Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category.

Vegas Reloaded

Since I will be soon up to my eyebrows in dad stuff, I took advantage of getting out to the desert and hitting the Strip once more. The instigator of this event was the wife and her conference. I take it as fortunate that she has a job that requires her to continue her education in fabulous destinations like Vegas. Sure, she doesn’t actually get to spend time doing stuff there as she has to sit through lecture upon tedious lecture, but hey, not my problem! I’m just tagging along.

So, as it happened I got to be a lone wolf on the streets of Sin City. But since I’m not the most adventurous type, my sojourns usually ended up with me at the craps table, or at the blackjack table, or at the slots. I also got to take in a few sights and check out what the latest and greatest are (well since last summer anyway)…

Day 1: Arrival

The wife and I embarked from Harrisburg Thrusday morning. The flight into Chicago was uneventful, and the further flight into Las Vegas was further uneventful. Probably the nicest part of the trip out was our suitcase being the first one out onto the baggage claim. Fastest…exit…ever!

Since we were late with booking a hotel (read: Cathy was dragging her feet), and there was a NASCAR event or some such nonsense in town, we were reduced to the Super 8, which is in fact the Largest Super 8 In the Worldtm. So the room was about what you’d expect, complete with paper-thin walls, etc. There was a small casino next to the hotel, but it was primarly smoke and locals filled, and the promise of good BBQ (as vouched for by our cab driver) wasn’t enough to patronize it much.

Cathy’s conference was at the Westin Hotel Causarina, a hotel-ish place tailored to business travelers located behind Barbary Coast & the Flamingo. The Largest Super 8 in the Worldtm was a bit further off the Strip, but a fairly short walk to the action. After arriving at the hotel, we left our bags and took a walk to the casinos. After some lunch at the Flamingo’s buffet, we stuck around to watch the afternoon penguin feeding in the hotel’s bird sanctuary. I’m sure the penguins enjoyed the cooler weather in the desert, but as for the mammals who travelled thousands of miles from the frozen Northeast, it could have been warmer.

We headed back to the hotel to check in and relax for a while. We later went forth from the LS8ITWtm up the Strip to my old haunt, Casino Royale (w/ cheese). Despite my efforts (and the efforts of others at the table), the rules of craps still eludes my otherwise brilliant and erudite spouse. We stayed at the table for a while, Cathy watching as I placed bets. Soon the excitement was too much for her (or it could have been her miserable head cold and lack of sleep) and she headed back to the room. I stuck around, and tried out my table betting strategy. What’s that, you ask? Well…

Dave’s Vegas Table Betting Strategy (patent applied for but most likely not issued since he’s a dullard)

I had set for myself a routine for placing bets over a long period of play at the craps table. It goes like this:

  1. Set a bank. The bank should be large enough to keep you going for a long time. In my case, I had a $200 bank for the $3 minimum table.
  2. My bet sequence goes like this: On the come out, place a bet on the pass line, and win or lose accordingly. If a point is made, place odds on the pass bet, then place a bet in the come field. If the come bet neither wins (11) or loses (2,3,12), it goes to the number, place odds, then put another come bet down. If this doesn’t go on 2,3,11, or 12 then it goes up and odds are placed on it. Then I stop.At this point if the point or seven hasn’t been rolled, I have 2 “working” bets on numbers, plus the point. Then if all goes well, I will get winnings on these bets. The only other bet I would put down is a hard bet on the point number, for example if the point is 6, then I put a bet on a hard 6 (3 and 3).
  3. I keep repeating this sequence for as long as I am playing. My criteria for when to stop depends on:
    1. If the bank runs out (very bad outcome!)
    2. If I have to stop by a certain time. Usually I will set a “stop amount”, so that if I reach that amount before the time to stop, I walk away
    3. I earn 50% of the bank in winnings, in this case $100. Why 50%? No reason, just a nice round number. But setting a top limit does make sure I don’t dump winnings back into the game once I’ve amassed. Once the top number is hit, walk away.

    The watchword here is patience. I’ve had my bank reduced to under 50%, but as is the way in craps, things can turn around.

Conservative? Yep. But if I could increase my bank and increase my bets, it would still work well. How well? I played two craps sessions, and I netted $200. Not bad. I applied this technique to blackjack but had mixed success. However the principle works there too. But the nice thing here is that it also keeps you playing for a long time, and that’s the fun of it, as the table gets more lively and you get to know your fellow players a bit. Besides the winnings had to offset money lost to the slots. Damn slots!

Day 2: Flying Solo, pt. 1

As we left the you-know-what on Friday morning, I bade good day to my Cathy as she dragged herself to a full day of lectures. Poor kid.

First stop was Ballys. As casinos go this is probably the closest to a “businesslike” atmosphere in Vegas. No themes, no gaudiness, very beige. After wandering a bit and plunking some dough into the one-armed bandits, I had a hearty buffet breakfast, then set out to the Strip.

