This was a spur of the moment trip. I was visiting Los Angeles and a friend called to say he was in Las Vegas, so with nothing to do for the weekend, I rented a car and drove in to meet him.
First, let me say I owe this trip to this forum. I never would have tried a last minute trip had I not read about the poker room rate at the Stardust from this site and RGP. I called on the friday morning, got a room rate of $45/night for 2 nights for only 3 hours of play per day. $100/night for the Stardust Tower room, but I wasn't there for the room, I was there for the poker and to meet my friend.
STARDUST: I pulled up to Valet around midnight, and went to the checkin. There was a long line and no one at the VIP line. I chanced it since I had a poker room rate and they went right ahead and checked me in.
My room was in the Villas (A well maintained recently renovated room in bank of rooms in the buildings overlooking the pool. (Which was heated BTW)My room however overlooked the parking lot, but I didn't care. I was on the strip across from the Wynn at $45 a night and didn't even look out the window...or go to the pool. The room was very nice. Although there was no pottery barn feel and no black and white photos on the wall in black wooden frames, I really didn't care. The room reminded me of what a Sheraton, Westin or Hyatt looked like in 1995. It was top notch, but with no 'W' like minimalist Pottery Barn meets IKEA features. The bathroom was clean enough to take a bath in and had obviously been recently remodeled, there were plenty of soaps and lotions and the bed was comfy.
A quick call to my friend indicated he was done for the evening, so I made plans to meet him in the morning and planned on getting to work on my 3 hours of play per day.
STARDUST POKER ROOM: They had 4 tables going when I got there. There were 2 limit tables. 2-4 and 3-6 I think and 2 1-2 NLHE tables. I chose NLHE and sat down. Although I had never stayed or played at the Stardust, I was anxious to get here because I know its soon to close. I know the Stardust from some older friends of mine whose wives liked to come here to see Wayne Newton. So I know its old time clientele was about on par with Caesars. While Caesar's improved itself, this place stayed the same, being off the beaten strip path once the Desert Inn closed. I also know a few people who are paying their last respects to this old lady of the strip. I thought if I got lucky I might meet a few of those old timers in the poker room. I was not disappointed.
The 1/2 NLHE was $40-$200 buy in and people were pulling out $100s like it was going out of style, losing and having a great time with it all. This is a game where if you are a solid player, you can make out like a bandit. People were playing NLHE like they play craps. There was quite a bit of money on the table. A lot of pots began with a $40 open, so the table played a lot higher than it actually was. There were a few $3-4000 pots. If I lived near LV, I would not be publicizing this and it appeared that few people know about this.
The room itself was well run by a guy named 'Sarge' who has a few years on him, but runs a good room. Table service was great and the dealers were solid. I didn't see one mistake the entire weekend.
I was able to get a food comp and combine it with a magazine $3 off coupon to get Steak and Lobster for under $7. I saw other people stacking these coupons for free Steak and Lobster.
Between the quality of the room, the easy comps, the loose players, the inexpensiveness of the rooms and the location on the strip across from and near the Wynn, I have to rank this as my new favorite place. Too bad it will soon be gone.
MGM GRAND POKER ROOM: I went to sleep and the next day met me friend at the MGM where he was staying and was going to see the Rolling Stones in Concert. I couldn't score last minute tickets, but played though the concert.
The MGM has a nice, large room next to the casino lounge that has a band playing. This can get a little annoying, but there is plenty of room and quite a few players.
The MGM stands out in great contrast to the Stardust. Where the Stardust was loose with people ready to play, the MGM at the 1/2 NLHE was a comparative rock garden. There was the occasional newbie who satdown, loosened up the game, and was quickly cleaned out by the sharks, but on a Saturday night I expect a lot more. And since I was card dead, this didn't help. I could feel the rake eating my chips.
The dealers made more than a few mistakes, so watch them here.
CAESARS POKER ROOM: I had heard a lot about the new poker room here and was interested in checking it out. It is another big room. It is by the sports book and isolated from the rest of the casino and in a separate room that is hard to see. This means there are very few people stumbling in from the Blackjack pit.
What I experienced at Caesars were a bunch of semi-pros and internet players. This is a room full of solid players.
They do comp at about $1 per hour, but this is equivalent to about $0.25-$0.33 anywhere else, since the comp is only good in the poker room and everything there is overpriced to the tune of about 3-4x what you would pay in any other poker room. Spinach dip (if I remember correctly) was $12.00. It was good, but was the same dip they serve at Fridays / Houlihans / Bennigans / Applebys and the same you can get at your local Costco or Sams Club for about $3.50.
Drinks and food service were both slow here.
Conclusion: The Stardust wins surprising accolades and the two places that I thought would be my favorites were places that I don't think I will return to in the near future.