Monday, December 24, 2007

December 2007 trip report


Generally, I like writing trip reports because I can relive the experience of Vegas, but this time the experience fell short of my expectations. I am more tempted to just forget it and move on. However, perhaps there are some small parts that would be helpful in planning. However, the rush of holidays and the planning and packing and house shutting for our coming two month escape to Florida make a well polished trip report impractical. And as I write I am still sleeping more of the day than I am awake. Please forgive the rather rushed, first draft nature of this writing.


Being sick and tired in Vegas is rather a drag. Being sick and tired and way down in gambling bankroll is worse. I started with sleep issues. I could not seem to regulate my sleeping. I got so tired that I did not want to drink alcohol, so free drink offers were wasted.
One sober afternoon, I tripped on the high curbing in front of the Plaza, could not catch my forward motion, and went down pretty hard on the concrete. I bruised some ribs and they bothered me all the while I was there and still have not healed.
A week later I caught the cold going around Vegas and felt even more tired nd washed out. That too is still with me. I have been sleeping on and off since I got home with no real pattern to the sleep, awake some early morning hours, asleep some entire afternoons.

I play 10/7 Double Bonus and live poker almost exclusively. I pepper it with seven pulls on the Megabucks and craps and blackjack with matchplays. It is a frugal approach to Vegas.

My 10/7 DB video poker play was the worst I ever experienced. My first night I ran over $4000 through the a MSS machine without one single 4OAK. So much for scratch off advantages. The entire week I hit 4 aces only once and never another premium 4OAK, just the lower pay.
My live poker game seemed off. Too few tourists. Too many locals who all knew one another. Being sick and tired did not help.
By the end of day 7 in a 15 day trip I was down $1400, which for me is a record. I wondered how to sustain my play for the rest of the week.
The El Cortez helped me by eliminating all the good paying VP. While I played the last 10/7 DB coin dropper that was left there, they came around and put a sticker on it indicating that it took $3 on that machine to earn a point.
So I quit trying.
After all the pavilion rooms are so cheap there and the food so generally poor, that playing for comps makes very little sense compared to investing in the much better games at 4 Queens and MSS.
That decision helped.
By the end of my visit I was only down $1153, and if you combine that with my free air flight and my $8 room rate average and my $8 a day food average, it still cost me less to go to Vegas than to go on vacation anywhere else. It should feel great, but I can't quite rise to celebrate yet.


I am not fussy about where I sleep, so I don't have too much of value to report. I think MSS are great rooms, but not as practical for me as others because they have slats on the windows that preclude napping without light and plenty of noise from the trains or car traffic below. I choose to start the trip there so I am somewhere else when I get really tired.
I loved the South tower of the 4 Queens. Even had a coffee maker so that I can brew my tea in the ceramic cup I carry.
I did not experience the Vintage Room at the El Cortez. They gave me a free upgrade to the Pavillion room I already occupied. I forgot about the stairs and carrying luggage too, so when I injured my ribs I did not want to carry bags upstairs. Guess I'll stick to the Pavillion. Keep an eye on their own website. I got weekend nights for $26. Also they don't take the money out ahead of time now as they did last year, but just use your charge card to put a hold on the rooms and charge you when you get there. That makes booking and canceling so much easier.

Binions was fine. Shabby rooms, but the poker room is at the bottom of the elevator. This year I got stubborn and only played there once. My stubborn nature emerged when I reserved a room with the ACG coupon for $39 and when I got there after having dragged my large suitcase up from MSS with my bruised ribs, they would not give it to me for less than $59. The booker had made a mistake. I am writing a letter of protest and will make a separate post with the entire incident detailed for board view once they respond to what I wrote them. I won't go there if I can't count on the price they quote. I may not anyway.
The one time I did play at 3 AM when the ribs kept me awake, I listened to old dealers remember the old days when the casino really was managed right and was the pearl of downtown gambling.

Hints: Ask to be away from the Freemont noise and bring dollar store bag clips for those pesky sunlight leaking curtains. Call and confirm the price a few times before going. Have back up plan ready.


Okay, I know this is not a renovation that is awe inspiring to anyone, but for me it was just fine. I loved it. I just like neon. I'm not much for flat screen fast moving movies ont he strip signs. That stretch is delightfully quaint. It seems an extension of the neon museum.

I like the bright new lights. I like the ever present security guard. I like the guys on bicycles. And I liked the entire feel of the walk to the El Cortez. It was December and still the tourists and walkers were out and about.

So I suppose that the El Cortez will tighten the gambling and raise the room rates. Maybe to find the real future frugal deal, I'll have to go to the Western. Already they gutted the VP. Then they added that damned high hand BS to the poker room. Will the BJ be next? Will all gambling in Vegas soon be set up to fleece with no chance at even for frugal victory, but just those occasional winning moments that are a great rush as long as you discipline yourself not to add up what they cost in the losing drain of the rest of the visit?


I did have some fine encounters with people, old and new. My brother-in-law and poker lover flew in from California and spent a few days playing with me and giving me pointers. My poker playing son came at the end of the trip and stayed with me a couple days. My poker buddy Slink was there for almost a week. And I met people from the talk boards who I have only written to. Matt for the Uk, JerryG3, Mohave, and my long time board buddy Catherine who brought her mother for a first visit. I also connected to a couple fine guys at the El Cortez who are locals. I love that poker room. So full of life. And I did well there even in the mornings against those fine old tight and tricky players. Plenty of interesting strangers encountered on buses too(see that section) i even met former Mayor Ed Koch at the Wynn.
My son and his wife and her brothers came. Son Keith came a couple days earlier and one day he wore the T shirt they made last year with my picture on it. When asked for photo ID I just pulled down the zipper of his sweatshirt and showed my photo. It was a great deal of fun and a fine honor too. He and I hung out when I could stay awake and then the others arrived and we had a fine meal at Spice Market Buffet at PH. One of the brothers had just turned 21 and was having his first Vegas experience.
One other son's ex girlfriend Amanda, came up from California to spend some time with me. She really likes me and it is such a kick to have a cute little twenty something smiling and joking and flirting with me in Vegas.
Actually, my fondest memory this trip going to Ellis Island with her and my son Keith (married one above) using the 4 drink coupons, getting the steak special, feeling a little afternoon drunk on the wine, and in the middle of all of it getting a call from a nephew who has been lost to me twice and recently reconnected. It felt like Christmas.
hint: If you order the special steak medium well, they butterfly it and cook it. It is not the same steak then, but so much thinner and probably not as appealing. Perhaps that is the source of those negative Ellis Island posts. Ordered medium rare it comes thick and juicy with plenty of garlic green beans and a bit of porter. Great cheap meal.


In the future I am just going to pay for rooms at the El Cortez and not play any machines unless they put back the high pay. Orleans dropped the 10/7 last time last time in December. So that casino has been off my list.
Perhaps all the 10/7 machines are doomed. The advantage players play them too well, I suppose, and the rest of the folks, well......they don't really care what pay tables look like. To them it is all luck.
But for now I can put my money in 4 Queens who are giving great comps and MSS who have the scratch offs for 4 OAK. Pumping all my VP money through their machines will give me free rooms in both those places. The 4 Queens gave me weekend nights free, free food every day, and free play. Also, I got a fine whiskey decanter set for my play this December. No cheap thing either. It was so heavy I had to get another duffel bag brought in by my son to get it home. Finally, the MSS still has 9/6 JOB at the bar where if I am well enough, I can get those fine pints of black chip porter and play the easier strategy and play until I am too tired or drunk to read the strategy sheets, or care, and then just hobble to the elevator. I could not do that this time. I was too sick and tired with no alcohol.
At the 4 Queens I decided to chase the progressive when it was about $1100 until it hit the tax documenting place at $1199.99. It was the best odds I had all week, but I could not hit 4OAKs or that fine royal. I lost $525 until 4 aces brought me back a bit.
Unsure of the tax cut off spot, I asked the woman next to me.
"Isn't it $1200?"
"No," she said, " It is $1199.99" and I laughed until at $1199.53 I was dealt 4 to the royal. Then I realized that you needed to be exact if you did not want a slip generated. Two hands later I got dealt 4 to the Royal again.


I only played craps twice except for matchplays. Once was at the Sahara on $50 for $40 and it went well enough. But on my last morning I just wanted to play a bit at the El Cortez. $3 pass line. 10X odds but my bankroll did not allow that. I bought in for $40 and I was the shooter. Point was nine and in three rolls I hit the seven.
The next shooter set the dice and had that nice arc. We won. I replaced my bets and we won again. Then I noticed that the shooter was betting the dark side against himself.
But he was setting for positive numbers.
And he caught them.
With very little noise in between, he rolled over and over and over and hit point after point. Sevens and elevens came first. And all that while he lost. He switched his bets to a doey-dontey system. Crazy betting. Letting the eventual 12 wipe out the other break even bets.
Before he was done he had made me $102 on my little $3 and double odds bets. Nice. I quit and went to find a poker seat to take on the morning El Cortez rocks. It was my last day and I was to make my best profit $130.

SPAMALOT - Almost for free.

I had bought two half priced tickets before I learned that my poker buddy Robin could not come due to failing health. He wanted to pay for his ticket, but I said no, I'd try to sell it. I could not see him not getting to come and still having a bill to pay.

