Las Vegas - April 2007 Trip Report

Summary & Ratings:
  • Hotel: Singature - Two-Bedroom Suite* (5.5)
  • Restaurants: The Golden Steer (3.5); Casa Di Amore (8)
  • Casinos: MGM (7); Tropicana (2); Excalibur (6.5); NY/NY (7); TI (6); Sahara (7); The Riviera (Negative 3,000);
  • Games: Slots; Video Poker; Blackjack; Horses; Three-Card Poker; Craps

*The Signature advertises rooms as being Two-Bedroom Suites - but what you end up getting is a Jr. Suite and a One Bedroom Suite next to each other in the hall. They call it a two-bedroom suite because of the ability to prop both entry doors open with a shoe horn. Nice.

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DAY ONE: 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

This trip saw six of us traveling to Vegas for our annual pilgrimage. Three of the crew flew in coach and three of us rode first class down to Vegas. The flight down was full of energy. My seatmate, Whale Jo (previously referred to as $5k in previous episodes), and I started gambling even before the plane took off. First it was a little casual game of seven stud, but soon we digressed to playing some weird hybrid craps/poker game. Dollars were flying back and forth. Free drinks in hand. This was going to be a good trip. We were actually told by our pilot that our arrival was going to be moved up a good 45 minutes or so do to super tailwinds. Unfortunately, as we got close to Vegas, an announcement from the pilot dampened the mood.


WTF? Apparently, at least as was explained to us by the pilot, this weather phenomena is when a thundercloud suddenly releases all of its energy and sends extreme winds down towards the ground, which then of course go every which way when they encounter Mother Earth. Basically, you do not want to be flying in a plane and get hit with a microburst.

Consequently, McCarren was closed to all in and outgoing flights. I immediately raised my hand and called over our flight attendant, Buck, and asked for a double bloody mary. No dice. They were battening down the hatches and all drink service was discontinued.

Needless to say this wasn’t a good start. But thankfully the delay was only for about 20 minutes. We were finally given clearance to land – but cautioned that it would be a bumpy ride as there were still high winds in the area.

I can’t remember a worse landing and thank the gods that we didn’t end up as runway paint. Seriously. The last ten to fifteen seconds of the landing were the scariest moments I have ever encountered. Not only was the plane shaking like Madonna on ‘roids, but the wind was causing the plane to gyrate sideways, left to right, front to back. As the ground approached, I thought it was about 25-1 that something bad was going to happen. We were going too fast, the plane was off line too much, the wind had picked up, way up . . . . I held on, tears in my eyes . . . my hands engaged in a Vulcan death grip on my cocktail napkin . . .

And we hit. And hit hard. A gust of wind must have met us at the moment of touch down because it felt like the plane went up on one wheel – which if you are riding a Huffy Bike, great – but in a 757, not so good. Well, you know the rest, as I wouldn’t be writing if the ending was a bad one. The pilot got all wheels down, and the plane erupted with applause. This was a happy moment and a good reminder of why I need multiple cocktails pre-flight.

As I walked off the plane, I took a gigantic deep breath – it felt like I was home. I couldn’t help but think - Vegas baby!

Ahhhhh. It was about 12:30 . . . a little later than I like to arrive, but I was hoping for enough daylight left to do some damage at the tables before dinner.

The six of us hopped in a limo, stopped at the closest liquor store (been there before – it’s a real dirty place – but can’t remember the name), and then we proceeded directly to the Signature at MGM.

Let me say this, the Signature is an OK property – but by no means does it deserve all the accolades it has been getting. The rooms are nice – but not perfect. The actual décor of the property itself is fairly bland and reminded me of some retirement condo in Florida. The service falls very short of being first class. Before getting into the substance of the trip itself, let me give you some of the low and highlights of this property:

(1) Check-In

We arrived early – so I get that our room was not ready – that’s fine. I was told it was being cleaned and would be ready shortly. OK, no problem. I wanted to get to the casino and had no problem leaving my bags and coming back. The clerk was a little flustered – not sure why, but it caused him to cop a little attitude about us trying to check in early.

(2) Location

As advertised, the location of this place is a little off the beaten path. I timed it many times, and the walk from the lobby of Tower 1 to the casino was approximately 7-8 minutes – if you walk briskly. 10 minutes if you walk slow. I didn’t mind the walk at all – but boy are those hallways boring. Throw a couple naked ladies in there or something.

(3) Décor

OK – I already commented on this. The general décor of this place is Southern Florida Retirement Village. The colors are bland, the decorations are bland, heck, even the staff walking around is bland. Maybe they’re zombies, I dunno.

