Prelude: originally, this was a guys trip where everyone had been to Vegas before, and we were going to get cheap rooms downtown. But then the veterans bailed due to cash flow problems, and it wound up being me and a buddy who was a Vegas virgin. This buddy and I go way, way back, heâ€™s almost like a brother. These days heâ€™s a banker in Chicago, and we usually get together down there a couple times a year for revelry. The week before the trip, I got some kind of chest cold, which happened the first time I went, too. Tried to be as good as possible, drank liquids and took vitamins and stayed away from coffee and alcohol, etc, but I still had a little something going while I was there. The trip: I traveled with a carry-on only for the first time since the new security measures. I wasnâ€™t sure how that would go â€“ as it turned out, my coat was what got a thorough going over from security. Had an mp3 player, hard-shell glasses case, phone, all kinds of junk in there. They never said what attracted their attention, and I didnâ€™t ask. With no checked baggage, I just strolled past the MAMMOTH lines at the security checkpoints (Sunday morning must be when everybody leaves), past baggage claim and down to Zero level to catch the â€˜Andsen Limoâ€™ downtown. Took a while to find the bus stop among all the limos and motorcoaches, but itâ€™s at the far right end of the middle row of limos. Took the 108 for a leisurely 45 min tour of the east side of Las Vegas (best business name: the â€˜Enjoy Mini-martâ€™). The strip hotels were visible over the top of the apartments and strip malls and check cashing places; the fantasy world visible just beyond the real world. Got a little impatient with this eventually, though, and bailed within a few blocks NE of the ElCo. The â€˜motelsâ€™ in that area are boarding-house seedy, if-we-aint-condemned-weâ€™re-renting seedy. Shouldâ€™ve stuck with the bus a couple more blocks. The room at the El Cortez: Lets get this out of the way â€“ itâ€™s old and worn (not unlike some of the clientele). Got a smoking tower double-double room on the 14th floor (15th is top floor) facing south. Room was maybe slightly larger than average, with a good sized window. The view was awesome, I have several pics posted on Webshots; there's a picture of the room on the El Cortez website. My ideal hotel room has a large, comfortable couch with soft armrests, that you can take a nap on; this place a had a worn loveseat with hard wood armrests. Bathroom was on the outside wall, and it had a small window you could open for ventilation, a quirky feature that I really came to like. Carpet was in pretty good shape, aside from the cigarette burns. Woodwork needs refinishing. Room was quiet â€“ I could hear the neighbors TV from the hallway, but not from inside my room. Despite being a smoking room, I really didnâ€™t notice any smoke smell. First order of business after checking in, of course, was the Golden Gate â€“ shrimp cocktail and draft beer. The piano player was doing his thing so I put a tip in but forgot to make a request. With Binions closed, this is the best (or only) place that really feels Old Vegas. Seems like they have good deals ($4 lunch plates) at the diner also, but we didnâ€™t wind up eating there. Wandered back down the FSE, had a few gin+tonics along the way to get things going, wouldâ€™ve played some $3 BJ but couldnâ€™t find a seat, didnâ€™t feel the love yet anyway. There was a seat open at the El Co poker tables, but I declined. Itâ€™s a mix of some pretty leathery characters, serious older asian men in windbreakers, a lady who could be your nice Aunt Sarah, and the odd oxygen tank mixed in. I never did mix it up with that crew, probably should have for the experience, but either they take your money and you look stupid, or you take theirs and feel bad, thinking about fixed incomes and medical expenses. Had time to kill before my buddyâ€™s flight came in, so I took the 301 down to Caesars. Actually, I only made it to about the Mirage, because brainless loud-phone-conversation guy was getting to me. Best quote, during the 30 minute discussion of the merits of professional tattoo artists vs. amateurs: â€œI wouldnâ€™t even let Dad give me a tatt -- and heâ€™s pretty good.