“To be(t) or not to be(t).”
A little background:
I am a 40 year old dude from Southern California and have been on an unprecedented losing streak: my fantasy football team epically sucked this year (losing several games by single digit scores); I have been a consistent winner in the same football pool for over twelve years but have yet to cash in any single week this season; my recent poker home games have given me some awful beats; heck, I even lost ‘rock/paper/scissors’ to my wife (loser walks the dog). I was to the point of almost picking fights with scrawny ninth graders so that maybe I could win something. Therefore, when my wife suggested a pre-Christmas Las Vegas trip I was a bit hesitant, tentative about how much I should gamble. I’m not the biggest gambler in the world, but I love what Vegas has to offer. I like gambling, poker, golf, nice restaurants, and booze. I head to LV probably 3-4 times per year, and I’d say I spend my Vegas time doing any of the following: sportsbook, tables, eating well, working out, golfing, visiting new places. Since I was with wife this weekend, it would mean less table time and more fine restaurants and probably some Xmas shopping.
I work as a high school teacher and I teach Literature. Over the last few weeks, we my seniors have been reading Hamlet. While I have been asking my students to examine the play in terms of existential philosophy or ponder Shakespeare’s assertions regarding nobility by birth, I have decided that many of the play’s most famous lines most readily apply to the life of a Las Vegas tourist. So call me pretentious, call me silly, but this trip report will be framed by quotes from the Bard’s most famous play.
“The readiness is all.”
Hamlet says this to Horatio before his big duel with Laertes and I certainly was ready to head to Vegas on Sunday, December 20. The wife and I left OC about 9 am and stopped at the outlets in Primm to do some last minute Xmas shopping. The economy has taken its toll on the outlets as it was not nearly as busy as I have seen it in the past. We rolled into LV about 3:30 and I checked us into our room at the Venetian. We had three nights booked in a Venezia suite at $99 per night. I tried the $20 trick and asked for any upgrades. The lady said she could upgrade me to the Venetian Tower with a view. The room was nice enough, but I found the view to be just ok (mostly looking at TI). Not sure what I would have gotten without the $20 bill. Has anyone stayed in the Venezia Tower? Is it better or worse than the Venetian Tower? Did I get hosed?
To burn off the calories from the stateline Taco Bell, we decided to sneak in a quick workout at the Canyon Ranch fitness center. It’s my favorite gym in LV and I recommend it to anyone else who likes to exercise in LV.
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
This line from Danish guard Marcellus goes to Emeril Lagasse for his new grill / sportsbook. For dinner, I wanted to watch the Panthers / Vikings game and figured that Lagasse’s Stadium would be a good place. We ordered two different appetizers, but neither was very good. The food was waaaaaay overseasoned. And overpriced. Oh, and the service was completely uninspired. I like everything about the Venetian, but I cannot recommend this place. They must be hiring from an entirely different talent pool than the rest of the V. If not for the huge TVs, I would have thought I was at an Applebee’s. I’m not sure if Emeril really wants his name associated with this place. And I definitely think that The powers that be at Venetian should take a hard look at what’s going on here. Every other Venetian encounter I had this week, from wait staff to desk clerks to dealers was fantastic, but every single person at Emeril’s appeared to be anywhere but there.
A few margaritas and an order of spinach dip at the Grand Luxe restored order to the universe. I knew it was going to be an early night as my wife had to fly to Phoenix the next morning for a day of business meetings and I volunteered to drive her to the airport…at 5:30 am. She headed up to the room about 8:30 pm, but I said I would need about an hour to get my gamble on. I walked to the V poker room. Wow, everything I have heard people say was true. Beautiful room and plenty busy for a Sunday night. I was itching to sit down but I was a bit intimidated by the room (I’m more of a Bill’s, IP guy) so I decided to play some Pai Gow poker. I love that stupid game.
“The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape.”
The words Hamlet uses to describe his father’s ghost are the exact words I would use to describe Connnie, my pai gow dealer at the Venetian. She is the nicest, sweetest, most soccer mom-looking woman, but she’s a devil of a dealer. I knew Sunday would be an early-to-bed night so I decided against getting into a poker game. Instead, I played 14 hands of pai gow and went 0-7-7. I didn’t win a single hand. Goodbye $175. I was in bed at 9:15. I should’ve played poker.
So I was in bed by 9:15. Partly so I could be awake when driving wifey to the airport, partly because if I stayed up I would lose more money. You could ask, “why not have her take a taxi?” Well, let’s just say that after seven years of marriage there are certain things I’ve learned. If getting up early to take her to the airport means I can do whatever I want with no guilt in LV, then so be it. We woke up early, I drove the wife to the airport and returned to the Venetian for a quick workout. I hit up Harrah’s Café for breakfast (need to use those Reward Points from past trips) and then drove out to Legacy Golf Club to play a round. I secured a great rate ($49) as my home course is run by the same management company.
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.”
I got hooked up with a local father and son and enjoyed my round. Golf is a wonderfully frustrating game. I’ll never understand how I can birdie one hole and then triple bogey the next. At any rate, I shot an unimpressive 92 (too many wayward approach shots). Great course though if anyone is ever looking for a nice track with some fun holes.
After golf, I cleaned up and headed back to the airport to pick up the wife. We dropped by Mandalay Bay to have some dinner at one of her favorite places (Shanghai Grill), but it was closed so we had some appetizers at China Grill. They actually had a decent happy hour (sushi, fried rice, etc…).
“How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!”
