Viva Las Vegas

Here is the “full” report from our trip to Vegas last week…

Newly Noticed

A slew of new restaurants have appeared on the Strip.  At Treasure Island, Gilley’s has opened just adjacent to, and south of, the pirate ship lagoon. At Caesar’s, there’s Serendipity 3.

Planet Hollywood has PBR Rockbar and Grill, which has proclaimed to be home to the baddest mechanical bull on the Strip. Vegas regulars will recognize it as the site of the former Hawaiian Tropic Zone. Also new to PH is the legendary Hollywood hot dog icon Pink’s. (I’ll stick to Casino Royale’s foot long dog for just $1.99.)

Paris has a huge Sugar Factory which includes a dining room.  We noticed at least two other, smaller Sugar Factory candy-only storefronts on the Strip including Mirage on the North Strip.


Although we have way too much Vegas themed apparel, low prices induced us to add to our collection. I picked up a World Series of Poker T-shirt at Caesar’s and since the price per shirt dropped if we bought two, Susie decided to get one too (but not WSOP).

The Cirque Viva  Elvis store was clearing out a dozen older shirts (in small size only) for just $7 each so we each jumped on that deal since that’s our size.  I pity the fool who would pass up two Vegas icons (Elvis and Cirque) for less than $10.

Finally, Rainforest Cafe at MGM had their perennial sale of “two for $20” (up from $15) and while we have a  lot of those shirts there was a very nice Tiger shirt with Chinese characters for Susie so I picked a different shirt out for me so we could get the deal. Otherwise, it was $15 for one shirt. (I think these Rainforest Cafe shirts, most of which have “MGM Las Vegas” on them are the “best value” Vegas souvenir.)


Our Vegas dining is a mix of tradition and opportunism.  Tradition includes a steak dinner, which we enjoyed at Hard Rock’s Mr. Lucky Cafe.  Susie surprised me by finishing off all of her $7.77 Gambler’s Special 8-ounce steak and three large grilled shrimp.  I had her salad and helped her on the fries.  I checked out the $9.99 “all you can eat” prime rib but one slice (it looked to be 10-12 ounces) was all I could handle since it came with a generous portion of broccoli.

Another tradition is Filipino, which is usually at Pinoy Pinay but we didn’t have a car the first day so we went with a place on the Strip at Hawaiian Village.  Their pancit and lechon weren’t as good as Pinoy Pinay and they had no real dessert or coconut juice but it satisfied.

Opportunism came in the form of “senior day” (Tuesdays) at Orleans. Orleans card holders get a voucher for “buy one get one free” on the breakfast or lunch buffet and so we checked out the latter.  The buffet was $9 but I had a $15 food credit as part of our deal and used that.

The French Market buffet features seven “stations” (including American, Chinese, Mexican, and Mongolian) plus salad and dessert bars. I focused on the roast beef, shrimp and ribs.  I was impressed by their extensive dessert bar which featured all sorts of pies, cakes, and a dozen flavors of gelato. I had the coconut gelato…twice.

During the senior day buffet, Orleans placed vouchers by the cashier which offered $5 off per person on any entree at any of the Orleans restaurants. These vouchers were only valid for the following Wednesday and Thursday.  So we used it for breakfast Thursday morning. We each had the ham steak and eggs, which featured a slice of ham almost the size of the plate, two eggs, hash browns (which were on top of the ham since there was no room left on the plate), and toast. After the $5 discount, it came to $3 each but we still had $5 food credit so we paid $1 plus tax and tip.

Opportunism mixed with tradition when we dined at P. F. Chang’s (Planet Hollywood casino), where we usually enjoy a light dinner of lettuce wraps. This trip, I also had a $10 gift card from a phone purchase.  So we visited during happy hour, when they have a  discount menu. We split one order of lettuce wraps and added two orders of dumplings. My six “flaming” dumplings had some bite but were definitely not what I’d consider fiery. Susie went with shrimp and pork dumplings.

Thursday evening, we wanted a light dinner after Jersey Boys let out about 9 PM (it’s a two hour show) because we were still a bit full from that ham steak breakfast. There’s a Denny’s near the Palazzo, where the show is, but we passed since they did not (a) carry the the $2-$4-$6-$8 menu and (b) no 20% discount for seniors. But the place was pretty full since it is a “bargain” for a non-fast food Strip restaurant.

But a few steps away was a small food court with a Chipolte Grill. (One of these has just come to where I live.) They have the largest burritos I’ve ever seen. Forget Qdoba or Moe’s, Chipolte Grill is the Godzilla of burritos.

And for enquiring minds….I lost 3-4 pounds and now weigh 164, down from 170 about two weeks ago. (I lost 3-4 pounds before we left by walking during lunch.)


We caught two big production shows and two smaller shows.  All involved music and three were “oldies” oriented.

The first show was Cirque’s “Viva Elvis” at the new Aria Casino. We’ve seen Mystere, which I did not care for at all since it was entirely acrobatics and KA, which I enjoyed because it told a story and the acrobatics were the story line. To my surprise, “Viva Elvis” mixed the two styles. So I enojoyed some parts of it but not other parts.  And when you’re paying $100 a ticket (and that’s discounted), you want to enjoy ALL of the show.

The folks sitting next to us at “Viva Elvis” recommended the next two shows to us.  The first was an afternoon show with Ryan Ahern.  He won the International Liberace Competition twice, the first time when he was just 16.  For $15 a ticket (using a half-price voucher in the tourist mags), we were treated to over an hour of great piano including boogie woogie, rock and film tunes.  He delivered a great rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I enjoyed the show so much I bought the CD.

