Day 1

"You want to go where?" my wife asked. "LV," I responded. "Louis Vuitton," my wife said. "What a wonderful idea!" she added. I then said, "Ah...not that LV." "What LV do you mean?" my wife asked. "Las Vegas," I said. "Las Vegas!" she said. "Why do you want to go there?" she asked "It's my last chance to be a boy," I answered. My wife then said: "Some men never grow up!" She's right. But, in this case --- immature-male-behavior prevails. I'm goin' to Vegas! I'm leaving Tues. aft. at 1:30 pm. I'm flying Northwest. I change planes in MSP. I'm scheduled to land at McCarran at 6:50 pm.

Hi, my name's Walt. I'm making my sixth trip to Vegas. I'm staying downtown at The Fremont. The Fremont's like "Goldilocks...": Not too fancy; not too shabby. Just right! I'll be staying there Tues. and Wed. nights.

Trip-day has arrived. It's 11:30 am. I'm boarding the bus in Framingham, MA for my ride into Boston. As we travel east on the MassPike, I'm thinking about: who I am and where I've been. My dual personality will remind some of "Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde". One part of me has been a hardworking, dedicated teacher; the other, a degenerate gambler. In my lifetime, I've taught thousands of students history, government, psychology and sociology. In my lifetime, I've gambled thousands of dollars at East Coast racetracks and at North American and Caribbean casinos.

My bus is now arriving at Logan Airport's NWA's terminal. I check in, pass through security and wait for my flight. Soon, I'm boarding. Minutes later, we take off. My flight to MSP has been uneventful. During the layover, I stop the airport's BK for a fish sandwich, fries and a Diet Coke.. Later, I board another plane for "Sin City." As we become airborne, I'm thinking about the five previous times I've visited Vegas. On those occasions, I've stayed at the Flamingo (I pulled an 'all-niter'). Circus Circus (I was trampled by a horde of children). Fitzgeralds (I enjoyed the FSE). The Stratosphere (I felt like I was in "No Man's Land"). And, the Golden Nugget (I arrived just in time for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle 'convention'. Vroom! Vroom!).

As I'm looking out the window at the lite-bright-dotted ground below, I'm thinking: "What is it that attracts me to Vegas?" Many thoughts come to mind; yet one stands out --- "The Great Escape!" The ultimate "Magical Mystery Tour." It's a place where I can literally let down my hair (what's left of it). Yeah, there's lots of reasons to visit Vegas: the people, the sights, the atmosphere and, of course --- the gambling. Yet, I also enjoy the feeling of anonymity. Unlike the Boston-based sitcom, "Cheers,": "Where everybody knows your name," Vegas is a place where nobody knows my name. I'm just a face in the crowd. I can, without restraint, give free rein to my "other self" --- my degenerative side.

We're now making our final approach into the "Neon Oasis." I can see "the Strip's" brightly-lit hotels; they remind me of sparkling, multi-colored jewels on a golden necklace. From the air at night, Vegas is like a beckoning sequined siren. About ten minutes later, we're landing. Although I've done this five other times, I feel like it's my first. My heart's racing. Once inside the terminal, I take the automated tram, then "walk" down the moving sidewalk (sounds like an oxymoron) and then take the escalator to the ground level. No, I won't need the baggage claim; I'm traveling light. You may recall the TV Western: "Have Gun, Will Travel". Well, in my case, it's: "Have Tee-Shirt (and Pair of Pants), Will Gamble".

I decide to take the Bell Shuttle (I had to wait about fifteen minutes for other passengers to arrive). About 7:20 pm we're on our way. I love riding through Vegas. It's like visiting an old friend. Sure, we've both aged, but "she's" still as beautiful as ever. I love her glitz. Her brash, brassy nature. About a three-quarters of an hour later, I arrive at The Fremont. It's now 8:15 pm. I've been assigned room #532. No "$20 upgrade." I ain't interested in a more palatial room, or even one with a view (I don't spend that much time in the room, anyway). I'm happy as long as the room is neat, the bed and pillows are firm and the shower pressure is adequate --- all the rest is superfluous. Oh yeah, I'd like some soap, shampoo and hot water. If I had been with my wife, mistress, or a concubine, it might well be a whole 'nother story. Overhead mirror. Satin pillows. Soft music. Aromatic scents. Hot Tub. But, I'm not! Oh, I might mention. I'm not interested in shows, nor fancy restaurants --- at least not on this trip. I'm here to gamble!

