The Ship It Trip Report - April 2009

Summary & Ratings:
  • Hotel: Encore Tower Suite (10)
  • Restaurants: Okada (Wynn) (10); Del Frisco's (7); Piero's (9)
  • Casinos: Encore (9); Wynn (9); Circus Circus (10); Riviera(negative 500);
  • Games: Too many to report . . . . best luck with BJ, Video Poker, and Wizard of Oz
Note: Ratings are made on a 1-10 scale, 10 being best. If you have any comments or questions about the ratings or the trip report in general, please feel free to post in the comments section. I'll do my best to respond.
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“Hell yes! Two minutes in and I’m up $2,500 on blackjack!!! Beat that you monkey!”

I looked over at Whale Jo and smiled defiantly. Oh yes, baby, the 2009 Vegas trip definitely had just begun.

What a start to the trip report right? Too bad at this point we hadn't even stepped foot in Vegas yet. The $2,500 was fake money. You see, to start the trip off, we had decided to challenge each other to a blackjack tournament on my iPod. $3 got you a chance to run up an initial $1k in chips . . . whoever got the highest amount won. And you thought I was talking about REAL blackjack? REAL MONEY? Don’t worry, that day is coming.

“!@#$!@#$%!@$#” I looked over at Whale Jo – he had crapped out.

“Ship it.”

OK, I don’t know what it is about Vegas, but it certainly seems, at least for Whale Jo and myself, to up the “let’s run a barely understandable catch phrase into the ground” factor. “Ship it”, on this trip, certainly was put to extreme use.

The phrase itself is simple enough – basically it just means in Vegas-speak, “Pay up”, or “I won” or even “She’s kinda hot” . . . You win a $100 bet at blackjack, you yell out ship it! . . . . one of the Miss USA contestants walks by . . . oh yes, sssssship it!!!!!

Heck, you can even do it when ordering at McDonalds I suppose . . . “Would you like fries with that?”. . . “SHIP IT.”

Whale Jo slid over his $3 in ones. Ahhhhh. A good start.

I looked around the first class cabin – Whale Jo was on my left, and the rest of the crew was spread about the cabin. I had a half caned (another Vegasism . . . Cane . . . a verb type word that means finishing something . . . as in, ‘I just caned that bottle of wine’ or even can mean beating a particular machine or dealer) a rather strong bloody Mary and was warm and fuzzy inside.

Right in front of me – Buzzy. A good friend of mine now for at least 16 years . . . he’s had some great Vegas moments over the past trips . . . including the time he demanded security tapes from a pit boss after getting run over in a $2-$4 hold ‘em game at Luxor . . . or the time he demanded free rooms from MGM after they took too long to bring his coffee and he dumped a ton of cash into a blackjack game . . . or the time he played poker until 9 a.m. and then we didn’t see him for the rest of the trip – at least not until we got on the return flight home.

To the right of Buzzy was Frankie Styles. This is one funny dude. You can always count on Frankie to throw in some comment or observation that is a gut puncher. Very refined and very cool to hang out with. A true Vegas hound.

Across the aisle to my right was Smooth Chaz. Going into this trip he as just plain ole Chaz and he’s asked that I add the Smooth title. Why not, he’s earned it. A smooth operator with a calm demeanor. I’ve known this guy for 16 years as well. He was wearing some sort of lid on his head that reminded me of my grandpa . . .

And in back of me was a new member of the crew – well, sorta new. He’d been on one trip before. We never really came up with a good nickname for him on this trip . . . I was going to go with “Hee Haw” . . . but that’d give you readers the wrong impression about this guy. Oh well . . . so be it. He’s a great dude, part of my family, and certainly added to the excitement and fun of this trip.

And so there you are, the full crew, enjoying some early morning cocktails in first class. I had a feeling this would be a good trip.

So Whale Jo and I keep playing the blackjack game and I keep winning. We try craps on the iPod. . . I keep winning. In all of our flights together to Vegas, I had not had this kind of luck. I loved it.

The only real decent story from the flight was when Whale Jo and I decided to try and buy the entire coach cabin a drink. The flight attendant thought we weren’t serious, but when we got our money out, she realized we weren’t kidding.

“Seriously hon, ship it. We want to buy drinks for everyone back there.”

I really don’t know what happened – but nobody ever came and took our cash. That kind of blew – I really had wanted to pick up the tab as some sort of karmic gesture. Though I guess the thought itself did eventually manifest itself into super karma points later on in the trip.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve begun our descent into Las Vegas. The ride down will be a bit bumpy, so please tighten those seatbelts and flight attendants prepare for arrival”

I almost passed out from the excitement. Instead, I began sweating through my shirt and shaking uncontrollably.

We got jostled around a bit coming in – which prompted me to yell out, “That was Stick Shift!!!” . . . I said that in honor of a Las Vegas trip report I had read right before this trip. Unlike the person in that trip report, I did not get any laughs.

So what – I was in Vegas and I was ready to begin the adventure. Next stop, baggage claim to pick up some golf clubs and to meet our driver from Encore.

As I stepped off the plane, I closed my eyes and smiled.

“Welcome back Jaco . . . .”

Oh sweet Jesus, the machines were already talking to me . . . .

My gait as I moved through Terminal D at McCarren must have been about as close to a canter that a human can run. I didn’t quite want to sprint, but also didn’t want to do a fast walk either. So canter it was. Normally some of the fellas take a quick pit stop and we all wait around like girls as those with small bladders do what should have been done on the plane.

Not this time. Every man for themselves.

Down the escalators . . . nobody standing in the way . . . thank god.

The tram was just unloading its cargo of Vegas-spent humans . . . sweet – no wait. Even better, most of the plane had not reached that area yet.

The tram ride was INCREDIBLE.

OK, even I can’t muster up enough creative license to sugar coat that portion of the trip. Snooze-ville.

Whale Jo and I made haste to baggage claim to find out if the Wynn had indeed sent a car for the crew.

Nothing.

Oh well, the flight was early, not a problem. Enough time to step outside for some fresh air and wait for the rest of the boyz to find their way to baggage claim. After about five minutes or so, I went back inside and sure enough, there was a very large man holding a sign with my name on it . . . .

Ship it.

The car ride was uneventful. Not much traffic going the back way to Encore.

As we pulled up, the anticipation level was reaching a fevered pitch. The doors opened . . . I stepped out . . . and noticed we’d pulled into the Tower Suites area . . . hmmmm, thought I’d just been booked in a regular resort room at Encore . . . must be Whale Jo . . .

We entered the quiet, serene lobby of Encore . . . it felt like stepping into a very nice and elegant museum . . . a museum where very bad things happen. Bad as in good, of course.

I watched as Smooth Chaz walked up to registration with his grandpa hat on and was a little amused when the front desk clerk told him he had to go over to the regular lobby to check in.

Just as I was about to step up, I hear my name called. It was my host. She’d come to meet us as we checked in. She took care of everything right then and there.

The boyz booked in a regular resort room – no problem – they can check in here because they are with Whale Jo and Jaco . . . who ARE booked in the Tower Suites . . . RFB . . .

Oh baby, you can’t believe it. Whale Jo and I had adjoining rooms – thank you host – and once checked in, we left the crew behind to get stuff dropped off and to begin the gaming.

This was my first visit to Encore and I could not wait to see what lay ahead. I was already in love with Wynn and fully expected to be just as enamored with Encore.

What I did not expect was to fall head over heels in deep dark lusty love with the place. Not sure if it was the sexy-you-want-to-take-a-shower-with-me-reds (a new color perhaps for Crayola) or what, but I’m sorry regular old Wynn . . . you’ve been replaced . . . er sort of . . . I still love the restaurants (Okada, Country Club) at Wynn and the pool area and the golf (oh the golf) and (at times) the casino, but when it comes to rooms and the overall vibe to a place, Encore has won my heart.

First off – I loved the design of the casino – especially during daylight hours when you could actually, GASP, see daylight. Plus, I kept getting lost in the Encore casino – I like getting lost. I think one of my dream vacations would be getting dropped off in the middle of nowhere and being forced to figure out how to get home. I certainly did not get lost in Encore because of it’s size – it’s a very intimate space in my opinion – I got lost because it was new. But, after being there for four days and three nights, I was a trained rat in a cage and definitely figured out where each tasty piece of cheese awaited my hungry claws.

Second – I loved the rooms. I come from the team that likes to have a nice room. Certainly nothing wrong with those of you that look at a room as nothing more than a cardboard box – that is – something to just sleep in. But for me – room comfort is important . . . I want a nice bed . . . I want a view . . . I want space . . . I want a space I can come back to a smile when I walk in . . . Thank you Mr. Wynn . . . you delivered.

OK, so Whale Jo and I head up and drop our stuff off and had the obligatory beer from the honor bar. In hindsight, I wish I had taken more advantage of the contents of the fridge and all the little goodies (sans sex toys – yes – bring your kids to Encore so they can open the Adult Pleasures box) that are laid out for you. Why? That stuff was covered under my food and beverage credits . . . .Next time I’m packing a duffle bag just to stuff it all in . . . .as it is I came home with a few containers of Jelly Bellies and other candy.

We toasted my pleasant view of Circus Circus and the downtown environs. Then it was time to get down to business – gaming.