â€ Hiked through the Forum shops and eventually got to the Caesarâ€™s book. Got a race sheet for Santa Anita, made quick bet on a decent prospect to show, and found a seat in the sports book lounge chairs, on the side adjacent to the race book area (I hate the little desks, too much like a cubicle). Eventually the cocktail waitress came around, but she had the whole book to cover, so I tipped a couple bucks to get her attention. Must have worked, because as I was about to tip on the next order, she was handing me the drink I hadnâ€™t yet ordered. We got along very well after that. I lit up a cigar and decided the Caesars book is the Second Greatest Place in Vegas, after the Mandalay Bay Island Lounge. My first horse, picked to show, came back from a very slow start, 6th place and 4-6 lengths back at the halfway mark, charged hard around the turn and closed down the stretch to finish third. Cool. The next race had two heavy favorites, so I put in an exacta on them. The top favorite led wire to wire, but the second favorite was stuck back in the pack for most of the race, making a hard charge down the stretch to claim second in a photo finish (and win the exacta for me). Right on! Next race, picked the favorite to win and the friskiest-looking of a group of moderate longshots to show. As the race got closer, the odds on my show horse got longer, yikes. Turns out he beats the favorite in another photo finish. All this is happening at about two races an hour, while the waitress is bringing me rum with a hint of coke in my comfy lounge chair. Right on. The races finished up, so although I hated to leave, I got up and went across the street to Bellagio, on my way to Monte Carlo for some holdâ€™em. Poker: Okay, I tried it. My poker background isnâ€™t extensive â€“ I play with friends for pocket change occasionally, but mostly just on Hoyle Casino, and I read Lee Jones before I left. So I went to Vegas, and basically bought two poker lessons for $100. While I was waiting for my buddyâ€™s flight to arrive, I played a couple hours at the Monte Carlo, 2/4 Texas Holdâ€™em. It was a pretty decent table, mostly tourists, a couple solid players, couple of interesting folks to talk to on my end of the table. Didnâ€™t get to watch hands right away, dealt something decent on the first hand then pocket aces on the second, which proved to be a winner. Won another pot in there somewhere, couple players came and left as I was up slightly. A new guy sat down across from me with a full rack, and goes in right away on the hand where Iâ€™ve got pocket Jacks. The board was weak, so I â€˜bet for valueâ€™ and worked up the pot. Turns out the new guy had pocket aces. Nice. That pretty much left me where I was, down a fair bit, when I went to meet my buddy at the airport. The other holdâ€™em game I hit was at the Plaza, the next night, and I had NO luck. I think I got maybe four or five playable hands the whole time, and only once did the flop hit my hand, for trip sevens, and of course the other guy draws to an ace-high flush on the river. There was enough BS going on that I had to see that hand out. That one, plus an AK unsuited I held when the board looked really junky, pretty much did the damage. The players were more of a mix than at MC â€“ the young guy next to me was pretty solid, if a bit talky, there were other tourists like me, a scruffy guy who called virtually everything (he finally mucked one hand before the flop and almost got a standing ovation), another scruffy guy who didnâ€™t, and an older gent at the other end of the table who seemed to be having trouble keeping up with what was going on. Guy to my right, a friendly tourist, was going in on virtually any old crap. Case in point: from early position, I mucked 89 unsuited. Dude plays it out with 86 suited and wins with an 8 high straight. I wouldâ€™ve had the 9-high straight. Amarillo Slim says, â€˜Decisions, not results.â€™ Well, Slim, I couldâ€™ve gone for some results, too. Poker at a Casino (For folks who are thinking about trying it). Etiquette is pretty simple. Almost everybody had to be reminded by the dealer to blind, at least once, so donâ€™t worry about that. Mark your cards with a chip when you get them, and muck to the middle of the table, not towards dealer. Guy next to me at the Plaza almost lost his hand when I accidentally mucked my hand into his, then he did lose his hand (separate instance) when he failed to mark his hand and the dealer collected it with the mucked hands. Table position â€“ both times, I wound up next to the dealer, or just one player away, and it was really hard to follow the action from there. Plus, people have their hands over their cards, just tough to tell whoâ€™s in or not. Finally collected my buddy at the airport. He came in on ATA, so I had to find the Terminal 2 shuttle. Was just getting ready to call and see where he was when I ran smack into him by the only populated baggage carousel. Didnâ€™t see a cab stand, so we flagged down a cab. Turns out there is a stand there, just without the solid line of waiting cabs youâ€™d expect. Talked with the cabbie about going up the strip (which wasnâ€™t too bad on the way over), but settled for the faster route up Paradise. I pointed out stuff to my buddy, and the cabbie quietly corrected all