Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

April 1, 2009

Encore, March 29-31.

Posted by Mike E

Here's a short review from my most recent trip including tours of both the Duplex Apartments and Sky Casino at Encore. Enjoy and feel free to skip to sections that interest you.


I put in four strong gambling sessions at the tables, but the most memorable was at Encore's pai gow poker table to the left just as you enter from the strip porte cochere. I saw this table with a minimum of $10 several times throughout the trip and if you're a scotch drinker, you can get Macallan 18 comped here! $30 per glass drink + slow game at low minimums = positive expectation. We passed a couple hours here, I made about $200, and we even got three comped dinners at the Terrace Pointe Café with a spread of only about $15 to $50 per hand.

The Recession:

I'm sick and tired of reading about the state of the economy, especially as it pertains to Vegas, but it's so refreshing to see people genuinely appreciating tips like never before. Just how appreciative? At that same pai gow table where the Macallan flowed freely, we were dropping a buck every now and then to the dealers when luck was down and playing for them when the cards seemed in our favor. The Sky Casino came up in conversation and I casually mentioned how I'd love to see it (took only a peek last trip before getting the stare down from security). Sure enough, the pit boss called her shift manager down and he took us up for a tour...

Places I Shouldn't Be In:

Playing in the Sky Casino is by host's invitation only to those with a credit line of $300,000 or more--far from this 20-something year old with a $1000 bankroll. It's got five "salons" of varying sizes, a private cage, private restrooms, butlers running around, most of the popular table games with the exception of craps, and of course, jaw-dropping floor-to-ceiling views of north and south strip from Encore's top floor. But despite the views and a level of luxury literally rivaling that of a palace, unless I truly cherished my privacy or could take over one of the salons with my own entourage of friends, I think I'd keep all my gambling downstairs no matter what my credit line; the Sky Casino is a little too reserved, even for my tastes.

I also got to see a "Duplex Apartment" suite which is Encore's top accommodation and was recently featured in the April 2009 issue of Architectural Digest. The entrance of the 5800 square foot room is dramatic and your attention is immediately drawn upward to the bi-level chandelier hanging from a ceiling of gold mosaic tile. The living room features a 72-inch flat panel television on the right, a bar spanning the entire wall's length at the left, and breathtaking 20-foot floor-to-ceiling windows directly in front. Down a long hallway is one master bedroom while at the opposite end is a game room with pool table. Along the way is a butler pantry with kitchen and its own entrance to keep the service as transparent as possible. Up the grand staircase (should you not opt for the elevator) are identical master bedrooms on each side with views of the strip and the entire Las Vegas valley. The walls are fully upholstered in brown mohair. Despite many traditional touches, the suite feels casual and contemporary. I thought by seeing the suite, it would help me un-justify the cost of reserving one. I thought wrong.


The greatest thing about Society Café is the complimentary warm pretzel bread and dipping sauce. It's more memorable than the excellent entrées.

The last restaurant left for me to try at Encore was Botero. There's been plenty of reviews singing its praises all over so I won't get into too much detail other than to say that I plan on returning again and again. Phenomenal meal, phenomenal atmosphere. It's by far Encore's most popular restaurant and for good reason.

Wazuzu wazawezome. Much better experience than the first time dining there.

Despite all its struggles, Tableau still remains one of, if not the top breakfast spot in town.


We hit XS on Monday night, the local industry night that gets packed. A friend of mine walked us in and we got a table with a comped bottle of champagne plus the option of two-for-one prices on anything else off the bottle service menu. As the champagne ran dry, the club started picking up, but $450 for two one-liter bottles of Kettle One is a bit much for five already-drunk friends. What's awesome about XS though is that it's overbuilt even by the economic standards of two years ago. That means that there are always tables available and as long as you're ordering drinks from the bar to bring back, they won't give you a hard time for sitting in them. In fact, on a beautiful night like ours, I'd say a good 10% if the tables inside the club were available and every single one of the 30 or so cabanas out by the pool were unoccupied.

Wynn has likened the vibe of this club to St. Tropez numerous times. I couldn't agree more. The combination of cabanas, daybeds, blackjack tables, and chairs in the water makes for a true homage to the club's name. And that's only what you'll find on the outside. Inside, the layout is Tryst on steroids. Behind every booth for bottle service is a flat space where everyone is encouraged to climb up on and dance. The bathrooms are massive--never a line for the ladies and the attendants really earn their tips; the moment I finished washing my hands, I had one attendant drying them while another rolled a lint remover all over my coat. This place really makes you feel pampered once inside.