A very interesting fellow named Matt bought it for $20 after I offered it on the boards and we enjoyed the show together. Matt had some interesting stories too. He teachers people to drive the trains that go through London. Imagine. This is a bit like teaching driver's ed only when the student can't seem to hit enough brake, well, it is a huge, heavy train that we are talking about. What tense teaching that has to be!
So I paid $83 and with Matt's $20 I was down to $63.
In the envelope was a deal for $25 freeplay so I loaded it on my card. When I loaded it, they also told me that new signers at Wynn could get the buffet for just 75 points ($3 equals one point). I found an 8/5 DB progressive 50 cent game at the Wynn and decided to go for the buffet.
My freeplay yielded $23 and from then on I got trips almost every hand. I have never seen such a run of trips in my life. Without a 4OAK or much of anything really I quit with my 75 points and $50 cash.
So for my $83 investment I got a $34 buffet I've been wanting to try, and $70 cash and the show.
Not bad.
And to top it off the buffet could be claimed anytime up to 72 hours after my play so I could get an appetite and come back rather than squeeze it in on a day when I'd eaten.
I loved the show. They captured the humor of Monty Python and the music was the best I ever remember seeing. I don't like musicals much. This musical cracked on itself. The soapy overacted songs were all about joking how soapy and overacted they were. I loved it. A musical that trashed musicals and still had you loving the sound of the trashing.
I had watched the Holy Grail movie at home before I left and was glad. I liked having a sense of the movie when I saw the stage presentations.
Much of the music drew from Black American tradition, jazzy skat singing and tap dance were perfect. I loved it all.
My seats were front balcony just to the right of that plastic guard that can block aile seat view. I could see around the edge of it. Great view. No close sense of faces but a fine sense of the patterns on stage.
Matt was a fine companion.
And for one night I managed to stay awake after 8 PM. I avoided alcohol all day and did coffee early enough so as not to have to be uncomfortable and ready for a potty break. It was one of by best nights in Vegas.


I saw big Elvis who is not quite as big. It was packed but I found a single seat by some folks who did not like me sitting in that empty chair but tolerated me. I enjoyed him but less than last time.

I heard a great country band from the stage at the Plaza. I could play poker and hear the music.

I heard two sets of the Classic Jazz band at the Gold Coast. Great stuff. Under attended and under appreciated. What talent they have, especially on horns.

I walked into the pool area of the Golden Nugget and around to the other side of the aquarium where you can really see the sharks and other fish. You can't see more than half of the aquarium from outside the pool area and there were no sharks visible from there.


What a treat to finally go there. I played this old Bugs Bunny machine for almost a half hour on 75 cents and felt like a kid. I also shot a lazer gun from 1966. What an amazing place! Tropicana and Pecos, tucked back in the plaza just beyond Putter's Bar and a comic book store. Ask around if you can't find it. Look at the large plaza sign to see which plaza has the museum.


I had a bunch of coupons this time. I had bought three ACG books last November for my December Birthday Bash gathering and people gave me leftovers. But I did not have the energy to chase them this year. Here are my few uses:

From downtown took the 108 (in front of MSS) to the Hard Rock where you can do a matchplay, get $10 freeplay, and buy the new win cards $20 for $30 all on the same day. Walk back to Terribles and get the free hat (POV) and play off some matchplay. Breakfast is cheap as they take 50% off with coupon but this trip I just had too much free food to do that.

You can walk down to Ellis Island and use some coupons there, but I did this part on a different day.
Remember that they will want to see your ACG identity card and limit what you do. Lots of talk about a hard guy Pete who gives everyone trouble.
Take a 4 free drink coupon to the bar while you wait for a table an carry the drinks in to the restaurant. We did not use coupons there, but got the steak special.

Use golden Gate coupons for free decks in conjunction with matchplays there.

My funiest coupon was at Terribles when I decided that a Heineken and a snack bar in my carryall bag would be lunch.
I was in a dull, spacey state, my cold making me almost senseless.
The funbook coupon used to give one for 75 cents but now it was 95 cents. I was thinking it was free. I handed the bartender a dollar and the coupon. He played with the cash register for a long while and then apologized that he did not have nickels to give me my nickle change.
I was very puzzled.
I told him the dollar was intended as a tip and finally it registered that the beer was not free, so I gave him another dollar.
A few long minutes more of punching buttons on the cash register, and he was still totally flabbergasted. He explained that Terribles had changed the coupon from 75 to 95 cents, but that he did not know how to put in 95 cents in the register unless it was in nickle change and he did not have any nickles.
I suggested he just charge me a dollar for the beer.
"Well, that is a great solution," he said.
I laughed so hard to think of two grown men spending ten minutes trying to figure out what to do with a nickle.


For the most part I eat where they comp me.
I had $25 free at El Cortez and they will give you a $5 comp every other day for 4 hours of live poker play at Careless Kitty's. The pattie melt has gone up in price, so it costs another $2. The prime rib is good, but I was never there when it was ready.
I had $20 a night free at Magnolia's in 4 Queens and we used it for two breakfasts. One day my buddy Slink got a BJ comp there. Man, that was something. Two rounds of drinks, appetizer, entree and desert all comped. I got the beer sampler which counted as two rounds and we had huge platters of food.
Main Street Station let me get a buffet comp without playing when I first arrived. It took me two line waits as the clerk said no but the host said okay. I got another the next morning for breakfast based on my play but remember that was $4000 and all lost.
The Plaza gives a $7.77 comp for live poker play of about 4 hours. Be sure you have your card with you. Late at night you can't get a card but you can get the comp. The poker room closes at 2AM regardless of players or games in progress. The comps are good for 72 hours, so you can save it. I know the buffet is dumped on, but for over easy eggs exactly like you want them, you can't beat that chef. Remember that I go for 15 days. Were I to eat lush buffets all 15 days, even once a day, I would not have to worry about falling again, because I would just roll everywhere I went.
El Cortez Breakfast buffet (2 come free with comped rooms) is "gullet filling" as my buddy Catherine says, but it is a nice quiet room for talking and my son and I caught up on all the family news there.
I ate twice at the Spice Market Buffet at PH and it was great. I love the crab legs warmed on the grill. Great tandori chicken. Wonderful tempura shrimp. I could just eat that. Fine flan for dessert. What a great bargain!
I ate at Mamacita's twice. I love this place too, but I order too much food. This time I fully black bean soup with garlic bread, and it was great. Also had a fine pork chop dish garnished with green onions. I met the chef and he was delightful.
While you eat, you can watch fine video music although I did not much like the hip hop videos except to wonder why Spanish Americans would borrow all that cliche when they have so much culture to draw music from. The place is just like Mexico. And it is just steps from the El Cortez. Use the exit directly across from the parking/Pavilion room elevator doors.
I was so sick one night that I did not think I could get out of my Pavilion room bed but I managed it that far and was so happy as the meal cheered me up.
I had two free hot dogs at Slots A Fun, while I was picking up my free cards and heading over to play poker at Riviera. That is an easy access area from downtown as you don't get much traffic until then. Also the 105 goes back behind Circus Circus and Riviera. By the way with a coupon from Slot A Fun the funbook their decks are just 75 cents and come in a variety of colors and had no black markings.
I ate one hot dog with sauerkraut when I went to hear the afternoon jazz at the Gold Coast. The bar also took the old drink coupon if I showed my Orleans room key, so I still got my cheap lunch with entertainment. I was sorry to hear that band only once. I was sick and staying at the Gold Coast one trip and did nothing but drink Crown Royal and listen to their sets and go up to bed.
Wynn Buffet - it was grand, but I think I like the Spice Market just as much. I would not pay the $34 for that experience.
I had one late night steak and egg at Careless Kitty's and it was fine, but nothing to write home about. The server was incredible.
Again I found bringing plenty of dried fruit and nuts and buying some juice at the Walgreen's kept me from being hungry between meals. I also filled in with two shrimp cocktails and some piano music at the Golden Gate. Often that was all the breakfast I wanted.

I ate at the Main Street Station buffet and found it just great as always. I love the bits of butterfinger for the ice cream. Sometimes at a buffet you create some recipes, combining the tastes of different places. Here is my favorite combination. A nice heap of the Hawaiian pork in the back section of the buffet.(this pork is just like what I ate in Hawaii) Mix in some of the collard greens in the Southern foods section near where the buffet turns. Top with those crunching Chinese noodles and a bit of Chinese hot sauce and mix it all up. Yum!!
I also like their sticky buns at breakfast and their fried seafood.

I had a nice time eating at the Golden Nugget on poker comps with my brother-in-law Jim but went the next night on my own, paid too much (the comp is just $10) and found it lonely.


My son rented a car and so I experienced the driving in and around Vegas again. For me it does not compare well with the bus, especially in December. The Deuce can be packed or there can be a long wait, but there is no pressure of finding my way when I ride the bus. No spaghetti bowl decisions in the dark.

Solo it is just great on the bus. I met so many interesting people on the bus that week. I met a crane operator who will retire after 30 years in Vegas and sold his 90 grand house for 900 grand to buy an RV; he plans on just traveling for a couple years. I met the most delightful woman who was as excited as a little kid to have found a sale on jackets and bought a winter, down-like jacket that came below her knees for just $7 at some store called SaveMore. I met an old drunk trying to hit on some European blonds. I met a Black preacher in the DTC with the most friendly manner who welcomed me to someday come back to Vegas, but assured me that if he were not here when I returned, he knew where he would be. "Well, I'll see you there, then."I replied, and he was so pleased at that response. I met cowboys with accents that fascinated me and kidding banter different from what goes on in my family. I rode for quite a while with a great looking little cowgirl from North Carolina who had just spent the day at Cowboy Christmas.

Each time I go now I try a different route. So after doing the Hard Rock to Terrribles coupon run, I decided to go out to the Pinball Museum on Tropicana and Pecos and to avoid the strip by taking the Flamingo bus to Pecos and then over to Tropicana. That would have worked fine except that the Pecos bus just never came. While waiting for it an ambulance went in the direction of the bus and ten minutes later along came some of the passengers. It seemed that a man had had a heart attack on the bus. they were walking toTropicana.

