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Vegas Trip Report November 18

Fresh back from Las Vegas trip number 6. Here is a quick-fire report, with slots, shows, hotel and restaurant highlights.

No poker this time. Same reason as always. I go with the intention of enjoying a game, then walk past the poker rooms… In contrast to the lively atmosphere elsewhere, these places are grim. Full of exactly the types of people I don’t want to waste precious vacation time sitting with. Sure, the lower limit games are +ev in terms of money. For me they are hugely minus ev in terms of enjoyment. Maybe next time!

First, some thoughts on hotels.

Planet Erika and I have stayed in a lot of the better resorts over the years. Vdara, Caesars, Bellagio, Cromwell, Trump and others. This time we took some free offers in the lower / mid-range hotels:

Bally’s: Probably the best location on the strip. A big room, with a great view North from the Jubilee tower. Coffee maker in the room was a plus. The casino is ‘meh’. The slot selection average and the atmosphere non-existent. They have Erika’s favourite table game – Mississippi Stud. Some entertaining tables at times too. Can’t imagine staying there again. Below is the view from our room.

Room View Ballys


MGM Grand: This place is huge, and hectic to the point of being overwhelming. We had a strip view, and again a decent sized room. Highlights included the Wolfgang Pick grill, entertaining parade of worse for wear people heading to the Hakkassan nightclub and great cocktail service while playing. With thousands of people milling in all directions, MGM was just too much at times. Glad we stayed, again, can’t imagine going back (even for a free room offer).

After spending some time in different casinos, the shortlist for next time now includes Cosmo and Aria. Quick shout out for New York New York too. Not somewhere I’d like to stay, though the casino was a lot of fun.

Eating Highlights

Most people only think of gambling (and maybe shows) when it comes to Vegas. Food should be right up there. So many places to choose from, and so many world-class restaurants make this one of the key reasons for a visit. Here is my top 3 from this trip, with some honourable mentions below:

Camelot Steakhouse: The Excalibur is not the first place you might think of for fine dining. A visit to the Camelot Steakhouse is becoming a must for us on every trip. The reason is not the wine list, or wonderful steaks – it is a starter. The bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp to be specific. A $100 off for $200 spend via the MyVegas app makes everything taste that little bit better!

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp Camelot Steakhouse

Julian Serano: First visit to the Tapas restaurant at Aria. Delicious! The seared scallop skewers topped my list. One word of warning about the sweet and hot pork skewers… those peppers are spicy! I love hot food, though a bite of those was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Will go back to this place for sure.

Wolfgang Puck @ MGM: Not as upmarket as Spago, though still worth a visit. I had an excellent grilled chicken, and Erika steak with Chimichiri sauce. Another MyVegas comp got us a bottle of wine to wash it all down with.

Eating shout outs: Avenue café at MGM for a delicious breakfast, Nine Fine Irishmen at NYNY, Margaritaville for quick bites and the shepherd’s pie at Cheesecake Factory at the North Outlet centre.

Buffets: These are great for basics. When you see debates on the best one, this usually focuses on the higher end items. For us, they fill the gap between nicer meals. 3 different ones this trip, here are my thoughts:

Cravings @ Mirage: 3rd visit here, decent selection, free wine / beer and not too crowded. Highlight was the beef, which comes medium or medium rare. Some things are labelled Gluten Free (I’m celiac, so that is important for me), though this is patchy.

Aria: Again a 3rd visit, for brunch this time. Excellent omelette station, good selection of seafood and good enough labelling. Don’t feel this one is quite worth the full price. With the MyVegas 2-for-1, it makes the list.

MGM: First time here, like the layout, with aisles for food instead of counters around the outside. Great labelling of the GF options. Not much high-end, though decent selection of basics. Would go back.

Shows and Entertainment

We have seen a ton of shows over the years. Cirque de Solei types are always good. Having seen Love, Le Reve, ‘O’ and Zumanity, we felt a little ‘Cirqued out’ and decided on some different options.

Opium: This one is at Cosmo, and produced by the same people that do ‘Absinthe’ (which we enjoyed). It is set in space. A brilliant show all-round. Comedy, variety acts and music. They even have their own (expensive!) cocktails. The ‘Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster’ as excellent. Really liked the guy with the bubbles, and the acrobat with the ships’ dog. Recommend this one, here is a view from the close:

Opium at Cosmo

Blue Man Group: At the Luxor. Unsure about this. Had some good moments, with drumming acts and comedy mixed with visual effects. Both Erika and I were happy we went, though decided we would not really recommend it.

