Sunday, November 28, 2010

VEGAS TRIP REPORT FOR NOVEMBER 2011

An Overview


I suppose I will have a good bit more to say about my 17 day November trip to Vegas than is posted in the following 19 separate blog posts, but I have already delayed reporting the trip too long due to illness. I divided my trip into these 20 topics so readers could easily skim for information by looking at topic headings, and l could also post a link in board discussions.
This was a very unusual trip in that it was not solo. I had hardly any time to myself and what I did have came at the end of the trip at the same time that a hard cold came too.
The cold stayed with me for a few weeks and was very unpleasant. That an another illness add on is why it takes me so long to post these observations. I have been spending most of my time in the house sleeping with little energy for writing.

I started this trip with my poker buddy Wild Bill who is similarly frugal, a coupon saver, a "twofer" as I heard we are sometimes derogatively called by casino staff. We gambled and saw a couple inexpensive shows.
Then my wife came and we met her brother and his wife and the entire flavor of the trip changed. It is hard to convince my wife to come along, but with five free nights at Harrah's and a promise to focus on shows and visiting the area, I managed to show her a good time.
For me the week she was here helped me downscale my own gambling and just enjoy Vegas a bit. My last trip I seemed driven to play poker every breathing minute, and perhaps I played badly. I knew if I could take my time, relax, gamble in spurts I would do better. My goal was to use up my free room comps with no compunction to gamble to get them again and so manage to make the sum total of both trips reduce my overall losses.

I cut down to only low limit poker and walked away from games that seemed too tough. I like no limit here at home or in Florida, but then I am gambling for a day and have the bankroll to play. I don't have the bankroll to play no limit for 17 days, so I end up playing with scared money.
Also, staying in the Harrah's rooms where the high rake is a discouragement to many of the local regularly has given me table primarily filled with an assortment of tourists.  I can beat them but not by much. Still a fair assessment of my play suggests that I might have a median gain of about $25 a session with any high hand bonus awards on top of that.  This won't pay for my trip, but it will restrict major losses and generate a good portion of food and room comps if I concentrate on Harrah's casinos.

I used an old money management scheme.
$20 in.  Lose it, Walk away.
Win and set two limits, one win limit and one loss limit.  
Say I win and am at $50.  Decide to quit at $30 or at $70.
Now suppose I win on a quad so I jump to say, $90.  Now I might say walk away at $80 or at $100.

This does not improve my odds, but it does restrict the volatility and so restricts the losses.
No more popping in $100 and pushing it.
I have played less video poker and probably not generate those free rooms on Weekends at Coast, but I won't have an experience like last trip when the trip itself cost as much as going where hotel room rates are $100 a night.
I guess I did right. I ended up $470 ahead. Still it is hard to know because I did not really lose many sessions. At the nickle 9/7 progressive triple play at the Orleans, I say down and was dealt four 5's and so had a great bit of money to play with. Elizabeth played as well that night. I ended hitting first four aces and then the royal.
Waiting for food at Ellis Island I my limit was two 20 dollar bills. When they called me for the table I had one hand left to play to deplete the money. I hit four 8's for enough to play a bit after eating and quit when I broke even.


My poker playing improved, so that I left very few sessions with losses. I concentrated on matchplays, free plays, short sessions, and put solid stopping places into the video poker, win or lose.

I spent more in shows and food, but I got good value for most of that.

Overall I am delighted to have refocused a bit and not let the gambling overwhelm all the other possibilities of Vegas.
At the end of my last trip I wondered if I ought to just give it up. Now I look forward to going again in the Spring.
Okay, skim ahead and read and comments are welcome, but if you come from a link I posted on a  discussion board, then probably the richest place to comment is there.



TR snippet: Orleans jacuzzi


I was determined this trip to shift my focus from gambling to indulging the simple pleasures of travel and especially to enjoy more of the amenities included in each hotel.
This visit to the Orleans, although it was in cooler Autumn weather, I decided to use the pool area.
I found the large jacuzzi very pleasant with moderately heated water and plenty of space. I could store my Kindle and shirt wear I could easily see them while to enjoyed the massagin bubbles and the fine back scratches of protruding rocks that form the center of the Jacuzzi.
I think that having my back scratched is second only to sex as pleasure inducing and these rocks performed that task as did some of the textured parts of the pool on the bottom of my feet.
Outside of Taos, Elizabeth and I paid a good bit of money to soak in pools with similar textures. The water was of various minerals, including arsenic which surprised me. Other than that this pool did all of the things that the Taos pool did and for no extra money.
While soaking I took a good look at all the green around me. When I was a boy, my family never traveled out of the Northeast, so when I went to Air Force basic training at Lackland in Texas, I was fascinated to see my first palm tree. We would stand at attention, drill marches, get lectured, and all around us were these wonderful new trees. I could see them, but I could not walk over and touch them until my first day of liberty, a couple weeks into basic training.
And that is the first thing I did on liberty. I took some time to touch and explore these great trees.
Here in the pool at the Orleans there were no lectures or drilling or any of the constraints of basic training. While I would not mind putting up with all that again if I could also be the age I was, it is some comfort in old age to know that I am free to look and touch and enjoy the pleasure of the water, sun, and greenery ??
In the trees were those blackbirds so common here in the West. And I watched and listened to them as well.
These birds are another example of common pleasures that are so easy to ignore.
On the strip yesterday I saw the parrots at Margaritaville and they were fun to see. But these plain black birds had songs and squawkes and those parrots were silent.
What a variety of sounds these birds make. I sat drying in the sun and one perched right over my head and talked to me. I answered with just a bit of a simple sound I heard him make and he answered with so many different sounds that I laughed with delight.
It was fine for me to finally not be so drawn into the gambling that I missed indulging these fine pleasures.
Also most pleasing was my Kindle. I had packed the last morning and my reading glasses were no where to be found, so I just upped the letter size on the Kindle and read easily without difficulty.
I used it to when I arrived before the pool opened. Just in the doors on the way to the Fitness Center there are some fine, large cushioned chairs and I waited there reading the Kindle. On the the attendants asked if I would like a juice and offered me four kinds. I am going to remember that place. That tomato juice and the free poker doughnut I had earlier was my free breakfast at the Orleans.
Since the swimming area does not open until 10 am, I was worried that I might miss my checkout time, but they easily extended my checkout until one PM. This helped me relax and enjoy the pool and meant that by the time I made the walk to Flamingo Avenue and caught a bus to the Super 8, it would be time there to check in. 

