Las Vegas: March 2008 Trip Report

Summary & Ratings:

  • Hotel: The Mirage - Two Bedroom Penthouse Suite (8)

  • Restaurants: Carnegie Deli (6); SW Steakhouse (3); Piero's (8.5)

  • Casinos: Mirage (8); Wynn (10); Casino Royale (3); Imperial Palace (6); Harrahs (5); Flamingo (6.5); Bills (5.5); Orleans (1.7)

  • Games: Blackjack; Let it Ride; Video Poker; Slots; Casino War; Mirage Race Book

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Where to begin.

Oh yes, for those of you familiar with this story, I believe I had previously mentioned that prior to heading to Vegas, I had discovered that my bank had mistakenly given me an extra $1,000 on top of what I had meant to withdraw. This was a no-brainer – I immediately called the bank and had a manager sprint to my office and take the cash back. 1000 karma bonus points. It was a tad bit strange peeling off 100s to this strange woman in my office . . . I asked if I could have her shirt. That was awkward.

«click to read the rest of the Trip Report»

Fast forward: March 5, 2008, 7:00 a.m., on an interstate somewhere near you.

There we were, Whale Jo and I speeding along at 75 mph in his luxury sedan, trying to make record time to the airport. I think we just both wanted to be able to time warp from that particular moment directly to arrival in Vegas. Flight to Vegas was at 9:00 a.m. and we were planning on meeting the crew for some early morning binging. As I watched the poor sods around us drive their cars to work, I couldn’t have been happier.

Fast forward: 9:00 a.m, in an airplane, first class, on the tarmac somewhere near you.

Ahhhhh. The entire crew settled into the first class cabin. Let the giddiness begin. To my left, Whale Jo. Directly behind, Chaz. Across the aisle, Double D, Buzzy, and Frankie Styles. Whale Jo immediately started in trying to get a game of rock scissors paper going, but nobody would play. So we settled into our typical air ride routine of making up various card games and using our wads of 100 $1 bills as ammunition. Gambling with Whale Jo certainly made the flight go faster, but did take a little bit of my juice pile away.

By the time we entered Las Vegas airspace, I was down $50. Infused with bloody-mary courage and ready to hit the ground running. The boyz and I grabbed the first limo we saw outside of baggage claim – I can’t remember what the cost was, at this point I would have paid $100s of dollars to get to the strip.

But, per our usual routine, first stop was some degenerate dirt covered liquor store. The one we really wanted to go to is near the Double Down Saloon – but none of us could give accurate directions, so we just told the driver to take us to the fist store between the airport and the Mirage that he could think of. We ended up at a store across from the Hard Rock. With probably multiple years’ worth of salaries in our pockets for the people standing outside this shop, I felt a slight pang of guilt. Fortunately, that was quickly quenched by a large gulp from my big can of Bud. Yum.

With adequate rations of liquor and various other goods, we made our way to the Mirage.

No sooner did I blink than I was stepping out of the limo at the Mirage’s front portico. I could hear a whisper on the wind, “Welcome back Jaco”

I smiled, clicked my heels and headed in to check in.
Whale Jo and I were booked for a penthouse suite. I had done a little research beforehand and had determined that we needed to be on the E floor, strip view. Whale Jo did the negotiating with the front clerk.

“Um, hi, yes, we are booked for a penthouse suite, E floor?”

“Thank you sir, just a minute.”

“Do you know who this is?” Whale Jo pointed to me.

The desk clerk shrugged.

“Have you ever heard of Tripadvisor?”

She shrugged again.

“This is one of the founders.”


The clerk looked vaguely interested – but she could have also had gas.

“We won $75,000 here last year, but didn’t have a player’s card”

Whale Jo had let loose his inner-Pinocchio.

But, I’m guessing the clerk had heard this before, she continued tapping on her computer.

Whale Jo handed her his ID and I noticed something green folded under it. He winked.

“Here ya’ go hon. Like I said, we’d like E floor, oh, and strip view”

“Um, sorry sir, but all we have is mountain view, it is on E floor, but no strip views available.”

Whale Jo made doe eyes at her, “Oh, wow, that’s not good, I requested a strip view and an E floor suite three months ago and this does not make me happy.”

I was waiting for him to bust out laughing . . . I actually had to step away and feign a hiccup attack.

After going back and forth with her for a few seconds, Whale Jo changed his tact.

“Ok, if no strip view, then please just send us something up.”

“How about some nice flowers?”
“We’re not gay, how about a nice fruit basket and some candy.”

I didn’t hear the clerk’s answer, I had grabbed a room key and was on my way to the room. A penthouse suite . . . .

I needed to get up there, drop my stuff off and start gaming!

The Mirage penthouse suites are all housed on floors D & E, why those floors have letters and the rest numbers is beyond me, but E is the top floor. Walking out of the elevator on to this top floor, you find yourself in a very different world than what you just left. Complete silence. No machines, no dealers, no grown men crying that they’ve lost their house. Just you and the penthouse floor. Color tones are maronnish, cream, and I believe gold, maybe some black, and birch. Immediately in front of the elevator bay is some sort of lounge area where guests must be able to host parties. During our tenure at the Mirage, I never saw anyone in this place.

In any event, we got to our room and opened the door.

Oh you can’t believe it.

(note, if you search on youtube for a video on a Mirage Penthouse Suite, you’ll get that line).

Very nice, if not a little dated. All of the furniture and fixtures were appropriately expensive looking, but not completely over the top. The room itself was very spacious. Floor to ceiling windows looked out over the sprawling desert. If one were to ignore the circa-1975 TVs that are housed in the armoires and the 1982 Sony stereo system, you could almost see where the Mirage gets off charging $600 - $800 per night.

