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Historical Trip Report (early 80s) 1 of ?

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by TenXodds, Aug 11, 2006.

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  1. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    My Trip Report

    Historical Trip Reports (early 80s) 1 of ?

    Here are some memories of my early visits to Vegas.
    All of my writings are available at http://hhadley.blogspot.com

    Due to the passage of time, and the effects of alcohol on the brain, I don't have real clear memories of those first individual trips to VEGA$, just a conglomeration of individual exploits, high jinks, monkeyshines, etc. In those early years we tended to stay in modest, but perfectly acceptable accommodations like Circus Circus Manor (a group of 3 story buildings adjacent to the massive CC towers, featuring large, quiet rooms), the Sundance Hotel (now Fitzgeralds, downtown) the The Hotel Continental (now Terrible's, off the strip).

    Finding the perfect casino isn't as easy as it sounds. You want to feel at home... Wander into Caesars Palace, and you feel like you should be wearing a suit. Spend too much time at The Gold Spike and you need to take a shower. And it's not just finding a good middle-class joint either. It shouldn't be too big (like Bally's). It must have low-limit table games, and most importantly it needs to be lucky! I have entered many casinos that seem to be hospitable, but for whatever reason the luck isn't there. The Orleans is just such a casino. In recent years, my wife and I have stayed there a few times. The rooms are beautiful, very reasonably priced, the casino is friendly, but for the life of me, I can't win a god-damned dime there!

    Anyway, back to THE VEGA$ CLUB in the early 80's. One afternoon we happened upon a small casino on the heart of the strip called The Castaways. It was a great location (so great, that a few years later Steve Wynn bought it, leveled it, and built The Mirage in it's place!), good cocktail service, and two $1 blackjack tables open 'round the clock! I think originally the theme of the place was supposed to convey a feeling of being on a lush island in the tropics, but by 1984ish, the only hint of tropicality was that the dealers wore Hawaiian shirts. The rest of the place was pure, no-nonsense casino. We returned to The Castaways many times during those early years. The dealers were amazingly friendly, even at the $1 tables! Cocktail service was prompt (each BJ table had a little "cricket clicker" that would summon a waitress in short order!). Of course, we were looking to break the bank, each of us fancying ourselves as young Edward Thorpes. Unfortunately, that never happened, but at $1 a hand, it was a nice way to enjoy the company of friends, and get ridiculously inebriated. One memorable night, Roger and I decided to switch from boring old beer to something more mature. Martinis sounded pretty classy, but sadly the well Martinis served to the $1 players at The Castaways tasted like kerosene. After trying a few different things, Roger settled on the Tequila Sunrise, and my poison became The Greyhound (vodka and grapefruit juice). Charley was our designated driver and stuck with Coke. Whenever he ordered, the waitresses would act like no one in the history of Vegas had ever ordered a Coke before, "PLAIN Coke???" they'd ask, dumbfounded. From then on, whenever any of us wanted a Coke, we would order it as a PLAIN Coke. I think that Roger and I managed to polish off about 15 Greyhounds/Sunrises apiece. I do vaguely remember asking the dealer, "SO, DO PEOPLE EVER GET KICKED OUTTA HERE FOR BEING TOO DRUNK?" She gave me a hard stare and icily said, "Yep. All the Time." Roger suggested that maybe it was time we call it a night. That trip we were staying at the Sundance downtown, and I remember that being one of the longest rides of my life. In fact, when faced with the prospect of going round and round and round up into the parking structure, Roger and I opted to get out on the street. I still remember the elevator ride back up to our room. We both occupied opposite corners of the elevator car, and as we went up, Roger slowly slid down the mirrored wall onto the floor! The next day, we had to go home, and BOY what a miserable drive across the desert that was. Every time I saw a Greyhound bus, I felt like puking!

    The Castaways closed its doors on June 20, 1987. There are still a few small places left, off the strip, or downtown. But I've yet to find one that had the unpretentiousness, friendliness, prompt cocktail service, and that elusive good luck. It's not like any of us ever broke the bank, it was just a nice place to slowly lose a few dollars, and have a good time along the way.
     
  2. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post #2 of ? "Expansion and Bob Stupak"

    As the early-80's raced into the mid-80's word began to spread far and wide about the madcap exploits of THE VEGA$ CLUB. Well, not too far and wide, but we attracted the attention of a good friend and co-worker named Leung (pronounced Lang, rhymes with Bang!). Before we could make him a full-fledged member, we had to bring him along on a trip on a probationary basis. On this trip Roger had arranged accommodations at the Hotel Continental. I understand in it's later years that it turned into quite a dump, but at the time (1985ish) it was a perfectly nice place to stay.

    We arrived at the hotel, got checked in, relaxed a bit in the room, and gave Leung a brief lesson on what to expect in the casino, and a few pointers in blackjack etiquette so as to not to embarrass himself and us. (don't hand your cash directly to the dealer, one hand only on the cards, pointers on how to slip your cards under your chips without scooting your bet out of the betting circle, tipping, etc. He'd memorized the "basic strategy" card, so we were ready to go!

    As luck would have it, there was a dead $2 blackjack table near the entrance to the casino, just beckoning to us! Leung, Roger, Charley, and me took our seats and each placed our $20s in front of us for change. As the first hand was dealt, the waitress appeared and took our orders. At this point I was back to beer. (As of this writing, July 31, 2004, I have yet to have another Greyhound). Leung ordered a Screwdriver, Roger was either in his Fuzzy Navel or Grasshopper phase at this point, and Charley was still trying to get a PLAIN coke. A few hands were dealt, things were progressing fine. Leung was getting the hang of things. The cocktails arrived, and as Leung reached forward to pick up his cards, his arm hit his full Screwdriver spilling it all over his cards, chips, and dripping into the dealers chip rack! "Oh Shit!" said the dealer, yelling over her shoulder for the floor supervisor to bring over a towel. They got things pretty well cleaned up, we got a new deck of cards in play, and the rest of the trip went well. It's just lucky that we're all nice guys, otherwise that little stunt would have forever banished Leung from entering the club.

    That may have been the same trip where we discovered that Bob Stupak was a big fat liar. Bob Stupak owned "Vegas World" a hotel/casino barely on the strip, just north of the Sahara, where the Stratosphere now stands. For years he'd been cluttering up all the mailboxes in Southern California (hell, probably the whole U.S.) with vacation offers that seemed too good to be true. The deal was something like this: For only $398 up front, you'd get 3 nights hotel accommodations, plus $400 in casino play, free Keno tickets, free cocktails, and a fabulous gift! For awhile it was billed as "The Free Vacation" then the courts intervened, lawsuits were filed, and it became "The Virtually Free Vacation". Miraculously THE VEGA$ CLUB never took him up on his vacation offer, but we did find ourselves in his outer space themed casino one afternoon. For the walk up customers, he had a lower priced miracle offer. For $80 you'd get $120 in casino play, plus $20 in slot machine tokens, a free deck of cards, and Zsa Zsa Gabor's cocktail ring. "How could that be???" we wondered. We pooled our money and got one entry.

    Catch #1-- You weren't given your chips right away, you got $10 per hour over the course of 12 hours!!!
    Catch #2-- The slot tokens only worked on "Very Special" jackpot machines, and
    Catch #3-- you only got your cards and Zsa Zsa's ring after the 12th hour of being on the property.

