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Only a hour flight away from Las Vegas we visit frequently, sometimes once a month. I'll be sharing our trip reports, tips on making the most of your stay in Vegas, reviews of restaurants and shows we have seen, along with my thoughts related to our favorite place to get away from it all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bellagio Slot Tournament January 22nd to the 25th, 2010

Day time view from our room:

It was a dark and stormy night, actually all week had been bad storms and we were hoping it would clear a bit before our Southwest jet left late Friday night. While it was still raining and windy enough to delay our flight out of San Jose 30 minutes it was better then my girlfriend's flight out of San Francisco that was delayed for 90 minutes or so.

Since we had the delay we grabbed a snack of chicken strips and fries at the Brit lounge at the airport. 

Flight was non-eventful into Las Vegas and we quickly picked up our luggage. Got long hauled to Bellagio to the tune of $25.00 because cab driver insisted the normal route had a accident and the road was closed. Later we found out that the road was not closed.

Check in at around 11pm was quick, got our line passes and room 28004 near the elevators with a great fountain view, thanks to Beverly our host.

Night time view:

Front desk also gave us the tournament schedule and rules.

After unpacking and watching a couple fountain shows we headed down to the casino. First we looked around for Jbinvegas's VP machine but even though I had copied down the description of its location I couldn't find it. Perhaps it has been moved recently? Casino's love to move those machines, sometimes I have found that during the night while I've been sleeping they have moved my favorite slot out and installed a new one.

We spotted a bank of the new Star Wars machine and decided to play it since no one else was at them and we would be guaranteed to win the bonus if we got some entries. First push we received 4 entries and by the time the bonus did kick off we had the most we ever had with 18 entries which pushed up the dollar amounts of the bonus levels. We have yet to figure out after you win the race how the selections you pick for shooting down things effect winning the bonus, but Randy had enough good picks that he won the Fighter progressive for $301.56 which was a nice start for our trip.

That evening we tried a bunch of machines from Hitchcock which we normally find a lot of fun, but just couldn't catch anything this trip, to GoldFish, Kitty Glitter, Stonehenge, Wizard of Oz, Wolf Run and Sex in the City.  No luck at all on Kitty Glitter, Sex in the city or Wolf Run. Found the new lucky penny penquin game at Bellagio near the buffet but it cleaned out a quick $200 too.

Finally had a bit of luck on GoldFish for $309.00

We hit 3 wilds on Wizard of Oz that first evening, but considering we were playing max bet for $5.00 a push the win wasn't that much at $125.00

Found a lucky Stonehenge machine in the back of the casino where the walkway to Olives and the shops are located but the largest hit was only $200.00 for a bonus.

Since we had to get up early to register for the tournament in the morning, we went to bed around 3am and we were ahead about $400.00 for the evening.

Tournament registration was from noon until 2pm on Saturday, so we headed downstairs around noon and stood in line at the Grand Ballroom for about 10 minutes to get our selection of machines for the 3 slot sessions. The welcoming gift was either a duffel bag, glass beef mugs or $100 free play. We took the free play as we have tons of glasses at home and plenty of bags.

Below are the machine numbers for us and our slot sessions.

After registration we went to the Bellagio Cafe for brunch. The regular line was halfway around the conservatory but fortunately we had line passes and there was only about 8 of us in line there so we were seated within 5 minutes. 

Randy's applewood bacon, broccoli and cheese omelet was excellent.

I ordered the healthy and low calorie crab salad which was delicious. In the background you can see the cubes in my ice tea which I love because they are not plain ice but made out of ice tea. I wish more restaurants would make their ice tea that way!

After eating we had enough time to hit up a few slot machines and got lucky on a Wolf Run for a win of $600.00

Our first and only slot tournament session on Saturday was at 2:50pm. They had it in 3 ballrooms put together, with huge screens showing the current game and with the other decorations being around football of course. There were 3 bars set up for drinks and in the center of the room they had a couple tables for entrees, which that day were sandwiches, beef sliders, hot dogs and salads. There was another couple tables set up with coffee/tea and then yummy looking desserts. On one side of the wall not far from the tables with entrees they had freezer cases of ice cream bars set up and a popcorn machine.

