Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

Las Vegas Trip Report Halloween 2019

It took me a couple of days to recover enough to write this report. I have been going to bed at a normal time since returning. The problem starts with waking, bolt upright, at 4am… and the days go downhill from there.

No complaints mind. This might be the 8th or 9th Las Vegas trip for Planet Erika and myself – and it was superb.

This time I made notes as we went. Simple bullets on a pad. Nothing too eventful on the trip over. It was an early flight, so we stayed in a hotel in Gatwick. Certainly beats a 4am taxi.

Arrival day is always a little frazzled. We used it to get supplies, a US sim card and to get settled in. The $20 trick seemed to work at Planet Hollywood. This got us upgraded to a bigger room with an amazing strip view towards Mandalay Bay. If you look closely, you’ll see the raiders stadium between the hotels.

Planet Hollywood Room View

Tuesday 29th: Lucky Spots and Cocktails

As is our tradition, the day started with brunch at Mon Ami Gabi. We sat on the terrace, opposite to the Bellagio fountains, enjoying steak frittes and coffee. I had an offer of $75 free play at the Cosmo. I turned that into $40 or so in cash on the slots, then promptly lost. The lemon drop martinis were a little too sweet for me, though Erika approved.

Next, we found the 5 lucky spots at Caesars Palace. These are the shrine outside, and various bits of statues inside. A quick cocktail at the new ‘Vanderpump’ was delicious. This place looks like a fairy tale garden and sits between the Caesars casino and the Forum Shops. A quick afternoon gamble at both Flamingo and Harrah’s came with some complimentary beverages.

Dinner was a 2-for-1 MyVegas buffet at Cravings at the Mirage. We got 2-for-1 drink vouchers for the Center Bar and Parlour Bar for good measure. After spins on slots there we made our way back via Bally’s, where we enjoyed a Mississippi Stud session. Nothing much to report gambling-wise. I did note that my late-night spritzer in the room went undrunk…

Vanderpump Las Vegas

Wednesday 30th: Shopping and Slot Hits

It seems like the ‘Starbucks Run’ is a common tradition in Vegas. At least for us married men.

I have a Caesars’ Diamond card. Among other benefits, this lets me skip the line at Starbucks each morning… except that I don’t.

While I’ll readily accept the freebies (shows, dinner credits, no resort fees), I have an issue with egalitarian coffee queuing. Planet Erika does not agree. In fact, she thinks I’m just plain stupid about it all. Not budging on this one, for morning coffees, we are all created equal.

Hit $150 in Buffalo, with more to follow on Kronos before we went shopping.

This is another tradition which I am sure many Vegas fans share. A trip to the outlet centre. We combine it with lunch at Cheesecake Factory (which is great, chain or not!). I ended up with a lovely warm jumper. Spent the next few hours carrying an exponentially increasing number of bags for the good lady.

Ever have a moment when your mouth works before your brain? I had one right there at the North Outlets. We’d had no luck looking for a backpack in Michael Kors. We are about to get a Lyft back to Planet Hollywood - and walk (almost) past Coach. Mouth says, ‘maybe they have a backpack?’, brain says ‘Doh!’.

They did. It was lovely. Apparently, it was not the money I spent that is important, it is the money I saved…

The evening got off to a great start. A meal at Koi, which does Sushi and other dishes from Japan. It is located on the mezzanine level at Planet Hollywood. A delicious bottle of Zinfandel, amazing food and great service. 2nd visit there - and will definitely not be our last.

A nice win on ‘Piggy Banking’ and some random play at Paris then Bally’s made this a positive day for the gambling. Things get a little fuzzy towards the end of the night. Gin might well have been involved.

Sushi and Koi Las Vegas

Thursday 31st: Halloween High Jinx and Mississippi Wins

I aborted play on a Dragon Link slot on the Starbucks run. There I was, clicking away, when a lady next to me hit a ‘hold and spin’ bonus. She transformed from a nondescript player into a crazed beast in an instant. Some people tap or rub screens for luck. This lady was half climbing her slot, rubbing and gibbering, all at once. I could only cash out immediately and run for my coffee…

We had lunch in the Spice Market buffet at PH. This is solid enough, and decent value, without being anything special.

In the afternoon, Erika was napping, and I went to play some Mississippi Stud. A couple of decent hands saw me start the day up $600. The dealer had trip aces in one hand. This was a win for everyone, though especially the lady with the 4th ace, who hit for more than $3k. I also noted a Buffalo Stampede slot win.

