May 16
by Don

Had dinner with a couple this past weekend and we got to talking about Vegas.  Now the wife has been to Vegas 3 times in her life and loves it, the husband has never been.  They were fascinated to learn that we have been so many times and over so many years and are not living out of a cardboard box!  I started explaining the why and how of it all and it reminded me how much fun it is to share with folks who are new to it all.  It also reminds me that I have neglected this space for entirely too long.

So, in an effort to resurrect this blog (like for the 3rd time it seems) I am going to start anew with new little tidbits and stories that have been piling up like junk mail during a vacation.  Now back to the dinner.

We covered the basics with them, but even the basics are a lot when you are starting from scratch.  So it made the most sense to talk about slot play, why it’s important, how to actually do it, and what to expect from it.  Now how I play slots is not sexy, can be infuriating at times, and seems odd to most, but it’s incredibly effect considering the total and complete randomness of slots in general.

I am not even sure that I have covered slots in the blog, honestly, it’s been years since I have thought about writing about anything really, but it’s worth a visit.  Here is how I approach slots:

  • Understand the basics.  This is to mean that you always play for max bet at the domination you are playing to trigger any and all bonus play, jackpots, or other bennies that the machine might pay out on.  If you don’t and hit something, oh man… I can’t even think about that possibility. Use your player’s card every time you sit down.  Don’t have your card on you? Don’t play.  You just need to always do this.
  • Play at least $1.  I know that’s not really an option for some folks, but I find that it’s at $1 denomination that everything happens in terms of getting truly rated by the casinos.  Which brings me to….
  • Redeem your comps.  Seems pretty straight forward, but honestly people forget to do this all the time.  Depending on where you are playing and staying you will be afforded different comps.  Slot play is the most rewarded kind of play that the casino will offer (mainly because it’s the most accurate accounting of your play) and especially on the day you check out, check with the hotel marketing (Red Card, Total Rewards, Grazie, etc.) to see what your play has earned you.  Many times they will take $$ off of your final bill and send you on your way.  If you have charged any food to your room or have had dinners on the property, those are the easiest charges to give back.  That’s always nice.
  • Find machines that give bonus play.  A crowd favorite has always been The Wheel of Fortune machines.  These are great because they offer a game within a game.  If you play max bet (see #1) and you hit the bonus wheel, you will get an additional spin for extra cash.  Plus a lot of them have different multipliers that make the normal play that much more lucrative.  I personally like any game where you are playing 5 lines at a time ($5 a pull) as the additional play for the value is better than playing a one payline max bet $3 machine (like MegaBucks).  For $2 more dollars you are getting 4 additional chances to hit something.  It’s a no brainer.A Big Win
  • Strict Money Management.  Here is where I lose people all the time.  I take any and all winnings the minute that they happen.  That means often I will spin one or two times and win a small amount.  I immediately cash out and go to a new machine.  There are several reasons for this, but the biggest reason is the dirty secret behind what runs Vegas.  It’s the willingness of people to push that button or pull that handle until they have no more money left.  Understanding this very base fact is paramount to safe guarding your bank roll and experiencing a positive outcome.  I look at it this way, if you saw a $20 bill on the ground, would you pick it up?  Of course, you would.  So why wouldn’t you do that same thing at a casino? The $20 is sitting in the slot machine that you just nestled into and on the first pull you won.  Cash out and go to the next machine.  There are thousands of slots in Vegas, you will have your fill of pushing that button or pulling that lever.
  • A Strap of $100's

Essentially, I look at slots as a means to incrementally build my bankroll as Lori is off playing Blackjack or vice versa.  You can certainly lose some or all of bankroll playing the slots, or any game in the casino for that matter, but this is a way to assure that you capture the winnings that are afforded to you and on occasion you are going to hit a jackpot like the one here. 😉


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 12
by Don

Now I have written about tipping before, but I did come across this list from the good people at that pretty much covers most of what you will be tipping on an average trip to Sin City. (I will note that they missed the cab stand guys ($1-$2) and the bathroom attendants at the umm, adult establishments ($1-$2 per visits).

Tips on tipping: Because Vegas is a service-based city, tipping is a big, big deal. You may not be sure how much to tip and when, so here’s a quick rundown.

Bellmen: They usually receive $1 a bag, but an extra tip is suggested if you ask them to make show reservations or if they help you with taxis, etc.

Cigarette Girls: About $1 to $2 is sufficient, depending on how much you buy and how many times you want her to return.

Concierge: If the concierge helps you arrange show tickets, tours, hair appointments or anything else, it is customary to leave a tip. It’s up to the customer, but anywhere from $2 to $20 is graciously accepted.

Cocktail waitresses: About $1 to $2 per round is sufficient for a small group (two to three people). Increase it for larger groups. Don’t fail to tip, even if your drinks are comped.

Front desk clerks: If you’re looking for a room upgrade, tipping the front desk clerk can get you a better room. We leave it up to your discretion, but we’ve heard everything from $10 to $50.

Valet parking attendants: We suggest $1 to $2 for valet parking attendants when you drop off and pick up. If you want them to leave the car up front, be prepared to tip higher, anywhere between $10 to $30 depending upon how busy it is.