After getting myself a apple martini at the bar, I wandered over to the current tournament session to see what my machine was doing to discover that no one had number 9 that round. I had just finished my drink when it was time for my slot session and boy did I start out good for the first 5 minutes, as Randy later told me I was leading the pack. Unfortunately it fizzled and I only ended up with 
9,664 points while I had seen someone the session before us had a great score of over 17,000 points. 

Well, I could only hope to make a come back tomorrow when there was going to be 2 sessions. In the meantime it called for another drink and Randy and I both decided to eat a snack even though it had only been about 3 hours since our meals at Bellagio Cafe. Randy had a hot dog and come cookies that were filled in the center, while I had a panini type sandwich which was excellent and some ice cream.

The low tournament score was reflected for the rest of the day as we lost at everything we touched. It wasn't Bellagio as we saw others getting hand pays as we were walking around it was us, we were having payback from our lucky days back during Thanksgiving.

Back to the room we went to change our clothes for Bette Midler, and dinner and to watch a few fountain shows.

We walked over to Caesar's and since we were 45 minutes before the show started we tried our luck there and succeeded in continuing our losing streak and donating a couple hundred.

We loved Bette Midler and thought our seats were great. Bette's one funny lady and I only wish they allowed one to take photos like at Terry Fator's show since the Iphone just can't cut it during show performances.

After Bette we went across from the theater for our 9:30pm dinner at Bradley Ogden. We're eaten here a couple times in the past and it was even better this time since they had a prix fix dinner at $59.00 per person.

We must have been really hungry at that point as I neglected to take photos of our amuse, or appetizers. Randy had the Caesar salad for his appetizer and I had the maytag blue cheese souffle which was as delicious as the last 2 times I've had it there. 

I only have Iphone photos of our food that evening as I didn't want to check in my digital camera at the theater.

Both Randy and I had the same entree which was Sturgeon with roasted cauliflower, fennel and oranges. Randy drank a glass of Pinot Noir and I had Chardonnay.

Randy's dessert was a peanut butter trifle.

While I had their version of Bananas Foster with cheesecake ice cream.

After dinner we returned to our spanking at Bellagio and while we had some small wins on WOZ and Monopoly, we had bigger losses on Kitty Glitter, Top Dollar, Wolf Run, WOF and others. We really should have just gone to bed earlier since our luck obviously wasn't changing after Bette and dinner, or at least perhaps gone to Venetian/Palazzo to see if our machines there were still lucky but we didn't so we went to bed down about $1800.00 for the day.

I had forgotten to mention until now that we had friends in Vegas during our trip but never could connect due to conflicting schedules. Our friends RJ and Marty who were mentioned in one of our previous trip reports was at Red Rock gambling and seeing a Ted Nugent concert on Saturday night. Originally we were going to join them for that, but the slot tournament schedule didn't cooperate. 

Three of my girlfriends, Yoke, Sarah and Sonni were in Vegas this weekend and after we exited the Bette Midler show I found out by text messaging they had been at Bellagio and was looking for us there to join them for drinks, but of course by the time we finished dinner they had moved over to the Venetian. 


After Saturday's losses we decided to sleep in until 11:30am. I had a text from Yoke saying they would like us to meet them at Wynn at 6:00pm for drinks before they saw Le Reve, but I had to turn them down due to the slot tournament schedule and our dinner reservation at Aria for Sage being around that same time period.

While getting dressed we enjoyed a few morning fountain shows which started at noon that day likely due to the Fountain Brunch going on at Jasmine. We went down to the slot tournament around 1pm and got some coffee and food. At last year's tournament we attended at Bellagio they had the sessions scheduled earlier so that we had breakfast in the ball room in the morning and then lunch there in the afternoon, this time it was the same food from 1:00pm to 4:30pm. Today the menu was chili, buffalo wings, nachos, salads, desserts and I can't recall what else. Guess I should have taken notes since I could possibly be mixing up the menu for the 2 days. The theme for both days were game type food which my husband really enjoyed but I preferred the menu from last year which had a Spanish theme with various grilled meats.

