Well, my 24 day moveable feast of a party to celebrate my 60th year alive was a huge success. From Dec 4 until Dec 28 I met and partied with assorted friends and relatives. The youngest was my great-great-nephew George (3 years old). The oldest was the 89 year old mother of an old high school/college friend who kept up the Vegas pace just fine. 25 friends and relatives joined me over the month and I met 8 people from bulletin boards. I could have met more, but my schedule was hectic so I only tried two meets and one must have been moved or canceled. As well as having many people to entertain, I was very tired all month. I could not get my sleeping to arrange itself around other people. I was awake at 4 or 5 every morning and it was hard to grab a nap many days. I suppose some of it was being too excited. Then again I found the pattern exhausting. A few people would come in town all pumped up and ready to go and I would try to keep up. When they left after a few days, another group would come in pumped up. I did not want to miss anything. But it did take a toll on this old body and brain. I walked the strip with some, gambled with others. I joined a group of nieces and nephews who live in Vegas and watched them put up their Christmas tree. I celebrated my birthday and Christmas Day with my wife, five sons, and four of their girlfriends/wives. At a meet at the Orleans I met about a half dozen people from the LVA board, including my good LVA board friend Bigfus at an Orleans meet. What a lively, happy, good humored, witty, delightful woman! We met up again for VP lunch and a matchplay adventure at Terrible’s. I tried to meet with the Las Vegas Talk crowd one day at the Orleans Mardi Gras but no one was about at the scheduled time. Perhaps the site got switched when I was in Vegas. I missed a couple people, Sorry. It was a hectic time and I was overtired almost the entire time. Thanks to all who shared information, advice, coupons, suggestions, stories. I planned this continuous party on a Blog site which I set up just for that purpose. It is more for newbies than you Vegas regulars, but if anyone would enjoy skimming it for information, here is the address: http://vegasbirthdaybash.blogspot.com/ You can also contact me there. Here are highlights of the trip: HOTELS: I shared a week of rooms with poker buddy Slink during the overpriced cowboy week. Patching together comps and coupons, one week at the El Cortez- $30 each. Pavilion rooms. Fine, as far as I am concerned. From Dec 10-28 I was at the Orleans in room 1930 with a fine view of the strip. With 8 free nights (4 were on my son’s mailings) and many reduced rates my entire average nightly hotel expense for the 24 days in Vegas was $17 a night for my room. No family or guests who met up with me paid more than $40 a night per room, most paid $25 and that included weekends. I doubled up once and took one free night at the Fiesta Rancho and enjoyed playing VP there and eating at Texas Station. By doubling that night with a night at El Cortez I could take the bus out and back with only one night’s luggage. It was an easy ride. I’ll do that again. On the way back the bus stops right at the foot of the Freemont Experience so I won’t be wary of going there by bus next trip. I visited rooms in Bellagio and Tuscany. Bellagio was nice, but not nice enough. I don’t like the big places. I get lost too easily. I liked the large Tuscany suites with microwave and refrigerator, but the location is still pretty isolated without a car and the casino itself seemed a dull place to be stuck late at night. No good music. Very poor poker room action. GAMBLING: I don’t play slots except to use money that I have not played in my State Lottery all year. I put that in Megabucks, so I can have the fantasy of being filthy rich all year, but have it based on a better bet. Often I give myself 7 spins a night and then take the profits, win or lose. Total spins this time were less than 70 for the trip. along with small hits, I hit at the Orleans for $900 one time with 7-double-double. Video poker was sadder. No royals. Orleans kept taking my 10/7 DB down to 9/6. I’d play a machine one day, and arrive the next morning to see it closed and on the chopping block. Sad, sad times for VP players at the Orleans. What are they thinking? VP players would have to be brain dead to play 9/6 DB. I chased the nickel progressive 9/7DB royals there for days and lost money. I hit nicely at 9/6 JOB at Terrible’s. Live poker was the real winner. Somehow my play has turned a corner. I won session after session, usually playing limit $3-$6 or $2-$4 but at the Stratosphere I took $300 off a no limit table over a few hours of play, and I took another $100 at Caesars no limit. The no limit just makes me a bit nervous because I am usually tired and drinking. One mistake and there goes the whole bankroll. At the Gold Coast $22 daily tournament I came in third one day for $144. That was great fun. I was short chipped in the beginning. Then I hit a bit. With five left I let them fight it out so I would be in some of the money. Lots of poker there for $22, the first hour is limit. However, my favorite game is that $1-$3 (1-6 on river) spread limit game at the El Cortez. No jackpot rakes. They cap a single rake at $2.50 and tipping a quarter or fifty cents on small pots is not considered insulting. There is a single, one dollar blind. So you can drink and listen to the banter and wait as long as you want for cards. Compared to the Orleans, where a half kill rule creates three blinds in a good portion of the hands, this game is a tight player’s dream. The only other game with such a low blind was the old Excalibur 1-3 game that is now gone. The savings over