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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.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Venetian Slot Tournament, then Encore on 1/23/2008 to 1/28/2008

This trip was one of the few where we forgot to bring a camera so no photos, sorry!

We had a late Friday evening 9:50 flight on SW out of San Jose. My husband makes computer games and usually works until 8pm or so, but came home early for him around 7:30pm so we made it to the airport just in time. Our Southwest flight was on time and also did a very speedy flight of approximately an hour. Arrived in Vegas at 11pm and for a change our luggage was not the last off the flight and of course this time of the evening there wasn't a line for a cab so things are going smoothly. I told the driver to take us via Koval, which he did. There wasn't any construction but it might have been faster on a late Friday evening to take the strip as the back way into the Venetian after their security check points were wall to wall cabs and limos with I'm guessing people going to Tao and other clubs. Cost of cab was $21.00 before tip. 

Invited guest check- in had no line so check in went quickly but they seem to have put all the slot tournament invitees into rooms in the Venezia tower and no availability where we stayed last time right off the casino floor. While it's lovely walking the 1 mile to our room which was VB 8529, it's a very long walk and you have to take 2 different elevators to get to your room. Fortunately we are in shape and can do the walk, but I can't imagine what it was like for anyone out of shape. Late night Friday at the Venetian one is dealing with a lot of drunk noisy college age adults. Fortunately most of them clear out on Sunday. Our suite was as usual nice and all the ameneties were in place. It's now a little past midnight and we have to get up early at 7am so DH can register for tomorrow's slot tournament at 8am, but we decide to go see if our luck is in, unfortunately we seem to have forgotten to pack it! 

Found the Star Trek machines right away near the entrance to the casino and off to the side of the GoldFish machines. Machine ate $100 very quickly. Moved to my beloved Goldfish and no luck there. Found the Happy Day Slots and wasn't so happy though we did get some free spins about 15 with the silver record, nothing hit and the win was more of a loss. Walking to the end of the casino where it connects to the walkway for restaurants, shows and Palazzo we found where they move our favorite DarkSide Star Wars machine but a lady was winning on it, so we didn't get to try it our first evening. They also had more Star Trek machines here. 

Walked over to the Palazzo and immediately upon entering spotted Wizard of Oz and Dirty Harry Slots. WOZ was all filled but there was a spot at Dirty Harry so we started playing that and since our luck wasn't doing too well decided not to play the usual full credits but about 1.50 a spin. Immediately we got 2 helicopter fly overs that paid moderately, so went to full credits and of course machine dies on us though we did get one chase bonus that was fun before it ended with the wrong selection by us. 

Since we never had a cocktail waitress come by at the Venetian we did manage to get one at the Palazzo and DH had a margarita and I went with a mojita. The woman to our right on the WOZ machine was only playing about 60 cents but having a great time with bonus after bonus and said she was up to $200 on a $20 she put in the machine. While we were playing security and one of the ladies who was cleaning in the area stood behind her and was watching and the minute they left, the WOZ machine went completely black. I've had machines break down and do the call Attendent message before but never a black screen like this, where you couldn't use the call button. After the lady used the button of the machine next to her and no one came for 10 minutes, we told her we would watch her stuff and she managed to track a slot attendant down who fixed her machine. After that her luck went south and she lost her winnings. We were also losing so left a bit after she did but tried a few spins on her WOZ machine in case Glinda wanted to pay us a visit. Glinda though was on a break, so we left. 

It was getting late, but we found another bank of Star Trek machines at Palazzo and couldn't resist trying it, but even though this one was kind enough to give us a bonus we picked poorly again and lost. Before going back to the room to sleep as it was 3am now we found Wolf Run which is a personal favorite and played it for a few minutes. Finally we were lucky, got a screen of the blue howling wolfs and a win of $355.00 so we're now only down about a hundred for the night. 

Hiked back to the room to get a few hours sleep before DH has to do tournament registration.

January 24th

We usually sleep in to 11am on Vegas trips since we go to bed late, but we had to get up at 7am so my husband could register for the Race to the Payline Slot tournament. Before the trip I had asked where he should go to register and was told Bellini Ballroom 2101AB and I double checked on that the day before we left. Unfortunately the information was incorrect and after going there and finding nada we went to the player's club where they had a sign up directing us to an area adjacent to the high limit slot salon. The line to register wasn't very long and he was giving a slot time of 11:20am and then later in the day one around 4:20pm. 

