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America, May 21, 2004

Vegas, Baby, Vegas!

I double down or hold with two aces?

clothes are good
Before: Poor, Wears Shirt
who took this?!
After: Broke, Cooks Naked
Its another beautiful afternoon in DC and I just received yet another beautiful rejection letter. With just the right mix of apology, future hope, yet firm 'No' I can almost feel good about it. Almost.

No what I feel is sick to my stomach. This was a dream job, coordinating international development projects in the countries of the former Soviet Union, mainly the Caucasus's, for a major nonprofit in downtown DC. And now it's gone to yet another other candidate.

What to do? Cry? Yell? Pound my head against a wall? Drink till I forget? While those do sound mighty appealing right now, it's not like me to wallow in self-pity. No when the going gets tough, Wayan gets going!

Going this time to Vegas, baby, Vegas!

Yes, with the little money and less skill that I have I'm off to Sin City on Sunday. I'm off to gamble with the best of them, ogle at the weirdest of them, and laugh with all of them.

I've collected a good number of tips and tricks, like taking only cash and leaving the credit and debit cards at home, always double down on a pair of aces, and never fold with a flush. Still, if you fancy yourself a card shark, or you've won at Vegas, do let me know. I'll need all the 'Lifelines' I can muster.

Oh and don't think I'm leaving you out of this adventure. Not only does my cell phone work in Vegas, unlike, say Uganda, I am also taking my newest toy. Thanks to Mamma Santa, I'm now sporting a Canon PowerShot S410.

With 4.0 mega pixels, which is 2.7 more than my last camera, you'll be able to see the beads of sweat on my forehead as I try to bluff with a pair or the tears in my eyes when its called. See, I could use a schooling or two.

Wish me luck, or better yet, sponsor me!

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Privet Wayan,

I've met some fine Russian strippers in Vegas. If you play blackjack - find a dealer you're winning with and stick with her. They go on break every 45 minutes - at that time take a 15 minute break - you're allowed to reserve the seat. Stick with the dealer.

Yet - shy away from calling the temporary dealer bitch - a bitch. I've found they kick you out for that.

Nice tan buns-the apron string is more cute than a g-string.

There's a side of you I haven't seen before....

By the way Wayan I'm in San Diego now. A little more notice from you and I could have joined ya up there, oh well. Drop by SD if you get a chance eh? Got a couch w/your name on it


Good choice on Vegas! So many things to do and see, and they all compete for your business.

One of the best resources is and look at the attractions that are listed there. There are many things described to see on the Strip, in the Vegas area, and 30-60 miles away.

Some of our favorites on the Strip are the fountains at Bellagio, and the art gallery there, the many attractions at the Mirage (make time to go into the atrium bar and have a drink during the day while the misters make you feel like a tropical rainforest visitor.) The Imperial Palace has a car exhibit in the top floor of their parking garage that is better maintained than many others we have seen-Chas is a car nut.

Visit the shops in the Forum @Caesar's, and check out the fountains and the huge sculpture replica of Michelangelo's David in Caesar's older shops area. The Flamingo has a wildlife exhibit and the Tropicana has many pool areas and gardens out behind the casino areas. Of course the Luxor has King Tut's museum, and the ride to simulate the Nile. Mandalay Bay has the shark reef, and the lounges and clubs that I've not seen, and the Venetian is also scenic with gondolas and singing gondoliers.

New York, NY has the city streets and steaming manhole covers and also the roller coaster ride that loops over the top of the building. Excaliber, MGM, and Circus Circus didn't appeal to me, but they may have improved their areas that were too "kiddie" oriented.

One of the secrets of the cheap thrills on the Strip is at the Westward Ho (we called it the "Ho house") where they had an early morning ---after midnite-till about 4 am---breakfast special of $2.99 for steak and eggs. Next door, at Slots o' Fun, we could get 99 cent shrimp cocktails, and foot long hotdogs for about $1.75. These joints are located between Circus Circus and the Stardust on the Strip.

Many places offer a midnite cheap price on food, but you have to look for them. We never enjoyed the buffets--kind of like "slopping the hogs", and all the food tastes the same---Quantity, not Quality. Even the super buffet at the Rio, that's touted as really outstanding, was a disappointment to us. The cheapest live entertainment was to go to the lounges in the casinos, and to enjoy free shows/music for the price of a drink, with pretty good entertainers.

