Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky!

Well, Bally's is the Kentucky of casinos...

Wednesday was another wonderful day off. Except for getting up in the morning to make that last update here on the website, I pretty much slept all day, finally waking up around 3:00 in the afternoon.

With the head cold and all of the running around I did the day before, the rest did me good. I woke up today feeling much better, and except for a few sniffles, I hardly seemed sick at all. That Zicam stuff really works.

I got a few household chores done, and David called me yesterday afternoon asking me to see if we could get into Bally's Steakhouse for dinner. If not, he asked if I had any other suggestions. I don't kno--Bally's Steakhouse didn't seem too appetizing to me, so I suggested Mon Ami Gabi. He was cool with whatever, but just wanted something nice. When I hung up, I suddenly realized my manners, and if he was treating, I should probably go where he wanted. So I looked up their website, found it under that smelly Harrahs umbrella, and gave them a call.

Dinner for five at 7:00 pm was no problemo, so I called David back and plans were finalized. I showered, got dressed, and chit-chatted with Sticky for awhile on the Yahoo messenger thingy before it was time to go. I had to stop at the atm before I went to the Strip, but I still made it down there in record time, not hitting a single stoplight, and was about forty five minutes early for our reservation. Thinking everyone would probably be there already, I wandered around all the bars and lounges looking for familiar faces, but found none.

Hmmm... Whatever should I do? Oh wait. There might be a Pai Gow table somewhere in the casino, I thought. So I wandered a bit more. Unfortunately, there were only two Pai Gow tables open, but both were completely full--no seat for Mikey.

Instead I found a spot at the end of a $5 dice table and bought in for a hundred, hoping it would last until dinner, a half hour later.

I hate coming in during the middle of a roll, but the guy with the dice seemed to be doing well, and everyone had lots of checks on the rails in front of them. That was a good sign, so I placed the point by straddling the pass line, and put five bucks out in the Come. Brothaman kept rolling the dice, and by the time he sevened out and they wiped the table clean, I was up $25. Not too bad, although I wished I would've gotten there sooner.

The next shooter was even better, and she held the dice for two stickman changes. Once she sevened out, I colored up for a $150 profit--2 black, 2 green, and 2 white. The two white stayed with the boys, and I headed over to restaurant.

One thing about dice at Harrahs properties. They've changed their odds on all the prop bets, so they're even bigger sucker bets than usual. Most casinos offer the one-roll props at 15 TO 1 or 30 TO 1. Not so with Harrahs, they changed all of their layouts to say 15 FOR 1 and 30 FOR 1. So instead of getting $11 on a whirl bet, you only get ten bucks. If you bet the High-Low, and a 2 or 12 hits, instead of getting $29 (and the bet staying up), you only get $28. I found this out because I deal the game, and had a whirl bet up on the come out roll and the dice landed 6-5. I was expecting $11, but when they only gave me ten bucks, I told them that they had their payout wrong. The dealer pointed to the odds posted in the center of the table and just shrugged his shoulders as if to say Sorry dude, nothing I can do--we're supposed to rip off tourists here...

I swear, Harrah's is turning their casinos into clip joints, and they're not even hiding it now.

Once I got to the restaurant, I checked in with the hostess but nobody else had arrived yet. But they all showed up just a minute or two later. David and Cyndi were there, along with two of the guys that work for David--Art and Joe.

We were seated immediately and Cyndi and I realized that we actually *had* been there before--that's where the buffet is for Bally's Sterling Brunch. Our table was located where they normally keep the dessert stations.

The waiter was Johnnie-on-the-spot with cocktail orders, and David also ordered a bottle of Merlot. It took us a bit longer to get water, but once it showed up, they kept our glasses full. A few minutes later a basket of assorted breads was delivered, along with butter, of course.

The menu looked very good, and I opted for Old Reliable--my favorite steak, the bone-in ribeye (and I surf & turfed it with an order of grilled shrimp!). I went with French Onion for my soup, and a giant baked potato on the side. Cyndi had a filet and king crab legs. David had the same, and I think Art and Joe also had crab legs. Everyone else had a salad instead of soup.

Dinner was lots of fun--we always have great conversation when we get together, but the food was outstanding. Believe me, I never even considered Bally's Steakhouse before--it never even made it to the list of places to try, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I will even heap on a superlative here--Out of all the bone-in ribeyes I've ever eaten in this town, this was absolutely the best. I couldn't even begin to describe how tender and flavorful it was. No sauce was needed at all. But Cyndi had a little bearnaise sauce with her filet, and I tried a bit of it, and was floored by how good it was. Normally I'm not a big fan, but I really enjoyed this particular variation. My shrimp were excellent, too, so I was quite pleased with my meal.

I have no idea what the total bill came to, it went directly to David and he picked up the check for the whole party. Business expense, I'm sure. But the entrees were priced in the mid thirties and the sides about six bucks each--your typical steakhouse pricing. Of course we were much too stuffed to even consider dessert or coffee, and Cyndi and David were both exhausted after a long day of meetings, plus they had to get up early for even more business-related activities. So we said our goodbyes--chances are I won't see them again before they leave on Friday.

I was all ready to call it a night, but Art and Joe asked me if I'd be willing to teach them how to play Pai Gow. Can't turn that down, and since I had a pocketful of house money, I was happy to do it.

By the time we got finished with our dinner, the swing shift dealers had reported for duty, and they opened more tables. So we found an empty one and bought in.

It didn't start out well, but we managed to grind out a few wins here and there. Once they changed dealers, it went downhill, so we moved to the table next to us. It was a lot of fun and after about a half hour or so, Art and Joe had completely grasped the concept and were really enjoying themselves. I, on the other hand, couldn't catch cards to save my life, and even though I was still up for the session, decided to return to our original table. I played there for about a half hour, doubled my buy-in, and called it a night.

I said goodbye to the fellas, and they said they'd try and make it out to my casino the next night and play at my table. I walked to the cage with a little spring in my step, because when I left, I had $250 more than I arrived with. Couple that with a great steak dinner, and it was a pretty damn good evening at Bally's.

There is no buffoonery scheduled for Thursday. The only thing I'm gonna do is go down to the bank and then mail off a couple of bills, paid with house money. Then it's back to being Monday morning for me and I head back to work.

But I sure had a fun weekend. Doc Al arrives next week, so I gotta get some rest.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Button Up, Campers...

Because it's cold outside!

A serious cold front has moved into Las Vegas, and they say it's gonna get down below freezing. No big deal to you Hearty Souls of the North, but we thin-blooded desert dwellers are downright uncomfortable. I own no parka, galoshes (what the hell are those, anyways?), ski masks (had to retire it after that bank job...), an Elmer Fudd hat with floppy ears, or long johns. And now that I no longer work in an office, you'll be lucky to find a long-sleeved shirt in my closet.

Yeah, it's a bit chilly here. I know I won't get much sympathy from people who choose to live in officially cold places, but damn, there's a reason I've lived in the desert for the better part of the last sixteen years.

So I'm bundled up in everything warm that I own, tempted to light a fire in the wastebasket under my desk, and typing away with my homeless-style fingerless gloves. Completing the picture for you, I've got an unlit cigar stub jammed in the corner of my mouth and I haven't shaved for three days. Ok, just kidding about that last part. It's lit...

Anyhow, yesterday was a great day. I got about three hours of sleep before the alarm clock jolted me awake, forcing me to get ready to face the day. It was quarter till nine, and Cyndi's plane landed at 10am. I showered, shaved, and got dressed, and made it down to the airport after she'd arrived at baggage claim, but a few minutes before her luggage got there. Perfect timing.

The first order of business was to get some food, so we headed to the Peppermill. Unfortunately, Krista wasn't working, so we completely skipped the Fireside Lounge and just got a table in the restaurant instead. After the gravy incident from the night before, my usual Chicken Fried Steak wasn't an option, and the biscuits and gravy at the Peppermill just downright suck, so I went the omelet route. Ham and cheese for me, with sourdough toast, while Cyndi got the Maserati model--some nasty thing with spaghetti sauce on it.

The food was good, the conversation was lively, and we even passed the phone back and forth talking to Angy for a bit. It was also Cyndi's 45th birthday, believe it or not, so we were celebrating that and her newfound independence, having just left her job down in the islands and taking a shot at being self-employed.

We lingered a bit, making sure we finished up at 12 noon, because that's when the half-price ticket trailer opened up out in the parking lot. We browsed the offerings, and decided to go to the 10pm show of Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. The tickets weren't quite half-priced, and it cost us $297 for three of them. We immediately drove over to the Venetian box office and changed the vouchers over to real tickets, getting some primo seats about halfway back, right in the center of the theatre.

After that little errand had been run, it was time to start our gambling for the day. About a half hour later we were pulling into Green Valley Ranch and looking for a Pai Gow table. As soon as we walked in, we were blinded by some of the brightest lights ever seen in a casino, and a big sign warning us that they were filming a commercial and our presence indicated our willingness to be used in promotional advertising. I was ok with that, but the guys I have to answer to back in Washington that run the Witness Protection Program are probably gonna have a shit fit.

We sat down at an empty table and did our buy-in. I had several $25 bet coupons of the non-matchplay variety, but unfortunately, three of them had expired. The floorperson was kind enough to initial them and let me use them, and it was a nice feeling to win $40 on my first hand with only $15 of my own cash on the line.

Although I didn't get too many big bonuses, I was holding my own and not scratching down to the felt like I normally do at Green Valley before I finally start making hands and end up walking away dead even after four hours. I was up pretty much the whole time, although I couldn't get a big bonus for anything--five times I got 4-to-the-straight flush, but I spent the whole day knockin' on that door that never quite opened.

The Jumbo Jackpot was at $140,000 when I'd left work the night before, so I expected that someone would've already hit it by the time we got to the casino on Tuesday afternoon. But no, it was still going strong at $142K, and we kept one eye on the sign and one eye on our Pai Gow table. Once I doubled up for the second time, I said it was time to cash in. Cyndi's luck wasn't running as well as mine, so she was good and ready to hit some slots.