hours of play really adds up. And what a colorful experience that place is! Jackie Gaughn comes down to play in the afternoon. He is dressed to the nines and calling his famous, “One for the money!” Every once in a while he will wink humorously. It is old Vegas sitting right next to us. One evening I had a loose, drunken kid to my right and “loose Mike” to his right. They were betting into me and I was catching cards that just would not stop. Low pairs of 5’s 6’s 7’s 8’s and 9’s all developed into winning sets or full houses. I took $250 off that table, and the kid got so mad and so verbally abusive to me for winning, that they called security and had him thrown out. I had quietly taken all his verbal abuse (along with most of his money) so that after he left, I had both a huge stack of chips and the sympathy of the entire table. I got a little drunk one night there myself and talked a long while to “Jelly” a sweet Jamaican girl who watched but rarely played. When I get drunk, I tighten up and play just the best cards or flops. I kept winning even while drunk. Nine contestants in a Thai beauty contest were at the bar and the winner came over to say hello to her ex-husband playing across from me. This destroyed his ability to play well for the rest of the night. That night there was a fist fight. I helped calm one fellow and the floor person helped calm the other until security came. They through one fellow out and I thought it was the wrong guy. But the other player’s thought more about poker than justice. The guy left was a classic fish. “We like having guys like him,” one local explained to me. I heard the next day that this fish had dropped $500. Too bad I needed sleep. That poker table captures some of the most interesting characters and a mix of some of the worst and some of the best players I have ever seen. My most memorable hand was at a table of very good players in the morning. The flop gave me trip nines as well as three to a straight for my opponents. The First to act, bet. I was fourth. I figured I needed to fold or raise. I did not believe the first actor would bet out if he had flopped the straight, so I raised to push out other straight draws. An old local fellow after me, who had seen me play super tight for two hours, threw in his flopped set of tens. There was no straight, and I won the pot. The old fellow was flabbergasted. He still could not figure that raise. Fine news for me was to find that the weekend before I arrived the El Cortez poker room went no smoking. That made the experience much more fun and less risky. Smokers need to go about ten feet away from the table into the casino. That makes the atmosphere so much more pleasant. I flopped a straight flush A-5 of spades at the Orleans and got a poker room shirt. I had pocket aces and caught four aces at Excalibur and spun the wheel for $20. That night my grown kids were all wearing this birthday shirt they had made for me with my picture on the front of it, so at each table the dealer’s were looking at my face. It was great to hear tables cheer for my spin. I finally played at the Venetian, but all the good comps I had heard so much about were gone. Just the standard $1 an hour and no free bad beat award. I did not care much for the place. I liked Caesars best. Their 3-6 with no high hand rakes or kill pot was my favorite, but I heard that they are switching to the high hand rake too. FOOD: I eat at the low end. Coupons for Orleans and Gold Coast were a great help. I really like that Gold Coast breakfast. Very cheap. We would go over early and sign up for the $22 tournament and then have breakfast before we played. Cravings at the Mirage was fine, but not as different as I had hoped. Paris breakfast was wonderful as always. For Christmas dinner we took our Restaurant.com $25 certificate (which cost just $4) to McMullan’s just behind the Orleans. We had the place to ourselves. The celebration there included my five sons and four of their wives/girlfriends, my wife and me. So it was great to be able to be as loud as we wanted. Murphy’s stout and Fat Tire made a big hit as did the homemade potato chips and the tasty dips that come with them. We also had nacho’s made with those chips. I have been on a low carb diet and have had virtually no potato for the last six months so it was great to binge on crispy chips. I love that Guinness mustard. We got away at about $25 a piece, everything included. Another night with one nephew, a poker buddy, and his wife we went to Marrakech out Tropicana for the dinner and live belly dancing and had a blast. They serve six courses for $35 a piece. Alcohol was expensive, but few of us drank there, so the bill was cheap for dinner and live entertainment in a very unusual setting. The dancers were full of humor and many got up and danced with them. It was very funny. I had the Ellis Island steak 3 times and I’d go again tomorrow if I could. those garlic green beans are great. One crowded night we only found room to sit at the Chicago Pub in the 4 Queens and I had that New Orleans special sandwich called Mustafa(New Orleans style) and a micro brew sampler. Good food. Better Mustafa than I had in N’Orleans. Elizabeth and I also ate at the Ba-re-ba Spanish tapas place and had some tasty tidbits. This was while we were shopping at the Fashion Show Mall. DRINKS: I carried a whole list of new drinks to try and did not try any except Amaretto. I did like that sweet drink. Drink coupons worked wonders, especially that 4 free cocktails coupon at Ellis Island. We used the coupon at the bar and carried the drinks into the restaurant. I had plenty coupons for everyone at the Orleans, and at the Gold Coast where I listened twice to a few sets of the