Regular reader motoman has been kind enough to share with us a report of a recent trip. Here's Moto:
"What follows is a fairly lengthy report about a fairly mundane trip (certainly not up to Mike E standards, but then, who could top that? ;-) It's roughly chronological but each paragraph has its own subject, so feel free to follow along, skip ahead, or skip completely as you prefer, after the jump."
GAMBLING AT WYNN
We had fun one night chatting with a blackjack dealer and pit boss, chasing our money back and forth. On several occasions after coming back up to even, I would joke "Well, I could quit now and pretend I spent the last x hours doing nothing!" When it got to the point that x=5 and I saw my brother reach into his wallet to cover a double-down bet, I figured we'd be crawling back to our room on hands and knees. Instead we had an incredible rally until the morning shift change shortly thereafter, at which point we told the new dealer and pit boss "No offense, but we're leaving!" I felt good, being up a few hundred at what had begun the evening as a $15 table. I know, many here are used to action a couple decimal points to the right of that, but to us it's still a big deal -- for perspective, think in terms of twenty times table minimum. (Little did I know that the very next evening the Maloof brothers would take it all back!) We decided to follow in Mike E's footsteps and go to Terrace Pointe for a treat. My brother was feeling the sleep deprivation and zombie-walked all the way, not appreciating until later that he had made a tidy profit as well. At the cafe, which is still the nicest 24-hr joint I've seen, we ordered decaf and I asked the waiter to help me choose between chocolate cake and carrot cake. Because you see, there is chocolate cake and there is *good* chocolate cake. The waiter's instantaneous and emphatic "Oooooh...!" told me all I needed to know. It was indeed very good chocolate cake, and the sliced fresh strawberry on strawberry sauce was a nice seasonal touch. As the windows began to glow with morning twilight, we headed up to get some sleep and I was glad I'd advised the rest of our crew to make separate plans for the morning.
LUNCH AT COUNTRY CLUB
The next day (actually, later that same day) I fulfilled a promise to take us to Country Club for lunch. It took some gentle prodding but I reminded them that the golf course might be a construction site the next time they see it (hopefully they'll preserve that waterfall view), and they'd better take me up on the offer while the money was still in my pocket! The Angus burgers were awesome if a bit messy to eat. On the way out to the patio to take in the view, I noticed a tall man in a white uniform walking past the bar. Even from the back I recognized Chef Lenger, and quickly moved to compliment him on the meal, thank him and shake his hand. (I resisted the geek impulse to have him stand for a photo with us....) Chef Lenger extended heartfelt thanks in return. Being a recovering Food Network addict, I've come to recognize that chefs are essentially artists whose canvas is the plate, and they genuinely appreciate the recognition. (Chef Klein was known to come around to the tables and chat with guests during his stint at SW, and although I never ate there, I thought that was a nice touch.) Out at the patio, the bartender came rushing out to help us with some group photos. "Can you tell I do this a lot?" she joked. With that, we boarded a cab for the south Strip and a bit of casino touring.
STRIP WALK LITE
Based on mike_ch's Strip walks, I was interested to see the changes to NewYork NewYork. The interior is largely draped in black construction tarps (the entire center of the casino and a whole section just inside the cab entrance) but still, the place was a madhouse. The bridges to MGM and Excalibur were packed with people flowing in both directions. The sheer amount of money flowing into Kerkorian's coffers is stunning to comprehend. Bellagio was very nice and this time, based on detroit's comments over the years, I took notice of the various bars and restaurants around the casino and lake. Bellagio does have a much nicer variety of bars than WLV, some ideally located for people-watching in the casino, but for a small roller like me, lacking serious compage there's no reason not to partake at the tables instead. There was a mix of blue/gold canopies and red/gold -- I don't recall if this represents a mixture of new & old? I could come to appreciate Bellagio but as others have noted, the place is jammed with fanny-packing lookie-loos that you must dodge at every turn. That alone, added to MGM's makeovers, tells me I'm fine with staying at Wynn. I know, part of it is location -- Bellagio's central location allowed Aladdin/PH and others to jack their room rates for "Fountain View" rooms -- and WLV will catch up in foot traffic as the north Strip continues to develop and Encore allows an entry point closer to the street. But even the layout of WLV is more guest-friendly than Bellagio.