We bounced around for a couple of hours playing various nickels, penny, quarter, and even dollar slots. I think we had the most fun at a 5-reel penny machine, because as a typical male, the 20-line video penny slots are a total farking mystery to me, Sticky's constant tutoring notwithstanding. We didn't win much--I basically broke even on all the slots, so I had a handful of $20 tickets to cash. As we were heading for the valet at the end of the afternoon, Cyndi suggested that we hit some dollar slots before leaving.

I agreed, but believe me, I didn't want to. My budget this month is thinner than Nicole Ritchie's shadow, but I figured I might as well take a chance on having my employer give me a six-figure bonus in time for the holidays. I'm glad I did, because with that first $20, I managed to win $372. I played it down to an even $350 before cashing out and walking away. Coupled with the smaller tickets already in my pocket and the two black chips I got from the Pai Gow table, it was a very successful afternoon at Green Valley Ranch. I sent a text message to Sticky telling her that I'd won about $500, and her response was a simple Now get the hell out of there!

Good advice, so we split.

Even though it was barely 5 pm by then, darkness had settled in upon Vegas. The view of the Strip from Green Valley is always pretty cool, but even more so at night. Know that the freeway would be a mess at that time of the evening, we opted for surface streets on our trek back to Vegas proper. We were getting hungry, but not so much to want a full meal, so we made a quick stop for some Taco Bell drive thru and got a couple of burritos to go.

Cyndi and her husband David are staying at the Renaissance Hotel, which is right next door to the convention center on Paradise. So we made our way down there to drop off her luggage and relax a bit before meeting David after his day's business had concluded.

I have to admit, the Renaissance is a damn fine hotel--no casino--it's a business hotel, but I really liked the lobby, the lounge, and the Envy steakhouse is definitely worth a look. The room was extremely nice, reminding me of a smaller version of the the rooms at TheHotel at Mandalay Bay--very modern yet very comfy. They were on a 'concierge' floor, so we had access to a Club Lounge, which is a lot like a Diamond Lounge at a Harrahs property. We relaxed with some drinks and light snacks for a bit before heading back to the room and dozing in front of the TV while waiting for David to show up.

We had to be back at the Venetian by 9:30, and so we gave ourselves about 45 minutes to get there, in case of bad traffic or whatnot. My truck doesn't seat three people comfortably, so they opted to get a cab over, while I just drove myself. I went down to the valet to pick up my truck just a minute ahead of them, and while standing outside freezing my ass off, a cab drove up, dropping off a passenger. In one of the coolest coincidences of the day, it was driven by my buddy Lenny (boyfriend of my good friend Jennifer). Out of all the hundreds of cab drivers in this town, he happened to be the one to show up right at the time Cyndi and David needed a cab.

We raced over to the Venetian, but the sorry excuse for valet service delayed me a minute or two--they were already standing at the entrance to the theatre waiting for me when I came down the escalators there by the Grand Luxe.

We only had to wait a few minutes before they started seating for the show. It was far from a sellout that night, so just like a flight with empty rows, once it got close to showtime, lots of folks were changing seats and spreading out. Fortunately for us, our seats were pretty damn good and we didn't feel the need to try and improve them.

I've seen Phantom of the Opera before, about ten years ago at Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, and although I thought it was pretty damn cool at the time, it was nothing compared to the Vegas version. Talk about over-the-top amazing--just the introduction blew us away. The chandelier trick was one of the coolest things ever, and the rest of the special effects were incredible. Of course the story moves along at a better clip than the original, and the music is very powerful.

I think Cyndi and David have seen other versions of Phantom about five times each (even at the Royal Opera House in London) and both agreed that this was the best version by a long shot. We couldn't stop raving about how enjoyable it was and wouldn't hesitate in the least to go see it again. It was a great show and well worth the hundred-dollar ticket price. Yep, I said it. It was worth a hundred bucks. Go see it.

It was almost midnight by the time we got out of the theatre, and they both had early meetings to go attend, so they headed back to their hotel. On a mission from Dougie to scout out proper venues for the T2V Poker Tourney in March, I headed over to the poker room to talk to the tournament director. Well, since it was after midnight in the middle of the week, I spoke to his assistant and he gave me some of the details, along with his boss's card, who is the guy who can give the final yea or nay on what we want to do. But their cut was much more reasonable than what the Plaza is trying to gouge us for, and it goes without saying that their facilities are *much* nicer. Plus they promised us a roped-off area separate from the general population and our own exclusive cocktail service. If we can get the details ironed out, I'm thinking we'll probably go that route.

By the time I finished up in there, I was exhausted and ready to get some sleep. It was late, the casino was slowing down, and it was time to head home. As I got to the escalators leading back to the valet, I ran into Carrot Top. His schtick might be some of the most annoying ever, but the dude is ripped. Not somebody you want to mess with. Yeah, on TV he looks like a total toolbox, but in real life he looks like he could tear your head off. I chose not to make fun of him and just gave him a high five and a What's up, CT? as I walked by.

Overall, I'd have to say it was a pretty great day in Vegas.

Today, I got to sleep in, and I'm not doing much but the usual day-off stuff while Cyndi and David attend meetings and shows all day. We're planning on getting together for dinner tonight, and hopefully we'll mark another good restaurant off the list.

In the meantime, I'm gonna go make a pot of coffee and try to stay warm.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just Gravy...

Hope everyone is having a wonderful day out in the real world. Out there it's Tuesday, but in here it's Friday night... Instead of going out after work, it was soooo slow that I took off a couple hours early and came straight home to catch a little extra sleep. There is a little buffoonery on tap for the next couple of days as my sister Cyndi, fresh off the boat from St. Croix will be arriving at 10am. Word around the campfire is that her husband, my other brother David, is already here.

The plan, after picking her up at the airport, is to head to the Fireside Lounge and have drinks with my gal Krista for an hour or two, and then maybe head out to Green Valley and burn up about five of these $25 free table-game bet coupons, and maybe add a few bucks to our bankroll. Don't know what else we'll do, except maybe go out to dinner at a nice place, probably knock something else off of the list.

Speaking of dinner, last night at work, I had an interesting experience. I hadn't eaten anything all day--the head cold kills the taste buds, so nothing sounds good except for maybe Tabasco sauce, so by the time my 11pm break rolled around, my stomach was rumbling, telling me it was time to eat something. I went back to the dining room, hoping to find something appetizing. There was a salad bar. Feh... Some sort of bean soup, (Not an option unless I'm dealing dice and can blame the gas on the old farts at the table), fish sticks, chili, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and hot dogs.

But at the end of the buffet was a tray full of warm biscuits, and sitting next to what looked to be a fresh pan of white gravy. Oh hell yeah, I loves me some biscuits and country gravy, so I took two, split them open on a plate still hot from the dishwasher, and ladled on three generous scoops of gravy. Even though my sense of smell was somewhat crippled, I was looking forward to a decent meal. I grabbed a glass of apple juice, and joined my buddy Todd--who is also from Nashville--at the table. Once he saw that I had fresh biscuits and gravy, he was jealous--he wanted some too, and began to get up to fetch his own plate.

I took a forkful with a big dollup of gravy on top and shoved it in my mouth.

Immediately, I knew something wasn't quite right.

I looked at Todd and said Oh man...

He responded with, That's just heaven, ain't it?

I spit it back out on the plate and started hopping around and shrieking like a kid forced to eat brussel sprouts for the first time. I grabbed the apple juice and started guzzling.

What's the matter dude? Too much pepper???

That was no country gravy, it was tartar sauce for the fish sticks! Do you have any idea how effin' gross that sensation is, especially when you're expecting sausage gravy? So disgusting... Words can't even begin to describe it.

Everybody at the table took a moment to process that information, and then started laughing their asses off, including me, and it took several minutes before we could stop giggling and wipe the tears away. I went on a kitchen safari looking for something to make the taste go away, and immediately discovered that a banana is the opposite of tartar sauce, so it did the trick. Everything else on the plate went in the garbage can.

It was so gross, but everyone got a good laugh at my expense, so it wasn't a total waste.

Afterwards, Todd said it best in his Tennessee accent--Man, after that, you just ain't gonna be right for the rest of the night...

He was correct. It was all downhill from there, so I asked the boss to cut me out early.

I finally got that foul taste out of my mouth and now that I'm home, I'm no longer burping mayonaise and pickles. In a few hours I'll be eating breakfast at the Peppermill. Pretty sure I'm not gonna have the Chicken Fried Steak this time around... Or the fish and chips.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Moving Slowly

Hey Gang... I know that today is the end of a nice long holiday weekend for most of you, so I hope you make the most of it before heading back to your respective cube-farms tomorrow. I had to work all weekend, so except for the huge feast on Thursday, for me it was pretty much the same as every other weekend, except for the fact that I'm now fighting a minor head cold. There are just too many damn germs in this town.

After work on Friday night, I went out for drinks with my friend Anna, like we normally do every Saturday morning at 4am. A few other dealers joined us, but after a round or two, somebody came up with the brilliant idea that we should go play Pai Gow over at the Fiesta. I was ok with that suggestion, except for that whole 'going to the Fiesta' part of it. So, I suggested Green Valley Ranch instead--not only is it a helluva lot nicer casino, it was also about a mile or two closer to our barstools.

So the party left the bar and a few minutes later reconvened at the ATM machine at the top of the escalator at GVR. Everyone took out a hundy and we found an empty $10 Pai Gow table after that.

We were having lots of fun, but it took me for-frickin-EVER to finally catch a winning hand. After awhile, another one of the gang from the bar, Candace, joined us but said she put her name on the waiting list in the poker room for a seat at the 4-8 game they had going. That sounded like a good idea, but I refused to hit the ATM again, and didn't want to go sit at a 4-8 Holdem table without at least a hundy worth of bullets. So the girls took off--Marcie went home, Anna and Candace headed to the poker room, while I stayed put at the Pai Gow table trying to scratch my way back from 'broke' to 'broke even'.

