After I dropped five hundred of my own money and $100 freeplay chasing a progressive royal (up to $1145) on the 10/7 Double Bonus machines at the Four Queens, and another $300 at poker, I had to bring my gambling down to no loss gambling for a while, if I were to manage my bankroll over the remaining 15 nights of my 22 night stay. I did not know then that two royals would pull me out of my slump and into good profit. That would not happen for a couple weeks. I decided to drift over to the El Cortez poker room and drink and visit into the early morning hours. I knew the losses would be small there. The game is still there. Jackie is still there. However, the alcohol selection has been downgraded. No more Myer's rum; nothing but well drinks and bad ones at that. No more Corona with lime; nothing but those piss water beers. The staff there at the poker room are wonderfully friendly and greet me by name. The brush seated me right next to Jackie, pulling up a stack of chips that had kept the seat next to him empty. As he melts more into senility, Jackie's filters have fade, and the staff is careful who sits next to him. Also, he flashes his cards, so anyone who sits next to him has to look up to avoid taking unfair advantage. I do that most of the time. No one can do it all the time. As I sit down, Jackie checks me out. He raises up in his seat and leans back, maybe to get the right angle of his glasses and gives me one of his intense direct looks. "How ya doin' Jackie? Good to see ya again," I say to the welcoming stare. He doesn't really remember anyone. If anyone asked, "Do you remember me?" he used to say, "Yeah, you're the guy who took all my money." But then he used to say, "One for the money." I don't hear any of those chestnuts tonight. After they explain the new alcohol limitations, I order a hot chocolate while I think over my alcohol choices, or rather the lack of them. And we play. The pots are small. No "its-only-money" tourists are playing. Also, no one I know is playing. Sad. At one point Jackie reaches over and lightly pats my tummy. Although really I've been losing a little weight, I say, "Yeah, Jackie, I'm gaining weight." The table laughs. A while later he takes his hand, and just barely strokes my hair the way you might with a young son. I'm not too sure I know what he means, but I say, "Yeah, Jackie, I need a haircut." The dealer says, "Don't you want to touch his beard, Jackie," and he looks at me a minute while the dealer adds, "He looks like Santa Claus." Jackie just ignores all that. I'm not certain what it was all about. Perhaps with more of his verbal skills retreating, he finds some communication in touch. In his light touch, I can get just what a sweet old man he was and is. I am sorry to see so much of him gone. They call him a living legend, but left now is more of the legend than the living. Chris and Albert are dealing, and it is fine to get caught up on news. I hear about some of the old fellows who don't come anymore. Action Jackson is out at Boulder now. I suspect that is because he can smoke there. I won't play there for the same reason. He is also dealing the World Series again this year. The table is friendly, but I miss the old raucus table of characters. Here everyone plays a quiet game of cards without many stories or joking banter or dramatic posturing, and I am quickly a bit bored. I decide to try their shelf whiskey on ice with a bit of lime. After all, I drink second rate whiskey often at home and often I can't tell this difference. I figured these well drinks can't be so bad. But the whiskey was terrible. Really. Awful. Whatever “well” this came out of was poisoned long ago. It might be good for cleaning the shelf, but it would never be on even the bottom shelf. This stuff would have to be stored under the bottom shelf in the basement near the septic system I know better than to try cheap rum; I know I don't like that. So I follow up with a cheap beer, and that is just okay. I play a while and Jackie splashes the pot, chasing anything of any potential value and catching rivers, frustrating his opponents who hope to win. I can hold my own, but I won't be making money at this table unless the players change. Also, I am really missing the smooth taste of my Myer's rum that I have associated with this spot for many years now. It had not been my intention to come and play serious poker, but to come and throw away hands and do some serious drinking. Because the table is tight and quiet and the drinks are awful, I decide to quit and wait until the tourists come or in some way the game changes. I'm irked anyway by the El Cortez and all the decisions of the new owners: $25 added fee for more than 7 calendar nights, all the complaints I have read by regulars on discussion boards about the cuts in comps, and now they've