Here's a report on our latest Vegas romp. Sorry, but there's no photos (believe it or not, I don't currently have a camera), & there's no high roller play or gourmet meals, but I'll do the best I can. This was the first trip in a few years that it would be just myself & my wife, Ada. The last few times we were with 2 or 3 other people, so this would be a little different.

Our USAir flight from JFK left Saturday afternoon right on time. Of course, as the plane was climbing & we were over the river, a couple of comedians had to make comments about the USAir plane that had gone down, but nothing too dumb was said. Our connector in Phoenix left a little early & we actually got into Vegas 30 minutes early at 8:00PM. Our luggage was some of the first to come down the chute, so then it was a quick ride to the Stratosphere.

When I first booked this trip, my host said that because our overall play was down (which is true), we really did not qualify for their Super Bowl package. He did say he could get me in if I wanted to trade in some other offers I had, so I told him no problem. Since you can't use consecutive offers, I would possibly have to pay for 2 or 3 nights, which was fine by me. At the host desk for check in, the clerk pulled our reservation & gave us a surprise. My host had been a little creative. Even though Ada & I have the same account, she receives separate offers. What my host did was put the first 3 nights on my Super Bowl offer, then 2 nights on one of Ada's offers, & the last 2 nights on my next offer. This was a total surprise to have all 7 covered, plus we picked up free buffets, $50 food credit & $100 slot play credit, all without asking for anything special. I know the Strat is not always thought of highly, but with this kind of service, it's hard for us to stay anywhere else.

We had a standard room on the 22nd floor, strip view, & only 3 doors down from the elevators. We haven't been in a regular room the last 3 trips, but it seems they've been a little renovated. New furniture, triple sheet & white bed spread (no more multi-colored/ Motel 6 type cover), & throw pillows everywhere. Nothing fancy, but nice. After unpacking, it was still early enough to hit the casino for few hours. I didn't feel up to poker or table games, so I just bounced around some penny & nickel video slots. Nothing major happened & I guess I hit enough to still be even, although that would change soon enough.

Sunday, of course, was the Super Bowl party, held in the American Superstars Theatre. On stage was a movie theatre size screen & 2 more big screens on either side, so there wasn't a bad seat in the house. We sat at a table with one local gentlemen & a young couple, both of whom were in the Navy. All very nice people & we had a great time together. In the theatre lobby was a buffet spread of stadium food; burgers, wings, ribs, etc., & an open bar. Besides that bar, there was great waitress service the whole game. The game itself, as you all know, was entertaining right to the end. The crowd was mostly for the Cardinals, but everyone agreed that it was a great show.

After the game, I played in my first poker tournament of the week for $60 buy-in. Out of 40 players, I came in 6th, but only the top 3 were paid. There were no real memorable hands & I was kinda hanging on as the short stack for the last 30 minutes. The blinds were up to $1000-2000, so I made my all-in when dealt pocket kings with my last $4000. I was called by an A-Q, who got me when A-Q-junk came on the flop & I couldn't find another king. The rest of the evening was more penny slots & a little 2-deck $25 Black jack. They do have a few low-limit 6:5 games, but most are still 3:2, many at the $10 level (shoe game & 2-deck).

Between Vegas, Atl City & Biloxi forums, I've been posting for a couple of years, but never got to meet any board members. That finally changed Monday when we had lunch with Rhonda from the Open Vegas board. Since I'd first joined there last summer, we've posted back & forth, & I found out what a nice & fun lady she is. I really looked forward to our meeting & have to say "thanks" to her here for coming all the way to the Strat just for this. After seeing her in person, I have to agree with everyone that says what a great person she really is & a real booster for the Las Vegas area.

Following lunch, Ada & I headed downtown & settled in at Binions. I had a couple of small hits, but most of their machines weren't in a giving mood. I hit a 2 deck $10 BJ game for about an hour & left that almost even. We were a little tired from the party still, so we just headed back to the Strat. Since we had free buffets in our package, we decided to try that. It had been a few years since we had this buffet, & I'm not a food snob, but the quality had really sunk. Neither of us could find much of anything we liked, not even desserts. I hate to say it, but even "free" was too much for this one. Finished the evening with more machines & BJ, mostly at a loss.

Our plan for Tuesday was to see the "Jersey Boys" at the Palazzo. Since we were in the area, we stopped at Wynn's for awhile. Not much luck there until a Flame of Olympus machine brought me almost even for the visit. We headed to the Tix-4-Tonight discount store at the Fashion Show Mall just to see what was available. The only Jersey tickets were for the orchestra section, discounted to $105 from $140. Ada said she'd be happy with the $70 mezzanine section the Palazzo advertised, so we took a pass & headed to Palazzo. The box office there said they had some mezzanine seats left, so we bought two. I guess business is a little slow because almost everyone who had seats in that section was upgraded to the orchestra. For $70 each, we ended up in the 2nd row, almost dead center. This turned out to be one of the best Vegas shows we've ever attended. Whether you like the Four Seasons' music or not, it is a fantastic show to see; a lot of fun.
As a small bonus at the end of the show, they turned up the house lights & introduced Frankie Valli, sitting just 5 rows behind us. As far as the casino there, it was a real classy looking place, but we just didn't spend too much time there.

