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Some very random Vegas notes (early March 2016):

Last edit: motoman on Friday, 11th March 2016 10:05 pm
Last response by motoman 16th March 11:31pm

Blackjack: On my last day I ventured over to Aria & Monte Carlo. Aria still has the cluster of shoe-dealt 3:2 S17 at south end of pit (closest to Alibi & Jean Phillipe) but daytime minimums on a Friday were $50-$100. Carta Privada (or whatever it’s called now) still had generous tables with $100-$300 minimums, as before.

Monte Carlo still had its one remaining $25 shoe-dealt 3:2 table over by the roulette wheel. I thought it was DD but now that I think about it, that stack looked maybe 4 decks thick. They’ve eliminated Surrender. Not crowded (just me and one or two other players) but still, there was some heavy play going on there. I was green chip, but two other players at different times came in with stacks of pink & black. (Weird chip colors there, as the dealer noted. Think those pinks were $1K.) Dealer told me the one guy was a regular, Noir level, Aria guest. When I had asked him why he wasn’t in High Limit with that bankroll, he said he liked the action and lower minimum at that specific table. Similar with the other player: smaller bankroll, Monte Carlo guest but knew the quality rules there.

Plenty of shoe-dealt 8 deck H17 $15 3:2 at Bally’s, in back near Cashier and Indigo Lounge. Didn’t dig deep into the rules, but IIRC they denied a RSA. Similar game at Paris was dealt from a Shufflemaster.


Aria: Gem Bar, which replaced The Deuce, is simply a belly-up bar (think: all the bars at Encore that have patrons facing the wall). The former Deuce is completely gone, the space opened up wide, with some slot machines. It really does open up the casino floor & greatly improves flow, eliminating the dark corridor formerly lined with Christopher Walken portraits that made the south casino area seem like an isolated backwater. Bartender was great, chatty, explained Max Bet requirement; then comped my Scotch before I even fed the VP machine.

The “mystery” removal of machines & carpet that was reported on VT seems to have been to define (via carpet pattern & machine placement) a clear corridor from south parking & Monte Carlo tram entrance, to the giant stairwell & escalator to restaurants & Zarkana theater / future convention space. (Former path was along wall by Poker room & Five50 Pizza, but not visually apparent.) This same carpet pattern also defines a walkway past Gem thru the former Deuce space.

The new “Tower Suites” check-in & lounge was by main valet entrance & Bell Desk near main checkin, in what a guard told me was formerly part of Bell desk and some casino space. It blends in well, so much so that I didn’t notice it except for guard by door. A giveaway to the ultra-perceptive is that the new wall is not stone, but bronzed brushed stainless steel panels that match the existing stone color palate. It has no guest elevators, but offers private checkin and is available to SkySuites guests for coffee & snacks so that they don’t have to schlep all the way across the casino for a quick recharge.


Bally’s: our standard double room was quite large, as noted in VT’s description. Not Wynn size, but much larger than a standard room at Aria or just about anywhere else. Carpet a bit worn, but room was clean and it’d do just fine for a cheapo stay or business trip. If I had a comp for a slight discount at the clusterfluck that is Caesars, or a free room at Bally’s? Bally’s in a heartbeat. Cromwell next door, Bellagio across the street connecting to Aria & MC via Vdara. Perfect.

Met our housekeeper who said she’d been there since 1979 — when it was MGM Grand, and even before the infamous fire. She was very good, spoke fluent English (!), didn’t mind chatting, and even showed me several other room layouts including the remodeled bathtub suite someone posted before-and-after pics of here. She mentioned the Jubilee (née South) Tower rooms were very nicely renovated and included coffeemakers. We left her a nice tip of course, and noted her name for the post-visit survey Caesars emails.