Top Golf: First time trying this. Discovered that hitting a golf ball is not as easy as it looks. Decent food, and a lot of fun trying to hit the targets. Will go again, though might need a lesson or two to get the most from it.

Cocktail Places: Hyde at Aria was nice, though they replaced the music with loud sports commentary at one point… so we left. The Chandelier bar at Cosmo was also enjoyable. They have a different cocktail list on each of 3 floors (we were on the ground floor level). Enjoyed my gin drink (can’t recall the name) and will definitely go back to try more. Top of the list was the Voodoo Lounge at the Rio. This is a viewing spot at the top of the main tower. Drank wine this time – though the view of the strip at night was well worth the visit.

View from Rio

Gambling Highlights

Some good news. We brought home more than half of our gambling budget. Sure, a paper loss – though in many ways this can be considered a win!

Group Pull: We attended our first group slot pull. This was organised by ‘Fray’ via the Vegas Message Board. 7 or so of us put in $200 each and hit the high-limit slots at the Cosmo. No big hits, though it was a lot of fun. We got to meet some cool people too. Cashed out $105 each.

Mississippi Stud: Erika’s favourite table game. Mostly played during the start of the chip at Caesars properties. They have replaced the old 6-card bonus bet with a progressive ($1.3 million for a royal). This game usually attracts a friendly crowd. Some entertaining tables and a couple of winning sessions this time. No big wins (3 of a kind our best). They now have it at MGM, and we played a couple of sessions at NYNY. Again, no big hits, though cashed out up this time.

Slot Highlights:

A ton of slots play this time. Below are my picks. This is a mix of some old favourites and some new games.

Kronos Unleashed: A newer title from WMS with an excellent respins bonus game. If you fill the first long reel with Kronos symbols the other symbols disappear, with Kronos and ‘Power Up’ symbols hitting the remaining reels. Some good hits on this game, with power ups including jackpot spins and expending reels.

Update: Just put up a detailed review of Kronos Unleashed here.

World of Wonka: This game has a wide screen that curves around you. Lots of ‘Oompa Loompa’ bonuses, where the screen expands and wilds move across. Hard to get the other (Wonka Winko) bonus. Had a couple of great hits, including a full screen of Gene Wilder symbols. That Oompa Loompa song does get stuck in your head….

Walking Dead 2: A few years old now, though still very entertaining. Wild Hordes, Michonne Attacks and expanding reels with the free spins. Brilliant sound effects and lots of zombie animations.

Walking Dead 2 Slot

Tarzan: A big slot with a tall screen. This has some unique game-play where wilds connect with special Tarzan symbols which have individual cash awards. Free spins give you a wheel game to get a multiplier of up to 10x for every spin.

Heidy’s Beer House: Prost mode is a must, as Heidy pours you wild reels with this enabled. This is another slot which has a sticky theme tune when you get the free spins. A lot of fun, though was patchy with regular ‘dry spells’ between the bonuses.

Buffalo Gold: An old favourite of mine. This one has a free spins game where you collect gold buffalo heads to turn more and more symbols into the top paying buffalos. No huge hits this trip.

Lightning Cash: Played 3 different themes, China Street, Overia Street and one which involved mines… brilliant hold and spin bonus. Here you collect fire ball symbols, with cash awards. As you collect more you unlock new levels, giving you more spots to fill.

Other entertaining games included the new 007 game, which has a screen that slopes away from you and a good chip spin bonus. Also played the new Ghostbusters 4D, Sharknado, a couple of Quick Hits games, Top Dollar (an old classic), Mighty Cash, Lightning Link and Lock-it Link, Dragon Spin and a quick spin on MegaBucks. Nope, we did not hit the $12 million jackpot, maybe next time!


I’ll make this a short section. The North Premium Outlets has become a regular part of each visit. My main role is to carry bags for Erika (a lot of them). Did buy a shirt. It is not the money spent that I should be concerned about… it is the money saved! We also hit the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood once again.

Wrap Up

Vegas trips are non-stop. After an intensive week, we were both happy to be on the plane home. At the same time, planning for next year got underway. Cosmo (with a fountain view terrace), and maybe Mirage next time. I’m looking forward to it already.

Good luck at the tables,


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