The night before Whale Jo and I had spent a considerable amount of time discussing what “strategy” we would employ on this trip. After a few hours, we finally settled down on something simple to start with. During our first session, we’d pool our money together and split winnings and losses. First we planned on hitting video poker, then some slots, and then if there were sufficient winnings, we’d hit some table games. We also vowed not to fully flush any buy-ins . . . . if we got down to a certain amount – say $50 or $100, we’d cash out and move on. Our final vow was to hold out from playing blackjack as long as possible.

So with this plan in our heads and money in our pockets – we confidently strode out of our rooms and towards the elevators.

Prepare to engage Mr. Wynn . . . prepare to engage, Jaco and Whale Jo are about to hit the floor . . . .

I was amazed as we walked through the Encore casino at how empty it was for a Thursday afternoon. Lot’s of open tables, hardly anyone jockeying on the slots, dead action at craps. Oh well, that just meant more options for me.

Whale Jo and I decided to first start playing some video poker. We found a nice looking bank of machines and sat down for business. We agreed to each put in $200. He was going to play $2 double double bonus and I was going to try and cane the $5 9/6 Jacks or Better game.

Ouch. Not such a good start. We each cashed out when the tickets got down to $50 each.

“Again?”

Actually, that wasn’t so much of a question from Whale Jo . . . of course we’d do it again. Fresh 100s were slipped into the machines, drinks ordered from the cocktail waitress, and we proceeded again to try and coax some money from the machines.

We started getting some nice hits and we began an interesting dance of cashing out TITO slips and pushing fresh money into the games. Pretty soon we’d amassed a nice collection of about seven or ten tickets . . . . according to some rough math, we were actually close to even, maybe a little bit up. We played a little more, hoping to scratch out maybe $200 profit . . .

“SHIP IT!!!”

I looked over, Whale Jo had just hit the first W-2 of the trip. Four of a kind!!!!! Ship it indeed. After getting hand paid (that sounds sort of dirty), we moved on to new prey. During the whole video poker experience, I had heard the siren call of the Wizard of Oz machines in the distance. It was time. We took our collection of tickets and turned them into cold hard cash. Now we’d see what a little slot action could do.

As we approached the machines, I could see that they were full. Not cool. So I believe Whale Jo and I became sort of lurkers, hiding out on other machines, casually playing a few bucks here or there before a seat finally opened up.

Sweet lovely Wizard of Oz . . . . I wish my chair at work was as comfortable as that the seat on the WOZ machine. Without hesitating I gave a little finger rub to the machine, just to let it know that I intended no harm and that if I was treated right, there was more where that came from.

For my first session with the WOZ machine, I was not too disappointed. Plenty of bonus rounds, plenty of Glinda sightings and I was able to keep afloat for a bit. Whale Jo had disappeared behind me to play another machine and it was only a matter of minutes before I heard his battle cry:

“SHIPIT!!!!”

*note to readers* Depending on the level of excitement involved, the phrase “ship it” can be turned into a singular word, “shipit”.

I turned around . . . another hand pay coming our way. Whale Jo had just caned a penny slot machine. This day was starting off so nice.

I burned down some of the winnings in the WOZ machine and cashed out. After getting greased by the hand pay monkeys, Whale Jo and I cashed out a few more TITOs. We counted our cash and happily exchanged a few shipit high fives. We were up.

Now it was time to turn attentions to the gaming tables. Why not? That is what we had discussed the night before. Make some money with the machines and then some hit and runs on the tables. Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . there was a nice little Let it Ride table all by its lonesome.

Same plan was in effect – Whale Jo and I both bought in for similar amounts and began playing. Oooops. About four hands in we had hit nothing. But around hands six or eighteen, the magic happened. Three sixes underneath. For each of the proceeding hands, Whale Jo and I had been looking at each other’s cards, but this time I just casually shipped the sixes down and muttered, “No brainer.”

Whale Jo looked at me, “Ship it?”

I shrugged, “Watch the cards”

And the dealer began peeling that first card back . . . . was it a 6?

No.

Was the second card a six? No.

But I had finally been the recipient of a nice little hit with $50 each on the spots and $75 up top for the Three Card Bonus. And with the hands after that, the money we had earlier lost started coming back. Once we got back close to even or maybe a bit above, we moved off the table and headed straight for the high limit room. It was time to throw it down.

To be honest, my memory goes dark here, so I don’t know what happened for the next thirty or forty minutes. Only that somehow we didn’t lose it all . . . and we were still up.

We had made it through the first session ahead. I’m looking at some chicken scratch notes I made and after all that excitement, we were both ahead $1k.

Now it was time to get ready for dinner. We started checking in with the other boys. Hee Haw had somehow already tapped himself out going crazy on blackjack. The others by all accounts were either up a couple hundy or down only a hundy. Not a bad afternoon.

As I flew up to my room, I was overcome with a feeling of extreme happiness.

Or maybe that was the six rum and cran/oranges I had sucked down.

Didn’t matter. I was up and I was about to head out to a nice steak dinner.

Everyone finally met up down in the lobby where we’d arranged for a car to take us to Del Frisco’s. The drive itself was only about five minutes – the restaurant is fairly close to the Wynn/Encore property.

The restaurant, on the outside, is inviting enough. Looked like a place where I’d definitely enjoy chowing cow.

Buzzy had arranged this reservation and had secured us a private dining room at no extra charge. We were all kind of excited to be put in room where we could let loose without disturbing any patrons.

However, as we were lead into the room, a little bit of disappointment filled the air. Rightfully so, it was just too big for our little group. In fact, they had set the giant table so that we were seated only on three sides. Did they leave that one side open so that we could have a clown come entertain us?

It only took one minute, but they found us a seat amongst the general population – much more comfortable. At this point, my rating for the place was at a 10. Loved the décor outside and in and I also liked how the staff handled our request to be moved.

One minute after sitting down, that 10 rating went off the charts. We were served the most delicious bread in the entire universe. The only thing I kind of wished they had done was serve us each an individual piece rather than making us share-tear the loaves. But that is a minor complaint – the bread was unbelievable. Toasty brown on the outside, sprinkled with little sesame seeds and the inside was fluffy white nirvana. It took every bit of self-respect I had not to idly sit there and rub the inside of the bread on my face.

Then came the apps. A plate of shrimp with different sauces, stone crab, and crab cakes. I didn’t try the stone crab – but the crew seemed to love them. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the sauces they were served with made a very nice pairing. The crab cakes?

I wanted to make love to them.

Sweet delicious warm love.

Perfectly lumped, perfectly seasoned, and perfectly cooked – these were the best crab cakes I had ever had.

Oh – and I almost forgot – it was all paired with some amazing white wine that we had asked our server to pick out (after consulting with the sommelier).

So far Del Frisco’s was delivering. Still hovering well above a 10.

We all ordered our entrees and then began discussing various topics . . . here’s a few that I remember:

(1) Why, on a VP machine, when you get a pair of jacks or better is it called a “win”?
(2) Can you have something called a bone-in Filet when the definition of Filet is off the bone?
(3) Why Whale Jo has big woman-sized nipples.
(4) How much of our table talk was going to go in my trip report.

Then dinner showed up. Each and every plate looked absolutely delicious. I had ordered a Prime Strip, medium rare, with sides of bone marrow butter and herb butter. I had read online about what the server asks you to do before eating the steak and was bursting with excitement . . .

“If you would please cut in the middle of your steak and check the doneness and let us know if it meets with your expectation”

The server gestured to my meat.

I picked up the giant steak knife and cut. It slid through like I was cutting a pumpkin pie. I spread open the steak . . . perfectly red . . . just a small hint of pink around the crusty edge. So far so good.

Then I did what I have written about before . . . I tongued it.

It looked too good to not do this. I mean it. That open meat just laying there . . . steam gently rolling out of the fresh cut . . . how else would I gauge the proper temperature and taste? My finger? Please. I’m a gentleman . . . . I wasn’t interested in going to third base with my steak . . . I just wanted a little kiss.

I lowered my head, closed my eyes, and, most likely to the chagrin of the server, did my best little snake imitation with the tip of my tongue.

Uh . . . perhaps I’ll skip doing that next time. I expected fourth of july rockets to go off in my head . . . instead nothing really happened. I suppose my expectations for French kissing piece of cooked dead bovine were a bit high.

Nevertheless, there was a nice meaty taste to it.

Then I cut off a piece.

And was a little disappointed. Perfect cooked, but the flavor did nothing. That is, there was no flavor. Sigh.

I mentioned this to the table and Smooth Chaz offered up a piece of his rib eye.

I closed my eyes.

Dang it, I had ordered the wrong piece of meat.

Oh well. At least the red wine we had ordered was good enough to deal with the blandness of my steak.

Let’s see, I’m looking at my notes to see if I missed anything else about this place . . .

The salad. Smooth Chaz was sorely disappointed in his salad.

That’s about. After the steak experience, it lowered my overall rating to about a 7.5. I guess I chalk it up to the place not being able to get the best meat available. In fact, now I remember looking at the menu and noticing that it explicitly says the meat is serves is rated ‘Choice’ and above . . . .

Choice? I can get that weak-a$$ed meat back home. I want top cow in Vegas baby.

Shipit.

And that was the Del Frisco’s experience. It was now time to move on to night time gaming . . . and our destination of choice?

