July 10, 2008
June 10, 2008
This was a nine-day trip to the desert playground, which was pushing it. I took five nights at the Palms, the closest decent hotel to the World Series, and then planned to move to Wynn, my favorite place in town, where they were giving away six Mini Coopers in a drawing Saturday night.
But while still at the Palms, I tried the new restaurant at Palms Place, Simon, along with Kyle, Crazy Mike, and Robyn. There are so many gourmet restaurants in Vegas it’s hard to gush about food but it was top notch. What really stood out, though, was the room. Intimate and glass walled, it sat surrounded by the private Palms Place pool. The waiter talked Crazy Mike into ordering his filet medium instead of medium well, and we relaxed as we watched the pool water lap onto the deck in the June desert wind.
I had no luck at the Palms, nor at Wynn when I moved over there. The good news was Nichole decided to fly down for the weekend, but the bad news was I picked up a nasty case of food poisoning that seemed to linger on for days. I dragged myself to the Rio to play the $1500 limit Hold ‘Em event but never got anywhere. The drawing for the cars was Saturday night and I could barely get out of bed but I showered and dressed and went down to the VIP cocktail reception with Nichole to see if I won.
When we got there we discovered they had secretly transformed the drawing into a game show. If your ticket got drawn you had to play “concentration” and match two numbers on a big board to win one of the six cars. If you missed twice they would draw someone else. I didn’t get picked in the first six, or the next four, or the next two. Finally there was one car left and they drew my name. Nichole said, “16 and 12! 16 and 12!” The room was spinning as I walked up to the stage. I decided to go for the drama. “Well, I’m pretty sure one of them is 16.” I said. Then I waited. I wondered if they’d call the clock on me. Finally I said, “How about….12!”
The room erupted into mixed cheers and boos as they revealed the final car. I took the cash option and used it to pay off a marker.
Still not 100% I flew back to Seattle to recover for a few days. Next event is the $10k limit Hold ‘Em championship on Sunday June 15.
June 2, 2008
2008 World Series begins
Last night I had dinner with Kyle and his family at Nove Italian restaurant at the Pams. They sat us at one of the large tables overlooking the Strip with gentle flames flickering at the base of the windows. The whole branzino (European seabass) was fabulous. We started with the 2004 Joel Gott "4 Sarah's Metier" cabernet. Gott makes one of the top inexpensive cabs so I was curious to taste a higher-end bottling and wasn't disappointed: it was fruity, well balanced, and finished well. Then we moved on to the 2005 Testarossa Sanford & Benedict pinot noir. I haven't had a California '05 I haven't liked and this one was great: full enough to follow the light cab but as fruity as Hawaiian Punch but without the sweetness. I'll miss them when they're gone.
In gambling, like sports, you're either on a hot streak or you're due.
February 19, 2007
Harrah’s Reno Blues
Gabe is my man in
I remembered very well the night last month we all went to the Keystone Cue and Cushion to shoot some pool and hang out with Kenny, the dying bartender. Kenny was best friends with Brian, the male dancer, who was dating Veronica, whom we kept calling
When I had woken the next morning, Kyle heard me making coffee and tiptoed out of his bedroom wrapped in a white towel. “Shh,” he said with a bashful grin. “
I roused myself from my reverie and blinked at Gabe. “She’s getting married?” I said. “To Brian?”
“No,” said Gabe, “to Kenny.” The redhead had dumped Brian and was marrying his dying best friend. That made less sense to me than most nonsense in this crazy town. Why would a dame dump a guy and then marry his dying best friend two weeks later? I texted Kyle with the news but my subconscious was working overtime. Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller, had told me it only took seven seconds from the moment of the Challenger disaster to the time the first sick joke was posted on the Internet. I felt horrible but it jumped into my throat like a rabid bullfrog and banged on my vocal chords from the inside until I choked it out. “Gabe—” I slapped my hand over my mouth, trying not to say it, but Satan grabbed my arm with his clammy claw and pulled my hand away.
“I married a man in
Gabe and I finished off the SLV and called it an early night.
I forgot all about the redhead the next night when Gabe and I went back to the FQ Men’s Club and partied with a hot 38-year-old Ukrainian named Elena who chain-sipped $10 Pinot Noirs while saying over and over again, “I am bad girl.” Gabe and I drank $7 waters and sat back and enjoyed the show while I smoked a Macanudo. “She’s getting married tomorrow,” Gabe said. “Veronica.” I took a deep puff on the Macanudo and let it out slowly.
