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March 11th, 2018 at 6:52:02 PM permalink
Well, I just got back from my spring trip to Las Vegas and I thought I’d post a trip report.
Normally we stay at Cesars properties, but they were not in a free room mood this trip and they raised resort fees. Neither of those things was acceptable in my book, so Mrs. Zema and I decided to stay at the Cal. We had played as Boyd casinos before, and we have a Boyd property coming to us locally, so we thought we’d get reacquainted. The Cal offered us two free nights with no resort fees and a reasonable rate on the third night.
About the hotel…
The good:
The room was well decorated, clean, and the bed was comfortable. It included a small safe and a mini fridge. It was a good place to sleep. It was very low key, which I like.
The not so good:
There are no blackout blinds on the windows. There are slats that close, but they do not completely block the light if you are into daytime napping, which I am.
Geez… Talk about a small bathroom! Also, shouldn’t there be bath soap and hand soap? How much does an extra bar of soap cost? Please tell housekeeping to keep two bars of soap in the room.
Where is the coffee maker? We don’t have in room coffee here sir.
Could I get some extra pillows and blankets? Sorry, those are on backorder.
Hey, the light in the bathroom is missing a cover and is shines right in my eyes when I pee. Do you have an extra shade? Sorry sir, those are on backorder too. Ok then, I’ll just put a towel over it. Hopefully it does not catch fire.
We were in the tower right by the check in desk on the 11th floor. We could see Fremont from our room. It was faint, but we could hear the Fremont bands at night. I’m guessing the other tower (closer to Main Street) would be quieter.
Day 1 –
We caught a Lyft from McCarran to the Cal. Somehow or another, I always seem to have some kind of promotion on Lyft. No idea how I get so many discounts from them… Uber never gives me promotions. It was about 2pm when we got to our room and they allowed us to check in early.
We had bought a couple LVA books when we knew we were staying downtown. As soon we got in, we went to the café. I had a club sandwich (which was delicious) and fries (mediocre). Mrs. Zema had a burger and fries. She said it was alright. We charged it to our room after using a buy one get one free coupon.
We played video poker at both the Cal and Main Street night one. I liked the coin dropper games with the treasure chest feature and so did the wife. We don’t have coin droppers near us, so it was very nostalgic taking a couple of buckets of coins to the cage. I kept a dollar coin as a souvenir. The only odd thing on the coin droppers is that I could never get one to accept a $100 bill. How odd is that? $20 doesn’t last very long when you are playing dollars.
I also liked the scratch card promotion at Main Street. Everyone I we got was $2, and we had a couple fistfuls. There were a couple of NSUD machines near the bar at Main Street… The service was fast and the drinks were good. We were both very hydrated when we left.
After sitting at the VP machines for a while, we needed to take a walk to stretch out legs so we took a stroll down Fremont Street. Plenty of weirdos were out, but they were entertaining weirdos. I was particularly fond of Wonder Woman and Cat Woman… I thought the nun which her boobs exposed was funny as well as the guy who was holding a sign that said he was “collecting money for a penis enlargement (not that he needs it)”. I caught Mrs. Zema checking out a chip’n’dales dude… She did not care for pink shoulder thong guy.
We went all the way down to El Cortez. I was surprise how much that place has been cleaned up… It was a real dump the last time I was there, and this time it felt just kinda dumpy. We had some coupons there for free play / kiosk spins / and draws from the barrel. We ran through the points on some coin dropper deuces game. I was offered an El Cortez hoodie for one of the bonuses, which I thought was nice, but they let me trade it for another draw from the free play frenzy barrel. I kept drawing $5… I should have kept the hoodie.
I was sad to see the $1 roulette wheel (four $0.25 bets per spin) was missing from the El Cortez. Not that I play a lot of roulette, but for those stakes, I can make a profit in drinks!
We played a little blackjack at the Cal before bed… Needed a drink after the long walk. Anyway, it was a double deck pitch game. They did not allow surrender or DAS, but it did play 3/2 and you could double on any two cards. For some reason, I think they switched me to coconut rum… Meh.
I have no idea if I won or lost, but I was quite hydrated.
Day 2 –
I assessed the damage and as it turns out I lost a little… Not even enough to re-load my wallet. We got some coffee and a doughnut in the Hawaiian ice-cream place between MSS and the Cal. The coffee was good and the doughnut was ok. We crossed the street and went to Binions to start. We used our coupon for some free play and got our BOGO café coupons and went in search of the 8/5 bonus machines with the progressives. Score! The one I found had an $1800 royal on it. I felt pretty good about racking up 300 points on that for my spins… Also, Binions makes a pretty good bloody mary. I just got some free food on my spins, so as it turned out we did not need the BOGO coupons. Mrs. Zema got $50 in cash and $25 in free play. The food in the café was good. I got steak and fries with a salad (these fries were much better than the Cal’s fries) and the wife had breakfast for lunch. The total bill was $0.
