Jul 22
by Lori D.

Well for those of you that have been to Vegas with us or have read some of our other posts, you undoubtedly know that “The Wheel of Fortune” is my favorite slot machine.   This was my first and everlasting mechanical crush.  I think this is mainly the case because it was the first machine that I ever played and on the about the 3 spin I had hit a crazy jackpot and won over $450.  It would also mark one of the last times that we ever went to the Luxor and certainly one of the last times we ever won anything from there.  But that’s another story.

While on our last trip to Vegas a few weeks ago I did something that I never thought I would do, I turned my back on “The Wheel of Fortune” just for a minute. Don and I had about 15 minutes to spare before playing in one of our poker tournaments and I decided I wanted to play the slots for a bit.  If you have been to Harrah’s before you know that the $1 “Wheel of Fortune” can be found on the back wall by the poker room. As Don and I headed towards the wheel I decide I wanted to try a new slot.  I told Don I wanted to try a new slot and ask him to find me one with good odds. Of course he looked at me puzzled; I think he was more shocked than anything, but after a few moments he did find me a machine. It was $1 Red, White, and Blue machine with a 10x multiplier, so I sat down with $100.  After the first $50 I starting wondering if this was a good idea, it was kind of boring because there was no wheel bonus spin to look forward to spinning. I continued to play through the last $50. I get down to my last few spins and I hit a ridiculous 10x payout. It was craziness, I had already written that hundo off as a lost cause, but instead I ended up winning $400.  I do have to admit that “Wheel of Fortune” is still my favorite; I mean nothing beats the bonus “Spin”.  However trying a new machine every once in a while is fun and can pay off.  The payout from the slot was just the beginning of me pimping Harrah’s that day.  Read about that poker tournament and you will see what I am talking about.


This is what you want to see on the old Red, White, and Blue!



Jul 19
by Don

One of best things about Lori is that she is willing to try things that she didn’t think that she would like.  Over the years that willingness has included things like eating pancakes, playing blackjack and poker, and eating Chinese food.  She actually likes Chinese food (much to her own surprise I think) and will suggest eating it from time to time.


Well on Sunday night of last trip, she wanted some Chinese.  Well seeing how we were staying at Paris I knew that we could walk next door to Planet Hollywood for some PF Chang’s.  Now my grandmother who is a first generation Chinese American from mainland China actually hates PF Chang’s.  She lives in Chinatown in Boston and basically thinks that any place that doesn’t give you orange slices at the end of the meal is clearly worthless.  However, Lori and I’s tastes are less discerning so head over.


There are a ton of people waiting so we just say first available and of course that lands us in their outside seating area.  Now it is 9pm Vegas time and it’s like 92 degrees out (down from the 112 degrees early in the day) so it’s safe to say that it’s not “comfortable” dining, but we manage.


Very innovative, even for Hooters!During the meal I notice 4 people walking up and down the strip with what appears to be large boards on their backs.  It turns out they are human billboards for the Hooters casino around the corner. I couldn’t get my camera out in time for a decent shot, but I did find one from the LA Times Vegas blog.


Each sign was showing a slightly different ad, but all of the people wearing them looked the same, beat down tired.  I can’t imagine how long their shifts were, but the fact that its 9pm and still hot out and they are lugging what appears to be a very heavy digital sign on their back can’t be a good thing.


Outside of the random assortment 20 of so immigrants lined up side by side passing out pornographic playing cards, I have to say that this is the most unique people centric Vegas advertising yet.  No “flick, flick, flick” necessary.


Jul 16
by Rolka Nation

Greetings!  Your ol’ pal Pittsburgh Gil is a man of many reputations.  One thing that I am certainly known for amongst my inner-circle is a tendency to be a little frugal.  Some would even say that I’m downright cheap.  Now I wouldn’t quite go that far, but sure, I do admit that I can be a little tight at times.  But, not too long ago I pinpointed this personal trait and now understand and embrace it.  I’ve learned that I am far from cheap/frugal when it comes to having great, fun experiences.  What I mean by this is that I’ll go all out on things that one does not get to do every day or have consistently easy access to.  Examples of these types of things would be traveling, going to a concert or theater performance, going whitewater rafting, checking out an amusement park or water park, etc.  However, where my penny-pinching comes into play is in regard to things of the complete opposite.  And by that I mean life’s nagging little necessities.  You know…clothing, food, hydration, etc. 


