INTRODUCTION Generally, I like writing trip reports because I can relive the experience of Vegas, but this time the experience fell short of my expectations. I am more tempted to just forget it and move on. However, perhaps there are some small parts that would be helpful in planning. However, the rush of holidays and the planning and packing and house shutting for our coming two month escape to Florida make a well polished trip report impractical. And as I write I am still sleeping more of the day than I am awake. Please forgive the rather rushed, first draft nature of this writing. THE OVERVIEW Being sick and tired in Vegas is rather a drag. Being sick and tired and way down in gambling bankroll is worse. I started with sleep issues. I could not seem to regulate my sleeping. I got so tired that I did not want to drink alcohol, so free drink offers were wasted. One sober afternoon, I tripped on the high curbing in front of the Plaza, could not catch my forward motion, and went down pretty hard on the concrete. I bruised some ribs and they bothered me all the while I was there and still have not healed. A week later I caught the cold going around Vegas and felt even more tired nd washed out. That too is still with me. I have been sleeping on and off since I got home with no real pattern to the sleep, awake some early morning hours, asleep some entire afternoons. I play 10/7 Double Bonus and live poker almost exclusively. I pepper it with seven pulls on the Megabucks and craps and blackjack with matchplays. It is a frugal approach to Vegas. My 10/7 DB video poker play was the worst I ever experienced. My first night I ran over $4000 through the a MSS machine without one single 4OAK. So much for scratch off advantages. The entire week I hit 4 aces only once and never another premium 4OAK, just the lower pay. My live poker game seemed off. Too few tourists. Too many locals who all knew one another. Being sick and tired did not help. By the end of day 7 in a 15 day trip I was down $1400, which for me is a record. I wondered how to sustain my play for the rest of the week. The El Cortez helped me by eliminating all the good paying VP. While I played the last 10/7 DB coin dropper that was left there, they came around and put a sticker on it indicating that it took $3 on that machine to earn a point. So I quit trying. After all the pavilion rooms are so cheap there and the food so generally poor, that playing for comps makes very little sense compared to investing in the much better games at 4 Queens and MSS. That decision helped. By the end of my visit I was only down $1153, and if you combine that with my free air flight and my $8 room rate average and my $8 a day food average, it still cost me less to go to Vegas than to go on vacation anywhere else. It should feel great, but I can't quite rise to celebrate yet. THE HOTELS I am not fussy about where I sleep, so I don't have too much of value to report. I think MSS are great rooms, but not as practical for me as others because they have slats on the windows that preclude napping without light and plenty of noise from the trains or car traffic below. I choose to start the trip there so I am somewhere else when I get really tired. I loved the South tower of the 4 Queens. Even had a coffee maker so that I can brew my tea in the ceramic cup I carry. I did not experience the Vintage Room at the El Cortez. They gave me a free upgrade to the Pavillion room I already occupied. I forgot about the stairs and carrying luggage too, so when I injured my ribs I did not want to carry bags upstairs. Guess I'll stick to the Pavillion. Keep an eye on their own website. I got weekend nights for $26. Also they don't take the money out ahead of time now as they did last year, but just use your charge card to put a hold on the rooms and charge you when you get there. That makes booking and canceling so much easier. Binions was fine. Shabby rooms, but the poker room is at the bottom of the elevator. This year I got stubborn and only played there once. My stubborn nature emerged when I reserved a room with the ACG coupon for $39 and when I got there after having dragged my large suitcase up from MSS with my bruised ribs, they would not give it to me for less than $59. The booker had made a mistake. I am writing a letter of protest and will make a separate post with the entire incident detailed for board view once they respond to what I wrote them. I won't go there if I can't count on the price they quote. I may not anyway. The one time I did play at 3 AM when the ribs kept me awake, I listened to old dealers remember the old days when the casino really was managed right and was the pearl of downtown gambling. Hints: Ask to be away from the Freemont noise and bring dollar store bag clips for those pesky sunlight leaking curtains. Call and confirm the price a few times before going. Have back up plan ready. FREEMONT EAST Okay, I know this is not a renovation that is awe inspiring to anyone, but for me it was just fine. I loved it. I just like neon. I'm not much for flat screen fast moving movies ont he strip signs. That stretch is delightfully quaint. It seems an extension of the neon museum. I like the bright new lights. I like the ever present security guard. I like the guys on bicycles. And I liked the entire feel of the walk to the El Cortez. It was December and still the tourists and walkers were out and about. So I suppose that the El Cortez will tighten the gambling and raise the room rates. Maybe to find the real future frugal deal, I'll have to go to the Western. Already they gutted the VP. Then they added that