deserves a big tip or not; was her drink kept filled throughout the meal.  I'll definitely go there again on future Vegas trips.

We lost $40 on a couple of slot machines in the Paris casino, but I can't remember which ones.  We then headed south to the Tix 4 Tonight stand outside Planet Hollywood to see about show tickets for that night.  We had been considering either a comedy show or something like the Prince tribute show "Purple Reign" at Tropicana. I had been checking prices on so I had a pretty good feel for the prices on that site. Everything at Tix 4 Tonight was slightly more expensive so we decided to just go purchase something on instead. 

We ducked into Planet Hollywood and I lost $20 in a 25 cent Double Top Dollar machine. The wife put $20 of her own money in the same machine and on the very last spin of  75 cents per spin she hit the top dollar bonus and won back her $20 plus $5 more.  She cashed out winner and we headed back to Bally's.with a pit stop in the CVS to grab some beverages for the room. (Bally's is one of the few hotels that provides a mini fridge for your own stuff which is great because I love having cold water, pop, and Gatorade in my room in the desert.)

Back at the room we booked tickets for the late show that night at the Comedy Cellar at Rio and my wife cashed in a 2 for 1 ticket offer for tickets to Cirque du Soleil's Love at Mirage for Wednesday night.  We killed some time in the room and then grabbed a couple of 24 hour Deuce passes and headed up to Fremont Street. I've seen several people post lately about how great Pizza Rock is so I was very keen to try it out.  We ordered a meatball appetizer and a large pie that was half New Yorker (pepperoni, fennel sausage, and ricotta) and half pepperoni. 

Just as they delivered our pizza there was a power surge and all of the electricity in the restaurant went off.  It was mid-afternoon so we could still see just fine, but it went from loud rock music to dead silence....but not for long.  The power came back on a few minutes later and for some reason the fire alarm started blaring.  We stayed put and finished our delicious lunch, but according to our waitress three of her other tables used the fire alarm as an excuse to dine and dash. 

After lunch we headed over to the D so I could play some blackjack with more favorable rules (I refuse to play on the strip with the terrible 6 to 5 blackjack payouts).I dropped a $100 in like 30-40 minutes.  It was very windy and a little bit cold so we didn't just hang out at the Fremont Street Experience.  We caught the bus back south on the strip and I took a nap in the room before dinner.

We decided to keep it simple and  grabbed something from the Bally's food court. The wife got Johnny Rockets and I had Pan Asian Express. We Lyfted over to the Rio for the show at Comedy Cellar. At Rio we played some video roulette and and video poker.  I think we broke even on the games we played in the casino.  We stopped at the Masquerade Bar to get the wife the one alcoholic beverage she likes, a pina colada.  I drank a couple of $9 Coronas and decided to put $20 in the video poker game even though the pay table was pretty crappy.  I quickly hit a four of a kind and cashed out $50 which was just about exactly enough profit to cover our drinks.

The comedy show was pretty entertaining, but the crowd was small.  The room was only about half full and they moved us from the cheap seats we paid for to better ones much closer to the stage so the areas closest to the comics would be more full. It wasn't the most raucous crowd, but I thought we were laughing loudly enough at the times when something was funny.  For some reason the comics were all kind of complaining about how shitty the crowd was. I really feel like their negative attitude towards the crowd just made things worse. I started to feel like, "Look I came here to laugh and have a good time. All of us bought tickets to a comedy show because we wanted to laugh."  I honestly was a little pissed that they were being such pricks about it.

We got back to Bally's just before midnight. I changed into more casual clothes and went down to the poker room to play in the $75 no limit hold em tournament with a $2,000 guarantee.  It was pretty uneventful and I made it to the final table.  With nine players remaining and blinds at I think 2,000-4,000 the UTG player shoved all in for about 28,000.  I looked down at AK off and shoved my last 20,000 in from the small blind.  The big blind tanked for a minute or so and asked the dealer for confirmation on the amounts and then called for about 2 thirds of his stack.   UTG turned over AJ off and the big blind turned over AQ of spades.  I don't remember the exact board runout, but I remember the flop had two spades and the river was a third spade.

