Monday, November 03, 2008

trip to turning Stone

This link says it all:

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Each time I go to Vegas I try to explore a different CAT route just to see and to try to avoid the crowds on the Deuce. For so many people the Deuce is the only Vegas bus experience, and they are so turned off by the overcrowding, they don't bother with any other.

If I do take the Deuce it is at the end of my gambling, say 2 AM and I try to be down at the Riviera when I board to head downtown as by then, there will usually be seats.

But most times I take the local routes. These are less crowded because there are fewer tourists, and the fare is less, but have correct change:

Carry quarters. The buses do not give change. You need quarters for the 24 hour pass (only $2.50 when it is purchased on routes other than the Deuce) and to add to that pass for each Deuce ride(50 cents additional). It will be cheaper to buy the $2.50 pass going out on a non deuce route even if you use the Deuce later. You would have to ride the Deuce more than 3 times to get the price up to the Deuce 24 hour pass price of $5.

With any address in Vegas you can chart a route and print it out detail for detail by using this Trip Planner at the CAT site. Sometimes you can just put in a casino name and it will change it to the right terminology and then search your routes.

From downtown using the DTC you can find most of the routes. There also, for a quarter you can buy the latest book of bus routes and schedules. However, I find it a better bet to plan a few itineraries from the transit planner page above, and print them out before you go and only use the CAT book as a backup.


Go to ground level zero by taking the elevator near where that bridge goes to the place folks might pick you up in a private car.
Turn to the right and go all the way down.
There is a bus stop and the 108 or 109 will get you downtown from there in about 45 minutes.
Some of the 109 buses are going in a less efficient direction so ask the driver.
The least crowded day on the 109 is Sunday.
You can be dropped off downtown a couple blocks from El Cortez on the 109 or the 108 or ride to the DTC.
California is right across the street from the DTC. Main Street Station is close too.
The 108 will drop you right downtown near the Fitzgerald's Casino. This is probably a bit more in the center of things than getting dropped from the 109.


The two most common CAT routes from downtown to the strip used to avoid the Deuce are the 108 and the 116 (which was once the 105)

The 108 will take you to Terribles if you don't mind a walk down Flamingo to the strip. You can stop at Tuscany, or at Ellis to use up matchplays or grab some lunch (cheap steak and garlic beans)
Staying on the 108 beyond Flamingo will take you to the Hard Rock. I often go there, use up matchplays, check out all the guitars, and then walk the short distance back to Terribles for a cheap breakfast.
You can also take the 202 Flamingo bus to the strip or stay on to the Palms or the Gold Coast or Rio.
Sometimes I go on the 202 Flamingo bus from Terribles to the Gold Coast and then hop the free Coast shuttle ( sometimes you need a room key--usually not) to the Orleans and from there take the 201 Tropicana bus back to the strip at NYNY. Remember, once you buy the day pass you can ride as much as you want. It is fun to visit each place for a bit and then move on. While much of the good gambling is gone from the Orleans, I think the gift shop still sells great playing cards for 50 cents and dice for a quarter and of course a visit to McMullan's for a pint of Smithwick's and some of those homemade potato chips is always a treat. This route probably does not save anytime over the Deuce. I use it to see the other places along the way.

If you are on the 201 going itowards the stip from the Orleans and stay on for a while longer, you can get to the Pinball Hall of Fame.

But remember now, don't use up all your quarters. Keep a couple bus quarters in your pocket.


The 116 in its winding route will also drop you at Fashion Mall which is on the strip across from the Wynn. I used it to go play poker at the Wynn and it is very convenient. Remember that this links to the Palms by free shuttle. Planning itineraries that link to free shuttles is a great way to get easy transportation around Vegas. See here for information on free shuttle

Note by the way that the Gold Coast turns out to be a really fine spot for positioning you for central shuttle and bus travel. The Coast shuttle, the Palms shuttles, the Rio Shuttles and the 202 CAT give you some really great access to so many areas. YOu can even go out to the Boulder strip.

The 116 coming from Downtown will also drop you right at Ellis Island for one of those steak specials and a much easier walk to the strip than from Terribles.

Because of the one way streets, if you decide to ride the 108 or the 116 back to downtown from an area around the strip, you have to pick them up in places different from where they dropped you off. It can get confusing, so check the routes in the book. Also just asking the driver on your way out, can orient you better for finding the same route on your way back.

Most people do not like being dropped off at DTC after dark. It is better to get off near the downtown area which you can do on either of those routes but you need to watch and not go by the drop off spots.

I find that I usually come back to Downtown using the Deuce but then I usually return after midnight and I don't find the Deuce very crowded then. So I take it. However, I generally plan to be as close as possible to downtown on the strip before catching the bus. If it is very crowded, walking to the Riviera will generally allow you to get a ride. Most folks are done by that stop and seats are freed up.

Another easy thing would be just to duck into the California casino after dark and navigate to Freemont from there. Or get on the 108 at the DTC and just ride one block to the area between the Plaza and Main Street Station.

In December of 2007 I used the 108 to see Cowboy Christmas. It took me right there. I walked across the street and saw all the vendors and exhibits. I pretended to be a cowboy for an afternoon. Then hopped back on the 108 and continued to Ellis for a dinner.

It will also take you to the Sahara Casino so you have access to that large souvenir shop and the Stratosphere. Or if you like the monorail, you can get off the 108 and board it with less walking than you will have once you get off the monorail somewhere in the back of some casino and want to get up to the front.


I just read this week that one poster would not even think of these casinos from downtown because they were too far to go.

I think 106 is a fine and easy route that goes out to Texas Station or Fiesta Rancho. On the way back it also has stops right downtown, so you don't have to wait for the DTC end of the road drop off.

I have used it with some light baggage just to take advantage of a free night at Fiesta Rancho leaving my main luggage in a free room somewhere else downtown.

Also, remember that the 24 hour pass is good for the full 24 hours.
This will happen to me:
Day one - head to the strip at 5 PM and return.
Day two - Head to the strip at 4PM on the same pass.
play poker until early in the morning.Day three(2 AM) - Buy a second pass to return to downtown.
Use it again that day, and if I return to downtown earlier than 2AM on Day Four, I have managed to buy 2 passes and done three days of travel.

I did a similar thing traveling to the strip to play poker when I stayed at Terribles last August.
Walked down to the Tuscany so see if any poker was happening. Nothing. Too bad.
Walked down to Ellis Island to play matchplays and have a microbrew. Pete let me use a matchplay so I played a little 9/6JOB.
Walked to O'Shea's and spent the night there.

Caught the 202 coming back. It actually may wait at the stop on Flamingo for a couple minutes. I bought my 24 hour pass at 2 AM
I used the pass the next day to get to the strip and come home before 2 AM.

Also, at Terribles is the only place you can take a shuttle to Laughlin other than those one day almost free trips. River City Shuttle is the name of the company. I wrote of details in this post:

The 111 is the Pecos bus. One of the buses goes out as far as Green Valley Ranch, if you can believe it. It estimates it takes an hour to get there from Bill's with one transfer. I have ridden the bus to get to the Pinball Hall of Fame when I was already on Flamingo. Pecos cuts into Tropicana right at the plaza that has that fun place. There are also some great barbers there. In the same plaza is a barber who has collected a Western museum around where he cuts hair. He used to cut hair for movie stars, but the haircuts are cheap. $15 for a cut and beard trim he quoted me. You can beat the price for just a haircut kitty corner across both Trop and Pecos. $8 there.

I can't tell you how many interesting discussions I have had with people on the bus. But you do have to be tolerant of all sorts of folks. Poor folks ride these buses, so if you think cabbing is a step down from your limo, you may feel uncomfortable.

For low rollers, the CAT opens ups Vegas. Even with the coming rise in fares, the bus remains a really great deal.

Beginning on January 11, 2009, the new fare structure is as follows:
Fare Type Regular 1Reduced: Seniors/Students
Residential One-Way Fare: $1.75 $0.75
Strip One-Way Fare: $3.00 $1.50
One-Trip Ridecard (same as Red. One-Way Fare): $1.75 $0.75
Residential 1-Day Pass: $4.001 $2.001
Strip 1-Day Pass: $7.00 $7.00
Strip 3-Day Pass: $20.00 $10.00
30-Day Pass: $55.00 $25.00

1 To use this pass on the DEUCE, you must pay an additional 1 dollar EACH TIME you board.

Then, beginning on January 10, 2010, the new fare structure will be as follows:
Fare Type Regular 1Reduced: Seniors/Students
Residential One-Way Fare: $2.00 $1.00
Strip One-Way Fare: $3.00 $1.50
One-Trip Ridecard (same as Red. One-Way Fare): $2.00 $1.00
Residential 1-Day Pass: $5.001 $2.001
Strip 1-Day Pass: $7.00 $7.00
Strip 3-Day Pass: $20.00 $10.00
30-Day Pass: $65.00 $30.00

1 To use this pass on the DEUCE, you must pay an additional $1.50 EACH TIME you board.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The following snippet posts form a trip report for my trip to Vegas in August of 2008. There are no pictures as I did not want to risk my camera in the excessive heat. I lost a camera that way a couple years ago.

