Saturday, January 01, 2005

trip reports 2005

To accomodate my kid who decided to visit Albany from Chicago I changed my Vegas dates and canceled my $340- 5 hour direct flight via Southwest for Orbitz special that was twice as long but only $240.

In Charlotte, on the way down, I took a bump. I traded 12 hours of Vegas for a good nights sleep at the Hilton in Charlotte, a free ticket, a voucher for $10 free food in the food court (Carolina Pit barbecue) and another for $5 breakfast (great sticky bun). So I actually hit my first jackpot before I got to Vegas.

Terrible’s did not charge me for the missed first day because I called and canceled and did arrive the second day of my two free days. I guess if you show up, you don’t get charged.

My return flight was a red eye experience. Left Vegas at 11:10 PM and arrived Albany New York at 11:00 AM. Nine hours. Spent a three hour layover rocking in those nice white rocking chairs in the Charlotte airport, reading Portnoy’s Complaint and eating a fine ham cheese and potato biscuit breakfast sandwich from the Carolina Pit. Managed enough sleep on the plane to make it through a good visit with my kid from Chicago my first day home. Not bad, really.

One other advantage leaving Vegas late was that I managed to leave an Imperial Palace Poker game at 8:10 PM, walk to my car parked at Barbary Coast, pick up my luggage from the Orleans bellman, fill the tank with gas, return the car to Dollar, check two bags and still clear security by 9:30PM. No traffic. No crowds. Smooth and stress free.

$4 and the first stop (10 minutes) from the airport on the pay shuttle got me to Terrible’s. Terrilbe’s adverises free transfers but when I called it would take me an hour to get their limo. The next day a buddy took me to El Cortez where I stayed 4 nights for $27 in the nicest rooms you can imagine (Tower) and then 3 free nights. I grabbed a Dollar Car at the Golden Nugget for one week ($140) and went to six free nights: two at Fiesta Rancho, the weekend at River Palms Laughlin, two at Orleans.

SHOWS: Bite at the Stratosphere was okay, in spite of the bad press. I love vampires, so I had to see it with my $10 off coupon. The chief male vampire was bad. He looked and moved more like the Incredible Hulk. No seductive grace. No sense of being a Dracula. Once in a while he growled at us. The rest I liked fine. But what do I know? Beautiful topless dancers tend to entertain me in any venue. Just not often enough.

Tony Orlando at the Orleans. I don’t like smaltz and prefer less intense lounge music, so this is not my kind of show, but the Orleans sent me a free ticket, so I went. I asked to be up front; they sat me in the second row dead center. Best seat in the house.
Sammy Shore opened with comedy. He is an old fellow. He was just okay.

The rest of the performers were great. Left Brothers band was sensational. What a blues voice that fellow has!! Orlando’s voice was still good and there was all sorts of music played besides Tie a Yellow Ribbon: James Taylor, Beatles, Led Zeppelin. A Patagonian harp player who will be at Carnegie Hall on October 15th played a couple numbers. Toni Wine ( who wrote Candida played and sang a couple of the songs she wrote including Black Pearl (with a member of the Checkmates in the audience). Orlando’s daughter was 14 that day and he sang a sweet song for her. So it was a great show and I was glad to have gone. I just wish these fellows wouldn’t make me clap so much or sing the chorus. Hell, if I could sing, I’d skip the shows and take a shower. But there I was in the second row and old Tony looking right into my eyes and saying “Come on, put your hands together” so what could I do? And I was glad to see he is getting fat. I’m getting fat too. Gives me hope.

I liked the lounge band at the Oasis Lounge of the Golden Nugget and the Smith Brothers at the Orleans. Every time I go to the Orleans lounge a lone black woman gets up and dances every song by herself. I’ve seen her at least a half dozen times. I wonder what her story is. Also caught John Windsor at Brendan’s Irish Pub and enjoyed him with a pint of free Beamish.

