I arrived at Red Rocks on Friday night after an uneventful and on-time flight on Delta from Minneapolis. After a $53 cab ride I was in the hotel lobby with 30 minutes of landing. I choose not to rent a car because I wanted to focus on and the two new hotels for me. Between the shuttles and RTC bus service this was the least expensive way to go. The cab fare estimates available on the web were very accurate.
This was my first stay at Red Rocks Casino. I have visited on a couple of occasions briefly on other trips. Naturally I a got a players club card and threw a little money around to get on their radar. It paid off. They sent me a nice offer to stay at the hotel for 3 nights. I could not resist.
I arrived late and the hotel lobby was quiet. The entry way to Red Rocks hotel is spectacular. Lots of horizontal stone slabs and onyx, recalling the crimson and tan color of rock cliffs just outside. Striking modern crystal chandeliers raining down two stories. You see these all over the property. Beyond two circular stairs led up the the casino level, with a beautiful bar/reception area between. After a quick and welcoming check in it was up to my room on the 10th floor.
Red Rocks hotel tower is aligned approximately north-south, maximizing the views to the strip on the east and the red rocks area of the Charleston Mountains to the west. I requested an east facing room, and I was not disappointed. The rooms at Red Rocks are beautiful. 4 stars. Every bit as the best room I've has at Caesars Palace or anywhere else on the strip. The bathroom was spacious appointed with plenty of marble. The bedroom was huge, with a king size bed, a sitting area and a wall of windows. The view of the Strip filled it. Brightly lit and shimmering with 6 miles of distance in the hot night, you could see from from Mandalay Bay, to City Center, to the new Linq ferriswheel, to the Stratosphere tower, and Downtown. Unforgettable.
I hung up my stuff, stashed my bankroll in the safe, cleaned up and headed downstairs to gamble.
Red Rocks Casino is admirably designed. I've never seen better. The circular and swanky 'Lucky Bar' lies at the center of the complex. Table games surround it just outside, and slots further out still. The sides of the building are occupied by bars restaurants. There is a food court, bowling alley, cinemas, sports book, Terra Rosa Italian Restaurant, T-Bones Steakhouse, Lucille's BBQ. Yard House Pub, a Mexican restaurant, Feast Buffet. Onyx Bar, Lucky Bar, and Cherry, a fantastic night club... It was humming with activity. The crowd was diverse: locals, night clubbers, families, old folks.
Hungry, and greatly desiring a beer or three I headed into the Yard House Pub and sat at the bar. I had it in mind to sample some German wheat beers I hadn't had before. I had draft pints of Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss, Ayinger Brauweiss, and a Deschutes Black Butte Porter for a change of pace. They were a tad pricey at $7, but all were world class. Yard House keeps the lines clean and the beers fresh. I had some sliders to go with them with them. Perfect. After midnight and a little buzzed I head out for for some games of chance.
The craps table offered generous $5x10 odds. You won't find much better in Vegas. I liked the tables. The felts are rust colored and the die are blue. Different but nice, as I generally prefer classic green felts with red die. The condition of the table, die and chips are important to me. These conditions were perfect. The dealers were sharp and friendly. They homed in on my betting pattern and made sure I had my bets covered as I drank like a fish. As long as you don't get too impulsive and stick to good bets, craps is one game where drinking won't the outcome. The game requires no skill. But the profit potential and complexity make it my favorite. The game was crowded and choppy, but I managed a profit of about $300 making come bets with heavy odds. So far so good. I walked by the Lucky Bar to check out the working girls. Didn't see any. I took my profits and went to bed.
The only thing better than the night view from my room was when the red sun came up over the valley. My internal clock was still on Minnesota time, so I got up. I really enjoy playing early morning craps 4am-8am. Table minimums have dropped, the drunks are gone but you still see some wild stuff. Working girls are wrapping up and dealing. Unexpectedly, the money printing press started running when a shooter who looked like Peter O'Toole got hot. Peter made 4 points, 37 passes, and rolled a ton of my numbers. I progressed by bets aggressively. I walked away with an additional $1000. I must have left over $500 on the table. My goal is to win 10K, so I bet heavily with the house's money. Just a few more numbers and the take would have been $3000. The story of my trip. A great start, but unfortunately, this would be my gambling high water mark.