damned high hand BS to the poker room. Will the BJ be next? Will all gambling in Vegas soon be set up to fleece with no chance at even for frugal victory, but just those occasional winning moments that are a great rush as long as you discipline yourself not to add up what they cost in the losing drain of the rest of the visit? THE PEOPLE I did have some fine encounters with people, old and new. My brother-in-law and poker lover flew in from California and spent a few days playing with me and giving me pointers. My poker playing son came at the end of the trip and stayed with me a couple days. My poker buddy Slink was there for almost a week. And I met people from the talk boards who I have only written to. Matt for the Uk, JerryG3, Mohave, and my long time board buddy Catherine who brought her mother for a first visit. I also connected to a couple fine guys at the El Cortez who are locals. I love that poker room. So full of life. And I did well there even in the mornings against those fine old tight and tricky players. Plenty of interesting strangers encountered on buses too(see that section) i even met former Mayor Ed Koch at the Wynn. My son and his wife and her brothers came. Son Keith came a couple days earlier and one day he wore the T shirt they made last year with my picture on it. When asked for photo ID I just pulled down the zipper of his sweatshirt and showed my photo. It was a great deal of fun and a fine honor too. He and I hung out when I could stay awake and then the others arrived and we had a fine meal at Spice Market Buffet at PH. One of the brothers had just turned 21 and was having his first Vegas experience. One other son's ex girlfriend Amanda, came up from California to spend some time with me. She really likes me and it is such a kick to have a cute little twenty something smiling and joking and flirting with me in Vegas. Actually, my fondest memory this trip going to Ellis Island with her and my son Keith (married one above) using the 4 drink coupons, getting the steak special, feeling a little afternoon drunk on the wine, and in the middle of all of it getting a call from a nephew who has been lost to me twice and recently reconnected. It felt like Christmas. hint: If you order the special steak medium well, they butterfly it and cook it. It is not the same steak then, but so much thinner and probably not as appealing. Perhaps that is the source of those negative Ellis Island posts. Ordered medium rare it comes thick and juicy with plenty of garlic green beans and a bit of porter. Great cheap meal. THE VIDEO POKER In the future I am just going to pay for rooms at the El Cortez and not play any machines unless they put back the high pay. Orleans dropped the 10/7 last time last time in December. So that casino has been off my list. Perhaps all the 10/7 machines are doomed. The advantage players play them too well, I suppose, and the rest of the folks, well......they don't really care what pay tables look like. To them it is all luck. But for now I can put my money in 4 Queens who are giving great comps and MSS who have the scratch offs for 4 OAK. Pumping all my VP money through their machines will give me free rooms in both those places. The 4 Queens gave me weekend nights free, free food every day, and free play. Also, I got a fine whiskey decanter set for my play this December. No cheap thing either. It was so heavy I had to get another duffel bag brought in by my son to get it home. Finally, the MSS still has 9/6 JOB at the bar where if I am well enough, I can get those fine pints of black chip porter and play the easier strategy and play until I am too tired or drunk to read the strategy sheets, or care, and then just hobble to the elevator. I could not do that this time. I was too sick and tired with no alcohol. At the 4 Queens I decided to chase the progressive when it was about $1100 until it hit the tax documenting place at $1199.99. It was the best odds I had all week, but I could not hit 4OAKs or that fine royal. I lost $525 until 4 aces brought me back a bit. Unsure of the tax cut off spot, I asked the woman next to me. "Isn't it $1200?" "No," she said, " It is $1199.99" and I laughed until at $1199.53 I was dealt 4 to the royal. Then I realized that you needed to be exact if you did not want a slip generated. Two hands later I got dealt 4 to the Royal again. CRAPS I only played craps twice except for matchplays. Once was at the Sahara on $50 for $40 and it went well enough. But on my last morning I just wanted to play a bit at the El Cortez. $3 pass line. 10X odds but my bankroll did not allow that. I bought in for $40 and I was the shooter. Point was nine and in three rolls I hit the seven. The next shooter set the dice and had that nice arc. We won. I replaced my bets and we won again. Then I noticed that the shooter was betting the dark side against himself. But he was setting for positive numbers. And he caught them. With very little noise in between, he rolled over and over and over and hit point after point. Sevens and elevens came first. And all that while he lost. He switched his bets to a doey-dontey system. Crazy betting. Letting the eventual 12 wipe out the other break even bets. Before he was done he had made me $102 on my little $3 and double odds bets. Nice. I quit and went to find a poker seat to take on the morning El Cortez rocks. It was my last day and I was to make my best profit $130. SPAMALOT - Almost for free. I had bought two half priced tickets before I learned that my poker buddy Robin could not come due to failing health. He wanted to pay for his ticket, but I said no, I'd try to