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Bette Midler’s Replacement

It’s the dead terrorist puppet guy off of YouTube and those silly ringtone adverts.

Surprising really. Given the massive publicity all over town for Matt Goss and his little show on a boat, anyone would think he was the biggest star at Caesars.

But somehow it’s Jeff Dunham who landed the gig of keeping Celine Dion’s picture frame warm until she returns.

Don’t leave home without your tourney schedule

While trying to find the schedule for the Deep Stack Extravaganza, I discovered that there is a mobile version of the Venetian’s web site.

It’s always good to see a web site that had made the extra effort to be readable on small screens but this casino site has overlooked one fairly important section.

Don’t they have gambling here?

The slow business of winning money

The screenshot below shows my split times from a mad dash I had to make from Planet Hollywood to my room at the Rio and back again.

I think a round trip of about 40 minutes is a pretty respectable result to be honest. You can never underestimate how long it takes to get places in Vegas and before I set out I had looked at my watch, seen that it was 8:30am on a Sunday morning and reasoned that I actually stood a chance of doing it in under an hour.

At night there would have been little chance, and I certainly would not have taken the Strip.

The reason I had to make this little excursion? Claire hit a royal flush for $4000 and apparently her driving licence wasn’t good enough to prove that she deserved to be paid.

Obviously the win was awesome – the second largest jackpot either of us had ever seen – but the buzzkill that followed was far from it.

To be honest, I should have seen this coming. We were playing at Planet Hollywood, which has recently been taken over by Harrah’s, and the last time I had trouble proving I existed using an official British ID was at Harrah’s Laughlin.

It was actually because of this ownership change that we were there in the first place. There’s likely to be only a small window of opportunity between the P.Ho. being linked into the Total Rewards system and the video poker being downgraded to unplayable paytables.

It was still far from great with 99.2% bonus poker and – at best – 0.3% back in comp. It’s a very thin advantage play – and only if you assume that your action is going to be enough to get some good room offers.

Everything has dried up for me since the start of the year, despite enough of a session to retain Platinum status at Christmas, but we figured it was worth a go on Claire’s account to see if we could keep the free suites at the Rio coming for just a little longer.

Without really thinking anything of it, Claire held an ace and a jack of hearts. Suddenly something beautiful dropped in.

After a few cycles of the jackpot tune, the lady who had run off with Claire’s ID returned to say that the driving licence was no good, and could she please produce a passport instead.

We’ve had hand pays in full with no such hassle from the Palms, Four Queens and even Terrible’s. None of these casinos have high numbers of international visitors and you would expect, compared to a major strip resort, they don’t have to deal with many big winners from overseas.

A driving licence is clearly a perfectly fine form of identification. Even just the photo card part. In fact I’ve never been asked for the paper half – even when renting a car!

Seriously, if Terrible’s can manage it, You’d expect the world’s largest gaming company would be ok.

But alas no. Two options: fetch the passport now or come back later to collect the money from the cage.

I really didn’t like the sound of the second option. The way things were going, I would have expected to get there to find a random percentage deducted and nobody in the casino who knew anything about it. And that was the best case scenario.

Knowing that they couldn’t silence the machine until they had paid the jackpot I told Claire to wait there while I sped back to the room and got her passport.

So this all started with a royal flush at about 8:15am. Yes, I love the smell of winning in the morning. I was back from my dash across town at 9:10am, and we finally got paid at 9:45am.

Apparently it still took another 35 minutes to count out four grand, even though they knew what was coming, and someone even told us once I’d got back that everything was ready and they would be right back. With the money.

No, we did not tip for this service. But I think they must have realised how shit it was, because nobody hung around with their hand out, and the last hundred was not conveniently broken down into twenties, tens and fives as it so often is – to make sure you have change to give away.

When the machine first burst into song, slimy staff were out in force. Anyone who was in earshot came to congratulate Claire in the most sleazy and obvious way you can imagine. The cocktail waitress wanted a piece too. I’d waited half an hour for my first coffee, but suddenly the service got much, much better.

The slot attendant who was first to respond was meant to finish his shift at 9am but when I got back he was leaning nearby pretending to do paperwork, and immediately came over to say goodbye. As transparent as you like.

No dude, we’ve not been paid yet so you’re not getting anything.

It’s a bad idea to play chicken with karma in Vegas so Claire and I talked about whether it was right to stiff the floor staff over what was, essentially, a brain dead corporate policy.

I felt they should be tipping me for having to drive to another hotel to fetch a document they didn’t really need and for Claire having to spend an hour and a half of her holiday sitting and waiting. Claire said that as long as there wasn’t a problem getting paid the full amount, the people we were dealing with were only following instructions – however stupid they might be.

