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 clich├ęs.

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.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Vegas last December

I guess I never really wrote up the entire trip because I got caught up in going to California and then to Hawaii, but since there seems to be some interest expressed in another thread, here is a good sense of what happened to me in June in Vegas.

Keep in mind that my evaluations are from a frugal point of view. I am happy with almost anything when I travel. For a room I need hot water, air conditioning and a clean bed. Vegas always gives me that anywhere.

14 nights all downtown at an average of $22 a night was a good deal considering I had to do two weekends and the 4th of July. The poorest rooms were El Cortez pavillion. The best was MSS. Binions and 4 Queens were in between.

+ I liked an electric coffee at Binions and MSS. I make tea from my own brands.
+ I liked the small pools at Binions and the smaller pool at California. MSS guests can use it. Good for an early morning stretch. Binions was especially fine at sundown. Heliocopters and a view of the city. No key check at Binions. Key needed at California
- - I sleep midday. It was not possible to close off all the afternoon light at MSS. Other places I bring dollar store bag clips for drapes.


I got my little in water stretching going every day at Binions or at MSS (you can use California pool) Small pools and no people. Perfect for me. You need a key for California. Mentioning you are at MSS will get one. Nothing needed at Binions.


Rarely paid for food, Ate comps where I played. At El Cortez this is harder, but I had a light breakfast there three times and the bacon was crispy. All free. And did I mention the bacon was crispy. There is little else of value to say. Great place to talk. Unless you have someone to talk to, avoid this place.

In fact, there is nothing much good to eat at El Cortez short of Roberta's and I find that place too expensive. Still I had hallabut one night and porterhouse another with little tiny three penny size tastes of garlic onion medallion. Vegetables are extra. We used up free coupons and with the conversations of Bigfus (Roberta's is her happy place) I had a great time there on coupons and her comps.

Careless Kitty's is only good IMHO for Jackie's melt (nice to use up $5 funbook coupon) or the prime rib.

I loved the spice market buffet at PH. Everything tasted better than average. the middle eastern section is wonderful. I love their plates at this place. Here and at cravings the plates are sort of half bowls. Also the butter at Spice Market is in great little dishes. Nice for dipping. So much good food here but I can't remember. I payed to go twice. LVA was right to rate this place again. Cheap too compared with Paris and Bellagio.

I loved Mamacita's across Freemont from the El Cortez. Just like Mexico and maybe Cuba too (I have not been to Cuba) and a wide assortment. I had a seafood 7 flavor stew, yucca with garlic, and horchata with free refill.

I loved the eggs cooked at the Plaza buffet in the live cooking station. There I don't do any deep fried but the beef is always good.

Cravings tasted better to me this time, but that may have been that it was free. Four hours of live poker gets you free buffet, line pass and solo you can sit at the counter. No waiting. Still, I won't wait in the middle of my game again. I need more leisure for a good buffet like that.

Bigfus had a coupon for Mikie Finns and I ate a wonderful scallop shrimp grilled deal with veggies on a stick.

Mamacita's across Freemont from the El C is a really authentic Mexican restaurant and perhaps authentic Cuban also. I have not been to Cuba. Mexican in my town is nothing like this. At home it is all the standard American idea of what Mexican food should be. this was a real experience and I loved it.I ate a seven variety seafood stew, yucca with garlic and drank horchata with free refill. About $28 for more than I could eat. Other meals are cheaper. It is half Mexican and Half Cuban and will vary the food for the flavor of either country.

Along with the food comes the latest variety of Latin music on video screen. Great for solo eating.

MSS buffet, lunch or breakfast free with $1000 pumped into machine that day or the day before. Always my favorite. If they just offered Hawaiian pulled pork and collage greens I would be happy, Oh, and butterfinger pieces for the iced cream.


The doc gave me a vacation from arthritic meds. When I hit Vegas I had not had a drink of alcohol in 6 months unless you count O'Doull's. So that MSS Black chip Porter went down very very good. Also thanks to the poster who mentioned the drink nuts and berries. Very good, but I like the hazelnut by itself better. Finally, at El Cortez they will give you Myer's rum over ice. Yummy.


Saw Makuri at the Sahara and loved it. Got a free ticket on for $9.50 handling fee and the ticket had $10 free play on it. Used it at the Sahara, used my winnings to play two matchplays, then to play a craps matchplay at the Strat and a little VP to save points there. Result $27. Not bad on a $9.50 investment.

Huck Daniels review. If you like rhythm and blues, Black American music before hip hop, and being in a small music community of folks, go to the Strat lounge on Monday night and stay for the jam session from 10-2. Local performers are gathered together there and they perform on stage taking tours, Even musicians are changed up after every few songs. Different every week. I saw the Ray Charles immitator and he was incredible. Free. Buy one $5 drink and nurse it, Hold your seat and people watch. It gets crowded. Dancing too. Absolutely the best thing for me in Vegas. Lawrence T is always a treat.

