Las Vegas Wrap-Up

In case you’re wondering I’m told it’s $2/minute for a massage. It’s in the poker room. This is not a ‘happy ending’ kinda thing.

There are a few unfinished tidbits from Las Vegas I wanted to get in. I know business is down–tragically down. I couldn’t see it. The city was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. The casinos were rockin’. It’s my understanding the outlying casinos have taken this worse than the Strip, but I never went there. Maybe I just hit a good week?

There are lots of construction cranes that are silent and still in a town that used to build around-the-clock. From outward appearances Echelon seems dead in the water. There was some, but less activity at City Center, mid-Strip.

wynn-from-palazzo.jpgThere are lots of good stories in Las Vegas. My current favorite concerns the animus between Sheldon Adelson (Called the “tallest man in the world when standing on his wallet”) and fellow casino magnate and New Haven native Steve Wynn. Allegedly Adelson positioned the Palazzo Hotel in such a way as to limit the sun at Wynn’s pool to an hour or two a day.

Is it true? Who knows. Good story anyway.

lily-1.jpegOver the past few years I’ve watched the increase of masseuses giving massages to poker players while they play! In Vegas, where every woman is already good looking… where it looks like the cocktail waitresses have gotten leg extension surgery… this takes on added sparkle.

Lily (pictured left) was giving a massage to the guy in the seat to my right one night during the Venetian’s 7:00 PM tournament. I’m not sure it really made it more difficult to concentrate, but that case could easily be made.

During a break I asked her how long she’d been doing it and whether it had made her stronger. She held her arms up at shoulder level with her clenched fists inward toward her head. Wow!

In case you’re wondering I’m told it’s $2/minute for a massage. It’s in the poker room. This is not a ‘happy ending’ kinda thing.

I had my camera with me a lot while in Vegas. I was never asked to put it away except once while I shot participants in a slot tournament. One night I even used the tripod while in the Palazzo’s spectacular casino.

Finally, Helaine and I found the funniest slot machine ever. Even better it acted as if it was our own private ATM!

“Invaders from the Planet Moolah” features cows as the wild card match. The funny part is the cows moos (obviously humans not even trying to pass as cows) are slightly delayed from each other making each ‘hit’ slightly different and weirdly comical.

This machine would be fun to play even while losing which is both sad and scary. Luckily we didn’t have to find out first hand.

Favorite line from the trip: “Oh look, a penny slot machine. Anybody got change for a nickel?”

In Vegas Sex Still Sells

“$35 special,” says one. “$47 special,” say another. Tina’s “TOTALLY NUDE” ad claims her $99 charge includes “no hidden fee’s”


Now that we’re back a few people have asked me about the economy in Las Vegas. I don’t usually go in late November, but the crowds were certainly down from what I’ve seen during the summer. That’s probably expected. Helaine was told some casinos have put their dealers on a four day week. The housing market there has tanked.

IMG_4274.JPGThere’s still a lot of construction–huge construction nearing completion. Someone’s going to take a bath there. Who’s coming to City Center when it opens? It’s a $9 billion investment for MGM-Mirage. Who’s filling Adelson’s Palazzo or Steve Wynn’s new luxury tower Encore?

I just got an email ad from Wynn tonight. They’re seeing tough times if they’re down to my level.

Last recession Las Vegas proudly said it was bulletproof. And it was–then.

IMG_3863.JPGA number of years ago… maybe when they were scared of the last major recession, Las Vegas decided to re-brand itself. It would become family friendly. Think “Vegas Vacation.” That’s gone.

Walking the Strip I passed the Flamingo. It’s an older hotel. It would be considered nice any place else where there isn’t as much competition. The entire casino is covered with an ad for Donny and Marie, their current house act. Under the D&M sign a doorless doorway opened to the casino where bikini clad go-go dancers did their thing above a blackjack pit.

