July 2018
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Boyd gets Barbary Coast back?  Sadly not, it’s still winging its way into the hands of the Evil Empire.  I did get quite excited when I saw the (fairly major) typo in this month’s Casino Player.  Even though it didn’t really make any sense. 


Going, going… still going

I’ve been in London today but back at a sensible time thanks to complimentary first class train tickets :)   Back in time to see most of the first day of the Stardust auction.  Missed the start, and therefore didn’t see just how much the last ever craps used went for, but I did see some vintage memorabilia under the hammer, and an awful lot of TV screens.


It’s not exactly thrilling viewing I admit, but I was still hooked.  Although with another four days still to go, I’m hoping the novelty will wear off soon.  Well, today at least.  At the same time I’ve been watching Children in Need, to make my Friday night complete.  Terry Wogan has managed to gather together the largest collection of truely dreary and middle of the road musical acts you could ever imagine.  And whenever you think of a dull band you think of Westlife.  We’re not to be disappointed.  Add Ronan Keating and someone who used to be in Blue (he’s no less dreadful on his own) to the mix.  Keane – well actually they’re not that bad, but really not the rock gods they seem to think they are.  But it just wouldn’t be complete without Sugababes, who managed to come up with a mesmorisingly dull dance routine to perfectly compliment the snoring blandness of their music.

Yet more bad timing?

Although the Boyd Gaming Press Release originally stated that demolition of the Stardust would begin in the first quarter of 2007, there is now speculation that it could be imploded as soon as New Years Eve.

I’m not sure whether this rumour has much substance – it seems a bit too soon, although if the auction next weekend is as efficient as it looks I guess there won’t be an awful lot left to clear out.  Boardwalk closed this year on Jan 9th and it was four months until the freakish clown head and fake roller coaster were removed and the building was imploded on May 9th.

Of the twelve previous casino implosions, only the Hacienda fell on New Years Eve, back in 1996.  Somehow I thought it was a lot more.  However it would be typical if we just miss this one by a day – we fly back on Dec 31st, after deciding to trade a non-stop return flight and triple diamond club miles for that extra night of fireworks and complimentary plastic hats.

We were in town in February this year when Bourbon Street went boom, although good old Harrah’s kept it quiet until a few hours before they pushed the plunger and I only heard about it the following day.  Castaways was blown up with a similar lack of fanfare just a few weeks previously.  Apparently, making a spectator event out of watching tower buildings collapse is not considered particularly tasteful any more.

The afternoon before the Bourbon Street implosion we’d got stuck in horrible traffic around there, noticed "something odd going on" and even the road closure notices.  Never even thought that might be happening, or you can be sure we’d have found a prime spot to watch the destruction with a big foam finger and a little flag saying "Go Rubble!".  I know we wouldn’t have been alone.

Actually we had made more of a connection with Bourbon Street than to Stardust.  It was actually the home of our first Vegas beer – two small plastic cups of draft Budweiser.  50c each!  On our first trip we were pretty clueless, and – as well as paying for beer – had ended up staying at the Days Inn Town Hall Casino on Koval, just around the corner.  It’s also now dust, although with one blackjack table and a dozen video poker machines, the Town Hall isn’t the type of casino to be missed.

Another one bites the ‘dust

It was obvious the Stardust’s days were numbered a few years ago, when they were making a big deal out of its 45th anniversary.  It was never going to make it to the big five-oh.  As another legendary Las Vegas hotel shuts its doors today, I feel like I should be writing a little bit about what I remember about the place.

Unfortunately, that is very little.  The fact I have a players card (below) doesn’t necessarily mean I played there.  I have a whole bunch of players cards from all kinds of casinos I’ve been to just once.  And why not?  I vaguely remember some cashback promotion at the Stardust for cycling your money through video poker that they never actually coughed the rebate on, and I’m pretty sure that was the only time we’d been there until this summer. 

In August the end was very much in sight, although nobody quite knew when.  Today’s closing is ahead of schedule, because most of the staff have already moved on to new jobs and there was little point in keeping it open.  The gift shop sold merchandise bearing the dates 1958-2006, although it was still such tat that all all I ended up buying was an energy drink.  We just stayed long enough to win two silver strikes, both the same one as usual.

We never got to see Wayne Newton there or make a bet in the daddy of all sportsbooks.  Which, for people like me who missed the first fourty years of the Stardust, are pretty much the only things I can really say I know about it.  Oh, and it still did look pretty cool at night.  I do hope they leave the lights on until it finally falls over.

The Stardust will be be imploded to make way for Echelon Place, due to open in 2010.

