Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Room Pics!!

We are here, checked in and VERY impressed by everything we have seen so far. The place is just stunning! From the ever changing pillars in the lobby to the 3 story crystal chandelier, everything is absolutely gorgeous.

The room is as nice as everything else we have seen. We are on th 68th floor of the "Eastside" Tower (closest to the strip) and have an incredible view of City Center and everything south. The room is filled with all of the whiz-bang technology found in ARIA and I will do a full review shortly but the one cool feature of the room is a large cutaway in the wall between the living area and bathroom. Pretty interesting... I will also get full public areas pics posted later this evening. For now, enjoy pics of a Cosmopolitan Terrace Suite.

Cosmopolitan Room Pictures

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Golden Nugget Review with Room and Pool Pictures

After getting a late check out from the Flamingo, we moved downtown for a night at the Golden Nugget. We were booked in Carson Tower room and used the "best rate guarantee" that I posted about a few weeks ago to get the room for $36 after they matched and took off 10% extra. We arrived at the back valet for the new Rush Tower and asked at the empty front desk if they could check us into the Carson Tower. She did and we were on our way in just minutes. Avoiding the main valet and front desk is definitely the way to go at the Golden Nugget.

We were in a double on the 12th floor overlooking the Plaza and immediately upon walking into the room, everything just felt much nicer than what we had the night before. In addition to the beds were 2 comfy chairs and a table, a large flat screen TV and a make up desk with mirror. While the decor wouldn't be something I would put in my house, it was all clean and in good condition with no stains or damage anywhere. The beds also were quite comfortable and gave a great night's sleep. One downside is that the bath room was on the small side having only a single sink and a combo tub/shower.

The Nugget is far and away the biggest and nicest place downtown so it is usually busy but while we were there it seemed even more so. The tables were full despite mostly $10 minimums and more than once a machine I wanted was in use. Nevertheless, drink service was good during the few hours I played in the casino. The one meal we ate in-house was at the Sports Book Snack Bar. We both enjoyed our sandwiches although they were slightly pricey but Mom's $3.99 shrimp cocktail was disappointing, consisting of about 5 small shrimp with a little sauce in a cup filled with lettuce. I also hit the 24 hour Starbucks which I always do when downtown because of the patio on Fremont Street, its one of the best people watching spots in all of Vegas no matter the time of day!

Without a doubt, we greatly enjoyed our stay at the Golden Nugget much better than the Flamingo. With the remains of Steve Wynn's touch still all around, you can tell it's a step above your average Strip grind joint. There was just a greater attention to detail and lot of little touches that you'll find at the more expensive hotels like the better amenities in the bathroom, slippers and robes in the closet and nicer linens. For the price, there are few places in town that can compare. Kudos to the Landry's people for keeping the place up all these years. Staying downtown is a nice change of pace from the Strip but staying at the Golden Nugget still gives you that feel of being at a top notch place uptown. There really is no reason to stay anywhere else when on Fremont Street.

Room Pictures
Pool Pictures

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bellagio Suite Review and Pics

The final night of the annual late summer trip was in a "partial lake view" Bellagio Suite located in their Spa Tower. We arrived around 1 PM and quickly were at the Front Desk. At the time I had made the reservation, there weren't any full lake view suites available, which are in the original tower, so I asked if there were any at check-in but they were still sold out. The clerk assured me that where my room was located, on the 28th floor towards the south end of the building, I would have a great view. Sure enough, we couldn't have asked for more. A full lake view plus views of The Cosmopolitan going up. In fact, it might have been even better than a room in the original tower due to being set back further from the Strip. As a bonus, it was $50 cheaper!

The Spa Tower is a little bit of a walk from the front desk and casino but is near the Convention Area and City Center monorail station. There was excellent security at the elevator at all times with a person checking keys and a key required to select a floor once in the elevator. I have noticed that to be slipping (or nonexistent) in many places recently and it was good to see at Bellagio. Once we got to the suite, it did not disappoint. It is a true suite with separate living room and bedroom plus a "his" bath with steam shower and a "hers" with a large Jacuzzi tub. There is also a half bath off the entry way. The room is decorated in dark neutral colors and is much more pleasing than the look of the older suites. It is loaded with all the latest bells and whistles like motorized drapes, 4 flat-screen TVs, DVD and IPod players. There is also plenty of other little touches; scales in each bathroom, robes and slippers in the closet and full toiletry supplies including razor, shaving cream and toothbrush. The couch was very comfortable and the bed provided the best night sleep of the trip. All in all, it was everything we expected from Bellagio.