    To add insult to injury, even the casino play chips were a rip-off! Say you put your $10 worth of chips on a blackjack table, if you lost, they took your chips. If you WON, they took your "special" chips and replaced them with $10 in real chips. "Hey, If I win a $10 hand of Blackjack, shouldn't I end up with $20???" "Sorry kid, not at Vegas World. I'll see you next hour!"

    Needless to say, we didn't even make it to hour #2 and Zsa Zsa got to keep her ring!

    In the next installment... Hank discovers Craps!
     
  3. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post #3 of ? "Hank Discovers Craps"

    For the first few years, my game was Blackjack. When the cards weren't going in my favor, I'd take a break in front of a video poker machine (preferably at the bar). Meanwhile, Charley and Roger had been dabbling in craps, and were throwing around a lot of terminology, and tales of exciting runs at the table. Anyone who's ever been in a casino when there's a hot craps game going on knows how explosive that game can get. They had tried to explain the basic rules to me several times, but I just couldn't seem to get the hang of it, and observing a game in action just made matters worse.

    One day I had just finished up a losing session at blackjack at a downtown casino, and was walking around looking for Roger and Charley. I found them at the casino's only craps table so I stood back and watched for awhile. I had a single $5 chip left from my blackjack play, and I said to them, "If I wanted to make a $5 bet, without getting too complicated, where would I put it?" They both suggested putting in The Field. It's real simple they explained, it's just a one-roll bet on the next throw of the dice. You either win or lose! So, I carefully put my chip in the field just before the next throw. The dice flew, the stickman continued his ongoing patter, "12 CRAPS 12 TAKE THE COMES AND TRIPLE THE FIELD" I didn't know much about the game, but I knew that 12 was one of the "craps" numbers, and that was bad. Meanwhile, Roger and Charley were whooping it up on my behalf as the dealer slid three red chips next to mine. "Pick those up!" Charley said, "12 pays three to one in the field!" I picked up my $20, cashed them out, and from that point on I've been hooked on craps!

    I found out later, that betting "The Field" is kind of a sucker bet, but on that occasion, it was all I needed to get the fever. I bought books, computer games, I frequented some truly scary places in search of low-limit games, and I've been a part of some very memorable hands (in the Craps vernacular, they are referred to as monster hands or Dukes). Generally speaking, I was always too scared to substantially increase my bets, so I seldom walked away with more than a couple of hundred dollars, while the rest of the table cashed out thousands in black and purple chips. The best I ever did was at the Desert Inn, shortly before it closed. This was in September of 1997 so I will get to it in a later entry, but it's the only time that I was ever in possession of a $500 chip. I love casino chips, and have a small collection, and I remember staring and staring at the pastel yellow D.I. chip in awe. Later that week, I met the woman who was to become my wife... so needless to say, I was on quite a hot streak!

    In the next installment... The importance of food!
     
  4. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post #4 of ? "MMMM... Buffet!"

    I can't believe that I've gotten this far without touching upon the incredibly important topic of Las Vegas food! From the 99¢ shrimp cocktail, and the $3.99 breakfast buffet to Spago's... Las Vegas is nearly as famous for its food as it is for its gambling! In this posting I will describe as many of the restaurants as I can remember, and rate them using the tried and true one to five star system. Ratings are subjective based on value, atmosphere, food quality, service, and overall fun. I am purposely skipping chain restaurants, Vegas certainly has its share of Ruth's Chris Steakhouses, Tony Roma's, California Pizza Kitchens, Carrows, Denny's etc. This is not the place to talk about those.

    We'll Start with Dinner:

    Ricardo's
    2380 East Tropicana Avenue
    As I mentioned earlier, as far as THE VEGA$ CLUB goes, Roger was in charge of dining and hospitality. One of his early recommendations was a place that was owned by his uncle Richard, called Ricardo's. Ricardo = Richard, get it? It turns out that Ricardo's is one of the best Mexican restaurants that I'd ever been to. We always made a point of going there at least once per trip. Roger always attempted to get us a free meal by dropping his uncle's name. It actually worked a few times! It's the first place that I ever saw Margaritas coming out of one of those Slurpee machines! The child-like fun of drinking a Slurpee, plus the adult fun of drinking tequila!!!
    Rating ****

    The Pink Pony
    Circus Circus Main Tower
    I have grown to loathe all things Circus Circus over the years. For one thing, I suffer from coulrophobia, which is a fear of clowns. Circus Circus is no place for coulrophobes! Plus it's big, old, and slightly seedy. I have nothing against being old and seedy, but I'm uncomfortable in HUGE casinos. The Pink Pony, however, is located in a small side-casino away from most of the riff-raff. The only item that THE VEGA$ CLUB members ever ordered was the Cattleman's Cut Prime Rib special. An average quality slap of Prime Rib served with generous portions of potato, vegetable, salad, and dinner rolls.
    Rating **

    William B's
    Inside The Stardust main casino
    This is a great place when you are in town for a convention and the boss is paying! I'm in the broadcast industry, and once every few years I get to go to the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention with my boss. William B's is a classy steakhouse with great steaks, and a great old-time steakhouse atmosphere. The Maitre'd wears a tuxedo! I say again, pricey!
    Rating ****

    Guadalajara
    Inside the Palace Station
    To me, all of The Station properties feel like The Orleans. They are nice and friendly, but I can't win for losing there! I've stayed at The Palace Station several times, and really enjoy their Guadalajara restaurant. In fact, one thanksgiving several years ago my wife and I tried to go to their buffet, The Feast for a traditional Thanksgiving day dinner, and the line out front was about a mile long! We walked down to Guadalajara and had the joint to ourselves! They have a great salsa bar, good Margaritas, and very good food.
    Rating ****

    Battista's Hole in the Wall
    4041 Audrie Street
    My All-Time Favorite! This gem was discovered by Charley's wife, Pam while she was in town on a business trip, I believe. Some places are good if you're with your buddies, other places are good if you're with your wife. This place fits any bill! It's dark and romantic, yet fun. It's not the cheapest place in town (Meals start at about $20) and it's absolutely no good if you don't like cheap wine. But, if you can afford it, and you like cheap wine... This is it! There's even a strolling accordion player named Gordy to serenade your meal. You get your choice of standard Italian entrees (My favorites are the Lasagna and the Veal Parmigiana) and meals include, salad, great garlic bread, your entree, hot chocolate (they call it a cappuccino, but it's hot chocolate) AND, oh my god, are you sitting down for this? ALL THE CHEAP WINE YOU CAN DRINK!!! They'll ask you if you like white or red. If you're smart, one person at the table will say "red" and someone else will say "white", that way they'll bring two carafes right off the bat... then they just keep bringing them! Oh, you'll feel so sick in the morning!
    Rating *****+

    [​IMG]

    The Palatium Buffet
    Near the race/sports book
    Caesars Palace
    Vegas is known for its buffets, and I've tried a lot of them! Most of them are perfectly adequate, a few are sub-standard (Circus Circus comes to mind), and a very few are quite amazing! The Palatium at Caesars is near the top of the heap! (The buffet at The Mirage also gets high marks from me, although the line is usually unacceptably long there). In addition to very high-quality food, Caesars has a variety of specialty stations where men and women in chef hats give personal service. My favorite stations are the prime rib carving station, and for brunch the omelet station. Last time I was there the dinner buffet was $15.95, so it's not exactly a bargain, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for.
    Rating ****

    The Triple 7 Restaurant and Brewery
    The Main Street Station
    As a lover of beer, I'd like to give special mention to The Triple 7, located downtown, next to the Union Plaza. The beer is very good (free if you're playing video poker at the bar!) and the hamburgers and sandwiches are very tasty. A great stop for a late afternoon snack, and the casino itself is pretty swanky, given the questionable neighborhood in which it's located.
    Rating ***

    For Breakfast, I'm usually happiest with a traditional coffee shop, preferably located in the hotel in which I'm staying. Some of my favorites include The Carson Street Cafe inside The Golden Nugget, The Courtyard Cafe inside The Orleans, and if you're on your way back to California and need a place to stretch your legs, use the restroom, and get a good breakfast, try The Wagon Master Coffee Shop inside of Buffalo Bills, at the state line.