After dropping by the sports book to pick up the days baseball odds sheet, I had a nice breakfast at the Feast Buffet. Very reasonably priced and $7.99 for cardholders. I appreciated the fine carved ham. You won't find a better value in Vegas for an unlimited feed at breakfast.
After a little rest it was out to the pool. Like everything else, Red Rocks has a first rate pool area with bar and food service. There are several pools. The central pool has a fountain and seems to attract a lot of kids. I headed for one of the side ones. It was a perfect hot Vegas day in the 90's. Good to reacquaint this Minnesota body with the sun after 8 months. My server Layla offered me a cocktail. Who could resist this apparition? A stunning blond with a Hibiscus vine tat up her right side, which ran through the side of her red tanga bikini. She brought back a strong Pina Colada with a double shot of Captain Morgan and I tipped her generously.
After heading back to my room for a brief rest I went down to the sports book and placed $100 on a few baseball bets for some underdogs playing out on the west coast. The Red Rocks Sports Book is huge and quite simply the best I have ever seen. Better than Caesars, Ballys, MGM... It is high with 3 30' projection screens side by side, showing all of the games and the horses. Seating is ample and comfortable. What I liked was the huge secondary seating at the bar and tables served by it. A sports book is a great place to hang out in Vegas when you are leg weary from walking around all day. Dark, quiet, and cool. I lost all three bets.
I got up early to play more craps and over a couple of hours got crushed. I gave back all of what I had won the previous day and then some. That session would be repeated. Still, more pleasant times. More beer, more pool action. Couldn't ask for more. The evening was consumed by a previously arranged rendezvous with a lovely lady named Christine. She reminded me of Angie Dickinson and was wonderful company. I rest well. Tomorrow, on to Wynn.
I love this casino. There is no hotel in Vegas I rate more highly. This is the flagship Station Casino. It is huge, classy, and a great value on the high end. If you can handle being sequestered from the strip or downtown, then don't hesitate. If you have a car you should try to visit the Red Rock Canyon area along Rt. 159. I am amazed that this is so close to town.
The fact that my hotel receipt reads $0 definitely helped salve the losses I suffered at the tables. I hope I dropped enough cash to keep in their good graces. I think I did. (Yeah I did. Just got a new offer for this summer.)
A quick story about this. I have played enough over the years to get offers from The Golden Gate Hotel downtown. They put me up for 3 nights in one of their suites. Highly recommended! I think I left a place a slight winner after 2 days playing kinda tight. The next year they sent me another offer, offering a room, not a suite. Great. I met my brother out there. This time they put me in a broom closet, a tiny interior room one floor above the din of the casino. A not so subtle hint that they are looking for more action. So much for the high roller treatment. Ok guys. I get it.
A visit to Wynn has been on my mind for a few years, ever since I walked in off the street on won of my early morning explorations and won money playing craps. I really liked the swanky environment. I used the same strategy I used at Red Rocks over the years to draw interest from Wynn. Last year I walked in with a friend and quickly dropped $600 on an ice cold table. Obviously I was trying to win. Craps is a weird game. However, it was enough to get a decent mail offer from the casino. A reduced rate, not a freebie. I should be flattered. These guys really are out of my financial league. But I consider it one of those check off events to fully experience Vegas. I like it all, highest end, to lowest. I actually booked at Encore, which is on the north side of the facility. It seemed less hectic to me. It turned out to be a good choice.
It was noon and hot in Vegas, and I felt great. Red Rocks provides excellent shuttle service to and from the airport and Fashion Show Mall. The driver is entertaining and passes on some useful local information on our 15 minute drive. Since that is right across the street from Wynn, I'm set.
I entered Encode through the North Entry near Andrea's restaurant on the Encore Beach Club. I forgot how beautiful this place was. It is like being inside of an impressionist painting. Very vivid colors, red in particular, blue, white, and gold. Butterfly mosaics. Encore casino is light, not dingy. The walkways on the sides are roofed in glass and sunlight floods in. The most striking feature is the red Italian blown glass chandeliers. They must number in the hundreds. This is a casino environment like no other.
I am treated very well at check in. I was early and expected to have to check my bags for a few hours. Nope, I check in without difficulty. I was on the 59th floor (of 63) facing south overlooking the strip. When I walked into the immaculate room, I heard a low melodious voice and did not know where it is coming from. It turns out the housekeepers leave the bathroom TV (!) on a channel that plays a continuous loop. The voice is that of Steve Wynn proudly narrating a tour of the hotel. I found the orientation useful and entertaining. Steve Wynn is a hotel and entertainment genius, and he knows it. My view from this great height encompassed the South Wynn Tower, Wynn's Lake of Dreams, the Venetion, the Mirage Volcano, the Treasure Island pirate ship. It was breathtaking.
