Things didnâ€™t look good at the start, with the white stuff falling on Lindbergh terminal, and us sitting on the runway after the airport closed. Still, it only cost me a couple hours thanks to AA promptly rebooking me. Walking through McCarren, I texted Terry: "On and crackin'?" Prior to that I'd already gotten a message from Becky:"Time's a wastin' and so are we!" Figured that didn't sound good, and when Larry picked me up (thanks a bunch bro!) he told me they'd hit the Commanders Palace quarter martini's hard. I checked in at the Plaza and got my south tower double queen room (oh no, ma'am, we're just friends...). We got a couple of beers and went up to the room to ... wait for the iron. Figured Terry was going to bust my chops about the domesticity of the situation - except he was doing the exact same thing. Thirty minutes or so later, we meet up downstairs, three dashing (or at least smooth-shirted) gents heading out on the town. We quickly attracted the attention of a couple of similarly-minded ladies ... well, ok, Becky and St Croix Cyndy had arranged to meet us downstairs. While we were waiting for Patti (inOntario) to arrive, we were distracted by a cute blonde in a very short and very red skirt across the street. "Daddy likes it very much" was Larry's response -- hold on, that's Patti! That may have been the first time (but nowhere near the last) that Terry looked at me and said, "This could go horribly ... right!" Becky called a limo and we all piled in. Nice ride and all (great driver), some pretty good (no, outstanding) photo ops but ... there was something missing. Been on the ground in LV a couple hours, now in a limo, and lets just say I'm getting pretty thirsty. Jer was all over that. We stopped at the IP to pick up Jer, Angy, Tonya, Sin (did I miss someone?) and I got handed a paper bag with something long and hard with a couple round squishy things toward the base. What the f....??!! hold on, there's a bottle of Bacardi in here, and a couple of those little lemon/lime juice things. Who needs mixer?! Although, I was completely intimidated trying to pour shots into 10 oz soda cups. I didn't want it to look like a weak pour, but thought I was in need of some restraint, there wasn't going to be any sympathy for the devil later. We pile out of the limo at Mandalay, Sin ambushes us (the guys anyway) with a goodie from her camera-phone that I can never un-see, and we sashay in through the front doors, Jer classin' it up with his sixpack of Coronas in hand. Took me about half a beer to get from the front door to the entrance of Mix, where it got confiscated. Ok, fine. Beautiful restaurant side, the bar/lounge side is funky but, I don't know, kind of plain by comparison. Of course, it has the lovely outdoor patio, on the edge of a 64 story building, not that that was front and center in my head or anything. Fortunately, they mix a good margarita, which didn't bring me down off the ledge, but did make me more sanguine about being there. Bought the birthday girl a drink, but as I thought, the power lunch wasn't leaving her in the mood for a strong marg. RamBill joined us, good times up on the patio. There were some birthday kisses, from the abysmally-executed (me -- at least no one got hurt) to the outstanding (Sin, who even got a 9.7 from the Russian judge). There would be a pic of that if ... I hadn't completely punted with the camera-phone. Limo'd back to the Plaza, along the way discovering Sin's number-one talent, which would be lapdancing. Girl got mad skillz there. I usually lose something, and apparently (yes, I peeked at the board while writing this) I forgot about the dinner at Binions. A little prime rib, this time with real nose-clearing horseradish to go with the simulated-horseradish-flavor sauce. A good time, and we didnâ€™t get booted, which I think probably put a hurt on the oddsmakers, â€˜cuz we were heavy favorites. I guess Sin, Tonya, Terry, Jer, Cyndy, Larry and Becky and I donâ€™t have the security-alerting skillz of some othersâ€¦ Larry, Terry, Cyndy and I headed over to the Plaza poker table, us guys playing 2/4, Cyndy just watching, and, apparently, scheming. We're going back and forth, Larry busting one of my better hands, dammit. Trying to concentrate on the game, and keep an eye out for the very infrequent cocktail waitress, when suddenly she's behind me, announcing to the entire poker room, "Sir, here's your Shirley Temple!" I hate my friends. Should've left that table when my stack was only half down, and Larry was a little up, but didn't. Larry busted out before me, and when I got to the felt I found him over at one of the carnival game (3 card poker, I think). Larry would tell me later - "dude, next time you leave the casino, grab me by the f***in' ear and drag me out of there!" I didn't, and it didn't go well, nuff