    In the next installment... Little Caesars... Oh My God!
     
  5. HurricaneMikey

    HurricaneMikey A-List Buffoon

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    Dukes. Haven't heard that term in awhile.

    Good Stuff--Keep it coming!

    Mikey
     
  6. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post # 5 of ? "Little Caesars, R.I.P."

    On one of those mid-80's summer trips, the boys of THE VEGA$ CLUB were wandering around mid-strip after attending another breathtaking presentation at Caesars’ IMAX theater. We were walking around in the sweltering heat redeeming coupons at most of the little souvenir shops that used to be abundant in that neighborhood. Those little shops and strip malls have all been torn down now to make room for places like The Monte Carlo, The New Aladdin, and Paris. I understand that the stubborn little Tam ‘o Shanter Motel will soon be a thing of the past as well. Oh well. We were walking through an especially seedy looking strip mall next to Bally’s (Where Paris is now) when we came across Little Caesar’s Casino. You entered through a sliding glass door where someone had wrapped the metal door handle with about 25 layers of duct tape, in an attempt to keep the handle from inflicting 3rd degree burns on the casino guests. A hand-written sign was taped to the door sternly reminding everyone to close the door behind them! The hard-working air conditioning system succeeded in lowering the indoor temperature by about 10 degrees from the outdoor temperature. Unfortunately on that day it was about 105 outside! I have since learned that Little Caesar’s was nicknamed “The Toilet†(according to legend, during a particularly hot roll at the craps table, the shooter didn’t’ want the dice to cool down if he paused to use the restroom, so he just peed at the table!) On that hot afternoon, with the exception of a bustling craps game, the place was pretty much deserted. Charley had wandered off towards the dingy gift shop, and he called us over, “Hey, look at this! Penny slots!!!†Sure enough, off in the corner were 4 ancient penny slot machines with a top jackpot of $50. I walked over towards the craps game, where there were many unsavory characters 2 deep, and the layout was COVERED with beige chips, which I later discovered were worth 25¢ each! Yes, we had found a quarter craps game! There was also a “double exposure 21†table with no players, and one open blackjack table with no players. Standing behind the other blackjack table was an old man in a $60 rumpled suit that had to be the pit boss. Roger nudged me, “Check out what that old guy’s doing!†We looked closer and discovered that he had a deck of cards spread out across the table and he was wiping each card down with a damp towel! This was astounding to us! We’d all played enough blackjack to know that most places replace the cards with brand new decks every few hours, but at Little Caesar’s, why waste money on new cards, when you can just wash off the old ones! We got the impression that at Little Caesar’s, every dollar counted! On another visit, I saw the pit boss groan in agony, yell the “F†word, and kick his little desk when a guy won a $40 pass line bet.

    For reasons unknown to most of my friends, I grew attached to “The Toiletâ€. Nobody ever wanted to go with me, so I spent a lot of time by myself in there. First off, I liked the idea of 25¢ craps. I felt like a high-roller betting $1 chips, amongst all the 25¢ bets of the degenerate/homeless men gambling around me. One morning I happened to notice that there were no cocktail waitresses, nor was there a bar. I asked the dealer if they served drinks. “Cocktails!†he shouted, raising my hopes. A short heavyset bald man who was also the change person came waddling over to me. “You’re the cocktail waitress?†I asked. He rolled his eyes at me and asked me what I’d like. It was about 9 a.m. so I asked for a Bloody Mary. He actually scoffed at me, then said, “Coffee or beer?â€. I’ve never been much of a coffee fan, and I can just imagine how horrible a Little Caesar’s cup of java would be, so I ordered a beer. He went over to a little area next to the cashiers station where apparently they had a keg set up. He brought back an 8 ounce paper Dixie Cup of what I swear had to have been Hamm’s beer. I tipped him the usual $1 chip and got a very polite, “Thank you, sir!†in return. I’m guessing that that was the biggest tip he’d received all week, because the Dixie Cups just kept comin’!

    Another reason that I kept going back to LC’s was that I almost always won a few bucks there. The craps game there was something called “Crapless Craps†which I believe he got from Bob Stupak’s Vegas World, which could only mean that it was a total rip-off game. I haven’t studied the statistics of this game, but if it was offered at Vegas World, then it had to have a bigger house percentage than standard craps. The game, as the name implies, has no craps rolls, everything except seven can be a point. Roll snake eyes, and 2 is the point. Roll an eleven, then that’s the point. It was kind of weird to begin with, but you got used to it.

    On another night when the craps table was totally full, I decided to try out some $1 blackjack to kill some time until a spot opened up at the craps table. The whole table was losing, but at a buck a hand, it wasn’t too bad. One guy at the table was playing with a stack of $20 bills instead of chips, betting $20 and $40 per hand and losing consistently. After quickly losing his entire stack, he cursed and pulled out two $100 bills, and slapped them in his betting circle. As you can imagine, this kind of action tends to draw the attention of the Pit Boss at a place like LC’s! The very young, non-English speaking break-in dealer nervously glanced over to the supervisor, “Money prays?†and got the nod from the boss. True to form, we were all dealt 15s and 16s, with the dealer showing an Ace. Mr. Big-spender took a hit, busted, cursed and quickly grabbed up his two C notes and started to get up. All hell broke loose! The dealer screamed, “HEY!†the Pit boss clamped his left hand down on the players arm, while pulling out a can of mace with his right hand. The player lamely tried to explain that he wanted to stand, not take a hit, and that the dealer misunderstood him. He looked to the fellow players, “You saw me wave my hand back and forth, right? I wanted to stay!!!†In return, he got four icy stares. The boss increased his grip on the guy’s hand, “Either you put that money back on the table, or you’ll get a face full of pepper spray, and a trip to jail!†It was then that I realized that in addition to not having cocktail waitresses, they also didn’t have any security guards! I also realized that I was probably taking my life into my hands coming into a place like this after dark.

    A few years later, I was in town by myself on one of those spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways. I was actually staying 20 miles south of town in Jean, NV. I’d arrived in Jean late Friday night, getting a room at the Gold Strike. Then the next morning I drove into town, deciding to start the day with some quarter craps. I pulled into the strip mall, and there was a white paper placemat scotch taped to the inside of the sliding glass door. With a black Keno crayon, somebody had scrawled “CLOSEDâ€. I can’t say that I was totally surprised, but it was still the end of an era. I stared at the placemat for a few minutes and possibly shed a tear, but at the same time smiling about how fitting the crayon and placemat announcement was for such a place as Little Caesar’s.

