Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vegas Extravaganza - Christmas in Laughlin

I woke up Christmas day at about 10:00AM, a decent hour for once during this trip. I didn’t know what the poker scene was going to be like in Vegas on the holiday, so deciding my day’s itinerary would be difficult. Until I remembered that I wanted to see some poker rooms out of the city, that is. Laughlin, about 90 minutes south of Vegas, on the Arizona/Nevada border, seemed like the perfect destination. I spent a few minutes blogging the previous night’s events and taking a shower and stuff, and then I hit the road.

The ride down to Laughlin is…interesting. After you’re out of the city, a 20 minute drive, there is absolutely nothing. I mean nothing. For 70 miles, you’re driving through desert as far as the eye can see. There are cacti and desert grasses and nothing else whatsoever. Oh, wait, there’s a town called Searchlight which is literally 1000 feet long. And somewhere on the drive is a small settlement of RV’s, maybe 40 or so, out in the middle of nowhere. The emptiness is kind of hard to comprehend, but strangely beautiful. Also, the mountains surrounding the desert are very stark and pretty. The ride isn’t so bad because the highway is smooth and the speed limit is high. I arrived in Laughlin, on the Colorado River, at about 2:00 PM.

Driving into the town, you come in from an elevated hill and you get to see the city of Laughlin before you actually get there. It’s very strange because there is a central strip (called Casino Drive, natch) which is surrounded by 8 or 9 large casinos, and then empty desert all around it. I imagine this is what Vegas looked like 50 years ago or so, before urban sprawl came here. The casinos are all smoking allowed (even some of the poker rooms) and the visitors here are either grizzled locals or scuzzballs from Arizona. They’re also old. Damn old. And smokers. And playing poker with oxygen tanks. And they go to sleep early dammit!

Anyways, I started out the trip with the very first casino I came to, Riverside. The poker room here is 10 tables stuck in a corner near the craps tables. The room is somewhat separated from the casino, so the thick wall of smoke doesn’t quite get in, but it’s still pretty crappy. The tables suck, the chairs suck and the chips suck. The action, though, is pretty decent. They run an O/8 game that not only gets off regularly, it has enough interest to have a must move table! I played the 3-6 O/8 with a full kill for a few hours. I didn’t win, but I made my buy in last for a while and I got some good experience. The players here are veterans and they’re tight, but they’re balanced by plenty of old folks who don’t know what they’re doing. I wish I could be better at hand selection in O/8. I’d make big mobneys.

From there, I went hopping from casino to casino, playing in each room and having loads of fun doing it. The biggest issues were the smoke in the casinos and the emptiness of the casinos. Seriously, at about midnight, this place was a ghost town. Not a car on the road and maybe a few dozen people on the casino floor. I diligently played in every single poker room in the town, except for two. In the Aquarius casino, the poker ‘room’ is nothing more than three tables with ropes around them situated right in the middle of the floor next to the craps tables. They have hours. Can you imagine? Poker room hours? When I got there at 2am, they were closed! Lol!! And the Avi casino, an Indian casino about 20 minutes out of town, was also empty and the poker room barren when I got there. I finished my run all through town at about 3:00 and I decided that driving 90 minutes back to Vegas was not a great idea. I was tired and there are no lights on the road in the desert. A bad combination. So I went to Harrah’s and asked for their room rate for the night. $29.00 was the answer. It was a no brainer. I stayed the night at Harrah’s and drove back to Vegas at 9:45am.

For the record, the coolest looking hotel in Laughlin is the Colorado Belle. The entire hotel is shaped like a riverboat and the theme runs inside as well. There’s even a moat surrounding the hotel to make it look like it’s on the river (which it actually is on the other side). The moat is filled with koi fish and there’s a walkway above it about 15 feet. An odd thing about the fish; when I peered over the side to look at them, they swarmed over to me, their mouths agape in anticipation. I didn’t think you could train fish, but these fish clearly expected that ‘people’ equals ‘food’. It was a really really weird sight. I met some really nice people on my trip, and some really strange and grizzled white trash. The worst poker ‘room’ was at the Pioneer, which is only two tables next to the bar in the saddest looking casino (how’s ten foot high ceilings for you?) you’ve ever seen. Smoking is allowed at the table and the people there are the sorriest you’ve ever seen. It’s a pleasure to be back in Vegas after this trip. Laughlin is so ghetto, it’s not a place I’d like to visit again.

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