Taxi drivers: These folks drive like mad to get you where you’re going, they help you with your bags, and provide a little chit-chat along the way. About 15 percent of your total fare should make up for their efforts.

Dealers: Tipping a dealer is a little trickier. You can give the dealer a tip in between hands or spins, and this tip can range from $1 to as much as you want to give. You also can wait until the end of your session and tip the dealer then.

Keno and bingo runners: $1 every few rounds is acceptable and suggested even if you aren’t winning.

Food servers: Unless your bill indicates that a gratuity has been included (typically this only applies to groups of six or more), tip your food server 15 to 20 percent depending on the quality of their service. Drop a buck or two at the buffet as well.

Room service: Yeah, we know. The food is already outrageously priced. But don’t hold that against the people who have to lug your breakfast back and forth from the kitchen to your hotel room. Go with the standard 15 to 20 percent of the bill, unless the bill indicates a tip has already been added.

Change person: Don’t forget to slip a few bucks to these helpful folks — especially if you win. Don’t try to palm off a $5 tip for a Megabucks win; it’s insulting.

Slot supervisors: They fix bill jams and fill the hopper, allowing you to collect your jackpot — could it hurt to tip a buck or two?

Pool attendants: Slip the hottie dishing out towels a dollar or two between dips in the pool.

Maids: We’d recommend $1 to $2 a day for the maid service in your hotel room. After all, you couldn’t pay us enough to clean up after you.

These are just suggestions — you’re always welcome to tip more!

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, 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!

Jan 5
by Rolka Nation


You son of a bitch! I’m talking to you! Yeah you, Las Vegas! You and your alluring siren call. Why must you do this to me? I’m not Odysseus asail on the Greek seas. I’m merely a simple man. A man who loves Vegas. Just when I think I”m out, Vegas pulls me back in…

Ok, I’ll stop.

As we all know, we’re in a nationwide state of economic instability. That means people have less disposable income. Less disposable income means less spending on non-essentials. Less spending on non-essentials means less traveling and fewer vacations for people across America. As a result, tourism in Vegas is down to its lowest point in years.

Sure, this is bad for the city itself and its inhabitants, but not for us! With less people coming to Vegas, hotels are more and more in need of ways to attract gaming patrons into their glitzy doors. That, coupled with the recent opening of CityCenter and its 5,000 total rooms, makes this the best time in years to cash in on casino comps, especially when it comes to scoring free rooms.

I recently received a flyer in the ol’ mailbox from The Venetian and its Club Grazie program. Grazie is just like Harrah’s and MGM’s player’s clubs but exclusively for The Venetian and its sister property, The Palazzo. The flyer outlined a great offer: 2-4 free nights in a suite at either property!

If you’ve never been to either of these sites, they are a must when in Vegas. The Venetian has somehow taken a dip in notoriety over the last few years, but it is simply a gorgeous resort chock full of great gaming, dining, and amenities. Personally, I prefer it to its upper-echelon competition, Wynn and Bellagio. It has all the same luxury, but is a little less pretentious and offers more options for the middle class visitors and non-whales.

I checked out the offer online by logging in at clubgrazie and was pleasantly pleased to see many available nights to take advantage of this offer between January and March. Never having a free suite offer before, I decided to just book one well knowing that I could cancel it if I could not actually make it out. I expected just Sunday – Thursday nights of availability here, but I even had some weekends! I booked Saturday Jan 23rd to Mon the 25th. A free Saturday at a suite at The Venetian?! This was by far the best room offer I’ve ever had.

I mean look at this room!  Man I love this place.I have had the pleasure of staying at The Venetian once on my very first trip to Vegas in 2005. The rooms are simply stunning. All are suites that are at least 700 square feet, have 2 flatscreens, a fold out sofa in the sunken living room, and remarkable marble bathrooms with separate tub/shower and water closet. Simply put, these are the lap of luxury and typically worth every penny. The fact that I could stay in one of these for free is quite the shock. And here’s why…

The craziest part about this offer is that I even received it in the first place. On my very first visit to The Venetian in ’05, I knew nothing of gambling or casinos yet. Therefore, I did not sign up for Club Grazie at the time. It wasn’t until my last trip out this past September that I did. Once signed up, I played blackjack for maybe 45 minutes at a $10 table and played a penny Sopranos slot for maybe 20 minutes. That’s it.

One visit, slightly over an hour of low-limit play (including on a penny slot!), and a free suite as a result. Hell, I even won during that session. I ended up about $25 on the slot and broke even at the table. This is undoubtedly a product of many empty rooms, but hey, fine by me! Fact is, I didn’t give The Venetian a dime of my money and they are still giving me a free suite. That, my friends, is stellar.

Unfortunately, I should NOT take advantage of this offer. I’m closing on my first house in early February and have my money tied up in that and all the things involved. I also likely can’t find a travel mate for this one on such short notice.

My mind and wallet say “hell no”…..but my heart says “Yes! Do it.”

I’m really having a tough time passing this offer up. I should. I likely will. But we’ll see…

What do our loyal readers think?

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