Being hungry and a little gun shy from yesterday's loses, I decided to go for one of my long walks. I'm Jonesing for a good hot dog. I decided to walk down to Pink's Hot Dogs at Planet Hollywood and check out what is changing at the Caesars properties down on Flamingo Ave. The distance is a little long in the heat. Walking south, the Wynn complex is huge followed by the equally gigantic Palazzo, and Venetian. I passed Casino Royale, and Harrahs. Caesars has significantly renovated the Imperial Palace's and its bizarre pagoda. They now steer strip traffic through the new, bright, and inviting Quad casino. The Quad is one of the best values on the strip by what I've heard. The real news comes next. Caesars blew up the old O'Shea's Casino, made famous for its beer pong, and little person out front dressed up as a leprechaun. To be honest, the old O'Shea's was a sewer. Out of its ruins they created The Linq, a new pedestrian alley way that cuts east from the strip to Koval Avenue. It is loaded with shops, restaurants, and night clubs. There is a new entry way to the Flamingo. I make a mental note that there is a Yard House Pub. The neighborhood needed this. But being a bit hung over, I do not partake. At the end of the alley is the new 550' 'High Roller' ferris wheel, that I saw from afar at Red Rocks. Very impressive. The Linq is a big improvement to the Flamingo area. For those who care, there is a small gambling area attached to the Quad named O'Shea's, and it has the old beer pong tables. Oh, boy.
Beyond the Flamingo is another renovation job. This time Caesars gutted Sam's Gamblin' Hall, also previously known as the Barbary Coast. Sam's was a small faux Victorian style casino hotel on the Corner of the Strip and Flamingo. I liked the old style casino. My brother called it a toilet. Well, times have changed. The final touches are being put on The Cromwell, a boutique hotel, complete with a Giada Delaurentis restaurant and top floor pool and nightclub. The casino was open, and was still faux-Victorian with red and gray decor, though much upgraded. Table limits seemed reasonable. I will surely gamble here in the future.
Still in search of my hot dog at Planet Hollywood I crossed Flamingo in front of Bally's, my normal home base in Vegas. They are also hard at work renovating. It looks like they are ripping out the old 'space tunnel' walkway, which was a phenomenal waste of prime strip front property. My guess is they will replace it with an out door nightclub, or party pit like the one in front of the Quad. Since I will be staying here in August, I can't wait to check it out. I finally at Planet Hollywood and Pinks. I took a load off my legs and enjoyed a big chili dog and watched the passers by.
After returning from my walk in late afternoon I rested and cleanup up. I decided to find something cheap to eat at the low end retail area just north across the street from Encore. The juxtaposition of the rich and poor in Vegas is astonishing. Across the street 20 yards from the VIP drop off at Wynn there is low end retail mall where English is a secondary language. I had a light and pleasant meal of Chicken Tika Masala at a small Indian place.
My evening gambling session at Encore was most enjoyable. I continued to lose, but the drink service and characters at the tables made it entertaining. I saw one Japanese gentleman lose about $40K, and another Italian do the same thing at a $100 table. I keep myself on a daily loss limit. Once it is gone it is gone and I find something else to do.
After the first long sleep in a couple of days I got up and went to the Wynn Buffet. Wynn claims its Vegas' best. Sorry, no, that title belongs to the Bacchanal at Caesars, followed by Bellagio, and Le Village at Paris (IMHO). What no caviar? The Wynn Buffet is about the equivalent of the very good Flavors Buffet at Harrahs, which is I am happy with, though costs couple of dollars more.
After breakfast and a rest I headed out to the Encore 'European' pool. What a fabulous place. Perfect landscaping, palm trees. The pool forms 3/4 of a circle arcing around a full service bar. It is lined with steps perfect for just lazing around.
One of the pleasant features of the Wynn environment is the background music. It is cool, nightclub inspired jazz. I think it is a Wynn innovation. No other hotel I know of has it. Jazz versions of Rolling Stones tunes and other 70's pop sung by high voiced female jazz singers with a strong nightclub beat. The sound system at Wynn is ubiquitous. So is the cool jazz. At the pool they turn it up. I settled in at the pool after finding a spot that would remain unshadowed for a few hours. There is nothing like hanging by a nice pool in Vegas. When it gets too hot and you start to burn you crawl into the pool, have a drink, repeat.