We went to Grand Lux for breakfast forgetting about their early morning buffet since we normally aren't there that early and ended up ordering breakfast off the menu since the waiter didn't mention the buffet. We finally remembered it as we saw people at other tables getting up and returning with food. We had omelets and they were fine, but would have preferred the buffet. 

Slots that morning continued to be on the losing side, but DH's first session at the tournament was fairly good. 

After the tournament took a cab to NYNY where we went to the VIP lounge to check in to a player's suite. We weren't using the suite ourselves of course but had friends arriving at 3:30 that were going to use it for 3 nights. Our NYNY offer had 500 free play so after activating it at the player's club we found a wolf run across from the regular room registration desk and hit a few lucky streaks on it enough to take out the $500.00 free play in cash along with another $100.00. About this time we get the bad news that our friends flight is delayed so I walk DH to the MGM monorail where he takes it to Harrahs to walk back to the Venetian in time for his next session at the tournament and I proceed to lose about $300.00 in the slots at NYNY while waiting for our friends. 

Friends finally arrive and I take them to the suite which they like. For those who haven't stayed at NYNY the players suite is nice. The bathroom is on the small side and in this suite was on the right after entering the room and there was a large jacuzzi tub immediately after it. Then 2 queen beds with TV, and then the living room area with a second TV and dining table. Suite was more or less a L shape. TV's were old, but then again who goes to Vegas to watch TV? In this case I guess my friends who don't gamble.

After leaving friends I took a cab back to Venetian and DH had a very good slot tournament session high person of his round and he was guessing he might be among the top 10 percent so far. 

We had a 7:30 dinner reservation at Woo's at the Palazzo for tonight (Saturday) but due to only having had a few hours sleep decided to go early at 5:30pm. We were immediately seated, but were surprised that the restaurant was almost filled since it's pricey, portions are small and business is down in Vegas. We eaten at Woo's before and enjoyed it and it didn't disappoint this time either. We did overhear a server telling the table next to us which was 2 elderly ladies that they would be changing their menu soon and it sounded like they were going to dishes that included a larger portion size and away from their currently small ones, so perhaps they are feeling the pinch of the economy on business when it's not a Saturday night. 

We played a few more slots tonight at both Palazzo and Venetian but weren't getting any wins and since we were tired we went back to the room at 9pm which is a Vegas first for us. We watched Body of Lies on pay per view and then went to sleep. 

January 25th

We made it down to the Grand Lux around 10am and remembered the buffet today. I like this buffet as it has a nice breakfast selection but not a huge one where I'm tempted to over eat. 

After breakfast it was time for my husband's last tournament session. Unfortunately he had the worse session of anyone during that time period and went from possibly being in the money down to about 60th place which is completely out of the prize money. That should have been a warning that our luck was a bit out at the Venetian that day but we went to Goldfish, Star Trek, Star Wars the Dark Side and were on a losing streak that was starting to make me rather grumpy, or perhaps I should say turning me into a bitter gambler! Finally deciding to quit for a while until after the tournament reception I was walking by the Ebay machine which only had one chair open and quickly lost a $20 in that, however as it was timing me off, the bonus round hit. We were at 10x and a couple good spins came up so we ended up cashing out at almost $100.00. Hopeful our luck was changing, we walked over to the Palazzo for the 4pm reception at Lamborghini. 

Venetian Slot tournaments are not impressive. Read my trip reports on the Bellagio Slot Tournaments to see the difference between the two styles of tournaments. We did walk by several Lamborghini's on display, and down below there were more. The downstairs room was packed by 4:15 and most of us were left standing, though the announcer encouraged some to also go upstairs, but the little food that was offered was only downstairs and consisted of chicken skewers, bread sticks with prosciutto and phyllo cups with something in them. Knowing that DH's last score put him out of the running for anything we decided to leave early and went over early to NYNY where we had plans to meet our friends at 7pm. 

At NYNY our luck did change and we played Alfred Hitchcock, Mermaid's Gold and Wolf Run with the 2 former hitting lots of bonuses and we were starting to get back most of the money we had lost. Feeling a bit more hopeful we met our friends and went off to Craftsteak at MGM. 

We had our NYNY casino host make the reservations and we did get an excellent table. We had selected Craftsteak because back in September we had one of their tasting menus and the service and food was outstanding. This time we ordered ala carte and the service was very spotty. I had the shaved fennel salad, my husband the Caesar Salad both which were good. Unfortunately my Filet Mignon, and my husband's Kobe Skirt Steak which were ordered medium came out rare. We sent them back and they came back medium rare, at which point we gave up on getting them cooked medium since whoever was in the kitchen that evening obviously was either incompetent to cook a steak or had some sort of objection to serving them medium. Our friends had chicken and the short ribs and they did enjoy the short ribs but said the chicken wasn't anything better then they would have had at home. Our sides were asparagus and Yukon whipped potatoes and were fine. 

