Jun 1
by Don

The same group of guys (more or less) who have been going out to Vegas with me every March, once again made the pilgrimage out to the desert to bet on copious amounts of college basketball.

We had to abandon one of our traditions as Lagasse’s has just gotten out of control with what they want to charge people to watch the games at their place.  Historically we have been willing to pay $200 per person for a food/drink min. throughout the day.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal to make happen, but that is really harder to do than you would think.  Well this year they wanted $300 per person, and well there are just too many other places in Vegas to watch and bet basketball.

We typically lockdown a place for the Thursday and Friday of the weekend and then play by ear for Saturday and Sunday as the group typically thins out as the weekend progresses.  No sense in obligating ourselves to a big viewing party spend every single day, and after hunkering down for two straight days, it’s nice to switch things up.

This year we hit Tap at MGM and BeerPark in front of Paris.  We have done Tap for a couple of years as they are still fairly reasonably priced ($125 per person), have decent food, and are next to MGM’s huge ass sportsbook.  It’s the perfect day 1 spot as it’s good enough for everyone to enjoy, but for those who come late or otherwise miss that first day of action, they aren’t missing out on something amazing.  It’s a solid choice.

Look at those smiling faces!

The Beerpark was something totally different as it was outdoors, which is a fairly foreign concept for anything Vegas.  Normally they want you cocooned deep in the belly of the casino without so much as a sense of the time of day.  However, the BeerPark was a welcome change from that as the weather was great and we had coverage from the ravages of the brutal sun. It’s themed as a backyard BBQ party as there are games, faux grass, solo style cups, and a lot of TV’s.  I believe we paid something like $125/$150 per person (can’t seem to remember off hand) but it was very much inline with expectations for the group.  The food choices were ok, but you have to temper you expectations in regards to food at a place like this when its core sponsor is Budweiser.  Sad but true. All in all a good place to watch the games as they had a small sportsbook right there, and you could still trek inside Paris’ normal book as well.

So depending on the size of your group, you might want to try out either of these options as I would rank them higher than what Planet Hollywood, Harrahs, or Cosmopolitan were doing.

 

Oct 24
by Don

To know 44 is to know that he loves the simple things when on vacation; a great steak, the “pick 6”, and of course a good fruity drink.  It seems that his love of Jimmy Buffet knows no bounds and thusly it’s always 5’oclock somewhere.

He and Goldie turned Lori and myself onto a little known gem that serves up the best fruity drinks that I have ever had, and the ironic part of it all I have personally walked by the place dozens times over the years and never gave it a passing glance except to look up and catch a score or something on the TV’s overheard.

The Fusion bar, a bar in the round, is in the Palazzo is near the cashier’s cage and surrounded by a few innocuous slot machines of little consequence.  I have walked by it on route to the bathrooms nearby countless times, but on this trip 44 insisted that we have a drink.

Wendy was the bartender and she was instructed to prepare 2 drinks with strawberry (for Lori and myself), a mango something for Goldie, and whatever she felt for 44 (turned out to be a watermelon concoction that was magical).  The resulting drinks were, well simply amazing.  This bar has infused vodka’s and what not so they are more prepared than most to make these wonderful drinks, and Wendy did not disappoint.

I have to say that if you are in the mood for a good fruity cocktail (and who isn’t really) find your way to the Palazzo and look for the Fusion bar by the cashier’s cage.  You won’t be disappointed.

Mar 7
by Don

Pittsburgh Gil was all about this place so of course we had to make a visit.  He is all about beer and has his own site with a great review of the place here.  I won’t try to recreate his review as I feel that he does a great job of telling of all the general tom foolery, but I can tell you that even those who do not drink beer, there is some great food to be had.

If you are in town and want a somewhat different Vegas experience, I would definitely recommend going to the Hofbräuhaus if for nothing else the opportunity to stand up in your seat and swing your oversized mug of beer while singing some crazy German drinking songs and having an overall great time.

Jan 15
by Rolka Nation

First things first.  I’m sure you were all on the edge of your desk chairs wondering if I would take up the Venetian on its free suite offer.  Well alas, I have decided to pass.  Too many factors were going against on this particular one including funds and too short of notice to find a travel mate.  I was still pondering going solo, but no dice this time.  You win this round, sensible head!

