I just got back from a week at Caeser's Palace, and I have to say, Vegas has changed quite a bit, and not for the better. A few observations:
* Caeser's Palace has seen much better days. The rooms were terrible and dated. The ambiance was dead and decaying. Bathroom fixtures coming away from the walls. Dirty carpets. Ridiculously long waits for customer service of any kind. There is a reason that Caeser's is $24+ billion in debt, I suppose.
* Poker is pretty dead at Caeser's. This was CES week, one of the biggest conventions in Vegas with more than 150,000 people in town for the show. And yet, on most weeknights, there were fewer than 3 tables running. Sad. Some of the pit bosses there said that was similar across some of the other properties. I was at the Rio for a few days as well and they had exactly ZERO games running. That casino was even more of a wreck than Caeser's.
* I don't miss the smoke at all. After a few days in the place, I could really feel the dirty air.
* The price gouging starts to grate on you as soon as you land and never stops. Vegas used to be a relatively good value, but now, it is nothing but a money-sucking vacuum giving little back to those who visit.
- $12 for a Keurig coffee pack in the room
- $4.50 for an iced tea
- $24.99 for internet service -- per day
- $24 for a crappy omelette and coffee at the diner
* No one seems to care at all about WSOP.com or online poker. I took the opportunity to ask nearly 50 different poker room players if they had played online. Despite the signage on every table, bulletin board, room key, I found only 1-2 that had tried it. They had nothing but terrible things to say about the software and experience. The outsourcing of the poker software to 888 is clearly ridiculous. How does the WSOP not own its own platform and software?
* More and more of the table games are being dealt by computer. You know, the cute video of the blackjack dealer calling the action, etc. It removes all the personality from the game. I can't see why in the world people would pick such a sterile, unsatisfying experience.
* The Forum shops were completely empty and deserted. During CES week. I did quite a bit of walking the mall for exercise and it was rare to see a shop with any sort of traffic. I have no idea how those stores stay in business.
A few, small positive notes:
* Gordon Ramsey's new restaurant and pub at Caeser's is really great. Friendly, great food, (almost) reasonable price but good value compared to the other restaurants in the joint (Mesa Grill, Nobu, etc).
* The poker room staff is still as competent and friendly as ever. That is one of the best run poker rooms in the city. It is a real shame that they don't have many games to manage.