Still, there was a lot of detail, so I arranged it in categories rather than by time and date. Every move is not recorded. Each category is a discussion of that part of the Vegas trip with information and occasionally a story thrown in and with some links for further information if I had them.

The audience for these snippets are those interested in Vegas and gambling details. The general reader probably will be bored. For those of you who come by way of some Vegas discussion board, you may see a snippet or two posted separately on those boards at some time or another more as a discussion starter than a trip report. Sorry if repetition annoys you, but I like to get as much information out to as many fellow Vegas goers as possible.


snippet 2008 - trip overview

"So how did you do?" everyone always asks.
This is a difficult question to answer, but this time is the first time I have actually taken account of most of my expenses for the trip; I did not take count of tips. I expect I tipped somewhat over $100 this trip, but that is an estimate rather than an exact amount. I also did not count what I bought in stores. That does not seem to be part of a vacation as I spend money shopping at home too. This time I guess I bought about $69 in watches at the Laughlin Riverside Watchman store (4 nice watches) and a few decks of cards for the local poker games. Not much shopping. Too hot.

I spent 12 days in Vegas, sleeping 11 nights. I decided to figure my average daily expense by using the 11 night figure since one day on each end was cut in half for traveling.

AIRFARE - This was a free one, earned by the Southwest Rapid Rewards charge card by charging everything possible and paying each month so no interest needed to be paid. There was a $59 a year fee, and a $5 travel fee but I got three free flights this year, so I'll give this trip a $25 expense for air travel or $2.00 a day.

FOOD - Adding all my expenses for food and drinks (excluding tips) I averaged $3.32 a night. Usually I just eat one buffet a day and snack, but I had so much free food this trip that actually I overate on that amount of money. The "only eat if it is nearly free" is usually a way I can do buffets without overdoing my diet, but it did not limit me this trip. Still, I did not gain weight. Go figure.

HOTEL - My hotel fees averaged just $12 a night. Only two free nights were based on previous play. Those were at the California based on Main Street Station play.

TRANSPORTATION - My trip from the airport to downtown after Laughlin could have been a $1.25 expense, but I got the day pass at $2.50. Add in the $109 for the shuttle to Laughlin and back and a $4 river taxi fee and one more bus day pass at $2.50 and you get $10.72 cents a night for transportation.

GAMBLING LOSSES - In the eleven days I lost $709. This may to some experienced gamblers look like I was lucky in spots or did not gamble very long. I was not lucky. My greatest variance was one VP session in which I dropped $300 and another live 3/6 session in which I lost another $300. Both happened in the same day. The rest of my gambling just about broke even. In fact, if you take off the little bit of slot play I did here and there, I would be even except for those sessions. I gambled probably 80% of my time. Live poker sessions included four all nighters, one ending at 7:30 AM which I had started 14 hours earlier with just one break for a comedy show.

ENTERTAINMENT - I just did not do much besides gamble, swim, sleep and eat this trip. I spent an hour watching a great jazz band. That was free. I saw a $20 comedy act. So my entertainment expense was under $2 a day.

So total trip expense without gambling was $28.31 per day.
Total with gambling losses figured in was $94.76 a day.

I often have a conversation with non gambling friends who shake their heads at the thought of losing $700 by gambling. I hope this kind of mathematics will convince them that my extravagances are minor compared to their vacations where many will spend $100 on a single meal. Advantage player gambling reduces losses during losing sessions and increases winnings during winning sessions. What is a $700 loss one trip may easily change to a $700 win another because the mathematical mean of my own style of gamblling falls pretty close to break even before comps. And while some of these savings this time are comps or points earned other trips, I also kept up my daily average at Main Street station and seeded the VP at Aquarious and River Palms so that I hope to get some newbie generated free room offers. I walked away from the River Palms poker room with four certificates for free nights good even on weekends. So whatever points I used up this trip from previous gambling may be offset by gambling this trip to establish similar comps next visit.

snippet 2008- Hotel Overview

Normally my 11-15 day trips are a shuffle from one two night stay to another with perhaps a refreshing 3 night stay somewhere along the way.
I set out this time to have a relaxing 4 night stay in Laughlin and at the same time reduce the weekend hotel prices. I had intended to stay 4 nights at the Edgewater to be close to the 2-6 Colorado Belle poker action. I also saw that as a way to limit the amount of luggage shlupping in triple digit heat. The River City shuttle to Laughlin picked me up and delivered me casino to casino. I had not had much difficulty with the heat, but still I wanted to be cautious and it proved a good choice. I carry the largest suitcase allowed on airplanes as well as a C-PAP breathing machine and a small carryall bag. By the end of the trip the heat was oppressing me, dehydrating me, tiring me, and threatening to make me sick after my last hotel change, from free rooms at the California based on Main Street Station play, to paid rooms with one coupon at El Cortez which left me wiped out and sleeping for a long while. At 61 years of age, heat exhaustion, accompanied with mild diarrhea is nothing to be ignored.
As well as not having too much shlupping of luggage, I wanted good access to pools when possible as swimming is my major form or exercise in summer.

Most important is chosing Vegas hotels is location. And I really believe that the most flexible locations are not in the expensive strip hotels , but off the strip with bus access to prime strip areas and other interesting gambling. This does not suit the folks who need a room that pampers them. However, I am pampered simply by not having to set up a tent, pampered by accessible hot water, a comfortable bed, protection from rain and sun and wind. And I get all of that at below the price of camping out.

Terribles offers great access at a low rate. Just from their site I booked two nights at $29 each with $25 freeplay. with one bus ride I could go to Palms, Gold Coast,Rio, center strip, Sam's. From Palms/Gold Coast/Rio free casino shuttles can get me to many points on the strip. A free shuttle to the Orleans gets me to the Tropicana CAT bus and access to NYNY/MGM. So in my mind Terribles is excellent flexibility.

This trip my average hotel expense was $12 and only two nights were free based on past play. The rest were deals found on the net, coupons, and finally the icing on the cake was getting four free nights in Laughlin from coupons sent to a board friend for the purpose sharing them with some new gambler. These last coupons saved me $130 but also meant I needed to move once with luggage in Laughlin's +10 degree higher than Vegas heat) I would need to go from Aquarius to River Palms, a good walk along a rather maze like riverwalk. I discovered that the river taxi would take me and my luggage anywhere for $4. No high land metered taxi rates and no worry about traffic jams or going thru the tunnel. $5 with tip. A ten minute wait in the shade watching the river roll by. What a luxury! So piecing together free rooms in Laughlin is very simple and cheap with the added benefit of a fine boat ride rather than a walk past the seedy characters of downtown with tons of luggage.

All the rooms I stayed in were low end regular rooms. None were dirty. Some had some disadvantages. Here is an overview:

First two nights at Terribles: I asked for a room near the pool and that was granted. It meant I was a good walk from the casino, but I love being able to come back dripping wet and not pass too many other people. I loved the pool set in a really pleasant garden like courtyard with plenty of afternoon shade. It was never crowded and yet had plenty of people to watch for entertainment. The flat screen TV was a total disappointment. The reception was fuzzy. I much preferred the regular old fashioned TV's in my later rooms. Of course, no TV is worth anything in Vegas. They have no channels without commercials.
I used this hotel both to eat for free on points saved from prior years, to play matchplays, and as easy access by bus to the strip at Flamingo, or Gold Coast, or the Palms. I walked from there to the strip my first night, coming back at 3AM. That pass then paid my trips over the next day. Also, this is the only hotel from which we can use the River Palms Laughlin Shuttle.
Terribles picked me up at the airport and transported me free to the hotel. How nice to be so close to the airport after 5 hours of flying. An hour off the plane and I was in the pool stretching out those cramped muscles and watching a beautiful Dutch bikini.

Then it was off to Laughlin. As the Laughlin Entertainer says, : "All the thrill of Vegas at one third the price in a laid back riverfront community."

My next two nights were at Aquarius in Laughlin I was surprised not to find this a little more upscale than the cheap River Palms. It is center Laughlin strip and that is a great advantage. The pool was stark, just stuck on top. It was full of kids in late afternoon. It was fully in the sun until sunset. I had a fine time because I like watching kids in pools.
My tower, however, was adult only- over 21. That was nice. I don't like kids late at night or when I am napping and they run the halls.
The room was clean, but not behind the bed table. I pulled it out to plug in my sleeping machine and it was pretty dirty behind. The fan in the bathroom made a whining noise, so if Ihad been with another person, it would have disturbed their sleep. I played some DB 10/7 there and did well. So I have VP seeded this spot for future mailings.
Aquarius gave me easy access to the Colorado Belle poker games and also to the Watchman store at Riverside. It also was walkable at noon to the IN-N-OUT burger which was on my list of things to do, but will not be next time. LINK

As always I liked walking the river at night and seeing the carp, koi, and ducks as well as the lights on the water.

