Saturday, January 24, 2015

An Ode to the Western Strip Hemisphere

I am a huge fan of the Strip. The ease of movement, the liveliness, the energy....ahh (although I lost my favorite property Imperial Palace :cry: ).

I am a lover of downtown. I am a fan of classic and old-fashioned things (although I am not as excited about staying downtown).

Each property on Boulder Highway, taken separately, I adore (although the space in between the properties and the seediness of that area keeps me away).

But there is something very special about the West-circuit-that-has-no-name.

This illustrious territory has several redeeming qualities, making it my favorite area altogether in Vegas (although I prefer to stay on strip). Though Rio and Palms enjoyed some popularity years ago, they are not viewed the same way anymore. I find this fact extremely beneficial to those who are willing to take advantage of it. These are still top-notch brands. Unlike Rio, however, Palms continues to refresh itself with fresh, new carpets, clubs, rooms, etc.  Nevertheless, despite some deteriorating upkeep over the years particularly in the way of rooms, it is important to remember that Rio was still built with class, style and flair...and that remains. The entrance alone will tell you that this is a property in a class of its own. Worn carpets, shut-down restaurants, closing clubs, outdated rooms, tight slots and other miscellaneous things may tell you different about Rio, but you can still appreciate this gem for what it is, and I will tell you why in a minute. Gold Coast is the stepcousin of the bunch, but the little-casino-that-could, basking in its own humility, may be making more waves than Palms and Rio. It is basically a real locals joint closest to the strip. So right next to larger-than-life, has-been casinos is Gold Coast, buzzing and brimming with life even though skewing more towards an elderly population. Gold Coast has the most beautiful casino carpeting I have ever seen--one reason being that it is not a disorienting, psychedelic collage of splatterings like most carpeting but a clean, smooth, beautiful pattern of crimson and gold. A quite cozy property--the carpet takes it up a notch. Palms, Rio and Gold Coast, on the western side of the strip, deserve far more attention than they are currently being given.

Though Palms is definitely less of a tourist trap now and more of a locals joint, it is still a gorgeous and worthy property that is easily competitive with the likes of many on the strip. Boasting multiple clubs and pools with good music and a good scene, it still has a "youthful" feel to it even though it has now been taken over by older locals. Each club has its own character, and few properties on the strip can compare or compete with Palms on the uniqueness and sheer volume of clubs. It is too bad that they are no longer enjoying the same patronage of years past. The pools are great and lively yet accommodating of all. The added benefit is that since there aren't a crazy number of people like places on the strip, you can enjoy a calmer experience...with the good music and good-looking. The slots in this joint are still hot, having been voted several years as the best slots in town. The layout of the casino is nice and classy, with recent refreshes. A food court off to the side includes Mcds, Nathans, Sbarros, TastiDlite, etc. There is also a huge movie theater with IMAX and there are special days with promotions on the ticket prices. The buffet is solid and are often low-range comparable to Gold Coast buffet prices with a card. I have not eaten at some of their restaurants yet because I would be more inclined to try them if I stayed there. I have yet to stay at Palms or Palms Place (the sister all-suite property next door) but the new tower rooms look excellent and Palms place rooms look great on The property is missing life though. It is quiet, and if you like that plus the added advantage of a luxurious feel, it's great! To have so many great points, Palms is in need of an energy resurgence.

Rio, on the other hand, is closing up shop left and right. And with every reason to leave Rio alone, apart from the poker world series, it remains an important piece of the Western semi-circle strip...for me. I used to go to their wonderful Carnival World buffet for breakfast, and every year the price would go up and yet the quality would not improve. Last year, they shut down breakfast at the buffet and now only start at lunch. At this point, I have given up on the buffet at Rio. You have to wonder...all that I have said about Rio so far is negative. Why do I still visit? Well, they have my favorite pool in town. For most pools in town, ladies are complimentary and I am so glad they are! There are multiple spa tubs and they are all secluded with excellent landscaping. They have a sand beach, a hot and a cold pool, as well the dayclub next door that has great music. Similar to Palms, it is a quieter experience though because there are fewer crowds than the strip. Even though the rooms are outdated, for the price the Ipanema tower standard "suite" (large room) is cute, cozy and well-appointed. And certainly a great value. I am not as much a fan of the Masquerade rooms because I do not like the color scheme. But all rooms come very large and spacious with a fridge. Even though there is not so many people around, there are certainly more people here in Rio than at the Palms it seems. The vibe of the place is still edgy. And if you are into heights, the VooDoo restaurant/club elevator boasts great views. The sky show at Rio is sadly gone and probably hurts them. I know that my first time coming to see Rio was actually for that show. Though Rio continually shifts out entertainment acts and newer clubs, it has kept the MJLive, Michael Jackson tribute show (which is $35 bucks on Groupon) which is solid (and I hope it moves to the strip), and after 7pm or so reps on the floor have given out free club and comedy show passes for the evening. For what it's worth, I do enjoy Rio.

