Updated: 7 days ago
Having not set foot in Las Vegas in over 3 months, I was ready to be back in the best city in the world. And it would prove to be a memorable trip, particularly on the gambling side of things...
Our June 2023 Vegas trip recap begins with an early arrival on a Sunday, Southwest flights to Vegas out of our home airport usually offer a very early nonstop flight. I love to book this flight because when we arrive, its almost the same time as when we left, factoring in the two hour time change. And when you get to Vegas early in the morning vs late in the afternoon or evening, its like you get an extra day there.
I'd estimate when we arrive early in the morning, about 50% of the time we get into our room right away.... but this was NOT one of those times. We were booked in a Royal suite at Flamingo, we checked in, and were told we would get a text when our room was ready. We stashed our bags at the bell service, the friendly attendant there told us to hit Hash House a go go for breakfast, and if we liked BBQ (who doesn't), he said we should go to Virgils for lunch.
We decided to pass on his breakfast suggestion, and headed north on the strip. Many places aren't open early in the morning, which makes it a good time to belly up to a bar and do some gambling..... and that's what we ended up doing when we got to the Venetian.
I hopped on a video poker machine and ordered a drink. I was eager to try my newly learned strategies on Bonus Poker. Until this trip, I was strictly a Deuces Wild video poker player. My wife ordered a drink as well and the bartender asked if she was going to be playing poker (hint, hint). My wife didn't take the hint (as she rarely does), and said no, I corrected her and put $20 in the machine next to me. The bartender smiled and didn't charge us for the drinks.
Now I was playing two different poker games at once and trying to keep them straight, my Bonus Poker game and my wife's Deuces Wild game... I tried to teach her the basic strategy as I went (for like the 4th time). We (I) managed to break even in the end. We headed back to O'Sheas to see if the Frozen Baileys were available yet.
The Baileys were ready, and we confirmed the rumors of a GIANT price increase. The larges are now $30 and the small ones were $18. After stewing on that for a few minutes, we still ordered smalls and they were delicious as always. They taste like a chocolate milkshake with a hint of alcohol.
Before the Frozen Baileys were finished, we decided we had gone enough time without playing any craps and we went into the Linq to get things "rollin". The first session was not memorable. Not terrible, but not good either. It was kind of a break even session. I've had better starts to my gambling trips, but also much worse ones.
We headed to Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen and bar for lunch. It has become a first lunch tradition for us in Vegas. My wife is obsessed with Guy Fieri.... I don't know if its the blonde spikey hair or the "donkey sauce", but every time she is in Vegas we have to eat at his restaurant.
Had we been in Vegas a few days later, we could have tried his new Chicken Guy restaurant in Caesars Palace, but it wasn't open yet. This made Guy Fieri Kitchen in the Linq was the choice again. My wife likes the Mac & Cheese burger but I haven't found a "go to" food item on the menu (despite many tries). The trash can nachos are photo worthy, but not as good as they look... in my opinion. I've tried the sandwiches, the pulled pork, and some of the burgers, but nothing transported me to "flavortown". This time I decided to go with the BBQ wings off the appetizer menu. I was thinking it would be hard to screw up wings, and I was correct. The wings were very tasty, albeit quite messy.
After lunch and another short craps session, we headed back over to Flamingo to check on our rooms. Regular check in time was fast approaching, and we were greeted by a mass of people, both in the regular check in line, and the Caesars Diamond line. Usually the diamond line is very short and quiet. We spent 15-20 minutes waiting in line to be told our rooms were still not ready, but he was going to put a rush on them to be cleaned..... I found this a little irritating, seems like they could have put a rush on them when they knew we had arrived at 8 AM.
We killed some more time, and maybe 30-40 min later, I got two texts saying our rooms were ready. My wife and I had each booked a room under our own accounts which let us give one room to our extended family that was traveling with us. I got two texts and I assumed both our rooms were ready. The line for the kiosks to get your keys was also long and half the kiosks weren't working. We hopped in the Diamond line again and waited another 30-40 min to get our keys.
When we made it to the front, the guy informed us that only one of the rooms was ready. I later found out (when my room was ready) that the system sends two duplicate texts out each time the room is ready. We all headed up to the one room that was ready to wait on the text for the other room.
