Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

June 15, 2008

The Mirage, June 8-11.

Posted by Mike E

I took my parents for a three-night getaway at The Mirage as a combined Mother's and Father's Day gift. This trip was ultra-mellow by my standards but just as memorable as any other. Rather than the usual play-by-play, I've broken the report down in sections. Feel free to skip around to parts that interest you.

(More after the jump)

The Mirage:

The hotel of choice this trip was The Mirage. With its casino pretty much finished and its room renovations almost done, I figured it was about time to give my old home another go. Was it exceptional? No, but then again, it's refreshing not to pay $400 per night as it seems I've become accustomed to.

After a short wait at check-in, I pulled the $20 trick and asked for a renovated room. The receptionist immediately put me up in room 22048 near the center of the tower. It was beautifully renovated with [what will soon be a working] volcano view, near the elevators and ice machine, and even had something I'd never seen on their standard rooms: floor to ceiling windows.

Now with most the work done, the hotel is really something special. For the price, I can't think of a more well rounded resort. Pool? One of the best. Spa/Salon? Recently renovated. Casino, restaurants, nightlife? The list goes on and on. Does Bellagio do it better? Maybe, but it's also much bigger, more expensive, impersonal, and I'm frankly sick and tired of dodging tourists with each visit. Yes, Wynn does it better too, but you'll pay dearly for it.

Service was great if perhaps a little superficial. I'd rate it very on par with my last stay at Bellagio which is about as good as mega-resort standards can get. You're bound to come across a surly employee or two who can't force a smile if it kills them, but such is the truth for any establishment employing thousands.


For the most part, it was all up and down this trip... mostly down, actually, but I put up a good fight the whole trip and that makes me feel like a winner. I played pai gow poker and baccarat exclusively with a few slots thrown in.

The first night's baccarat session was total madness--probably the most fun I've ever had at a table. My friend Randy and I took our seats in Mirage's baccarat salon betting near the minimum while four other Asian ladies with stacks upon stacks of yellow chips decided to show us how it's done. I stayed out the first several hands and just watched when Randy noticed that every time he bet against the lady at seat three, he lost so our strategy became clear: bet with her at all costs. She went on an absolute tear winning the entire table insane amounts of money, paying off everyone's commissions, tipping like crazy, and even throwing us a few chips to entice us to keep playing. Apparently, she's a legend at Mirage's baccarat salon and everyone--patrons, dealers, pit bosses, everyone--loves her.

The next night's baccarat didn't go nearly as well but was a great time nonetheless. The player had come up significantly more times than banker and I was counting on the banker's much overdue streak to come up, but to no avail. At one point, I pulled a natural eight on banker sitting smug and yet feeling sorry for Randy as he had his money on player. Sure enough, he pulled the natural nine and we both exploded off the table in disbelief. With the commotion we were causing in the high limit room, you'd think tens of thousands of dollars was being exchanged. I lost heavily at that session, but having a personal relationship with the bartender and tipping the waitresses well had us drinking Johnnie Walker Blue Label like it was water.

For a total change of pace and something you'd never believe I'd do unless you knew me in person, I decided to sit with my mom and play some penny slots. It's not nearly as intense but what's not to love about playing thirty lines at once for two hours on $20? Sure enough, my mom hit the jackpot next to me for 50,000 pennies. I was so happy for her and she was ecstatic, though had she been playing full credits, she would have won the nearly $4000 progressive. I wasn't going to make mention of that and kill her moment.


I took my parents to see Palazzo and it was love at first sight. My dad couldn't get enough of the high ceilings which are high enough that he couldn't see the blue painters tape still stuck up there after nearly six months. They loved the smoke-free corridors in the casino but said they didn't feel comfortable playing there. High ceilings make a great first impression but they also kill the vibe.


We made a day downtown which has become somewhat of a tradition for my parents. This time, I made sure to check out Main Street Station (I hadn't been in several years) and was thoroughly impressed. It's in many respects nicer than the Nugget, but much less hectic, very clean with great service, and seems to attract an overall higher-end customer. I didn't play for too long, but if they can throw me a free room, I wouldn't hesitate to stay there.


On my last night, I decided to take a stroll south on the strip and loop my way back up. Bellagio was hopping and there was one roulette table with a crowd four people thick surrounding it. At first I thought it might have been a celebrity or a whale tearing it up, but it was actually 16 reds in a row getting all the attention. I wish I could have squeezed through and placed my bet on black in time. The moment it hit, the entire crowd dispersed. I then made my way to see the renovations of the baccarat salon. Bravo to MGM Mirage for making something that successfully blends both contemporary and traditional elegance. I was too afraid I'd see a space akin to the hideous high limit blackjack area there.

