Vegas October 2012

10 months after our last Vegas adventure we return courtesy of Virgin Atlantic to what is becoming a regular annual (ish !) trip. Such as here, here and here

The usual routine for these trips is that Mrs Ben hits the pool, and MrBen hits the poker table. This was sort of the order of events, but I had to change stuff around as the poker events in our hotel seemed quite slow.

Weather was nice as always

Day one we got there quite late on, so i just made a quid hundred on the blackjack. Not a bad start. There was also the usual slot machine crawl, where you start with a 20, and try to build to 100 by hit and running bonuses. Mrs Ben nearly made this (after 3 hours), she was up to 80, but we had had a few drinks and it was time to retire.

Day 2, i set about my usual 9.00am poker comp. By this time i had hit the gym and had breakfast. Gotta love jetlag. Breakfast was in the ABX Burger ad Pancake house. The breakfast pancakes for £6 are amazing. Bombed the tourney early on, but made up for ir with another $150 on the Blackjack table. Lunch was at Lemongrass in the Aria, which is a chinese-thai modern type restaurant. Dim-sum. Oh My God. Get there early, we were towards the end of  the lunch session (which is Dim-sum time), and just grabbed what we could. We also had the mee-goreng, which was spiced to perfection. More details on their website here.

Lemongrass. Great Food in the Aria.

That evening I took  a bit of a kicking and was $250 down on the tables ans slots, but easy come and easy go, eh ?

Day 3 started with Breakfast at the Mandalay Bay buffet. As usual the fare was good in a nice setting. My 9.00am bombed again, when my KK was called allin pre flop by some clown with A9, who then hit a 9 on the turn and the river. Cheers, Nice hand. Always tomorrow i suppose. Having the hump i dropped 20 into an Alice in Wonderland machine and picked up a $120 Jackpot. Feel better now.

Thanks Alice !

I then retired to the pool with MrsBen. The pool at the Excalibur has been redesigned this year and is way better than before. In fact with 4 pools and at least 2 hot tubs/Jacuzzis, this place is severely underrated.

In the afternoon we tool a amble down the strip and headed towards Caesars Palace. We cut through all the usual suspects, Aria and Bellagio (quick +$35 slot win. Hehe).  Our destination at Caesars was the Cheesecake Factory. Now in the city full of restaurants why bother with a chain. Because its not in the UK, and its just great food. The portions are huge, so main course only thanks. We shared some enchiladas and the “Bellagio” pasta. Strange name bearing in mind the location ! Fantastic allround, and I managed not to buy anything next door in the super sized Nike Store.

The Little House in the Bellagio !
Cheesecake Factory
Entrance to Nike World – Caesars Palace


Day 5 started like 3 with my 99 hitting AA early on. Lucky this 9.00 am is only $30 !. As we had friends up from California  we rented out a Cabana by the pool for the day. Well worth the next to nothing we paid ! This made for a nice relaxing day.

Cabana Time !

The evening was spend on the road again, and we hit the Palazzo for dinner. We had heard good things about the Grand Lux. Well, heres my thing, don’t go there. The burger i had was very greasy (greasy is different from juicy !).  Mrs Bens ribs were dry, and the meat wouldn’t come off from the bone, and therefore was sent back. Chips were OK!. One other thing regarding the Ventian and Palazzo. They used to be quite refined, and a bit classy (for Vegas !). They now seem to have this rock vibe going on which suits Planet Hollywood, but I’m not sure about here. The Zebra Lounge gets a special mention. The band think they are playing Wembley and have a speaker stack to match. Far too loud.

On day 6 i changed venue for the morning poker comp. I went next door to the Luxor for their 10.30. This was a good move, and one I may make more permanent in future trips. Better organised, friendlier,and way more confortable. After getting away with a split pot, which i was well behind on. I managed to scrape 3rd for $134 (40 buyin). 3rd or maybe second was probably my best chance, as there was a lady who arrived at the final table with over half the total chips, and seemed to hit every hand. But i did my bit and took out 3 people on the final table. The rest of the day was by the pool, and chilling out.

The evening was a bit of an adventure for me as we went to Shibuya, a Japanese restaurant in the MGM. I’m not a Sushi fan, but i do like wagyu beef. I did try some Sushi as well, and I may be coming round (more on this below !). Not cheap but a fantastic meal and great vibe and service. More info here

Day 7  was spend mainly at the North Outlet Centre. This places never lets us down, and this day was no different, with bargains from Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Hugo Boss amongst others. My Jordan IV’s got some love from the market sellers. Our trip there was undertaken by Taxi, with a guy who seemed to no more about football than any American i have ever met. He was Mexican to be fair, but you get the drift. We discussed Booby Moore vs Pele, Leeds and Chelsea in the 70’s, and low centre of gravity being the reason for Maradona and Messi being better footballers than me.

That evening we found craps. The game not the tummy bug !. It took me about an hour to work out what was going on, but once we got going, we were flying and both made a tidy profit. Its also a great game for socialising, and just great fun. A few beers were had and great crack all round.