The next evening I was ready to see the redhead. Gabe had told me the early, non-topless show “Let the Good Times Roll” was way better than the topless show (if only by virtue of not having a puppet) so we got a comp and went in. The house manager gave me a warm greeting but then sat us way in the back, at a booth where we had to look through people’s heads to see the stage. Gabe went to talk to him and we got moved to the front. I wasn’t sure if Veronica would be there but sure enough she came out smiling and dancing, a real pro. I texted back and forth with Kyle, who still wasn’t sure if I was making the whole thing up. You can’t make this stuff up.
The show was hot – hot enough to make a fat man drop a plate of nachos piled high with guacamole and jack. The girls, including the redhead, changed clothes on stage until you thought the lace on their white underwear would wear off. They started in pajamas, then stripped down to basics, then modeled a wardrobe that would have been on the cover of the catalog if
Halfway through the show the manager came down and leaned into me. The points on his lapels were sharp enough to spear a boiled shrimp and dip it in cocktail sauce. “Have you been taking pictures?” he yelled through “I can cook too” from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town. “One of the dancers saw you taking pictures with your cell phone,” he yelled. I had finished texting with the kid and had put my cell phone back in my pocket so I just showed him my empty palms, thinking that would end the kafuffle. It didn’t. The guy persisted, now yelling at another big player we were sharing the table with. That guy was on the verge of tears. He wasn’t a small guy.
The manager turned to Gabe and yelled, “Make sure all photos are deleted.” We were all very confused. My cell-phone camera barely had the horsepower to snap Jimmy Durante’s nose from six inches and I was pretty sure the other guy didn’t even have a camera. They sure were afraid of someone taking grainy pictures of the kind of show you usually see for free on a cruise ship. It didn’t add up, but then not much did in this batty burg.
After the show the redhead didn’t make an appearance in the lobby with the other performers. I guess she was in a hurry to get to her wedding night. Gabe and I had dinner at the Italian restaurant. We tried the 1999 B.V. George Latour. I thought about taking a picture of the label but who knows, they might have called the cops. I thought I could hear the whistle blowing…
As nutty as all this seemed to me, Kyle, stuck back in
I figure it all came down to the boyfriend, Brian. He was close to the redhead. Maybe even in love with her, who knows. And when you lose the one you love, you look for someone to blame. You can’t blame your best friend, dying of cancer. Maybe you blame the guy with glasses in the front row, the guy enjoying your performance and texting his buddy in
Or maybe you just hang your head and cry.
January 7, 2007
You want seamy?
Kyle got into Reno a couple hours earlier than I did so at my suggestion he took the shuttle to the Grand Sierra (formerly Reno Hilton) and played some poker. When I landed I rented a Ford Explorer from Hertz and picked up a grinning Kyle in front of the Sierra. He was up just a little in the ultra-loose 3/6 Hold ‘Em game but it amused him no end to see people call a river bet and turn over Jack high in a six-way pot.
It was a quick hop to Harrah’s, where my buddies and hosts John and Gabe had put us in the Ambassador Suite. We did a walking tour of downtown Reno before dinner. You want seamy? Virginia Street has been torn up for years, cyclone fences and detour signs routing cars and pedestrians in serpentine patterns. Buildings are boarded up. Soot stains drip from windows of burned-out edifices. The “O” is dark atop city hall, which proudly proclaims “REN.” Casinos, bars, and strip clubs populate downtown in the Biggest Little City in the World. We looked out the window of the Ambassador suite and drank it all in.
The exception was a sweet 21-year-old with a sunny smile named Summer. She just plonked herself down next to Kyle and hung out with us, ordering sushi for herself while I smoked a cigar. Yes, that’s right. Strip clubs and brothels are now the only place in Nevada where you can smoke and eat at the same time. Summer sat with us until it was time for her act, which we watched appreciatively.
My second visit to FQ confirms it sports much hotter strippers than most men’s clubs I’ve been to. Without that magical geek connection, though, we left the club at a decent hour and returned to the Ambassador Suite to find Kahlua nips waiting for us in our respective bedrooms, along with a bountiful gift basket in the living room and a cornucopia of undrinkable Pepsi products in the refrigerator. I really hope the new owners of Harrah’s sell the company to Coca-Cola.
Saturday we had lunch from the coffee shop menu in the Italian restaurant because the coffee shop was closed for renovation. Unlike Vegas, where most of the resorts have some healthy choices on the menu, Harrah’s Reno had all-carb all-fat all the time. I had a greasy sandwich and then went to the gym to work out. Kyle and I played a little 3/6 Hold ‘Em at the El Dorado and watched the Seahawks stumble to victory before Gabe took us for dinner to Ichiban, the excellent Japanese restaurant in the hotel. There we had a bottle of Mikune “Root of Innocence” sake. It was good but no Divine Droplets. We had the teppanyaki, done well in standard style, and then Gabe invited the two lesbians sitting next to him to join us at the topless show “Rock My Ride.” They happily assented and we all huggled into a VIP booth to watch the show. It was a standard topless revue with the exception of a very long and tedious puppet act. The dancing girls were beautiful and only one had implants.