The Riv.

God save us.

With mediocre steak in my belly and red wine coursing through my veins, I actually did not mind that the choice of the evening was the Riv. Sure, the first few times visiting that casino had left much to be desired . . . but the very last trip with Whale Jo in October had sparked a new interest in seeing what this old lady was hiding beneath her dress. The idea behind going here was the hope that we could either take over a craps table or blackjack table and spend a few hours low rolling.

We were dropped off in some basement area at the back of the casino. Piling into the elevator, I could tell that good things were going to happen. I pressed the button and the wolves began salivating. The prey was just in our grasp.

DING

The doors opened up to the roof of the parking garage. WTF? Re-do.

Finally, after figuring out that we should press the button marked “Casino”, we proceeded to try and get our gaming on.

I sorta stayed behind the boyz – not sure why – probably because I was holding out hope of spying a Monopoly machine. I watched as the boyz began circling the tables. Nothing was open. Well, none of the open tables had spots. There were plenty of closed empty tables – just nothing available for us to take over. So they did what any red-blooded gambler would do . . . they sat down at an empty table, opened their wallets and started spreading money out.

And they sat.

And sat.

Where was the interest? It took a good five minutes before a pit boss came over and asked them what they were doing. After being told they wanted a dealer, the pit boss smiled and said it’d be another 15 or 20 minutes before they could get someone out there.

That’s too long in Vegas. Especially too long to wait around at the Riv.

So we took our business elsewhere.

Hello Circus Circus.

It was an easy decision really – Circus Circus was the closest property we could get to in the shortest amount of time and held out the most hope of having an open table that we’d be able to all fit at.

I really was looking forward to returning to this casino. No joke. Perhaps it was playing Julia Roberts as a w_hore to my Richard Gere as a Richie who likes whores . . . whatever. All I knew is that my money wanted to play.

We got in and saw the exact same situation as was witnessed over at the Riv . . . a small amount of tables open but full and lots of closed and empty tables. This time I went with the boyz as we all sat down, spread some money out and waited patiently for some attention.

Within about a minute a pit boss came over. The wait would only be five minutes. OK, this we could take. I decided to do a quick investigation of the upstairs area above the casino in that time.

The last trip here I had noticed people traveling up this ramp to some sort of circus celebration. I really really wanted to get a first hand look at it.

Oooops. Should not have. It was a little depressing.

Think of the most worn and tired county fairgrounds.

Then think of putting upstairs in a casino and dimming the lights.

Then think of putting lots and lots of smoke around the dirty carnie games.

Than times that by 100.

Even all that would be better than what my eyes fell upon as I entered a circle of hell I think Dante forgot about. I would have ran back down, but I was afraid that any sudden movement would suddenly cause the families of zombies to go Legend on my a$$.

By the time I got back to the bottom of the ramp, I spied our table and noticed that a dealer has indeed been sent to make us our fortune. I shook the horror out of my head and joined my friends.

I pulled out $1000, “All green please”

“How about some singles to play the wheel bonus?”

“Huh?”

I looked up to where the dealer was pointing – how I missed this initially, I don’t know. But looks like this particular black jack game came with a little bonus. Anytime you hit a black jack, you got to spin the wheel and earn whatever number it landed on times your bonus bet. I pulled out a $20 and got myself some clown coin.

Whale Jo casually asked the pit boss if there was a high limit room we could play in.

“High limit room? Son, we don’t even have a high limit table.”

Guess that explains why the son of darkness is running his own untethered freak show upstairs.

The first couple of deals came out stale, but then the table turned hot. I started betting in increments of one unit and upping it to two units whenever I would win. Pretty soon though, the drinks from throughout the day messed with my math skills and I was just randomly shoving stacks in.

And then it hit.

I got a black jack. Wheel bonus.

Have you seen that Heineken commercial where the dudes are all screaming like little babies as they check out their friend’s walk-in beer closet?

Yes, that was me.

They have a little carnie button that you push. I tapped it lightly.

20.

$20 on a free spin.

Sooooo disproportionate to the pre-spin excitement. Oh well.

I did hit the wheel bonus a few more times – but never quite got the same rise out of the bonus. Such is life.

Eventually I noticed I had amazed a nice little army of chips. I counted.

And I re-counted.

One more time . . .

Up $1200.

Did I just squeeze a Circus Circus table for $1,200? It was definitely time to walk.

And walk I did – it took all of about five minutes to get my cash and get back into fresh real air. All I wanted to do was get back to Encore and finish off the night. Maybe a little black jack, maybe some slots . . . just something to ease the murkiness that had set itself on my brain from being in Circus Circus too long.

At the Encore we spied an open $15 craps table and all bought in. I felt we were about to make some beautiful music at this table.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Each of the crew took turns losing money for the table. At one point it looked like we had things turned around when Smooth Chaz starting throwing the dice. . . .

But then I realized that the only reason we weren’t losing was because: (a) his dice would go off the table; or (b) he was taking five minutes between rolls to engage in some sort of ritual.

Thankfully he sevened out before the stickman started caning him.

I noticed during these rolls that Whale Jo was starting to spread black chips across the table like the plague. And he wasn’t winning. When he lost all of his chips, he muttered something and disappeared into the night.

Myself? I lost about $500 at the table, but was happy to still be up for the day. I decided to give Let It Ride a run . .. just a few hands before I fell into a blissful Vegas sleep.

Wrong decision.

I must have easily flushed a grand sitting there for about thirty minutes.

But then this degenerate looking fellow came up to the table and sat right next to me. He had a French accent and was mumbling something about having just dropped $5k at black jack and how his luck was running out. Wouldn’t you know it – he started sucking all the bad cards out of the deck and I started a mini-comeback.

By the time this poor old man zeroed out, I had gotten to within a hundy or two of my initial buy-in. It was time to leave. No sense pressing my luck anymore. Plus it was around 2 a.m. and I wanted to watch a movie and snack on a few of the honor bar treats.

Once in my room, I caught a glance of myself in the mirror – I was up! Not a bad start to the trip.

Just as I was about to shut the lights off, I heard Whale Jo coming in next door. I pounded on the adjoining door. He opened up and looked spent.

“Dude, I’m tapped out.”

“Shoot – that sucks. See you in a few hours for golf.”

We closed our respective doors. I knew the mission tomorrow would be a way to figure out how to get Whale Jo back his dough. I wasn’t the least bit concerned that we could do it.

Of course, easy for me to say . . . I wasn’t the one who was down.

I clicked on “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”

And had wonderful dreams about vampires and werewolves driving little circus cars, all the while yelling out “Shipit!!!!” to me . . . .

Day One was over – shipit.

Oh Day Two . . . how I love you so . . . especially more so since there’s been a bonus day already added on to this trip. I don’t have to leave until mean ole Day Four pounds its head through my hotel room door and drags me screaming and crying to the airport.

How is it that a man’s arms are physically able to stretch outside of a window? That’s the question I found myself feebly trying to answer as I watched my hands wave furiously at me from the outside of my Encore room. What did they want?

RING RING.

What the . . .

RING RING

Oh nuts. Blackness. I was dreaming. Great – how am I ever going to solve that dream.

RING RING

OK already.

I look at the clock. 7:15 a.m.

Please don’t barf, please don’t barf, please don’t barf . . .

I answer the phone.

“Hello Mr. Jaco, this is your 7:15 wakeup call. Will you be needing a follow up?”

“Er, no thanks. Don’t want to fall asleep and find my arms outside the window again.”

“What?”

“No thanks.”

Click.

7:16 a.m.

Complete and utter darkness. And silence. Fill the room with a little warm saline solution and you’d have yourself a great sensory deprivation tank. As it was, the nothingness intrigued me. As some of you may know, I like to look for signs of things to come . . . .this darkness either portended catastrophic devastation, the likes mankind has never seen . . . or it just meant once the lights came on my head would hurt.

I pressed the nice little all in one room control consol . . . All Lights On.

Ouch. That’s a headache. I guess I’d suffer through it if it meant the salvation of mankind.

I pressed the button for the curtains. I really loved the sound of the curtains pulling back and forth . . . reminded me of days gone by when I was a stage performer and that oh so fantastic feeling of primal fear on opening night . . . only difference in my Vegas hotel room was that I had no lines, no audience . . . um . . . ok . . . maybe that description is a stretch . . . but I’m sticking with it.

7:18

I had to get moving. It was golf day today. The crew was set to play the Wynn course. At $500 a pop, I was expecting a transcendent experience (spoiler alert) . . . . it was.

First order of business was to check in with my money . . . . I opened the safe and brought the family out. How about that . . . BABIES. Oh, joy of all that is green and flappy . . . my little guys and girls had babies . . . . as I recall from my schoolboy days, the textbook on paper money genetics is that there is no such thing as brothers and sisters when it comes to money-breeding . . . that meant these little cuties could all have one giant money orgy and have no worries about the side effects of inbreeding.

Second order of business was the usual boring morning stuff . . . it didn’t take me very long at all before I was dressed and prepped for golf . . . I banged on Whale Jo’s door.

“I’m uuuuuup” I heard him grumble from within.

“Dude, give me 15 minutes.”

“Dude, I’m already ready and heading down to the pro shop. See you there, don’t be late!”