River Taxi to the River Palms was fine except getting down to the taxi from Aquarius meant going down some stairs. In the future, were I to leave, or especially were I to arrive there, I would use the next casino access at the Riverside. There was a ramp choice at the River Palms.

My next two nights at the River Palms again put me in a tower very close to the pool. The pool was better than Aquarius but not up to the standards of Terribles. Again there were plenty of children to watch. Children in Laughlin in the summer are very common. My room was cleaner behind things than Aquarius. The bathroom faucet was hard to operate, but I got the hang of it. Outside the window was a loud air conditioner which would bother some people, but it was really white noise and blended well with my C-PAP air rushing sound so it was never a problem for me. I left my phone charger there when I checked out, and they found it after I called and are mailing it to me.

Although I had originally wished for 4 straight nights, I liked being in one part of the Laughlin strip one time and then in a separate part. It was too hot to do much walking. I found the same 2-6 game at the River Palms and also found the best coupon news in all my gambling, 6 hours of play or any 4 of a kind (even with only one card) gets the player a certificate good for a free room that can be used up to 6 months. I left with 4 free nights for my next trip based on live Poker play.

If the promotion keeps going, I will use this as my main casino on future trips. They had full pay Double Bonus 10/7, so again I seeded future offers with some play. They also have a fine promotions system. You go to a kiosk and swipe and it tells you what you are entitled to and prints your certificates. At the promotions booth, the woman told me that for 7 more points I could swipe in a cash give away. So I played and swiped for a wind of $10; however, that was the lowest of five choices. Better luck might have given me $200, so it was a great promotion.

I also liked access to the pool and to comedy. From downtown I have to take a bus to see comedy. At the River Palms I saw three fine comics for $20 during a 3 hour break from a 14 hour poker session.

The shuttle brought me back to the airport. I went to ground zero and caught the 109 to the DTC. It was Sunday and the bus was not crowded. That is the best day said the driver. I rolled my bags across the street to the California for two nights. Although the daylight bleeding slats in the window were the same as those at Main Street Station, this was a quieter casino, and again I was just short one floor elevator ride to the tiny, cold California pool for my morning swim. Even in this August heat that pool water was cold in the morning. So I had the pool to myself and could swim in circles until I was too tired to go another lap.

I shlupped my bags up to Pavilion rooms at the El Cortez. These are the most basic of the bunch, but I like that balcony, especially at night. I also go to play poker and sleep. I am tired by the end of a trip. When I wake up at 3 AM I can go play poker and then go back to bed. They send me no free offers anymore for rooms, so I am using up my points for food and abandoning them as a playing casino except for live poker. They downgraded all full pay machines except a few and they dropped comps 300% on those. Still I like to get an efficient and free shuttle to the airport and they have the best. I could leave the hotel at 2PM for a 3:30 flight and know I would have plenty of time. This time we were there at 2:05PM, leaving early because all passengers were ready.
My plan in the future is to use them for my last three nights, ending on a Tuesday because a standard discounter deal is to give Tuesday for free if three nights are booked.

I could have stayed more cheaply at the Vegas Club. They had a deal at Expedia where any three nights booked on a Master Card got a $50 gas certificate and weekday rates were just $18. But I did not want to walk to play poker at the El Cortez.

So my next trip to Vegas will again be
Terrible's and some strip area poker games.
Laughlin for free nights while I play poker and for a good long stay at River Palms.
The El Cortez for the end of the trip.

I'll fit in free downtown at Main Street Station or Four Queens if I have offers, but the Four Queens has reduced comps a bit for me. It is still a good offer $25/$50 2 for 1 with $50 freeplay, but only two night stretches.

snippet 2008 - gambling details

In the past I have played video poker in order to establish free room offers. However, the volatility of the 10/7 DB game I have learned makes it difficult for me to be confident that my bankroll will support a string of free rooms through a losing streak.

also, my first love in gambling has become live poker..It is more complex. I do not have to play against the casino house edge. And as my game improves I expect that it will generate more wins. Also, just as I have established my play in places like the Orleans and the El Cortez, they have downgraded their games and their comps. I fear that the Four Queens is also going that route. At the Orleans I enjoyed a long string of free rooms during the last month they had full pay DB, but at the El Cortez I had lost a good bit of money when the good free room mailings stopped. So I lost my invested play.

This trip I discovered that Laughlin still has full pay VP and a really fine 2-6 spread limit poker game that at the River Palms will earn me free rooms, one room for every quad hand and for every 6 hours of play. That is unique in the country as far as I can tell.

At the same time I did want to seed a couple places in Laughlin for future trip offers. I was going to try it at the Colorado Belle, but just before I left they downgraded their comps on full pay machines. Some posters thought that I might still generate room offers, but I did not trust that. So I just played at Aquarius and at the River Palms, although I realize that the River Palms is probably not a good investment after this trip because I will be there many days on live poker comps and will not have the VP bankroll to keep up my daily average.

I did fine in my play in both places, breaking about even on the VP. At the Aquarius a fine straight flush bailed me out of the worst downward streak. I had two there. At River Palms I went back in to play more in order to get 7 points for their Frenzy promotion, lost almost a hundred and then again was booted back to even with a quad. I swiped the Frenzy and just got $10, missing other chances of up to $200 just by a wrong icon pick.

My VP play in Vegas was not as good. I dropped $300 one day at Main Street Station when nothing much came. Before that I was about even with quads coming fine but flushes leaving me altogether and other lower pays draining the quad winnings, even Aces.

I did not play VP at the El Cortez other than one time when I dropped $20 in an 8/5 Bonus in order to get a free bass ale and after a bit of slow play hit quad 3's and cashed out with a good profit.

I did practice before going to Vegas on Dancer's video tutor. I also brought Tomski's Strategy sheets and Dancer's Double Bonus book with me. These are good resources but complicated to read. If you are just starting out in VP or have been overwhelmed by books and sheets, try the book and strategy cards (in the book ) by Linda Boyd called "The Video Poker Edge" This simplifies strategy, leaving out the obscure penalty plays. It also lists "taboo" plays. Sometimes knowing what not to do is as important in gaining some edge as knowing what to do. There is a rare discussion too on Class II and ClassIII games which are here in New York and in Tampa where I winter. These are insidious liars, lottery slots pretending to be VP machines. Luckily they do not exist in Vegas.

Linda's expertise can also be enjoyed at:

My live poker play was fine. I lost $300 one day in a 3-6 game at the Golden Nugget and otherwise broke about even. In that game was an interesting player, a Black woman with a "bad hair day" cap and the most abrasive attitude ever. I wondered if it was just part of an act to rile the other players. She went into the most bitchy rants when anyone said anything she thought wrong.

One fellow wondered to his neighbor why she had not raised with a good straight and she went off on him, lecturing as if she were the poker Queen. Another who lost with his trip sevens to her nut flush said she had been lucky on the river (that the board had not paired) and she went on and on about how could he say she had been "lucky" when she had the nut hand and bet the nut hand and she was still lecturing two hands later when by her definition she had been "lucky.' Well, I'll tell you, it seemed that there were more nuts than just good cards at this table.

One of the old white haired fellows who she went off on tuned out to be recognised later as a well known coach at one of the colleges (perhaps Arizona) by a tall Black man who may have played basketball where he coached, but not directly with him. This fellow just rolled his eyes at "bad Hair Day" princess and her antics. If she wasn't just pretending, then perhaps she was just borderline bi-polar because she did seem to bond well with another player who came to sit next to her. it was then I saw that the permanently downturned mouth of hers could actually laugh.

I avoided direct confrontation until she started to lobby the dealer to add a kill to the game. She asked for a vote. I spoke up and said, "I don't want a kill, so the vote is now over."
"Yes," she said, "it only takes one dissenter."
Others were in agreement with me. After they left and the subject came up again, she whined, "Yes, there is only one person who does not want the kill." I wanted to say something like, "Awwww, did the Princess not get her way about something." but I kept still.

She was a good player. There were other good players too. I lost big there. I think it was a bit too aggressive a table. Also, I just never got cards that flopped.

My play otherwise was fine. No big wins. I loved the 2-6 spread in Laughlin. At Colorado Belle this had a kill, but it was not a crazy group so the kill did not influence my play except to tighten it to play only super premium hands after I had won one pot so as not to lose six dollars of my second pot to a third.

The River Palms did not have a kill. They also had one other interesting form of poker. Anyone at at 2-4 or 2-6 limit game who wanted to play no limit could request an "over" button. Then in any round where all the limit players were eliminated, leaving only the 'over" buttons, the game morphed into no limit. In one 2-4 I held my limit status, but whenever I folded all other players were playing no limit so I had some good games to watch. I also had the advantage of seeing my opponents and watching them play a while. I could request an "over" button at any time, so had I detected play I thought I might beat, I would have joined in. Finally, the 2-4 game was much less loose because players did not want to just throw money at any cards if they thought in the last round it might be a no limit game. I liked all of that.

