Friday, March 23, 2007

Recent Vegas Trip, or How I came to respect the Pooh

Las Vegas – The happiest place on earth

It was Thursday morning and I got up at 9AM, just itching for the flight to Vegas. It was going to be me, Paul, the Slayer, and one of Paul’s friends from college. I got to the airport via the AirTrain (god’s gift to airport travel) and the security checkin was surprisingly light even though my plane was completely full. This was March Madness weekend as well as St. Patrick’s day weekend so the trip was sure to have some fun to it. I got onto the flight without a problem, thanking my own foresight of getting the exit row, stretched out and promptly fell asleep. I woke up 3 hours later and read a book the rest of the way. Not a bad flight, but my heart was pumping with excitement as we headed down to McArran airport. I could see the lights of the city below me was we touched down, spotting the famous Luxor pyramid and the Stratosphere Tower, where I would be staying.

As I shuffled off the airplane, I made my way to the tram to take me to the baggage carousel. I’m constantly amazed at how many people go through the Vegas airport and how efficiently everything runs. JFK sucks balls in comparison. I got my bag without a problem, got onto a bus to take me to the Avis Car rental center, and climbed into my Chrysler PT Cruiser, ready for the trip to finally start already.

As I drove from the airport to the top of the strip where the Stratosphere is, I encountered some heavy traffic. I decided to play the smart New Yorker and get off to take a side road, but that road led to a parking lot of a hotel! Welcome to Vegas! Everything here is parking lots, BUT they’re all connected! You can, in many cases, drive through three or four hotels’ parking lots before being dumped back out onto a main road, which is what I did. Finally, the traffic broke up towards the North End of the strip and I got to the hotel. I immediately checked in, dropped off my bags and went downstairs to the casino floor. I called Paul, who had already arrived a few hours ago and cashed in a 1PM tourney to boot! We met up in the poker room at the Stratosphere and played for a few hours. It was a relaxing experience for me after the long flight. The Stratosphere poker room is small, only 6 or 7 tables, but it’s comfortable and the players aren’t all that good. I made a couple of bucks before heading out to dinner with Paul and his college friend Shira. We at the The Top of the World, which is a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower. The views are magnificent and the food was excellent too, if a bit pricey. It was worth it, however, and the meal was a great start to the day. We headed back to the poker room afterwards where I cleaned up nicely in 1-2 NL, getting paid off well on my value bets. By 1AM, the time difference was getting to me. Matt was supposed to have come in already, but his plane was delayed so I left his key with the hotel concierge and headed to be. No sooner had my head hit the pillow than Matt walked through the door at 2AM. I stayed up a little longer, getting him acclimated before we finally went to sleep.

In the morning, we were up at 10:00AM, and we were out the door at 11:00 to go have breakfast at the Peppermill, which is the famous diner featured in the movie ‘Swingers’. The breakfast was excellent, although they’re very liberal with the use of butter out there. I dropped Paul and Shira off at O’Sheas where Paul had heard you could get a free T-Shirt just for playing poker in their one outdoor table. Matt and I drove off to Blue Diamond Road to hit the Las Vegas Gun Range and Rental Center. We had talked about this before the trip; this is the range where you can rent automatic machine guns for firing. Matt pulled out his Tom-Tom GPS navigator and we got to the range with no problems at all. The shop is a little tiny place about 4miles outside the strip with the words, “FROM PRACTICAL TO TACTICAL” written on the outside in 4 foot high letters. Inside, however, is a gun lovers dream. Every make and model you can imagine of machine guns, handguns, rifles, shotguns and even military grade sniper rifles were there on display and every item was for sale. The .50cal Barret sniper rifle, a live round of which Matt bought for $5 as a souveneir, went for $11,500. The salesman told us that the rifle fires supersonic speed rounds which are so fast that even if they miss within 6 inches, the concussive force has enough power to knock you unconscious and sheer the flesh off your skull. Clearly, we were in the right place!

