'....and then you find yourself back in Vegas with a handle in your hand. You go back, Jack, do it again'

Steely Dan
'Do it Again'


That this trip to Las Vegas (April 7 - 11) came off at all just seven months after my previous visit is, in itself, a bit of a minor miracle.

I have been very blessed in my life in the sense that I have somehow been able to sidestep major heartache, especially in large doses.

The bill came due, however, this past September, and it came in the form of an avalanche of some really bad stuff. There was no 'sidestepping' anymore; I felt as if I had been hit by a bus.

Upon my return from my previous visit in September, within a stretch of time of five weeks the following events occurred, listed in chronological order:

1) My wife of 20 years informed me that she wanted a divorce
2) My mother passed away from pneumonia
3) My best friend passed away from cancer at the age of 45.
4) The company that I work for informed us that they were pulling up stakes from Connecticut and moving to Illinois; I was soon to be unemployed.
5) That dopey, silly, and altogether lovable dog of mine broke loose from the backyard, bolted in front of a car, and was killed.

Now, don't get me wrong here - I fully realize that there are many millions of people in the world that would trade their problems for mine in a heartbeat. But life is, of course, nothing but an individual perspective within the context of one's own little world (at least for self-centered pigs like me). And in my little world, things were suddenly coming apart at the seams.

As much as all of these events hurt, it was the divorce thing that ate at me the most. I guess I should not have been shocked. Nevertheless, I was. You see, from the day my wife and I first met, we have been polar opposites in just about every respect imaginable. Yet, somehow, we managed to fall in love with each other (advocates of the 'opposites attract' theory have our wedding picture in their textbooks). Seemingly, we just have never been able to agree on anything.

If I say 'black', she says 'white'.
If she says 'night', I say 'day'.
If I say 'wanna have sex?', she says 'with whom?'.

Even something as benign as to what makes each of laugh is flip-flopped. She enjoys high-brow, intellectual humor; I, on the other hand, will roar hysterically when the live, disembodied lobster claw pops out of the bisque and clamps down on Curly's nose as he leans over the soup to take in the aroma. I am also extremely amused when a decidedly agitated Moe, wielding pliers, takes out his frustrations on Larry's honker (obviously, I'm partial to slapstick comedy, particularly when it involves nose-crushing, and even more so when a crustacean is thrown into the mix).

(Please bear with me here - a trip report will eventually come out of this. I feel the need to vent a little, although I'm sure my idea of 'venting' is your idea of 'rambling')

I was torn up inside at the prospect of leaving my family (we have a ten year old daughter, whom I absolutely adore). As I mentioned, it was September then, but my wife and I agreed that we would wait until after the new year to file for the divorce - or even tell anybody (including keeping my daughter in the dark). With all the other things that happened, I found myself more and more fighting off depression and anxiety. I had to stay strong for my daughter, at least outwardly. I was popping Zoloft like Pez. Las Vegas was the last thing on my mind.

And then, about eight weeks after dropping the bomb on me, my wife approached me (out of nowhere) and suggested that maybe we should try to work on the marriage rather than just throw it away. She told me she was having second thoughts because she had seen a side of me that she had not previously seen as I went through these troubled times. Huh? My cynical nature compelled me to think about the possibility that this 'side of me' to which she was referring might be the 'side of me' that was inheriting a boatload of money from my mother's estate.

Work on the marriage, you say? Ok, let's do it. Let's communicate with each other - something we had stopped doing years ago, except for the basics. Let's do things together more often. Let's go out to dinner, let's go to the movies, let's go to those parties that we receive invitations to but never attend, let's go away for the weekend once and awhile. Hell, let's watch TV together now and again. Let's joke with each other like we used to. And so, these are the things that we did. I also started surprising her with gifts. She likes it when I do this. Who knew?

I also tried to sneak in the following: 'Hey, let's go to Vegas together, too!!'

The divorce was almost back on. X-nay on the Egas-Vay. My wife will never go to Vegas again. She did it once, and wild horses would fail miserably in any attempt to drag her there again. She despises that city and all it represents. However, since our marriage was now in a much better place, she had no problem with me going on my own (again). I LOVE Las Vegas, you see.

Ok, hon, you don't need to tell me twice. I now started paying attention to the offers coming in the mail, instead of throw them straight into the trash.

In February I received a beauty from Caesars Palace: Good through April, three free nights in a petite suite, up to two more nights at casino rate, and $100 toward comps. I waved this mailer in front of my wife, playfully teasing her. I'll put the $100 toward a massage for you, honey. She told me to 'Get Bent', in a sweet and gentle kind of way, and then told me to have fun, but not TOO much fun. I'm in.

Initially this trip was planned for April 21 through 25, but a conflict came up, and I had to scramble to get my reservations moved up two weeks. Because of the short notice of my change, Caesars no longer had any petite suites available. I was asked if a regular Palace Tower room was ok. I jumped on it.


Finally, the trip report. Thanks for your patience if you're still with me.


THURSDAY APRIL 7

Up at 3:30am, four miles on the treadmill and a half hour of weights to start the day. I felt like Hercules. I wonder why.

I arrived at Bradley (Hartford) at 7am for my 8:10am Southwest flight. This flight had a stopover in Chicago for 1.5 hours. While there I consumed one bite of the worst tuna sandwich I have ever had.