    In the next intallment... Foxy's Firehouse, midnight steak & eggs, and The Players Club International!
     
  7. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post #6 of ? "Kojak, and late night fun!"

    Sometime in the heyday of THE VEGA$ CLUB (mid 80’s) an organization called Players Club International burst on the scene with a group of enticing late night TV commercials starring Telly Savalas. For a small up-front fee, you could swing like Kojak! I forget the details, but for the price of membership you were entitled to substantial discounts on hotel reservations, plane tickets, shows and meals. Roger signed up in a heartbeat! The rest of us were envious of his shiny gold Players Club official membership card, and luckily he readily shared the benefits bestowed upon members.

    One of the hotels that offered benefits to PC members (possibly the only one in Vegas) was the Riviera, so we stayed there several times, enjoying the deeply discounted room rates, free buffet coupons, discounts to shows, etc. We went to “an evening at the improv†there and the headliner was KNBC Los Angeles’ TV weatherman Fritz Coleman. He wasn’t very funny.

    The Riviera was okay, it’s kind of got that “old Vegas†feel that is getting harder to come by as the years go by, but we didn’t spend much time gambling there. After a few late-night gaming sessions along the strip, Roger and I would be walking back to the Riv, only to be drawn in by the midnight Steak & Eggs special at the nearby Westward Ho!

    On another trip we found ourselves trying out late night breakfast specials at Foxy’s Firehouse. This place had the atmosphere and clientele of Little Caesar’s, but no craps table, so I had no interest in it. I guess it was a small step up from LC’s since it had a restaurant and a security guard. On this particular visit, the lone security guard was posted near one of the entrances… playing video poker! The joint was located just north of The Sahara on the strip, across the street from The World’s Largest Gift Shop, where the Holy Cow Brewing Co. is now located. The thing I remember most about the $1.99 breakfast special is that it was way yucky. It was served on Styrofoam plates with plastic knives and forks, and the “chef†working the graveyard shift at Foxy’s almost seemed like he didn’t want to be there! When breakfast was over, Roger eyed the single blackjack table and decided that he wanted to win the price of his breakfast back! I was too tired to gamble, plus after a day of cheap beer, free hotdogs, the world’s largest taco, a buffet lunch, free margaritas, and a $1.99 midnight breakfast I was a little green around the gills. Roger plopped down 2 bucks on the blackjack table and was dealt two face cards. I was relieved. “Let him win the price of his damned breakfast back so we can get some sleep!†I was thinking. The dealer was showing a 3, and turned over a 2, hit with a 3, then a 4, another 4, then a 5. Roger and I stared at the spread of cards trying to add them all up. The dealer was only marginally faster and announced “21!†while picking up Roger’s $2. Would you believe it, the same thing happened for the next three hands? By the fifth hand, Roger was getting pissed. He plopped down a $10 spot for one last hand. He got a respectable 19. The dealer was showing a 5, but at this point we weren’t breathing easy. She turned over a 6, (shit!) then pulled out a 4 (yay!) then an Ace (double yay!) then… another 5 (Oh, Jesus!) Roger lost it. “I can’t believe it! This is bullshit!!!†he screamed! The security guard glanced over his shoulder from the poker machine, then went back to his game. Roger stood up, lifted the blackjack stool over his head, and before he had a chance to crash it down onto the table, a short, squat woman came running over, “SIR, PUT THE STOOL DOWN RIGHT NOW!†He gave her a menacing look, “Who the hell are you?†he snarled. “I’M THE PITBOSS AND I WANT YOU TO PUT THE STOOL DOWN AND LEAVE THE CASINO , NOW!†He looked her up and down with a sneer, “Pit boss? You look more like a Pit Bull!†He finally put the stool down, and we beat a hasty retreat. When Foxy’s Firehouse closed down, nobody shed a tear!

    In the next installment… Downtown Fun!

    P.S. The above anecdote has possibly been embellished by many retellings over the years. In truth, he lifted the stool about 2 inches off the ground, and had no intention of crashing it down onto the table. He also never uttered the “Pit Bull†remark, but he wanted to, and the security guard never glanced over his shoulder. That incident also added a new phrase to our vocabulary. From then on, anytime a dealer got a total of 21 with 5 or 6 cards, it became a “Firehouse 21â€

    P.P.S I just “googled†Telly Savalas to see if I could find out more information on the Players Club, and I found a website dedicated to celebrities that are missing parts of their fingers! Telly is apparently missing part of his left index finger! Other digitally challenged peopl include James “Scotty†Doohan (right middle finger), and Daryl Hannah (the tip of her left index finger) Isn’t the internet incredible?
     
  8. DonD

    DonD Super Moderator

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    Thanks, very nice read.
    BTW, Stupak owned Vegas World, not Vegas Club.
     
  9. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post #7 of ? "Fremont Street Experiences"

    Downtown has always felt a little more familiar to me than the Strip. Downtown VEGA$ people are my people. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy classy things; I'm in awe every time I enter Caesars Palace, but I'm just a little too... informal for most of the fancy strip places. I'm most comfortable wearing a Hawaiian shirt and no pants. Because of certain societal conventions, I'm usually forced to at least wear short pants when I'm gambling. I also hate the whole distance thing on the strip. Say you want to go from New York, New York to The Mirage, first you have to locate the valet (I don't even consider self parking!) wait for your car, battle the impossible strip traffic for 40 minutes to go the ½ mile to the Mirage, then do battle with ITS' parking lot! You're liable to waste the better part of the day just dealing with your car!!! When staying downtown, you park your car upon arrival and that's it! Want someplace seedy? El Cortez, The Plaza, The Golden Gate and many others are right there waiting for you. Want a step up? Try Fitzgeralds, Fremont, or the Four Queens! Hankering for a classy joint? The Nugget is smack in the middle of everything.

    I am heartsick over the recent events related to my all-time favorite place to shoot craps, Binion’s Horseshoe. Binion’s is easily worthy of an entire posting all to itself, so stay tuned.

    One trip we were lured into the horrible Coin Castle Casino. This was one of those slot joints between The Golden Gate and The Pioneer Club, in the same vein as Sassy Sally’s with all sorts of gimmicks to get you inside. We were lured into the bowels of the Coin Castle with the promise of a free key chain or some other doodad, and Charley decided to waste a few quarters at an ancient slot machine. Amazingly enough he quickly lined up 3 plums and the quarters just started pouring out of that thing like there was no tomorrow! Charley quickly filled up one bucket, and was reaching for another one, when the security guard / slot mechanic / manager on duty came up and told Charley to get out of the way. He explained that Charley was the victim of a “runaway jackpot†and that he was only entitled to 25 quarters! Charley was crestfallen! He was of a mind to dump the bucket of quarters onto the geezer’s head, but he took his meager winnings and we left, never to return for our key chains.

