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Choo choo

The most interesting thing I saw this weekend by a mile, but that’s not saying much.  The brick train sculpture in Darlington, marking the location of Britain’s first railway line.  Now the site of a Morrisons supermarket.

Obligatory Photo Post

Something old.  The Stardust on death row.  The number of windows remaining decreased throughout the week.  By Friday you could look straight through and see Boulder Station from one direction, and the Wynn from the other.  Implosion is exected some time in March.


Something new.  Just one of the many ways Harrah’s continues to downgrade Caesars Palace.  If it’s so bad it’s good, like hanging huge pictures of David Hasslehoff doing jazz hands from the fake Arc de Triomphe, I can appreciate it.  However this is just skin-crawlingly tasteless.


Something broken.  When keno channels go bad.


Something green.  This is what $500 in "casino credit" looks like.  Oh look, it’s Celine Dion again.


Something tall.  The Stratosphere from a random angle, but I kinda like this shot.  "Home to the world’s highest roller-coaster", boasts the video they play you as the BMI plane touches down.  Not for a couple of years it’s not been… it’s basically just one big commercial for Dollar car rental anyway, but – as you’d expect – it’s already horribly out of date.


Something dark.  Westward Ho is just rubble now but it looks like the sign is waiting to be taken to the Neon Museum.


Something handsome.  Best carpet in town, at the soon-to-be Planet Hollywood.  Let’s hope they’ve changed enough to actually get rid of the jinx this time.


Unfinished Business

As I’ve now been back from Vegas for longer than it is until I go again (T-8!) I should probably lay to rest the stuff  have from the last trip that I haven’t talked about yet but would definitely have blogged if the crappy net access didn’t let me down.

I had two tournament cashes.  I already wrote about the result at Binions, but I also hit a $964 payout at Caesars Palace.  This was a 12-way chop that gave everyone remaining a prize just better than the third place money.  Amazingly, only eleven accepted the deal to start with.  Blinds were about to double (they skip some levels in the lunctime tournament to get it over with quicker than the evening one) leaving nobody with a stack much bigger than 10 big blings.  He soon came round though, and I got to experience the bureaucratic nightmare that is a Harrah’s casino poker payout of $600 or more.  Form-filling-tastic.

Somehow I’d lost my Total Rewards card (or at least I thought I had, it did turn up much later) whilst playing video poker at Caesars, resenting the downgrade from 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.5% payback) to a pathetic 7/5 paytable (96.1%).  To get the payout from the cardroom, I needed to hand over both my ID and the players card.  I tossed in my passport to let them get started on the paperwork and went hunting for the card, with paranoid visions of neither my passport nor my money being there when I got back.  The card wasn’t where I thought I’d left it, so I had to beg the players club staff to give me a new one: at first they insisted I needed my passport to get it reprinted, but eventually they believed my story that I’d had to leave my ID in the poker room and just let me write my name on a piece of paper, found me on the system and asked me if the address on screen was correct.  A peculiar security procedure to say the least, especially after nothing else I had on me was acceptable proof of ID - including a Visa card that has a photograph on it, that they wouldn’t even look at!  I was pleased when I eventually found my old card however - it was a World Series of Poker edition card from the summer and these things matter! :)

I did meet another English player who’d cashed in that tournament who passed on some useful information on how to be an illegal immigrant.  He’d been living there for some time now with his friends who play poker for a living.  He, he insisted, was not that good yet but tagged along and still enjoyed some success.  "How did you get a visa then", I obviously asked.  "Don’t need one mate", he replied, going on to explain that as long as you leave the country every three months you can take full advantage of the visa waiver.  Nobody at the airport pays attention to when you were last here, he insisted.  As I’ve been a bit concerned about my return next weekend so soon after this trip, especialy travelling alone this time and almost certainly fitting some kind of profile, this was quite reassuring.  "The only thing is", he advised, "if you get into any kind of trouble they’ll try to kick you out.  But we know a guy.  He’ll take you Mexico for $99, then next day you can come right back".

That was my largest win of the trip, and a good result at the right time really, putting me back into the black for the trip.

My only other win of note was a profitable session playing $1/$2 No Limit at the Golden Nugget.  Apart from one session last summer playing $1/$3 in a local’s game, which didn’t help a great dea;, I was a complete noob to this game.  I played almost nothing all night, and somehow ended up leaving with $129 more than I came with after nearly six hours.  I’m still unsure whether loose no-limit games could suits me – I have a long way to go to be confident enough to take full advantage of the weaker players and the donators, but at least I could spot who they were.  The bigger pots I won, if I recall correctly, came from a well-timed check-raise holding only second pair – which I felt very good about – and a bizarrely played ace-jack that I might still hold back for another entry in the future.  All I can think looking back on that hand is that I played it like it was limit poker, and somehow it worked.  I know I have much to learn.

