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Day 19: Lose’dicator

The latest promotion at the Palms, tucked in among the Monday, Wednesday and Friday scratchcard promotion, and just managing to stay out of the way of Tuesday’s shot at free gas is yet another swipe-and-win day on Thursdays in August.

You can still win various standard pieces of free tat, like this amazing multi-functional notebook contraption. It features a pen, a ruler, a magnifying glass and both 2008 and 2009 calendars.

But this time there’s also the chance to win a Coca Cola "Win’dicator". It’s a kind of fancy raffle ticket, and it looks like this:

I swiped. I won. Here’s what it I was meant to do next:

"The Win’dicator is a random prize generating system. Not all Win’dicator holders will be winners.

To activate your Win’dicator, please pull the tab out of the side of the device. At that point, it is activated.

In order to win, your Win’dicator must start blinking. This may occur between 15-60 minutes after it has been activated. Once blinking, you will then have a short allotted period of time to return the blinking Win’dicator to the promotional area. Your Win’dicator MUST STILL BE BLINKING when you bring it to the promotional area, or your prize is no longer valid."

As I’d seen that the prizes on offer ranged from a large bottle of Coke to a six-pack of smaller bottles of Coke, I pretty much expected every one of them to be a winner, with just a very simple piece of circuitry to make the lights go mental after a fixed delay.

However the instructions suggested something much more high-tech was going on:

"We do suggest that you stay in the casino after receiving the Win’dicator, as the range isn’t extremely far, and the time to return it is relatively short. So stick around, have some fun, and wait for your winnings."

Well duh, obviously it’s a ploy to get you to stay in the casino rather than just turning up to swipe your card and collect a prize. I got that already.

But do they seriously want me to believe that this is some kind of one-use wireless pager device which must be worth much more than the actual prize they are giving away?

After mine failed to start blinking (we did stick around, not because of this but because Claire swiped and won a 4x points multiplier) it was obviously going to get dismantled.

Now I’m not an electronic engineer and I might not be fully comprehending how clever this shit really is, but I’m pretty sure this one is a non-working dummy. Hence the non-winning.

There appears to be three LEDs and a small battery on a circuit board…

But on closer inspection, those silver blobs that look a bit like chips are just silver paint, and the LEDs appear to be just red plastic domes.

On the the reverse you can see that they are not actually wired to anything, and they popped right out of the board with almost no force at all.

However, the battery does seem to be real. I guess this is so that the tab you have to remove to "activate" the device (making the battery connection) works in exactly the same way whether or not you have a winner.

It all seems like a very elaborate way to get stiffed on a bottle of Coke to me.

Day 18: Strip-ish view

Technically, I guess this is a Strip view, there’s just a great big hotel tower right in the way of most of the Strip.

In reality, I’m lucky to have got a free room from Caesars Palace at all, so I can’t complain.

The room was on the 8th floor of the Roman tower, which is the oldest tower at the property. It’s the original hotel building from 1966.

There’s currently 5 towers, with a 6th on the way – which seems to have shot up by about 20 stories since I’ve been here, and even though this "Classic Room" is the cheapest of the bunch it still runs at about $200 a night, and $300 or more at weekends.

My recent play at Harrah’s Las Vegas has re-requalified me for complimentary room nights at Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s and occasionally Rio, but not a sausage for Caesars. The best discounted rate I can find is $110 for a few weeknights.

That play has now secured my Diamond status through to March 2010, and I’ve also discovered a couple of other undocumented perks.

I asked for a new card to be printed at Caesars so that Claire and Vij could both clock up reward credits on my account for whatever they played, and it came on a bungee cord with an extra dangly bit.

The lady told me this is so the cocktail waitress can see that you are Diamond and will therefore bring you more drinks. Awesome!

I also discovered, totally by accident, that I can jump the waiting list for live poker. I have no idea whether this works in all their poker rooms but it did at Flamingo.

I thought I’d seen an empty seat so I asked if I could get in the game, with $200 in my hand and my players card on top, ready to be swiped in.