(4) Rooms

Like I said, rooms are fine. But they aren’t top of the line. If you look at the detail work in the rooms, you’ll see shoddy workmanship. If I had plunked down $1 mil for one of these units, I would be sorely disappointed.

Also, I hate to say it, but there’s a little bit of deception going on with how the Signature advertises it’s two-bedroom suites. They aren’t really two-bedroom suites. They aren’t connected. Here’s what the website advertises: “Stretch out in our 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom suites and enjoy twice the luxury.” Yah – that doesn’t happen. Rather, what you have is a Junior Suite and a One-Bedroom Suite that are next to each other, but the only way they are “connected” is if you leave the front door open to both. Seriously, this was the hotel’s remedy when I called and complained. “Oh, sorry sir, we’ll send up an engineer with two door stops.” I’d go on and complain more – but I didn’t pay any extra for the two-bedroom suite, so no harm, no foul . . . . though I will never stay at the property and won’t go out of my way to recommend it to anyone.

(5) Room Service

As described by others – fantastic. If you do stay here, order the milkshakes – unlike anything I’ve every had.

(6) Check-in Part Two

OK, I’ll skip a little bit ahead here. After going to the casino for three hours, I returned to check in to the room. I walk up to the front desk, and am told, gasp, that the room is still being cleaned. My blood pressure jumped 500 points. How dirty can a freakin’ room be. I made a funny face at the clerk (who, by the way, had an accent so thick, I couldn’t understand half the words she spoke). She picked up the phone and after twenty minutes I was told that the rooms were ready and that a maid had forgotten to check in that the room was clean. Sigh. OK, no big deal – at least I had a room.

Unfortunately, it took another twenty minutes for the bags to come up. Again, we were told it was some sort of miscommunication. Great.

(7) Good Comments

It’s not all bad. The bed was nice, the bathroom was really nice, and of course, the balcony was nice. Oh, I did notice a lot of kids here – so take that for what it’s worth.

So, you get the picture. Not the biggest fan of the Signature. It is nice – but the fact that it is not right on the strip, the drab décor, and the lack of a two bedroom suite, these things will keep me from going back. For my money, THEhotel is way better. Heck, I’d even prefer the Augustus Tower rooms at CP.

Here are a few pics I took of the room:

Enough of the room – turns out I would spend little time here anyway – that’s one of the side effects of being so far away from everything.

First stop, the Sky Box at the MGM race book. Now we’re gonna have some fun!

DAY ONE: 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

After checking into the Signature, we headed out to the MGM race book where we had pre-reserved a Sky Box. If you don’t know, the Sky Boxes are four suites that sit above the race book and have their own seating area and plasma TVs. Generally, most people associate these with whales. While this is likely true for big sporting events, on slow sports days, pretty much anyone can use a Skybox. You just need to be a guest in MGM or have a Players Card. Contact the marketing department of MGM to set it up. Once there, you just check in with the manager at the sports book, sign a release, put on a bracelet for security purposes and away you go.

From my perspective, this has got to be one of the best free deals in Vegas. If you like the ponies, like I do, one of the suites is set up right in front of the race screens and has its own little booths in the suite. Sit down, make a couple bets, and enjoy ordering free drinks from the hot cocktail waitress that waits on you hand and foot.

We all went to the little deli that sits there right next to the sportsbook, grabbed some sammies, and sat back and made random bets on races across the country. I can’t tell you how fun it was to sit up there and scream my lungs out and look at people peer around to figure out who was belting out “HAAAARRRRRRRRRD, RUN, HAAAAAAAAARRRRRD!” We stayed here for about an hour and then determined it was time to hit the gaming floor of the MGM.

First order of business, my old friend – the Monopoly Big Event game. If you’ve read my previous trip report, you know I absolutely loved this machine during my last trip. I’m sorry to report that my love affair is officially over. This is a devil machine. Pure unadulterated evil.

I mean it – it sits there all quiet like and has these fun colors and familiar monopoly icons adorning its shiny metal exterior – but underneath, I think there are little money grubbing demons operating the pulleys and levers. How else do you explain me shoving $600 into this monster in a matter of 10 minutes? Without hitting a Big Event? And then when it finally hits a Big Event, I only win freakin’ $3.00???? Oh yes, I hate this game.