For session 2, I had machine 27, and it was looking like my luck was changing when I got 13,200 points. Since we had seen some at other sessions get over 17,000 or as little as 4,000 points I had a clue that it would take at least 14,000 or more for the 3rd and last session to be in the first 100 places (there were about 275 participants in tournament). Btw, they don't even give you the last place prizes of $150.00 free play if you don't play in all 3 sessions of the tournament, skip one and you get nada.

The last tournament session for me was at 3:20 so we decided to go to the casino for a hour and see if our luck was improving. As we first entered the casino I spotted one Pinball machine which as far as I know is the only one at Bellagio and it was a $5 machine or $10 max bet. Normally we bet less around $3.00 to $4.00 but when winning we will increase our bets. Well, after last night I could only claim to be a loser, but since I had the 3rd highest score at the tournament session I just finished I decided to count that as my first win of the day  and told Randy we were going to run about $50 through it and then go to a less expensive slot. First push of the machine by me resulted in the pinball symbol and since we were playing max we got 4 pin balls for a total of 180 credits. At first Randy wasn't too excited at that win because he thought it was a $180 win, but I immediately cashed out and waved the ticket in his face at which he just nodded. Hmmm, Randy, actually look at the tito dear, it's a $900 win, the 180 win was $5 credits. At that point DH perked up and between his morning coffee and the win was looking a lot more cheerful then when we went to sleep last night.

We played a few more games before it was time to head back to my 3:20 session but just sort of went back and forth not winning or losing much.

As I entered the ballrooms for my last session I went to check out my machine, number 45 and once again as during the first session no one had been assigned to it, uh oh. Yep, this one would turn out to be my lowest score at around 8,000. Time to get a martini at the bar and hope that our luck wasn't taking a break again.

After we returned to the Bellagio casino I tried the Fireball machine ($2 max) which we had been lucky at playing a couple trips ago at Mandalay Bay. I hit 5 fireballs and then on 3 of the games hit for $40.00, $16.00 and $24.61, which is fairly good for a fireball bonus.

We then returned to some of our favorite slots like Stonehenge, Wolf Run, GoldFish, Hitchcock and others and while we weren't losing much, we weren't winning anything worth a photo opportunity. Stopped back at the Penguin slot and lost another hundred there and decided to swear off the silly things this trip no matter how cute. 

It was time to get ready for the tournament results, dinner and Elvis so I stopped by the Bellagio ticket counter and got our seats to Elvis and also picked up the Terry Fator tickets for February 26th when I take my Mother to that show.

Before walking going to Aria we stopped by the ballroom one last time at 6:30pm for our results and we were among the last 100 places so ended up with 150 free play from that and $100 free play for the welcoming gift for $250.00 free play. Sure beats Venetian/Palazzo tournaments where the last few hundred places get nothing. We stayed long enough at the prize distribution to lose at the drawings for holiday gift shoppe points.

The walk from the ballroom to the tram for Aria is quite the hike, fortunately we like to walk, but for others if you have a disability better rent a scooter. After finally arriving at the tram which seems to only usually have a wait of a couple minutes, we took it to Crystals. I later learned via a trip report that we should have taken it to Monte Carlo for Aria, but I enjoyed seeing a bit of Crystals on the way to Aria. The front of Aria has a waterfall feature that this photo doesn't do justice too as it's a incredibly long waterfall which has the water slowing down and then increasing at intervals. Across from the entrance where the cabs and other vehicles drop people off, there is a fountain with colored lights/water that playfully jumps around.

There were 2 female employees inside the entrance answering questions and I asked where Sage restaurant was and the one told me it was upstairs. This turned out to be a mistake as Sage was behind her about 20 feet and to the left and across from Serrano
. I can only assume she misheard me and thought I was asking about another restaurant. 

