Poker Trip - Take 5

Bowling, Craps, Football, Gambling, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas, NFL, Nostalga, PBA Tour, Poker, Restaurants, Vacation

I do love my Vegas, and I love when I can get work to pay a portion!

(All times from the left coast)

SATURDAY, November 2 at 11:30 AM PDT - We chose to come in on Saturday morning this year, though a little later in the day than the past. For last year's poker trip, we left on a 6:00 AM CDT flight and though we arrived at 9:00 AM PDT (which was great because it gave us a full day in Paradise) we were exhausted from waking up approximately 1:30 AM PDT the night before. It made for a crummy first day last year. This year, we arrive in good shape, but awfully hungry.

Saturday 11-2 @11:45 AM - The car rental process through Alamo was reasonably smooth, until I tried to bargain for a free upgrade from full size to a minivan. One a previous trip, I got one at no charge and last time for $15 a day upcharge. This year, they wanted $40 a day (the guy's excuse was that the shooting at LAX the day before diverted planes to LAS and as a result, there was a run on almost every car that hadn't previously been reserved). Alamo also wouldn't match a Thrifty rate (I prefer Alamo, so it was really an idle threat to walk). Luckily, I planned in advance and had ALSO reserved a minivan, though at a higher rate than Thrifty. They honored that Alamo minivan reservation, and the guy gave me credit for the attempt.

Saturday 11-2 @ 12:15 PM - My (failed) negotiations at Alamo cost a little more time, and the hunger wouldn't abate, so the five of us couldn't wait to get to the Grind Burger Bar on Tropicana (reviewing the cast of characters from previous adventures... I work with Scott, our friend Pat used to work with us but now works for a competitor, Phil also works at the same competitor, and Pete is new to the group but is someone I've bowled with and played poker with for years).

Saturday 11-2 @ 1:00 PM - The burgers were very good, though Phil and I both had a Juicy Lucy (a 8-oz burger stuffed with cheese) and both thought that ours were overdone. The waitress explained that they need to cook slightly longer to melt the cheese. Had they mentioned that, Phil and I agreed that we would prefer unmelted cheese. But that was a minor point, the burger was very good. Mine had fried onions, a fried green chile and a side of Thousand Island.

Saturday 11-2 @ 1:45 PM - We've gotten downtown. Everybody but me is staying at the Plaza (I would be on a Golden Gate comp). I go with them to check in, figuring that I'd get around to it later. I put my stuff in Pete's room and we head to our first poker game.

Saturday 11-2 @ 2:00 PM - We are playing in Binion's Deep Stack tournament, which had about 120 entries at $125 each (making this the most expensive tournament we'd ever entered). I make it through the first break (around the hour mark) while half asleep. I had gotten up at my normal time in the morning before the flight, and managed a brief nap in the plane. I spent the entire 10 minute break looking for 5-Hour Energy. I did not find one on the Binions property.

Saturday 11-2 @ 3:30 PM - Because this was "Deep Stack" tournament, everyone received enough chips to assure long play... As long as you don't try to semi-bluff for the pot against somebody that actually has a made hand. I go to check how everyone else is doing, and Pat says that since I look tired, I should take a nap in his room.

Saturday 11-2 @ 4:30 PM - I got sidetracked on my way to Pat's room, but my slot action wins me about $40 before I realize that I am too tired for even slots so I head up for a nap.

Saturday 11-2 @ 5:30 PM - I am startled awake by someone coming into the room (Phil) and shouting "Who is in my room?". Clearly, Pat never filled in his roommate about his offer for my nap. I talk to Phil for a few minutes about our respective exits from the tournament, and I decide to go back to gamble some more.

Saturday 11-2 @ 6:00 PM - I wander over to the Main Street Station. I keep trying to seed the place for offers, and despite a couple of hours of gambling on each of my last three trips, I've gotten no love. But the place looks really neat, so I keep trying. On my way to the Boar's Head Bar, I get drawn into a $1 Blazing Sevens and hit for $300.

Saturday 11-2 @ 6:15 PM - In no time flat, I hit my first four-bagger of the trip.