Royal Dixie Jazz band. I sure like that old time jazz music. This trip I even managed to dance with my wife a bit. SHOWS: LOVE was the big one for the whole family. It was great! We had good seats in the 200 section and a good view of all the action. I saw only one other. I saw the Follies again when we won some tickets on the free pull. Good show as always. Odd. I usually see more than that when I go solo, but most of the people I was with did not plan shows into the mix. I saw some good lounge acts, including Susy Dobbs at the Gold Coast just at the end of the Rodeo days. I love to see those cowboys and to listen to their talk or horses and bull riding, all so different than anything in my world. I enjoyed the Royal Dixie Jazz Band at the Gold Coast and the Smith brothers at the Orleans. Some woman from Virginia picked me up one night in the Orleans lounge and danced with me for a set. No, she was not a hooker. But at my age and weight I am not used to being picked up by a cute 40 something woman even it she is a bit tipsy. So that was a treat. SANTAS Slink and I sauntered through however many thousands of people in Santa outfits for the great Santa Run which was trying for a Guinness Book of Records. It was surreal. Here is a Blogger who ran: http://www.robinlynn.org/ JEAN SCOTT Jean did not plan to be part of my birthday bash, but I went to hear her speak at the Las Vegas library along with Viktor Nacht who co-authored her new book. So I’ll count her. It was really a great time. There were only a dozen people in the audience so she had plenty of personal time for everyone. I had my picture taken with her (Jean wearing Reindeer antlers on her head) and got a signed copy of her new book. She was just as she seems in print: practical, down to earth, equipped with facts. She has been such an inspiration to me, that I was really thrilled to meet her. It was one of the highlights of my trip. Certainly she has taught many low level gamblers to find ways to have fun without losing too much money. I admire her for that. Frugality is the key to her success. That is my way of life. I honestly thought that the book would be interesting, but not too useful for me, as I have limited my VP play to just playing for room mailings, and pretty much know what I need to know. But I was wrong. In the book was a simple formula for evaluating a progressive. I used that the next day because that was all there was at the Orleans. And other parts were very helpful also. Her software does something I have been wanting for a long while. It takes errors and generalizes them and then feeds them back randomly. This is a fine teaching strategy. The old Dancer program I use feeds my errors back in a group and they are exactly like the hands I missed, so sometimes my memory comes into play rather than my correct application of a principle. Good Teachers know that good practice must make the student rethink a similar problem in the right way, not just remember an answer. Jean is a master teacher. Also her software prints strategy sheets. However, they will not print an advanced sheet with penalty cards like Tomski’s VP Strategy Maker does. Jean leaned more into ignoring the finer distinctions. Still having the ability to print good strategy sheets is a great advantage because you can take them right in the casino with you, lose them, and print more next trip. Also, you can actually print them big enough to read without squinting. And I find that I confuse myself often on big issues and need to check the sheet. Or when coaching someone, it is nice to show them the answer on a printed page so they are not just relying on your memory. Quotes from Jean: “Brad says I’m ‘crazy frugal’ and that’s true.” When we started, “we just wanted to break even and get all the free comps.” “For a casual gambler, losing less is very good.” “Multistrike poker can turn a preacher into a swearing sailor.” “I think multiline poker is one of the best things to happen to Video Poker, but it is also one of the most dangerous.” She talked about tough sessions which she reported as sessions in which: “I’m not getting any dealt good hands.” “We don’t get discouraged enough to quit, but we do get pissed off.” PROMOTIONS: Encouraging five sons (25-35), many of whom do not make much money, to meet me in Vegas was risky. I worried that they would gamble above their level. None did. Part of that is because I push coupons and promotions. We spent a lot of time playing free promotion money off on a VP machine one quarter at a time with me coaching from my strategy sheets, so as to realize some profit every time. It worked. Matchplays at Ellis Island worked also as did Win Cards at the Westin. Such promotions set good stopping points. Poker buddy Slink and I made some wild coupon runs also, especially one at New Frontier where we played 4 matchplays each in the same visit. However, for me the matchplays did not win with slink or much later either. On my way out of town at the Hardrock, both my wife and I played 4 matchplays and only won once. Two losers were $25 bets. The best advantage on a promotion was when son Frank signed up for a Sahara Card. He got $10 free play and then took one free spin on a promotional slot and won $25 more free play and $25 in food comps. We were planning on catching the Sahara Buffet, so as to be on the cheap that night. Frank’s comps were doubled at the buffet cash register, so he bought 4 free buffets, and the rest of us went for 2 for 1 coupons. Now the Sahara buffet is usually one I avoid, and this happened to be Xmas eve. But this night they had a special spread. Everything was very good, including my favorite smoked salmon with onion, tomato, capers, and creamed horse radish. The