But I had my cold and my ribs hurt. I just sat and waited for the next bus. That delay was just a half hour. There are two 111 buses running down Pecos, and one of them goes all the way to Green Valley Ranch. There is an interesting adventure for another day.

I took the 108 directly to Cowboy Christmas. Easy ride I did it on the way to the Hardrock.

I took the 105 directly to the Fashion Show Mall to do some shopping and head over to the Wynn for live poker and Spamalot. That is a great route. Easy. It is also a great direct access to Ellis Island and the short walk down to that section of the strip. Nice to avoid the Deuce.

I also figured out how to come back on the 108 on Swenson even after dark. It drops you right downtown near the Fitz. You don't have to walk to the DTC to use that route.

Helpful too that I carry a nice fleece scarf and a hat and dress for winter. After dark in December, it is very cold in Vegas and can be windy at those bus stops.


The closest thing I have to the Cheers experience is playing poker at the El Cortez poker room. The characters repeat themselves over many trips and because the dealers play when they are not working, people shift roles too. When I win money, especially in the morning, I feel as if I have accomplished something. When I losemoney, I generally learn something about myself, my opponent, or the game. It is such a fun poker game, so different from limit with so many possible moves and that big 6 dollar bet on the river that makes trapping pay. The rake is the lowest capped at $2.50. If pots are small, tipping a quarter is not frowned on. I could go to Vegas and stay at the El Cortez and just play that game for the rest of my life. Even sick it was a wonderful treat.
I played at Caesar's and ordered my Myers Rum.
Sorry Sir, no decent alcohol served here.
At the El Cortez I order my Myer's rum with two limes and light on the ice and they come just that way. I say keep them coming and they come and come and come until I tell the waitress to stop for a while. While the rest of Vegas is just becoming one big con, this place seems friendly, easy, full of gambling characters, and offers an island of comfort. It is the only game I miss when I am away. I would rather go there and lose than go other places and win. I will rarely lose more than my rum would cost me.
However, there was a great young blond local guidance counselor at Caesar's who was a great deal of fun. She played to my right a while and then decided she wanted me to her right. I did not want her to my left, but I let it go. She was very good and very funny with one of those little girl voices that are so attractive. So I enjoyed that game too until the blind straddle-I-raise-every-hand-with-nothing- young yahoo joined and changed the table. I left with a little profit. I'd have had more with the girl to my left.

At the El Cortez this trip I actually met a couple fellows who may end up as friends, Kevin who started in New Jersey and a fellow known as The Rockman, not because of his play, but because he collects all sorts of rocks and brings samples as card protectors.

Both of these fellows were easy going and welcoming. They are regulars in the morning playing crew, the tight games where players really watch what is played by who and give plenty of respect. You can play for a long while some mornings and never see any cards. Those players may still be there when Jackie Gaughn, Downtown legend, comes to play.
Jackie may have been a good poker player once. He still plays almost daily and he also plays Pan up at the Plaza, a game so complicated that few understand it and all are amazed to see players holding half a deck of cards in their hands.
In Hold em I watched Kevin play four two's in an easy manner against Jackie, urging Jackie to fold, and not raising on the $6 river. The El Cortez is probably the only place you will ever see a multi-millionaire taken care of by an average guy. It was the strangest hand of my week.

In contrast to Kevin I am not a charitable player against the old fellow. I look forward to Jackie building the few pots I am lucky enough to win. He does not trick his opponents, although he may call when he should fold, so we may get in the habit of staying with him a bit too long. But he makes few bluff raises and you think after those few that he might just not have known he had next to nothing.
I am not a charitable poker player. For example, in one hand against Kevin he held A-J and I was stuck with A-2, and he bet after the flop gave an Ace. I called. That was a bad move. I should have raised or folded. Had I put in a bluff raise, Kevin may have folded. I regret not trying to trick him with that bluff raise.
The only charity I offer is to write this where Kevin will read it and be ready for me next time.

In Rounders when Matt Damon goes up to play in Atlantic City he finds the table filled with players he knows waiting for the fish to come up. He says that they did not really play in collusion with each other, but that they did not actually play against each other either. Now that is no limit and an entirely different class of poker, but the El Cortez morning feelsa bit like that to me. Here are a bunch of regulars who know each other and how each plays and every so often a tourist like me gets fleeced. In between they take a bit from each other back and forth more for amusement than profit.

One regular fellow plays a very different game. Action Jackson he is called. If he is not actually playing while you are there, you will hear his name mentioned by the players. One of my best mornings was winning hand after hand from him simply because I had cards just a bit better.
It was fine turn about.
I gave the money back the next morning, but the victory was sweet while it lasted.

One of my favorite times in poker is when I have not yet established myself as relatively tight and I get a string of good cards that come too often to be believed, so I look like a loose fish to the good players. That is what happened that morning. I get called then. I make money. If I have established myself as tight first, I get fewer callers and the pots are smaller.

Another player also had an encounter with Action Jackson. This young fellow was a marine with huge arms and so uptight I wonder if he is suffering from post traumatic shock. He was so angry at the old semi retired Poker Room manager Ralph for not giving him that $5 food comp that he carped and complained and finally went to a casino person, got the comp and stormed off saying he was going where he could be appreciated.
Remember, this is a game with a rake of $2.50. It is not like there are any high rollers there whose business will cost the casino damage.
And Ralph is an easy, friendly fellow who looks like a throwback to the 50's with suspenders and a pocket pull of cigars. He used to be there regularly but he is only there on occasion now.
Well, it seems that while Action Jackson was in the men's room, our marine threatened to beat him up for some affront at the table. Action Jackson is a bantering, loud fellow so he may have said some things to rile the Marine, but it is all in jest. Practically nothing Action Jackson says is meant to be taken seriously.
Action laughed the threat off, but he came back to the table and thought it was meant to be serious.
Ironically, while Action was missing from the table yet another time (Action probably has ADD; he can't stay in a seat too long) this Marine got in an argument with another drunken, happy player because that player had claimed that he was the second worse player in Vegas (Action Jackson being the absolute worst) Well, the marine went on and on about the ethics of insulting someone behind their back when they were not there to defend themselves and calling Action Jackson his friend and objecting to that friend being insulted.
It would be funny if it did not sound so serious.
Such is the Soap Opera quality of life at the El Cortez live poker tables.

At Bally's a 3-6 the table was full of people who were regulars when I sat down and got a string of cards that gave me $100 in just a few minutes. When the string ran out, I asked for a table change to a new game just starting up, and my luck kept coming. But I played too long there and only had $32 at the end of the evening. I think that I am going to leave games more often once I am up $100. The action after that is just bound to be less. Good players give me respect for the good cards I play, and poor players get intimidated by my wins and won't call me enough.

At the Golden Nugget I had that intimidation experience at a 3-6 full kill game. I hate kills. But I was there with poker buddy Slink and so I played. Sure enough when I finally won a second pot, I saw half the pot go on the Kill button. I was dealt 4-7 off suit and felt my usual resentment at winning only to lose to kill rules when I flopped an open ended straight draw which gave me a high straight on the river.
My one opponent bet into me and I raised and showed my hand for the pot. The table was starting to believe I was very lucky. Out went my $6 on the chip again.
This time I was dealt pocket aces.
"I am on a rush" I announced and raised my kill chip to the groans of everyone. Now my good poker playing son says I should not have announced a fake feeling of Rush because what I wanted was to win the pot right there and not encourage callers, but I say that the only ones to stay would be folks with high cards. I would get out the crazy draws. No one would pay $12 to see the flop unless they had some high cards, and if I put the money in without something said and they put me on aces or kings, I think I might have only won the blinds.
As it was, my aces held so I put another $6 on the button for the next hand.
I got 5-8 off suit.
I did not bet.
But Neither did my opponent.
He did not bet even when he caught his jack high spade flush on the river. He checked because even with my weak play and his good hand he was certain I had him beat because I was just too lucky.
I guess an early bet here would have won that hand too just on my reputation.

But perhaps my son Keith is right. He is an excellent player. I looked forward to playing at the El Cortez table with him and he managed to take $160 off the table playing very well. In the most impressive hand he bluffed out the most aggressive player at the table with nothing but K-Q for a big pot. A few hands later I tried it. I had K-Q and the flop came Q-5-5 with the aggressive guy doing the betting and raising he always did on such flops. I reraised. On the river came a King and I thought for sure I had him beat as I put him on A-Q at best and I was representing a full house. I thought he would fold it up and I could show my bluff cards, the same as my son's. Well, it was an expensive mistake. He had the trips with an Ace.

How much of that was trying to impress my kid with my play is hard to measure, but it could be that it is hard to play with him watching me. He is so much better that I can't always understand what he tries to teach me. I can't seem to do the math in any truely calculating way. I do take pot odds into account, but only estimated. Mostly I play the people. In limit a glance at the pot gives you pretty accurate sense of what can be won with a bet and what is just not worth the trouble.

After I said goodbye to my son I played at Bally's against a father and son that reminded me so much of Keith and I. The dad was playing his second live game and raking in chips by betting in ways his son told him afterwards were totally wrong, but which forced us out of pots. The relationship between them was so much like my relationship with my Keith. the dad won, even got a straight flush high hand. He was so pleased that he had his picture taken with his chips and his son. I suppose that is what I want too.

I was so happy that Keith took a couple days and came to Vegas early to spend some time with me. He even wore the T shirt that he had made for my 60th birthday party with my picture on the front. Once at the El Cortez, the desk clerk asked for my picture ID so I pulled down the zipper on his sweatshirt and showed her the shirt. I thought she would fall down laughing.