the stuff I thought I knew. Like I thought Vegas World had been demolished to make way for The STRAT , but he points out a low tower on the north end of the Strat that he says was part of Vegas World. It was kind of funny, I wasnâ€™t that annoyed, but for the rest of the trip, Iâ€™d preface my statements with â€œI donâ€™t have a cabbie here to confirm this, but â€¦â€ First order of business after check-in was heading to the Cal for $7 prime rib at the Market Street cafÃ©. Got seated at the same time as another guy who ordered, was served, ate and LEFT before our food came. But it looked like the special (whatâ€™s butterfish?) was ready as soon as it was ordered, because everybody got that one quick. The prime rib was very, very good, when I finally got it. We wandered around, checked out the various places downtown. I really couldnâ€™t find many $3 BJ tables at all, mainly just the Gate. So we played a little VP here and there, and people watched. We worked our way back down to the ElCo, and I finally got onto a $3 BJ table, with a varied and interesting crew. One gent, a little too worked up to sit, seemed to come from somewhere a lot closer to the Mediterranean, heâ€™d use the â€œback in my countryâ€ line a fair bit. These folks were talking and having a good time, but this was my first BJ table of the trip, I was a little impaired and I wanted to focus. The game offered Royal Match, which I didnâ€™t understand and didnâ€™t want to, but the whole rest of the table was playing it. It really slowed down and confused the action, and eventually I got tired of that and left, slightly to the good. We found a couple decent Deuces Wild machines and played for a while, but my buddy was pretty drained from traveling (and from a bunch of Jamesonâ€™s on the rocks) so we called it a day around 1 am. Woke up in fine shape. Between the gin+tonics, chest cold, cigars, cold night air and shortage of sleep, I sound like Iâ€™ve been chain smoking since the third grade. Remembered that I hadnâ€™t called home after getting in yesterday, so I left a voice mail to let my wife know everything was ok, but the sound of my voice at that point probably wasnâ€™t very reassuring. Discovered that the shower head only came up to about my throat, and the drain didnâ€™t drain real well. But the shower picked me up, and I called my buddy to go down for breakfast. I love breakfast at a diner, a place where the waitress calls you honey and clearly doesnâ€™t mean it. Careful Kittyâ€™s was that, except it was huge. Seating involved almost as much staff coordination as Rainforest CafÃ©. Got the $1.75 eggs and bacon both mornings, having grabbed a bloody from the bar on the way there. Total bill at breakfast for two people, eggs, juice and coffee, $6. Side note, I donâ€™t think eggs over easy should have runny whites â€“ yolks yes, whites no. Apparently the line cooks at Kittyâ€™s disagree. After breakfast, my buddy went off to Walgreens to get some things heâ€™d forgotten to bring. On his way back, he sees a guy with a camera walking the other way and thinks, â€˜having a camera around your neck really does make you look like a touristâ€™. Then he notices itâ€™s me. Iâ€™m going to take some snaps of downtown, while he goes back to get his hair cut at the ElCo (turns out barber is closed Mondays). Wandering downtown, a thought occured to me: do you really need Vegas Vic to sell t-shirts and sunglasses? I really wish I had the money to buy the Pioneer Club and turn it back into a casino. Otherwise, I had a mellow time wandering around under the canopy, listening to the tunes, as they happened to hit a couple of my favorites (Joe Jackson, Crowded House). I stopped into the Fremont for a players card. I saw some decks of cards back in the promo area and asked the guy about them; he gave me two. I guess it does pay to ask. Iâ€™d gotten some rolls of quarters as part of a Vegas-themed Christmas gift from my sister-in-law and her husband. Iâ€™d decided that Iâ€™d use them to play some slots, which I usually donâ€™t do. And I figured if I put some slot use on my new Fremont card, I might get on their mailing list. Well, five dollars in quarters dropped in the slot, and there they all stayed. I remembered why I never play slots. Instead, I went to the casino bar, which has a cool moody blue/green backlighting, and bought in for some bartop VP. Came to the conclusion, this trip, that bar-top vp was the way to go (as long as the pay table isnâ€™t too bad); the bartender is never as far away as the cocktail waitress. Returned to the ElCo bound and determined to play craps, but couldnâ€™t get on the tables. Found a spot at the â€˜high limitâ€™ ($5 minimum!) BJ tables instead. The other players were actually going $10, $25 or more a hand at that table