The Nugget is actually now home to the coolest swimming pool in the world.  That would be because it’s got a goddamn shark tank in the middle of it!  And a water slide where you go right through the sharks!  On a chilly evening in December – definitely not swimming weather – the Nugget opened its doors just to show this baby off as soon as they’d finished building it.  And quite rightly so.  Best pool ever. 

I must also mention that we finally went to see Wayne Newton.  I’d heard that his voice isn’t what it used to be, and they weren’t kidding.  His orchestra and backing singers did a fairly good job of making just enough volume that you couldn’t quite tell how badly he was choking.  There were plenty of talky bits for recovery time between musical numbers and he was also professional enough to always cough and splutter away from the microphone.  It was a very odd experience to be in the presence of greatness but have to imagine what the Wayne Newton experience is actually meant to be like.  He is clearly a fantastic entertainer, and still puts on a decent show, but it looks like he was way past his best several years ago.  Nonetheless, it’s something that had to be ticked off the "things to do in Vegas before I (or they) die (or get eaten by a tiger)" list.

 So I think that’s it - that trip is finally put to bed.  Until I remember something else, anyway.

Twelfth Night

Not long left to get your decorations down, and take all the snow and those cheesy little Christmas graphics off your web sites…

They didn’t hang around in Vegas.  This is the huge Christmas Tree shaped structure on Fremont Street, on Christmas Eve…

…and at 7am on December 26th, Christmas is officially over.

If you will allow me to bore you with more photos of the festive period in Las Vegas then read on…

Continue reading Twelfth Night

I’ve seen better Christmas hats…

This is the Christmas window display in the Apple store on Regent Street, where I spent much too long drooling over £300 headphones last night.  Boy they’re good.  Coldplay was on in the store, so I stuck on a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort 3s, turned on noise reduction and bam… no more background drivel.

I’m afraid I don’t really get the tree-on-a-stick.  Maybe having just a snowman isn’t enough to say "It’s Christmas, buy more stuff".  And isn’t that Tommy Cooper’s hat?

Is anything better than free mince pies?

Tesco have been giving away a free box of mince pies with every grocery delivery lately.  A nice little bonus for sure, but these may well be the sweetest mince pies of the season.  A very nice, completely unexpected freebie from Virgin Trains no less! Pies, cheese and booze.  The perfect combination.

 And yes it does indeed say:

 It’s better if I keep that out of context, don’t you think…

Merry Cactus Everybody

T-21 baby!

And like twenty something shopping days to Christmas, if you care about that.

If I had a Las Vegas advent calendar, it would definitely need to have a picture of a cactus dressed up in Christmas lights.  I would have said this even before hearing about just what they do to the Ethel M cactus garden.  As if cacti aren’t cool enough.  The chocolate factory is cack but I’ll definitely be going back to get a camera full of pictures of lit up desert plants.  Meantime, and seeing as how Santa will have been and gone by the time I can post one of my own, here’s a shot from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Megan Edwards has a couple more:
http://www.meganedwards.com/Vegasland/Ethel-M-Holiday-Lights.htm

I saw this and thought of, er, me…

The pedantry that must have done into making this sign, when it would clearly be much more effective just to go with the Americanized spelling

 

It’s not just Ticketmaster…

Remember when the Internet was flaunted as the marketplace of the future, offering lower overheads to traders and allowing them to pass these savings onto consumers.  Stuff costing less online is one of the main reasons, besides porn, that the Internet has become so great.

It’s not just Ticketmaster that seem to have forgotten this vision though, with their convenience charge (charged per ticket – clearly its more convenient when you buy several), building facility charge (think I might use the spa after the support act…) and of course the "if we can’t charge you over the odds to mail your ticket, you still have to pay to pick it up" charge.  First class stamp – two quid.  Collect from box office – two quid.  You now even have the option to print your own ticket for some events.  Two quid.

The auctioneers selling off the remains of the Stardust also charge a premium for buying online.  The auction fees are 10% if you buy on site, or 13% if you buy online.  Who am I to question the logic behind this?  I’m actually more concerned with the logistics of actually buying, storing and bringing home something as wonderous as this:

The auction starts a week on Friday at 11am PST.  That’s 7pm over here – and can you think of a more perfect Friday night in than phoning for a curry and watching the sale of thousands of pieces of memorabilia from a classic Vegas casino?

Well yeah, you’re right.  I do need to get out more.

Foam Party

It’s difficult to capture the sheer beauty of a leaky can of expandable filler in a two-dimensional photograph.  But here we go.  Probably the only highlight from my weekend of draughtproofing.