In the evening games at the El Cortez I met Brian, a short, stocky guy with thick lensed glasses who dressed in Army camouflage and talked with a distinctive gravely voice, giving opinions or narratives between poker hands. Brian is a regular, and we seemed to hit it off quite well. He was an easy going, friendly fellow and a good player. I did not stay long in hands he bet or raised. He would wink once in a while when he had bluffed out opponents.

One character I enjoyed but felt bad playing against was a tall, swarthy faced man named Kenny. He was a little drunk and loud and said things that did not make sense. On his jacket was an army pin and once in a while he stressed the syllables saying "" in a loud cheer like tone.
Visually, he reminded me of a pirate. his features were big and his cane was almost like a carried sword. I saw him get a bit angry when beat a few times in a row, but most of the time he was more like a happy ten year old. His poker was terrible, but his money seemed endless. When he spoke, you could hear him out on the casino floor. "Oh, my God" he exclaimed loud and often.

Someone said he had suffered a stroke.

I positioned myself to his right because he called anything and bet sometimes with very little. I wanted two of the better players to my right, and I wanted to see the cards better from Kenny's left. I thought that I might use Kenny to bet and then raise after the table called him, but the strategy did not work as I did not get cards. Finally, I got tired and felt just a bit bad to see Kenny just being fleeced, so I went to bed.

One hand was very funny, however. Three aces flopped and Kenny's opponent held pocket kings. Kenny always called bets and raised when his better cards were easy to read. So when he bet this one, he got callers and of course the guy with two kinds stayed with him. It was amazing that the guy did not raise him given kenny's history of loose play.
Kenny showed the case ace, and the whole table cheered. I think most people wanted Kenny to win something, but it is poker after all, and the weak get fleeced.

I always play my advantage against any opponents. If I can't, then I leave. I did wonder about that strategy , however, when across the table from me sat a pretty dark haired girl with the most interesting face, and I pushed her into an all in bet knowing my trips had her beat. She lost and left the table. I was not sure if I won or not.
"What did you have to do that for?" the fellow next to me asked with a grin.
"I don't know what I was thinking?" I answered.

Overall I lost money at poker. I don't know just how much as I keep a total score and don't break out the poker losses separately. Few places held what I look for, a table of predictable players who are fairly tight, just lightly seasoned with idiots or fish and no maniacs.

At the Riviera 3-6 I found that, but just did not get cards. Two guys who knew one another were drunk and playing terribly. They could not be predicted and had to be called down.
I won my first hand when I caught a river flush and the one fellow asked the dealer if a flush beat a straight before he decided to call me or not. The other fellow once asked if a straight could go over the top, as in Q-K-A-2-3. Had they been squeezing us I'd have thought it all a scam, but it was real. After being called down with Ace high and losing, the one fellow would hold his fist up to be bumped with his opponent's fist. It was all too funny. Finally they left for the craps table and I left with $42 because I did not get cards to play. With a good run of high cards, I'd have left with a few hundred.

But the next night everyone there knew everyone and the dealer and played in ways I could not figure out. Once again I did not get cards for a long, long while. A no limit waiter who had too much energy and was talking and fidgeting sat to my right. I got A-K and lost when it flopped Ace-rag-Queen to a guy with pocket Queens. Next hand I got A-K and no limit guy bet when the flop came A-rag-Jack. I called to the river and saw him collect a high hand award for quad jacks so I went home.

I hate high hand awards. Not only don't I win them although I pay for them in every pot I win, but it also changes the way people play. At the Golden Nugget I had my pocket kings cracked by a guy who caught a straight with a 4-5 of clubs that he admitted he played in spite of my preflop raise because he wanted a chance at the high hand straight award. And even if you win, it can be frustrating. At the Palms a fellow caught a diamond flush for $439 and not thirty minutes later another diamond flush emerged. This one only paid $50. I think high hand favors the loose players.

One place with a great rake and no high hand was the Wynn. I played 4-8 there. If I understand the rake correctly, they take $1 at ten, twenty, thirty and eighty so many of the pots cap at $3 rake. Of course, the downside is that they are good players attracted by the low rake and so harder to beat. I played there early in my trip when I still had some bankroll in conjunction with seeing Spamalot. One day I was up $200 and I gave most of it back. That is a good case of a time when I should leave with my winnings after the players get a sense of my play. I walked out once for a break and met Ed Koch, former mayor of NYC in the hallway. He shook my hand. He looked the same only with hearing aides. But then he always looked old.

I liked playing the Plaza. At first I was depressed they were working on the bar and so the room looked very small with black plastic as one wall, but when the bar opened I got the idea. Dancing on the poles of the bar were two cute little cowgirls. When they took a break a great country Western band played at the next stage and all of it was visible from the poker room. This is going to be a favorite place to play for lots of folks. Iike the comps there too. After a few hours of play they easily give out the $7.77 buffet comp good for up to 72 hours. It is a small buffet but every place had advantages and how much can I eat anyway. Here for breakfast the chef will make you any sort of egg you like. It is the only place I can be certain to get an egg over easy(or is it over medium?) with running yolk but no slimy white.

Joining me at the El Cortez twice was a poster named Mohave who was banned from the LV Talk boards during the recent period I think of as the grand inquisition when he voiced some criticism of a new moderator who had gone on tilt. Mohave is still is around on the poker boards and Brian's boards sometimes with a different handle. I tried to get him to ask to come back as I loved his funny prose and his dedication against flamers and those with false names and identities whose real purpose is just to carp or insult rather than share information. He knows plenty about downtown Vegas and is a regular at the El Cortez. He does not live far from Vegas. Anyway, I had never actually met him and then there he was playing against me. Later we rehashed the game at the bar and talked poker for a long while.
It is nice to meet people whose posts have entertained during some of those long, dry weeks between poker games..


I am not a shopper, but Cowboy Christmas was more a museum than a store. What interesting things are in the Western culture. I loved all the wood, the fine burl tables with stonework inlayed between the twisted grains. I loved the bronzes similar to the old Remington, all depicting some Western activity. I never knew how much you could buy related to a horse. Such fine leather work. I could not see all there was to see. Turquoise and silver work was here too. I bought my wife a ring and a necklace.

On Freemont street we found some $2 T shirts with small Vegas 2006 logos. They were those AAA shirts that last a lifetime. I bought three.
And thanks Yahtzee for the tip on $1 bottles of Tapatio hot sauce in the dollar store near the El Cortez. I brought two bottles home.

I decided to get the Vegas monopoly for some of my Christmas folks, but will order it at home on line. Too big to carry.


Plenty of them. I was too tired and sick to chase down places I wanted to see or games I wanted to try.

Missed poker games: The 4-8 at Sam's Town which has a 1-2 dollar blind. The 2-6 at Excalibur. OShea's noisy and crazy room. Mirage 3-6 with Cravings buffet as a comp. the Luxor cheap buy in no limit.
Food: gumbo soup at Magnolia's. Yahtzee's market Street Cafe Salmon with black vinegar sauce and the prime rib there. Missed Gold Coast steak dinner. Missed in n out secret recipe adventure. Even had the secrets with me.
Entertainment: Missed most of the good country music. Missed a second day of Jazz at the Gold Coast. Did not have the energy to chase Squirrel Nut Zippers. Missed the Mirage lobby aquarium.
missed drinks: not one new drink tried. Not one rusty nail. A bit of breakfast amaretto in hot chocolate. Myer's rum. beer. Ellis Island holiday egg nog.
Forgot to ask for my free plush toy at MSS
Missed going to Texas Station/Fiesta for the barbecue and some poker.
Missed all of Boulder Highway, especially craps at Jokers Wild/
Missed seeing my nieces and nephews.
Missed doing much of anything after 8 PM on too many days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vegas Notes December

Here are some rough unorganized notes for Vegas in December. Ask if you are curious about any part of them. I am saving them here more for me than for readers


set up buffet list of prices and call to see if 2 for 1 can be split in half in Vegas and in Laughlin.

Print out DDB sheets for 10/6 games. They have this at Gold Coast. The strategy must be close to DB strategy.

print in and out secret menu

walking to the In N Out at Dean Martin at Tropicana is easy, just stay on the Excalibur (south) side of Tropicana Ave. There are sidewalks the whole way (about a 15 min. walk) except for one I-15 ramp (about 15 ft. wide) that you have to cross.


O' Shea's has a one dollar blind spread limit game. 1-5 dollar. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Dewey, you might like to know that the Excalibur poker room also runs a 2-6 spread limit game, though it's really not like the El Cortez 1-3-6 game. Also, you might like to know that much of the poker in Laughlin is spread limit format.

Of course, Excalibur takes a 4+1 rake, for a total drop which is twice the $2.50 cap at Jackie's downtown joint, and a peculiarity in Laughlin is that while it is common to only rake $3 for the house many of those rooms will drop $2 for the jackpot rake.



The Plaza and the Vegas Club clearly mark their VP machines that have 99% payouts. One at the Plaza has (DDB) with 6-10 payout. They are all multi-play machines and you have to sort thru them to find the good games.

Confirm Budget car rental including double upgrade LVA
Tim Arnold's Pinball Hall of Fame.
I just rode the bus there last week. Take the bus in front of Hooters on Tropicana east to Pecos. When you get off the bus, look back over your left shoulder and you'll see it. It's right across the street from the grocery store and nowhere near a half mile. It looked perfectly safe to me.

return bus
This one I can't answer since I walked west a few (normal sized, not Strip sized) blocks to the Gun Store to play with a machine gun, however there are stops every few blocks at most. Since you'll be in the area I recommend giving this a try as well. Both are on the north side of Tropicana and I'm sure somone there can tell you if the nearest stop is east or west but it likely won't make that much of a difference if you can't spot one from the street.