while I was playing a 6/8/10 progression and wound up adequately to the good. The pit, which only vaguely cared about the guys playing green chip (actually more brown than green, with a cool metal insert), came over and watched like a hawk when the dealer colored me up. What that was about, I donâ€™t know, unless maybe the dealer was new, but she seemed pretty capable. We met up for lunch at the Golden Gate, shrimp cocktail again. No piano player this time, though. Then took the 301 down the strip to the Sahara. More great businesses: the â€˜O.K. Restaurantâ€™ (Japanese, Korean); the â€˜Tod Motor Hotelâ€™ (Tod is german for death). Iâ€™d never been to the Sahara before, and was reasonably impressed with the giant casino, which was mostly empty in the afternoon. Wouldnâ€™t mind staying here at all, although Iâ€™d probably hang out down in the Riv/Dust/Ho neighborhood. My buddy hadnâ€™t really gambled before, and mostly didnâ€™t care to, but Iâ€™d taught him simplified basic strategy before we left. When we were at the Sahara, we found a $3 table with a couple seats and played there a while. I noticed he had a pretty good stack of chips going (I did too), so when things started to cool off a bit I suggested we move on, figuring to get him out of there a winner. At the Westward Ho (an okay place) we played a little more, and this time he took his lumps a bit, so he got the balanced view. Saw our first Elvis of the trip at the Ho as well, although he was just setting up for a performance later. Got a Ho dog and nickel coffee, just so I could say I did. My buddy lives in Chicago, and says the â€˜Chicago-styleâ€™ dog is missing the crucial elements: tomato, pickle slice (in the bun). Played a little craps at Slots-A-Fun, came out maybe a little to the good. Put the dealer on the line right away with odds, and hit it, but it didnâ€™t bring much luck. It was a raucous crowd there again, at least at one end of the table. Wandered through Circus Circus just to say I did, and discovered that the acrobatic area is separated from the casino below it, unlike how it was in the old Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. Saw 6:5 BJ, $5 craps with 2x odds, and decided I probably donâ€™t need to come back here again. Took the bus back downtown and got into nicer clothes to go down to the Palms for dinner. Palms is pretty cool, with hardwood floors and â€˜textile artâ€™ for a casino ceiling. Peeked in at Little Buddha (very, very cool) then got a table at Gardunos. Much more my buddyâ€™s kind of place, with the cool dÃ©cor, hip (and good looking) waitstaff. Oh, and the food was excellent too, we were stuffed when we got out of there. Not only stuffed, but they must make a pretty good margarita, my buddy was a lot â€˜happierâ€™ than I was. We walked across to the Gold Coast (well, I walked, he kind of â€˜groovedâ€™), played a little VP at an empty bar in the back, then walked around and found what must be the main casino â€“ so thatâ€™s where everybody was! Nothing caught our eye there, so we hiked around what must be the worlds longest parking structure to get to Rio, and discovered that we could have walked straight through it instead. Bikiniâ€™s at Rio was closed, to my buddyâ€™s great disappointment; we had to settle for the Tilted Kilt instead â€“ a Scottish Hooters with an uninspired import list. Sat there and waited for the Masquerade show, which ultimately was kind of a dud for me. Seemed like if you were really good on the Dance Line team through college, this was something you could aspire to. Then guys came out in costumes stolen from a gay revue and it got a little hard to watch. Eventually a huge animatronic peacock showed up to nod his head through the rest of the numbers. The most fascinating thing for me, as a railroad fan, was the track switching for the overhead floats. Worth seeing the show to say I did, but it just didnâ€™t do it for me. In fairness to Rio, though, this was a large, nicely decorated casino that you could probably spend a bunch of time at (needs more/better casino bars, though). Palms, while nice, just wasnâ€™t that big. It was still early yet, so we caught the shuttle to Harrahs. I don't think I could find the shuttle station from the Harrahâ€™s end, we had to walk a ways just to get to Harrahâ€™s back entrance. Wandered through there and out to the street; my buddy wanted to find Paris. So we hiked down that way, past the new Margaritaville (which we didnâ€™t go to this trip). I looked at the time, almost at quarter to the hour, so I told him â€˜weâ€™re taking a slight detourâ€™. Went across to the Bellagio just as the fountains were starting. It wasnâ€™t one of the cooler songs, but still fun to watch while we smoked those little Macanudo Maduros, then we completed the