In between them both lies Gold Coast. With new carpeting, great playable table games, popular dining choices, refreshed rooms, plenty of daily promotions, and great rates, she is not taking anything for granted. The new rooms are sleek and chic. And for $35 or so bucks, it can not be beat. The resort fee has risen up dramatically but it is still lower than most properties at $12.99 (compared to Palms and Rio in the $25+ range). Gold Coast offers a frequent shuttle to the strip (and also to their sister property The Orleans, which also rocks your socks) and stops on the side of Ballys. So, staying at Gold Coast is not so far away from the strip. Nevertheless, the 24 hour Deuce that you can pick up from the side of Caesars or dropped off near Ballys can get to Rio, Gold Coast and Palms in a couple minutes. (Palms and Rio also have a shuttle that are less frequent). The popular chain TGIFs is in Gold Coast with excellent late night specials, as is the infamous Ping Pang Pong restaurat. The buffet is cheap and solid for breakfast, starting at $7.99. I consider their table sections my hands down favorite tables in the town because the energy is great, odds are good, rules are fair, and minimums are reasonable. It also happens to be very pretty to me. But for the life of me, I can never get a pit boss to rate me correctly. I play here only when I am playing just to play. The slots are horrendous but you can find a few playable ones. What I like about their machines are the low-roller 5cents/10cents VP and penny keno. I can play on penny keno for hours (I know, strange)! Another great point about Gold Coast is that their pool (and gym) is small, basic, solid and even more calmer than the others...the way a hotel should be if you want to relax as opposed to party. GC also has lounge singers, other cool restaurants and a bowling alley, which I have not had the pleasure of seeing. Gold Coast is just a solid property.

So all in all this is my favorite section for several reasons. Everything I love most is just a skip away. For a long time, Carnival World buffet was my favorite buffet. Gold Coast Ports o Call buffet was a solid, cheap, just-need-breakfast buffet. Palms had my food court goodies if I needed a late night. I could club it up at Palms in some of the most epic clubs. Watch an IMAX movie at Palms or see a good show at Rio. I could pick between my favorite beautiful pool at Rio, a club-like-see-and-be-seen pool at Palms, or a can't-be-bothered pool at Gold Coast. I could stay in a glorious room at Gold Coast or a sensible "suite" at Rio for a great price. I could hit the slots at Palms or play a penny at a time across the street or shoot an awesome, lively game of $5 great-odds craps at Gold Coast (my favorite pit)! And my lovely Strip is not too far away, with this section closest to the legendary Bellagio and the grand Caesars hotels. As you may know, I like moving around in Vegas and I have not had a "home" casino in a while. But I would call this section of Vegas the place that feels most like "home".

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Frugal Tactics

Ever spent $65 for a plush suite on a weekend night? $20 for a room in the city's center of the action? Ever eaten a world-class meal for free? Did you ever want to go to a place where you could see and be seen but were not ready to fork up the price? The options for frugality are endless in Vegas. You just have to know your way around. And frugalness can get you the best of the best if you know how to get it. I have compiled a list of the most frugal things that I do in order to have a blast on a budget in Vegas.


1. Use my credit cards to build airline miles

2. take advantage of oversold cabins in Southwest for flight credits

3. search all sites for the lowest flights (even if I have to do one-ways or multiple layovers)

4. I will take other forms of transportation such as a car, bus, or train to travel to a lower city to flight out from (also makes for mini-vacays in other cities)

Bonus.  I use megabus to travel to Los Angeles or San Francisco as other mini-vacays when i get to Vegas. In advance, these buses are truly $1.
PS. I never have but would take a bus from the east coast to get to Vegas if the price was right


1. I also stay 3 weeks typically in order to make the value of the flight stretch

2. But I am so frugal that I will stay in multiple places for the best rates (but this also ends up feeling like multiple mini-vacays....although this is starting to get to be a real hassle with all the resort fees/incidentals and other crap I have to take care of nowadays)

3. I love hotwire, priceline for their secret rates/bidding to get rock bottom prices

4. I am a huge fan of myvegas and have gotten so many great deals through them over the years

5. I am not above staying at a motel, particularly if it's a crazy weekend that I can not afford. I adore Days Inn Wild Wild West although the area can be quite seedy. The rooms are basic and clean. And the casino is cute and playable. A 24/7 Dennys on-property and laundry doesn't hurt. It also has a superb Dennys breakfast [I]every[/I] morning *complimentary*. There are also places like Baymont Inn off-strip (which is actually very very nice, better than most CET properties). Then there are places like Rodeway Inn near Riviera or Howard Johnson near Hooters that feel much seedier, but I would not be against staying for a night if I really want to go and everywhere is charging $300/night. I am sure this is where most people would draw the line. But then other folks stay for 3 nights and if I was only staying for 3 nights, unless I was staying for a festival or huge once-in-a-lifetime concert during a high-rate weekend, there would be no way I would stay there either. because my trips are long and I stay multiple places, this works out. They usually turn out not to be that bad. I will let you know when it gets bad.