Over the years at the Strat, we've gotten to know some of the employees quite well there. One of Ada's favorites was a young blackjack dealer named Todd, but he'd left the company about a year ago. She'd found out that he was now a floorperson at South Point & she really wanted to visit; she'd even found out his work schedule. Not having any special plans for the day on Wednesday, I agreed to take her. I never rent cars in Vegas & we were in no rush, so we jumped on the Deuce bus going south. Two buses & 90 minutes later, we arrived at what is a smaller version of the Orleans. Todd was so shocked & happy to see us; he immediately offered a dinner comp even though we just got there. We did end up spending the whole afternoon there. Ada did OK with BJ & roulette, but I couldn't catch hardly anything on the machines. Our comp was for the coffee shop, where I had a nice porterhouse steak. Other than being so far south of town, I wouldn't mid staying at the South Point; very nice hotel.

By the time we were back at the Strat, I'd missed the 8:00 poker tournament, so I got into a cash game. I mostly play those at limit games, but all that was available was $1-2 No Limit, so I still jumped in for $100. The max buy-in there is $300, but when I sat down, half of the players had stacks of $600 or more. I did last over 90 minutes when I went all in with my last $40 with pocket Aces. I had 2 callers; one on a flush draw (never happened) & pocket Jacks. Things looked good until, of course, the river brought a Jack. I felt I'd done all I could at that table, so that was it for the night.

Certain casinos we seem to hit each trip, & on Thursday it was Bellagio. This was the first place all week that really seemed busy. I didn't feel like playing cards; just wandered around a few machines until I came across an old style Catch a Wave 5 cent game. I managed to play it for over 30 minutes for a small profit, but the memorable part was how loud the volume was cranked up, with no player controls to reduce it. The poor waitress who was setting down my beer next to the machine nearly had a heart attack when a bonus round started & Beach Boys music started to blast out of the speakers. From there, I discovered Alfred Hitchcock Theater game. Fun game with the animated Hitchcock. I was into my second $20 there when I stumbled into a free spin bonus round. I wasn't that familiar with the game, but one spin had wild cards everywhere & an additional 5-time multiplier card. By the time it was over, I was up on the game over $400. We finished our visit with a comped buffet. After the disaster at the Strat buffet, this one was a real treat. I usually go for things I don't have often at home; shrimp, crab, sea bass, & of course, the key lime pie.

Got back to the Strat for another poker tourny, but only managed to finish 11th out of 30; no real action & just a steady grind to zero. It was then I discovered that while we were out, they had installed 2 Star Trek games. Now this is a game to play. For someone my age, being something of a nostalgia buff, & the original series being one of my favorite shows, this was right up my alley. I can't say how much I played it over the last 2 days, but it was plenty. The game has great graphics. surround sound speakers in the seat, clips from the show, & a lot of action with bonus rounds & mystery multipliers. I know overall I lost money on this, but it was probably the most entertaining game of the trip.

Our last full day was Friday & we wanted to hit another favorite, so it was off to the Mandalay Bay. Ada was off again to blackjack while I just bounced around different machines. I did notice waitress service there was a little spotty until I settled into a penny machine near the craps tables, Star Drifter. The game was paying back enough to keep me there quite a while, & within the first 5 minutes a waitress got my order. She wasn't gone long, but returned with 2 beers, saying she was covering a large area & didn't want me waiting any extra time. Over the next hour, she did this 3 times without my asking, so for that time I guess we became good friends. We got another buffet comp here too. Just a step or two below Bellagio's buffet, but everything there was fresh & very well prepared. Back to the Strat & one more poker tourney; this time I finished 15th out of 30. No pays this week in tournaments, but they were all fun to play. Since this was the last night, I stayed up probably a little too late. I actually had 2 different blackjack sessions between a lot of machine play, but it was all a losing effort. I finally called in quits about 4:00AM.

Saturday morning & my host had a couple more surprises. A late checkout at 1PM and a limo to the airport, again without us asking. We had charged a few coffee shop meals to our room, but on check out, everthing was covered by comps. Maybe it doesn't take that much to make me happy, but I can't complain about my treatment at this hotel. With what we've received, & all the nice employees there, that's why we keep returning. It finally hit me this trip just how long we've be staying there. Three different waitress', who I hadn't seen in 9 months or longer, knew exactly what kind of beer I wanted even before ordering. I don't know if that says more on how good they are at there job, or the fact that maybe I'm drinking just a little too much sometimes. Oh well, they said you only get to go around once in life, so at least try to have a good time of it.

Once again, the trip home actually arrived 30 minutes early at midnight/Sat. night. USAir is pretty good about their schedules, but I just hate how they now nickle & dime the customers; baggage fees, charging for soda & coffee, etc. I know they're not the only airline doing it, & this goes for all of them, but just put another $10-20 in the ticket price & quit fooling around.

In the end, this was a losing trip money wise, but I really had a good time, so I feel it was worth it. Things did seem a little quieter all over town than on previous trips, like others have reported. I suppose our upgrade at the Jersey Boys was the best proof of that. Our next trip will probably be to Biloxi in May, with maybe an Atlantic City visit or two before then, depending on how well I recover financially from this Vegas trip--lol--. If you followed this far, I thank you. Good luck to everyone on their future trips.

Mike