The flight from Midway to LV was full and pretty energetic. I was seated in the back and there were some rowdy guys having some fun (not drunk, just rowdy). While the plane was taxiing to the gate at McCarron the guy directly in back of me shouted 'Let us puppies out of this kennel!!', and he proceeded to do the best imitation of a dog barking that I've ever heard. It just struck me as really funny, and I started to laugh. People in the seats further up turned around, saw me laughing, and gave me a 'you're weird' kind of look. Obviously, they thought I was the barker. Oh, well. I guess it's better than being mistakenly blamed for flatulence.

I scoped out Caesars airport check-in area, but the line was long, so I decided not to wait. I'd just take my chances at the hotel.

The limo guy waiting for me spelled my last name wrong on the placard he was holding. It's spelled 'W-I-G-G-L-E-H-O-F-F-E-R', not 's-M-I-T-H', you fool!

Just kidding. I had indeed reserved a limo (actually, a Town Car) through Caesars to pick me up. They use Bell Trans as their outside source. I was under the mistaken impression that this was going to be charged to my room (and perhaps comped later), but it wasn't the case. I had to pay cash to the driver ($39 plus $21 tip). Live and learn.

I had a very pleasant conversation with the limo driver. A Pittsburgh native, he moved to Las Vegas 16 years ago, and has been driving ever since. He loves it there, he said, and would never move back east. Hell, if I could ever move out of the Northeast, I wouldn't move back there either. Wife won't budge because of family connections, however (this would've been the only good thing for me had we pursued the divorce - I could have broken free of those god awful winters).


As I approached the check-in area I saw that the line here, like the one at the airport, was quite long - not huge, but longer than I had hoped for (I'm the impatient type, especially when it comes to wasting precious 'fun' time in Vegas). I looked up and saw a sign that read 'VIP / Invited Guests', or something like that. There was absolutely nobody waiting in that area, save for a bored looking desk clerk. Now, my offer did not say anything about me being able to take advantage of this little perk. My brain, however, immediately went into full 'convoluted rationalizing mode', and it reminded me that the offer I received did not say that I couldn't use the VIP check-in area, either. So, I stood up straight, threw back my shoulders, puffed out my chest, and put on my best 'VIP face' (meaning I tried to minimize my incessant psychopath-like facial twitching), and I marched up to the counter like I belonged there. I gave the clerk my name and ID. He started fiddling with the keyboard. I half expected the clerk to stop typing, calmly look up at me and say, 'nice try, scumbag. Your particular check-in area is out back by the dumpsters. Enjoy your stay.' But instead, the desk clerk proceeded to blow me away with good news: I was comped upfront for all four nights, not just three, and I was being given 'limited food' for all four night (their non-gourmet restaurants), not just $100 in food comps. I haven't a clue as to why my offer was suddenly upgraded, but I sure as hell wasn't asking any questions to resolve this riddle, either. I acted like 'it will have to do', but inside I was congratulating myself on my first 'win' of the trip. Cool.

Palace Tower, room 1615: What can I say about the Palace Tower rooms that hasn't already been said? Very, very nice. Largest hotel bathroom I've ever seen. (Here's a 'dork' moment for you: While perusing the bathroom for the first time, I found myself admiring the large Jacuzzi tub. Then I looked up and noticed - to my horror - that they forgot to put in the shower head!! E-gads, man! Talk about an oversight! Then a disembodied voice in my head whispered to me 'turn around, dummy'. And there, of course, was the standalone shower stall..... Do you blush when you're by yourself? I do. And I did.)

The view to the room was mostly overlooking the parking garage, but the Mirage was right there, too, and I could see half of TI. There was a bit of an optical illusion working here with this view, as it seemed the top portion of the Stratosphere was coming directly out of Treasure Island. Kind of weird; every time I looked at it quickly I had to look again - just to make sure I wasn't seeing things.

I unpacked quickly - very quickly - and was like a blur going out the door and down to the casino. The first order of business was to find myself a 3-play $1 9/6 JoB machine and the second order of business was to flag down a CW and order the maiden Heineken of my trip. Done and done.

I put ten 100 dollar bills into the machine (this was part of my 'new' VP gambling strategy. My 'old' VP strategy was used for a short time on my last trip and was outlined in that particular trip report. Let's put it this way: The less said about the effectiveness of the 'old' strategy, the better). I played for about two hours, and when I finished the session I was down $350. Not to worry, I told myself. We have not yet begun to gamble. I walked away from the machine with a surprisingly calm feeling.

Calmness doesn't prevent hunger, however, and although it was only 4:30pm, my stomach was rudely informing me that it was 7:30pm back home, and that it wanted to be fed, like right now.

I moseyed on over to the Cheesecake Factory for an early dinner (you may be asking why would I eat at a place that I have to pay for when I can eat a comped meal within CP? Answer: The plan going in was to eat at the CF once during my trip and now seemed as good a time as any). There was virtually no wait, and I was given a table on the patio (smoking section). I had the petite filet mignon and mashed potatoes (sorry, Mom, I passed on having a vegetable). I washed this down with a couple of glasses of white zin. Very good meal. And I managed to refuel without overly stuffing myself and becoming uncomfortable - which is easy to do at the Cheesecake Factory. The bill came to $40 including tip.