But the dealer was hot, and my buy-in completely migrated into the rack, so I headed over to the poker room to see the girls. I found them sitting at the softest 4-8 game in the history of casino poker, and I took a seat just behind them, announcing to the rest of the crowd that my two best earners were about to shake them all down.

Talk about prophetic--from that moment on, Anna won the next eight hands in a row. And it was a half-kill game after the second win, so the pots were huge! At least four people saw every flop, and nobody would fold until the river. It was amazing--she had a run of cards that was unbelievable, although the last couple of hands were won without having to show her hand. I wasn't there fifteen minutes before I was wandering the room looking for four empty chip racks. She had a handful of red chips that had made their way to her stack, so she handed me $35 worth and told me to go back to the Pai Gow table and win our money back, and that she'd come join me again in a few minutes.

So I went back to the pit, and I left her sitting there at the poker table stacking almost $400 worth of other people's money, with a promise that she'd leave as soon as she lost a showdown.

When I got back to the Pai Gow table, it was empty, so I just played heads up against the dealer. Anna showed up about a half hour later, saying that she lost a hundred back to the table because she 'felt bad for taking their money and leaving right away'. Ugh... Gotta work on that whole 'killer instinct' thing, there, Anna...

Anyhow, she joined me and we played a bit longer. I was doing ok, and had turned that $35 into just over a hundred. In fact, I had $120 sitting in front of me, and said, "Ok, I'm going to win one more hand and leave--don't wanna get greedy".

Uttering that sentence triggered a streak of seven Pai Gows in a row for Mikey, leaving me with nothing but a handful of silver and a story with a crummy ending. By that time, it was after 10am, and I was exhausted. Not only had I been up all for over 22 hours straight, but I was fighting a head cold and had to go back to work on Saturday night and really needed to get some rest. I got home and went straight to bed, but couldn't fall asleep. I turned on the Georgia game and finally fell asleep around 11:30, waking up again at 2:30.

As much as I wanted and needed sleep, it wasn't happening, so I quit fighting it and got out of bed. Luckily there were plenty of good games to watch on Saturday afternoon, so I just watched TV until it was time to head back to work.

My cold had gotten worse, but calling in sick was out of the question. First of all, I need the money, and second of all, our tokes have gone up quite a bit this past week--every day has been over $150, and I didn't want to miss out now that we're finally making decent money again. So I drugged up and dragged my ass back down to the casino.

We were busy as hell again last night, which was nice, and I had some fun players at my tables all evening. I was really tempted to sign the Early Out list--I was sick, exhausted, and ready to go home as soon as I clocked in, but I toughed it out and lasted the full eight hours. I'm glad I did, because I think we made good money again, and I also had a long-time lurker, occasional comments-section poster show up at my table around 2 am to say hello and play a few hands.

When I finally staggered back to the parking garage after my shift, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open for the drive home. I took some more medicine, kicked off my shoes, and passed out with ESPN playing in the background.

I've got nothing planned for the rest of the afternoon except to catch up on all the emails from the past week and to watch a little football. If I could taste anything, I'd probably eat some leftovers, too, but right now nothing sounds good except for maybe an extra-spicy Bloody Mary.

And a nap.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Real or Fake

Here's a test everyone should enjoy--see how many sets of fake boobs you can find. I scored 80%, which ain't too bad for somebody who's never owned a pair.

Of course, there is the requisite medical information included to try and make the test seem legit before you get to the good stuff, kinda like buying dinner first or sitting through a Hugh Grant flick, but you can just scroll on down and start the quiz.

Taking this quiz reminded me of my favorite drinking toast--Here's to real boobs that look fake, and fake boobs that look real!


Getting to Know You, Christmas 2006 Edition

This survey landed in my mailbox this week, with a few funny replies from some of my family members. Here's my response:

1) Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Egg Nog--with a generous pour of Captain Morgan Silver included.

2) Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Oh, he absolutely wraps them. And uses enough tape to seal the Mexican border. Not only that, every little thing in my stocking is giftwrapped too. I gotta tell you, there is nothing more enjoyable than spending five minutes unwrapping a new toothbrush or a pack of AA batteries!

3) Colored lights or white on the tree or house? It's a rental, so none go on the house. When I had my own house, I got in touch with my white trash roots and used the colored ones with huge bulbs, and tried to leave them up until February just to piss off the busybodies in the homeowners association. Although, now I think I'd prefer plain old white on the house, and the color assortment on the tree.

4) Do you hang mistletoe? Only from my belt buckle...

5) When do you put your decorations up? Day/weekend after Thanksgiving. The tree usually goes up the first Saturday in December.

6) What is your favorite holiday dish, excluding desserts? Our traditional breakfast of Danish Ebelskivers, bacon, and Orange Julius. Been eating it on Christmas morning for as long as I can remember.

7) Favorite Holiday memory as a child? I'd have to say it was going out in the woods with my dad and cutting down a Christmas tree, bringing it back and decorating it with the family while listening to all those old MoTab Christmas albums.

8) When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I accidentally took a nap on Christmas Eve afternoon, so I couldn't sleep (even more than usual) that night. And I heard my mom and sister Sherry getting a huge box of presents down from the attic--swearing at each other, grunting and carrying on like a couple of old women.

9) Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yep--family tradition dictates that everyone opens one present on Christmas Eve. It's usually something lame like a sweater or socks--nothing you could ever want to stay up playing with.

10) How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Not quite sure what you mean... No "theme" like in department store displays. But usually there is eggnog, booze, and Christmas music involved.

11) Snow. Love it or dread it? Don't wanna see any snow here in Vegas, but when I visit Tennessee, I'd love to have it snow on Christmas Eve.

12) Can you ice skate? Hell no. But I can cross check, high stick, and fight!

13) Do you remember your favorite gift? As a kid, I begged and begged for a GI Joe with the Kung Fu grip. I finally got one for Christmas. More recently, my sister Amy had an old 'treasure map' of the Caribbean glassed, matted, and framed in bamboo. It was the coolest thing I've gotten lately.

14) What is the most important thing about the Holidays to you? No question--being able to be with my family. With five brothers and sisters, spouses, nieces, step-siblings, parents, and whatever strays we bring home, the holidays are always a blast. I always laugh myself silly and have a great time with the family. It's the best.

15) Favorite Holiday Dessert? Mom's Peanut Butter Balls. Soooo good, and watching Amy and Reverend Dave chase each other around the house stealing them from each other is always great fun.

16) What is you favorite holiday tradition? Gathering on Christmas Eve with the entire family, listening to the music, watching the lights on the tree, drinking eggnog, and just enjoying the holiday for a couple of hours with the people I love the most. Christmas Eve is magical in our home.

17) What tops your tree? An electric star. I was tempted to say the left-front wheel hub from Dale Earnhart's race car, but I think Reverend Dave stole it back...

18) Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving! In fact just the other day I gave my first gift of the season and I couldn't stop smiling about it for hours. I love it when times are really good and I can go all-out for everyone. Nothing is more fun than seeing the look on somebody's face when they get something they mentioned in passing months before... Of course, everyone likes to get stuff too, and opening the odd present or two is always nice.

19) What is your favorite Christmas song? To sing, well, no question, Elvis' Blue Christmas. But my favorite songs to listen to are Jimmy Buffet's A Sailor's Christmas or Tender Tennessee Christmas by Alabama (always makes me sad when I hear it and I'm not around the family). I also really dig Perry Como's Home for the Holidays.

20) Candy Canes--Yuck or Yum? I got no problem with Candy Canes. But they better be peppermint. None of that fruit-flavored shiat.

21) What is on your wish list for Christmas? A Red Ryder BB Gun, of course! Actually, if you scroll down a few posts, you'll see my list. But the ultimate prize would be a week's vacation, round trip tickets to Nashville, and about a thousand bucks to spend on presents for everyone.


Thanksgiving at The Estate

Hey everybody! Here it is 4:00 am on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and instead of standing in line down at WalMart or Best Buy freezing my ass off and hoping to score some loss-leading electronic doo-dad, I came straight home from work and sat down at the computer to write up the after-action report from yesterday's festivities.

Before I do that, however, I want to say Thank You to everyone who took the time to call, email, send a private message, hit the tip jar, or post a comment wishing me the best. I had a wonderful day and it truly means a lot to know that so many people are thinking about me. I raised a glass of the good stuff and gave a silent toast to all of you.

I also got to talk to quite a bit of the family yesterday--Cyndi & David escaped to Gatlinburg like a couple of newlyweds, but managed to call and wake my ass up at 8:00 am. Well, actually, it was my roommate powerwashing the patio and driveway that did it, but the phone ringing was the tipping point that forced me to get out of bed. I also heard from my niece Allison, and it was great to talk to her. Later in the day I heard from the drunken contingent down in Alabama--My mom, my sister Amy, Reverend Dave, and his wife Angie were absolutely lit up by the time we chatted, so it was quite an enjoyable session of passing the phone around. I think I even heard the phrase "First one to puke has to drive!" uttered in the background. Gotta love family get-togethers. I tried to call my dad a couple of times, but I got the whole 'all circuits are busy' message both times. I didn't think that would happen with cell-phones, but apparently it does. That's ok, I just talked to him the other day, on his 67th birthday, and I can catch up with him this weekend. And although I didn't get to talk to her, I heard through the grapevine that my sister Nancy, down in Houston, and her husband Mark finally moved back into their house a few days ago after suffering that devastating fire the weekend before Christmas last year. It's been a very long year for them, so I was happy to hear that they got to spend the holiday in their home.