Unfortunately, this hatred did not stop me from returning multiple times to the machine during the trip and shoving more bills into it . . . . I guess I really didn’t want to believe that the magic was gone. I had the ultimate humiliation happen on the last night at god knows what hour . . . I again was shoving bills into Monopoly, trying to hit a Big Event . . none came. Finally, I just let the timer run out. The second, and I mean the bloody ding dangled second my time ran up, the Big Event hit and hit big. I cried. Then I stubbed my toe as I gave it a swift kick. And I cried some more.

Phew. OK, so the Monopoly machine didn’t work out. No problem. Plenty of time left to recover on other games.

I took a quick break to go back to the room and change into dinner clothes and me, Whale Jo, Double D, and First Class (another annual pilgrimage member) decided to take the monorail down to Sahara and do a little down and dirty gaming before meeting up with the rest of the crew and heading to dinner.

I gotta say, there is a major problem with the MGM monorail station. It smells like bad fish and chips. I’m talking about fish and chips that have been left outside in 90 degree heat and shat on by seagulls for sixteen hours bad. As I type this and remember the smell, I can’t help but gag. I’m very surprised we didn’t throw up on the spot. Someone needs to clean that shiznit up pronto.

Well, that’s the best I can do for today – stay tuned for more TR later – the Sahara was very very good to some of us . . . and later, the worst melt down I’ve ever experienced.


Finally, the monorail arrived at the Sahara. I must say that I was quite surprised at the lack of people riding this form of transportation – it really is an easy way to get from one end of the strip to the other. On the other hand, the fishy stank smell that I had encountered at the MGM sorta did stay with the Monorail the entire trip. In any event, I had made it to the Sahara and was ready to game.

I just love this old casino – to me it has a good vibe and provides enough fun to justify coming here. I think I sorta wandered around for a bit trying different games, then settled into a BJ game with a couple of the crew. Ahh, what a wonderful idea that was. I could no lose. In hindsight, I wish I had been betting more than $10 per hand. Luckily, I would occasionally slide a $25 or $50 bet in and after an hour or so, I was up about $300.

One of the crew was even luckier. First, he nailed some BJ table for a big wad of cash – as I played at my table I could hear the cheers coming from about six tables down and knew he had to be just killing the table. Then, he moved over to a Let It Ride Bonus game . . . directly across from where I was. As I was finishing up my BJ run, I heard my name being called . . . . “Dude, I’m about to get 4 of a kind” . . .sure enough, cheers erupted – he had hit his 4 of a kind . . . I think he had something like $50 out on that one, so he collected a nice pot. (thankfully, we had made a pre-Vegas deal where if either of us hit a jackpot on a table game over $1000, the other person would get a 10% cut . .we also agreed on a 20% cut for slot machine jackpots).

So I had about $500 in profits in my pocket and decided to take it over to a Monopoly machine. I couldn’t help myself. But you know what – this little machine like me, it really liked me. I put $100 in and right away hit a Big Event and cashed out with $200. I stuck another $100 and hit some sort of jackpot and cashed out with another $100 in profit. Life was good. I grabbed my buddy who was hot and told him about this Monopoly machine – I swore it was acting like an ATM . . . .unfortunately, when we started playing together the little devil inside must have woken up. Instead of giving me nice little jackpots, the Monopoly machine ate my money. After putting in a couple hundred, I decided to give it a rest. Plus, it was time for dinner. Next destination: The Golden Steer.
DAY ONE: 7:00 p.m . - Closing

Some of the crew had already gone ahead and left for the Steer – it’s only about ½ mile past Sahara. I suppose you could walk it, but the three of us left decided to grab a cab. The cab line was about one or two people, we decided this was waaaay too long and accosted some poor town car driver named Alex. I can’t remember what he charged us, but it was his lucky fare for the night as we juiced him pretty good for the two minute ride. I did learn he has a nice Ukrainian girlfriend.

We arrived at the Golden Steer and caught up with the rest of the crew who were already fully engaged in the video poker machines at the bar. Nobody was having any luck. Surprisingly, I did not even give it a go – I usually am sucker No.1 when it comes to tight little no-pay machines.

Last year, our dinner at Golden Steer was epic – we had Dom waiting for us as we entered and the food was 100% perfect. This year we got about 60% of that experience. The ambiance cannot be beat here if you are looking for old Vegas. Unfortunately, our food did not quite compare to last year. The steaks were somewhat flavorful, but just about everybody’s steak was either under or overcooked. They were nice enough to those that sent the steaks back – so that’s a plus. The tableside Caesar was so-so – too much dressing and not enough anchovies. The seafood platter was OK – though one of the crew said it was horrible.