Great comedy at the Comedy Stop in Laughlin for $11.95. John Joseph with John Sanchez and John Barillaro. Comedy included musical comedy- guitar and piano. Joseph took information he gleaned from an audience member and improvised a song with it. It was my favorite comedy act this year and managed great laughs without over dependance on obscenity (which never offends me but usually bores me, especially when it is the sole source for humor). These guys were talented not simply outrageous.

Caught the Royal Dixie Jazz Band at the Gold Coast (1 pm until 6pm) I listened to three sets and they were good, except for Joey Farina who plays a fine trombone, but when he sings, just misses the right notes by enough to annoy you. But I would not miss hearing this group anyway. They lost one fellow I liked and gained a fellow just as good. The horns and piano are superb.

Watched the the Thursday night Doo Wop band at the Fiesta Rancho ( They were great!! All the old songs from the 50’s and 60’s in harmony. The place was packed with local swing dancers. Well worth a trip out there.

And, as always, I loved Huck Daniels ( at the Stratosphere on Monday nights. I went twice. What a treat! A jam session format draws all sorts of musicians from all over the area and especially from the Black community. See this if you can. It is unique. It has been so successful that he is going to do another one at Arizona Charlie’s Decatur on Sundays.


I don’t eat fancy; I eat free. My expected expenditures for food over 15 days is under $7 a day on average.

Golden Nugget buffet was great and playing 4 sequential hours of live poker gives you $10 off and a line pass. I played late a few times, got comped at say 2 AM., slept,and went back for a nice free lunch. Be certain they write your name down when you start playing and you ask for the comp when you quit. And don’t try getting pushy with the woman manager. She is a tough cookie.

The saddest meal of the trip was the steak and lobster at Careless Kitty’s Cafe - El Cortez. Sparse portions and tasteless. This meal even looked sad on the plate. I ordered it medium rare and I believe that they cooked it that way, but perhaps three or four times. It was billed as New York steak, but it looked like a strip of liver and had the flavor of a warmed up refrigerator leftover. I’d have sent it back, but that is never a good idea and at Careless Kitty’s who knows with what “spices” it might return.

Because it was cheap and convenient, I ate at Careless Kitty’s often on free poker comps or my mailed coupons, but most of the food was just passable. I did like a hamburger cheese melt sandwich on rye bread, but I ate it with a guy I met playing poker. Kelsey was from Guiana and a good talker. So it may have been the company, but I thought that sandwich was Yum and just about the right price for a $5 poker comp. Oh, skip the new Chinese buffet at El Cortez too. Smallest Chinese buffet I have ever seen and nothing of great merit except the servers, who were wonderful.

I enjoyed again some comped Feel Good Soup with fried wontons at Fiesta Henderson’s Baja Cafe. What a meal!! Thanks again Yahtzee.

It is no longer advantageous to use comp dollars from the Orleans for food because they give you the same rate in cash in your pocket, but the Poker room gives food comps. I no longer play poker there, but I have played in the past, so I used accumulated comps of $14 and treated myself to a fine bowl of oyster stew at Al’s Oyster bar. Rich and creamy broth and lots of whole yummy oysters. The next day I took the last $5.35 and applied it to the Orleans buffet. There I discovered beef ribs and asked for some with no sauce; They pulled them hot out of the oven smoker. Yum!!.

I also was mailed a coupon for two free Orleans buffets and I arrived by myself on seafood night. $16.95. So, inspired by lone travelers like Rita Golden Gelman (Tales of a Female Nomad) and William Least Heat-Moon (Blue Highways) I approached a fellow I saw heading into the buffet line and offered a free meal for conversation. So I ate the seafood buffet and listened to Mark from Salt Lake City tell me about selling the last American made diamond saw blades, how he loves the Yankees and fusses over his lawn, how fine it is to raise a 16 year old daughter who is perfect in every way, and where in Utah he catches huge trophy brown trout on a fly. Sorry. I won’t give that fishing spot away here. Fishin’ ain’t like poker.

