Mikey takes the short bus to Vegas This trip was a little different than usual. Usually, it’s a weekend with the fellas, but once word got out, it got a little bigger. Our group of usually 3-5 guys expanded to a group of ten—3 couples and 4 single guys. I got out of work early on Thursday, came home and loaded up the truck, and Derek and I headed up to North Phoenix to pick our old roommate Neil up from work. He works at Schwab, and they were doing even more layoffs that day, so we sat out in the covered ‘executive’ parking, while we waited and watched people come out 2 and 3 at a time, heads hung low, cardboard boxes loaded up with their possessions. It was great entertainment, and I say that only because it happened to me last year too. That company is really on the ropes. Luckily, Neil still had a job, and wandered out shortly thereafter with no cardboard box, so we fetched his luggage, and tied it all down with the cooler in back, and we headed for the freeway by a quarter to two. It was early enough that we didn’t have to contend with rush hour traffic on our way out of Phoenix, and we made good time. Other than slowing down to avoid the speed trap in Wickenburg, we did about 80mph all the way. (Wickenburg is a shitty little town about 45 miles NW of Phoenix, that only exists to collect revenue as the speed limit drops from 65 to 25 in less than half a mile. If I were King for a Day, I’d build a freeway to pass right by that hole and leave it to die on the vine… Maybe that’s why they won’t let me be King for a day…). Anyhow, as it turns out, they nailed Eddie about a half hour later. He gets to spend next Sunday in traffic school. We made it to downtown Sin City by about 6:30, gave the truck to the valet at Binions, cracked open a beer, made a toast to good fortune, and made our way down to the registration desk. There was only one guy in line ahead of us, but only one guy working the desk. Turns out the gentleman in front of us had a comped room also, but they couldn’t find his reservation. Uh oh. He got passed off to a manager, and our check-in went smoothly. They gave us keys to room 815 in the west tower, and we went right up (I already gave a review of the room and such in an earlier post, so you can search for it under the “downtown” heading). Anyhow, the room was very disappointing. Luckily it was free, or I woulda bitched. We didn’t even stick around and unpack, just dropped the luggage on the beds, opened another beer, (I had left mine down at the front desk when I signed for the room. I swear I lose one every trip!), and headed for the casino. We had an hour before we were supposed to meet Eddie, Regina, Sam, and Andrea at the quarter Elvis machines up in the front of the casino. So the three of us (Derek, Neil, and I) found a five dollar blackjack table, way back by the coffee shop stairs, and sat down. Derek immediately took out a marker from me for a hundred bucks, as he still hadn’t visited the ATM machine yet. We started to play for a few minutes, but my fingers were itching for the dice, not the cards. So I took my $5 profit and headed up towards my happy place, the craps tables at Binions Horseshoe. Only five tables were open, and were mostly crowded, but the dealers recognized me and asked me to squeeze on in. I did, but I should’ve waited. My bankroll started to diminish in a big hurry. I was doing pass line with 2x odds, and come bets with 2x odds, then pressing after each hit. Problem was, nothing was hitting twice. Every shooter just kept loading them up and taking them down. After an hour I was already down over $300, and was getting pretty bummed about my evening at the craps tables. So I left, without coloring up, of course, and sat down at the Elvis machine closest to Fremont Street, and put in $10. That’s about the time Eddie showed up, and Andrea walked up a few minutes later. Her husband Sam (our March Madness buddy) was missing in action, and Regina was still up in the room picking out outfits or changing shoes or whatever. So the three of us spent a few minutes catching up--Eddie told us about his speeding ticket, Andrea told us about her flight, and I told them about the bitch-slapping I’d just had at the craps tables. That’s when Elvis started to sing! The progressive jackpot was up to $315,000, and it was my mission to take it home. No such luck, but I kept hitting the ‘Play Elvis’ reel, much to Eddie’s delight, while the old lady sitting next to me could barely mask her contempt. I never hit a really big payoff, but I netted $80 in about 15 minutes. That helped soothe my backside, as it was still a little sore from the experience at the craps tables. Sam and Regina finally showed up (by the way, just for the purposes of context, Regina is Eddie’s girlfriend, and Sam and Andrea are married), and the five of us decided to go get some dinner. We wandered back to find Neil and Derek still sitting at the blackjack table, looking like they were doing well, so they said to go ahead without them. Of course, the first meal in Vegas has to be a shrimp cocktail, so it was off to the Golden Gate! We didn’t even make it past the craps table, because it was empty, and we thought we should all take a