Kenny Powers is my hero...To quote Kenny Powers, “I have clothes like a fuckin’ dickhead”.  Yes, ’tis true.  I simply do not care to pour a lot of attention, effort, or money into my wardrobe.  I get by ok though, I’m not coming into work looking like Kevin Costner in Waterworld or anything…but you get the point.  When it comes to food though, I definitely do enjoy a fine meal and a tasty beverage.  However, I’ve always had trouble forking out $50+ for a simple meal.  No matter how good it might be, I’d rather just hit up a decent bar and get a good burger or pile of nachos for 1/5th of that cost.  After all, the end result is always the same.  You’re full and don’t have to worry about eating again for 5-7 hours.  Well, unless you’re a greedy, gluttonous sloth-like person.  Like Matthew Broderick.Matthew Broderick is not.


This philosophy comes into play hardcore in Vegas.  You’re bombarded by luxury hotels and suites, high-priced restaurants by celebrity chefs, and fancy bars or clubs where a drink will run you over $10.  These things are great, but I don’t go to Vegas to eat and drink well.  Sure, that’s a fantastic byproduct of being in Vegas…but I’m there for the gaming, shows, and all the fun that comes along with that. 


So…here are Pittsburgh Gil’s tips to save a little green in Vegas, but not compromising any of the fun!


– Either start or end your trip on a Saturday.  I’ve always liked this and have done it several times.  Either go out to Vegas on a Saturday and stay 3-4 nights or go out on Tuesday or Wednesday and leave Saturday.  Why?  Well, for starters…hotels will be less.  We all know hotel rates triple on Fri and Sat nights, especially on the Strip. This way you only have to bother with 1 night of pricey accommodations and savor the $30-50 a night specials the other nights.  Killer.  Sundays are typically the most expensive day to fly as well.


– Spend a night downtown in Old Vegas.  I love to start my trip downtown.  The hotels are cheaper, the table games have lower limits, and you can find great meals for under $10.  I have stayed at both Fitzgerald’s and Binion’s on a Saturday for about $40 and had a blast.  Compare that to potential $150-200 a night rates on the Strip that very same date.  No-brainer.  The rooms aren’t fantastic, but who gives a damn, it’s your first night in Vegas and you’ll move up to bigger and better accommodations soon enough.  If you want to splurge a little, stay at The Golden Nugget.  It would fit in just fine on the Strip. 


Downtown is where to be to start your trip of right, which is to say for less!


Great dining options downtown include the 777 Brewpub at Main Street Station, the Main Street Station buffet, Magnolia’s at Four Queens ($8 prime rib dinner with club sign-up), Chicago Brewing Company at Four Queens, and Flame at El Cortez.  I forget the name, but Four Queens also has an awesome, retro steakhouse in the basement.  And I have to mention the 99 cent shrimp cocktail at Golden Gate. 


For shows, I’ve heard great things of the Rat Pack is Back show at The Plaza downtown and the Golden Nugget always has multiple entertainment offerings and a shark tank at their pool to boot.  For gaming, you can’t beat 24 hour a day quarter roulette and $2 blackjack at Cortez and pretty much any downtown casino will have the same…although possibly only during the daylight hours.  Another great thing about downtown is that all the casinos are lined up long a mere 4 blocks and the street is pedestrian-only.  It’s very quick and easy to casino-hop here, unlike the Strip.


– Always check what offers you have at casinos room-wise before you go.  I haven’t paid full price on the Strip in a long long time and never intend to ever again.  If you don’t have any play racked up, check out the casino’s websites and sign up for their email newsletters to receive specials on room rates.  Check sites like travelzoo.com as well for published specials.  If you know what you’re doing, you’ll always get a room discount in some shape or form.  For my upcoming Labor Day trek, I’m paying a grand total of $150 for 4 nights over a holiday weekend center-Strip at Harrah’s.  Can’t beat that with a rubber snake.


– Of course, always sign up the casino’s Player’s Club.  Always.  Just do it.  Even if you don’t foresee yourself playing there all that much, still do it.  Sometimes you’ll get a free gift just for taking 3 minutes to sign up.  I’ve gotten T-shirts, free slot play, decks of cards, and more.  It amazes me when I see people droppin’ cash in a casino but not bothering to sign up.  I have also heard, but have yet to try, that you can rack up 2 free buffets at The Wynn fairly easily based on your play in the first 24 hours after signing up for the club.