“Dude, I need to go to the bank.”

“Duuuuuude.”

“Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude.”

“Shipit?”

No answer. I departed.

The walk from Encore to golf is a bit of a hike . . but totally worth it in my opinion. There are two ways to get there. You can either travel through the halls that run past the various Encore and Wynn conference rooms or you can travel through the Encore casino, the Encore Esplanade, the Wynn casino, and then a nice short hallway past the buffet, the Terrace Pt. Café, etc. I wanted to hear the lovely sound of the machines, so I chose the more exciting route.

Traveling with me was Buzzy. He was bright eyed and bushy tailed and we enjoyed a good laugh as we passed by some patrons who’d obviously been up all night.

Buzzy: “I definitely do not want to be THAT guy.”

Hah . . . how soon you would be.

Checking into golf was easy – just paid my money – plus bought two boxes of balls. I was not too confident about my ability. Plus I thought that Whale Jo might need some.

After checking in, we were lead to the men’s locker room . . . not a bad little space. Wood paneled lockers . . . . .some soft chairs . . . .large screen TV . . . . fruit and water outside the door . . . . very comfortable.

The rest of the boyz ambled in and it was game time. We met our caddies, paired up (I was in a group with Whale Jo and Buzzy) and went to the practice area to “warm up”.

I am not a serious golfer . . . not even close. I love the game however and can certainly appreciate a well laid out and well maintained course. To me the Wynn was one sexy lady and I looked forward to playing my balls on her . . . um . . .it . . .IT . . . I mean playing my balls on it.

The practice area is just a place with a few nets set out about 50 yards or so away . . .just enough to see that I was already having trouble hitting straight. I looked at the clubs . . . . definitely not the clubs . . . I think they were Calloway X-22s . . . . plus a Diablo driver and woods.

Finally, it was time for my threesome to tee off.

We sped the carts to the first tee and I grabbed the driver. I wanted to go medieval on the ball . . . I wanted to hear it scream . . . . as I put the ball on the tee and stepped back to eye my shot . . . I suddenly became self-conscious. As I addressed the ball, I no longer remembered who I was or what the heck I was supposed to do. Why was I holding a golf club? Do I swing it? How? Why are these guys looking at me? What?

My mind had left me.

So I just swung.

I looked up. OK! Sure – it was heading towards some trees . . . but the little m-fer was safe and the game was ON.

I won’t bore you with a round by round, shot by shot reply of the whole experience. Rather, let me just touch on some thoughts and highlights:

(a) Caddy – no doubt our caddy has played with much better players than us (he had some great stories about some of the poker stars who play at Wynn) but he was great and didn’t make us feel out of place at all. In fact, his tips helped Whale Jo shave seven strokes off his back nine score. The caddy also said a phrase that would haunt me the rest of the trip. I had driven to within 221 on one of the par 5s and was going to pull out a five iron and give it a crack . . . but before I could do so, the caddy grabbed a five wood and said, “You didn’t come to Vegas to lay up” . . . .um, no, I didn’t, but thanks for putting that thought in my head. I swung waaaaay to hard and the ball went nowhere;

(b) Hit some monster drives . .. 317 on one . . . 340 on 17 . . . for those who’ve played, it was a good clip past the front edge of the pond that fronts the green – sort of on the right hand side. Even Whale Jo, who normally doesn’t hit too far, started spanking some nice drives . . . had a 275 corker on 17;

(c) Played 18 perfectly . . .decent drive . . . .191 to the hole . . ball on an up slope . . . hit a five iron to within 15 feet of pin . . . 18 is such a beautiful hole . . . there are various people watching from the villa suites . . . definitely people watching from Country club . . . and it all funnels towards a gorgeous green backed by a tremendously large fake waterfall;

(d) Overall condition of the course was outstanding – didn’t seem like there was a blade of grass out of place . . . and it was sooooo green. At one point I was overcome by the beauty and just laid down and tried to make a golf angel in the grass . . . and there were numerous times I just wanted to lay face first on the greens and purrrrrrrrrrr . . . .

I would (and hopefully will) play this course again.

So, that was that – golf ended – we got nice shiny gold bag tags with our names on it . . .nice touch. Next order of business was to prepare for some afternoon gaming. To do that, Whale Jo needed to take a quick trip to the bank.

The Encore happily provided a car for transportation to and fro . . . the Rolls. I got a chuckle out of that when he called me en route . . . “Dude, I’m in the rolls”

“Shipit”

The original plan had been to get out of the Wynn area and head to maybe the Flamingo or somewhere different – but by the time Whale Jo got back, it was decided we’d try another round of pooling money and gaming at Encore . . . I had a very good feeling about this . . .

Let the games begin.

To get inspired for this next round of the trip report I sought out on iTunes one of the songs I kept hearing over and over and over and over at Encore . . . Sweet Child of Mine . . . not the GNR version . . . but soft sultry female voice version. Now, I don’t know if what I downloaded is actually it – but it’s close enough to give me a little bit of a Vegas fix . . . . for those of you familiar with that song at Encore . . . the artist I’ve found is Orleya – on the album Sexy Lounge Divas. If I close my eyes hard enough and click my heels . . . .

Whale Jo and I started out on a good looking bank of $5 VP machines at Encore. The plan was to employ the same strategy that we had used the day before – pool our money, take out profits, cut losses.

Bingo. We started hitting nice little poppers. Full House . . . Four of a Kind . . . in little under an hour we probably had made about a $300 profit each. Sweetness. With that money, we ventured over to see if we couldn’t get ole Wizard of Oz heated up.

I settled into the familiar magical chair, while Whale Jo decided to pop some coin into the adjacent Star Trek machine. I had seen people playing this machine, but it really seemed to be a dead fish.

Whale Jo changed all that. As I was busy trying to get a bonus round on my machine, I believe he hit the mother of all bonus rounds on Star Trek. His machine was turned up so loud, that as the bonus round wore on, I believe that he and anyone within a fifty foot radius were starting to suffer permanent hearing loss. Not only from the super death ray sound effects coming from the Enterprise, but also from the high pitched “Shipits!!!!” we were both screaming anytime anything of any consequence happened.

The first bonus round had something to do with getting free spins and losing shields, of which you had five, every time the spin came up black. Sometimes during those spins you’d get some sort of min-bonus game. As Whale Jo captained the ship successfully for a few minutes, he finally ran out of shields.

But wait.

The machine gives you one last chance. Choose window one or two.

One.

SHIELDS FULL.

You didn’t come to Vegas to lay up baby!!

The rounds continue . . . . shields down to nothing . . . . then shields full.

Then some crazy bonus game happened. Something to do with the Enterprise shooting at bonus multipliers . . . basically with Whale Jo at the helm, it hit every multiplier available and then finished with the 12x multiplier . . . and the machine kept free rolling.

And rolling.

By the time the bonus round finished its tantric episode I think we were both glad that the madness had finally let up. I can’t even tell you how much he won on that round – it wasn’t huge – no hand pay – but had to have been three or four hundred bucks.

Whale Jo took his money over to the Dukes of Hazard game . . at least I think that’s what it was.

And I finally started hitting on Wizard of Oz. For those of you who’ve played it, you definitely know the feeling of the three bonus icons hitting . . . BOM . . BOMMM . . . BOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!! Every time I hit that I could see Whale Jo feverishly pounding at his machine – but raising his hand, finger extended . . . the “you da’ man” gesture . . .I pointed back.

Flying Monkey Bonus.

I screamed out, “It’s the spider monkeys!!!!!! Get me those wild you !#!@$#%!@ spider monkeys! Crawl!!!!! CRAWL!!!!!!”

A quick aside if I may on the reason why “spider monkey” is important to my lexicon . . . goes to a little story from Whale Jo’s bachelor party last summer.

He’s got these two little brothers who are CRAZY. They are both little sized dudes – short, skinny, all gangly arms and legs. Anyway, one afternoon we’re playing beer pong in the garage and we hear this ice cream truck coming down the street towards the rental house we’re in. Suddenly there’s a loud commotion inside . . . . the Whale Jo brothers are screaming like little kids.

“Ice Cream!!!!! Ice Cream!!!!”

Both come screaming out of the house in nothing but shorts. I’ve never seen humans move so fast. God help the ice cream truck.

The ice cream truck was moving very slow, so it had no chance. The first brother reached the back of the truck and scrambled up to the top of the truck and started doing some sort of war dance. The other brother literally jumped and stuck onto the back corner of the truck.

And started fast humping it.

The one on top of the roof did the same thing.

Like spider monkeys.

Needless to say Whale Jo had to juice the ice cream lady a pretty penny to keep her from calling the cops.

So that’s what was exciting about the monkey bonus of Wizard of Oz – it brought me back to that crazy moment.

And no, I certainly did not start dry humping the machine.

I did end up making a nice little profit though and it was time for Whale Jo and I to move on to the tables. We were a little apprehensive about where to play . . . it wasn’t quite time to hit the high limit black jack room . . .

Ah Hah!!!! A nice empty roulette table! $5 min. The tote board showed that my favorite number “31” had just hit. Why not. I could use the blog money here and hope for the best.

I did consider putting it all on 33 . . . . but when the dealer pushed over the stack of $5 chips (nice baby blue ones), I felt compelled to spread it around.

