Monday, April 05, 2010

Turns Out I Like Craps...

Ever been in the Wynn? How about Encore? They’re ultimately the same property, connected by a long, beautifully decorated corridor that runs between the two buildings. I’ve been in both buildings several times now, and I’m still impressed every single time I walk it. However, they both smack of money. If you want to see successful men in the mid-50’s named Hoyt and Lleyton talking about how they dominated the Yale-ies when they used to crew, then Wynn is probably the place for you. Need more proof? On a Saturday morning a little after 10 a.m. they had blackjack tables (not in a high roller salon mind you) with minimum bets at $100 a pop. My point is, this is NOT the place you’d expect two people, dressed very casually in shorts, with a nominal buy-in to be made to feel welcome gambling. And if you made that assessment, like I did, you’d be dead wrong, like I was.

We were happily welcomed to the table, greeted with smiles, and immediately set at ease. Craps is an intimidating game to walk up on when you’ve never played. There’s a lot going on, and a lot you can bet on. The dealers and stickmen took every ounce of anxiety away instantly. I could write about the rules, bets, odds, and so on for a stupid amount of time. How you play is up to you. Just know this; when you win, they pay you. When you lose, they take your money away. Unlike blackjack, your play doesn’t influence anyone else’s outcome. And considering it’s a very social game, everyone is happy when the shooter is rolling well. What’s funny is that people encourage you to “stay hot” or “shoot this” or “roll that” as if you have a choice.

Here’s what I learned about craps: unless you “seven out” you do NOT surrender your roll. It’s your choice to up and leave whenever you want. However, to do something like quit rolling because the outdoor patio that you and your wife enjoy having cocktails at is opening up will probably cause a riot. Think I’m kidding? Ask the table I nearly walked away from after making 20 minutes worth of points in a row. Everyone was making money, apparently a fair amount of it, as long as I didn’t seven out. And in retrospect, so long as you don’t seven out, you, as the shooter, are at least breaking even. So there’s really no point in stopping.

After a nice rally that earned me a few handshakes, we headed for Parasol Down. This place might be one of the better-kept secrets in Vegas. I’d never heard of acai until this particular trip, when we ordered drinks called “Kiwi Acai Smash”-es. Now, I see it everywhere as the newest all-natural weight loss facilitator. And since we were at the north end of the strip, what better thing to stop and have then a big hotdog? Nothing! That’s what.

Now for the moment of truth. We had decided in advance that we were going to do something that we had said we wanted to do since our first trip out, and never have managed to get around to doing. We were going to visit one of the big-time casinos off the strip. But where to go? The Hard Rock was a straight shot down the street that Planet Hollywood sat on. But the cabbie we had on the way in said that The Palms was cooler. Not to mention, Rio is over by The Palms as well. So we walked, and walked…and walked some more, finally finding ourselves at the southwest corner of Caesar’s Palace. We looked to our right, and it was right there. But for some reason, we decided we didn’t feel like walking it, even though we had ample time and no where to be. Probably a good call, because it ended up being about a two-mile cab ride.

The Palms was a remarkably underwhelming place. All the cool stuff you see on Vegas insiders shows or The Real World is either not available to the general public, doesn’t open until at least 9 (it was about 2), and has a ridiculous cover charge, not to mention a strictly uncomfortable dress code. Not waiting, not paying, not dressing.

Rio was more of the same. It wasn’t a bad place, but all things considered, if you’re going somewhere off the strip to party, you’re probably not going there. The nice thing about the Rio, however, was that they had a free shuttle that ran to Paris, which was right next to Planet Hollywood.

We had dinner out on the patio at Mon Ami Gabi that night in Paris, right across from the Bellagio fountains. I’ve always wondered why there’s so little outdoor seating facing the majesty of the strip in Vegas. Now I know. People gun their engines, rev a bullet bike, yell, shout, get drunk and fall down, all a bunch of things that you don’t want to deal with when you’re sitting at a nice restaurant. If you look around, nearly any hotel that has outdoor seating has all of it built internally to the property to avoid things like that.

God love my wife who was winding down for the night, not to mention had to work the next morning, sensed my jitters, and was nice enough to go with me to the casino floor, as long as we didn’t have to walk too far and weren’t there too long. I was taken by the desire to play at Bellagio. Why? Because it was right across the street, and I’d never gambled there before. So we went and found room at a craps table.

The dice came to me, I made a point, and started rolling. It was a pretty nice little run. I wasn’t throwing everything for strikes, but people we making money, karma was high, and all was well. Then this guy comes to the table and stands just to my right with two guys that were there before me. He puts down his player’s card, looks as the box man, and says “$2,500 please”. And just like that, no ID, no conversation, no nothing, they hand him over an assload of chips. He then looks at his friends and says “So, is this guy hot?” They nod, indicating that I’d been lucky so far, and he proceeds to reach down and put $100 on the come line. I rolled an 8, and he backed his $100 with $300 more. Thank God I made a point. He might have killed me…swear to God.

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