I was only feeling kinda hydrated, so we went to the Plaza to use some more coupons. One of the coupons was for a free bingo pack, which somehow cost $44. As you can tell, I’ve never played bingo before… We did the electronic bingo; they explained the strategy to me, which was super easy. When fireworks go off, raise your hand and yell bingo. Got it…. No need to study, let’s go. The room was less than half full. Both the wife and I won 2X each! As it stands today, I’m a life time winner at bingo. : - )
After that, we ran a couple of coupons though at the golden gate. The dancing dealers were off during this random week day but I did notice the blackjack tables were all 3/2. I am happy to report that both my wife and I won our $25 match play bet. Didn’t stick around too long… 9/6 DDB isn’t really my thing.
Next, we went to the Downtown Grand to burn some more coupons. Again, we both won with our match play. We are on a roll! I really liked that they let me re-split aces here and offered surrender. One complaint here… The wrapper on the left / bottom of the video poker games make it really hard to play… For some reason, I kept hitting the wrong hold buttons. I assume it was because the cards did not line up well with the buttons, or maybe it was because I was pretty hydrated at this point. Eitherway, this really slowed down my play, it was annoying, so I left.
When we went outside, it was dark. Not sure how that happened… Fremont Street was picking up, and I’m developing an aversion to crowds, so we went back to Main Street to get some more scratch cards. I ended the night playing DB by the Holo bar at the Cal. Did you notice I like playing near bars? I found a 10/7 DB machine that was giving out normal points so I played dollars. I have to tell you, I either love or hate double bonus. On this particular session, I hated it. I hope the locals enjoy the money this machine took from me. : - ( I’m sure it goes to something good like schools or Boyd profits or something? Double bonus, what a stupid game… I hate holding 3 to a flush regardless of how many high cards are in the hand.
Day 3 –
When I woke up, I found my wallet was much lighter than it was the day before. That DB machine really put a hurting on me. Hopefully some incentives will come for future trips. I reloaded and went back to Binions. To get some more free food with my 3 swipes. I really wanted to try the BBQ place (for free) at Binions, which I did for dinner later night 3. The ribs were delicious. My $1800 royal was still there, so I played that machine again. As best I am aware, that Royal is still there. Go get it guys. On my level 3 spin, I won a prize. I thought maybe it would be good since it was a level 3 spin, so I went to the players club to go get it. It turned out to be a blanket… And while I thought that was a crappy prize, my wife was looking for an extra blanket and I learned I was getting cash back the whole time I was playing. It wasn’t a ton of cash, but it was a nice surprise I didn’t know was coming.
We went to the D next to use some more coupons. Again, we won both our $25 match plays. I also found a bonus poker game at the bar upstairs that had several progressives. I won several of the progressives including the straight flush, and I got 4 aces… So the D was good to me. The wife and I did get into a heated argument about whether or not we needed to pay for drinks at the bar while we were playing. I said we played enough for them to be comped and left, she paid anyways after I walked away… Who was right?
Well, it’s dark again but we had one more match play at the Four Queens so we used that on the way back to collect more scratch cards at Main Street. Again, we won our match plays! We went 4-0 on match play coupons.
I did play in a poker tournament at Binions after dinner. It did not go well… I was doing ok for a while taking small pots here and there, but it seemed like every time I raised in good position, I got re-raised buy one of the blinds. I hung back to see if those guys bluffed, but I think they had better cards than I did. Finally, finding myself short stacked I started looking for all in opportunities. My J-J lost to A-nothing… Fortunately I had a bigger stack than my opponent so I was looking for at least any ace as m7 last chance to double up. I got it! A-5 lost to 4-4. Oh well… Mid game, I got a text from my wife saying she was turning in for the night, so since I missed my nookie window, I decided to take a Friday night stroll down Fremont.
Well, the dancing dealers were out at the Golden Gate. As it turns out, a couple of them could be a bit better at protecting their hands, so that was fun. Eventually, I had a couple of pit people watching the game, so it was time to leave. Probably a good thing, their rum drinks tasted funny. I think they were pre-icing glasses and as a result the drink was a bit watered down. I found several machines with wilds, or at least potential wilds. Gave them a shot… Turns out wilds in the last row aren’t worth much. I’m kinda kicking myself for not intuitively knowing that, but I was drinking and at least if figured it out pretty quickly… Most of these games were new to me. Found a few good ones, but nothing huge hit. I’m sure there is plenty I missed. One other note… 2AM on East Fremont is not the place I belong. I’m pretty sure up and coming roughly translates to a little scary. I do like playing at the El Cortez, but I’m not sure I like it enough to walk there at 2AM.
Day 4 –
Time to go home. I got all of 3 hours sleep last night, and I was a bit tired / hungover to say the least. There was no one leaving Las Vegas on a Saturday morning so I got though security in no time flat. I had plenty of time to look around the airport inside the secured section and there were quite a few games worth playing. I guess people up against a flight deadline don’t always play off there bonuses. Actually, that’s why I stopped… Over the loud speaker was an announcement that they were looking for me to board my flight. I just barely made it. I had a layover in Chicago, and while I was there I sent an email to a host asking them to check my play and see if we qualified for any comps for our remaining bill. By the time I got to the destination airport, my stay was fully comped.
So that’s it… I had a good time! Free food, free hotel, free drinks… That’s how it’s supposed to work if you are gambling. Props to downtown for taking in a relatively low roller like me, offering me decent games, and making me feel welcome. Can’t wait to go back!

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