Random thoughts about my interests which include (in no particular order) poker, finance & investing, politics, football and whatever else I happen to see that piques my interest

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Back in Paradise

This post was started and mostly finished last November after our last Vegas trip but then I just got away from the computer and haven't posted in a while.  So before I post some more recent stuff I thought I'd finish this up.  Sorry about the delay, wish I had the dedication of some of you good writers or even of TBC but I sometimes lack follow through - like you don't know that. 

When I was a child, living in the frozen north, I always thought Florida must be Paradise.  After all it doesn't snow, it's almost never cold, and people up north came down here in the middle of winter and could even go swimming.  While those of us of the poorer variety shivered in our parkas, the more well to do among us came back from winter vacations and they were tan.  Like not white.  Florida must be paradise.

Now I live here in Paradise.  And it doesn't feel so paradisical (is that a word?).  After all I just left Paradise, at least the town of Paradise, in Nevada.  And at least there it was paradisical, at least in the twisted Las Vegas way.  I was surprised to find out that the Las Vegas strip isn't in Las Vegas.  Most of it is in unincorporated Clark County in the Town of Paradise, including the Flamingo Hotel and Casino that we spent most of our time in.  I was a little surprised by this but in looking at a map of Las Vegas, I can see the city limits end at Sahara.  Paradise also contains all of McCarren Airport.

On Sunday we landed in Paradise around 3:30 pm.  We got our bags and rental car pretty quickly, unlike our last visit, and by 4:30 we had arrived at the Flamingo.  The flight in was pretty good and I was able to watch the Jets beat the Steelers on my Ipad while inflight.  That was a surprise.  We got another surprise when we arrived.  The line at registration was at least 30 people long.  Ugh. 

Luckily the Poker Queen used her eagle eyes and spotted this sign by a door to our left.  "Aren't you a platinum member?" she asked me.  "Why yes I am."  So I head toward these gold colored double doors where this nice lady opens for me and walk into Shangri-La.  "Is this where Platinum registration is?" I asked one of the reps behind the desk.  She told me she was just about to go on break but to step right up and she'd take care of me.  And she did.  Even waived the resort fee for me.  10 minutes after arriving at the Flamingo I was walking into our room overlooking the strip facing right at Caesars. 5 days comped at the Flamingo, I'm not PPP but sometimes it's good to be me.

We were pleasantly surprised by the room.  Obviously they had been redone in the recent past.  Wood floors (probably laminate but still a change from any other room I've had), roomy, decent sized bathroom, basically a comfortable room.  And the shower was great.  First hotel in Vegas I've been in where the water really comes out hard.  While every other place seems to have these low flow nozzles in their showers, the Flamingo doesn't seem to care.  I swear I could have cut a side of beef with that water stream.  It really felt great.  We gambled a bit Sunday night and had dinner at Margaritaville right there in the Flamingo.  Decent dinner, lousy gaming results.  Since we were still on Eastern time, we were off to bed fairly early. 

That was the tone of my whole trip.  Latest I slept on any day was my final day in Vegas and that day I awoke at 6:52 am.  After going to bed after 2 am.  Wake up early every morning and lose money.  Some days were better than others and I did make some money on some days but the fickle finger of fate never really touched my brow and provided me with monster cash.  Still this was a great vacation and I came home with money in my pocket so from my perspective, that's a win.

I was going to do this post in a chronological order but that seems boring.  On Monday I went here,  on Tuesday I did this.  I imagine many of my posts are pretty dry so I think I'll do this post in a more scattershot style and just give my impressions of certain things. I will start with Monday however because that's the first full day we spent in Paradise. 

Started the morning with an early breakfast in the Hash House A Go Go (since we were both up at 4:30 am) in the casino formerly known as the IP.  Tremendous breakfast.  The PQ took the usual Tractor Driver Pancake Combo with scrambled eggs and a Snickers pancake bigger than her head.  And as usual she ate about half of it.  Hell Ethiopia would only eat about half of it.  I had the biscuits and gravy with eggs and potatoes.  They put the grilled mashed potatoes under the biscuits and gravy.  It was perhaps the best I've ever had, though not peppery enough but then I like a lot of pepper in my B&G.  And to think I never tried it until I was at least 24 or so.  They just didn't serve this to us up in Rhode Island when I was young.