trip to Paris. Did a little more bartop VP and caught some French Attitude (my buddyâ€™s term) at Gustavs while evening out the inebriation factor. Toured the Paris shop area as we headed over to and through Ballyâ€™s on our way to Caesars. Caesars is still a construction mess, but they have a new lounge and entrance slightly to the north of the old porte cochere entrance (and classic oval casino). This place grows on me a little every time I go through, itâ€™s a very classic Vegas spot. I never used to like Cadillacs, but now I see a Sedan deVille and think, wouldnâ€™t it be cool to roll up to the front of Caesars in that? Itâ€™s what the car was made for, somehow. Anyhow, the new area has an impressive fish-themed lounge. If youâ€™ve ever played Casino Empire, itâ€™s like they stole the theme from the â€˜Poseidonâ€™ casino (which stole itâ€™s theme from Caesars). Alas, no bartop VP, though (and BJ starting at $10 but more commonly $15) so we rolled on to the bar outside of the race book. Got our first drink (around 11 pm) and the bartender says â€˜last call, weâ€™re closing the barâ€™. What? I guess once the actionâ€™s done at the race book, they stop staffing that bar, so we had to move on. I gave my buddy the option of Shadow or Cleopatraâ€™s Barge, and he chose the latter. How did Landa describe it, a lounge with a dance floor? Accurate description. Pretty comfortable place though. The crowd was in itâ€™s thirties, on average (which meant I didnâ€™t feel like anyoneâ€™s dad), and I figured them for conventioneers unwinding. We hung out for a drink or two, and gave up on the strip for the night. Back downtown, the Gardunoâ€™s margaritas and subsequent Jamesonâ€™s finally took their toll on my buddy and he turned in. Gotta pace yourself in this town, man. I headed out onto Fremont looking for a little more trouble. I was a little hungry, but stopped in at the Fitz first. Iâ€™ve had good experiences gambling here, so I sat down at an empty $5 BJ table. It was right at shift change, apparently, because a swarm of suits immediately descended on the table, muttering and tallying. When they moved on, we finally played cards. I played a 6/8/10 progression again and got three 20â€™s in a row off the bat, winning the first two and pushing on the third. Then I got iced. A suit walks over and unwraps a new deck of cards. Dealer fans deck on table, face up, while chatting with the suit. I count the deck myself, yep, A-K present for all four suits. Got time to count it again before she collects it, and fans it face down. Collects it again, fans it again, collects it again, fans it in a zig-zag pattern, and begins the â€˜swirl the pileâ€™ shuffle you did as a kid before you had the dexterity to shuffle for real. None of this is happening particularly quickly. Another guy had sat down just before this started, and weâ€™ve got plenty of time to count and recount our chips, separate them into piles by face design, write a letter home, whatever. I should have left at this point, as I just didnâ€™t â€˜feel the loveâ€™ any more, but I stayed, and when the Sacrament of the Shuffle was over, she started chewing into my bankroll, so eventually I did color up what was left and leave. Still hungry, I addressed that need with yet another shrimp cocktail at the Gate. Headed over to the Plaza 2/4 holdâ€™em table to get my second poker lesson (see above). Chastened by that experience, I went back to the Gate to settle in on a BJ table. Downtown was pretty darn quiet. My Mediterranean friend from the ElCo BJ table the night before had the $5 table to himself. A couple other guys sat down to the $3 table about the same time I did, playing the best guess method to basic strategy, sometimes hitting a weak hand vs. a ten, sometimes not. Whatever, it was cool, I was getting ahead and making back some of what I left at the Plaza (and the Fitz, for that matter). When I got up enough, I called it a night and headed back to the ElCo. It would have been better to be in one of the hotels under the canopy, I was thinking as I walked back to my room that night at 3am, but Fremont is well lit and patrolled at night all the way down to the ElCo (maybe farther). In fact, mixed in with the thought I might get held up by one of the few characters still walking around, I had a stupid worry about getting a jaywalking ticket from an overzealous downtown cop, which Iâ€™d seen happen much earlier in the day. So with no cars in sight, and not really wanting to hang around on the street, Iâ€™m waiting for a stupid walk signal. When I get back to the room, I discover that the toilet doesnâ€™t flush, and itâ€™s not a simple fix, the reservoir wonâ€™t fill. Iâ€™m tired and donâ€™t want to deal with it, so I go to wash my hands and hey, no water there