I don't think Foundation Room is long for this world. Its big night is Monday nights, but it's now competing with XS, Jet, and Privé. We headed up on a members-only Sunday at around 10pm and were literally three of about thirteen people in there total.

Another friend had a table at Body English as well which we joined in on, but arriving drunk and having been stuffed at Botero had me near-sick the whole night.

Final Thoughts:

Check-in for Encore on a Sunday morning was an absolute zoo. I actually don't mind the waiting as much as I do standing around that many disgruntled people--totally kills the good vibes you get from finally arriving. They told me they would call me when my room would become available and of course they never did. I went back at 3pm and after another half hour, I begged to upgrade to Tower Suites. At only $50 per night, that might have been the best money spent on the trip.

Resort check-in procedures at Encore really need to change. I understand that they are trying to set themselves apart from other hotels by calling the bell desk for you to have your luggage sent to the room and it's also a nice gesture when they take a map out and draw your path to the elevators when they're literally steps away, but it's just not worth the expense of a half hour or more wait.

It's nice to have the power back to the consumer, but it breaks my heart to see the skeletal foundations of Echelon and Palazzo's condos or the extra smile from employees in tip-dependent jobs.

Thanks all for reading. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Read archived comments (38 so far)
April 1, 2009 6:42 PM Posted by detroit1051

Mike, thanks for your report. I'm glad you mentioned Tableau. Has Wynn dropped its plans fo change it? I'm sure Mark LoRusso is happy with his move to Botero.

April 1, 2009 6:54 PM Posted by Mike E

Detoit, from what I can tell, there is fortunately no evidence of a change coming to Tableau.

April 1, 2009 7:13 PM Posted by Hunter

I understand what you mean about the Foundation Room but it's original purpose was as a high end amenity for high rollers and club members. It may survive on those grounds.

April 1, 2009 7:23 PM Posted by Kenny

Wow! The Wynn/Encore complex totaly blows Venetian , Palazzo, and the MGM signature out of the water!! It especially terminates the Bellagio in every single possible way! Wow I never thought i'd say it but, theres nothing about the Bellagio that compares to Wynn/Encore!

April 1, 2009 11:04 PM Posted by Arthur

Do you know how many of these Duplex Apartments are in Encore? They're very impressive!

April 1, 2009 11:49 PM Posted by Bob

I'll echo Hunter's remark about the Foundation Room. Considering that it's a member only lounge/restaurant in multiple cities allows someone to entertain their guests at any of them.

And the cocktail service at the tables was fast when I was there on a Friday night play pai gow tiles which is the first pit outside the high limit room at Encore. I think I could have had 6 drinks an hour if I wanted. Most places where I park to play pai gow (tiles or poker), I'd feel lucky to get 3 drinks an hour.

April 2, 2009 12:33 AM Posted by Mike E

Arthur, there are 16 "Duplex Apartments" and one "Penthouse Apartment" which is actually identical to the other Duplexes in floor plan and furnishing but, as its name would imply, on the top floor. The Sky Casino is literally outside that room's door.

April 2, 2009 5:23 AM Posted by TC from Boston

This question is to anyone who may or may not know not just Mike E...what is Wynn/Encore's thinking with the whole cluster fuck of a check in process...I know a "rat maze" isn't pleasing to the eye but at least there is don't need lil signs like they have at Venetian but anyone who has stand on the resort sides of these places get the same experience everytime...a big cluster of miserable people delaying your enjoyment of a wonderful place.

April 2, 2009 8:51 AM Posted by Tom M.

Wynn must really be desperate because i just got an email offer from them for wynn/encore resort room at $129. And I only go to vegas once every five years or so and don't gamble much at all. I was surprised to see this one in my email inbox.

April 2, 2009 9:36 AM Posted by mike_ch

This is one of those statements that puts people out of work by design so I feel bad about saying it, but...

Resort check-in seems like one of these things that can eventually be done by self-service kiosks. Maybe even a really fancy place could also put it on your mobile phone, so that you take care of checking in that way, know everything you need to by the time you're done using your phone, and simply give the kiosk your credit card and it spits out your room key.

April 2, 2009 9:38 AM Posted by doc_al

I recently checked into a Wynn Resort room, and there was sort of a check-in "maitre'd" who was shepherding the process. He stuck me in a line that turned out to not move at all, but then came over and indicated the three or four clerks to the left and said "then next one that is open here is for you".

