I couldn't make it to MMV, but I still needed a Hoops â€œfixâ€, so I headed out to Mecca for a few days for the first round of March Madness. I didnâ€™t arrive at the airport for my 8:45pm departure until 8:00, but I wasnâ€™t checking any bags and luckily there was no line to get through the TSA security checks. Since I usually check a bag, I hadnâ€™t tried to get a cigar cutter through the security checkpoint before, so rather than risk it, I asked a TSA official if it was okay. He replied, â€œCigar cutters are okay, â€™Cubansâ€™ are notâ€¦even though thatâ€™s what I always have.â€ I chuckled and told him I only had â€˜Macanudosâ€™, no â€˜Cubansâ€™, and I still made it to my gate before boarding was scheduled to begin. Then the dreaded announcement was made that our plane had not arrived, and the flight would be delayed. Donâ€™t these people understand how precious each minute in Vegas is worth? Finally, the plane arrived and an interminable boarding process began (I swear Iâ€™ve never seen so many people in wheelchairs and others pushing baby strollers in my life). What seemed like hours was actually only a 45 minute delay, and we were off. We arrived in Vegas at 11:00 pm local time to find McCarran was jam packed with people waiting for â€˜red eyeâ€™ flights back home. I made my way quickly out to the Grayline Shuttle and bought a $8 one-way ticket to the Flamingo. No way I wanted a round-trip ticket and have them pick me up 3 hours before my scheduled return flight â€“ Iâ€™ll make other arrangements, thank you. After a 20 minute wait, the bus departed McCarran and we headed for the Strip. I would have made this a completely â€˜Downtownâ€™ trip, but the Evil Empire granted me two nights comped at the Flaming-O, and they sucked me into their vortex. I didnâ€™t checked in until after midnight, and a very friendly, young lady told me they were near capacity and asked if I would be willing to accept a free upgrade to a â€œGOâ€ suite. Uhhh, let me thinkâ€¦.hell yeah! She said it was a handicapped accessible room with a walk-in shower rather than a shower/tub and if I wasnâ€™t satisfied with it after one night, she couldnâ€™t guarantee another â€˜GOâ€™ suite if I wanted to change rooms for the second night. I told her I didnâ€™t think that would be a deal-breaker and headed up to my pool-view room on the 18th floor (suite 18095). After freshening up, I headed down to the casino even though I hadnâ€™t slept in nearly 24 hours. I was surprised to find a $10 BJ table, albeit with the dreaded 6/5 payout. I bought in for a hundy, and proceeded to have a gorgeous dealer constantly draw multiple-card 21â€™s to my 19â€™s and 20â€™s. A new dealer and another $100 buy-in didnâ€™t change my luck, so I turned in for the night after 3am. Cousin Eddie: That's it Clark... show him who's boss. It's people like you who come here and blow the family nest egg that built this town... not this pretty boy! I woke up at about 7:30 am and decided that beauty sleep wasnâ€™t going to help me any, so I showered and headed over to the Trashy Castle with my laptop to check my e-mail and VMB. I bought a large coffee at Starbucks and had a seat close enough to Krispy Kreme to access their free Wi-Fi signal. After a little while, I decided that since I was so close, I might as well walk over to In-n-Out Burger to see what all the fuss was about. I ordered a Animal-style Double-Double with Animal-style fries. The way I figured it, I had more than burned that many calories walking from the Flamingo. I guess I had my hopes too high from all of the In-n-Out hype, but I was disappointed (if thatâ€™s possible when it comes to fast food). I know, call me a heretic, but I didnâ€™t understand the devotion. It seems as though I am the only person on the planet who wouldnâ€™t cross the street for In-n-Out, let alone deserts. I saw an empty cab in the parking lot, but decided to hoof it all the way back to Flamingo as a way of punishing myself for buying in to the hype when I should have gone to The Palm at Caesarâ€™s for the Business Lunch Special for $19.50. Back at the Flamingo, I decided I couldnâ€™t wait another day for March Madness to begin to satisfy my hoops betting jones, so I bet $110 on a NBA game and $55 on an NIT game. I then headed over to the bar in the center of the casino for a beverage and to play some video poker. I slipped a hundy into a 25 cent JoB machine and began playing max coins. I was surprised when they charged me for my beer, but let it slide when I hit quad 4â€™s for $100. I decided I would cash out if I got up to $200 or back down to my original $100. Do I even have to tell you how that resulted? Oh well, as I would soon enough realize, breaking even is better than a loss. Clark Griswold: Twenty. I'll stay. Marty: [flips over his card] Wha...? It's twenty. It's a push! Clark Griswold: I didn't lose! Marty: That's it, Griswold! You are freakin dead! I figured that maybe what I needed was a bit of the luck oâ€™ the Irish, so I headed over to Oâ€™Sheaâ€™s. I sat at a BJ table with a bunch of guys that were in Vegas for a bachelor party. They seemed to be winning big, so I wanted a piece of the action. I bought in for $100 and almost immediately went up about $80. Then the Evil Empire brought out the