Out last full day started slowly after the night before but we tried the Public House in the Luxor for lunch. Great food, great price, shame it was showing  “Being Liverpool” on the main screen. Might visit one evening when its full on our next trip. Can be found here

We also had dinner in the Buca di Beppo Italian in the Excalibur. The food here is just WOW. I really love it. The portions are a little scary, but likea mamma used to maka. ! Find it here

Yum Pasta

The evening was more of the same, Craps and Blackjack.

We flew back the next day just in time , as the Storms were coming and flights were starting be cancelled all over the place.

So overall, another great trip. The Excalibur looked after us well again, many thanks to Yvonne our host as usual.

+ Lemongrass, Buca di Beppo, Cheesecake Factory

– Grand Lux, Venetian in general.

On our trip you could tell that Vegas is still deep in recession. I currently give the Tropicana about a year after a successful relaunch, that seems to be falling apart. Oh and the Mirage seems to be the number one hotel if you are looking for Hookers, or maybe it just seems that way ! Never used to be like that.

Roll on Xmas for the next visit.

Xmas in Vegas

Here is a modified trip report i posted on with added photos.

The end of the year brings me and my wife to Vegas for the 3rd time in 12 months.

It was the first time I had flown BA to Vegas instead of virgin but it was great and a little early. But for Xmas day, it should be !
We stayed at the Excalibur as usual, looked after by our great host. Xmas day evening we were supposed to meet friends and hit up Dragon Noodle in the MC, so we headed off quickly, got there and turns out they didn’t want to go there and were back in the Excal. So we traipsed back and ended up in the food court. Merry Christmas!
Once they left, we did what all people with 8 hrs jet lag should do, and started drinking and gambling until 6am. Rough, but hey!
After a little lay in on day 2 and breakfast/lunch in the Lynard Skynard I got some 1/2 in. 3 hours returned $192. Good start to the week. And we got to dragon noodle in the evening. And it was worth the wait. Dim sum was fantastic.
With a broken body clock i was up the next day at 5.30, so hit one of the new restaurants in the Excal. The ABX Burger place. the pancakes were fresh as a daisy and most filling. Missus TLJ hit the tix booth for some Elvis cirque action and I hit the poker room again. Another 3 hours but down 70. No problem, 20 mins of blackjack got me another 150.
I then got the call of the wife on holiday “shopping time”, so a quick trip to the premium mall got that out of the way, and we rested and then hit the Aria for the show. Bearing in mind this show is closing, I really enjoyed it, and it played to a near full house. Afterwards we went to the secret pizza bar in the Cosmo. I had heard about the real arcade machines and was a little disappointed to find a PC in a galaga shell. Cop out!

Outside Elvis Theatre
Outside Aria

Day 4 found me at the breakfast 9am crapshoot in Excalibur. #This started a little late as a guy was being CPR’ed and then trollied out. They set the comp up with all the medics and nesr dead guy in the room (not the biggest room either), classy ! I busted early with 10 10 against a rag who hits a on the river. I’ll be back. Today we went for a wander around the strip, highlights being $167 bonus on the pinball slot in the MGM, and dinner in the cheesecake factory.
Day 5 was a bit of a washout in the crapshoot (i’ll be back), and turned into a relax with Penn and Teller in the evening. So the Rio, what a tip! You need to a be parkour expert to navigate the slots, they are that close together.

Teller and Mrs Mrben

Day 6. The crapshoot had 30 runners + rebuys, etc. got to the final table with no worries . Then busted 2 guys in quick succession with back to back full houses. I was way chip leader when heads up, so asked my opponent if he wanted to play for stacks, as time was getting on. He won the first, but the second we played cards down. The board was k high, and he had qk, and I turned over………AK! $498 in the bag. I knew I would be back. Lol. My first tournie win in Vegas !
I then got a tweet regarding the noon comp in the Trop on NYE with Mr Gold. $100 buyin, 500 in my bin, so why not.
Not a lot to report the next day, so onto NYE. The Trop room is nice, and the players were friendly. I got seated on a table with a bounty. A lady who i did not know, who was a poker tv presenter. I made the break, after being chip leader (between hands one and two. Lol), but was card dead, hard. As well as me, Dennis Phillips and Jamie Gold were still in . So far so good.
I have a bad leak, that post break I always try to buy hands, and today for no different. Blinds are creeping up , so I go all in post a 455 flop with 46. Called by tv lady with ……….66 and that’s that.

Spent NYE on the strip, and it was fantastic. Outside Bellagio for midnight, saw fireworks and then back home for more beer and merriment.

A few people out having a nice time !
NYE Fireworks

Next day was quiet as you would expect, but we tried the new Italian in the Excal. Lovely and massive portions. Good hearty food.

We headed home the next day via Chigago. How big is that airport ? I thought if I kept walking I would be in Canada!

Xmas decorations in O'Hare

Next trip April, hopefully.

Some other random photos:

If I ruled the world !!
Some random fans post my tournament win !
Behind you !
Master Chief I presume ?