Outside of the room, our feelings towards Bellagio change considerably. After checking in, we wanted a quick bite to eat. Your fast dining options are limited to one: "Snacks." Yes, that is the name of their snack bar and it isn't mentioned in the 28 page Dining Guide that is in the room. While it was quite possibly the best snack bar food we have ever had, $28 for a BLT, mini pizza and a Coke is ridiculous, even in a casino. A similar issue arose at dinner time. If your are not in the mood for 5-star dining, which is aplenty, your options are once again limited. It was late and we wanted room service as we enjoyed the fountain show from our suite. A quick look at the menu yielded very little that couldn't be called pretentious. We ended up jumping on the monorail over to Monte Carlo and ate at The Pub.

The quality of the room, the experience of the fountains from above and the beauty of the public areas make Bellagio (along with Wynn) the best Vegas has to offer. It's hard to not love the place. However, the total pretentiousness of the environment (afternoon tea and caviar in the lobby bar) makes it hard to relax and enjoy yourself. We are rarely top chef diners or turndown service people so those amenities are of little use to us and the ones we do use are not there. Having to leave for a simple casual meal or Starbucks makes shelling out for the luxury impractical. The quote to sum it all up came from Lisa... "We are paying for the inconvenience!"

If you are looking for a full-blown, money is no issue, luxury Vegas experience or are a $1000 a hand player; there isn't much that can top Bellagio. However, there are a lot of other hotels with nearly the same luxury but without the over-the-top budget or attitude. We were happy that we splurged for the one night in an awesome room especially since it's been almost a decade since we last stayed at Bellagio. But now it's back to many more nights at places like Mandalay Bay and South Point, which are much more our style, until our next stay in another 10 years!

Click Here for Suite Pics
Click Here for Pool Pics

The long-awaited Planet Hollywood and Flamingo maps have been posted on the Property Map page along with an updated Caesars Palace map showing the new pool area and mothballed Octavius Tower.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 Delivered!

Another new feature has been added to the site, the mailing list. Add your name and you will be notified instantly when new updates are made to the site. It's something that is long overdue but I have put off because of people's concern about Spam. With the amount of new things that have been added recently combined with several trips planned in the near future made now the right time. In conjunction with the mailing list, I have also put up a no-BS privacy policy to try to put some of the Spam fears to rest and make it crystal clear that nothing other than the occasional site update email will come from signing up. So join in and look for the best Vegas news, reviews, commentary and pics delivered right to your inbox.

Sign Up Now!

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tropicana Remodel Room Review and Pics

Night 2 of the trip was spent at the Tropicana in a Paradise Tower room on a $40 rate off an email offer from them. The valet is always fast at the Trop and there was only a 2 minute wait at the front desk. Unlike the previous day at the Tuscany, when I arrived to check-in at 1:00 PM my room was ready to go without a hint of charging me for it! That is one trend I really hope doesn't catch on. The Paradise Tower is the one closest to the Strip and has been recently remodeled as part of the Tropicana's $250M expansion and refurb. I was on the 17th floor with a nice view of Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay. The rooms are brand-spankin' new and the remodel was well done. The orange and ratan look isn't something I would put in my house but works well with the "south Beach" theme they are going with. One interesting thing about this remodel that is different with most others is that it appears that they went as far as to have ripped down walls to rebuild the bath, bringing it up to the standard of new rooms. There was a nice sized flat screen TV with high-def programming and the best feature was large day bed by the window which was perfect to hang out on.

The public areas of the place were somewhat torn up during my stay. They are adding to the front of the building, pushing it out closer to the Strip and the main entrance is a construction zone. One thing that you notice immediately when you walk in the front door is how bright the casino pit now looks. It used to be kind of dark and dingy. Large parts of slot area are still a work in progress and walled off. The pool area, once the best in Vegas, was also supposedly redone but it didn't seem that much different from my stay last summer. Lastly, they are touting a remodel of the Island Tower to be done this summer, which is way overdue. Those rooms were looking rather tired a year ago.