I licked my wounds by putting  $100 in Buffalo Gold and hit another bonus for around $300. So for the second day in a row slots had covered losses at poker and/or table games.

I'll continue the story tomorrow with our move over to Aria for the night in a comped king room and the high limit group slot pull at Cosmopolitan with Matt Bridger.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

So I Guess I'm a Slot Player Now?

Work had been extra stressful throughout the summer and early fall, so I'd been tossing around the idea of another trip to Vegas around either Thanksgiving or Christmas. I recently discovered the YouTube channel of Matt Bridger, a charismatic Brit who is a major Vegas lover and an avid slot player.  Just as I was trying to make up my mind when to return to Vegas for my second trip of 2019, Matt announced that he would be making his fourth trip of 2019 to Vegas in late November and was planning to host a couple of group slot pulls.

Now, I've never been a big slot player. I like games where I feel like I have some kind of control over the outcome...where decisions I make can minimize the house edge or try to gain an advantage over my opponent. Watching Matt's vlogs had intrigued me and for the first time I planned to try to commit more of my gambling budget to some slot play.  I emailed Matt asking if I could be part of one of the group slot pulls and when he replied to the affirmative I booked a trip for Sunday through Thursday the week of Thanksgiving.

The wife and I flew Allegiant from Des Moines to Las Vegas arriving around 2:30 PM on Sunday, November 24th.  We caught a Lyft from the airport to Bally's.  For the first time ever I got long hauled through the tunnel to the 15.  Knowing Lyft's structure I figured it was only a dollar or two more, so I didn't get too worked up over it. We got in line to check in with plans to try the $20 trick to see if we could score an upgrade.  There were like 30 people in line in front of us when a front desk employee came by telling everyone that check in wasn't until 4:00 and we would have to pay to check in early.

We decided to save the money and checked our bags at the bell stand.  While the wife was making a quick bathroom run I popped $20 in a video slot machine and cashed out $30. I told her we were done gambling so we could go home and tell everyone we were up for the trip.

We decided to kill some time locating the five lucky spots at Caesars featured in day one of Matt's vlog from August of 2019. The five spots are as follows:

  1. The Four Faced Brahma just outside of Hell's Kitchen
  2. Michelangelo's David in the Appian Way Shops - You're to touch his left big toe
  3. Cleopatra's Barge Club - You're to touch her breasts (I chickened out on this one)
  4. Joe Louis near the sports book - You're supposed to fist bump his left boxing glove
  5. Caesar near reception - You're supposed to touch his left index finger
We found the first one right away as I knew right where it was We then wandered Caesar's Palace for probably 20-30 minutes before we found a property map on the wall with one of those "you are here" markers.  David was literally 20 yards behind me up a nearby walkway. We still had a little more time to kill before we could check in at Bally's so we headed over to Bellagio.

I slipped $100 in a Dragon Link game and decided to try out a Matt Bridger method of playing at the 10 cent denomination on 25 lines for $2.50  a spin.  That way the minor and mini jackpots jump up to $500 and $100 respectively.  On about the third spin we hit a hold and spin. That's where you get six spots with balls with numbers in them that represent a dollar amount and you get a bonus feature where you get 3 free spins to try to fill in more of the numbered balls. Every time you fill in another ball your free spins reset back to 3.

We were feeling pretty great about the bonus and I had quickly done the math in my head and figured we had won somewhere around sixty or seventy dollars.  Then the machine started adding up the numbers one-by-one and somewhere in the middle the total jumped way up to over $100.  I hadn't realized that the ball that said 1000 was not $10, but rather $100 since we were playing dimes and needed to add a zero to the end of the amounts.  The total for the bonus was really $162.50. I played it down to a win of $150 and cashed out. We headed back over to Bally's to check in.