Between Whale Jo and myself, we had covered the entire top 1/3 of the board. I did put some coin down on 33 and 16 just in case.

First spin.

8

Sweet corn. I had two chips on the number and Whale Jo had surrounded it with an army of orange chips. Nice hit.

We reloaded. Again bathing the top 1/3 of the board in blue and orange chips.

Our dealer spun.

5

Shipit. I had the number covered and again Whale Jo had the biatch surrounded. Pay up Nancy, I want a ham sandwich.

We did one or two more spins, nothing hit, and we cashed out. A very nice run in only a matter of minutes. This afternoon was ROCKING.

Whale Jo and I did a couple more hit –n- runs . . . Let it Ride . . . Four Card Poker . . . basically staying even at those tables.

At some point I managed to look down at my watch. Ooops. It was almost 7 . . . dinner at Okada was set for 8. Time to get off the floor and get ready for heaven on earth.

We played for another thirty minutes though . . .I could just freshen up with a wash cloth and use tooth paste to hold my hair down. I did not want to miss out on one delicious moment at Okada . . . had I even had lunch? Oh – at some point on the golf course I did get a turkey sandwich from the snack shack . . . but that was so long ago . . . bring on the sushi.

The rest of the crew was already seated and drinking by the time Whale Jo and I made it into Okada. We had a nice table close to the water and the moment I sat down all of the craziness of Vegas . . . the noise . . .the smells . . . the sounds . . . it all washed away.

“The meal’s on me boyz!”

Whale Jo . . . most generous dude on earth. This was going to be a good night.

If I could transport to any spot back in time during this trip, I think I would choose the opening moments of this dining experience at Okada. The tranquility of the restaurant, coupled with boisterous group, topped off with the anticipation of eating some of the most delicious sushi in Vegas . . . . can’t beat it.

I ordered a nice cold crisp Japanese beer (can’t remember its name). And then it was go time. The food just started coming and wouldn’t stop.

First up: items from the Japanese grill.

The boyz just had to try some of these mouthwatering noshes . . .we ordered up some of the short rib, scallops, halibut, and asparagus with a bacon skirt.

When the food was set gently on the table, it disappeared with a ferociousness that reminded me of a piranha attack. Not that I’ve ever witnessed one first-hand . . . but I’ve certainly imagined them plenty of times to know what I’m talking about. Gentle sweet slightly ADD cow goes on a trip through the Amazon rainforest, gets distracted by blades of grass floating by in the bucolic river, cow steps into river thinking grass might taste good with river water, and minutes later cow wonders where its legs went as river turns a nasty color of red. Cow looks down and sees small fish with giant razor blade death teeth. One of the fish looks up and winks and says, “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.”

Or something similar to that.

Within minutes the plates had been cleared . . . I’m not even sure I had each of the items . . . I had made the mistake of starting off with the best and my attention was fixated to the heavenly meat meltiness of the ribs . . . my reaction to this dish was so strong that I really couldn’t concentrate on anything else. If you are curious to what the inside of my head was doing at this particular moment, take a minute to find “Time Control” by Hiromi on iTunes and play the first ten or fifteen seconds of that song . . . . . rapid fire piano music played by this artist who must have at least sixteen fingers.

Next came the popcorn shrimp. As I sit here typing this I’m literally weeping . . . I miss those little guys so much. They must lead pretty good lives to taste as good as they do. Next time I eat them I promise to give a little prayer over the sacrifice they made in the name of my taste buds. The outer coating was as delightful as always . . . crisp, light, bursting with fried flavor. And of course the dipping sauce put the dish over the top . . .what was in it? Go find out for yourself. I dare you.

Following the popcorn shrimp in this culinary parade was the Okada roll . . . I think. I mean, I know it was a roll . . it had lobster on top . . . some sort of dark slippery gooey sauce on top that I’d love to try as a hair product . . . and some sort of delicious insides . . . heck, to be truthful, I could have done this meal blindfolded, not known exactly what was served to me, and would have walked away very happy – it’s that good.

At some point during the food procession, sake was ordered. I usually stick to the hot sake as the few times I’ve dabbled into the “good stuff” has been hit or miss. Unfortunately, for me, a lot of sake I’ve tasted falls in the “Why am I drinking paint thinner” category. But . . . not this time. Whatever it was that someone ordered, it was shipitliciously good. Fruity . . . mellow . . . actually worked well as a palate cleanser – at least a lot better than rubbing my napkin on my tongue.

Once the sake started flowing, then we were served some steak. Originally, Smooth Chaz had ordered this as his entrée, as he is not that in to sushi. Unfortunately, when it came to the table, he was no where to be found. Add to that the fact that the dish did look a little bit like an appetizer (it was already cut up into pieces) . . . and, well . . .

Oh my god it was delicious. We absolutely just caned this dish. The meat was perfectly cooked and whatever sauce the chef had poured on top was pure liquid sin. The minute it hit my tongue I . . . er . . . . um . . . . sorry, I don’t think I can write that . . .

In any event, the steak was good. Sorry Chaz. We’ll order another.

We’d finally reached sushi-time. It was going to be my job to order the raw fish for the table. I took a quick poll on the various favorites of the group and then reeled off numbers to the waitress:

Me: “Five orders maguro”

Whale Jo: “Make it fifty”

Waitress: “That’d be 100 pieces”

Me: “OK, make it six orders”

Whale Jo: “Dude, get twenty”

Me: “Eight.”

Whale Jo: “Sold”

The rest of the order went a little smoother . . . all told we had a veritable aquarium of fish coming our way: various types of tuna; salmon, sea bass, eel, strange fish that I can’t remember, and, of course, sea urchin.

At this point a few of us decided to step outside for some “fresh” air . . Whale Jo, Smooth Chaz and myself went outside the doors that are in front of Okada.

As we were standing there chatting, the doors opened and our jaws dropped.

“Ladies”

Whale Jo gave this group of four twenty-something Paris Hilton wannabes a nod and a wink.

Yowza. We’d just run across some bona fide clubbies . . . . . you can check out a pic of them on the blog.

“Excuse me, but could you take our picture.”

Oh crud . . . were they talking to me?

“Uh, your picture?” I cleared my throat and took my voice down an octave.

“No problem ladies.”

Did I just say that?

One of them handed me a camera. I pointed and noticed that two of the girls were bending down . . . not sure why.

“Oh, daddy likes that”

No . . . that did not just come out of my mouth.

“Mmmmmmmm”

Someone please slap me.

Thankfully Whale Jo intervened and asked where they were from.

“Arizona”

“Oh, that must be hot”

Great, now I was sounding like a complete Black and Decker TOOL.

“OK girls, nice and tight together and look at me and smile . . . you know you want it.”

I needed a staple gun for my mouth.

“Where are you from?”

One of them was asking me a question . . . I answered.

She responded, “Ireland, you’re from Ireland”

I’m pretty sure I said something completely different.

“You ladies like to gamble?”

Whale Jo had stepped in again.

“No, we don’t gamble, we’re just here to have some fun and go to clubs.”

In his best dirty grandpa voice, Whale Jo answered, “Are you sure?”

I looked at him. He was flashing a bumble bee chip at one of the ladies.

I shook my head.

Too late.

If you had seen what happened next, you would swear that Whale Jo’s yellow chip had some sort of super magnet in it. One of the girls, standing about ten fee away, was suddenly stuck to his side . . .

“Oooooh, that’s nice.”

“You likey?”

Likey?

She started doing some sort of dance.

Then they were all gone.

Instantly. One minute there . . . next minute air.

“Smell my shirt.”

Whale Jo was pulling his shirt up to his nose and sniffing hard.

“What?”

“Dude, seriously, smell my shirt.”

He was desperately pulling his shirt out towards me and Chaz.

Why not. I sniffed.

Whoa . . . he’d been marked.

“Shipit.”

And, with that, we went back to do battle with the raw fish. When we got back to the table, the little dead flesh morsels were already lining up.

Engage.

I started sucking it all down. Mostly because I really wanted to get to the sea urchin (uni) and then gamble.

As usual, the sushi was undeniably magnificent. Perfect temperature, perfect size, perfect rice, perfect texture . . . . the chefs had pulled a Bo Derek . . . perfect ten.

Then it was time for my main event, the uni. Whale Jo had decided he wanted some, so we split one order and just for fun ordered it with a raw quail egg on top. I also ordered up some hot sake because I had not had nearly enough to drink with the three beers, multiple glasses of cold sake and whatever else I had consumed during the day.

The dish arrived and first thing I did was check the color. Yum – the slippery orangeness of the uni stared up at me . . .though I do admit I was thrown off for a minute by the tiny yellow egg yolk eye ball staring up at me. But even that couldn’t hold me back . . . I popped the entire piece in my mouth.

Cue explosions.

It was absolute food nirvana. This was a moment that I knew I’d remember forever . . . sort of like the time when I was eight and got my head stuck between the “V” of two branches and I ended up hanging there for several minutes before our pregnant family friend had to pull her VW van underneath me to pull me out . . . just something you never forget.

I threw back some of the hot sake.

I could hear Marv Albert in my head . . . “Yyyyyyyyeeeeeesssssssssssssssss”

Another meal successfully completed at Okada.