TR snippet: Bill and Me

Bill is a great gambling companion.  He likes the same things I do, a lot of live poker and a lot of coupons and 2 for 1 deals.  We had a good week together.  And any walking we did was eased by long and loud discussions of everything from poker to politics.
We had a fine time playing the free bingo at Ellis most weekday mornings.  We won nothing.  We did a side bet for breakfast and ended even.
Since he was there I also saw some shows on the 2 for 1 coupons.
I liked them very much.
At the Orleans was a mentalist, really like spiritualist who talked to the dead.  Bill did not like that much so it was fine that instead of the 2 for 1 $55 price we were going to pay, they gave us free tickets.
Bill did some sports betting, but he will have to tell you about that.
Generally, we played at the same poker table, but rarely against one another.
There was one time at the Flamingo when I was last to act and I bet just to steal the pot.  Bill knows me so when it comes around to him, he raises also with nothing and steals it from me.
"I hate playing with you," I tell him.
Other than that we mostly stayed out of each other's way.  That was pretty funny, however.

TR snippet: One Poker Tournament

I was only in one poker tournament in Vegas.  I don't like them because I don't much like playing the end game, when I get tired and have to use the bathroom and the blinds are ridiculous.  But this one was free so why not?  It turns out that the Flamingo freerolls are populated for the most part by Vegas locals and the custom is that when the tournament gets down to 20 players, they agree to split the $2000 and each walk away with $100.  So I liked that tournament.
I was lucky and stayed for the $100 after some exciting  no limit play on no investment other than four hours of play the night before.

TR snippet: The most memorable poker hands

I held two jacks at the Imperial Palace and two more came on the flop.  I slow played correctly and found the table betting in to me on the turn and pot built up very nicely.  On the river only two of us were left.  I bet and my opponent raised and I reraised.  He called.  Perhaps he did not really understand what he held.  He held the 8-10 of diamonds which made the nut straight flush.  I was in a true badbeat.
I lost the pot, got $50 for my four of a kind, but the real tough piece of randomness to gnaw on was that this was the hand of the lifetime.  Had I been in the same situation on my last trip to Foxwoods where they have a huge bad beat award, my lost hand would have won for me $200,000.

I got a little drunk on cognac at the 2-4 at the Flamingo.  When I get drunk, I usually win.  I wish I knew why.  I can't get drunk very often, so I can't win every time.  It may be that I play tighter.  It may be that the table plays me much looser.  Anyway, I started drinking when I was $100 down and won that and $25 more before I ended.  I also hit a nice straight flush on the river and that paid a bonus of $100 from the house.

I had my kings cracked at Imperial Palace where some hours of the day they pay $50 for that and I got it.

All in all I had the same kinds of hands I always have, but I think I played much better.

In the video poker I got very lucky.  I even hit a royal on progressive nickle machine at the Orleans.

TR snippet: Super 8 hotel

Someone asked about parking at the Super 8, but I can't locate the thread, so I'll note it here along with all that I know.

ADVANTAGES

*COLD WATER FOUNTAIN ON THE WAY TO THE POOL IS A NICE FILL UP FOR WATER BOTTLES
* PARKING EXTENDS AROUND THE BUILDING AND THERE DOES NOT SEEM TO BE ANY TROUBLE FINDING A SPOT
* TELEVISION INCLUDES HBO STATION AND TCM SO IT IS POSSIBLE TO RELAX COMMERCIAL FREE EVEN WITH THE ROCO LEFT HOME
* FREE WIFI
* GENERALLY UNCROWDED BUT SMALL LAUNDRY ROOM. BRING QUARTERS AND A BOX OF SOAP. TWO WASHERS AND TWO DRYERS. I COULD NOT GET THE TOP BUTTON ON THE TOP DRYER TO WORK AND SO CHOSE PERMANENT PRESS. I took the hangers from my room and used them to immediately hang my shirts. I waited for the cycles and went on line using my laptop. It is located on the second floor. Ask the desk clerk before you walk around with laundry as it requires some navigation.
*FREE SHUTTLE TO AND FROM THE AIRPORT WORKED WELL FOR MY BUDDY WILD BILL
*VERY ACCOMODATING STAFF. I miss booked and did not confirm correctly either. I was scheduled to leave a day earlier than I thought. Luckily Bill was overbooked a day so they moved his day to me. When doing these sophisticated deals get the manager. One staff always knows the difficult answers. The other knows only routine. All were very pleasant
* COFFEE MACHINE IN ROOM BUT ALSO IN LOBBY. I like the vanilla choice of coffee with an extra expresso shot tossed in on top. Bringing a covered cup will let you get two coffees and an expresso at one time.
* POOL WITH SMALL JACUZZI ONLY IS CLOSED FOR CLEANING ABOUT 5 AM OR SO. Otherwise it is open 24 hours and heated in the cooler months. I like a daily swim about 6 am so this was perfect. Never crowded. Usually deserted.
* LOCATION TO ELLIS ISLAND A FINE FRUGAL ADVANTAGE- Each weekday at 9 Bill and I played free bingo for small prizes but a shot at a 1000. We had to bring a marker. There is no sharing of markers allowed. Nice free start to the day. The food at Ellis Island is cheap and good. 
Bill and I made a side bet on the bingo and the loser bought breakfast.  We tied. 
Sometimes Ellis required a wait.  We waited 20 minutes even for breakfast on Sunday. Played some 9/6JOB. Ellis proved a fine spot for the meetup. We went in the inside bar and just carried our drinks on American Casino Guidecoupons back to where we sat. It was not crowded at 2pm weekdays but was even less crowded at 1pm. Received no hassle on playing matchplays. I never went to supper, but I could have gone, put my name on the list when the line was an hour, come back in twenty minutes to check.
*EASY AND QUICK ROOMS ACCESS- My misbooking also meant keys that did not work. It was three minutes to go back to the desk. There is an elevator, but there are only two floors of stairs, so I generally took those. No long wandering down a maise of hallways.
*ASK AT THE DESK FOR MORE TOWELS OR PILLOWS. The maid said she could not provide them directly from the cart.
* LARGE SCREEN TELEVISION IN MAIN LOUNGE - Waiting for Wild Bill was easy as I could sit in a very comfortable chair or couch and watch a bit of the news in the lobby with my free coffee.
* DESK CLERKS KNEW THE BUS ROUTES - They get plenty of bus folks there and are used to answering questions on buses. 
*WALK LATE AT NIGHT DID NOT SEEM DANGEROUS- Because theFlamingo bus has increased the time between buses we usually walked back from our poker on the strip. There are some homeless some times but none seemed the least aggressive. 
*BUYING ROOM DRINKS AND SNACKS WAS EASY- 7 eleven was just next to the casino and we grabbed some things there. My wife came the last day with a car and bought some things for the Harrah's room by driving past Terribles and going to the drugstore on the left.
*$2 senior 24 hour pass bought on the Flamingo bus is good on the Ace/Goldline/ Downtown Express or on the Deuce. This is a $5 pass if you are not a senior. Upcharges have been dropped. Now that might change any day. All bus information here is not expected to be correct for long.
*ROOMS ARE SMALL- We stayed with one queen bed. Two bed rooms can be had for a bit more money.  I like the cozy feel of a small room when it is just me.  My wife came for one night and we did fine there.  Bathrooms are small, but the sink area is outside the bathroom area. A round table was great for the computer. Another desk area and chair are in the room as well. Only two drawers and about a dozen hangers for clothes.
* 3045 is my favorite room. Bill liked 3049. I suggest you do stay where access to the lobby is very quick.