Back to business. Time for session number two at the same 3-play $1 JoB machine. Into the machine goes $1000, just like last time. Out of the machine comes $2100, unlike last time. There was a lot of enthusiastic fist pumping during this session. I was hitting quads and full houses like popcorn, including on the deal. That was one sweet session; not a single huge hit, but consistent significant hits. For some reason I like it better that way - positive fluctuation at its best.

I took some time to walk around and explore the casino. It was a bit confusing at first, but I had studied their casino map prior to leaving (via their website), and before long I had it down pat. I stopped by Java Coast and grabbed a coffee, and then I went over to the Slice Bar and ordered a B&B straight up to go with it. Make it a double, will ya? Eighteen bucks, he says. Uh, I think I'll charge that to my room, says I. Holy sh*t.

It was only about 9:00pm by the time I finished my drink, but I was dog tired (up since 3:30am east coast time), so I decided to head up to the room and rest up, knowing full well that I would be probably be up and at 'em again by 4am. As I was walking toward the Palace Tower elevators, something caught my eye. A video poker machine. Hmmmm....what's this?.... 5-play MultiStrike video poker.....hey, I've read about this game on LVA. All I remember is that people keep saying how much fun this game is....and how it can suck your bankroll real quick-like.

C'mon, it's a friggin' QUARTER machine, for cryin' out loud - how fast can it possibly suck, I thought. we'll just see about that.

I sat down at the machine to try it out for a few minutes.

Four hours later, I opened the door to my hotel room to get some sleep. I was $300 lighter in the wallet than I was when I sat down at the machine. No matter. I had discovered the Holy Mother of video poker, and Her name was MultiStrike 5-play. Now, THAT was fun.

As I was about to drift off to sleep, it crossed my mind that somebody else might be playing 'my' machine as I lay here. Just before entering dreamland, I quietly growled like a jealous dog.


DAY 2 - FRIDAY APRIL 8

Damn it, I just can't sleep well while I'm in Las Vegas. The bed was perfectly comfortable, so I can't blame it on that. I guess I can't sleep well in Vegas for the same reason many of you folks can't sleep well in Vegas - because it's, well, Vegas.

I woke up at 5:15am after a total of four hours of sleep. I'm not usually hungry when I wake up but for some reason I was starving this morning. I threw on last night's clothes (piggish, I know, but I showered after breakfast), and I headed down to Café Lago, Caesar's upscale 24 hour 'coffee shop'. The place was a virtual ghost town. I asked for a table in the smoking section. There were exactly zero souls in this area. Just me. Service was good, if for no other reason than it had no choice but to be.

I ordered eggs, sausage, home fries, and toast. I lit a cigarette after I ordered to enjoy with my coffee. My food was delivered so quickly that I wasn't even close to being finished with my cigarette. I said something very witty to the waitress, like, 'Wow! That was fast!'. She looked at me as if there was something wrong with me.

'sir, you're the only customer here'.

Her demeanor and the expression on her face indicated to me that she had come to the conclusion that the person she was presently addressing was not a member of Mensa. She was correct if indeed this was her assumption; I am neither a member nor do I expect an invitation to join any time in the near future. The meal, by the way, was fine.

After going back up to shower, I headed for the casino for my first VP session of the day. I resisted the temptation to make a beeline for the 5-play multistrike. Instead, I stuck to my little VP 'strategy', and I played the dollar JoB 3-play again. I played for a couple of hours, and dropped about $400. The plan was to play multistrike later on. Playing multistrike all day and night seemed dangerous, so I felt the need to mix in some games that were not as volatile.

Ok, now it was time to explore the strip for awhile and check out some of the casinos I had never set foot in during my previous three visits. My first stop was Paris. I liked this place, liked the atmosphere; I thought the lighting to the casino was very well done. I played a dollar JoB machine (8/5, ugh) at the bar, and damn if I didn't hit a straight flush within the first ten minutes. Shortly thereafter I switched to 9/6/5 DB, and pissed away $100 of my profit before quitting. I only played for about a half an hour total, so I don't know if I'll qualify for any offers from them (who cares? I'm a Caesars boy now, anyway).

A silly occurrence while I was at Paris: I stopped and asked a boothling where the nearest men's room was located. The lady responded to me in English but with a French accent. I couldn't understand her completely. She repeated herself, again with the accent, and again I gave her a blank stare. Finally, she pointed and said 'Just over there to the right, sir', in perfect American English. I walked towards the men's room shaking my head to myself. What the hell was that all about? I peed like Secretariat.

My next stop was Barbary Coast just for a walk through. I was not impressed with this place at all. It seemed very dark in there, and claustrophobic. But that's just me.

And, hey, I thought the timeshare hawkers never bothered with people who were obviously solo. I was stopped twice this trip, once at the entrance at Barbary Coast, and once.....I can't remember where. In both cases, I gave the same response - I'm leaving in four hours. Gee, I'll bet that's the first time they heard that excuse.