sell it. I could not see him not getting to come and still having a bill to pay. A very interesting fellow named Matt bought it for $20 after I offered it on the boards and we enjoyed the show together. Matt had some interesting stories too. He teachers people to drive the trains that go through London. Imagine. This is a bit like teaching driver's ed only when the student can't seem to hit enough brake, well, it is a huge, heavy train that we are talking about. What tense teaching that has to be! So I paid $83 and with Matt's $20 I was down to $63. In the envelope was a deal for $25 freeplay so I loaded it on my card. When I loaded it, they also told me that new signers at Wynn could get the buffet for just 75 points ($3 equals one point). I found an 8/5 DB progressive 50 cent game at the Wynn and decided to go for the buffet. My freeplay yielded $23 and from then on I got trips almost every hand. I have never seen such a run of trips in my life. Without a 4OAK or much of anything really I quit with my 75 points and $50 cash. So for my $83 investment I got a $34 buffet I've been wanting to try, and $70 cash and the show. Not bad. And to top it off the buffet could be claimed anytime up to 72 hours after my play so I could get an appetite and come back rather than squeeze it in on a day when I'd eaten. I loved the show. They captured the humor of Monty Python and the music was the best I ever remember seeing. I don't like musicals much. This musical cracked on itself. The soapy overacted songs were all about joking how soapy and overacted they were. I loved it. A musical that trashed musicals and still had you loving the sound of the trashing. I had watched the Holy Grail movie at home before I left and was glad. I liked having a sense of the movie when I saw the stage presentations. Much of the music drew from Black American tradition, jazzy skat singing and tap dance were perfect. I loved it all. My seats were front balcony just to the right of that plastic guard that can block aile seat view. I could see around the edge of it. Great view. No close sense of faces but a fine sense of the patterns on stage. Matt was a fine companion. And for one night I managed to stay awake after 8 PM. I avoided alcohol all day and did coffee early enough so as not to have to be uncomfortable and ready for a potty break. It was one of by best nights in Vegas. OTHER SHOWS I saw big Elvis who is not quite as big. It was packed but I found a single seat by some folks who did not like me sitting in that empty chair but tolerated me. I enjoyed him but less than last time. I heard a great country band from the stage at the Plaza. I could play poker and hear the music. I heard two sets of the Classic Jazz band at the Gold Coast. Great stuff. Under attended and under appreciated. What talent they have, especially on horns. I walked into the pool area of the Golden Nugget and around to the other side of the aquarium where you can really see the sharks and other fish. You can't see more than half of the aquarium from outside the pool area and there were no sharks visible from there. TIM ARNOLD'S PINBALL MUSEUM What a treat to finally go there. I played this old Bugs Bunny machine for almost a half hour on 75 cents and felt like a kid. I also shot a lazer gun from 1966. What an amazing place! Tropicana and Pecos, tucked back in the plaza just beyond Putter's Bar and a comic book store. Ask around if you can't find it. Look at the large plaza sign to see which plaza has the museum. COUPONS I had a bunch of coupons this time. I had bought three ACG books last November for my December Birthday Bash gathering and people gave me leftovers. But I did not have the energy to chase them this year. Here are my few uses: From downtown took the 108 (in front of MSS) to the Hard Rock where you can do a matchplay, get $10 freeplay, and buy the new win cards $20 for $30 all on the same day. Walk back to Terribles and get the free hat (POV) and play off some matchplay. Breakfast is cheap as they take 50% off with coupon but this trip I just had too much free food to do that. You can walk down to Ellis Island and use some coupons there, but I did this part on a different day. Remember that they will want to see your ACG identity card and limit what you do. Lots of talk about a hard guy Pete who gives everyone trouble. Take a 4 free drink coupon to the bar while you wait for a table an carry the drinks in to the restaurant. We did not use coupons there, but got the steak special. Use golden Gate coupons for free decks in conjunction with matchplays there. My funiest coupon was at Terribles when I decided that a Heineken and a snack bar in my carryall bag would be lunch. I was in a dull, spacey state, my cold making me almost senseless. The funbook coupon used to give one for 75 cents but now it was 95 cents. I was thinking it was free. I handed the bartender a dollar and the coupon. He played with the cash register for a long while and then apologized that he did not have nickels to give me my nickle change. I was very puzzled. I told him the dollar was intended as a tip and finally it registered that the beer was not free, so I gave him another dollar. A few long minutes more of punching buttons on the cash register, and he was still totally flabbergasted. He explained that Terribles had changed the coupon from 75 to 95 cents, but that he did not know how to put in 95 cents in the register unless it was in nickle change and he did not have any nickles. I suggested he just charge me a dollar for the beer. "Well, that is a great solution," he said. I laughed so hard to think of two grown