I immediately disrobed by luggage and hung everything up in proper alphabetic order. I then . . ha . . . had you going there . . . I took my stuff out and threw it in the first drawer I could find. I then went through the important step of counting my money, putting it in the safe, taking it out, counting it again, putting it in the safe, forgetting the combo, swearing, figuring out I didn’t lock the safe, writing the combo down on my underwear, then taking enough money with me to last the afternoon.

I was hungry, armed with cash, and losing my buzz. It was time to hit it.

I wish there had been some sort of wonderful magical laundry shoot that I could have jumped in to get to the casino floor faster, but Whale Jo and I had to make do with the commoner’s way of traveling – the elevator.

As soon as the doors opened, the sounds and sights of the Mirage casino put me in a very happy place. The plan was to meet the boyz in the sports book and have some grub from the Carnegie Deli. However, we needed some quick action. As we walked around, something blue and flashy caught my eye.

“Ooooooh. Top Gun Slots”

I’m a sucker for anything with lights, loud sounds and promise of action. Throw in a seat that vibrates . . . .

Whale Jo and I sat down and stuck some 100s in the two side by side machines. We agreed to split any winnings.

I’ll admit it here and now, I’m a Top Gun addict. Thank goodness this was only a $.05 machine, or I would have lost everything in the first ten minutes of play. But, with a couple hundy sitting in the machine, there was enough of a buffer to withstand the first run of no luck. But, then it happened. A bonus round.

*Cue Music*

Buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh

Revvin' up your engineListen to her howlin' roarMetal under tensionBeggin' you to touch and goHighway to the Danger ZoneRide into the Danger Zone


And we kept on hitting bonuses . . . well at least one or two more.

It was lovely . . . . Better than my first time with a Monopoly Main Event . . . . By the time the madness stopped, I think we had managed to squeeze $300 each in profit out of the machines . . . .

Seriously? $300 profit on a nickel machine? I had high hopes for this trip. I wanted to keep gaming, but it was time to eat and bet on some ponies.

I had never eaten at the Carnegie Deli before, and looking at the menu, I could see why. $35 sandwiches? WTF? Then I caught a glimpse of one . . . holy cow. The last time I saw a meal that big, it had a tail on it and was being boiled in a pot in a remote Peruvian village.


I settled on a grilled ham and cheese and a side of fries and then sauntered over to an open booth in the Mirage race book. The sandwich was appropriately goopy, but full of nice salty flavor and just the thing my stomach needed. I figure something like that has to put a good varnish coat on the stomach lining for at least six hours. Add a few handfuls of French fries and I was sufficiently fed and ready to bet on some future glue factory inductees.

I think I’ve given up trying to pose as some sort of pony guru. To be honest, I’ve had my best luck when just picking random numbers. Plus, that’s what Whale Jo does and it seems to work out for him.

Unfortunately, this time, I pressed my luck a little too much. Sure, 50-1 shots do hit on occasion. But note to self: NOT ON EVERY RACE. AND THEY CERTAINLY DO NOT COME IN 1-2 WITH THE 75-1 HORSE ON EVERY RACE. THERE IS A REASON THE HORSE IS AT 50-1 – IT LOOKS LIKE IT WAS JUST PULLED OFF A 24-SHIFT ON THE FREAKIN’ DONKEY RIDE AT THE BOOMSTIX COUNTY FAIR.

Oh well, you only live once right? Needless to say, the $2.35 I won on one ticket did not cover the losses I sustained. In between races, I did manage to drop some cash on college basketball – Arizona minus the points. I gave a bunch of other sure-fire bets to Whale Jo and he turned them into a lot of heavy money parlays. I, on the other hand, failed to bet my own picks. We’ll see later on in this story how that turns out.

With lunch and ponies completed, it was high time for a taste of the tables. The group dispersed throughout the casino – not because we were hell-bent on any particular strategy – rather, I think we were all drunk and couldn’t remember what each other looked like so we got lost . . .

I dimly remember stumbling around trying to decide between the Big Money Wheel and Let it Ride. During trips back and forth between the two, I caught glimpses of Whale Jo slipping into the high limit longue, thankfully he had a wry smile on his face. Good, I thought, he must be hitting it. Pretty soon, after a bet here, bet there, I had lost my profits from earlier and decided to seek out a kind black jack table on which to lay my weary wallet.

I saw a few of the boyz hunched at a $25 table in a corner near the poker room and video poker bar. Some really spent, tired, gentle old giant of a woman was dealing. I think her name was Zora . . . . yes, it was Zora. She had some funny accent and I imagine in her day she could rip an unsuspecting lad in two. However, now her lot is to spend her time dealing to obnoxious, unappreciative half-cocked gents like me. Funny enough, ole Whale Jo happened upon the table around the same time. He tried sweet talking Zora, but she took quite an affront to this. I swear I could see tiny silver sparks shooting in her eyeballs as she dealt out the cards . . . .

Ouch. Zora was in no mood to play. I hemorrhaged money and felt dirty too. A bad combo. I believe the other boys were not fairing as well either. I suppose you could draw a direct link between starting on the booze at 6 a.m. to the predicament many of us found ourselves in . . . but that would be too much self-honesty now, wouldn’t it. Thankfully, memories of past black jack chip genocides remain locked firmly in my brain and I was able to force myself up from the table and head up to the PH suite. It was time to clean myself up and get ready for the evening.

I’m not a bath dude, so as long as a place has a rippin’ shower, I’m happy. The Mirage PH shower did not disappoint. Full on max psi, just enough to scrape off the early grime and dirt of the afternoon gaming session, not enough to dislodge any skin from muscle.. Bath products? I dunno – a bunch of stuff in triangle shaped boxes that I couldn’t open easily so I threw them against the wall . . . several times.