Hamlet’s thoughts very aptly sum up my feelings after I bet on the Redskins to cover 3.5 points against the Giants. I did manage to recoup half of my money by betting the first half total, but when I saw them try that fake field goal garbage at the end of the first half, I didn’t even bother watching the rest of the game. Instead the wife and I cabbed over to Aria to check out City Center. I thought the place looked amazing. It feels pretty futuristic as you drive in. The Aria is pretty beautiful. The poker room looked nice, but I didn’t play. We walked over to the Mandarin Oriental next door and took the elevator to the lounge on the 23rd floor. For anyone who is looking for a nice view and a $19 glass of wine, this is the place. The view outside is impressive, but mightily challenged by the waitresses inside. Wow. We grabbed a quick bit to eat at the Italian place inside the Aria, but the fire alarm kept going off so we left. Food was good but difficult to enjoy with the commotion. The bartender said the alarms have been going off frequently. We returned to the Venetian around 11:30, played some blackjack for a while, lost a little, and then finished up with some video poker for a nightcap…or six. Drunk and not cash poor we headed off to bed.
Tuesday was spa day for the wife and free day for me. I decided to play the Mirage 11 am tournament for $60. We had 27 players. Starting stacks are 5,000. Two interesting hands: hand #1: In the third round, I have about 3800 and look down at QQ in the bb. Middle position guy with about my stack raises 1000, then button goes all-in for about 3200. I make the easy call and MP calls. MP has AKos, button has AQos. Not sure what the percentages were, but I do know I was feeling pretty ok about it. I held up and pretty much tripled up. From there I took a few small pots, tried to loosen up a bit, but couldn’t get any bites. At one point, I actually called a small raise with 2/6 and flopped a straight, but couldn’t get anybody to come along.
“Good night, sweet prince.”
We eventually got down to 11 players. We were going to go to combine to one final table after the next elimination. My table was five-handed and I was utg with the blinds at 300/600 with $50 antes. I look down at KJos and raise to $1600. The BB was the only caller. Flop comes AK7. BB checks. This is where many will find fault with my play. I was thinking he either had an Ace and was looking to check raise or he had a small pair. I just thought that he was expecting me to continuation bet so I checked (hoping to throw him off??? Hoping to catch another card??? I know I was probably waaaay too passive here). The turn was another small card (a three I think). He bet $1,000. I thought for a few seconds and figured I had to raise. Maybe I should have raised less, but I pushed. He thought for a really long time and finally called. He flipped over Ace/8. No help on the river and I was outta there. Maybe I should have folded, but I had below average chips and figured it was 50/50 whether he had a small pair or an Ace. The tournament was run decently enough although the tournament director forgot to tell us to raise the blinds one time. It was on the TV set, but it’s nice to have all the tables reminded anyways.
“Frailty thy name is [Charlie Hustle].”
After going el busto in the tourney, I headed over to the Caesars food court for a slice of pizza (need to use more Total Rewards comps) which I ate it at the bar that overlooks the sportsbook. After downing a free beer (and by free I mean $15 in video poker), I decided to head back to the V by going thru the Forum shops. On the way thru, I walked by a sports memorabilia shop that had a huge sign reading “Meet Pete Rose here today!” I’m a pretty huge baseball fan so I walked into the store to see the cheat---errr, the man himself. There he was sitting at a table behind a velvet rope, talking to no one. The store was empty. I browsed around, having little interest in the man’s autograph. Believe me, I think he was an awesome baseball player, but I have a problem with liars. When will all these public figures realize: In America, it’s not the crime we hate, it’s the cover up. (Do you hear me Tiger??). The funniest moment happened when an older Filipino lady walked towards Pete, stared at him like she was at the wax museum, points at him and shouts, “THAT YOU? THAT PETEY ROSE?!” Pete lifted his eyebrows but refused to respond otherwise. I got the feeling that he’s not supposed to address anyone unless they buy something for him to autograph. Sad. Although based on my next sports betting choice, perhaps I should have sought his college football input (details to follow). Instead of walking to the Venetian I headed over to Bill’s to see if I could play some poker. There was only one table going and it was full so instead of being patient and waiting for a seat, I played some more Pai Gow. Found a great table of fun people and was up. For about fifteen minutes, then the slow bleed happened. Sayonara to my hundy.
“We defy augury.”
Hamlet says that people don’t pay attention to bad omens. Is he right? Let’s check: my fantasy team is in the toilet. I dropped $275 in two short sessions of freaking Pai Gow. I lose a poker tournament, dropped many dollars in VP, and even bet on the dREaDskins, so why do I insist on more gambling? Because I have a problem obviously. Also, I’m in Vegas and it’s too dark to head back to the golf course. As it turns out, the Oregon State Beavers are staying at our hotel in advance of their game with the Cougars of BYU. I figured it was worth a $55 bet on the Beavs to cover 3.5 points. Actually I wasn’t convinced until I remembered watching a bunch of the players head up to their rooms at 10 pm the night before. “That’s a good sign,” I said to myself. As you probably know, BYU d-e-s-t-r-o-y-e-d Oregon State. Damn all Beavers. The wife and I spent the rest of our final night playing a little VP and had a late supper at Il Postrio inside the Venetian. Excellent food and service. The bartender even threw me a few drink tickets from the sportsbook. When we went to redeem them at the sportsbook bar, Mark May (ESPN college football commentator) was sitting by himself drinking Bud Light and playing video poker.
We woke up Wednesday a.m. and began the long trek back to Orange County to prepare for Christmas. All in all, I didn’t play nearly as much poker as I would have liked, but with Xmas coming I didn’t want to risk a whole lot of money—and with my skill it is a risk. Thanks for reading; I hope everyone is having a great holiday season.
“The rest is silence.”