Planet Erika had made us both Halloween costumes. Her the Queen of Hearts, and me a galaxy print suit jacket. We had a fun, boozy night. This was a combo of bars (Heart bar at PH, one in Paris and O’Sheas), and gambling. Met a dealer at Cromwell who spoke exactly the same amount of Hungarian I do (‘nem beszelek Magyarul’ for the win!).

Night ended a little messily, and we gave back most of the day’s winnings. Oh well, it was a crazy and entertaining Halloween.

Halloween Las Vegas

Friday 1st November: Hard Rock and Gordon Ramsey Steak

This day started with a trip to the Hard Rock Hotel / Casino. It is closing in February, rebranding as Virgin. We went once before, in 2014 or 2015, to see Guns N Roses play (without Slash in those days). I wanted to collect a chip there before it was too late.

We saw a good exhibition of rock-star memorabilia, gambled a little (no good) and ate a diner style breakfast. I feel this place could have been a roaring success if it was on the Strip. Just a little too far away for more than the occasional visit. Goodbye Hard Rock.

A little shopping in the Miracle Mile followed. I made a note about Heidi, the lead character in Heidi’s Bier Haus slots, being mean (she made up for it later).

The evening featured an excellent meal. As a Diamond card holder, I get a $100 meal credit each year. We decided to eat at the Gordon Ramsey Grill in Caesars. It was busy there (Guns and Roses, this time with Slash, were playing at the Colosseum).

We both had Black Angus steak, washed down with an excellent Cabinet Sauvignon blended wine from the Napa Valley – a top recommendation from our server. The steak was melt-in-the-mouth good. Every bit as tasty as the more expensive GR Steak at Paris for me. Recommending this place. Planning to return there and maybe try out Hells’ Kitchen next time.

We then headed back to Cromwell for some Mississippi. No notes on the result so I’m assuming a negative. Next to the ‘Bound’ bar. This is at the back of the Cromwell as viewed from the Strip. We ordered a bottle of white and got to watch the most amazing parade.

Drai’s nightclub is on the roof, and the patrons were walking past on their way to it. They were wearing some amazing outfits. We are talking jaw-dropping, in a shock and awe ‘what the fuck’ kind of a way. The size of some people, their lack of ability to walk in high heels, their combinations of neon, fur and lace… The flesh showing where the universe would have appreciated it being safely tucked away. I’m going to be a little careful here and stay politically correct. Let’s just say ‘wow’, this was people watching turned surreal.

Bally’s slots and PH losses on the way home.

Saturday 2nd: Hotel Change Over Day

We checked out and then headed to PF Chang for lunch. This is a chain of American-style Asian food. They have GF options for me, and it is all very tasty. I’d be very happy if this chain ever came to Blighty.

Erika decided to get very rich, and so we played on a $5 a spin mechanical slot with a huge jackpot for a while. Nope. Back to work for me.

The $20 trick got is a great view from Aria. What a lovely room, accessed via the world’s longest corridor. The bed gets a 10/10 for comfort from me. Staff were excellent too. Liked everything about the Aria.

Erika had beauty treatment in the afternoon, so I went to cash in random slot win tickets and collect souvenir chips. After that we did some random gambling at Bellagio and checked out the conservatory, then back to Aria. No luck this afternoon.

Later we got a Lyft to MGM Grand. This place is far too hectic for me. Had a decent steak with Chimichurri sauce at Wolf Gang Puck’s Grill. Washed it down with a free bottle of wine courtesy of MyVegas. Not a bad steak, and decent people-watching spot.

Afterwards we had a gamble at NYNY. Next over to Park MGM for a cocktail at the Juniper Bar. This place specialises in gin. Some nice drinks, Erika’s came in a bird-shaped glass with a straw coming out of its bum. More drinks and gambling at Aria, then bed.

Aria View

Sunday 3rd: Bloody Mary Breakfast

We started with another MyVegas voucher, 2 free Bloody Mary drinks with breakfast. Even though I hesitated, Erika made me use my MLife Gold card to skip the line. They were able to make by Bloody Mary with Tomato Juice only (Worcester sauce is not good for me). Had bacon, a shrimp and plenty of vodka in it.

Aria Breakfast Bloody Mary

Lazy day, gambling, Walgreens and coffees.

Had dinner at Margaritaville at Flamingo. Basic burgers and slightly too salty fries. We go there most trips, GF bun, dedicated fryer and speedy, friendly service.

Next over to Mirage, for tonight’s show. We had a preshow spin, and what do you know, Heidi stopped being so mean. Hit free spins with sticky wilds going right across from reels 2 to 6. With 35 spins, this was 5 of a kind hits all the way. Ended up almost $700ish up on that bonus, plus more on some other games. Celebrated with a drink in the centre bar.