We were horrified to see the line to check in was now probably 400 people deep. There was about 300 people in a winding line waiting to check in at the counter and another 100 or so waiting to use the 8 or so self check kiosks.  We made a grave tactical error not spending the money to check in early. I waited in line for the self check kiosks for probably 45 minutes and we wound up in a room in the Resort Tower on the 14th floor with a view of the roof of the casino and the back of Paris. We had a slight glimpse of the Eiffel Tower between the Jubilee Tower and Paris.

After checking in we cleaned up and headed out to get something to eat.  We decided to stroll down to the Linq promenade and pick a place there. We landed at the Tilted Kilt which was okay. I had fish and chips and the wife got her usual plain cheeseburger. As we were dining a woman came around selling these bead leis that had NFL and college logos on them with the profits going to I think some kind of multiple sclerosis charity. Since they had one of our Iowa Hawkeyes I bought it for my wife. The seller said it's bad luck to put a lei on yourself when you first get it so she came around the table and put it on for her complete with kisses on each cheek.  As she walked away my wife commented, "Mmmmm...she smelled good."

After dinner we made our way back to Bally's.  The wife was exhausted from all the walking we did, so she said she was going to relax in the room and gave me the green light to head down to the poker room to play a little $1-2 no limit.  I was very card dead and cashed out about $100 down after 3 hours or so.  On the way back to the room I decided to see what all the fuss was about with all of the machines exclaiming "BUFFALO!" I put $100 in one of the Buffalo Gold variety. I got it down to about $45 when I hit a bonus.  It retriggered a few times and I wound up cashing out a little over $500.

I'll leave it there for now and try to post the rest tomorrow evening.

Friday, July 5, 2019

May 2019 Vegas Trip Report (Part 2)

Sorry for the long delay in getting to the rest of the trip.  Life, as usual, got in the way of my good intentions.  I'm going mostly from memory and the trip was about 2 months ago, so I'll do my best to recap our very mild shenanigans. 

On Day 2 we slept in until about 10:30 or 11:00 since we didn't hit the sack until after 4:00. We got ready and headed down to the food court at Excalibur to try to find some food. We settled on Schlotzky's Deli and got in the line of about 10 people.  It soon became apparent that there was only one guy working there taking the orders and making the food and the line was not moving.  We waited nearly 15 minutes and only one person had been served, so we made the call to go somewhere else.  We settled on the New York New York food court across the street. My brother-in-law got a breakfast burrito from a deli (don't remember the name) and I got a slice of the square pizza Trooper97 has recommended in his video blogs.  It was decent, but probably would have been better if I had asked to have it warmed in the pizza oven. 

After that we cut through Park MGM to Aria to play their $140 1 PM daily donkament. I had made pretty deep runs twice in that tournament on my birthday trip last year, so wanted to play it again.  Turnout this time around was even lighter than last year.  They barely filled up two tables.  It was pretty uneventful and I don't remember too many hands.  I was seated in seat 2 and the guy in seat 1 was your classic east coast talker. He saw probably 90 percent of the flops and was getting 2 pair an inordinate amount of times.  There was an older guy with an Army veteran cap on my left in seat 3 who clearly did not like seat 1.  He was making snarky comments under his breath at all of his boastful stories about expensive meals and extravagant spending. 

One of my only memorable winning hands was against the grumpy vet.  I don't remember exact betting amounts, but I know he raised preflop to about 3x the blind and I limp-called along with one other person with something like 87 suited on the button. I flopped an open ended straight draw and he made about a three-fourths pot bet.  The middle position player called and so did I.  The turn checked around.  I caught my straight on the river and made a bet of about half the pot on the river which was somewhere around 2,000 tournament chips.  He made the call and grumbled about my "loose call" on the flop when he saw my straight.  I told him he probably could have won the hand if he had bet the turn, but he gave me a free card to get there. 