We were seated immediately for our 7pm reservation in a corner banquet. One walks through a large bar and lounge area, then through a entrance to the dining room that has stacks of enclosed wine bottles. The dining room is dark with high ceilings, mirrors on the walls and some murals. Aria itself is a dark color scheme but then we like that, remember we usually stay at THEHotel at Mandalay Bay for a few days during our trips and to me it's reminiscent of the color style there.

The menu at Sage by Chef Shawn McClain is contemporary and is based around artisanal meats, fresh produce and sustainable seafood which is what most of the higher end restaurants are doing these days.

Service was friendly and efficient during our dinner but at first I wasn't sure how I was going to enjoy it because the fragrance from the casino was floating into the dining room and while not unpleasant or as strong as Venetian sometimes can be, I was concerned it might effect the taste of our food. Fortunately we soon got used to it and was able to enjoy our meal. Randy and I both had wine with dinner, he selected a Pinot again and I went with champagne. 

The amuse was great, so great that the only photo of it I have is this: 

There is only one bread at Sage and it's a yummy bacon Baguette. If you are vegetarian, by request they will provide you with baguette's without the bacon.

Randy had the pawn appetizer which was wonderful and if we go again and it's on the menu I would be ordering it. The photo doesn't do it justice and the pawns unfortunately are hard to spot but they were there.

I had the Hawaii hearts of palm and apple salad which was very refreshing but not as good as the pawns.

Randy's main dish was turbot, a fish he had never had before and will likely not order again. There was nothing wrong with his entree, it was good but he found there are a lot of other fish he prefers over turbot.

I ordered scallops and they were excellent and I would consider having them again in the future.

Randy's dessert was apple beignets with caramel sauce and a apple cider dip on the side. 

My chocolate dome dessert was a light, airy chocolate mousse, very delicious and I wish my photo did it justice.

With dessert we had cappuccino and espresso and passed on the Absinthe cart. Yes, they feature quite a few varieties of Absinthe (mainly French) at Sage and they wheel them to your table on a cart. If you order the drink they do the complete production with spoon, sugar and water. When the green fairy or absinthe became legal recently in the USA we bought a bottle from St.George spirits which is about a hour north of where we live and after taking their distillery tour for their fruit Vodka's, whiskey and other spirits. The bottle was $85.00 and is a conversation liquor when we have dinner guests at home and do the production with the ice and such where it turns from green to white. Sage wanted $35.00 for a glass of it at their restaurant and since Absinthe glasses are small it's safe to speculate they are making a really good mark up when someone orders Absinthe. 

At the end of our meal when they present the check they also give their guests a complimentary orange infused hot chocolate shot which was very sweet and rich.

After our delicious dinner at Sage it was time to make our way to the Viva Elvis theatre which is on the second floor of Aria. While I had the opportunity when I bought the tickets to get first row that's usually not a good idea for a Cirque show so we sat midway more or less center. The seating is comfortable and the theatre is nice looking. We couldn't bring cameras in but I did get one with the Iphone, which unfortunately isn't very good. It's a photo of one of the first numbers with a giant shoe on stage while they sing "Blue Suede Shoes).

I have read another trip report that said they had some of the dancers doing something in the audience before the show like the pre-show type thing that Mystere and other Cirque shows do, however we didn't see anyone doing anything other then the professional photographers taking photos.

I enjoyed Viva Elvis but I would not go back and see it a second time like I have other Cirque shows, unless possibly it was free. The cast is good, they tell the story of Elvis from the high points of his career and the sound system is wonderful. So why didn't I love it? It's Elvis, the man is just too darn charismatic, and he's constantly overhead on the large screen, bigger then life and since we were sitting further back, mostly all I could do was focus on him. The live dancers and singers are very good, but for us, they couldn't compete with Elvis. Perhaps if the price was more around $75.00 per person I would feel differently, but for well over hundred and possible more once it's out of the preview stage I kept thinking that gee, they could put together old footage of Elvis in a show, run it at a IMax theatre, charge me $15.00 and it would have been about the same for me since I couldn't take my eyes off that screen. Randy felt the same way, but perhaps it was because we were sitting more toward the back and most of the action with the live singers and dancers was on the stage and we weren't seeing them close up. It's very possible that sitting in the first few rows where it's harder to focus on Elvis overhead that I might have had a very different experience, <shrug>.