My "poison" is P&C: "the ponies" and craps. A little on each before I hit the casino floor. I saw and wagered on my first harness race when I was 15-years-old. I remember my first bet was $2 to show on a mare named Adios Lucy. I was so nervous I didn't even watch the race! Oh, by the way, my horse finished third and I collected a wopping .60 cents. You'd think I had just won Megabucks! I've been playing the horses ever since. My other passion is craps. When I first started shooting craps, I was what craps players call: "a chicken feeder." Get'em and toss'em. Now, I use "the rhythm method." I set the dice...and then --- in a controlled manner --- I release them. Can I quantify this method? No. It's certainly not a science. It's at best --- an art or skill. Has it produced results? I believe it has. But I have no records to substantiate this.

So, as you might imagine, I'll be spending lots of time at both racebooks and craps tables. I've always believed that you've got to stick to what you do best (or, at least, believe you do best). Only so many bullets in the bandoleer. Let me say at this juncture that I will--- as sportscaster Howard Cosell used to say --- "Tell it like it is." I have no axe to grind. No vested interest. I just want to provide an interesting and informative report.

Before I make my way to the casino, I go upstairs to check out my room. It's located near the end of the hallway next to the stairwell. I open the door with my key card. The room is what they call in the car business "a strippy model." No frills (more on the room later). I unpack my carry-on, put away my clothes and toiletries and wash up. I then look out the window. I have a view of Binion's parking garage.

It's been a long day; yet the night is relatively young. I decide to cross Fremont Street and scope out "the Fitz's" two craps tables. Last time I was here --- over two years ago --- they were good to me. One thing about craps tables: No two are alike. They may look similar, but they're like lanes in a bowling alley --- they have their own "personalities." Fitzgeralds' craps tables --- to quote "Goldilocks" --- "are just right!" Not too spongy, not too firm --- but just that right consistency. But, like people, tables do change. I'll have to "suss it out."

I look at my watch; it's exactly 8:30 pm. I arrive at "the Fitz's" two red-felted craps layouts. I'm excited. It's like meeting an "old flame" --- sorta like a secret rendezvous or tryst. Besides, I have this "jones" for action. I haven't been to a casino in over six months. But before I drop my money onto the baize, I decide to watch the craps action. "She" (the tables) had changed! They had become bouncy. Springy. Like Mexican jumping beans. They had, in a word, become --- uncontrollable. I was disconsolate. I had waited for this moment for months. No! --- make that over two years. I had --- in a manner of speaking --- been jilted. I would not even take a chance with the Fitz's two tables. I simply put my money back in my wallet and walked out onto Fremont Street.

Having left "the Fitz," I was now on a mission --- I'm "Looking for Mr. Good Table." I walk up and down Fremont Street: the Four Queens, The Fremont, Binion's, The Vegas Club, The California, Main Street Station --- even back down Fremont St. and across the Blvd. to the El Cortez. Nothing. Nada.

It's now close to 9: 15 pm. I decide to stop at the Golden Nugget (I had stayed there on my last Vegas visit over two years ago). When I had last played the GN's tables, I was not particularly pleased. They just didn't measure up to my requirements. But, I was determined not "to leave any stone unturned." I went to the six craps tables that are located adjacent to the bar. The table that was being used at the time is --- if you can picture this --- the second vertically-positioned table on the left. It's a $5 minimum game. I buy in for $60. I put a "redbird" ($5 chip) on the DP (I start off by shooting "from the don'ts"). My first roll is number (marked with a white puck by the dealer). My goal is to now throw a 7. Instead I make my point. $5 loss. I use the same strategy on my second attempt. Same result. I now switch gears. I shoot from the PL (pass line) with the hope of either shooting "a natural" (7 or 11 on the come-out) or making a point and then repeating that number before the dreaded "7", or "Big Red" --- as that number's called --- appears.

