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Day 25: Raining again

"If anyone is interested, It’s raining cats and dogs outside.  First time in three years", said the floorman at the Planet Hollywood.

He was exaggerating of course.  There’s been plenty of cool storms this month, but it was the first time I’d been on the Strip during one.  It wasn’t quite important enough to get up during my tournament, but as soon as we hit a break I was outside with my camera set to "light polluted night scene in the rain" mode.

The P-Ho’s tournament features a very special guest star, a top poker professional who must be really good because he plays that same $120 tournament almost every night of the week, and also has a cool nickname, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.  Clearly it’s good for business as the turnout was an impressive 30 runners, including the megastar.

I didn’t get a shot at the $300 bounty as he started life on a different table, and died after about 20 minutes.

Day 24: Poker room with a view

Once again with the sneaky taking of the photos inside the casino.  OK, they’re far from being great pictures, but I wanted to try to show a player’s-eye view of what it’s like to play poker at O’Sheas.

This game is cheap.  It’s $1-$5 spread limit, with just one $1 blind each hand.  Since the $1-$3 spread game at Excalibur is no longer running, I’m sure this must now be the smallest game in town.

The limits are low and the tables are tiny.  Their poker room consists of two 8-handed tables (and it’s still a bit cramped with eight) dumped right inside the front doors.  But playing here, you are sitting in air-conditioned comfort virtually right on the Strip itself.  It feels like you’re in the heart of the action – even though you’re actually playing a game where a pot over $20 is massive, and rare.

All the new nightclubs have a strip view.  I say more poker rooms should consider it too.  Getting to enjoy classic Vegas scenery while you play is a fantastic experience.

Day 23: Anyone for a kebab?

Doner kebab meat must be a gormet delicacy to have made it all the way to Las Vegas.  You can find it at the Palms buffet.

I do apologise for taking a bite out of my pitta before taking the photo.  I must have been hungry.

If you expected me to pay for this buffet, you’ve not been paying attention :)   Palms has turned out to be one of the best deals for video poker in town.  With several different types of positive expectation machines you sometimes have to fight for a seat, and there are clearly professionals in the place.  You can spot them by the way they slap the buttons really quickly.  That highly tuned flappy action ensures they get to play the maximum number of hands possible.

It’s so important to make sure you push that edge as much as you physically can by playing lots of hands.  A 400 hands per hour player might stand to win $3.80/hr on full pay Deuces Wild (that’s 100.76% payback with perfect play) but crank your speed up to turbo and you could be earning as much as a theoretical $5.70/hr for 600 hands.

The full pay Deuces Wild machines also have a progressive jackpot, adding a little more value to the game.  Once this is over $1100 (the normal Royal Flush jackpot is $1000) everyone seems to go mental, and it’s even more difficult than usual to find a seat.  That extra hundy adds less than 0.2% to the expected return.  Sure, it’s worth having, but it’s not much more than another dollar per hour.

The slot club is what ultimately makes it all almost worthwhile.  At $400 coin in per $1 in comp, it adds another 0.25% to the value of the game, and that’s without any other point bonuses.  We have coupons for 3x points in the Pocketbook Of Values and have picked up 4x multipliers from their swipe-and-win promotions.  In fact, I also swiped and won a $25 gift card for Wal-Mart and $5 for 7-Eleven.  Everyone who turns up for those promos wins something, even it’s it’s tat.  Claire got a nasty keepsake box and an almost worthless notebook and pen.  The draw is most likely rigged, or at least biased - all our play has been on my account, and only I got the decent prizes.

Using the best multplier and with a decent progressive jackpot up for grabs, a savvy player could earn a theoretical rate of nearly $15/hr in cash and comp.  Points have to be spent on comp – there’s no cashback – but you can spend it on anything: food, movies or tatoos.

The Palms buffet is actually pretty average.  Obviously it’s better than the raw functionality of Terribles for sure, and you cannot complain for a freebie, but it’s certainly not as good as it seems to think it is.  The selection is actually quite limited.

The Wynn buffet on the other hand is top notch, and was yet another meal I didn’t have to pay for!  No kebab meat here, but there was tandori chicken with poppadoms.  Good old fashioned English fare.

New slot club members receive $10 in free play for giving an email address, and get two free buffets when they earn 100 points.  You earn at a somewhat peculiar rate of $9 per point, but still that’s just $900 of play for dinner for two.  There’s a 99.5% jacks-or-better game if you can play $1 video poker, or slightly worse if you want to grind it out with quarters.  Either way, your expected loss is only a little more than the $10 free play, and if you use the buffet for dinner at the weekend it’s worth a whopping $37.95 each person.  Apparently.

And people still stand in line for two hours to pay that at dinner time.  Eat free, and eat early!

I can take or leave the Wynn casino, and to be honest I’m sure it’s no great loss to them if I take my limited play elsewhere.  The overall snootyness of the place makes this great promo a big and very pleasant surprise.  I was also pleased to see that their crockery came all the way from Stoke!  I always flip over the plates on the offchance – the funny shaped, almost triangular buffet plates are made by Steelite.