Also, that area of town is residential/light commercial so there's really nothing to be concerned about as far as safety, beyond the ususal warnings in any large city. Buses come about every 15-20 minutes during the week. I found the bus back to the Strip got very crowded on the ride back, I may have been heading there close to a shift change
PHoF Location
3330 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas NV 89121
North West corner of Tropicana and Pecos.
About 30 blocks (3 miles) from the 'strip' straight down Tropicana, about a 20 dollar taxi ride.
Next to the Tropicana Cinema 2 dollar movie theatre. If you somehow miss the machines staring at you through the window, its just around the corner from the movie theater, between the comic shop and Putters bar.
Hours & Contact Info
Hours: 11am till 11pm, Sunday to Thursday.
11am till Midnight, Friday and Saturday.
Telephone: N/A
Much to my pleasant surprise, I discovered that the bar by the poker room in Bally�s serves draft Alaskan Amber Ale. That�s been my favorite since I discovered it in Seattle a few years ago, but it�s regional and I can�t get it in Texas. YUM!

Treasure Island gives $2 an hour on your card.

Friday and Saturday, December 14 and 15 at 9 p.m. Squirrel Nut Zippers is a jazz and swing band formed in 1993. In 1996, they released the album Hot, selling more than 1 million copies.

ACG changes

Fremont Street Experience - One of the locations for redeeming this coupon has changed. The information booth in front of Binion's has closed and the coupon can now be redeemd at either the O2 Bar & Spa located at the Fremont Street Experience between Binion�s and the Golden Nugget, or at the Fremont Street Experience office located at 425 Fremont Street, 2nd Floor (above Walgreens).

Hard Rock - The Fab Five Pack is no longer available. Instead, you will get $10 in free slot play and a shuttle coupon book which contains a $10 match play, plus the following: other coupons: free deck of cards or pair of dice, free alcoholic beverage, 15% off at love jones, 2 for 1 cocktails at AJ's, 20% off at Pink Taco, 2 for 1 cocktails at Simon's, 20% off at Mr. Lucky's, free size up at Starbucks, free pool entrance mon-fri, 15% off services at Rock Spa, and complimentary admission to Body English.

Vegas Club - The coffee shop has closed. However, the 2-for-1 cheeseburger coupon is still being honored at the Great Moments Restaurant.

Better see the Gold Spike and play a little before it too is gone to renovation as a chic bouteque hotel.

Terribles slot tournament


8. Breakfast Special - 4 Locations - 12 am-11 am - $1.49
New to the Top Ten this month is a $1.49 breakfast special served from midnight to 11 am at the newly designated “Wild” Station casinos. At $1.49 for two eggs, two bacon or sausage, hash browns, and toast, this is the best breakfast we’ve seen hereabouts in a while(d). The previous deal at WWW, which flirted with a listing, was $1.99 and ran from 11 to 11. This one’s nearly equal on the hours and better on the price, plus it’s available in four locations.

Good review of the 2-4 game at the Riviera.

Note that Terribles breakfast time ends at 10 AM
Breakfast 7am � 10am - $4.99
Lunch 11am � 3pm - $6.99
Dinner 4pm � 9pm - $9.99 $13 on Thursday
Sunday Brunch 7am � 3pm - $8.99
Saturday & Sunday - Champagne Brunch
Themed Dinners
Monday - Tuscany night
Tuesday - Cattleman�s BBQ Round-up
Wednesday - Country Kitchen
Thursday - Seafood Extravaganza* $13.00
Friday - Dinner buffet
Saturday - Dinner buffet
Sunday - Prime Rib & Shrimp

Plaza. It’s called, Viva Las Vegas. The first part of the show was OK to pretty good, but the comedian that does the last part of the show was great. Everyone was cracking up. I don’t laugh out loud too often, but this guy had me going.
The show is at two and four in the afternoons and they have coupons for two tickets for $5.

Vegas Club ACG- The coffee shop has closed. However, the 2-for-1 cheeseburger coupon is still being honored at the Great Moments Restaurant.

steak and lobster meal

Pasta Pirate in the Clalifornia downtown on the other hand is a very decent meal. Small sirloin and small lobster tail. The meal also comes with a loaf of fresh baked bread, soup or salad and a glass of house wine. Nice atmosphere and good service have always rounded out the meal.

Now you're not getting a prime cut of beef but it is a nice, but small sirloin. They have always managed to cook it medium rare like we enjoy it. Some places like to kill that steak twice when it's a small piece of beef. We generally go into the Pasta Pirate at least once during our visits to Vegas and to date have never been dissapointed. It's really hard to find consistancy from year to year on the inexpensive meals but somehow they've managed to maintain it at the Pasta Pirate.



Better call on ACG coupons

I have read on other boards that Fiesta, Red Rock Station and Boulder Station are no longer accepting LVA and ACG buffet coupons because of counterfeiting. Is this a system-wide decision by upper Station Casino management?



Edgewater has a $1.99 breakfast if you show your card
Colorado Belle has good barvecue:

For good Q, I chose Mark Twain's in the Colorado Belle casino. My wife had baby backs with brisket. Baby backs were a litlle overcooked, but very tasty. The brisket was to die for. I don't know how they could make it so tender and still be able to slice it so thinly. I has the St. Louis ribs with tri tip. The ribs were not fall off the bone, good texture and moist. They had a galze that was great. First the sweetness hits you, followed by the heat, and then a hint of fennel or anise. The trii tip was over cooked for me, but the smoke flavor was the best.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Basic bus information

Since we now have a fine special section for transportation and no bus posts, and since old posts have been lost, I thought I'd start a general bus thread. Perhaps you have other bus tricks or strategies to add.
I find downtown a frugal stay partly because I can get just about anywhere cheaply by bus. The DTC is air conditioned in hot months so I don't mind waiting there. It is often the beginning of a bus route so it is easy to know which way the bus will go.
Many visitors to Vegas have only ridden the Deuce and a couple experiences in tough traffic makes that less than a desirable choice at busy hours. I like 108 and 105 to get me out of downtown and near the strip. 105 takes me to Ellis Island and along the way will let me get off in the rear of many strip casinos in the Circus Circus area of the strip. 108 takes me to Terribles for a cheap breakfast or Hard Rock for a coupon run. From Terribles I can catch the 202 and go down to the Gold Coast rather than worrying about the free shuttle at Bill's. If I then use the free shuttle to go to the Orleans and walk across to the 201 (Tropicana) I can go to NYNY and MGM section of the strip.

So a typical frugal day using buses might look like this:
108 to Terribles for cheap breakfast and matchplays.
202 to Gold Coast for 10 AM poker tournament ($22)followed with lunch there, a bit of free jazz in the lounge, and a free shuttle to Orleans or McMullan's Irish Pub for supper. The 201 to Tropicana for evening comedy at the Comedy stop. Some poker in that area of the strip. The Deuce back to downtown at 2-3 AM when the traffic is eased up. All those areas covered for $3.00 total ($2.50 for pass and 50 cents for one deuce ride) in transportation, basically one cab tip.

Last time I found that $40 for unlimited rides for a month paid for itself over my 15 day stay in Vegas. Next year I am old enough (62) to get that same deal for $20. But even the daily 24 hour deals are great. If you start on a bus other than the deuce, the 24 hour pass is just $2.50. You do have to add a couple quarters for every Deuce ride, but usually that means just once for me to get back downtown late at night and avoid the walk from the DTC in the dark.

I love this trip planner which creates a unique schedule for any itinerary. It recognizes most of the casino names. But you can also just list a Vegas street address. You plug in your details and print out a schedule to take with you. It includes various route possibilities and which routes to combine for a trip as well as estimated travel times.

The 107 gets me to the Boulder strip in a half hour.
The 106 gets me to Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho.

All day passes bought for the Deuce are $5 a day. If you are certain you will be just going on the bus twice, then paying the $2 one way fee saves you a dollar over the day pass.
All day passes bought on a route other than the Deuce are $2.50 and you must then add 50 cents ( correct change only) for each Deuce ride. You might as well buy the 24 hour pass because the price is the same as two rides.

The web site says you need to prove you are a senior to get the senior rate, but I met some fellows who were riding the Deuce for just a dollar each way by simply saying "senior" when they put their money in the machine to pay.. However, that was last year. I did not see that dollar deal on the website.

These prices are paid right on the bus, but you need correct change so it is a good idea to drop single collar bills and a few quarters in your pocket for the local routes both to purchase initially and to add the 50 cents for the Deuce. . Day passes are stamped with the time you boarded and good for 24 hours after that. So if you go out at 5 PM from downtown, the same pass will get you back home at say 2AM the following day and out again providing you go earlier than 5 PM. It pays to stretch out the time for buying the next pass if you can because sometimes two all day passes will meet your needs for three calendar days.

If you plan ahead and buy on line or if you visit the DTC downtown, you can purchase a month long unlimited pass for $40 (or if you are over 62 for $20)

If you ride the non deuce routes then you also get a normal bus view of where you are going. The deuce often has a strange form of advertising that makes you look out through a black grid, sort of a noir view of Vegas. I think it is a little depressing. The exception is up on the top level in the front where the view is as good as any tour bus. You can more likely get those prime viewing seats if you board the Deuce at the DTC rather than by Neonopolis.

Lots of other questions answered on the website

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Going solo??

Suggested strategies for those going solo:

**Bring a small notebook and take down the details you want to remember for you trip report.

** bring Dancer's video poker strategy book or some printed VP or BJ sheets and look up the hands that confused you.

** Bring a poker book. Reviewing strategy right after playing is different than studying at home.

**Eat at the counters. Often this means you skip a long line. You can be entertained by the action behind the counter or end up in conversation with the guy next to you. Golden Gate has a good counter. Mirage Cravings has a counter that cuts your time away from poker table time so you might have time to eat and get back to play. Play a few hours and ask for a comp there.California's cafe has a counter that cuts the line for the prime rib special. But don't stank in line. Go to the greeter and ask if there is space at the counter.