Well, I start "stroking." I throw a number 6 and come right back with that number two rolls later. I'm taking $5 free odds behind my PL bet. My net profit is $11. On my next roll I throw another number. However, this time, instead of hitting that number, I'm throwing a raft of numbers other than the point. I'm upset with myself. I should have a least placed the 6 and 8, or used some "come" bets --- but I didn't. I must have held the dice for about twenty throws. In fact, during one stretch I threw four straight ace-deuces (1-2). I'm happy I've found what I believe to be: "Mr. Good Table." Yet, at that moment, I'm chagrined that I made nearly nothing on what should have been a money-making "hand" (roll). But, just then --- a surprise. A Hawaiian gentleman to my left on the inner hook (I was straightout on the rail) gives me two $25 green chips. He says, "Thank you for an excellent roll." I say, "Thank you very much, Sir."

It's now after 10 o'clock. I take a break from gambling and head out of the GN and walk back to Fitzgeralds' second-floor bar. I order a Corona with a lime. I feel relaxed. Contented. I'm as happy as a dog with a bone. As I take occasional sips of beer, I'm thinking back to how I got started gambling. I must have been about 11- or 12-years-old. I was then an elementary-school student who was living in a section of Boston called Mattapan-Dorchester (pronounced: "Daw-chestah"). Besides playing street and schoolyard games like stickball, boxball and handball, my friends and I would go down a buddy's cellar to play penny-ante poker. Later, that evolved into nickel-and-dime. As the years passed, my friends and I would gamble on just about everything we did: tennis, golf --- even Scrabble. My chief Scrabble opponent was a fellow-nerd named Al. Al and I approached our matches with the same intensity that Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky played chess. In fact, we were so serious that we'd even read the dictionary in our spare time --- sometimes on the hopper (and my mother thought I was just being studious; she didn't see the Playboy I had tucked away behind the vanity). But that was then --- and this is now. I would have never imagined that my early gambling predilections would bring me to casinos in southeastern CT: Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, to the Casino de Montreal, to Merv Griffin's Resorts Casino in AC, to John Ascuaga's "Nugget" in Reno (actually Sparks), to the Illinois casinos, Pair-A-Dice (E. Peoria), the Grand Vic (Elgin), the Argosy's Empress (Joliet) and to the Holiday Inn in Aruba.

As I leave "the Fitz," I'm begin to feel feel hunger pains. I decide to go back to The Fremont and try out its Lanai Express Chinese food offering. In a word --- gross. Sowee! A waste of $7. It's now after 11 pm. (2:00 am back in Boston). I take the elevator up to my room. I figure that I've finished my first day ahead about $50 --- less any food, drink, tips, etc. I'm now thinkin', " I'd better get some sleep." I have a long day ahead of me: gambling, sight-seeing and people watching. Moments later, I get undressed and turn off the lights. Maybe it's my exhaustion from a long day's traveling, but I can't help but conjure up my own personal fantasy: There's this knock on the door. "Come in," I say. The door opens. The light from the hallway reveals a curvaceous, negligee-clad female body. She turns on the light. She's stunning. She's wearing this bright-red teddy with thigh-high, gartered sheer stockings. Oh, did I mention --- spiked heels? "Get real, Walt," I say to myself. "Fuhgettaboutit!" Well, I can dream --- can't I. What will tomorrow bring? In Vegas --- anything's possible! Speak to you in the morning.

Day 2

My body's saying: "Time to get up." I look at my watch (no clock-radio in room). It reads 4:30 am. Only 4:30 am! But then, I think, "It's already 7:30 am back in Boston." No way I'm going back to sleep. Before showering, I take a closer look at my room. I'd estimate its dimensions at 10' by 15'. It has an iron and ironing board in the closet and a safe for valuables. Other than that there are few amenities. The bed itself (king-sized) was fine, but the pillows were softer than I like. The bathroom is postage-stamp sized. The toilet (it was diagonally positioned) looks like it was "shoe-horned" into place. In fact, you'd have to do an imitation of Fernando Valenzuela (former LA Dodgers pitcher) throwing his left-handed screwball (twist-wrist palm-to-the-left) to flush the toilet that was tucked under the counter.