I do like their carpet very much, but that alone isn’t enough to make me go back any time soon.

  

 

Day 22: Self-proclaimed vintage Vegas

How could I not turn off the road when tempted by a sign like this?

The outside of the store looked promising too.

Although I have no idea what the phone box is for.

I did enjoy wandering round this store, and I did actually find two jackets that I rather liked, from the fabulous El Cortez and the World Series of Poker back when it was at Binion’s, and when Binion’s was still called the Horseshoe.

 

However, for the most part it’s wasn’t really what I thought it would be.  Instead of the fascinating collection of vintage casino junk I expected to find inside, I was greeted by a giant house clearance sale with just lots of old junk, and a few items of overpriced casino tat thrown in for good measure.

For example. the exact same carrier bag I got from historic Hooters with a t-shirt I bought last week.  Their price: $7.50.

Here’s a replica parking meter and a police light, alongside a horrible clock and a couple of empty bottles, all arranged on a blackjack table.

So there at least there’s a tenuous Las Vegas connection in the display.  But what about this? 

It’s all immaculately arranged, but what’s it doing here?

Some corners like this look like they’ve been preserved exactly as they were when the person who used to spend all day sitting in that chair was still alive.  There’s a picture of a cactus in there on the far right, but otherwise it’s just plain creepy.

But what’s more creepy than dummies?  The Venetian may have Madame Tussauds, but I doubt it has anything quite like these beauties.

 

 

Yes!  Elvis spinning a wheel of fortune.  That’s more like it!

And then there’s this.  Probably the best child-scarer I have ever seen.  A double-whammy of freakishness.  There’s no Vegas connection as such, but I think every casino should have one.

Day 21: World’s Largest?

The world’s largest pint glass?  WTF?

In other news, a ton of bricks is now actually heavier than a ton of feathers…

This monstrosity is at the gateway to the new Fremont East entertainment district, an attempt to remove the fear aspect from the scary part of Downtown you have to walk through to get to the El Cortez.  So where’s the fun in that now?

The sidewalk is wider (the street has become one-way to make room) and there’s a few more brand new faux-vintage neon signs added.  This one continues the alcohol theme.

It’ll be great when it’s finished, but right now most of the building are sitting empty, waiting to be turned into bars.  Mayor Oscar has re-zoned this section of Fremont Street as heavy drinking.

Why was that never an option in Sim City?

Day 20: Plus BV

Today’s trip to Casino Montelago at the Lake Las Vegas resort was +BV.

That’s plus bowl value.

The promotion that enticed us to take the trip out there was a $20 gas card giveaway for 500 slot points earned.  Video Poker costs double, but that’s still only $1000 coin-in required.  The same action at Terribles gets you $5 in gas, and we’ve been all over that deal so this really was a must-gamble.  Montelago even has full pay machines too, including Deuces Wild at 100.76% payback!

When I went up to claim my freebie, I was in for a pleasant surprise.  Not only had I qualified for the free fuel, I was also entitled to a piece of pottery too.  Well, how could I refuse?

In fact, Claire could – and did – refuse.  You see, she’d already seen the display and knew exactly what delights we were in for:

"It’s not too late, you could still have his and hers matching bowls", offered the friendly clerk.  Defying everything Jean Scott ever taught her, she still managed to say no.  So I am alone in being the proud owner of this fine piece of ceramic craftsmanship.

By craftsmanship, of course, I mean tat.  But it is the first piece of Vegas tat I’ve ever turned upside down to see if it was made in Stoke…

Nope, it wasn’t.

Day 19: I’ve never thrown my knickers at him

I was meant to write about Tom Jones today, but apparently he’s poorly and has already cancelled three of the seven shows he’s meant to be playing at MGM Grand this month.  Get well, Tom.

As well as a big sign telling everyone who was being let down that they would not be able to find out whether a 67 year old Welshman could still gyrate all by himself, they also needed three big security guys to keep guard to make sure nobody tried to enter the empty theater.  If it’s really that important, don’t they have locks on the doors?

So, refund duly collected, we tootled over to Excalibur and played $2/$4.  No big hands and no aces cracked, so we didn’t get to spin the wheel, but it was a good fun game with beer flowing, and it was a nice change from the no-limit attitudes I keep having to play with.

Earlier in the year, Merlin was removed from the Excalibur’s tower as part of their efforts to de-theme the resort.  Quite how this is ever really going to happen is something a mystery, given that the hotel looks like a huge fairytale castle, but they’re trying.

In his place, there’s now an advert for their new super-fun eatery, Dick’s Last Resort:

Extreme Close Up!!

Dick’s schtick seems to be that the place is a mess on purpose and the staff are paid to disrespect you.  Customers are forced to wear makeshift paper hats, constructed by the waiters, which say clever stuff like "I suck".

Personally, I’d rather concentrate on all the eating, but I’m sure for many this is a great way to enjoy a cheeseburger.