6. Like motels, I am not against staying at lower end properties. Your Circus Circus, Rivieras, Excaliburs, Hooters, and at a point Imperial Palace. I actually quite openly LOVE these places. They take me back in time, they transport me. They are old classics or just plain fun. They make me *happy*. Perhaps they are run-down. But they are enchanting to me. There, I do feel like I am in a Disney World. People often say that "oh it's just a bed", but to me I would actually never want to stay in a place that does not make me ecstatic and feel like "I'm in Vegas baby!" These properties fall into the "just bed" category for most but for me they are sacred. Their prices make them jewels to me. I can stay at these places for a full vacation, no matter how short or long.

7. I stay at higher end properties too but only if they comp me (or severely discount the rates)...and strangely they do! In order, I love Wynn, Mandalay, Caesars (not the rooms), Cosmopolitan, VP! Ahhhh. I am ready to go right now! And with my handy dandy research skills I have not spent too much on them. I use my lower rates to offset my higher rates.

8. A Diamond TR friend of mine once helped me book a room at IP or now Linq for $10/night with the friends and family rate. Sooooo score.

9. In the past, I used to stay off-strip as a rule on the weekends to save money but then I realized that I just do not like staying off-strip (even though i do love so many off-strip prices). Lucky for me I have been able to stay on the strip with nice deals. Occasionally still I will use a downtown comp to cover a weekend. Otherwise, hotwire is my favorite website to cover a weekend on the strip, because I do not often get comped on weekends on the strip. Also, during the winter, especially in dead week before christmas, weekends on the strip are so doable, you can find excellent rates on regular websites.

10. I will tip for an upgrade!


1. Ross--end of story

2. Souvenir shops downtown or at Circus Circus

3. Window shopping at Forum shops/fashion show mall (buy most things online)


1. Free circus acts at Circus Circus or free midway games from the fun booklet, also free adventuredome rides in the booklet

2. Free and discounted rates in the fun booklet for food and fun at Excalibur and Luxor

3. 3 for $57 deal at Luxor

4. LVA/ACG coupons

5. Costumes everywhere downtown and on the strip is a free attraction for me

6. People-watching of course

7. Hotel arcades

8. Walking the strip, taking photos, selfies

9. Entertainment on the strip like dancers and dancing fountains


1. Groupon, goldstar,, vegas4locals, travelzoo, to get discounted rates on shows (sometimes offered as a package with the hotel...ironically never used tix4tonight because I usually find better deals and far in advance)

2.  $1 Tuesdays at Tropicana Cinema, $5 Mondays at Palms, $5 Tuesdays at orleans for movies

3. Free coupons for shows on the strip like ACG Riviera comedy, Marc Savard, Divas, Nathan Burton, Mac King

4. Timeshare presentations

5. TV previews (some offer cash or gift cards, discounted rates on things) and taste testers at Ballys, Hard Rock cafe, Twin Peaks, and most importantly MGM Grand

6. Hotel discounts on big production shows like Le Reve, LOVE, Mystere, KA and myvegas of course

7. Local entertainment such as Onyx Theatre, Cockroach theatre, Smith Center, Las Vegas Little Theatre

8. Guestlist passes on line for dayclubs and nightclubs (sometimes comes with free drinks for ladies)

9. Free cover nights at bars, ultralounges and karaoke citywide

10. Free drinks in the Excalibur/Luxor booklet

11. Free time at the pool! (Ladies are complimentary at most pools)


1. I can buy into a $3 table with a $6 buy-in...enough said.

2. I can exclusively play penny slots with a minimum of a 9 cents max line the entire time. For what I like, I am certainly getting my entertainment's worth (or play exacrly 1 cent at a time on a penny keno machine--lots of fun!)

3. I try to play for as many hours as possible with $100 when I am "really" playing

4.  I hop slots and I call this a frugal move because I hop them as soon as I have played 3-5 measly units of a few cents a spin to see if it likes me!

5. I can have $20 bucks for a session

6. I can take out only $40 from an atm (from an atm that is charging me $5.99 plus other charges...I guess this part is not so frugal--rather care free) when I want to play more and I do not want to leave the casino

7. I can walk a far distance to get to a $1 atm at Casino Royale when I am in the mood

8. Win cards

9. $1 and $3 BJ at Riviera

10. I have traveled to the ends of Vegas for gaming deals, lower limits and better odds including downtown, boulder highway, henderson, summerline, the water area, and even outside in laughlin (free bus ride out here with several deals)


1. Fun booklets


3. LVA and ACG coupons

4. comps, dining credits, free buffets with hotel packages

5. myvegas

6. Eating downtown and off-strip (cheaper), particularly $6 buffets, $4 pancakes and eggs, $11.99 ribs and chicken, etc

7. arriving between breakfast and lunch for the buffet (I do not mind paying the lunch price and gladly will/do but I do this more to get more bang for my buck---i get breakfast and lunch dishes...and usually do not eat for the rest of the day)

8. $1 dollar menu at Mcds, $1 fried oreos/twinkies and $1 hot dogs at Mermaids, $1.99 footlong hotdogs at Casino Royale and other chains