TR snippet: The other hotel rooms

HARRAH's

Very nice.  A real step up from the Flamingo.  Thanks to information from the discussion boards, I chose a quiet room in the Mardigras Tower.  Better rooms could be had but they wanted money for those.  The check in people were very nice and talked to us about the room choices.  Elizabeth was pleased.

ORLEANS

I always like the room here.  They were such fine treats for free weekend nights.  They are very clean and very comfortable.  After on weekend I went to the Super 8, so I just walked down Arville for 20 minutes of good exercise and caught the Flamingo bus for a dollar.  Going downtown was much more complicated.  Three buses.  But I do like spending my last couple nights at the El Cortez.  However, next trip I many just extend at the Super 8 or Orleans.

EL CORTEZ
I tired of the Pavillion rooms last trip and this time I went to the Vintage Rooms which I liked just fine until someone turned a television on in the middle of the night and woke me up.  The walls are old fashioned and too thin.

In general, I saw again that I am just not good anymore at dragging 17 days worth of clothing too far.  I liked staying a long while at the Super 8 and then again at Harrah's and I think I will try to extend my stay even if it costs me a bit of money.  I am just getting too old for hotel hopping to save a few bucks.

TR snippet: Vegasmessageboard Meetup

Some folks from the Vegasmessage board decided to meetup while I was staying at the Super Eight near Ellis Island, and so we arranged the meetup at Ellis Island.
It was frugal. We brought our American Casino Guide coupons, got free drinks at the main bar, and then carried them into the enclosed bar area and had a fine table to sit around and put names and stories to faces.
I took down plenty of information so as not to be stuck for names, but then I lost that sheet.  So my deep apologies to anyone I confuse in the photo, misname, miss.  Fill me in if you can.




Left to right:  Boomer's wife Sue and Boomer from Depew NY, Pebbles (Elaine) from North West of England. Nearer to Scotland than London, Jimbucc (Jim and Kathy), NannyD (Diane),  Magicfish from Vegas, Sarah9Nascar, and me.

It was a fine visit, lasting a couple hours, and we talked about our experiences. The oddest thing was meeting Boomer and wife from near Buffalo who knew where my old neighborhood was and knew people who lived there when I was growing up.
It was also cool that otherwise we came from very different parts of the world.  That is one thing I love about Vegas.  Also, our Vegas experiences were very different.  Pebbles was staying for a couple months, others were there just for a few days, Magicfish was there for life.  The perspectives and stories were quite varied and interesting and yet we all had this community in common.
Thanks for coming all who could manage the time. Sorry to be so long in posting and so dysfunctional.

TR snippet: FOOD THIS TRIP; ELEGANT AND FRUGAL

Food over the 17 days of this Vegas trip was all over the map, from my usual frugal and free eats approach to enjoying meals of decadently affluent indulgence.
My wife and her brother decided for a rare celebration over two nights. Elizabeth bought a meal at Morel's Steakhouse at Palazzo http://www.palazzolasvegas.com/morels.aspx and Jim bought an incredible tasting journey at


 Fortunately, I had packed my nice pants and black dress shirt.

I thought Morel's tasty but unremarkable. However, I just was not in the mood for a steak, having had the Ellis Island special for brunch that morning, and perhaps the sea bass did not fully reveal their art. It was good, just not incredible. I cook my own fish often and the topping sauce did not seem any better than my own inventions. I tasted Elizabeth's steak and found that fine, but nothing to ebulliently praise.
The Circo experience was, however, simply incredible! It was featured as a taste journey and so it was with multiple courses and choices. Jim and Anne added a wine journey with their meal. I declined that, but it was entertaining when for each course a new wine was introduced to the table and explained in detail. I did lightly taste a few of their wines and none of them really caught my taste. Perhaps I was just put off because the night before a few glasses of an excellent red from the Palazzo wine and cheese tasting room(that came with Jim and Anne's suite) had prompted a migraine.
I don't know anything about wine, really. I like red. In my younger days I loved a Monte Real

but I could buy it for 75 cents at the Air Force Base at Torrejon.
Lately, I look for wine from this region of Spain
However, usually I am content with some inexpensive bottle and perhaps now the migranes will put me off red wine completely.
I like sangria, much to the disgust of my old Spanish friend who thinks of it as an unforgivable corruption of wine predicated certainly by the American addiction to ice in everything.