Miscellaneous mischief:

The first night in town, Randy, my friend Kevin, and I met up at Treasure Island where we decided to have drinks at the bar in the high limit room. I think drinking with friends at these bars is becoming one of my favorite things to do. The bartenders, lack of crowds, and atmosphere make them highly recommended. Fortunately, Randy knew the bartender at TI from previous trips and the drinks were comped. Though it was kind of late, I thought that maybe we could try our luck at getting into Foundation Room (it was a Sunday night). It had closed by the time we had arrived at Mandalay Bay so then we tried MIX but with the same results. We instead hit the bar in--you guessed it--the high limit room and shared more stories and stupidity there.

The next night, Randy held a small but superbly executed gathering of friends with a special scotch tasting at his penthouse at The Mirage. He really went all out with hors d'oevres, champagne, water crackers to clear the pallet between tastings, etc. This was one of the highlights of my trip. Among the selections in order were Balvenie 25, Glenfiddich 30, Macallan 25 Sherry Oak, and Macallan 25 Fine Oak. I wish I took notes, but while all of them were exceptional, the Fine Oak was my absolute favorite followed by the Sherry Oak, Glenfiddich, and finally, the Balvenie. Randy also let me have a taste of his Macallan 30 which, he agrees, isn't as good as the 25-year especially at more than twice the price.

The final night, I hit Mirage's high limit bar by myself and quickly made friends with a gentleman from San Diego by the name of Lee (who is probably reading this since I pretty much whored all the Vegas sites I contribute to and he was quick to save them in his iPhone). It was such a pleasure to converse with a character like him. I complemented him on the smell of his cigar and told him how I used to smoke but had had a run of bad cigars for a while and pretty much stopped. He had a Cuban Cohiba and insisted I take it in hopes of rekindling my hobby with a fine stick. I just couldn't accept. His generosity was really something else but what he then offered blew me away. After ordering a glass of Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac, he insisted I take the first sip! That, I accepted and it was just incredible. While he was trying to get me to like cigars again, he inadvertently sparked my interest in Cognac. Thanks Lee! Hope we cross paths again.

Random stuff for the hardcore Vegas aficionados:

As if it has to be mentioned again, it's hard to describe in words the sheer magnitude of CityCenter as you stand in the center of it on the west side of the strip. Behind the fence, I noticed a construction worker taking a break, sipping on his coffee, and enjoying the scenery of the crowds on the strip well passed midnight. We started chatting about the project with me telling him how incredible it was and offering my condolences to those who've lost their lives at the site. Considering that he was on strike just a few days earlier, he was surprisingly cheery and motivated about the project. Not much in terms of inside information though other than to say that they've begun pouring the cement on the ceilings of The Crystals mall.

Cosmopolitan looks hideous in person. I'm sure some people confuse it as part of CityCenter, but the tower--albeit I am judging unfinished products--pales in comparison with its clumsy balconies and graceless edges.

While driving back from downtown, I got a peek inside Encore's porte cochere. Now, as to be expect of a Steve Wynn hotel, the entrance will make use of foliage and natural light, but from my quick glance, it almost looked like they were installing a forest in there. Should be interesting.

Final thoughts:

The Mirage won't make you feel pampered, but at the right price and with the right expectations, it's easily one of the best options in town.

The economy is having a very positive effect on comps and getting my final bill pretty much slashed in half by the end of my stay after already coming in on a casino rate is proof of that.

I'm getting bored of Vegas. Blasphemy, I know. I might go at the end of July because my friend Matt will be in town and it's always a guaranteed good time, but I'm in no rush to make a reservation. On the bright side, beginning in December and with pretty much each trip thereafter, there'll be something new to see with the construction projects coming to a close.

Thanks for reading!


Read archived comments (19 so far)
June 16, 2008 12:36 AM Posted by Russell

I've always wanted to ask this question.

I'm a well traveled Vegas tourist (14 trips over the past 7 years). Is there any rule that keep me from walking into the high limit areas and hanging out at the bar?

June 16, 2008 1:50 AM Posted by Mike E

None at all, Russell. They can, perhaps, be a little intimidating, but the way I see it, if you're dressed well, you're only adding to the allure and atmosphere of the space anyway. And I must say that's one thing I love about those bars: nobody is going to walk up in flip flops dripping wet from the pool.

June 16, 2008 2:44 AM Posted by Dan

Those few "surly" employees at the Mirage...were they truly surly (ill-tempered) or were they simply aloof(somewhat snobbish and high-brow)? Being aloof, without being rude or unwilling to help, is not necessarily a bad thing. Personally, I'd rather someone be neutral than fake.