El Cortez has a counter where half the time you can eat with someone you just played cards with. Try Jackie's melt. Their poker games are also games where solo guys have lots of banter and conversation.

Mamacita's Mexican across from El Cortez has great music videos. I went there prepared to write a review of the place and was busy copying names of food and noting the decor.

I find that when I am solo I meet people more easily than when I have friends or wife along. Talk to people on the bus. Sitting in the front seat upstairs on the Deuce will often get you in a group of site seers and with all these board posts, you know things. Start conversations with a question on one of the passing casinos even if you already know the answer. Don't make the question personal like " Have you ever stayed at the Stratosphere?" but conversational like " Do you know if the Stratosphere Tower is expensive or not?"

Oh, the greatest opening question in Vegas is, "Are we winning today?" Just remember that your own wins and losses do not matter unless you are asked. From the reponse to that question you can judge the willingness of the person to talk and move them in to telling you a lot about gambling or how Vegas can be fun for non gamblers.

The last time I rode the Deuce in traffic one guy was a trucker who had parked way out by the Cannery and worked his way by bus into Vegas. Talk about solo. He had great trucking stories. Another knew more about who owned what casino when than anyone I ever met and with just a bit of priming he was off and talking about every casino along the way. Just remember that people don't want to know a lot about you but love to talk about them and avoid those long know it all rants against annoyances that we sometimes see on the board unless you want to hear everything that has annoyed that person for the past decade. Positive celebration is a better tone for conversation with strangers.

****Start conversation in buffet lines. After one such conversation I once ended up eating with the guy who figured the tax angles for Hideki Matsui. and his friend a teacher in LA. They had stories. Offer your 2 for 1 in buffet lines.

***Every discussion board has meets. Check them out. And find out when posters are going who you know. Then you can eat, gamble, share coupons with someone who you talk to here. My best board buddy is meeting me this December and bringing her 80 something Mom along. My June solo trip at the El Cortez we ate one day on her 2 free breakfasts, another on mine, and then I ate a third day on another board poster who hangs with her.

**Finally, I started announcing my solo trips to everyone I knew and offering to help them plan a trip at the same time, or offered the extra bed in my room. I always book two doubles so there is space for anyone. I've had lots of takers. For this December it has been hard to choose between poker buddies. Some people who never visit you at your house, will meet you in Vegas especially if you already have the rooms, the 2 for 1 coupons, all the spots where they can gamble for free on $10 promotions, and can suggest a good airfare.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Notes for December 2007

I just thought I'd save odd bits of information I want to remember for December 2007.


Avoiding Sunday brunch at buffets. Planet Hollywood has a $18.99 price before 10:30 and after that it goes up $2. I don't suppose they close down, so the trick of going early and then waiting for the brunch food should work. Champagne is $3 extra so I am not paying for that. Here is another possibility:

Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino (Previously Aladdin Hotel)
3663 Las Vegas Blvd. S. #580
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Tel: 702-892-0021
Fax: 702-892-0027

Lunch 11:30am - 2:30pm (Daily)
Lunch $17.95 (Mon-Fri)
$19.95 (Sat, Sun, Holidays)
This means that for Sunday morning brunch I could go there when the buffet prices are high.

Dinner 5:30pm - 9:30pm (Sun-Thurs)
5:30pm - 10:00pm (Fri-Sat & Holidays)


The Stratosphere is in the process of making a lot of changes in their poker room: moving it out of the alcove behind the sportsbook to a more visible location on the other side of the casino, nearly doubling the size of the room, reducing the house rake to 5% with a $2 cap + $1 jackpot for a total drop of $3 max, and spreading some very low limit games while publicizing free poker lessons and continuing to give coupons for free poker chips to hotel guests to draw in folks who are new to playing live poker in a casino. The expansion and relocation of the room is supposed to take place in about two months. It will be near the entrance to the tower.

The reduced rake is in effect now for all their cash games. They now have a no-limit game with $1-$1 blinds and a $40 min/max buy-in. I'm not a no-limit player and I have no clue what that game might be like. They actually are planning to run one table of micro limit $0.25-$0.50 once they get the twenty-five cent chips they've ordered, hoping to encourage new people to start playing to feed into their other games.

The poker room in Bally�s serves draft Alaskan Amber Ale.

Treasure Island gives $2 an hour on your card for poker play.

Gold Coast is mentioned as having just a $3 rake cap plu $1 high hand. However, they play short handed games too often and groups of local Asians come in raising on everything. Also they have a half kill.


This note posted 9-10. Seems as if the room is being given a new face lift.

The poker room has 7 tables offering poker players Limit Hold'em with $2-$4 and $4-$8 blinds. No-limit is spread with $1-$2 blinds and a $40-$200 buy-in structure. Tournaments are offered daily as follows. A 10:00 AM No-limit Hold'em tournament with a $44 buy-in and an optional $3 add on has just been added to the schedule and goes ever day. Sunday through Friday at 1 PM and 8 PM a $55 buy-in No-limit Hold'em tournament is offered with seating limited to fifty players. Tournament registration begins one hour before the start time and must be done in person, no call ins. Players receive $1,500 in tournament chips and play fifteen minute rounds. The top three finishers split the prize pool with 50% going to the winner, 30% to second place and the remaining 20% for third. The Riviera poker room recently held a special event tournament and awarded the winner with a seat in the 2007 WSOP main event. Additional WSOP seats will be offered through special added tournaments. Complete details are available by calling the poker room direct at 702.794.9620.

A High hand promotion runs continuously and lucky players receiving listed high hands can take home up to $500 in bonus cash. Players currently receive $3.00 snack bar comps and soon will qualify for comps awarded on hourly play. The room is working out the details of the coming comp policy that will use the Riviera's player card system to track play time and accumulation of comp credits. Details will be available in the near future so be sure to sign up for your frequent player's card. Poker players can qualify for a great casino room rate on accommodations. Check with poker room staff for details and availability. Easy self parking in the garage makes the trip into the Riviera's poker room quick and effortless. Valet parking is even closer, just follow the signs.

a note from 7/7
Comps Description: $1 and hour. After 10 hours you get a buffet certificate if you ask for it. If you bank 30 hours you can get a $30 certificate for the coffee shop.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Remembering Sahara

For me Sahara is the wonderland of frugality:

Last June I caught a free ticket from for Matsuri. Someone on the VP Free board posted the deal. Goldstar charged a $ 9.50 handling charge, but I still counted it as a bargain and I loved the show. At the bottom of the ticket stub was a small coupon for $10 free play. I used it in the Sahara, playing a quarter a hand on video poker, getting enough to use up three matchplays on blackjack which was enough to play a little JOB 9/6 at the Stratosphere to protect points and wait for Huck Daniels. Bottom line was my $9.50 investment got me a free show and $27.00 change.


Last Xmas I had a month long birthday party in Vegas and my sons/daughters capped the party by coming over Christmas. We had a fine family dinner on Christmas Day at McMullan's Irish Pub across from the Orleans (with a $25 coupon from and I washed as many homemade potato chips as I could down with pints of Beamish.

But Christmas eve found us starting in different places, wife and Frank birding (yes, this is possible in Vegas), Cory and Dana doing the Stratosphere roller coaster on coupons, me in the Gold Coast poker room, Keith and Bernie at MGM. The roller coaster riders called me and asked about eating cheaply around the Stratosphere. I told them I had Sahara coupons, but that it was one of the worst buffets. They did not care. All my sons were on very limited budgets. So I took a long, long bus ride to meet them. Deuce traffic was very rich on Xmas Eve. Still, like the US postal service, "coupon man" must get through.

While I was making my way to the Sahara, so were the birders and the MGM players. It was a perfect time to sign up for cards. There were eight of us and I was the VP coach. Playing a quarter a hand even unlucky at short pay VP one can reasonably expect to get $7-$8 dollars out of a VP machine and quit ahead after a lot of fun. This kind of low roller pleasure is enough for my low funded children, so that is what we did. One son on the free pull slot had also hit for an additional $25 in free play and $25 in comps. So when he quit, he had about $35 in his pocket and everyone (except one slot player) had a piece of the free promotion. So I suppose as a group we were $75 to $100 ahead and WITH ABSOLUTELY NO RISKED MONEY.

Well, we went to the Sahara buffet. On Xmas eve.

When we got to the line, the lady said that they were doubling comps that day. So now the kid had $50 in free food comps. With 2 for 1 coupons all eight of us ate for $26, less than the gas it would have cost to buy the food had we met at home. And I got to banter and talk and do NO DISHES.

The price was up, but so were the offerings. It was like no Sahara buffet I ever remember. The prime rib was wonderful. There was smoked salmon with onions, capers, and horseraddish sauce. And there were lots of choices all very good. It was great!

When we entered the line, I put the son with $25 comps first to see what he could get. Well, because the price had gone up, they told Frank that his comps were now worth $50, and so the first four people ate for 26 cents. I had ACG 2 for 1 for the next two couples. Bottom line is we ate for $26, less than I might have paid for gas to get the food had I fed the kids in my own home. And there was no cooking, no dishes, no trying to seat everyone, no missing all the good stories while I cooked.

Xmas eve at the Sahara. One of my favorite frugal memories.

Also, I think that buffet is a good cheap breakfast buffet if you are going to eat mostly fruit. When I was radically dieting a few years back, I found that they had a good selection.

Monday, September 03, 2007

an interesting trip report

from DxElliott

Austin-Bergstrom Airport
August 22, 2007
Late morning

I am, as always, exactly two hours early for my Southwest flight to Vegas. I’m sitting at Gate 8, pondering the remarkable fact that, in less than 24 hours, I will be a 55 year old man with coronary artery disease.