"There’s one ahead of you". I glanced up at the screen and indeed there was a waiting list. But then he said, "Is that a Diamond card? OK, you’re top of the list".

And lo, there was my name on screen at the top of the list, in orange – to jump the queue, I was listed as wanting a table change. Sweet!

Day 17: D.B. at the Gold Spike

Here’s something new to cross of the list of things to see and do in Las Vegas.

[X] See a dead body on the sidewalk.

At least that’s what I think it was. I didn’t stop to ask the cops.

It’s definitely person-shaped.

I drove past close enough to see a nose-shaped bump at the other end of the sheet.

Because I’m only human, I went round the block three more times trying to get a better look. It didn’t really help, but they didn’t seem to be in a hurry to move it.

One seven-out too many?

Given the distance from the nearest tall building, I think we can rule out it being a jumper.

So what happened? I guess we’ll never know.

But is it normal to leave a body warming up on the kerbside with just a bit of yellow tape and a bedsheet to try to keep it out of public view?  It didn’t work.

Day 16: One million dollars

It’s the return of an old favourite. Binion’s are bringing back the million dollar display!

I assume it’s not the same million dollars that Becky Binion spent before she ran the place into the ground, but you never know. Surely it is going to be clean, crisp hundies and not the rare $10,000 bills on display – but I guess you never know.

If nothing else, it’s always reassuring to know that the place has a million to hand.

In other changes at Binion’s, I’m sure the pastrami sandwich has been downgraded a little. It’s no longer touted as a "full pound of meat" and wasn’t so much of a challenge to eat, although it’s still pretty fine.

The poker room is also set for an overhaul.

These pictures of the drawings on display aren’t great but even up close I couldn’t really figure out what was meant to be going on anyway.

I’m a little worried about this and it will be interesting to see what kind of job they do. There are dozens of spanking new poker rooms all over town; Binion’s is the only one with that kind of history.

Day 15: Across the river

Laughlin looks amazing from the Arizona side of the Colorado River, especially at night. Here are a few pictures I took that don’t really do it justice.

Day 14: Lovin’ an elevator

"Your room is in the North tower, 18th floor. The first elevator on the left is an express elevator".

I didn’t really think too much of this at first, until I saw this sign.

Harrah’s Laughlin has suites? They’ve never, ever appeared as options when you try to make a reservation online.

So am I actually kind of a big deal or what?

Maybe it is because I won last time? Or perhaps they felt sorry for me because I didn’t check in until 1am after a flat tyre incident just outside of Searchlight, NV – a town that has little more than a gas station and a Terrible’s casino.

Searchlight is about half way between Las Vegas and Laughlin (and just about the only thing resembling civilisation along the way) and we decided that carrying on driving on the temporary wheel was asking for trouble – especially as we’d be driving back in triple digit heat on Sunday morning – so we took the car back to Vegas to swap it while it was (relatively) cool.

Bye bye Hyundai Sonata, hello Chrysler Sebring. Which is apparently an upgrade, even though it’s much noisier and appears to be made out of 95% plastic.

The anticipation in the private elevator was unbearable. Would it be really be a suite?

Damn right it was. Separate living and sleeping quarters, with a wet bar…

… a large plasma TV in the bedroom as well as the living area…

… and another television in the bathroom (although out of shot below) which you could watch from the Jacuzzi bath!

In another separate room there was also a double shower!

So we were winners before we started, but then Claire went on to hit three more royal flushes on the multi-line machine.

She leads me in royals 4-0 now this trip. Must try harder.

Day 13: If you finish building it, they will come

Construction of the massive Echelon project on the former Stardust site has been suspended.

You can read more here.

This is what it looked like when I went past today, and how you can expect it to look for the next year or so.

Day 12: I can has chkn sandwish?

I finally managed to get a picture of this sign last night, and it looks like I was just in time too.

When I drove past it this morning, they’d fixed the McTypo.