After cleaning up, I put on some fresh new duds, including some lucky silk pants, and headed back out the door. We had a little time before we needed to head over to the Wynn and SW Steakhouse – something I was really looking forward to. Not only was I anxious to try some of the highest priced dead cow in town, but I also remembered a torrid love affair I had had with a $5 VP machine at the Wynn on my trip last June. I hoped she remembered me . . . I sure couldn’t get her out of my mind.

I skipped around various machines at the Mirage – all the while wishing I was strapped into Top Gun – but I didn’t want to overindulge the machine and give it the wrong idea. Plus, I had to give a couple of old friends at the VP bar a spin. They wanted nothing to do with me. Fine, take my money biatch. Slap.

The boys all finally congregated in the Mirage casino and we were good to go to the Wynn. A short cab ride later and I was striding into the Wynn like I frickin’ owned it. In hindsight, perhaps that was a mistake.

As we walked into the casino, we realized that, unfortunately, we had not left enough time before our reservation to allow for gaming, so we needed to proceed directly to SW.

We ushered ourselves up to the checkin desk and were told our seats would be ready immediately.

Fifteen minutes later we were still waiting . . .

WTF? If it’s going to be a wait, someone needs to let me freakin’ know! My time is precious in Vegas and I need to gamble with every spare moment available. If I wanted to spend my extra time sipping on a $15 cocktail, eating nuts coated in flavored mud crust, I could have stayed flippin’ home.

But . . . I relaxed, I was in Vegas after all, so who really cares about time. I tried to let this pass. In the end, it would all be good.

But then we walked into the restaurant.

Um, Mr. Wynn, what drug-induced over-priced Madison Avenue design firm did you hire for this place? Krap and Ass-ociates? Dude, it was like walking into a cross between some stupid buffet and a government cafeteria. OK, I get that places can be crowded – I really do. But when you are a freakin’ high end, supposed top of the food chain restaurant, cramming the peeps into a space that’s no bigger than some super-mall DMV office is just wrong. One should be able to walk with some serenity between tables. Uh-uh, not at SW. Look, I’ll admit I’m certainly not the smallest tree in the forest, but this place made me feel like a freaking super sized redwood. A regular sized male should, in an upscale restaurant, heck, even in a regular scale restaurant, be able to fit nicely between tables with little to no effort . . . but not here. Maybe that’s supposed to be part of the experience – getting head-cocked by strangers, literally. Ooops, excuse me ma’am, didn’t mean to put the package in your face . . .

Anyway, I hadn’t tasted the food yet, so, again, I let the design and décor issues wash away.

We sat down and waited. Soon, I believe three or four or five different servers came to our table – I’m not sure who was in charge. I think eventually they just left us with some cute girl who didn’t quite belong as a waiter in that place.

First up, appetizers. We ordered some sort of seafood platter. This was good – very fresh.

I should have stopped right there.

Up next was salad. For me, nothing says steakhouse than a perfect Caesar. I did not get that at SW. Whoever made my Caesar there should be brought up on charges of first degree saladcide. Since when did it become OK to make a salad with more parts dressing than salad? Really? This is supposed to be good? I swear I could hear the anchovies crying. Sorry little guys.

I definitely should have stopped right there.

Instead, I had the great pleasure of being served one of the most disappointing cuts of meat EVER. Forget the piece of dog shank I got at Golden Steer last year – this thing they served me was a joke. I will admit I had set up expectations quite high – really – I mean I wanted this steak to be so good that I could cut open a slit on the side and French kiss the juices out of it. I wanted to LOVE the steak. I wished it would be so good that I would have to right then and there declare my undying love and book a honeymoon suite . . . .


I got burned.

Internally, I wept. How could SW have turned into such a turd? It was not fair. I took about four bites of my steak before deciding I had had enough and did not want to risk barfing on the restaurant floor. I noted that some of the other crew did enjoy their steaks a little more – but nobody was floored.

Tale of the tape? Six dudes, appetizers, salads, steaks, and I believe four sides, plus three or four bottles of wine . . . . $140 bucks a piece.

Final judgment – If you are looking for a steak joint that has the following qualities, then by all means, go right ahead and book a table at SW:

(a) Elitist front desk personnel who make no effort to seat patrons in a timely manner;
(b) Elitist front bar waiters who display attitude when you cannot think of what you want to drink within .025 seconds;
(c) A dining room so overcrowded with people that it requires Mission Impossible-like stealth to maneuver between tables and chairs;
(d) Décor that is reminiscent of the very best that your local Wal-Mart deli or Circle K hot dog bar has to offer.
(e) Waiters who don’t get jokes and certainly don’t understand tongue in cheek sarcasm;
(f) Saladcide in the first degree.
(g) Steak that tastes like it was cooked under the hood of an old Buick.

Can I find anything good to say about this place? Yes. The seafood appetizer was good. And, I did like the men’s bathroom. I swear the stall doors hermitically sealed themselves.

In any event, with good ole din din done, I couldn’t wait to get to the casino floor. Sweet momma here I come.

I should make an aside at this point and note that one of our crew had already booked a one way ticket on the inebriation boat to nowhere. Have you ever noticed that there is a point when someone has so much to drink that their eyes switch from voluntary control to involuntary? Seriously, neither orb can focus properly and both rotate 360 degrees independent of each other? Poor Frankie Styles had misjudged his alcohol intake ability and abruptly had to call it a night. As for the rest of us – well, we probably should have followed Styles home.