really spoiled this gem of a poker room for me. What happens in Vegas, changes in Vegas. So I get my American Casino Guide $10 freeplay coupon and decide to entertain myself with slots and get drunk on Myers rum. While they don't give out the good stuff to the poker players anymore, a penny slot player still qualifies for Myer's rum. So I am going to take my irk and make it work. For me, not for the bean counters. To put the freeplay on my card, I push through the small crowd who are hoping to win in some drawing. There are more and more drawings than comps all around Vegas. It is a cheap way to encourage play. No matter how many people play for chance tickets, the cost to the casino is the same. Mostly it is a local-focused game because tourists rarely can be around on the day of the drawing. I put the free $10 on my card. "Do you want your 5X points today?" the clerk asks. "No, I don't think so," I answer. "Well, they expire at the end of June," she warns me. "Thanks." I am not expecting to risk any real money. Just the freeplay. I roll up to the Texas Tea slot just as the same drink person who informed me of the alcohol changes gets there, and I order Myer's Rum. She apologizes again for not being able to serve me in the poker room. "Hey, it is not your fault." This particular waitress seems to take everything personally. She is too apologetic. When I tell her I'll be playing a while, meaning she can bring another, she warns me about how much of the casino she serves and that she won't be back for at least a half hour. "I'll be here a long while," I tell her. I don't like it that she is in constant apology mode. She must be taking crap for all the drink changes. Without me having to see her, she shows up with a Myers whenever she passes, and that is just wonderful, but she still imagines I am annoyed at her for something. So I tip her $2 instead of the $1, and then she gets that I am happy with her. Whenever the EV of slots is compared to live poker or advantaged VP pay tables, the argument on the side of slots is that entertainment is the goal. I get that. I let this slot entertain me as I play just a penny a spin. That way I don't have to actually pay for the entertainment. Often slot players think that slot play requires no thinking; however, that is totally incorrect. Once entertainment is the goal rather than just winning, to get a full serving of entertainment, the mind must in some ways engage the multiplicity of the game, so that the player can perceive what is happening. There should be some delight in the characters, and some anticipation in the icons as they fall, as well as some disappointment when there is almost but not quite a win. My inner child is perfectly able to delight in these little characters, but I can't follow more than three lines, and if I am going to drink rum which will come every half hour, one line is really plenty to entertain my inebriated mind as I stretch my freeplay out as long as possible. Playing one line I can see the first icon snap into place and hope for a match as the others follow. I can see where a winning icon fell on the line below or above and groan. Years ago I loved the video poker at the El Cortez because the cards were dealt slow enough for the mind to anticipate possibilities and be rewarded or disappointed. This is just the opposite of what the professionals do, slapping out their advantage in fast as possible play. I think that is rather hard work and dull. Anticipation accounts for some of the fun of Hold em as well. At each round of betting there are more or less possibilities, joys and disappointments. As Nick the Greek put it, “The next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing.” But to do that, I have to bring the lines down to something I can really watch. Because the mind cannot see scatters as they hit, Texas Tea offers the snap of a whip for each owner icon. It also offers a clunk for the oil wells. I never get an oil well video. Perhaps there is minimum play for that, but the clunk is there, and I get plenty of owner scatters: 11 for 8 credits, 4 for 15 credits. Oddly, not all the icons will come to pay me. For the most part, it is the armadillos that pay me. I like that. The armadillos are my favorites and as the rum starts to work, I will sometimes just sip rum and watch the little buggers jump up and wiggle their tongues at me and sip more rum and laugh for quite a while after a lucky hit on my one penny line. Perhaps the game is programmed to use the armadillo more often. I notice that each time the oil well owner writes me a check, that there is an armadillo in one of the office chairs watching. I imagine the armadillo has a role similar to the fool in Shakespeare, and it is an important part. When the rum is working well enough for me to find comparisons to