said. Friday morning I finally met DonD in person, down by "his" machine, thanked him for the picture, then scooted down to the El Co for breakfast, where Careful Kitty's has been cut in half with the other side being turned into a Chinese Breakfast Buffet. You can ask Ross what that means, he tried it later and pronounced it not too shabby. Got back up to the Plaza and worked on my hoops picks for the day, sports betting being an NVE for me (New Vegas Experience). Glad I got in too late the day before to make any, would've done poorly, but today would hit two of three underdogs on the moneyline, for small stakes, but at least it was a start on making up the poker "winnings". Went up to DonD's suite (meeting Marty and RamBill) to set up the race bet and listen to Gordon the handicapper. Interesting stuff, and he gave us a horse he liked on top of the pick six pool he put together for us. Unfortunately, neither the horse at Oaklawn or the pick six came through, but it was fun anyway. Now it was about noontime, and I needed a little snack before hitting the poker table, so we took Larry on his very first Gate shrimp cocktail run. I still don't see how they manage to make that line so d*mn slow, there must be a trick because the DMV moves faster. I guess part of it is people like Bill pointing out to the staff the subtle difference between a roast beef sandwich, and a corned beef sandwich. Anyway, back to the Plaza where they opened up a 2/4 table for us. More good times there. John, (CoasterHub) putting out a blind straddle the very first hand (i.e. raise before the cards are even dealt) -- nice. I was more strategic -- "Terry's blind? Jer called? Heck yeah I'm raising!" Had a couple locals at the table, like the grizzled older gent in a motorized wheel chair who went by the name of "Bear", who didn't appreciate all this tomfoolery. Then there was RamBill in the middle of the table, whose stack dwindled as he kept folding to my raises. We would all pay for that later. Oh, and we found out Sin's second best talent (a close second) is backrubs. Doug (bazootch) showed up, and somewhere in there Carmen (Sticky Fingers) did too, which was nice â€˜cuz Patti had someone to talk Canadian with, although I suspect they were talking aboot us... All good fun, but there was a penthouse suite that was calling us. Another day, another limo, another lapdance... where does it all end?? Maybe up in the penthouse suite where there is Mikey making spicy beavers, a giant bottle of patron and a bazillion "T2V MMIII" shot glasses (this reminds me - I have a bunch of these, email me your address and I'll try to get you the exact one you drank from...). The suite also had a giant hot tub, which sadly remained dry, but still provided good photo ops. Prince Paul joined us, Drea showed up, KenO and wife, Marty and his boys, some scared-looking kid Angy picked up in the elevator ... bring your own lampshade, somewhere there's a party. There was a side trip in there to get Carmen back to the Rio, which kinda seemed like overkill until it really did take three of us fifteen minutes to help her find her room key. Since we were there, it wouldnâ€™t be right not to stop down at Bomboleo, unless of course they replace bartending hotties in Patron t-shirts with â€œflairâ€ bartenders. Not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with that â€¦ no, actually there is â€“ the â€œflairâ€ tequila sunrise was about the worst Iâ€™ve ever had. Good thing itâ€™s not a Mexican restaurant â€“ doh! Heck with that, we know where thereâ€™s still a bottle of Patron (make that half a bottle) and a bottle of Crown Royal (nope) and Goldschlager (nope) and â€¦ hmm, maybe we should move this downtown. And lets take a cab, â€˜cuz if weâ€™re lucky the people in front of us in the cab line will be holding up what looks like a dead person â€“ the difference being that dead people donâ€™t hurl. Funny how we got a cab before they did. Downtown, and getting hungry, who could argue with a stop at Triple 7 brewpub? Long story short, the rating was food-2.5, service-0. Why would it take a half hour longer to get eggs than a steak? Hours of buzzkill there. Did get to meet Dave (Guilt) though. There was a little poker time after that with Doug, Larry and I, but I was done and turned in. Forgot to pull Larry out of the casino again. Ooops. Saturday, of course, was the day of the big poker tourney, so Iâ€™d probably want to sleep in a bit and be rested up for that. Nope, up at the crack of 8 am again with a luxurious 4 hrs of sleep in. Headed down to the Peppermill (another NVE for me) with Mikey, Cyndy and Doug, had a couple of bloodies in that very cool lounge (where Ron and buddies stopped by), then some eggs benny in the restaurant, where we were met by Chuck and Ed B (conveniently wearing an Eddie Bauer shirt so I could