Texas Station had less varieties of chili. I was disappointed because I go there primarily for the chili. I especially missed Buffalo Breath chili. But the Coyote chili was superb. And the rest was a great barbecue! I used Fiesta points, but it was not cheap in points, 5400 I think. A little less because I showed them I had a Boarding Pass card too. But I only play at the Fiesta’s because they give me free rooms and food and triple point mailings and it is never hard to find 10/7 DB there. At Rancho it is even in dimes or nickels. That game does not exist anywhere else in dimes or nickels.

Ate a lot of graveyard steaks at the Stratosphere and they were good and the service friendly and even at 4 AM for entertainment there were lots of pretty girls all dressed up in sparkles probably back from some club. I’d play poker until 3 and then eat to use up a little time, so when I caught the bus to downtown and walked to El Cortez, it was after 5 AM and workers were moving about. That one block from the Freemont Experience to the Cortez is a bit scarey and threatens another “ Freemont Experience” which I hope to avoid. By the way, in that scarey block, at the watch store, right there in the doorway, is a fine cold water fountain called the “Fountain of Youth.” Sure is a great place to fill your old water bottle or catch a cold drink for free on a hot afternoon.

I liked the Rotisserie Chicken. in the Edgewater buffet in Laughlin. Use the American Casino Guide $5 coupon, but bring your identification card. They ask.

Finally, I don’t care what you say, Terrible’s has enough good food on their buffet to make a meal. You just have to be a little selective and remember not to wait too long to pick dessert as the pickens can get slim at the end of a session. The beef was excellent twice. 2-1 coupopns are plentiful. They cut them to 50% for one person. Or it cost only 1000 points, a dollar in cash back value. How can you go wrong with that? Sure beats Careless Kitty’s cuisine.


I am not a good poker player. I play too much in home games with the same players, so I don’t really learn to judge my competition. I am still too loose and I don’t lay down soon enough. I am shy about aggressive raises to push players out even after I have earned some table respect for tossing away garbage, hand after hand after hand. I can’t do the math of pot odds or count my “outs” accurately. I have not memorized what the odds of making certain hands are. But I’m getting better. Maybe those refinements will come. In the meantime, I can best control my winning by picking games with poor players. Now that there are tons of poker rooms, that is easy. Sometimes all it takes is a table change. If you make it clear you are leaving if you can’t get a change, they will often change you, even if you unbalance the tables. Just be nice about it. Always take the blame for the change. “Sorry, I can’t play there, it is just too crazy” or the “cards are just too unlucky” or “ I lose too much there” or anything that makes it your fault. And if they won’t accommodate you, just say, “Sorry, thanks for trying” and then take a walk and come back and buy in again later.

I don’t like to play with dealers on a break. At the Luxor I once got disgusted when a woman dealer got paid to study us as she dealt our loose, poor playing table for two hours and then requested a break so she could come and wait to play tight as a drum and just pluck up our money. There is something just not right about that. I won’t go back there. But in some places this trip (Tuscany, Stratosphere, River Palms), the dealers were simply not very good, and I kept playing even when they joined the table.

I played a lot of low limit this trip and I’ve decided that the real skill is picking the game and leaving when too many good players join. There are lots of poker rooms. There is a great deal of difference between tourists in a hurry to get back to the spouse for a show or meal and locals who slowly play the same game every day, between college kids on a lark who all bet like maniacs to out bluff one another, or drunks who can’t figure much beyond getting their calling chips somewhere close to the pot.

Next trip I am staying away from places just before and after tournaments as good players follow those tournaments and play a little low limit before and as they are eliminated.

I also decided this trip that I am going to watch a game, and evaluate the play before I join; so I need to learn to quickly read cards from a distance by the spots. I can’t make out the numbers. Here at home I took some black electrical tape and covered the numbers on one deck of cards, and once, every so often, I flip through the deck and read the spots, so my brain gets the kind of repeated practice that will pay off.

I learned a lot this trip and I think my game is much better now. Sorry, I can’t remember all the details of high hand awards, but I’ll put in whatever details I do remember.

