Monday, June 9, 2008

Tropicana Trip Report

The soulless bastards of Columbia Sussex have actually stopped ruining the Tropicana and it’s starting to return to its status as a low-roller haven. As God intended. The hookers are no longer hanging out at the Celebration Lounge and you can park your car in the lot without fear of a break in. Let the good times roll.

In fact, I was so impressed with the Tropicana during a recent stay, we decided to rebook for a return trip. Almost unheard of considering that I don’t like to venture far past “home base” during an Las Vegas trip. If you want to hang out Center Strip, book the Imperial Palace. If you want hang downtown, book the Fremont. This is very simple. So the Tropicana was a near no-brainer, mainly because of the service.

The trip started with some time at the Celebration Lounge with Jason – one of the best bartenders in Las Vegas. Although Gerry in the bar near the poker room would get some votes for best bartender. Speaking of poker, I went to try to enter the 7 p.m. poker room waiting for a local friend to show up. The wife and pal partied at the Celebration Lounge while I made about $50 playing some $1-$2 no limit.

Of course, there was some a-hole who was pissed that I called his “all-in” with Ace-two suited. Hey, it was only $15, I love suited connectors so why not, right? I hit the flush on the river. Deal with it. I knew he had pocket kings. I was hoping he was trying to buy off an ace-king, but come on, there were too many outs.

I collected my winnings, my wife and friends for a trip over to Hooters. An amusing anecdote. A tourist walked past the group and asked if he was allowed to have beers in public in Las Vegas. Listen pally, that might be the only reason why I come to Las Vegas. Outdoor drinking! The tourist reacted like we just gave him a $100 chip. That obviously made his trip more enjoyable.

Hooters is starting to come around on me. They have a $10 double-deck table that pays 3-2 on blackjack. Perfect. Our buddy started a winning streak that was unprecedented while sitting at this blackjack table. Hooters gets a bad wrap, but I’ve yet to have a bad time at the casino. I’ve never stayed there, but I will in July and I’m looking forward to it. Everybody (except for me) won some money, drank a bunch of beers and the night started to get a little fuzzy.

So it was time to get some food.

The one drawback about Hooters is the fall-from-grace of Dan Marino’s steakhouse. What was supposed to be a high-end steakhouse now serves $0.25 wings after midnight. Those wings must have been made from turkeys because they made me sleepy. Add some comfortable seats and there was no better place to take a nap then my spot in the restaurant. But I guess many people (including my wife) don’t really approve. Party poopers.

Time to head back to the garden room at the Tropicana for some rest for the evening. For those of you wondering, the Tropicana garden rooms are still great. Ours was overlooking the pool in the 5000 wing (near the Rat Pack picture I tap for good luck each day). Now, for those of you who love the luxury of the Bellagio, Venetian or even Motel 6 aren’t going to like these rooms. And that’s fine. There should be room enough in Las Vegas for both of us.

There was a guy sitting in the Celebration Lounge on Friday who said that they should knock down the Trop. Why? So they can build a new casino that looks like every other freaking casino? There is no need for it. Budget minded consumers deserve to have a place on the strip, too.

Day two started at the pool. The new management that was brought in has done a real good job of getting the pool back into shape. This place really fell off last year, but it’s back to its original glory. They had a DJ, live band and a BBQ out there, which was really nice. They finally smarted up on the swim-up blackjack, too. Instead of middle-aged dudes in Hawaiian shirt, the dealers are busty women in bikini tops.

Was that so hard to think of?

We made some wagers on a couple of long shots in the Belmont. Of course, none of them hit, though our trifecta of 6-7-8 looked pretty strong. So after getting a sunburn, losing $6 in horse racing, it was time to walk the strip. Now, I take Las Vegas for granted because I go so much. But our guest goes once a year and wanted to see a lot of stuff.

MGM was our first stop, looking for the Sigma Derby. Too bad it was packed, without an open spot. The 1-2 combination I called hit, too. (MGM owes me six quarters.) Hit the bar and it was off to New York New York. Funny, how much progress they’ve had in just two weeks building the casino. Lost a quick $30 to a unusually unfriendly dealer and it was time to hit the Monte Carlo.

What’s amazing is how much the City Center is choking the Monte Carlo pool area (that we barged into). That thing is going to be dwarfed when that project is finished. Not that it matters, because the lazy river sucks. Mainly because you can’t take your drink into the lazy river. What’s the point then? And really, numerous kids can urinate in the pool, but I can’t have a beer while sitting in an inner tube? Lame. If fact, my prediction is that the Monte Carlo will be the first of the “new” resorts to be imploded. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Monte Carlo gets knocked down after City Center is completed. (You heard it here first.)

We tried to get into Diablos for a beer, but it was packed. Looked fun and will probably have a drink there in the future. Just not in the cards this time. There was, however, a Miller Lite stand down the sidewalk. Where was the tourist from the first night, he would have loved it.

Took a first look at Planet Hollywood. Not too bad. I’d never stay there because it just looks expensive, but a great improvement over what the Aladdin was trying to do. And let that be a lesson to the current or future owner of the Tropicana. There is no guarantee when you knock down a building and restart. The Trop could be re-skinned like the Westin was, but you don’t need to tear down the old gal. Hell, there’s enough room to add a tower.

The sports book was kind of nice. Actually, the book was real nice. A little small, in that it would be hard to navigate for March Madness, but still pretty cool. And I look forward to eating at the Earl of Sandwich some day.

After much debate over going to Battista’s or the Japanese steakhouse at the Trop, the steakhouse won out. Only because Battista’s leads to food coma, which means your night is done once you walk out of there. The key for Battista’s is to hit it on your first night when you are semi-sober so you can really hit that free wine. Mizuno’s was really good. In that, why haven’t we eaten there before? Good stop.

The evening took us to the Excalibur and then to the Luxor (for the first time in a long time). What the hell happened here? You can’t even tell that you are in pyramid anymore. That had the requisite girls dressed as sluts running around, and some high-end lounges, but nothing that stands out. There was a review somewhere that said that the Luxor was going for that “airport” look with a lounge called “Flight” and a club called “LAX.” They might be on to something. That will probably be my last trip to the Luxor.

Went to play some more blackjack at the Trop. Made a little profit before going to Mizuno’s and went back to play with the same dealer. I don’t want to get this dealer in trouble, but they count the cards and offer a little bit of advice when you are playing. This is the kind of stuff that you need. Dealers that care. So once again, we made a little bit of money off our friend and it was time for bed.

Another great trip under the belt.

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