“Boyz, as I said, dinner’s on me . . . or rather Steve Wynn”

Whale Jo took the check, signed it and that was that. I think, with tip, the total was about $1,200 . . . so $200 per person . . . but that was with just an inordinate amount of booze . . . you can easily get away with less than that at Okada if you don’t order a case of beer, half box of Sake bottles, and a container size amount of food.

With bellies full, it was time to make the foray into the Wynn casino. First order of business was to try and find a blackjack table and see if the luck from Circus Circus would carry over . . . but could we find an open table for all six of us at Wynn . . . on a Saturday night?

Oh you better believe it.

Strolling through the Wynn with the whole crew, I didn’t see how we could lose this night. I wondered for a second whether or not we’d have to sit at an empty table in order for us all to play together . . . but that thought disappeared when an open table with a dealer appeared magically before us.

6/5

I know, I know. Keep walking.

Sigh. It was an OPEN table where we all could sit. I was drunk. I wanted to gamble.

So we all sat and played. One by one the boyz started peeling off the table and going their own way. Whale Jo was the first to leave – destination unknown. Hee Haw disappeared muttering something about the cards. I don’t think Buzzy sat down but for a second. That left just Chaz, me and Frankie Styles.

The sake in my blood made me change in for just black chips. I didn’t come to Vegas to lay up, baby.

And I went on a hell of a little run. In a matter of twenty or thirty minutes I was up about $1,500. With that kind of profit, it was time to walk.

“Hey guys, want to have some fun?”

Both Frankie and Chaz nodded.

“Let’s hit the Wizard of Oz machine!”

Blank stare.

“Seriously, there’s a Top Gun Machine next to them, both games are soooo cooool!”

Slightly wrinkled eyes coupled with blank stare.

“Penny slots!”

“Sure”

Not quite the rousing acceptance I was hoping for, but I’d take it. Neither had played these machines before, so I was looking forward to their reactions.

The machines were empty – so we sat. Chaz and I at the Wizard of Oz machines . . . Frankie Styles settled in for some Top Gun. I think we each put a $100 bill in our machines.

For a few moments nothing happened. The machines were letting me down big time. What had I done wrong? Should I have licked the money before sticking it in the appropriate slot? No . . . these weren’t the type of machines you needed to do any sort of pre-gaming lube job on. Hmmmm. I think they were just jealous because they could smell the scent of the Encore’s Wizard of Oz machines . . . jealous little biatch!

In order to counteract this high schoolish behavior, I just sat back and folded my arms and watched my friends enter a zombie-like state as they continually pushed the Repeat Bet buttons. I knew if I showed no interest in my machine, this would spur the other machines to actually show an interest in their players. Strange, but true. Read Dr. Seymore Butz’ dissertation on it at your local university library. Interesting study.

Sure enough, Frankie Styles hit the Top Gun Bonus.

Nothing like watching a virgin lose their slot machine cherry on a machine like Top Gun. All three of us were reduced to little boys, gleefully clapping because someone had just made their first doo-doo joke. Pure joy at watching the magic happen. I was just getting a kick out of yelling “SHIPIT” . . . who doesn’t right?

Then the bonus round ended. I absolutely hate that feeling. One minute its all lights, camera, ACTION . . . the center of the universe has decided to smile on you . . . I imagine this feeling comes from some part of our brain that developed back during the caveman years . . . . Mr. Caveman probably had the same exact feeling of glee when he discovered that leaves worked better than scooting along the dirt floor of his cave . . . .

I think he ended up winning a hundred bucks or so . . . nothing was won on the Wizard of Oz. So with that little foray into the slot machine universe, we headed back to Encore.

I thought it would be fun to try a little VP with the boyz. Ooops. Those machines had turned a blind eye to ole Jaco. I flushed a little bit of the winnings. No worries, I could make it back at Let it Ride. I mean I hadn’t really lost too much at that game and I was due a big hit.

Wrong. More money gone. But what the heck, it was all gravy money and I didn’t come to Vegas to lay up.

Why did that stupid phrase keep pulsing through my head.

As I continued to grind at Let it Ride, Whale Jo materialized. He didn’t have to say a word. I knew it was time.

Turned out Whale Jo had to leave a day early and he was now itching to get some of the earlier losses back. I wanted to get back some of the winnings I had flushed away. Only one way to do that quickly.

High limit blackjack.

Buckle up Dorothy, that tornado ride you took to Oz ain’t nuthin’ but a gentle wagon ride on fluffy clouds compared to where I’m taking you.

Or something like that.

I felt I had plenty of cash to take on the big boy tables . . . what was the worse that could happen?

I’ll tell you, having Ms. Buzz Saw as our dealer.

Whale Jo and I sidled up to an empty table with a very nice looking dealer almost pleading with her eyes for us to play.

“Shipit-Town, population two”

I bought in for a couple thousand and placed out some black chips.

Flip flip flip flip flip flip.

13? Dealer shows a Jack.

OK, let me see . . .

Oh – dealer has a black jack.

Flip flip flip flip flip flip.

15. Dealer has an 8.

Hit.

Flip.

Ace.

Hit.

Flip.

Queen.

Sigh.

Time to push it all in.

Dealer gets black jack.

No worries. I’ve got some more cash or chips around here somewhere.

“More black chips pretty please. I’d like to make a black chip cookie.”

Dealer is not smiling.

“Ship it?”

Dealer smiles less. Uses dragon fingers to make cards appear in front of me within a nanosecond.

I can’t catch my breath. This is going too fast. Who cut the brake line?

Whale Jo isn’t fairing any better. I noticed just before the deal that he had produced a couple giant sized fans of 100s on the table.

I look down at my cards. 20. OK, time for a slight smile.

Dealer gets 6 card 20. Push.

Push this dragon lady, I shove a good sized stack and defy her to breath her money-cremating fire on my chips.

Flip flip flip flip flip flip.

An eight? 2-6? A lousy eight?

Oh, but wait, she’s got a four showing.

Double up baby! I didn’t come to Vegas to lay up!

6.

What’s that add up to, I just lost sight in my left eye. 12? 19? Why is the pit boss shaking her head – does she have lice? Why can’t I ADD!!!!!!

14. Against a four. No brainer. I sat back, trying to appear confident. I still wasn’t sure about the math.

Whale Jo had a 18. OK, looking good.

Dragon lady dealer shimmered slightly . . . I swear her eyes went completely black.

Flip.

She had 14.

Surrender? Can I surrender? Can I phone a friend. Why can’t I buy a freakin’ vowel here Pat?????

Flip.

My right eye went blind. But I didn’t need to see the card to know what it was. The sick hippo groan from Whale Jo told me all I needed to know.

Seven.

I took a deep calming breath and told myself to relax. No need to chase the money here. I was still up and playing with winnings . . . though a much smaller pile of winnings than ten minutes ago.

I should just grind it out with minimum bets. $200 a pop. That would give me some time to cool down and weather this uber beat down storm that had parked itself over our table.

I slid the chips forward.

But then a tiny little voice spoke to me from under the table . . . in a slight devilish whisper . . . “You didn’t come to Vegas to lay up baby”

I shook my head . .. as if to clean out the madness between my ears.

That only made the voice cry louder . . . and it was joined now by a chorus of cheers . . . a collective viscous sneer of sorts . . . “Do it . . . do it . . . do it”

I watched in horror as my hands began to operate without my permission. No . . . no . . . NO!

Stack shove complete.

Dragon lady smiled.

But it was the kind of smile that she obviously only reserved for those she was about to cane. Her eyes looked me up and down, pausing briefly on my neck.

Flip flip flip flip flip flip.

I didn’t even get a chance to look at my cards before she unfolded a 21.

I wanted to stick my head under the dragon lady’s heels and have her pop it open.

I reached for my wallet. But then in a moment of great clarity, I stopped. This wasn’t the time nor place to chase decisions already made. No, I was done. I had another full day in Vegas and would try to build back up the winnings tomorrow.

But Whale Jo was far from done. He’d under gone the same circumcising lobotomy as I . . . however, as I said above, he was leaving the next day. Time was running out.

Right then and there I felt a shift in the gambling universe. I realized I had messed up the mojo by playing along with Whale Jo . . . that’s not how it usually worked . . . certainly not in the high limit room. What he needed was a clean table and me just sitting there pretending that I knew what the deck was going to produce.

“Dude, it’s time to take the train into shipit-town.”

“I’m going to hop on the shipit bus, ride the shipit highway and build a shipit house in the hills.”

Translation: Let’s bust this mutha.

It took a few hands to get things warmed up . . . and another super fan-sized buy in by Whale Jo . . . but things started to turn.

First order of business was to get in some sort of rhythm with the amount of the bets. Whale Jo alternated between two blacks and, at times, combos of purples and blacks. All done with sniper-like precision. Next thing to figure out was how many spots to play. This alternated between one and three spots. Whenever the dealer seemed to get hot, it was an automatic three spot spread. In the middle of a heater . . . anything goes.

Soon, after umpteen thousand cries of “shipit”, Whale Jo’s garden of chips was growing. The black peas were uncontrollable as weeds . . . the purple eggplants showed great strength and vitality . . . and out of the dirt sprung the yellow squash . . . hadn’t planned on that being part of the crop, but you take what the gambling garden gods give, right?