Gold Coast jazz band. If you don't mind old people and like music from your grandmother's era check out this place in the afternoon. Again free. Got old Orleans funbooks? Use the freeGold Coast coupons for a drink. Dancing too but everyone is over 75. Ed was there for his birthday. He was 92. Danced every number.

Hypnosis Gone Wild. Get a $10 coupon and see this show if you want to begin to understand how little your mind is in charge of your actions. Funny adult humor underlies the antics of those from the audience. Moving soon I hear to Mandalay Bay but now in a little theater across from Monte Carlo.

I like the Trop comics. Three for $15 with drink. ($5 coupon in the free books) Non smoking show is early evening.


I play live poker and 10/7 DB. The live poker killed me. The World Series attracted too many high level players who spilled into my limit games. They could beat me and they did not stay long so the tables were chaotic and playing the people was impossible. I got killed. Even at EC little local game the World Series attracted guys showed up and were as hard to beat as the tight morning locals. I won't go at this time again. I am just a limit player and usually I can grind out a profit, but it was hard.

Of course, I played with Jackie a couple afternoons. What a treat. Time is running out for this old joint. Fremont expansion is coming a little at a time. New neons are in the center of Freemont. Soon the deals at Ec may dry up. And when Jackie dies, well, who knows. the poker game has to be there just to entertain him on afternoons. It is the only one like it in all of Vegas. 1-3-6. I love it.

VP gave me a royal at 4 Queens. Dealt club flush broken to catch the queen. $1090 progressive.

Now let's once again explain why we all should look for good pay tables and extra pay deals.

I lost $85 total in all gambling in my 14 days.
Suppose I had played the same games on 10/7 DB machines that had reduced pay tables and there were no benefits other than cash back.

I would have been short payed $90 on my royal win
I would have been short played by my estimates $63 on full houses (conservatively figuring I hit one about every 200 hands)
I would have missed the MSS scratch cards and missed $25 on my quads there.

So even a conservative estimate of my losses for the week would be $177 or over THREE TIMES what I actually lost.
And had I played at the 9/6 DB that in December the Orleans put in when they slaughtered their signature 10/7 VP, it would have been even worse after the short pay on the flush was added in.

Note that this has nothing to do with randomness or luck or anything except getting less money on winnings. This is just how much less they would have given me for exactly the same play and exactly the same luck at casinos or games that paid less than full pay.

If you are serious about gambling, look for the good deal games if you value money. Skip the other games and ignore those on the boards who tell you that game selection does not matter.

Actually, table selection in live poker is crucial too. I may have ignored that advice myself this week to my downfall.

I did make the Saphire level card that the El Cortez. Over 6000 points in four days. I also pumped the 4 Queens and MSS hard (for frugal me), so I hope to get good room deals for December. I'm booked for another 14 days with free air starting Dec 2.


I met up with two regular posters on the LVA board who I met last December and had a great time. Joel is one ( I can't remember handle) and Bigfus is the other. They were wonderful gambling/couponing companions and very smart about deals and comp strategies. I also met with some local nieces and nephews, watched Yatzee craps fest for a while and me Northern Girl and had my son's exgirlfriend drive 4 miles each way from Irvine California just to spend a day with me watching dolphins, lions, IP old cars, and catching up. then my brother-in-law spent one night with me after he cinched up his reservations for the World Series of Poker. He'll be be playing on July 8. So for a solo trip I hardly had a moment to myself.

Also met a few folks at poker tables. Saw again this sweet Jamacan girl Jelly who mostly watched poker. She was all over downtown watching games. Lots of good conversation at the tables. Playing limit you can talk between playable hands. I had long stretches between playables. Long, long stretches.


I bought the $40 30 day bus pass and was glad. It meant I did not have to carry quarters or figure a frugal bus strategy. I learned the 105 route and I loved it once I found out which bus to take. DTC is in the middle of that route. The Deuce is just too crowded.

I rode the bus a lot even on the 4th of July when the temperature was 124 degrees. But I'll ride it more in December.


Other than the $85 loss I mourn the loss of my journal where for the first week I had recorded details like tips, food expenses, poker hands, for later detailed write up.


Fine fishing lures at the Silverton Pro Bass shop.
Great 75 cent cards at California gift shop. Opened boxes and no black marks on them.

So, that is all for Vegas for me until December when there are no World Series no limit yahoos confusing me, and no days when 107 was cold so I can ride the bus to find the better games.

Well, that is enough for now. I have a few days here in San Jose, then six days at Fort Bragg on the ocean, and then 6 days at Kauai Hawaii. From the Pavillion El Cortez rooms to the Hyatt regency in Kauai in one vacation. Now there is contrast.

Good luck to all. I will get to read comments and answer questions for a few days. then not until I get back home on July 23. Good gambling and good luck to all.