But, I was at the Wynn baby. I felt a pang of remorse that I wasn’t staying in a Wynn room, but the feeling dissipated when I recalled the expansive penthouse suite back at the Mirage . . . ahhhhhh.

So, first order of business for me was to find out if the magic bank of $5 VP machines were still at the Wynn. I felt like a weasel on a snake hunt . . . . I could have closed my eyes and probably have made it to the far back right hand corner of the Wynn on pure memory . . .

The bank was still there! Internally I wept like a little baby. Thank you Video Poker Bunny! If the boyz hadn’t been around me, I definitely would have spent more time stroking the machine, just to make sure she remembered ole Jaco. But, I also thought that shoving a few $100s in the bill slot would also liven the ole gal up a bit.

Ooooh daddy. She did remember. It only took a few hits and boom, I had turned a nice profit. The boyz became restless and quickly moved on to the tables. I stuck with my machine. However, something strange happened.

I stopped winning.

It was disturbing. Soon my initial investment in the machine was gone. Which was too bad as that was actually pooled money from Whale Jo. Now I had to stick in my own funds and see what could happen.

I took out four crisp $100 bills and fed each of them in the machine – careful not to appear too anxious, but forceful enough to let the machine I meant business. With $400 credits at my disposal, I prepared to see if I could get the machine hummin’ again.

My first couple of attempts were thwarted. But, I could sense the machine was teasing me. She kept throwing out flush and straight possibilities . . . . I felt I had a chance. I slowed down my button-pushing. With almost a feather-like touch, I tenderly depressed the max credits button. Oh ho! Three kings! She likey! I licked my pinkie and, with the most delicate of movements, touched the hold buttons under each king. I closed my eyes, popped a breath mint, then slid the heel of my palm across the draw button.


I melted. She remembered. And not only did she remember, but the machines around her remembered as I swear they broke out in a simultaneous chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” . . . I kept playing, trying to ride the crest of momentum, trying to keep pace with my metallic lover, my machine, my . . . .

What the?

And the moment was over. My mind meld with the inanimate objects around me ended. I hit cash out.


I smiled. Not too bad.

It was time to find the others. Whale Jo was busy dumping money on various table games, and it seemed like a good time to just cool down and have some fun. The only other crew member left was Buzzy. So we grabbed him and wandered around looking for some slots to play and a nice waitress to give us free drinks.

My eyes spied a Jackpot Party game. I’ve played before and always seemed to have moderate success. But those machines were usually a penny or a nickel machine . . . this one was a $1 machine . . max credits would be $45 a pop. But hey, look here, I have a $1,000 ticket in my hand . . . why not just see if it fits . . . and . . .

I’m off and spinning.

Nothing really happens for a while . . . I’m about to cash it out when I hear those three magical party hooter noises . . . Weeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaa . . . . Weeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaa . . . Weeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa . . . . and then the music starts . . . . YMCA . . . . .

I start picking whatever it is you are supposed to pick . . .boom, 25 credits . . . 2x credits . . . 100 credits . . .faster and faster I pick until . . . . . .



I blink and look at Whale Jo. He nods appreciatively.

Buzzy, well, I’m not sure what he was doing.

“I won.”

“That’s a hand pay boss! I get my 20%” (Whale Jo and I have an agreement that if one of us hits a slot win over $1,000, the other gets a 20% cut).

And sure enough, here came the slot attendant – HAND PAY TIME.

I started dancing.

I hate dancing.

But I danced.

YMCA, right there, right then in the Wynn.

Then there was a hooker on Whale Jo’s lap.

I kept dancing.

I had to catch my breath. And I had to figure out where the new girl had come from. I turned around and saw her being dismissed from Whale Jo’s lap. She went right over to Buzzy.

“Hi, I’m Crystal”

“Is your last name Meth?”

Oh so good with the words that Buzz.

I filled out some info for the W-2 and then held my hand out as I got hand paid.


I looked at the machine and was surprised to still see 400 credits to be played! Oh heck ya!


So needless to say that $400 was flushed down the pooper in no time.

Oh well, I was up baby! I was up in Vegas baby!!!!! And I had a massive amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins.

We walked around some, and noted that there was an inordinate amount of hookers at the Wynn – I guess they go where the money goes . . . .

Before leaving, we decided to sit down at an unoccupied blackjack table. Now, the following may be a bit insensitive, but I can’t help it.

Huh? The dealer looked normal, but he was talking like he was the king of the short bus.

“Um, sure.”


Oh god, please, give life to my legs and make me walk away.

I made something up, “Long Island”


Really, god, legs, moving, now!


I looked at Whale Jo, he looked at Buzzy, and I don’t know what Buzzy looked at. We all bet.

Nuthin. Dealer wins.


“Maybe next time, right?” I asked hopefully.

The dealer didn’t answer.

Oh, wait a minute here.

I waved my hand and caught his eye.

How ‘bout that? A deaf dealer.

For a moment it felt like finding a unicorn in a fairy forest – unreal, magical, and something good like fountains of candy should come raining down on us – but that unfortunately only happens to small children.

Despite being hard of hearing, this dealer was a buzz saw. He cut right through my stacks, all the while wearing a silly, “Hey, I can’t hear nuthin Jack, whatcha gonnna do” grin.

Wow, that was seriously a downer. It was time to return to home base and (a) go to bed; or (b) engage in a black belt level bender.

We hopped in cab and the moment we took off, I knew option (b) was in full play. It was time for Jaco-unleashed.

Well, at least as long as the cab ride would go.

I started talking dirty with the cabbie – he happened to be very knowledgeable on where one might obtain a “fourth of july surprise” massage.

The conversation probably went something like this:

“Hey Kim, you know ‘fourth of july’ surprise”

Muted giggle.