And as quick as the winning zone had been entered, we both felt it close at the same time.

“Dude, time for you to color up.”

He pushed his stacks in.

The combo of black, yellow, and purple by all proper rules of color-mixing should have resulted in some sort of grayish doo doo looking ship . . . but luckily there are not such color rules in casino land. This combo of chips resulted in a bunch of white flags, some yellows and a spattering of blacks. Whale Jo had done good.

And, as an added bonus for me just being a fly on the wall in that room at that particular time and space . . . I got the friend bonus . . . some nice coinage to help patch the wounds suffered for sure.

Whale Jo handing me the bonus chips suddenly reminded me of one other story from the Tahoe bachelor party . . . a story sort of revolving around the generosity of Whale Jo.

Indulge me for a second as I deviate from the main event here.

So we had just hit the Tahoe casinos very hard and were running out of night . . . it was already 2 a.m. and the majority of us had to get up for a flight in the a.m. Time to leave. Only problem is that in Tahoe, there are maybe one or two cabs. For the entire town. That meant standing in cab lines as long as Vegas. I tried once or twice to find a cab on the street – only to be told that you won’t be picked up unless you are at the casino. WTF?

We finally secure a cab. It’s me, Whale Jo, the two spider monkeys and Smooth Chaz. We end up with a driver who was straight out of central casting for Men In Black. This dude was a F-R-E-A-K. Anything I would ask him would be repeated to me . . . but in some sort of messed up Mandarin Chinese/French/Russian/New Jersey accent.

I’d ask a simple question, “Where are you from?”

Psychotic eyeballs filled with pinwheels of madness would look at me, “Where do you think I’m from?”

“Georgia?”

“I dunno, am I from Georgia?”

What?

So I tried a different line of questioning, “How do you like driving in Tahoe?”

“I dunno, how do I like it?”

He was grinning like he wanted to eat me. Uncomfortable.

About ½ way back to our house, the crew decided it was time to eat . . . luckily the cabbie acknowledged that there was a Taco Bell on the way back. Score. We pulled in, I decided to stay with the cabbie because (a) I thought he’d take off; and (b) I kind of wanted to see if he really was psychotic and would pull a shiv on me and then I could use some of the cool self-defense moves I’ve learned by reading all those Robert Ludlum books.

Boy, did I choose wrong. Fifteen minutes of silence, all the while the cabbie kept turning up the heat in his ride. Maybe he was trying to slow roast me.

Mercifully, the crew returned with $80 worth of Taco Bell goodness. Bags upon bags of greasy Mexican food.

Then they told me what happened. And this is where this part of the story finally ties back into the trip report.

When the spider monkeys first walked in the restaurant, they decided it would be funny if they pretended they were sticking up the place. So they pulled their shirts over their faces, walked in and proceeded to play “pretend robbery”.

I guess Whale Jo and Chaz had the good sense to put an end to that. So then they order. And then suddenly Whale Jo leaps behind the counter and starts handing money to the workers, thanking them for their work.

I thought that was cool . . handing them a couple bucks each in the middle of the night.

Uh-uh. He was handing out $100 bills to the workers . . . no reason . . . just because.

That’s Whale Jo.

So anyway, back to the story. Not much left to tell for this second day and night in Vegas. It was time to retire.

Morning.

No alarm. No need to get up early to catch a plane, no golf, no plans. I could sleep as long as I wanted to.

But I couldn’t sleep. There was a pit in my stomach.

Rebellion of the innards? No, this was definitely psychologically induced. I had basically what amounted to a free day and had no idea what I was going to do.

WTF? How is that sort of freedom stressful? Shouldn’t I just be relaxing, stretched out on the bed, room service order on the way and laughing?

Quite the contrary. I was contorted into the fetal position, under my covers, in a very dark room, not hungry and definitely not smiling. I tried squeezing my eyes really really tight in hopes of inducing a cosmic start over to the day. This is not how I was going to wake up in Vegas.

Part of me knew where all this was coming from – normally my Vegas trips with the boyz only lasted two days . . . .but here I was on a third day . . . my mind and body needed to adjust to the idea of being in the madness for 24 or so more hours. It wasn’t like I was waking up to compete in a marathon for goodness sakes . . . .

I threw off the covers and hit the button to open the shades. Ahhhhhh, let that sun shine in. I took a couple deep breaths, slapped my face a few times and u-turned my unacceptable state of being and prepared to hit the day on my terms.

I didn’t come to Vegas to lay up. Shipit.

The obnoxious catch-phrases pulsed through my head as I remembered some of the activities from the night before. Then it hit me.

Whale Jo was gone. I was flying solo.

Not to say that the other boyz wouldn’t gamble – they would – but there’d just been a lot of luck over the past years gaming-wise that I wonder if I might be jinxed if I ventured out on my own.

Ridiculous right?

I decided to sit on the nice little day bed that adorns the “living room” area of the Encore room. I was surprised, thought I shouldn’t have been, at how comfortable it was. The way the sun was shining just right through the windows, I wished I was a little kitty cat that could curl up in a furry ball and lick myself. Purrrrrrrrr.

The room phone rang. I bumbled over to it.

“Hello Mr. Jaco, we have a cabana available for you at Encore. Would you like the main area or our European bathing area?”

Snicker.

“Um, what’s European bathing?”

“That’s our adult-only section of the pool sir. We have both upper and lower cabanas at that location.”

“What’s adult-only mean?”

“Topless sir”

I wanted to ask her to describe what topless meant . . .

“I’ll take a lower cabana at the European bathing section.”

Shipit.

As I hung up, Smooth Chaz called. We agreed to meet for breakfast, poolside. How fancy.

I quickly freshened up and made my way to the pool . . . the casino area was fairly dead . . . I could hear the machines calling me. Plenty of time for that, I wanted some beignettes (sp?) and chocolate decadent dipping sauce. And coffee. And fresh fruit.

I found my way to the cabana. A nice enough space – decent sized room in the back with couches, a fridge, flat screen TV, overhead fan and some tables. There were two lounge chairs sitting on the concrete lawn area – figure 8x8 maybe. The first thing I noticed about the European bathing area was that it was empty – probably because it was only 9 a.m. and no sun was on the area. The second thing I noticed was the loud music . . . same music you hear inside the Encore and Wynn. In hindsight, I should have invested in earplugs . . . the music volume would eventually drive me over the precipice, into a deep deep dark depression. Oh yes, this part of the tale gets into the dark side of Jaco.

Chaz and I ordered some food and drink from our cabana boy Nic . . . guess momma wasn’t a fan of the “K” . . . the little frosted donuts that I ordered were absolutely scrumptious. To my delight, along with the chocolate dipping sauce there was some sort of berry sauce and a white vanilla type sauce. Had I not been a little groggy from the night before, I would have very much liked to have used them as sun tan lotion.

I scanned the pool area.

For people I might know . . .

Um . . . for chairs?

OK, OK . . . . I was looking for some taters. Can I say that on here? Do you know what I’m talking about? Not taters in a dirty grandpa pawin’ at the nurse’s taters sort of way . . . but just some nice taters that are just nice enough to qualify as wall art.

Not too much in the way of native birds. Guess the warbling Nudiolio Brestoprestos were still sleeping. Probably for the best. I didn’t have my sunglasses on and its really really hard to disguise the fact that you are full on lurker-watching when you get caught red-handed . . . so to speak.

Chaz and I spent a good bit of time chatting and catching up – basically passing the time until the black jack tables in the pool area bar opened up. It was a pleasant day and doing a little outdoor gaming was in order.

When we saw the tables open up, we sauntered over and hoped to catch some good luck. The dealer was an affable fellow, if not a little overly chatty. I bought in for $500 and asked for all green.

Within twenty minutes I had doubled that amount . . . in hindsight (always is isn’t it) I wish I had been pushing more in. But, at the time, I felt my good luck was coming from staying sane with my bets. The whole time sitting at this table I only bet $50 . . no more, no less.

Hmmm. Not a bad start to the gambling day . . . a nice bumblebee chip for my pocket.

Chaz and I returned to the cabana to figure out where the rest of the crew was.

Hee Haw was the easiest to track down – he’d fallen in love with the Wynn golf course and was on his way to play a second round. We’d see him 3 or 4.

Next up to call . . . Buzzy. I think it was about 10:30 or so . . .

He’d just gone to bed at 8:30. WTF?

He’d been playing 4-8 limit poker all night.

And lost $100.

If his nickname wasn’t so entrenched, I think we’d be calling him Grinder.

He needed another hour or so of sleep, but would come join us.

Now we just had to track down Frankie Styles.

Chaz tried his cell phone. Straight to voicemail.

He tried his hotel room . . no answer.

“I bet he went home early.”

Over the next five minutes or so we kept calling his cell and hotel room.

“What if he’s dead?”

“You mean bloated, face up, in his tub?”

“Damn, that would suck”

“Well, the way I see it, there are only two reasons for his absence – he either took off on us or he’s dead.”

“Poor Frankie”

Then we ordered some cocktails.

Turns out Frankie was “getting his fat massaged” . . . Oh. According to Frankie, the spa is very nice.

For the next hour or so, I just slouched in my chair, had some fresh air and tried to block out the maddening music blaring from the Encore speakers. Eventually the other boyz trickled in.