As usual the drink servers drew my interest. Mine was a beautiful sunny blonde with named Brandi who wore her hair up and braided like a Swedish farm girl. She wore a modest red sarong, covering a 'Baywatch' red one piece. She was she was tanned, ripped, and easy on the eyes. I ordered a Tequila Sunrise from her with a double shot of Patron. Did I mention that topless women and minimal bikinis are the norm here? I could get used to this. Several hours passed as I wallowed in the sun and pool. As the shadows lengthened and it was time to move on.
When in Vegas I always try to visit Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant on Paradise, near Flamingo. I judged that it is about a 15 minute walk from Wynn. It was my lucky day. It was happy hour, $2.50 22oz world class beers brewed on premises, with Tuesday food specials. I had the Mexican spring rolls - Asian spring rolls filled with spicy chicken and black beans. Wonderful. I relaxed for a few hours on this hot late afternoon in this beer drinking haven, having a Hefeweisen, Marzen, and Schwarzbier (dark malty lager). My bill was a meager $20. What a value.
I gambled all night and had a great time. I prefer a cheap crap game, $5 or $10 because I play kind of aggressively with multiple come bets. I made the mistake of throwing down $400 on what I did not notice was a $25 table. I informed the dealer of my mistake and the pit boss kindly allowed me to play for 10. I actually went on a decent run, up as much as $900. It was enough that I could actually place $25, but alas, it did not last. But I gave much of that back and left the table a few hundred up. I shared the table with a woman who could have been Kate Upton's sister, but dressed really classy. She tossed the dice like a pro. What a place! I appreciated the drink service. The servers were timely and excellent and not hard to look at either.
I started the day with another walk down the strip. I had in mind to stop at Ellis Island Casino for lunch. Ellis Island is a small local casino and brewery behind Bally's. I like it. They brew good cheap beer, $1.75 for 22oz. Combine that with 2 for 1 Metro Pizza slices and I was in luck. They also have a very good BBQ and sandwich shop on premises. I watched baseball for a while then played a little blackjack. I lost of course but not before winning a free beer growler for drawing a flush blackjack of spades. I'll collect that next time.
One of my coworkers was in town and I made arrangements to meet him and his posse downtown for dinner and some gambling. I hopped the SDX bus outside of the Venetian. $8 for a 24 hours pass. Nowadays with the strip being so difficult to walk, using this is essential. My friends had booked a reservation at Hugo's Cellar, a steakhouse tucked in a basement room at the 4 Queens. Great choice. I had a dinner special Rack of Lamb with a Caesar Salad and house Pinot Noir. Excellent service and decadent deserts, though I passed an nibbled on some chocolate covered fruit. For about $70 apiece it was marvellous. Go and bring your lady there. Afterwards we headed over to the El Cortez for some blackjack. I love the old place. It is all about serious old school low stakes gambling for the masses, the complete antithesis of Wynn. My losing streak continued but my friends caught an excellent streak and more than doubled their money. I had a particularly destructive 4 way split and double down when the dealer hit 21 with a 5. Sweet.
I took an early Delta flight home at 600am.
Summary Comparison of Red Rocks and Wynn
Casino and Hotel Lobby
Red Rocks Awesome facility design.
X Encore Sublime. Beautiful. Gigantic. World class.
= Red Rocks About even. Spectacular views. Treated well at both.
= Encore Steve Wynn's voice seemingly on every channel. Balky shower head.
Red Rocks Lots of kids under foot. Great drink service.
X Encore Hard to beat the topless pool. Try to play it cool
Pool Servers & Drinks
X Red Rock Pretty close here. RR wins with more skin.
X Red Rocks $5x10 Not even close for profit potential and low burn rate
Encore $10+x3x4x5 up $100x3x4x5 (!) Classy environment.
X Red Rocks 3 huge projection screens. Better general viewing. Large
Encore Really nice but slightly inferior to each of the above
I strongly recommend both hotels. Both are mint condition properties. Red Rocks was cheaper and made a little more sense for me. But I am glad to have tried Wynn and will go again if they sweeten the deal. If you have the money, I didn't even scratch the surface of what is available at Wynn for entertainment and dining.