remember which Ed was which). Food was good, wait staff was kinda wired, but overall good experience. Probably shouldâ€™ve gone back to the room and got a nap in before the tourney, elected instead to watch Mikey go down to some very strong Kung Fu poker. What does Pai Gow mean? Well, loosely translated, it means the hand thatâ€™s in front of youâ€¦ Got my stack whittled a bit too. Off to the tourney, which was a super high point of the trip. Everybody was there. I drew a table with Ed B, BigHead, Cyndy, Carmen, Guiltâ€™s buddy whose name escapes me, RamBill at the exact opposite end, DonDâ€™s wife Jennifer and â€¦ I forget (sorry). Play was very tight at first, nobody wanting to bust out first and get that coveted porn slapper shirt. Table behind us had more action, but we contributed the first one out, and Jennifer looked very fetching in the neon yellow â€œStrippers Direct to You!â€ shirt. Me, I pulled a small pot or two early, including one where, again, Bill folded to my raise, but after that I went very card dead. And then a curious thing happened on the other end of the table. Bill raised (mustâ€™ve been on the flop, tho Iâ€™m not sure). I picked up my whole stack and looked down the table, but there was no messing with this guy, Bill was staring a hole into the center of the table. Of course, I had complete crap and folded, and good thing too, as he showed quad 5s at the end. One or two more monster hands and he was sitting on a pretty good stack. Me, I figured at one point I needed to pick a point before the next blind to do something, picked the wrong spot for a [email protected] all-in, got called and was out. Mikey popped up with the â€œDoc, that puts you about what, 24th?â€ Yeah, but I still finished ahead of Terryâ€¦ but behind Ross, who was talked into buying in. So I got that going for me. So I got to hang out in the Losers Lounge playing more 2/4 limit as we waited for the conclusion. Heck of a run at the end between Bill and SteveB, and kudos to everyone who made the final table. Kudos too to the Plaza card room manager, awesome at every turn. After the excitement, I got cleaned up to go down to the strip and dine at the Palm in Caesars with Mikey, Cyndy, Carmen, George and Marlisha (who ferried Doug and I down there in their totally smooth ride â€“ we had working windows and an antenna!), and eventually joined by Chuck and Ed B. The Palm was nice, food was great, service pretty good. Started off with a sapphire martini that Mikey and George concurred with; large, properly cooked prawns in a proper shrimp cocktail; and a very, very good ribeye. And finished with what was a pretty good crÃ¨me brulee, even after it was horribly mangled by Mikey, not as nimble-fingered after a sapphire and some pinot apparently. Not cheap, but didnâ€™t break the bank as much as I expected either. Back downtown to induct a dice virgin (Carmen), and profit us thereby, we hit the Fremont. As it happens, her roll was ok, but unfortunately, it was layered in the stack-killing rolls of the rest of us. Things kind of split up at this point, and I tagged along with Angy back to the strip. We headed over to a casino bar in Paris to watch Chicago Cindy, a girl named George, and Drea (an absolute sweetie) work the free drinks out of the boys in the striped collared shirts, with even more hope than hairgel. Also, due to some headliner or another, there was a huge middle-eastern contingent of some sort or another, which broke out into a little skirmish on the casino floor for a while. Fortunately, that cleared, and we could get back to looking for the working girls, as this was clearly (in my learned estimation, anyway) the hooker bar of Paris. Spotted one out there working on a deal, next minute she was gone. About a half hour later sheâ€™s back; made a couple more cold-calls in the lounge, and then moved on to a different territory. Time is money. Looked like we were maybe going to lose Cindy and/or George, so we headed back up to the IP, slowly, and in Cindyâ€™s case, painfully. But when we got there, Cindy wanted to play cards, so I sat down with her at yet another 2/4 table. Two seats open, I elected to give her the seat next to the clean-cut baseball-cap guy, and saved the seat by the largish, extremely hairy and pretty drunk guy for myself. He was from Wisconsin, so we got along ok, but this was about 3 to 6 AM, and everybody was a little worn around the edges. Putting Cindy in this group probably wasnâ€™t an OSHA-sanctioned move, but we only had one near-riot. About 6 am I hit the felt again, called it a day and headed back downtown. Played a lot of 2/4 this weekend, very little of it well or profitably, but it was a good time all the same. Figured I could get a little shuteye, but about an hour and a half into blissful sleep got a call from Ross. Now youâ€™d think