9. food courts

10. stocking up on snacks from stores

11. Order-in food

12. Sign up for the "clubs" at chain restaurants and use their free coupons (they also offer one for your birthday and other discounts throughout the year)


1. Shuttle or wax from the airport

2. Deuce everywhere  ($34 for 15 days at 7-eleven or only in extreme cases) or hotel shuttles

3. Walking mostly (and I have walked from the strip to downtown a number of times)


1. I not only budget my money, I budget my time and space. I do advance planning to make sure I take full advantage of the area I am staying in so that I do not have to use the deuce or taxi as much. I can a lot more things, cover a lot more ground. Where you stay is also where you get more discounts. Each area has their own frugal gems. It also saves me time. By budgeting my time, I am able to fit in as much low-cost things into a day as possible. Ultimately receiving more bang for my buck not only through budgeting money but also through budgeting time and space.

2. I play for comps. Yes, I do not believe I would play for anything more than $20 at a time if not for the possibility of comps. Gaming is fun (like an arcade) but it's not my main source of entertainment like shows, pools...and even hotels. So if I can game  a little (totally way within my budget) and get a nice hotel in the future, why not? I gain entertainment within the time of playing and in the future with staying at a nice place. Ultimately me playing for comps is a bargain because I keep my play under a certain condition.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vegas Solo Excursion #10: Dec 2014

I was initially going to call this trip report a “Wynn-Wynn situation”. After the events that took place, I was going to call it “This trip report is so depressing, you probably shouldn’t even read it”. But things did look up! But you have to wonder about the quality of a trip when staying at Circus Circus was the highlight!


Mon Dec 8

I still had work over my head.

I promised myself I would finish all of my work before going on a Vegas trip, after the stress of last time. But this time I had no control over the situation.

I had taken my area qualifying exam, awaiting the results and preparing to revise any issues my committee may have had.

I brought 200 scholarly articles with me—you know, only the critical ones—to Vegas just in case. Almost 5 weeks after enduring it, the results for my 60-page examination was still not in. 

From my head to toe, I was breaking down emotionally and physically from the stress of preparing, taking the exam, awaiting the results and possibly having to revise the exam and await the results again.

I also had to complete another assignment for my advisor, for whom I am writing a manuscript.

The pressure was on.

Articles, book summaries and laptop in tow, I prepared for 4 nights luxuriating at the Wynn, while wrapping up these things of life that really shouldn’t matter. And what better place to do it?

Exhaustion is an understatement to how I felt when I got to the airport. And, what do you know, I had so kindly booked a flight with not one but two stops. FML.

Somehow I flew from the east coast to New Orleans, and then found myself in Los Angeles, before now coming to Vegas.

While in LAX, I heard a call for oversold seats and a $100 flight credit on Southwest for taking just an hour later flight. As exhausted as I was, I did not want to leave even an hour later for that small sum. But after much thought, I figured, eh what the hell, I could use it for my next trip. 

Twenty minutes later, I ask the rep if all the flight credits have been taken and *no one* had even come up to the desk yet. Lucky me! Now, the agent offered me $100 flight credit plus the base of whatever I had paid for the flight ($145) which totaled a $245 flight credit. 

And technically now my entire roundtrip flight was free, because my other flight was paid for in points! PLUS I could find some deals and get my next roundtrip free! SCOORRE! This was my first win. I used my flight credit and booked my next trip immediately right there in the airport! Things were truly looking up.


I arrived in Vegas practically slumped over, as I had a discomfort in my knee and that extra hour truly did weigh on me. They say grad school causes premature aging. I wanted sleep and I could not wait to just chill in my Wynn room and lay on the pillow of life, after soaking all the tensions out of my body in the bathroom of life.

I came up to the Wynn desk about to fall over.

And I forgot that I had not paid the full balance, which I typically do. I had to tell the agent I would be right back. Mortification. Not having paid the balance yet would cut into the budget I had to play at Wynn. I guess I had had prelim brain when I had booked. Could it be grad-school-specific Alzheimer’s?

It was only a $300 difference. But what’s worse, I checked my account to work it out and an extra $300 was taken out of my account because apparently the flight I had booked with the flight credit….hadn’t taken the flight credit. My brain was so blown at this moment, I pretty much shut down. The world was wobbly.

Luckily the first night at Wynn was comped so I went back to the desk, completely worn, and asked them to plainly cancel the trip. Tears. Plain tears. Personally embarrassing.

I was officially vacay homeless for 4 nights.


Downtown I went.

Fortunately I had comps at Golden Gate downtown. Serious downgrade. BUT it was a bed…and a cozy one. I booked 2 free nights which came with $15 dining credit and $10 freeplay. It was sufficient and I was appreciative. 

But all the plans of going to the Wynn buffet or Wazuzu, watching movies on the TV, lazing and luxuriating on a cloud, getting free credit and pampering myself at the spa, had to go away. Drained, I cried myself to sleep.

Tues Dec 9


I had to constantly remind myself I am in Vegas. I am in Vegas. I am in Vegas. Because, honestly it would not penetrate. I had work to do.