Since Vij and Claire did most of the driving yesterday, I’ve managed to get some other pictures from the road that I’d never otherwise have had chance to snap.

Enjoy the randomness.

Day 11: Hot hands

If you’re going to raise a family in the desert, you need to teach your children that stuff gets hot. Really hot.

I heard a piece on the radio about a lawsuit that had been filed against the state because a kid had suffered second degree burns on his hands in the playground, swinging on hot monkey bars.

Another claimant in the suit had apparently burned their backside going down a hot slide.

Yet another dumb kid burned his feet by walking on the hot sidewalk – without shoes.

In Japan, this would be a game show.

But this is America. God bless America.

At the Palms, there’s no danger of burning your hands on the way into the casino. They’ve got it covered – literally.

Door cosies!

On the last day of their July free shit promotion, I once again qualified for "one of everything", although a couple of the crappier items had sold out. Oh well.

However they had caps back, which weren’t available last time, and the towels are a new design. They’re modelled here by the lovely Claire.

Day 10: Standing on nine

I rule at blackjack.

Well, nearly. I finished 5th out of more than 400 players in the freeroll Summerfest blackjack tournament at the Rio, for a total of $550.

As part of the package that included the comped Flamingo room, I had two free entries into this tournament. If you were so inclined, you could also buy into it for $40 a time.

On Monday, I didn’t last long. I’d decided to go for the death or glory approach and found myself walking away from the table after exactly two hands.

You start with $1000 in tournament chips and I was playing the maximum bet of $500 each hand. It could only have been over any quicker if I’d had to double down or split on the first hand.

I’d decided this would be my plan even before I got to the table. I know a little about blackjack tournament strategy but not enough to be able to come up with good decisions quickly under pressure.

I figured that by trying to get ahead early on, decisions at the end of the tournament would be much easier. I wanted to put the pressure to catch up firmly on the other players.

The tournament lasts just 20 hands, with the winner from each table moving on to the final and picking up $50.

On Tuesday, I won three of my first four hands with a maximum bet out, and nobody else at my table had even started to edge ahead of a starting stack, with their $25 and $50 bets.

So with $2000 in front of me, all I had to do was drop my bet to the $25 minimum and let them try to catch up.

Three players went bust trying, one carried on betting small and didn’t realise she couldn’t catch me until it was too late and the only player who came close to having a shot at keeping up lost the key 19th hand to hand me the win.

On the last hand, I stood on nine just for the hell of it.

So back I came at 5pm, which couldn’t have been worse timing as Vij was landing at the airport at 4.55pm. Claire had to go pick him up by herself, leaving me in charge of all the winning.

The final is a different format, with 84 players making it this far and the top ten overall scores (across all 14 tables) getting paid.

I decided to stick with the same strategy, and thought that about $3000 should be a high enough score to get paid.

I won my first two hands with maximum bets, and then pulled a blackjack on hand 3. That’s $2750 without really even trying.

Then, with a display of awesome timing, I dropped my bet to the minimum to ride out a streak in which the dealer hit two blackjacks and I would have lost or pushed every other hand except two. By hand 19, there was only me left at the table!

I looked around and on the tables I could see nobody really had any chips, but there was no way of knowing for sure how much you’d need without having someone else there to scope out all the tables and report back.

They’d announced "no coaching", presumably for this reason, but it was definitely going on at other tables.

So I asked the dealer if he knew what kind of scores had made the money yesterday. He said this was his first day on the tournament, but that I probably needed to go for it.

Always trust your dealer. I decided to take one more max bet.

My seventeen looked poor, but it was better than a busted twenty-five and I was happy to throw away $25 on the last hand (another loser, masterfully avoided by me) to finish with $3100.

I took 5th place by just $50 in tournament chips, but it was worth an extra $100 in real money compared to 6th.

The winner had $3750 and walked away with two grand, but given that I’d won just about as much as I was ever possibly going to with the dealer on a massive hot streak for much of the tournament, I felt pretty good about it.