Monday, October 21st
Casinos and Side Trips
The Pai Gow pit at the Bellagio is right across from the popular, "meet you at the Baccarat Bar", Baccarat Bar.
The walkway over the Strip is obviously elevated. It affords a great view up and down the Strip. At night, don't miss it. It's not often mentioned, probably because it's transportation related, but it's worth experiencing for the "in the middle of it all" kick, if for no other reason.
The walkway leads to the second level, the casino entrance of the Bellagio. I went down the escalators upon entering the casino to the street level and a plaza and watched a daytime fountain show. Then back up the escalators to the casino, made my way towards the Pai Gow pit and stopped along the way for some VP. Lost $20, (i played a few quick hands of Pai Gow before leaving the Orleans) Make that down $60 for the day.
There's no need i think, to describe the Bellagio, it's a magnificent property and everyone knows it. The Bellagio can grow on you, when you're there, you can feel it's the only place to be in Vegas. This phenomenon is common in Vegas. I get this same feeling at the Mirage, New York/New York, Mandalay Bay, Arizona Charlies. the Rio and Dowtown at night. Everyone has their own favorite places.
I settled in for some Pai Gow, Bellagio Style.
There were two well dressed couples at the table when i began play. They were dressed in black and white, enjoying themselves, knew the game and were betting somewhat over the $10 limit. Their speaking accent was a clipped spanish and i'm guessing they were from spain. Later, an aging cheerleader type, of about twenty three i'd say, sat down. She knew how to play fairly well, bet the minimum and played mostly with her face in her hands. The dealer, in a friendly way, suggested to her that she may have had "a rough night last night". She smiled and said that she definitely did and on top that, she was leaving Vegas later that day. Enough to depress anyone... An oriental girl and i'm talkng a real knockout, sat down awhile later. She bought in for hundreds, played at least $125 a hand. After she left, there were a few comments i overheard around the table; she had won. If you think anybody misses anything at the tables folks, think again.
I always try to sit at the first seat or the sixth seat. I smoke, always have a bottle of water and usually a beer Meaning, that if the casino dosen't have draft beer, that's a bottle AND a glass. So, that's an ashtray, a bottle of water, a bottle of beer and a glass of beer. It gets in the way, so i try to stay out of the way. If someone wrote a trip report and described me at a table, it would be probably, "the guy with all the stuff" ... maybe that would be the only nicest thing they could think of :-) $10 a hand, about three hours, lost $75, down $135 for the day.
No, it dosen't have the excitement and character,
of the "floor of the New York Stock Exchange during a rally" chaos, that the great Stardust Spots Book has,
but the Bellagio Sports Book, as you would expect, oozes comfort and interest. Like Jerry Seinfeld said, when describing the success of Star Trek, -what could be better than sitting in a comfortable swivel chair, barreling through space, watching Monday Night Football on a BIG screen. I don't think he said Monday Night Football, but you get the drift.
I got to the Bellago Sports Book/Bar at exactly 6pm Vegas time. I wasn't confident, i was gloating, i was cocky, i had a warm feeling of assertive arrogance; that Payton and Edgerrin James would make the Steelers feel they got off easy with their championship rematch loss to the Patriots earlier this year.
What a disaster. If anybody is even casually familiar with football fandom, they don't need me to tell them what Steeler fans are like. Well, they were all there at the Bellagio Sports Book, it was painful. Payton manning threw a touchdown pass, or maybe it was just a big gain, i don't remember, the sea of Steeler fan tables was silent, i yelled out, "ya!, get im!, PAYTON!".
It echoed in the Sports Book, throughout the Sports Bar, like a night watchman stepping on a rusty nail in the Louvre.
On the way out of the Bellagio, i stopped and saw it again, this time at night, the Bellagio Fountains.
I went back over the walkway and down to the street plaza. Bally's is there, the Paris at night, Eiffel Tower lighted, hundreds of feet high into the desert sky.
Walking the Strip from the Barbary Coast North is a real trip. It adds another dimension to the already endless variety of Vegas. It's a people watching crossroads. It's the one place in Vegas you wouldn't be altogether suprised to run into someone you know. It's high energy with purpose, a canival atmosphere with gambling, wide entrances to the casinos, right off the sidewalk, on your other side, "deer caught in the headlights" looks from people slowly passing in the hectic traffic of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Harrah's, The Flamingo, the Imperial Palace, Casino Royale, the Venetian, the thunder of the Volcano at the Mirage, the booming resonating basso of the the Pirate Battle at Treasure island. Like being a kid and the band, the drums, the horns, uniforms with vibrant colors, all starts up, JUST when it gets to you and keeps on going, VEGAS!! BABY!!
I hadn't been to the MGM, Monte Carlo, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay or the Tropicana this trip. There's certain places i keep going back to, New York/New York is one of them.