Saturday 11-2 @ 7:00 PM - I give back some of my winnings, but Main Street did pay me well for those two beers, so I am happy. I wander to American Coney at The D. I am hoping that the Five Hundog would be on some secret menu, but alas, it is not and I just get two coney dogs.

Saturday 11-2 @ 9:00 PM - Since the Binions tournament started, I've met up with Phil, Scott and Pete, and each one said that he had checked in on Pat, but that Pat was short stacked and wouldn't be around long. He showed us, though, by lasting almost 7 hours before falling out. Too bad for him that there were still 24 people ahead of him and that he worked so hard, but did not cash.

Saturday 11-2 @ 10:00 PM - We make it to Treasure Island and their tournament, in which they guarantee $1000 in the prize pool. This tournament would get about 24 entries.

Saturday 11-2 @ 11:30 PM - I fall out of the tournament and try to find a table game to relax at, but I couldn't find a seat at any $10 Blackjack table, and Pai Gow Poker was $20 (and full) so I find a video poker machine near Senor Frogs. This pace was oozing techno-pop at ear-splitting levels, and I notice that I am hitting the buttons on the machine in time with the oonce-oonce. Freaky!

SUNDAY, November 3 at 2:00 AM (the first one) - The players in the top three choose not to split the prize money, instead choosing to play on. Phil was the chip leader, but ended up in third place. Pete was the only other one from our group alive, but he had a hard time playing against Phil's chips and Pete ended up taking second.

Sunday 11-3 @ 2:00 AM (the second one) - Thank God that Daylight Saving Time ends while we are in Vegas. This day (even with a nap) went longer than I had planned. I need the extra sleep before we go to play Sunday morning's tournaments.

Sunday 11-3 @ 8:30 AM - Started the day with a hearty breakfast at DuPar's in the Golden Gate. Not being an egg eater, I usually go for pancakes for breakfast, which is good because the ones at DuPar's are wonderful. A little sticker shock with a small stack for $7 and sausage for $6, so I solved that by buying the "Breakfast Sandwich" which is two pancakes, sausage and eggs (which I told them to keep) for $9.25.

Sunday 11-3 @ 10:00 AM - We played the first tournament at the Mandalay Bay, $45 and about 25 entries. We chose the Mandalay because even though their structure wasn't the greatest, someone from our group always seems to cash, and the proximity to the TVs and the sports book allowed us to peek in on the NFL games.

Sunday 11-3 @ 11:00 AM - Was pretty card dead when right before the break I doubled up by flopping a flush and someone called my all-in bet.

Sunday 11-3 @ 11:45 AM - Although I still wasn't getting any cards to play, I made some positional bets to steal some blinds and rake some small pots... Until I was dealt KK in the small blind. Before the action got to me, the shortest stack went all-in (which I read as desperation, though I felt I may have had to dodge an Ace). Phil and I both called and the flop was all cards under a K, but all clubs. I went all-in, trying to represent the flush even though I only held Kings. Phil called me and my heart sank, but when the cards flipped over he had only one club in his hand. The short-stacker had squadoosh, and I dodged that last club and took TWO players out.

Sunday 11-3 @ 12:30 PM - I've stopped playing cards altogether (a skill I'd later wish I could master) and make it to the final three, and all of us have a similar stack. We chop the pot for $150 each (triple my money) so I was quite happy.

Sunday 11-3 @ 1:00 PM - We decide to head to South Point. Pete, who hasn't taken a Poker Trip with our group, was a little more "touristy" than we expected. He had been to Las Vegas a couple of times, but never with a car so he was seeing a lot more than he had previously. We got to The Sign and asked if we could stop for a photo.

At first we were surprised, but then again not, that someone was at the sign offering to hold the camera for groups in return for tips. I don't know what the standard tip is, so we stiffed her. I am positive that if she wasn't there hustling tips that the person behind us in line would have taken the photo.