The changes extend to the restaurants as well. The buffet looked closed for the long-term, which isn't a huge loss, while the Steakhouse should be re-opened shortly. They also have closed their 24 hour coffee shop and replaced it was a snack bar, the South Beach Cafe. I ate lunch there and while it certainly wasn't a bad sandwich; it's pricey, the menu is limited and it just doesn't offer what the classic Vegas coffee shop used to. Another Vegas casual dining travesty!

Considering what I paid for the room, I couldn't have been happier with it. $40 for a fresh, new room in a very good south Strip location is hard to beat. I love the fact that the new owners are dumping money into the place, trying to compete with the big boys all around them. Fresh blood is just what the Strip needs to keep the MGM and Harrah's on their toes. The room was well done and the casino looks much improved. They have a huge property to work with that was stolen out of BK so will be interesting to see what the final product becomes. But for right now, if you are willing to deal with a little construction, you will be hard pressed to find a better deal for a nice room on the Strip.

Click Here for Room Pics

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuscany Suite Review and Room Pictures

I spent 1 night of my recent trip in a "suite" at Tuscany Suites on a $19 rate I found by using TravelAxe which I booked directly through the hotel website. It turned out to be a classic tale of "if it's too good to be true, it probably is!" I arrived at check-in at 1:30 PM and was told that check-in was at 3:00. Sure, it always is but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I couldn't check-in at 1:30 and all of those were because the room wasn't ready. I asked the desk clerk if the room would be ready at 3:00 and she said "Oh, its ready now but if you want to check-in early, it will be a $12 charge." That is on-top of the $7 resort fee which paid for virtually nothing that you wouldn't expect for free at any Vegas hotel. At first, I balked at this obvious scam to jack up my bill but realized that an hour an a half of my life, especially in Vegas, was worth the $12! Unhappily, I now paid $38 for my $19 room and was on my way.

Though the rooms are called suites, they are really oversized rooms with a seating area, kitchenette and small dining table. Their website shows a freshly remodeled room but my room was very similar to one I stayed in 5 years ago. Yet another reminder of why I built this website in the first place!!! While the room hasn't been remodeled in a while, it was still in surprisingly decent shape. There were no major stains or furniture damage and the bed was comfortable without any sagging. Like the room, the bathroom was also larger than a normal in Vegas with a seperate shower and bath but only a single sink vanity. The kitchette was more like a wet bar with just a coffeemaker, fridge and sink. The biggest issue I came across was that the walls seemed rather thin and I heard ever door open and close.

Any review of the Tuscany would be incomplete if it didn't discuss the hotel's setup. The place is unlike any other hotel I have stayed at in Vegas as its a series of 3 story building spread over a fairly large area with the casino, restaurants and lobby in a seperate building at the front of the property. The nice part is being able to park very close to your room, if you don't come back after midnight. The bad part is the outdoor walk to the front. It isn't very far even from the back buildings but I ended up having a late dinner at the coffee shop and went the wrong way down a very dark walkway that was definitely a little sketchy. It is also something to keep in mind in the summer and winter because you will definitely be exposed to the elements.

Overall, my feelings on the Tuscany are rather mixed. The $12.00 screw job at check-in and the questionable website pictures didn't start the trip off right but the room was most certainly worth the $38 it ended up costing me. There is also something to be said about the convenience of having your car 30 seconds from your room. Given that, it's decent location and the price, the place definitely has appeal to a certain niche of traveler. However, for the average person looking for the classic Vegas resort experience, it would be a big disappointment.

Click Here for Room Pics

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The New Website Is Here!

After many hours of banging away at the keyboard, the new version of the website is finally here! At first glance, there doesn't appear to be much change but nuts and bolts are completely new; a complete re-write of the code top to bottom.