It is a cultivated taste. I was happy not to have added the expense of the wine journey to the bill.

The food, however, was incredible! I liked everything and just when we thought we were done, out came four different and huge deserts, all rich and wonderful.

The rest of my time in Vegas was less elegant and more to my usual habits. However, because I went with my poker playing buddy Bill and then with wife Elizabeth, I did eat much more and more often than I do solo when most days I only eat what is free and seldomly treat myself.
I gained weight for the first time in many trips, and it has taken me a week or so in sickbed, eating very little more than a bit of soup or tea, to drop those pounds again to my usual overweight rating.

Because Elizabeth was still ill in Vegas and recovering strength slowly, we did not wander far to eat. She is not one much for coupons or going out just to find a place to eat. She does not like buffets either, although she like the breakfast at the Orleans.
We had a bowl of soup at Ming's in Harrah's and it was okay, but not much for the price. I took her and here brother and his wife to breakfast at Hash-A -Go-Go using my $25 coupon from the dineLV.com Human Nature ticket deal.
I was disappointed.
What is on the menu as hash was not hash, but really a medley of bitesized bits of potato and green pepper and such and tasted fine, but is not different from what I often cook for breakfast myself.
Nothing was ground into a true hash.
On top of that the music was just too loud and too abrasive. The waitress told us that the music is what attracts customers.
Four of us were really unable to talk over breakfast.
Hmmmm. I guess I am getting old. I'll explore this idea a bit more in the following post.
We ate a build-our-own hamburger at KGB and that was delicious, but there again the same music issues arose. I'd like that restaurant with some Sinatra in the background. It was fine however to drink good iced tea and be able to forgo fries and concentrate on just the burger tastes we enjoy. Great service as well.

And then the week was scattered with buffets and a good bit of food at Ellis Island, since Bill and I were next door at the Super 8 for a week. Bill and I played free bingo every morning and did not win once, but we did a side bet on the bingo to determine who bought breakfast.

I saw some sense in the full day buffet at the Orleans because I had to go to breakfast with Elizabeth just before she flew out on Saturday, and I was not very hungry. So rather than dropping $15 and eat just a bit of food (the cafe line was very long) I dropped $24 and just ate what I wanted with her, stopping in for food breaks from playing poker as my solo day went on. I got my money's worth there just with the convenience of beating the line and maybe just having a bite here and a bite there until 9PM.
The Harrah's deal of $39 for a clocked 24 hour buffet pass seems even better if bought a late supper one day and used for breakfast and lunch and supper the next as well. I'll try that once next trip ion May rather than just treating myself to one meal at the Spice Market. So perhaps I'll gain a few pound again.

My favorite tastes of the week were:

*dry rubbed ribs at the Gold Coast lunch buffet
*lamb grilled at the Spice Market near the tandori chicken
*tempura shrimp at the Spice Market
*Prime rib at Ellis and at El Cortez cafe
*smoked salmon, capers, onion, tomato at Golden Nugget breakfast
*Crispy bacon at Golden Nugget breakfast
*Bite sized fruit at Golden Nugget breakfast
*watermelon at Gold Coast buffet

I missed the good potato chips at the Vue bar because I got too sick at the end of the trip to want to walk for them.

TR snippet: Vegas with Jim and Anne




 Jim and Anne

Jim and Elizabeth

It was very cool to have Elizabeth's brother and wife meet us in Vegas for a good talk and a fine celebration of a hard year of family matters.  I talked a bit about our incredible meals in another post.  They were very, very good and totally the flip side of the frugal coin I am usually using for food.  It was quite a treat!  Thanks Jim and Anne.
It was good too to catch up on family and have those long discussions that Jim likes to prompt on ideas and interpersonal issues.  It is always a great conversation.
We went to Bellagio to see the Conservatory setup, but the scene was a bit too dark for my taste.  It was fun, but I have liked the others I have seen better.

In a shop in that area I did like these Christmas Santas.



And we took a look at the largest chocolate fountain in the world


We also had a drink at the bar that overlooks the fountains and took a couple photos there.  That is a fine place to view the shows and they had great live music so Elizabeth had a bit of a swing dance before  leaving.




Jim and I did manage a bit of poker together at the Venetian.  It was one of my losing sessions, and he lost at first, and then won his money back when a classic aggressive fish sat directly to his right.
Jim also helped my poker game by further convincing me that I just play too loose and talking to me about position once again.  I guess I thought that position was much more important in no limit, but Jim convinced me.  I am certain that helped the rest of my play all week.
I just tired out or I might have managed a bit of money from the fish.  Also, I wanted to be certain that Elizabeth was not deserted for the night and that I would be rested enough for the next day's adventures with her, so that my pledge that the intense focus on gambling would not dominate her week.
Jim and Anne stayed at the Palazzo in a very nice suite with access to a room for wine and cheese as well.  We were very close at Harrah's.  It all seemed to work very well.

TR snippet: COUPONS TIGHTENING A BIT

As Vegas suffers this recession, some of the usual coupon advantages are tightening. Terribles, who were the king of coupons, with free buffets and all sorts of offers, has created a tier in the Player's Card and even many of the coupons offered in the funbook on a new signup can only be used when one has achieved a certain player's tier. To use coupons players now need 500 points on their card.
I have never been much of a player, so I just brought Bill along for a free signup and used the end of my points for a buffet and we drifted along. They were even out of the free sign up hats and Bill was stuck with that really cheesy T shirt.