Sunday 11-3 @ 2:00 PM - South Point has a 2:00 tournament, but Pete and I won't be playing. The World Series of Bowling was being held at the South Point, and the finals of both the PBA World Championships and the PBA RPI and PBA50 Finals were being taped for later showing on ESPN. Both Pete and I are skilled bowlers, so we chose to not play cards and instead watch the taping.

Sunday 11-3 @ 2:30 PM - The World Championships finals was supposed to begin taping at 1:30, but was about 90 minutes late. The good news was that we got to see the entire show instead of the end. The bad news is that our seats were so bad that we couldn't actually see the pins.

Sunday 11-3 @ 4:00 PM - The World Championships are completed (no spoilers here, watch it on TV ) and Pete and I find our poker friends. The poker tournament is just about over, but because the TV taping was behind schedule we tell the guys to take the van and go to their next tournament, while Pete and I catch the Prime Rib special in the Coronado Cafe. One of the bowlers that was going to be competing in the PBA RPI Finals was Dave Beres, who bowls in my league in Milwaukee on Wednesday nights. The whole point of missing poker was to watch him bowl on TV. Pat says that the van will go to The Mirage, and we can worry about meeting up with them later.

Sunday 11-3 @ 5:30 PM - The second TV taping (now two hours behind) begins, and our seating location is much improved. My guess is that we will get a LOT of face time when ESPN shows this broadcast in early-January.

Sunday 11-3 @ 8:00 PM - The bowling is complete and we've taken time to meet and greet some of the other professionals (as well as other bowlers and industry people that I've gotten to know through the years) including getting my picture taken with the legendary Hall of Famer Carmen Salvino.

Sunday 11-3 @ 9:00 PM - Bowling stuff has gone on so long that Pat has busted out of the Mirage tournament and volunteers to pick-us up, saving loads of cab fare.

Sunday 11-3 @ 10:00 PM - Phil is still alive in the tournament, and the other four of us are trying to find something to do without blowing our bankrolls. After visiting the volcano eruption, I find a bar top video poker and play for awhile when I get (what would disturbingly be my last) 4OAK of the trip.

Sunday 11-3 @ 11:30 PM - Scott says he feels a craps heater coming, which is cool as I've been in Vegas for 36 hours and I haven't dusted the felt to that point. We buy into the Plaza game for $200 each and before too long I am up maybe $100. But the first shooter was pretty hot, and money is won by being aggressive, so I keep my bets a little high for the next couple of shooters and my stack dwindles. I hold serve until my roll, and when I sevenout I am down about $50. I had expected to play longer, but Scott is done. Phil talks him into Let it Ride, so I take my remaining $150 in chips there... I never hit a pair and cash out with $50 left. We move to blackjack and Phil busts. I stick around and play an hour more (never busting but never advancing) when Pete finds me. We hit some Pop-Up Pizza and I take it to my room at the Golden Gate for a late night dinner.

MONDAY, November 4 at 8:00 AM PST (Subtitled "The Day My Trip Took A Turn to the Deep, Deep South") - Although I don't have a lot of "foodies" in our group, I convince them to join me at eat. for breakfast. A look at the menu and Pat says "There is nothing here I want". Phil teases him to shut-up and eat, and once we point Pat to the a la carte portion of the menu (where he can get what he wants) he is happier. I get the Chicken Fried Steak (their Country Throw-Up Gravy is the best in the state).  Phil gets some Mexican chili egg nachos concoction that looks one part riveting, and one part revolting. He absolutely loved it.

Monday 11-4 @ 9:00 AM - Pat says "I was wrong. This was great". Redemption.

Monday 11-4 @ 10:00 AM - Sitting in the Planet Hollywood tournament, which as a little more than 40 players at $70/each. Pete decides, instead, to be a tourist and walk the Strip, so only the four of us play this game with a $1000 GTD first prize.

Monday 11-4 @ 1:30 PM - I am playing, possibly, my best game ever. Positional raises are working, I've read the players pretty well, and I've just tripled up with a total of eight players in the game. I have the chip lead, one guy has slightly less than me, and the two of us are far, far ahead of the crowd.