value of Frank’s sign up was $35 in VP play and $54 in food comps. Not bad for free. WINS AND LOSSES: I was down $300 in the first week, and then I was up again and never went below 0 again. At my peak I was ahead $1700. Then I hovered around $1300 profit for a week and the last day took a big chunk, ending up PLUS $984. Much of my loss was VP at the El Cortez (which by the way has a new bunch of 10/7 machines) and at the Orleans. So all the money dropped will generate future free room offers. I played VP only where I stayed. One buddy who had never played video poker before asked me to coach him on a JOB machine at the Gold Coast. We argued about whether to play 3 to the Royal or keep four hearts. I won the argument and he caught the Royal. First day and less than an hour of play. A nice $1000. TRANSPORTATION: I did not rent a car or drive at all. I am perfectly content on buses or free shuttles and much happier. In December they are comfortable and uncrowded. Others who came did rent cars, so I was driven around many places. A car makes some sense if you are staying for only a few days. But it scares me. I was in at least a half dozen situations where accidents might have easily occurred. I did not buy the month long bus pass, but I did often buy day passes. They worked great. The Tropicana bus fro the Orleans was easy and fast, and when I started my 24 hours on that bus, the $2.50 day pass with 50 cents more per ride on the strip worked better for me than when I started on the $5 Deuce and had to pay $5 for a pass. Once when toe blisters slowed me down, I missed my last Deuce connection bus in a 24 hour period, but the next driver let me slide by. I also saw a couple old fellows just put in a dollar and say “senior citizen”. No one asked for an ID. They told me they had been doing that their entire week on the Deuce with no difficulty. By the way if you have been saving old Orleans room keys to use on the free Coast shuttles, forget them. The white keys are gone and now there is a colorful 10th Anniversary key. No one ever asked for a key anytime we rode the shuttle including when people without seats were asked to wait for the next one. But technically you are supposed to have a key. Red Rock: Went out to Red rock twice with folks who had never seen it and enjoyed the view, the wild burros and road runners. MOST USEFUL TIPS: Planning, planning, planning. coupons organized in labeled envelopes in a separate bag. Cell phones, the key to all coordination. Traveler’s checks. A clip for the drapes for afternoon naps. A small roll of duct tape for a million uses. Blister protection, especially some first aid tape for taping up fragile toes. Order a bottle of water with each alcoholic drink and drink it before the next drink. Keep a few bottle tops with pocket change for the places(Orleans) that won’t give you the bottle with a top on it. Dried fruit and nuts for the room. Cash out slot tickets immediately after play. PLANS FOR NEXT TIME Well, next trip won’t be a Birthday Bash. I may go solo, or I may try to entice small groups of people to come for some portion of my trip. I’d like to go one time with all poker players. I’d like to find a group of swing dancers to go, stay at the Gold Coast during the week, and then dance every afternoon while drinking free on coupons. I am definitely hooked on downtown and especially on the El Cortez which will send me a mailing for 2 free rooms over 3 weekend nights and the ability to extend for about $25 a night. Coupons and other free night offers downtown are easy to use. Every casino is just a short roll away. If i do decide for some time closer to the strip, I am looking more and more at the Gold Coast as a substitute for Orleans now that the good VP is gone. At least they have 9/6 JOB still at the Gold Coast. Also the rooms are cheaper, the buffet better, the swing dancing a favorite of mine, and they have that fine $22 daily poker tournament which I can’t play by shuttle from the Orleans because the tournament is on before the first morning shuttle. I can also get back to the Gold Coast more easily after midnight if I want to play poker at Caesars or Flamingo, and I can easily grab the CAT bus to Terrible’s or to Ellis Island. I would like to get my packing down to bare bones, so I can take my suit cases on the city bus easily. I already have found that Penny’s stain free supershirts wash easily, dry quickly and look great. If I can be more mobile, I can take more advantage of free or 2/1 coupon rooms. In general, I want to plan so that I take full advantage of free offers and reduce my transportation expenses while not renting a car. I will organize all my reservations by confirmation number and do all my confirming one number at a time and reconfirm often. I lost $80 at the Orleans with a reservation mixup, too many changed reservations to plug in free rooms or better prices made the entire thing confusing and left two errors in the booking. The El cortez had me coming in the day before, but since I had confirmed that reservation a few days before arriving, and they had that on record, they accommodated me and took it as their error. I also need to think about whether I want to share my room again. It cuts expenses, but my sleep habits are irregular, and I may need to pay the extra price for the comfort of being by myself and sleeping at any time of the day I want without disturbing or being disturbed. Okay, that is about it, I guess. I tried to keep it down to the facts. I did not take as many notes as I do on a solo trip. Too busy. Too tired. Now the question is what do I do on a frozen lake in January. Well, I’ll start with a poker game on Sunday. Perhaps that will help some. Good luck everyone.