One trip over the line or, What comes to Vegas stays in Vegas. Here's how it started: I nearly left my wallet at security before the plane ride to Vegas. As I remarked to my buddy JonnyU later, that maybe would've saved me some money. The point of this trip was that I hadn't been to Vegas with my buddy JonnyU for about eighteen months, not since he had a forty-eight hour "layover" on his way to meeting a friend in LA. At points it looked like he wasn't going to make this one either, with his work situation in flux. But I found a good airfare out of MSP and cashed out some online poker winnings and bought him a ticket. He has since gotten a (much) better job, and is therefore on the hook for the next one. We had some vague plans. Of course, we're staying downtown, although I couldn't talk him into the El Co. There are some routines, like the martini at Bellagio and the ponies at Caesars. And some new stuff, like my getting a car for the last 24 hrs and getting out and about. And I had a boatload of leftover coupons and matchplays, plus some RossW had sent.And since both Jonny and I were going back to work bright and early the morning after getting home, we kinda wanted to front-load the action. Oh yeah, and my goal for the trip was to start laughing in the airport and not stop til I got back. Got a good start on that when some reallly loud buzzing noise started down in the jetway and Jonny made a comment about sending somebody to turn off the "industrial-strength vibrator". So here's how Saturday goes. Checked into the Fitz, no complaints there. I would have no reservations recommending the Fitz as a home base. Decent room, pretty good casino, a little pool if you feel the need, right on Fremont. View east was of the Boulder strip, mainly. 'Nuff that, on to the cocktails. Hard to get a buzz going on those little juice-glass rail drinks, but not like we weren't trying. Played some roulette here and there, but Jonny wasn't getting any love from the tables. Then Mikey came up and joined us for dinner at Robertas. (Jer, Eric, wha' happen'??) Prime rib all around, ma'am. It wasn't the Brontosaurus burger that Mikey's buddy plowed through, but they made a serious hole in a cow to get these things. Thick, good sized, and cooked appropriately, and we were out the door (including a free bottle of wine, Thanks Ross!) for $51 total for the three of us. Oh hell yeah. And the horseradish they brought with it was exactly that - shredded horseradish, not horseradish-flavored sauce. When we weren't laughing til we cried, there was the horseradish to finish the job. When we were done we all waddled out to a Pai Gow table to let that slab of cow start working. The first dealer was a nice enough lady, but she was running through our chips, and then they brought out a new guy. Mikey saw his nametag and elbowed Jonny, sayin' "its the fifth beetle". Jonny looked at the nametag, then at his cards and said "Who flung?" Which I found funny enough by itself until I looked up to read: Hello, my name is Dung". Naturally, from there it was off to Jerry's Nugget, but not before a tour of of East Fremont to look at the seedy goodness of the vintage motels there. "XXX movies 24 hrs" -- no kidding. On the TV, or you want I should put you next to the 'honeymoon suite'? As we get to the end of the street, there's a cop car or two pulled up in a gas station. While the cops interview the young lady, the young gentleman in handcuffs off by himself is swinging from side to side, like he's used to amusing himself while waiting around in handcuffs. Good stuff. Then we swing the ghetto cruiser up into North Las Vegas, past the bums sleeping in the sidewalk along Las Vegas Boulevard, to Jerry's Nugget. Had some matchplays there, but I cannot win a red cent off those blackjack tables, and that night, neither did the other two. So we went over to the dice tables, and that started out bad. Point, seven for each of us first time around. On Mikey's second roll, he hit another one of those runs that I've seen a couple of times now with him at the table. After a while, though, they started giving Mikey grief for setting the dice. I don't think they're real keen on winners there. So when his roll ended, we colored up and walked. Across the street there was a little neighborhood bar that Mikey had been wanting to try. Cover was a little steep, as were the drinks, but the staff were certainly attentive. So anyway, after that it was back to the El Co for a little more dice, this time with no love whatsoever. It was getting late, the wallet was feeling alarmingly light (not sure where it all went, but the drinks at the neighborhood bar *were* pretty steep), and we called it a night. Left Mikey at the craps table, but from what I heard later he was done there pretty quick after we left. Oh yeah, there was a stint at the Plaza poker tables right there at the end, me thinking that would be my "personal ATM". I had fun, but it didn't happen like that. Next morning I'm reminded what "east facing room on the 27th floor" means, it means sun bright and early. Tried to sleep in and made it to... seven-fifteen? In a nutshell, Sunday was kinda over before it started. Breakfast at the Gate was underwhelming. The 302 is gone and "the Deuce" is slow and some of the drivers pretty darn annoying. The craps table out front of Slots A fun is now open only 11 to 5 or so, wasn't open when we were there. Didn't feel like drinking a martini at any point during the day. Caesars book was packed with NFL fans, no seats to be had. The good points were - Jonny got to see Wynn (found it nice but underwhelming), the Barbary Coast is always a welcome sight, and the Island Lounge at Mandalay is still a pretty bar, even if the drink prices are rediculous and service non-existant (yeah, maybe that's off the list for MM3). About the "Deuce". Good thing - it's a double decker, and they're trying to get the drivers to be a little more personable. Bad things - there is no longer an express 302. Tourists, on average, take