“If I go broke well I’ll always remember, that I had a swingin’ time…” This particular trip was several months in the making, as we had such a great time in March that we couldn’t wait to get back. As luck would have it, we scored a free room at Harrah’s for the weekend. Normally, all four of us (Ed W, Mikey, Derek, Eddie B) would go, but Eddie B had two houses to close on, plus he had to move, so he was unable to join us. So we would be the Three Amigos instead of the Four Horsemen on this trip… Derek and I left our place in Tempe about 9:15 on Friday morning, and headed up to Ed’s house in north Phoenix. Since he lives 30 miles closer to Vegas, it doesn’t seem like such a long trip when we leave from his place. We loaded up the truck, tied everything down in back (luggage, and a couple of coolers with beer, Gatorade, and water), made a quick stop at the bank, and we were on our way by 10:30. Of course the drive up is always fun, as the stories of past adventures get retold, and we relive past glory at the tables. The anticipation alone makes the four-and-a-half hour drive easier than a quick trip to the grocery store. As we pulled off the freeway onto Flamingo, I gave my mom a call. She was staying up the Strip at Bally’s, but had scored us the free room with her diamond-club thingy, so we needed her to meet us for check-in. Traffic wasn’t too bad, but it got progressively worse as we got closer to the Strip. We pulled into Harrah’s, gave the truck to the valet, the bags to the bellman, and cracked open our first (of many) beers. Mom and her significant other, John, showed up a few minutes later, and she and I went to the ‘Invited Guests’ check-in room. Earlier, we were under the impression that we’d get a suite. Unfortunately, there were none available as Harrah’s was hosting a blackjack tournament that weekend, and they were sold out. But we could certainly have an upgrade, we were told, but the room wouldn’t be ready until after 4:00 pm. It was about 3:15, so we figured we’d get a slot-club card and maybe hit the tables for a few minutes. This was our first mistake. John, Ed, and I get onto a craps table, Derek says he won’t gamble till we get the room, and Mom goes off to find a nickel slot machine. Well, Derek turned out to be the smart one, because this table was colder than the beer we were drinking. Being pass line and come line bettors, we were especially disgusted with the shooters at this table. Load ‘em up, take ‘em down--never hit the same number twice. I brought a hundred and fifty to the table, and I swear it would’ve lasted longer at a strip club (and I certainly would’ve felt like I’d gotten my money’s worth, at least). But no, Harrah’s was determined to make us pay for our free room, and pay we did. We weren’t there a half an hour, and our buy-in was gone. We headed back to the registration desk for our room keys with our tails between our legs and our heads hung low. We finally got our keys, and headed up to our ‘upgraded’ room in the Carnaval tower (yeah, that’s how they spell it). The hotel part seemed nice when we got off the elevator on the 28th floor, so we figured the room will be pretty good, too. Boy, were we in for an unpleasant surprise. The decor was the gaudiest orange and tan mess I’d ever seen. It was absolutely hideous—straight out of 1974. We all looked at each other with the same puzzled “What the f…?” expression on our faces. Not only that, but the room was about half the size of the room we had at the Luxor, and about two-thirds the size of our room at the Golden Nugget. Seriously, from the foot of the bed to the opposite wall was less than 3 feet. The rollaway bed had to be forced down to fit in between there. The view was decent—The Mirage filled the entire window. And if we looked down, we could see the pool at the Casino Royale with its 4 chaise lounges. The bellman brought up our luggage, and informed us that this wasn’t an upgrade, but a standard room. Instead of complaining and moving to a new room and dealing with that hassle, we pretty much decided that Harrah’s would be crossed off the list of places we’d ever stay again. We unpacked, freshened up, and made plans to meet Mom and John downtown at the Las Vegas Club at 9:00 pm. They headed back up to Bally’s, and we had another beer while deciding our plan of attack. Vegas had drawn first blood, but we were ready to go another round. Ed was hungry, and I wanted to go someplace different than usual to gamble, so we decided we’d make our way up the Strip to the Barbary Coast. Walking through Harrah’s casino, we noticed that they had single deck 21. Closer inspection revealed that blackjacks only paid 6/5 instead of the standard 3/2. I swore to myself that if The Plaza wasn’t such a hole, Harrah’s would certainly get my vote for the next casino to be imploded. We went outside, into the hundred and ten degree furnace, and headed up the Strip. We decided to bypass the Imperial Palace and head to O’sheas. We put about $45 into the quarter Elvis slots, thinking we’re due for the progressive jackpot, but Elvis didn’t sing to us even once. Hell, I’d heard that back in the old days at the LV Hilton, $45 dollars would not only get you Elvis singing, but it would get you a table down front and a couple of