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Las Vegas Trip Report

27 June 2006

Every trip to Las Vegas is remarkable in its own way. Whether it's a new casino, a new restaurant or a new game, there's always something I haven't seen or done before. Heck, at the Global Gaming Expo each fall, there are always DOZENS of new games and new experiences.

On my most recent Vegas venture, the new experience was broadcasting live from Mandalay Bay, at the south end of the Strip. Since February, I've been doing an hourlong casino talk show on WCKG-FM (105.9) in Chicago each Saturday at 7 p.m. "Free FM" WCKG covers the Chicago Rush in the Arena Football League, and the station was invited to do remote broadcasts from the Arena league's Radio Row at Mandalay Bay.

It was a fun time, made doubly so by the guests who stopped by to chat during the expanded two-hour edition of the show:

**Jean Scott, the Queen of Comps and author of The Frugal Gambler and More Frugal Gambling, mentioned that she has a new book in the hands of editors at Huntington Press. It's to be called Frugal Video Poker, naturally enough, and is a complete guide to video poker from the beginning level on up. Jean is a top-notch video poker player herself and certainly knows how to get the most for her money, so this figures to be a good one.

We talked about some of the odd things she's won in casino drawings and contests over the years. She once redeemed player rewards points for a gigantic stuffed gorilla, which either surprised or scared away anyone who looked into the Scotts' car for years. Eventually, they kept it outside the house --- and it was stolen.

When we spoke, Jean was waiting to hear if she'd scored her biggest coup ever. She'd finished playing in a slot tournament at Caesars Palace earlier that day, and she thought her score put her in the upper tier. First prize? Half a million dollars. I haven't yet heard how it all came out, but it never hurts to have rich friends.

**Gary Baker from the Las Vegas sales department of the slot manufacturer Atronic Americas, came along to talk about some of the cool new games about to make their debut. Timing is just right for one of them: Deal or No Deal, based on the hit TV show. Atronic first showed the game at Global Gaming Expo 2004, and at that time overseas customers were probably the most enthusiastic. "Deal or No Deal," the TV show was already hot in the United Kingdom, though it hadn't yet been introduced in the United States. Now the success of the TV show can only help the slot game here. The bonus round on the video slot plays just like the TV version, with players choosing suitcases and deciding whether to reject or accept offers to cut the round short.

Another new themed game coming from Atronic is Miami Vice. Baker didn't know for sure, but thought the game might be available around the time the "Miami Vice" movie starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell is released later this year. Makes sense.

**Anthony Curtis, publisher of the monthly Las Vegas Advisor and of many terrific books on gambling through his company, Huntington Press, is spending much of his time in Los Angeles, helping to get the Ultimate Blackjack Tour ready for its fall debut on CBS television. The first season of tournaments has been played, and the recordings are in the editing process. Curtis is serving as an expert commentator, and we spent some time talking about the tour and tournament blackjack. Card counters, he pointed out, don't really have an advantage in tournament blackjack, and sometimes can limit their own possibilities by betting in accordance to the count instead of betting as needed relative to tournament standings. As a tournament player, he said, he loved to have a counter betting behind him, because he usually knew what the counter was going to bet, and could adjust his own play.

The top 10 deals in Las Vegas are a regular feature of his Advisor, so I asked him about some of the bests in town. The best hotel deal? The $29.95 room rates at the Stratosphere, just far enough north on Las Vegas Boulevard that it's not really considered on the Strip, but close enough to give you easy access to all the Strip attractions without paying megaresort rates. The best pool? The Beach at Mandalay Bay, with its wave pool. "Some of the waves are so big, you think you could go surfing," he said.

We did talk a bit about one of my favorite topics. For a first-time visitor, staying on the Strip is the way to go. Any Las Vegas first-timer should be in position to ooh and ahh at Bellagio's dancing waters or TI's outdoor sirens vs. pirates battle. But Las Vegas veterans who are serious about their gambling will find the best deals away from the Strip.

Away from the Strip, too, there are always new casinos, new restaurants, new games, new experiences to explore.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9).

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski