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.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tr snippets: El Cortez narratives

When I was at the El Cortez last December, one of the more eccentric regulars, Action Jackson, came back to the table and reported that one of the other players had threatened his life in the restroom. Apparently Action's constant abrasive, humorously intended brag (part of his poker shtick) had gotten under the skin of a fellow we will call Marine guy (since his over developed arm muscles flaunt marine tattoos). He had angrily confronted Action Jackson in the Men's Room. Jackson just said he was kidding around, but he was clearly perplexed and slightly amused by the threat.

Later at the same table when Action was off for a smoke, another player joked, after playing some very bad cards, that he was the second worst player in Vegas, Action Jackson being the absolute worst.

Marine guy now became offended in Action Jackson's absence. How could this fellow insult his "friend" when Action was not around to defend himself? he wondered to the fellow in threatening tones.
The guy said he was just joking, that Action would most likely agree with him, but the marine pushed his defense of his "friend's" honor in a way that discouraged argument.

I mentioned it to Jackson when he got back to the table and Marine guy had gone off in a huff after the brush would not give him a food comp for so little play. Action was further perplexed that a fellow would both threaten his life and then defend him in the same hour.

That was in December.

So when I saw Action Jackson on this trip, I reminded him of the event. He did not remember it. In fact, he did not remember me. He had trouble placing just who Marine Guy was. Like a faded hold em hand the life threat had slipped out of action Jackson's mind as just part of the daily meaningless El Cortez poker banter.

But the next day there was Marine guy standing at the poker table. He was not playing, but talking to his buddy Que in the way that violent braggarts talk with that loud, arrogant overtalk meant to dominate the table with their own importance.
In the course of the conversation Marine guy told of a recent time at some bar when he had almost violated his parole and went back to prison because some fellow drinker insisted on was talking some trash about him and would not stop even when warned. He said it was a hard decision, but the guy should know better, and that he felt it would be worth going back to jail just to set the guy straight.

It seemed marine guy was always on some mission to set some guy straight.

He also talked of how he could not manage one young son even though he beat him over and over. The kid would just not listen to him.

Action and I agreed later that this was one disturbed fellow. Best to just stay quiet around him and out of his way as much as possible.

Similar to marine guy on this trip was Wayne. Wayne apparently used to be quite sane and polite, but now he must be off meds or on something. He overtalked constantly and insulted just about everyone he could. At one point he mimicked the accent of a Black player in a parrot like manner. At another point he warned a very sweet woman not to touch his blind posted chips, and then said "Got it?" to push home his point.

Wayne was loud and very restless, up and down all the time. The cocktail waitresses cut him off booze. He was a terrible poker player, bullying and betting with nothing. He lost money, but he also forced out players who had decent hands and when he was lucky and actually had good cards, he got paid.

Wayne would be beat easily. We all just waited for cards. Some called too much of nothing thinking Wayne had nothing. Calling with ace high is a mistake.

I was just quiet. When Wayne moved to another seat, I managed to be right next to him by moving over one chair. Some players were surprised to see me move closer to this obnoxious guy. But with Wayne on my left to bet for me, I could better evaluate the action of both Mark and Action Jackson who sat to his left. In fact, since most players waited for Wayne to bet, I became last to act more times than not. That was valuable position.

One player was so outraged by Wayne's obnoxious antics that he stopped on his way out and threatened to look for him out on the street and kick Wayne's a$. The exchange went on so long that security had to be called to escort that fellow and his lost temper out of the casino.

Such are some of the characters at El Cortez.

However, I want to tell a contrasting story, so as to depict the true range of human character in this community of players.


Albert is a very quiet dealer. He is polite. I can't place his accent. European. He has dignity, and as you will see a rather well developed sense of honor.
If these fights and arguments would never be tolerated in a strip casino, neither would you encounter the honor of this sweet and gentle dealer.

I was playing at the table when my J-9 made a straight. I knew I had the best hand, but I wanted to trick Action Jackson into betting into my faked weakness. I checked the river.
It was a mistake and cost me money, especially since there was one more caller after action Jackson.
I rarely toss winning cards, but this time I tossed them toward Jackson and said,
"Action, ya let me down."
and he chuckled at my nut straight, wiggled the unlit cigarette hanging from his lips and left the table for a smoke.

Albert misunderstood. Perhaps he thought I was saying that the jacks let me down. He mucked my hand and started to pass the chips to the fellow on my right.

"I had a straight!" I protested. I wasn't rude, but I wanted to assert my winning hand.
Albert hesitated. He listened. He thought about what to do. Apparently he could not take the cards out of the muck.
I thought perhaps he did not believe me, so I said,
"Call Action back and ask him. I was trying to lure him into betting in to me."
So someone did call Action Jackson back and he announced,"He had the Jack-nine for a straight."

Albert looked at the fellow to whom he had given my pot and said,
"Would you count those chips please, sir?"
The fellow assumed he was going to lose the pot and started to push it back. He must have known he had lost, but he had decided to just be quiet in case the mucked cards would give him the win. Still he offered no argument to the dealer. He just quietly pushed the pot back toward the table's center.

"No, I don't want the chips back, " explained Albert. " I just want to know how much was in the pot. Would you count those chips please?"

"20 dollars." the fellow announced after a quick count.
Then Albert looked at me and said, " I owe you twenty dollars, sir," and started to shuffle for the next deal.

"You have to pay that out of your pocket?" I asked Albert.

"It was my mistake," he answered.

"Well that is not right, "I said.

So I turned to the man with the winning chips and said,
"Sir, would you be willing to split that pot."
He was. he gave me $10.
"Okay, "I said to Albert, " We are all settled; issue resolved."

And that would have been the end of it in any other casino in Vegas.
But two hands later I won a pot and when I tipped Albert, I saw him wince. He was expecting that I would not tip because he had fouled up. It bothered him that he had made a mistake that had cost me $10, but I was still tipping.

At the end of Albert's turn dealing another dealer took over. Suddenly there was a light tap on my shoulder.
It was Albert.
He set $10 in chips down next to me and explained, "This gentleman gave you $10- and now I'll give you $10."

So there it was. Albert was not going to just let this mistake go. It was a case of honor. He wanted me to have my full deserved pot.
I could not argue with such honor. I laughed and thanked him.

"You'll get that back, " Action Jackson promised. "You can count on it!"

And so Albert did. The next morning I won a small pot when Albert was dealing, packed up $10 in chips (more than half the pot) and tipped him with it. He chuckled and on went the game.

Each of us had been determined to act honorably.

And that too is in character at the El Cortez.

PS: Here is just the opposite view of the El Cortez on a fine poker blog

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

TRSnippet: Food

Most of my food on a Vegas trip is determined by what is free, so I don't have great restaurant reviews to share. But I will do the best I can.

One place I did plan as a treat was Pampas at Planet Hollywood.

I got a coupon at the half priced ticket store. I think the entire meal cost $13 plus tip. I chose the cheaper midday time. One thing surprised me. I had about a week to use the food voucher. I thought like the shows it would be good just for that day. The service fee was $3 and the coupon that gives you $2 off the service fee was not valid for food, just shows.
Finding Pampas was a real adventure in itself. I entered at the Planet Hollywood main entrance, and so I had a long walk thru the mall they call the Miracle Mile. I think that it is called that because it is a miracle if you can manage to get through it all and find your way. I went by the hallway to the restaurant and had to double back. I was pretty hungry by the time I arrived.
If you go looking for it, watch for this distinctive Buddha neon advertising lucky jeans. It is in that area.

I was by myself, so I was seated next to the bar in not the best of places. It was fine, but not what I would have chosen. I generally drink just water. All sodas and such were $3 so I saved by drinking water the amount that the ticket discounter charged for services.
I have been to only one other Brazil grilled place. That was in Chicago. There was more beef at the one. Here there was one cut of beef and then chicken, pork, ham, veggies, mushrooms. It was very good, but not quite good enough. The salads were all interesting, but for some reason they all tasted alike to me. They just included different foods. I did love the mushroom salad and found it went well with the beef. I also enjoyed a corn fish salad and a caper salad.
I did not have deserts. They looked good and went for about $8.
All in all I liked the meal, but to treat myself next trip, I'll just take the same money (and less tip) to the PH buffet which I like very much.


I ate with my wife and one son in this fine little Mexican/Cuban place across Freemont from El Cortez. A young man came in and explained he was very hungry and could he finish my chips and salsa. I ended up giving him the chips and what was left of my seven seas soup, but I did not really enjoy the experience. I have eaten there many other times and not had anything like that happen. It made me uncomfortable.


I had some fine homemade potato chips at McMullan's behind the Orleans and again at the Vue bar at the Fitzgeralds. Actually, this trip I liked the Fitz chips better.
Still, McMullans atmosphere is so wonderful!

I sat a the bar drinking in the Irish feel of the place with every sip of my Smithwick's. Both the ale and the chips were on a happy hour special. I love the rich wood of the place and the interesting signs and wall decorations. Fine Irish ballads played through a music system that made every word clear and the entire experience delightful. Down the bar a bit was a pretty blond woman with curly hair and I did enjoy watching her. Still I could not help thinking that it would be more perfect were she a woman with red hair and laughing at myself for wanting so much. Ten minutes later in came a young girl with flaming red hair who was showing off her new Martin guitar to her boyfriend.
I stopped and asked if she was going to play because if she was, I wanted to stay in the tavern and listen. She was pleased at the compliment, but explained she was just so excited to have this new guitar and wanted to show it off, and she took it out of the case again so I could see it.

I generally don't eat potato so these chips are a real treat once or twice a year. They work as supper when a buffet is lunch.

At Fitzgerald's I used the POV 2 for 1 appetizer coupon for two orders of chips ($2.50) and put in $20 to play an 8/5 Bonus progressive for the free beer. I did not hit the inflated royal ($1139) and after a while quit even. That was another great decadent supper!

At Binions I found out that because I did not know I had to go to the poker room for a separate slip for food comps at the Cafe I had ignored my build up over the years. I had $58 in comps. So I ate a few days there. I loved the $14 rib eye steak and the Binions Big Breakfast on graveyard.

Three times before the price doubled I had the 99 cent shrimp cocktail at Golden Gate.

We ate on coupons at the Orleans, Gold Coast, Fiesta Rancho, and Sunset Station buffets and they were all fine. I got a poker comp for the 777 Plaza buffet which is very small but fed me very well. There I loved this fish in cream sauce. I came in late at lunch time, and while I was there they changed up to other foods for supper. I missed seconds on the fish. I have found that even the buffets folks rail against have something that will make a tasty meal. Of course, I am not in Vegas for just three days. I am there for 15 days and were I to eat Bellagio buffet type meals every day I'd gain 30 pounds while losing my money.


We enjoyed the oatmeal breakfasts at the El Cortez. They seemed very reasonable. Also I discovered the matzh ball soup and loved it. I think the food there is improving from past years. Ice cream sodas are still a great treat.

We also ate once at the breakfast buffet. It is just adequate but the service is excellent and it is quiet with plenty of space and time for a good talk. Sometimes that is all I really want for breakfast, coffee and conversation.


I do love the free drinks in Vegas. But for a couple of reasons I tried to be more moderate this trip. I did get drunk once on about 8 Myer's rums at the El Cortez poker room. When I started drinking, I was down $100 and when I quit to stagger back to the room, I was up $20.
Many at the El Cortez claim that they cannot beat a drunk.

During that session a fellow from Wisconsin who fishes yellow perch and walleyes gave me some recipes and shared a few fishing stories.

I also enjoyed rusty nail or two, a lot of amaretto, some of it in coffee, Corona, a Black chip Porter earned by playing 9/6 JOB at Main Street Station, cognac.

Here are places where I did not eat or drink, but I liked the photos so I'll just include them as good visual experiences.

Monday, May 05, 2008

TR Snippet Poker Rakes

I will try to collect as much data on Poker Rakes as I can find in my notes. I might be inaccurate as I remember details poorly, but I'll do the best I can and I have some notes. Perhaps when I post it on a discussion board, some other players will correct my errors. All rakes are for limit games. I expect similar rakes apply to no limit but there are sometimes differences.


Binions has a wonderful rake of 5% for the 3-6 game, but the 2-4 is the more traditional 10% rake. While this 3-6 was the least raked game in town, it also attracted some fine players. It is hard to balance that. Obviously local and good players are drawn to the lowest raked games. One fellow at my table had been playing at Binions for 54 years and another had him beat.

I prefer a table of people who have only been playing for 54 minutes.


I played a $4-$8 game with a $1 - $2 blind structure. Raising preflop requires a $4 raise. That was a bit hard to get used to. It was not good to raise unless you wanted to push people out because even a raise on the large blind would cause some to fold.
They use quarters so the rake stays pretty close to 10%. Caps at $4. High Hand award is taken in two steps.
What was interesting is that as well as paying off for high hand, they splashed the next pot with chips that anyone at the table might win.
Comps did no accumulate. If you played more than 3 hours, you got $4 food comp, so it did not pay in comps to play long sessions.

I also played a cheap tournament here with no buy ins. I did well in the beginning and then got a little too loose. I am not a very good no limit player.


This casino is farther down the Boulder Strip and into Henderson. This was an unusual $2-$4 spread limit game. The rake escapes me. It was interesting, however as the craps table which allows $1 bets and $10 odds. They even have quarter chips so they can pay correctly on bets like placing the 6/8. I think it is the best craps in all of Vegas.


I played both the $3-$6 and the $2-$6 spread limit. They raked $4 and then one $1 for high hand awards which consisted of a large wheel to be spun for high hands or cracked aces. Most awards were small. You might double or triple a small win if you hit that on the first spin.
I spun on cracked aces once and got $25.


Like Sam's Town they had a $4-$8 game that had a blind of $1 - $2. The rake capped at $3. They took another $1 for high hands and a diamond flush daily contest, but had no bad beat. While we played, the brush splashed the pot with a nice new deck of Palms Playboy playing cards. I did not win the cards, but the woman who did asked if I would like them. I used them this week in a local game.
The Palms did reduce the rake in the morning before more than 5 arrived to play.
Palms also had an award for cracked kings or aces before noon.
I am always a bit nostalgic playing at the Palms as that is where a dealer named Joe first taught me to play Hold Em. I was disappointed when the stud game broke up, and he convinced me to give it a try. I have played nothing else ever since.


I just played a $22 tournament here where I was eliminated first in the limit pre-session. I held an ace high heart flush and a fellow with 8-10 two pair caught a ten on the river.

I was waiting for my family to finish their massages at the Palms, so I tried a bit of the 9/6 JOB. I was dealt 9-10-K-J-A of spades and groaned as I held everything except the 9. The queen came in its place for the Royal. No more groans. That money managed to keep me gambling all week.
I did not check out the Gold Coast regular game, but the dealer at El Cortez said that late at night dealers from the Rio go there to play and it is an easy game. Somehow that does not seem to make sense.


They take $1 at every ten until they cap at $4. Another $1 for the BB awards. One BB was four tens beat. If this was hit in any station casino, it would be shared by players in all the station casinos playing at the time of the hit. A second BB which was only local required aces full to be beat. A royal paid $250. No other high hand awards.


I did not play here. There was no players when I arrived, and the dealer I talked to was a young snot who insisted that all Vegas poker rooms had the same rake. I wish now I had thrown $50 on the table and offered to bet him that once he had explained how they raked at Fitz, I could show him a Vegas limit game nearby that raked quite differently.
But I pressed until he finally explained how they take the rake and the rule. They take quarters, starting right away. So there is always a rake, even if the blinds chop. They take %10 capping at $4 with $1 for the Bad Beat.
He said they were going to eliminate the BB and offer freeroll coupons. I explained that this was a tactic more suitable to attract locals than tourists. He could not really understand anything I said. He needed to be the expert always.
I advise you to skip this poker room, take your LVA coupon for an extra appetizer and order two orders of the home made potato chips at the Vue bar where they have an 8/5 Bonus Poker progressive that will entertain you with a free beer while you eat your $2.50 in chips, doubled for free.


Another one to avoid is this one. They rake $5 and then take $1 for the bad beat. This is really excessive. Also when the players got down to 5, they would not reduce the rake. Playing 5 people with such a huge rake, it is really impossible to win much. I went really to get a taste of the Alaskan Ale I heard that they comped, but that is gone. So I suppose I won't be back.


This continues to be a unique Vegas game and my favorite. The room is full of characters ( see my snippet of El Cortez narratives). I meet and learn about more of them every trip. And in the midst of these local eccentrics, down comes Jackie Gaughn dressed to the nines. He cannot play very well now at 87, but he is there almost every day. One day he stayed until 11PM. I heard one day too he dropped 5 racks. This is something at a $1-$3 - $6 game.
This is spread limit: $1-3 until the river, then $1-$6. It is a lot of fun. Some play it who can't play at all. Others cannot be beat.
The rake is capped at $2.50. They take in two stages an extra $1 for the high hands. Only two high hands a day are awarded. The money collected is divided at 2 Am each day with the two winners getting 2/3 and 1/3. The tally is ready by 4 AM.
I hit a 10 high straight flush one morning and saw my had get knocked back by a royal an hour later. You need only hold one card to qualify. I held two, but the royal guy held only the K. Then all day I wondered if I'd be beat. I showed up at midnight to count down the minutes and had a good deal of bantering fun until the brush said the time was up and announced me the winner of second place.
As a high hand award, I think it is the best because it does not really change play all that much, especially at night. By then few hands are left that will win so the game is not much affected.
The next morning I was dealt 4 kings and a straight flush to the nine, but I had folded the cards preflop before the hands developed.
The only bad aspect is if I play on the day you are heading home, I can't collect. The money gets moved over to the next day. Winners must collect in person.
Every other day you can ask for a $5 food comp to Kitty's.


I played $2-$6 spread limit game. I hope I can remember this right. I could be off as I did not write it down. I think the rake capped at $3. They then took $2 for the high hand and bad beat awards.
Those were the most complicated I have ever seen.
All high hands paid $25 except the hand of the day that paid $100. You did not have to have a pair in your hand, but your kicker had to play by tying or beating the board. So if you held A-7 and three sevens came on the flop, you would win. I can't remember if it had to go to the river.
About five cracked aces were paid starting in the morning. They got $100. Post-its were on a pole letting you know how many opportunities were left. Once the aces cracked opportunities were over, there was no award. So you needed to keep your wits about you.
Royal flushes with 2 in your hand were paid huge amounts in the thousands. Other straight flushes were paid in the hundreds.
There was a bad beat, but I had lost the details.

TR Snippet: coupons

We did a fine job getting some value out of the three ACG and two POV I brought with me to Vegas. Elizabeth, Cory, Dana, and Emily got massages at the Palms so the two $50 coupons came in very handy for them.

I used both the POV Longhorn coupons at one time. They let me. I hit both of them. The Ace coupon got me a BJ. I also signed up for a card and got some freeplay as well as enough free points to get a meal on my next visit. The VP is not good there. The casino is a tiny local's place. It was interesting. I imagine the Cannery will steal many of the regulars once it is built on the old Nevada Palace site.


Drove to Texas Station and Fiesta.

The big $25 Fiesta matchplay did not bring luck and I left after a free buffet. Texas was not much better. The pokerroom did not look very interesting so I called it a day and drove back downtown.
I played a bit of VP in dimes at Fiesta just to keep my points active. No luck there either. I have way too many points out at Fiesta. I did manage to use some at Sunset Station when the family was there on a Saturday. I got a free buffet.
These matchplay coupons can really make a difference in daily gambling scores. The difference between winning and losing is $75. Quite a bit for just one roll of the dice.

I went on a fine coupon run on the bus and hit many of my matchplays and deals.
I took the 108 to the Hardrock. Usually, I go there when it is so quiet that I wonder if they will let me get away with playing both a craps and a BJ matchplay bet. This time I could not get in to one exit; it was completely full of girls in bikinis.
Yes, you read that right.
It was the pool party Sunday and in line were a hundred or so, twenty something, sweet young things with very little covering. The casino too was packed with the girls.
There were guys too, but for some reason I did not notice them so much.
I have never seen so many bikinis in one spot in my life. All sorts of shapes and sizes. Designer bikinis. Bikinis accented with tattoos. Small bits of no fabric bikinis.
I almost abandoned my coupon run. But after a bit of circling the Hard Rock and enjoying the sights, I finally headed out to walk to Terribles. I guess there were still some cool guitars in cases at the Hard Rock.
But I could not swear to it that.

At Terribles I ate breakfast.
I know, I know..........
It is the worst blah, blah, blah.
I don't care! It was free on points and they had a nice big bowl of thin sliced melons and pineapple. That would have been enough, but other things were fine too.
When I used an LVA coupon for another red hat, Terribles for some reason gave me $10 freeplay. I played another $5 real money to keep my points current. On the way in, and again on the way out, I played an ACG matchplay as well as one of the $7 for $5 roulette matchplays from the funbook.
From there I walked to Tuscany to use the LVA $40 for $50.

tuscany flowers

They did take my name, but they told me that no one would know if I used another coupon on a day in August.

I played $3-$6 and there was one maniac who was tough, but I made a few dollars, quit and walked down to Ellis Island.
I only used one coupon. Pete was on duty. They went through the rigmarole of seeing my ACG card and seeing the coupon removed from the book. I pushed with the dealer on 17 and they picked the coupon up.

I think I'll aim next time just to use up my points, get free drinks and begin to just distance myself from going there. This coupon thing has soured me. Funny. The value of the coupon is just $2.50 over time, but the fun of a free bet would draw me to Ellis Island every visit and often I'd play some video poker. One time I went with buddies who stayed to play a night of blackjack.
So Ellis, you lose.
I mean, what really do you have to draw us except lost leader food and those matchplay coupons? Let old Pete nickel and dime potential customers. I'll move on.

From Ellis I went down to use a couple matchplays at Imperial Palace and play poker until I got tired.
I guess the coupon part of the day paid me about $50 total and all my free food. I think I ate some fine free chocolate chip cookies at Imperial Palace. I think I had two.
Then I took the Deuce back downtown for a bit of Poker at Binions where the rake is just 5% on 3-6 limit and they give you $2 an hour comps. That is as good as a coupon.

Nice bit of transportation for just $3 especially since I used the same 24 hour pass that I used to get back from returning the car at the airport the night before.


This was a shorter run. I went up really to see if the Riviera had that $3-$6 game I remembered from last time, but they did not. I got the 2 free decks of Slots n Fun playing cards, but was disappointed because they are now marked by magic marker along the edge. It leaks into the backs and no one will play poker with them at home.
I went down to Sahara and used the $40 for $50 on the craps table and then tried a couple matchplays there. No big wins. I was too tired for the Stratosphere or the souvenir shop. So I just came back.

I did not keep exact score of coupon wins, but I figure I made a bit on coupons and it was a fine break on days when I just felt too tired to want to play nonstop poker. I'll use some more when I go back in August.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Trip Report Snippet: transportation

I am a great backer of the CAT buses in Vegas and each time I go, I try a new route. This time I tried the 109 from the airport to downtown. I had a car the first week and returned it, used the free shuttle to the airport, and came back on the 109. It was a good way to test run the route because I did not have luggage.
Along the way I talked with a CAT employee on the bus who was very helpful and assured me that I would not have trouble bringing luggage. But when I arrived at Stewart and Seventh I was not sure I wanted to be on that side of El Cortez with luggage. It was a short walk, but still seemed a bit sketchy. So I think if I took the bus from the airport I'd take the 108 and get off right in the populated area of downtown. The time is about the same.


The 45 minute 109 ride from the airport went quickly because I had a fine, long talk with the CAT employee. He was a great promoter of the buses and clearly worked hard to give everyone a pleasant trip. One old gentleman who was trying to make some fancy dinner on the strip was rather stuffy and annoyed and this young CAT fellow treated him fine. So we had a talk on handling passengers.
While I was there, one fellow was put off the bus by the driver for having, and spilling, beer. Another fellow was yelled at by his seat companion for rubbing his legs up against him too many times, with the insinuation that it was a gay act. So there can be tensions on the bus. I enjoyed the good natured remarks of a cute, young black girl who knew the driver rode standing up in the front where I sat.

The day after I used the same pass to do a coupon run, taking the 108 to hard Rock and working my way back (see coupon snippet).

I also took the 105 to the Riviera one day, but I picked a crowded time at rush hour and it was crowded and slow. It is a bit of a walk from the back end of the Riviera but I think at other times it would avoid Deuce traffic.


In spite of my love for the bus, I liked having a car on Boulder Highway this trip and was thinking that perhaps I should start up that way, then head out to Laughlin for a couple days and so spend the first week of my next trip.
The car price if cheap enough is easily reduced by the easy ride from the airport when I arrive and the reduced August prices of Laughlin hotels.
I just don't know if I like the risk of accident. My reading lately has raised my concern about covering all accident possibilities. Many more writers now recommend paying some sort of CDW because the loss of use and the diminished value amounts could be very expensive.
I did find a travel site that sells a cheaper CDW. Perhaps I'll try that:

I do know that I won't use my usual charge card as an accident would sure hold that up for a good while.

Here is a summary of rental car issues:

I have been doing some travel research and you may want to take a look at this before you rent a car.

It seems that all I have been told over the years about my own insurance covering car damages or the credit card coverage working is just not the case, and the final cost could be tens of thousands of dollars. Here are some articles I sent to my agent as she studies the issues. She has always recommended not getting any waivers, but now she is hearing from her colleagues to buy the supplemental waivers too and is unsure what to tell people.

This seemed the most comprehensive article. Don't neglect the comment section as that has more information.

this one discusses the AARP cap at $3,000.
Another article showed that Alamo had one waiver deal that only applied to the first $3,000. Perhaps my own insurance would kick in after that.

However, the issue of whether with an old car like the 99 Saturn I am insured for enough to cover a new rental is important to consider too. I might have tens of thousands to make up even after my own insurance kicked in.

Also, it is not clear who covers the difference between the true value of the car and what the car company sells it for if it needs to be scrapped after an accident. They total easily because the car company does not want a car out there with a history of a bad accident for fear that might be another lawsuit. So if the car is worth $20,000 and they sell the remains for $7,000 the credit card insurance will not cover that difference. Whether my own insurance will is a question that my agent is working on too.

The following sites sell waivers cheaper than you can get at the car counters directly:

However, these are waivers that have been designed by a company that sells travel insurance. My research says the company is reputable, but there again, if I used these products, I would be responsible for the damages at first and have to be reembursed by the insurance company. That being said, the company has an excellent record of paying claims, and has been praised in many places, including Frommer's Guide.


Travel Guard

The waivers at the counter stop the car company itself from going after any money. But they are often as expensive as the car rental.

The credit card coverage for loss of use demands that the car companies send them a log indicating that they had no other cars for rent. The car companies refuse to send any such logs, so the consumer gets caught in the middle when the credit card coverages will not pay. everyone knows this happens, but it is not to anyone's advantage to do anything about it. Some of my reading suggests a Visa card will be a better bet than a Mastercard at covering such loss of use charges.

I will have more information from my State Farm agent before I go in August and I'll share it if you want me to.
If you agent tells you that you are covered, ask for the details in writing. My agent just laughed that State Farm would send me any such writing.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Trip report snippet on Hotels

I stayed at the following hotels this trip. And here are some comments:


Pretty basic as I remembered it from years back. I did not intend to play there, but to use it as a cheap access to Boulder Highway. What I found was parking was very tight late a night. I suspect travelers with children who are not gamblers take advantage of the low rates. The casino was never crowded.

They had some fine late night food specials. That was nice.

My room was near the pool area and I did swim, but it was icy. Only some brave kids were swimming. The jacuzzi was fine.


Planting trees in the new entranceway

The new entrance to El Cortez off Las Vegas Blvd allows me to schlep my bags down to the front circle without being asked for money, lighters, or wheeling around assorted old guys on mechanized wheel chairs. Basically, after crossing Las Vegas Blvd this one block is empty of traffic except perhaps for trucks still landscaping it.

Music and video cameras as well as an easy stone walk make this a pretty way to wheel up to El Cortez. It used to be a dodgy dirt parking/garbage area. Quite an improvement.
The Ogden House is getting renovated and once that is done a pool will be installed. It may take a while. Still, the face of the El Cortez is destined to change.
Because of the live poker the El Cortez is still one of my favorites, but was not a good pick for family members who felt uncomfortable in lower middle class settings. Outside the kids' rooms there was a domestic dispute in which a woman was knocked around a bit and it bothered them. One said she felt like she was sleeping in a bar.
In spite of the kids seeking the lowest prices and being late to establish plans, they would have preferred a nicer place. Ironically Hacienda has a last minute sale and they would have been very close to the half iron man they ran at Lake Mead. I did not have a sense of where that casino was relative to the race.

I find that giving room advice is difficult. It is better to just give general impressions like this one along with perhaps the link to cheapo vegas and let people really think through what they want.
Speaking of the Hacienda, I am thinking of staying there next trip if I can get a last minute cheap price. I may be able to do that in August when it is too hot to attract too many. It will make a nice stop over on the way to Laughlin.