“Ah, yes, fourth of jewrye sooprise, yes, yes, very good.”

Whale Jo leans out window and howls in tongue completely devoid of any tangible meaning.

Buzzy laughs.

I bang my head on the seat.

“Fourth of July Surprise! Baaaaaboooooom!!!!”

Whale Jo continues howling. Then follows it up with some good ole fashioned gurgling.

Buzzy laughs.

I clap my hands like a one of those toy monkey boxes – you know – the ones where the monkey has symbols?

The cabbie cackles.

I don’t know, it seemed funny. Looking back, I’m a little disturbed.

So we tell the cabbie that we want to head to the Mirage . . . . but then we suddenly decide we are too amped up and want to hit somewhere else.

The cabbie suggests somewhere local.

More howling. More laughing.

OK, where?


Sure, why the ef not – none of us had been there before.

And let me tell you something now – I don’t think any of us will EVER go back.

Now, I know my memory of this is quite skewed, but . . . it felt like we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere . . . literally. Like, I could have walked five hundred blocks in any direction and not have ended up anywhere. I swear I heard coyotes in the shadows, laughing, waiting in gleeful anticipation should bad luck befall one of us on the way to the casino entrance and we trip and they are then able to rip the beer marinated meat from our bones . . .

OK, I exaggerate.

Anyway, we walk into the Orleans and I immediately want to run. But I’m afraid if I do that I’ll trip on one of the millions of empty penny slot machines blocking the aisles.

I want my mommy.

That was the little boy Jaco inside . . . I flashed back to some distant memory of being lost in some giant department store . . . alone in my snoopy pjs, holding my Charlie Brown blanket, and soiling my GI Joe diapers.

I snapped out of it, keenly aware that if I was to get lucky here, I needed the power of positive thinking.

We sat down at some machines and starting gaming.

I stuck $100 bill after $100 bill into nickel machines . . . . chasing and chasing and chasing and chasing and chasing that which would never be caught . . . .

At some point I ran out. And then I realized I had burned through my earlier winnings . . .and some.

I believe it would be fair to state that at that moment in time – I was done.

How depressing it all was. I was stuck in a casino that I hated, I had, with full awareness, dumped a lot of money into stupid nickel machines, and it was getting late enough that I could already fell the morning hangover checking in for duty.

What a great way to end the first day.

To top things off, we got a cab driver who would not shut up and kept talking about how Vegas is losing all sorts of conventions. Delivered in perfect monotone, it was pure torture to listen too.
We arrived back at the Mirage around 2:00 a.m. I half-heartedly tried to find energy to play some Let It Ride . . . but I couldn’t get anything. With two green chips left in my pocked, it was time to call it a night.

I walked past the War table and figured I might as well give it a try.

I got a Q, dealer got a 5.

Hmm. Whaddya know. Now I had a black chip.

And momentum heading into Friday . . . .

Good morning glorious sunshine. Despite the bed being slightly lumpy, I had a rather peaceful five hour sleep in the penthouse. Once 7:45 a.m. rolled around, I couldn’t stand to stay in bed any longer. I feared that if I did move out of the bed that I would sadly discover that I was inflicted with a grade five hangover.

Oh joy! No hangover! No headache! It was a Christmas miracle. Despite having downed at least three or four bloody marys, ten to twenty beers, a bottle of wine, and an untold number of mixed drinks . . . I felt refreshed and energized.

I quickly washed and put on some fresh duds. I opened my safe and took out my depleted bankroll and had a little heart to heart with the bills.

“Bills, today is the day you will go forth and multiply. You will breed amongst each other and procreate more bills . . . you will make your keeper RICH.”

I stuffed $1000 in my pocket and put the rest back. I felt I could survive the morning session with a cool k.

I opened my door and relaxed in the gathering room, casually pawing through the room service menu. I picked up the phone and immediately had them send up a pot of coffee, some water and several juices.

“What’s up . . . “

Whale Jo peeked his head out from his room.

“Second day, baby!”

He gave me a few flash instructions on additional room service that was needed. Just before I was about to call down and get the grub up to our room, I got a call from Chaz. Turns out we had invited him up for room service breakfast the night before – so he was cashing in.

I made the call:

Another pot of coffee;
Bottled water;
Various juices;
Fruit plate;
Side of Bacon;
Scrambled Eggs with a Ham Steak;
Eggs over easy with Bacon;
Eggs Benedict;
A variety of Danishes.

Oh yah. Bring on the gluttony.

The first room service order arrived. Some nice chap named “Dan” or “Dave” or some name with the letter “d” in I brought in the goods. I looked at the bill, gave him a big tip, and signed off as “Whale Jo”.

Minutes later ole Chaz arrived. Turns out he had hit sort of a wall – despite having taken an afternoon nap – and had retired after the Wynn. As far as gambling went – he was a bit down, but definitely looking forward to some breakfast in the suite.

It wasn’t too soon thereafter when the second order arrived. What a way to start off the day. Everything was better than average – which exceeded my expectations. I kinda thought the food would be subpar.

I licked up the eggs benedict and slurped down some milkshake mixed with a little juice and coffee. Ahhhhhhhh.

It was time to game.

Jaco and Whale Jo were going to do a little low limit hit –n- runs and see if we couldn’t get something going. First stop – Harrahs.

There was something satisfying about walking into Harrah’s armed with a new bunch of 100 bills and ready to see if I couldn’t scratch out a little luck. I wasn’t looking for anything big – just a win – a bona fide blue blooded win. Could be .01, could be $100 . . . I just wanted to feel victory.

For a moment, I think I was up. We played various $.05 and $1 slots . . . really just focusing on whatever “felt” right at that particular moment. Eventually I grew tired of Harrahs and decided to change locations.