men spending ten minutes trying to figure out what to do with a nickle. THE FOOD For the most part I eat where they comp me. I had $25 free at El Cortez and they will give you a $5 comp every other day for 4 hours of live poker play at Careless Kitty's. The pattie melt has gone up in price, so it costs another $2. The prime rib is good, but I was never there when it was ready. I had $20 a night free at Magnolia's in 4 Queens and we used it for two breakfasts. One day my buddy Slink got a BJ comp there. Man, that was something. Two rounds of drinks, appetizer, entree and desert all comped. I got the beer sampler which counted as two rounds and we had huge platters of food. Main Street Station let me get a buffet comp without playing when I first arrived. It took me two line waits as the clerk said no but the host said okay. I got another the next morning for breakfast based on my play but remember that was $4000 and all lost. The Plaza gives a $7.77 comp for live poker play of about 4 hours. Be sure you have your card with you. Late at night you can't get a card but you can get the comp. The poker room closes at 2AM regardless of players or games in progress. The comps are good for 72 hours, so you can save it. I know the buffet is dumped on, but for over easy eggs exactly like you want them, you can't beat that chef. Remember that I go for 15 days. Were I to eat lush buffets all 15 days, even once a day, I would not have to worry about falling again, because I would just roll everywhere I went. El Cortez Breakfast buffet (2 come free with comped rooms) is "gullet filling" as my buddy Catherine says, but it is a nice quiet room for talking and my son and I caught up on all the family news there. I ate twice at the Spice Market Buffet at PH and it was great. I love the crab legs warmed on the grill. Great tandori chicken. Wonderful tempura shrimp. I could just eat that. Fine flan for dessert. What a great bargain! I ate at Mamacita's twice. I love this place too, but I order too much food. This time I fully black bean soup with garlic bread, and it was great. Also had a fine pork chop dish garnished with green onions. I met the chef and he was delightful. While you eat, you can watch fine video music although I did not much like the hip hop videos except to wonder why Spanish Americans would borrow all that cliche when they have so much culture to draw music from. The place is just like Mexico. And it is just steps from the El Cortez. Use the exit directly across from the parking/Pavilion room elevator doors. I was so sick one night that I did not think I could get out of my Pavilion room bed but I managed it that far and was so happy as the meal cheered me up. I had two free hot dogs at Slots A Fun, while I was picking up my free cards and heading over to play poker at Riviera. That is an easy access area from downtown as you don't get much traffic until then. Also the 105 goes back behind Circus Circus and Riviera. By the way with a coupon from Slot A Fun the funbook their decks are just 75 cents and come in a variety of colors and had no black markings. I ate one hot dog with sauerkraut when I went to hear the afternoon jazz at the Gold Coast. The bar also took the old drink coupon if I showed my Orleans room key, so I still got my cheap lunch with entertainment. I was sorry to hear that band only once. I was sick and staying at the Gold Coast one trip and did nothing but drink Crown Royal and listen to their sets and go up to bed. Wynn Buffet - it was grand, but I think I like the Spice Market just as much. I would not pay the $34 for that experience. I had one late night steak and egg at Careless Kitty's and it was fine, but nothing to write home about. The server was incredible. Again I found bringing plenty of dried fruit and nuts and buying some juice at the Walgreen's kept me from being hungry between meals. I also filled in with two shrimp cocktails and some piano music at the Golden Gate. Often that was all the breakfast I wanted. I ate at the Main Street Station buffet and found it just great as always. I love the bits of butterfinger for the ice cream. Sometimes at a buffet you create some recipes, combining the tastes of different places. Here is my favorite combination. A nice heap of the Hawaiian pork in the back section of the buffet.(this pork is just like what I ate in Hawaii) Mix in some of the collard greens in the Southern foods section near where the buffet turns. Top with those crunching Chinese noodles and a bit of Chinese hot sauce and mix it all up. Yum!! I also like their sticky buns at breakfast and their fried seafood. I had a nice time eating at the Golden Nugget on poker comps with my brother-in-law Jim but went the next night on my own, paid too much (the comp is just $10) and found it lonely. GETTING AROUND My son rented a car and so I experienced the driving in and around Vegas again. For me it does not compare well with the bus, especially in December. The Deuce can be packed or there can be a long wait, but there is no pressure of finding my way when I ride the bus. No spaghetti bowl decisions in the dark. Solo it is just great on the bus. I met so many interesting people on the bus that week. I met a crane operator who will retire after 30 years in Vegas and sold his 90 grand house for 900 grand to buy an RV; he plans on just traveling for a couple years. I met the most delightful woman who was as excited as a little kid to have found a sale on jackets and bought a winter, down-like jacket that came below her knees for just $7 at some store called SaveMore. I met an old drunk trying to hit on some European