Checkin is an unnecessary cluster everywhere - considering you've already given your information, I fail to understand what all the freakin typing is for - but I thought this was handled as well as I could ask for.

April 2, 2009 11:59 AM Posted by PeterF

I did a self-service check-in at the SF Hilton and it worked well (and online an early check-in was promised if I used the self-service). However, no way to do the Vegas $20 trick.

April 2, 2009 12:18 PM Posted by Matt K

I think a kiosk is definitely preferable to a long line. But all things being equal, interaction with a human is preferable to interaction with a machine. For one thing, you can't ask the kiosk if they've got your specially requested, non-allergic pillow or whatever, but more generally, it's just a higher standard of hospitality when you get a hello and a smile. I don't see Wynn installing kiosks.

I think the long term solution to this problem is a) the spacing out of arrivals and departures, and b) cutting some of the fat from the check-in procedure.

April 2, 2009 12:41 PM Posted by Nico

If someone started using a lint remover on me, I would smack them.

April 2, 2009 12:41 PM Posted by Joe

Kenny: Dude, how could you say that! The Bellagio has a lot of thingsb that could compare to Wynn. In fact, they are almost equal. The Wynn I have to admit though has better rooms but, the Bellagio in most peoples opinion has better restaurants, architecture, and obviously entertainment. Oh and a better location. Don't get me wrong Kenny, Wynn/Encore are 2 great resorts its just that, its not 100 times better than the B and thats most prabably true that its not. Hey in my opinion, I like the Bellagio better (too many reasons to list why) and to me, the Wynn just has great rooms, pretty good dining, and better shopping- other than that, I don't really find the action at Wynn/Encore. I find it somewhat boring...

April 2, 2009 2:14 PM Posted by Oakey

I've always had quick check-ins at the Wynn, and I haven't been to Encore yet. But I have been stuck in check-in purgatory (long lines or come-back-when-our computers-are-back-up) at other casinos. Avoiding Friday and Sunday check-ins may help a bit. But ultimately I think it comes down to how well-staffed the front desk is and how affective the hotel is at cleaning rooms quickly in the critical time after check-out and how effective they are at keeping the computers running.

In the check in process, there are always some "exceptions" that the front desk needs to handle that are much more time consuming -- families with special needs, lost reservations, expected comps/rates, etc. Those are to be expected. When the inventory fo clean rooms approaches "zero" or the computers go down, then all the customers become "exceptions" and the process gets very ugly very fast. The key for the casino is to avoid creating "exceptions". I don't think the human touch (giving directions, making conversation) is what slows things down.

Finally, I agree that a bit of a wait is not enough to compromise my Vegas buzz. The buzz kill comes from others that cannot wait calmly and pleasantly.

April 2, 2009 2:44 PM Posted by mike_ch

PeterF: "However, no way to do the Vegas $20 trick."

Fine by me. That thing needs to die anyway, as far as I'm concerned. They can put upgrades and their prices and such in the system and remove the mystery.

April 2, 2009 2:54 PM Posted by mike_ch

Wynn, Encore, and Bellagio get a lot of people's emotions running. Any time we've talked about the future of Bellagio in particular it gets people defencive, especially if it involves it being a second banana to Aria, Encore, whatever.

I spent a few hours just people watching and looking around the Bellagio this week, and a lot of time I'll admit I was thinking how it would look under Wynn. Even mulling over whether you could somehow squeeze a Tower Suites operation into the Spa Tower (conclusion: It's possible, but it will be as unsecluded as Encore's without the proximity to the casino.)

I still think it would make a good sister act to WLV. Steve may cringe at some of his floorplan errors like making elevators so far from the spa, but it's still popular and should be marketed as an alternative experience, maybe the inverse experience, to Wynn. After all, not all of the luxury market is into seclusion and privacy and exclusivity. Bellagio is about being seen (and, with the number of lookie-loos from other hotels you can't help but be seen.)

That said, it isn't Wynn's, who owns it in 18 months is a big question mark but if it isn't MGM or Wynn then my eyebrows will be raised.

April 2, 2009 3:33 PM Posted by LeoNYC

Well said, mike_ch. Bellagio is indeed the place to be seen. In my opinion, it also has better pools than Wynn/Encore. Wynn/Encore also doesn't have a sophisticated bar like the Petrossian (really nice place for an afternoon tee) and
a bar that feature live entertainment like Fontana Bar. I always have fun when I go to these two bars.