drinks, too!! Well, the King must’ve been taking the night off, because we could never hit the ‘Play Elvis’ reel. Eddie was still complaining about being hungry but the line at Subway was too long. So we opted for Burger King. This is where Vegas has the rest of the world beat by a country mile—where else can you walk into a BK with a beer in your hand, order a whopper, and not have to buy a coke? So we enjoyed our quick dinner and decided to try some table games. Then we noticed that the single deck blackjack tables at O’sheas had the same crappy rules as Harrah’s. And so did the Flamingo when we walked through there. Paris and Bally’s-- same thing we were told. We decided to vote with our feet, and not only will we NEVER play blackjack at a Harrah’s or Park Place property, we refuse to do any gambling of any sort at those casinos. Maybe the tourists that don’t know any better will fall for those garbage rules, but any gambler with half a brain wouldn’t be caught dead at a table with those kind of odds. We finally made it up to the Barbary Coast, and decided that we’d play there awhile. None of us had ever been there, but it seemed like a great place—it looked like an old-school casino, and felt comfortable. We sat down at a $5 blackjack table and each traded a hundy for a stack of red chips. We immediately felt the wrath of the gambling gods for some unknown slight, as they brought destruction upon our bankrolls in the form of stiff cards and dealer blackjacks. We couldn’t do anything right at the table. We had two twenties and a 19 against a dealer 6. He flops a 2, then a 4, then another 2, and of course he pulls a 7. It went this way for over an hour. I never won two hands in a row, and Derek lost 14 (yes, 14) in a row before he gave up and went to another table. Down a couple hundred bucks each, Ed and I decide to go to the craps table and try our luck. We should’ve known better, as no one was at the table but the two of us and three dealers. We took turns setting a point and rolling the 7 for about a half hour before we gave up, much poorer for the experience. As much as we wanted to like the Barbary Coast, it just treated us like they were a maximum security prison and we were three skinny hairless guys. Eddie said it best when he mumbled, “God, what an ass-raping” as we finally left the table. Barbary Coast has an interesting policy, which I’d not seen at any other casino. Apparently, you’re only allowed to have one drink in front of you while gambling in their casino. Well, the drink service was awfully good, and so we were caught with our drinks only about 2/3 gone whenever the waitress would come back with fresh ones. Being unfamiliar with this policy, we always gulped down our drinks as soon as the waitress came near with the new ones, instead of just letting her take the old ones away. Perhaps this had something to do with our losing streak… We decided to go watch Derek play some blackjack, as for some unknown reason, he always turns a small stake into several hundred when we’re not around. His luck was no better than ours this time, as not only had he lost a whole pile of money, but he was stuck at a table where the third baseman was not only decked out in gaudy jewelry and chain-smoking; he was also a noted expert on all subjects. Talk about obnoxious—he thought he knew everything about gambling and casinos and you name it, he wanted to tell you about it. I could see the vein in Derek’s head about to burst, and when I could take it no more, I finally asked him if he was such a high roller, why he was playing at a five dollar table at the Barbary Coast. The dealer even cracked a smirk at that one. Normally if someone is that annoying, I start playing stupid for a couple of hands just to drive them from the table. But since I’d already lost several hundred dollars, it wasn’t worth it for this chump. After being pummeled by the casino, and listening to this loser, we decided it would be better if we just left. Of course we had to make a quick stop at the vault (ATM) for some more funds. We caught a cab outside, and had him take us as far from the Barbary Coast as $18 would get us. Of course, that meant the Las Vegas Club down on Fremont Street. This place has been a favorite of ours for years, and small enough that we always use it as a place to meet. We got there about 8:00 pm, and found ourselves a single deck $5 table. We had a few drinks, and played cards for awhile, waiting for John and my mom to show up. We were way down for the trip, but breaking even for this stop, so we weren’t doing too badly. I could tell Ed was getting a little sauced when he doubled on a soft nineteen against a dealer 8. Derek and I groaned and gave him some shit as we were standing and he took the only card, which happened to be the dealers bust card. The dealer ended up drawing to an 18 (the ten would’ve busted him), but he ended up beating the little Oriental lady at first base with her 17. So Eddie got a good Chinese cussing out from mama-san. I suggested that perhaps we should move to a different table where we could hurt no one but ourselves. The next table over was empty, and looked promising, but it proved to be our undoing. Our Filipino dealer, Ric, had an uncanny ability to turn his stiff cards into