The Royal suite was nice, it was on the top floor with a great view of the pool area and the High Roller observation wheel. It had a bedroom, a "living room" for watching TV, two bathrooms, and a table and chairs with a minibar area. The Flamingo hotel is quite old, and some things in the room were worn down and showing its age, but for a pretty inexpensive suite, there wasn't too much to complain about.
We went to Virgils on the Linq Promenade for dinner. The BBQ was good, I had a pulled chicken sandwich on the recommendation of the waiter. It was very good, but not spectacular. While we were eating, we watched the Miami Heat come back to beat the Nuggets (for what would be their only win of the series). After dinner, since we were right next to it, we got Frozen Baileys again. Then we jumped on the monorail to get down to "The Dirty Castle" as they call it on twitter.
We got to Excalibur with perfect timing, Geoff had taken a later flight and since he was staying at the Dirty Castle, he showed up not long after we arrived. I had $100 in freeplay at Excalibur through the myVegas app, and I decided I needed to burn through that before we left.
Our last trip to Vegas, I had made a killing on a slot machine called "The Gold". That slot machine single handedly saved my from financial ruin... ok, maybe not that extreme, but it saved me from going home pissed off that I lost money. When I saw Excalibur had "The Gold", I knew that's where my $100 in freeplay was going.
....And 5 minutes later I had no more freeplay...
With my tail between my legs I rejoined our group and we decided that it was time for a serious craps session.
Night 1 Craps
For us, evening craps sessions means Planet Hollywood. This has become a tradition going back several years now. Why PH? It's simple really, the casino has an Earl of Sandwich that is open all night. As long as the craps sessions aren't terrible, we will head to Earl of MF-ing Sandwich (as we refer to it) about 2 or 3 AM, slightly buzzed from the tiny comped drinks, and extremely hungry. And Earl never disappoints us.
But on our first night, the craps session did in fact start terribly. After an hour or two, we regrouped and decided what to do next. We decided to split up and do our own thing, I believe my words to Geoff were "I'm going to go make some poor gambling choices" and then I took a lap around the casino, looking for "The Gold" once again, still unaware that it was "The Kryptonite" this trip.
I couldn't locate the slot machine, and I settled for the old standby, "Dragon Link". That slot machine doesn't owe me anything, I have had more three digit winning sessions on it than I can even remember. I went to the DL well once again, not really expecting a slot to change the whole outlook of the trip for me.... but then it did...
If you have never played Dragon Link, the fun begins when you get 6 fireballs on a single spin. The values on the fireballs tell you what you won. Then you get 3 free spins to accumulate more fireballs and win more money. Each time you get at least one fireball on a spin, your free spins remaining goes back to 3. The values on my fireballs are in cents, making 2000 = $20, etc.
On my initial spin where I collected the 6 fireballs, the first one that came up was a "Major Jackpot", and I knew this was gonna be something special, as it was worth $750. By the time the bonus game was over, I had tallied $1215.25, which was $15.25 over the threshold that requires a hand pay.
A hand pay is when the attendant brings you your money along with a W-2 tax form. As several people pointed out when they were walking by me, if I had won $16 less, this win would not be on Uncle Sam's radar.... but I didn't care at that point, I was happy to have achieved my first hand pay.
Playing mostly craps, and not being a "high rollers", hand pays aren't as common in our group of gamblers. I had actually told Geoff a couple days before that I felt like this was the trip that we get a hand pay, and sure enough, it happened. I texted him sitting and waiting for the attendant. At first he did not believe me of course, but after he arrived, I feasted on his jealousy.
Still buzzing about the big win, we went over to Earl's earlier than usual for some warm and delicious sandwiches. The ham and swiss is my go to sub. I normally don't get mustard on my subs, but the mustard they put on the ham and swiss just works! After finishing dinner #2, we had a decision to make... call it an evening or try our luck at craps again...
.....So craps didn't start out great... again.... and it seemed like we made a poor choice, as we tend to do. But finally one guy got on a small heater and turned the entire evening around (for everyone else, my evening was already pretty good). We went through two rolls with the guy and both times he did not disappoint! By the end of the evening, I was looking at the best single day of gambling I had ever had. Since it was only day #1, I had a new dilemma for the next few days.. pack it in, take my money and run or go crazy on house money and see how far I could push it (and possibly lose it)...