El Cortez - Still, too much smoke but a lovely game. 1-3 spread limit with a single dollar blind and 1-6 spread on the river . You can wait for cards and then strike hard at the end or fold for less invested money. And if you hold the nuts, a check raise at the end is, “Oh so sweet!!” The poker room managers play, so watch out for them. The woman is tight and good.

Jackie Gaughan comes down to play almost every day, but I think he has aged quite a bit. Still looks the part however, dressed to the nines, monogrammed shirts and all, and it is the sound of another era when he calls with his , “One for the Money.” Don’t try to get into a conversation with him, however. That is not good manners. They say too many people ask him for things some days. And he is not in position to give anything now. But if you want to play next to a creator of old time Vegas, here is your chance.
They are moving the poker room soon and expanding the tables. Maybe that will cure the smoke issue a little. The rake caps at $2.50 and there is no bad beat or high hand rake. Compare that to games that take $5 from every winning hand. It is a very fine game for a low roller and the locals are quite entertaining. They know all about life, about marriage, about what is in the papers, about each other, and the banter may not be astute, but it is colorful and great fun. Careful, however. Some of those old boys are mighty tricky. On the other hand, after the river I bet $6 on my ace high club flush into a fellow with the straight flush. He did not see that he had it, and just called.

Golden Nugget - Nice room, Nice games, all very different, from a table of aggressive maniac college kids who make it ten dollars to see a flop on a 2/4 table - to a table of hot little cuties too drunk to play. One sweet, young, inebriated cutie popped her feet up on my lap, so I could admire how her toe nails matched the color of her fingernails. Great entertainment for an old guy.

There too I played with the fellow who did the photographs that hang behind the podium in Colorado Belle, Laughlin poker room. I lost his web site. The photos are artistic renditions of hands peaking at cards. Not bad photography.

4 hours of consecutive play at the Nugget will get you a $10 comp to the exquisite buffet (pickled herring, smoked salmon, wonderful beef, perfectly cooked broccoli and much, much more). So you can play from 10 PM until 2 AM, go get some sleep, and hit the lunch buffet for free the next day. And the comp works as a line pass so you miss that average half hour wait in line. It is a popular buffet and one of my favorites. Certainly the best downtown or maybe a tie with Main Street Station.

Binions- I liked it. Too many tournaments. They draw in the better players who sit in to 2-4 games for just long enough to cost you money.

Laughlin- River Palms - Tourists in winter. In August, oh my! Most of these August players played every day and the only tourists were from California neighborhoods where card rooms are thicker than churches and attract larger congregations. At the 2-6 spread limit game I lost almost $300. Six dollar reraises. Too tough to pay $10 to see a flop. Colorado Belle was the same story only more serious. I watched but did not play. Flamingo had a $3-6 structured game that was fine and more what I am used to. I made money and a $4 comp, which brought the Sunday breakfast buffet the next morning down to about a dollar. This was nice. No crowds at the Flamingo Sunday buffet and very nice omelets.

Imperial Palace- Wish I had gone earlier. The best comps. $3 an hour comps on your card, but they say don’t eat there. After a few trips perhaps a free night or two will collect on the card. Played very loose and passive newbies, but around tournament time, in marched the regulars. They made a total difference even in the 2-4 game. There was a no limit game but no 3-6 or 4-8 there to attract out the better players. They told me those games are rare.

Gold Coast - I did not play but watched games for the 20 minute break between the Royal Dixie Band sets. Players at the 2-4 seemed pretty easy. Soon (perhaps by now) they will have a promotion where seated players are pulled at random and get to try for cash awards. It looked good. I’d play then, especially if fewer players meant a better chance to get picked.

Excalibur- They have a cheap 1-3 spread limit game. 1 dollar blind and no rake for other kinds of awards at this low level. At about 5PM they put out free food. I played one afternoon with tourists, many of them new and then just before the food came out, the tourists went off for their fancy supper and the table filled up with good players perhaps to get a bit of free supper. I left before the food came out.