The best thing about this place, at least on this trip, was the service. The waiters are pros and bend over backwards to help you. I will say that our little guy talked a bit too much. He said he knew seven languages . . . so I assumed Japanese would be one of those – but my personal and pointed questions in Japanese went unanswered. Probably better.

We finally got out of there with a nice big buzz riding on everyone’s shoulders. It was time for the after dinner gaming event. We decided on hitting the Riviera. Nobody had ever been there and we were in that old Vegas kind of mood.

We had the manager call us a limo. And we waited, and waited.

And waited.

So one of the crew went inside and called three different cab companies to pick us up.

And we waited.

And waited.

Finally, after six minutes of waiting, we called our boy Alex and crammed six dudes into his tiny town car. I don’t think he could have driven any faster to get us out of there. We arrived at the Riv in no time. The crew was pretty amped up and as we drove towards the entrance, Whale Jo yelled out something like “I’ll give you $25 if you hit the gas and then skid up to the door” . . . . . Alex must have been hard up because that’s just what he did . . . gunned it, then freakin’ slammed the brakes and we skidded to a stop right at the front door.

This definitely turned some heads, as did the six guys pouring out of this town car flush with booze and money.

Oh heck yes, we had arrived and the Riv and were ready to taker ‘er down!

If there was a way to go back and time and physically assault myself – I mean frickin’ rearing back and cold cockin’ my head so that I didn’t wake up for weeks type of beat down – I wish I could go back to the moment when I entered the Riv.

The whole experience started innocently enough. Walked in, admired the old school feel and vibe of the place and was genuinely happy to be there. Heck, I even got some sort of coupon that said I got no strings attached free stuff. Unfortunately, there was one person standing in line and I did not have the patience to wait that long to see if I got some sort of tee shirt, gym bag, or whatever. Man, I wish I had.

Nope. first stop, the john. Yikes. I’m sorry to say I need to censor this part of the TR. With all the money these casinos rake in, why on earth can’t they afford to clean up their bathrooms. Personally, I like to go in the stalls and count my money – private and I’m assuming no eyes in the skies are on me. I couldn’t get past counting $1 in one of the Riv’s stalls. Yuck.

So, back to the floor I go. I know I’m up a little, which in my booze fueled state meant I had some how initiated my invincible shield. No way I was going to lose.

The crew had sidled themselves up to a nice lookin’ craps table. Time for business. The first few fellas rolled – nuthin. Nobody could make a point. Then it was my turn to roll. I knew I was about to roll a heater. Sure enough, come out was a six. Great number. I thought about betting the bank on a hard six, but the dice came to me too quickly. I grabbed and rolled and waited for the payday and cheers and . . .



Same thing happened over and over to all the rollers. Maybe we’d stretch a point out here or there . . . but this table would not freakin’ bend. Finally, after watching seven consecutive $10 midnight bets go down the toilet, I decided a change of scenery was in order. Whale Jo was having little luck as well, so we walked around.

If I remember correctly, we deposited some bills into various machines – not hitting anything. At this point, a smart gambler would have left – gone somewhere else. It was painfully obvious that no money was to be made tonight – not at the Riv.


If only, right?

No, Whale Jo and I sat down at a $100 BJ table. Why not – it was empty – that never means anything.

I’ve still got good cash in my pocket, and I put it all out on the table. I want a frickin’ brick fortress of black chips. I envisioned them as my little army of good that was going to fight the big bad casino.

Over the next two minutes the dealer committed chip genocide . . . she wiped out everything. Gone. I stared in disbelief.

I could barely breath. Had I really just lost that much?

Some part of my mind was thinking, “Now it is definitely time to leave”

Unfortunately, that part of my mind was speaking English, the rest of my mind and body had entered some sort of weird zone and only understood Irationalese. Sad, but true.

So I looked over at Whale Jo. I held up five fingers. With a nod, five black chips came my way.

And like Moses parting the Red Sea, bad luck parted, and my path to financial wealth was re-established.

I made enough to pay back the $500. I was working towards getting a $1000, then walking. I was . . .


It was gone. I don’t know how it happened, but the chips in front of me just vanished. I flashed another five fingers at Whale Jo and got another stack of five blacks.


The casino around me turned black, the only light seemed to be focused on the table. OK, so I was in a little rut here, no worries, I’d just bet a little bigger. I flashed the five fingers again.

Boom. Gone.

Five more fingers.


Suffice to say fair friends, the fun did not stop there. However, in the interest of self sanity, I will stop the story there.

I got up off the table. I staggered like a drunken hobo – which I might as well have been – no money, boozed up, and freakin’ seeing sideways.