twenties and twenty-ones, while at the same time, dealing us stiffs on our elevens anytime we doubled down. I didn’t win a single double-down and very few splits the whole session. We normally are progressive bettors, but never got a blackjack on big money. Invariably, whenever I took my bet back down to table minimum, that’s when I’d finally see the blackjack. I’d then double my next bet, and get dealt a twelve or some such garbage. Whenever I split sevens against a dealer six, he’d always draw to a 21. We were like three Clark Griswolds—it didn’t matter how good our hands were, we were gonna lose. After we each lost several hundred more dollars, I could take it no more. Eddie and I went to the craps table, while Derek insisted on declaring war on the blackjack table and stayed to take his beating like a man. Eddie and I fared no better at the craps table, as our money evaporated like puke on a hot sidewalk. Nothing worked. We could get no numbers. The tables were too cold and there was no hope of them warming up. Finally, about 2 in the morning, Ed and I decided to go upstairs for the Steak & Eggs special at the Upper Deck cafÃ©. This was yet another one of our big mistakes for the day. I’d heard that it was a good deal and well worth it, but the restaurant was a mess and the service was deathly slow. Not only that, but three of the people working there came out to tell us why they were going on strike the next day. Like we cared. We just wanted to eat and go back to our hotel, and forget about our sorry-assed luck. The food was just ok, but the service was so poor and the place was so messy, that we couldn’t enjoy it in the mood we were in. When the food finally got there, Ed and I replayed the whole ‘Vincent & Jules in the Diner’ scene from Pulp Fiction. Basically Eddie was saying he was never gonna come to Vegas again, and never gamble anymore. Of course, I knew it was just the scotch talking, but I had to have some fun at his expense, and tossed out quotes like “What--you’re just gonna walk the earth, like that dude in Kung Fu, while the rest of us are here in Vegas having a good time?”, and “They have a word for that, Eddie…BUM…”. It was one of the few laughs we’d had all day. Derek finally threw in the towel and we found a cab back to Harrah’s. It was a pretty quiet ride, as not only were we exhausted, but we were beat down and had our spirits broken. Back up in the room, we each did a personal inventory of our empty wallets and ATM receipts and discovered that we had each lost between $600-$800 dollars. We wanted to blame it on Mom for not showing up and making us wait and play at the LV Club instead of going over to Binions, as per the original plan, or on Eddie B for not coming with us and changing the flow of the cards. It didn’t matter. It was just our time to lose. And we did so in spectacular fashion. In my mind, I was ok with packing up and driving back to Phoenix the next morning, and both of them were indifferent. We hit the sack about 3:30 in the morning, hoping that the next day would be better. I woke up the next morning about 9:00, and saw Derek sitting in the chair just staring at the wall. As soon as he noticed that I was awake, he said “I haven’t seen a beating that bad since somebody put a banana in my pants and let a monkey loose”. We started laughing and tossed a shoe at Eddie to wake him up. He is the loudest snorer of the group, but the only one with enough foresight to bring earplugs with him. Since we have to suffer through him sleeping with such gusto, we don’t feel too bad about using physical violence to wake him. After showers and getting dressed, we all drank some Morning Relief to kick start our systems, then wandered back downstairs. We were planning on going to the coffee shop, but the line was too long. We made our way over to the buffet, and the sign said it was $8.99 for breakfast, and there were just a few people in line. As soon as we got up to the cashier, we could see the bottom of the sign, and it said “Champagne Brunch $14.99”. Of course, it was Saturday, so we had to pay the champagne brunch price. It was just another case of The Man keepin’ us down. The brunch was actually not too bad, although the drink service was slow. The Chinese food station was really good, except for the crab Rangoon, which had a funky taste to it. The prime rib was better than I expected, and the desserts were really good. I’d say it was a decent buffet, although nowhere near worth the 16 bucks we paid. We all agreed that if we were going to a breakfast buffet, it would be down at the Golden Nugget. Every bit as good, if not better, and could be had for a third of the cost. After breakfast, we had a case of the blahs. Probably because we had gotten crushed the night before, didn’t get enough sleep, and had also just stuffed ourselves. We walked over to the sports book to check on some baseball games, and maybe take a look at some futures bets. Nothing really looked too good, so we kinda chilled there for a bit. The waitresses that worked there were as old as Alabama, but they sure got a kick out of touching Derek’s shiny green shirt. He offered to sell it to them for $550, which, coincidentally, was exactly how much he was down for the trip. They seemed to lose interest