    On another trip we were staying downtown at Fitzgerald’s. It had been a hectic day and we were up in our rooms relaxing in the late afternoon. There was an advertising card in the room talking up the Fitzgerald’s Personal Pizza room-service special. For only $9.99 you could have an 8-inch, “pizza for one†delivered to the room. We were hungry, and contemplating making a call to room service, when I remembered seeing an ad across the street at Sassy Sally’s for a 12 inch “Family Sized†pizza for $3.99! “Why don’t I just walk across the street and get 4 big pizza’s for $16?†The boys laughed at me, which only made me want to do it more! I picked up the tray that was underneath our ice bucket and water glasses, tucked it under my arm and headed out! I waited my turn deep inside the nightmarish Sassy Sally’s (Where it’s Double Jackpot Time every 10 minutes, and they’re not afraid to let you know it!) When I got to the front of the line I ordered my four pepperoni pizzas. The surly order taker looked around, “Who are all those pizzas for?†I told her they were for me and my friends. She explained that the pizzas were for people who were there gambling, that they didn’t do take-out! We went back and forth, and finally I told her that my buddies were on their way, that I’d just been sent ahead to order the pizza. She grudgingly took my money and placed the order. When they called my number, she looked around the casino searching for the 3 additional gamblers that I had promised her. I quickly balanced the four pies onto my tray and got the hell outta there! I did receive a lot of strange looks walking down Fremont Street with a tray full of pizzas, and one man offered to buy one from me. I was met with more dirty looks as I traversed through the busy Fitzgerald’s casino floor towards the elevator. It was all worthwhile when I got back to the room and received a standing O from my fellow VEGA$ CLUB members. We had a cooler full of cold beer to accompany the pizza, and it was one great meal! The pizza itself wasn’t the best, as you can imagine, but that didn’t matter. We had said “SCREW YOU†to both the price gouging room-service people, AND to greedy Sassy Sally who was attempting to lure in hungry slot players!
     
  10. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    DonD - When I refer to "The VEGA$ Club" I'm talking about what my group of friends called ourselves, not the casino with the similar name, "The Las Vegas Club", (home of the most liberal 21 in the world). I have had some good times in The Las Vegas Club, but I have no fondness for Vegas World! However, I have seen Bob Stupak eating breakfast at the Carson Street Cafe in the Golden Nugget!
     
  11. DonD

    DonD Super Moderator

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    OK, my misunderstand.
     
  12. kitson

    kitson VIP Whale

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    wow, you are bringing back memories, and yes, those first few trips of many years ago do run together. our first trip was in the early 1980's, with our airfare and room at the riviera paid for by cargill, for a bunch of us montana livestock feed dealers and their wives.

    that room at the riviera was the biggest hotel room i had ever seen.

    recall that the next weekend they were having a heavyweight championship fight at the riviera, and once we saw the challenger and his entourage going through the lobby. we actually saw a lot of the entourage, but only once the boxer. i cannot recall a name, would this have been about the time of the larry holmes era?

    wife won 25 dollars or so, first time ever playing blackjack, for a dollar a hand at slots a fun. i can only imagine what we could have won, on that kind of streak, playing the stakes we play now, and actually knowing about doubling and splitting!

    still have a couple of decks of cards in the pile from silver city.

    ate at circus circus buffet. did not know that it was supposed to be that bad. figured it was just what you got for those low prices, glad to find out there was better out there.

    thanks tenx, keep it coming, absolutely enjoying the memories.
     
  13. bubbakitty

    bubbakitty native Texan; born and bred.

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    I know exactly of what you speak; and if I may be allowed (move this post if not) I would like to piggy-back upon your topic a bit. As in follow-up and not necessarily mount. My wife and I (two years prior our first visit to the city of sin while living in sin (if you’re from Texas) and if you’re a Baptist thumping believer) went often to support the local economy. Heck, with Continental and America West offering 79 and then (gasp!!) 89 $ round trip tickets from Austin, Texas and back----how the heck could a good ole’ cowboy refuse? We never saw any on the plane so I can’t say. But we partook often. AT THE TIME, the 20 $ run of the house at the Imperial Palace was the ticket….they had a car show which was “free†(some things never change) and you could actually recognize the names of some of the former owners of the cars themselves…….middle of the action and on the bus line as well. One trip we were delayed by engine trouble and arrived between 2 and 3 a.m. as opposed to the 11:45 p.m. arrival expected….(we flew faster in those days as you left Austin at the same time as you arrived removing the time change; now it’s like 2 hours and 20 to 40 minutes…..) So the ROTH turned into a suite (without the 20 $ trick) with a giant Jacuzzi in the room which allowed my 5’ 3†significant other to slide back and forth across the foamy bottom (of the tub) without touching either side for quite a bit. (Mr. Bubble was usually the final addition to our 3-some in those days) This was at a time when you would have a meal and a “card†would be on the table saying you could have water but must request it as there was a water shortage at the moment (in the valley)…we must of filled and emptied the tub 5 times that trip (we always went for 5 nights (sun-thurs) prior to knowing this was the deal it was!). AND, they had phones in the bathroom…..ohhhhhhh, please, someone call us to chat…..but they never did….what with mobile phones in a (practically) backpack; it wasn’t worth the effort to call when the “occupied†sign was on.

    Back in the early days (of our lives) distances seemed shorter. Why, we could be at the Water Park on the strip and say…..â€look over there…it is not a bird nor a plane but the Hilton….Let’s walk over and see what is whatâ€â€¦..ha…..and the good die young….we learned a lesson that day which did not take deeply as you will notice later (perhaps)… we walked and walked and walked and stopped at the Landmark but Wayne wasn’t home and we had to continue (not so far) until refrigerated air once again blew upon our faces. What a sports book….dark, cool, and great drink service for the parched hiker. We cabbed it back.

    This was a time wayyyyy before Mirage, TI, Bellagio, etc….this was Dunes and Marina time…. A time of 1 $ craps (heck, .25 cents if you didn’t mind the smell on the street side of Binions with the chocolate chips) and 5 x odds…..BIG spenders could place a line bet of 5 $ and get 10 x odds….We used to bus it down to the Fremont (sans canopy) Street (before it was an Experience) and hit the Horseshoe for the Mexican food in the basement next to the coffee shop…..â€how many?â€..oh no, we’re waiting to sit and eat some good food from south of the border..†would be our reply, and whoolaa, “oh, there is no wait for that; have a seatâ€â€¦.had to be the closest thing to Tex Mex we could have hoped for (real onions) and a good bar too…and IF YOU GOT IT COMPED; you could save 5 or 6 $’s for two outstanding meals(including tip).

    Spent one night (I later married her and always was told “This isn’t going to be like that time the kitties applied for college is it?â€) playing craps with 1 line bet and 2 comes (FULL odds), and at any one time could have 18 $’s on the table….YIKES!! The single life…..colored up about 210 $’s ahead and it was almost daylight….4 a.m……so let’s walk (she doesn’t drink enough to get the buzz so it must have been love) and we walked and walked and walked until we hit the Stupak intersection with the Arnold Palmer (?) cleaners on the corner. We gave in to the cab route and paid 4 $ with tip for the ride to the IP. Whatever happened to the bus?? What a night and what a morning in the Jacuzzi…..with Mr. Bubble of course!!

    Gosh, those were the days; no porn slappers (although the t-shirts ARE nice souvenirs); “phone call for Mr. Binion, Mr Benny Binion please, Mr. Benny Binion; phone call please†(later to be Jack). I miss old Vegas but appreciate the new….you just have to search out the 3 $ craps and have a car to get to Boulder Station with the 10x odds. Unless you ride the bus I suppose on Nellis Blvd. Mary’s Diner is gone from Sam’s Town without any decent replacement as of yet. Sam’s Town “old†Western theme is gone from shopping as well….progress. And all the implosions and resurrections…..gee golly (batman)…..