The night was done – well, at least my night. Half the crew ended up going to the Rhino, the other fellas returned to the MGM and gambled.

Me, I went to bed and looked at the pennies I had left in my room safe.

Good night Irene.

My last thought of that evening was “Hey, there’s always tomorrow”

Fade to Black . . .literally.

DAY TWO: 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

8:00 a.m.

Wow. I was awake, I felt good . . . I had to be dreaming.

As I lay in my bed that first Vegas morning, I tried to block memories of the previous night’s debacle from clouding the day. I still had money. Yes, I had taken a good ole fashioned beating, but all was not lost.

I expected Whale Jo to come knocking soon – prior to this trip we had agreed to get up “early”, order a sick amount of room service, then hit the ground running.

I decided to give out the vaunted Signature bathrooms a try. The bathrooms are very roomy – complete with Jacuzzi tub, sinks, all the usual bathroom stuff. I filled the tub to see how good the Jacuzzi jets worked. They were OK. I did discovery that the tub was not built for someone over six feet in length. Very awkward. In fact, I became so self-conscious about being sardined into the tub that I lasted about thirty seconds before jumping out and taking a good ole fashioned shower.

Once all that business was done, I met up with Whale Jo and we ordered our feast. This was by far the best part of the Sig. Very good food. I had some sort of American breakfast – eggs, bacon, pancakes, chive scone, skillet potatoes. Coupled together with coffee, grapefruit juice and a vanilla milkshake, I had more than I could eat. Eggs were perfectly cooked, the potatoes were seasoned just so, and the milkshake – well, if I could have figured out a way to sleep with it, I probably would have – it was that gooood.

OK – enough of the food. We ate and then took off. First stop, Tropicana.

The general plan was to hit the Trop, then Excal, then NY/NY and perhaps Monte Carlo if we had enough time (and money). No big bets – we were going guerilla gaming. Hit and runs . . . it had worked on previous trips and I was hoping luck would be tilted my way after transforming into the biggest loser at the Riv.

It took about 11 minutes total from the Sig to get to the entrance of the Trop. I had never been to this place, so I was kind of excited to check it out.
Sorry to say, the Trop sorely disappointed. First off, the décor of this place is just plain depressing. It looks worn and there was little to no excitement coming from any of the machines or tables. Whale Jo and I walked around a bit trying to find some magic from something – but no luck. Every machine was dead. So we sat down at a Let it Ride table. No luck there either.

To make things even worse as my money slowly disappeared, Mr. Heavy Breathin’ XXL with a Bud Light sat down right next to me. Come on dude – give a fella some room. I don’t like to be touched by strangers and I certainly do not like being breathed on with stink breath. This really soured my mood. However, stupid me, rather than getting up right away and moving somewhere else, I sat there like a statue and tried to will XXL off the table. David Copperfield I am not.

Finally, I could not take it anymore and we left the building. On to the Excal.

My memories from the Excal were not good. Several years ago I had wandered into that casino and was horrified. The tables were dirty, the people were dirty, heck, even the cards were dirty. Well, imagine my surprise this trip when none of those things were true.

I’m here to admit, I liked the Excal. I really did.

Someone had finally cleaned up the place and the games were nice and loose. Sure there were bunches of kiddies running around in the lobby area – but it really didn’t seem all that bad. I liked the Medieval theme and wish I could have worn a suit of armor while playing. I think that’d be cool.

Anyway, Whale Jo and I moved from machine to machine and even hit a couple of tables. I know I didn’t win big, but I didn’t lose big either – which is really what I was looking for. I probably ended up only $100 or so, but boy that felt good. I think we stayed at Excal for two or three hours before the rest of the crew called us. We decided to meet everyone over at NY/NY.

Again, it had been a while since I had been in the NY/NY casino – though unlike Excal, I do remember liking it a lot. Sure enough, this time, walking in, I absolutely loved the vibe and feel of the place. Frankly, the more over the top a casino can be with its “theme” – all the better. I like throwing away any thought of the outside world while I gamble.

So, nothing too eventful at the NY/NY – just did little hit and runs on the slots and table games. I did have some good luck at 4-card Poker – built up some black chips. Actually saw a lady hit a straight flush and a bunch of other good hands – she racked it up.

So, all in all, the day was going good. I was squeaking out some wins and looking forward to the evening session.

DAY TWO: 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Somehow the hours raced by and it was about 5:30 p.m. when we left NY/NY – a limo was coming at 6 to pick us up at the Sig to take us to Casa Di Amore. Walking VERY briskly, we made if from NY/NY to the Sig in about 10 minutes. That left enough time for a 2 minutes “shower”.