New York, Las Vegas. The North American Tour

Where to start ? How about the beginning ? We checked in at T5 Heathrow expecting to be in Econ + (with a nifty little £100 upgrade). We got business class. Thanks BA. So a very nice flight across the pond was had by all, and we got to head the queue at JFK customs. I estimate the people at the back had to wait about 1.5 hrs to get through. What a welcome to the US !

20 mins in a cab gets us to the Double Tree Hilton 51st and Lex. We had a standard room which was very standard (and a bit smelly), but serviceable for the price. But free wireless in the lobby was a nice touch, and well used.

The next 3 days were spent having a wander, mainly walking and shopping. We did do the Empire State Building, and i would reccomend the extra $40 for the fast track. Entrance to top in 6 minutes. Thanks!

We then headed of to JFK on the tube to fly to Vegas Only take the E line to Jamica Av if a) you don’t have more than one bag and b) you are not easily intimidated. Its an interesting ride for sure.

Check in at terminal 3 JFK (Delta) is the worst organised setup i have seen in many a year. Its a pure cattle drive and SOOOO slow. and the lounge doesn’t take Priority Pass either, but from just outside you can use their wireless :).

Delta ecomomy is functional, and a bit easyjet, but does have on board wi-fi and live satellite tv on the IFE. 5.5 hours later and we are in Vegas. Maria picks us up and we are checked straight through VIP at the Excal. The room 25207, is a stunner and the view is fantastic. Big thank you to our host.

The next morning i manage to scrape through to 3rd in the 9.00 tournie, and book just over $150. I really don’t know why i play such a crap shoot, but its 5 mins from the room! That afternoon the wife is out with Maria so i play some 1/2 cash and book another 190. not a bad start. The rest of the week is spent on slots and showing my wife Vegas, literally from one end to the other. Outside of a couple of decent slots wins, not much to write home about. she would love to go back in Oct, so i think that will be more poker focused trip.

We also visited the Saraha before it gets shut and its a very sad place compared to the complex i visited over a decade ago.

Points of note. The monorail is a great idea that has been placed to provide as much hassle to passengers as possible. The Aria is a very nice setup, and to my mind knocks Bellagio into a hat. Freemont Street needs to update the canopy shows.

So with a pretty balanced win loss sheet after 5 days we had back to NYC. Now. remember the smelly room ? As we checked out the previous week, we mentioned house keeping hadn’t refilled the shampoos etc on our third day. They said as we were leaving there was nothing we could do. Once we pointed out we were heading back the next weekend, the auto upgraded us to a junior suite. not bad for 10 cents of shampoo !!

So once we took a peek around the 18th floor balconied room, we hit the pig and whistle on 2nd av for drink and errrrrrrrr drinks!. Then the night got  a bit messy as we hit the beer with the locals over karaoke.

The next 3 days was the full shooting match, the best New York tourism had to offer. USS Intrepid was fantastic and the beast boat ride next door was great. The tour around NBC was a bit rubbish, but meeting Ice-T was an amazing bonus in the cafe.  Top of the Rock is better than the Empire State, with more space. Liberty Island is amazing and the statue is cool, but Ellis Island is just truely inspiring. You can feel the history as you walk around. It moved me like nothing else.

You have to go to the WTC when in New York, and i’m glad to report its gettting a little less like a building site and more like a construction project, which trust me is a good thing.

Down near the Brooklyn Bridge we met Pete the fireman (at the engine no 9 station), who gave my wife the full treatment with photos in the uniform, with axes and breakers. Also near there, is Kats Deli (as used in When Harry met Sally). Sandwiches amazing, but with prices to match. And its rammed, all the time.

We went to the MSG to watch the 4th game of the Knicks vs the Celtics in the play-offs. Atomsphere great, basketball no so. The Knicks were not at the races and were bombed out by half time to be honest. However, the wife got on the big screen in the middle, so every cloud and all that.

If you ever need photo gear head for b+h. Very knowledgeable and great prices, compared to the UK at least (isn’t everything). If you want A+F don’t bother, their flagship store always has lonnnngggggg queues outside and inside is so loud you cannot here yourself think. Even the staff agree, so its not just me being an old git.

Overall a great first trip to NY, but next time, we will take the time out to see what i would call real NY, eg off of Manhattan. Vegas will be revisited in October……….

Enjoy the photos:

Poker and Slots

I have been playing poker on and off for about 4 years now, and consider myself an avaerage player. I have also been a member of FullTilt’s iron man scheme for 10 months. This is bloody hard work for me (mainly play at least 1 hr a day for 15 or more days a month on rush poker 1/2), so i might retire from the IM after i get my end of year bonus.

Its difficult to treat a hobby like job (that pays less – but at least it pays).

In other news my wife and i have been treating ourselves to some slot play (foolish i know) that has reaped some fierce divdends over on One session over the weekend paid for both my new digital SLR and a new passport for the wife. Cheers paddy !

With my now soon to be trusty Nikon Digital SLR in my posession i’m sure i will be posting some xmas type snaps in the near future. I got into photography about 25 years ago, but need to re learn all my DOF’s and f stops again if am to get the best from this camera. But i still have an unused tripod from that era, so fittings allowing i have already saved a few bob.