Monday 11-4 @ 1:35 PM - The lady next to me (very short stacked) says to me "You're in a great position to choose what hands to play". I am then dealt AK in the big blind. Two players limp in, so I raise to double the blind. The 2nd place chip guy calls, the other guy folds. The flop is K J 4. I've got top pair and top kicker. I bet three times the big blind. The 2nd place chip guy goes all-in. I snap call. He had J4 and two pair. I bang my jaw on the table when it falls open. "What the hell is he doing calling my pre-flop raise with J4?" I couldn't believe it. I get no help from the turn and river, give him most of my chips, and suddenly I am short-stacked.

Monday 11-4 @ 1:45 PM - All that potential cash for winning... gone. Poof. I am on tilt. I cannot comprehend any scenario where so late in a game, someone is going to call a pre-flop raise against the chip leader. I understand a flop that gives him two pair. But to me, he shouldn't be in the hand. He should have never even limped in (even prior to my raise).

Monday 11-4 @ 2:00 PM - The guys ask me to drop them back off at the Mirage for another tournament, but I can't play. If I can't play my best poker and can't get an AK to work, why bother playing? I decide to check out of the Golden Gate and go to the Downtown Grand to meet my host and be on tilt in private.  The Downtown Grand just had its Grand Opening, as it rose from the ashes of the Lady Luck, which closed in 2006 and sat vacant for seven years.

Monday 11-4 @ 2:45 PM - But first I have to sink $100 into Golden Gate slots. Has anyone - EVER - won slot money when tilting?

Monday 11-4 @ 2:50 PM - Jack-fugging-FOUR!

Monday 11-4 @ 3:30 PM - I am greeted at the Downtown Grand valet by a bellman who almost wrestles my bags out of my van and insists on taking them for me. We walk through the casino together, and he stands there (politely and silently) while I check-in. The desk clerk calls my host who comes to meet me. She says that once I get to my room, she will give me a tour. The bellman calls the elevator for me, and once in the room he gives me the grand tour.

I dismiss him with a few quid and go back down to meet my host who gives me a tour of all of the bars and restaurants in the casino. We end up at the Furnace Bar, and she tells the bartender to "take care of me"... which makes me feel compelled to play some of that vile 7/5 DDB poker.

Monday 11-4 @ 4:15 PM - Despite the paytable, I manage to play for quite awhile on my $100 and actually have some left when I get the text that the rest of the guys are ready for pick-up.

Monday 11-4 @ 5:00 PM - We arrive at Rum Runner on Tropicana to watch the Packers/Bears game. In Milwaukee, The Packers/Bears game is a big deal, and for it to be on Monday night makes it a party. Assuming the same held in Las Vegas, we were worried about not getting a seat. Arriving 25 minutes before the game, we are dumbstruck that there are not only seats available, but good seats. We later find out that when the game is on TV locally, the crowds are less. It appears to work opposite at Rum Runner than back home... some non-descript Sunday 10:00 AM game against Buffalo (which won't be on local TV) will draw a crowd. Big games, however, keeps the crowds at home.

Monday 11-4 @ 5:30 PM - The game hasn't even started yet, and I've seen someone I know from back home in the bar and I met his girlfriend and we chat for awhile. I also had mentioned before leaving for Vegas to a supplier based in Chicago that we would be at Rum Runner, and not only did this supplier (I'll call her T-Shirt) show up unexpectedly, but she brought a colleague from Finland (named Juho, and to the best of my hearing believe it is pronounced You-HOO).  Juho is his real name (which I rarely divulge) because I can't make one up better than that!

Monday 11-4 @ 5:45 PM - Juho has never watched an NFL game, so he is pretty much just drinking. When Aaron Rodgers gets hurt on the very first drive, all of the energy leaves the room.

Monday 11-4 @ 6:30 PM - My boss (I'll call him Veep) shows up at Rum Runners (although my trip started as a Poker Trip, it will be morphing into a business trip for a trade show.. Veep has just gotten into Las Vegas, is at a bar with Packers and Bears fans, and within five minutes he and T-Shirt are talking about their 401K investments. Between Rodgers being hurt and Veep talking shop, I fear this night will just get longer.