I understand the coupon tightening because I am probably the sort of gambler they wanted to push off the freebies, one who frugally uses what is free or inexpensive without giving them much play. However, there have been occasions where against my better judgment I have pumped money in the JOB 9/6 there at Terribles.
So they will lose that opportunity to draw me into recklessness as having now used my points, I won't be attracted to head out there beyond perhaps a yearly matchplay run, but save my 9/6 play for the Gold Coast where I prime some room offers with my play and can really rack up points on a senior day and get a free buffet as well.
The Coast too has tightened their policy. I used an ACG 200 points-and-free-buffet coupon last April and was not allowed to use a second one this November. One a year. Also one matchplay a year as well. I do think it is a much better strategy for casinos to tighten this way and to avoid those who overude the coupons by registering them at the player's club rather than dropping matchplays all together. However, I went to the Gold Coast player's club first and asked if I could use the 200 points coupon, and they did not check my status and deny it until AFTER I had played the 200 points that morning and went for the buffet.
This was annoying. When I check first at a player's club, they should check me out completely.
In general, I have been starting to concentrate my play. I play live poker at Harrah's because they give me good room offers, and I play video poker at the Gold Coast and Orleans because they also give me room offers. The Gold Coast has 9/6 JOB and the Orleans has some 9/7 DB progressives, of which I particularly like the triple play nickles and did finally hit a somewhat inflated royal on them this trip.
When downtown I like the 4 Queens 10/7 progressive and chased it and chased it when the royal was at $1185 until it hit $1999. That was my stopping point.
No luck. I did win $1.25. Also, I picked up $26 in cashback from my last trip, so those machines clearly pay well even if the 4 Queens has discontinued any free room offers based solely on 10/7 play.
My best coupon like deal of this trip was the DineLV.com deal of two tickets to Human Nature as well as a $25 coupon to Hash-A-Go-Go for only $40. We were seated with folks who paid $55 a ticket, good seats.
I also managed to play a few matchplays I missed in April and won all but one. At the El Cortez I finally managed my freeplay for this year and used it to entertain myself with some nickle video blackjack, and so come away from this low volatility play with almost the whole $5.
Bill and I used a two for one to see Burlesque at the Westin. We went to use a 2 for 1 to see a mentalist at the Orleans, but in some fine fluke, just as we were about to pay last minute, we were given two free tickets. Elizabeth and I used the Mac King coupons.
Bill and I also saw Nathan Burton using a free coupon which really turned into a little bit of bait and switch. The day we went the "free" tickets were gone, but we could sit down front for $10 a piece and we did. the "free' balcony section was nearly empty.
Coming out of the show we were given cheap tickets to another magical show, but did not make it to that one.
And other coupons were overlooked. I don't think Bill used his $25 Westin matchplay, and I forgot to use the coupon for $50 for $40 at the Golden Nugget poker table. I did play there long enough to get a food voucher, asked them to date it for the next day, and then had a nice free breakfast.




TR snippet : Denny's?

Okay, I have often thought that I don't go to Vegas to eat at Denny's merely because I can do that at home.  But Elizabeth not wanting to wander far was fine with it.  It is frugal and the food is fine.  There were huge lines and they went at record speed.  So, I liked it.
But I'd have rather gone to the Gold Coast for some redeye gravy.  I never managed that.  The Ellis Island free bingo with Bill meant we were too late for breakfast at the Gold Coast and there was the great food at Ellis.  So.... next time.
Elizabeth is not much for buffets.  She did like the Orleans breakfast, however.

TR snippet: HASH A GO-GO

As a frugal guy who eats free on about $8 a day most solo Vegas trips, I was rather excited about going to Hash-A-
Go-Go and treating my wife and her brother and wife using the $25 coupon I got with the Human Nature ticket deal at DineLV.com.
I love hash and this place had some fine reviews.
No one told me that the music would be so loud we could not talk to one another at the table without shouting.
That killed the appeal.

And what was called hash was just a medley of potatoes and other bite sized bits. I make that easily at home, and often and better.
Real hash goes through a grinder and consists of much smaller bits all hashed together.
It wasn't bad food. We enjoyed the tastes. But it wasn't anything special.
And the music was annoying.

TR snippet: WHERE HAS ALL THE MUSIC GONE, LONG TIME PASSING?

Okay, I'm old now.
In some ways I have always been rather old.
In college I did listen to the popular folk music, but when my friends were also doing the Grateful Dead, I was playing old 78 records, listening to Al Jolson sing "Red, Red, Robin" and Dean Martin sing, "Walkin. my Baby Back Home" and singing them in the car later. I still know the words.

For a while in my days of focused video poker play there were places I found in Vegas that relaxed me to rat pack era sounds. Fiesta Rancho was one. They would play Sinatra, but not just "I Did It My Way;" they included songs that were obscure and yet wonderful along with other soft popular jazz and other music of that era.
I played a bit of video poker this past trip. I hardly recognized a background musical number. The music was all modern, fairly full of rock with complex indecipherable lyrics delivered in sort of a modern whine, which seems to be the tone of a good deal of the more modern music I hear as background in supermarkets as well.
And there is nothing the matter with that. If most of the players, and probably all the high rollers, around me are young enough to be my children or grandchildren, I suppose the music of choice in the casino background has to meet their needs.
Still, I can't help thinking that there are plenty of folks out there who would be attracted to some casino that backed up the slot play with the kind of music that is played on Radio Delux
Not all of the performers are that old. Just the style of music.

And isn't Vegas the place where folks just cream over Rat Pack lookalikes in concerts that compete with each other as to which is the most authentic?
Or go nuts over Motown with Human Nature.
Surely the folks who support these shows would support the music as background to slot play as well.
Recently across the street from the El Cortez an interesting Coffee House and Record store opened where they attract business with fee wifi and a turntable playing, "high fidelity in stereo."
So there must be folks who are attracted to older styles of music.

Probably the most intrusive musical experience we had this trip was experienced in eating at Hash-A-Go-Go and KGB (invert a letter) and finding that we could not talk above the intrusive , hard, whiney music. At the second place I smartened up and brought ear plugs so I could eat my hamburger in comfort.
Well, I hear myself in a bit of a funky rant like most old guys. A new generation cannot really define a musical identity if the older generation might enjoy their music. I remember my grandmother cringing when Elvis swiveled his hips on Ed Sullivan, the first time any of us had seen him or his wild audiences on television.
My mother was more tolerant and reminded my grandmother of how the girls would scream and swoon for Sinatra.
So I get it.
I just don't like it.