But, after all that, we settled in agreement that another 35 minutes to take a photocopy of a passport deserved nothing but contempt.

Welcome to Fabulous Barstow

In what will surely become a tradition, the first gambling of the trip turned out to be nowhere near Las Vegas. We stopped in Barstow for a toilet break and to play some scratchcards from the California State Lottery.

Last summer I noted what a great selection of scratchcards these were and how – in the manner of a primary school football match report – even though we lost, we all enjoyed the game.

This time we picked ten dollars of random cards and ended up with an awesome break even result.

It managed to keep us in suspense right to the end – the very last card I scratched had a $10 prize.

I know in the picture I could have scratched off any letters – you will just have to trust me.

Club class

Live photo stream.  It’s quite busy so I might not be able to take many pics…

I am enjoying the complimentary pastrami and watching The Sound of Music.  It is a bank holiday, after all.

Strike that

Online check-in for my flight opened at 4:05pm.  I was a little slower than usual, but at 4:09pm I had a decision to make.

“Do you want to upgrade to Club World for £399?”, said the British Airways web site.

Apparently I did want to.  As shown below with possibly the best use of the strikethrough text I have ever seen on a web page.

Clearly to offer this they must have plenty of empty seats in business class on that flight, and if I hadn’t bought the upgrade it would have been going to a lucky winner at the gate tomorrow instead.  But as I have zero status with BA and it’s a big plane, the chances of me being that lucky winner were virtually zero.

However I do fully intend to win this back in Vegas.  Or at least eat enough free food on Claire’s RFB at the Four Queens to offset it.  Watch this space.

Scream if you want to go to Las Vegas

I was barely paying attention to the radio when I heard this clip yesterday.

Simon Mayo is talking to Nick Thompson, Managing Director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, about fairground and theme park rides ready for the long weekend ahead.

It came as something of a surprise to hear someone whose job it is to travel the world and try out every ride ever built (and what a great job that must be) basically admit that he bobbed his pants on X-Scream at the top of the Stratosphere.

I have never had the balls to go on the one that I often call “that stupid see-saw thing”, and hearing this isn’t likely to make it happen any sooner.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Usual

Is there anything more awesome than being able to ask for “the usual” when booking a free stay in Las Vegas?

This is how Claire rolls.

(The times are misleading because of the different time zones; it took just 45 minutes for the reply!)

Tree night, I'm gonna have myself a real good time

Just one of a bunch of confusing things on offers from Terrible’s casino that came in the post today.  This typo was also the most amusing (to my infantile mind at least).

Then there’s this picture from the same tree-mendous mailer.  How many mistakes can you spot? :

I got four: (1) She’s young.  (2) She’s attractive.  (3) She’s smiling.  (4) She has $100 bills.

All pretty much unheard of at the casino in question.

Then I had to try to work out what this was about:

The deliberate mistake?  I’m nowhere near a gold card player.

As my mail gets batched up in a mailbox in California for weeks at a time, I can’t figure out what the date under the offer means.  Is there just the one day when I can go and claim this reward for my alleged second-to-top-tier loyalty?  Or if it’s the date they decided to upgrade me – more than two months after I last left town?

Sure, we play at Terrible’s quite a bit.  Sometimes we play together on the same card.  But we only just made Gold status on Claire’s card with a concerted effort during 5 weeks of summer; there’s no way it could have happened for me in 10 days.

They seem to have me confused with someone else.  My best guess is that they’ve mixed up my account with Claire’s.  And they’re running several months behind.

Apart from her card changing colour, there didn’t seem to be any difference in the offers she’s had since August.

The best part though was this offer, which is really quite superb.

3 nights in a suite, $100 gambling money and $100 eating money.  I have no idea how I could possibly use all of the latter.  It’s an awful lot of $9.99 theme buffets or T-bone steak dinners.

I don’t know yet if we’ll actually stay there, but I’ve already booked it.  It would have been rude not to.

There were apparently no suites available.  I’m not sure I believe they exist, but I’ve seen pictures so there might be one or two.

No shows for our dates either. We’re too late to see Neil Sedaka and too early for Smokey Robinson.  (These are the actual 70-something singers, no less, not tribute acts).

Still a great offer though.  I wonder whose it was meant to be.

They're all Caesars

Turns out the fact that the Caesars Palace iPhone app was only designed for one person to use at a time was only a minor design cock up, as the “send a postcard” feature doesn’t appear to get used very often at all.

Well, maybe more people than this try, but they actually give up and delete the app before they get anywhere.

This is pretty much all the activity there’s been over the past few weeks.  Some of these photos were up there for days.

These individuals are the elite few.  They should be considered ambassadors of one of the finest hotels in the world.

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