a hell of a lot of time paying for their ride or 24 hr pass - which could be done at a ticket kiosk before hand, if they would install those. And some of the drivers really do "personable" poorly. Like the driver on the trip back to downtown, who was pulling the "hey (insert description of person here), your shoe is untied" joke on every fifth strip pedestrian. Hey bus driver, your joke was old ten minutes ago, and even if his shoes *are* untied, he's moving faster than we are, dammit. So back downtown, back to all the black cowboy hats and wrangler jeans, this being the end of NFR and all. The best fashion statement this trip was the guy in the boot-sneakers, essentially boots except at the bottom they're cross trainers. Cowboys in comfortable boots. The rodeo fans and Christmas decorations made this a surreal trip, epitomized by the gay caballero belting out some Andy Williams christmas special on the fremont bandstand. Don't think I'm going back at this particular time of year. Although Jonny had a heck of a night playing craps all night, between the irish cowboy from Canada telling him how to bet and the 60 yr old cowgirl who kept grabbin his flanks "for luck". Also, ScottR called and met up with us down at the Fitz on Sunday. Best part of the day, actually, was just sitting up in Fitzgeralds drinking beers and bullshitting with Scott and Jonny while the Packers were playing in the background. Then we wandered down to the Plaza for more of the same, until Scott bugged out so he could get up to drive out to Zion early the next day. Good times. Almost forgot - being the down-on-our-luck gambling degenerates we were, we naturally headed up to the Gold Spike, and took a shining to the place right away. Consider that this is where folks go who aren't flush enough to hang out at the El Cortez. Probably pretty smoky too, but considering my travelling companion apparently is on a mission to fill the vacuum left by the late Marlboro Man when he died, I didn't notice it so much. Anyway, this place has three blackjack tables, of which only two were working. And real coin-in slots, including actual penny-in slots. So if your bankroll jingles, this is the place. I went big on a Double Diamond Deluxe quarter machine, but eventually wound up back at the penny-in double bonus. This would be a good time to ask -- you know all those buttons you keep touching? Ever thought about what happens to them in a day? As someone said on this trip, in a different context, "you have no idea where that's been!" Normally, I'm a big believer in the human immune system, but I became a complete OCD hand-washing freak on this trip. Monday morning was "Fistful of Matchplays". Wandered around downtown and decided I'd use 'em on roulette. Not the best gamble, no, but you're not going to mess up anybody's "run" by jumping in for a one-hitter. I found out, as an added bonus, that not only does downtown get the break-in dealers, roulette must get the real hard-to-instruct ones. Each trip to the wheel involved about fifteen minutes of conversation as to whether you could actually use the matchplay on this game, and on what bet. Only wound up hitting one of three of those, but did hit on a craps matchplay plus somebody's roll at the Lady Luck, and got a little love from a blackjack table at the Gate. Pretty sure that all got pissed back at another craps table somewhere, though. Spent some quality time at the El Co's front bar drinking bloody's while Jonny got some shuteye. Later he joined me down there for breakfast, then I checked into the El Co for a night. Didn't wind up using the room, exactly, but for $25 we got a bunch of coupons and a look at the room, which Jonny agreed, was nicer-looking than our Fitz room. Plus, who knows, you keep on Jackie's marketing radar and there could be some liquor miniatures in the future for ya. Headed down to the strip again. We actually got to play the ponies at Caesars this time, but the buggers have gone to drink tickets (ask when you bet), they rearranged the seating, and my favorite wiatress wasn't there, the one who was on a mission to fill the table with full glasses. And we didn't hit shiat on the horses. Not a darn thing. Closest thing for me was getting my exacta box horses to finish 2-3. Wandered back over to the Barbary, our home-away-from-downtown. Got back downtown too late to pick up the car, so instead of going down to see Mikey deal, we just kicked around downtown (including another trip to the Spike, naturally). Got a reverse "drunk call" (meaning the dialer was the sober one) from RossW as we were wandering around. Took me a minute to figure out "who the hell do I know in Ontario?" Also got a few shots of neon with the phone, sent a pic of Vegas Vic (later called a "jealousy picture") off to a coworker. Finished the night with a late-night prime rib at Binions, downstairs. It was ok for what it was, but service blew and the "horseradish" would have been stronger if they'd even just set it next to the stuff at Robertas for five minutes. Last day I picked up the car (after waiting behind charter members of the new Slowlane program - when the hand-written doctor's note comes out you know to settle in for a long haul...) and ran up to Jerry's to cash an errant green chip from the earlier adventure, and play a matchplay. Of course, didn't win shiat at that BJ table. Then we just drove around the Valley. Down Boulder highway, took a look in at Sams. Meandered through a few neighborhoods, wandered down to GVR, then back up to the Hard Rock, which was basically the last stop before the airport. Bought in one last time at a craps table, made some money off a dude's roll but totally failed to walk away with it. Time to go. Final thoughts: - Christmas is wrong in Vegas. No snow, plus it's really a kids' holiday, and I don't like the kids+Vegas thing - the Deuce needs work - probably one trip too many this year - Jonny and I need to find more stuff to *do* during the day. Don't say go to a show, it ain't happening.