As far as Thanksgiving in Las Vegas is concerned, even though I couldn't be with the family, I still had a great time. My roommates and I had about ten friends over for the day, and more food than you could possibly imagine. Just off the top of my head, here's what made it to the buffet line at Casa de Mikey:

  • A free-range turkey (Besides the price tag, I couldn't tell the difference between it and one living out the string on Death Row, so, buyer beware...)
  • A Honey-Baked Ham
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Scalloped Potatoes
  • Corn Casserole
  • Cornbread Stuffing
  • Gravy
  • Candied Carrots
  • Asparagus
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Baked Ziti
  • Italian Meatballs
  • Clam Dip and Crackers
  • Dinner Rolls & real butter
  • Assorted soft drinks and mixer bottles of booze
  • About 8 bottles of wine
  • Three or four varieties of pie
  • A big old hookah-bong with some kind herb

Oh hell yeah, it was a feast for the ages! By the time we sat down to eat, I was good and ready to get my grub on, having had nothing but four cups of coffee and a handful of cashews all day until that point. I almost filled up on the clam dip because it was so damn good, but I left a bit of room to try everything else.

I started the day in the kitchen making the deviled eggs--it was a lot more work than I anticipated, but damn, did they ever turn out great! I made two varieties--one plain with crumbled bacon, and the other ones were made with sun-dried tomatoes and basil. I have to say, I really outdig myself with those--they were a huge hit, and turned out much better than I expected. The bacon ones were good, but I didn't like the texture--the bacon got kinda soft by the time we ate them. Maybe next time I'll put a little bacon grease in the recipe and a little less Miracle Whip, and use the fake crunchy bacon bits instead. I also got roped into making the homemade gravy and the stuffing, in addition to making the candied carrots. The gravy tasted excellent, but I farked up the roux a little bit, and it had a few lumps in it. Ugh. Oh well, everyone liked it, nobody complained, and I guess I was my own worst critic. But I think it turned out pretty well, especially considering that I hadn't really made homemade gravy or a roux in over three years.

While I was in the kitchen slaving away over the hot stove, my roommates were setting up the party outdoors on the patio. It was such a beautiful day out here that we decided to eat outside. So they hooked up a small 17-in tv to watch the games and set up a couple of tables. We prepared the fire pit, lit up the tiki torches, and even set up a poker table. When everyone showed up, it felt like that scene in Goodfellas when they were in 'jail' making their dinner, you know, stirring the sauce, slicing the garlic, busting each others balls with the heavy New Jersey mob accent--we had a couple of wiseguys right out of Central Casting join us, so it was pretty fun to listen to the banter.

We ate until we couldn't eat anymore, took a break, watched a little football, and then hit round two. I was so full, and a little buzzed, that I decided to take a short nap before going into work last night. The other guys organized a No-Limit poker tournament to keep themselves entertained while Butch the dog nosed around all afternoon begging for scraps. I'd say it was a pretty damn successful Thanksgiving.

Here are a few photos... (remember, clicky for full-sized goodness!)

Let's start with a few drinks, shall we? This was the setup in the living room bar, but doesn't take into account any of the rum from my personal stash, the vodka in the freezer, or all the wine in the fridge. Nobody went thirsty.

The final table at the First Annual Rueben's House Thanksgiving No Limit Invitational

We can't have a bunch of dudes get together for a party without burning something. Luckily it was just wood this time, not any of the edibles. The over/under date for when those benches get chopped up and set ablaze because we run out of proper firewood is currently looking like sometime around mid-January.

A brief glimpse into the aftermath:

And here is the full scale of the destruction in the kitchen:

If you look closely, you'll see Rachel Ray's ugly-ass mug on that box of Triscuit crackers on the table. I defiled it later.

Nothing says "Thanksgiving" quite like a pot of gravy, a deep-dish apple pie, and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black.

It was a great time, and it turned out much better than I expected. Unfortunately, I couldn't stick around and help with the cleanup, as I had to go to work. Yep, we were slammin' busy, but it was a fun evening. And when the graveyard shift cocktail waitresses showed up at 1:00 am, they were decked out in those outrageously hot Naughty Santa's Helper outfits. It made it tough to concentrate on my game, so who knows what I was paying out at the Pai Gow table last night. My players could've been robbing me blind... Even the lipstick lesbian on my crew was excited about the new uniforms, and she gave me a knowing wink and a high-five as I tapped her out, and sang her own version of that favorite Christmas carol... Do you see what I see???

Forget the friggin' elves! If I were Santa Claus, I'd surround myself with a handful of cocktail waitresses in their holiday outfits. Of course, if that happened, Christmas would be a few weeks late every year, and everything that got built would probably end up on the Island of Misfit Toys. Maybe that's why I'm not Santa--I'm too easily distracted by heaving bosoms engulfed in red and white holiday fur.

Anyhow.... that's my story of Thanksgiving in Vegas. I hope everyone has a wonderful day shopping, decorating, or just watching some great college football. I'm gonna get a little sleep, eat a few leftovers, and then head back to the casino tonight for some more sightseeing. I might also deal a game or two, but that's no longer the priority...


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving, and Giving Thanks

Now that the holidays are upon us, I think this is one of the coolest things you can read before the hustle and bustle sets in for real this weekend.

Take a moment to digest it all.


Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone

The Holiday Season is officially underway, and I just wanted to say that I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving today. I've got a cup of hazelnut coffee in front of me and the digital cable is providing the background ambiance with the 'Sounds of the Seasons' channel.

Normally I'm not up this early in the morning, but I was awakened to the sound of messages being left on my cellphone--the family back in Tennessee was already up and about and getting their celebration going and wanted to wish me the best.

Even thought I can't be there, it won't be a bad one this year--we've got lots of people coming over, lots of food and fellowship to share, and lots of football to watch. In fact as soon as I hit the send button on this post, I'm off to the kitchen to make about three dozen deviled eggs, and later on I'm in charge of making candied carrots. Luckily the roommates are doing the heavy lifting with the turkey and other stuff.

As a bonus, I just found out that my sister Cyndi and her husband David will be here next week on business, but we'll have some free time to stir up some Vegas-style buffoonery for a couple of days. I can't wait to see them again, it's been too long.

Have a great day, everyone, and take Tampa Bay and the points!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Camera Phone Needed

Back when I bought my latest cell-phone, the clerk at the Cingular store was doing his level best to upgrade my purchase, but I insisted that I didn't need a camera phone--and I certainly didn't want to spend the extra money on one.

But I'm slowly coming around. I've discovered that there are actual uses for text messaging, especially when the recipient is out of the country, and having a camera phone can sometimes be helpful. Like today, for instance.

Had my cell phone been equipped with a camera, I could've captured a great picture to share with everyone. I just got back from what is hopefully my last trip to the grocery store before Thanksgiving is upon us, and as I was checking out, I saw a typical holiday-in-Vegas scene.

As I was pushing my cart away from the checkout line, I saw a guy dressed head-to-toe like a pilgrim, with a black hat and buckle, the whole bit. He was holding a dozen roses in one hand, smoking a cigarette, and sitting in front of a video poker machine, chasing a Royal.

Nothing says Thanksgiving quite like that.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Quick Thoughts After a Weekend on the Couch

I had a very busy week, but this past weekend I got to relax a bit and watch a lot of football, which was very enjoyable. Stealing a page from that hack Peter King, these are my quick-hit thoughts from the past couple of days.

1) I have no reason to be part of the whole Michigan/Ohio State rivalry, but I've been watching the game as long as I can remember. Both Reverend Dave and I have always rooted for Michigan. Even though I pretty much hate Ohio State (for no particular reason), that was a helluva game on Saturday. I'm ok with a rematch in the Fiesta Bowl unless USC wins out.

2) Had Bo died during any other week of the year, it would've been a minor footnote with just a bit of national coverage. Since he passed the morning before the game, it was all-Bo for almost 24 hours on the national news.

3) I thought Alabama would put up a bigger fight against Auburn. They usually do.

4) If I were a huge Boise State fan, I'd be afraid of ever getting an HD tv. My head might asplode...

5) Kentucky is bowl eligible. Their football team.

6) Georgia can't beat Kentucky or Vanderbilt, but they roll over Auburn. What the hell?

7) I have the ultimate solution to the BCS mess. It isn't a plus-one game or an eight-team playoff. It's a four-team playoff. Let the BCS or whoever figure out who the top four teams are--I'd rather the chatter be about who got left out in fifth place than who got left out in third, and that nonsense would only last for a day or two. Out of the 'Big Four' bowls, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, and Rose, here's how they could still keep them legit under my plan:

All of the numerous other bowls will remain the same--basically post-season exhibition games.

Of the big four bowls, they rotate each year with being two of them hosting the playoff games, and one is the national championship game.

The bowl that is left out gets the highest-tier 'leftover' game, UNLESS it is the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl will host the National Championship every fourth year. The rest of the time it goes back to being the Big-10 champs versus the Pac-10 champs, like it always was.

It would eliminate that having almost a whole month with no college football, adding two HUGE games during the holiday week between Christmas and New Years.

A four-game playoff would also eliminate the remote possibilities of coaches pulling their starters during the final game of the year, like the pros do. If eight teams were going to the playoffs, the top two or three teams would be tempted to rest their best players. This way, nobody can take a chance on coasting during the last week and the traditional rivalry games will remain the last game on the schedules, instead of being moved up earlier in the year, which I would imagine would happen if the playoffs were expanded to eight teams.

In a perfect world, all the major conferences would have 12 teams, and a conference championship would have to be played at the end of the season, like in the SEC and Big XII. Only conference champions would be eligible for one of the four playoff spots. But we'd have to work on that. Notre Dame would have to affiliate itself with somebody and subject itself to the conference rules, and the Pac 10 would have to become the 12-Pac (BYU? UNLV? I dunno...)

8) I spent way too much time thinking about #7.

9) I cannot pick NFL games to save my life. I've made VERY few NFL bets this season, and haven't cashed a ticket since like week three or four. I picked Chicago a few weeks ago when they decided to shiat the bed against Miami. I picked the Rams four times, they lost all four games outright. I made one bet yesterday, Indy -1 over the Cowboys. We all know how that turned out.

10) I saw a few of those Rainbow Six: Vegas commercials for the new video game while watching ESPN. The only thing missing from all the cool graphics are the thousands of people standing around getting in my way whenever I try to walk anywhere in this town. Some designer didn't do his homework... Also, that other video game commercial, Gears of War or whatever--I couldn't get that song that they use out of my head, and it only took me about four days to figure out that it was a remake of Tears for Fears' Mad World.