Well, as I step into the shower, I notice that the the shower nozzle is set in the wall at chest height. This may be good for a Pygmy, but I'm six-feet tall. I literally feel like Shaquille O'Neal ducking under a low-ceilinged room. Frankly, it was not one of the more comfortable showers I've ever taken. Oh, I notice this little sign above the toilet; it says that if you use the "five-finger discount" and pilfer one of their towels, they'll charge you $40. They're are lesser amounts for pillow cases, etc. Finally, the door does have a dead-bolt (comforting) and there's a TV on the bureau. The window has louvered wooden slats that keep out any light. In a word, the room was ---- adequate.

Before I leave the room, I decide to call my wife (she must be up by now; it's past 8:00 back east). I try the number on my phone card. No connection. I call downstairs to the registration desk. I'm told they have to "activate" my room phone and that there's a fifty-cent charge for a phone-card call. It's no big deal, yet, it seems like a Micky Mouse nickel-and-dime fee.

After talking with my wife ("Are you having a good time?"), I take the elevator (about 100 yds. from my room) to the casino floor. Everything's pretty quiet. As you might expect at this hour, there are only a few slot players and a couple guys playing table games. There are easily more casino personnel than players. I decide to go on a "Recon Mission." I'm looking for a slot machine called "Spin Till You Win." On the rare occasions I do play slots, the one time I did hit for a jackpot was on the "Spin...." machine (two or three clowns). I looked everywhere. No "Spin" sightings. I also had an eye open for the "Coral Reef" slot (a secondary target). Again, no sightings.

I then decide to go across the street to the GN. I must say before I chronicle the day's activities that the GN is "the jewel" of the downtown hotel/casinos. It's like a "Strip" hotel being transported to the downtown area. Clean Neat. Bright. Inviting. There are many adjectives I could use. I walk toward the back of the casino to the craps tables. There is one that's open. It's the one that I had played only eight hours before. There are only three or four players along the rail. Well, I immediately notice this man (he's the shooter) at the straightout (top of the table) position opposite me. He's got a vast stack of blacks ($100) and greens ($25). Well, about three or four rolls later, he "sevens out." I proceed to ask the man next to me "How's the table been?" He tells me the guy that just sevened out had had a "monster roll" (held the dice for about twenty minutes). "Ouch!" I think to myself. I could have made some serious money if I had been here when he started. The man with all the chips "colors in" to the tune of $6,500!

I begin by playing $5 PL bets and taking $5 ($6 if the point is 5 or 9) free odds. I'm having mixed results. I win on some shooters, lose on others. There is no streak like the one I just missed. When I get the dice I make a pass (point), but I seven-out on my next try. What's interesting --- besides the game itself --- is that one of the dealers (they all have name tags that tell their city of origin) is from Liverpool, NY. For those not familiar with upstate NY; Liverpool is a suburb of Syracuse. I was born in Syracuse. Both my father and mother's families lived in Syracuse. Anyway, we got to talking about Heid's of Liverpool; they served hot dogs, coneys, sausages, fries, ice cream, etc. We also talked about the Solvay Process, Lake Onondaga and the Syracuse Chiefs (now Skychiefs) baseball team. Anyway, about a half-hour later, I decide to leave. I'm about even for my brief craps session.

It's now about 6:30 am. I hook a left out of the GN and walk up Fremont St. toward Main Street and the MSS Hotel. On my last visit to Vegas (Sept., 2003), I had breakfast at MSS's Garden Buffet. I remember it was very good. As I walk past the Golden Gate, I can't help but think about the first time I ever visited Vegas. On that occasion, some fifteen years ago, I took my then 21-year-old daughter. My daughter will travel anywhere. She's been to every continent except Antarctica (as we speak, she's just returned from a trip to Hawaii with her husband and my grandson). My wife, on the other hand, has never joined me on any of my Vegas trips. It's simple --- she hates gambling! My wife's idea of gambling is to eye a piece of jewelry in a dept. store and hope that somebody else doesn't snatch it up before it gets marked down. What do they say: "Men are from Pluto and women are from Neiman Marcus." There's only one way my wife would come to Vegas. "What's that?" you ask. Well, if, some day, they built "The Mall of the World" here. I should have known when I saw her college yearbook candid; it showed her trying on a dress!