at that point, but I swear if he played his cards right just then, he could’ve broken the all-time world record for scoring with a waitress, in the Age-Difference category. We wanted to sit and watch a baseball game for awhile, but none were on. All that was showing at the time was tennis from Wimbledon. Of course, since Anna got bounced in the first round, it wasn’t really worth watching. This led to a heated argument about who was the best hottie on the WTA tour. Of course they said Anna, but I say it’s only because no one knows who Amanda Coetzer is. Perhaps we’ll settle this one day. After killing an hour at the sports book, we decided we needed to change our luck. I suggested we go next door to the Imperial Palace. Since we were now decidedly low-rollers, Derek and Ed thought it was a fine idea. We found ourselves at a 3-dollar blackjack table, and Eddie and Derek pulled out a hundred bucks. I had $35. I gave that, and my players’ card, to the dealer, who then gave my card to the pit boss. She told me I needed to play ten dollars a hand to be rated. I smiled and said “Please rate me on my first 3 hands, then”. She gave me a grin and said she’ll be keeping her eye on me. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I was ready to take a run at it. Our dealer was a very attractive older woman named Gigi, who apparently knew everyone in the casino. Not only was she fun to play with, she also dealt us some very helpful cards, and I turned my pitiful buy-in stake into about $200. We were all doing pretty well when I had a twenty-five dollar bet down and got dealt two eights against a dealer five. So I split them, and naturally got dealt another 8. So I split again. I busted on one of my hands, and turned the other two hands into a 19 and an 18. Gigi drew to a 21. *Wince*. That one hurt very badly. Unable to keep it inside, I said, out loud, “Never FUCKING fails!” Ed shot me a look like, “dude, shut up…”, and told Gigi, “Please excuse his naughty language—he took a beating last night”. She had a great comeback—She shrugged, and said with a fake accent “No problemo, me no speakie Engrish”. I answered with, “Well then, you should probably be working next door at Harrah’s!” and we all got a laugh. Even the pit boss laughed out loud and said that was the best line she’d heard all day. It took several hours, but we all made a little money back thanks to the nice tables at the Imperial Palace. We were still down HUGE for the trip, but at least we had some breathing room. We were a little tired and decided to head back to the room to relax for a little while. We stopped at the Carnaval Court on the way back and got a hot dog and a coke. Maybe we were just hungry, but it sure was a great hot dog for like three and a half bucks. They came with all the extras and chips too. I’d never had it before, but celery salt and pepper on my polish dog tasted pretty darn good. There was a country band playing so we decided to stay outside under the misters, eat our dogs, and watch the band for a few minutes. They were pretty talented and got the whole crowd going when they covered Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American”, and ended it with a tip of the hat to Jimi by doing his distorted guitar solo of the National Anthem. After awhile, Derek and I decided to head upstairs to the room while Eddie went across the road to Caesars to pick up some perfume for his woman (trip tax to keep things peaceful on the home front). We dozed for a couple of hours, freshened up a bit, and headed back downtown. Our original plan was to eat a shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate first thing, but we weren’t quite hungry enough yet, so Eddie suggested that we just go over to Binions to play some blackjack for awhile. Sounded like a good idea to us, so off we went to my favorite casino in the world. We went to the pit closest to the Sports Book, and found ourselves at a 4 deck shoe table with a $5 minimum. The dealer’s name was Illan (doesn’t rhyme with chillin’ or villain, we were told—it is pronounce Ã‰lan), and he was the coolest dealer we’d had yet. First of all, we all got onto a mini-run and made some cash, and we were playing with a really cool couple from Texas that knew how to play “right”, unlike most of the doofusses that find their way onto a nickel table. The drinks were coming at a regular clip, the pit boss, Michael, remembered our names, and Illan had a steady stream of jokes and stories to keep us interested. Binions has implemented the greatest new idea in Vegas. Now, all the dealers get to keep their own tips, instead of pooling them. I only saw one dealer actually try to hustle tips, but he was pretty subtle and smooth, so I can’t really blame him; but all the dealers we had were by far the best ones in the city. Illan said it best when he told us “It was amazing how many dealers here could suddenly speak English when they changed the policy!” A couple of the other dealers we played with also said they had been laid off from other Strip properties after September 11th and enjoyed working at Binions so much more. Say what you will about Becky, but I think she hit a home run with this one. After a couple of hours of blackjack, I think I was down about $40 from my IP