While we were going to order dessert but we discovered at this time our friends had to pick up their tickets at willcall to the Criss Angel 10pm show and hadn't read the directions that said at least a hour before, so we were off and running to be there at 9pm so they didn't lose their tickets. Having picked up their tickets we played a few slots at Luxor before the show and hit a bonus game on a Kenny Rogers machine and that was about it. 

There's been a lot of negativity regarding "Believe" but since DH and I had already seen every Cirque show we had decided to go anyway and we had purchased our tickets at a discount on travelzoo. Our friends who bought last minute tickets on travelzoo had never seen a Cirque show before so I was regretting we weren't taking them to one that we already knew was a winner and was hoping that the revamp I had read about that they had done during the 3 week break of "Believe" earlier in the month was going to help the show. None of us by the way are Criss Angel fans and we've never seen MindFreak. I've seen Lance Burton and David Copperfield in the past but I wasn't expecting a magic show with Cirque. The audience had a lot of fans in it, because they went crazy for Criss when he comes out at the beginning and mingles with some of the audience. Bottom line is our friends liked the show and we thought it was fine. I'm not sure which of the 5 stunts were added that weren't there before, other then the last one they do after the curtain calls which Criss said was one of his harder MindFreak tricks. Without spoiling it for anyone it was a cool stunt and one we weren't sure how he pulled off. 

After the show we went back to NYNY where our friends went off to their suite and we continued to play slots with enough luck that we were back even for the trip. We took a cab back to Venetian as it was about 3am at this time and did the 2 mile trek back to our suite and called it a night. 

January 26th

Finally get to sleep in until 10am. Breakfast at Grand Lux again, where I finally get to order lunch (I'm not a fan of breakfast type food) while my husband gets his usual breakfast of eggs and meat. I ordered the salmon 3 ways which is a personal favorite of mine and it was great like usual. 

After eating we walked to Encore to check in for our free 3 night comp stay, stopping at a few machines on the way with no real wins. During the walk we came across Palazzo's living statue show which seemed fine for a free show. Not sure I would ever sit down and wait for it. We also saw the vine ladies a few times on our walk in the fountain area between V and P. Sometimes there was only one, other times two of them, and always with a photographer on hand in case you wanted your photo taken with them. 

We found the registration desk at Encore fairly easily but there were long lines at around 1pm. The hosts standing around though helped keep the lines moving so we only waited for about 5 minutes. If there were invited guest check in lines we didn't notice them. We ended up with a King Resort room on the 19th floor facing the south part of the strip. The room lived up to the descriptions and photos we have seen posted by others. During our stay there housekeeping was efficient and everything worked for us. They did forget the delivery of the newspapers our first overnight there, but the other 2 mornings both were hanging on our door (NYT and LVR). Our 2nd day there a maintenance man knocked on the door as we were leaving to replace a closet light that housekeeping had reported so they certainly seem to be trying to maintain those famous Wynn standards. 

I had forgotten to mention previously that when we first checked into the Venetian our safe wasn't working and we needed more hangers. I called that morning at 7am before we left to register DH for slot Tournament and before we left the room at 8am, the man was there to repair the safe (successfully, just needed new battery) and housekeeping came and gave me a bunch of hangers. Very speedy service so perhaps it pays to call early in the morning. 

After checking in at Encore we went to the player's desk and received the $200 free play on my card. My husband had his red card checked and found he had 4 buffets coming to him. Deciding to test our luck at Encore we quickly found the Zeus II slot that had been mentioned in a TR we read before our trip and we immediately hit one of those spin things on it and our screen filled up with Zeus before it ended all but 2 spots for a $300 plus win. That was the last time on the trip we had any real luck with Zeus II or the bank of machines with it at Encore and it wasn't for lack of trying. In fact the next night we witnessed in the same bank of machines a man hit a hand pay on the slot that features griffins. 

After that we walked back through Wynn, stopped at a Wolf's Run and played the remaining free play through it and cashed out on the free play about $400 plus. Hopeful our luck was changing at last, we left to check out early from the Venetian (we had 4 comped nights there) so we wouldn't have to get up the next morning and do it. Check out at Venetian was easy, we used the desk at the towers that never had any lines. We then took a cab with our luggage back to Encore and unpacked. Now it was time to meet our friends downstairs for our 7pm dinner reservation at Switch. There was a bit of confusion at first of where they were because Encore has 2 drop up points for taxis, one near registration which is where we mistakenly thought was the only pick up and drop off point and another one near the restaurants and one of the gorgeous flower displays. 