To me - Breakfast Heaven on a plate.  My cousin's response?  "Oof, who pre-chewed your food?"
There was some kind of problem in the kitchen and my order was delayed about 5 minutes or more than the PQ's.  The waitress was very apologetic.  Hell I worked in restaurants for many years and I know what can happen and I told her not to sweat it.  My guess is she gets a lot of customers who aren't very nice when there is a problem because she was so very relieved I didn't make a fuss.  Like what kind of person abuses a waiter/waitress over a problem with an order.  I'm sure Vegas brings it out in some people, after all you're probably never gonna see these people again but what's the sense in that?  Do you really feel so much better abusing a member of the staff because your order is wrong or late?  My take is why do you want to antagonize a person who can possibly spit in your food?? Anyway she left a really nice note on the receipt thanking us for being so nice and wishing us a nice stay. 
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day so I planned out places to go to breakfast in Vegas so that we would hit some different places we had never been to.  Usually we have a really good breakfast and then we don't eat again until dinner time and we followed that routine every day but one.  I found a site listing the best cheap breakfasts in Vegas and used that as a guide.  Of course Ellis Island was on it and we did hit that one day so that the PQ could have the steak and eggs breakfast for 5.99.  Personally I think that is the best deal in town as they give you a 10 oz NY Strip with eggs, potatoes and toast.  I actually decided I was in the mood for corned beef hash instead which was also good but the steak and eggs are the star.  They actually had Hash House on the list which surprised me as I don't consider it cheap however for the amount of food they give you, it's a helluva deal. 
We also went to another favorite, The Peppermill so that the PQ could eat half of her chicken fried steak and eggs breakfast and I could eat half of Munch's Breakfast.  I usually cannot get linguica sausage here in Fla so that's my choice there every time.  I think my post last year had a picture of that breakfast.   Our retired friends Chuck and Karen came up from San Diego to see us and we introduced them to the Peppermill.  As we were about to enter, my wife said to Karen and Chuck, "Prepare to go back to the 70s."  They enjoyed it greatly and split one breakfast between the two of them.  And of course no trip to Vegas is complete without the breakfast buffet at the Bellagio.  Even at 18.99 it is maybe the best deal on the strip IMHO.  The choices are nearly limitless.  We picked the perfect time to hit it too as they got pretty crowded about 15-20 minutes after we arrived.  We walked right in when we got there just after 8. 
We hit a couple of new places we'd never been to as well.  I gotta tip my hat to my lovely wife there.  I'll find someplace to go and she comes along like a trooper.  Her only request is "please don't let it be too sketchy."  Last visit we hit Blueberry Hill.  This time we hit a place named The Egg and I on West Sahara I believe.  I don't remember what the PQ had but I had an Italian Omelet with Italian Sausage, Peppers, Provolone and Marinara.  It was excellent and the breakfast potatoes were terrific too.  We will definitely include them in our next Vegas visit.  I wanted to hit Marilyn's café in the Tuscany Suites and Casino.  I'd never been there before but they looked to serve a good breakfast.  We did spend a little time in the casino one day and enjoyed it though neither of us had much success.  Our last morning in Vegas I didn't feel like going anywhere so we ate in the café at the Silverton Casino where we spent our last night.  It was pretty tasty.  Here's a breakfast sampler to whet your appetite

 Munch's breakfast at the Peppermill
Corned beef hash and eggs at Ellis Island
Italian Omelet at the Egg and I. 
Hope you weren't hungry when you got to the pictures.  I'm hungry now so maybe this wasn't the best time to post all these pictures.  One thing I love in Vegas, every restaurant offers Sourdough toast with breakfast.  I can't get that here in Florida very often.  Our other meals were pretty good too.  We had one lunch with our pals Karen and Chuck and went to Gordon Ramsay's place Burgr in Planet Hollywood.  Nothing was thrown and ole Gordo makes a fine burger.  The fries may have been the star of the meal too.  They were awesome.  Friday night we went somewhere I always wanted to go, the Steakhouse at Binions.  All the way up on the 24th floor.  Surprisingly it was not busy but I made reservations anyway.  We had a great meal and the view was fantastic.  I recommend everyone try that sometime. 
Now that I got food out of the way I guess I should touch on the gambling side of Vegas since I suspect most of my readers are (like me) degenerate gamblers  action junkies of one sort or another.  I can't say it was a really successful gambling adventure for either the PQ or me.  She did hit a couple of good quads while we were there, one time for $500 on the Video Poker.  As for myself, my luck at Video Poker was mostly dismal but I did have a couple of decent runs on the craps tables.  Unfortunately I had a few bad runs as well.  I never lost more than $100 or so on any one table and I did pick up a $300 profit one day at Red Rocks but never did I get on one of those historic runs where I throw for 40 minutes and hit a pile of numbers. 