In a 2- 6 game a very new young Spanish speaking kid decided to play no limit. At the table was an aggressive player. I worried the kid would get killed. The last hand of the morning came when the flop was 10-10-7. Mr aggressive went all in because he A-X of clubs and there were two on the flop. The kid called with just a seven. The turn was a club making the one fellow's hand, but the river was a third 10 giving the kid a full house. He must have collected 2-3 hundred dollars on that pot.

This definitely was not a no limit game I wanted to be in.

I hit four 3's for $200. It was one of the many bonus pays. The River Palms rakes $3 and then takes $2 for bonus pays. So does the Colorado Belle. Compare this to the $5 rake plus $1 for bonus hands that any Harrah's property extracts. My 3's were worth so much because there was a picture card on the flop. This also got me a certificate for a free room within 6 months as did another hand of four three's even though on that one I did not get a bonus as I held just one three.
Actually, it was just a fluke that I got that room certificate. I had raised on the river saying "twelve" which the dealer at first took for "call." I brought out enough money so my bet was safe, but it raised doubt in my opponents when they folded. So I showed my fourth 3 just to set minds at ease that I had not been playing a scam. With 4 3's I would of course raise on the river. The dealer than told me that I would get a free room.

These rooms are a great benefit as they can be used on the weekends too and patched in with other offers as well. They will work to make the River Palms my main casino.

At El Cortez I had fun as always. There is is more the players than the cards. I made a bit of money, but not very much. Details on my opponents can be seen at the next snippet.

I usually play about seven pulls a day on the Megabucks with the money I don't spend on State lottery tickets all year. I still want the fantasy of megamillions, but not at over 50% virorish. I did not do very much on the Megabucks. One trip i hit for $900 and that was also how much I was up for the entire trip. Not this time. I went on tilt one afternoon while I was waiting for a friend for supper and played a bunch of different slots. I never play slots. I regret I played them then. i was not feeling right and was bored.

Characters of the El Cortez

In every one of my Vegas adventures over the past few years, the El Cortez poker room has played a memorable part.
Entering the world of live El Cortez poker falls just short of that Twilight Zone "journey into a wondrous land, whose boundaries are only that of the imagination." After a few Myer's Rums, I can easily imagine that you have been transported to another dimension of time and space.

Much of the "romantic charm" of the poker room is due to the sometimes bizarre assortment of characters, most with idiosyncratic personalities that yield table images of grumpy, funny, or caustic....true images, totally unintended.

Last visit I wrote a long narrative of one adventure which many enjoyed. To read that use this link:

Other than Marine Guy, the characters in that narrative were there again for me to enjoy.
I have played so long and often at the El Cortez, that although I am a tourist, some of them know me, and I get to know more and more of the characters who frequent that unique place each time I visit.

I have written in past trip reports of Action Jackson, the energetic gambler, of Jackie Gaughn, the multimillionaire former casino owner and I saw both of these fellows this trip. Action did not like playing at my table. I was not lucky enough to have Jackie seated at my table, but the players were there in the magic that is El Cortez live poker.

More common were players like Larry. He got so angry that the floor would not change the television station to the Belmont horse races, that he later conspired to intentionally dump a drink on the floor's paperwork. The angry floor person threw him out. I had earlier asked Larry where he played and he had answered that he played all over, wherever they had not thrown him out.
"How do you get thrown out?" I asked.
"Usually, I get into a fight." he answered. And so it was before the end of the day.

Also, playing was an overweight, scruffy old fellow in a motorized car. He seemed to always fall on my left. Then I would try for a seat change. He noticed it and thought it was something personal about him, but it was simply that he might raise, and when he did, I would have to fold or catch. I would have liked him on my right, but he never played there. I did often have good players on my right and I was glad of it. One Vietnamese player, who plays everyday, was there for a while until he got a table change. He once told us he averages about $30 a day playing tight every day. He was another player who I did not want to call, although once I caught him in a bluff.

Having tight predictable players to my right is my preference. In one scenario I had Mr. Loose who raised with anything on my left, and a loose caller on his left. I used them to bet for me when I had solid cards after the flop. The table would call him and then I would trap them in a reraise.
It bothered him.
Eventually, it destroyed him, along with other good play at the table.

This time I also watched Jimmy ( a regular originally from New Jersey) who had that classic Italian look somewhere between Dean Martin and a Soprano's character; he had once been appealing, only now with a good bit of aging and some added weight, he had lost his good looking edge. He did some jokes and talked about being a stand up comedian. He was a master player, playing only a few hands but with perfect confidence. He beat me when his ace-king two pair was higher than my A-8 two pair and I had raised on the river. I could see that Action Jackson admired his play.

I saw again a small, thin Vietnamese player who rarely talks and plays many small cards, so that when it flops little ones and he is betting, the table groans and thinks "small straight."

One regular who reminds me a bit of a rabbit, kept complaining about how badly everyone at the table played this game. Generally I find such complainers are annoyed because they cannot put unpredictable people on hands. However, one had this fellow called on the river was so low that no one who knew the game should have played it. Nothing was said. I wondered if everyone wanted him to keep building this myth that he was the better player, and then lose.

There was also a middle aged woman with good play. She had long brown hair and was quiet and contained. I had not seen her before, but I will remember her. If she was in a pot, she had the nut.

Norman was there every day. He is an old, unhappy fellow, perhaps a German, with unkempt grey hair, a cane, a perpetual grump on his face, who walks or sits staring directly ahead with little aknowledgement of any other players. His companion is a young, smiling college aged boy with long blond hair who looks so femine that I first thought he was an attractive girl. I watched Norm have a fit when he thought he had to post the one dollar blind two hands in a row. He called the floor and complained. he would not give up the argument.
Finally, they just gave him the dollar to move the game a long. "I am not a child," he remarked.
But, clearly, he was in second childhood, or senility. At an earlier time I watched as they repetitively tried to break him out of a long, trance like stare to get him to act. He was very tight, often gone from the table, and yet it seemed when he did decide to play a hand, he chose hands that were not prime. I never played long enough at a table with his companion to know how the kid played.

There were some functional people with interesting stories. There was a fisherman who had just finished catching fine trout way up in the mountains of Utah and discussed recipes with the most adept dealer, Karen, who also likes to cook trout, wrapped in aluminum with barbecue sauce.

There was person preparing to walk to Florida just for the experience. He had done long biking trails and this was next. He said he never trained for such adventures and the first week was hell, but after that it was wonderful to be out walking alone.

Old wrinkled Lila came with her walker and sat next to me one night. She must be near 90 years old and when she had difficulty following the game or was distracted by a lot of talking, she complained bitterly, as she did about all the dealers. She was the classic old grump.
She sat to my left and I had to look right over her cards to see the flop. I tried to tell her to better protect her hand, but she basically told me she only flashed unimportant cards and to mind my own play. Later I felt her old wrinkled hand moving along the bare skin of my leg.
"I don't know exactly where you are going with that hand, ma'am," I said to her.
"I just wanted to warm it up." she explained.
"Well, let me just take your hands in mine, and I'll warm them that way," I offered, and she let me, but told me not to rub them as the arthritis made them sore.
In spite of her craziness, I liked Lila. The dealers did not. She was high maintenance, easily confused, and angry if she felt in the least slighted. She slowed the game. When one of her string bets was limited by one dealer, she announced that she would not tip that dealer. She did not like him. He smiled and told her that he did not really need her money. Later she confused another dealer with him, deciding she did not like that dealer either and withholding more tips.

To my right were young people.
One fellow was playing for the first time, and behind him his girlfriend who was delightedly bubbly with being in Vegas.
I envied her.
Every small part of the casino was new and great fun. She went to get some chips, just so she could clack them together while her man played. They talked in a fast paced banter, mostly about modern video games, a conversation which made me feel the distance of my age, feel as old to them as Lila felt to me. He worked for and we talked a bit about booking with discounters. I shared with him my own marketing ideas and he said they made sense and that he'd bring them up in a meeting, but he was more on the technical end. he did reassure me that there were no cancelation fees with I had heard this, but never booked with them to experience the truth of it.

The other young fellow, Chris, sat directly to my left and was one of those folks who likes "ritual speech" and perseverates the same talk over and over like a television commercial. One of his favorites was a commercial for the El Cortez which he repeated at least a hundred times. It had to do with winning caps and jackets.

The other ritualistic repetition would always start in this pattern,
"Chris wants more bad beats with his bad beats and even more bad beats with all bad beats, and if he does not get more bad beats with his bad beats, he is going to have to give someone a German."
People laughed at this because the repetition itself was funny, but no one at the table knew that it was referring to this wrestler who developed a hold called the "German suplex' and then went on to murder his whole family and himself.

Somehow the story had caught this kid's attention and become part of joke banter with his friends, and so he rehearsed it when he as waiting for cards or when he lost a hand on the river.

I don't mean to suggest this kid was crazy. He was friendly and sane in every way. He was in the army, but he did not talk about it. He was having a great time playing poker on such little money. His buddy John at the other end of the table hit a straight flush that became the second ranked high hand of that day and won him $150. Perhaps the "ritual talk" helped Chris stay calm in tough Army situations. At any rate, he was fun to banter with, and it was amusing when old Lila would admonish us to be quiet and stop having "diarrhea of the mouth."

In between Lila's small rants, her complaints about my talking and joking, I tried to take good care of her, getting her a tray when she needed it, or helping her with her confusion. In spite of her snarly ways, I liked her, and there were times when she laughed and I could see in her the girl of many decades earlier who was strong willed and assertive but good humored, who was not always cold and uncomfortable and in need of a walker just to change seats.

A tourist who played around this time spoke to me at breakfast about all of this. She had enjoyed the poker, but Lila had made her uncomfortable. She taught special ed for a living, but this was strange and new to her. She was perplexed in dealing with Lila. That made me chuckle.

I had a fine and friendly exchange with Q, a black fellow who is in a mood of constant celebration. He is the absolute opposite of Norman. I remembered him from last April. He is cheerful and laughing whether he wins or loses, one of the few at the table who shares my pleasure in the irony or randomness and can delight in the game which ever way it goes.

And there was an old drunk with one of those large, swelled noses that drunks get, who talked constantly and played very badly. He was there twice when I played, but one time he got lucky so he was there a bit longer. It was not so much that he was excessively drunk that night, but that you assumed he was a little drunk most nights. He loved and flirted with one of the women dealers, saying he was still young enough to fall in love. He often decided not to bet a strong hand, and when he did, he talked about how he liked his opponent and was going to play, "like a gentleman."

The true gentleman however is always Jackie, dressed to the nines, and I was disappointed not to play with him. He is failing. I only heard, "One for the money!" once in my three days there. The shuttle driver told me he had known Jackie well years ago when he was still competent. He said that Jackie was always free with show tickets or tips and that he was on of the few bosses ready to give someone who screwed up a second chance. Those were the old days of Vegas, before corporations ran things. I asked too if Jackie had ever traveled and was told he had when his wife was alive. I was glad to here that because I wondered if the business kept him stuck in casinos all the time with no time to enjoy his millions.

Players come in electric chairs or with oxygen in their noses. They come happy or mad. Some get mad at me if I trap them on the river. I definitely know the play of many of them and that helps me pick a seat and decide on borderline hands.

Each trip I collect a few more characters. I play often enough that the floor knows me, but most of the players who I have played with do not remember me because I come for a few days and then I am gone, like all tourists. I more easily remember them because they are usually there when I arrive.

Because of this delightful John Steinbeck-like collection of characters, I always make the El Cortez my final stop in any Vegas trip. This time I was there three days for $60 using a POV coupon. Their free shuttle to the airport adds value to my stay, but I would probably stay anyway, so that when I can't sleep at 3 AM, I can throw on some clothes, not shave, and fit in easily with the motley collection of poker players at the El Cortez.

snippet 2008 - Food

I am overweight because I eat too much and spend too much time on the computer. Still in Vegas I seek out the buffets and enjoy that part of Vegas. I usually buy one upscale buffet, generally Planet Hollywood at lunch. The the rest of the time I only eat when the food is free or at least on a 50% coupon. This usually works to limit my buffets to one a day, but I had so many free offers this time, that the "free only " diet was not helpful. I was amazed to come home and to have not gained a pound.

Usually, there is a lot of walking in Vegas. I will choose to walk whenever I can. However, in the August heat, I was not walking very much at all. I did swim almost everyday. I had the opportunity to swim even when I was at the El Cortez but I did not want to walk to the Plaza where my buddy's key would let me in. By that portion of the trip, I was tired, and wanted just to sleep, or to play poker.

So I have no real insights about food to share with you.
Except to repeat my favorite dish in all of Vegas and one I had three times due to so many Main Street Station food comps.
I go to the soul food section of the Main Street Station buffet and put a good portion of greens on my plate with a bit of vinegar.
Then I go to the back Hawaiian section a cover the greens with scoops of pulled pork.
Next I go to the Chinese section and put little dabs of Chinese hot sauce around, perhaps mixing things up.
Finally, I top the concoction with sprinkled Chinese crispy noodles.

Oh, my!!

The other thing I like about MSS is that they have butterfingers and tiny M and M for the desert iced cream.
Cinnamon buns in the morning are good too. I did not have the stomach to try the morning strawberry pizza.

I also did taste the difference between the foods on this buffet and the others throughout my week of low roller's food.

My first couple days I ate at Terribles. I am trying to use up my large number of accumulated points.
This is one of the most hated buffets, but I always do well. Each buffet has an advantage. Here I find a large bowl of mixed melons on the salad bar and they are just as sweet as you want melons to be. And on my table is a jar of Cholua Mexican hot sauce. Too many American places mindlessly put Tabasco on the table. I don't get that. Almost any red hot sauce is superior. Frank's is my favorite, but Cholua is right up there.
On Frisco night I enjoyed fresh oysters on the half shell. The fellow was opening them and we were eating them as fast as he could open. I loved the smoked brisket and the ribs were the best I had eaten, even in Florida barbecue joints. I liked the seafood gumbo and the deep fried cod was not as good as the one at Foxwoods, but the batter was crisp and the fish tasty. (Of course, this is probably not cod, anymore that a Grouper on a Florida buffet is grouper) Finally, I liked the iced tea. I don't usually.
In the morning I convinced the omelet maker to make me a couple of eggs over easy and then toss in the fried fixings and sprinkle it all with cheese. I love the flavors, but I like a runny yolk. I make these over easy omlettes at home, arranging even to melt the cheese, but it is a bizarre request for the cooks in the omelet lines.

At the Colorado Belle I used my card to get a good enough $6 buffet and then later used my comps for steak and eggs, overpriced at the diner but fine. The buffet included large, fresh blueberries.

The next day I walked up to IN-N-OUT burger.
I had looked forward to this experience for a couple trips, but I have to say I was deeply disappointed. Perhaps I am too old to absorb the romance, or perhaps it is so much better than McDonald's that it attracts the young who would otherwise go there. I never go to McDonald's so there is not that comparison.
I did think the food was fresh. I had the protein combination from the secret menu and the iceberg lettuce was nice and crisp. But the burger itself was so thin it looked anemic. They may have missed giving me a true swirl shake and substituted just chocolate. I could see some swirl but nothing red at all. It was nothing to walk across the street for, especially in that hot sun.
Whether or not I am too old for the romance, I definitely am too fat for the seats. I could not get comfortable and finally sat on a stool. The decor was pretty cool, like a diner of my generation, bright tile with a leaning palm motif. But with all the cheap buffet options, I did not get that it was much of a value. Taht night the Colorado Belle put out free chicken burritos for the poker players. They were a treat. The chips with them were just so-so but the salsa was fine. The burritos were great.

I had breakfast and supper at the River Palms buffet and found that just fine.
One night there was a choice on the salad bar of blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries. They were wonderful. I could have made a meal on them. The salmon was very bad, however, the worst I ever have eaten. I only tasted it. The drinks are self serve. I love that. No one but me can take orange juice and splash it with just a hint of cranberry. And when I am thirsty, I like not having to wait to catch the eye of the drink person. I like too that when I chose a desert and want a bit of coffee with it, I can get it right then, hot and the way I like it. Or if I prefer tea, I have the option to pour the hot water over the bag so that it steeps correctly, or as near to correctly as the hot water can make it. In such places I often bring my own tea bags and make my own cup of English breakfast.

One night the entire buffet was inundated with Japanese from a tour of some sort so that eating there reminded me of eating Dim Sum in a large city and being immersed in a Chinese community. One of the reasons I enjoy traveling is the opportunity to immerse myself in a culture very different from mine, and on trips to Vegas that happens often. In the buffet that night I was a distinct minority and all around me families played out what it was like to be Japanese. I hoped that the pretty young girls eating near me had not mistaken this experience for the Vegas they had seen on television. Perhaps this was just an easy stop for food on the way to the Hoover Dam, but it seemed an odd place to visit when folks had come all the way from Japan to see America.

I found the same experience in Spanish speaking communities in Laughlin pools. While they do not duplicate being in Casino Paradiso in Costa Rica and talking to the drink girls and the young dealers in order to practice Spanish, still it is good for my less than fluent ears to hear and try a little Spanish. I had a chance even to make a joke or two when the poker table at the River Palms was full of Spanish speakers and the banter between hands was all in Spanish.

After checkout and before the shuttle bus pickup, I got a free chili cheese steak sandwich meal at the cafe based on my play. It came with a drink and some very good french fries, cut large and cooked to be crispy on the outside as I asked. I finished with a nice 50 cent ice cream coupon at Java Jones where regardless of the sign that says "free refills for 50 cents" you are not allowed to save your cup for the next day and take advantage of that offer. I asked. Just so you would know.

Back in Downtown Las Vegas my food was almost free. Main Street Station gave me $20 in $5 coupons which frustrated me because that meant I had to pay a little something for what should have been a full comp. However, I did get a fully comped supper buffet for my second day there. And all those other visits meant plenty of my favorite soul food green Chinese hot Hawaiian Kalua pork noodle dish.

My buddy bought the coupon meal at Freemont for steak night and I enjoyed that. At Freemont the steak was tough but tasty and I also enjoyed duck and salmon with horse raddish sauce and capers and onion. It was up a notch from the Laughlin buffets.

I bought the meal with the coupon at Fitzgerald's and found the food fine but the servers rude and dysfunctional (except for the friendly host). The buffet is gone, but the coupons will give you 2 for 1 entres. I had salads from the and all tasted fine. My buddy had a chili steak sandwich. With the salad bar came a baked potato which he ate and with his came the homemade potato chips which I ate, but I did not find them as good as I had before.

I ate prime rib on poker comps and points twice at Careful Kitty's in the El Cortez. It was good both times. I always sit at the counter there. I also had two free breakfasts and those were fine. Again I taught the omlette chef how to make over easy omlettes. he was very perplexed, but there was no one there so I described the entire process. both breakfasts gave me plenty of time to talk with friends who shared them. It is an easy, quiet place to meet. And the bacon at the El Cortez, and only there, was crisp,. the grits tasty.

snippet 2008 - Why laughlin? and How?

When I used to rent a car in Vegas, I often used free rooms at the River Palms, Laughlin to offset the high cost of Vegas on some weekend nights. Once I got used to the ease of the CAT bus routes (other than the Deuce) I found staying downtown cheaper and satisfying. However, comps downtown are beginning to dry up for me.
The El Cortez is basically gone. Although I was a Saphire level player, and they still cut me that card, their last promotion offered me a laughable $30 a night rate. They have eliminated my 10/7 VP so there is really nothing left for me to do there except the live poker table. I love that, but it will not generate any room offers.
For an offer from the Four Queens I had to call a VIP host. They sent no mailing for my August trip and then sent a $25/$49 offer for the fall. It included $50 freeplay, so it was still "free" but it pushes me more to just go to Laughlin where free is totally free and based on live poker play, a miracle in promotions.

Figuring out how to go there, however, has been a challenge.

I have been discouraged in renting a car by recent issues in car rentals, like the failure of credit cards to cover loss of use fees because car rental companies refuse to send required logs, the fact that I would have to cover difference between my coverage on my old vehicle and some $35,000 car I might rent, and especially the total lack of coverage by any insurance for diminished value. These new rip off strategies to push the selling of waivers have confused me and my insurance agent

CAR RENTAL ISSUES (click here)

Added to that, I began to see the advantage of being over tired or inebriated on buses versus being disciplined and sober for the driving. Often Myers rum or microbrews add more to the EV of video or live poker play than my skill level. So remaining perfectly sober seems like poor money management. And yet even a few beers combined with a car accident cancel all insurance coverages and invite jail. I like risk, but not that much. I am a low roller. Why worry about it when i am trying to be uninhibited in Vegas?

However, finding transportation to Laughlin excpet for cheap day trips was difficult and the cost of the trip by car discouraged me . Then, on a $5 day trip in April, I played a bit of the 2-6 spread limit poker and found it a fine game. With only one blind, I could wait through the bad hand streaks. And there seemed to be fewer aggressive tables in Laughlin than in Vegas. So I was motivated to look at Laughlin as a good option.

When I found that the River City Shuttle picked up at Terribles,I was thrilled.
I have wanted to stay at Terribles because it offers the low roller almost complete bus access to any part of the strip and after a 5 hour plane ride to Vegas is fast easy and free from the airport. So after a few days Terribles , I could be delivered to my hotel in Laughlin, be dropped back at the airport after my Laughlin days, and take a bus downtown. So I set up that agenda.

It was a fine plan. Terribles picked me up and delivered me for free from the airport. I was the only person on the free shuttle. I called, he came, and I was checked in quickly and soon
in the pool to stretch out those airport cramped muscles and joints.

River City picked me up at Terribles after I checked out (there are three times each day to choose from). They gave me a fine ride directly to my casino of choice in Laughlin. On the way back I was picked up again at another casino and delivered to the airport. I took the 109 to the DTC downtown and rolled my bags across to the California. Easy.

The shuttle cost was $110. I estimate that gas cost alone in a rental is $40. So this was a bargain when traveling solo.

I managed four days of free promo rooms (2 at Aquarious and 2 at River Palms.) The River taxi for $4 took me from hotel to hotel.

It was a good pick in August too. I had less walking with bags from hotel to hotel. In fact, until the end of my 11 day stay when I pulled luggage from Main Street Station to the El Cortez, I was picked up and delivered from hotel to hotel with very little bag rolling.

The River City company advertises that they will get you where you want to go when they say they will. But I can see that coordination with airplanes is still a big issue. On my trip out an airplane was delayed so that meant a woman missed the shuttle. It can't wait for anyone. She would get the next one, but it would be a three hour wait.
On the way back an emergency sent the shuttle back for a passenger before they picked me up and it cost the schedule 45 minutes. The company called and was clearly agitated. The driver told me that in a year and a half of driving he had never gone back for anyone, but that this was very important, and that they had checked first to see I was not catching an airplane. It was no real inconvenience for me, but still they were late.

So I would not try to go directly from an airplane to the shuttle. I had no desire to do that going into Vegas anyway; after 5 hours in a plane I want to get in my room and settle for at least a couple days.

On the other hand there were regular customers for both trips who had come in on aircraft and lived in Lake Havasu so the shuttle must be fine most of the time even when linked immediately to a airplane ride. I liked visiting a bit with them. I learned quite a bit each time. I also napped part of the trip each way.


One driver said that there had been times when he had shown up to pick someone up and they were there and did not see him, only to call later and say he had not arrived. His story seemed to point out the dysfunction of the passenger, but my take on the situation was that the driver needed to have a sign like a limo driver and actively search for passengers. If the driver was proactive about calling out, "Any passengers for the River City shuttle?", who would have missed him?
There are no marked bus stops so normal bus stop body language does not work. At ground zero in Vegas there is no designated single spot as there would be for a CAT bus, but a long row of possible places the van might enter. The logo on the side of the van is tough to read at a distance. He came up to me in Terribles lot. I had not spotted the shuttle van parked out in the parking lot. I was picked up at the South entrance, but the driver said he thought he had worked it out so that I could be picked up at the valet. I was glad that he had found me, but it made me decide to take some time explaining this issue when I booked next time and getting a clear sense of what the backup was if we did not easily connect.

Leaving from the River Palms in Laughlin I was confused again. The valet sent me quite a ways from the shaded canopy to wait for the shuttle. I had remembered the driver had told me to wait by the valet. I shared this anxiety with the office contact person who called me to explain the delay and I described myself and my suitcase so the driver could find me. If I go again, I may make a bit of a limo like sign myself and just hold it up. I certainly will confirm my pickup that morning so that the company knows I am there and the driver takes the time to find me if either of us is confused.
I doubt this is a real problem; I expect it is more my own paranoia. At worst, I would expect a driver would call me on the cell if he could not find me. Also, now that I better know what the van looked like, I think I could pick it our better although I got confused it with the River Palms shuttle because neither logos are really large and easy to read and both said "River."


Tri City shuttle is their competition. The driver told me that he has often had to go after stranded single passengers that Tri City has abandoned. Granted, that could just be a way to trash the competition, but he seemed sincere. He said the owner was adamant that people would be picked up and delivered on time, and that no one would ever be stranded by River City. The tense and apologetic tone I sensed in the office worker who called to tell me the driver would be late reinforced my sense that the company understands that they cannot generate business unless they are where they say they will be regardless of circumstances. She was not telling me that stuff happens; she was apologizing over and over even after I assured her it was no big deal to me.

PS Upon checking it seems this alternative will not work for me. Those flights don't fly anymore.

As well as this shuttle, there is an aircraft company that has had some great deals on flights into the Bullhead City airport that include transportation to a Laughlin casino. They actually had specials of $89 round trip, cheaper than the shuttle. The hard part for me was to figure how I might get cheaply to the airport. I asked at the DTC and the fellow there assured me that the CAT 106 would get me to the North Vegas airport in about 30 minutes. So that is another option to explore.

Anyway, I am pretty decided to begin to plan trips to Laughlin with just a bit of a flavor of Vegas at each end. The River City Shuttle would be the last to book because any cancellation just means you can use the ticket over the course of the next year. No refunds. No shows after no call to cancel don't get that advantage. But they told me that I could book with as little as 12 hours notice and be fairly sure of a seat on one of the three shuttles that day.

snippet 2008- transportation

My total transportation cost (not counting tips) for the 11 night stay was $118 or $10.72 a night.

From the airport to Terribles when I arrived I called them and they picked me up at ground zero and delivered me for free.
From Terribles to the Strip or Gold Coast I used the Flamingo bus. Easy, reliable, never more than a 20 minute wait when i just missed the bus crossing the street.
My largest expense this trip was the River City Shuttle to Laughlin at $109 round trip. It picked me up at Terribles, delivered me to Aquarious, picked me up four days later at River Palms and delivered me to the airport.
To go from Aquarius to the River Palms I used the River Taxi. No traffic. No tunnel scam. No meter. Just $4 to anywhere on the river.
To go from the airport to downtown I used the 109 to the DTC. I was lucky to catch it on a Sunday which is the best day to travel on it according to the driver. It is a 45 minute trip and they stay on schedule. He even waited a couple minutes at one stop when he got a bit ahead of schedule. I got a day pass for $2.50 but I should have just gone one way for $125. These prices are good until January and then they go up, and they go up again in 2010( see listing below).
Shuttle back to the airport from El Cortez is free.