roll before we ate. Again, not a wise choice, as we each lost about $75 before we even got in line at the snack bar. We all had shrimp cocktails, beer, and some sort of sandwich (I had the jumbo hotdog this time…yum!), and while Ed, Sam, and I just basked in the gangster-era ambiance, enjoying the fact that we were actually—finally--there, but the girls just didn’t grasp the whole Golden Gate thing. While we were all commenting on what a great place it was, they were saying stuff like, “Well, it’s ok, but I thought we were going to have a nice meal” and such. There was lots of unspoken communication over dinner, and we reaffirmed our long-standing rule that there are no girls allowed at March Madness. After dinner, we all kind of split up, agreeing to meet up later the next day. Derek and Neil were still at the same blackjack table, but it was now full, so I just wandered around Binions, dropping a few bucks here and there and not really staying in one place or playing any one game for too long. I started to feel really tired as I’d been up since 6 am and it was now about 1:00 in the morning. So, I went back up to the room, took a shower (notice I didn’t say ‘hot’ shower…grrrr…) and got into bed. I was laying there, feeling a little pissed that I was already down about $350 for the trip and hadn’t been there for 8 hours yet. After about an hour, I suddenly got a second wind, got dressed, and headed back downstairs. I made my way down to the Las Vegas club, and sat at third base on a $5 blackjack table. The rest of the guys at the table were all traveling together from Texas, and had been there all week. Needless to say, they were a mess. But they were a fun mess, as I turned my $100 buy-in into $300 in a little over an hour. Ok, I was heading in the right direction. I decided to color up and head for the cage, but before I made it, I saw a dealer alone at a table and decided to sit down and go head-to-head. Luck was with me as I made another quick hundred dollars, so now I had 4 black chips in my pocket. I cashed in, and walked back over to Binions. I got back to the room about 4 am, and the luggage hadn’t moved. Derek and Neil still weren’t back, but I didn’t feel like looking for them. I fell asleep until 7:30, woke up, and took a shower. Still my buddies hadn’t come back. I figured they’d either gotten lucky or arrested, so I started getting dressed. As I was tying my shoes, those two drunkasses came stumbling into the room and fell into bed, mumbling that they’d lost their asses, but at least had scored a breakfast comp! I left them to pass out and I headed down to the coffee shop. I didn’t ask for a comp the night before, but I’m sure I would’ve gotten one. So, not only did I have to pay for my breakfast, I had to stand in line for a table, also. That’s not supposed to happen. I finally got a seat, and had Benny’s Natural with the hubcap-sized ham steak, along with hash browns, eggs, and the world’s greatest sourdough toast. I swear I can’t eat half that meal. I left my plate half covered in food and waddled back up the stairs to the casino. I still wasn’t feeling too well, but I found an empty blackjack table and played for awhile, winning a little more than losing, so when others started to sit down, I made my way back to the craps pit. Of course I gave back all of my winnings from the night before after about 2 hours, so I called it quits for the time being. I went back upstairs to check on the fellas, and since it was around noon, I pulled the curtains wide open on them and listened to them howl and moan at the bright sunlight coming in the window. I told ‘em I’d catch up to them downstairs a little while later. I went back to the craps tables, and finally the table heated up. I was standing next to this older lady who had a southern accent so thick you could spread it on biscuits, and she started hitting the numbers. Between hitting the points she was telling the story of how her husband won’t throw the dice anymore because he had a heart attack at the craps table, but showed her “how to set the dice so the seven never comes up”. It worked for awhile, and I made back about $300. I stayed at the table for a little while longer, when this older gal with red hair and too much perfume came up and stood next to me. She started flirting and rubbing herself on me after every throw of the dice, and calling me “her Buddha”. I didn’t mind at first, because she wasn’t unattractive, but obviously drunk. Of course, while she was hanging on me, that’s when Eddie, Regina, Derek, and Neil wander by. They’re all grinning and giggling and making fun of me, but I was laughing too, because she was making such a fool out of herself. Finally, she started to just get annoying and I started to ignore her, and she went to another table and latched on to someone else, after her offer to go get high was rebuffed. It was getting late in the afternoon, and I was going to go over to the Barbary Coast to see the Big Elvis, and meet Sam and Andrea there. I was feeling sick again, and didn’t feel like driving or taking a cab up to the strip, so I opted out. Derek and Neil went to play more blackjack at the same table, and Eddie and Regina decided to