While the look of the site is largely the same, there are a quite a few cool new features:

  • Hotel Planner - A unique tool to help you pick the perfect Vegas hotel.
  • Restaurant Finder - Another homegrown tool to find a restaurant based on location, cuisine and style.
  • Buffet Info - Links to price and specialty night information for every buffet in Vegas
  • Spa Info - Links to service and price info at many spas across town.
  • Hotel Offer Sign-Ups - Links to sign up to receive hotel email offers.
  • Pool Pictures - Not as extensive as the room pics but still a decent collection.
  • Ask - Read answers to other's Vegas questions and submit your own.
  • Completely updated entertainment and hotel amenity information for each hotel.
  • Consistant look and feel through-out.

Hopefully everyone finds the new features and tools useful additions to the site and as with all things new, there is bound to be a bug or two. Don't be shy... please let me know. As always, thanks for visiting!!!

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Excalibur - "Crown Jewel" of the MGM Resorts Empire!

For the first two nights of the trip when I was solo, I decided on staying at Excalibur; largely due to the price and to check out the newly remodeled "widescreen" rooms. I actually booked a Widescreen Deluxe, which is slightly larger with a seating area for an extra $10. I arrived to a very short line at check-in (Sunday at 6 PM) and was told that the Deluxe rooms were only on the 1st and 2nd floors. I would rather be a little higher up so I asked what my options were. I was given a Widescreen "View" room, which also a $10 upgrade. I dragged my stuff up to the 10th floor and sure enough, the key doesn't work. Thus begins my fun at Excalibur Excalibur! Back down to the casino to call the front desk and they tell me they will send maintenance to the room. Back up to the 10th floor and 20 minutes go by... I give up and go back to the front desk where they give me new keys. Back to the room where the maintenance guy shows up as I do. The lock is toast and he replaces it quickly but says the door is jacked up and engineering will have to come back and fix it. Fine whatever... I take a few pictures of the room and the view, which was definitely worth a $10 upgrade over an Excalibur "non-view" room. The remodeled rooms are considerably nicer than the older rooms with better furnishings, completely redone bathrooms and of course the widescreen TV, minus the high-def programming.

After unpacking, I proceed to take a shower to wash 4 hours of desert off of me and this is when the real nightmare starts. As I am getting in the shower, I notice a few stray hair on the floor of the bathroom that definitely aren't mine. Im a little skeeved out but I deal it. I start to shower when I look down in the stall and notice quite a few more hairs. F&$%ING GROSS! I actually threw up a little, it was that disgusting. I quickly get out, dry off and promptly call downstairs to be moved! In my 75+ trips to Vegas, never once have I asked to change rooms until now. To top off the disgustingness, as I am on hold waiting for the front desk, I notice a little cocaine straw under the writing desk. Awesome! The "Guest Services" person was understanding enough and after clicking and typing for a little while, tells me that she will upgrade me to a suite for the rest of the stay.

So I pack up and head down to VIP check-in (and bypass a now large line at the front desk) to get my new keys. Its a 1 BR suite on the top floor and it actually is a pretty nice room all things considered. It an actual suite with a dining area, seating/TV area and half bath in the living room and a large master BR/bath with jacuzzi tub. Before settling in, I do a top to bottom inspection and am satisfied with the cleanliness. The only issue with the room was that the tub was looking a little tired (but clean!) and the remote was missing in the bedroom.

Needless to say, I didnt spend a whole lot of time at the Excalibur. The only meals I ate there was at Starbucks and Krispy Kreme but ended up staying quite a bit in the "neighborhood," which is the what MGM refers to Excalibur/Luxor/Mandalay Bay. I made my now regular trip to the BUrger Bar in Mandalay Place which was excellent as always and had drinks at Aurora in Luxor. There is quite a bit between the 3 hotels with a huge collection of restautants, clubs and bars.

Obviously, I was completely disappointed with my stay at Excalibur. I certainly wasn't expecting the Bellagio experience and actually love the whole cheesy medieval theme but I was expecting something far more than I received. I have never gotten a room that disgusting at a Motel 6 and the problems extended beyond the rooms. The elevators are horrendously slow, the public areas are totally worked over and the service was much less than top-notch everywhere I went. The place has seriously descended to the level of Circus Circus but at least there, I was fully prepared for what I was got and ended up even being pleasantly surprised! At Excalibur, that wasn't to be...