winnings, and we were hungry for our shrimp cocktails at the Golden Gate. We told Michael the pit boss that we’d be back shortly and to keep our seats warm. Fremont Street was pretty full, and there was a cover band out there playing some classic rock tunes for the crowd. We made our way down to the ‘Speakeasy’ as we call it, and there were a bunch of union protesters out in front wandering around in circles trying to get the workers of the world to unite or some other such nonsense, but were basically being ignored by everyone. There was no line at the diner, so we each grabbed a 99-cent shrimp cocktail and a beer (Actually, Derek really likes the Krab cocktail too, so he got one of each). They were every bit as good as advertised, and one of the best bargains in Vegas. I find it hard to believe that more casinos don’t offer it. We ate them quickly, and hustled ourselves back up the street to Binions. We decided to give craps a try, and just as Eddie got the dice, he remembered that he left our cigars on the table at the Golden Gate. Derek didn’t have a bet down, so he offered to run back over and get them. Ed was so pissed off at himself that he was bringing bad karma to the dice, and it cost us about $50. I had the dice when Derek got back and Eddie felt much better that our cigars weren’t lost forever. My roll wasn’t much better, and my bankroll was dwindling fast. Derek got the dice next, and got us a number or two. He then rolled a 3-crap, so I tossed out a 5 dollar Any. I never do that, but I felt like I needed to take a flyer. Of course I was the only one cheering when he rolled 4 in a row, but at least I covered my losses. We walked away from the craps tables in shame once again. We sat back down at the blackjack table, and our friendly pit boss asked us how we did, and we told him. He said he’d buy us breakfast for our troubles. We played for several more hours, with Rose from Texas. She was a great dealer, and had some good stories to keep us interested. She got tipped very well. We were winning some, losing some, but never getting on a hot streak. At one point, Ed and Derek went to the bathroom and I had the table to myself. It was just me and the dealer, one on one. Usually, that would work for me, but since I cut the deck, I had no one but myself to blame for the carnage that followed. I lost the first 7 hands in a row, one of them double splitter, and one of them a straight double down. I tried to laugh it off, but it cost me over a hundred bucks. After a particularly bad beat, the dealer deadpanned “Michael, that is the absolute worst cut I’ve ever seen”. I had to agree. Derek came back, looked at the table, and said “Dude, what happened to all of your chips??” All I could do was shake my head. This trip was turning into a Greek Tragedy of epic proportions. We took a break for a couple of minutes, found Eddie, and sat down at another table. Again, it was just a grind for an hour, as no one could get on a streak. I left the table with $100 and figured I was done. We went down to the coffee shop to collect our breakfast comp (it was about 3:30 in the morning by this time). We got a table but the food took FOREVER to get served. We almost walked out, but it came just in the nick of time. I had chicken fried steak and eggs, Derek had a bacon cheeseburger, and Eddie had a French Dip. Unfortunately, none of it was very good for some reason, so we left most of it on the plates and cabbed it back to Harrah’s. Sleep came very easy this night, as we were the walking dead by the time we got back. I remember thinking, as I was falling asleep, how handy it would’ve been to have a time machine so we could go back to Friday and start all over, playing at different tables with different dealers. I figured we’d probably still end up with the same results, so I didn’t fight it anymore and just fell asleep. The next morning was Sunday, our check-out day, head-home-to-Phoenix and let-the-healing-process-begin day. I took inventory in my wallet and realized I had $85 left. Since I started with $600, basic arithmetic told me that this was not a profitable trip for Mikey and the boys. I hadn’t taken a beating this bad in a long time, and since none of us had to be back to work until Monday, you know what our next decision was. We packed our bags, checked out of the room, and dropped our luggage off at the bell desk. I figured that the difference between going home flat broke and going home with less than a hundred dollars was so slight, it was essential that we take another run at it before we hit the road. Ed and Derek agreed, so we decided to go back to the Imperial Palace for our date with destiny. We found a blackjack table, and played for about an hour. Derek was the big winner there, as he made back a hundred, colored up, and walked away. I only made about $40 more, and Ed broke even. Not too bad, but Eddie disappeared while Derek and I went to the cage. We found him a few minutes later at a craps table, but it didn’t look like there was room for me to squeeze in, so I went to a different one. As luck would have it, it was the same table I played at last September where I lost huge, then made a furious comeback. What I needed another furious comeback. I gave the dealer the hundred dollar bill that I’d