Heidi Hit

The show is something my teenage self would never have forgiven me for seeing.

It was Matt Goss from the band Bros. I’m publicly blaming Matt Bridger and Nicky Furmage. Their excellent Las Vegas vlogs got Erika to look it up and buy the $30 each tickets.

It was a fun show. Matt Goss is very funny and goes great versions of old crooner classics. Only a couple of Bros songs, right at the end. Friendly bar staff gave us good pours of wine too.

Back via NYNY for some Mississippi, then Park MGM and Aria for some slots. Gave back some of our win, though still a positive day for the bankroll.

Matt Goss in Vegas

Monday 4th: Cocktails with a View

After a couple of so-so visits, we had skipped the Bellagio buffet for a few trips. It gets crowded there - and did not seem worth the premium. With a 2-for-1 (MyVegas again) voucher in hand, we tried again. Pleasantly surprised. Some nice brisket, GF deserts and a decent selection. Might need to rethink this one.

More shopping, chip collecting and a little gambling during the day. We had got free tickets for the ‘Tenors of Rock’ show via the Diamond Card. After deciding not to go, we took them back to the PH box office… this caused a little confusion as we were not asking for any refund, just handing them over.

More Mississippi in the afternoon, then a tram ride from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay in the evening.

We reserved a sunset spot (5pm) in the Foundation Room. This is a cocktail bar and restaurant on top of Mandalay Bay, looking North up the strip. What a view! The service and cocktails were great, and the people there were friendly and helping each other out with photos too. Will be back here at some point.

Foundation Room View Las Vegas

Dinner was at Libertine Social in Mandalay Bay. This was nice enough. Glorified pub grub. I enjoy scallops every visit (Giada and Wolfgang Puck’s Lupo are the best for those) and had that. Erika had a giant piece of pork. Enjoyed this place, though felt it was overpriced for the quality / type of place. If you want to eat at Mandalay Bay, Lupo is a much better spot.

No luck with the gambling on the way home.

Tuesday 5th: Steaks and Cocktails

Our last full day and by now we are feeling tired. It had been a lovely trip, though by now my mind was back on plans for when we got home. Arranged a late checkout for Wednesday and ate at the Aria buffet for lunch (always solid).

It seemed like the late run of gambling luck left us, with nothing hitting. Checked out the restaurants at Cosmo. Totted up at least 30 spots that are on our hit list (Vegas-wide). That is not counting placed we’d like to go back to.

Had cocktail in the 3rd tier of the chandelier bar at Cosmo to complete all 3 levels. My pick is level 1, with the best casino people-watching.

We started the evening at the Vdara. Nice cocktails in the ‘Vice Versa’ lounge. Another MyVegas voucher got us free cocktails at the Alibi bar at Aria. Nice place, a bit full of people flooding out of a conference this time.

Another tradition is to have a super nice meal on the last night. This time we chose Jean George Steakhouse at Aria. Excellent bacon-wrapped shrimps to start (not quite as good as the ones at the Camelot Steakhouse) and an amazing filet mignon for the main. Great service, decent wine and little touches like GF bread all included. Enjoyed this a lot, not sure if I’ll go back – so many steak places at about the same level, plus many more yet to check out.

We had a last gamble. Tired of it by now, won a little on the slots.

Filet at Jean Georges Aria

Wrapping Up:

A smooth trip home, no more gambling and breakfast at the Vdara café ended the trip.

We were frazzled by the time we touched down early on Thursday morning. The gambling was fair, with more than half the gambling bankroll coming back with us. It was the food and cocktails that stole the show for me this time. Add shopping, people watching and meeting plenty of interesting characters at the tables.

For both of us the feeling of being ‘all Vegas-ed out’ is real after an intensive week.

Funnily enough it only lasts for a couple of days.

Today I caught myself logging on to the MGM and Caesar’s websites, checking the calendars for free rooms next spring.

Plenty of other trips before then. Vegas, we will be back soon.

GL at the tables, Mark

PS: Since this website focuses on poker, some readers will be asking about the lack of mentions of it in my report. Same answer as always. Vegas is so much fun in so many ways. When I go, I do think about joining a game. When I get there, and especially after seeing the kind of people in the poker room and the decidedly un-fun atmosphere, I always change my mind.

You can play +ev games in a ‘serious’ setting.

Or you can play -ev games and have a whole lot of fun.

I choose the second option, every time.


If you enjoyed this blogpost I would genuinely appreciate you taking
the time to share it using the ‘Recommend’ button – thanks