either. Now I call the desk, and they inform me that engineering should have left a memo that theyâ€™re changing the building water tank. Sure enough, there is a memo, over on the chest of drawers, water should be on by 6 am. Well, I was up at 6 for a bio-break, and no, the water wasnâ€™t on yet, but it was by eight. Running water is underappreciated. Next morning, weâ€™re back at Kittyâ€™s, because a diner is an excellent place to start the day, especially when you can pay the tab for two with a ten and get change. This is moving day, weâ€™ve got to check out and get down to the Luxor, but weâ€™ve got some time to look around downtown some more. We headed up to the Lady Luck out of curiosity, and what a curiosity it was. Never saw so many electric carts. Come to think of it, though, I donâ€™t think you could maneuver one of those things through the ElCo. As we got towards the back of the casino (near the checkin desk?) we heard â€“ drums? There were hula dancers in a tiny lounge area, two girls and a drummer. Odd, because there was a larger lounge, with a stage, that weâ€™d passed on the way, and because itâ€™s about 10 in the morning. Anyway, saw the Lady Luck, wasnâ€™t really impressed with table limits or anything. I snapped a couple pics of Bennyâ€™s statue and we got ourselves checked out of the ElCo. Final thoughts on the El Cortez: it was a decent place to stay, not great, not bad. Location could be better. Met and talked to a bunch of nice folks on the elevator rides, but the clientele has seen some wear and tear. Between the crutches and missing limbs and oxygen tanks, at times it was like gambling at the VA hospital. Jackie Gaughan does well by these folks, providing a decent, affordable casino hotel. I wouldnâ€™t mind staying there again, but probably wonâ€™t, just because I can probably get a comparable deal under the canopy. An hour after getting on the 301 (never did see the 302) weâ€™re checked into our room at Luxor: A pyramid two-queen-bed room. I requested 5th floor facing south with the idea that 1) one of the better views from the pyramid is of the Mandalay, 2) floors 2-5 are accessible via any corner elevator, quick and convenient access to room, and 3) I donâ€™t dig heights, no thank you. It turns out that the south side is shielded from the atrium by the stuff built along that wall (up to a certain height), so we didnâ€™t get any atrium noise. Those bizarre Luxor toilets are, to quote old Bill, â€œsound and fury, signifying nothingâ€; they sound like youâ€™ve opened a dimensional portal to some sucking abyss, but they have trouble doing the actual job. They donâ€™t suck enough, is what Iâ€™m trying to say. Otherwise, the only noise we ever heard was through the door when someone went down the hallway. After dumping our stuff, we wandered around the Luxor, then headed over to Mandalay Bay through the new mall area. It connects to both the casino level and the upper food/shopping area on the Luxor end, and seems to be filling out nicely. All of the stores were stuff Iâ€™d never heard of before (which isnâ€™t saying much), so at least itâ€™s not another Gap mall. We poked around the Mandalay some before settling in for VP at the bar in the Island Lounge, the First Greatest Place in Vegas. Played through a couple drinks before the bartender told us he couldnâ€™t continue to comp us unless we played dollar a hand, or 5x quarters. That ainâ€™t my game, so we headed off for lunch (at 3 in the afternoon) at the Pyramid CafÃ©, because it was there. Good food, and filling, but a tad pricey for what you get. Went out to the cab stand and got in a cab that doubled as â€œSpeed: The Rideâ€ while taking us up to Treasure Island, from which we walked back down the strip. Didnâ€™t actually go into TI, or watch the Pirate Babes, as it was early yet and we didnâ€™t want to wait. Walked around the Venetian, which is still cool every time I go through it. Didnâ€™t see a $5 BJ table, dropped a few quarters in one of the win-the-beemer slots and moved on. Gotta figure if Iâ€™d hit, and won the car on one spin, the folks who were parked at those machines would have turned ugly quick. We had to be risking some pretty serious culture shock, going from the ElCo to the Venetian, and we risked some more by ducking into the Casino Royale for a cheap beer. â€œThis rounds on meâ€ I said, and I was right â€“ the bartender clipped the bar and sprayed me with Michelob. He was very apologetic, and got us another couple on the house, which made everything cool, since I didnâ€™t get splashed too badly. Tables were full, as usual (except for the 6:5 single deck ), so we went across the street to see the Mirage. I found exactly one $5 BJ table there, one of the handicapped-accessible tables, which was full. I looked