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Train Tilt

It’s my last work trip to London, for a while at least.  Pros: no more 6.30 alarms.  Cons: no more compilmentary at-seat breakfasts on a free first class ticket.

Thanks to the Virgin Traveller programme, which I "qualified" for by booking eight return tickets to Cheltenham, I’ve been able to sit in a slightly bigger seat for free on any Monday morning or Friday evening journey.  It’s already more than paid for itself – entry to the programme cost about £500, and every morning journey I’ve made to London would have cost £54, in a cheap seat, without breakfast.  I didn’t even need to go to Cheltenham.

Membership has its benefits: two first class weekend return tickets to anywhere on the network.  I always book both seats, even if I’m travelling alone.  That way the seat reservations are always for a proper four-seat table, not a one-on-one table.

That’s the theory at least, but seat reservations appear to mean very little, particularly to people who pay £150 to get to work.  At least in standard class you see people looking a bit shifty when they know they’re sitting in someone else’s seat, ready to get up and avoid embarassment as soon anyone looks like they’re going to confront them.

The real problem is that I’m absolutely hopeless this early in the morning.  So when I see two ladies sliding into opposite corners of my table just ahead of me, one saying "you go that side so you can spread out a bit", I’m in no fit state to politely and, more important, coherently point out that one would actually be spreading into my seat, would you mind letting me sit there, and it has to be the window seat so I can use my laptop, and by the way can’t you read the fucking sign?

What’s that… is it a monster?  No, it’s just me before I’ve had my third cup of coffee and luke warm hash brown.  I decide it’s best not to engage them.

What do you say?  "Hey, you’re in my seat".  So she lets me sit next to her and opposite her friend and I get caught in some crossfire talk about shopping or periods or whatever while I’m eating a particularly chewy sausage.

Do I really whip out the second ticket and say "I pwn your seat too"?  The best that can happen then is she moves over to the other side of the table and I have to face her for the next hour and a half.  Hell hath no fury like a woman asked to move seats by a fat dude?

All I want to do is curl up and zone out until my rubber bacon arrives.

So here I am squatting in some other bastard’s single seat – I know this because it says "reserved" above it, it’s not hard – and winding myself up because I only got one seat for free, not two. 

I’ll try to calm down a little when I get off the train and to Costa Coffee.  Even though I know they’ll assume I want milk in my Americano.  No.  Thank you.

What an amazingly spoilt start to the week.

Lumping it all on red

I haven’t followed football for a while now, but I know it’s cup final day because Sporting Index sent me a fifty quid free bet offer as long as I tried out their mobile phone software.

I’ll review it in one word.  Infuriating.

It needed to access the internet more often than I blink, and each time it did it popped up a security warning and I had to say that it’s OK to go online.  This is probably a phone feature rather than anything specifically in their software, but it’s still annoying as hell.  If it was OK last time, it’s fine this time if you wantr go and get the same stuff from the same site.  It isn’t just when you go to a new screen, if you stay watching the same screen for 10 seconds or more it tries to refresh.  So anything you have to type, you have to do quickly or it’s too late.  Scroll down the list of bets but do it fast, otherwise it’ll get hidden by the popup message before you have time to digest what’s on offer.  I would say that perhaps being able to digest the bets that are on offer is more useful than making sure the prices displayed are bang up to date.  They’ll always be sure to let you know if a market has moved before you get your money out, so this is a bit too clever for its own good.

My main gripe though is that apparently my phone’s keypad isn’t good enough.  You can’t enter numbers or letters using the phone, instead you have to use a crappy small and unresponsive touchscreen soft keyboard.  Once you’re logged in (and after the first time, you only need a numeric PIN), the only things you should need to type in are numbers for the bet amount.  What phone doesn’t have a numeric keypad?  Mine not only also has a full keyboard, it also has its own built in soft keyboard which works a hell of a lot better than the one in the Sporting Index software.  No input method works right except their own keyboard, and even that doesn’t work very well.

In fact, on the Sporting Index online games (I had another refund promo yesterday, lost as usual – I’m not saying it’s rigged or owt, but I’m 0 for 7 on those now) they only let you select bet amounts using the mouse by clicking up and down arrow keys.  Most computers have a keyboard, so I don’t know what their aversion to using them is.