I forced myself to go to my lovely DuPars and eat French toast with my dining credit. I also tasted a pancake. Not as great as they once were where the crust was light and crispy and the inside was also light, soaking up the butter and syrup. Now the pancakes taste a lot more filling, like the mix is more rich, less light. Still tastes good. The French toast was just great as always.

I forced myself to play for future comps. I played on the good ol’ MJ slot and it wasn’t paying. I played Munsters and the Addams Family slots at 9 cents per spin and got several points from sitting on these machines for hours, banging it a bit to ease my tension. I pretty much stayed even. Over 3 hours, I played through $300 but I only used $60.

I intended to play only $60 bucks the entire trip since the trip just was not as worth it anymore. Since I still had $60 after all my play, I was excited to still have a bankroll.


I decided to take a long ride out to Tropicana Cinemas and watch $1 movies. I saw Maze Runner…and I thought it was meh. When I got back to the strip, I looked through Marshalls and did not find anything I liked.


I went back downtown and got a hot dog (the bun was particularly nice this evening) and fried oreos at Mermaids (they are completely renovating!) for $2 and called it a night—work still over my head.

Wed Dec 10


I decided that the work I still had to do was negatively affecting my trip, and darkly coloring all the wonder I knew was around me but I could not truly see.

But I had to wait until I moved over to Flamingo for the next couple nights, where the resort fee will give me “complimentary” internet, to do the work.

I tried my best to enjoy my time. However, usually I have a tight, well-planned schedule for my trips, and the issue with not staying at Wynn threw not one, not two but all my major plans for these 4 days off. I was planless and had to create them. But I didn’t do the whim thing so I had to map out how to rearrange my days and receive maximum entertainment value.

I also was lackadaisical about using money at this point because I no longer saw the reason, given the high entertainment value I had initially planned was now crushed. So I rebudgeted the trip as super-uber frugal.

I was so lucky to find the GO two queen view rooms at Flamingo comped on my TR account, making the 4 days I would have paid and stayed at Wynn otherwise completely comped.

Waiting to get to Flamingo meant I had to enjoy another day, forcing myself to see light where grad school had created clouds.

But I opened my school email and my advisor informed me that my entire committee had agreed to outright *pass* me on my area qualifying exam. I blinked. I blinked rapidly. I closed out the email, opened it and re-read it again. Closed again. Opened again. Wiped my eyes. Read it again. Did this repeatedly until it sunk in.

Oh the horror!

I mourned bitterly. Only grad school can give you the same very reaction to success as to failure.

As with the statistics qualifying exam I had taken anonymously and had passed unanimously in August where no one else in my cohort who took it this summer had passed outright, I had also passed outright my area qualifying exam where few students in the history of my department had gone before.

The mourning reaction was that the task was finally over. My brain and my body could finally be relieved of all of its traumas. I never in a million years thought that getting a doctorate would be as traumatic as people so claimed. I used to laugh about it. Laughing has ceased.

A 17-page list of references. No, not a 17-page paper. Just 17 pages of references. 60 pages of my entire area. Covering my entire area. About 70 seminal books and 200 articles. And this is not even the dissertation.

Passing the area exam meant that I only had one more task to complete of the work I had to do—a literature review on my advisor’s manuscript. That alone was a huge task but I will gladly take the relief.


Checked into Flamingo. A glorious room with a glorious view I received.

Work still clouded my vision. But I needed to enjoy this. I rarely get good comps and I counted this as a very good one. . I had until Friday to get it in as that was the officially last day. Procrastination commence.


Ate BBQ with my 50% LVA coupon. Loved it! Tender and tasty. Glad it tastes just like the first time.


I hit up the slots and they were all cold. I did not like them.


I hit an old 777, cherry type of slot from the distant past and was playing 9 cents per spin. I stayed in the game with my $60 and racked up some points but then I get tempted by the fact that a lady behind me had just won $400, so I started finding “funner”, brighter, more new, shiny slots with 40 and 50 cent minimum bets. I need to always remind myself to stick to the old slots!

I finished up my $60 quickly. So I went to the ATM and took out another $60. Since I had just lost, I proceeded to the corner near the elevator where the slots were hot for me last trip. 

And do you know what? ALL of the Michael Jackson slots (and all of the Cheers slots were gone). All of my personal ATMs from last trip, which helped me get the huge amount of points which allowed me to be comped at Flamingo now, were gone. I asked the slot people and they confirmed that they were all gone, taken out, eradicated. In fact, the slot person I asked said that I was the third person to ask about the Micheal Jackson slots that day.  They must have seen how much money people were making on those machines. Thus, I proceeded to plunk my new $60 away in all the losing machines they had left.

I was really only playing to relieve my extreme anxiety about this manuscript. And like I was tell myself, I should never play when I am moody. I should only play when I am happy. My mood can ruin things.


I went ahead and fed into the extreme anxiety and went against all my plans to stick to a $60 bankroll for the entire trip. I took out another $40 at Harrahs and proceeded to move around to find good slots.