around the poker room, but didnâ€™t see any recognizable faces. Went back to Casino Royale for another couple beers. The bartender recognized us, and brought the bottles over in exaggerated slow motion. Stopped in the Imperial Palace to check it out again. Went up through the book (all desks, couple booths), then down into the casino. Found a $5 BJ table and settled in while my buddy went off to field a couple work calls. Played the progression again, made a little, then started to chew through the bankroll and colored up. A suit was hanging around, just chatting with the dealer, but it made me wonder. Seemed like there was always a suit around my table this trip. Continued moving down the strip, stopping at Barbary Coast for the end of the Big Elvis show, which had the lounge area pretty packed. Went into Bellagio for real, having just watched the fountains the day before. The red decorations for the Chinese New Year were giving me a sense of dÃ©jÃ vu, and weirder yet, I felt I knew exactly what the decorations would be in the conservatory before we went in there. Bugged the heck out of me until my fog-shrouded brain remembered Iâ€™d stopped in two days ago on my way down to the Monte Carlo. Doh! Anyway, tried to find a good people-watching table at the Baccarat Bar lounge, but wound up at the bar itself. Settled into the only martini of the trip while listening to a piano/string bass duo. In Bellagio, apparently, one does not applaud musicians, or tip them; it just isnâ€™t done. Whatever, it was a very groovy atmosphere, and would have sucked down a couple more martinis if Iâ€™d had the bankroll. Outside, I tried getting some pictures of the lit up Eiffel tower, but it just didnâ€™t work out. We headed over to Aladdin, and on the way got vouchers for a coffee-mug giveaway. That worked out nice, considering I wanted something Aladdin-logoâ€™ed before it became Planet Hollywood, except now weâ€™ve got these mugs to carry around. So we cut the wandering short and hoofed the rest of the way to Luxor, stopping to cruise around the interior of NYNY. My buddy really liked this place, and told me (not for the first time, since hitting the Palms) that we should have spent more time on the strip. Back at the Luxor, we dressed up a bit for the ill-fated Studio 54 odyssey. Clubs just ainâ€™t my bag â€“ I donâ€™t dance, and unlike farking idiot, I really do feel a lot older than that crowd, like Iâ€™m crashing a high school dance or something. Also, by this time, my dogs were killing me, and while I wasnâ€™t going to let it stop me, I wasnâ€™t too happy about the thought of a hike to and through the largest casino on earth. But hey, thatâ€™s what you want to do, lets go. We get over there about 9:30, expecting the club to have opened at 9, but no dice, not open yet. The lounge bar by the stage is full, so we head further into the bowels of MGM looking for a bar. Find what I think is called the LaFemme bar, which is super long, and, hey, super full. Keep walking, and find some kind of moody lounge with no bartop vp, and, hey, full again. I really need a drink, and I really want to be done walking for a while. Getting cranky, if you havenâ€™t noticed. So we head back up to the LaFemme Bar, where thereâ€™s an opening and we can (finally!) get a couple drinks, which we take over to a couple VP machines to kill time until the club opens. A cocktail waitress walks by now and then, but not so as you could order a drink from her. Finally she does stop and take a drink order â€“ as weâ€™re ready to leave. I stay until she brings the drink, and we get back up to Studio 54 a little after ten, where there is a line around the corner, down the hall, and almost out the door onto the street. As a club-bound girl earlier said, â€œit goes with the lifestyleâ€, but our remaining time in Vegas is too precious to stand in a line. We went back to Luxor to see what was up at Ra (closed). At this point, we split up, so he could pursue his clubs, and I could get back to the hard work of liquoring up for the last night in Vegas. My buddy wound up back at the Island Lounge for a while, and then had a pretty good time at Coyote Ugly; if heâ€™s got any stories from that, he didnâ€™t share them with me. I took a VP break at the Excalibur casino bar on my way north. As I passed through NYNY, one of two girls sitting by the exit asked me what time it was. I told her, then she asked, â€œWhere are you going?