    Vegas has become two sided for us…..one to view and marvel upon and one to gamble upon……cannot bring myself to give it away any faster by playing 6:5 BJ or 3x4x5x craps even though the math speaks for itself over the long run…..it’s that karma sort of thing that got us through that night at Binions when the lady at the other end bought (?) everyone Kahlua and ice for the next roll…..if the kitties are to get in college…we gotta win it now…..we actually did…but the kitties are still using the cat box and slapping leather…..

    I feel like the original poster……except even then it was a blur….only to be recalled in the flashback sense….â€I’ve been here….†“Maybeâ€â€¦.Wish I’d have kept some of the old 1 $’s chips back then…..sure, you can buy them cheap now still,,,,,, but it just isn’t the same…no connection you know?

    If only I knew then what I know now……HA…..the vegas virgin has missed probably as much as we missed prior to our first visit…and Sam sang….As Time Goes By….and we haven't touched on the various golf outings which came and went much too quickly.....is that really a theme park gone mad where the tropicana golf course USED to be?? lol think of the roll you could get now!!

    What a great board…no?
     
    1st Super Bowl DT...Panthers / Browns no doubt
  14. kitson

    kitson VIP Whale

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    i remember WALKING from the plaza down fremont to the showboat! stopped along the way, probably was the el cortez where i won 50 bucks on the little machine where you rolled the quarter in, and then the push rods pushed coins out. i hit one of the little moving targets. the guy who came to pay me said he had never had to pay that, ever.

    on the way down the strip, helped some natives push a stalled car, seemed like the right thing to do...dont know if i was helping repo a repo, or what, but glad to walk away and put a couple blocks between us and them.

    the desert inn was glorious, ducked in there to get out of a thunderstorm, and actually played ten dollars a hand blackjack for the first time, it was just too high class a place for me to dare to go in ever before. wow, what a place!
     
  15. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    I remember that game with the quarters, I think it was called "Flip It!" It sure looked like that mountain of quarters was ready to be pushed into the payoff tray... maybe if I put in just one more quarter! Do you remember the "horserace" machines, where you bet on a horse based on the odds, then then you see a video playback of some past race stored on the machine?

    How about "Sigma Derby? A hokey toy horserace track surrounded by eight seating/betting postions where up to eight people could bet quarters on which toy horses would win the race. They had a slightly modified version of Sigma Derby at Caesars where instead of tiny toy horses and jockeys, they were horses with chariots! God Bless Las Vegas!

    How about some of the older carnival table games... anyone remember "Chuck-a-luck", Sic-Bo, or Red Dog?
     
  16. DonD

    DonD Super Moderator

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    I remeber all of those. That is when a player's Blackjack (A-10) was called a "Snapper."
     
  17. kitson

    kitson VIP Whale

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    ...and at the luxor it was camels racing on the sigma machine.

    i made pretty good pocket money "running" the chuck-a-luck game in the back of the basketball bus on road trips during high school.
     
  18. sailor53

    sailor53 Tourist

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    Phenomenal recounting of some very interesting info! I have dined at William B's several times and was impressed with the service and the food. Fortunately for us Stardust comped our meal which made it taste even better!
     
  19. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post 8 of ? "Can we talk about Reno on travel2vegas?"

    In 1985 I left Orange County (aka The O.C.) to go to school up in Stockton, California at the University of the Pacific. This put a bit of a damper on VEGA$ CLUB activities, but Roger, Charley, and Leung were able to make several road trips up to see me, which was good. Inevitably the topic of gambling came up and led to a few trips to nearby Reno and Tahoe. Tahoe was beautiful and all, but in the winter time it was pretty treacherous to get to, and Reno offered more gambling opportunities, and really cheap rooms!

    One such trip to Reno had been planned for a couple weeks, we had reservations at Circus Circus Reno (ugh), and unfortunately there was snow in the forecast. A little bad weather wasn’t about to stop us from a fun weekend in “The Biggest Little City in the World”. We stopped at a local Kragen, and got a set of chains for Roger’s VW Jetta, and we were off!

    Somewhere this side of Truckee it started snowing, and shortly we were directed to the side of the road to install our chains. None of us had ever put them on before. It was really cold, so I stayed in the car while Roger and Charley put the chains on, and we were back on the road. It seemed very noisy, and we weren’t really able to go any faster than 45 or so, but what the hell did we know, maybe this was normal? As we began to descend from the Sierra Nevadas the snow turned into torrential rain, and we were informed that we were leaving the “Chains Required” area. This time it was REALLY wet and muddy, so I again stayed in the car while Roger and Charley removed the chains. It wasn’t until we parked the car in the Circus Circus parking garage that we noticed that a strand of the right front chain had come loose during the trek, scraping a semi-circle of paint from Roger’s fender down to the bare metal! The storm increased in ferocity through the night, forcing us to spend the evening at the “Pinkest Casino in Northern Nevada”, only adding fuel to my coulrophobia (irrrational fear of clowns). When we got bored with the gambling, we took a walk through the circus midway, gawking at the carnies etc. We played a few games, including the one where you shoot water into the clown’s mouth, inflating a balloon attached to the clown’s head. At the end of the night, we had each won at least one troll doll. I continue to treasure my little guy (I call him Keith).

    The next morning we turned on the TV news, only to find that there was no end in sight for the storm. Interstate 80 had been closed overnight until further notice, and the Truckee River was in danger of overflowing its banks. This was a Saturday. I had to be back at school on Monday, and the others had to be back at work in Southern California. With I-80 out of commission, getting back to Stockton by car was out of the question. Roger, Charley, and Leung got out the map and plotted a course back to Orange County (via Las Vegas, of course) and I got on the phone to American Airlines and reserved a seat on the next day’s Reno to Stockton flight. Things seemed more or less under control, so we bundled up and hit the town! The breeching of the Truckee River seemed to be the hot topic of conversation around town. Being accustomed to gambling in the blistering heat of VEGA$, it was a nice change to frolic in the fiercely cold freezing rain. I specifically remember sitting at a 50¢ roulette wheel at the Cal/Neva club that day, and watching workers seal up the entrances with sand bags. That’s when I began to be concerned with this whole Truckee River thing.

    Reno reminds me of a slightly older, somewhat seedier, downtown Las Vegas. It obviously doesn’t have as much money, although Harrah’s and the Hilton were pretty nice. It’s telling that the huge expansion of Las Vegas in the 90’s didn’t make up to Reno, and Reno never experienced the Steve Wynn-ification and maintains an old western charm.

    The next day, we packed up the damaged Jetta and said goodbye to the soggy Circus Circus. It was still raining hard, but apparently the Truckee River was no longer in danger of flooding the town. The boys dropped me off at the airport, and were off. I waited my turn at the check in counter. When my turn came the clerk looked up my reservation number, and said, “Oh, it looks like you cancelled this!” I most certainly had NOT cancelled my only way out of town! We went back and forth for a while, and finally determined that I was supposed to have come to the airport the day before to purchase the ticket. They had neglected to tell me that. I said, “They told me on the phone that I could buy the ticket when I got to the airport!” Of course the flight was full, but not having anywhere else to go, I stood my ground and kept repeating, “They told me on the phone that I could buy the ticket when I got to the airport!”. Finally, she took pity, booked me on a flight to San Francisco, with a connecting flight back to Stockton. I was elated! The night after I got back to my dorm room, I got a call from the boys who had managed to get a huge suite at the Holiday Casino (now Harrah’s) in Vegas. Charley was talking to me from the phone by the toilet!