Ok; on to the good stuff.  You may recall a few months back that I wrote a piece on maximizing your Vegas fun for as little bread as possible.  If you’re new to the site or want a refresher, click here.  The pointers outlined in that post were of the general variety and can come in handy for any Vegas trip.  But let’s get more specific shall we?  Countless hours of hardcore Pittsburgh Gil-style research has resulted in these gems for your perusing pleasure:

– Deuces Wild!  Now through 3/1, enjoy $22 nights, $2 Blackjack, $2 beer, $2 tequila, and $2 hot dogs and nachos at The Plaza and Vegas Club downtown.  You must have a 2 night minimum stay and most Sun-Thurs nights are available.  I have not been to The Plaza but apparently the Rat Pack show there is great fun.  I have been to the Vegas Club casino and enjoyed the layout and decor.  This is an outstanding deal.

– $1 Blackjack on The Strip!  Hard to believe these days; but true.  The Sahara is currently dealin’ out $1 BJ along with dollar beers, shots, and hot dogs near the NASCAR Cafe area of the casino. I’ve also read reports (although unconfirmed) that they open additional $1 tables on the main floor during the week.  While there, see if you can finish the Cafe’s 6 pound burrito and score it for free along with unlimited lifetime rollercoaster rides.  Don’t stay here though.

Rubbin' is racin' sound bite

– Free Grub!  As you all know, Ellis Island is my favorite off-the-beaten-path spot in Vegas.  Part of the reason why is because they always have great promotions.  Currently, play an hour at the tables and get a free entree in the great restaurant.  Play 2 hours, get 2 entrees!  Tables are limited here but usually include 1-2 $5 single deck BJ games.  Excellent promo.

– Free Booze Center Strip!  Planet Hollywood is offering a cool promo that runs through May.  Book a room for as low as $69 (many, but not all Sun-Thurs nights) and pick out your very own free bottle of wine, champagne, or liquor delivered right to your room.  That definitely meets my approval, especially considering the quality of resort at that price.

– Gambling AND Chicken Wings!  Not just a cheesy chain eatery, but also a cheesy Vegas hotel.  The Hooters casino resort is currently offering a sweet package that runs all the way to August.  Rates as low as $20 a night during the week and just $49 on the weekend can score you an upgraded room, $100 of slot promo play (which is pretty lame actually), 2 tickets to their comedy show (which is also probably lame, but can’t say for sure), and 2-for-1 breakfast.  I normally would not recommend a deal at a kitschy off-strip joint (and here is yet another reason why you shouldn’t actually stay at Hooters), but I actually kind of like the casino here for novelty’s sake and its easy walking distance to MGM, NYNY, Excalibur, etc.

– Half Price Hugo’s!  I never knew this service existed until recently.  You’ve probably all heard of or seen the Tix4Tonight booths spread over town where you can pick up vastly discounted same night show tickets.  Well, they have the same concept for restaurants now also.  Visit any of the Tix4Tonight locations, make a reservation for that night through them, pay $2 for a buffet or $3 for a nicer place, and get a voucher for half off your entree!  At the high-end joints, that can equate to $20-30 saved.  At least 30 restaurants and buffets are offered including some at Harrah’s, Mandalay, Caesar’s, and Bally’s.  And the crown jewel that is Hugo’s Cellar is also available here.  Go there and get an amazing meal, like I outlined here , for a mere $18 with this offer.  Note:  I have read that the half-price vouchers are for the entree ONLY so if it’s a steakhouse or similar, you’re on your own for the sides.

Jan 9
by Rolka Nation

My last post dealt with me receiving a free suite offer at The Venetian as a result of very minimal play.  Love Vegas and I certainly love the Venetian.  But there are others…

For you easterners out there, Biloxi is a great place to get your casino fix that has great offers to take advantage of as well.

Biloxi tends to get very overlooked by Vegas purists.  Granted, the Gulf Coast is definitely not Vegas nor will it ever be.  There are minimal shows, an older overall crowd, and no sports books.  But, there’s also less crowds, cheaper fine dining options, and the beach!  Plus, it’s a hell of a lot closer and you still get free booze when playing.  Those factors, along with the fact that the table game rule are typically much better than in Vegas, make Biloxi a great gaming getaway choice.