Shakespeare in a game of Texas Tea, then I know I am truly being entertained. For a long while, I rooted for three flowers, but then when they came, they were so pathetic compared to the armadillo, that I was disappointed. I could not get a cactus pay. A few cows mooed their rewards, and the owner beeped his car horn a few times as well. As I sipped the four rums I was to drink over the course of my freeplay and flowed, "into the zone" as they say, the short bits of music became clearer and my mind also could sort those bits from the music in The Parlour bar. Nice. I can't remember all the tunes, but Bobby Darin singing, "Somewhere Beyond the Sea" latched on to my inebriated emotions with flashbacks to being in 8th grade. I also caught Elvis singing, "In the Ghetto." However, I am not a full fan of that song. It is just too negative and sung from such an outsider position. It grates on my love of good blues, because it should be blues, and it isn't. Now, I don't want to leave the impression that I recklessly played through my free money as fast as I could at the extravagant rate of one penny per pull, or that I chugged the fine smooth taste of my free Myer's rum. I sipped the rum slowly, ate the ice, and sometimes sucked the lime. I played slow. Also, dealer Chris came over on his break and talked for a while, so I had a complete break in the play. Then Doug stopped to get a sense of the game from us, and he remembered my name. I was flattered. I'd rather talk to Doug away from the table than play poker with him. He is the best player there. Sometimes I have played him for long hours, gone to bed, and found him there in the same seat in the morning with a fine chip stack when I woke up the next day. He sees and knows things I don't. My only defense against his expert play is to be unpredictable. I did not feel I had the concentration to play him on this night. And there were other purely imaginary visitors who added to the entertainment of the slots. One of my best friends, Jerry, recently moved from my home area to his new retirement home in South Carolina. I miss dropping in for breakfast. He is a great lover of Texas Tea and after two rums, I could feel him laughing over my shoulder. I kept a running total of my freeplay score. That would insure that I played through all the pennies and did not waste any of them, but that once they were played through I took my profit. It would also give me a fine stopping place for the rum. At three drinks I told the waitress, just one more and really it was one too many. I don't drink much at home. So my few nasty well drinks and beers set up the rum to push me over the top. At first I stayed ahead in the gambling thanks to the funny armadillos, but gradually the negative EV asserted its grinding mathematical will, and I fell behind. When the freeplay ran out, my score was $6.66 but I recklessly played it down to an even $6 and then I cashed out. Myers Rum at the bar costs $4, so the value was $16 in rum. For a couple hours of entertainment at no risk whatsoever, I raked in $22 and the casino lost. Had I drank the same rum at the poker table, I'd have contributed a lot more money when a winning pot was raked, so the casino lost in another way as well. And I'm glad! It is the best play I could make against the recent plays the El Cortez have established. I'll make it again if it is still possible. And all this talk about the place now attracting the affluent young and restless, ready to whoop it up and spend….well…..each time I was there I saw the same old tired, lower middle class faces, and I never saw it packed even when the Fremont Experience was packed shoulder to shoulder with people, and the downstairs of the D and the Golden Nugget were packed with players. After my free rum and freeplay, the El Cortez poker table still did not look inviting, and with Doug on the list, it was going to get harder still. How I would love it if that game started to attract the young and party folks that some speculate are just waiting to lose their money at the El Cortez, and how fine it would be for those mythical youngsters to take the seats of a few of the tough, tight old regulars. But this night the table looked unprofitable, and because the first strategy of limit poker is table selection, I waved good night to the dealers, and staggered down Fremont, had a hamburger and onion rings at Hennesy's and played until almost 2AM at the Golden Nugget. There too the American Casino Guide coupon gave me my winnings. It was worth 10 dollars and in spite of being at a table of bad players, that is exactly what I left with as winnings when I quit, just $10. The whole night was just great fun for no money, and that is exactly what I needed to stretch my bankroll over the rest of my 23 day trip, when the first week had me down $800.