First trip to Las Vegas for both me and my husband (Tom). When a software company whose product I support announced a conference to be held in LV, I immediately submitted a travel request to my boss. I was disappointed when I got the "we'll see" response, and decided there was no point in getting my hopes up. But within a few days I had convinced myself that it was very likely that the trip would be approved so I started researching Las Vegas (Cheapo Vegas is not necessarily up-to-date site, but still my favorite for the humor). The more I learned the more excited I got and I was desperate for an answer from my boss. I finally cornered him one day and asked when I would have an answer. He came to my office 10 minutes later and gave me the go ahead - woohoo! The good news was I was going to Las Vegas; the bad news was I had to wait *five* months. The good news was I had five months to save up!
When I asked my husband if he wanted to go, he wasn't enthused - about flying (from upstate NY), taking the vacation time, or accompanying me on a business trip. OK, whatever - I can entertain myself just fine. Just to be sure, I asked again a few days later and he admitted he had been thinking about it and realized it was really a great opportunity. So, I started planning our trip. We like to gamble so even with my airfare, car rental, meals and hotel paid for, it would still be a considerable cost for husband's expenses and both our gambling money, plus the hotel for the weekend preceding the conference.
I can't describe my initial excitement about this trip - it kept me awake at night and it seemed like all I could think about. I looked at Vegas web sites every single night for about a month and *almost* every night for the next 4 months. I did so much research about Vegas that I found myself knowing the answers to many newbie questions that I saw posted on the various forums. I didn't know how I would get through that keyed up feeling for the next 5 months, but eventually I got over the initial "craze" and I could sleep again. My husband didn't get into the spirit until the week before. [3 months before trip] - Me: "Honey, look at this cool shirt I bought for the trip". Husband: "What trip?" ;-). I bought a copy of the ACG from overstock.com for about $10.50. Figured my husband could basically eat for free if my company bought my meals and my husband got the free side of the 2 for 1 meal offers. Also read Frugal Gambler from cover to cover. I didn't make an itinerary exactly, but I did have a pretty good list of things we wanted to see and do. The last 3 weeks before the trip seemed to take for freakin' EVER, but of course, departure finally arrived!!
Friday, 9/24 - Arrived at Syracuse, NY airport early for 4:40 p.m. flight on American and hung out at bar. Tom goes to smoke and forgets to take boarding pass, which I realize so I haul all our carry-on to security to "rescue" him. He goes to smoke again before flight and nearly has to be paged for flight. Arrive at O'hare only to find that 6:40 flight to LV is delayed by over an hour. Bummer! We go to Chili's for snacks and beer. Husband goes to smoke and - you guessed it - forgets boarding pass and has to be rescued at security again. The flight leaves 1.5 hours late and passengers are cranky because of it. Arrive safely but tired at 10:00 p.m. (which is 1:00 a.m. for us). Pick up Thrifty car, take wrong turn leaving airport and finally get to Sam's Town after about double the time it should have taken. Check-in (for 2 nights) around midnight. A plain king room looking at Spring Mountain, as we saw in the morning. Went down to get Prime Rewards card and find FPDW machines. I get 3 straight flushes in the first 6 hands and am even money after a few hours. Stop at bar to get beer on way to room about 3:00 a.m. I say "let's play the bar machines for a few minutes so the beers are free". They are not full pay but the progressive jackpot is $1350 so I figure they would be worth a try. Tom can't concentrate on VP strategy any longer so plays Black Rhino slot. He starts about $40 and nudges me when he gets a win that takes him over $100. Then he gives me a nudge at about $200, then a $350 nudge, then a $450 nudge, then a "hey look! - I think I won something" and I watch as the meter climbs to $950. He cashes out at $900 and I am up about $25 when we finally go to the room at 6:00 a.m.
Saturday, 9/25 - Up at 10:00 (I can't sleep in hotels) with a very foggy head from all the free beer and have $2.99 steak and eggs at Fresh Harvest restaurant - edible. Tom needs nap after breakfast and I play 9/6 JoB - up $30 after few hours. Eat at Sbarro before heading out to LVMS for races. Take free Sam's shuttle to downtown, then CAT bus to LVMS. Meet homeless couple on bus who have gotten free tickets to races. We mention that we are from NY and she says she almost went to NY once. She used to be a "dancer" in LV and got pregnant. Boyfriend wanted her to keep dancing. She saw a Ricky Lake show looking for pregnant "dancers" to be on and called the show. They were going to fly her and BF to NY with limo, hotel and the works to be on the show and tell their story. It ended up that the other 2 women who were going to be on the show were too far along in their pregnancy by the time all the details were arranged and the airline wouldn't let them fly. The woman on the bus was really bummed out by her "lost chance". Very strange and sad - all told while the bus took us through a *very* seedy section of LV.
