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.