11) Speaking of ESPN, they heap more collective man-love on Donovan McNabb than I heap upon Jack Bauer. Sorry that his knee is jacked up, but since I hate the Eagles, I'm cool with the fact that they'll miss the playoffs this year.

12) Jake Plummer, put a fork in him. He'll be carrying the clipboard in someplace like Buffalo or Detroit next year. I hate to see one of my ASU homies stinkin' up the joint, but he just can't get it done.

13) I think we're looking at a San Diego/Chicago Super Bowl, now that an alien has taken over Marty Schottenheimer's body and has convinced him to throw the ball, even after they get a lead (last two weeks notwithstanding).

14) Does anybody else find it mildly amusing watching Eli Manning and the Giants struggle a bit? Go Jags!

15) Speaking of the Mannings--if you had to drink a shot every time you saw a Peyton Manning commercial on Sunday, you'd be dead of alcohol poisoning by 5pm. Same thing with those god-awful 'This is my country' Chevy commercials.

16) Even though my Rams completely suck and have no chance in the NFC west, nothing makes me happier than seeing the Seahawks get their asses handed to them by the 49ers.

17) Ok, so the Patriots beat a pretty crummy Packers team who was playing without Favre for most of the game. Suddenly all the east-coast talking heads are all saying that the Patriots Are Back!

18) I keep waiting for the Ravens to fall apart, but they haven't. Damn.

19) Yep, Bill Simmons is right--I think Pink is a tranny. Everytime I see her singing the Sunday night game intro on NBC, all I hear is Austin Powers in my head saying She's a MAN, baby... Yeah!

20) LaDanian Thomlinson... Holy shiat. The guy is unbelievable. If he stays healthy he's going to own a lot of records before he's done. And nothing is more enjoyable than seeing him stick it to the Broncos. Ok, maybe seeing him stick it to the Raiders, but everyone does that...

21) Tonight we finally find out what Save the Cheerleader, Save the World means. I thought it was just an ultra-cool tagline up to this point.

22) I'm not an NBA fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I really get a kick out of those "The LeBrons" commercials from Nike. I think a commercial featuring 'Old Wise' watching contemporary hip-hop videos, a la Mystery Science Theatre, would be a comedy gold mine.

23) Hey, no more chatter about whether or not Indy will go undefeated. Now we can start debating just which playoff game they will lose.

24) I still think Miller Lite tastes like piss, but I enjoy the Man Law commercials. Nothing cracks me up like the old dude saying I had scurvy once...

25) I just thought of something... NBC isn't broadcasting a game on Thursday, right?!?!?!? One on Fox, one on CBS, and the night game on the NFL Network, right? That means NO John Madden mumbling about turduckens and all that other stupid shiat we usually have to listen to every Thanksgiving. Woo hoo!!!

26) About that new Lexus that can parallel park itself... Do we really need that? I mean, everyone had already forgotten how to drive once automatic transmissions became available on the cheap, but this has disaster written all over it... How about inventing a car that puts the makeup on the chicks for them when they drive, or one that automatically keeps the car at the same speed as the surrounding traffic when the driver is on the phone. Either that, or it disengages the transmission as soon as the driver dials his cell phone. That would probably be more useful. Also, do I really need a "portable, everyday GPS solution" in my car? Do that many people really get lost while driving around town? Of course, this is coming from somebody who insisted that text messaging was technology moving backwards, so what do I know?

27) For those of you unable to watch Around the Horn during the day, some of the best comedy on TV is J.A. Adande's occasional impersonation of Ron Jaworski. Even the host, Stat Boy, can't help but laugh.

28) I don't think Slash would ever drive a Volkswagen. And me, I'd rather plug my Les Paul into a Marshall stack instead of a Jetta.

29) How about them Arizona Cardinals getting their first win since week one? I truly feel sorry for Matt Leinart signing that long contract. You know he wants to get the hell outta there. Of course the win came against an inept Detroit team, as the Cardinals usually couldn't score with a fistful of hundies in a Pahrump brothel.

30) We had a few Bond girls strutting around serving martinis in the casino this weekend. It almost made me want to cough up nine bucks to go see Casino Royale. But I didn't.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Please Just Stop Talking!

I know that a lot of guys think that Jessica Simpson is the Hottest Think to Walk the Earth, but frankly, I just don't see it. Yes, she is mildly attractive, but I had to dig five pages into the Google Image Search before finding a photo of her that didn't make her look like she was put together from spare parts. (Who am I kidding, given half the chance, I'd hit it until the stick breaks...). But talented isn't exactly the word I'd use to describe her, either. I don't listen to anything that could be considered pop music these days, but what I've heard from her, I've been less than impressed with.

But the one thing that really makes my ears bleed is that god-awful pseudo-Southern accent she uses in her Daisy Duke role for the the Direct TV commercial that they just won't quit showing during football games.

Normally, I love a good Southern accent when accompanied by an attractive gal. But hers is so fake and contrived that as an Honorary Southern Gentleman, I must insist that she stop pretending right now. She is not a debutante by any stretch of the imagination--Reese Witherspoon would kick her ass without the help of any of her sorority sisters, and Britney Spears is the original White Trash Hottie, so Miss Jessica needs to get back to just being a ditzy California blonde with huge teeth and big boobs, making us laugh about her views on Chicken of the Sea and Buffalo wings while we sneak peeks at her cleavage. Leave the Southern accents to the experts, otherwise you come off as a no-talent skank.

Oh wait...


The Ghost of Christmas Past

Hey Gang... Recent events in the news have reminded me of one of my favorite posts, and in my humble opinion, it was some of the better writing I've done on this website. So I decided to update it and run it out again for those that may have missed it last year.

Here it is, new and improved, originally entitled The Slippery Slope to Old Age:

The more time passes, the closer I get to becoming that grouchy old man who stands on the porch yelling at the damn kids to get off my lawn. I'm only 39 years old, but that's four years beyond the magic 18-35 demographic that seems to carry the most relevancy, at least according to the experts on Madison Avenue.

The most recent I-just-don't-get-it moment came by way of the hype surrounding the release of the new PlayStation 3 game console. Apparently, it is the latest must-have toy on all the Christmas lists this year, and the national news services have done a yeomanlike job of reporting the consumer stampede on retailers as demand is far outstripping supply. As a red-state borgeoisie imperialistic capitalist-dog investor, I offer a hearty congrats to the inventors for the billions of dollars they are going to earn for providing the latest Better Mousetrap to the Ritalin-addled minds of today's yoots. But on the other hand, I ask myself, what's the big deal?

As far as I'm concerned, video game greatness peaked with the 2-D simplicity of Asteroids. Of course, having spent my formative years trying to convince my parents that the new MTV channel was not a Tool of the Devil, Hobie shirts were absolutely not the same thing as OP, and black nylon pants with zippers all over them were the pinnacle of coolness, it's unsurprising that a person like me would have such an affinity for a game that today's kids would consider downright lame.

Today's PS3 runs about $600 retail, if you're lucky enough to find one. But a quick glance at Ebay shows that some have gone for over TWO THOUSAND FRICKIN DOLLARS in the secondary market! Good grief. When I saw that, the first thing that came to mind were Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann's immortal words--You've gotta be shittin' me Pyle! Yeah, good luck getting my folks to spend that kind of jack back in the eighties. Especially for a video game. Hell, my parents wouldn't even get me the electronic Battleship for Christmas--the original version was perfectly adequate, I was told. But two grand for a video game system? Are you nuts? That doesn't even include the cost of the actual games! I don't have kids, but even if I did, I know I wouldn't love them that much. For twenty Benjamins, I'm sure as hell not wasting money on a video game--even for myself. Maybe a box of Cuban cigars, a couple bottles of rum, another tattoo, dinner at Delmonico, and perhaps a new subscription to Girls Gone Wild. Clearly I've become a more responsible consumer as I've matured.

For the Ebay price of a PS3, you could get almost eight thousand chances to enter your initials as one of the Top Ten players on Asteroids. (And who among us never had the temporary alias A.S.S. after cracking that list???) Even the most uncoordinated buffoon could get to level ten and beyond with that kind of investment, and no 'cheats' would be needed. And with the PS3, you're just sitting around on your ass in the basement for days on end. At least Asteroids had some social aspect involved--there were always other players around, and like a saloon pool table, your quarter sitting in line meant that 'you got next'.

My favorite machine was located at La Jolla Skate Village in Harvester, Missouri--the Saturday night social center of the universe when I was in junior high. All that was needed (besides parents willing to provide transportation) were three bucks for admission and skate rental (if you owned your own skates, you were clearly gay), a couple more bucks to cover pizza and cokes, and a few quarters for the Asteroids machine for when that inevitable awkward moment arrived and the lights would dim, a Journey ballad would start playing, and the DJ would make the dreaded announcement-- Couple skate, couples only... Since I never wanted to suffer the humiliation of Pam Epperly rejecting my offer to take a few laps around the rink holding hands, that was always the time I practiced making the cosmos safe from large electronic rocks and small ufo's.

I remember another time my buddy Brad Bateman and I had made $20 apiece doing some sort of odd job or another, and talked his mom into dropping us off at the arcade for the afternoon. We played Asteroids the whole time. Several hours later the money was gone and we had to endure a lecture for the entire ride home about wasting all of our money playing video games. Telling her that we spent some of the money on a box of donuts and a couple of Cokes--so technically we didn't waste it *all* on video games--didn't seem to make a difference in her eyes. Damn kids--we didn't have any idea how long it took to make twenty bucks back in the Fifties when she was a teenager...

Even after we got driver's licenses, going to the video arcade was still a favorite after-school pastime. And when one of my buddies actually got a job at the arcade, well, it was Free Game City! Sometime later, we stopped going to the skating rink and the arcade and just started hanging out at the mall, able to shop at Chess King and buy zipper pants with our own money, without the parental disapproval.