blonds. I met a Black preacher in the DTC with the most friendly manner who welcomed me to someday come back to Vegas, but assured me that if he were not here when I returned, he knew where he would be. "Well, I'll see you there, then."I replied, and he was so pleased at that response. I met cowboys with accents that fascinated me and kidding banter different from what goes on in my family. I rode for quite a while with a great looking little cowgirl from North Carolina who had just spent the day at Cowboy Christmas. Each time I go now I try a different route. So after doing the Hard Rock to Terrribles coupon run, I decided to go out to the Pinball Museum on Tropicana and Pecos and to avoid the strip by taking the Flamingo bus to Pecos and then over to Tropicana. That would have worked fine except that the Pecos bus just never came. While waiting for it an ambulance went in the direction of the bus and ten minutes later along came some of the passengers. It seemed that a man had had a heart attack on the bus. they were walking toTropicana. But I had my cold and my ribs hurt. I just sat and waited for the next bus. That delay was just a half hour. There are two 111 buses running down Pecos, and one of them goes all the way to Green Valley Ranch. There is an interesting adventure for another day. I took the 108 directly to Cowboy Christmas. Easy ride I did it on the way to the Hardrock. I took the 105 directly to the Fashion Show Mall to do some shopping and head over to the Wynn for live poker and Spamalot. That is a great route. Easy. It is also a great direct access to Ellis Island and the short walk down to that section of the strip. Nice to avoid the Deuce. I also figured out how to come back on the 108 on Swenson even after dark. It drops you right downtown near the Fitz. You don't have to walk to the DTC to use that route. Helpful too that I carry a nice fleece scarf and a hat and dress for winter. After dark in December, it is very cold in Vegas and can be windy at those bus stops. THE POKER The closest thing I have to the Cheers experience is playing poker at the El Cortez poker room. The characters repeat themselves over many trips and because the dealers play when they are not working, people shift roles too. When I win money, especially in the morning, I feel as if I have accomplished something. When I losemoney, I generally learn something about myself, my opponent, or the game. It is such a fun poker game, so different from limit with so many possible moves and that big 6 dollar bet on the river that makes trapping pay. The rake is the lowest capped at $2.50. If pots are small, tipping a quarter is not frowned on. I could go to Vegas and stay at the El Cortez and just play that game for the rest of my life. Even sick it was a wonderful treat. I played at Caesar's and ordered my Myers Rum. Sorry Sir, no decent alcohol served here. At the El Cortez I order my Myer's rum with two limes and light on the ice and they come just that way. I say keep them coming and they come and come and come until I tell the waitress to stop for a while. While the rest of Vegas is just becoming one big con, this place seems friendly, easy, full of gambling characters, and offers an island of comfort. It is the only game I miss when I am away. I would rather go there and lose than go other places and win. I will rarely lose more than my rum would cost me. However, there was a great young blond local guidance counselor at Caesar's who was a great deal of fun. She played to my right a while and then decided she wanted me to her right. I did not want her to my left, but I let it go. She was very good and very funny with one of those little girl voices that are so attractive. So I enjoyed that game too until the blind straddle-I-raise-every-hand-with-nothing- young yahoo joined and changed the table. I left with a little profit. I'd have had more with the girl to my left. At the El Cortez this trip I actually met a couple fellows who may end up as friends, Kevin who started in New Jersey and a fellow known as The Rockman, not because of his play, but because he collects all sorts of rocks and brings samples as card protectors. Both of these fellows were easy going and welcoming. They are regulars in the morning playing crew, the tight games where players really watch what is played by who and give plenty of respect. You can play for a long while some mornings and never see any cards. Those players may still be there when Jackie Gaughn, Downtown legend, comes to play. Jackie may have been a good poker player once. He still plays almost daily and he also plays Pan up at the Plaza, a game so complicated that few understand it and all are amazed to see players holding half a deck of cards in their hands. In Hold em I watched Kevin play four two's in an easy manner against Jackie, urging Jackie to fold, and not raising on the $6 river. The El Cortez is probably the only place you will ever see a multi-millionaire taken care of by an average guy. It was the strangest hand of my week. In contrast to Kevin I am not a charitable player against the old fellow. I look forward to Jackie building the few pots I am lucky enough to win. He does not trick his opponents, although he may call when he should fold, so we may get in the habit of staying with him a bit too long. But he makes few bluff raises and you think after those few that he might just not have known he had next to nothing. I am not a charitable poker player. For example, in one hand against Kevin he held A-J and I was stuck with A-2, and he bet after the flop gave an Ace. I called. That was a bad move. I