I arrive at the MSS. It's about 6:45 am. I go over to where the buffet's located. It opens at 7 am. There's a man standing there. I ask, "Have you eaten at the buffet lately?" He says, "Yes." I say, "How's it been?" He says, "It's OK. Good food," he continues. "But," he goes on, " I think it's slipped. I've been coming here for many years," he added. Well, I decide to walk back down Fremont St. to The Fremont. Before going over to The Fremont's Paradise Buffet, I walk over to the keno station to play four games of Keno. I buy what are called "way tickets," e.g,, one way to make ten, four ways to make five, etc. The cost is $15. I then head for the Paradise Buffet that's just opened. I might mention at this time that my room: two nights, tax included, is costing me $85. That includes three $10 food comps. Also, my flight on NWA from Boston to Las Vegas RT has cost me $190, all taxes included.

About a minute or two later, the hostess seats me at a table not far from the buffet spread. The seating areas are horseshoe-shaped. Frankly, they're difficult to get in and out of. I feel like a contortionist. The food is plentiful. Many chioces. I try the eggs, hash browns, nut bread and even a banana. I also have some hot oatmeal (it turns out to be lukewarm). The juice I'm served tastes like it's from concentrate. The coffee's good. I have to tell you that as much as I want to say good things about the Paradise Buffet --- I can't! It's OK --- if you don't particularly care about the food you eat. I'd rate the whole experience as average. If you're going to eat at the Paradise Buffet, I'd recommend the evening buffet. Of the three seatings, that'd be the best (I use that word advisedly). Also, I'm not particularly fond of the fake trees and shrubs that are part of the tropical setting. It makes me feel kinda creepy. Like I half expect an insect to come out of these leafy shrubs. Not "my cup of tea."

As for breakfast, the best part was my server. He was from one of the Pacific Islands, Pohnpei, in Micronesia near the Marshall Islands south of the Philippines. He was very pleasant. He told me about where he lived and the people on his island. We talked about World War II. Interestingly, a man nearby overheard our conversation and chimed in with his military experiences on Johnson Island in the Pacific. It lead to an interesting three-cornered conversation. I left my server, his name was Style, a generous tip.

After breakfast, I went over to the keno station to check on my play (I usually watch the keno board while I eat breakfast, but I was distracted by my conversations). The keno girl put my ticket into the reader. I'm hoping. Not. I collect .25. So much for a surprise hit. Seconds later, I'm in the elevator and on my way to my room. I chill out awhile and by 8:30 am I'm back down the elevator and on my way to The Fremont's race/sportsbook to play "the ponies." When I get there, I introduce myself to a pleasant woman named Jody who's from Newburgh, NY (near West Point). We talk. She tells me about her two sons. Her 20-year-old is a skateboarding enthusiast who's doing a movie on skateboarding. Jody tells me he's a throwback to the late 60's-early 70s. He loves groups like "The Rascals," "The Doors," "Mamas & Papas," etc. Anyway, I tell her that I'm going to be pumping in some solid action at the racebook. She tells me she'll chart my play to see if I deserve comps. I buy a Freehold Raceway book for a dollar and study it.

It seems hard to believe. It's only 9:30 am and both Aqueduct and Freehold are about to start. I begin by betting some parlays at Aqueduct (you can look at the Daily Racing Form) on a lectern at the back of the racebook. I also bet a bunch of "doubles" (Daily Doubles) at Freehold. Well, neither my parlays nor my daily doubles "pop." I'm down about $30. When it comes to the races, I love to play the "exotics," particularly the pik-3, pik-4, pik-6 and pik-8 (at Freehold). They can be expensive bets, but the rewards can be lucrative. Case in point: just before Christmas I played a pik-4 at Freehold in which I had going into the final leg the only live pik-4 (four out of four) in the country. All the others were paying off on three out of four. Unfortunately, in the last leg of the pik-4, my horse, Cannae Hammer, finished third. If he had won, I would pocketed $5,000. As a consolation, I made a measley $64.