TR snippet: PINBALL HALL OF FAME

We arrived early. The Museum does not open until 11AM. So we went in a camera store located in the same area and looked at cameras.


I am always a bit guilty looking when I know I am not yet ready to buy, but I am interested in a Canon Rebel and wondered what the new ones looked like. A fine older fellow named Carl helped us and gave us good advice. So I thought I'd mention him in case any of you are in the market for cameras.











I liked the new location. We spent a few quarters and had a good time. It was fun to have Elizabeth with me so we could compare scores. Most of the photos I took did not come out very well, but here are a few.






 And finally, here is the work station for repairing and tweeking and what not.




TR snippet: SHOWS

Mentalist at the Orleans

Bill and I just stumbled on a Mentalist act and decided to use a 2 for 1 to see the show. Before we could pay, the ticket counter just passed on some comped tickets to us because we were there at the right time and place. This was fortunate because Bill basically did not like the show. "A bunch of crap" is what he called it.
I was fascinated. The fellow basically talked to dead spirits and gave messages to people in the audience. It was like a seance. I had never seen this before and was interested at how much information he was able to give.

Hypnosis Unleashed - Harmon Theater

Neither Bill nor I volunteered to be hypnotised, but again I saw this fellow do some amazing things with about seven people. I have seen him three times and been fascinated each time. For me, seeing this happen so easily, underscores how little we are at times in charge of what we do and how little we can trust our own conscious sense of self.

Ka - MGM

I had seats in 202 K, farther back than I wanted but in the center. Elizabeth and I enjoyed the show, but perhaps we could have been closer as most of the action did occur in this show on the stage. Also, narratives that involve war are not my favorite stories. Amazing acrobatics.

Human Nature-Imperial Palace

Elizabeth just did not believe me about this music and thought it would be very cheesy, but it was her favorite of the week. This was my second time seeing it. I was also delighted that the $40 deal from DineLV.com that gave me two tickets and a Hash a Go Go $25 breakfast coupon, put us in $55 seats. They were great. What a bargain. I expected to be stuck in the back and instead we had fine seats.
note: Just in the doorway of the Imperial Palace, and to the left of the bellman is a great little elevator for accessing Human Nature. We avoided the crowds while exiting by using it also.

Mac King - Harrah's

I have not seen this show in years. Elizabeth has never seen it and enjoyed it. It was a good pick. These two shows made her trip a success.

Burlesque The Show -Westin

I like old fashioned takes and this burlesque is a collage of classic acts. I liked it. Another 2 for 1 with Bill who was perhaps less pleased with it.


TR snippet: BUS WITH LUGGAGE TO DOWNTOWN

BUS FROM THE AIRPORT TO DOWNTOWN MORE COMPLICATED

I planned this trip to use the RTC bus less often than I generally do while all the confusion around the new BTC resolves and all the routes settle into some sort of dependable pattern.
It was a good plan.
However, I did have one trip from the Orleans to El Cortez that I thought would be easy enough on the bus. Tropicana to Swenson. Then Swenson to downtown using the airport 108.
Well, I misread the loop on the schedule. The 108 no longer goes near the Freemont Experience, nor does the 109. Now you have to take another bus at the Bonneville Transit Center.
I made the mistake of asking which route took me tot he El Cortez and they told me the 107 would drop me nearby. After an incredible maze of twists and turns, it did too, but it dropped me two blocks on the sketchy side of the El Cortez where wheeling my huge suitcase made me an target for crime.
I was happy it was a quiet Sunday morning.
So I took three buses and I still could not seem to get on safe ground.
Now had I taken the Max or the 113 from the BTC I would have been let off farther from El Cortez but right there next to the Walgreen's where the old 108 once dropped passengers rather than out beyond the Downtower Motel. It would have been a longer walk, but a safer one as East Freemont is very different after all the renovation and improvements.

I have read in a board post that a new airport bus will deliver folks with luggage to downtown, hopefully by December, but I don't see that on the RTC site nor can I find it by searching in general so I don't know if it is a real plan or wishful thinking. Until then I would advise using the higher priced shuttles just outside the luggage area of the airport and not a city bus.
Without luggage, of course, the Deuce and the Ace/Goldline/downtown express will easily and safely get you right to Freemont. And if you travel very light, you can probably get your carry on bags on the Gold line. But it will not accept the kind of luggage I bring and it still means taking two buses.
If you feel comfortable walking from the new BTC to Freemont then that is an option.
I don't. I advise against it.
Also, everyone was very confused. Regular riders were confused. The bus driver was driving with a map of the new route, and he was confused. The woman at the BTC took forever to advise me of the 107 route and seemed confused as well. I should have asked more questions there. Had I thought to ask how to be dropped near Freemont I would not have been sent on the 107 into sketchy territory.
I generally like ending my long 17 day trips at the El Cortez because I can play low limit poker at the end of the trip even if my cash is low, and I can meet up with friendly dealers who know my name and some players who remember me. Also getting two nights using the American Casino Guide coupon for $30 and a free shuttle to the airport is good value.
But I expect in the future I'll be inclined to stay longer up near the strip now at the Super 8 and have the amenities and an easy walk/shuttle/bus trip between strip casinos.
Without luggage getting from the strip to downtown seems very easy using the Express and I might do that.
However, I will miss the option of waking up in the middle of the night and joining the often soft, late night El Cortez game when I can't sleep.

If I really want to stay at the El Cortez, and this new airport to downtown bus becomes a reality, perhaps I'll use the Super 8 shuttle to go to the airport and grab that to downtown. In the meantime I may just let Super 8 shuttle me to the airport and the paid shuttles take me downtown.

I don't go back now until next May, and by then things will have changed again in many ways I am certain.