I didn't write anything about the following little incident in my notes (because it was no big deal), so I'm not quite sure if the chronology is correct. I was approaching the cross-over pedestrian bridge to get back over to the Caesars side of the strip. I was just starting to go up the stairs (no escalator for this guy), and I noticed this old black guy in a wheelchair attempting to get onto the 'up' escalator. You've gotta be kidding me. And then he was on. His wheelchair was leaning back precariously as he moved upwards. It looked like he was holding onto the rail for dear life. Mister, are you nuts??!! I did a quick 180 degree turn and I ran down the stairs and then made a quick U-turn and leapt onto the escalator. I caught up to him and then I just stood behind him, not saying a word. I took a peek backwards at the steepness of the escalator. At that point I figured that if he and his wheelchair did indeed fall backwards into me, at least now he wouldn't have to die alone. He made it to the top without incident.
(Side note: I saw this guy again the following day. Apparently the pedestrian bridge is where he sets up shop for begging people for money. Very sad. I went over to him, gave him $10, and told him that he scared the bejesus out me the day before with his escalator shenanigans. Rather than discuss this, he was much more interested in bumming a couple of cigarettes from me. I obliged. It was obvious that the last thing this guy wanted to hear from me was a lecture on escalator safety. I moved on.)

Back at Caesars, I rubbed my hands together in anticipation as I sat down at my new favorite game, 5-play multistrike (strangely, I never saw anybody else ever playing this game during my stay. There are 2 machines, and they were always vacant. I think that's good AND bad). I put my money in, hit the deal button for the first time, and the machine promptly turned to ice. One thing about multistrike, if you don't have some decent hits on the third and/or fourth lines, you are going to be chum. Or so I thought. Well, I couldn't get any decent hits on the SECOND line for the longest time it seemed. I was mumbling such filth under my breath that a longshoreman would have blushed if he heard me. The machine didn't come close to resembling a certain female body part, yet this was the new name I christened it with. Repeatedly.

I was down between $600 and $700 when lightning struck. On the second line I was still alive with three hands, and was dealt K-Q-J of hearts. The draw saw one of the hands fill the royal, and all was right with the world again. The total payout for the hand was $2010, including the other hands within that cycle.

Now, one should not complain when one has a nice hit like this, correct? Especially when considering how this session could have turned out if not for this lucky royal. I've always enjoyed that feeling you get in your belly while waiting for the floorperson to acknowledge that, yes, sir, I'll need a picture ID before I can give you a W2-G form and pile into your open palms a whole bunch of C-notes. But not this time. The wait was unbelievably long (to my thinking), both for a floorperson to show up, and then again for them to come back with the form and the cash. At one point I asked a passing security guard if he could send over a FP if he saw one. He said, 'I'll try', with the conviction of a man whose only thoughts were of his next donut break. I was even tempted to secure the services of Caesar himself as he walked by with Cleopatra in tow, but that might have been deemed as a little unseemly, so I didn't (but I got the opportunity to ogle Cleo for a bit which was a welcome diversion. Ay, Chihuahua.) From start to finish the whole process took 40 minutes. If that's not too long, then somebody on these boards needs to slap me down, and tell me that this is just the way it is. All I know is that when I have had hand pays at TI (my former 'home'), it never took more than ten minutes. The attitude of the floorperson didn't help matters, either, and maybe that's the root cause of this rant. Can you guess what I tipped?

It was about 1pm by now, and I was hungry and in desperate need of a nap. I went up to my room and ordered room service: a HUGE Caesar salad and a turkey club sandwich. This was too much food. The sandwich had so much meat in it and was so thick that you would need the jaws of a python to get your mouth around it to take a bite. I actually had to disassemble the sandwich and then rebuild it to make it manageable. I ate only half, but it was delicious (the salad and the club).

I then proceeded to take a 3 hour nap (the plan was to lay down for an hour). I was pooped.

After my nap, I went into the forum shops to look for some souvenirs for my wife and daughter. My wife likes stuff from Brighton Collectibles, so I picked her up a necklace and for my daughter I purchased ankle bracelet (which she has since lost - as usual). I just kind of walked around the shops for awhile, looking at stuff and people watching. I popped into the Caesars store for a minute. As much as my wife hates Vegas, she likes me to buy her nightshirts from different casinos. She has one from Mirage and Treasure Island, and now wanted one from CP. No dice. The Caesars store didn't carry them..... and I can't believe I'm writing about nightshirts in a Las Vegas trip report.

Before leaving for Las Vegas I had made a solemn promise to myself: Under no circumstances was I to get drunk and, as a result of my drunkenness, go on 'tilt' while gambling (as I did on my last trip). I made this promise to myself several times.

That evening, I got drunk, and as a result of my drunkenness, I went on tilt while gambling. (By the way, my personal definition of going on 'tilt' is when I play high denomination machines - which I have no right playing - and then when I lose the money that I am carrying, I make a trip up to my room so I can pull some more out of my room safe. And then I repeat this cycle as necessary.)

So there I am, feeling my oats at about 10pm, and playing my one dollar 3-play machine. Nothing unusual here. But I'm getting bored. So what's the cure for boredom? Easy! - move up to playing 5-play at the $5 level!! Boredom goes away very quickly when you put up $125 per hand. The problem, of course, is that your money can go away even more quickly than your boredom. I had approximately $1500 in my pocket at the time. I cannot describe to you how fast this money disappeared. I could not hit anything. It was like the VP machine knew I was being stupid and it was punishing me for it, or at least sending me a stern warning. I did not listen.

I ended up making two trips to my room to pull out a total of $3K from my stash ($1500 each time), and then I would go down to the casino and get bitch-slapped some more. My luck has got to turn, I kept telling myself - it HAS to!

No. No, it doesn't. And it didn't. It got so bad that I switched to playing 9/6/4 DB at $125 a pop, desperately thinking that one good quad would set me straight. But it just was not happening. Damn it.