I do not often rent a car, but it sure was handy to just go to the El Cortex parking garage elevator and up two floors for access to the room. No casino traffic. No hassle. Since that parking area is way in the back, only staying guests would tend to park there. I'd like to rent a car sometime just for the convenience of it, but first I have to get the insurance snags ironed out so all the while I am renting I am not overly anxious.

I stayed twice at the El Cortez, once with family and then on a 2 for 1 coupon at the end of my trip in order to use the fine, efficient, free shuttle back to the airport. I like the flexibility of dropping downstairs for poker at any hour of the night.


Great place to get on comps. I had three nights for free and one more for $35 which they said they might comp after play review, but they did not. I payed for these rooms in lost VP money but it is coin in that counts, not how much you lose.
Last trip my Silver Strike buddy had me drop a few hundred in the silver strike machine and that boosted my play. Gradually, I am cutting back on the amount of VP I play because it is so volatile and I don't like the losing swings. I can better depend on live poker to give me much more play for my losses and perhaps, as my game and my table selection improve, I will be able to grind out a steady profit.
That being said, I love the central location of the 4 Queens, love the 10/7 progressive, love the way I am treated, enjoy the wide screens in the rooms. This time I forgot to ask to be away from the Freemont experience noise, but it did not bother me much as I was only in the room one night when it was rocking. I am especially interested in keeping a good relationship with this casino because soon they will be linked with Binions and the two together will be a fine pair for play.


I knew what to expect, but I wanted to see the old rooms before they get renovated by the new owner. I liked my stay because it reminded me of visiting my grandmother's house when I was quite small.
It would be good to be small in a Golden Gate room. There is not much space to be large.
I had three 99 cent shrimps before they doubled the price. I guess for a while I can still get that price with a player's card. Sorry to see it go as it is a fine meal for me now that I have begun some mild dieting. A free lunch buffet and the shrimp make enough for a day.
I enjoyed the old feel of the place, like being in a cheap hotel in the 1930's. I slept well and then in the morning I awoke to the sounds of housekeeping chattering in Spanish. The walls are very, very thin and the Spanish maids had never learned about quiet voices.
My window faced an inner courtyard and the entire experience reminded me of waking up decades ago in our apartment in Alcala de Henares, Spain to the sounds of the Spanish women talking full volume over the laundry on their back terrazas. These faced a similar inner courtyard that was stung with lines and pulleys to let them hang out wash.
It was a wonderful emotional flashback.
Here at the Golden Gate there was a fine old table and chairs and a coffee maker. The paper was delivered under the door. So I could brew my Earl Gray tea and sip from a fine ceramic cup (Walgreens 99 cents) and write up notes for my coming trip report.
I loved my two mornings there.

I hated the parking. Free valet was mandatory.
I parked twice for only 5 minutes, tipped once, and stiffed the other time. It was crowded there in that small lot and there was no going to your own car. The valet was also the protector against theft.
One time there were just two cars and we waited over ten minutes to get service. That was the time I did not tip.
I would hate to do that in August.
I was happy to be returning the rental car after only one day. I am much happier when I am free of a car in Vegas.
I was sorry that the Golden Gate stopped giving free decks of cards out for ACG coupons. You can get one free deck with a Freemont Experience Coupon when you sign up for a Player's Card.

The piano player late at night when I was returning tired was just wonderful in a Casablanca sort of way. I hope the renovation will preserve that old style Vegas flavor. The old lamps and the wooden doors are wonderfully rich and make up for the tiny bathrooms and the electrical wiring in exterior tubes along the walls. (To plug in my sleep apnea machine I had to give up charging my phone.)
The television was terrible. There were few stations and some were snowy. I'd hate to be stuck in that room with an illness. What a contrast to the flat screen TV at 4 Queens!
But in 1930 no one had television.
And without it, the paper and the Earl Grey and the sounds of Spanish seemed even a greater luxury.


These photos from another person's trip report aer so like my room that I thought I'd post them here. These rooms are all gone now, all "upgraded" and new. No need to go back really:


In August I hope that some of my video poker play at Sam's Town might rate me a room offer there. From there I can wander down Boulder and play a little at Joker's Wild and get a free meal at the Longhorn for the coupon I used at sign up this time. If not, I guess I will stay out at Arizona Charlie's again, but I'd pay a bit to substitute Sam's.
I also heard that if you want to redeem free room offers at Main Street Station and they are booked, you can take a room at California. I may try that next time just to avoid the noise of the Main Street rooms and the lack of ability to block out sunlight. I may be able to get rooms at California just for asking the right people.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tr Snippets: photos I liked for some unknown reason

Son Keith's Favorite Poker Room

Planet Hollywood Ceiling Detail

Venitian Fountain

Car in tuscany Circle

dowtown sidestreet collage

Downtown Fish Detail

Dewey at Lake Mead

TR Snippet: Laughlin

I found a trip to Laughlin for $5 that included a free buffet.

then I almost missed it by waiting by mistake at the 4 Queens instead of the Golden Nugget.
It boarded at 7:30 AM and arrived back downtown at 6 PM.
On the same tour was Turtleman and Ms Gecko from the LV Talk Board, so the time loading other passengers went quickly as we got ourselves caught up on the latest. They both have lots of experience in Vegas and plenty to teach. He is the poster. I have read his material many times and he does share some fine information on comps, coupons, hotels, etc. This time he was the first to tell me that the Golden Gater 99 cent deal was up a dollar. He also said that if main Street Station was filled, they might put you at the California and he liked the rooms there better. I am not too happy with the Main Street Station rooms so I am going to try to get into the California next time I have comped rooms.