Monday 11-4 @ 8:30 PM - The Packers lose, but the under hits (winner!) T-Shirt and Juho leave to go their way, and Veep joins our group for the rest of the night. We pick-up Scott from The Mirage (he is an alcoholic, and chose to stay at the Mirage to play cards instead of going to the bar) and head back downtown. For Scott, Phil and Pete, this is the last night of their trip.

Monday 11-4 @ 11:00 PM - We are playing Pai Gow Poker at Binions, and drinking Captain and Cokes (which has become a tradition similar to craps on Sunday night). Veep has never played, so he just watches. Around midnight, everyone is on their way to bed, so Veep (who is staying at the Downtown Grand as well) and I walk to our hotel.

Monday 11-4 @ 11:45 PM - Along the way, we walk past The D, and I want to take an instant poll. We walk up to the Vintage Vegas casino and I walk him to the Sigma Derby. He has never seen such a thing, and he wonders how it works. We watch a race, and he mutters "Huh, interesting." and finds a slot machine. People love Sigma Derby, but my boss agrees with me. Great nostalgia for others, not so much for me. I am trying not to gamble too much, as the mojo from Jack-fugging-four has poisoned every bet I make. I try to slow roll The D, and (surprise, surprise) still manage to lose almost $100.

TUESDAY, November 5 at 12:00 AM PST - We head towards the Downtown Grand, and a PA announcement is blaring over the Fremont Street Experience to clear the mall, as work on the Slotzilla is going to take place. Scores of workers are throwing up barricades, and security is hustling people along. These people weren't messing around, ordering us to clear out. We manage to get across the street before they begin preventing people from crossing over.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 8:00 AM - Veep and I decided to eat at Stewart + Ogden's at the Downtown Grand. Service was sketchy, at best. We were seated at a table near the bar, and summarily ignored. Apparently the bartender was to take care of our table, and after about 10 minutes with not even coffee being offered, the restaurant manager himself handled our table.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 8:45 AM - Our food arrives after three stops from the manager telling us the food is on its way. For the most part, Veep and I dealt with the delay by talking about work, and kind of dismissed the problems as start-up related. We were not charged for the coffee, though free coffee to all hotel guests is part of the "Grand Experience Fee". We weren't asked to identify ourselves as guests, so we don't know if the free coffee was service related or not. Veep had a big breakfast (I forget its proper title) while I had the Lemon Ricotta Waffles.

I was disappointed with the waffles. The lemon taste was faint, but there. I couldn't note any ricotta - neither flavor or texture. But just the lemon wasn't enough flavor to hold interest, and as soon as I added syrup, they just tasted like standard issue waffles. The whole experience was just chalked up to "Soft Opening" week, and I hope they tweak the service and the menu so that Stewart + Ogden does not become a black eye for the property.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 10:30 AM - With Pete, Phil and Pat leaving in the evening, we were going to try to get to two more poker tournaments. However, I would have to trade the van that we had rented as a poker group and pick-up a car that we rented for the business group. I dropped the group off in time for the 11:00 tournament at Bally's and went with Veep to switch cars.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 11:00 AM - I work my magic at Thrifty (the organization that is preferred by our company) and am given a minivan as a courtesy upgrade from a full size car. Sigh. Would have so much preferred the free upgrade with the car the poker group was paying for.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 11:30 AM - I drop Veep off at the AAPEX show at the Sands Convention Center and I head to Bally's. Gee, the traffic is terrific and tried to outsmart it by taking Koval south to Tropicana, then north onto Las Vegas Boulevard. But I forgot about the lane closures due to the construction of the Gansevoort  whatever is replacing Bill's Gamblin' Hall. It takes a long time to get to Bally's and I worry about missing the late buy-in (which is usually one hour after the starting time.)