Casino Royale.

I know, I know . . . this place is a particular favorite amongst many people – cheap drinks, cheap gambling . . . . and it did not disappoint.

First thing I walk through as I entered the casino? Some sort of fire sale on already cheap quality clothing . . . “I got f*cked in Vegas” Tees . . . “I Laid a Golden Nugget in Vegas” sweats . . . . “Play This Slot” hats . . . . wow. And there was a crowd. Double wow. And I became vaguely interested in buying some of the stuff . . .

But thankfully I heard the sing song dingaling of the casino floor and my gambling bug persevered.

I really wasn’t feeling any love from the tables – probably because of the little hit I had the night before – I really felt there was more to be had out of slots or video poker. So we stumbled around various penny slots and started playing. Any you know what – we started winning. Not a lot . . . but as I said before, I just wanted victory.

I think I ended up making about $100 or $200 . . . when I heard something over the casino din . . . Luke Skywalker . . . no, it couldn’t be.

Yes! A Star Wars themed slot. I don’t know why this excited me so, but it did and I immediately plugged some bills into it.

I got taken down hard.

Normally, I find you can survive at these rinky dink games for a while because they give you enough payout to make it interesting and occasionally throw you a bonus rounds. Not good ole Star Wars. Nope.

This machine didn’t match up on anything. To make matters worse – there’s some sort of running video of movie clips going on and it is loud enough to make me think that I keep hitting some sort of bonus round.

Jaco hits spin button.

Buttons spin.

Loud X-Wing fighter sound from above with loud yelling and loud R2D2 beeping.

Jaco looks up and claps hands like a little monkey.

Nothing happens.

Jaco looks at reels and sees 0 credits.

Jaco swears profusely and sticks more money in machine.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So, Casino Royale didn’t work out. It was time to move on. As we were walking out, we got a call from most of the rest of the crew, they were heading out to join us. We decided to meet up at Imperial Palace.

I like this casino. I can’t think of any particular reason why – I just do. Perhaps it’s the lighting, perhaps it’s the dealertainers, I dunno, I just like gaming there.

Again, I wasn’t feeling the table games, so I went for the slots. Again, no luck was to be had this morning. Jackpot Party? Nope. Video Poker? Nope. I wasn’t betting too big, but the losses were starting to mount.

Eventually the crew showed up and they all proceeded to lose money as well. Time to move on. We collected Whale Jo off a table where he was going head to head with John Belushi at $100 - $500 per BJ hand. I think he broke even and I got a nice picture of Whale Jo and Belushi holding hands. Cute.

Next stop – Flamingo. I felt luck had to turn my way. No way I could keep hitting casino after casino and not have at least a little taste of victory!

I have to say – I also like Flamingo – though, like IP, I can’t say why. By time we got there, everyone was hungry. We mobbed some pizza joint and grubbed down quickly. Then, it was on to try Jackpot Party.

Sigh. No luck.

OK. Time to switch it up, I had to give the tables a try. I walked around and found some of the crew banging it out at a BJ table.

Ooops. I lost $300 in ten minutes.

OK, back to the slots.

Ouch. Nothing.

Back to the tables. How about some nice Let It Ride with Whale Jo . . . he was betting $75 per spot . . . I went for $25 . . . .

You can write your own ending here – nothing.

I think the crew lost as well and they took off back to the Mirage. Whale Jo and I were not done – we felt we had one more casino in us . . . Bill’s.

I just had to put my head in my arms for a second as I write this – why why why why WHY did we go there!

All the nice bills that had been keeping my pocket heavy during the day were mostly gone. I was quite buzzed. I knew I wasn’t going to win.

Yet I played and got played. I found some dirty machines in the back corner of Bill’s and like some washed up rat, huddled against one of the machines and started sticking 5s, 10s and 20s into it . . . I was out of large bills.

It took longer to put those bills into the machines than it took to lose them.

I looked over at Whale Jo . . . by the defeated look in his eyes, I could tell he was in the midst of a money flush.

It was time to go.

I would not find victory this session.

It was time to go back, get cleaned up, meet the crew in the suite for a little gathering, and then dinner at Piero’s.

I knew things would get better.

And , boy, did they.

I sat back, cracked open a Miller Lite from the mini-bar and closed my eyes. It was coming to an end. In less than 24 hours I would be leaving Vegas . . . I was just hoping not to go out a loser.

Slowly, the crew filtered into the suite and the beer and liquor flowed. The plan had been to sit down and play a poker tourney, but I think the hours of being beaten down by the casinos had tempered the collective enthusiasm for a group gambling escapade. Instead, we relaxed in the expanse of the suite’s living/dining room. I swear if you took a black and white picture of us all in there it would have looked like something from the good ole days . . . bottles of premium liquor, expensive threads, and a smoky toxic haze blanketing the room.

At this juncture of the story, I wish I could regal you with tales of hookers, drugs and rock and roll, but the mood was subdued in the suite and any craziness would have to wait until later.

Finally, it was time to head to dinner. As I’ve mentioned before, we were going to Piero’s. We had some concern heading to this place that we might be in store for another disappointing meal – reviews are definitely mixed.

Piero’s is very close to the strip – it’s located somewhere behind the Wynn – but that’s about all I can remember direction-wise. Much like Casa Di Amore – the outside is nothing special – though I did note a lot more high-end cars in the parking lot.

Walking into Piero’s was a pleasant surprise. Old school through and through. Dark, leathery and full of Italian flavor. When you first enter, there is a bar on your immediate right that I think was allowing people to smoke. There was also some old school band playing and a smattering of people dancing. Festive.