Caught last half of a Craps lesson at Cromwell. Nice dealer, friendly and pro-player. Still too fast a game for me, yet. Giada’s is a beautiful space and with the mild weather the glass walls were open making the outer seating area into a balcony overlooking the busy Flamingo intersection & Bellagio lake. I take back my guffaw and will give this place a try for their new weekend brunch, if only for the atmosphere and my brother’s Giada infatuation. (I suspect these are the real reasons for the restaurant’s success, vs. Guy Fieri’s which lacking the wonderful location and boner-inducing marquee chef, has to rely on the “quality” of the offerings.) [edit: Or not. Do I need to say "/s"? I'm just surprised Fieri's is still there....]


As pissed as I was about the stupid PGP, it is now clear I’m a hopeless Vegas addict and will be back. (But I’m now open to alternatives to the Mlife PGP sodomy.)

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 motoman responded on Thursday, 10th March 2016

Forgot to mention:
There's already some confusion about Aria's new "Tower Suites" lobby / lounge. As I was chatting with the guard a fellow rolled up with his suitcase, cellphone stuck to his ear, asking "Where's Sky Suites??"

[edit] How could this happen?! When you book SkySuites that limo (pearl white stretch Caddy or pearl white Escalade !!) brings you right up that private drive in back, directly to the SkySuites lobby....

#BuyAClue

And another thing, everyone: put the goddamn cellphone down when you're doing something else -- walking, DRIVING, wheeling a dang suitcase while wrestling a backpack & coat like this fellow....

 hurlshot responded on Thursday, 10th March 2016

I am also infatuated with Giada. I ask if she is there every time we visit. But other than that, it is also a pretty great meal that doesn't overstuff me, and for some reason they always place us right at the windows so we can watch all the activity on Flamingo.

 brt374 responded on Friday, 11th March 2016

I've always found Vegas housekeepers to be some of the nicest in the business. Did the one you spoke to happen to mention if she was working/scheduled to work the day of the MGM Grand fire? Thanks for the updates on the Aria renovations as well.

 motoman replied on Friday, 11th March 2016

Hi brt374,

I specifically did *not* want to ask specifics about the fire... those photos someone linked here from the fire dept's investigation were chilling, to say the least.

Also, I was trying to judge if she really was old enough to have been working that job since '79, and would've stayed through all the ownership changes. But, she said in the same breath "Almost 37 years!!" so I guess so. We even chatted a bit about the real estate situation in town. She said some of the folks who lost big time owned multiple houses (so screw 'em, anyway). I couldn't believe there was that big a rental market, but then it's not tourists, it's all the new people that were moving into town during the (fake) boom. (My mom's friend has lived near Henderson for almost two decades, renting the entire time. Missed out on the boom, but also the bust!)

I guess the Aria stuff has been on the interwebs for a few months now, but this is the first time I've seen the place since last August before all the changes. In fairness to Mr. Clueless Self-Important Cell Phone Chatter, I guess he might've driven to the hotel or transferred from another hotel, thus missed out on the limo ride. I expect the dual VIP lounges will cause confusion for awhile. This was the first I'd heard that Sky Suites guests could use the Tower lounge.

 motoman responded on Friday, 11th March 2016

Another random bit:

Encore has given in and totally embraced its new image. Gift shop sells fedoras, and T-shirts with not butterflies or paisleys but.... enormous speakers & a DJ workstation. Threw up a little in my mouth at the sight of that. Staff still likes to commiserate about the "good ol' days." Those magical first 8 or 9 months....

 motoman replied on Wednesday, 16th March 2016

Yet another bit:
Vdara has added tables to the elevator lobby. They're the tall tables with bar stool-height chairs. A few conventioneers were having their Starbucks and working there.

I've liked Vdara and had it as backup choice for when Sky Suites is out of the question. But with PGP causing removal of the in-room Keurigs and Penthouse / Loft airport limo transfer (what's next, a fee for using the refrigerator in your kitchen? Coin-op for your microwave?), it's gonna be fewer trips and maybe Tower Suites for the backup. At least you get your coffee....