Cooler to relieve the dealer. Naturally, the cards turn and the bachelor party abandons ship. Me? Iâ€™m going down with the boat as if Iâ€™m the Captain of the damn thing. Three well endowed girls sit at the table and the dealer tells them that the rule is that if they win, they have to flash the table. They say theyâ€™ll see how it goes, so I canâ€™t leave at this point and buy in for another hundy. Well, these buxom babes had no clue how to play BJ as they constantly did things like hit a 15 against a dealerâ€™s 6. Well, the end result was I was down another 2 bills without even so much as a nipple for my troubles. Where are those crazy MMV girls when you need them??? Clark Griswold: I've lost three hundred dollars in fifteen minutes? [Eddie, having taken a sip of beer, chokes and spits it out] I head back to the Flamingo to catch the last quarter of the NBA game I bet on, only to find itâ€™s a lost cause. The NIT team I had bet on, which was getting 7 Â½ points, ended up a 9-point loser and the losses continued to mount. As I sat in the Flamingo Sportsbook wondering what the hell had happened to my rapidly diminishing bankroll, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He wanted my opinion on Thursdayâ€™s March Madness games. If he was a wise man, he would have made a bee-line to the betting window to bet the opposite. As we talked, I was amazed at his knowledge of so many of the players on teams from Drake to Kansas State. Although I think I have a decent grasp on the teams in the tournament, nothingâ€™s been working for me, so I debate whether I should go with his bets. I review the four Thursday early morning game lines because I donâ€™t want to miss out on placing a bet because Iâ€™m still passed out in the Flamingoâ€™s very comfortable bed. After considering the advice of the guy I met in the Book, an ESPN Bracket Challenge commercial comes on one of the TVs. The actor is thinking of filling out his bracket with the picks of the so-called experts when the announcer bellows, â€œTo thy own self be trueâ€. The actor then says, â€œI gotta go with my own picks.â€ I naturally believe this is a sign from the gambling gods and disregard the advice of the guy I met. I put $110 on Temple +7 against the Michigan St. Spartans. Marty: Woo hoo... Big bet for a BIG man... Sure you don't want to save a few bucks for the buffet? The next morning, I take a walk over to Caesar's to play some more VP. I hit quad 2's to go up a little and decide I'm at least getting a free lunch out of this session and cash out up $20. I head back to the Flamingo to check out and grab a cab downtown as I'll be spending my last night in the fabulous El Cortez. With the heavy afternoon traffic, the taxi ride costs me $28 counting a generous tip, but I'm glad to escape the force field of the Evil Empire. My tower room on the fourth floor wasn't exactly a high roller suite, but for $57 it served it's purpose. The decor looked like it hadn't been updated since Bugsy Siegel's days, but it had a certain old-school charm to it. After checking in, I took a walk down Fremont to grab a coffee at the Krispy Kreme in front of Fitzgerald's and to get caught up on my e-mails. The weather was fabulous, in the mid-70's, every day for my trip and it was perfect for strolling around downtown. Eventually, I head back to the ElCo to place some more basketball bets and do some more gambling. I bet $55 on the 'under' for the Notre Dame/George Mason game and another $50 on the money line on Arizona. I then took a seat at a $5 single deck Blackjack game and bought in for $100. The dealer was a being trained by a more experienced dealer, but other than a few technical errors in proper ways to deal and handle chips, I didn't see any errors in payouts. After an up-n-down session, I eventually lost my initial buy-in and bought in for another hundy and things headed south quickly. Down $200, I decided to check the March Madness scores in the Sportsbook. Clark Griswold: Eddie, has anyone ever told you you're bad luck? Cousin Eddie: Those were my mother's dying words. But I guess if your body's covered in third degree burns, and your foot's caught in a bear trap, you tend to start talkin' crazy. Since the ElCo is suppose to have very favorable video poker, I decide to take a seat to play some quarter JoB. I put a hundred into the machine and proceed to lose it all in record time. Since I seem to have a black cloud following me around inside the El Cortez, I decide to head out to Fremont and see if some sunshine will help shake me out of my gambling doldrums. After stopping in several downtown casinos, I stopped to listen to an excellent band playing on the Fremont stage (unfortunately, I didn't get their name). The band played some excellent renditions of some heavy metal favorites from Metallica and Ozzy and the lead guitarist was amazing playing 'Crazy Train'. All the while, it was quite a site to see an older lady (at least in her 70's) jumping up and down in her Chuck Taylor's and giving the devil horns sign with her hand. The band goes and break, and I decide to head back to the ElCo to see if I have won either of my sport's bets. My 'under' bet comes in at a comfortable 24 points under the total, but is offset by Arizona losing by 