One of my few successes in Video Poker
I only got in one session of regular poker the whole time we were there.  Unfortunately I never completely acclimated to the change in time zones so both the PQ and I were up early every day but at night when the poker rooms start getting busy we were getting tired and I wasn't going to play tired, that was just a recipe for disaster.  The 2nd to last night we were there I did spend about 4 hours in the poker room at the Flamingo playing 1-2 N/L.  Lost one nice pot early when my flopped 2 pair were run down by a river straight.  I felt I played it ok, I didn't give the guy the odds to draw to it but there are some people you can't get out of a pot.  A little later I made some back when I turned a straight and got the table maniac to pay off my river bet with his 2 pair.  I felted him a little later when he bluffed the river at me.  I had to make a decision whether to call with TPTK as I had flopped an Ace.  Eventually I decided the odds were he at best had a worse ace or a complete bluff and I was right.  That put me up nicely for the night.  Unfortunately I didn't keep it all. 
I thought I might have an historic night of poker when this lady across from me raised in early position   She had impressed me with her play earlier so I gave some credence to her raise but decided to call in the cut off with 66.  Bingo on the flop with J 6 2 rainbow.  She bet and I just smooth called along with one other guy.  Turn was a 7 putting two spades on the board.  She bet again and this time I put a healthy reraise.  She gave me a long look after the other guy folded then decided to call.  The river was the Ace of spades which I didn't like but I did not put her on a flush draw.  She then bet into me for $40 which I found curiously small considering there was over $150 in the pot.  So feeling a bad result in the offing I just called instead of putting her all in.  Good decision as she flipped over AA for a bigger set on the river.  That hurt.  It put me down just a little bit for the night but I plugged on and managed to makes it back up on a couple of other hands to finish the session up $50.  Not the best result as that Ace was the difference between a little profit and a major score.  Still I was satisfied with my play for the most part.  And if poker has taught me one thing it is good play does not always equal good results. 
Unfortunately that was the extent of my live poker playing for the trip.  Not even a tourney and I had hoped to play in 2 or 3 while we were there.  But damn we stayed busy and gambled a ton.  We did some sightseeing and spent time with friends.  And there was the time change factor.  Next time I'm gonna make sure I get a few tourneys and some more live play in but this time it was not meant to be. 
We did do some touristy things like go up in the High Roller ferris wheel.  We got free passes from our Caesars Total Rewards membership and our pals Chuck and Karen got on free because it was Veterans Day and he is retired Navy.  It really was a sight to see going up there.  I don't do well with heights but I had no problem as long as I didn't get right against the edge of the cabin.  Wow do you go up high.  Here are some pics we took

The Venetian where I will stay after I win the Lottery

A view toward the Hard Rock and UNLV.  Enjoyed gambling there

Unfortunately I had to chose between gambling or playing 1 round of golf on the Wynn Course.  Budgets suck.
We also went up Mt Charleston one day.  While it was 70 in Vegas proper, the more outside the city we got the chillier it got.  Of course Vegas sits in the bottom of a valley and even going to some place like Red Rocks Casino puts you at least 1000 feet higher than on the strip.  We got up to around 7000 feet on Mt Charleston.  It was much cooler but really a nice drive with some great sightseeing.  You don't have to get far out of Vegas to be in the hinterlands, that's for sure.  On the way to the mountain we passed a few small housing tracts including this one street off the main road to Mt Charleston

We proved the sign was right when we visited the famous Entering Las Vegas sign south of the strip

And Elvis himself put in an appearance.  Whoda thunk it?

We took the time to travel to a number of casinos we had never gambled at like the Hard Rock, Tuscany Suites, Wynn, Encore (both beautiful by the way but definitely for higher budget gamblers than we are) Planet Hollywood, and the Silver 7s.  I could pass on the Silver 7s but the rest were fun.  We really liked the Hard Rock and the PQ had some good luck there.  Tuscany Suites was decent, better than I expected.  We also gambled at Ellis Island before and after breakfast there and spent a bit of time at Green Valley Ranch though we had been to both before.  We really like GVR and they have the best odds on Double Double Bonus VP machines.  Off strip we probably spent the most time at Red Rocks where we both had some success and for an off strip casino, it really is a nice place. 

I went all PPP here for my best score of the trip of course at the Red Rocks

Before I finish I think I should touch on one of my previous posts about Downtown Vegas.  Man when night falls and the "performers" come out, especially on the weekend, it gets WILD.  People dressed like dead famous people (I saw Chris Farley and Marilyn Monroe), good lookin gals in next to nothing, whack-a-doodles in next to nothing.  You name it and it probably prowls the Freemont St area on weekend nights.  We were there both Monday night (night before Veterans Day Holiday) and Friday night after our delicious dinner at Binions.  Here are a few of the sights

Chris Farley hits on an angel on Monday

On Friday a different angel tries to reform the Green Goblin while an Indian wonders where it all went wrong

Angels seem to be a popular theme downtown.  

All in all it was a great trip even though it wasn't profitable.  But damn was it fun.  Can't wait to do it again but I suspect it will be a little while until that happens.  Until then I better practice my craps throws and get in some local poker to tide me over.