Matt was like a pig in shit as we perused our rental options. There were multiple packages available and Matt didn’t hesitate to choose the most expensive one, “The Big Shot”. For a mere $400, you get to choose 5 different machine guns, 3 different hand guns and an automatic shotgun to fire. The package includes targets and 2 full clips of ammo for each gun. We chose the MP5, the M3, the UZI, the Tommy Sub Machine gun (like Al Capone used), the M16, a .45 ACP handgun with silencer, a .44 Magnum (Dirty Harry!), a .50cal Desert Eagle and the aforementioned shotgun. My personal favorite was the UZI because of it’s high rate of fire and it’s ease of handling. The recoil was almost non existent and I felt a great deal of satisfaction putting a small and tight grouping in the center of the target with it. The auto-shotgun was insanely powerful but it left us both with sore shoulders for the rest of the week from the kickback! The most intense experience was the .44 magnum and the Desert Eagle handguns. Powerful is not the word for these things! When I fired them for the first time, ever so tentatively, I nearly dropped the damn thing!! At the end of the shooting time, we reserved the Desert Eagle for a contest between Matt and I. 3 shots at a distance of 10 yards. The winner would get $20 and bragging rights. Matt was first up. His first shot was up near the neck area of the target. The next was just outside the target and the last was about dead center. My turn. I first the first just outside the center and then two right down the middle. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

After 2 hours of firing automatic rifles, the testosterone was flowing heavily and we cruised back onto the strip looking for some poker action. We stopped into the MGM Grand, the United State’s largest hotel (, to check out the live poker action. Inside the hotel are live lions, which we saw as we made the enormously long trek to the poker room. When we got there, a full 40 tables were in swing and we didn’t have to wait long for a table. But the room was cruel and Matt and I did poorly. We left a few hours later to try our hand in Excalibur, across the street. The Excalibur room is smaller and noisier, but the competition is not as good. That didn’t help us though as we both got felted. We ended up eating at the steakhouse in Excalibur where I DIDN’T get the Prime Rib I wanted, but had an excellent Porterhouse instead. Sated and full, we were about to end this manly day with a trip to a strip club, but my throat was starting to bother me. We headed back to the Stratosphere instead, where the poker room chewed me up. A bad day for poker but a great day otherwise!

Saturday, I woke up early and had a fantastic breakfast burrito with Paul and Shira. Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours playing limit in the hotel and having some fun. That night, we were going to be having dinner downtown at the 4 Queens hotel, so we made our way over there to play at Binions in the meantime. It was St. Patrick’s day and Fremont Street was in rare form. There were thousands of drunk couples, staggering around with a definite college fraternity vibe in the air. Drinks were being sold out on the street in plastic footballs, and people were throwing them around, with the drinks still inside! The four of us met up with Jodi, Paul’s cousin who lives in Vegas and Norit, Paul’s college roomate’s younger sister, whom he has known since she was 8. It was her 30th birthday, coincidentally, and she chose to celebrate it with us. Dinner at the 4 Queens was great. I had veal medallions in a creamy mustard sauce. Norit, who is a strict vegan, had to console herself with salad. Norit is quite cute and Matt was smitten, providing most of the entertainment as the Uber Meat Eating Republican, tried to get the attention of the anti-meat PETA member Norit. Sparks flew and tensions rose as they argued over who was at the top of the food chain, but a round of dirty jokes eased the tension. In the midst of all this, a nice nugget came out. Norit, leaned over to Paul and said, “Pooh, pass the salt please”. Pooh? Had I heard that right? Questions were asked and answered and it turns out that an old bright orange Florida Gator sweatshirt had engendered the nickname of Pooh for Paul and it had stuck with Norit. Giggles were the order of the day.

After dinner, we played some more at Binions and then, at 3AM, tried to hit the Rio for a very late night session. But when we got there, the room only had two tables going and they were full. Oh well, off to bed we went.

Sunday was more reservered. We got up late and cruised some of the hotels, playing at Bellagio, Venetian and Mirage. The Venetian, by far, has the best poker room I’ve ever been in. The ceilings are 30 feet high, the tables are spaced out so there is more than 6 feet between each one, the seats are luxurious and the cocktail waitresses are smoooking hot! It was a perfect experience. Sunday dinner consisted of a table side meal for me and we played well into the night, ending our session at the Mirage at 5AM. We got back to the Stratosphere are played Pai-Gow for another hour, not able to fully let our Vegas experience come to an end. But come to an end it must and we got up the next day intent on making our travel as painless as possible.

We drove together to the airport, Paul, Matt and I and got on our separate planes. Sigh…. Vegas, you are my secret lover and I will be back to rape, or be raped by, you again.

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