June 16, 2008 4:53 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike, thanks for the report. What specifically has Bellagio done with the Baccarat Salon? Does it look more MGM than Steve Wynn, or is there a balance? They must have done it right since you approve. Has the high limit slot area been renovated yet? This has been continually delayed for at least two years.
Finally, did you get any details on The Mirage's volcano? I hope it still remains a class display, not like MGM did with TI's pirate village and show.

June 16, 2008 4:59 AM Posted by Mike E

I'd be overstating to say they were ill-tempered, but definitely visibly bothered by my requests and unwilling to help. Personally, I'd rather they be fake but willing to do their job.

June 16, 2008 5:11 AM Posted by Mike E

Detroit, there's definitely a nice balance struck between Wynn and MGM design. If I recall correctly, there's lots of red, floral patterns on the carpets mixed with contemporary edges, especially in the light fixtures. I'm sorry, but I didn't check out the high limit slots area.

I too am curious about the volcano. It seems like they never disassembled the original structure or are making any effort to make it taller. Either way, as a spectacle that won't be incorporating any actors, I'm sure it won't be nearly as bad as Sirens.

June 16, 2008 8:42 AM Posted by Hunter

Another great report - thanks Mike!

The Mirage has always been a good standby for me and it's only getting better.

As far as high-limit bars go, that's one of my favorite tips. They typically have all the best stuff back there.

June 16, 2008 10:20 AM Posted by David McKee

In what ways do you feel Main Street Station surpasses the Golden Nugget? I'm intrigued.

June 16, 2008 5:12 PM Posted by Joe

hey you guys are vegas experts. Where should I stay for the summer the Wynn or Bellagio?

June 16, 2008 7:37 PM Posted by Mike E

David, in my limited experience, I've found MSS employees friendlier, especially the dealers and pit bosses, and the entire casino is just much less hectic. The detailing in the ceilings are impressive in a Venetianesque sort of way--nothing notable by strip standards, but certainly nicer than most anything downtown.

Joe, in short, you can't lose with either one. If you're going to be out and about exploring the city, I'd recommend Bellagio. Otherwise, Wynn.

June 17, 2008 12:46 PM Posted by mike_ch

I'm pretty sure that Boyd hired some laid-off Disney designer/imagineer for assistance with MSS, as there's a couple signature touches from their theme parks, such as the phrase "Waste Please" on the trash cans.

June 17, 2008 1:41 PM Posted by Jeff Simpson

Mike, it's funny you mention Disney, because MSS was built by Bob Snow, the developer of Orlando's Church Street Station. Boyd bought the project when MSS went bankrupt. (And that's why Boyd owns a property named "Station" -- to the irritation of their chief locals competitors, I'm sure.)

June 22, 2008 2:39 PM Posted by Mr. Booze

Great report, and nice tip on the high-limit bars. I'm going to hit those up the next time I'm in town.

June 24, 2008 12:46 PM Posted by Joe

What do you guys think about bellagios new guest room renovation? is it better than the old rooms?

June 25, 2008 1:11 AM Posted by Mike E

Joe, I'd say the guest rooms and suites at Bellagio are significantly better than before.

June 25, 2008 4:09 PM Posted by Mike P.

Have standard rooms been renovated at Bellagio? I thought not since 2004 or so during the Spa tower construction.

Suites were renovated last year and they did a great job IMO. They kept the stone work and moldings of the originals and replaced everything else. The new look is clean and contemporary but still warm and comfortable.

Maybe I should say I'm a fan of modernist design. If you liked the elaborately themed look of the old suites you might be disappointed, but for my taste the new look is a huge improvement in every respect.

Someone in the consumer electronics industry pointed out here a while back that the TVs are plasmas, which probably isn't the best choice for a hotel because of burn-in issues. A valid point I suppose, but I never watch TV when I'm in Vegas so I don't care.

June 25, 2008 7:18 PM Posted by detroit1051

I'm looking forward to Yellowtail at Bellagio. It should open in July. When I heard the Light Group was operating it, I feared it would be more nightclub than restaurant. The description on Bellagio's website says the hours are 5-11PM, so it clearly will not be a club. As much as I liked Shintaro, this sounds more contemporary and very appealing. I assume the 25x13 wall they talk about is where the jellyfish used to swim.

June 25, 2008 9:03 PM Posted by Hunter

The standard rooms at Bellagio have not been renovated since the Spa Tower opened, at which time they tried to make them match better with that offering.

The suite remodel was the bigger news recently - so long overdue.

June 26, 2008 9:58 PM Posted by Joe

Well, all of the europe themed resorts on th strip as well as most of the hotels on the strip are making their room renovations modern. I guess that the modern theme is in.