With tail firmly planted between my legs, I finally gave up and made my way to my room. I was in a mental state of gambling despair. Little did I know that this state of despair was about to turn into a state of sheer panic.

When I reached the door to my room I reached into my pocket to pull out my room key. It was not there. The reason it wasn't there was because the instrument that I was using to carry my room key was not there - MY WALLET IS GONE!!!! My hands were flying from one pocket to another so quickly that if anybody was watching me, they probably would've thought that I was practicing some type of Ninja routine. No, sir. It's gone. I knew it wasn't locked in the room because I distinctly remembered putting my player's card into it when I was finished playing just a few minutes ago.

SH*T! SH*T! SH*********T!!!!!

Did I drop it? Did somebody lift it off me? Who knows?? All I knew is that I was in a world of poop if I couldn't find it. Driver's license, credit cards. Damn. I didn't care about cash simply because I never carry cash in my wallet. But this was going to be a major headache if it didn't turn up.

Caesars' elevators are pretty fast, but they weren't near fast enough for me as I stood on it right now. I needed WARP speed technology at this point. When the doors opened at the casino floor I hit the ground literally running. I was like O.J. Simpson at the airport in one of those old Hertz commercials. I made a beeline for the machine I was just playing. Maybe I put the wallet down there and didn't realize it. No, it's not there. SH*T!!

A floorperson walked by. I explained my situation. She pointed to a security booth that was about 50 feet away. Try that, she said. I walked over there, and as I approached the booth I saw one of the sweetest sights I have ever seen. A security guy was rummaging through my wallet obviously looking for information that would help him find the dope that left his wallet behind. Relief isn't the word, folks. I identified myself and the security guard quizzed me on a whole bunch of info that only the owner of this wallet would be privy to (I guess I didn't look enough like the guy in the driver's license photo to suit the guard. But then who does?) I passed the quiz, he handed me my wallet, and he told me to be more careful in the future. I told him I would, and then I asked him who had found the wallet. He pointed to a custodial guy who was cleaning ashtrays. I walked over to him, thanked him profusely, and then I told him not to wander too far off. I went back up my room, grabbed $40 from the safe, and went back down and gave it to the custodian. He was very grateful, but I told him that he had no idea how much heartache he had just saved me from. In retrospect I should have given him a C-note.

Phew!

I went up to the room and crashed. It was about 12:30am. Before falling asleep I actually thought about terminating this trip early. I suddenly had the feeling that maybe I don't belong here (in Las Vegas). I'll decide in the morning, I thought.

I fell asleep.


SATURDAY APRIL 9

Grow a spine and stop acting like such a friggin' baby. Suck it up.

These were some of my first thoughts when I woke up on Saturday morning. The idea of abandoning my trip now seemed absurd. You're in Las Vegas, for crying out loud. Just stop being reckless and you'll be fine. Cutting back on the alcohol may not be a bad idea, either.

Ok, then. Here's the plan for today: Explore the strip some more. When you gamble, just play at the .25 level for multiline and $1 for single line. No Multistrike today. And drinking is absolutely verboten until tomorrow. (Funny thing is, when I'm home I'll imbibe maybe once every two or three weeks. While I'm in Vegas, however, my brain likes to trick my body into thinking that it is younger than it really is. My liver, more so than the rest of my vital organs, is particularly gullible to this ruse. Somehow, I don't think it will ever catch on. Stupid liver.)

I ordered room service for breakfast; the same eggs, sausage, etc. as yesterday. I took my shower in the interim. The food was still pretty warm upon arrival about 25 minutes later (except the toast, but I can't blame them for that).

I went to the room safe to take inventory of my cash. I had $8K left, so I had blown through four grand in less than 48 hours. (Irritation setting in as I relived last night's debacle while I was counting)

I headed out to the strip. You know how sometimes you have a pre-conceived notion of what a place is going to look like before you ever set foot in it? Well, for whatever reason, I had this certain mental imagery of the Flamingo and Imperial Palace, neither of which I had ever visited. In both cases I was a bit shocked at how wrong I was. In the case of the Flamingo, I had thought that this would be kind of an upscale place. It is not. Those low mirrored ceilings are an eyesore in my opinion. I walked up to Bugsy's Bar just to look at the paytables on the VP. My forefinger got stuck to the screen for a second ( in some sort of transparent gooey substance). Yeeecch. I went to wash my hands and then I left. I didn't like the vibe there, so it was on to Imperial Palace.

Now, I expected to hate IP. But I didn't. Don't get me wrong - I'm not going to pull up stakes from Caesars (at RFBL) and make IP my home. I'm not insane. But, going in, I was expecting to see a dark, desolate casino with the dregs of society sleeping in their spilled beer on dusty blackjack tables. I'm not sure why this was my perception. But it wasn't that way at all. This placed was mobbed, and it was hoppin', and there was hootin' and hollerin', and people seemed to be having a wonderful time. This was at about 9:30am. I walked through the casino slowly because I wanted to soak up this atmosphere a little bit. I didn't stop to play (and I probably never will play there), but that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate what was going on at this place. The dressed up dealers were a hoot to see, really tacky, but in a good, 'Vegas tacky' kind of way. I know a lot of you guys would disagree with me, but I think Imperial Palace is kind of neat. Any place that has so many people having such a good time within its walls cannot be all bad.