After getting down to $20, I found a Buffalo bank that was so hot, one woman was almost at $1000 from back to back wins. The security hinted to me that that bank had  been hot since yesterday (someone had won $1500 the prior day), so I hopped on! And while every machine was hot and getting big or small hits, mine was cold, giving no hits whatsoever. It must have been my energy.

I finished up again, and took out another $60 bucks from the atm. ONE last shot I told myself. Even though this was going no where. This was my third straight atm withdrawal in less than two hours.

And…I came out with nothing. I felt terrible. Horrible.  Of course this was extremely well within my initial budget for the trip (having wanted to keep comps at the luxurious Wynn, plus subsequently not staying at Wynn saved uber dollars) but this was bad, bad, bad for a super-uber frugal trip.

Down $220, cycled through only $600 (which was a testament to how much I was losing—could barely win even a little bit after upping the bet…at least with my 9 cent bet, I was winning $1), and played between 2 and 3 hours BUT given that this is CET and I split it between 3 properties, this play couldn’t be much good.


Shuffling my feet, I hit Margaritaville casino, walking by all the rodeo guys and gals. Hit the atm for the fourth time that evening for $20. It is never this bad. Usually I used the atm possibly once every few days. I just wanted to have fun and remove these procrastination-guilt feelings. Luckily a Sex in the City machine came through. I hit two bonuses and cashed out at $80. Total profit was only $60 but I’d take that to the bank! It was my first win all night.

Now I was down only $160…and that felt much better. Even better, I learned that they were waiving my resort fees at Flamingo for no apparent reason, so I psychologically counted the extra $60 I lost as what I would have “lost” if I paid the resort fees, which, if a psyched myself out, only meant that I lost $100 total! I could *live* with that!

Thurs Dec 11


I realized this morning that I was also moody because for several days while I was in vegas, it was not sunny outside. I am not used to a cloudy Vegas but it sure was. When I opened up my curtains to see the view, I was unimpressed because of the clouds.


To perk up my spirits, I ate at the spice market lunch buffet for $15 using the 25% coupon. Tasty. Let me not forget the awesome meatloaf and mashed potatoes I discovered here. Or the vanilla custard, strawberries and whip cream. They also have Krispy Kreme donuts here at breakfast.


Back at Flamingo, continued procrastination. Played on the internet for hours, anticipating getting work done. 

No such thing.


Did I tell you how dead the LINQ hotel is? Without the dealertainers, the casino felt lifeless. There was no music, no energy, no excitement…and of course all the good slots were gone. This was nothing like its original incarnation.

I also find the new carpet drab.

I had a groupon for Recycled Percussion that I wanted to use for tonight but apparently the boys wouldn’t be playing until Dec 23, at which point I would be gone. It was bad enough all the shows I had wanted to see were dark this trip. Annoyance.



Fri Dec 12


It was the final day to do it, but I got it done. 

Checked my grades. All good. Happiness. 

Got all my next courses registered. Happiness. 

Finished up the manuscript literature review. Happiness. 

Half way through my trip, I was FINALLY free!


Checked into my Great Room Suite at MB (I was lucky to find this for $65 on a Friday night through, and I agree with many VMB members on how underwhelming this room is if you are expecting a suite. This is no suite, just a room (a suitable bed and nice bathroom). For what I paid, I was not complaining. It was a large space but it did not feel that much bigger than standard.

But it felt like HEAVEN, because I was on top of the whole world…and with my view from the top of MB, it really felt like so.

It was rainy, but the rain could not bring me down. I was free. And free indeed. This was how I was supposed to feel at the beginning of a trip.

I jumped and hopped all around the room. I drew a bath in the spa tub (the bathroom was much smaller than I imagined). I turned on the TVs. I turned up the radio and just listened to all types of music while dancing and prancing around the room. You couldn’t tell me nothing!

I think I lied. This in fact was the highlight of my trip. This very moment in a nice “suite” with lovely sounds of good music, running water, ocean waves sounds on the TV, with floor-to-ceiling Strip views behind my bed. Bliss.  

Simulation of an aquarium on the television

The spa tub was very nice, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Hit up Slice with a coupon. Tried a dish and a pizza. Meh. Would not come back.


Saw Carrot Top for $37. Entertaining and definitely funny. Because his routine changes, I would watch it again.


Walked by eyecandy but never came back to dance. Spent the night watching Frankie and Alice with Halle Berry, which was a great movie. Used the stereo to simulate a club setting and jammed out a little. Used the spa tub to relax all the muscles, for what made a good night.

Sat Dec 13


Turned up the stereo to listen to more tunes and embrace the ambiance. I could finally feel that I was in Vegas. Went to the lovely, lovely, lovely spa at 7 am (charged $25 to the room) and stayed for 3 hours in the hot tub, sauna and steam room.

Came back and watched the movie Belle. I enjoyed it.


Ate at Buca di Beppo for lunch (they have nice specials). I ordered a baked ziti and an Italian crème cake. Buca is Buca--great. Can you imagine that that cake was $14? Can you imagine that after tasting it this second time around, I happily paid it…and would pay it again? OMG. I dreamed of this cake being catered for my future wedding. Let me not forget that I need raspberry sauce and mascarpone cream in a lemon cake for my wedding. That cake is life.