The July heat, like last year, was compounded by unusually high humidity so being the bunch of old men we now are, we walked only as far as Caesars but did not go in, simply queuing up for a cab back to Wynn. There are still plenty of families vacationing in Vegas and the kids, especially girls, are always amused by the statue of David at the Caesars porte cochere. I used to be troubled by this as it's a very high-traffic area for Dave to hang out, but now as a wiser and more enlightened elder (Ha!) I'm simply amused by the false prudishness of American society toward such things. (Somewhere I still have an old illustrated children's Encyclopedia with a drawing of an emasculated David. Just plain weird....)
Other things we saw this trip include the Hard Rock, Rio and Palms, in our first venture off-Strip. We wandered the Rio's enormous convention facility where they were just cleaning up after the World Series of Poker, posters of Doyle Brunson still visible. That facility is huge, and plenty nice. I'd never given off-Stip a second look before, but there was nothing second-class about Rio's convention center. The food court was quite good, featuring a round, turntable-style flame broiler. At one point a cocktail waitress got up and danced on a stage amongst the slot machines, and all I can say is, thank goodness we were eating and not playing or her gyrations would've seriously distracted us from the cards. That girl had moves! Rio is also the only casino where I've noticed male drink servers. One of them also got up and danced, twice. Or was it two different waiters -- not my thing but FYI. On the way out we passed a bowling alley with huge TV screens above the pins and dim blue lighting on the lanes. Then, a short walk to the Palms -- which will be responsible for four cases of PTSD due to an extremely cold blackjack table, compounded later by a middle-aged Ukranian woman who just couldn't stop dispensing her entirely unsolicited advice.
The Playboy Club was a curiosity but given the need for a cover charge and two suit-wearing "escorts" to the elevator, we decided to pass. There's a store off the main casino that sells Playboy merchandise.
BLT & SPIKED SHAKES
On the last day we finally made it to Mirage to see BLT Grill but by then I had lost the craving for one of their signature "spiked" milkshakes. Looking at the menu, I now declare the shakes to be a gimmick. There are but a half-dozen choices, simply listed separately in the middle of the milkshake section but not highlighted or featured in any way, and nothing special at that. Even the hostess, when asked for a recommendation, pointed to one of the "regular" shakes (heavy in chocolate, of course!). Meh.
WINNING & LOSING
As an exclamation mark to end our trip, my brother entered only his second poker tournament and for the second time, took first place. (This time at T.I., a nice small fishtank -- um, poker room.) Some more blackjack profits while waiting to leave Wynn and he's the solid winner of our group. With the Maloofs having taken the rest of our profits, I can't wait to come back for the Encore opening. But as a group, we've decided to stick to the Strip and never, ever, go back to the Palms again, ever. Not ever. (Well, unless those losses earned us a free room or something. In that case, Thanks George jr. and company!)
Update: having done some reading on the Maloofs I see they are truly an American success story. That the Palms has done so well despite its location and the competition in town is a testament to that. It's great they're hosting Podcasat-a-palooza, and I know at one time they were the only place that would allow CSI to film interior shots. I wish them well....just not on our dime! (Update 2: Of course we could've left the cold table at any time. And of course we could've ditched the loudmouthed gambler. We understand this. It's just funnier to complain about it! )
People always look at you funny when you say you broke even in Vegas, like you're lying about your losses. Really it means you're managing your money correctly. My brother swears I taught him this but we both read the same book. He'll (correctly) push his blackjack bets harder than I, which helped his profits. (For the record, that's Mike Goodman's "How To Win," chapters 8, 13, and 26. An early example of the genre whose advice has no doubt been repeated endlessly by others.)
P.S. -- PALAZZO
I did wander around the shopping mall and I have to say, it wasn't terrible. Quite the opposite. In fact, for the casual tourist lookie-loo there's lots more to see and do than at Wynn and there's no way 99.99 percent would know or care about the differences we continually parse here on the blog. It's simply a much bigger spectacle in a town full of big spectacles. The casino has a completely different vibe than either Wynn or Venetian and I can't say I hated it either. Do I still prefer Steve Wynn's work? Definitely. Will I stay or play at Palazzo? Likely not, but that's a personal choice. Will the place compound Adelson's enormous fortune? Absolutely, without a doubt. Funny thing, the Wynn golf course development and the LVS properties will only complement each other going forward, long after both men and their feuds are history. At least, until someone else comes along and tears it all down.
Viva Las Vegas.