Tuesday 11-5 @ 11:58 AM - I get to the check-in desk at Bally's and barely get in on time. I pay $60 and am the 22nd player. I am assigned a seat, given $5000 in chips, and am told that blinds were just going up to $400/$800. Oops. I just paid $60 cash for 8 big blinds.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 12:30 PM - I rake the first pot I get into, but shortly after I make a good bet after the flop, and Pete (of all people) makes a raise that I can't call. I am so quickly at the point where I have to shove and hope that I am out within a half hour. I wasted my $60. I should have checked the blind structure first, but I knew the games were limited that day so I just jumped.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 1:30 PM - While Scott (1st place) and Pat (3rd place) work their way through the tournament, I hemorrhage money at bartop VP nearby. Phil wanders past and says he walked to the Paris buffet for lunch. I told him "Thanks for the offer" to go with him, as it would have saved me a couple of hundred bucks.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 2:00 PM - We choose the MGM Grand as the last poker game of the trip, though both Scott and Pat are happy with their Bally's result and decide instead to go to lunch. Pete plays a 1/2 no-limit cash game, while Phil and I play one last tournament. For $50, MGM Grand offers a deep-stack tournament and 11 players choose to play. The structure offers "turbo" 10-minute levels. Lots of chips and a fast format offers a different vibe, but poker is still poker. Read the cards, read the players, make the right moves.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 3:30 PM - As the blind levels increase turboley, it is the absolute wrong time to go card dead. I've got nothing I can play in the blinds or on the button. If it were blackjack, I could do a lot of doubling (hands of 4-7, 8-2, etc). I lost so many opportunities to make a move. I do get an Ace and face when a short-stack goes all-in at me, and I call, but he rivers two pair. I can't complain about the result, as he had a decent hand and was short-stacked. But it puts me at less than three big blinds.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 3:35 PM - Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. All-in is a move that is made when you have a made hand, or are desperate. WHY THE HELL DID I CALL THE ALL-IN YESTERDAY IN THE PLANET HOLLYWOOD GAME???? Aaaarrrrrgh! If J4 (which I didn't know he had at the time) was going all-in, either his hand was made (and it was) or he was desperate. And if he was desperate then, he'd likely be desperate again to someone else and might lose. I should have just folded that damned AK.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 4:30 PM - My tilt is now on its 28th hour, as I dump another $200 in video poker waiting for Phil to win the poker tournament (he does) and we head to the airport. I couldn't win anything I played and now that is starting to get to me. Thankfully, once the guys have been dropped off at the airport, Scott and I switch to business trip mode, which (theoretically) lessens gambling time.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 6:30 PM - There is a reception hosted by NARSA (some trade group that my company belongs to within AAPEX) and I turn on the charm and mingle with some suppliers and customers at Harrah's in the Reno Room.

I hadn't eaten since the waffles earlier, and eat probably too many mini-Beef Wellingtons, pot stickers and these little roast beef sandwiches with a dollop of some horseradish-type sauce.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 8:00 PM - I get the sign from Veep, and he, Scott and I (along with my company president Brit, and three guys from one of my biggest suppliers) head up to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for dinner.

Tuesday 11-5 @ 11:00 PM - Part of what I love about my job is schmoozing with suppliers, as well as dining with them. It's part of why I am over 300#, too, but that's a separate subject. I have crab cake appetizer, a 22 oz bone-in ribeye (with a bleu cheese and Panko crust) and Spinach au Gratin. And a few drinks.

I am stuffed beyond belief when the waiter says the magic words. "Creme Brulee".

WEDNESDAY, November 6 at 12:30 AM PST - Veep, Scott and I are way, way too full to go to bed, so we stay up and first play some blackjack. Sabrina is the dealer, and no matter what cards anyone else has, she always has a 10 (or face card) showing... except the two times I had blackjack, she had an Ace that became a blackjack. We nickname her "10".

Wednesday 11-6 @ 1:00 AM - Still not able to go to bed, we move over to the Pai Gow Poker table. Veep has never played, but watched us the night before at Binions and gives us a go. Scott heads back to the Plaza (where he was still staying).

Wednesday 11-6 @ 1:30 AM - "10" taps into our table, and we consider bolting (Sabrina is really nice, but she kicked our ass at blackjack, was that to continue?) but decide to stay. My stomach is doing flips and I had stopped eating two hours earlier. Veep, who has never struck me as a gambler, keeps acting like he is seconds away from a jackpot or big hit ("Someone wins those, right?") Should I be worried that a Vice President of a company has that attitude?