Got to LVMS and Tom asked a guy where to buy our tickets. Another guy over heard and handed Tom 2 free general admission sponsor tickets (worth $35 each). Good thing because we make up for the free tickets in beer and food ($11 for 2 beers and I counted at least 8 rounds). Watch the Craftsman truck race. Tom tells me the race is 200 laps and sends me for food at about lap 135 and while I am standing in line I hear them announce the white flag (that means there is one lap to go for you non race fans) and the race ends with an exciting finish while I am at the food court! Tom evidently miscalculated the miles-to-laps conversion. The Champ cars race next but there are only 16 of them on that huge track and I'm just not into them. Exciting finish anyway.
Take bus back to DTC and miss our connection by seconds. Have to wait for 30 minutes (at 1:00 a.m.) with the seedy downtown characters. Bus ride has some *very* interesting people and we are relieved to get back to Sam's. Play slots for a few hours. I am down $35 on VP, Tom down about $150 on slots. I forgot to ask for free deck of cards when I signed up for card so went back to ask. She said they were out but to go ask pit boss. I felt very foolish bothering the guy about this (but Jean Scott says to ask for everything) and he was very friendly and came back with a whole case of cards (12 decks!). To bed at 4:00 a.m.
Sunday, 9/26 - Up at 10:00. Try to get dining comps as per suggestions in the Frugal Gambling but get nothing. After 2 days and about 12 hours of max coin slot/VP between Tom and I, casino host says we qualify for nothing except the comps we earned (about $13) on our card (joint account). So we eat breakfast at Fresh Harvest again (it is only edible - I can't recommend this restaurant) and decide not to bother with any other slot clubs. Sam's Town itself is nice enough; easy to get to (with car) lots of machines, decent rooms, several eateries, pretty neat indoor park with trees and streams and some kind of light show that we never saw.
Drove to Hoover Dam. Long line of traffic to get there and not much to see except the scenery on the way. We bought a couple of post cards and headed out. Heard a few days later that a guy killed his GF at Treasure Island then went to Hoover Dam and jumped off after a stand off with authorities - very sad.
We drive to GVR and play FPDW, which ate $100 quickly. We almost eat at buffet but decide to try and get to Luxor before dark (this is the hotel the conference is at and we are booked for 4 nights). No line for check-in at 6:00 p.m. Room is on the 24th floor and we get to use Inclinator 1 which only services floors 22-30 so elevator service is always quick and just a short walk from our room (the inclinator feels just like an elevator to me). Luxor is one of the most interesting hotels we saw. The balcony outside our room looks down to the attraction area (arcades and such) on the 2nd floor and is a d@mn LONG way down. View of Mandalay Bay and a bit of the airport. Eat at Pyramid Café. Tom has huge burger and I have monte cristo. Pretty good food. Drop about $60 in various slots and head to bed at 11:30 because I have to be up for conference. I think Tom played hold em for a while, down $50 or so.
Monday, 9/27 - Go to my conference most of the day with a couple of slot breaks that net me nothing. Tom plays poker all day down $150 or so. Decide we'll check out the strip for the evening but start with Ellis Island for the $4.99 steak dinner. Take packed bus to Bally's from which Ellis Island is supposed to be about a block. LV blocks are VERY long and it was about a ½ mile walk I think. Tom is cranky from the heat (about 95 the first 3 days) and hunger. He has prime rib for $7.99 and I have the steak special, both pretty good. Domestic beer at $1 per bottle can't be beat, plus I used the ACG coupon for B1G1 free entrée and 4 free beers. Played VP while Tom watched football at bar. Hit 4oaK and couldn't figure out why it paid so much until I realized I was playing Bonus Poker (instead of JoB) and hit 4 9's with a queen. I don't know BP or the payouts but I was happy with my mistake. Cashed out $120 profit and went to bar. Played short pay DW and cashed out with another $80 profit. Tour a few strip places (Ceasar's, down $40), Bellagio (can't quite catch the full fountain show) and back to Luxor to dump $80 into slots and short pay JW. To bed at 1:00 a.m., Tom at 2:00. He told me that he played poker for a while then stopped at the bar for a beer and got propositioned by a hooker. We come from a very small town so that kind of thing is something we only see in the movies. The whole story was pretty funny and he was glad I trust him because she was "a good lookin' blonde".