10 points. Marty: You don't know when to quit, do ya Griswold?... Here's an idea: Why don't you give me half the money your were gonna to bet, then we'll go out back, I'll kick you in the nuts, and we'll call it a day! Since I hadn't eaten all day and little more than a few moths flew from my wallet when I went to check how much money I had for dinner, I decided it would be a good time to use the 'buy one-get one' Subway coupon I pulled from the coupon sheet in my room. Rather than continue to chase my mounting losses, I decided to turn in at a reasonable hour and give it one more run the next morning. [Marty points to the Table Limit Sign $10 minimum] Marty: Come on, Griswold, You think that sign is there to hold the table down? Clark Griswold: What can I do with five dollars? Marty: Gee, I don't know. Buy a bullet and rent a gun? The next morning, I used another ElCo coupon to grab a 99 cent coffee at Seattle's Best and headed over to the Sportsbook for my last chance at redemption on my March Madness bets. I bet St. Mary's on the money line for $50 and Davidson (-2) and Drake (-4) for $55 each. Then, I parlayed all three for another $20. Confident that within a few hours, I'd be cashing in for a $270 profit, I headed back to the blackjack tables. I tossed the dealer a hundred and proceeded to watch her draw nothing but 20's and 21's hand after hand. In what seemed like a few minutes, my $100 in chips was gone and I left the table a beaten man. Cousin Eddie: I haven't seen a beatin' like that since somebody stuck a banana in my pants and turned a monkey loose. I returned to my room and placed a call to the front desk to reserve a seat on the El Cortez complimentary airport shuttle at 2:00 pm. I thought that was an excellent service to provide to their guests. I guess they must feel it's the least they could do after taking all of my money. After packing, I headed down to check out and to check my bag with the Bellman until it was time to leave. Since I had never walked any further east on Fremont than the ElCo, I decided to take in some of the local charm and head towards the Western. Although I never felt as though I was in any danger, I don't know that I would feel comfortable taking that walk if it was at night and I was a female. As I approached the Western, a downtrodden man walking in front of me turned and said "Don't hit me man!" I admit I wasn't exactly wearing a big grin after the beat-down I had taken over the last few days, but I assured the toothless derelict I had no intention of taking it out on him. He replied, "You ex-Marine? I thought you were going to hit me." I told him I would never do something like that and thought it quite ironic that he felt less safe than I did at that point. After a quick walk through the Western, I headed back to the ElCo to check my sport's bets. Miami had thrashed St. Mary's by 14, so that was a loser as well as my parlay. Davidson had come back to beat Gonzaga, so I needed Drake to pull it out to make a profit. Down by 16 with 8 minutes to go, Drake looked like another loser, but they mounted a comeback and my only hope was for overtime so Drake would have a chance to cover the 4 point spread. Miraculously, they tied in regulation and as the clock ran down in OT, I figured my only hope was for a second OT. Down by one with 5.7 seconds remaining, Drake was fouled. I hoped he would split the free throws, but he hit them both to give Drake a 99-98 lead. Western Kentucky raced down the court and heaved up a desperation 26-footer as the clock expired. The sportsbook exploded as the ball splashed through the net and even though I had lost again, it was another electric March Madness moment. I headed over to grab my bag from the Bell desk and wait for the shuttle driver to appear. I was the lone passenger on the 2:00 pm shuttle (the last of the day) and the driver told me to jump in the front seat of the ElCo van. Originally from Boston, the driver had lived in Vegas for over 20 years and we talked about how things had changed since he arrived. The conversation about Vegas was great and eventually turned to our mutual love of sports. We arrived at the airport and I gave him a $5 tip for the lift and a great conversation. The security lines weren't too bad and I grabbed a bite to eat to kill time until my 4:30 pm flight. The flight was delayed about 30 minutes, but once it arrived, they loaded the plane in a flash and I headed home. Clark Griswold: Eddie, I gambled away more money than you'll ever understand. Cousin Eddie: Try me. Clark Griswold: [whispering] Twenty-two thousand eight hundred dollars. Cousin Eddie: [shouting] Oh God! Oh God! Oh my shhhhooddd! Oh God! Oh my God! Trip Expenses: Airfare: $158 Hotels: $57 Food/Drinks/Transportation/Tips: $120 Gambling losses: $1165 Total Expense: $1500 While I usually don't end up going home a winner, this was by far the worst beating I've ever taken gambling. At least the money I saved on my flights, rooms and meals helped offset the gambling losses. I'm sure after a few months, I'll be ready to go back and win some of my money back! I apologize for what was probably a pretty boring read, at least compared to what is to come when the MMV trip reports start coming in, but I hope it beat working.