From there I went to visit my old haunts, the Mirage and TI. Nothing to note about these places. I crossed back over to step into the Venetian for the first time (I've been to the Grand Canal Shops, but not the casino itself). Now, this is a nice joint. This sounds kind of silly, but I really liked the way the casino smelled. I didn't play here, but I did sign up for their players card. I'm not exactly sure why I did that now that I think back.

I'd had enough exploring for the time being, so it was back to Caesars. I played some quarter 5-play VP (not multistrike) for a couple of hours or so, and I cashed out a little bit ahead after a nice rush toward the end of the session.

Café Lago's line was insane, so I had room service for lunch - a tenderloin tips sandwich with roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and a bleu cheese sauce on top. The bleu cheese flavor overwhelmed everything else, otherwise I'm sure it would have been fine. Enough fries to feed a family, if indeed a family was willing to eat nothing but fries for a meal.

I tried to nap with no success, so I went back to the casino for another round of .25 5-play. During this session I had a hand that had four to the royal pop up on the deal. Boom! The royal filled in on one the hands. My second royal of the trip (and last), and I was feeling better about things, gambling-wise. My eyes looked longingly to the 5-play multistrike machine across the way. It was vacant. And I'm pretty sure that it was calling to me (facial twitch. facial twitch. facial twitch.)

I'm so weak. Well, at least I kept the promise to myself that I would not consume any alcohol today. So far, anyway.

I put the entire $1000 from my royal into the multistrike machine and I went to work. I played for quite a stretch of time and I gave back about $250 of the royal money. Not too bad. Man, I love that game.

I went out to the strip again just around dusk; the lights to the strip were just coming on. There's not a sight like this in the world - Saturday night on Las Vegas Boulevard.

There was no set plan here. I just walked around and took in the sights, smells, music, and Vegas vibes. And I enjoyed every second of it. I don't know why I have this silly notion that I have to be half in the bag to truly appreciate the Las Vegas experience. I was sober as a judge during this walk, and it was one of the highlights of my trip. Just a walk on the Strip with no particular place to go. Sounds corny, but it's true.

There was a kind of weird/funny occurrence during my walk to nowhere. I was near Margaritaville, and all of a sudden I catch a glimpse of an object flying past my face (from above). I hear something hit the ground with some force. I look down and, near my feet, I see a cell phone, or what used to be a cell phone - it is now in two pieces. I look up at the balcony that is part of Margaritaville. People are giving this guy mock cheers for his klutziness, as he is the owner of the cellphone on the ground. I am in awe at this mass of people. It looked like 'standing room only' at an AA meeting gone terribly wrong.

Anyway, the guy calls down to me to toss him his cell phone. I picked up the phone and showed him that it was in two pieces. This pissed him off, and I sensed a little 'kill the messenger' attitude from him. But then I think he realized that he was at my mercy, as I do not believe that his phone was equipped with an option that would make it fly up to him on its own.

He clapped his hands once and then extended them as if to say 'toss it up'. I underhanded the largest piece to him. It was right on target, but he muffed it, and it once again fell to the sidewalk.....and yet another piece broke off. More mock cheering from the gallery.

Now, as amusing as this situation was becoming, I wasn't really in the mood to spend my Las Vegas time watching this guy's phone multiply like an amoeba. And at this rate, I was eventually going to need a dust pan and a whisk broom, neither of which I had on me. One at a time I tossed the pieces of the cellphone into the crowd, making sure it was deep enough into the mob that if it hit the ground at least it would be up there and not down here.

I think it was going to take more than superglue to fix that thing. I continued my walk.

I passed in front of Imperial Palace, and I figured, what the hell, I'll pop in again. There's this bar out front that seems to be some sort of annex to IP (I think it's name is Tequila Joe's but I could be wrong).

I walked inside. Hmmmmm, well now, it looks like I am mistaken. This isn't a bar at all - I've just walked into a F'in insane asylum!!

My brain immediately went into defensive tactical mode, and it dispensed the following sage advice: 'now, Jimmy, this is what you are going to do: First, you are going to smile at these nice people. Then you slowly - very slowly - step backwards toward the entrance. Whatever you do, don't make any sudden moves or in any way draw attention to yourself.'

What I saw inside this place made the balcony scene at Margaritaville look like a church bake sale. Most of these people were in costume and many of these costumes were of the cross-dressing variety. And the patrons were ROARING; laughter, singing, playful insults shouted across the room at each other. Booze was flowing as if Prohibition was making a comeback at midnight. Seriously, I have never - and I mean NEVER - seen a group of people having such a great time. I couldn't help but to grin from ear to ear. Nevertheless, I slowly made my way out of there (before somebody grabbed me, brought me to a back room, and dressed me up like Britany Spears).

Eventually I found my way back to Caesars Palace. As I walked by CP's nightclub, 'Pure', there were security people all over the place. They kept telling people to 'keep moving, keep moving'. I didn't get it. It was Saturday night, of course, so I surmised that maybe they were awaiting the arrival of the 'beautiful people' that would be frequenting their fancy schmancy nightclub. Or maybe some special event was taking place. If so, I had not received an invitation, so I had no choice but to 'keep moving'.

To my surprise, there was a seat open at the VP bar near the sportsbook. I ordered a coke, and then played at the dollar level for about an hour or so. I think I cashed out $50 ahead if I remember correctly.