The coronary artery disease is no big deal. You just grasp reality like a saddle horn, you try to behave like a grownup, and you avoid all the lovely fatty things that make eating food the second most appealing aspect of being human – and you move on.

Or, you don’t. Your choice.

It’s the 55 year old part I find so remarkable. How the hell did this happen? The last thing I remember, I was smack dab in the middle of Club Foot in Austin, Texas, hopping and writhing to Mirror in the Bathroom, feeling like I would be 25 forever. (I

was 30 at the time. Perhaps denial is an important component in this conundrum.)


n – I blinked – and now I’m old and I can’t smoke or eat cheeseburgers. Club Foot is long gone and the music that replaced Mirror in the Bathroom is unlistenable. Movies have become nothing but gigantic video games and television has taken the lowest common denominator and actually lowered it.

Too many pop culture references? Okay. And the human race is engineering it’s own destruction because of disagreements over a handful of prosaic fairy tales. How’s that?

Suddenly being on old man with heart disease ain’t so bad. At least I won’t be around to see how this horror show ends.

On that upbeat note, I will join the other impatient passengers lining up an hour early for takeoff.

Flight 607
August 22, 2007
Early afternoon

I wake up briefly and gaze at the terrain below. My brain skitters pinball-like, searching for the most appropriate description of what I see.

Plane high. Mountains pretty.

Before returning to the bliss of airplane slumber, I take note of an anxious stowaway – a housefly – who seems particularly fond of spiky hair gel. From the back of the plane you see a lot of spiky hair gel.

El Cortez Hotel and Casino
Room 1206
August 23, 2007
3:43 am

I’m in the Tower. My only previous ElCo experience involved a night in one of the Pavilion rooms. Sleeping in one of the Pavilion rooms at El Cortez is like sleeping in a Motel 6 built entirely of urinal cakes. I like this better. Clean and comfortable – filled with 1980’s hotel furniture that was obviously intended for a much larger room. (I suppose this is why there is no iron. There simply isn’t enough space.)

My friend Linda is somewhere in the hotel. She got this room for me (one of those “bring a friend” comp offers). My own offers would have put me up at either Harrah’s or the Rio for the next two nights, but I wanted to experience the renovated El Cortez before moving on to my next stop – the renovated Four Queens.

After two hours on the machines, I was down a few bucks and decided to take a break.

The walk from El Cortez to the Fremont Street Experience, once scary and depressing, is now downright kitschy and, uh, charming. A giant, neon martini glass? Okay. Oh, look – an enormous revolving shoe. Let’s pretend it’s the shoe that once upset Howard Hughes. Hey, a pub that resembles an eight story pint of Bass. Now there’s a good idea. What took so long?

It would seem, at first glance, that the disparity between what was, what is and what shall be has been filled in – or is in the process of being filled in. Even Neonopolis is now surrounded by architectural progress. Maybe, instead of tearing that place down, we can all just continue to ignore it.

What they really need on this street is one of those hip Laundromats with a bar and designer pizzas, so bargain-seeking gamblers can stay on Fremont Street and launder their own clothes. Don’t judge. Many people, myself included, are destined to live like college students for life.

After my break, I returned to the casino and my luck improved. A five-of-a-kind hand pay on Joker Poker and a remarkable run of luck on a video slot game put me up for the day. I played for a few more hours, wandered down to Four Queens for awhile, met Linda for a sandwich (we discussed our plans for my birthday which, oddly enough is also her birthday) and I retired dead even. Good feeling. All I have to do is maintain this status for five more days and I go home a winner

So now I’m awake. It’s about 4 am.. My favorite time to gamble in a casino. Think I’ll do that.

This hotel is very quiet. I almost feel guilty cranking up the shower at this ungodly hour.

Oh wait. It’s Vegas.

El Cortez Hotel and Casino
Room 1206
August 23, 2007
7:03 am

A little Spin Poker, a little Double Pay – and I’m down again. I don’t mean I’m depressed, I mean I have less money now than when I arrived.

I’m supposed to meet Linda for breakfast later, but wall-crawling hangover demons have insisted I eat something now, so – thanks to the 24 hour Fremont Street Walgreen’s -- I’m able to enjoy a snack of Reduced Fat Triscuits, hummus and Frank’s Hot Sauce. I would have preferred a Louisiana product, like Crystal or Panola – but this cayenne pepper sauce from New Jersey makes a very respectable replacement.

Rule of thumb: anything you can cover with pepper sauce can be breakfast. (Except your thumb.)

I want to mention something about the shower in this room. Lots of hot water, but very little pressure. Not good. But I do like the window that allows fresh air to enhance the overall showering experience. Nice touch. Probably even better in January,

When I first arrived, the room was spotless, except for tiny human handprints all over the bottom of the picture window. I wondered, briefly, why anyone would bring kids to El Cortez (no pirates, no jugglers) and then it occurred to me that children as small as the ones who made these spider-monkey paw prints would be quite content staring down at an empty parking lot, with nothing but mountains beyond.

I would have. I still would. I may just do that later.

For now, a few drops of bourbon and a hotel washcloth and I have an excellent window cleaner.

This room is getting odder by the minute, I just noticed – there’s a writing desk, but no stationery. And a bible, but there’s no God. (Oh calm down. I’m just trying to have a little fun here.).

El Cortez Hotel and Casino
Room 1206
August 23, 2007
1:15 pm

I now have even less money. I returned to the Double Pay machines, but dreams of being dealt a royal have not materialized. Not only that, but breakfast at Binion’s included a pile of hash browns the size of a large puppy. And I’m having my first cocktail of the day – at 1:00. In other words, I’m eating, gambling and drinking like there’s no tomorrow. Which would be fine – but there probably will be.

I’m not sticking to my budget or my diet. Good thing I’m having fun.

Housekeeping has been here. I’ve decided to leave five bucks per day for the maid, instead of my usual two or three. It only seems extravagant until you get downstairs and start burning money like the decadent, self-centered oppressor of the masses you are. (By “you” I mean “me”, so once again, please calm down.)

Tonight, Linda is treating me to dinner at Mesa Grill. I think this is our third birthday dinner at this venue. I like the place. I’m sure Bradley Ogden is great, and Guy Savoy is probably a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. Don’t care. I want white truffle and mushroom quesadillas. Besides, I have neither the palate nor the wardrobe for Guy Savoy. It’s hard enough for me to even pronounce Guy Savoy properly without laughing so hard I fall to the floor and flop around like beached manatee.

El Cortez Hotel and Casino
Room 1206
August 23, 2007
4:34 pm

I’m dead even again. Actually, I’m up about $36. Life is good.

El Cortez Hotel and Casino
Room 1206
August 24, 2007
7:36 am

Dinner was excellent. I had Mahi Mahi, the abovementioned quesadilla (a very rare cheese experience for me) and some corn, which, frankly, had too much cream and cheese for my taste. Linda had some sort of Fred Flintstone cut of beef, rubbed with spices and cooked to absolute blushing perfection. There was also a wonderful throat-clutching Pinot Noir from Oregon.

After sampling Linda’s steak, I realized that beef is the main event at Mesa Grill. Forget the fish and pork. Eat cow.

The meal was on Linda, even though it was her birthday, as well. The woman is far too generous – and should probably be locked up for her own protection. But seriously -- if you make it through this wicked world and acquire even one friend like Linda, consider yourself fortunate.

Saw Bob Stupak. He was standing at the bar just outside Mesa Grill.

That’s about all there is to that story.

I’ve had bad luck with player’s cards and room keys on this trip. They stop functioning, regardless of where I put them -- and I’m not exposing them to my cellphone. It’s crazy. It’s epidemic. I’m on my fifth set of key cards, and I replaced my El Cortez player’s card about three times yesterday. It happened again this morning -- but the Player’s Club was closed, so I walked to Four Queens (where I’ll be checking in later) and THAT player’s card was non-functional. And that’s how I ended up at Binion’s at 5:30 this morning, winning hundreds playing penny slots at max coin. I’m now slightly down for the trip, but way ahead of my self-imposed (and utterly ignored) gambling budget. Gosh, Mr. Wizard. This may be the best birthday ever.

People who don’t play modern slot machines for whatever reason are probably more highly evolved than myself. They’re the real grownups (something I pretend to be because of all the grey hair). I’m sure I’m just a monkey in a cage. A gibbering gibbon, flinging poo and bobbing my head to the canned music. Happy as a pig in pudding. (Wait. Am I a pig or a monkey? I’ve lost track.) But I couldn’t imagine coming to Vegas and missing this electronic intersection of greed, anticipation, irritating music and cartoons.

Don’t believe me? Play Lucky Lemmings and pray for a bonus round.

And, for me at least – on this particular trip (at least) these bastards have been paying off like slot machines.

El Cortez Hotel and Casino
Room 1206
August 24, 2007
2:58 pm

I’ve checked in at Four Queens (these first two bookings overlap – I will start moving my stuff to 4Q tonight, and check out of here sometime tomorrow morning.) The rooms at Four Queens have been renovated. Even though their standard room may be the smallest on Fremont (with the possible exception OF the Fremont) they have been gussied up quite respectably – with new carpet, furniture, window treatments and flatscreens.

Feels like home. I think I’ll schlep the rest of my stuff down there right now.

Four Queens Hotel and Casino
Room 716
August 24, 2007
9:53 pm

I was supposed to attend a Cirque show tonight, but I weaseled out. It’s not like I have anything against this burgeoning troupe of double-jointed jackanapes who are currently spreading across Las Vegas like some kind of clown cancer. I don’t. If this is what you want – go for it. If you prefer acrobats to showgirls – well gosh, you certainly have a lot to choose from – and more on the way.