Checked into Circus Circus which I received comped through MyVEGAS. I would be in Circus Circus for 4 nights straight in a fav room of mine: the Casino Tower King room. Beautiful royal purple envelopes the bed.

What made this trip so exciting was how the front desk lady treated me. Usually Circus Circus keeps all my MyVegas nights separate, telling me I have to check out and check in again every day of the trip.  

This front desk lady not only connected all my nights so I don’t have to check in again, she charged me the old resort fee because that’s what it was at the time of booking, she did not do an incidental hold (which I used to love about cheap hotels in Vegas before), and she literally gave me a few fun booklets with a ton of savings to make up for having booked multiple reservations.

Why is this so important to me? She did this without me asking her, she did it without me offering anything, and she did it cheerfully just wanting to please me. Oh my God! I was so happy. Usually Circus Circus reps get a little surly with me about every little thing even though these are basic things that should be no problem at all. I never ask for multiple fun booklets though, so that was quite kind of her.

I tipped her $20 bucks just for being her.

She was so happy and confused.

I skipped to my lovely room. I am also in love with the carpet on the Casino Tower floor; it makes me feel very cozy. Four nights comped--$60 total for resort fees—I am winning….finally.


I headed over to Wynn to put some slot points on my card, and ultimately use the freeplay I had accumulated.

I started off slowly playing *only* slots with 30 cents minimum bets or less. I stuck with this plan throughout the session.

I would play a dollar or so to find out if the machine was hitting or not…At 4 units of 30 cents, this is enough for me to feel the machine. I hit up a ton of machines in this range. Though Wynn’s slot area is so deceptive that you do not realize when the denomination has changed. I put in $5 and played a few units, only to see the whole $4-5 get eaten up in one spin on a higher denomination that I had not checked for. Lesson learned…again and again.

I hopped onto one of those penny machines with the pigs, cherries and pennies…not sure what it’s called. 

And I was doing fairly well, especially when it came to recycling money and racking up points.

My good ol’ HOOT LOOT machine in the back was as cold as ice….so were all others in the back.

I also found the Cleopatra machine and Da Vinci Diamonds machines to be fun and give a good time. I put in $5 and got back $20 from Cleopatra. The game with Tabasco sauce was good too at 9 cents a spin. I put in $5 and got near $20. Also a Buffalo machine off to the side gave me a cool $40 hit after putting in $5.
I had only started the session with $80 bucks, turned my money into all $5 bills and just enjoyed the casino like it was an arcade. After I looked around, I went back to the machines I liked.

The penny-penny machine I played at 32 cent per spin. When I went back, I put in $5, and I hit for $80 bucks! I was so excited!! I finally felt like I was in the game this trip. I cashed out at $70 and put in another $5 and hit another $70. Cashed out. WHOOOOO!!! Yeaaaaah! I now have $140 in hand.

With my $20 in freeplay I had accumulated, I go back to Cleopatra, tabasco, da vinci, buffalo and I have fun. I take another $5 and play the buffalo near the restaurant off to the side in the middle of the casino. Within a few minutes, I hit for a total of $150!!! I cash out at $140. I racked up 600 points in 3 hours, which is not much but at least I used my freeplay!

I truly feel that the random tip I gave the front desk lady gave me good Karma. I walked out of Wynn with $280. I had officially won back everything I lost plus more!


I watched Jersey Boys for the second time and while I enjoyed it, I kept nodding off probably from all the activity from the day.


I used my fun booklets to get a few midway games in. And I won a teddy bear! I call it Baby!
Afterwards, I could not resist the Krispy Kreme. We can’t win all the time…alternatively, we keep winning.

Sun Dec 14


Played some arcade (fun car, truck, motorcycle and boat simulators though I prefer the space at Fun Dungeon in Excalibur) and midway games, and then I browsed at Ross and found nothing interesting.


I was finally able to play $1 BJ on the Riv tables (they also have $3 and $5 tables regularly!) after several attempts the past few trips. The trick is to come around 5am! Haha. Those tables are always packed. Just be mindful that BJ pays 1:1 on $1 BJ.

While waiting about an hour to get a spot on the table, I chatted up this UK guy from a country named Jersey who was also waiting for a spot. Apparently in a country he suggests is smaller than a London airport, it is a norm for people to take yearlong vacations….hmmm can I live there? It is also a country that people hoard dough tax-free.

He liked vegas but he found it too expensive. He had been traveling all over the world and his next stop was New Orleans which he was really looking forward to because he is into jazz. Because he was soon ending his trip and he was low on cash, I gave him one of my ACG Riviera comedy coupons to use with his girlfriend who craved to see a show. He was appreciative!

I only played $20 and it all went away but it was nice. I smiled walking away.


Used a coupon to indulge in this lovely place. The waffles, yams, koolaid and complimentary cornbread pancakes were smashing. The oxtails were good too. 