go up to the Venetian and wander around. I went back up to the room and took a nap for about an hour, then walked back to the Las Vegas club. I played some more blackjack, and my luck held out, and I ended up winning back all the money I’d lost, plus another $15. Yep, I’d been in Vegas for almost 24 hours, and was now up $15. Woooo Hoooo!! I was going to hang out and do nothing for awhile, but I ran into Derek and Neil, at the same table they’d been camped out on all weekend, and they invited me to sit down. Since there were a couple of ladies there that were easy on the eyes, of course I joined them. Man, I shoulda just gone up to the room. Not that we weren’t having fun, because we were laughing our asses off, telling jokes, drinking like sailors, and busting on each other. But it cost me almost $400 in about three hours. I just totally jinxed the table, because everyone else lost also. As soon as I got up, 3 blackjacks were dealt. Yeah, I felt like a dope. It was getting close to 8 pm by that time, and our friends Brownie and Tina showed up, along with Dave, our other roommate. This was Dave’s first time in Vegas, so we were sure he’d bring us good luck. Ed bought him a $2 beer there at the bar by the craps pit, and the first thing he said was “You guys told me all the drinks were free!” We also told him that no one ever loses money on their first trip to Vegas, so now he doesn’t believe anything we tell him, anymore. I was supposed to meet “Bazootch” from the T2V webboard down there at that same bar, so I hung out for awhile waiting for him. Brownie and Sam wanted us all to play craps together, and as luck would have it, the table right there in front of the bar was just opening up. So I stepped up, bought a hundred dollars worth of chips, and started to roll. Just as I rolled my first number, the girls decided that they wanted to go eat dinner, so nobody else put any bets out, and I played by myself while everyone waited for me to seven-out so we could go eat. That kinda pissed me off. Bazootch never showed up, and since the girls were giving us guys “the look”, we walked over to the Golden Nugget for dinner at the Carson Street CafÃ©. There was a pretty long line, and since there were 7 of us (Dave, Derek, and Neil went off to find their own entertainment), we had to wait for a few minutes. We sat down on the benches outside the entrance, and some complete drunk started trying to hit on Regina, which was fun to watch because he was so nasty. He finally walked away when he noticed that she was with 4 other guys, but he kept wandering back and forth down the corridor waving and mumbling. We finally got a table and we were all so hungry we couldn’t decide on what to get. Finally the waiter offered the special for the evening, which was linguine with clams. A few of our party ordered that, plus we got salads and clam chowder to tide us over until the main courses arrived. Again, another sit-down meal we were unable to finish. I don’t know what it is about Vegas, but if we actually have a meal that requires a waiter or waitress, we are unable to finish the meal. Too much food, as usual. It was all really good, however, and it was nice to have a relaxing meal with good conversation and wine. Eddie and Regina played a little keno, and even won a buck. There was no room for dessert, so it was back to gambling. We decided to go back to the Las Vegas Club as a group and try to find a table there so we could all play together. That was impossible, as it was a Friday night, and every casino was just packed. They even changed the blackjack table that Sam, Eddie, and I were playing on to a $25 table. We got grandfathered in at five bucks, but Brownie got shut out, so he and Tina played roulette, Regina played the most annoying machine ever “WHEEL-OF-FORTUNE”, and Andrea played craps. None of us really did too well, but we entertained ourselves for hours. Hey, free drinks and good friends—if we wouldn’t have lost so much money, it would’ve been a perfect evening! We all parted ways sometime late that night--early in the morning, and made plans to go to the Mirage in the morning to watch the Breeders cup and bet on some college football. I got back to the room about 15 minutes ahead of Derek, Neil, and Dave, and they had fared no better. But they sure were a lot drunker! Apparently, they had gotten crushed and were pretty much wiped out for the trip. Neil was so drunk, he kept telling Derek to go get a cash advance on his company Diners Club Card, and Derek kept telling him ‘no’. I poured on the peer pressure just for laughs, while Dave just commented that he figured we were a bunch of degenerate gamblers, now he had proof! Neil wouldn’t shut up about getting money, and Derek was messing with him, telling him that he could have the card but he’d have to figure out the PIN number. I was stirring it up by telling Neil that I already knew all of Derek’s pin numbers, but I would have to be bought. It was a lot of fun to just sit up in the room making fun of each other for our sorry luck. Neil had it the worst though, so I kept yelling “NEIL-OF-MISFORTUNE” pretending to be a smart assed slot machine. We finally called it a night and passed out. The next morning, Dave and I were the first ones up, and he went out to his car to get his camera. He ran into Eddie and they were already heading up to the Mirage. Dave told him we’d meet him up there later. Dave had a comp ticket from his play the night before, so we headed down to the coffee shop. Lucky we had that ticket, because the line for tables was all the way up the stairs into the casino! It was Dave’s first comp, ever, so he was amazed when we walked up to the front of the line and had a table in less than 2 minutes. Ah, another reason to love the Horseshoe!! We had a great breakfast that we couldn’t finish, and decided to get some cash then head up the strip to the Mirage. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan as well as I should’ve, and needed to cash a check. I had plenty of cash in an investment account, but no ATM card for it, just a checkbook. So I went to the cage to try and cash it. I had to fill out their little form, give them a check and wait for approval. DENIED!! I couldn’t believe it. I haven’t bounced a check in years, and NEVER in that account, but they said since there wasn’t enough activity in the account, they couldn’t approve it. Man, I was ticked. But hey, it’s an “investment” account, so I never write checks on it. So, it was my fault. I had to find a bank branch that was open on Saturday. We got the truck out of the valet, and drove down to LV Boulevard and turned right, heading south towards the Strip. Just before we got to the Stratosphere , we saw the Wells Fargo get robbed. Well, not the actual robbery, just all the cops showing up with their lights flashing and taping off the parking lot. That was cool, but I needed to find a Washington Mutual. Luckily there was one on East Tropicana, so we figured it was a good excuse to drive down the Strip and let Dave see everything. Traffic wasn’t too bad, and I did my best tour guide imitation. I’d forgotten how far apart everything is on the north Strip, and there sure is a lot of undeveloped real estate. La Reve still looks an awful lot like the Desert Inn, meaning, they ain’t torn the place down yet. And the southwest corner of Sahara and LV Boulevard is just screaming for a new resort to be built there. Again, if I were in charge, I’d build a place just like Atlantis down in the Bahamas, except all of the bellmen would wear Elvis jumpsuits. Of course, this is probably yet another reason they won’t let me be in charge. We finally made it to the bank about 45 minutes after we left Binions, and I managed to deposit a check and take out some funds. Of course, being my lucky weekend, I left my ATM card in the machine and drove off. We decided to do a little gambling at the Imperial Palace, because Dave had gambled exclusively at Binions to this point, and was still doubting us about the hot cocktail waitresses that Vegas was famous for. Well, the IP never disappoints in that category, as the waitresses there were as fine as ever. I wish I could say the same thing about the blackjack dealers, because they just worked us over. Moving tables didn’t help either. The same dealers kept finding us and shaking us down like enforcers for a loan shark. Pushing on blackjack, losing on 20, that was the theme for the day. Dave got up while he still had chips to cash in. I wish I would’ve. I finally decided to try my hand at the craps table, because it looked hot. I got in, bought another $100 worth of red, and spent the next twenty minutes giving it all back. I couldn’t buy a point at that table. We gave up on the IP after two hours, six beers, and several hundred dollars. I figured it was time to go find the rest of our group, and show Dave the Mirage at the same time. It took us longer to get out of the IP parking lot due to the foot traffic in front of the exit, than it actually took us to drive over to the Mirage. We finally got there, and I could tell that Dave was impressed. He had me take his picture in front of the aquarium, and then we started to wander back towards the Race Book. It was so crowded in the casino, it was hard to walk. We could see that the book was overflowing, but knowing they had the women-folk with them, I knew there would be no way they’d be sitting in there. I told Dave that I bet they’re sitting at a table at California Pizza Kitchen, watching the race from there. I was right, and we found them immediately when we walked up. I wasn’t betting on the race, but it was about 20 minutes from starting, so we decided to walk out and see the dolphins. Oh yeah, the dolphins cost 10 bucks to visit. I decided that I can wait until next time I sail out to Catalina, where we can see hundreds of them for free. We walked back through the casino, did a little exploring, and I lost ten bucks in a double diamond quarter machine. I probably shoulda spent it on the dolphins. The race went off, and Brownie was going nuts, as he’d placed a nice bet on the winner, which happened to pay 45 to 1. They’d also hit on an exacta that paid almost $500, so Brownie and Tina made plans for a nicer dinner than I could afford. After the races were over we were looking for something to do. All of the guys wanted to go gambling. I suggested the