You want to watch Las Vegas morph into a vacuous Federico Fellini wet dream? Cool. Just keep supporting this franchise. .

Like I said -- I don’t really care.

But, of course, if I had gone to KA, I would have missed my first W-2G form. Ever.

This was the dealt royal I’ve been anticipating since I arrived – only on a triple-play quarter game instead of a nickel Double Pay machine. I pushed a button, and the club royal was dealt and automatically held. The machine locked up, blinking “Attendant” and “$3,000”. Prettiest damned thing I’ve ever seen.

Today I am a man.

It was a Super Times Pay machine, but the bonus function did not engage for this particular hand (pity). After I got my hand pay and had tipped the staff, I just couldn’t focus on the game anymore. I really didn’t care if I got 2, 5 or 10 times anything. I cashed out and retired for the evening.

So now I am, let’s just say – up for the day. And up for the trip.

Hell, I may be up all night.

Four Queens Hotel and Casino
Room 716
August 25, 2007
11:10 am

Four Queens offers the same Cox Network wireless Internet connection as El Cortez (billed to a credit or debit card, not to your room). Only at 4Q it’s $5.99 for 24 hours, as opposed to $11.99 at ElCo. Of course, I could just walk a few feet to Fitzgerald’s and use the free WiFi they offer.

I said farewell to El Cortez (for this trip) this morning. I have always preferred Four Queens, and that still seems to be the case. I’m certain the ElCo offers will be sweet (considering how much I churned) but the same will be true of future Four Queens offers.

I will say this about the ElCo experience – this is the only casino I’ve played in that programs the kind of music I expect to hear in Las Vegas. Everywhere I go in this town (except the Palms) I hear the same predictable loops of boomer pabulum. Basically -- everything I heard on Top 40 radio from 1962 -1992. And, after a while, I just can’t hear it anymore.

But, at El Cortez, you actually hear Frank and Dean and Keely Smith and Peggy Lee. Stuff that evokes the golden age of Las Vegas sin and sensibility. It isn’t the music of my generation – it’s my parent’s music. But I love it, and it just seems to fit.

And the egg-white spinach omelet I had a Kitty’s this morning was just absurdly delicious. And I was prepared to settle for adequate.

Four Queens Hotel and Casino
Room 716
August 25, 2007
8:43 pm

Today, I had no plans at all, so I wandered around the Strip, visiting the Sahara, Las Vegas Hilton and The Flamingo (where I’ll be relocating tomorrow.)

I had some luck with a couple of Atronic games at the Hilton, and then spent a few hours of acute monetary awareness, as I lost those winnings playing 25¢ Spin Poker. Max coin on that game can obliterate a C-note with gut-wrenching efficiency and speed.

Before I left for the Strip, I had the breakfast buffet at Golden Nugget. I was less than impressed. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but nothing justified the $20.00 price tag – unless you wanted to order champagne. I did not. Even if I appreciated that headache-inducing French mistake, I certainly wouldn’t want it for breakfast. (Call it brunch all you want – I poured Tabasco on the hummus -- and it was breakfast.)

Okay – I suppose I should commend them for offering hummus – especially since there was no low-cholesterol egg substitute, and I needed a blob of something on the plate to balance out the lox and bagel and the small pile of potatoes. Presentation is important. We eat first with the eyes. I’m out of clichés.

I went back to the salad area for a small plate of tabouli, and turned breakfast into a Middle Eastern love-fest. If only the real world could get along as well as my overpriced Vegas breakfast. How many times have we all made that comment?

I have removed a portion of my recent VP winnings (exactly the size of my original bankroll) and put it away. I plan to (try to) take this money with me when I leave. We shall refer to this money as “the nest egg”. Just don’t force me to explain “the nest egg theory” to you.

Austin, Texas
August 31, 2007

When I got to the Flamingo, my iMac stopped working. My desktop was stoic, the computer seemingly searching for something unattainable (overdue respect, perhaps?). Anyway, I’m not the sharpest bulb on the plate, but I knew instinctively that the problem was environmental (not in the Al Gore sense). The room was obviously haunted. If this wasn’t a paranormal problem, it was certainly an electronic one.

Don’t ask me about the bloodcurdling screams in the bathroom. I still don’t know what that was.

So the conclusion of my trip report had to wait. God forbid I pick up a pen and apply it to paper. The last two days were spectacular, as my winnings allowed me to party just a little harder, and play maximum coin at many of my favorite strip casinos. This was a luxury I thought would have to wait until summer of 2009, but thanks to good luck and good fortune (not the same thing) I was able to have great big fun well ahead of schedule.

The other choice would have been to stop gambling for the trip, and wait patiently for my flight home with a pocketful of money. That is a perfectly reasonable scenario, and one which I chose to ignore. I’m only human. I was in Las Vegas. I had cash. I would ask you to do the math, but you probably would.

My friends Bret and Sue arrived Sunday, and we met for dinner at some seafood place near Todai in Planet Hollywood. We wanted to dine at Todai, but we all showed up about three minutes too late. Bret paid for my Cajun salmon -- because it was one day after my birthday. More free food. We discussed gambling, comic book inkers of the1960’s and movies. We determined that I have bad taste, because I liked Gangs of New York. I’ll take the hit. I’ll gladly share Martin Scorcese’s bad taste.

Unfortunately, I repaid Bret’s generosity my canceling our lunch plans the next day. I was not feeling well. Some sort of gastrointestinal complaint that persisted through Tuesday (and the return flight). I felt like a schmuck for canceling, but as I get older I get more comfortable with my inner schmuck. (I also seem to enjoy potatoes more. What’s that all about?)

But let us consider the Flamingo for a moment, erroneously called “Bugsy Siegel’s vision in the desert” by people who don’t know Vegas history. Even the rotating television promos produced by Harrah’s and piped into the rooms perpetuate this half-baked mythology by completely ignoring the facts. But it really doesn’t matter, since there is nothing left of that original property anyway. At this point the name, the logo, the sign and the legend have absolutely no meaning. The Flamingo looks and sounds exactly like what it is – an extension of Harrah’s. Only, for some inexplicable reason, the Flamingo is much more irritating.

My luck in the casino was fine; my room was large and comfortable and displayed a breathtaking view of Caesars and the Bellagio fountains. Everything else pissed me off, however. The casino is annoyingly loud. All the human and electronic noises one might hear in any casino are amplified, perhaps by the low ceilings. And decades of renovation and addition have created a maze of disjointed, cramped spaces. Or maybe it only seems that way because – again -- the ceilings are so low.

On this particular Sunday, the joint was filled with rude, obnoxious over-aged fratboys wearing ugly hats and carrying bottles of tasteless corporate beer. Dressed like drunken toddlers, they stumbled around, squawking insipid monkey-words like “hottie” and “wing man.” One look at these bright-eyed wonders and you understand why women have sex with each other.

On the other hand, maybe I’m just an old fart, and this is the new face of Las Vegas. Perhaps the crunchy-haired, slovenly lout is as valid in the Justin Timberlake era as the suave, silken-voiced hipster was during the Sinatra years.

Who knows? Who cares?

One more complaint. When I checked in at the Flamingo, I declined their request to produce a credit card. I no longer have credit cards. I booked the room with my debit card, but did not wish to use it to secure the room. I don’t like the idea of Harrah’s reaching into my bank account and holding on to $200. I held up the card and I said, “This is a debit card. I don’t want to use this card. I will make a cash deposit instead.” I put the card back in my pocket. I handed over $200, and got a receipt.

I found out later they put the hold on my card anyway. It stayed on until Thursday. No harm was done, but if I had been overdrawn or something else had come up insufficient because of it, I would have incurred penalties. And they did it without my authorization or knowledge -- using information they had on file. Sons of bitches.

I would like to boycott Harrah’s because of this. And I will, as soon as they sell Caesars.

I spent some quality time (and quality coin) at Mandalay Bay -- in many ways, still my favorite Vegas location. After lunch with Linda at Border Grill (grilled fish tacos) I spent several hours playing those shiny, clinky-clanky multi-line slot machines (something I did my very first night in Vegas, right after the property opened). I particularly enjoyed the new (new to me) Atronic machine called Johnny Vegas. This is a remarkably entertaining experience and, like many Atronic games, just a little creepy. Good combination. I made a killing. This maximum coin thing can really pay off.

I had similar luck with several Aristocrat machines featuring “stacking multipliers”.

My final night was a marathon session at Flamingo, chasing jackpots and royals until 4:00 am, and packing my bags at 6:00. Then, it was time to check out and grab a cab.

I encountered a profoundly bitter cab driver. The first thing he said, with a heavy Italian accent, was, “I hate Las Vegas. Is fake town, fake people.”

“But I’m trapped here. My wife – she was angel, now she’s Satan – gambles the money. Loses everything. Hers. Mine. All gone. Every day.”

He pointed to a motel. “She work there. Makes $400 a day. Then she lose it all down there at the terrible casino.” He pointed in the other direction.

“Which one?”

“That Terrible’s Casino. You can’t hear me?”

He went on to explain that he loved America (except for American doctors – “Here, the doctors they kill you.”) and considered himself a redneck. “I agree with Mr. Merle Haggard,” he explained. “Love it or leave it. In Europe, you need permission just to travel. People here are spoiled. They have no idea.”

At the airport, after many monological tangents, I gave him twenty dollars for a fourteen-dollar ride.

“You must be rich man.”

“Not even close.” I replied.

Short wait. Short delay. Short flight. I was home by 5:00, Austin time.

Okay. So I dipped into the nest egg – but I came home with lots of money. Relatively speaking.

Next trip? Hard to say. Now that I’ve found my comfort level, I’m not certain I can afford it.