Eventually I couldn’t take the music any more. Moreover, the bumblebee chip was burning a hole in my swim trunks. I had to have some action. I bid adieu to the boyz and headed up to my room to uniform up.

After grabbing a few more bills from my safe, I ventured into the heart of the Encore casino. Nothing really was catching my eye. So I went over to the cage and cashed in the chip . . . maybe having another 10 crisp 100s would help steer me to a winning game.

As I turned around from the cage an image of a video poker machine appeared in my head. Yes, I would play some VP . . .

I sat down at a $5, plugged in $400, sat back, whispered a gambling prayer and . . .

Lost.

Maybe I hit a pair three or four times . . . but that $400 went quicker than I had anticipated. I dug into my pockets and plugged some more money in.

Gone.

I sighed. A part of my brain was screaming for me to get up. Unfortunately, my body had gone completely deaf.

Why not just try another little taste . . . the machine had to heat up at some point, right?

Wrong.

Thankfully, some acid started burning a whole in my stomach and I was able to force myself away from this evil machine.

I looked at my watch. Ten minutes had gone by. It had felt like hours . . .

Money flushes, gotta love ‘em.

I stumbled around . . . the thought crossed my mind that I should head back up to the room and put the money away until later this afternoon.

But then I walked by Let It Ride. Why not?

I could do this. I really could.

I peeled off some bills, stacked some chips.

Then watched as the dealer took them from me.

My luck had gone ice cold.

After finally bottoming out at Let it Ride, I ventured back outside to go sulk in the Cabana.

“Hey Jaco, how’d you do.”

I let my inner three year old answer.

I kicked a chair. I threw some pillows. Then I went to the couch in the farthest back corner of the cabana and flopped down. I put my hat over my face and crossed my arms.

Whooo Hoooo! Who loves Vegas!

I think I must have stayed like that for a good clip of time . . it was a dark place and a dark time.

But, I pulled out of it. I had to apologize profusely to the boyz. Frankie commented that it felt like a hobo had stumbled into the cabana.

Waiter, drink.

So, another hour at the Cabana and it was finally time to turn thoughts towards the evening activities.

Dinner reservations were at Piero’s . . .

But, turns out we had a $1,600 food and bev credit we needed to try and burn through. Why $1,600? Where’d the $1,600 credit come from? A business trade that Encore/Wynn had made with some of the boyz. We’d found out about it on the drive to Encore from the airport, but it had sort of dropped off the radar. Luckily, we did remember the credit when signing out of the cabana and we were able to use it for the day’s food and drink. But tab was only about $200 - $300.

So a plan was made to meet up at Country Club for some drinks and a little pre-dinner snack.

I hurried up to my room, bathed, and then pulled more cash out of the safe. I wanted to try a little more gaming before meeting up with the boyz.

I steered towards the high limit blackjack room . . but then made an executive decision to try and grind out a win. It seemed on this trip that all good luck flowed from first doing a little grinder session and then building upon that victory for large stakes.

$.25 reel slots.

I took a $100 bill and put it in a machine and just blindly pressed the Max Bet button.

I’d win $10 and move machines.

Not big money, but it was sort of fun.

Finally, by the time the boyz called me from Country Club, I had made $100. OK, a good start to lead into this last night in Vegas. I laughed. I just ground out $100 and was feeling like I’d just hit a big jackpot. I’m an easy guy to please sometimes.

When I walked into Country Club I found the boyz surrounding a gigantic platter of shellfish on ice. Crab, lobster, oysters, clams, shrimp . . . .it looked like Mr. Freeze had just shot his magic ice ray into the ocean and this is what was pulled out.

I wasn’t feeling like any high end cocktail so I got a Bud. It paired nicely with the oysters.

After polishing that off, we ordered a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay for the table. Unbelievably delicious.

Unfortunately, we hardly made a dent in the credits . . . oh well . . . I don’t think the credits had any sort of expiration date on them . . . hopefully they’ll be there to use next time we return.

With our bellies full (mistake) we headed out to dinner at Piero’s.

Piero’s is tucked just a bit behind the Encore/Wynn property . . . can’t remember the street – but it feels like you are in the back employee parking lot of Encore/Wynn – both buildings tower over little Piero’s.

We were shown to a nice table in the back – the place was bustling and, as on our last visit, had a great old school vibe.

A waiter with a giant Elvis haircut tried to go through the specials of the day, but our drunk table had all decided that we wanted the bone-in Veal Parm. Never mind that each serving was at least two fee wide. Never mind that we were already slightly full from the seafood platter at Country Club . . . never mind all that. We didn’t come to Vegas to lay up.

Burp.

Unlike other meals I’ve had in Vegas . . . this one didn’t make it into my memory bank. Probably because I only had about three bites of my Veal Parm. Don’t get me wrong – it was absolutely drop dead vealisciou – but all the food and booze from not only earlier in the day, but all three days, had finally caught up with me.

I felt terrible. I even tried a little surgery on the veal in hopes that this would hide that I had barely touched it. This consisted of cutting up half of the veal into tiny little pieces and hiding those pieces under the uncut veal half.

If I had just had another hour before this dinner . . . I think things would have come out better.

Oh well, we all had our meals boxed up. I think of the five boxes, only two made it out of the restaurant. In turn, those two got quite a ride in some cab after being shoved under the driver’s seat. Not a bad tip if you ask me.

So that was it for Piero’s. As we waited outside for a car to pick us up, I found myself suddenly accosted by this young woman who looked as if she’d jumped right out of a Rubens painting.

“Hi, what are you doing?”

“Um, waiting for a car.”

“I sell toilet paper.”

I couldn’t tell if she was kidding or not. Her eyes were half closed. I decided she was.

“Oh yah? Do you work for Dunder Mifflin?”

“What?”

Maybe I was slurring my words. I spoke louder.

“Dunder Mifflin? Do you know Michael Scott? Pam? Jim?”

She shook her head.

“No I work for Unilever.”

How I knew this company has some relation to toilet paper still troubles me.

Anyway, she wasn’t kidding. I tried to stop laughing, I really did.

Miffed, she asked me, “Well, what do you do.”

“I’m an exotic dancer.”

She eyeballed me. And thankfully before I had to prove it, her husband plucked her off the bench and put her in their car.

Toilet paper . . .

The boyz and I headed directly back to Encore. I kind of wanted to try and make a big run on this last night.

It didn’t happen. I didn’t win big, but thankfully didn’t lose big either. Instead, I spent most of the night laughing with Frankie Styles at the Let it Ride table. We had a good time watching Buzzy lurk around the blackjack tables . . . . my favorite laugh was when we caught him staring over the shoulders of a table full of Golden Girls and he looked like he wanted to ask them out for tea . . . .

But then it head midnight . . .or one . . . or two . . . whatever time it was, my energy had run out and I was ready to hit the sack and enjoy one last night in the super comfortable Encore bed and watch maybe three minutes of a movie before clocking out.

As I got to my room, I did a quick money tally. Despite having some unlucky runs . . . I was still up. Not a lot, but up is up. I quickly packed – dumping as much of the honor bar goodies into my carry-on as I could.

Morning came quickly. I hadn’t left a whole lot of time between waking up and departure time to the airport. I decided to take my bags down to the bell desk and attempt one last gaming run. I checked out at the desk, made sure I didn’t get charged for the jelly bellies, cashews, etc., and arranged for a limo to take us to the airport. I called the boyz and let them know to meet in the lobby in about 30 minutes.

Without any time to waste, I quickly made my way to the Wizard of Oz. Either it was open and I would play, or if it was taken, I’d happily go wait outside.

It was open.

I decided to use some FreeCredit on my card and used that to play the machine. I churned the credits into $100 pretty quickly. Then, I cashed out and stuck the ticket right back in.

And the machine sung like a little birdie – or in this case – monkey. I had little spider monkeys crawling all over the place . . . I couldn’t believe how many bonuses kept coming up.

I looked at my watch. Time was up.

I cashed out and gave the machine a nice little rub.

$500 profit. Not bad for a morning’s work.

Smiling ear to ear, my gait had an extra giddy-up to it as I met up with the boyz and we left the premises.

This had been one heck of a good trip and, as the car sped towards the airport, I was already trying to figure out how to come back.

SHIPIT.

3 comments:

Thanancheyan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thanan said...

Hey!

As my second trip to vegas approaches (July 1 to 6th), i've been reading numerous trip reports to make the waiting less painful.

I have to say your trip reports are great and reading the on my cell on my way to work is a joy.

Definitely appreciate all the pictures as well. You and Whale Jo seem to have a ridiculous amount of luck when it comes to slots.

Please keep up the Trip Reports, I love reading them. Especially the gambling parts! I'm pretty sure I'll never get a chocolate casino chip in my life, so I will live my fantasies vicariously through you guys!

Cheers

FastMazz@aol.com said...

Jaco,

I've always enjoyed your postings from TripAdvisor to here. This is FastMazz here. I totally enjoyed your article, and laughed at several points, such as the arms out of the window and the toilet paper part. I eagerly await your next trip with Whale Jo and sorry that this trip did not bring in the thousands like you and Whale Jo usually make every year in Vegas! Wish one day I could party with you both and maybe rub off some of those good lucks you get gamblin'! Keep those stories coming.. keep em' coming!