My brother-in-law busted before the first break.  I busted just before the second break. 

After that we headed over to Planet Hollywood to see if there were any juicy looking cash games.  We decided the games didn't look that tempting so we grabbed some dinner at the Earl of Sandwich.  After that we headed down to see about getting in a game at MGM Grand.  We both got in separate cash games.  I wound up at the exact same table I played at on my birthday trip in May 2018 and there was an Irishman at the table who was also there a year ago.  I distinctly remember him because I was seated in seat 9 back in 2018 and seat 6 was a young Brit, the Irishman was in seat 7, and a Scotsman was in seat 8.  I later told my wife it was like the start to a joke. "An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman walk into a poker room..."

Right after I was seated they sent a young man to our table who told us he had just turned 21 and this was his very first time playing live poker in a casino.  He said he had played a bunch online though.  He was just killing time until he went to the David Copperfield show.  He needed a little help with the mechanics of the game like posting blinds (especially when he didn't have any $1 chips to do so), tipping, and letting the dealer make change for you.  But his play otherwise was solidly tight aggressive.  He wasn't afraid to put chips in play and made a pretty tidy profit in the 90 minutes or so that he played. 

I had an extremely uneventful session and when I started to catch myself yawning and losing focus I decided to call it a night down about $30 or so.  My brother-in-law had jumped into a late night tourney at MGM Grand.  He was a real fan of those small tournaments with overlays and had some success cashing in a couple.  I bid him good night and headed back north on the strip to Walgreens to grab some beverages for the room.  It was raining just hard enough to be annoying.  I honestly don't remember ever getting rained on before in my many trips to Vegas.  I just kind of hugged the buildings so I was under the awnings most of the way, so I didn't get all that wet. 

The plan for Wednesday was to play some disc golf.  My brother-in-law is really into it and wanted to try out a local course while we were there.  We woke up around 9:30 and after showering etc. grabbed lunch at Schlotzky's at Excalibur food court.  I stopped to purchase a Cubs cap at the Lids store so my bald noggin wouldn't get fried by the Vegas sun.  We caught a Lyft over to Sunset Park which is along E Sunset just on the other side of McCarran.  I downloaded a disc golf app to help us navigate the course.  We were struggling to find the first hole when a couple of locals who were playing came along and pointed us in the right direction. I decided not to play and just acted as caddy and carried his camo backpack and helped find our way to the next tee box. (I completely forgot to share this little incident. At the Des Moines airport his camo backpack was pulled off to the side for a more thorough search.  I asked him why and he just said it always gets searched probably because it's camo.  Well it turns out he had forgotten a big bowie knife in the bottom of the bag.  He just surrendered it and they let us go on our way.)

We were pretty whipped after traipsing around in the sun, so we headed back west across the street to Village Pub and Poker to cool off and have a beer. It was a nice little find.  They serve beers that are brewed at Ellis Island and both of the ones I tried were very tasty.  It turned out there was a little disc golf supply store right next door, so my brother-in-law picked up a specific disc he had been looking for back home.  We then caught a Lyft back to Excalibur to get ready for the evening's activities. After cleaning up and napping for a tiny bit we caught another Lyft over to the Rio for dinner at the Carnival World Buffet and the Penn and Teller show. 

The Carnival World Buffet did not impress me as much as it has in the past.  I thought the food quality was not as good and it seemed like they had a lot fewer selections than I remembered from 10 years ago or so.  Definitely didn't feel like we got value for the price which was almost $40 a person. The desserts were the best part of the buffet to be honest. 

After eating we putzed around in the casino playing some video roulette, video poker, and at least one slot.  I told my BIL that I wanted to get to the show early because I heard they had a decent jazz trio that played for about 30 minutes prior to the start featuring Penn Jillette on the upright bass.  Well it turned out I had the show time wrong and we actually arrived just as it was about to start.  As we were walking up the hall to the theater lobby the ushers started urging us to hurry up or we would miss the beginning of the show.  We had seats in about the 3rd row of the balcony right on the aisle in the middle.  They were good seats and being in the balcony meant we were safe from being picked to go on stage which was just fine with me. 