Tuesday, 9/28 - Conference sessions in the morning, Wendy's for lunch and head to Red Rock Canyon. This place is awesome. Very scenic and peaceful after the hustle of the city. Pay $5 to enter and take a one-way (so the driver can rubber neck also) 13 mile loop drive with several designated stops for pictures and picnicking. Saw a wild burro which came right up to the car window (I rolled it up in a hurry) but snapped a pic of the burro practically kissing the window. On the map, this place is 20 miles from Vegas, but it might as well be another planet. Also stopped at some little place called Bonnie Springs that supposedly has an old western town. That part was closed due to weather(?) it *had* rained earlier but they said we could walk through the petting zoo for free. Dirty, smelly place with mostly birds caged up. Thirsty so went in to dumpy bar for a beer. Worst VP machine I ever saw. JoB machine (6/5) that paid EVEN money for 2 pair and 2000 coins for Royal Flush (wonder what THAT payback is?). People were playing it! But talked to nice local girl and ended up enjoying the stop. The drive out to the Red Rock area is WELL worth the drive and beats Hoover Dam all to he11.
Go back to LV to check out downtown area. Park at LV Club (I'm glad we didn't stay there, which is where we were originally booked). Lose $20 in VP. Go to Binions and won $20 VP. Tried $5 Pai Gow Poker for the first time while Tom played poker (him down about $110) and I end up $1.25 profit after 2.5 hours. Eat at McDonald's and check out Freemont Street light show which is pretty cool. Freemont street is clean and bright and felt very safe. Go back to Binions and Tom reluctantly agrees to play Pai Gow with me. He picks it up quickly and decides he likes it. Both down about $60 after 3 hours but that was with some $10, 20, and 25 bets with bad luck. Back to Luxor at 2:00 a.m.
Wednesday, 9/29 (last day) - To Nathan's for little corn dogs for breakfast. Then to Palms for decent VP but down $20 (guy next to me hits 4 deuces on DW). Decide to spend the rest of the day downtown. Afternoon session of Pai Gow and up about $40. Go to Tony Roma's (?) for steak and ribs for dinner. Quite good. Have about $150 left and decide to play more Pai Gow. Got KILLED everywhere we went and quickly lost. Not a fun way to spend the last evening. I was over tired and cranky and caused a fight the last night. We get about an hour sleep and have to get up at 5:00 a.m. for 9:00 a.m. flight. Surprised at long check-in lines at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday but all flights are on time and uneventful (and pretty short since we slept most of the time) and we get home safely about 8:00 p.m. Stay up until about 11:00 p.m. and tell our house sitters all about our vacation. Slept for 11 hours, which is unheard of for me. We have Friday off so have a 3-day weekend to recuperate.
-Tom brought back $800 from the first night; I managed to bring back about $250 (this was out of $750 budget for each of us).
-Valet parking is awesome
-Strip properties are too far apart and too big, but the nighttime view is quite spectacular.
-Downtown properties are a little dated (Golden Nugget is nice). And downtown may have some of the best VP but some of the machines are old, slow and sometimes the annoying "double up" variety. But downtown is still a must see in comparison to the strip
-Red Rock Canyon is a must see if you have a car
-About the slot clubs - after the first 2 days in Vegas I realized we wouldn't be back any time soon (too expensive and we only get one vacation a year and there are other places we want to see) so it just wasn't worth the time to find the slot club booths.
-The LV dining experience was wasted on us - we ended up eating fast and cheap because the buffet lines were long and we just weren't that hungry most of the time. Only used 2 of about 15 of the ACG coupons I had planned to use.
-Vegas is too hot in the summer
-If you "only play VP", try other slots. In the short term, VP can drain you quickly and the huge variety of slots can be fun and profitable.
-Try a table game if you never have. Pai Gow is a great game. Very sociable and slow paced. Players play against the dealer so you don't have to "hide" your cards and you can even give each other advice, plus the dealer will help you if you need it.
-I should have gotten more than 4 hours (average) sleep per night
-I packed just the right amount of clothes
-We're very glad we experienced Las Vegas and had a great time overall
I'm sure I left out some good stuff but my notes got sketchy towards the end. Thanks for bearing with me.