October 2022
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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.

Day 15: The smallest show in town?

Instead of checking out the Vegas Lounge scene, I saw a novelty "vegas-style" lounge act that just happened to be in town.

Richard Cheese was playing at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas.  Not in The Joint, but inside the steakhouse.  Audience capacity: 230.

With ambient lounge lighting that made it impossible to get a decent picture.

A review may follow when I work out what I actually thought of the most peculiar little show I’ve ever seen.

Day 14: Parlez-vous poker?

Rack your brains really hard and try to guess which faux-French themed casino is responsible for this amazing sign.

I played $1/$2 no-limit at Imperial Palace last night.  Best game yet.  Obviously winning money helps, but it was much friendlier than anywhere I’ve been so far: no locals and no attitudes present.  Lots of 7-way limped flops too, which can’t be bad.  I got lucky with a set of 2s against top two pair – it’s not exactly difficult to win when that happens.

However I’m finally starting to see situations where players are making big mistakes.  For instance, with the board showing TJQK by the turn and all different suits, the player to my right moved all in for about twice the size of the pot.  Everyone who didn’t have an ace folded round to one other player who called and a split pot looked imminent.

Sometimes you just guess wrong.  The call actually came from KQ for two pair, who had already flipped it up tournament style and then made a full house with a queen on the river for nearly $500.  Nice hand, sir.

Afterwards I turned to the player who got beat, feigned some kind of sympathetic grunt and said "but you wanted that call, right?".  "No", he told me.  "I never want a call when I’m all in, I’d rather just take the pot down than get drawn out on".

"I’d want to be called by a hand with four outs all day long", pipes up one player who wasn’t involved in the hand, but seems to understand a little about how you actually win money from gambling – it really is as simple as getting a whole bunch of money in the middle when you have the best of it.

The equity here if the other guy folds is just the $100 or so in the pot.  The equity if he calls is about $270 (roughly 90% of $100 in the pot pot, plus the $200 call).  Yes, you definitely want the call.

"It was only three outs", someone else replied. "I had a queen".

"Even better.  So he won it this time, but what about the other ninety-seven percent?".

It’s so very very close to being correct.  Indeed 97% would be spot on, if only poker was played with a 108-card deck.

Day 13: Socks the hard way

It’s out with the old…

… and in with the new.

I’m actually throwing away some casino socks for the first time ever, and I’m finding it very difficult.  I’m still not even sure if the ones shown above from MGM Grand are replaceable.  I do know that some thread-bare socks I’ve been desparately clinging on to – particularly from Orleans, Boulder Station and Hard Rock – have been missing, presumed dead, from all known gift shops for several years.  But I know they can’t all live forever, and I need to learn to let go.

If there’s one thing that Harrah’s might actually be good for, socks could just be it.  While they seem to be a dying breed everywhere else, I’ve had a pretty good haul so far from their casinos: 3 pairs from Caesars, 3 from Flamingo and 2 from Paris.  Bally’s had a couple too, but exactly the same as the ones I got earlier in the year, which are so dull I’ve hardly worn them at all.

But is pink really my colour?  Baby girl pink with white birds on?  Those Flamingo socks are something else, but they’re definitely a man’s size and they’re Vegas socks, so I just had to have them.  Whether they’ll ever get worn is something only time will tell…

EDIT: The full supporting cast, so far:


Day 12: Lovely vehicle for ducks

Here’s a top money saving tip: If you have a rental car on a package that comes with a full tank of fuel included (so you return it empty), find some reason to exchange it mid-rental you’ll get a full tank of fuel absolutely free!

Expected value: up to $50.  It’s a good one.  That same tank would need you to cycle $10,000 through a video poker machine at Terrible’s!

This wasn’t completely planned – hence why we only got about $30 gas value out of the exchange (this time!) – because whatever was causing water to leak through into the passenger seat had been getting progressively worse until it was too much to put with any longer.  After the drive to the Grand Canyon the carpet on that side of the car was soaked through, so much so that you would have to actually sit with your feet in a puddle.

So on the way back we dumped it in exchange for an identical Jeep Liberty.  Even though we’d only paid for a mid-size car to start with, we still got to keep the same type of SUV that we drove off with when there was no mid-size available last time.  Bargain.

Afterwards I played $1/$2 no-limit at the MGM Grand, hoping to find one of the "literally giving away their chips" tourist games that are apparently everywhere, all the time, where you sit down with nine players who are just waiting for the first chance to give you their money.  I lost $240.

It was only two significant hands, and I think I played them as well as I could.  I tried to keep the pot small with bottom set on a scary flushing and straighting board and I made sure that the pocket tens that beat my aces did not have the correct price to call my third raise, even with implied odds.  Generally though, the standard was high and I was stuck on a table with many young, aggressive and certainly competent players.  My table selection surely needs to improve, and it will do as I learn more about this game.

The only other no-limit live game I’ve played so far was at Binions, and was just as tough.  I was stuck between three rock-tight locals and five knowlegeable gamblers who were in town for BARGE and loudly analysed every hand that one of them played.  I did manage to get a decent profit with my nut straight from one player holding two pair, although it was lucky – I’m certain he was the only guy at the table who was going to pay me off.

So, the jury is still out on whether it’s really as easy to win in these games as someone who came for a weekend, flopped a monster, got paid and went home is likely to tell you.  More research is definitely required!

Day 11: Gettin’ my kicks takin’ pics on Route 66

Welcome to Williams, Arizona.

Gateway to the Grand Canyon, situated on historic Route 66.

A middle-of-nowhere truck stop town with classic motels…

roadside cafes…

sadly neglected neon signs…

and animatronic figures adorning the buildings.  In fact, they must have liked this puppet wild west old-timer so much, they used him twice…