The show was very funny and there were several jaw dropping magic bits.  I'm told they change up the tricks in the show quite a bit, but I don't want to spoil too much by telling you about what happened.  I will share the trick that I thought was maybe the most impressive.  Penn asked for volunteers from the audience that were good at identifying the suits and values of playing cards and selected two gentlemen to join him on stage. He opened a new deck of cards and had them shuffle and split the deck into about two equal halves. He then had one start organizing his cards into suit and value order from A up to K. Then he had the other person fan his cards out and he examined them for exactly one minute.  Then he talked to the audience while that volunteer put his cards in suit and value order.

After that he proceeded to stand between them and as he pointed back and forth from one to the other he went through the suits one by one indicating which of them had which card.  And he didn't go slow.  It was incredibly impressive.

After the show both Penn and Teller and their incredible jazz pianist Mike Jones stayed in the lobby taking selfies with anyone that wanted one.  We got one with Teller (who actually spoke to us):

After the show we caught a Lyft to Planet Hollywood.  I had planned to get in a cash game there, but they had a pretty sizable list and didn't seem like they were inclined to open anymore tables.  I decided to call it a night around midnight and my BIL went to MGM Grand to get in a late night tourney.

On Thursday we woke up late and killed time around the room.  While the BIL finished showering I headed down to the Excalibur casino floor.  My 88 year old mother loves to play slots, but since she moved into assisted living she rarely gets to play. Before I left for Vegas she gave me $40 to play for her while we connected via Facetime. I started with a buffalo gold slot and we lost $20 without winning a single cent.  I then found a penny slot that had a dragon that would occasionally breathe fire on the reels triggering some wild spaces.  We won and lost a bit on that one, but eventually lost it all too.  I rarely play slots so I'm terrible at picking winners.

I then joined a $5 blackjack table and for the first time this trip had a little luck.  I cashed out up about $125 for the session. It was the typical low stakes blackjack table on the strip with a mix of experienced players and complete newbies with the newbs making lots of weird plays like hitting when they have 13 and the dealer showing a 6.  I don't like it when people do that, but I don't get as angry as some players.  I'm a firm believer that players only remember the times that it hurts them and forget all the times that it helped them.

After my BIL came down we headed over to the food court at MGM Grand and grabbed a burger at Johnny Rockets before catching the monorail over to the Westgate for Trooper Thursday.  This was my second time participating in a Trooper Thursday and probably my last. Nothing bad happened either time, but more than half the players at my table were regulars who apparently play in the game every single week. Two of the regulars elected to sit out for the bomb pots so that meant you were getting even worse odds on that blind $10 bet. Also Tim barely spoke to me or my BIL except when I was purchasing a hat as I was about to leave.  He spent all of his time brewing coffee and bantering with his buddies that play every week.  It felt like I had stumbled into someone else's home game and none of the regulars went out of their way to make the "new guys" feel welcome at all.  So it was just another 1-3 game except some of it was filmed and put on YouTube.

I left the game down about $100 and my BIL was up a couple hundred.

We caught the monorail back to Bally's and my BIL got into another of their tourneys with the overlay.  I ran into a nice guy from North Carolina that I had played with there earlier in the week.  He started  to tell me how earlier in the evening he had made the decision to rack up and leave, but a buddy convinced him to sit back down and continue playing.  I was sure it was going to be a bad beat story, but quite the opposite.  He said he went on the biggest heater of his life and cashed out almost $1,400 an hour or two later.  He showed me a picture of his 2 plus racks of chips.

We had a very early flight on Friday morning, so I decided to turn in around 11:00 PM. First I headed back to Walgreens to get some water and Gatorade.  Especially in the desert I like to have some caffeine free and alcohol free beverages around the hotel room for overnight and early in the morning.