.....I woke up the next morning bright and early and headed to the high limit slots...... just kidding... but a few short hours later, I was awakened by my wife reminding me we had planned on giving EggSlut a try this morning, and the people that hadn't been out all night drinking and gambling were ready to go.
I muttered something along the lines of "you're an EggSlut", but begrudgingly got into the shower..... and was met with no hot water. A call to the front desk confirmed that the building was having "a hot water issue", and after my wife Karen'ed them for a bit, we made the trek over to Cosmo for a late, slutty breakfast.
One look at the line wrapping around the corner and down the hallway was enough for me to want to go back to the room and sleep for another 3 hours. Geoff had arrived before us and was already through the line, staring at me with his dumb, happy grin. Like the good guy that he is, before we got there, he had offered to hold a spot in line for us but I declined, not realizing the mammoth size of the line we were dealing with.
The line moved fairly quickly though, and after 10-15 minutes we were dining on breakfast sandwiches and HIGHLY overpriced drinks. That's not to say the sandwiches were a bargain, but my big win last night seemed like it was barely enough to cover our drinks. Of course, a couple nights later, I would find out what pricey drinks really means... The food was good, above average for sure, but nothing that in my mind made it a repeat destination for future Vegas breakfasts.
After we finished up breakfast, we took a moment to make fun of Geoff's love affair with the giant Chandelier at Cosmo, and then we headed over to Bellagio for Geoff's other favorite thing, the Bellagio Conservatory.
The summer display at the Conservatory had just been completed, and there is no doubt the displays are very impressive. We spent some time there taking pictures and then we waited a few minutes for Geoff's flower erection to go away.
My wife and I had myVegas Konami slots free play at Bellagio, and we went over to the rewards desk to redeem it. In my opinion, the $25 Konami slots redemptions on myVegas are some of the best rewards on the app. Depending on how much money you have spent on myVegas, you can get a minimum of 3 and a max of 6 per Vegas trip. They are at different MGM properties, and we just make a "free play crawl" where we go from property to property redeeming our $25 freeplay and then moving on. The great thing about the Konami freeplay is there is no requirement of a paid stay. The larger freeplay rewards all have a minimum 2 or 3 night PAID stay, meaning if the stay is comped, you can't use them. I probably have used close to $1000 of Konami freeplay over the years.
After getting the freeplay loaded on our cards, my wife and I split up to use it on our preferred slot machines. She went for the Willy Wonka slot, her "go to" machine, while I decided to try Top Dollar, a slot I had heard about many times, but never actually played.
After just a few spins, I hit the bonus, which is a "Deal or no Deal" type game where you are presented three random amounts, and each time you have the option of taking the money or seeing the next amount. I won a modest amount on the first bonus, but then immediately hit it again and was offered close to $200. I happily took that amount, finished out my freeplay, and set off to brag to my wife.
When I found her, she bragged to me first that she had took Willy Wonka for about $100, and I just congratulated her and we moved on...... HAHA... just kidding, I one upped her and showed her my $200 winnings... A combined $300 won on the first two $25 in freeplay was a heck of a start.
Lunch reservations at Hell's Kitchen were next, and we made our way over to Caesars Palace. We spent a little time walking around the massive casino, then checked in at HK. We've been to HK many times and it rarely disappoints... we get the 3 course meal, salad, beef wellington, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. When we first started going there, this meal cost around $65.... now its nearly $100.
But for my money, there is no better dessert in Vegas than sticky toffee pudding. It's Gordon Ramsay's signature dessert for a reason. The beef wellington was also good. A few of us in our party splurged on fancy alcohol. My wife used her Caesars Rewards Diamond Celebration dinner credit to take the edge of the final bill.
We got back to the Flamingo after lunch and it was time for a nap for the old people (me). We agreed to meet back in the casino in an hour, and I awoke well over an hour later and begrudgingly headed back down. Another mid day craps session didn't go very well at all, and we decided to head our separate ways again, some of us that didn't nap in the first napping session were now extremely tired and wanting to rest. I headed over to the video poker machines and blew another $100 there before heading back up to the room to watch the end of the Knights hockey game.