I liked the river City Shuttle to Laughlin. Here are some of the bits of information I picked up on the bus:

The River City Shuttle can be rented. Ten people go to the Grand canyon for about $300. Seemed a very good price to me.

The shuttle had a half hour layover at the airport after the Terribles pickup. I did not like that part. It was too hot.

One of the passengers on the River City Shuttle was a stock holder in Southwest and told us they had already voted to charge for baggage by the year 2010 so get your traveling in now folks. He also said that one of the ideas being bantered about in ariline circles was to weigh passenger and bags and charge by the pound. 250 or less would be free. Anything over would be charged. This is not good news for an old fat guy.

The Skywalk at the Grand Canyon was mentioned. It is expensive and no cameras are allowed. These folks were not impressed, but I wanted to try it.

I asked all the Lake Havasu folks what to see when I visited, but I was not impressed. I guess you can see the London Bridge but there is some construction. Other than that all the talk from those living there was of the new mall that was built. Not very exciting. I don't think I'll visit for a long while and then only by day boat trip from Laughlin.

coming rises in CAT prices:

Effective Jan. 11, 2009, the general market passenger fares shall be adjusted as follows: (includes all non-Strip routes, residential Deuce routes, MAX routes and regular bus service)
Single Ride Full Fare: $1.75 (now $1.25)
Full Fare Day Pass: $4.00 (now $2.50)
30-Day Full Fare Pass: $55.00 (now $40.00)
Reduced Fare Cash Single Ride: $.75 (now $.60)
Reduced Fare Day Pass: $2.00 (now $1.25)
Reduced Fare 30-Day Pass: $25.00 (now $20.00)
Effective Jan. 11, 2009, fares on Deuce on the Strip shall be adjusted as follows:
Single Ride Fare: $3.00 (now $2.00)
Full-Fare Day Pass: $7.00 (now $5.00)
Three-Day Full Fare All Access Pass: $20.00 (new) (now none)
Up-Charge with Regular Day Pass: $1.00 (now $.50)
Reduced Fare Cash Single Ride: $1.50 (now $1.00)
Three-Day Reduced Fare All Access Pass: $10.00 (new) (now none)

Effective Jan. 10, 2010, the general market fare structure shall be adjusted as follows:
(Includes all non-strip routes, residential Deuce routes, MAX, and regular bus service)
Single Ride Full Fare: $2.00 (1/11/09 $1.75)
Full Fare Day Pass: $5.00 (1/11/09 $4.00)
30-Day Full Fare Pass: $65.00 (1/11/09 $55.00)
Reduced Fare Cash Single Ride: $1.00 (1/11/09 $.75)
Reduced Fare Day Pass: $2.00 (1/11/09 $2.00)
Reduced Fare 30-Day Pass: $30.00 (1/11/09 $25.00)
Effective Jan. 10, 2010, fares on Deuce on the Strip shall be increased as follows:
Single Ride Fare: $3.00 (1/11/09 $3.00)
Full-Fare Day Pass: $7.00 (1/11/09 $7.00)
Three-Day Full Fare All Access Pass: $20.00 (1/11/09 $20.00)
Up-Charge with Regular Day Pass: $1.00 (1/11/09 $1.00)
Reduced Fare Cash Single Ride: $1.50 (1/11/09 $1.00)
Three-Day Reduced Fare Pass: $10.00 (1/11/09 $10.00)

snippet 2008 - Hanging Artwork

I don't know a think about art expect for what I like. I best like narrative art. But I did notice this trip some of the paintings and decorations and speculate on how they came to be.
The Colorado Belle was the most confusing.
If you have seen photos of this casino, it is shaped like a large paddleboat from the Mississippi. The upscale restaurant is named after Mark Twain. Inside you walk from on floor to others up a wide staircase like those you might imagine in a paddle boat this size. The bannisters fit the decor.
However, when you arrive at the landing from either wide stairwell you are greeted with Parisian prints of French style. Where does this come from? Is is a desire to somehow touch base with all the cultures, or are they there because new Orleans had paddleboats?
I can tell you that Mark Twain hated the French, so it clashes with any references to his Mississippi.

Now in the cafe there were more appropriate prints, including one of Winslow Homer's "Crack the Whip" which in my mind always fits well with Mark Twain's America.

In the Colorado Belle buffet is a tiled wall with a painting of an Italian wine bottle, cheeze, garlic. This is not at an Italian station, but at the main section. What is this about? What does Italy have to do with paddleboats?

In the River Palms ( where there are some references in the drawings at least to Palms) the rooms are decorated with paintings that are cold geometric designs representing a room that lack narrative or in my opinion anything approaching beauty. They are as dull as the mathematics they represent. Where is the river in this art?

snippet 2008 - Comedy and Jazz

In the middle of a 14 hour poker session I went to see a fine comedy act at the River Palms. For $20 I saw three comics and enjoyed them all to a more or less degree. Comedy works best for me if it is not too abrasive and if all the jokes don't seem to invoke the laugh line with some form of F***. I am not offended by the other sort, just not overly amused. I don't see how the humor differs from the jokes my students told for 30 years in the classroom where from 7th thru early high school F*** was a joke all by itself.
I never see anyone who comes near Steven Wright for comedy, or uses his dry ironic approach to look at the world in new ways. He is my favorite.
Still, these performers were all comics who drew out some of the funny ironies of life and presented them with some energy. Also they did not need to harass the audience and embarrass us to make fun of life. As much as I enjoy good banter, I often am a bit uncomfortable when audience members are the butt of jokes. They engaged the audience a bit by getting hand raised votes to see who might be married, etc. Nothing was very individually focused.

Best I thought was:
Max Dolcelli

His body language and facial expressions presented his material with such energy that I'd have laughed even if I did not get the joke or agree with it.
I'm sorry I can't remember content well.
I do remember he did a good bit on male/female relationships and roles.

My second favorite was Patrick McGuire.

He is partially blind and did some great stuff on the ironies of his own condition. I remember him telling us one of the advantages of sight loss could be realized just before going out to dinner. His wife would come out and ask the question all men dread,
"Well, honey, how do I look?"
And he would escape the trap with........
"Well, a bit out of focus and somewhat ...............blurry."

He also did a bit of ethnic humor. This is tough to do because it is always delicate. Some of it was again self focused on his own Latino heritage. And the rest was very well written and presented and did not leave me feeling he had gotten away with insult simply by calling it comedy.

The third comic was okay.

Pediatrician Dr. Sutay

I did not think his delivery was as polished as the others.
Dr. Jay Sutay is a pediatrician turned comic. He uses the stuff from his day job to make good jokes, most of them on the parents of the kids he treats. I thought he was just a bit short of good stage presence. I always felt it was the Doc speaking and not the polished comic.
I may also have been put off by one strand in his comedy. It is what I call the "ignorant was best" brand of comedy. I guess it is designed to make us laugh at how complex life is now compared to our memories of the past. For example, he mocked the use of car seats. Back in the day, as the strand goes, we did not need car seats. Just an arm stuck in front of the child during a quick stop was enough.
The central theme is that the risks we took in the old days were fine and even made us who we are today. After all, the audience is repeatedly asked, didn't we survive and here we are?"

Well, Doc, the great irony is that few of us who died in car crashes as children are here to rebut your arguments. Or perhaps we are too deaf to hear those voices.

Another of his stiks was that we should train our kids like we train our dogs. We are too sensitive and we read too many books on parenting. We don't do that with dogs.

Well, Doc, I have to tell you I don't think we not do so well with our dogs ether. And when we get to the point where we no longer can do anything with a dog, we just put it down. Hard to do that with children. Often tempting. But illegal in most states.

Also, I have read some fine dog books that helped me understand pack instinct and other dog issues and offered some fairly simple ways to change dog behavior. In my experience books are good and those who can't or don't read them.....well....they then can ignore any new thoughts or information. Illiteracy and ignorance are not the best preparation for parenting.

I guess I could not forget that that Dr. Sutay was a real professional pediatrician telling us not to be modern or particularly smart about raising children. Sort of the old wood shed mentality. It may have relaxed some of us into the simplicity of the mythical good old days, but I would have preferred humor that reflected the stupidity of being violent or negligent with children rather than praised those approaches.

Or perhaps it is just my coming first new grandchild due in November that skewed my receptivity and made me oversensitive to car seat jokes.