Continue reading Another one bites the ‘dust

Red Rock Resort

The signs for Red Rock Casino label it as Red Rock Resort. Which I suppose it is, but it’s location in Summerlin makes it somewhat more utilised as a locals casino than a resort hotel. In fact, it looked like the hotel wasn’t quite finished yet when we went.

The feel of this place is a bit wierd and the vibe is somewhat mixed. The decor puts i somewhere between in-yer-face and over-the-top. It’s feels intensely modern and cool, to appeal to a young locals crowd. But it’s also seems to be trying to compete with the Bellagio or Wynn for elegance. There are some quite horribly excessive chandelier structures over part of the casino, and then you move through to a new section and they’re all gone. So the kids get to gamble over here, whilst the rich folk have this part to feel at home in…

Didn’t stay long, given that one of the reasons for visiting was because it had a cinema, but Superman Returns wasn’t showing and however good Snakes on a Plane might be, it’s title doesn’t do make it sound like making any effort to watch. Claire said there’s a reason Speed wasn’t called “Bomb on a Bus”, and I tend to agree.

Don’t be bringing small children into my casino…

… or I will make sure they can’t sleep tonight, says Harrah’s Entertainment.

How freaking scary is this thing, at the Rio’s Masquerade in the Sky show? You have to see the eyes move for the full horror, but it’s still pretty grotesque in this snapshot.


Smallest game in town?

I think I have discovered, accidentally, the smallest poker game in town. Certainly the smallest on the strip. At the Excalibur, I put myself on a list for a $2/$4 game and I was given the option of a $1-$3 spread limit game whilst I waited. This is just ridiculously cheap. There’s just one $1 blind each hand, and everyone usually seemed happy to just limp in for a dollar and see what happened. When I did play a hand and check-raised $2 up to $5 I could feel the daggers.

I’ve only played spread limit once before, and it was the first time I played Hold’em in Vegas. That was a $1-$5 game at the Sahara, at a time when only about 3 strip casinos has poker rooms. I don’t really know the strategy, but I suspected I should treat the game like $3/$6 but without the big bets on the turn and river. That means that raising the flop for a free card is pointless and there’s never any need to slowplay the flop in order to win bigger bets on later streets. Whereas the equally odd $3-$6-$9 game at Sunset Station would have been all about winning those big river bets.

It’s amazing that such a small game exists, but I can’t understand how it can be worth the casino’s effort. I saw plenty of $5 and $6 pots getting checked to a showdown, with just a 50c rake being taken out.

World’s largest…

World’s largest picture of Tony Braxton on the side of a building.

Caesars 7pm Tourney

I’d decided to go and scope out some of the tournaments at the center-strip casinos, particularly because I’d liked the sound of the Caesars tournaments but couldn’t find any information online any more. I know it definitely used to be out there somewhere, otherwise I wouldn’ t know that I wanted to play it.

I hate driving on the strip, and I’m sure there must be a quicker way to get to Caesars without having to face the crawling traffic and the lights on the Flamingo Road intersection that seem to be on a fifteen minute cycle, but I haven’t found it yet. Once you’re in the hotel complex though, it’s impressively well organised. I flew around the service road and dumped the car in the Colosseum valet instantly. Celine Dion is on holiday and Elton John isn’t back until October so I imagine it’s usually busier here.

We’ve seen both of these shows. Celine Dion features lots of people walking round the stage slowly during most songs, for which the art value is lost on us. Elton’s show on the other hand is so good we’ve seen it twice. His show features lots of enourmous phallic inflatables and a big pair of breasts. Much better.

I finally arrived about 20 minutes before the start of the 7pm tournament so I paid my $120 and got 1500 chips. There’s one $100 rebuy allowed which gets you 3000 more chips and as most of the players at my table took the rebuy before the first hand was dealt I thought it would be a good idea to do the same. Things started well with a very loose payoff when my AK hit a flop of K33 – it was hard to see anything beating me here, I didn’t believe his check raise and got them all in against 99.

I was up to about 9k at the first break and then 25k at the second break thanks mostly to hitting a big hand against a big bully and letting him hang himself, but until then I’d recognised the need to steal pots once the running ante kicked in, and I seemed to have enough respect to maintain a stack this way.

The Caesars card room is really nice. It’s deteched from the casino and pretty big, but was busy enough to somehow keep a casino vibe. It feels odd to say this, because I felt that playing at the Rio Conference Centre, which was much bigger and much busier, was a really sterile environment. Caesars, on the other hand, felt just as classy as I’d imagined. Despite being a new room, the dealers were all very experienced and kept the game moving quickly. Little touches, like coffee being served in a real mug, went a long way too.