I had a fried chicken attack. I went to the Kentucky Fried Chicken type chicken place that i knew was somewhere in the "streets of New York".
It was closed, but there was no apparent reason for it in prime time at night. The cook must've called in sick or something, that's all that i could come up with. I got a meatball sub at one of the pizza places, it was excellent.
Coyote Ugly, located upstairs at New York/New York had a $10 cover charge. A cover charge on a Monday night, plus the reviews of the club and knowing it would have performing bartenders and a faux party atmosphere, didn't appeal to me, across the board. I didn't go in.
However, for free, i probably would have given it a look at least.
I went back down to the casino on the escalator, walked by and looked in at, the bar with the dueling pianos, around ESPN-Zone bar and started in on some Pai Gow in the Dragon Pit.
There was a guy at the table who seemed to be a highroller considering the attention the pit boss was giving him. Although, he wasn't betting heavily at the time. He was interested in where to get the best prime rib in town and the pit boss, who seemed to know him, was helping out in this regard with suggestions; in a manner that i instinctively knew was reserved for VIPs/highrollers. $10 a hand, won $45, down $90 for the day.
I felt pretty good after a small win with the streak still going when i got up. I had that feeling you get that the bad streak was fading and on the next trip you'll be golden.
I'm Irish, i like beer, a lot. This was a great time to have a few at a lounge bar, watch a dynamic band and talk to whatever else comes along, oink!
"The Big Apple Bar" is a lounge, open to and elevated from, the casino floor. It has a big elevated stage, the bar right below it and tables ringing the outer perimeter. The band was very good, but i didn't catch the name. It's free like almost all lounge entertainment in Vegas. Just walk right in, it's great.
I'm not big on souvenirs. Matchbooks are the only thing i take back. In the desk draw in the room at the Orleans, what i thought was a huge matchbook and was going to throw in the carry on, turned out to be a sewing kit. So, if you have an energency hole n your sock while at the Orleans, there ya go. Matt and Stinky at cheapovegas.com may be glad to hear this.
I wrapped up another great night in Vegas by breaking even at $5 a hand Pai Gow back at the Orleans, getting a sub at Subway, bringing it up to the room and fooling around with a WebTV like keyboard internet access setup on the TV in the room. I think it was $6 for two hours.
Lost $90 for the day.
Tuesday, October 22nd
Casinos and Side Trips
One of the great features of Vegas is that you don't need a car. You can stay on the Center Strip, walk, get out into the middle of it all, right outside your hotel's front door.
Or for that matter, you can stay on the South Strip. There's a tram from the MGM Grand Hotel, located at the corner of Tropicana and the Strip. It will take you to Bally's and the Center Strip in minutes. But, wherever you stay, there's a trolly, buses, cabs, shuttles and trams; you can get anywhere, from anywhere, on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once said, "Sherlock Holmes greatest asset is his intimate knowledge of London".
Well, Sherlock Holmes didn't become intimate with his beloved London by just riding up and down Baker Street in a horse drawn carriage public Hansom Cab of Nineteenth Century England. He studied, experienced the Opera, the orchestra, on one side of town, cut through the shrouded fog of the docks, cloaked, incognito in the opium dens on the other side of town, the exclusive gentleman's clubs and Jack The Ripper mean streets of Victorian London.
If you're interested in knowing Vegas, maybe not quite in the biblical sense, but intimately, you must rent a car, you must drive in Vegas, you must be interested in experiencing every side of her, you must love her.
Tuesday, October 22nd (To Be Continued)
The Stratosphere Hotel and Casino is ok. The, "not changed as often as other casinos table coverings" in the ok sized casino is ok. The rooms are clean and comfortable, they are Holiday Inn like, but that's ok. The easy to park in, parking garage has an outside walkway to the casino, but how often dose it rain in Vegas.. so it's ok. The Strat. isn't really near anything else of interest, but people usually go there on the way to, or coming back from Downtown, so that's ok too.
I was getting up a little later each day. Vegas is three hours earlier than the East Coast and getting up at 10:00am was much better than 5:00am like the first day of the trip. When you're asleep at 11:00pm it pretty much takes going to reviewable restaurants, out of the agenda. I like the, good food at a cheap price, no line and waiting for the check convenience, of coffee shops and food courts anyway.
After getting up and spending a couple of hours going over notes, watching CNBC business news, and as usual, drinking water copiously, flushing out the good time at New York/New York the night before, i went down to the casino at the Orleans.
I lost $20 at VP. The ham sandwich, coffee and VP part of the day always seems to be worth the $20. Before i left the Orleans for the day, i played a few quick hands of $10 a hand Pai Gow and won $10. Down $10 for the day.
From the Orleans, it's about a mile down West Tropicana traveling East to get to Industrial Road. I took a left next to Interstate I-15 onto Industrial Road and Industrial Road north to the Stratosphere. Industrial Road runs parallel to the West Side of the Strip and is, like Paradise Road on the East Side of the Strip, an excellent alternate route for avoiding strip traffic.