I met the rest of the crew downstairs and waited for the limo to come pick us up. I could feel electricity in the air . . . . this was going to be a good night.

The Casa Di Amore limo arrived right on time at the Sig. Wow, you can’t miss this shiny burgundy colored ride – especially with all the Casa Di Amore verbiage splashed on the outside windows. If anyone had any question of where we were headed – they only needed to be able to read.

All six of the crew piled in – in hindsight, I might opt to have a little bigger limo pick us up. Technically, this was a six-seater, but only children and small adults could seriously fit in here with any comfort. We happened to not mind it because we were drunk. Heck, they could have sent a VW Bug and we’d have been happy.

I wish (and maybe I’ll do this next time) I had some sort of recording device to capture some of the conversations that went back and forth between the crew. At least a little notepad to take down the topics. It was freakin’ hilarious – I swear at some point the level of laughter and excitement got so high you could have sworn the limo was full of a pack of circus monkeys. At one point, one of the crew found some nuts stored in the side pocket of the limo door (I think they were complimentary) and he began eating them – only to declare about a minute later – “Hey, wait a sec – I’m f-king allergic to nuts. What am I doing!” Ha. He even said it with a smile. That was funny.

Thankfully, his allergy isn’t of the severe kind, so no story about stabbing him with an eppy pen or diverting the limo to the hospital. Phew.

The ride isn’t that long – CDA (I’ll shorten the name here) – is down on Trop a bit – a nice ride. Our reservations were at 7 p.m., but we decided to arrive a little early so as to enjoy the atmosphere of CDA.

How can I describe this place. Old school . . . brick . . . giant posters of right out of Vegas’ past . . . and, as I’ve probably said before . . . characters right out of central casting. Seriously, go there and yell out “Yo, Vinny” and see how many heads turn your way.

We walked in and I could tell immediately we’d made a smart decision in returning here. I can’t describe it any better – the place was alive. A large wedding party was housed (and hosed) right in the middle of the entire restaurant. A live band was just setting up to play some oldies and the smells . . . wow. Mama mia.

Since we were there early, we went to the bar area to check out if the smokin’ waitress from last year was pouring cocktails. This was the only disappointment (if you want to call it that) of the night. She was nowhere to be found. However, her replacement wasn’t hard on the eyes, if you know what I mean. A few of the fellas were able to secure the barside VP machines . . nobody really had any luck as I can remember.

The crewmember that had eaten the peanuts took it upon himself to introduce himself to some of the “locals” at the bar. I can’t go into much more detail for various reasons – let’s just say the two guys he talked to have spent serious time in federal prison (oops – that was too much info). I kid you not – bad dudes – but they liked my friend, and they tolerated us. Heck, at some point I swear I saw them exchanging baby pictures.

With the lack of luck at the VP machines, we collectively decided to sit down and eat. It was 6:30, so we figured the earlier we got dinner out of the way, the sooner we’d be able to hit the town hard.

I’m not very good at describing, or remembering, food details, but I’ll give it a shot here. The service is impeccable – anything you want, anyway you want, you got it. Just ask. Want a different kind of pasta with your veal – done . . . want to know if the conch is good – no problem. I wish I could remember our waiter’s name – he’s awesome.

We ordered some appetizers – a bunch of fried stuff and something with tomatoes and olives. It was gone in two minutes. Good start. Then came the wine – they’ve got a great selection of low to medium priced wines that really should be drunk by, well, drunks.

Then dinner.

Last year I had the veal parm – I’m freakin’ crying here thinking about it, it was that good. Well, my heart had been set on getting it again, but listening to the waiter describe some of the other veal dishes, I changed my mind. I went with the veal marsala and added some angel hair pasta . . . . it was amazing. Every bite I took I had to close my eyes and make some sort of sound . . . it probably looked like I had gas, but really, I couldn’t believe how good the meal was. If I could have rubbed some of the dish on my arms for later snacking, I probably would have. Instead, I dribbled a large amount of the sauce of my shirt – which after dabbing with cold water, I looked like I was Captain Lactate. Thank god I had a sports coat with me – there’s just no explaining that sort of thing.

Dinner went fast as the crew was hungry. It was time to head out. Almost.