I ended up buying Man Utd in the Win Index at £4/point at 13 points.  It’s 25 for a win, 10 for a draw and 0 if they lose, so I lose £2 of non-refundable real money if they lose.  No big deal considering I stand to win up to £48 on the free bet, but the reason I made it a nice round £4 and not £3.85 for a completely risk-free bet was only because I couldn’t get anything at all to enter into the pence part of the stake input.  Two separate boxes for pounds and pence isn’t a bad idea if most users will enter numbers on a phone keypad but (a) they’re not and (b) it doesn’t work anyway.

It’s not like I’m going to watch the match – It’s still double player points at PokerStars today and the ten billionth hand bonus is fast approaching.  But come on you reds, I guess.

EDIT: 0-0 after 90 minutes, so I lost £12 and had £38 still to play risk-free.  So I had to go through it all over again with an extra time bet.  That one lost.

A chocolate jackpot

Motorway service stations are the perpetrators of one of my biggest pet peeves.  Their business is to sell stuff to motorists, a group that is largely comprised – particularly during the day – of solo travellers.  Yet virtually everything in their shops is priced in such a way that you cannot just buy one of them.  They’re clearly doing you a huge favour with their multibuys – on bottles of Coke, for instance, £2 for two is not nearly so overpriced as £1.30 each.  It’s gotten to be rare that you can find anything to drink that isn’t priced this way.

The reason this winds me up so much – and the reason I so often go without purely out of spite – is not the excessive pricing, it’s that you’re put in a situation where whatever decision you make is bad.  Either you can pay the solo traveler tax (that’s 30% on every bottle of Coke you buy on its own) or you can pay the difference and take that second bottle that you don’t really want for a price you wouldn’t ordinarily pay.  70p seems cheap compared to £1.30 for the first bottle, but it’s not really, and it’ll be warm by the time you want it so you’ll probably just take it home and put it in the fridge where it can sit next to the case of drinks you bought from the cash and carry and smirk at you every time you open the door.

So here’s a top tip I discovered tonight at Donnington Park services on the M1.  Their Travelodge has a vending machine in reception which sells bottles of soft drinks, one at a time, for a quid a pop.  As most service stations have some kind of hotel, I’ll definitely be trying this trick in future.  It’s most satisfying to have beaten the system.

However it’s even more satisfying to hit a once-in-a-lifetime chocolate jackpot.  I decided to splurge on a pack of Jaffa Cakes so I fed the other vending machine accordingly.  As the packet started to move forward, it got caught on the shelf above and would not drop.  I prepared myself for giving the machine a bit of a kick and a shake – whatever it takes to get my confectionery – but there was no need.  These clever modern machines can detect that nothing dropped out, so it kept on pushing.  The second pack also got jammed on the shelf above and it kept pushing still further.  I reached for my camera phone, of course, because that’s a natural reaction for anyone to have to this kind of situation, but unfortunately I was just too late to get a picture .  Three packs of Jaffa cakes plopped into the tray for the price of one.

How could I refuse?

Seriously, how could I refuse Neteller’s kind offer of some complimentary NETPoints?  Well, probably because they’re the most worthless loyalty points ever, and I’d much rather just have them pay me the amount I got stiffed on my last withdrawal.

The sky appeared to be falling in yet again for online gamblers in America when Neteller announced last month that they were pulling out of that market.  Last week, they revealed that they had $55m seized by the US Government and wouldn’t be paying out to any US players.  In light of that, my beef does seem a little bit petty.

I decided that, even though in the UK we have the luxury Neteller being regulated by the FSA, that I’d be happier to see my money sitting in a proper bank than in Neteller right now.  I cashed out $3000, paid Neteller’s $1 bank wire fee and then today got a text alert that a large deposit had been made to my bank.  The amount: $2887.39.  My last withdrawal was also for three grand and landed about $6 short (neither Neteller nor Citibank could explain where it had gone) and I decided it wasn’t really worth taking any further.  But this time, $113 had gone walkabout.

It turns out Neteller don’t operate in US Dollars any more.  Instead, they cashed me out an equivalent amount in Euro, leaving Citibank free to use whatever the hell exchange rate they felt like.  Turns out it wasn’t a great rate – in fact, xe.net says the amount Netellersent works out at $3015, so it’s actually about $130 that Citibank are making on the deal – a handsome price, and the very reason I have a US Dollar bank account.