Better than the Bond Movie thanks to those crazy coupons– Go to Casino Royale!  This is one of my favorites on the Strip for good, cheap gaming fun.  It’s right next to Harrah’s and quite small.  Sign up for their club and get coupons for free play and free drinks plus one that I always take advantage of.  They always have a coupon that will pay you $10 cash if you hit a spin of 40 credits or more while playing the Wheel of Fortune slots.  If you’re gonna play a few slots anyway, why not do this?  I’ve gotten it every time with minimal play.  There’s also one for $20 in cash if hitting 4-of-a-kind on video poker.  I’ve cashed in on that successfully as well.  Royale also has a lively atmosphere and plays good music. 


I will stop there for now kids!  But stay tuned for the sequel where I will outline even more ways to throwdown in Vegas for minimal coin.


Jul 13
by Lori D.

Finally, I won a poker tourney.

That seems like such a small thing (and it is in the big scheme of things), but it’s something that I needed to do to know that this all has some meaning.  What I mean to say is I love poker.  I love the mental aspect of the game, the nuance, the possibilities.  I love the fact that guys always think that girls can’t play or that I am going to do this or that because of what they think that girls are capable of doing.  I could go on about this, but I think that I can best sum it up by saying yes; I finally won a poker tourney.

The tourney itself was a small one (about 80 people) with $60 buy-in with an additional add-on of $40 for a total of 4500 chips. The beginning started out like most tourneys for me, fairly slow, no real opportunities to do much and basically just trying to steal blinds when the opportunity arose. For the most part of the tourney I was fairly short handed. After the first hour I had the same amount of chips that I had started with, uggh. So not much excitement in the beginning. 

After the second hour Don and I ended up at the same table.  Now this would normally not be a good situation, however there are some advantages.   It would have been nice to of had a hand against each other, that way one of us doubles up, but no such luck. Both of us needed to make something happen at this point since we were both short stacked and struggling.  After some time Don decided to make a move all in with AQ, but ended up getting busted out when someone looked him up with Kings in the hole.  Not so good for him, but what can you do?  He looked across the table at me and headed of to the BJ tables.

In all honestly I was thinking I would be meeting him at those tables in short order.  Fortunately for me, things started to turn around the minute he left (coincidence? Haha).  I was able to go all-in a few times, survived and kept doubling up. It was great because I actually had a little breathing room for once. Plus this was a bounty tourney meaning for every person you knocked out you received $10 in casino chips. So now having some chips to play with I was able to take out a few small stacks. When the final table started I was doing ok; not great but ok. The payout started at 6th place, so I still had to survive a little longer for the money. Thankfully I was able to win some hands and before you knew it I was the chip leader!  It was a weird feeling in that I can’t ever remember a time before in a tourney when I had so many more chips then the next guy. Once the table got to about 8 players, people started talking about chopping. They wanted to just split the prize money amongst all of us. Seeing how I was the chip leader by a considerable amount I was not really liking this idea too much. Thankfully there were other players that didn’t like that either. Once we got to the money, conversation about chopping came up again. A few people really wanted to chop and not play it out. At one point someone even suggested that they just declare me the winner because I had so many more chips and the remaining prize pool be split among the remaining players. Craziness. Of course I am not going to say no to that, but that didn’t happen so we played it out. Only about 3 of them were willing to chop so basically no deal.  Since everyone needed to agree, we played on.  Finally we get down to heads up between me and this other guy (I was not a big fan as he thought he was the shit and caused so many problems during the tourney). He did ask if I wanted to chop, but at this point I wanted to play it out and just kick his butt. I don’t have very much experience at playing heads up, but I have seen Don do it and we have talked about it at great length. I am sure that it was obvious that neither of us knew what we were doing because it took a lot longer to finish then it should have. Chips were moving back and forth between us and I got lucky a few times where I had laid down my hand and he showed me some monsters.  While heads up he had AA and QQ along with some other killer hands.  As Phil Helmuth said, “I can dodge bullets baby!”

You can't tell, but I am actually pretty pumped.  This is immediately after the final hand.