I was tired, so I went up to the room and watched a movie ('national Treasure'). By far, I had the best night's sleep of the trip on Saturday night.


SUNDAY APRIL 10

I woke up at 6am feeling very refreshed. Waking up in Las Vegas without some degree of a hangover is foreign to me. Hey - this is nice! I felt like a ball of energy.

I called room service for my usual eggs, sausage, etc. (one thing about me - I am not a 'foodie', nor am I adventurous when it comes to ordering meals. If I find something I like, I'll stick with it until I become sick of it).

After breakfast and a shower I made my way down to the casino. This was my last full day, and the plan was that this would be my last day to gamble (despite the fact that my plane was not leaving until 2:30pm tomorrow). So, there was going to be a ton of video poker on this day. Unfortunately my note-taking deteriorated as the trip proceeded (although I did take detailed notes after the 'hooker encounter', details of which are forthcoming). While I still remember the highlights of today's VP play, I don't remember every session. But, trust me, I put some serious action on my Caesars player's card on this last full day.

Multistrike 5-play video poker was my friend today, at least for the most part. In the morning session I was dealt four aces (Double Bonus) on the second line. I had four of the five hands still alive on the second line when I hit, so this was a sweet $1600 (plus change) hit. The hand pay was somewhat quicker this time as compared to the one on Friday, but it was still tortoise-like. This was the second, and last, W2-G hit of the trip. I tipped $20 bucks this time.

I bounced around the casino, playing here and there. I took a bit of a bath on my dollar 3-line machine.
One place I had never seen before was the inside of Bellagio, so I took a walk over there. I was impressed, but I think I like Caesars better. I stopped and played some dollar short-pay VP for awhile at the bar at the Fontana Lounge. I dropped $300 and quit. They seemed to be having some sort of (blackjack?) tournament going on inside the lounge itself.

Nightshirt Redux: I walked over to the Margaritaville gift shop to see if I could pick up a nightshirt for my wife. Like Jimmy Buffett's shaker of salt, it could not be found. Back to Caesars.


And then there was 'the Hooker Encounter'. Let me preface this by saying that I wanted absolutely no part of this prostitute. That said, I did not handle this well at all. The experience was most uncomfortable for me. The following account is very accurate.

It was around 1pm or so, and I found a seat at the VP bar, ordered up a Heineken, and began to play. The bar was pretty full but there were a few seats available. One of these seats was just to my right. A very attractive 20-something lady stands next to this seat and asks me if anyone is sitting here. No, it's open, I tell her. She sits down, the bartender comes by and asks her what she wants to drink, and she informs him that she is waiting for a friend, and that she's OK for now. So far, nothing unusual.

'Are you winning?' she asks pleasantly. I told her that I had just started playing a few minutes ago. Still, I'm oblivious.

'Are you here on business?' she asks a minute or so later.

Like Ray Walston in 'My Favorite Martian', the antennae goes up at the back of my head (this antennae is invisible to everyone but me. Facial twitch.). I'm still not certain, but I am suspicious of this line of questioning. Unlike James Bond, I have never been considered a 'chick-magnet', and even less so when the chick is a knock-out.

I not only tell her that I am here on vacation, but I go as far as to tell her that I am here ALONE. I am mentally kicking myself the second these words exit my mouth. You idiot! If indeed this is a hooker, you just waved her in like a third base coach.

There are uncomfortable pauses in between her questions, but she is not giving up, even as I keep my head focused on the VP game (that's a laugh - I could've thrown away a dealt royal flush and not even known it). I'm hoping that my increased silence is sending her a message.

She's trying hard to keep the conversation going. 'so, what do you do for a living?' she asks. I tell her.

Then I turn to her and look her directly in the eye and ask, 'so, what do YOU do for a living?'

She smiles at me and says, somewhat coyly, 'Well, I'm kind of self-employed'.

We have confirmation. It's a hooker.

I give a knowing smile and say, 'I understand'. Then I immediately turn back to my VP and act like I'm really concentrating. At this point I looked at it this way - I know she's a hooker. She knows that I know she's a hooker. So, I figured that if I ignore her she'll just go away, right?

Suddenly she gets up from her seat and says, 'I'm going to go over to the other side'. I thought she meant she was going over to the other side of the bar.

Phew!! I wished her a nice day. She said, 'no, I'm just switching seats', as she moved over to the seat on my left side. WTF?!

As I sit here and write this, I still don't have a clue as to why she did this. Did she think I would be more responsive if she spoke to my left ear instead of my right?

('Oooooooohhhhhhhh. Now I get it! You want me to pay you a whole bunch of money and then you'll allow me to have sex with you. Why didn't you say so??! SURE!!!........and it's a good thing you switched seats. My right ear is REALLY dense.')

She was not giving up on me. I thought for a second that maybe she would start working on the guy directly to her left, but no, her body was shifted a little to face in my direction.

Then she asked me, 'Would you mind buying me a drink?'

Ok, I've got to nip this in the bud right now. I turned to her and said, as politely as I could, 'Look, Miss, I'll be happy to buy you a drink, but you have to understand that I'm really not interested in anything else, OK?'

She smiled at me very sweetly, very genuinely, almost as if she thought my obvious awkwardness was 'cute' (I was probably 13 shades of red), and told me, 'that's OK.'

