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Vegas in January

Click to view Vegas in January photo album

Las Vegas, NV
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - Sunday, January 29, 2006
Vegas in January photos

Purpose: To play poker, of course.

More details:
The poker group hadn't been to Vegas in a while, so we planned to go in late January to play poker. We ended up staying at the MGM Grand at the last minute as we found a good deal on the hotel rooms.

Getting to Vegas
Brian, Jim, Gabe, and I arrived in Vegas around 4pm on Southwest's direct flight. Fortunately, we had no travel issues and even arrived a few minutes earlier than scheduled. We picked up the rental car and headed for the MGM. We checked into the hotel and grabbed a bite to eat at the Studio Cafe. We learned that the already pricy cafe had upped their prices since we last visited. We generally only eat there with comps from the poker room, but this time we paid full price. We also learned that you apparently need special permission from the chef to put tomatoes and lettuce on your chicken sandwich.

And the poker begins...
The four of us went to play poker after our dinner for the remainder of the evening. We didn't see Brad until almost midnight as his first flight was delayed from Raleigh to DC. He missed his connection and had to rebook on a flight to LA and then to Vegas. He finally made it, but he was exhausted!

Red Rock Canyon
Thursday morning, we all headed out to Red Rock Canyon where we had a quest to see the wild burros. We knew that Thursday morning and afternoon would be slow in the poker room, so we decided this was a good time to take an excursion. We had a few issues getting to the park, but we were glad that we had decided to make the trip.

Burros and Donkeys!
We saw burros almost right away, which turned out to be pretty lucky since we had no further burro sightings in the park. We took some photos, including one that I like to call "Burros and Donkeys." If you don't get it, find the poker reference on the donkey entry on wikipedia. We spent some time climbing around on the rocks and taking photos. The scenery is incredible, and the photos do not do it justice! On the way back, we stopped at an amusing donkey crossing sign where I convinced the others to cross the street. Good times.

Wynn Buffet
After our adventure at Red Rock, we headed to the Wynn where we wanted to sample the buffet. I usually make a point to visit the Bellagio buffet, but I had heard that the Wynn buffet was pretty good as well. As usual, I enjoyed the experience, especially the desserts. It's fairly comparable to the Bellagio buffet, although I think that I prefer Bellagio for some reason.

Tournaments
After lunch at the Wynn, Jim wanted to sign up for the "Pigskin Classic," which was a $500 buy-in tournament at the Imperial Palace. This was one of five tournaments that Jim played in throughout the weekend. When he wasn't playing in tournaments, he was putting in hours at the blackjack tables. As a result, the rest of us didn't see him very much! He ended up playing in the Caesar's tournament on Thursday evening, the Pigskin Classic on Saturday morning, a tournament at Binion's on Friday night, another tournament at Binion's on Saturday morning, and another tournament at Caesar's on Saturday night. Whew! He ended up getting close to the money a few times, and he placed just in the money in the Friday night tourney. The rest of us did not play in any tournaments and played exclusively the cash games at the MGM's poker room.

Del Taco - where you can get tacos OR burgers!
Brian and I had lunch at the food court next to the MGM early Friday afternoon. Here I was excited to finally order for myself the taco and french fry combo from Del Taco. Brad has been talking about this place for a while now! I wasn't terribly impressed by my food, but it was fun to finally get a taco AND fries!

The Back Stairwell
After our meal, Brian and I decided to see where the back stairwell would lead us. We thought it might get us closer to the entrance at the MGM that is very close to the poker room. As we entered the stairwell, some guy in a tie stopped us and wasn't sure what to say. He finally asked if we worked there to which we gave a very non-committal answer ("not exactly") and indicated that he thought were in the wrong place. He asked where we were trying to go, and we said "MGM." He said, "oh, ok, well you can get there this way. I think that we left the door on the right unlocked, but usually both doors are locked." "Oh, ok, good to know. Thanks!" And we all continued on our merry little ways. Sure enough, the stairwell leads into an alley behind the food court that is very near the aforementioned entrance to MGM.

Secret MGM VIP Suites
As we were walking towards the MGM, Brian noticed that the buildings we were passing must be the super secret VIP suites that he has heard about from various TV shows about Vegas and high rollers. Since they left the gate open, we saw this as an open invitation to explore the area. We walked around a bit, but we didn't find much to explore. We saw a few open doors, but we felt that there were people watching us through the many windows that surrounded us. We aborted the mission and will have to explore it some other day. We were able to see that the rooms were indeed very fancy suites.

Bellagio Conservatory
Brian, Gabe, and I decided to make the obligatory trip to the Bellagio Conservatory after lunch on Friday. Once again, we made the mistake of thinking that the Monte Carlo / Bellagio monorail would be running. Since Brian and I were skilled at making our way over to the Bellagio, we felt we could find a way without going back through the Monte Carlo. This time we didn't have to climb under the fence since there was a big opening to the employee parking lot. We decided to skip the shuttle and try to find another way across the parking lot without going into the employee entrance this time. Unfortunately, some security guard tried to tell us that there was no way that we could walk through that area. She told us we had to go all the way back through the Monte Carlo to get to The Strip. We knew that this was not the truth, but there was no way that we could argue with her further. We turned around and tried to come up with another plan. We almost got onto the employee shuttle, but we decided against it at the last minute. We ended up finding another way out to The Strip without going through the Monte Carlo. We made it to the Bellagio Conservatory where I had fun taking photos, as usual. The theme is one of my favorites -- Chinese New Year (Year of the Dog).