Stratosphere -Relatively new room with $1 comps per hour, but don’t expect to use them for a few months as the hours are collected on paper but not entered into the automation yet. In fact, there is no automation yet. The dealers play here and I always think that is a bummer except that they are all new dealers so most of them can’t play that well. Mostly tourists. High hand awards. Go play on Monday and if the tables are not to your liking, go over and hear Huck Daniels in the lounge. His band is good, but better still is the jam session he holds late night until 2 AM. You never know who will play from what show in Vegas. I have seen a Tina Turner impersonator twice and she is superb. All this free. In fact, before you leave the poker room order a beer and carry it over and you can avoid buying a drink in the lounge.

MGM - Played a $3-6 game and liked it. I try being a little tricky because players noticed I played tight and game me some respect. One youngster gave me TOO much respect. He bet and I called with my outside straight draw through the turn. No straight on the river. I held 7-8 suited with no flush ever possible. On the river he just threw in his cards. Bad play anytime. He probably had me beat or maybe held the same hand. You never know. I think finally he was embarrassed to bet, but it would have cost him nothing to check and see my hand.

I suspect this game changes often. I think I’ll check when they have the next large convention there and I am in town. I’ll bet it fills up with other than Vegas local players. Dollar an hour comp and a cool looking card.

Tuscany- New room. I just missed the grand opening night on Aug 1st because I got an airline bump coming into town, but I liked the game. Comps are $1 an hour and no cap on that so you could play all day and eventually have some comped suites. Food is good there too. If you have pocket Aces and lose, You get $25 from the house. They also gave me a large magnetic coin that works well as hand protection. Ask and see if they have some left. Dealers play here too, but many are new to the game.


If you push the lime down into the Corona and it starts to fizz high and overflow, don’t think you can stop the action by putting your finger over the bottle top. Eventually, well....very quickly really...... that built up fizz is gonna get out and when it starts to squirt, you are not going to be a popular player at the poker table, except perhaps to a few who hope you are a complete fool who will play the way he drinks.


Only found 3 old machines of 10/7 Double Bonus left in quarters at the El Cortez. They all paid off in coin. The cards flip down verrrrrrrrrry slowly but it is fun because it holds you in a state of expectation. It was not fun, however, when it was time to go the bathroom and a cash out of quarters meant waiting for a hopper fill. I like tickets when I play alone. But on Wednesday you do get a free ice cream bar for every 4 of a Kind. If you remember to ask. Or if you whine enough after forgetting to ask.

Meanwhile the Fiesta Rancho casinos have these great Optimum machines that have 10/7 even in nickels and dimes. When my bankroll got low, I switched to dimes and loved it. I also saw machines with Bob Dancer’s picture on them. “Dancer’s Picks” I think it was called.I got 3X points one day for being over 55 and 3X points another day with a mailed coupon.

Fiesta Henderson has very nice, new 10/7 machines.

And of course the Orleans still has 10/7 all over.


Terrible’s gave me a $15 gas coupon for very few points. It pays not to take cash back there and take points in food, gas and rooms. However, don’t be fooled by their 5X points promotions. Those 5X points are not worth the same as “restricted points” earned on days when you don’t get 5X. Confusing? Well, that’s what they hope.

4 Queens gave me a collection of 50 flavors of gourmet jellybeans and good cashback but no free key chain. Those are gone. The souvenir was a slot card string. I liked the luggage tags and the key chains much better. Oh, I also got some drawing tickets for $5,000 and I don’t have to be there to win.

I joined the Westin Club and they let me play $40 for $25 in cash. I played JOB to reduce the volatility and cashed out up $19.

Well 15 days in Vegas and I’m down $612. Ten free nights. Almost free food. Lots of points in all places, so I’ll get mail for the next trip. Free shows and free drinks (my tips are in chips so they count as gambling losses). Lots of entertainment. I’ll be ready again in January.

Dewey089 <> - Averill Park NY