Atari even released a home version of Asteroids to play on your tv (well, not the tv at my house--we still had Pong), and a buddy of mine was one of the first to get it. Unfortunately, it was such a horrible spinoff of the arcade original (what the hell was up with all the squares?) that a week later it met it's demise in the back yard courtesy of a pack of firecrackers after we'd run out of model airplanes to destroy.

Anyhow, the world is changing, and it's leaving people like me behind. I've tried playing video games with my nieces, but they all seem pretty senseless. Case in point--the snowboarding game, Tricky--you don't have to do anything, the game does it all. If you didn't touch a button after you've started down the hill, you'd still get to the bottom of the hill eventually. Speaking as someone who's actually tried to make it to the bottom of a hill on a real snowboard, that's not how it works in real life. There's a little more effort involved. I'm not saying there's no effort to become proficient with today's video games, but I'm pretty sure that asteroids don't split up on their own out in space, that's all.

Even after Asteroids popularity started to wane, I dabbled with the other classic video games for a few years. I was a sucker for Galaga and Tempest, and was infuriated with the difficulty of Defender/Stargate. Donkey Kong and Pac Man were fun in mixed company, and I even thought Joust was pretty cool, but I could see the handwriting on the wall because it was so popular with the Dungeons & Dragons geeks. I just knew that if I ever started playing that game on a regular basis, Pam Epperly would never skate with me.

Turns out, she never did. She moved to Florida before then end of eighth grade. And once that distraction was gone, I was unbeatable.

Looking back, I'd gladly trade a couple of those top-ten scores for a few laps around La Jolla holding her hand and listening to Who's Cryin' Now. I'm sure she's an uber-milf now, and I've discovered that there are much better ways to score than just with video games.


Will Write For Vices

While browsing my comments section from a recent post, I stumbled upon somebody named Diana who took issue with the fact that I have an Amazon Honor System tip jar on my site, saying she didn't know how I could justify asking for money for rum and cigars when she had to work to support her vices.

Well, I got news for you, Diana, I gotta work to support mine, too!

I have a regular full-time job that allows me to meet my obligations, save a little money, and retire a bit of old debt, but lately not much else. Comparing pay stubs to last years W-2's, it looks like full-time dealers at my casino are on pace to make about eight grand less than last year. So while times are definitely good, things are just a bit tighter than I'd prefer. No big deal. Compared to the very Lean Times of 2001-2003, I'm living in tall cotton!

But enough about that.

I have lots of hobbies to keep me occupied--reading, sailing, shooting, and the one I spend the most time on--writing. The best thing about writing, besides the fact that I actually enjoy it (most people are the polar opposite), is that it's dirt cheap! It doesn't cost me a dime, which cannot be said for sailing to Catalina for the weekend, or going down to the range and blasting away at paper targets.

As far as writing is concerned, I've always done it--I started in high school with a Creative Writing class and I knew I had a smidge of aptitude for it when the teacher told me that while I was far from being her favorite student, I was most definitely her favorite Student... I knew exactly what she meant. Once I got to college, I also had a fantastic writing instructor in Freshman Comp and I pulled an 'A' in the class that pretty much everyone else hated.

I also kept a daily journal from 1986 until about 1995 or so, and when I go back and read some of the stuff I wrote, it absolutely makes me cringe. More than a few times I've been tempted to throw all three volumes in the fireplace, but something inside keeps me from doing it, embarrassing as they may be.

So I've been at it for a long time. All the practice has helped, but believe me, I don't think I'm nearly as good at it as some people say. I know my limitations.

But what really got me started was all the free time I had on my hands in 2002 when we were in the throes of the technology bust and it's associated recession. I went jobless for almost a year, so I have a unique perspective on personal finances.

But since I had so time on my hands, I got a lot of reading done, which of course led to lots of writing. I'd never even heard of the concept of a 'Las Vegas Trip Report', and sitting around on the computer one day I stumbled upon the site and opened the Pandora's Box of the Trip Report section. Well hell, I'd been to Vegas several times, and the adventures with my buddies were almost epic. That was right up my alley!

I figured I could probably throw my hat in the ring, and my first attempt resulted in that 'September Quickie' report you see linked in the left-hand column. I got enough positive feedback and encouragement from that offering, that I kept cranking them out after every trip, and they took on a life of their own.

I also tried my hand at free-lancing, and managed to make seventy-five whole dollars selling a story to a sailing magazine on the first try. That was encouraging.

About that same time, I stumbled into a decent job at Go Daddy Software, learned the basics of website design, and had a corral full of geeks at my disposal who would answer any questions I had. So I built my first website, the original, with all the different pages--Vegas, Sailing, Poker Night, My Oddball Family, etc... I had fun doing that, but realized after awhile that I preferred just doing a 'blog' style of website.

So then I changed over to this format that you see here. Somehow in the past four years or so, I've managed to build up a core group of regular readers who've been here for the duration. I would say that most of my 'success' came from all of my silly postings over on T2V, and a majority of my readers have migrated from over there.

Now I never set out to make a buck when I started my website. Honestly, I figured that nobody except my family and friends would be the least bit interested in anything I had to say, and most of them be like 'Yeah, whatever...' and then my attempt at internet fame would die an ignominious death.

But somehow along the way, things have taken off in a small way. Hurricane Mikey is no Google or YouTube, but I still get about 450 hits a day, and I've gone well over 100,000 visits for the year. Obviously somebody is interested in what I have to say...

But there are other bloggers out there, with much better websites than mine who I read every day. I used to read a blog by a gal in Texas, who I've never met, named Rachel Lucas. She had a fantastic writing style and excellent commentary. Unfortunately, she's since closed up shop. But back in the day I'd check her site all the time. And she was the first person I ever saw who put a tip jar on her front page, along with blatantly saying "Here is my Amazon wishlist--send me stuff!". Imagine making money and not selling anything...

At first I was amazed at the audacity of it, but America is a great country, and if Paris Hilton can be famous for well, being famous, there's no reason that a gal like Rachel Lucas couldn't get free stuff just for being an entertaining writer.

So the seed was planted.

I thought it was very cool, but figured I couldn't pull it off. But after awhile I had enough people emailing me and suggesting I do the same thing. So the half-hour of my life it took me to set up the account and struggle with all of the html coding was a minor investment.

I didn't think anything would come of it, but in that first week I made about $250. Cha-Ching! Of course, there I was immediately thinking I'd make a thousand a month in perpetuity, but the truth is, after that, reality set in and things have pretty much dried up. Oh, I'll get a few bucks here and there, and if I mention that things are really tight, some generous soul will toss $25 in there, but for the most part, the tip jar just gathers dust now. Nobody has put anything in there in over two weeks.

Do I expect it? No, not at all. Do I appreciate it? Hell yeah! Do I check my Amazon account every day, just in case? Yes I do.

I'd be lying if I didn't think it was pretty cool that folks will donate to something like this. It's not like it's a charity--I'm not out saving stray animals or feeding starving kids in Africa. I'm just providing a little insight into life in Vegas with an odd story or two, sprinkled with an occasional opinion. Apparently, there is some value in that. It's a fun hobby, but it really is a lot of work, and nobody is more thrilled than I am when I get a little material reward here and there.

Do I wish I could make a steady income off of writing? You know I do. Do I have the discipline to do so? Probably not. Unlike some writers, the ideas don't come nearly as often as I like, and if I got myself a job as real writer, then it would become work in the official sense. I guess it comes down to expectations. If I were getting a steady income, I'd have to churn out a quality product on a steady basis. Maybe I'm just not confident enough in my ability to do that. So in the meantime, I do it just because I enjoy doing it, and am always thankful for any remuneration that comes my way.

My meager talents at writing, coupled with the fact that I live here in Vegas, has almost made me a de facto ambassador. I always have folks stopping by my table at the casino and saying hello, most of whom I've never met before. And I also get lots of invitations for free drinks and nice meals, the only cost to me being my time and a few stories. And more than a few folks have dropped off a gift of a cigar or two. If I calculated the value of all that I've gotten in the past few years as a direct result of my writing, I'm sure the number would run into the thousands of dollars. And with very few notable exceptions, everyone I've met has been great and the experiences have been a lot of fun. You can't put a price on that.

But the biggest reward so far has been all of the friends I've made. If it weren't for my writing, I would've never met Angy, Dougie, Dawn, Jer, Marty, Doc Al, Terry, Steve B, Sticky, Kelly & Dane, and the list goes on and on... I can't even imagine how dull life would be if I didn't know all of them.

So yeah, Diana, to respond to your comment, I guess I actually *do* work for my vices, no justification seems necessary. It's taken almost four years of hard work to get to the point where I can say Hey Lama, how about a little something, you know, for the effort... And it's true, when I don't write as often, the little extras don't show up. But when I'm cranking out the material regularly, the goodies usually start rolling in.

So hit the tip jar, will ya? My bottle of The Captain is running precipitously low...



Is It 2007 Yet?

Hey Gang, I just rolled in from the 'office' and thought I'd make a quick post before trying to catch some sleep before the games get started in a few hours.

I'll do some posting later this afternoon while watching the late game, but in the meantime, it's tough for me to sleep just yet. I got several drunken text messages all night long while I was at work--somebody was attending their first Christmas party of the holiday season--but the final message was the best. Turns out that my favorite person from the Great White North is coming to visit again, this time in January. Woo Hoo! Instead of flopping among the ghetto-fabulous goodness of the third floor handi-man rooms at New York New York, I believe that this time we'll be hanging out with a better class of degenerates down at The Mirage. I'm thinking we'll probably spend all of our time and gambling budget at Treasure Island, though, because that's where we'd like to stay in March.

Details are sketchy and plans are still not finalized, but at least there is something to look forward to between now and the Madness, since I'm stuck here working through the holidays again.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Not Much to Say

Sorry for the dearth of postings lately, but as unlikely as it may seem, I just don't have much to say. Well, let me correct that. I haven't had much that's inspired me to sit down at the keyboard for a lengthy session of pounding away like a thousand random monkeys trying to crank out the collected works of Shakespeare.

