I made my first ever trip to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comLas Vegas</ST1lace</st1:City> a couple weeks ago with the wife. We went out for 4 days and 3 nights courtesy of one of the timeshare resorts. We were out there celebrating her birthday and our 26<SUP>th</SUP> anniversary. This will be a combination trip report and mini casino review. Mods feel free to move this to another forum if I've got it in the wrong place. We live in <st1:City w:st="on">Northern</st1:City> <st1:State w:st="on">VA</st1:State> and got up at 5:30am on Friday to head to the airport for a direct 5 ½ hr flight to <st1:City w:st="on">LV.</st1:City> With the time change, we got in around 10:30am and after picking up our rental car, did a driving tour of the Strip and downtown. I originally wasn’t going to bother with the car, but the wife talked me into it and I’m glad she did. We were staying at the Stratosphere and based on its location at the far north end of the Strip, driving to mid-Strip and parking at one of the casinos there was a better solution than walking to the tram or taking taxis all weekend. <O</O Since we couldn’t check into our room before 4:00pm, we had time to kill. We parked back at Planet Hollywood and after walking through the mall that connects the parking garage to the casino, ate a late lunch at the Earl of Sandwich. Either they were really good or we were really hungry, but they were a pretty good bargain as well. After scouting the location of the poker room, we drove over to the Hard Rock to pick up our tickets to Puddle of Mudd at the will call window. By that time it was after 3pm and my wife suggested that we go to the Stratosphere to see if we could get checked in early. As it turned out, we could and we settled into our room for a quick 2 hour nap before heading back to the Hard Rock pool for the concert. The show was SRO and we arrived early enough to be very close to the stage, probably no more than 10 feet, so we had a great spot, but were standing in place for over 4 hours. The show was great, but we were starving by the time it was over. We went to one of the places in the Hard Rock that had all you can eat Prime Rib for $9 including baked potato and salad. Even though we were very hungry when we came in, neither of us had room to take them up on a second piece of steak and so we made our way to the car. <O</O By the time we were able to get back to the car and drive to the Stratosphere, it was close to 1am local time, which my body was telling me was actually 4am. My wife did the sensible thing and went to bed, but even though I’d been up for nearly 24 hours except for the short nap, I didn’t want to be able to say that I spent an entire day in <st1:City w:st="on">LV </st1:City>and didn’t play anything. Rather than drive to one of the casinos I had researched ahead of time; I walked down to the Poker Room in the Strat. There was a small tournament running that had started around midnight and only one cash table going. Fortunately, it was a $1/$2 table, a seat was available, and I bought in for $200. <O</O The chips were Paulson, but had so much wear that the edges were completely rounded and the top hats were literally half worn off. They were extremely dirty and stuck together as well. There would be the occasional newer chip mixed in, which only made shuffling and other chip tricks more difficult. The table was not in great shape either. The dealers seemed to be competent however and there were no problems in the short time I was there. There was only one waitress on duty and I think she may have come by twice while I was there. No great looker and slow as molasses. The players were a mix of locals and tourists, 3 of which were from <st1:country-region w:st="on"><ST1England. </st1:country-region>The table was fun and chatty, but the locals had the big stacks and while I doubt they were outright working together, quickly isolated other players and didn’t tangle with each other much. As tired as I was, I had no business being at a poker table anyway and by 2:30am, my stack was gone and I (wisely) headed to my room to catch a couple hours sleep. <O</O After a restless couple of hours in bed, we got up around 6am Saturday morning and headed to Harrah’s for the breakfast buffet. By the time we got there it was 7am and even with little sleep, our bodies were telling us it was 10am and we were very hungry. Getting there early allowed us to avoid the crowds. The buffet was excellent and at $15 a good deal too. <O</O After breakfast, we drove back to PH and did a walking tour of the mid-Strip casinos, doing the typical tourist thing of taking a bunch of pictures. I was disappointed that we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Bellagio, a problem I didn’t encounter at other casinos. We had to be back at the Strat at quarter to 1pm to catch the shuttle bus to the resort property we were there to view. We sat through the sales pitch and toured the property, but politely declined to purchase since we already own 3 weeks of timeshare. By the time we got back to the Strat, it was after 4pm and we headed to the pool for an hour before redressing to head out for dinner. During our walking tour we had picked up two for one coupons for the dinner buffet at the <st1:City w:st="on">Monte Carlo</st1:City>, so that’s where we went. It was decent. <O</O Next it was back to PH; the wife to the bar and me to the poker room. Compared to the Strat, PH was lively. Several tables were occupied by the tourney that had started at 7pm. I signed up on a waiting list that already had 4 people on it and before I could walk away 3 more guys came in, so they opened another table for us. I bought in for $200. <O</O The chips and tables were much nicer, the dealers were all good and friendly, and the waitresses were smokin’ hot. They made the rounds often enough if you milked your drinks rather than guzzled them. Although I frequently will have a few beers at home games, I opted for energy drinks and water. Aside from the fact that I’d had little sleep in the last couple of days, I had just had a big meal and was feeling sleepy already. I got my second wind though and played through the night. I was down a bit when they announced the 2am tourney. This was the one tourney that I said I might play in, if I played a tourney at all since the starting chip/blind structure seemed to be the best of the small buy-in tourneys on the Strip ($60 for 4000 chips, 20 min blinds, decent