should have raised or folded. Had I put in a bluff raise, Kevin may have folded. I regret not trying to trick him with that bluff raise. The only charity I offer is to write this where Kevin will read it and be ready for me next time. In Rounders when Matt Damon goes up to play in Atlantic City he finds the table filled with players he knows waiting for the fish to come up. He says that they did not really play in collusion with each other, but that they did not actually play against each other either. Now that is no limit and an entirely different class of poker, but the El Cortez morning feelsa bit like that to me. Here are a bunch of regulars who know each other and how each plays and every so often a tourist like me gets fleeced. In between they take a bit from each other back and forth more for amusement than profit. One regular fellow plays a very different game. Action Jackson he is called. If he is not actually playing while you are there, you will hear his name mentioned by the players. One of my best mornings was winning hand after hand from him simply because I had cards just a bit better. It was fine turn about. I gave the money back the next morning, but the victory was sweet while it lasted. One of my favorite times in poker is when I have not yet established myself as relatively tight and I get a string of good cards that come too often to be believed, so I look like a loose fish to the good players. That is what happened that morning. I get called then. I make money. If I have established myself as tight first, I get fewer callers and the pots are smaller. Another player also had an encounter with Action Jackson. This young fellow was a marine with huge arms and so uptight I wonder if he is suffering from post traumatic shock. He was so angry at the old semi retired Poker Room manager Ralph for not giving him that $5 food comp that he carped and complained and finally went to a casino person, got the comp and stormed off saying he was going where he could be appreciated. Remember, this is a game with a rake of $2.50. It is not like there are any high rollers there whose business will cost the casino damage. And Ralph is an easy, friendly fellow who looks like a throwback to the 50's with suspenders and a pocket pull of cigars. He used to be there regularly but he is only there on occasion now. Well, it seems that while Action Jackson was in the men's room, our marine threatened to beat him up for some affront at the table. Action Jackson is a bantering, loud fellow so he may have said some things to rile the Marine, but it is all in jest. Practically nothing Action Jackson says is meant to be taken seriously. Action laughed the threat off, but he came back to the table and thought it was meant to be serious. Ironically, while Action was missing from the table yet another time (Action probably has ADD; he can't stay in a seat too long) this Marine got in an argument with another drunken, happy player because that player had claimed that he was the second worse player in Vegas (Action Jackson being the absolute worst) Well, the marine went on and on about the ethics of insulting someone behind their back when they were not there to defend themselves and calling Action Jackson his friend and objecting to that friend being insulted. It would be funny if it did not sound so serious. Such is the Soap Opera quality of life at the El Cortez live poker tables. At Bally's a 3-6 the table was full of people who were regulars when I sat down and got a string of cards that gave me $100 in just a few minutes. When the string ran out, I asked for a table change to a new game just starting up, and my luck kept coming. But I played too long there and only had $32 at the end of the evening. I think that I am going to leave games more often once I am up $100. The action after that is just bound to be less. Good players give me respect for the good cards I play, and poor players get intimidated by my wins and won't call me enough. At the Golden Nugget I had that intimidation experience at a 3-6 full kill game. I hate kills. But I was there with poker buddy Slink and so I played. Sure enough when I finally won a second pot, I saw half the pot go on the Kill button. I was dealt 4-7 off suit and felt my usual resentment at winning only to lose to kill rules when I flopped an open ended straight draw which gave me a high straight on the river. My one opponent bet into me and I raised and showed my hand for the pot. The table was starting to believe I was very lucky. Out went my $6 on the chip again. This time I was dealt pocket aces. "I am on a rush" I announced and raised my kill chip to the groans of everyone. Now my good poker playing son says I should not have announced a fake feeling of Rush because what I wanted was to win the pot right there and not encourage callers, but I say that the only ones to stay would be folks with high cards. I would get out the crazy draws. No one would pay $12 to see the flop unless they had some high cards, and if I put the money in without something said and they put me on aces or kings, I think I might have only won the blinds. As it was, my aces held so I put another $6 on the button for the next hand. I got 5-8 off suit. I did not bet. But Neither did my opponent. He did not bet even when he caught his jack high spade flush on the river. He checked because even with my weak play and his good hand he was certain I had him beat because I was just too lucky. I guess an early bet here would have won that hand too just on my reputation. But perhaps my son Keith is right. He is an excellent player. I looked forward