April 2, 2009 8:06 PM Posted by Jinx

Great report Mike, have to agree with the other thoughts, since Foundation Room is only open to the public (unless that's changed) on Monday nights, I can't see it as too negative an experience. It's a country club mentality, pay your membership and get access in any city, except for the one night a week opening.

I completely agree with your thoughts on tips being more appreciated, while it wasn't absolute on my last trip, many, many of the staff I tipped were very thankful for the tip. In my opininon my March trip to Vegas made me reevaluate whether it could be a service town. I've actually always felt that service in Vegas anywhere was a bit overrated compared to what I would get on a cruise ship, from a personal waiter, cabin steward, etc. But that's just my opinion. Thanks for putting the report up.

April 2, 2009 8:53 PM Posted by Mike E

Thanks all for the comments.

TC, I believe the reason most resorts don't do a single file line is because putting up railing or velvet ropes disqualifies them from Mobil or AAA status (can't remember which).

April 3, 2009 1:13 AM Posted by Sam

I could definitely see Wynn's characteristics in the Bellagio but it seemed that MGM's effect on it made it feel like an inferior casino/hotel. Service was nowhere nearly as good and there were many more tourists there than Wynn. It might sound like an oxymoron but I prefer a place in Vegas that doesn't feel like a zoo.

April 3, 2009 4:17 AM Posted by TC from Boston

Wait what?! That doesn't make sense...some sort of line or "rat maze" system would just make it easier on the resort to give better service. I'm not saying 24/7 it needs to be up but anyone who has experience the wynn check in area knows that during busy's a zoo..i guess its one of those things they need to sacrifice to get the ratings they want...but i imagine they piss off a lot of people in that lil disaster...which could potentially hurt ratings more....very intriguing indeed Mr. E

April 3, 2009 8:13 AM Posted by soccalduck

Great report. Sky Casino looks luxurious, but it sort of reminds me of a concierage lounge at the Four Season or Ritz-Carlton with gaming tables. I would agree with Hunter that even if I could qualify to play there (and they had a craps table), I still would prefer the atmosphere in the main casino. However, if you are a Chinese government official wagering purloined tax money, I'm sure that level of privacy is greatly appreciated.

Check-in process at all major Strip resorts seems needlessly long, IMO. In my experience, the Venetian actually does the best job at this: they queue you up in a single rat maze, put an attendant at the head of the line to keep things moving, and usually have enough clerks on duty to keep the process flowing. The worst experience I ever had was a Sunday afternoon at Bellagio, but that was due to a computer failure, so I'll cut them some slack.

At least offering the option of a kiosk, like Hyatt or Hilton, would be nice for those of us who just want to check-in to the room we reserved, and don't need any special handling. I travel for a living (150k miles per year, minimum), and generally do not have to face a line anywhere (hotels, airports, rental car counters) except Las Vegas, which is irritating.

April 3, 2009 4:52 PM Posted by Joe

All right! Who copied who; Palazzo or Bellagio:

April 3, 2009 9:20 PM Posted by Mike E

I'd say they both copied WLV's Parasol Down.

April 5, 2009 7:32 AM Posted by Brian Fey

Joe, I saw that at Palazzo this week, but never made it to Bellagio. I just figured that was Palazzo's answer to Wynn's Parasol's. :)

I hear what you guys are saying about check-in being a cluster, but many times when I walked by checkin at Encore this week, there were just a couple of people in line. One Saturday at lunch time, was it what I would call crowded.

Mike - Are you saying the tables in the pool area are open at night for XS?
I agree that Tableau is as good as it gets for breakfast, though I'm sad to say, I didn't hit it on this trip.

On the Bellagio/Wynn argument there is no clear answer. I think Wynn/Encore is my choice for dining, and I like his pool better, as I find it more interesting. Sure the fountains are a better feature, no question, and the location of Bellagio is much better.

One big thing I did notice was how much better the elevators are at Encore than Wynn. I've always said Wynn was short on elevators, the wait is usually long, and they are always very full. This is something that cannot be corrected now. Encore has one more elevator per bank vs Encore, and has 700 fewer rooms. Encore remides me of Mirage, where you never have to wait more than a few seconds for a elevator, and usually once you do get in one, you find it empty. I guess all my letters and email to Steve bitching about the lack of elevators at Wynn has paid off.

I also received no turn down service during my entire stay at Encore this week, has that been also cut on the resort side?

I agree with others, Botero is fantastic, probably my favorite place to eat in the whole complex, but its a hard choice. On a side note, I hit Stratta, and it was excellent, they have obviously changed much more than just their name, the new chef has all new meals, and its fantastic.

