Saturday, May 28, 2005
My absence from blogging these past several days was due to yes, another Vegas trip. What follows is my usual stream-of-consciousness recollection of all the interesting bits that occurred on the trip. Which means that there will likely be a fair bit missing, since I'm old and my memory is shot.
On Saturday, our flight left fairly early, so I arose around 4:30 am, which is easier to do when it's for something fun than it is out of some sense of duty. Yes, our flight wasn't until 8 something, but I wanted to have coffee and breakfast without the rush-rush. I decided to pack light for this trip, which meant that I stuffed several t-shirts, underewear, socks and a spare pair of shorts as well as all of my toiletries into my backpack. Despite the 55-degree Chicago weather, I only donned a t-shirt and shorts for the departure, in anticipation of consecutive 100+ weather in Sin City.
When I arrived at the gate (of course, since I was an hour early everything went smooth as silk), I was not surprised that John had not arrived yet. He had a much shorter trip and was getting a ride from his wife. I didn't bring any reading material along and I didn't want to depend solely on my iPod to pass the time for me, so I strolled down to the Hudson's to see what I could find. I finally settled on a non-fiction selection, Nightmare In Wichita, about the murders of the BTK Strangler, of whom I'd never heard. I got through the first several pages when they announced that we would be boarding shortly. Hmm...still no John. Almost immediately, my phone rang...uh oh, what happened? John is going to tell me they've been in a car accident and he's not going to make it. Well, my fears were allayed when I learned that John was wondering where I was; somehow we had managed to sit on opposite sides of the seating area and missed each other. When I went over to say hello, I spotted a very tall black man who looked familiar. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was, in fact, Mr. Oprah Winfrey himself, Steadman Graham. This gave me some comfort, as I was immediately assured that there was no way this plane was going down. I mean, God may work in mysterious ways, but there is no way Oprah is going to let it happen. This would prove to be only the first of our celebrity sightings. But, really, Steadman is flying America West?? Couldn't they have spent a fraction of their bazillion dollars to get the man a private jet?
Getting to our hotel (for the first night, the Orleans) was about as smooth as an entrance as I've ever made into Vegas. There were only about 10-15 people waiting for taxis. This was odd, to say the least, as we had considerable trouble booking a hotel room for Saturday as there was at least one huge convention in town. I later learned that this was a real estate conference that brought on the order of 20,000 people into town. Each time I got into a friendly conversation with someone at a table I was asked if I was there for the real estate conference.
After getting settled in, our first stop was to check out the new poker room at the MGM Grand. The room is nice and I was glad to see that they decided to leave plenty of space between tables in lieu of jamming as many in there as possible to get as many in there as possible and making it miserable for the players. John and I got ourselves on the 3-6 list, which wasn't long and we were soon seated. MGM has employed the nice plasma screens that show where you are on the list so players are not resigned to jamming around the front desk to follow the list. They also announce new players over a loudspeaker which you can actually hear (take note, Bellagio). I won't go into details, but we played for a few hours and the deck absolutely hit me over the head. I'd like to pretend that it was due to my fantastic play, but all it required was playing ABC poker and getting numerous pocket pairs, flopping sets, etc etc that allowed me to cash out +420, an unheard of profit for a short time at that level. I can't say I was terribly surprised, because nearly all of my trips start fast for me, turn awful in the middle, then revive a little toward the end.
In the late afternoon the club next to the poker room got cranking and it became very loud. Note to MGM Grand...having the poker room next to a loud bar is a bad, bad idea. We decided to take ourselves to see the new Wynn casino. When we walked into Wynn, I thought it was some kind of a joke, because Wynn is a virtual clone of Bellagio, right down to the overhead signs used to direct patrons. Oh, the decorations are different, but if you had been choloroformed, plucked off the street and placed in the middle of this casino with a gun to your head and told you had to guess where you were and you didn't know better, your first guess would be Bellagio--it's that close. Anyway, their poker room is nice and very well run. We jumped into a 2-4 game where John did pretty well and me, not so well. I don't remember any specifics.
This is where events start to blur together...I can't (and have no inclination to) give a play-by-play...as far as poker goes, we played some 4-8 at Bellagio, some 6-12 at the Mirage and some 3-6 at the Mirage. The WPT events were going on at Mirage with the final starting on Monday. We saw "Action" Dan Harrington at both Bellagio and Mirage, and ran into (almost literally) Tobey Maguire. I also saw Penn Gillette eating dinner at Fix, the restaurant/club at Bellagio. They also filmed the "champions" table at Mirage early one day, with all of the winners of the previous season's WPT represented at the table: Daniel Negreanu, Mike Mizrachi, Tuan Le, and Eli Elezra among others. John and I also introduced ourselves to Mike Sexton, who was hawking his new book at the Mirage just outside the tournament area. I really wanted to buy a copy, but was loathe to the idea of carrying it around all day.
Other than that, nothing too exciting. I dumped a bunch of money Sunday night drinking and playing Let It Ride, a huge mistake. Believe me, I paid for it in many ways, via feeling like I got mugged on Monday, what with my blinding headache and lack of cash in my wallet. I did have fun though, meeting a bunch of people from all over, including a bunch of guys from Toronto who were a gas. I got some revenge playing Three Card Poker by hitting a straight flush at the Palms and trips at the Mirage for $700 total. John did pretty well at video poker, particularly at the Palms, where we met a local regular who played video poker like a machine. She moved so fast on the machine that she was often on to the next hand before I realized what she had had on the previous one. She played on the "100% payback" machine, rolling up comp points and playing with optimal strategy (that's what 100% payback means). She said she played every day and ate for free via comps. Pretty cool, but who wants to spend a few hours EVERY DAY playing passionless video poker? To each his own, I guess.
The most interesting thing that happened was Wednesday, the day of our departure. We got to the airport plenty early and could see at the gate that the flight was way oversold. Sure enough, John went to the desk to check the situation and learned they were making a list of people interesting in bumping to the next morning. Since we both had taken the entire week off, we gladly volunteered. Long story short, we each received a $400 travel voucher and they put us up for the night. I just wanted to get back to the poker table.
They gave us a choice of several hotels. We chose the Emerald Suites right across the street from the Orleans. We were very pleasantly surprised by their accomodations. While it's obviously not on the strip and has no casino, it was clean and new. And was a suite (duh)..a kitchen, tv room and separate bedrooms. Relative to the big name hotel/casinos on the strip, it is inexpensive. I will definitely keep it in mind for future trips, especially when a reasonable rate cannot be found on the strip. From Sunday through Tuesday we had stayed at Imperial Palace, which I was less than impressed with. As John and I agreed, it was ok...just ok. I would stay there again in a pinch, but it certainly not be my first choice. It's very dingy and old, the air conditioner in our room was loud, the bathtub filled up with water when showering, and the elevators are so slow that most people waiting to go down opt for the stairs.
So the last night we played several hours of 3-6 at the Mirage (don't get me started on the old lady in the 1 seat), went to Orleans where John scored pretty big playing craps. I toodled around between blackjack and caribbean stud, played some video poker and hung out watching John until I decided I needed some sleep before we left and packed it in. Soon enough we were on our way for our second departure. Again, they were seeking volunteers to stay over and despite a fleeting desire to go back, I knew I had to play darts on Thursday night and also didn't think my body could handle only a few hours of sleep again. So, discretion being the better part of gambling, we were on our way home.posted by the wolf | 3:04 PM