I have no idea when my BIL made it back to the room.  I'm guessing it was after 2 AM for sure.  We had to be downstairs to catch a Lyft to the airport by 5:30.  That was it...I won a little at video poker and blackjack, but lost pretty consistently at poker.  I never had an disastrous sessions, but pretty much lost about $50 to $100 in each cash session I played.  I only spent about half of the bankroll I saved up for the trip, so it definitely wasn't the worst gambling result I've had on a trip to Vegas, but it for sure wasn't anywhere near the best.

I enjoyed having my BIL along with me, but I think I enjoyed my solo trip last year more.  It's just nice to have the freedom to do whatever you want without doing that dance of "what do you want to do?"

A couple observations about Vegas.  The food and other things just keep getting more and more expensive.  It just isn't the value it used to be.  I know I'm just joining the chorus here, but the resort fees are ridiculous.  I don't use the spa, fitness center, or pool so it's just lighting money on fire for me. Also literally half of the escalators to the sky bridges on the strip were out of commission this trip.  The one that goes over Harmon on the east side of the strip had the up escalator AND the elevator out of order at the same time.  If you had a mobility issue and wanted to go south over Harmon on that sky bridge you were shit out of luck.  The number of panhandlers, fake Tibetan monks, and general hustlers along the strip and the sky bridges was higher than any trip in recent memory.  The only one that almost earned money from me....almost....was a guy on the bridge from NYNY to Excalibur in the wee hours of the morning loudly singing, "IF YOU PUT A DOLLAR IN MY CUP, I'LL SHUT THE F#$% UP!"

Even with all of those negatives I still can't wait to go back again soon.  Currently pricing trips around Thanksgiving and talking with my boys about when they would like to go in 2020. I'm thinking early in the WSOP so I can play the senior event.  I also heard rumors they might run another tourney with the same structure as this year's Big 50, but it wouldn't be called that.  I would for sure take a stab at that if they do it again.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 13, 2019

May 2019 Vegas Birthday Trip - Day 1's been over a year since I posted here.  Like always I only post when I have something big to report on, so I'm constantly amazed by the people who post consistently and with overall great quality and interesting content.

I recently spent a week in Vegas celebrating my birthday with my brother-in-law.  We played some poker, saw a show, and ate a little too much.  Overall I had a pretty disappointing week of poker results.  I was card dead pretty much the entire time.  And because I was folding constantly I rarely got action when I did get a playble hand.

As usual I went for the more inexpensive lodging option to preserve as much of the bankroll as possible, so we were booked at Excalibur.  We arrived in town on Monday afternoon about 3:00 PM Vegas time and cabbed it from the airport.  I ionly took a cab because I was unsure where the rideshare pickup area was at the airport.  With tip that ride cost us $25, so that was the last time we would take a cab while in town and is likely the last time I will ever take a cab in Las Vegas.  On average even with a tip included Lyft and Uber seem to be about half as expensive as cabs and I never had to wait more than 2-3 minutes for them to arrive.

I booked the room through my Mlife account and had checked in ahead of time using the MGM Resorts app on my phone.  We took the first bad beat of the trip when the kiosks that were supposed to dispense our room key and help us avoid the check in lines were down.  The representative turning everyone away from the kiosks sent us to the VIP check in area, so our wait was much less than the standard check in line, but still much longer than iff the kiosks had been operational.

After we checked in we showered and headed out to find some food. We decided to make our way up to the Linq and grab some In n Out burgers.  I've never been there before, but knew enough to order my burger "animal style" to get it cooked with mustard and slathered in special sauce and sauteed onions.  I ordered the combo that included a double cheeseburger, fries, and a drink and was very confused when the cashier asked "Just the burger or the fries too?" I thought he was asking did I want fries or not, so I said, "Yeah fries too please."