Switch was busy but we were able to get the upper level that I requested. All of us were entertained briefly by the walls and ceilings changing (now every 30 minutes instead of 20) but the servers no longer change their vests. Service was fine, but not as good as we have experienced at Mix, 
Bradley Ogden, SW steakhouse and other Vegas restaurants in that price range. Perhaps they will compare when they have been in business for a few more months. I ordered the lobster salad which I loved, my husband a Caesar which was fine, our friends the lobster bisque which they didn't care for that much because they prefer white based soups instead of red. Two of us had the scallops with oxtail and while good it was sort of a odd taste the mixture of scallops with the richness of the beefy oxtail. My husband had a filet and this time it was cooked as ordered, though he had to ask for the sea salt which normally at this type of restaurant is on the table or brought out with the steak. We also had sweet potato fries and they are fantastic! I can't recall what my girlfriend had but it must have been good because she didn't complain about it. One big disappointment at Switch was they have already taken the chocolate souffle off their dessert menu which is one of the reasons I chose to eat there. The desserts we ordered were good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The bottle of Cabernet my girlfriend and I shared was excellent and I wish I could recall which one it was because it was one of the reasonably priced ones on the menu at $44.00. 

After dinner we took a cab with our friends back to NYNY since they were checking out tomorrow. We shared some port and chocolates with them in their suite and then left them to hit the slots for the last time at NYNY. Luck this trip for us was mainly at NYNY, though we didn't give them our normal amount of play so I suspect our host is not thrilled with us. The main reason for that wasn't that we were staying at other hotels this trip but since last September they have removed most of our favorite slots such as Star Wars, Wizard of OZ (and they didn't replace WOZ with Dirty Harry, Star Trek or anything themed that I could find unless it was the Happy Days slots), Wheel of Fortune and the few they have left such as Alfred Hitchcock, Mermaids Gold and Goldfish, were always packed with people playing 40 cents on them and the only time we had a shot of playing them was after 1am like this night. Anyway we're playing full credits on them and going from the ones mentioned above to a couple Wolf Runs we think are lucky and ended up winning about $600.00 which at this point with the earlier win at Encore/Wynn puts us about even for the trip. We had one of our larger Alfred Hitchcock bonuses when we hit the shower curtain at 5X with the birds and it paid $200.00 for a $3.50 bet. 

It's almost 4am when the cab drops us off at Encore, so we go to the room to crash and my husband discovers he has left his cell phone recharger plugged in back at the Venetian. At this point we call them and they haven't given the room out to anyone yet, so he makes the long trek back to them, security escorts him to the room and he's able to recover his cell phone recharger. DH did have 3 ladies try to hook up with him (for a price) on the walk over to the V and back to Encore. We saw our fair share of hookers this trip as always but since I usually with him, this was the only time during our trip he was propositioned. 

January 27th and 28th

This was the day we had to ourselves without worrying about meeting anyone for anything. We went to Society Cafe for breakfast for DH and brunch for me. Society Cafe at Encore was busy but we had a wonderful server who was terrific. We immediately were served their signature homemade potato chips with onion dip and pretzel bread with mustard butter, and thought both were yummy. Husband ordered eggs, sausage and potatoes, and enjoyed that. I had the organic Turkey chopped veggie salad and it was also delicious. 

The evening before I canceled our reservation for Bortero's. Bortero's is someplace I will want to try in the future but we had already had 3 expensive dinners and wanted to try 2 of the free buffets on my husband's card. After eating we went to the red card desk and activated 2 buffets and line passes for dinner that evening. I then went to the Concierge desk where they logged on to SW airlines for me on the dot and got us A25 and A26 boarding passes. 

After getting our boarding passes, we walked through Wynn and then across the street to the Fashion Mall which was a first for both of us. We normally just don't shop in Vegas as there is plenty of malls and such near where we live. I was looking for the Wynn booth as reported in someone else's TR and found it fairly quickly near the downstairs entrance to Neiman Marcus. Both of us got a scratch off ticket, mine was for a spin on the Wynn/Encore wheels and DH's was for $10.00 off at Sugar and Ice. 