Margaritaville
After our Bellagio adventure, Gabe and I went to Margaritaville to meet some friends of his from Kentucky. They were having a surprise 40th birthday party. It took Gabe and I a while to find the rest of the party (not that I was much help since I didn't know what anyone looked like). We didn't have reservations, so we weren't sure if we were going to be able to get a table for 12 people. It worked out, and they were able to sufficiently embarrass Jeff by getting him on stage with the hula girls. I had a big plate of peel-and-eat shrimp - yum!

More Poker
We played poker on Friday night until the wee hours of the morning, as usual. At this point, several of us were getting frustrated with our cards and bad beats! It was a frustrating several days of poker for sure. I'm not sure that anyone came back profitable due to poker this time.

Don't Splash the Pot
Brian was at a table with an annoying guy who kept splashing the pot with his bets, despite being told numerous times to stop. So, on one hand, the annoying guy throws $15 into the middle, and $10 of it splashes into the pot. The following interaction occurs:
Dealer: "One seat bets $5."
The One Seat: "I bet $15, and $10 splashed into the pot."
Dealer: "You've been warned about splashing the pot. I don't know how much went into the pot; I see $5. Bet is $5, action is on the Four Seat."
Other players: *cheer* *laugh*

Cirque du Soleil's Ka
Gabe and I decided to take some time off from the poker tables and went to see Ka, the Cirque du Soleil show at the MGM Grand. I had been wanting to see the show for a while since I had seen both O and Mystere on previous trips. Gabe had also seen and enjoyed O, so he was excited about seeing Ka as well. The show put both of us in a great mood, and I got a new shirt from the gift shop that I really like. I felt it was different from the other two shows that I had seen previously. It seemed to have a more defined storyline and less acrobatics towards the beginning of the show. The sets were very interesting, and the effects were incredible. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of show. I am definitely glad that we went to see it!

More Gambling
Gabe and I had seen the late show of Ka, but we were planning to stay up all night on Saturday since our flight was leaving in the early afternoon. We went to play some poker for a few hours, and then decided with Brian to do some random gambling to pass the rest of the time. We ended up going to the Tropicana to play some video poker, and then we headed to the good ol' Trashy Castle for some Pai Gow poker, blackjack, and video poker. We hung out at the pai gow table for more of the wee hours of the morning and went back to MGM around 8am to shower, pack, and check out of the hotel. Brian left Excalibur earlier to get a nap in before leaving, and Brad stayed at the poker tables at MGM until he had to leave to catch his flight home.

Downtown
We saw Jim again for the first time since Thursday on Sunday afternoon when he came to pick us up to take us downtown to waste a few hours. We walked around the Fremont Street area for a little while and looked at the cheesy, horrid gift shops. I can't believe some of the things that they try to sell in those stores (and I guess that people actually buy that stuff!).

The Western
Brian then suggested that we take a little side trip over to The Western to see the place with our own eyes. This is not a walk that any of us would want to take at night. The neighborhood is a bit sketchy. Cheapovegas.com says this about The Western: "A true adventure awaits anyone brave enough to make the scary walk from downtown to this dingy, smoky, ultra-cheap casino. This is where penny slots go to die, and bums go to watch." We didn't end up spending a lot of time inside, but we could tell that the clientele was ...interesting. We overheard some conversations on our walk over to the hotel, some of which are too vulgar to be included here.

El Cortez
On the way back to Fremont Street, we decided to stop at El Cortez (did you know that they have gambling there?). Unfortunately, we only had about 10 minutes for Jim and Brian to play blackjack. Jim's betting was heavy (for the El Cortez) and some guy in a suit was apparently called into the pit and started watching Jim's play, but nothing was said to Jim before we had to leave. Gabe and I played Pai Gow while we were in El Cortez. No luck there, either. At this point, Gabe and I were a bit loopy due to our lack of sleep!

Back to the Airport
We left downtown a little later than planned, and we cut it a bit close with catching our return flight. Where's the airport? Maybe we'll find the airport if we take the exit with the airplane icon?? After a little trouble, we find the rental car place and had just enough time to ride the shuttle, check in, go through security, and make it to the gate. I was not happy with the prospect of missing the flight! Since we were flying Southwest, the seat selections by the time we arrived were pretty slim pickings.

Other Adventures
The slowest rental car check-in clerk ever. Mental patient blocking the luggage rack. Canadians lie a lot, but they are nice about it. Second course is pizza. Are you wearing that to the festivities? The secret to getting your room serviced is to remove the privacy sign from the door. What is wrong with you???