Some kind of warning that this is how they had to process a dollars withdrawal might have been nice.  I’d definitely have found another way to withdraw if Euro was the only option, knowing that it was going to cost me to receive it into any account.  My best option probably would have been to deposit into PokerStars and then ask for a cheque by mail.  But if Neteller had offered to send the money in US Dollars using a reasonable exchange rate, that would work for me too.

As it stands, I’m $113 out of pocket and Neteller – so far – have basically told me tough cheese.  I don’t think I should have to pay for this – after all, I asked for $3000, not EUR 2505.  They recommended I lodge an official complaint, which I’ve done but don’t hold much hope for.  You send that by email to complaints@neteller.com, for anybody who doesn’t want to have to wait forever on the phone to be told this.  In my 45 minute phone call there was nearly five minutes of real actual talking, and almost none of that was useful.

New Year Sales

New Year sucks. Christmas is over (well, actually that’s not such a a bad thing). You’ve run out of turkey recipes, and still have half a bird left. It’s starting to smell a bit, too. You can, if you wish, queue for hours in the freezing cold to stand a small chance of picking up a genuine bargain in the sales. Although I’m sure it won’t be as bad as the insanity and violence of the PlayStation 3 queues in America last month. This year, I’m spending midnight at New Year’s Eve on a plane. I know I won’t care.

Oh, and all new for 2007 – the price of poker is going up again. All around the country this time, too.

Grosvenor Casinos have announced a new schedule of “session charges”. Whilst they’ve had the sense to tier the fees so you pay less for a cheaper tournament, the attempt to justify it as the “true reflection of running costs of cardrooms” is unconvincing. I’m quite pleased that I managed to delete the word “bullshit” just then, very disciplined of me.

It’s a £2 charge on a £5 tournament, but £5 on £20. Does one game really cost two and a half times as much to run as the other?

It’s actually great for the game that the major casinos are finally starting to treat it as a game in its own right, and not simply something in the same league as £5 in free slot play or a complimentary drink. If they have to charge a little extra to do justice to their tournaments and keep the guys upstairs happy, then so be it. But c’mon, call a spade a spade. Call a service charge a rake (unless you’re not allowed to). And acknowledge this session fee what it is – a way for casinos to begin making money from poker directly, rather just using it to try to bring in pit game suckers.

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.

Hey kids, do you like violence?

I always expected the reception I’d get at Stoke Grosvenor would be frosty. This is a regular haunt for many of my former so-caled friends and other ex-poker buddies and I knew that whenever I went odds would be that I would bump into at least one of them.  Tonight for the £20 freezeout it actually took until level five and my second table move until I came face to face with any of them across a card table. As expected, they were ignoring me just as hard as I was ignoring them.

Allow me to introduce some characters: James Welsh, my estranged business partner on a poker-related venture and the mastermind behind UK Poker Info – a forum from which he has subsequently banned me for posting a strategy article with only the slightest hint of superiority – busted out a couple of hands later, moving all in without looking and tabling garbage that thankfully didn’t improve. Jim Fryer, the former owner of an illegal poker club that is somehow no longer running, and who still owes me ninety quid for a table, was riding high with about 40k in chips allowing him the freedom of only playing every other hand whilst running backwards and forwards to have a smoke. Negative expection on two counts.

I never got to play a pot with Jim, and only contributed to only two hands at that table before I went home. I’d raised once with AQo and folded to a reraise all in, then made a squeeze play with AJ against an early position raiser and a caller. I still quite like the move, even though I ran into a squeezee (I need to know if I’m the first person to use that word) with AQ. I had a chance to nearly double my stack uncontested, which was fairly likely given the extreme tightness I had shown, and the prospect of taking a race with 4.5k in dead money wasn’t too shabby. It’s only real bad when you are dominated – and he calls. Which it turned out I was, and he did, thinking he was behind.

Earlier though, I had a confrontation with "Deadly" Darren Sutton. Daz is not someone I know well at all. I can really only remember one time I’ve spoken more than a passing sentence to him, which was actually at Nottingham Gala on the same day I discovered that my so-called friends from the saturday night game I have such fond memories of were a bunch of ignorant back-stabbers. Let’s move on.