Day 18: Desperado

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If the audio player actually works, the music is in honour of my new favourite sandwich.  Some dodgy Chinese MP3 sites have been linking to the very few and very random songs I’d put on here, so I’ve had to add a little protection, but it seems to be a bit flaky still.  But I know that almost nobody will bother pressing play anyway.

I’ve long sung the praises of Binion’s half pound pastrami sandwich from their snack bars as possibly the best sandwich in the entire world.  Today we ate in their coffee shop for the first time.  It’s tucked away downstairs, where we were treated to actual waitresses (so means the person who brings you your food is not the same person who cooked it) and a menu which you could hold in your hand to read, rather than have to squint at a letter board on the wall.  Extravagant for sure.  But it certainly did not disappoint.

The Desperado is a three-meat delight: ham, turkey and bacon.  Throw on two different kinds of cheese and a slice of avacado for good measure.  I don’t know why it was quite so good, but it surely was.  And, of course, thanks to my saved up poker comps, it didn’t cost a penny!

That great meal followed a great poker session, where I finished up a whole $28.  Although I only cashed in for $23 as I wanted to keep this chip:

I’m not sure if the woman is someone you’re meant to recognise, and then it makes more sense why she is kissing a cartoon turkey instead of eating a real one, or if it really is just as random as it looks.  Limited to 500 though, so I’m very lucky to have this.

Things were great to start with, when I played with the first no limit player I have ever been able to say with absolute confidence was indeed literally giving away his chips.  The dude looked like he’d been partying all night, and didn’t know that the night was over.  Very much over – this was at 4pm.

Two women came over and rubbed their breasts on him "for luck".  It didn’t work.  He paid off my nut straight on a board of AJT6 holding just one pair: T5.  I stacked him again shortly afterwards with a set, then after an ATM trip – which seemed like it took a week, and was the only reason the game kept going 4-handed - he folded a big blind for free first hand back (I can’t even start to imagine what hand was that bad) and within a few minutes someone else had taken the last of his money after he called all in holding Q5 on a KKJ flop.  I’m not expecting to see that kind of action again for a while.

It was great while it lasted, but once he’d gone I gave almost all the money back to the table.  About even, again… :)

Day 17: Dontcha?

Hooray for the Pussycat Dolls Casino at Caesars Palace.

Where girls who were clearly hired for their impressive dealing skills offer blackjack games while dancing pit bosses keep a close eye on the action from their elevated cages.

 

Taking photos in casinos, particularly of the gaming areas, is usually frowned upon.  But as you can see, nobody was actually gambling here, just oggling.  There was a long line of tourists with cameras all about to get moved along so I took the opportunity to jumped in and fire off a couple of shots.

And I’ll do it again too, given half a chance!

Day 16: Enjoy your tax

To the senseless fuckwit who busted me out on the bubble in tonight’s 11pm tournament at Caesars, I really hope you enjoy paying your tax.

It’s a $120 tournament now, but the fee is a whopping $30.  Honestly, wouldn’t you expect this to be a $100 + $20 tournament?  Obviously that’s what they’re hoping people will think, and in fact that’s actually how it’s listed on Las Vegas Advisor and All Vegas Poker.  Great work by the Harrah’s department of misinformation.

LVA calculates this as 83% of buyins being returned to players.  In fact the return is actually just 75% (or it’s a 33% entry fee, if you’re a glass-half-empty kinda dude).  Assuming the rest of their listings are up to date, the only other games in town that are such a rip off are a handful of sub-$40 daytime tournaments.

So here’s the thing.  27 x $90 made a prize pool of $2430, and 3 spots were paid.  The tournament director had already begun taking passports from anyone at the final table who was not American so he could begin preparing the horrible – and frankly unnecessary, if other casinos can manage to pay four- and five-figure prizes without any bureaucracy – paperwork in case any of those players finished in the money.

With five players remaining, I asked who would be interested in making a deal that meant nobody would be burdened with any paperwork.  An even five way split would be $486, and there’s some scope to adjust the prizes based on chip count and still leave everyone under the $600 threshold.

Waiting until just one more player gets busted means an equal chop is $607 each, and there’s no way of splitting it up without at least one player having to tell the government that they gamble and then having to give up 30% of their winnings.  Because the lucky British don’t pay tax on gambling profits, I’d gladly offer to take the excess money for a four-way deal, but I just can’t ever imagine that suggestion being a popular one, even if it does save everyone else money!

So here’s what happened.  By busting me out, when there were two American players with large stacks left and one German (who probably wouldn’t pay tax, but may have had 30% withheld to claim back later) almost certain to bust next, the payouts which should have been:

1st: $1215
2nd: $729
3rd: $486

In fact now look like this:

1st: $850
2nd: $510
3rd: $486
IRS: $583

The awesome decision to turn down the deal because you’re fairly likely to get at least 2nd place looks to make you a whopping $24 dollars more.  If you actually manage to outlast four other players, you’d win nearly – but not quite – double what the deal would have been.  And also the government makes more than the runner up.

A great job well done guys.  Have fun with your W2-G forms now.