Click Here for Room and Suite Pics

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Luxor Tower Room Review and Pics & New Casino Maps

Out of the blue a few weeks back, I got a big glossy mailer from Luxor with a very good offer in it considering I have barely played a dime there in the past few years. MGM/Mirage seems to be sending free rooms for just about all of their hotels if you play in any of them. The deal included 3 nights in a tower room though I only used 2 plus $50 in food and $75 slot credits. With an offer like that, it's pretty hard to pass up.

Even though I have stayed at Luxor quite a few times over the years, it has always been a pyramid room. This time was in the slightly newer tower section between the main hotel and Excalibur. While a bit larger, I didn't really notice it to be all that much different from a pyramid room aside from a nicer bathroom and no slanted glass to bang my head on. It's a standard mid-90s issue Vegas room equipped with basics and little else in the way of modern amenities. The bed was in still sleepable condition but definitely past its prime. The bedding and carpeting were in decent shape but also on the downside of their lifespan and the furniture has seen its fair share of Vegas partying. The bathroom is nicer than the rest of the room with a separate shower (with pressure that could knock you over!) and a deep soaking tub along with a marble single sink vanity.

I did spend a decent amount of time at Luxor during my 2 nights and played a little in casino as well as eat a few meals. The casino is definitely nice enough since its recent remodel but the quality of the games is certainly nothing to rave about. One interesting note, it seems like a larger percent of space is dedicated to tables than most of the new casinos around town. The machines I ended up playing were right across from a bar so the drink service was speedy and often.

A lot of changes have taken place at Luxor but the food court on the second floor still remains with a Vegas tradition of mine, Nathan's Hot Dogs. I often hit this location when I am in town due to its easy self-parking so with me staying there, I would have to go twice. You can never go wrong with a Nathan's Hot Dog. I also had my normal late-night breakfast in the still 24 hour coffee shop, the Pyramid Cafe. There was a short line (which grew longer as the night went on) and every table was full at midnight but once seated the service was fast, the food pretty good and with an only slightly inflated price tag.The highlight of the stay was a trip to the Burger Bar for dinner on my second night. Located in the shops between Luxor and Mandalay Bay, it operates on the "build your own" burger concept. They offer a variety of patties and buns plus virtually everything else you could imagine to top it with from bacon to truffles. While the depth of the topping selection is nice, the quality of the burger is the real star of the show. For a guy who eats his fair share of cattle, I can honestly say it is the best burger I have ever had. This is my third trip and its quickly becoming a favorite Vegas stop.

Over the last few years, a large amount of effort and expense has been spent to shed Luxor of its "Egyptian Theme" and position it to compete with the likes of the Palms, Hard Rock and the half dozen or so other places trying to reach the same 20-something club-going crowd that stopped coming to Vegas when they all lost their jobs. They did a nice enough job in the makeover to turn the casino into a reasonably swanky joint, the only problem... they haven't spent that same effort or cash on the rooms. For what they charge on an average night compared to some other places in town, the hotel rooms should be a whole lot nicer. There is a lot going for Luxor, including plenty to do, see and eat just in it's "neighborhood" with Mandalay Bay and Excalibur on each side. The pool area is huge as is the spa and coolness factor of the pyramid make it an ideal place for a first trip to Vegas. However, if you looking for a luxurious room, you can do much better in the similar price range including the new rooms at Hard Rock or at Planet Hollywood.

Click Here for Room Pics

Ton of New Maps!

During this trip, I did one of the biggest property map runs ever with 10 new maps posted including the first ever Hard Rock Hotel map showing the finished remodel/expansion, which is pretty damn nice BTW. I might have to break my HRH cherry in the very near future.

Click Here for all the new maps!

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Green Valley Ranch Review and Room Pics

Station Casinos has been sending a monthly offer recently for 3 nights plus some free play at any of their casinos so I took them up on one night at Green Valley Ranch. I haven't stayed there in a couple of years but have played there a little bit and always liked the place. I moved over there after 2 nights at THEHotel and it was a little culture shock. The hotel at GVR is about as sedate as any in Vegas with not only no wait at either the Valet or Front Desk but virtually no one else around on a Monday afternoon! I was told at check-in that they had closed their smoking floor but could offer me a "balcony suite" but could only smoke on the balcony. Fine. As long as I don't have to walk a mile for a smoke but its seems rather unwise to close all of your smoking rooms at once at a hotel/CASINO!