Darren comes over to tell me how nobody likes me, and then how I owe various people an apology and how I owe James some money. He tells me "you and him need to sort it out, or I will sort it out". Whether or not he has a point doesn’t much matter – none of this is any of his fucking business, but he obviously loves the action. I am brought up to speed as he walks away. "You don’t know me. I used to be a minder. I look after people".

Another person he is looking after tonight is Rob Ho, although I doubt this is with his knowledge or consent given that Rob is a martial arts expert and could cripple me as soon as look at me if he wanted. On the very rare occasions we had a saturday game without him, we would gossip around the table about how he is likely connected, a Triad probably. I owe him an apology, I’m informed, because of how I insulted him on the forum – by which he can only mean the "strategy article" I mentioned above. As I walk to the bathroom at the first break, Rob actually yells up from his cash game at me "Hey Chris, are you winning?". I’m so startled, I don’t really know how to respond and mumble back god knows what before running away to take a piss. Unless it’s part of an overly elaborate and highly doubtful good cop/bad cop routine, then Rob isn’t holding a grudge. And I would have gone back to talk to him too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.

Deadly Daz followed me into the bathroom. He followed me into the fucking bathroom! He stood next to me, and carried on with a routine which I pretty much ignored, trying instead to concentrate on whether he specifically was the reason I couldnt go, or just that there was another gent right there who was more interested in me than his own bodily functions. That would usually do the trick.  As I left (he was done before me, and didn’t wash) he was waiting near the door to keep yelling across to me and point out exactly where Rob was sitting. I don’t know why he was yelling. I didn’t stop to see who he was with, whether it was even anyone I’d ever met before. Or whether they were impressed. I just kept walking. I don’t know – nor did I care to find out – whether he was all talk. But I was glad to be back on the casino floor. As far as I know, there’s no cameras over the urinals…

So there we have it. I was threatened and intimidated – twice – by a guy I hardly know in my friendly neighbourhood casino. Just one contribution to a general air of violence in the Grosvenor Stoke where threats, fights and beatings appear to be an everyday occurrance. When the cash game was announced, some cheerful soul piped up "will there be a punch up tonight?". Apparently there was yesterday, and it sounds like the crowd loved it. And I heard two guys at my table very openly discussing how they might teach someone a lesson. "Careful though, he’s the kind who’ll run down the cop shop first chance he gets", says one. "Yeah, but what’s he gonna do with a fucking broken neck?", came the reply.

The price of poker just went up, Vince

At Leicester Gala the £20+£2 tournament on Wednesday is now a £20+£7.

That’s a 26% rake!

Well, no it’s not. That would be illegal. Instead, there’s a £5 "session fee" that you have to pay before you can register for the tournament. And apparently they not only have the backing of the Gaming Board to do this, Gala is piloting the scheme for them to see if works well enough to use at casinos across the country.

The fee does cover you for as much as you want to play that night, however. Whoopy doo. If you’re very unlucky you could perhaps fit in two sit-and-goes (I have no idea if that’s the correct way to pluralise it) but if you do well, or have no intention of playing anything else after you bust it’s another five quid on top of a twenty quid tournament.  You effectively get taxed more when you win, than when you keep on losing.

The terrible thing is that people are already paying this. Even worse is that last night those people included me. Well, I’d driven an hour to get there and if I’m prepared to drive a 140 mile round trip to play in that game it does seem a little on the stubborn side to go straight home once I’m there. Won’t be going again though.  Numbers were down, with 40 runners compared to the usual sell-out 56, but the night before they’d still managed to fill the room for the, effectively, £10+£6 tournament.  If they owned up to what the charge really was, that would be a 38% rake.

Las Vegas Advisor maintains a list of the poker tournaments in town with their respective percentage paybacks.  Only Sunset Station and Sams Town are this greedy, which actually surprised me a little.  Even the quick and nasty tourist tournaments on the strip are 80-85% payback.