to playing at the El Cortez table with him and he managed to take $160 off the table playing very well. In the most impressive hand he bluffed out the most aggressive player at the table with nothing but K-Q for a big pot. A few hands later I tried it. I had K-Q and the flop came Q-5-5 with the aggressive guy doing the betting and raising he always did on such flops. I reraised. On the river came a King and I thought for sure I had him beat as I put him on A-Q at best and I was representing a full house. I thought he would fold it up and I could show my bluff cards, the same as my son's. Well, it was an expensive mistake. He had the trips with an Ace. How much of that was trying to impress my kid with my play is hard to measure, but it could be that it is hard to play with him watching me. He is so much better that I can't always understand what he tries to teach me. I can't seem to do the math in any truely calculating way. I do take pot odds into account, but only estimated. Mostly I play the people. In limit a glance at the pot gives you pretty accurate sense of what can be won with a bet and what is just not worth the trouble. After I said goodbye to my son I played at Bally's against a father and son that reminded me so much of Keith and I. The dad was playing his second live game and raking in chips by betting in ways his son told him afterwards were totally wrong, but which forced us out of pots. The relationship between them was so much like my relationship with my Keith. the dad won, even got a straight flush high hand. He was so pleased that he had his picture taken with his chips and his son. I suppose that is what I want too. I was so happy that Keith took a couple days and came to Vegas early to spend some time with me. He even wore the T shirt that he had made for my 60th birthday party with my picture on the front. Once at the El Cortez, the desk clerk asked for my picture ID so I pulled down the zipper on his sweatshirt and showed her the shirt. I thought she would fall down laughing. In the evening games at the El Cortez I met Brian, a short, stocky guy with thick lensed glasses who dressed in Army camouflage and talked with a distinctive gravely voice, giving opinions or narratives between poker hands. Brian is a regular, and we seemed to hit it off quite well. He was an easy going, friendly fellow and a good player. I did not stay long in hands he bet or raised. He would wink once in a while when he had bluffed out opponents. One character I enjoyed but felt bad playing against was a tall, swarthy faced man named Kenny. He was a little drunk and loud and said things that did not make sense. On his jacket was an army pin and once in a while he stressed the syllables saying "Arrrr....my" in a loud cheer like tone. Visually, he reminded me of a pirate. his features were big and his cane was almost like a carried sword. I saw him get a bit angry when beat a few times in a row, but most of the time he was more like a happy ten year old. His poker was terrible, but his money seemed endless. When he spoke, you could hear him out on the casino floor. "Oh, my God" he exclaimed loud and often. Someone said he had suffered a stroke. I positioned myself to his right because he called anything and bet sometimes with very little. I wanted two of the better players to my right, and I wanted to see the cards better from Kenny's left. I thought that I might use Kenny to bet and then raise after the table called him, but the strategy did not work as I did not get cards. Finally, I got tired and felt just a bit bad to see Kenny just being fleeced, so I went to bed. One hand was very funny, however. Three aces flopped and Kenny's opponent held pocket kings. Kenny always called bets and raised when his better cards were easy to read. So when he bet this one, he got callers and of course the guy with two kinds stayed with him. It was amazing that the guy did not raise him given kenny's history of loose play. Kenny showed the case ace, and the whole table cheered. I think most people wanted Kenny to win something, but it is poker after all, and the weak get fleeced. I always play my advantage against any opponents. If I can't, then I leave. I did wonder about that strategy , however, when across the table from me sat a pretty dark haired girl with the most interesting face, and I pushed her into an all in bet knowing my trips had her beat. She lost and left the table. I was not sure if I won or not. "What did you have to do that for?" the fellow next to me asked with a grin. "I don't know what I was thinking?" I answered. Overall I lost money at poker. I don't know just how much as I keep a total score and don't break out the poker losses separately. Few places held what I look for, a table of predictable players who are fairly tight, just lightly seasoned with idiots or fish and no maniacs. At the Riviera 3-6 I found that, but just did not get cards. Two guys who knew one another were drunk and playing terribly. They could not be predicted and had to be called down. I won my first hand when I caught a river flush and the one fellow asked the dealer if a flush beat a straight before he decided to call me or not. The other fellow once asked if a straight could go over the top, as in Q-K-A-2-3. Had they been squeezing us I'd have thought it all a scam, but it was real. After being called down with Ace high and losing, the one fellow would hold his fist up to be bumped with his opponent's fist. It was all too funny. Finally they left for the craps table and I left with $42 because I did not get cards to play. With a good run of high cards, I'd have