The balcony "suite" was really just a slightly larger regular room with a patio as opposed to a balcony. The room was very similar to the one I had a few years ago though it has been recently "refreshed" with new carpet, linens and a flat-screen TV. In addition to the king bed, there was a large chair and ottoman, small writing desk and armiore that served at the TV stand. The bed was pretty comfortable but nothing to write home about. The patio was less than inviting as a place to hang out. It overlooked bare rooftop and walls with the stench of roofing asphalt permeating the air. Great to smoke on and not much else. The room was also equiped with a Bose Wave radio, wired and wireless Internet, robes and slippers and iron/board. The bathroom was almost an exact replica of the bathroom I had the previous 2 night at Mandalay Bay and the same as just about every bathroom built in Las Vegas over the past decade. It was so similar that even the little contained for Q-Tips was the same at both places! There is a large bath tub and shower stall on one side, twin sink vanity in the middle and a seperate water room to the other side with a ton of marble tossed in for good measure. It was stocked with just about everything you would expect from a 4-star hotel.

The casino at GVR is definitely one of the nicer off-strip properties and has some decent games to boot. I have played here occasionally over the years and usually had decent luck and this trip was no different. There are quite a few of the video poker machine I enjoy (5-play 8/5 BP) and after a rough start, I came back and held my own over the rest of my stay and ended up with a ton of play when it was said and done. The drink service in my location was only adaquate but I also was pretty far from any of the bars.

I ate a few meals in-house during my stay and GVR is another place suffering from the cost cutting plague that is killing the Vegas casino coffee shop and late night dining in general. They recently closed their coffee shop, moved the Original Pancake House into it's space which is now open something like 6AM - 8PM, if even that late. If you need something to eat at midnight, you choices are room service and FatbUrger. Pretty disappointing. My room service meal was decent enough but the menu was somewhat limited. I opted for a club sandwich which was pretty good and delivered quick but still would prefer to have some options. I also had a breakfast sandwich on my way out the door at the Turf Grill near the Sportsbook that was excellent.

Staying at GVR is quite a different experience from a Strip mega-resort. If you never stayed at GVR, it is unlike any hotel/casino in Vegas. The hotel is about as detached from the casino as possible while still being connected. The walk from your room to the casino leads down a hallway past more hotel rooms to a non-descript door out to the public area. No elevator opening into a bustling casino here. While the hotel is definitely shooting for a more upscale environment, the casino is very much a locals joint with loads of video poker and the obligatory movie theater and food court. Overall, I enjoyed my stay as it was a nice change of pace to the bigger, more choatic places on the Strip. And while it is a few miles off the Strip, easy access to the Beltway makes it no more than a 10 minute trip most times of day. If they keep sending free nights, no doubt I will definitely be staying here again in the future.

Click Here for Room Pics

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The State of Vegas Part 2

Harrah's Gets Planet Hollywood...

In recent months, Harrah's has been buying up the public debt of Planet Hollywood and finally finished the all out purchase of the place for what amounts to essentially $650 million. A pretty impressive move in this lending environment especially since Harrah's own financial position is shaky at best. The purchase gives the company control of the entire east side of the Strip from Harrah's down to Planet Hollywood plus Caesars on the west side. They now own 9 casinos within a half mile of each other!

Here comes the rant... To say I never have been a big fan of the folks at Harrah's Entertainment is a major understatement, going all the way back to when they started their massive expansion in the late 90s. The company's operating model is the epitome of what went wrong with the casino industry over the past decade. It is run by MBAs from back east who probably never even played a hand of blackjack let alone have an understanding of the gambling customer. Their approach to the business is the same as if they were manufacturing widgets. They look to minimize every last penny of cost and maximize every possible profit opportunity yet totally and completely oblivious to the fact that the product they sell is CUSTOMER SERVICE! There is no obvious difference between the slot machines at Casino A or Casino B and 99.9% of Vegas visitors accept the fact that gambling is a losing proposition. All they ask for in return is at least the possibility of winning and being appreciated for the loss. Neither of these concepts does Harrah's understand. Their casinos without exception sport the worst video poker odds and table game rules in town. They proudly introduced the insidious 3/2 BJ to Las Vegas, actually bragging about their "single deck action." One can only assume their slots are programmed to be similarly "generous." To show their appreciation for playing weak games, they have the Total Rewards slot club. Aside from free rooms they toss around easily to entice you to come to one of their 9 bad casinos, it is hands down the worst of any of the major companies. Figuring out how to earn a point requires a PhD and its next to impossible to get a comp for anything beyond that free room and even their casino hosts are virtually powerless to do anything about it. I was actually hoping their debt load would have forced them to shed a property or 2 not have yet another suffer from similar mis-management!

