Saturday, October 19, 2013

Las Vegas Baby!

Having been to Vegas many times (perhaps too many times), I didn't think to take a lot of photos of this particular trip.  We were on our annual "Boys' Trip" where the men of the family would spend a long weekend gambling and eating.  And eating and gambling.  Oh, and drinking lots of wine as well.  And then more gambling and eating.

If we were younger, we might be tempted to go to the night clubs, or pool parties, or even run amok on ATVs.  If we were older, perhaps we would spend lots of time shopping or going to watch "that" particular lounge act.  For us, however, it was all about the food, wine, and winning money.  Oh yeah, and enjoying each others' company as well.

After we landed, we drove straight to the hotel.  I tend to be a superstitious gambler.  As I entered the hotel, I found my good omen.  Steelers mopeds!  In Las Vegas of all places!  I am a life long fan of the black and gold, and this surely was a sign that big winnings were around the corner.

We checked into the Wynn, where we were given complementary rooms.  There are benefits, I suppose, of being degenerate gamblers.  For the second and third nights, we would move next door to the sister property Encore into a suite so that we could all room together.  Nonetheless, we tend to be equal opportunity degenerate gamblers, and would play at many of the other casinos during our stay.

Our favorite place to gamble is the Bellagio, largely because they have the best craps dealers.  Moreover, even after all this time, it remains the grande dame of the Strip.  Steve Wynn may be a genius, and his new properties (the Wynn and the Encore) are gorgeous, but even he is struggling to top his original creation the Bellagio.  The water show in front of the hotel remains the signature sight on the Strip...especially with "Paris" just across the street.

But enough sightseeing.  We headed straight to the craps tables.  On the way, I was surprised to see that the Sex and the City slot machines were available.  From prior experience, there was usually a line to play these particular one armed bandits.  I personally am not a big fan of either SATC or slots, but the rare empty seats tempted me to see what the fuss was about.  Then I thought better.  I didn't need to give the other guys ANY more reasons to ridicule me.

We love to gamble, but we also know how to cut losses.  Every time we come to Vegas, we have a "loss limit" where we vow to stop playing if our losses exceed a certain amount.  We generally stick to it, too.  Unfortunately, after a mere hour at the craps tables on our very first day, we were within a couple dice throws of hitting that limit.  Arrrgh.

We decided we needed a break, so we headed over to "Old Vegas."  Most visitors to Las Vegas remain exclusively on the Strip, but Old Vegas is in downtown, and has a charm all of its own.  It is geared more towards the local population.  The table stakes are lower, the crowds more blue collar, and each of the casinos has their own quirky marketing campaigns to attract visitors.  I mean, what's with these costumes?

We played in Old Vegas and had a great time, and the stakes were sufficiently low that winning or losing didn't matter as much.  We decompressed and had some fun.  The dealers are friendly, the vibe more laid back, and the free drinks are still free.  We actually ended up winning at the tables, but it didn't really make a dent in the earlier, very painful losses we suffered on the Strip.  Still, we hoped that our new luck would carry us forward for the rest of our stay.

It was now time to eat.  One of our favorite eateries in the area is actually in Henderson NV, a short drive away.  Todd's Unique Dining has some truly marvelous food (oh those short ribs!), and their corkage policy is reasonable.  We had lugged many bottles of our own wine to Vegas for this trip, and settled into Todd's for a great meal, as always.  The picture below tells the entire story as to our level of satiety.

Afterwards, we drove back to the Strip and, with a little bit of trepidation, headed back to the craps tables.  We certainly didn't want to be forced to stop gambling with several days more to go.  There was a convention of doctors in town, and they were a friendly bunch.  We chatted with them, and everyone was in a jovial mood.  Then I remembered the earlier omen.  The black and gold!  When it became my turn to shoot the dice, I started calling out to Lynn Swann (come on 8s!), Jack Lambert (only 5s and 8s baby!) and their Steelers teammates.  I am not sure whether those Hall of Famers were listening, but our luck immediately changed.  We started winning, and winning big.  Don't knock omens.

Those who have been inside casinos know that a hot craps table makes by far the most noise and commotion in the entire place.  Our table was screaming and hollering as each shooter rolled the dice, with more good rolls than bad.  By the time we headed to bed, we were pretty sure that we would end the trip well in the black.

Our luck would fluctuate a bit in the following days, but fortune generally shone on us.  And that enabled us to enjoy more great meals, including our traditional steak house dinner at the Bellagio.  The bone in ribeye was so good that we had to gnaw at it.

We ate great food at our other traditional restaurants, including Lotus of Siam, which might offer the best Thai food this side of the Pacific Ocean, along with an unbelievably extensive wine list.

By the time our trip ended, we were all happy with our winnings, and the great food and wine.  Most of all, though, we were happy that we got to spend time with each other, as nothing beats family bonding.

As we watched the Bellagio water show that final evening, we all had the same thought:  Can't wait until next year's trip!

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