He has posted his comments about the day at Laughlin here:

Our narrator for the trip was Dean. He talked about John Wayne and the radioactivity he had been exposed to and how many had been affected with cancer due to the radioactivity. I thought I remember John Wayne attributing his cancer to his smoking, but perhaps some of it was exposure to government test sites. He marveled that the only living creature in the towns nuked was the cockroach.

He reminded us that the Thunderbirds are based at Nellis Air Force Base. I remember seeing them fly years ago.

He claimed that Las Vegas did not get water from Lake Mead or power from the Hoover Dam but that both went to California, and that there was enough water flowing under Las Vegas to keep it in water for many decades to come. I'll have to research this a bit as most of the things I read have claimed that Vegas was in real water trouble when Lake Mead dries up in just a few decades.

He gave us a history of the legalization of gambling and brothels and of the changes over the years. In 1956 brothels were made illegal in Clark County.

He told us that we had just missed by one day the biker rally in Laughlin. Non stop roar of motorcycles. Over 100,00 attend. I photographed these guys in Vegas a few days earlier who were probably bound for Laughlin.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dean' s quiet, easy talk. If we had wanted to sleep, his voice would have been a pleasant lull. I was more interested in what he might tell us

. Then he showed a Vegas focused video which was really too basic for anyone and not appropriate for a trip to Laughlin.
Still the trip went very quickly and we arrived at the Colorado Belle.

I played poker there all afternoon and did well enough. I liked the game, the people, the room, and even all the high hand and bad beat and busted aces promotions. When I left I was ahead $49 and they gave me some comps that I used for three cans of V8 juice to take back with me.

Contrary to reports I found the buffet just fine. I especially liked the trout. I can't quite remember all I ate, but I know I expected to make do with soup or salad and ended up getting all sorts of taste treats. The beef, however, was very tough and I would avoid that next time. The buffet was free with the $5 bus ride.

Also at the Colorado Belle I took a look a the Boiler Room Brew Pub.

The bartender was very friendly and told me that $10 played with at least 3 quarters wagered at a time would get me a free microbrew. It was time for the bus. I was too full of free drinks. But the 8/5 Bonus Poker would have been a fine way to try for a free beer.

I really did not get down to the river much.

I did get time to gather just a few images.

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I loved this odd sign.

I saw no food for these koi. I had heard that feeding the regular carp in the river is no longer an option.

TR Snippet: The Half Iron Man

This trip to Vegas was not driven simply by a desire to see the cards shuffled. Son Cory from Salt Lake City wanted us to meet him and a couple buddies there because they had decided to run the Half Iron Man at Lake Mead (Swim 1.2 miles, Bike 56 miles, Run 13.1 miles.) It was Cory's first experience with such a race. While he had no thought of winning, he did hope to finish and enjoy the experience.

Lake Mead was wonderful. A fine breeze took any uncomfortable heat away quickly. I had only been there in August and this was much different.

We chose to stay at El Cortez because it was the cheapest, especially for late acting young folks who cannot really plan anything three months in advance. In retrospect, I think the Hacienda would have been a better pick because it was so much closer to the Iron Man event, but I did not know anything about Lake Mead or that casino.
The gathering included my wife Elizabeth, Cory's girlfriend Emily, Cory's brother Dana and Dana's friend Amanda. His old high school buddies Mike and Jared also brought family along to cheer them, so we had a nice community from the old neighborhood to make the waiting go by quickly.

We did not get up at 4AM to head out to see them dive in the water. Cory managed to be the 5th out of the water, so he was very pleased at that. We were there to cheer him as he switched to the bike part of the race.

Then we went for coffee at Starbucks and some nice long chatter.


(note: this is a later shot of Dana and Amanda but they were there for coffee)

Back at the finish line we waited to see Mike cross first, then Cory, and then Jared finish the grueling race.

Jarad and family

Mike and brother Tom






!!!!!!!THE FINISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Free massages for the finishers

Mike and his brother

The finishers standing in reverse order: Jared, Mike, Cory

Jared and Family

After the event we all met for a fine feast and to talk down the fun of the Half Iron Man. I used Fiesta points to get one free buffet and my card to reduce the price of the others. It was good food, good company, and lots of fun.


tired Mike

Elizabeth Dana Cory

Cory says he is psyched and wants to do one again soon. He enjoyed it and felt fine that he could finish and not be completely exhausted.