just gotten from the cage. Eddie’s table was noisier, so Derek went to watch him play, saying he was done gambling for the trip. I put $5 on the line, and crossed my fingers. Luckily the table was solid for about a half an hour, or as the dealer put it “I’d give it about a B”, and I managed to make about $40. Then the dice came to me. I hadn’t rolled worth a damn the entire trip, so I called on the dice gods to send me a little love. Well, my friends, the Dice Gods were listening. I started hitting numbers. I went from single odds, to double odds, to full odds. I hit the Hardways, I hit the Yo’s, and I made a living on the 5 and 9. I was playing odds for the dealers, and they were making money with every roll. There were a couple of guys and a girl next to me who decided to stop and play a quick hand on their way to the pool. I don’t think they’d ever played craps before, as they’d only bought $40 each with them to the table, and had no idea what odds were, what a come bet was, or even what the word “Yo” meant. Well, I gave them a few pointers, and they started getting really excited since they quickly doubled their money. The girl that was with them kept asking “Can we go now?” and “Aren’t you done yet?” much to the other players’ dismay. The guys kept telling her to shut it until she finally walked away. Then the dealer pulled out the greatest quote of the trip. “Women. In the poker pot of life, they are the rake.” Everyone at the table who had seen Rounders just cracked up. I continued my roll, making my hardways, hitting my points and started getting paid off in green chips instead of red. As the dealer said, as he handed me my first quarter chip, “Michael, you’ve been on the Red Line for some time, but I think you’ll find that the Green Line offers a much smoother ride…” Absolutely classic. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable craps player, but the one thing that really bothers me as a come bettor, is how after a point is made, everyone cheers when a seven is rolled on the next come out roll. I hate winning five bucks on the front line, but losing $30 on the back and having to start all over again. Well, Ken, my favorite dice dealer at the IP, did me the best favor a dealer could ever do. After a point was made, and I was loaded up on all the numbers, he had me give him $5 for the “Big Red” bet. Basically, it’s a one-roll bet on any 7, that way you protect your back line. It pays 6-1 if it hits, so on the come out roll, I’d either set a point and break even, hit a craps and lose five bucks on the front line, hit a Yo and break even, or roll a seven and make 5 bucks (5 bucks on the line, $30 on the 6/1 bet minus the $30 on the numbers). Man, I was amazed that I never even considered that before. And it worked every time, too. Talk about the greatest insurance policy ever. Anyhow, I kept rolling the numbers, and my stack of chips went from about $200 in red to over $600 in green and red. I ended up rolling for over 45 minutes before I sevened out. Everybody at the table was pretty happy, and I got a nice round of applause when it was over. Derek came back over just as I was coloring up, and I got one of those oh-so-rare purple $500 chips. Eddie was finishing up at his table too, and managed to make back about $200 on the day. We all went back to the cage to cash in and I did a little housekeeping in my wallet. It turned out that I was now $35 to the positive for the trip, even after all the beatings I took, after all the food, cab fare, and tips I’d handed out. Treeeeeeemendous comeback. It turns out that Eddie ended up being down only about $300 for the trip, and Derek was only down about $400. Considering the depths we had sunk to, we all felt pretty positive about the trip. I certainly felt like a huge winner after that. God Bless the Imperial Palace! We walked back over to Harrah’s about 2 pm, got the truck out of valet, and were on the road shortly thereafter. We stopped at the Taco Bell in Henderson, when somebody realized we really hadn’t eaten at all since our abbreviated breakfast the night before. It was a much easier drive home than usual for a Sunday morning, as most people had escaped hours earlier, so traffic was very light. We made it home by 8:00 pm, thanking the Gambling Gods that our Greek tragedy of epic proportions ended with a lesson in Redemption. Final Thoughts: • Although the worst of the economy is behind us, some of the casinos seemed kinda quiet for a weekend, and foot traffic on the strip seemed light, too. • The food service was generally very poor everywhere this weekend. Maybe had something to do with the culinary workers impending strike? • Best drink service in Vegas: 1) Barbary Coast 2) Binions Horseshoe 3) Imperial Palace (IP made the strongest drinks, too) • Rooms at Harrah’s were the smallest I’d and ugliest I’d ever been in. • I will never play in a casino that uses continuous shuffle machines or has 6/5 blackjack. • It was too cold in the Las Vegas club, and too hot in the Imperial Palace. • Harrah’s, Barbary Coast, Las Vegas Club: Lost HUGE • Imperial Palace: Won HUGE • Binions Horseshoe: Broke even, but had a great time. • If you ever get a pit boss named Geri Garcia, she doesn’t like it when you sing Grateful Dead tunes at the table.