As you continue forward into the restaurant, your first impression might be that it’s a bit “tight” – that is, the tables all seemed to be jammed together. After the previous night’s sucky dinner at SW, I felt a slight pang in my gut. But, for whatever reason, the relative closeness of the tables did not bother me.

We sat down and some exotic looking waitress came over to take our drink orders. She was followed by a waiter with an amazingly bouffant hair-do. He was no nonsense and made everything sound very very good.

Word to the wise here – if you order any sort of cocktail here, be prepared for a man-sized serving. Chaz ordered a Maker’s Mark on the rocks and I swear they poured him half the bottle.

Anyway, a quick run-down on the food order:


Fried Mozzarella - I give this an 8/10. It was perfectly golden, perfectly melty and perfectly artery clogging. The only downside, if you want to call it that, is that the portions are too big. They are about the size of a slice of pizza.

Calamari – 9/10. Perfectly fried and tender. These were absolutely delicious. Only reason there isn’t a ten here is because the serving size was just a shade small. No biggie – but if you are going to get a perfect score, you need to be perfect.

Stone Crab: On the night I ate them – 10/10. However, the next morning I woke up with some nasty stomach thing and I think it was because of these . . .

All in all – wonderful appetizers.


I may be imagining this, but I think I might have had some lobster bisque . . . .I feel as if it is a part of some disjointed dream – so if I did, it was that good, if I didn’t, I need to find the rest of that dream inside my head.


Caesar. Eat your f-ing heart out Wynn. The Caesar here was kick a$$. Perfectly proportioned dressing to green stuff ratio – if a tongue could orgasm, mine certainly did (quietly of course).

Main Course:

Forget about it. I think I can still recite from memory what the table had: Veal Parm, Veal Parm, Osso Bucco, Veal Parm, Veal Parm, and Bone-in Veal Parm.

Forgetting for a moment that we probably ate an entire baby cow, this meal had to have been made by angels. It was THAT good. I remember my first bite like it was yesterday. I held the fork tentatively – not quite sure what portion of my bone-in parm I should touch first.

As an aside, please note that if you go here, the bone-in parm is not on the menu – you’ll have to ask for it by name – only problem is, I don’t know what that name was . . . “The Rack” . . . “The Bone” . . .something along those lines.

So back to the story, there I was, fork poised to strike, I figured a piece of flesh close to the bone would be a good choice.


10,000 different emotions ran through my mouth and infused my body with an unparalleled culinary experience like none other. First came the crunchy, salty, oh so good coating . . . .I wish I had a coat made out of this that I could wear to movies and eat during the really scary parts . . . or maybe a hat I could wear on really cold days and share with my pet bear – I dunno – it made me want to do bad things. Then came the first bite into the meat. I’m sorry – I know what I was eating, I know how bad it is . . . god of cows, please forgive me . . . but my goodness, oh MY goodness. I wanted to write poetry . . . with a feather . . . in ink made out of gold. Oh so tender . . . just a little resistance . . . and flavor to warm the coldest of hearts.

That is to say, it was G-O-O-D.

Mix all the above with a kick a$$ sauce, and, ladies and gentlemen, you have one of the best meals in Vegas.

I believe there were sides served with all this – but I was too busy gnawing on the bone to really notice or care.

Once this epic dinner was concluded, I had a little tiny teacup of a double espresso (just in case I wasn’t amped up enough already).

Total tab, I think was between $700 - $800. I didn’t get a chance to really look at it, because much to our surprise, ole Chaz picked up the tab. How do you like that, the guy is getting his you know what handed to him in Vegas . . . and he picks up the entire dinner. I travel with a great group.

Our plan after dinner was to hit downtown. The only requirement was NOT to go to the Golden Nugget. We went outside to get a cab – but then noticed a dude that, at least to me, looked a lot like Dr. Phil, and was driving an Escalade for hire. Heck, why not, we’d all fit.

We filed in and decided to have him take us to the Four Queens. As we got underway, the driver went off on several diatribes that were absolutely hysterical. Some I can’t even mention on this family friendly forum . . . but a few I can. He talked about his Uncle Eddie and how hairy the guy was (all of this being delivered to us in a thick NY accent). I guess Uncle Eddie was so hairy that his shirts used to puff up and make him look buff from all the hair underneath. Then there was the driver’s take on, er, foreign taxi cab drivers. Something about how they can’t speak English – or at least seem like they don’t, but have no problem telling you they don’t have change for a $50 or a $100 bill. And then there was his take on strip joints . . . I wish I had recorded this.

So, needless to say, we were fully amped up and ready to hit the ground running at the Four Queens.

As I got out of the car and took in the “sights” of downtown, I must say, what is the allure of Fremont Street? It seemed that it was one big gathering of street waifs and/or silly looking teenagers trying to look tough. Wow. Maybe they are all plants so that people will go immediately into the casinos – I dunno. If so, it worked for me.

We stumbled into the Four Queens and prepared to look for a table where we all could sit. Sure enough, we found a single deck table – with a dragon looking dealer. We all pulled out various bills and got ready to rock.

For a while, everyone, including me, seems to tread water. The deck would get hot, then it would cool down. Hot, cold, hot, cold. Eventually, the table got the better of Whale Jo and he hit the eject button. The rest of us stayed.

I had bought in for $300 and started feeling the pressure of trying to get a win. I doubled it, then I went back down to even. Then, I started dipping below $300 . . . when I got to $150, I shoved all in. I won. Back to even. Then, liking that little success, I put in another $150 . . . won. Hey, look at me! This continued for a little bit, until I finally was up about $600. I walked.

Then I got paranoid. I could feel the pressure of the casino’s siren song . . play . . .play . . . play . . .