About 4pm, after playing Pai Gow at the Strat.
i headed for the Mirage. $10 a hand, won $30, up $20 for the day. (toldya the bad run was fading :-)
From when i first saw The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Time Magazine when it first opened, i liked it. The Mirage has a pleasing design that makes sense, it's a good looking building.
The Poker Room at The Mirage has become legendary. Matt Damon's dream, as a pro poker player from New York City, in the underrated but great movie "The Rounders" was to go to Vegas. To Play at The Mirage and to play in The World Series Of Poker at The Horseshoe. At the end of the movie, Matt Damon's character is riding through the canyons of Manhatten alone in the back seat of a cab, on the way to the airport. The cab driver says to him, in the still dark early morning, as most of us from the East Coast experience, in the same way, when going to the airport, "where ya goin"
Damon says, "I'm goin'a Vegas"
Love! that part.
I stopped at the valet station at The Mirage, got out of the car, took the claim ticket from the attendant (tip when picking the car up, $2) and walked right through the entrance to the casino without slowing down.
Unfortunately, most of the poker games at casinos are played very conservatively. The good players don't bet on the prospects of a hand, especially the locals that have plenty of time and the pros. It's the ultimate in grinding it out. If you have any hopes of winning, you have to be very patient, know the game cold, not make any mistakes..and get lucky.
With a full table, half are likely to fold after the first three cards are dealt in seven card stud. Raising is scarce and the pots are small. It' not unusual, with five or six cards dealt, for all players left in a hand, to be checking around the table.
A newbie chasing, trying to force larger pots, will be eaten alive. If you're losing heavily, from going all the way in consecutive hands, it's impossibe, with the small pots, to make up losses.
My game of choice is poker, but i'm not often at a point when in Vegas, to invest that kind of time. There's too much to do and places to go. I'm happy playing poker related games like Pai Gow Poker, Caribbean Stud Poker and Video Poker.
The Mirage Sports Book is near the Sports Bar and the Sports Bar is near the Poker Room. The Sports Bar is a good and obvious choice, to spend time while waiting for an opening in the Poker Room.
The hostess at the entrance to the Poker Room will greet you with the gracious and professional manner of an airline stewardess when air travel was glamorous. She'll introduce you to the "brush". The brush, with an ease and affable camaraderie of a familiar restaurant owner and friend, will ask for your first name and last name initial and put it on his list. There were three names ahead of me.
The World Series was on at the sports bar. A little more talk was going on than usual because of it. I played VP and told the bar tender my "big story" about placing a bet with 20 to 1 odds last December at the Palms. The bet was on the Red Sox to win the world Series and i told him i WAS hoping to collect on it in person this trip. The bar tender told me that this year's World Series had the lowest TV ratings ever. I said it's probably because New York isn't in it. He said the Mets/Yankee's World Series had the second lowest TV ratings ever, "figure that one out" We had a laugh about that, always feels good when it's on the Yankees :-) Lost $20, even for the day.
It seemed to be taking awhile for an opening in the Poker Room. I checked once and there were still two ahead of me and i moved on to the Pai Gow pit.
I guess The Mirage still has the Steve Wynn influence left, it's great place and coincidentally i've had good luck at the tables and VP. I won $60 at Pai Gow that session, and again, it was still coming in when i got up.
$10 a hand, won $60, up $60 for the day.
The Lagoon Lounge at The Mirage. Waterfalls, jungles, atriums, the expensive Kokomos restaurant and the Mobile Five Star, Renoir restaurant all around it. I spent an enjoyable two or three hours here, with comped beer, bottled water, playing VP and watching the band called Party Central. Lost $30, up $30 for the day.
I went through a full tank of gas already and when i stopped at the Shell Station a short distance West of the Orleans on Tropicana, it was down about another half a tank. The next day,
Wednesday, was the flight out, back to Boston. The needle on the fuel gauge of the rental car wouldn't move between the time of the last stop Tuesday night until drop off. I filled the tank with regular for $1.44 a gal, total $12.
The T-Bone steak special in the excellent coffee shop of the Orleans was..excellent. Salad, big steak, onion rings, fries, garlic bread, for $8.99
Pai Gow was a break even episode, i thought i'd end play winning, go over to the Orleans lounge and NOT play VP. Won $30 for the day.
The band playing in the lounge was the best i heard this trip for rock songs. The lead singer had a great rock voice, good for singing rock. I meant find out the name of the group, ask the bartnders, but must've forgot when the guy down the bar hit the royal at VP.
I think he was a local, the bar tenders knew him and did as much cheering about it as the winner.
There was, understandably, a lot of commotion, the casino likes this, other players like it, it demonstrates it can happen, everybody's happy.