â€ Aha, how very â€˜solicitousâ€™ of you to ask, but no thanks. They werenâ€™t the last working girls Iâ€™d run into that night. I took my leave of them, took a break at the casino bar in Monte Carlo, and finally made it to Boardwalk. Purple Reign was on, and had a pretty good crowd going. People filled the dinky lounge, the bar was full, and people were standing on the other side of the bar watching. I called my buddy to have him come over, but only got voicemail and figured heâ€™d turned in. I grabbed a sushi roll from Fujiyama, which I was very happy to find still open just after midnight. It didnâ€™t occur to me until I got home, but we had forgotten to get dinner that evening. Didnâ€™t find any games that interested me there, though. Canâ€™t recall seeing any $3 BJ tables there, so I moved on. Pretty quiet on the strip at night, but then it was midweek and cold. Stopped back into Aladdin and settled into the Lamp Bar, which had a deuces wild schedule I liked. Good bartenders there, too. Fully half the folks at the bar, though, were working girls, although by that point I must have looked enough of a derelict not to be worth dealing with. Aladdin had been pretty hopping when we came by earlier, but now, aside from the Lamp Bar and some music coming out of the Lounge upstairs, it was pretty empty. Apparently there was some sort of shoe salesman convention that day, and all the conventioneers had to get up early the next day (which it was getting to be). I wandered in an out of places, nothing looked fun until I got all the way back up to Casino Royale. A craps table was open, but I found out that was because they were closing it down. So I squeezed in on the other craps table, where folks were having a good old time. Everybody was cheering on the shooter, who was kind of falling out of her dress as she rolled, and everyone high-fived when she (or anyone else) hit a point. I didnâ€™t make much off her roll, and the dice moved around the table to some older ladies, who hit one point then sevened out. Finally the dice went past the stick to a girl who was there with her boyfriend, or fiancÃ©, and I had a feeling she was going to go on a roll, and she did. Wish I could say I banked a lot off that, but I didnâ€™t press anything. We were having a lot of fun. But the dealers hated us and wanted us to leave, and the waitress would call out â€œCocktails!â€ only as she was walking away from the table. It proved to be a distraction, getting her to bring me a drink, and when she did, I wished she hadnâ€™t. It was supposed to be a rum and coke, god knows what it actually was. I had planned on hanging around there a while, but between the dealers and the drinks, I decided to leave. Went back to the Lamp Bar at the Aladdin, found a bunch of working girls still there and watched a couple security guards roust a wino from the bathroom. Just good clean fun. Worked my way back to the Monte Carlo, for $5 shoe blackjack (stand on 17, with surrender) with a lady dealer who might have been Greek, just a hint of that kind of accent. Dealt very fast, but very professional, a good dealer. Other players were a couple of guys who seemed to be alternating between UK English and something Slavic? Wouldâ€™ve liked to hang out longer, and it started out to the good, but after the shuffle, things went south in a hurry. Colored up to leave with half my buy-in left, and the dealer said, â€œAre you leaving? But good cards are coming!â€ Yeah, sure. I headed back to the room about 5 am, grabbing a donut at the Krispy Kreme on the way. Didnâ€™t quite make it to dawn, but I figured Iâ€™d need a little shuteye in here somewhere, and we didnâ€™t have a lot of time until the plane tomorrow. 8 am, and Iâ€™m up again. My buddy is still asleep, with a half-full beer on the nightstand. Heâ€™s got to get to the airport in about three and a half hours, so I go in and use the can, figuring heâ€™ll wake up when the Thunder Toilet goes off. Inefficient as it was, it took a couple flushes, and I got my point across. We got cleaned up and headed over to the America cafÃ© for breakfast. Food was decent, and the waitress called me honey (clearly not meaning it), but we could have eaten for a week at Kittyâ€™s for what that breakfast cost us. We got checked out of Luxor, and my buddy cabbed it back to Terminal 2. Heâ€™d been quizzing me about room rates at Venetian, Paris, etc., so I think heâ€™s coming back someday. I took a few more pictures before my camera batteries died. I had some tickets that I had to cash down at Mandalay Bay, so the last order of business (aside from some last minute souvenir shopping) was to park myself in the Island Lounge with the bloody mary I really shouldâ€™ve gotten earlier. Got home not walking or talking real well - sign of a good trip. Too darn much walking, as usual, but had a great time playing the ponies at Caesarâ€™s, and night owling around downtown and the strip. Iâ€™ll probably give holdâ€™em another go at some point too. Posted some of the pictures at Webshots, which means my work friends are going to have to hack through their firewall to see them.