    Looking back, it was a memorable trip, but I sure didn’t like the feeling of being stranded in Reno with no money, no airplane ticket, and no vacancies!
     
  20. TenXodds

    TenXodds Tourist

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    Post 9 of 9 "3 trips + 1 wife in 14 days!!!"

    The trips to Vegas continued throughout the rest of the 80s and 90s, but the pace had slowed down, "The VEGA$ Club" guys were getting older, maturing, some got married, some moved across the country, and having less disposable income.

    Fast forward to 1997:

    The summer of 1997 was an interesting, transitional time for me. In 1996 I discovered the world of on-line dating, and found it mostly disappointing. On the other hand, the previous nine years found me with absolutely zero (romantic) social life, which was no picnic either. If you've read the title of this entry, you know it has a happy ending. I had been corresponding with this woman (we'll call her Dara) for a couple of weeks, starting with online chat sessions, moving into the phone call phase, and things were progressing nicely.

    There was a spin-off group from THE VEGA$ CLUB headed by Leung's brother Wayland, and made up of several of his friends. They were always nice enough to invite me along during their trips, and I went a few times, although the seven hour drive from San Luis Obispo and the fact that I was (and still am) working for a non-profit organization, and living on my own, kept these trips to a minimum. One of these guys was a big enough gambler to warrant comped rooms at Caesars Palace, so the enticement of free room at "The Palace" was enough to get me to drive out there in late August of '97. I was still recovering from a previous bad relationship, and not quite ready to meet Dara in person yet, so a trip to The City seemed like just the thing! We had a standard meeting place for when I arrived, which was directly under the voluminous breasts of Cleopatra at the front of "Cleopatra's Barge" within Caesars Palace. I arrived at the appointed time, and met up with the boys. We played a little Blackjack, which at Caesars is generally too rich for my blood, then went up to the room. I'd never seen a room quite like it. It was a pretty standard size for a hotel room, but I'd say that a full 30% of it was bathroom! As you walked into the room, there were swinging glass doors to your right, and inside those doors was a full-size Jacuzzi, big enough for 2-3 people and a large marble counter with two sinks. Being all straight guys, we used it one at a time! In a separate room there was a stall shower, and in yet another little private room was the toilet (with telephone, of course). In the non-bathroom part of the room, two queen beds were kind of crammed into the remaining space. It was a bathroom lover's dream! Since I had most recently taken the 400 mile drive across the desert, the boys offered me the use of the Jacuzzi, while the rest of them watched TV and prepared for dinner.

    I should take a moment now to let you know that some of these guys are quite competitive. On another trip once, one of them managed to eat 144 shrimp at The Mirage buffet, just so he could say that he ate a gross! We decided to dine that night at Battista's Hole in the Wall (see my glowing review, below) My motivation for drinking a lot of the cheap wine that they serve, is that it's free, and I generally enjoy the effects of alcohol. The motivation of ShrimpEater was to drink more glasses of wine than me! Faithful readers of this POJ have probably gotten the idea that I'm not a small man. It's true. Sadly, ShrimpEater weighs at least 100 pounds less than me, and had no business trying to keep up with me on something like alcohol volume. I wasn't counting, because I didn't care, but was informed later that I drank 22 glasses of wine, and S.E. had to outdo me by drinking 23. Okay, so at this point it sounds like he beat me, but at the end of the meal, he threw up in the bathroom, and walked back to Caesars, while I gambled for the rest of the evening. Yes, I WAS hung-over the next day, but there was no puking, and in fact, that was the most profitable night of my entire gambling career! Immediately after dinner, we walked next door to Maxim's where they had a low limit craps game going on. I was too drunk to really know what I was doing, but I had a guardian angel with me named Mikey. He would patiently make sure that I wasn't behaving too stupidly, and adjust my bets accordingly. He told me the next day that I was continually attempting to put $20 behind my $2 pass-line bet (10 x odds) when Maxim's only offered 2 x odds. In the course of a couple of hours, I had sobered up enough to know what I was doing, but not sober enough to get stingy with my betting. We went to the Desert Inn, which is where we found the hottest craps table I've ever seen! It wasn't just one hot shooter, we were all hot! People were throwing hard-ways left and right, holding the dice for 10-20 minutes each hand, it was magical. I've never been a hard-way bettor, and I'm sure I could have made a lot more money if I had been, but I did increase the size of my bets the way you're supposed to. At one point I tried to count all of the money that I had out there and got really scared when it was over $200! But the numbers just kept rolling. Things finally cooled off about 2 hours later, but I'd turned $80 into about $800, and was briefly in possession of that beautiful pastel yellow $500 DI chip.

    We had another good run the next night at the Frontier, where Mikey (not Hurricane Mikey) held the dice for at least 25 minutes. During that run, some poor sap at the next table, seeing the excitement at our table actually offered Ken (another of Leung and Wayland's brothers) $100 to take his place at the table. Ken declined, and started counting his winnings from that point on, to see if he'd made the right decision. When Mikey finally sevened out, Ken had pocketed about $150 additional dollars, so he was happy. At last, a profitable trip to VEGA$!!!

    I drove home the next day, knowing that in just a few days I would be coming back, this time with my boss and his elderly father.

    Over the course of working where I do for almost 17 years now, I've developed a close friendship with the General Manager of the station, Frank. On several occaisions we have had the pleasure of attending the National Association of Broadcasters convention in VEGA$ together, and we are both very fond of the tasty meats offered in Las Vegas' stew. Free booze, cheap food, gambling! You get the idea. We have fun there. In late August, 1997 Frank's elderly father Frank Sr. decided he wanted to go to VEGA$. He was in his eighties, not in great health, and pretty much confined to a wheelchair. Initially Frank balked at the idea; then Frank Sr. suggested that I go along to help out. He went so far as to pay for my plane ticket as well as my own room at The Mirage. How could I turn it down? The flight went well, and I instantly felt like I was earning my keep by being the wheelchair pusher during the LONG walk from the tarmac to the taxi stand when we arrived at McCarren, and then again when we got to The Mirage.

    Meanwhile back on the Central Coast, things were going well with my correspondence with Dara. We had discovered that her manicurist (and good friend) lived right across from me in the condo complex. Dara had quizzed her about me, and luckily her response was along the lines of, "Hank is the greatest guy ever!" Now, I could have told her that, but in the world of online dating, independent verification is often necessary. We were ALMOST ready to meet in person, but first there was the required "exchanging of the photos". We had been putting it off, both of us afraid of the other's reaction.

    I had brought my laptop computer to VEGA$ so that I would be able to continue 'IM'ing and emailing Dara during the trip. We got checked into our rooms at The Mirage, agreeing to meet up in about a half- hour for lunch in the coffee shop. I got the laptop booted up, looked up the local access phone number for AOL, and signed on. The little man told me that I had mail, and I saw that there was an email from Dara, AND it had a photo attached! It was about time to head downstairs, but I couldn't put it off any longer, I started downloading the photo and it seemed to take forever! Finally it arrived, and I eagerly clicked on it. She looked exactly the way that she had described herself, which is rare in the world of online relationships. Beautiful green eyes, dark red hair, and a kind, gentle smile greeted me on the laptop screen. I stared at it for a few minutes, trying to burn the details into my mind, then signed off and went down to the coffee shop to meet up with Frank and Frank.