left with a few hundred. But the next night everyone there knew everyone and the dealer and played in ways I could not figure out. Once again I did not get cards for a long, long while. A no limit waiter who had too much energy and was talking and fidgeting sat to my right. I got A-K and lost when it flopped Ace-rag-Queen to a guy with pocket Queens. Next hand I got A-K and no limit guy bet when the flop came A-rag-Jack. I called to the river and saw him collect a high hand award for quad jacks so I went home. I hate high hand awards. Not only don't I win them although I pay for them in every pot I win, but it also changes the way people play. At the Golden Nugget I had my pocket kings cracked by a guy who caught a straight with a 4-5 of clubs that he admitted he played in spite of my preflop raise because he wanted a chance at the high hand straight award. And even if you win, it can be frustrating. At the Palms a fellow caught a diamond flush for $439 and not thirty minutes later another diamond flush emerged. This one only paid $50. I think high hand favors the loose players. One place with a great rake and no high hand was the Wynn. I played 4-8 there. If I understand the rake correctly, they take $1 at ten, twenty, thirty and eighty so many of the pots cap at $3 rake. Of course, the downside is that they are good players attracted by the low rake and so harder to beat. I played there early in my trip when I still had some bankroll in conjunction with seeing Spamalot. One day I was up $200 and I gave most of it back. That is a good case of a time when I should leave with my winnings after the players get a sense of my play. I walked out once for a break and met Ed Koch, former mayor of NYC in the hallway. He shook my hand. He looked the same only with hearing aides. But then he always looked old. I liked playing the Plaza. At first I was depressed they were working on the bar and so the room looked very small with black plastic as one wall, but when the bar opened I got the idea. Dancing on the poles of the bar were two cute little cowgirls. When they took a break a great country Western band played at the next stage and all of it was visible from the poker room. This is going to be a favorite place to play for lots of folks. Iike the comps there too. After a few hours of play they easily give out the $7.77 buffet comp good for up to 72 hours. It is a small buffet but every place had advantages and how much can I eat anyway. Here for breakfast the chef will make you any sort of egg you like. It is the only place I can be certain to get an egg over easy(or is it over medium?) with running yolk but no slimy white. Joining me at the El Cortez twice was a poster named Mohave who was banned from the LV Talk boards during the recent period I think of as the grand inquisition when he voiced some criticism of a new moderator who had gone on tilt. Mohave is still is around on the poker boards and Brian's boards sometimes with a different handle. I tried to get him to ask to come back as I loved his funny prose and his dedication against flamers and those with false names and identities whose real purpose is just to carp or insult rather than share information. He knows plenty about downtown Vegas and is a regular at the El Cortez. He does not live far from Vegas. Anyway, I had never actually met him and then there he was playing against me. Later we rehashed the game at the bar and talked poker for a long while. It is nice to meet people whose posts have entertained during some of those long, dry weeks between poker games.. THE SHOPPING I am not a shopper, but Cowboy Christmas was more a museum than a store. What interesting things are in the Western culture. I loved all the wood, the fine burl tables with stonework inlayed between the twisted grains. I loved the bronzes similar to the old Remington, all depicting some Western activity. I never knew how much you could buy related to a horse. Such fine leather work. I could not see all there was to see. Turquoise and silver work was here too. I bought my wife a ring and a necklace. On Freemont street we found some $2 T shirts with small Vegas 2006 logos. They were those AAA shirts that last a lifetime. I bought three. And thanks Yahtzee for the tip on $1 bottles of Tapatio hot sauce in the dollar store near the El Cortez. I brought two bottles home. I decided to get the Vegas monopoly for some of my Christmas folks, but will order it at home on line. Too big to carry. REGRETS Plenty of them. I was too tired and sick to chase down places I wanted to see or games I wanted to try. Missed poker games: The 4-8 at Sam's Town which has a 1-2 dollar blind. The 2-6 at Excalibur. OShea's noisy and crazy room. Mirage 3-6 with Cravings buffet as a comp. the Luxor cheap buy in no limit. Food: gumbo soup at Magnolia's. Yahtzee's market Street Cafe Salmon with black vinegar sauce and the prime rib there. Missed Gold Coast steak dinner. Missed in n out secret recipe adventure. Even had the secrets with me. Entertainment: Missed most of the good country music. Missed a second day of Jazz at the Gold Coast. Did not have the energy to chase Squirrel Nut Zippers. Missed the Mirage lobby aquarium. missed drinks: not one new drink tried. Not one rusty nail. A bit of breakfast amaretto in hot chocolate. Myer's rum. beer. Ellis Island holiday egg nog. Forgot to ask for my free plush toy at MSS Missed going to Texas Station/Fiesta for the barbecue and some poker. Missed all of Boulder Highway, especially craps at Jokers Wild/ Missed seeing my nieces and nephews. Missed doing much of anything after 8 PM on too many days.