She ordered a Merlot, I charged it to my tab, she got up from her seat, gently touched my shoulder and told me she enjoyed meeting me, and thanked me for the drink. And then she was gone. I was ashamed and embarrassed as to how I handled this situation.

It's a little funny - she never would've wasted her time on me had she realized that what she was trying to do was akin to getting milk out of a mechanical bull; I didn't bring my 'pills' with me on this trip.


At about 3pm I went to Café Lago for a late lunch/early dinner. The place was not busy at all. I had a Caesar salad to start. There were no croutons in this salad (anyone who remembers my previous trip report will understand why I felt the need to tell you that there were no croutons). For the entrée I had the surf and turf; a petite filet with a nice sauce, and a large lobster tail. Everything was outstanding. I charged it to my room, and it was comped, so I forgot what the cost was. The service was good.

The rest of the day and evening was all about video poker, mostly multistrike 5-play. I had one more good hit that night. Playing Double Bonus, with 2 hands still alive on the top hand, I was dealt four kings for a cool $1000. Beyond that it was up and down all night.

Early in the evening, while I was playing multistrike, I heard a lady start to shriek gleefully. She was a couple of banks of machines away straight ahead of me (slot machines). I could not see her from where I was seated.

'WooooooHooooooo!!! WoooooooHooooooo!!!! Look at This!!! Look at This!!!'

There would be a few seconds of silence, and then she would start up again with the shrieking. Wow, I thought, somebody just hit big. I stood up to see what I could see. She was hidden from my sight by her machine. Curiously, I did not see any light flashing on any of the machines near where the commotion was coming from. Hmmmm.....the light must be out of order, I thought. But then, I didn't see any floor persons rushing to the area, either. Nobody would react like this lady unless it was at least a W2-G jackpot.....would they?

She just wouldn't stop with the noise. Ok, this has got to be a lifestyle changing jackpot this lady just hit. It HAS to be. I'm not usually a nosy person, but I just couldn't help myself. I pulled my players card from the machine, printed my ticket, and gathered my drink and cigarettes. I walked over to the area where she was playing - nonchalantly, of course. There she was speaking animatedly with her husband/boyfriend discussing what to do with all this money - all $300 of it.

You made me leave my machine for this? To paraphrase Monty Python, I fart in the general direction of you and your $300.

Had this been a true W2-G hit, there is little doubt that they would've had to carry this lady out on a stretcher.

I went to bed at about midnight, but I had an awful time trying to get to sleep. I had consumed too much coffee and too much B&B. I was wired. I was also drinking bottled water like a camel, as I could not quench my thirst. And then, of course, I had to use the bathroom every half hour. The last time I looked at the clock it was close to 4am.


MONDAY APRIL 11 (DEPARTURE DAY)

I woke up at 7am, tired as hell. I'll sleep on the plane, I thought (HA!). I did my usual room service for breakfast.

I went down to the Business Center to print out my Southwest boarding pass (it was an 'A'). The next stop was to get my cash back. I received $318. This equates to 3180 points, and at $44 per point this equals about $140k coin-in for the trip. There would be no more gambling today. I was done. (Comp dollars accumulated were only $380, not a helluva lot more than the cashback. I had thought it would be higher than this, but I assume this had to do with the fact that I had room and meals comped upfront, and therefore the comp dollars added up more slowly).

Gambling damages for the trip: I THINK the actual gambling loss was about $3400. The night I went on 'tilt' (Friday) killed me.

Nightshirt Search (Part #3): I finally decided, to hell with it, I'm going to get my wife another Mirage nightshirt even though she already has one from there. So I walked over there and picked it up. At least it's a different color than the one she has. When I got home and gave it to her, the exchange went something like this:

Wife: 'I already have a nightshirt from the Mirage.'
Me: 'I'm aware of that.'
Wife: 'so why did you buy me another?'
Me: 'I looked all over, but nobody else seems to carry them. Besides, it's a different
color than the one you have.'
Wife: 'the quality doesn't seem to be as good as the old one.'
Me: 'You're welcome. Wanna have sex?'
Wife: 'With whom?'

Back at Caesars I wanted to meet with Matt Colman, who is ostensibly my host. He was not in so I spoke with a young man named Frank who, although is not an official host, assists the hosts from time to time. Or so he told me. He punched me up on the computer and was nice enough to comp everything I charged to my room, except the movie and the tips. This included all my meals, drinks, and some gift shop purchases. He gave a late check out, too.

I just walked around the casino and the forum shops until it was time to cab it back to the airport. The cab driver, in conversation, mentioned to me that he was next door neighbors with Penn Gillette. I think I saw somewhere that Penn lives in a renovated prison (?). Hmmmmmm......

Like a dope I ate at Burger King at the airport prior to the flight. Ugh. I was dying of thirst the whole flight home to Hartford, no matter how much water I drank.

The flight home was packed. It arrived twenty minutes ahead of schedule. The drive home took about an hour. I walked in the front door at about 11:45pm. My wife came out from the bedroom to greet me, and this time, she did not request a divorce. Instead, she threw her arms around me, kissed me, and told me that she missed me. My wife and I are now in a place, romantically speaking, that we have not been in a very long time. I told her that I also missed her.

Then I told her that I broke even.

Life is good again.


Thanks for reading.


Jim
(unemployed.....and LOVING IT!)