Orleans. Everyone was in agreement. Except for one of the girls, who was doing the whole “whatever you want to do, but you’re gonna hear about it if it’s not something I wanna do” routine. I tried to get them to go to Monte Carlo instead, but she insisted that she had to go change for dinner (it was 2:30 in the afternoon at this point). Basically, we could tell that a group gambling trip to a strip casino was out of the question that afternoon, so we all just went our separate ways again, agreeing to meet up later that night down at the LV Club. We got back to Binions, and found Derek sitting back in the lounge area next to the bar in the very back of the casino, watching a football game on the big screen with no drink in his hand. He said he was done gambling for the trip, as his loss limit was reached, but that Neil had managed to raise the limit on his credit card, and found some extra cash. So we just sat there for awhile watching the game and catching up on each others adventures. Dave went to play blackjack, and Neil wandered by a few minutes later, so the three of us went to watch Dave. He was doing well, but as soon as we walked up, he lost the next three hands, so he told us to leave. I went back to the craps table, where I burned through about $200 in less than half an hour. I was ticked off by this time, as I’d been on a 24-hour losing streak by that point. I walked by a six deck shoe table, and stopped to watch. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the last four $5 chips I had. I put $10 each on two spots, get dealt a twenty and a nineteen, and of course the dealer has blackjack. That was it for me! I was so fed up with the cold tables, plus being down about $800 for the trip, and fighting a cold, I decided I’d had it. I bought me a beer and went back up to the room, took another lukewarm shower, and got into bed just as game 6 of the World Series was starting. I dozed in front of the game until it got exciting (yeah, I hate Barry Bonds too, so it was fun to see the Giants losing). About that time Derek showed up, saying he hadn’t gambled or drank all day and was ready to go home. I was ready too. We decided that we’d take off that night, and Neil could ride back home with Dave the next morning. Neil showed up a bit later, and the three of us went to dinner down in the coffee shop with my last comp ticket. I was craving some of the chicken parmesan that I’d had in July, but it was no longer on the menu, so I had spaghetti and meatballs. It was good, but not nearly as good as Derek’s chili. Dang, that Binions chili is so good. Neil managed to talk us out of leaving that night, but all of us were done gambling. We found Dave again, and he was making a comeback, so we didn’t disturb him. We hooked up with everyone at the LV club, said our goodbyes and went back up to the room. As I recall, we brought some beers back with us and we stayed up late watching SportsCenter and generally just goofing off. I loaded up on cold medicine, and we were all in bed before midnight. Dave wandered in sometime in the middle of the night, but none of us were awake. The next morning he said that he’d only lost about $200 for the trip, while the rest of us were in the $600 - $800 range. Check out was easy—we had no charges to settle up with the front desk as the room was comped and most of our meals were, also. We packed up and were on the road by 10 am, stopping for breakfast at the Micky D’s in Boulder City. Derek and I listed to football games on the am radio all the way home, and made it back in time for kickoff of the afternoon games. Final Thoughts: • It’s getting VERY hard to find a $5 game downtown on the weekends. Very crowded. • We’ve fallen into a rut. Try as I might, we can’t seem to pull ourselves away from the Binions/LV Club/Imperial Palace vortex. They’re all great casinos though. • No more cramming 4 people into a room with rollaways and sleeping bags. I’m paying extra for a room with only 2 people in it next time. • Being sick in Las Vegas just ruins the weekend. Losing all your bankroll doesn’t help much either. • You can’t get those 52 oz. plastic footballs full of soda pop, only beer. I saw a lady try. • The bead girls in front of Mermaids still won’t let me wear their headdresses. • I don’t know why, but I always lose my appetite in Vegas. I swear I cannot finish a meal there. • Derek and I are leaning towards the Luxor for March Madness. Everyone else wants LV Club, but I’d like to stay in a ‘nice’ place again. It’s been awhile. • LV Club is still cold, Imperial Palace is still hot. But the elevators are faster now. • Carson St. CafÃ© is a great coffee shop. Especially for dinner. • Downtown needs a REAL sportsbook. • The ‘Mint’ side of Binions is in real trouble. The other side is just fine. • I’m now 2 for 2 in the “propositions from skanks” category. Nothing like batting a thousand… • Next trip is in five months, and I think I can wait that long. This trip was not our best one. • I didn’t see a single cocktail waitress in 2 hours we spent at the Mirage. • Even being sick, losing lots of $$$, and trying to spend time with 10 different people going in ten different directions, Vegas is still great fun.