I won't bore you with every last detail. However, suffice to say that I wasn't having a good day. My best chance at a decent win was to have hit for $200 on a pik-3. Again, I'm snake-bit. My horse finishes second. It's now about 1:15 pm. I'm down about $150 after my morning's racing action. I decide to play some craps, first at the GN and later at the Four Queens. In both instances, I have some decents rolls, but not decent enough to make a big dent in my morning's losing racing session. About 3 pm I head back to the GN and go over to their sports/racebook. Although I'm a degenerate gambler, I don't --- nor have I ever --- made sports bets with bookies. Personally, I consider sports betting to be "the crack cocaine" of gambling. In a word --- dangerous. Yet, when I'm in Vegas I will make an occasionbal sports bet. I look over the odds board. I see that Syracuse is playing Notre Dame in basketball. I believe the spreasd is plus 2 in favor of Syracuse and that the over-under is 141. I know little about SU's basketball team, except that they have an excellent point-guard named Gerry McNamara). I decide to make a $33 bet (11-to-10) on the over to make a $30 profit. I end up winning the bet as the Orange prevail 88-82 and easily cover the over.

After I make the bet, I go back to The Fremont to play the evening harness races (4 pm Vegas time): the Meadowlands, Balmoral, and Northfield. Again, my nemesis has been the races. I'm not getting hurt, but I'm losing money in dribs and drabs. The races remind of this beautiful coed I used occasionally date in college. The good part was when I dated her I felt that I was "on top of the world." The bad part was that she was so difficult to get a date with. I don't want to get carried away, but it's like a variable ratio of reinforcement. I get just enough occasional wins playing the races that it keeps me coming back. This type of behavior is very difficult to extinguish.

It's now 8:30 pm. I head for the Paradise Buffet for dinner (or as my family used to call it: supper). Again, a vast selection, but not the greatest quality. Tonight, Wednesday nite, is "steak night." They have a special serving station with cooked-to-order steaks. I try one medium-rare. Again, I wish I could say good things. I can't. My piece of meat's got lost of fat and gristle. I feel like I'm disecting a frog. I'm trying to find little morsels of meat. I felt like I needed a magnifying glass. Dissapointing. The tab for the meal was $14, Hardly worth it. However, my meal was free. Not because I used one of my $10 coupons (I would have had to pay $4 additional dollars), but because Carol Boyd, the racebook manager (a real sweetheart) gave me a comp for my day's racing action.

After supper, I went back to the GN's craps tables. I managed to eke out a small gain. However when all was said and done, I had dropped close to $200 for the day. I was, after two days (actually a day and an evening), down about $150, I walk back to my room at The Fremont. It's now about 11:30 pm. Fifteen minutes later, I "hit the sack." One last full day ahead of me. I can't wait.

Day 3

It's Thursday morning. I look at my watch. It reads 4:30 am. My body may be in Vegas, but my internal body-clock is still back in Boston. No, I'm not going back to sleep. Not with all the action going on around me. I go through my morning routine: the three "S's": shower, shave .... As I'm showering, I still can't get used to seeing the shower nozzle situated on the wall at chest level. After toweling off and getting dressed, I call my wife. It's a little after 5:00 am in Vegas, but already 8:00 am in Boston.

My wife is up. Her first question: "Are you winning or losing?" I tell her that I'm down around $150. She then says, "You better not lose much more." I reply, "I'll try not to." I then remind my wife that she needs to pick me up tomorrow at noon at Shoppers World (Framingham shuttle bus terminal). She tells me she'll be there. A few minutes later, I close my room door and take the elevator down to the casino. As was the case yesterday morning, all is quiet. I decide to walk across the street to the GN. As I'm walking over to the GN, I look up at the canopy high above Fremont St. It reminds me of a large tunnel. I marvel at its construction.