Wednesday 11-6 @ 2:30 AM - We're finally ready to head to bed, but Veep says that he feels a big hand coming. He puts an extra $5 on the betting spot (but keeps the $1 on the Fortune Bonus). You can see what's coming, right? Yup, a Royal Flush. He gets paid for the bonus, but pushes the hand. A "Forever Razz" will be "The time you predicted the big hit, but screwed up the bet". We then head to bed, with me not sure that I am ready for it.

Wednesday 11-6 @ In the middle of the night AM - I couldn't handle bed. Feels like I have a bowling ball attached to my midsection. After a trip to the jhon, I try to go back to sleep.

Wednesday 11-6 @ It's still dark AM - Round 2. Not getting much sleep, and I can't believe how uncomfortable I feel.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 9:00 AM - Luckily, we were planning on heading towards the Sands Convention Center for the AAPEX show mid-morning, as it allowed me to get some sleep and a shower. I think I've overdosed on Immodium and Zantac, just hoping to pull it together. There will be no breakfast. But I need coffee.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 9:35 AM - Upon check-in, I was told that the free coffee was available to all hotel guests at all restaurants. I walk into Stewart + Ogden and ask for a cup. The bartender (very politely) says that she is no longer able to distribute coffee, and that it is past 9:30 anyway.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 9:36 AM - I walk to the front desk and (politely) ask what is going on. The front desk clerk (politely) apologizes to me, and leads me back to Stewart + Ogden and orders (politely) the bartender to pour a coffee for me. The bartender (politely) pours it and apologizes. The front desk clerk asks if I am satisfied, and assures me that this will be resolved for the next day.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 9:37 AM - The bartender no sooner hands me my coffee when the restaurant manager (who also waited on us the day before) almost-politely asked the bartender what she was doing. She (politely) blamed the front desk clerk. The restaurant manager (politely) wishes us a good day, then stomps off to have a (presumably) impolite conversation with the front desk clerk. I've personally created an interdepartmental ruckus.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 10:30 AM - Intended to park at Harrah's to walk to the Sands, but their valet was only open to hotel guests and Seven Star guests. I drove east on Koval and parked at MGM with the intent of taking the monorail. We arrive to find a line that is estimated at 90 minutes just to get ON the monorail. We go back to the car to consider our next move.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 11:30 AM - It has taken an hour from the time we left Harrah's until we arrive at Caesars Palace, as the construction traffic (d'oh, forgot about that) was worse than the evening before. Caesars valet was also closed, so we decided to just self-park and walk over.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 12:00 PM - We walk into the show.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 12:40 PM - We have walked through the portion of the show in which our company is related to (NARSA). For as huge as the entirety of the AAPEX show is, our portion is tiny... maybe 50 booths. We walk downstairs to the basement (oops, I mean the "International" area.) (Side note; Is there a specific reason that the Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern exhibitors are buried in the basement?) Since we have two Chinese suppliers that I hadn't met with, we head down there. As we walk through, we see Chinese all over eating noodle dishes. I'm still barely ready to eat, but it was suggested that we walk to the food trucks.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 1:00 PM - The line is about 30 minutes long, and when we get near the front, I'm crestfallen...

The food trucks were plastic! I watch the Great Food Truck Race each summer, and I wanted real, live food truck food. Instead, we got institutionally cooked Kung Pao chicken or some Beef Kimchee noodles that - if I were Asian - I would be insulted. It must be like going to China and having them offer a low-grade wiener on white bread, topped with cabbage, Sriracha and calling it "an All-American Hot Dog". I eat it, but it wasn't very good.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 2:00 PM - The set-up of the booths in the International section are kind of freaky. All of the Chinese ones are about 8' x 8' and made of white pegboard. Very sparse, and all identical to each other (other than the government concern sponsoring the booth).

Wednesday 11-6 @ 3:00 PM - We meet with one of the two suppliers, and they invite us to sit down for a proper meeting.