April 6, 2009 10:53 AM Posted by Lisa

Thanks for your POV. We just returned last night from a 3 night stay at Encore. I visit the strip about 5X's a year. Have to say - I had a BLAST so did my 21 year old - but my 72 year old mom and 45+ sister were all freaked out bc they could hear XS in their mattress blaring like a low rider under our room. Apparantly none of the staff would admit this is a big complaint. But it's obvious when the front desk has a stash of ear plugs they will bring up 'right away'. Kinda a bad deal if they are trying to cater to our baby boomer bucks that we are ready to donate to the tables and spend on the nice digs. Still have to say out of the dozen or so strip 'tels - this is still on my fav list. Love the blog.

April 6, 2009 2:36 PM Posted by detroit1051

When Hunter reported on the Encore back of the house workshop he attended, didn't he say Encore used special sound-conditioning glass on the wall facing the pools and XS?
I recall one time I was on a high floor at Wynn, in the Tower Suites, when there was a private evening poolside party with live music,. It was distracting, but the party ended early. It's a different story at all night clubs.

April 6, 2009 4:15 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Wynn has stated a number of times about this special glass, and while it might be improved, its far from silent. I heard the club easily last week, and I was on 34th floor. I can imagine its worse on a lower floor. It was not horrible by any means, but I could clearly hear the nightclub.

April 6, 2009 6:00 PM Posted by TC from Boston

Figured this would be a good place to share what I just did with Encore.

In mid April i will be traveling to Vegas stay at Encore...long story short my original reservation was for roughly 400 a night, tower suites side for 5 days. I was paroozing all the various cheap travel sites that us weirdos frequent, and I found a travelzoo promo code that cut that number pretty much in half. Now I'm stay the whole time for around 200 a night (give or take a few dollars here or there) pretty impressed with myself and the fact that I got my previous rate changed...on top of that they threw in a fifty dollar resort credit.....just had to share with people who would get the amount of excitement I am feeling right now

April 7, 2009 12:14 AM Posted by Mike E

Brian, yes, the tables are open at night at XS, even the rattan loungers literally inside the pool. You can take any seat you wish except maybe the cabanas. I predict it'll be a long, long time before they start putting "Reserved" signs on anything remotely comfortable and even then only during the summer months.

April 7, 2009 7:54 AM Posted by Mike P.

Hey, Brian and Lisa -- thanks for confirming my suspicions about Encore and XS. And thanks especially to Brian for your candor.

We actually considered Encore for an all week meeting my wife had there last week, but the room rates we were quoted for suites were ridiculous. Even the "special" group rate of $300/night for the meeting was ridiculous. The only time I regretted staying at Bellagio was when the alarm went off every morning at 5AM. But the extra exercise we got hoofing it up and down the strip several times a day made it worthwhile.

April 7, 2009 1:37 PM Posted by Tim

I figured I would ask here to see if anyone knows - but I just booked a 6 night stay in an Encore Resort Suite (I think thats what it was called) for a total of $821 - it was 109/nt for weekdays and 149/nt for the 2 weekend nights.

Is that any good? I've never stayed at Wynn/Encore before, last trip we stayed Venetian and Bellagio, so I wanted to try and get in the Encore to see how they compare.

April 7, 2009 8:15 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Tim - Yes that is an excellent rate for Encore. And short of the economy falling off a cliff, once things rebound later in the year, I'd guess we'll look back, and say that rate was a once in a decade deal. A few years ago, you'd never see that rate at a 2nd tier casino on the Strip, let alone a 5 star resort like Wynn.

April 8, 2009 6:15 AM Posted by Tim

Thanks Brian, thats what I figured - just wanted to see if anyone else had heard of these deals.

I got it in a redcard email, the funny thing is the only playing I did there was last year. I opened up my redcard account and did the roullette trick to get the # of points needed for 2 free buffet passes and thats it. I think they may be getting pretty desperate to fill the rooms if I got a deal like this.

April 8, 2009 12:21 PM Posted by TC from Boston

Whats the roulette trick?

April 8, 2009 3:34 PM Posted by steve_c

TC- When you sign up for the Redcard at Wynn|Encore you are given a free spin on a digital roulette wheel where you can win Buffet passes, free slot play, etc.

Tim, I too am not a very big gambler, but I keep getting these offers from Wynn|Encore as well.

I'll be staying at Encore again this July for $99 a night. Not as a good as the three comped nights in January, but I'm not complaining.