progression). Since they only paid top 4 though, I decided that I didn’t want to cash out, switch gears to tourney mode, and spend (possibly) several hours playing and not make the money, so I hunkered down to concentrate on the cash game. Our table broke up around 3am and they moved us to open seats at other tables. <O</O The competition was a mix of locals and tourists, but PH caters to a younger crowd, so at 47, I was probably the oldest guy there. There were Brits, Canadians, and native Spanish speakers who had to be reminded that it is English only at the tables. There were a few female players, although it was predominantly dudes. One guy was lamenting about having to pick up the $3500 bar tab for his (soon to be) brother in-law’s bachelor’s party at the club in PH earlier. For that, they got a table and bottle service. Wow! <O</O Although I felt my play was solid, I watched my stack yo-yo all night long. I’d get up a bit, only to see it dwindle back down. I was treading water, but not making any forward progress. On the plus side, I wasn’t losing either. Finally, at 8:30am after a little over 12 hours of playing, my table, which was one of the last two still going, was breaking up. Rather than move to the last remaining table, that seemed to be populated with mostly deep stacks, I decided to cash out my meager $285 and go find my wife so we could get breakfast. After indulging in the buffet at PH, we headed back to our room for some much needed sleep. <O</O My wife doesn’t gamble, so her big to-do for the trip was to lay out by the pool and so far she hadn’t gotten much in during this trip. After sleeping a few hours, we headed to the pool for a couple hours in the afternoon and both dozed off in the sun. We headed back to the <st1:City w:st="on"><ST1lace w:st="on">Monte Carlo</ST1lace></st1:City> to take advantage of our second 2fer coupon and then we had tickets to go up to the observation decks of the tower at the Strat. Afterwards, the wife decided that she had partied herself out the night before and still feeling the after effects, decided to go to bed. I headed for the MGM. <O</O From my online research, the MGM was my #1 pick for cash games and although I enjoyed my time in PH, the MGM was definitely a better place for making cash. I had a short wait of less than 10 minutes and bought in for $200. The chips were very nice, only slightly dirty, and didn’t stick together. The tables were good and the dealers great. Unlike the Strat or PH, the MGM uses auto-shufflers and I was sitting to the right of the dealer so I had it directly in front of me, which made placing my bets a bit awkward until I got used to it. The waitresses were nothing special to look at, especially compared to the staff at PH, but they made up for it with the frequency of their appearance. You never had to wait long for a drink and even guzzlers couldn’t finish a beer before they were back around. <O</O The poker room at the MGM is in the middle of the casino and the music from the bar next door was so loud that you could barely hear your neighbor speak by leaning into him and you couldn’t hear the other end of the table at all. They use all-in cards to denote when someone is all-in since most people won’t hear it. Except for non-verbal clues, it was more like playing online than live since there was so little conversation. After 2am the music died and you could finally have a conversation at the table. That changed the complexion of the game and it became more like the home games I’m used to with friendly banter and joking going on almost constantly. The dealers were able to participate in the joking and keep the game running smoothly at the same time. Unfortunately, as people leave the casino, the temperature drops dramatically. That was something I hadn’t had to deal with at PH and so I was unprepared for it. Due to its location, there seemed to be more drunks willing to donk off their chips as well. There were serious players also, but the dealers kept the game running smoothly and solid play was rewarded. Player ages ranged more than at PH and I only met one Canadian and one Italian there. If there were other internationals, I wasn’t aware of them. Once again, a few females were sprinkled amongst the mostly male population. <O</O I had told myself before leaving home that my strategy was going to be to cash out whenever I busted out or doubled up and go somewhere else. That would allow me to sample the most number of rooms possible during a short weekend trip, but I quickly had to revise my strategy as there was too much easy money to be had at the MGM to just walk away from it. Playing at the MGM was like everything I’d ever read in a poker book about live play, from the tells to betting patterns, to reading hands, it was so easy it was almost like it was scripted. I stacked off several people over the course of the night. By the time I had over $600 in front of me, some of the other halfway decent players started looking for seats at other tables. With the buy-in capped at $200, they didn’t want to rebuy and continue to face me. Gotta respect 'em for that. Finally, with teeth chattering I decided to cash out at 4:30am and after keeping a $1 chip as a souvenir, pocketed $1309, leaving me 6 bucks shy of a grand in profit for the trip. Needless to say, the MGM will be my first stop on my next trip. <O</O After catching a couple hours of sleep, we returned to PH to use the last of our coupons on the breakfast buffet. We barely had time to run through the casinos on the south end of the Strip on the way to the airport. I was stressing about cutting it too close, but we made it through the rental car return, the bus to the terminal, security, and the tram to the gate with just enough time to not have to wait more than 5 minutes for boarding to start. We didn't even bother to sit down. I got a couple hours sleep on the plane and we landed a little earlier than the scheduled 7:30pm. Took the wife to dinner before we headed home to the kids and back to reality. <O</O Needless to say, I’m already anxious to plan our next trip. Aside from the fact that we never made it to any of the casinos off Strip, let alone did any other sight-seeing, I don’t feel like I got to play enough poker! There were several other poker rooms on my list that I wanted to try out and I would have dearly loved to see if I could repeat my performance at the MGM. I’m already trying to convince the wife that we need to go back in the Fall!