I noticed Whale Jo had left us to go play a little more VP. I walked over and noticed he had about $16.00 left in the machine. I think he was playing some sort of multi-line deal. Then, I heard him say, “Hey, three Aces, sweet” He hit the draw button – one of the hits was 4 Aces and somehow his payout was $980. Good god. A lot of eyeballs were on him – probably best that our limo was ready. I thought I heard some guy say, “Hey, he took money out of my machine . . .” Gulp.

We decided to have the limo take us to TI. Why? No reason – seemed a good place to start the evening. So we all packed back in, cranked up the tunes and enjoyed the ride back to the strip.

DAY TWO: 8:00 p.m. - Closing

TI. We made it.

As the crew walked through the front doors, a very very very petite gal was handing out free VIP passes to Tangerine. She said we should all go.

“Will you be there” I dropped my voice a couple octaves.

“Um, I’m working now, but maybe later.”

“When” What was I doing – I don’t go clubbing.

“1:30 a.m.”

Then Whale Jo interrupted. “Can I pick you up? I’ll give you $20 if I can pick you up”

And the next thing I know he’s hoisting her into the air, almost throwing her through the ceiling.

And so the last night began.

We strode through the front part of the casino and the first thing we saw was an empty craps table. Perfect.

All six of us took positions around the rails and laid our bets. The first couple of rolls – well, not so good. Again, like last night, nobody could make a point.

Then our lucked turned. Whale Jo threw some points. That got the table hot.

Then another crewmember got even hotter. Before every roll he’d ask someone, “Are you ready.” Unless they replied with an exact, “Yes, I’m ready” He’d keep asking the question. I could see the stickmen getting a little annoyed at this, because not everyone at the table caught on to this schtick right away. But it was effective.

Then Double D stepped up and continued the hot roll. By the end of his roll I swear I was howling like a wolf and jumping around like a magic pixie.

Yes, gambling life was good.

And exhausting.

I could feel myself sweating through my shirt and decided it was time to “cool” off and walk around with my winnings. The rest of the crew eventually began to peel of the table as well.

As we decided on where to go next, we saw Whale Jo duck into the high limit room. OK, why not? The other five of us walked right in, a few of us sitting down at the $100 BJ table.

Whatever alarm system that should have been in place from the night before was gone. Like a stupid trout eyeing a worm on a hook, I bit.

First hand. $100 gone.

Oh no, not again.

No worries, I thought, I had all my craps winning to play with.

Second hand. $100 gone.

Thankfully, something clicked. I should stop.

And I did.

But Whale Jo didn’t.

And he kept losing – at some point he was just throwing wads of hundreds, making big cash plays. And losing.

The TI high limit room sucks.

After that little meltdown, Whale Jo disappeared into the night – muttering something about “reloading”. The rest of us sort of coasted around, trying to find something at TI that would offer a little fun and money.

I settled on Three Card Poker. The first couple of hands went well – but the bad luck from the high limit room had stuck. I soon was watching my money disappear.

This wasn’t supposed to be happening. Something had to change. The best way I’ve discovered to do this is by moving locations (easy to preach, tough to practice).

Fortunately, the crew was ready to go. I excused myself quickly from the table, and wouldn’t you know it, I suddenly found myself in front of an ATM working on a credit card advance. WTF. The tiny voice inside my head was so not being heard.

I took my little payment slip to the cashier. As I waited there, forking over ID, signing various paperwork, one of the crew stumbled over and asked what I was doing. I didn’t really know. I had money in my pocket – but for some illogical reason I thought that getting more money in my pocket would make me feel better. And . . . .to be honest . . . it did.

As we were gathering to leave, we got a call from Whale Jo. I can’t explain it any better than this: after losing all his money at TI he went back to MGM and took out the last remnants of his bankroll. I think it was about $1,500. He sat down at a BJ table at MGM and in a matter of minutes had magically transformed it into $10k.

I took this as a sign that the MGM was running hot.

Getting back to the MGM was a nice little sideshow in and of itself. We secured one of the mini-van cabs so all five of us could ride back together. As usually happens in the later hours, we pressed the cabbie on information about important issues of the day – i.e., strip clubs, strippers, call girls, etc. Purely informational questions of course.

I have to say, this cabbie was very honest. I say honest because a lot of times when you ask a cabbie or even a limo driver which “club” is the best in Vegas, they are going to tell you the name of the club that gives them the best kickback. Our cabbie told us that up front. Then he told us how he lost his virginity – um – that was both unsolicited and unnecessary – but you get what you get I guess.

So, we made it to MGM intact and tracked down Whale Jo. He showed us the banded 100 bills and off we went.