Oh, I've gotten some email suggestions on things to rail about, but I'm really not interested in perpetuating the chatter about OJ Simpson.

On the other hand, all of the hype surrounding the release of the Play Station 3 has been somewhat interesting, so I'm going to re-run a related post that I wrote sometime back, and it's what I consider some of the better writing I've ever churned out, so be on the lookout for that this weekend.

Overall, I've had a busy week. On Wednesday I met up for dinner with an old friend I hadn't heard from in over five years--she was out here on business and looked me up--and we had a great time catching up. I've also been compiling the information I need to search for a second job and organizing my hunt. I'm being pulled in three different directions at once--I spent good money on poker school, and would like to concentrate on getting some sort of poker job, or, since poker jobs are currently so scarce, I should probably just find another pit job to supplement my income, or, maybe our lower tokes is just a temporary situation and I should just ride it out and do nothing.

Since I've alway been a big fan of doing nothing, well, that's the direction I'm leaning right now, but financial realities are pulling me back to the center and some decisions will have to be made. Soon.

That's the update for now. I hope to write a bunch more this weekend.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Simple Pleasures

Back when I lived in Nashville, one of my favorite ways to unwind at the end of the day was to sit out in the backyard by the firepit, watching the lightning bugs while smoking a cigar and sipping a cup of coffee, or if it was warm, maybe a rum drink of some sort. It was always enjoyable, and last night I got to do it again.

We have a huge party patio off the side of the Estate, with a large built-in bbq grill, and a firepit surrounded by wooden benches and tiki torches. But nobody ever uses it.

Recently, however, we've gotten two new younger roommates (I say younger, but they're closer to my age, not geezers like the other two fellas that live here) who also like to utilize the outdoor facilities. Lately, on my days off, we've been using the grill for dinner every time, and we'll just hang out and smoke, talk, and watch the planes on their descent into McCarran just about a mile away.

But we haven't used the firepit until last night. It was a brisk fall evening, the kind of night that would be perfect for an October hayride anywhere else in the country, and I wanted to build a fire. And because of the fact that we live on two acres of land that hasn't been disturbed in over thirty years, chances were good that we'd find a woodpile somewhere on the property. So with flashlights in hand, Travis (on of the new roommates) and I went on a little safari beyond the treeline in the backyard hunting for firewood.

Jackpot! Up against the block wall in the far corner of the property we found about half a cord of wood--uniformly cut trunk sections of some long-dead tree. And it had been sitting there for several years, so it was good and dry. We hauled a few pieces back to the fire pit, and with yesterday's newspaper and a handful of dryer lint, a few minutes later we had a roaring fire with six-foot-high flames using only one match and no lighter fluid.

After the fire was going, we lit up the charcoal grill again. Our other roommate, Brad, rolled in from work about that time, and the three of us hit the kitchen preparing another epic meal.

To say that we had a fine dinner would be a vast understatement. Of course we grilled brats for 'appetizers', then we grilled some huge ribeye steaks, and then foil-packed some Portobello mushrooms and asparagus with butter and spices and threw them in the coals to cook also.

You can't even begin to imagine how great the veggies smelled once we busted open the foil packs. But the steaks were fantastic, too. With all the practice we've had lately, we're getting pretty damn good at grilling them to medium-rare perfection.

I tell you what, there just isn't much better than sitting around the fire eating a great steak and enjoying the fresh air. It was almost like being on a camping trip, except that we had a flushing Roscoe just a few steps away and I didn't have to sleep on the ground. But now my fleece hoodie smells like the ribs at The Salt Lick and my cigar inventory is down a couple more sticks. Even so, it was a damn fine evening in Vegas.

No casino needed.

A barely-dressed cocktail waitress would've been nice, but you can't have everything.


Monday, November 13, 2006

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

I don't watch that much tv these days, but when I am watching, it's usually either ESPN or the NFL network.

We've all seen those Miller 'Man Law' commercials, and with all of the football programming I watch, I think I have uncovered a some sort of unspoken law among NFL talk shows.

Apparently, every NFL preview/highlight show must employ a token Annoying Black Man.

CBS has Shannon Sharpe, the NFL network has Deion Sanders (completely unwatchable), and ESPN gets a two-fer with Stuart Scott and Michael Irvin. Seriously, do the fans prefer the whole shuckin' and jivin' act? I don't. Do only retired wide receivers get auditions for these jobs?

Fox (being that eeeevil Republican network) doesn't do that whole Affirmative Action thing, so they're annoying studio host slot is filled nicely by one Mr. Terry Bradshaw. I'll admit, I was a youngster back in the Seventies when he was leading the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins, but I don't remember him riding that Hillbilly schtick to the point of annoyance.

Can't the highlight shows feature four guys that don't need to try so hard to get laughs? If I were King for a Day, I'd replace Michael Irvin on the NFL Countdown crew with Dan Fouts, making the panel consist of Berman, Steve Young, Dan Fouts, and Tom Jackson. That would be an enjoyable and informative show. Currently, I change the channel every time Irvin opens his yap, and sometimes I forget to go back.

Maybe I'm just grouchy because of the changes this year that took away the best football show on tv--NFL Primetime with Chris Berman and Tom Jackson. In it's new incarnation with Stuart Scott as the host, it is a complete train wreck of a program.

Because I'm watch less NFL programming, I'm certainly less informed, and my lack of success at the betting window this year reflects that.

I blame the networks!


Six Figures

Wow. I just found out that as of this morning, this website has had 100,000 hits since I started tracking it last February.


That works out to about 3700 hits from each of my 27 readers!


New Car, Caviar, Four Star Daydream...

I'm soooo happy that tonight is my 'Friday' night. It's been a long week, and luckily money improved a bit this time around--I think I made about $150 more this past week than I did last week. Maybe I'll have a little more spending money after the next paycheck.

But I'm all about debt retirement and killing the Interest monster, so I'll probably pay a little extra and be poor again. Oh well, I've got no particular place to go, and all Vegas-style buffoonery is on hold until Doc Al gets here next month.

Damn, if I only had a time machine, I'd go back to 1989 and tell myself that those student loans would be better spent buying stock from all those nerds in Seattle and their new Microsoft outfit, instead of going to Jackson Hole every weekend and canoeing, camping, and river-rafting with my buddies. Oh yeah, and I'd also tell myself to never even consider going to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for three semesters. Easily the worst decision I've ever made. I'm *still* paying that shiat off.

Ugh. It's depressing to think about, so we'll move on to a more interesting subject.

I see a lot of interesting things while working in a casino, and the people watching is usually a highlight. This past weekend was no different. I saw a Beach Crazy-wannabe and her friend getting liquored up and needing help up off the floor a few times. I saw a guy hit a slot machine for a $40,000+ win, then come to my table where I promptly relieved him of over a thousand of it in less than ten minutes. I saw a fellow dancing to the beat of his own, and obviously different, drummer all night long to the music being played in the bar, which was entertaining for everyone who had the pleasure of witnessing it.

I also saw my fair share of degenerate gamblers.

It always amazes me that people will gamble until their last dollar is gone. It's like it's against the law to walk away with $50. Why not take the money and go home, instead of insisting on going home broke? I'll never understand it. I mean, gambling should be fun, but damn, it's amazing to watch somebody literally insist on losing their money.

Last night I was dealing to a guy who'd made probably about $500 playing Pai Gow at $25 per hand, but he stayed at the table for hours grinding away, giving it all back. Finally, around 1:00 in the morning, he put his last $50 in the circle and said he was going home after he lost that last bit of money.

Hey genius, why not pocket the green chips and salvage a little dignity at the same time?

Of course, a case bet never loses, and he doubled his money. So what did he do? He let it ride, insisting that he'd go home after that hand. So I dealt him a full house. After paying him off on his winning hand and his bonus, he had almost $250. Did he color up and walk with two bills and change? No. He piled it all up, telling me that if he lost that hand, then he'd go home.

To him, going home broke was better than pocketing $250. I'll never understand that mindset. Of course, the next hand I dealt myself three pairs and he finally got his wish and left, broke.

I'm telling you, moments like that remind me that owning a casino is a license to print money! Luckily my 401k is about 20% gaming stocks, so I directly benefit from people who refuse to walk away with money in their pockets.

It gets even better... While I absolutely detest dealing $5 games, the potential for unintended comedy from watching people who lack common sense is treeeee-mendous. Our casino manager decided that instead of all Pai Gow games having $10 minimums or higher, we'd always have one $5 game available to 'create interest in the game'. I can see the reasoning for that, but in reality, as someone who deals at that table for two hours per night, I can tell you that it hasn't created any new interest at all--it's the same low-stakes players that we always have, now just trying to stretch their bankroll twice as long.

But here is the beauty of it. Most of the people that play the $5 game also play the Fortune bonus at $5 per hand also, chasing that once-in-a-lifetime hand, or hoping to get a piece of it with their Envy Bonus if somebody else at the table has a monster. But those hands are rare, and most of the time, the hand results in a push, so they lose the $5 they had on the bonus. But what makes me laugh on the inside is when they win the hand, they still lose their five dollar chip that was sitting on the bonus circle, but then I give it right back to them for their winning hand. In their mind, they think it's a 'push'.

But they don't consider the commission. So for almost every winning hand at a $5 table, it costs them a quarter.

So lets see here...

  • If they get no bonus and lose the hand, they lose ten bucks.
  • If they get no bonus and push the hand, they lose five bucks.
  • If they get no bonus and win the hand, they still lose a quarter.
  • If they get a bonus and win the hand (which happens about, I dunno, 5% of the time), they'll average about $17 (rough guesstimate).

Amazing, huh? The actual house edge on Pai Gow is miniscule, but the way people play it in real life gives the casino a HUGE edge.

The lesson here--go long on the gaming sector!

And in an earlier post I talked about how folks should play their regular bet for $15 minimum if they're playing the bonus for $5. Well, the folks in charge are aware of this, and I suppose that's why we *never* have a $15 minimum Pai Gow table--it takes too long to break somebody that way. I've been dealing the game long enough to know that if somebody buys in for $100, and plays the ten dollar minimum with a five-dollar fortune bonus, they won't last an hour unless their luck runs to the statistical anomaly side of the equation.