Seconds later, I'm walking into the GN and heading toward the back of the casino for the craps tables. I quickly notice that my favorite table is being used. There are only a handful of players. When I do get the dice, I immediately sense I'm "on." I'm throwing numbers and making money. I'm quickly up $50. To add to my enjoyment, I'm having a great time yukking it up with the craps crew. There's Bryan Arseneault, the pit boss, and dealers, Leroy from Baltimore, MD. and Joe from Dubuque, IA. I'm so into this I'm actually moving the table when I brace it with my left hand when I release the dice. When asked about, "I say that I get excited when I shoot craps." The actual answer is that --- I'm intense.

Because these guys are treating me so well, I'm putting the dealers "in the game." Every time I shoot I'm playing "two-way hardways, a dollar each." So, if I hit the hardway, say a hard six (3 and 3 uppermost), I win and the dealers also win. I also like to put the dealers "on" for another reason. I feel that by putting them in the game, they're rooting hard for me to make my bet. I guess you'd call it trying to create good karma. As it turns out, I do nail a hard ten "for da boyz." They're most appreciative. It's now close to 7 am. I've made about $100 in this early morning craps session. Yet, very candidly, if I had the gonads, I could have easily made five times that amount. But, I do get a surprise. As I'm about to leave, the pit boss, Bryan, gives me an unsolicited chit for the GN's breakfast buffet. "Thanks," I say. "Enjoy," he replies. I leave the table with a very upbeat feeling about how I was treated by the craps people at the GN. First class.

I walk over to the GN's breakfast buffet. I had eaten there twice before when I stayed at the GN over two years ago. It was good then. Also, because I have the comp I don't have to wait in line. In seconds, the hostess has seated me. I get a booth not far from the serving area. My first order of business is to go to the made-to-order omelete station. I have the chef make me an omelet with cheese, mushrooms and onions. To me there's nothing better than a tasty omelet with OJ and a piping hot cup of coffee. When I get back to my seat, I'm not disappointed. In addition, the service is excellent. Kudos to the GN. I later go back up for some hash browns, muffins and Danish. There's a nice selection of crispy bacon and sausages, but, in my case, eggs are as far as I'll go. I take lipitor to keep my cholesterol under control. I finish off the meal with slices of cantaloupe and honeydew melon. I thoroughly enjoy the breakfast experience.

After breakfast, I go back to The Fremont's racebook. As much as I liked the people at the Fremont's racebook (I play there because they're the only downtown casino that carries Freehold Raceway), the racebook itself is very smoky (in fact, the whole Fremont casino area is on the smoky side). Personally, it bothers me. So much so that I would occasionally go outside, or even to another casino. I'm not "sour graping," but The Fremont should address this issue for people who are bothered by excessive smoke.

It's now 9:30 am. Time for Freehold and Aqueduct. Again Freehold's been my nemesis. I'm frustrated. I'm not doing well. Both my Aqueduct parlays and Freehold exotics are coming up losers. I've quickly dropped the $100 I made shooting craps only a couple hours earlier. Yet, I keep plodding on. Still, I can do nothing right. Not only have I lost the $100 (previously mentioned), I quickly lose another $100 on top of that. I'm now down over $250 for my visit.

Shortly before noon I head up to my room to pack my suitcase. Checkout time is 12:00. I stuff all my belongings into my suitcases, double-check the drawers and bathroom and leave a tip for the maid service. I then close the door to my room and head for the elevators. When I reach the registration desk, I finalize my bill that I pay by credit card. I then check my carry-on with the bell captain.

After checking out, I play a few more races at the racebook before I finally throw in the towel and head over to The Four Queens. Their tables, in my estimation are second only to the Golden Nugget's. I play at the Four Queens for about an hour. It's basically a "push" session. Yet, from a social standpoint, it's enjoyable. I have a good conversion with one of their dealers, a fellow named Alan from Vineland, NJ.