Geoff and I spoke to cardroom manager Steve, who was obviously disappointed that he had to do this, knowing that it would drive away many of the regular players.  However this seems to be exactly what those higher up are trying to achieve.  You see, the Play and Party Poker Zone is not really a cardroom.  The casino is not interested in developing poker players or creating loyalty, because they do not generate any profits until they are either paying their 10% on three-figure buy-in tournaments or generating hourly seat charges in cash games.  And whilst a £100 tournament would attract a handful of gamblers who fancy a shot at a big prize, it’s something that takes more effort to promote than a regular game, and not something you can do every night in a provincial casino.  So it’s quantity over quality, and they just want to get as many players through the door as possible hoping that if you throw enough suckers in the direction of a roulette table then some will stick.

So why am I so upset about this?  I guess mostly because of the stealthy and semi-legal way in which it’s been done.  The Gambling Commission’s Guidelines for the Casino Industry document states that a registration fee may be no more than 10% or £50, whichever is greater.  Simply calling the charge a "session fee" doesn’t cut it, and I just can’t see how this is legal.

The casinos who have put pressure on the Gambling Commission to take action against borderline-illegal clubs – who take a "service charge" out of every pot, don’t anyone dare say the word "rake" – are hypocrites.  Now is a time when poker desparately needs a new way of being regulated to protect the player from an inevitable undesirable element.  If indeed the GC are behind this scheme, as Steve suggested, all they have managed to come up with is a way to allow the regulated venues to charge an unlimited rake and legally fleece their players.  Well, I guess that’s what casinos have been doing for years, just not quite so blatently.  Meantime the clubs that do cater for those that just want to play some cards (there’s no blackjack, no roulette, just a 10% rake – let’s call a spade a spade here) are still waiting to hear whether they will get shut down.

Overreacting?

So America can’t play poker online any more.

That’s not strictly true.  As I understand it, and to be honest I haven’t done extensive research to work out which versions I’ve read are the complete truth, it’s going to become an offence to fund gambling transactions through a US-based financial institution.  The bill – which has still not become law – does not make it any less legal than it currently is for Americans to play online poker.

Today my mailbox started filling up with newsletters from various affiliate programs reacting to the news.  Interestingly, I’ve not yet had anything from a poker site directed towards me as a player, only as an affiliate.  A few statements have been issued, with a handful of sites claiming it’s business as usual (well done particularly to Absolute Poker, whose shirt I am wearing inadvertently today, but had I realised the significance it would be with pride) and the rest saying, well, really we don’t know what to do yet.

Here are some excerpts from the emails I received today:

"As of today Betfred have stopped taking business from US customers in the wake of recent prohibitive legislation by the US government. To clarify, this means that US residents and/or US citizens will not be able to use Betfred at all for telephone betting, online sports betting, casino or poker."

"Our software and ECash provider for Sunpoker.com, The Sands and Omni Casino, CryptoLogic and ECashDirect, have made the decision to no longer service US registered accounts.  Consequently, all accounts with US based addresses will no longer be able to play in the casino or poker room as of 12PM EST today October 3rd.  Our sister casino 49er Casino uses a different provider, Real Time Gaming (RTG) who has not announced any changes due to these new regulations."

These two seem to be simply overreacting however the legislation may have given them the final push to block access to US players.  It’s unlikely that this is the real reason for kneejerk.  Last week William Hill already decided to dump their US players, probably in light of the Peter Dicks and David Carruthers arrests.  It makes sense that Betfred would follow suit, and the tone of SunPoker’s email suggests that they wouldn’t care if they still had a payment provider that hadn’t jumped ship.

"(InterPoker) regret to inform you that from 11am EST on 3rd October 2006, we will be closing all US gaming accounts. Player’s balances, minus uncleared bonuses, will be returned to players  within the next 3 – 4 weeks by check and you will cease to earn revenue share from these players in the future."

InterPoker also use EcashDirect and Cryptologic, so I guess their hands are tied too.  However this is quite drastic.  Less than three hours after this email was sent, all their US accounts are being automaticaly closed.  However they are going to take nearly a month to send those guys their money back.  The final statement is somewhat redundant – how could you earn revenue from a closed account anyway?  Or do they mean they’re just going to keep that commission anyway?  This is what started me thinking… and then…

"PartyGaming will no longer accept wagers from US customers once the act becomes law. Customers resident in the United States, or accessing us from the USA will no longer be able to access our real money gaming services. … Percentage Plan revenues from US customers will continue until the point those customers are unable to play for real i.e. until the legislation becomes law."