The biggest problem is that finding somewhere to eat on a 20 minute break is impossible. I just wanted some kind of sandwich or burger – very easy at places like the Plaza or Stratosphere – but the best I could find that wasn’t a restaurant with some kind of celebrity chef was a can of Pringles and a Twix. I’d seriously consider a packed dinner next time …

So at the second break I have over twice the average stack, there’s still about 70 players remaining and 20 get paid. I certainly don’t have enough to sit tight to money, and besides the difference between 20th place ($395) and 1st (over $12,000) makes it worth playing. I decide that with the blinds beginning to get oppressive to many players that I’d be looking for opportunities to take 50/50 or better shots against short stacks and hope to get lucky when the downside of losing is not that severe, rather than sit tight and get crippled.

With the blinds at 400/800 with 100 ante, I’m on the big blind and the button raises all in for about 8000. I’m looking at A8 and decide this is probably a better than 50/50 shot. It will never be much better than that, but against a random blind stealing hand, I’m probably slightly ahead. In fact he has A9 and I don’t improve. I’m still in two minds about this call. On the one hand, it looks like a steal, I have a better than average hand and I have enough chips to push a probable edge. On the other hand, I’m never going to be way ahead here and the button was not so short stacked he had to push in this situation. I still haven’t decided if this was a good call and a situation that I usually play too tight when it’s important to keep winning chips, or that I’d decided to gamble too much.

But it did all go pear shaped after that. I lost half my remaining chips to a hand I dominated, found a couple of big aces but got called by the exact same hand both times, and finally lost when I had to push with A8 and the big blind woke up with AQ. I finished fifty-something out of just over two hundred.

The tournament is excellent for the first three hours, and then goes a little mental. Some of the players were talking about the structure as the first break approached and I didn’t believe them at first, but someone decided to rip out the 300/600 level and that makes quite a difference. Even if you are way ahead, there are enough players struggling at that level that this is still about the time that you’re going to have to enter some coinflip confrontations and ride a lucky streak in order to make the money.

They have the same structure in the afternoon for $80+$50 and a faster tournament at 11pm for $70. I think I’ll be back for one of those.

Self-proclaimed poker fun

The huge poster inside Binions poker room asks the question “Why play poker at Binions?”. Then answers itself immediately: “Because it’s fun”.

Valid as this is, there are better reasons specific to Binions itself. For a start, this is the real home of poker. Screw the Rio and it’s huge, sterile exhibition hall. For all of Harrah’s money and recently acquired powerhouse brands they just can’t compete with the real deal. The real Horseshoe, which made a name for itself instead of buying one, oozes history in it’s large, detached cardroom. It’s the quietest room in town, close enough to the casino that you can still tell you’re playing in a gambling den but not so close that you’re hearing to “Wheel … of ….. Fortune” louder than the guy next to you announcing his raise.

It’s great to see people coming back to Binions too. The casino has been pretty dead the last few times we’ve been here, and even last summer with the “free beer and keep your points” promo that kept us in Budweiser for four weeks it didn’t really feel like a buzzing casino. You can’t walk in with a suitcase full of cash (plus a second empty suitcase if you plan on winning) and set your own limits any more, but that was never really part of my travel plans this time.

I played in the Sunday night tournament with a $125 buy in. There’s a $25 optional dealer add-on, which isn’t really optional – it makes the difference between 2000 and 3000 starting chips. There’s also one rebuy or add on allowed which again isn’t really optional. You get 2000 chips more for $50. For my total investment of $200, I was playing in a field of 108 for a first place prize of $5800, plus a seat in their “tournament of champions” freeroll.

Even though the weekend tournaments with a higher buy in ($125 instead of $60) give you a few more chips and slightly slower levels, the structure still hit a wall with about 60 players to go. The leap from 100/200/25 to 200/400/25 blinds turned everyone into granite and by 300/600/50 the game became push or fold poker. I managed to push three times before going broke – losing with 55 against 22 leaving me with about 2500, picking up the blinds when it was folded to me on the next hand (I had 97o, not that it mattered) and then getting caught out at the 400/800/75 level when I didn’t really have time to wait, saw QTs in middle position and went for it. A6o called me almost immediately and I was done.

Seeing as I’m going to be in town for the Tournament of Champions on August 6th, I need to have another crack at a Binions tournament, but if entry into that freeroll is the target, an earlier tournament (in Feb the 10am tournies were struggling to fill 2 tables) would be an easier route in.

And yes, it was fun, and the ipod and shades count was low. Always a bonus.