Watched comedians at the comedy club using the free ACG coupon, and as always they were recycled comics I had already seen at Riviera, Ballys and Rio before. At this point, though it has long since been my favorite coupon, it is now time to give it a rest. Still great comedy.

Used the arcade at Riviera and played fun car games.

Then used their $1 massage chair which is beginning to unnerve me. It squeezes my calves way too tight—it feels like it’s checking my blood pressure. And then it tries to massage my butt area by making a poking motion….it is rudely uncomfortable and I am sure some guys would have a hard time using these chairs again.

I should probably stick to the nice massage chair near the monorail in the back of LINQ hotel (hope they still have it). No poking.

Mon Dec 15


Took out $40 and played through it rather quickly at the Palms even at 30 cent minimum machines. Used a 50% off Nathans coupon for fries, paid $2.50, and bought my new-and-improved cheap Mcds order. I get a plain cheeseburger with just cheese and add mac sauce with shredded lettuce. A bootlegged Big Mac. A simulated Mac Jr. Costs about $1.60 and hits the spot.

Came to Palms to watch $5 Movie Mondays. Paid $10 for two movies. Like much of the entertainment this trip, the movies I most looked forward to were lacking. Hunger Games was so dark…like in color. Most of the other Hunger Games were colorful, beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, which is mostly why I watch it lol.

The themes of course have always been dark. Even the lady who usually has crazy, colorful makeup had none on. Maybe it is because they are mourning as a cast. It was just awful in that regard.

The movie Top Five had an amazing cast (including Cedric the Entertainment, Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart) and was created by the intelligent comedian Chris Rock. But it was so terrible. It was painful to watch.


Played some more $1 BJ. Put $20 on the table. Lost it all. But  when I first started going to the casino, there were $1 tables and THAT’S when playing was fun. This felt like pure, unadulterated fun. I felt happy even when I lost because I received some entertainment value!

I played for at least an hour. The dealer kept getting 10s and blackjack. This is a great way to relax and just have fun. I once traveled all the way to joker’s wild casino for $1 craps and western for $1 BJ…how refreshing it is to have it on the strip!

I played some more arcade games and used the poking massage chair.

I saw 40 is the new 20. I bought the tickets on for $26. Even though it is well-rated on yelp, I thought it was a little lame. Not a ton of laughs. But it may have been the night because the following Riviera comedy show afterwards was so light on laughs, the comedian resorted to notes to find anything funny to make the dry crowd laugh. It was the most tense comedy show I had ever been to because the comedian kept saying repeatedly “I feel like I am holding you guys”…and I have never felt like that at a comedy club before but I kept thinking, “oh my gosh, when is this going to be over?” Goodnight comedy at Riviera…for a while crocodile.

Tues Dec 16


Paid $2 after using all of my points on a lunch buffet, and it certainly wasn’t worth it because in all my trips, it was the first time I could not find things I liked. They had no strawberry cheesecake soft serve and no good pound cake anymore, which were my fav parts of the buffet. The options were not to my taste, so after a plate of barely eaten food, I left.


I watched the boring movie Interstellar for $5 Movie Tuesdays at the Orleans. I could only make it through an hour of the total 3 hours. I watched the Pyramid and though it got bad reviews, it saved the entertainment value of most of the trip because I was thoroughly entertained! I got some In-and-Out burger…and for the 3rd time, I was very underwhelmed. When will I give up on this chain? I keep wanting to see what I have not seen.


I took out $60 to do a last hurrah. I won up to $120 on the buffalo machine off to the side, and when I was trying to cash it out, there was line to the machine. 

And on my way to the cashier, I fell for the biggest psychological trick in the game…I got disoriented by the carpet colors and the slot arrangement, being lured by all the pretty slots. Thoughts: “I’ll just bet this one time before I get over there”. One machine. Two machine. Three machine. All gone.

I was at 100% profit for the session and I lost everything. Then I wanted to chase so I took out another $40 and lost that too. It was my final night. So much for Wynn-Wynn.

As you can tell the joy of the trip shifted around Mandalay Bay after freedom from bondage and confusion, improving along the way. But entertainment overall was gravely lacking for me…and as you may have noticed, it was too cold and dreary to use a pool. Typically entertainment is 90-10; it was 50-50 this time.

Relaxing, entertainment, ambiance, sunny weather, and going to the pool settings most entice me about Vegas…and let’s say the polls were down slightly in all areas.

This was definitely a least favorite trip for me like March 2012, but it could have been worse.

However, another thing that entices me about Vegas is the opportunities to use my frugal muscles and that’s what this trip turned into.

1- 2 free roundtrip flights more or less

2-  4 nights comped at Circus Circus, 2 nights comped at Golden Gate, 2 nights comped in a GO view at Flamingo and a $65 suite on the weekend night in Mandalay Bay, for a total of $65 (not including resort fees) for a 9-day trip!

3- Lost only $200 bucks total playing-wise

4- Coupon savings on all my meals (or complimentary)

5- Uber-low entertainment options: $5 Movie days at Palms and Orleans, $1 movie day at Tropicana Cinemas, $1 BJ at Riviera

Hakuna Matata. No qualms.