I was very skeptical of seeing  Human Nature, four white Aussies singing Motown.  But the show’s title is “Smoky Robinson Presents Human Nature”  and Smoky would not “present” just any Motown singers.  So…

Believe me, these four white boys can sing and their show is one of the most pumped up I’ve ever seen.  The three song finale, which includes “ABC” and “Baby, I Need Your Loving'”” gets the audience on its feet. See this show!  (The showroom is a smaller “nightclub” size venue which is perfect for this type of show.) Here’s a YouTube video of them doing “Stop in the Name of Love!”

Although the tickets were “only” 30% off and still over $100 for the balcony (but we were third row) we finally saw Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Oh, what a night! (and an interesting history of the group). Check out this video of the group.


Susie played and lost the $15 slot credit we were given as part of our deal. But she won $20 on a quarter machine using her own money. She lost that the next day and a a bit more. She dropped down to the nickle machines and ended up less than $50 down for the trip.

I played my first tournament Monday at Harrah’s.  A $60 buy-in gets you 6,000 chips.  It was a tight group and I knew I was on the way out after losing twice with Kings preflop to a caller with an Ace, which came up on the flop each time. (For the mathematically challenged, the preflop odds of KK beating an unsuited A is about 71%, so for me to lose twice….) I felt the pain of a woman who made a “standard” raise of 4x the big blind and one caller went all-in. She had AA; he had A-J unsuited. But by the river, he backed into a flush.

Now some folks will take those three examples and say that poker is just luck. But I’ll play all those three hands the same way every time and over the long run I will win. The math is NEVER wrong over time.

My second and final tournament was on our last day at Mirage. A $60 buy-in gets you 5,000 chips but I like this game better than Harrah’s because Harrah’s starts the ante sooner than Mirage.  Those antes make a big difference in play, because even at 25 ante, that’s 250 more in the pot in addition to the blinds.

Unlike Harrah’s, I got junk most of the game and eventually went out because just from the blinds. But I lasted longer than a number of aggressive players whose “gut” told them to call strong players.

One of those strong players was on my left, so it was difficult for me to come into the game unless I had a very strong hand because he bet after me. If he had a good hand, he was putting in a big raise, and had the chips for that, while I was so low on chips I could call only with a strong pair.

A part of Vegas history ends in about a week when The Sahara, where the Rat Pack performed and the Beatles stayed, closes. Many Vegas casinos have been closed to make way for a newer casino but at this time there are no plans for a casino to replace The Sahara. Hopefully, once the economy recovers, the Sahara can be the start of the revitalization of the north Strip, which is needed.  I wonder how much longer other north Strip casinos such as Circus Circus and Riviera can hold on…

Viva Las Vegas!


7 responses to “Viva Las Vegas

  1. I gained 3 pounds reading what you ate, did you walk to L.A. at lunch time?

  2. Glad you had a good time in Vegas. And that you got to see Jersey Boys. I think I would have enjoyed the Rat Pack when I was younger but overall I have just not been interested in going. I always found someone else to go to those trade shows and opted for new York, Chicago and California instead. I have nothing against gambling or anything else that I know about Vegas it just isn’t my thing. Now if the Noles played a game there it might make my bucket list.

  3. Interestingly, before we went to Vegas for the first time, as jump off point for a three week trip into the Southern Utah parks, I didn’t think I’d like Vegas either. But one day there at the start and end of the trip changed my mind real quick! Better hope the Noles never make it to March Madness… you may go mad over Vegas!

    Of the four shows, I enjoyed Jersey Boys best. And you’re right the “history” story line was much better than your standard “tribute” show. learned a lot about the group. But for “value”, Human Nature” was top and they are just a “tribute” group. But lots of energy in that show.

    Where in Tampa Bay area did you see Jersey Boys? The Palazzo’s Jersey Boys theater has a capacity of 1,100 but the show we were at was probably not more than 900. I felt sorry for the folks in the nosebleed zone. The fourth and fifth row center balcony were completely empty except for about six seats. That was probably the casino’s “comp” ticket area for the high rollers. At intermission, a few folks in higher rows moved into those seats.

  4. We saw Jersey boys at the TBPAC which seats 10K. The show was a sell out. I didn’t decide to go till 2 weeks before when I saw a 2pm matinée. When I went on line to get tickets, fully intending to economize, there were less than 20 adjoining seats available. So I ended up spending $300 and we sat in the 10th row of the orchestra, just far enough back so the spit wouldn’t hit us but had an ideal show experience. I felt sorry for the mezzanine folks too.

    I have seen a ton of Broadway Shows in New York, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Tampa Bay. The only one a would rank higher than JB is Les Miz which is simply the best of the best. Part of my love for JBs is that I grew up listening to them and I am just a music freak anyway.

    As for Vegas I admit to having a closed mind, I have flown over it I think and that was close enough.

    • 10,000 seats in TBPAC? So I saw it in an “intimate” venue…lol

      Never seen Lez Miz….that may be too “old” to come to Vegas. I don’t think it was even showing in NY when we were there last year.

  5. OK I exaggerated. Carol Morsani Hall only seats 2610. But it looks like 10K from the front. There are 3 other smaller theaters as well, for more intimate performances. The big shows play at Carol Morsani.

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