This is huge.  Party’s stock price has plunged by over half since Friday, and understandably so when they have reacted so dramatically so quickly.  Almost all of the other major operators’ statements have been undecided until they work out how the new law will actually affect them.  Party – the largest on the net – have immediately said that they will block access to US customers.

My cynical mind sees a problem here.  Firstly, their play money servers will remain available to US players.  Whilst play money poker is clearly not illegal, why would they bother keeping the servers open?  PartyPoker.net only exists as a decaf version of the real thing to give new players a taste for the action.  And it works.  So if there is any possible loophole to exploit, Party will be back in the market.  Whilst Ecash is solely a gaming transaction provider, Party would be able to carry on using Neteller at least – a European company that has already stated that the US law cannot touch them.  I just don’t believe they really mean this.

The statement about affiliate revenue makes me very suspicious.  Even if it becomes difficult to play poker online, some players will be serious enough and make enough money to carry on despite the hurdles they have to overcome.  The biggest players are those likely to have an illegal rakeback agreement, and even if they don’t many will have been referred via an affiliate bonus code.  Party already has a history of closing down affiliates who give a share of commission back to their players – so here is an ideal opportunity to sever those affiliate ties and take back the 25% of the rake they are paying out.

You have to wonder just how much that affiliate commission amounts to and whether it is comparable to the amount of business Party stand to lose if they had simply issued an "undecided" statement.

Weekends in Vegas suck. Fact.

During the week I had become fairly impressed at just how quickly I was managing to get around town.  When the lights are with me, I can make it from our driveway in Green Valley, five blocks from the Beltway, to pretty much anywhere on the strip or downtown in under 20 minutes.  I caught a break and made it into Caesars, dumped the car in the Colosseum Valet (which is deathly quiet when there are no shows on, and not far from the Poker Room) in not much more than 15, which is pretty damn cool.  Even having to negotiate the World’s Busiest Intersection (it would be, wouldn’t it) I can fly into the Tropicana and walk over the bridge to the MGM or Excalibur (I’m starting to much prefer the latter, on account of the wheel you spin with any four-of-a-kind, or aces cracked.) in next to no time.

Obviously there’s more traffic at weekends.  I’m in the minority of visitors that stay in Vegas for more than 2 days at a time.  During the week, the casinos wish you "enjoy your evening".  As soon as Friday is here, that becomes "enjoy your weekend".  I wish I could, but getting anywhere and doing anything is just a complete nightmare.

Last Saturday I went home early because I failed to park anywhere. I started with the Tropicana, but valet was full and I was decieved by the fact its parking garage has only one level so I wasted too long here looking for a space and ended up back on the crawling strip. From there I tried the MGM but their valet was full, and the only way out after seeing the sign that tells you the bad news is back into the horribly slow queueing traffic. There’s no way to even try to self-park, even if you assume there will still be spaces, once you find out that Valet is full. This week it took a good hour to get as far as being rejected by the Valet parking at Caesars on Friday night, because I’m not a Harrah’s Diamond VIP member.  To get this honour, you have a full year to earn 10,000 Total Reward points, equivalent to total stakes of $50,000 on slot machines or $100,000 on video poker.  Even being this reckless (best case: it costs a theoretical $1000) for the sake of priority parking wouldn’t make the strip traffic move any faster, although I’m sure many Diamond VIPs expect it to.

About half an hour was spent in a queue to turn off Flamingo Road, which has the World’s Longest Intersection Signal Sequence (as determined by me, but unofficial), and only allows two cars to turn left onto the Strip every ten minutes.  This also gave me plenty of time to fume about the unnecessary punctuation on the road sign indicating "Caesar’s Palace" for a new dropoff only zone, clearly no use to me when driving on my own.  The missing apostrophe has been the World’s Most Famous Grammar Error for 40 years – why change it now?

So having to actually park my own car (god forbid) I fight my way up to the top floor of the garage and finally get in a space.  Then it’s down four floors in one elevator, and three more in another.  This makes no sense.  Plus, the second one is full of people leaving the Celine Dion show, and I wait for ten minutes without seeing a single down elevator with room for a person in it.  Parking my own car, and having to use the stairs – what on earth is this town coming to?