If you stay at the San Remo, which is off the Strip, but across the street from MGM's side and parking , you can get a good room for 39.95 and up, and it's within walking distance of the action on the strip. We usually always stayed downtown at the Golden Nugget, which is smaller, quiet, elegant, and because we always rented a car, being downtown or on the strip was never a problem.

One of the best bargains downtown is the downstairs Steakhouse/coffeeshop in Binion's Horseshoe Casino. The have the best beef stew, steak and eggs for $1.99, or Benny's favorite, the ham and eggs for $1.39. You have to go thru the casino's poker tables to the back , down the stairs, and wait in a short line for it, but they have the best home cooking value in Vegas!

If you get a car, go to Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead. The dam is so awesome, you must see it-- its hard to believe that it was built back during the Depression! Other favorites were: Neon Museum and boneyard, Ethel M's chocolate, and a trip to Mt. Charleston---about 60 miles from Vegas-with snow on the peaks while it was 109 in Vegas! After all this, I'm worn out....I'll have to send more info in a later can easily keep occupied away from the casinos if you do your homework first.


We are strictly slots players, but have been lucky many times playing them. We always play the dollar slots, in a casino that is busy and relatively noisy. (More players, more money going into the machines = greater probability of payoffs...this from a slot floor manager who has been a friend for years).

Pick a machine that is in a open area or one near a heavy traffic area; NEVER one that is away in a corner. We get better odds of payoffs on a multiplier machine...(Double Diamond, Triple Diamond, 3 Times ??, Double Cherry, etc.) The 10 Times machines are much less likely to pay off in a reasonable time, even tho the payoff is larger.

Put a $20 in the machine and play with ONE coin or credit until you hit a payoff...$20, $30 or so. After you have built up a cushion, then you can play with the 2 or 3 coin maximum, but if you don't hit anything in $20 - $40, then go back to playing one coin. A good machine will usually get you up to $250-$300, and will bring you back down to $175 within the first hour you play. If you have not hit any payoffs after putting in your initial amount of $40-$60, MOVE ON....the machine is in a slump period, and some other chump can pay it!

We have found a good paying machine and stayed on it for 2-10 hours, seesawing back and forth before finally cashing out our winnings. You can find a machine that lets you put in $2 max, or you can play one that takes $3 max. We never hit anything on the Megabucks machines, but somebody does or they would not be as popular as they are. As long as you are playing, the cocktail waitresses will bring you free drinks, more frequently if you tip her a $1 to keep you supplied.

This is our game plan, and we always have fun finding a machine and seeing what comes up! If nothing is working, take a break, have a drink in the lounge, and see some sights. We have the attitude that we are willing to spend X amount on entertainment, but aren't willing to give them all our money! ("Know when to roll em, know when to fold.....") Playing late at nite, after midnight is usually best for winnings.....this advice from the "locals" who KNOW when to play.

The cheap food, drinks, and modest spending on gambling with all the freebie or cheapo options makes Vegas a good place to have fun--- the people- watching is entertainment in itself!!! Asian food and hot dogs are cheap and plentiful, and you don't have to pay outrageous prices for cabs if you take the monorail or trolley, or don't mind walking.

Each resort/casino tries to lure you in with their own free attractions....the Mirage is one of my favorites because of the rainforest atrium. ( Be sure to see the huge wall of aquarium in the hotel check in area to the right of the front door entryway.) Don't forget to visit Downtown Vegas, it's got a different feel and atmosphere....and the casinos there cater to the small time gambler. (The El Cortez even has penny slots!---and some customers who need deodorant) But it's an experience!!! We like the Golden Nugget and Binion's Horseshoe best of them.

We have not been to LV in several years, but there are always new sights to see and things to do. The most enjoyable thing is to have non-stop fun doing whatever you wish, no dress code, no schedules, on a 24 hour basis. Adult playground! Have fun, and jot down some options to see before you go.

Love, and Good Luck from the Texas connection, Liz and CC

No disrespect to your other friend, but hate slots. They seem geared for suckers and old ladies. I do know a few people who have lucked out and won some $$$ at the slot machines, but for most people, it's just a very efficient money-collecting box... I recommend avoiding them altogether.