The first order of business for me was to make some money. I had already had some success with my credit card, but thought I better try blackjack. Walking around though, I didn’t “feel” anything – no good vibes coming from the table. Whale Jo and I ended up near the $100 tables where he’d had his recent success . . . should I, did I dare?

No. I couldn’t.

But Whale Jo could . . . .I have him $500 and walked away, hoping I had just invested in Google and not Enron. I had some spare $20s in my pocket and I wandered around some near by $1 slot machines, playing a few spins here and there, just trying not to think about Whale Jo coming back empty handed.

After about 10 minutes, I peeked out from behind the machines and saw him walking away from the table. Flagging him down, I waited for the final result.

He hadn’t lost it all! But, he also didn’t hit a super hot run. Nonetheless, he did make a $100 profit on the $500, so I could not complain.

We decided to track down the rest of the crew to figure out what to do next. On our way through the casino we saw a $50 table and I heard it calling my name. Nobody was on it – but the dealer smiled nicely, so we sat.

And what do you know. Success. At first, when I sat down, my chips started vanishing quickly, but I was able to stage a decent rally and was able to walk away with some more black chips. Again, no big win, but – no loss. I was starting to smile.

We found the crew sitting at a $25 table and by chance, there were two open seats – so we sat down and joined the fun.

I took my winnings from the last hour and got ready.

In all my meager experiences in gambling in Vegas, this was by far the hottest table I’ve ever seen. All six of us could not lose. In hindsight, I bet waaaaay too conservatively and probably threw away a perfect opportunity to get myself up or past the even mark. I can’t say for sure what everybody walked away with, I just know we were all “up.”

So what did I immediately do with some of my winnings?

I ran right over to the Monopoly machine and dumped in some cash. Argggh. I am hitting my head against the keyboard right now – no no no no!

I think I wrote about this on a previous post, but I’ll recount what happened.

After reloading the machine several times, I stuck what I said would be my last bill - I was hoping to leave after hitting a Big Event.

Well, I slow played that bill until the last few seconds wound down . . . 3 . . 2 . . . 1 . . .0

At the precise moment my credits expired – the machine yelled out “Big Event” – I was crushed. My favorite game (at least coming into this trip) had just made me enemy number one. I can’t say for sure, but I think this game is rigged and there’s some dirty little old man sitting up in the ceiling with a button that he presses to make the Big Event go off. He just sits there and waits for rubes like me to put bill after bill into the machine until you get up to walk away . . . . .

I threw my hands up in the air. Oh well. C’est la vie. It was time to turn in. The magic run I had been hoping for didn’t happen – but I did manage to not lose any more money. Call it a tie I guess.

Walking back to the lame Sig (oops, did I throw that in there), Whale Jo wanted to stop real quickly in the high limit slot area. What a strange place – there are people playing in there, but they all look real unhappy. I watched Whale Jo pop some cash into a $25 slot machine and . . .

Boom. A hit.

$1,250 cash . . . .

This guy was having a very good trip.

I looked around and saw someone hit a $30,000 jackpot – but they didn’t seem very interested in it.

As I said, the place was a bit strange.

It took about 25 minutes for the slot attendant to cash him out . . . and then the long arduous walk back to the Sig.

I went to my room, a little disappointed in not winning, but underneath knowing it had been another fun trip. I could already tell I was going to wake up in the morning and want to come back.

So, that about ends this tale.

I did wake up and try my luck at the slots one last time . . . I stuck $100 into a machine, hit 9 credits and pressed the button to cash out. I just wanted to leave on an up note. Unfortunately, I did not notice the bright yellow sign saying that the machine I was playing on would only cash out up to $100 – everything else required a hand pay by the attendant.

And so I sat there with the machine ringing like I had hit a jackpot . . . and I sat . . and sat.

A few people thought I had actually won something big and stopped and asked “How much?” . . . I could only sigh and mumble . . “nine dollars” . . . slot humiliation at its finest.

Then I went to the airport, flew home and that was that.

I did hear one story about a crewmember that stayed up that last night gambling until 7 a.m. Apparently, he had decided to stay at the hot table and play. At some point during the night, around 4 a.m., he ordered some coffee drink. Well, you probably know what happens. The drink doesn’t come and he proceeds to lose massive amounts of money while he waits.

Then, when he’s been fleeced, the coffee shows up.

That’s when he blows up.

He gets into a 30 minute argument with management about the injustice of it all . . . how he wasn’t thrown out, I don’t know. But basically his argument was, “If you had brought my drink sooner, I would not have lost all that money.”

It worked – sort of. The MGM ended up comping him a free night’s room. Some guys . . .

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