... and Icahn Gets Fontainebleau

On to one of the few nuggets of good news coming from the Vegas casino biz lately... Billionaire Carl Icahn has taken over the broke and partially finished North Strip eye sore, the Fontainebleau. After spending over $2 billion to get the place 70% done, it went BK and construction was halted last year and it has been rotting in the elements ever since. Icahn came in and picked the place up for $156 million, 7 cents on the dollar!

I am a huge fan of this move. Carl Icahn is a genius opportunist and has a history of turning around losing operations. Those familiar with Icahn's Vegas past will recall he pulled off a similar deal to buy the half completed Stratosphere. He dumped some of his own cash into it to finish the hotel and update the casino then sold a few years later for a enormous profit. The same will happen with Fontainbleau. Gone will be all the 5-star amenities that were originally planned for the place and instead it will be completed as a value joint, something that will be needed if its to survive long term in that neighborhood. This news is great for Las Vegas as this disaster of a project finally gets someone who can get the job done and great news for Vegas visitors who will get 3,500 brand new hotel rooms at bargain prices.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The State of Vegas

Over the next few days I want to talk about the huge amount of news over the past month or two that is slowly shaping the face of post-meltdown Las Vegas. There has been change all over the place, some of it negative and some of it positive. In no apparent order, here's a look at some of the recent developments...

Shuttered Hotel Rooms

There has been a rash of room closures around town and this is certainly isn't a good sign. Late last year, the legendary Binion's Casino downtown completely closed it's hotel tower along with the coffee shop and the Sahara close 2 of its 3 towers due to lack of demand. (A positive note: the Sahara buffet was also closed!) Closing down rooms has to be troubling news... From people I know in the hotel business, I have heard the ballpark number is about $12 a day to run a room for a mid-sized hotel. If they can't get the rate and occupancy levels to support more than $12 a day, things are looking pretty bleak downtown and the north Strip.

Shuttered Joints!

From closed rooms to entire places going away! In the next month, 2 of 3 reasons for the existence of the Lake Las Vegas Resort will close their doors. The 5-Star Ritz-Carlton and the adjacent Casino Montelago will be done. The only thing left out there will be the Loew's Hotel which itself is in bankruptcy. The parent corporation of the entire place is broke and the lake itself in constant danger of draining away to Lake Mead. I pity the homeowners who are left. It was a really nice place but WAY too far off the beaten path to really ever succeed even during good times and the first place to completely die in the new Las Vegas.

Boyd to take out Station

In a move that is pure genius from the shareholders of Boyd Gaming's perspective and an absolute disaster from just about every other, Boyd is agressively trying to buy Station Casinos as a whole out of Bankruptcy Court. Boyd is flush with cash after abandoning the rotting skeleton that is Project Echelon on the site of the former Stardust. So it has now set its sights on its main competitor in the Vegas locals market, Station, after its ill-fated leveraged buyout. If the power play is successful, one company would control virtually every major casino in the Vegas Valley not located on the strip or downtown and would be a major blow to anyone who plays or stays off-strip. Don't get me wrong, I am a full-fledged capitalist in every sense of the word and completely support the strong eating the weak but the casino business in Nevada is regulated for a reason and this is where the Gaming Commission needs to do their job for the good of the overall industry in the state. This mega-merger would not be in that best interest. Perhaps a partial purchase of a select number of properties but to allow a complete domination by Boyd would not be good for the locals market in Vegas.