Coming back from poker at the Colorado Belle one night when I either had a cold or allergies and was tired, I sat at a slot machine and watched a great Dixieland type jazz band for an hour. They had a new sax player named Dave who clealy had not practiced with them much or perhaps at all, but he was very talented and it was fun to see them decide on a piece and then start in. Since it was unpracticed you had the sense of real jamming going on. The new guy was also great. He set up some music but as far as I could tell never looked at it. He seemed to know most of what they played.
Much of is was very familiar. The lead singer on a guitar had an old gravel voice and added good character to old songs, even putting in some new words like a reference to oil spills in Buffets' Margarittaville.
Along with some great jazzy pieces like "Georgia Brown" and an instrumental I really lied called "Donkey" or "Jackass" were a few lounge songs like "Fly Me To the Moon." The new sax guy sang some too. Only the drummer and the base seemed to be in always in the background. It was great fun.

Poker has greatly reduced the amount of music I hear on a trip to Vegas. I used to gamble a bit and then walk to a lounge and hear some sounds and then walk again to do a matchplay or play a bit of blackjack or craps. Now I am at the table for 10 hours at a stretch. Partly it is because even 12 hour sessions rarely have me losing more than $100 so I just keep playing. It takes a good hour to learn the players and then there will be a stretch of just poor cards before the knowledge can become useful.

I need to think about that for my next trip and look up more things in the Laughlin Entertainer. Perhaps if I don't go in August, that will make a difference. Less heat will motivate me to be more mobile.

Meetings with friends

At the El Cortez I talked a little with a couple of discussion board friends, Gerry and Les. He had just had a bypass and recovered and was off to Vegas so I was very happy to see both of them able to travel and play.

On my last day I had an El Cortez breakfast with my VP friend Catherine after two failed attempts to connect. She was doing well with friends chasing some VP promotions at the Four Queens and at the Palms. She would have had a bed for me at the Palms and a free ticket to the Pool Party. I missed all that when I lost my cell phone charger, got tired and a bit exhausted in the heat, and just did not make it. it was my one chance to move out of the low roller category and I blew it.

Louisiana Mudgriff Dan was there doing Silverstrike business. The Palms released their new big strike too early, so he missed making the exchanges for one of his collections, but he seemed to have fun anyway. We ate together a couple times and had a fine talk. I hope to see him in March when I drive through Louisiana and play at some of those casinos.

I missed Mohave. We almost connected in Laughlin but not quite. I got really bonded to the River Palms machines and did not feel quite right either. There I had either a cold or allergies. So I did not get down to the Colorado Belle where I might have caught him playing poker.

I guess I am not much of a Vegas meet up type of guy unless the people meeting me want to play some poker somewhere. I get too absorbed with the game and I am no longer much of a Vegas companion.

snippet 2008 - tips next time (end of trip report)

Dear Dewey,

****Carry more dollar store bag clips. You know you leave them attached to the curtain when you leave one hotel and go to the next. have many spares.

****Carry an extra phone charger. You lost coordination with friends and one entire experience sleeping at the Palms and attending a free pool party because you forgot the phone charger. And a week later it is still at the River Palms waiting to me mailed out. A spare charger will solve that dilemma and while you are at it.....

****Get a duplicate driver's license. You will lose your wallet one of these times.

****Make a good last minute list. It is not good to almost forget your every two week shot. It is worse to not know where your traveler's checks are packed and so to frantically stop at the bank on the way to the airport. It is not good to only pack one disposable razor for 11 days and then only by accident.

*****Do you want to try downsizing luggage or just wait until Southwest begins charging. That fellow on the shuttle suggested that SW has already decided to start charging for extra bags in in 2010 despite their advertisement.

****Remember those bungy cords. They were a real easy way to put a bag on top of the rolling suitcase and that made entering the CAT 109 very easy.

**** Forget the hot pot. Just take a few good tea bags. This is especially true if the River Palms is going to be a main stay casino since they have self serve drinks in their buffet.

******Laughlin will mean less couponing. Plan just to collect Terribles, Ellis Island matchplays as well as downtown. No POV. But bring free room certificates for the River Palms.

****Three day before confirmation of times and dates and charges and the question, "Any more rooms on my name" will eliminate forgotten rooms booked in confusion.

*****Stay off of the River Palms internet and just book at the desk or if booked on the internet, call a few days later to see what arrived and what did not.

*****CAT bus that was the 105 is now the 116. Check to see other changes before going. have change in pocket to cover new bus rates.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Planned for July/August

Well, I am almost all set on my Vegas trip in August. The shuttle will need last minute booking because there is a penalty for canceling. Here is my schedule with all the black parts booked and the red parts planned but not yet booked.

Fly in on January 28 --- Free airfare
28-29- at Terribles at $29 a night with $25 freeplay as a bonus
30 - Shuttle to Edgewater, Laughlin $110 RT
30-31 Aquarius 2 free nights - coupon from Linda
1-2 River Palms - 2 free nights- coupon from Linda
3-4- California -- free
5-6-7 El Cortez - about $68 total.

I estimate that average total cost for hotels is $12 a night, a couple dollars cheaper if you figure in the freeplay at Terribles. If I average in my $110 shuttle to Laughlin I have transportation and hotels for under $22 a night.
And while I should play some VP to seed for future mailings at Laughlin only 2 nights, those at the California (based on past play at MSS) really feel like money must be played to maintain my daily average.
So I can take a good portion of my bankroll for VP and pump it into those two days of play.

Feels great to be booked.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Vegas Trip Report 2008 photos will enlarge if you click on them

The following links arrange my Vegas information in categories for easy reading or research.
Each is a separate little bit of Vegas, a "snippet"
Photographs are also included where they seemed to make sense.
Photographs will enlarge if you click on them.

This trip in late April and into May was a great success. Next trip is late July into August.
Comments are appreciated. It takes a while for them to post as I screen to avoid spam.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

TR Snippet- Barbers and Pinball

I like getting my haircut in Vegas, but I don't often have a car to manage the less expensive places. The El Cortez barbershop on the Vintage room floor did remind me a bit of those barbershops in the mob movies. But I remember it was a bit pricey and the barber was friendly but a bit too definitive in conversation. I felt as if I was part customer and part annoying tourist.
I also felt that he did not think he really had to listen too much to what I wanted.

Besides, being frugal I really like the bargain haircut shops.

Years back I used to go quite a ways our Tropicana to a woman name Linda at a Magic Nails spot in one of those plazas. I went looking for her.
Instead at Tropicana and Pecos I saw a sign for a haircut $8 and nothing on it about nails. I don't really want to smell nail polish while I get my haircut.
In the small plaza I found two barbershops. The traditional male barbershop was closed and the posted prices were much higher than $8, so I waited for the Unisex cutting place to open. I was ten minutes early, so I took a bit of a walk. This was a mistake. When I got back, there were four people ahead of me.
And yet the waiting was short and the cutting went quickly; soon it was my turn.
The woman fussed with my hair and beard (extra $6) really listening to what I wanted and taking time to make it right. I am not fussy. I never complain. Still it is fine to be fussed over.
So I recommend that shop if you would like an inexpensive haircut.

And here is the real draw.
Kitty corner from the $8 barber is the finest playland in Vegas.
Assembled are rows of old functional antique pinball machines; $20 in quarters can easily take you back in time.
My favorite are cartoon themed machines, especially the one based on the old Daffy Duck evening cartoon show from the 60"s which was watched by my high school friends.
Next in line of my favorites are the old fashioned shooting gallery machines with the little round targets mounted in the center of moving animals.
I also like the simple baseball machines where the flapper is the baseball bat.
Some I cannot figure out. There is one where you fire a continuous flow of small beads rather than a ball at a time.
I never understand how the scores total. I just know that however I will play I will get a million zillion points. Pinball is a point inflation sport.
I am no good at playing. I do not know when to shake and when not to. On the other hand, I never put the machine on tilt.
Hmmmm...pinball may be the source of that poker expression.
What I do is have a great time.
I can imagine spending an afternoon betting against a buddy on who could get high score.
Or better yet, if I could just find the pinball playing companion who is featured in this poster I found on the museum wall:

And in that same plaza, closer to Tropicana is the barbershop I will visit next time. It is part barbershop and part western museum. There are just two chairs, two very small rooms, and a very friendly barber. And all around is every Western decoration you could imagine, much of it real pieces.

He charges $15, but he said the beard trim would be included.
I'll certainly try him next time.
So there is an unusual spot to investigate in Vegas, if you are staying near the Tropicana and don't mind a short bus ride to Pecos, or if you rent a car.


DC Ghost, a cabbie who posts on Las Vegas Talk board added this informaion:

Cliff's Barber Coral
3330 E Tropicana Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89121

(702) 456-7300

Cliff has no prices. When you ask what you owe, Cliff says just give me what you think is right. I usually give cliff a twenty for a shave. Cliff has been in Las Vegas for many years. Cliff used to cut the movie stars hair in Hollywood. Red Buttons and many others have been customers of Cliff. Cliff is a western buff. Walking into his shop is like a stepping into the old West. There is a big screen in Cliff's place and he usually has a western on but if there are no women or kids in the place you can ask Cliff to turn on a porno flick. Walk over to the old time coke box and get a soda. They're free. Cliff's Barber Coral is located across from the old Walmart on East Tropicana (Closed).

Say Hi to Cliff for me.