And no amount of preaching this information can change behavior--gamblers, by definition are irrational--I tried telling my favorite players this "secret" on several occasions, but most people are just too stubborn to figure it out for themselves. They'd rather go broke. So I usually just shut-up and deal. Every now and then I see somebody who obviously gets it, so it's a pleasure to deal to them. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't also derive a wee bit of pleasure from seeing somebody go broke who's playing 'dumb'.

Seriously--there is already a house edge built into every game. Why give your money away faster? True, some would say the difference doesn't matter--but if you're gonna go broke, why not go broke in three hours instead of just one? Because, kiddies, as far as Pai Gow is concerned, the longer you sit at the table, the better your chances of catching that monster 5-Aces or 7-Card Straight hand with it's huge payoff. And like I said earlier--you don't have to leave broke, but unfortunately, most people behave like they don't have that choice.

And the casinos laugh all the way to the bank.

Comedy? Yep. Tragedy? Absolutely. I guess that's why it's such good Drama. And I've got a front-row seat for it every night.


Sunday, November 12, 2006


It's a commonly held belief that Steve Wynn singlehandedly made Las Vegas into the economic powerhouse that it is today, bringing over 30 million visitors and billions of tourist dollars a year to our wonderful city.

It's not just a belief--it's a God's honest fact. Before his Mirage opened in 1989, Vegas was withering on the vine, attracting nothing much beyond the occasional leisure suit-wearing conventioneer, while half-assed properties like the Frontier and the Riviera competed for the dwindling share of gambling dollars, now that Atlantic City had jumped into the casino gaming market.

Steve Wynn parlayed a small stake into a billion-dollar empire, literally rebuilding the city skyline with places such as The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, and now his namesake resort and casino, The Wynn. He got the ball rolling in 1989, and others have followed suit. The Vegas of today exists because of Steve Wynn--is there any doubt that places like the Luxor, New York New York, Paris, Mandalay Bay, and Monte Carlo would've never been built had there been no Mirage?

For those of you that pay attention to all that happens in the Vegas world, the hot button issue of the past several months in this town has been Steve Wynn, and his decision to give his floor supervisors a big raise.

No big deal, right?

Well, the money isn't coming out of his pocket--he decided to take money from the dealer's toke boxes to pay his floor people, instead of paying them with actual casino money. On the surface--and from a dealer's perspective--it was a completely dickheaded thing to do. Dealers are the ones working for and earning the tokes, not floor supervisors.

However, the 800 pound gorilla that's driving the situation was the fact that the floor people's salaries were between 50-60K per year--not bad, considering that it's about the easiest job in Vegas, but not that great either. But the problem is that the dealers at Wynn, who make about $7 an hour from the casino, with tips were averaging about $90,000+ per year. Yes, the Wynn casino has some great tippers playing there. But one can easily see the inherent problems with the frontline troops making almost double what their immediate supervisors make.

First and foremost, eventually you'll end up with a shortage of floor personnel--dealers won't want to move "up", and the floorpeople you already have will leave for greener pastures once an opportunity presents itself. But even more obvious, you'll inadvertantly create a sense of entitlement amongst the dealers, human nature being what it is, and that will only create friction. Even in a casino like mine, I see it every week. When our dual-rate floor people come in and see that the dealers had a big toke night the day before, they get pissed because they were standing floor instead of pitching the cards, and lost out on fifty or a hundred dollars or more.

(That's one reason I have no desire to become a dual-rate. I think ours get paid $160 per shift, which is $20 per hour, but as a dealer, if I make more than $104 in tokes per night, then it'd be a pay cut for me to stand floor. And we almost *always* make more than that. For example, two nights ago we made $179 in tokes, and adding the $56 in wages I got from the casino, that put my earnings $75 above our dual-rate floor supervisors for the night).

So even on a small scale, I can see the friction. I can't even begin to imagine the bitching I'd hear if I were making $200 more per night than the guy standing behind me wearing the suit. So that's the world we live in--sometimes the dealers, because of tokes, make significantly more than the lowest-level supervisors. And the casino owners certainly don't want to take money out of their bottom line to pay people, so that brings us to Steve Wynn's recent decision forcing the dealers to split a portion of their tokes with the floor supervisors.

When the announcement came at the Wynn, the neon telegraph put the word out immediately, and the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth could be heard all over the valley.

It's illegal!

It's not fair!

If he wants them to have a raise, HE should pay them, not me!

Lawsuit time!

When I first heard about it, I thought, Gee, that's interesting, but it doesn't affect me in the slightest.

Of course, the uninformed masses of my fellow dealers treated the news like proof that the Four Horsemen were saddling up. It was impossible to sit peacefully in the dining room and enjoy my dinner without some knucklehead spouting their views--usually some genius pronouncement along the lines of If only we were unionized, that shit would never be able to happen! or How long before they do that HERE???


First of all, taking a percentage of the dealer tokes would never fly at my casino. The disparity between dealer income and floorperson income just isn't that great. Yeah, it's a bit of a pay cut on most nights, but a lot of floorpeople wear a suit because they're sick of dealing and putting up with all of the bullshit that a dealer has to put up with on a nightly basis. So to them, the peace of mind is worth it. And once you move beyond 'dual-rate' status, your pay is increased--the more experience you have, the higher your salary. So there really isn't any justification for that kind of toke splitting.

Second of all, it seems that my employer is deathly afraid of unionized employees. A huge portion of every new employee's orientation is geared towards all the (truthful) disadvantages of having a union. And we're reminded of it on a regular basis. Personally, I myself am staunchly anti-union, and always have been (for reasons I won't discuss here or in my comments section, so don't try to stir the pot), and would never even consider joining one.


If The People In Charge decided that effective immediately, the floor supervisors would get 10% of the toke pool, the first thing I would do is sign a union card, encourage my fellow dealers to do the same, and then start looking for another job. Several of my co-workers have told me that they'd do the same thing.

Of course, I say that because I'm not making $95,000 per year while sitting on my ass dealing Pai Gow to chain-smoking Filipinos. I'm making somewhat less than that--I'm not bound by the Neon Handcuffs, so I have a few more options. Basically Steve Wynn said to his dealers, Suck it, bitches. Where else are you going to go?

And it's true. Nobody else makes that kind of money. I know a few of the dealers at Wynn, and as soon as they figured out what they'd earn on a 'regular' basis, a bunch of them bought expensive cars and houses with ridiculous mortgages. Good for them--I wish I could've been in the same position. But when the announcement came, it caused some sleepless nights. (One thing I learned the hard way back in the tech boom days--if good money comes too easy, it never lasts. And making almost six figures for dealing blackjack seems too easy...)

As a dealer, I still believe it was a dickheaded move on Steve Wynn's part. But as a normal human being with a modicum of common sense, it's hard for me to feel too sorry for a bunch of dealers making that kind of money at such an easy job.

I know, my position is somewhat inconsistent. When they came for the Wynn dealers, I remained silent... But the truth is that dealing, for me, is just a means to an end. It's not who I am, it's what I do. I could easily be doing something else. But right now, the money is good, the work is enjoyable, my bosses are decent, and my complaints are minor. I've worked harder for a lot less money.

Taking the ultra-long view, however, the situation is somewhat troubling.

Other casinos are looking at it as a low-cost (NO cost) way of paying their floor supervisors. I think that the situation at the Wynn is unique just because of the huge money involved. I see the numbers at other casinos, and only the dealers at Caesars Palace come close to making Wynn-type of money on consistent basis. It could never happen at Caesars, being part of the Harrahs universe, because then Harrahs would have to implement the same policy at all of their properties, and that just has disaster written all over it. With all of the grind-joints they own, plus the fact that their average dealer probably makes around $55k per year it would signal the end of table games in Vegas, which in turn would signal the end of Vegas.

The end of table games?

Yep. Think about this. If every casino started implementing Wynn's policy of stealing tokes to pay the floor supervisors, what is the natural progression?

First of all, just like a call-center, the front-line employees would be doing everything they could to 'get off the phones' and get a support job, meaning that eventually, you'll run out of long-term dealers--the backbone of any casino--the guys who've been dealing for 20 or 30 years and have seen it all, the people who make the floor supervisors jobs easy. Few people will want to deal anymore--they'll just use it as a springboard to another job, dues to be paid, if you will.

Talent always follows the money.

In turn, this will cause customer service to suffer, and tokes will go down even more. Eventually the only people willing to deal table games will be those non-English speaking folks right off the boat willing to work for bad wages because they don't yet know any better. This will drive players away even further.

You'll then see casinos reacting to the slowdown in table game revenues by starting to take out a few tables here and there and replace them with much more lucrative slot machines.

Eventually, the tipping point will be reached and some casinos will go to almost exclusively slot machines, (Harrahs, pick up the white paging phone...) and the few table games they have will be high-limit only. Places like Mermaids will become the rule, not the exception. The current generation of video-game addicted youths who have no social-interaction skills won't mind that everything is slot machines and video poker (hence the popularity of games like Rapid Roulette). Once that is the accepted norm, you can start nailing the coffin shut on Las Vegas. Seriously--who's going to come to Las Vegas if it's all slot machines? The city will spend a generation in the wilderness, just like it did from the seventies to the late eighties.

It'll take that long before somebody realizes that table games are a needed commodity here in Vegas, and the people standing behind the green felt need to be dealt with fairly.

Maybe then, some visionary casino developer will ride into town, breathing new life into a once-great city with a new casino concept that attracts new players and creates a buzz. Let's just hope that this time around he pays his floor supervisors a decent wage once he makes his first billion.


PS. According to the latest issue of The Dealers News, since Wynn implemented his new toke policy, the dealers are only losing about $25 per day, so it seems to be working, according to the blurb. Basic math, however, tells me that it works out to $125 less per week, $500 less per month, and $6000 less per year. Anybody out there wanna take a six grand pay cut per year and give it to your boss? Anyone?