After the show Gabe suggested we hit the trendy new nightclub in town, 210 North. For the hottest club in town on a Saturday night, it was pretty dead. I spent a fair amount of time trying to order Scotch from a ditzy blonde bartender who didn’t know what “neat” meant but I ended up with a yummy Bowmore 17. We split that popsicle stand in short order but on the way out a young man exclaimed, “You’re that poker guy!” He emoted as if I was his long-lost brother for the better part of a minute and I left him with a smile and well wishes.
We returned to Harrah’s and the lounge there, Sapphire, where two of the dancers from Rock My Ride were relaxing and two young nurses from California were exuberantly dancing. The nurses grabbed me for a dance but Gabe was waving me over to the show dancers’ table so I extricated myself and left Kyle to take care of the nurses. Victoria, the redheaded dancer from the topless show, introduced herself and said she bet I didn’t recognize her because she was wearing a wig in the act. I bet her I could think of a way to recognize her and she said, “I’m not showing you my boobs!” “Seen ‘em,” I said.
We closed down Sapphire and then all went to a gritty, seamy local hangout called Keystone Cue and Cushion, a combination nightclub, diner, and pool hall. “The strippers come here after work,” Gabe said. We went to the bar, where smoking was no longer allowed although management didn’t care if you did – at this point any potential enforcement is simply a $100 fine for the smoker. They did, however, have to remove the ashtrays so you needed a glass of water if you wanted to safely park your ashes. Gabe and the dancers all knew the bartender, Kenny. Victoria filled me in: Kenny had been diagnosed long ago with terminal cancer but had long since outlived his expiration date so he was just taking each day as if it were his last.
We played a little eight ball while Gabe sipped a drink and waxed philosophical to Kyle and Kenny. Then came the news that Kenny needed a ride to the hospital because he was suffering blackouts, but he would wait until his relief came. Apparently this was not an uncommon occurrence. Everyone seemed cool with it so we returned to our pool game. No one was keeping track but I went undefeated.
We had flights the next morning so I reluctantly returned to the Ambassador suite while the 21-year-old Kyle stayed up all night flirting with the dancers and listening to Gabe’s progressively existential philosophizing. For some, a weekend in Reno may be too long. For others, it leaves you wanting more. Either way, you want seamy? You got it.
December 22, 2006
Kyle and Tyler’s Excellent Adventure
My online poker buddy Kyle and his best friend Tyler had been looking forward to their first post-21 trip to Vegas, planned for right after finals, and I made sure I was in town to properly show them the sin in Sin City. Naturally the first stop was the Caesars Palace Seven Stars Lounge and uberbabe Elisabeth. We got there just before closing but she made a mean martini and launched us to the poker room, where we tried in vain to start up a game of HORSE. We played some 3/6 Hold ‘Em into the wee hours.
The boys had booked an economical package including a room at Harrah’s that was virtually free. I decided to pull a few strings and get a penthouse suite at the Palms, which I handed them the keys to. You shouldn’t have to stay at Harrah’s your first night in Vegas. Kyle liked the steam room but Tyler was all over the five-head shower with light show.
As loyal readers know, my favorite Vegas sin is gluttony. I exposed the boys to some fine victuals – Little Buddha and Nove at the Palms, with a brief stop at the Playboy Club, and Vic and Anthony’s and Grotto at the Golden Nugget. At Vic and Anthony’s, one of the best old-school steakhouses in town, we uncorked some fine vino: 1999 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rosé to start, followed by the 2002 Stag’s Leap Fay Cabernet. I remembered to ask them to leave the butter off the steak and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Grotto was unimpressive but they had a nice inexpensive Italian wine list and we were accompanied by an uberhot pokerbabe geek girl we ran into at Caesars who I had previously met at Binion’s.
The next two nights we got a great 4/8 HORSE game going at Caesars. The boys kept asking about going to a strip club but we ended up playing low-stakes poker every night instead. You see, that’s the great misconception about Las Vegas, that it has phenomenal, earth-shattering strip clubs. In reality, the sex industry in Vegas is overpriced and underdelivers. Like many facets of this money-machine town, it’s a sucker game.
But I told the boys to take a detour next time they’re near Tampa.