The second lady to the left at the table is named - and I am not making this up - Wu Guo Rong.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 5:00 PM - We have killed the rest of the time, and head over to Caesars. We have another supplier dinner at The Palm at 7:30, so we have time to kill. So what does one - who is hemorrhaging money and had to make a call back home to ask the wife to transfer some money - do?

Wednesday 11-6 @ 7:00 PM - Right! Play lousy paytable video poker, chased with high minimum slots (Side note, I walked and walked and walked the floor at Caesars, and found nothing close to a $.25 three-credit reel game.) The bloodletting continued.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 7:30 PM - Our party of eight is ready at The Palm. We are told there is an hour wait for our reserved table. What is really frustrating is the obnoxious din inside the restaurant. What is this fascination in Las Vegas to not allow anywhere calm to have a conversation? I have been in completely full restaurants in other cities, and you can still have a conversation in the bar, or once seated, at the table. It was not cool to be trying to entertain all of these people, but not be able to talk to them.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 8:15 PM - We are seated early, considering it is late. The way my stomach was still feeling, I promised myself not to eat a big steak.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 8:30 PM - I order the 22 oz bone-in ribeye. Addictions are rough.

Wednesday 11-6 @ 10:30 PM - I finish my steak (and, yes, another creme brulee) and the crowd has thinned out significantly. I did a quick inventory, and we had citizens of six countries at our table... me, Scott and Veep from the US, our company President who is from Great Britain, Juho from Finland, a metallurgist from Germany, our financier who is Chinese, and the supplier's VP of sales who is from Sweden. With the opportunity to hear each other (especially with the accents and sometimes broken English) we get into a fascinating discussion about how children are raised both "when I was growing up..." versus now, and how that relates in the workplace. Suffice to say, I am glad I am not living and working in Germany or China.

THURSDAY, November 7 at 12:00 AM PST - We've gotten back to the Downtown Grand and are on our last gambling binge (we have to meet at 7:00 AM to head to the airport). Veep has become addicted to one particular Wheel of Fortune slot, while I get set to lose the rest of the money that my wife transferred into my account. I find some random slot, hit it for $150 (and for those of you keeping track at home, that is the largest hit of ANY KIND since Sunday evening). I bop around a couple of other slots, and cash out with a modest $200 win, when Veep and Scott decide to play more Pai Gow Poker.

Thursday 11-7 @ 1:30 AM - Scott bailed, as he had to walk back to the Plaza, but Veep and I play for awhile, and I tell him that because of how bad my night was the previous night (and by comparison, my body handled The Palm steak very well) that I was going to bed at 1:30. We cash out (another $50 win for me... is this the start of an epic comeback, eight hours before my flight leaves?), and Veep decides that he wants me to teach him craps.

Thursday 11-7 @ 2:00 AM - I've lost $100 at craps, but still $150 up in the session. I tell Veep that I am going to bed. On the way back from the cashier, Veep says "One more round of the Wheel of Fortune". In the ensuing hour, I give back the rest of my $150 session winnings. At least I can say that I played for three hours and didn't lose anything.

Thursday 11-7 @ 3:00 AM - I finally get to bed... with a wake-up call 3-1/2 hours later. Those beds in the Downtown Grand, being so brand new; they are too comfortable to only get that short amount of sleep in.

Thursday 11-7 @ 7:15 AM - I forgot that I still needed to pack. I come downstairs and meet Veep in the lobby (the man does not sleep) and he tells me that they've solved the coffee issue... it is now only available in The Art Bar, and it is self-serve. We grab Scott, stop quickly at Binions to turn in a sports bet that I had forgotten to cash, and we head to the airport.

All-in-all, I had one of my more fun trips to Vegas. I got to spend time with the Poker Buddies, won a tournament, got to watch the best bowlers in the world, ate some wonderful food, got to spend relaxed time with my boss, and got to break in a brand new hotel. Except for losing 125% of my bankroll (thank you, Honey ) it was a great trip.

And, like always, I can't wait to get back.

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