Thankfully, I ran across Whale Jo cracking out on a 50-play VP machine. He had it on full speed and was dumping money at a mind-numbing pace.

“Jaco, watch this”

He pressed buttons and lost a lot of money.
I can’t remember if he was playing $1 or .$25 hands . . . didn’t really matter, things weren’t going well.

I noticed an old guy sitting next to him playing as well – but he was doing the exact opposite. He was playing .01 per hand and had it on the slowest level possible. Grinder.

Finally, the money in my pocket had to come out, I stuck a bill in one of the multi line VP games.

Three tens!

I think the total payout was around $300.

I was up $900!!!! Hooray!

I put a lid on any more gambling downtown. I had to get out of there. I knew if I stuck around, I would lose. I wanted nothing more than to take my minor victory and stick it in the safe and go to sleep. I’ve been in this situation before and I knew, given the chance, I would blow it, and all the rest of the money in my pocket.

I walked back to the BJ table, most of the crew was still there . . . with long faces. Turns out I was the only one with the luck downtown. Definitely time to go.

Whale Jo dropped by the table and muttered something about losing and then he disappeared into the night. I wouldn’t see him again until morning.

Double D called us – apparently he had skipped out of the Four Queens at some point and went back to the Mirage. In Slurdistanese, he left a voice message on Buzzy’s phone that Paris Hilton was heading into Jet. We hoped he had not tried to follow her in there.

We caught a cab back to the Mirage. I wasn’t sure what my plan was – I could either call it a night and be glad I had gotten a little of the bankroll back, or I could try for more.

It’s Vegas baby, I had to try for more.

I went back up to my room, shedded my blazer and dress shirt and put on something a little more casual. I grabbed all my cash and headed towards the door. Then I stopped. I’d been down this road. I went back to my safe, peeled off $400, and put all the rest back in its nice envelope. I would make a run with this $400 and see what happened. I did this mostly to prevent melting down at the table games and forcing myself to find some lucky slot machine.

I hit the casino floor and made a straight line towards Top Gun. I shoved $200 in and buckled down. I did OK, nothing earth shattering, actually doubled my money for a little bit, but eventually I cashed out up $100. Good start.

I wandered around for a minute or two before sidling up to some Wheel of Fortune knock off. I lost the $100 profit pretty quickly and cashed out with a $2 profit. Hmmm. Time was running out.

I turned around and spied a “Tailgate Party” machine – very similar to Jackpot Party – but instead of birthday party favors and whatnot – this was all football, beer, pretzels, and other assorted tailgating images. I could dig it. I put my $202 in and hit max credits.

$45 a spin.


I hit spin again. Nothing.

I decreased the credits down do $9 a spin and treaded water for a while. Then I hit the bonus round. Wow – this was cool in a it-was-2 a.m. – and –I was-super-drunk sort of way. Basically you choose a football play and hope that a large number is underneath it and that you advance your team 80 yards down the field. For each yard you make, you get $1 x however many credits you are playing – in my case 1. I did OK, I got all the way to the 10 and kicked a field goal. I can’t remember how much I won, because the minute I got back to the main screen, I upped to max credits and washed out everything.

$200 cash left in my pocket. It had to go in.

I spun twice . . . . . nothing.

Then I hit . . . Jackpot Party. I summoned my inner-Brett Favre.

I wish someone had been there to see what happened, because I don’t. All I know is that I kept picking the right play and kept getting first downs and kept racking up credits and eventually . . .


Cool – 80 yards = $80 x 5 credits - $400 . . not bad . . .

Only there is some sort of touchdown bonus . . . . the little light on top of the machine was blinking.

I looked down.

$2,900 . . . .

Holy . . .

Wahoooooo!!!! I won, I won, I won!

I looked up . . . nobody was around . . . I felt so happy, yet so tired too. Instead of breaking out in song, I confidently folded my arms together, sat back, sipped on my cocktail and waited to get hand paid.

It felt good.

I took a picture with my cell phone and immediately sent it to a few of the boyz. I got a call from Whale Jo . . he was already back in bed and crapped out. He was happy to know he was getting another 20% taste of the win.

It was time to go to bed.

I met up with Buzzy – turned out he had left a bottle of booze back in the suite, so I took him up there to get it. As we got in the PH elevators, lo and behold who is in there . . .


How do you do?

I wish I could say there was more than that – but there’s not. I didn’t have anything to say to him, he had nothing to say to me. We walked our separate ways off the elevator and that was that.

I got to the suite and Buzzy took his liquor. I then laid out 4 $100 bills in front of Whale Jo’s door and took my money, and the money that was in the safe and spread it out on my bed. Not bad.

Then, lights out. This day was done.

Unfortunately, I expected to wake up feeling awesome – instead, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. feeling like I was having a heart attack and an alien crawling through my gut. Oh well, such is the price to pay, I thought.

After laying in bed for an hour or so, I decided to check and see if there weren’t any early flights out of Vegas – nope. I’d have to suffer around until 3ish. Sigh.

The rest of the morning is kind of a blur . . . I remember Whale Jo berating food service for not being able to bring up a pot of coffee and a muffin in under an hour . . . then I remember him ripping into someone with guest services . . . .then I remember hearing him say thank you to someone and then to me, “Dude, it’s all taken care of”

Our room, all room service, and other charges completely comped. Nice job Whale Jo. This worked out to probably around $1500 . . . I think we were supposed to pay $600 a night, and we probably had another $300 in other charges . . ..

And that’s about it. I didn’t go on any major morning bender- mostly due to stomach issues – I did play one video poker machine and made another $50 . . . that put a smile on my face . . .I was leaving on a high note.

Thanks for reading.

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