youâ€™d turn your cell off â€“ and I did. So I appreciated Rossâ€™s ingenuity in going via the hotel phone. I think we tried to make plans to meet later in the afternoon at the Hilton, but I was semi-coherent at best. Got a little more shuteye and headed down to Ballyâ€™s for the Sterling Brunch with poker-champ Bill, Angy, Cyndy, Mikey, Doug, George and Marlisha. Angy and Doug were in a lobster eating race, from which I would later benefit. I was using Bill as my â€œnative guideâ€ around the buffet â€“ I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m a total rube, but there was a fair amount of stuff I couldnâ€™t identify at first blush. Iâ€™d say the food was good, not $65 brunch good, but the company totally made it. Took the monorail up to a very busy Hilton sportsbook to meet Ross, but turns out he was still down checking in at Monte Carlo, so I monorailâ€™ed back down and met him and brother-in-law Tim at MGM. Wound up back at the Monte Carlo with them, playing video blackjack (another NVE) and getting coronas as fast (or faster) than we could drink them from a cocktail waitress who was quite obviously smitten with the good doctor (that musta been itâ€¦). So that explains why I still had a near full corona in hand when we walked into the Brew Pub to get a bite to eat. Over the course of the next couple hours, we had a couple more beers (microbrews now) some very mediocre calamari, presumably a decent burger, some pretty good conversation (or, Ross, thanks for letting me bend your ear) and (I think) I left them my credit card, which gave me something to do on Monday. Cabbed back up to the Plaza to meet up to go out to Sunset where Mikey was going to be laying down the kung fu poker. Got up to my room to change and use the bathroom, and discovered â€¦ lobster entrails swimming in the can. Iâ€™ll have to remember to ask Angy about that laterâ€¦ We were going to just meet and head out but Doug was in the money in a GN tourney, so I joined Terry at yet another 2/4 table, this one a geologists dream of Pliestocene rocks, who, I think, totally failed to appreciate Terry and I, and my style of play. Unfortunately, the cards went south again, and I totally failed to lay something on the old couple across from me that was critiquing my play between each other in stage whispers. Probably didnâ€™t help when Terry would say things like, â€œDude, when Iâ€™m older, if I ever start discussing health care plans at the poker table, it is your job to kick some sense into me.â€ Seriously, the words â€œVA Hospitalâ€ really shouldnâ€™t come up THAT often. We heard, and then saw, Angy and Patti come up behind us, Angy pretty well in the red zone. I asked about the lobsters. â€œSo you found them?â€ yes. â€œWe worked real hard to get the pillows smoothed down so you wouldnâ€™t notice.â€ So there are some under the pillows too? â€œOoops! Sh*t.â€ Fortunately, Doug chopped and got his tourney winnings before things got too out of hand. SteveB was kind enough to ferry us out to Sunset, but with Cyndy we didnâ€™t quite fit into the smooth ride, so Terry and Doug bailed back into the poker room. Pretty soon after we got to Sunset, Mikey got put on the toney $20 pai gow table, and I looked down at a buyin of â€¦ five units, which didnâ€™t bode well. But fortunately I didnâ€™t have SteveBâ€™s luck, as he found out quite clearly what Pai Gow means (â€œcrap handâ€, essentially). Fortunately, they tapped Mikey out early and we transferred our bankrolls to the friendlier confines of Boulder Station. Played more pai gow, more dice (unsuccessfully), and more pai gow, before finally calling it a night and heading back downtown. Where I needed to extricate what looked like alien anatomy from both beds (very thorough, thanks!) before I could park it. Woke, packed, got some trinkets and another bag to carry the boxes of shot glasses home in (thanks), couldnâ€™t find anyone else to unload them on, rushed down to MC in a failed attempt to track down my credit card, and got to the airport pretty close to on time. Sat on the plane while they waited to see if we were going to be allowed to land in Dallas (35 knot crosswinds â€“ â€œno plane made can land in thatâ€ â€“ thanks). Eventually got off the ground, landed in Dallas in a manner we could walk away from, but was then delayed getting to Minneapolis for another couple hours. Got in about 2 last night (24 hrs ago). And now you know, the rest of the story. In summary â€“ I had a hell of a good time. One of those trips ere itâ€™s tough finding time to sleep (yeah, I know, itâ€™s Vegas). Also great because, compared to last year, I knew people better going into the trip, and as Terry says, my friends rock. Speaking of Terry, got this text message from him this morning â€“ â€œLets do that again!!â€ My reply â€“ â€œhowâ€™s this weekend for you?â€ Lol.