At 1:30 pm I head back to the Fremont to use one of my two remaining $10 food comps. I'm not going to beat this into the ground, but it would suffice to say the The Fremont can do a better job with the quality of the food that they serve at their buffets. Just as was the case two years ago when I ate lunch at the Paradise Buffet, the potatoes au gratin was, in my estimation, the best dish. The only bright note was my server. I don't remember his name, but I do recall he was from Cuba (the same country as my son-in-law, Mario). Well, in the course of our conversation, we discussed the U.S. government policy with regard to Cuban emigrees called "Wet foot, dry foot." Particularly, the recent case of a group of Cuban immigrants who landed at a bridge (I believe in Key West) that were not considered to be on dry land because the bridge they landed at was in disrepair, not attached to land. We also talked about Cuban sports figures, particularly major league basaeball players.

After lunch, I decided to head over to Binion's. I'm not enamored with their craps tables; I was just looking for a change of scenery --- a change of luck. Well, anyway, I'm shopoting craps when I notice these two young guys (anyone under 40 is young to me); I'd put them in the mid-to-late 20s. At the time, I believe one of the dealers asked me where I was from. I said the Boston area. Just then one of the young guys chimes in and says, "I'm from the Boston area." I tell him I'm actually from a town some twenty miles west of Boston called Framingham,. He says, "What a coincidence." It turns out he's also from Framingham and his family lives less than a mile from my home. His older sister was one of my former students. Talk about coincidences. It's a small world.

For some reason, I'm nailing this table at Binion's. The kid says, "I notice you fix the dice." I said, "Yes, I do." I go on tell him that I've experimented at home with different sets. I tell him I'd rather do this than just try to randomly throw the cubes. When the "kid from back home" gets the dice, he tries to copy me. I think to myself, "I've created a monster." Actually, the kid did reasonably well. After about an hour I'm up about $40 or $50; however, a short time later I give it back --- and then some --- playing Maywood and Meadowlands harness (will I ever learn).

It's now around 6:30 pm, I use the last of my comps for The Fremont dinner buffet, You know the drill. I'm not going to beat a dead horse. All I can say is if you do eat at Fremont's Paradise Buffet --- do dinner. Actually, through my son-in-law, I've acquired a taste for Mexican food. You know, fajitas, burritos, etc. At the dinner buffet, they did have chicken fajita and refried beans. They were acceptable.

After supper, I went casino-hopping between The Fremont, Four Queens, Binion's and the Golden Nugget. I spent time at each shooting craps. Although I have the resources, I'm just not going to "go tilt." Instead, I played out my Vegas stay in a conservative manner. Had I been up, it might have been a whole 'nother story? But I wasn't. In the end, I lose a few more dollars. I estimate that for the entire trip I lost slightly more than $350; most all my loses came from "the ponies." If, when I visit Vegas again, I'll have to keep this in mind.

It's now close to 10 pm. I'm flying the 1:10 am NWA "red-eye" to MSP. After a short layover, I catch another flight to Boston that gets in shortly before 11 am. Before I retrieve my carry-on and wait outside to catch the Bell Shuttle, I take one last stab at The Fremont's craps tables. I manage to make some chump change. Then, one final fling at The Fremont's keno station. I play two games in the hope of "hitting a home run." Nothing.

Shortly before 11 pm, the Bell Shuttle picks me up. We make one stop at "the Strat" and then it's on to McCarran. Frankly, I feel sad. Although I've had my fill of gambling, I still hate to see it all end. About a half-hour later, we reach McCarran. I print up my boarding pass at one the kiosks, pass through security, and wait for my boarding call. We start boarding a little after 12:30 pm. Yes, technically speaking, I was in Vegas from Tuesday, Jan. 10 to Friday, Jan. 13. Yet, the Friday part could be counted in minutes.

My flight into MSP is uneventful, save for the fact that when we boarded the captain said it was snowing in Minneapolis. Comforting thought. As it turns out, it was just foggy by the time we arrived. Minutes later, I'm boarding another flight to Boston. We arrive in Beantown a little early. I have to say this: It's good to be home. I wait for and then take the bus that takes me to Framingham. It arrives a little after 11:30 am. My wife's not there yet; she arrives about ten minutes later. One of the first things she says to me, "Did you get this out of your system?" I said, "Yes." And then, I added with a smile, "That is until the next time I get the urge to act as an immature male."