More tomorrow on the fates of Fountainebleu and Planet Hollywood and what I think it all means for the future of Las Vegas.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Sunday, February 21, 2010 Rates Every Casino

In yet another way to help plan for a better Vegas vacation, ratings have been added for every casino. They include an overall rating based on everything about a hotel as well as individual ratings for things such as the pool and the quality of the nightlife. For quite a few places, reviews from recent trips have been added and a review for every casino will be posted shortly.

The ratings are entirely my own (one of the perks of running your own Vegas website!) but I think they would represent the feelings of a majority of people. If you feel I am off-base on anything and want to argue Arizona Charlie's 1 star rating, feel free to let me know!

Check out your favorite casino's rating here...

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Monday, February 15, 2010

THEhotel at Mandalay Bay Review & Room Pics

A few weeks ago, a stroke of good luck came by as on the same day I received an email offer from Mandalay Bay for 3 comped nights, my boss told me I got 2 "Comp" days for all the OT we have been working lately. Naturally, the irony wasn't lost upon me and I immediately book a trip to Vegas despite 3 trips in the previous 2 months. Even the wife was surprised! The offer from MB was pretty unexpected as I have given them virtually zero play in the past year or two but MGM/Mirage seems to be throwing around rooms to all of their properties for anyone who plays at any of them. Its actually something we haven't seen in a very long time and a major score for those of us who still are going to Vegas. I decided to use 2 nights at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay and the last night at Green Valley Ranch on Station's monthly 3 free nights offer.

I rolled in Mandalay Bay around 4:30 PM after what was probably the easiest drive ever to Vegas. There were zero delays the entire way and I banged it out in 3.5 hours. I wish every drive was as nice. It was still early on Saturday the valet and lobby were unexpectedly busy. Despite all the buzz, there was only a 30 second wait for check-in and in no time was on my way to a 30th floor room. Every room at THEhotel is an actual 2 room suite and it was exactly as I remembered it from my stay a few years back. The living room has a comfortable couch and chair, big flat-screen TV with DVD player, wet bar and a writing desk. With a half bath off the entryway, it's a great area to hang out in and could easily entertain 4 or 5 people comfortably. The bedroom is a totally seperate room unlike some of the faux-suites around town. It is dominated by a huge armiore that holds a regular tube TV, a safe and all of the clothes storage. The bed was quite comfortable and the linens all seemed fairly new. There is also a Bose radio/iPod dock, robes, slippers and iron/board in the room. The bathroom is standard for most of the recently built hotels and it seems like I have had the same one 20 times in the past few years. There is a seperate shower stall and a large deep tub both lined in marble, a dual sink vanity and a seperate toilet room. It also has a small flat-screen TV, makeup mirror, scale and blow dryer plus a good collection of soaps and other assorted bathroom goodies.

Outside of the room... I only ended up eating one meal at MB, a late night breakfast at Raffles, their 24 hour coffee shop. The room is one of the nicest coffee shops in town and even commented on the "swanky-ness" of it to the hostess. However, the menu was pretty limited maybe even the smallest I have seen and the service was hardly the best. I have noticed a trend lately with bad service after midnight in a mostly empty restaurant. If you only have one table, wouldn't it behoove you to make sure you get the best tip possible from them? I just don't get it. I did play a little in the casino while I was there and didn't have much luck. The casino is huge as is the sports book with all the latest and greatest machines. It is a video poker wasteland and the table minimums were mostly $10-15 regardless of time of day. Drink service was great in some places not so much in other so if that important to you, you may have to move around to find a place where the liquor is flowing.

This was my second stay at THEhotel and it was a very different experience from my last stay a few months after it had opened. I wasn't thrilled the first time around but by the end of my second night this trip, I absolutely loved the room and the place in general. My problems last time were largely outside of the room and most of them went away by simply being familiar with the place. It is definitely a little confusing and the signage is still pretty bad especially driving around the property. The only other real knock on THEhotel is location. Mandalay Bay itself is at the far south end of the Strip and THEhotel is quite far from much of MB, particularly the pool which is almost a good half mile walk from elevators. All in all...if a hotel with large rooms, a world-class pool and a good collection of restaurants and nightlife are a priority, I highly recommend THEhotel especially considering the price is often comparable to regular rooms elsewhere.

Click Here for Room Pictures

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!