    After lunch, Frank Sr. decided to try his luck at video poker. To my surprise The Mirage had a large selection of brand new nickel poker machines (Frank Sr. happily shelled out the money for 3 round trip airline tickets, and 3 rooms at The Mirage for 3 nights, but never played anything other than nickels!). We got him all set up at a machine, then sat on either side of him to play for a bit. The first thing he did was ask me to go get a change girl. I pointed out that these machines would take paper money and give him credits, and that change girls were getting pretty hard to find. He slid a twenty into the bill slot, and I pointed out the 400 credits that showed up, and showed him how to bet however many nickels he wanted to by pressing the appropriate button. Instead of pressing the appropriate button, he pressed the "Cash Out" button and watched as 400 nickels began to spill into the tray. Frank shouted, "Dad, what the hell are you doing? You haven't even played yet!" Frank Sr. didn't care for playing on the credit system. He liked to physically drop the nickels into the machine, and after each winning hand he would "cash out". Of course about 150 nickels into that initial cash out, the machine ran out of coins and we had to wait for an attendant to come and refill it. I soon got bored with the nickels and walked over to the craps pit, where I quickly won about 80 bucks! It seems that my luck from the previous trip was still with me!

    The next day was spent searching for nickel video poker machines, within walking/pushing distance of The Mirage, that didn't have currency slots, and didn't "hold on to your money" after a winning hand. We finally found success deep within the bowels of the Imperial Palace, WAY in the back. That worked out well for me too, since the IP had several $2 craps tables going, unlike most of its other, ritzier neighbors. We dined that night at the wonderful William B's Steakhouse within the Stardust casino (see my restaurant review section) After dinner, we were wandering around the sprawling casino floor of the Stardust when Frank Sr. spotted a row of nickel slot machines that were calling his name. We got him settled in, then found a carousel of quarter video poker nearby. Frank and I were having a good time, drinking free cocktails, chatting, comparing video poker strategies, and generally enjoying ourselves, when he glanced over to where we had parked his dad. "Uh, Hank. Either my Dad has just won a jackpot, or there's trouble!" I looked in that direction and saw a small circle of people standing at the machine where Frank Sr. had been, and no sign of Frank Sr! I cashed out our quarters while Frank trotted over there. For whatever reason, Frank Sr. had fainted. There was a heavyset woman playing next to him, who explained that he had just sort of slumped into her, then down onto the floor. I think most people would have stopped to summon assistance, but her response to an old man keeling over next to her, was to keep on playing that nickel slot! She CONTINUED to play as the paramedics arrived and administered oxygen to him! The patrons of Las Vegas can be amazing! He regained consciousness about 3 minutes later, and seemed fine. The paramedics helped us get him back into his wheelchair, let him breathe the oxygen for another few minutes, took a report, and were on their way. We never found out exactly what happened, but some combination of the big dinner, the smoky casino, and the general excitement caused him to conk out for a moment. Frank and I were both quite shaken up, and as we wheeled him onto the sidewalk, he clapped his hands once and said, "All right boys, where to next?" We looked at each other, "To bed!" Frank quickly demanded.

    Frank Sr. died about a year later, and I am so glad that I got to accompany him on this trip. It would be the last "pleasure trip" that he ever took, and I'm honored to have been there to share it with him.

    The following weekend was Labor Day weekend, and Dara was going to be out of town... so I was again at loose ends and decided to drive down to Orange to visit Charley and his wife Pam. We spent the Saturday doing one of their favorite things, visiting a microbrewery! I have never met two people that love microbreweries as much as Charley and Pam; they are truly connoisseurs. That afternoon was spent drinking lots of beer, eating lots of food, and reliving lots of memories. The next day we were sitting around in the living room, watching old Simpsons episodes from Charley's large collection, and talking about VEGA$. As often happens, when 3 fans start talking about things they are passionate about, the excitement level tends to rise. I regaled them with the exploits of my two recent trips, and that was it! We made a hasty hotel reservation (not an easy task, given the fact that it was Labor Day weekend.) at a hotel that we'd never heard of, in a section of the city that we didn't know existed, we piled into Charley and Pam's Neon and we were on the road again! Shortly past Baker, the cell phone rang and who should it be but Roger! He was living in Scottsdale, Arizona at the time and he knew of my plans to visit Charley and Pam, so I figured he was just checking in, but unfortunately he was the bearer of bad news; there were preliminary reports on CNN that Princess Diana had been involved in a very serious car accident. We talked for a bit as he updated us on the news. He called back in a half-hour or so with the news that she had died. This put the occupants of the Neon into a bit of a somber mood, as you can imagine. We managed to locate our hotel, the Texas Station without too much trouble. It was in a nice part of town that I'd never been to before. At the time, it was one of the newest properties in The Station Casinos empire, next to another brand new place, called The Fiesta.

    We got checked in, and tried our gambling skills at the T.S. without much luck. The news of Princess Di had hit Pam pretty hard, so she wasn't really in the gambling mood. Charley and I took the short drive over to the Frontier where I had had such recent good luck, and the craps dealers all greeted me enthusiastically (I'm a pretty good tipper when I'm winning). Sadly, lightning didn't strike twice so Charley and I nursed our wounds at the casino bar, enjoying free beer with our video poker. Dara was always in the back of my mind, and we had agreed to meet the following Saturday, so not even an international tragedy, or a losing trip to VEGA$ could get me too depressed. We drove back to Orange the next morning, with me continuing back up to the Central Coast that evening, exhausted!

    I talked to Dara a couple of times that following week, discussing what we wanted to do, where to meet, etc. and we decided on her house. Since she had "checked me out" via her manicurist, and trusted her opinion, Dara's safety concerns were minimized.

    Saturday, September 6, 1997 was the day of Princess Diana's memorial service, and my first date with Dara. She lived south of town, kind of out in the boonies, but she gave me excellent directions. I arrived at the agreed on time with a rented movie to watch, and a bottle of champagne (her drink of choice). There were the inevitable butterflies in my stomach as I pulled into the driveway. I took a few deep breaths and got out of the car. She had seen me pull up, and came out of the house to greet me. She looked just like the photo she'd emailed me, and was wearing a comfortable brown sweat shirt. We hugged, and went into the house. I can't say that the butterflies left completely, but I was as comfortable as was humanly possible considering I was spending the evening with a woman that I'd never seen before. We talked for a couple of hours, and never did watch the movie. We sipped champagne, and then I made the smoothest "move" of my brief romantic career. The topic of conversation had gotten around to Karen, the manicurist, so naturally I asked to see her freshly manicured nails. As she held up her hand for my inspection, I grasped it (as if examining the quality of the manicure) and voila! I was holding her hand! Pretty good, eh?

    We continued seeing each other about once a week for about 3 weeks, then I began spending more and more time at her house, and shortly after Christmas that year, she moved into my condo!

    This is a bit off the topic of VEGA$, but one of my fans wanted to hear the whole story, so there you are!

    Where to get married? Can you hazard a guess?
     
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