TR snippet: EL CORTEZ VINTAGE ROOMS

Well, with lots of good help from fellow board members I gave the El Cortez vintage rooms a try and was delighted with everything.
These are small, cozy, clean and very quiet rooms. Unlike the Pavillion where everyone walks by on the outside corridor, there is no traffic here. The window is frosted glass that lets in life but offers no view. There is no table for my computer, but a nice easy chair pulled up to the set of drawers near the bed works well, especially tucked in close with the top drawers supporting the computer.
Getting to these rooms has always been a hassle for a guy who carries a huge suitcase that can weigh 80 pounds when all three carry ons are packed into it. However, using the secret passage from the second floor elevator I managed to get into the room with a short flight of stairs that went down.
The room itself has
* a fine queen bed and very rich dark furniture reminding me of the wood in the Golden Gate.
* a hair dryer.
*a coffee pot
*two small garbage cans
*clean and fresh interior
*small but old fashioned bathroom with faux ivory faucet handles.
*no smoking
*plenty of lights
*quiet. I hear nothing here. A huge contrast to the pavillion motel like rooms where any noise it just outside.
*television more diverse than in other casinos. (Quite a contrast from the Orleans where some folks watched "Meet the Folkers" twice because it was the only free movie available.)
*an exhaust fan in the bathroom
*good shower head.

NEGATIVES

*small closet only had hooks. No bar with hangers.
*no safe
*tacky parrot

AND THE FINAL NEGATIVE WHICH DISCOURAGES ME FROM STAYING AGAIN. TELEVISIONS CAN BE HEARD THROUGH THE WALLS. SO AT ONE IN THE MORNING I AM WOKEN UP BY A NEIGHBOR. TOO BAD TOO. THE REST WAS VERY QUIET.

TR snippet: VINYL COFFEE AND FREE WIFI

Well, it may be harder to take a bus to the El Cortez, but it just got easier to get wifi. A new coffee house is open right across the street as you head down to the Experience. It features some healthy food choices, coffees, some interesting beer, and free wifi as long as you buy something. Seems a fine alternative to the long walk to the Krispy Kreme.
The place is a true relaxed coffee house with a scattering of small tables and some cases of books to borrow. I can't remember all the offerings but organic green salad was one and there were some interesting sandwiches for about $6. For the truly frugal they adverised a 7-9am special of drip coffee for a dollar and a muffin for another dollar. Seems just wonderful. I was there about noon and there were about 8 people with computers. My guess is that for a while it will be uncrowded for those staying at the El Cortez. They are open M-F 7am until midnight. Sat 9am until midnight. Sun 9 am until 3pm.
It was very quiet and some soft music was playing. I saw a record player and an assortment of records. They advertise themselves as the only independent coffee house and record store in Las Vegas.
I love records and have a large collection of my own.
This is my kinda place.
702-686-3164

Also on the corner of Freemont and Las Vegas Blvd there is an interesting place called the Hookah Lounge all done up in exotic decor and connected to the Cigar store. It was not open, but it sure adds decor to the old parking lot on that corner. Perhaps there is still parking for $10 as I saw a sign set off to the side.

TR snippet: TELEVISION AT THE EL CORTEZ

Okay, I know that we don't go to Vegas to watch television.
However, here I am writing on my word processor in this fine, quiet little Vintage room at the El Cortez.
I have such a cold!
I thought about trying to arrange going home early today, but it seems such a waste when I can sit at the video or live poker even feeling a bit under the weather as long as the coughing eases up so I don't bother anyone.
Meanwhile I dozed off to some television.
I like it that here there are some stations with movies and things to skip to when the commercials come.
Some people we met at the Orleans spent some time watching television there, perhaps with kids, and saw "Meet the Fockers" twice because it was the only thing that was on.
I'm skipping between some comedy station, some sitcom bits, and a movie set on Mars and it entertains me.
Of course, this is nothing like watching at the Super 8. There I have my favorite TCM channel and a few HBO stations so there is no need to play "time the mute" for commercials.
Then too, I find here in the El Cortez vintage that I can hear one or even two other televisions when mine is off. What a shame! That spoils the otherwise unaffected quiet.
I am spoiled because at home we have teevo and so there are always interesting things to watch with the commercials in fast forward, and then the Roku further spoiled me because there we have no commercials whatsoever.
I don't watch much television, but when I am sick I like it better than reading although I did bring along my Kindle this trip and love it. I loaded almost a hundred books for about $5 total (most were free) and I can increase the print so that I don't need my reading glasses.
I'll never read all of them. I"m well into Dickens' Bleak House, however and some of what I loaded can be read in snatches, like collections of anecdotes, word lists, the entire Bible, poetry. In the case with the pop up light I could read in bed while my wife slept and not bother her at all.
Then for Christmas I bought myself an NPR radio. This manages to get about 800 radio stations, and all the NPR stations in the country, by using the wireless computer router. It is a fine little box and ends forever my constant moving of radios and antennae trying to get a clear NPR signal just from the local station.
A fellow I met on the Tropicana bus was ranting about how much better it was back in the 50's when we were kids and he made some excellent points. However, to be old in an age of technology is just delightful.

EL CORTEZ POKER; THEN SHUTTLE TO AIRPORT

I love the poker at the El Cortez. Some of the best poker players play there; however drifting in and out of the mix are some of the worst players as well. They don't last long.
I aspire to play well and to mix up my game so that my table image is tough to pin down.
My toughest challenge is to be patient and throw away hands that should not be played. Those semi-good hands will cost me money. Others will play them, especially Ace-rag because the call is just one dollar. But I want to be on the river with a much higher Ace.
I did win once with A-2. It was my blind and A-2 flopped and then another 2 as well. A fine full house. But that was a fluke.
I also won with A-6. I flopped two pair and bet it and was called too. The turn was a 9, I bet and was called. The river was a 9. This is the reason not to play Ace-rag. Here I have all this money invested in the hand and my great second pair becomes a weak kicker. Incredibly, no other caller held an Ace and I win with Aces over nines and a six kicker.