Turns out he was asking did I want the french fries anmial style as well.  Oh well live and learn I guess. I have to say In n Out Burger didn't live up to the hype. The burger was okay and the fries were very underwhelming.  They were almost like shoestring potatoes and seemed very limp and lifeless under the little bit of thousand island dressing and sauteed onions they globbed on top.  I probably won't be making a special effort to return there.  I'm sure this will be blasphemy to any of my west coast friends, but I honestly thought the burger I had later in the week at Johnny Rockets was better.

After eating we decided to make our way back south to Bally's to get in a cash game.  It took us just 10-15 minutes to get seated at separate tables by vlogger balt999. I was in the 6 seat.  Early in the session I called a small raise preflop with 10-8 of clubs from a Japanese gentleman in seat 9   I flopped two clubs and called a small continuation bet of I think $12.  I caught my flush on the turn and just called a bet of $25.  On the river he bet $60 and I just called.  He showed pocket aces and seemed surprised when I revealed my 10 high flush.  That left him with about $50 or so in his stack.

A few hands later I got pocket Aces and the Japanese gentleman was the only caller.  We both had a good laugh when he caught a flush to crack my aces and in broken English he said, "I revenge you." Later in the session he got his aces cracked again by another player prompting me to declare that I was going to open fold them the next time I got them.

The rest of the session was a very card dead roller coaster of small wins and losses until the very last hand I played.  I raised to $12 preflop with pocket queens and got 3 callers.  I flopped a set of queens on a board that had two clubs.  I bet $25 on the flop and only had one call from a woman that had joined our table just 15-20 minutes before this hand occurred.  I bet $45 on the turn which was an inconsequential card and she called.

The third club appeared on the river and she she tossed out two chips.  I decided $10 wasn't enough for me to fold considering the size of the pot so I said "Call" and threw out two red chips.  The dealer gave me a confused look and said, "'s $50."  I said, "Oh, sorry, I'm color blind and those chips look the same as the $5 chips to me and nobody has had $25 chips in play for the last 6 hours I've been playing at this table. Another player at the table reiterated that everyone else at the table only had red $5 and white $1 chips.   I also commented that he hadn't announced the bet size either.  He just shrugged.  I paid the $50 and immediately racked up muttering angrily to myself. I went over to my brother-in-law's tournament table and explained my grievance loud enough for the dealer involved and the floor person standing nearby to hear. Neither reacted or otherwise pursued it further. I probably won't be back to Bally's poker room in the future.

All of this begs the question, why are two of the most commonly used chip denominations red and green which is the most common form of color blindness?  And why would a casino use shades of red and green that are that hard for color blind people to differentiate. I mean I literally couldn't tell them apart except by the denomination printed on them which is useless when they're at the other end of the table. I ran into the same thing later in the week at Westgate. My home casino here in Iowa uses a bright fire engine red and a very bright green that I can easily identify.  Bally's had dull brick red and a very dark shade of green...almost brown. I might have an ADA claim.

At this point it was about 2 in the morning Vegas time (so like 4 AM by my midwest body clock) and my brother-in-law had just flamed out of the 11 PM tournament. We decided to grab a bite to eat at Hash House a Go Go at the Linq and lick our wounds.  After gorging ourselves on their massively sized offerings we decided to call it a night.  We walked down to the skybridge from Bally's over to Bellagio to catch the tram from Bellagio down to Park MGM.  I thought I remembered where it was, but wandered all over the casino in Bellagio looking for a sign that directed to the tram.  We finally stopped and asked a security guard, but I think by the time we walked from the northeast entrance of Bellagio to the very farthest southwest corner to catch the tram and then from the very northwest end of Park MGM to the southeast exit to the strip we probably took more steps than if we just walked straight down the strip.  We finally made it back to the room about 4 AM Vegas time and basically collapsed into our respective beds.

I'll leave it there for now and pick up on Day 2 in another post.