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Day 28: Leaving home

I’ve been back nearly a week now and I’m still upset to have to write this, but it has to be done.

The Stratosphere is no longer the place I call home in Las Vegas.  In fact it’s not even anywhere I want to visit again.

It’s heartbreaking really.  I’ve stayed there on eight separate trips, played just about every game they’ve had to offer – including the bizarre "crapless craps" that I’ve never seen anywhere else - and it’s always been the place that made me realise I’d landed in Vegas as soon as I walked into the casino.  Every time I’ve instantly felt like I belong there; that this is my casino.

There’s really not one single thing worth ranting about in itself, but a bunch of stuff all added together that’s made me feel this way.

Firstly, there still some holdover from the poker tournament last year where we had to bother a wise-guy casino manager over a $200 payout, because Rodney the floorman was an arsehole.  It looks like he’s still stinking things up over there.

Then there was my lost reservation in January, which was probably all TravelWorm’s cock up and very little to do with the Strat, but I just can’t be sure.

By the start of this summer’s trip, Claire had lost all her comp dollars.  Neither of us can remember exactly how much was on the account, but we think it was probably enough to feed us at least once.  Certainly it was more than $0.00, which is what the balance now shows.  Maybe I have mis-remembered them telling us that you keep your points and comp as long as you play on the card at least once every 18 months.  She did - this is mostly last summer’s comp we’re talking about.

Next thing – vomit.  Oh yes.  We sat down to play video poker and while feeding notes into the machine noticed an unusual smell drift by, and I just couldn’t tell what it was.  It was a little unpleasant, but not immediately bad enough that we’d bother to cash out and find another machine straight away.  It soon became unbearable though.  A few moments later a guy wearing part (but not all, so I’ve no idea quite how effective this is) of a hazmat suit appeared, and began to scrape some stuff off the floor and into a bag marked "biohazard".

I’m no expert in puke-disposal (to be honest I can’t be 100% sure it was a buffet malfunction, as somebody who’d just had their comp dollars stolen might have taken a dump on the floor in protest) but it looked like he’d poured some kind of magic anti-vom crystals onto the puddle - about three feet from where I was sitting – and then got the hell away from the scene while they took effect.

OK, it’s not the casino’s fault that somebody threw up on their carpet, but if they’re going to make the guy who cleans it up wear elbow-to-knee rubber, maybe they should make some effort to herd customers away from the incident.  Perhaps put a "wet floor" sign in the way, if the cleaner doesn’t want to stick around to divert people.  Or rope off the bank of machines right next to it so that players don’t have the aroma of industry-strength chemicals overpowering the casino-strength oxygen in the air while they play.  Are they really that desperate for action that they didn’t want to risk having us walk another few yards to the next bank of machines?

Right, next thing.  James and Sally hadn’t signed up to the players’ club yet, so they had a wonderful bonus in store – $120 in free slot play each, and other crap like t-shirts and tickets to a show.  The Strat has two shows, and I’ve seen neither.  One is a celebrity tribute act and the other involves erotic vampires.  I’m not sure I’d see them even for free, but the slot play was definitely worth having.

The Strat’s players’ club must be the only one in existence that does not accept a driving license for ID.  James didn’t have his passport on him, so he was cruely denied.  In fact that should read: rudely denied.  No apology, no explanation, no effort to even look in the Big Illustrated Book of International IDs to see that it was valid.

No passport, no players card.  Simple as.  Next in line.

I know with absolute certainty that a driving license – even a UK one – is good enough for anybody else in the entire USA.  I’ve stopped carrying my passport around completely now, and the photocard license has worked without any problems at all, whether it be when using a credit card, buying liquor, checking into a hotel or, indeed, making transactions at numerous other slot clubs.

You would think that the Wynn would be the casino that would look for an excuse to drive bonus-whoring white trash like us away, not the Strat, but a driving license worked just fine there.  New players are worth up to $200 in freebies, but not a smile or ten seconds of their time to give a polite explanation of an unusual policy – if indeed this was their policy, and not just a bitch clerk having a bad day.  I just don’t get it.

And finally, the tower.  I wanted to take some pictures from the top of the tower and – predictably – had left this until the last night.  So after dinner, I grabbed my camera and tripod and we headed over there.  While waiting in line, I was checking through the small print on the wall to make sure a tripod was OK.  I didn’t think it would be a problem, but wasn’t completely sure.  Nothing there that I could see, just stuff about no refunds, no unaccompanied children, observation decks may be closed if the weather is bad and they’re not responsible if you decide to jump.

Of course, tripods are not allowed, but this is only posted on a sign at the entrance to the tower elevators, a sign you would never otherwise see unless you had already bought your ticket and were waiting to go to the top.  They must make too much money from the "official" photos, where you are snapped against a green screen and then superimposed onto a heavily photoshopped picture of the view.  They look a bit like this:

I didn’t even think it necessary to ask when I bought the tickets.  It’s not like it’s small and I’d concealed it – it’s a three foot long fucking tripod, it shiny, and it’s hanging over my shoulder. 

Where could I leave it then, as they weren’t letting me anywhere near their beloved tower with this heinous piece of terrorist equipment?  The bell desk, apparently, which is just about as far away from the tower entrance as you can get without crossing the street and walking into one of the "rooms by the hour" motels.

I just left the tickets next to the elevator on the way out.  And without a very good reason, that’s the last time I’ll go to the Stratosphere.

There was one possible reason to return, and that was their selection of positive payback video poker.  However, according to a recent post on vpFREE, they seem to have been given the elbow just last weekend.  You need to log in to Yahoo! to read the post, so here’s the transcript:

Just got back from LV; thanks to the group for all the helpful posts
and databases. Did very well on the full pay machines at the
Stratosphere on Sunday, August 19, playing till about midnight. Went
back Monday evening to play some more and the machines were all gone,
replaced by penny slots. Walked the entire casino and couldn’t find the
[full pay video poker] machines anywhere.

I can’t think of anything else to go back for at all.

Early signs are that our new home will be the Palms.  It’s got good video poker in a fairly unpretentious casino (we conveniently ignore the Playboy club and in-casnio designer tattoo parlour) with music while you gamble – in fact if we get a good enough offer to stay in the hotel (normal rate: a whopping $129/night for weekdays!) it’s got absolutely everything we’ll be leaving behind.

The quest for home begins December 23rd.  T minus 119 :)