Another common misconception of the Biloxi area is that the casino resorts are not up to par with those in Vegas.  While not as huge, this is simply not true.  A few are nothing to write home about, but Biloxi does have 5 or 6 great options.  I can’t speak for each and every one as I have not visited all of them, but I can safely say that the Beau Rivage, Hard Rock, and IP all stack up very nicely to the Vegas mid-tier resorts such as Harrah’s, Flamingo, Tropicana, and Monte Carlo. 

Remember these guys?  You should if you want some free stuff, and you do want some free stuff!For you loyal Player’s Club people out there (such as myself), Biloxi’s got you covered as well.  The Beau is considered the overall nicest property on the Gulf Coast and it’s an MGM spot.  Therefore, that same Player’s Club card that you use to rack up comps at Vegas properties like Mirage, New York New York, MGM Grand, and TI also works the exact same at the Beau.  (Don wrote about player’s cards here)  Those who prefer Harrah’s Total Rewards program, you’re good to go as well at The Grand in Biloxi.  And the IP, while not linked to any major casino chain, has a very generous called My IP Rewards.  On my last trip, I racked up about $30 on my IP card with fairly light slot play.  The best aspect of the IP card is that it continuously builds up a comp balance that you can check in real-time at automated kiosks throughout the casino.  Then, when you want to cash in on a free meal or round of drinks, it works just like a debit card anywhere at the resort.  Very cool!

Biloxi also has great recreation options almost year round.  This is probably one area where Biloxi actually does clearly outshine Vegas.  Plenty of golf courses are abound along with a big stretch of public beach complete with vendors and raft/umbrella rental stands.  I don’t know about you guys, but I love the option of spending a couple of lazy hours sprawled out on the sand after a heavy dose of drunken gambling the night before.  Like to fish?  Biloxi offers plenty of great and affordable charter fishing trips as well, most are dock right next to the Hard Rock at the Small Craft Marina.  That means you likely are no more than a 10 minute cab/car ride to the marina and, BOOM, you’re fishing for out on a boat for hours for probably no more than $45 a person.  The convenience of Biloxi is one of its greatest pluses.  No matter what, you’re 10-15 minutes from anything and cabs are easy to score at the casinos.  The airport is also very small, laid-back, and quick to get in and out of.  Back to the fishing, a group of 5 of us went out with Capt. Jim, who can be found at be-slick.com, and had a good ol’ time!

Pittsburgh Gil surveys the scene @ the Shed, look at that live music venue!Another thing worth noting about Biloxi is the outstanding local bayou cuisine.  I have yet to try them all, but quite possibly the best BBQ I’ve ever had (definitely the MOST) was found at a place 2 exits away from the IP called The Shed.  And that name is certainly no misnomer.  It is literally a rundown wooden shed, but the food is impeccable and the outdoor seating area is top-notch.  If ever in Biloxi, this is an absolute must if you’re even a slight BBQ fan.  Go.

One last thing that I feel worth mentioning about Biloxi is that it really needs the tourism.  Vegas does as well, no doubting that, but Biloxi needs it a little more in my opinion.  Vegas had a bad ’09, sure.  But the city itself will rebound and is firmly entrenched as America’s #1 gambling destination and adult play haven.  That will never change.

Biloxi though did not just have a bad ’09, it’s had a bad 4+ years.  As you know, Katrina leveled the area in August of 2005.  All of these aforementioned casinos were closed for at least 3 months, some over a year, and a couple didn’t survive at all.  The Grand was destroyed and had to move to a temporary home across the street and the Hard Rock’s opening gala was delayed for nearly 2 years because of the massive cleanup.  While Vegas is in no danger of ever going away as a gaming mecca, Biloxi could be.  They really need visitors like us. 

As a result of the shared ordeal that all of the locals experienced, I’ve also found that the dealers and service staffs in general are incredibly warm and friendly.  I’ve had many extremely pleasant table sessions with awesome dealers.  Several shared their stories and tales of Katrina with me and can give great advice on local eateries and activities to check out.  Unlike Vegas where SOME dealers are cool, pretty much all of them in Biloxi are and appear, to me at least, to be happy, genuine, and unjaded.  Good, good people there.

So if you’re in need of a gaming getaway but don’t quite have the time, tolerance, or scratch to get out to Vegas, definitely consider Biloxi if you’re in the eastern half of the country.  It’s also about an hour from New Orleans and all that it has to offer (including a great Harrah’s property to boot). 
Stay tuned for an upcoming post where I’ll outline how to get to Biloxi for cheap!

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