Characters at the table:

Many of the old tyme players are gone, but a new crowd of daily rocks have replaced them. Most sit and play very tight poker, grinding out a good bit of profit. Some come every day.
Jackie Gaughn was there again but just a small shadow of his
former self. There is no hearty, "One for the money." and when one fellow asks, "Do you remember me?" Jackie just gives the stock, "Sure, you're the one who took my money."
Jackie remembers very little.
So sad to get old.
Gary has another beard, a chin brush gone long. He is his usual even tempered delightful bantering self. He comes and goes, but he is there most of the time. I took him down one night and sent him home, but the next day he recaptured the little I won from him and more.
There are plenty of quiet old surly rocks who have only distain for the tourist banter and the half baked theories about what to play and why and what they had and how they would have played it had they had something else.
One of the loudest is a new face who announces to a woman who plays only on the internet that he teaches this game for a living and then proceeds to play aggressive, bad poker. The woman leaves. I wonder why a guy who teaches the game for a living is not out playing no limit, or why he gets so mad when a really good, quiet, steady player always has better cards than he does.
Doug is the fellow who could teach the game.
He is not an old guy like most of us, but seems to be there every time I play. I think he plays around the clock. He is very studied, very tight, and tough to beat. He tried to sully his own table image by showing a bluff now and then, but generally if he bets, he has his opponent beat. He cannot be read.
Eskimo Ron is not always my favorite player. He is often angry at everything and rants like Archie Bunker only more mean spirited. Still it is interesting to play with an Eskimo fisherman and the day after he wins the high hand of the day award, he is in better spirits and tells stories. He tells about bringing in the four whales allocated to each village each year and cutting them up for distribution to the whole community with the best cut reserved for the Greek Orthodox priest who has blessed the hunt. He tells us that none of us beef eaters have tasted anything as delicious. He loves to talk about eating what he calls " bull nuts" just to see, I suppose how people react.
Some of his stories may point to why he is so angry and surly. All shot up in Vietnam and of his fellow marines, thinking he had little time, stripped him of all his gear. And each time I have played cards with him his father at 17 told him it was time for him to move out. He does not tell too many details about the fishing he does a few times a year in Alaskan waters. He is my age or older but in good shape. His arms are huge and hard. I would not want him angry at me.
I remember years ago the first day I played with him and how quietly angry he was. But now he knows me and I can banter a bit.
There is more talk around this table than most poker tables. Alex, a young electrician, talks about his work and the different pay tables in Nevada and Arizona. Another fellow is a welder. An older Black man talks about the new rules that stop drinking or smoking even in the public park in a development where I gather he lives.
The staff is much the same, but they don't tell as many stories. They ask about me, but I don't have too much to tell really. I don't want to complain about my cold. All in all this a very comfortable crowd to end my time with. I was up in the first two sessions but lost it back playing the final day, too lose, too tired, but it was my last day.
One night I use the once every other day $5 comp offer and get half off on the large prime rib at the Cafe.
On my last night it is fine to be able to play right up until the last couple minutes before the free shuttle leaves for the airport. Mark is still driving and we talk a bit about poker.
Another couple are there who play slots and video poker, but have not figured pay tables beyond the one book they read by Lenny Frome. I talk a bit too much I suppose, and I think they resent that. I tell them a bit about computer tutors, but they don't want to know, really. Their 1994 Lenny Frome is enough for them. After that when they ask a question, they ask it directly of Mark. They just want to talk to him.
Mark stays with sports and no limit and shares some sense of the card rooms. He is interested in many things and especially surprised to hear that I can get free rooms with only live poker play from Harrah's and how I arrange the rooms of my trips.
so is was a good trip, except for this cold I brought home with me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

TR snippet Orleans jacuzzi


I was determined this trip to shift my focus from gambling to indulging the simple pleasures of travel and especially to enjoy more of the amenities included in each hotel.
This visit to the Orleans, although it was in cooler Autumn weather, I decided to use the pool area.
I found the large jacuzzi very pleasant with moderately heated water and plenty of space. I could store my Kindle and shirt wear I could easily see them while to enjoyed the massagin bubbles and the fine back scratches of protruding rocks that form the center of the Jacuzzi.
I think that having my back scratched is second only to sex as pleasure inducing and these rocks performed that task as did some of the textured parts of the pool on the bottom of my feet.
Outside of Taos, Elizabeth and I paid a good bit of money to soak in pools with similar textures. The water was of various minerals, including arsenic which surprised me. Other than that this pool did all of the things that the Taos pool did and for no extra money.
While soaking I took a good look at all the green around me. When I was a boy, my family never traveled out of the Northeast, so when I went to Air Force basic training at Lackland in Texas, I was fascinated to see my first palm tree. We would stand at attention, drill marches, get lectured, and all around us were these wonderful new trees. I could see them, but I could not walk over and touch them until my first day of liberty, a couple weeks into basic training.
And that is the first thing I did on liberty. I took some time to touch and explore these great trees.
Here in the pool at the Orleans there were no lectures or drilling or any of the constraints of basic training. While I would not mind putting up with all that again if I could also be the age I was, it is some comfort in old age to know that I am free to look and touch and enjoy the pleasure of the water, sun, and greenery ??
In the trees were those blackbirds so common here in the West. And I watched and listened to them as well.
These birds are another example of common pleasures that are so easy to ignore.
On the strip yesterday I saw the parrots at Margaritaville and they were fun to see. But these plain black birds had songs and squawkes and those parrots were silent.
What a variety of sounds these birds make. I sat drying in the sun and one perched right over my head and talked to me. I answered with just a bit of a simple sound I heard him make and he answered with so many different sounds that I laughed with delight.
It was fine for me to finally not be so drawn into the gambling that I missed indulging these fine pleasures.
Also most pleasing was my Kindle. I had packed the last morning and my reading glasses were no where to be found, so I just upped the letter size on the Kindle and read easily without difficulty.
I used it to when I arrived before the pool opened. Just in the doors on the way to the Fitness Center there are some fine, large cushioned chairs and I waited there reading the Kindle. On the the attendants asked if I would like a juice and offered me four kinds. I am going to remember that place. That tomato juice and the free poker doughnut I had earlier was my free breakfast at the Orleans.
Since the swimming area does not open until 10 am, I was worried that I might miss my checkout time, but they easily extended my checkout until one PM. This helped me relax and enjoy the pool and meant that by the time I made the walk to Flamingo Avenue and caught a bus to the Super 8, it would be time there to check in.