We left Elvis having liked the show but not having been wowed. The escalator down took us of course into the back of the casino and it was time to try some of these pristine shiny slots, some which were new, at least to us. The first one we came across that drew me to put in a hundred was a WMS slot called Swords of Honor. I quickly hit 4 of the bonus symbols for a win of a couple hundred which resulted in a bunch of free spins, though I don't recall the exact number.

There were 2 machines in this bank, so after hitting the bonus on the one, I moved to the other and was surprised that the bonus kicks off with only 2 of the symbols on a line, but for less free spins then if you have 3 or more. This bonus round paid $300.00

We then walked toward the front of Aria and found 2 more of these Swords of Honor slots and hit quick bonuses on them for a couple hundred each. That's when Randy found his nemesis "Shimmer" which he always plays and it almost always takes his money. This time while I was muttering under my breathe he hit a bonus and while small it's more then that slot usually gives him.

After that we tried a video slot based on the band The Monkeys that was new to us as the only other one I've seen was a reel type at Palazzo, but I couldn't hit a bonus on it. 

We found a updated Kitty Glitter at Aria and also the slot that is basically the same game but called Maltese and has dogs in place of the cats. We had been playing on Kitty Glitter at Bellagio and losing each try for the most part, but finally had some luck on these machines for a few hundred.

While we were playing the cocktail servers were out in force and while we seldom got one to take a drink order at Bellagio, we were being asked every 5 minutes at Aria. I finally broke down, (it didn't take much breaking) and ordered a Mojito and the lady told me they had raspberry ones and I said great, I'll take that. A few minutes later, quickest service I had all trip, she brought me my Mojita but said they were out of raspberries so she made me one with blueberries and strawberries! Wow, fresh fruit in my Mojita, I can't even get that from Wynn any longer in their free drinks. It really was the best drink of the trip, tons of fresh crushed fruit, yummy!

It was past 1am now and time to head back to Bellagio to use our $250.00 free play we had from the tournament. We were both sad to leave Aria, we loved the drink service, the slots, the employees we kept encountering were all very helpful and we personally like the atmosphere there. We will be back, especially since this Tuesday morning I already had email from one of the hosts at Aria, who must have noticed our play that Sunday evening and wanted to let us know he was at our service. Of course I don't know that we would like their rooms at Aria, but if they upgrade my current offer that they sent us back in December I'll give them a try at some point.

Taking the tram back to Bellagio we walked by the conservatory and since there weren't too many people around that time of the night we took a few shots of the Chinese New Year theme. 

Of course everyone has seen this horse in the Bellagio lobby before but it was glittery so we took a shot of me next to it too.

We ended the evening by getting about $325.00 out of the $250.00 free play by playing WOZ and hitting 2 wilds, thank you Glinda, and then the Emerald City bonus where the Cowardly Lion decided to be nice to us. Stonehenge also decided to give us one last send off.

We went to bed around 3am, got up at 10:00 to pack, ate more or less the same breakfast we already report having on Saturday at the Bellagio Cafe, what can I say we're consistent with our first meal of the day.  Since we had a late check out we departed at 1pm for the airport with the cab ride only costing $15.00 on the way back. 

Check in at McCarran was quick and easy. The flight thank goodness was only delayed by 15 minutes, so I was able to avoid the slots at the airport, and instead of the storms we had left on Friday, it was now just lightly raining when we got back to San Jose. 

Fun trip for us even though we were losers at the tournament and overall for the trip. The losses did come to about $600.00 but they could have been more then double that if not for our last minute luck on Sunday.

Next trip is 2 days with my two girlfriends, February 16th and 17th. 

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