We finally get to the last hand where he goes all in with Q6 off suit and I call with 87 off suit.  The flop comes out with a bunch of blanks and then a 7 hits on the turn.  That pairs me and the river gives him nothing.  Winner Winner!  I am definitely glad to have finally won one, but I have a few more to win to catch up to the Donald.  I think that I made him proud, actually I know I did. 

Jul 10
by Don

It’s been awhile since we have had a general tips post.  Here are some odds and ends that we thought of that I know could benefit some of our fellow Vegas travelers.  So here they are in no particular order:

This will get you comps that you are looking for, and maybe a little extra coin as well.-If you are mainly a table game player and rarely play slots, you should consider changing it up a bit.  The rating systems are slanted even more heavily towards slot players now than ever before and unless you are sitting down with over $500 per session of blackjack and willing to bet at least $25 per hand, don’t expect much notice from the pit boss.  So now what?  Well what you can do is play the $1 Wheel Of Fortune.  It’s the most popular slot machine by far and you will get the biggest bang for your buck.  The key is to, “pimp them and leave”.  Lori calls it that as you basically take whatever winnings that you come to at any point and just leave.  For example; you put in $100 and play for a bit and you get a wheel spin.  Congratulations, this is what EVERYONE wants.  So you get $35 on the spin and you hear the clapping soundtrack, yeah!  Now you have done some winning (and some losing) on the session, but that spin of the wheel puts you to $128 on your total credits. Great, now leave.  I know that you are thinking that it’s just $28 of profit, but the point is not to win a ton; it’s not to lose any while you are trying to get rated.  Only in Vegas would $28 not seem like much of anything, because if you were at home and you saw $28 on the floor you would pick it up.  Now do the same thing here.  Use it for cab fare, or tipping (as you know I am all about), food, whatever.  What normally happens is that people just want to keep playing and playing and eventually they will lose all of their initial money.  So don’t let that happen to you.  Just take your winnings and go to the next stop, do what you do and play again later.  You won’t always win, but you will come out way ahead in the long run.

-Water.  A no brainer here, but still it has to be said.  Drink water all the time.  Too often people don’t and it can get ugly.  Especially in the summer months with 100+ degree temps.

-Use your points/comps on your trip.  A lot of times the play that you have done over the course of the trip has afforded you some comps in the form of discounts of just free crap.  Use them on the trip that you are on because they start to expire the moment you leave.  One thing that a casino host told me is that at the end of your trip you should go to casino marketing and have them apply whatever you have earned toward your hotel charges.  You have to go to casino marketing though, because the two systems are not connected and it doesn’t happen automatically.  Take what they give you, because they are definitely going to take from you!

Doesn't have to be this complicated, but a loose plan will help you maximize your fun and excitement.-Have a plan, however loose.  The worse thing to do is to be wandering around aimlessly without a destination.  It’s too hot and things are too far apart to be doing that.  Plus random cab rides add up, so have an idea of what you want to do and plan around it.  Seeing a show? Great, plan dinner at or near that location. Want to watch some sporting event? Realize that you are on the West Coast and there might be a time change (like Sunday Night Baseball at 5 pm, what’s up with that?)

-Call your bank before going and tell them that you are traveling to Vegas.  There is a lot of fraud and if you have a bank like mine (Bank of America), they have a huge fraud department that works almost too well.  This is only really an issue if you need to go to the ATM, especially inside a casino because this may trigger something in their network to shut your debit card down.  Don’t let this happen to you.

-If you have to get money out of an ATM, don’t do it in the casino.  Recently the casinos have jacked up their fees to some crazy levels.  Our flight attendant on the way out actually made an announcement to that affect.  So we checked, and sure enough they had to the tune of $22+.  There are ATMs (Bank of America) in The Forum Shops @ Caesars (3 I believe), there is one on the 3rd or 4th Floor of the M&M store down by MGM and ATM at Casino Royale has a fee of only $1.00. Plus there are ATMS at all monorail stations (Bank of Nevada).  These are normal ATMs with normal fees.

-Ask for matches.  They seem to be the only things that are actually free, i.e. you don’t have to gamble anything to get them.  I actually saw a no money exchange for matches at a sundries shop in Ceasars.  I don’t even smoke and I almost asked for some.

More tips as they come up, but this should get you going in the right direction. Viva Las Vegas indeed!

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