We had no reservations for dinner. We decided to all our own thing. Myself, my wife, and Geoff headed over to Pizzacake at Harrahs to try out their food. Geoff has a weird fascination with pizza places on the strip (and chandeliers), and this was his second pizza dining experience of the day, having gone to Moneyline Pizza at Aria while we were at Hells Kitchen.
The pizza at Pizzacake was very good, but not spectacular. I went for a Sicilian Slice with pepperoni and a regular cheese slice and both were tasty. We had a good laugh when a lady came in so intoxicated that could barely stand up, but to her credit, she never hit the deck while she was standing there.
Our big event for the evening (besides playing craps) was a ride on the High Roller Observation Wheel. No matter how many times I ride it, it's still a spectacular view. And of course its better at night, everything in Vegas is better at night. We even got one member of our party to go on it who is terrified of heights. The capsules on the High Roller aren't anything like your local county fair Ferris wheel.... they are fully enclosed, surprisingly roomy, and if you stay towards the middle, you can survive it, no matter how irrational your fear of heights might be.
I realized I have been on the High Roller a lot when looking through my photos, I found only 3 pictures taken during the whole 30 minute ride.
Night 2 Craps
After we got off the high roller, sight seeing was over and it was time to go to work. The craps tables weren't going to play themselves. We made our way down to Planet Hollywood and got the dice rolling. Compared to how the night before ended, it was a really tough night on the craps table. However, our "hot shooter" from the night before was back and when it was his turn to roll, I was ready. He didn't do nearly as well as he did the first night, but he did well enough to keep me in the black for the evening. He was literally the only person that could last more than a couple rolls on the table. He didn't make us piles of money, but he mostly covered our losses for all the other shooters.
It is always better to have a modest profit than a sizable loss (cough, cough... Geoff), and I was still in a good mood when we headed over to Earl's for our second dinner. In fact, I was feeling good enough to shock our entire group and not order the ham and swiss! I gave "The Original 1762" a try, which is roast beef and cheddar with horseradish sauce (for which I substituted standard mayo). The sub was good, I will probably get it again sometime, but it didn't replace the ham and swiss at #1 on the Earl sandwich power rankings.
Since we were staying at Flamingo (and Geoff at Excalibur), there was a bit of a walk back to the room each night, or more accurately each morning. The Vegas strip is a very different place at 3 AM, we had our choice of gentleman's clubs we could have gone to, the limos were right there waiting. And we found plenty of ladies wanting to "party". None of that nonsense for us though, back to the hotel to be with our beautiful wives who might be reading this...
We reached our last full day in Vegas, and we weren't in any hurry to get out of bed. My recovery from being out all night drinking takes a lot longer than it did in my 20s. We had canceled our reservation for lunch because we didn't want to walk down to the Fashion Show mall. My wife and I headed down to the MGM end of the strip to finish using our Konami Free play rewards.
First stop was Aria, I gave Top Dollar a try again, but Aria tends to have higher minimum denominations than other places, and I didn't bet the max amount. This was a big mistake because I didn't read the fine print, and you have to bet the max to be eligible for the bonus. When the bonus came up and I didn't get to play it, I was fairly mad at myself.
My wife, on the other hand, was plundering Willy Wonka for another $200. This had to be her most successful slots trip ever. Usually I am "lightly teasing" her about having to make up for all her losses, but she definitely pulled her weight this trip in the winning department. (no jokes about her weight here)
We walked next door to Park MGM next, and redeemed our freeplay there. My freeplay involved another date with the big DL, and Dragon Link paid me again. After hitting a bonus session, another $200 was in my wallet. My wife didn't fair as well at Park, but it didn't matter, our freeplay was killing it this trip.
We ended the freeplay run at Luxor #TheDirtyPyramid. The freeplay wasn't as good there, I even gave another $100 back to "The Gold"... I am over that machine. Dragon Link taught me a lesson this trip.... don't ever leave her!
Knowing we had reservations at Amalfi for dinner, we didn't want to eat lunch too late in the day. We stopped at the new food court in NYNY. Geoff and I got some wings and my wife got a sandwich. Certainly no complaints about the food, for a food court, it was pretty good. I pondered grabbing a delicious bacon pretzel dog from the stand on the way out of NYNY, but decided maybe I would catch a mid afternoon $2.99 footlong instead.
We hopped on the monorail to get back to the Flamingo, where we met up with the rest of our group. Sadly, it was time to do what the ladies wanted for awhile, and we set off for the Venetian to visit the Grand Canal Shoppes.