Personally, in terms of gambling, I prefer games where at least I feel like I have some impact on the outcome (slots are totally random and set to pay out 94-98% of the time, depending on the casino). Blackjack is fun, as long as you stick to basic strategies that maximize your chances of winning. Roulette is a guilty pleasure of mine, but beware -- it has the worst odds in the casino. That said there's a great thrill when you win a 35:1 payout when you hit your lucky number.

Craps is always the most fun game at a casino, with enthusiastic, rowdy crowds, but can be a little tricky to get a handle on, and your luck can turn cold fast! My buddy and I played craps last time I was there and were having the time of our lives, both of us up $50-$75 after about twenty minutes. We were about to own the damn town! But then, just like that, we lost seven or eight straight rolls of the dice and went DOWN about $100 each in the blink of an eye. So just beware: craps is the most exciting, party-style game in casino, and can be thrilling stuff, but it's not for the feint of heart!

My best recommendation for gambling is playing in a poker room. I'm biased, because I love poker. (And of course, Wayan SUCKS at poker, so this may not be such a good idea)... But the beauty of playing poker (Texas hold'em, especially) is that you can play a long time without having to bet much -- no ante 7 out of 8 hands.

It's a social environment. And they keep bringing you free drinks (Wayan's ears just perked up). If you play relatively tight/conservative, you can sit at a poker table for hours, have fun, get your drink on, and at least break even... I recommend the poker room at the Monte Carlo. Very friendly room. The dealers will help beginners, and it's not too hard to find a seat.

But honestly, aside from some poker, I actually don't gamble that much in Vegas. There's plenty of fun to be had elsewhere.... Some random suggestions:

The Westward Ho: This old school casino is popular with old-timers for good reason: it's cheap as hell. You can get $1 beers and $1 daiquiris there 24/7... Great place to pre-load! It's not far from Circus Circus...

Dona Maria's: Off the strip, closer to downtown Vegas. Great local place with amazing tamales! I never had a real tamale until I ate at this place. Cheap, tasty, and cool...

Downtown Vegas: Speaking of, this is a very fun place to visit. Less glitsy than the strip, but there's a nice are where they have blocked off a few streets for pedestrians. Its the place where they still have all the cheesy giant neon signs -- the big cowboy, etc... Great place to take some photos. It's also a good spot to find cheap drinks and food!

Hoover Dam(??): Why the hell waste your time with this??? Honestly. I've been there 3-4 times (mostly on vacations with parents), and never understood why people care. I can think of 50 more interesting places to be on the strip alone. I don't recommend wasting a day away from Vegas to check out the Dam. Rent Superman instead and watch it get blown up...

Harrahs: This casino is right in the middle of the strip, and they have a great outdoor stage and bar. Really fun place to just hang out, drink, dance, and potentially see some really bad live music...

Boardwalk Hotel: This dumpy casino/hotel is pretty unremarkable, save for one thing: PURPLE RAIN. This Prince cover band plays on Fridays and Saturdays. We went to see it as a joke, but damn if these guys aren't damn good! VERY ENTERTAINING! And free...

All the other small mini-lounges: One of my favorite (and cheap) things to do in vegas is check out all the random live acts in the B- and C- level casino lounges. You really can see some kitchy, silly stuff, and occasionally some hidden gem of a singer...

Spearmint Rhino: Best strip club in town... just in case you guys were wondering.

Paris: I'm not a huge fan of the high-end casinos (Bellagio is kind of cheesy, IMO)... but Paris is pretty wild. If you go inside, there's an indoor area that is made to look like a Parisian courtyard. Cheesy as it was, I had to admit, it was pretty cool.

Bet on a game: Pick a sports book, any sports book. Place a small wager on some NBA or MLB game. You'd be surprised how much more interesting a game can get when you have some stake in the outcome. If you play the over/under (total number of points scored), you can stress out over the final score, not who wins.

NY, NY: Ride the roller coaster. It kicks ass. Stop at the pizza place for a tasty slice.

The Beach: If you feel like dancing, this is a fun, rowdy nightclub off the strip that isn't as pretentious as some of the other Vegas clubs, and doesn't have the 2- or 3-hour lines... It's casual, so you don't have to get all spiffed up...

Ok, kids... that's all I can come up with off of the top of my head... Have fun....

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