Walking through Neiman Marcus we went across to Treasure Island where I activated our $50.00 free play offer. This was sent to us via email with an offer of a suite if we stayed there for 3 nights with $300.00 free play and $150.00 food credit, or if you didn't stay there, they would give you the $50.00 free play. We played the $50.00 free play through Goldfish and Wolf Run and got it back in cash but then ended up giving it back to them on a top dollar machine. TI was very smokey to me so we left and took the tram to Mirage and from there walked to Bellagio. 

During the walk from Mirage to Bellagio we passed a group of porn slappers who all tried to give my husband one of their cards. Normally when I'm with him they don't do that and I was a bit insulted by it. 

Bellagio was a mistake, we played all our former lucky machines there, such as Alfred Hitchcock, GoldFish, Emerald Eyes hot hot penny, DaVinci Diamonds and Life of Luxury and lost on all of them. We're now down about $2,000.00 for the trip. We were only at the Bellagio in the first place so my husband could get his favorite drink at Olives, which he swears makes the best Margarita in Vegas. We did drown our losses at the Olives bar, myself with the peppered Bloody Mary and him with his Margarita. While at the Bellagio we went to the Conservatory and admired the Chinese New Year Theme and watched a bit of the Pandas on the video displays. 

After drinks at Olives, we walked back to Encore and went to the red desk to find out about my free spin from the scratch off card we got at their booth at the Fashion Mall. Turns out you can only do this once and since I had never spun before due to them not having that feature when I originally got my red card I was allowed to do it after they checked their records carefully. I ended up winning 2 buffets that came without a line pass and had to be used within 24 hours, so our breakfast plans for tomorrow were now arranged. We didn't have my husband turn in his scratch off card as we decided to try and get another one for him next trip and see if he could get one that had a spin on the wheel too. 

It was time to eat and the Wynn buffet around 7:30pm was packed with long lines. The invited line was only about 20 deep, so I was glad we had the line pass. The crab legs and shrimp was great as was the seabass and salmon. They had a lot of pork dishes, possibly because of Chinese New Year? My husband only went down one side of the dessert bar and ended up with what I considered the boring desserts. :) On the opposite side they were creating made to order dessert crepes and had mini key line pies, mousses, bread puddings and lots of cookies. 

After dinner we couldn't get near what we consider our lucky Wolf Run machine at Wynn as there was a gentleman glued to it betting 30 cents and who was hitting rows of wilds. Not sure why on that streak he didn't increase his bet a bit. We walked over to the Palazzo, had a bit of luck on Wolf Run there and then played a Wizard of Oz machine that was new to us with reels and 4 different rows of progressives. One type of machine has a special tornado feature and the other has Glinda. We played Glinda but she was on break and didn't pay us a visit. We did hit their version of the Emerald City bonus which was a series of free spins and during that we hit a retrigger and a bunch of emerald symbols which you collect to later pick emeralds with with the spins end. We ended up with 19 emeralds and there were only 20 to pick from so we got all the characters and amounts of money with the exception of one which was $8.00. Here I got confused and when they brought up the last row of 5 picks I thought since we had all the characters we got to select all of them so without thinking about it, I hit the first one on the end and it was the lion which only doubled the amount we won, where if we had picked Dorothy we would have likely ended up with a hand pay. However we got about $350.00 from that bonus which was great after our run of bad luck at Bellagio. 

Before leaving Palazzo we also got lucky with a Star Trek machine that hit about 4 bonus rounds for us, but we picked poorly during them and didn't win much, however it was fun while it lasted. 

Back at Wynn the Wolf Run was finally free and still a bit lucky as we ended up with about a $400.00 win from it. Unfortunately during the walk back to our room at Encore, we stopped at Zeus II and then Dirty Harry and WOZ, and gave it all back. 

The next morning we eat at the buffet about 10am and there wasn't a line. I was surprised to see both the crab legs and shrimp out for breakfast as they don't change over to lunch until later. 

After breakfast we couldn't resist trying a few of our favorites since we are normally lucky on the morning we are leaving, but this trip no luck out the door. Back at the room, check out via TV was not working, so I called the front desk and they did it by phone. I like the fact that check out at Encore is noon as most of the hotels have 11am unless we call for a late check out via our host. 

The cab ride and checking in our luggage went quickly. Turns out our flight was running 50 minutes late, but it could have been worse. Easy flight back once we did get to board and while we didn't win, we came home with about a fourth of the bankroll we took, so that could have been worse too. We're thinking of going back the end of March but if that doesn't work out then we'll be back in May to celebrate our anniversary. 

Thanks for reading! 

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