My wife likes to go to the Pearl Factory kiosk, and we stopped there while the rest of our group continued down the shopping corridor. We rang the bell 3 times to honor the ancient Hawaiian oyster spirits or some shit like that. Then, unable to find the rest of the group, we headed over to TI with Geoff.
I have a soft spot for TI, I really miss the shows they did out front years ago. And I really miss theming in general on the Las Vegas strip. Monte Carlo becomes Park MGM, Aladdin becomes Planet Hollywood, Treasure Island becomes TI, and the Mirage because Hard Rock, why are they taking the fun out of Vegas.... hold on a sec...
--HEY YOU KIDS, GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN!--
Anyway, I digress. I knew why Geoff wanted to hit up TI, his third fetish after giant chandeliers and pizza places is Pai Gow poker. Geoff knew from our last visit that they had Pai Gow at TI with reasonable limits, and it didn't take him long to disappear when we got there.
That left my wife and I to try our luck at the slots again. I started off with Double Diamond and initially got ahead a little, but then came a slow march to Bustville, population me. I gave Top Dollar one more shot and it also wasn't in a giving mood. We rounded up Geoff and hightailed it out of there before we had to walk the plank (or even worse, had to eat at Senor Frogs). That was the end of my slot playing for the trip. Much more slot playing than I had ever done..... and much more slot winning than I had ever done.
We made our way back to the Flamingo to meet up with the rest of the group for our dinner reservation at Amalfi. I wasn't terribly excited about this restaurant, I don't like fish or seafood, which is primarily what they serve. But I do have a totally unrealistic goal of eating at every dining location on the strip, as well as seeing every show and staying at every hotel. Since Amalfi happens to be a dining location on the strip, I was willing to try it once.
Geoff wrote a review of Amalfi, and I won't say a ton about it, but... SPOILER ALERT... it was expensive.... and not worth the price, at least not in my opinion. I started off with some lemony cheese appetizer thingy (that's what it said on the menu, I swear), had a decent Chicken Parm (decent if I were at Applebees, it seemed underwhelming at Amalfi), and finished the evening with some delightful Tiramisu. **Follow me for more fantastic food reviews like this one**
Oh, did I mention the $9/bottle water? How about the NOT complimentary bread at an "Italian" restaurant? The crabby waiter who was not letting us substitute items.... or split the check? Good Stuff! #Sarcasm
Night 3 Craps
For our final night of craps, we decided to switch it up a bit and go to Planet Hollywood. We were hoping our shooter from the last two nights would be there again. Unfortunately, he was not, but we settled in for what we figured might be a short night.
As is tradition, we started off pretty shitty, all of us getting down quickly. We didn't want to pack it in early, since it was our last night in Vegas, and we forged ahead. We basically got down to our last roll, all our money for the evening was on the table, and a older gentleman stepped up and began rolling...
..and he kept rolling
..and he kept rolling
..and suddenly our moods changed.
I'm quite sure it was the longest heater any of us had every witnessed (Other than maybe Nick Pappagiorgio's run in 1997). He was hitting points, rolling 6s & 8s, hardways... just making everyone money in every way possible.
My betting tends to be a little too conservative on people that get hot like this, but I still had by far the most profitable craps night of the trip. Geoff and others in our group won even bigger than I. It turned out to be a perfect end to a great trip.
When his roll was finally came to an end, we were off to Earl of Sandwich, flush with cash and eager to discuss what just happened. I was in such a good mood, I tried a new sandwich for the second straight night! The Earl’s Club was the celebration dinner for Geoff and myself. It tasted like sweet victory!
On the walk back to the hotel that night, the hookers could smell the money on us. Heading north to the Flamingo, we had several of them try and engage us in conversation. Geoff was headed south to Excalibur and had one aggressively "proposition" him as he went to his room. Apparently they could also smell the single on him. No word on whether he accepted or not...
Our flight the next day was mid-morning, and that didn't leave a lot of time to do anything fun. I made a couple visits to the front desk to make sure they had all our room charges straightened out, and then we were on our way back to normal life, and planning our next Vegas trip very soon. I did have just enough time to say goodbye to my special lady.... the Dragon Link slot that gave me a hand pay.