Last summer saw the last gasp of one of the smaller casinos that our summer vacation group grew fond of, the San Remo. Its a little place next to the Tropicana and across from the MGM. It was enjoyed for its subtle decor, friendly dealers, and cheap tables. Well this little gem is no more, as reported from the last trip. It is now Hooters Casino, as in the, *ahem*, men-oriented wings joint Hooters. I went down the strip to check it out and…

Woah, wait a sec! I was curious to see how the old Remo was transformed. I was just keeping up with the latest changes in town, and interested to see what kind of games they offer…

Oh, come on! I mean it. It was only a fact-finding mission, really, and…oh, OK fine! I’m a guy, and its Hooters! So sue me! Anyway it really wasn’t anything special – think bare wood paneling in any of the smaller casinos in town and that’s pretty much it. Besides if there was one place to make Hooters seem tame its Las Vegas: The cocktail waitresses at the Paris Casino show off more skin than the eponymous “Hooters Girls”. Anyway I really didn’t spend much time there, just played some slots. Though I was thinking that I may not have wanted to hit a jackpot there; I mean, having to say “I won the big money at…Hooters“…hmm. Yes, Cathy laughed at me when I mentioned my excursion there.

I hit some of the Southern end spots (the Trop and Luxor) before hitting the rail to travel plumb to the other end of the Strip and the Sahara. Last summer’s stay there has really endeared the place to me and my compatriots. Its less pricey than its more ritzy neighbors, a bit off the beaten path which means less crowds, and there’s a nice feel to the place. I decided to ply my craps betting technique to blackjack, and it worked well enough to net me my 50% profit. I celebrated with lunch in the coffee shop, which I was able to have free of charge thanks to my banked Sahara Club points. Ah, comped meals, you make my Vegas vacation all the sweeter…

It was a quick trip back to the Royale for another winning session of craps before heading back to the Westin to pick up Cathy and her fellow Hershey Med colleague Dr. Kass. The three of us headed to the Aladdin for their fancy buffet, considered one of the better ones in Vegas. Dr. Kass was not a casino novice, but it was his first trip to Vegas, so we showed him some of the sights that were within walking distance of the Westin. It was about this time that I began playing the Star Wars-themed penny slots. They are video machines that let you bet dozens of lines and are so complicated to read that you just trust that the computer knows that you won. It also plays video clips of the movie as you play. It was a natural choice for me.

The Aladdin buffet met the standards that we anticipated, presenting cuisine from all parts of the world with fairly high quality (for a buffet). Cathy chided the two men at the table for “going easy” on the food, but then again she is eating for nearly two. After dinner we strolled around the ridiculously large Shops at the Aladdin just wondering what kind of person on vacation in Vegas says, “Say, I should buy some furniture while I’m here”. Afterwards, we ventured back up the Strip in time to show Dr. Kass the dancing fountains at Bellagio.

We parted company with our guest, and Cathy and I ajourned to the Barbary Coast for some late nite Blackjack. We had only moderate success, and we headed back to the room for a night of noise-filled sleep.

Day 3: Flying Solo, pt. 2

The day started as it did on Friday, with saying bye-bye to the wife and then hitting the Strip.

A monorail ride to the Sahara was first. I treated myself to a coffee shop breakfast partially subsidized by my Club points. I then ventured outside to catch the bus to Fremont Street in old Las Vegas town. Since the last summer trip the city has unveiled a new Downtown-to-Strip shuttle called the Deuce, which is a double decker bus. Not like the classic red London buses we’re familiar with, but more like a double-high charter bus, complete with full-body advertisements. Its a pretty smart idea.

Downtown is just the same as it ever was. In some respects more intimate than the Strip, but even the “better” places up here pale to the behemoths to the south. I tooled around Fremont, then boarded the Deuce at the transportation center. When we stopped to pick up Downtown passengers I saw a dark side to the Vegas transit system as our driver had to manage an unruly crowd of tourists and locals. They were apparenlty short on buses, and it took a very long time to sort out who could get on. The trip took way longer than it should. But that’s the way it goes for public transport.

When I finally arrived back on the Strip, it was to the Royale to get in a “third time charm” craps session. But being Saturday, the table minimums were upped to five dollars, and there were crowds around both tables. So I had forgone another craps session, preserving my two big successes in pristine condition.

I then went down to the Imperial Palace to take advantage of a free admission coupon to their Vintage Auto Collection. I had seen this before, several years ago during a trip, and the freebie meant a repeat visit was in order. There were some nice vehicles there, with some really impressive few-of-a-kind cars from names like Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Dusenberg, but also more modern classics like VW Beeltes and custom Dodge Chargers. The hook of the exhibition is that most of the vehicles are for sale – really! Prices ranged from modest (for not-so-rare specimens) up to over 2.7 million dollars! My visit there also was fortuitous, as the threatening skies opened up in a brief downpour that could be heard on the roof.

I went to the Flamingo to pass the time waiting for Cathy. I tried one last round of blackjack, but my good fortune ran out and I ended losing 50% of my bank before leaving to meet Cathy. We had a nice dinner at Steakhouse 46 in the Flamingo.

After dinner I realized that I had spent the entire trip on the eastern side of Las Vegas Avenue, so we journeyed across the street to tool around Caesars. We spent some time at the slots before heading back to the Largest Super 8 in.. well, you know, so I could pack for the red-eye flights back to Harrisburg. After a heartfelt see-you-later I headed to McCarren Airport and took off at 11:30PM. Naturally I didn’t sleep, although the first part of the flight was glass-smooth. But when the captain announced that the flight crew would have to strap in, we hit some nasty turbulence and I white-knuckled the next hour.

After an hour layover in D.C., I boarded a small jet with mostly National Guard members for the 1/2 hour jump to Harrisburg. Very shaky and very nerve-wracking, but I arrived with time to spare before my Choral Society concert that afternoon.

Well, I guess that will do it for Vegas for a bit. Parenthood will see to that, but I hope I’ll get back to enjoy the Disneyworld for adults before my kid enjoys the Disneyworld for kids (i.e., Disneyworld).