IMG_3883.JPGThe Strip itself is an amazing flesh peddling supermarket. Let me make myself clear, there are no obvious (well, to me) streetwalkers. There are dozens and dozens of exceptionally short (under five feet) Hispanic (mainly) men from somewhere in Central America who help these unseen women advertise.

IMG_3723.JPGHolding a stack of what seem to be playing cards they slap against their upper leg then thrust a card for you to take. Of course they’re not playing cards. They are ads for ‘entertainers’ and ‘dancers’ who will come to your hotel room. The ads show women of every color and persuasion, some beautiful, some innocent, some overtly slutty. They are all erotically alluring.

“$35 special,” says one. “$47 special,” say another. Tina’s “TOTALLY NUDE” ad claims her $99 charge includes “no hidden fee’s”

Tina, there no apostrophe on “fees.”

Stef wanted to know if the girl you got was the one pictured–like I’d know. After reading the Elliot Spitzer stories I’d guess not. Girls to your room are a fungible commodity.

IMG_3789-1.JPGIn tiny mouse print on Roxy’s ad it says, “If paying by credit card, nature of transaction will not be reflected on statement.” I would have guessed they’d play that up?

For the first time this past week I saw men passing out cards while having a lit sign strapped to their body. That was among the more surrealistic moments of the trip.

All the girls have (I saw no men advertised) phone numbers. Most also have websites!

Since the cards are given out on the street there is “protection” for the kids. These nude women have their nipples obscured. Sometimes it’s with a star or other printed symbol. Most times it looks the the nipple has had a glowing led attached! It looks like some sort of ‘breast ray.’

They re-did the Mirage a few years ago. Until they did hookers would hang out at the Baccarat Bar late at night. OK–do I really know they’re hookers? No. But they were. Helaine and I would often scope them out critically on our way to our room. It was part of the Las Vegas charm.


A Night Of Poker and Pictures

Las Vegas Boulevard was dead last night around midnight when I headed out. This is the slow season.

There comes a time in every vacation when it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the action in the blog. That’s where I am now.

I played a little poker last night. Surprise. I was going to play at the Mirage where there is a nightly 5:00 PM tournament. There were only a dozen registered when I asked, a few minutes before the start time. I passed on that and headed across the street to the Venetian.

There was a time when the Mirage was the hotel for poker. All the big games took place here. But when Steve Wynn built Bellagio he moved the higher stakes games there. Sure Mirage expanded the room during the poker boom, but it’s not the leader it once was.

The Venetian has a 7:00 PM tournament and there were 82 entrants. Nine would cash out. I finished 12th. Sigh.

Helaine was really bushed and went to bed early. I picked up Clicky and headed down to The Strip. Though I’ve brought five lenses, I left the backpack upstairs, screwed a 10-20mm Sigma on my camera and headed out with my trip and the thought of doing some HDR photography. HDR works best where there are huge differences between the brightest brights and darkest darks.

The first three HDR shots I’ve processed are attached to the bottom of this entry.

Las Vegas Boulevard was dead last night around midnight when I headed out. This is the slow season.

The people you meet in the hotels and see on Las Vegas Boulevard are different. The hotels are intimidating and not necessarily family friendly. The Strip, on the other hand, is open-to-all and full of free entertainment. There are families and groups of people representing any ethnicity you can think of. And everyone has a camera. I’ve written about this before, but it bares repeating–nowadays everything is documented. Cameras are ubiquitous.

We’re in our last twenty four hours. Still more to do.




Half Q

When we saw Avenue Q in Las Vegas, we were surprised at the half empty theater. As it turns out, what we saw wasn’t unusual.

From Norm’s column in the Las Vegas Journal Review&#185:

Steve Wynn reportedly has his hands full of “Avenue Q” challenges.

According to the New York Post, Wynn’s naughty puppet show is struggling, and he’s pulling strings to head off a flop.

Michael Riedel, who writes the “On Broadway” column for the Post, reported in Friday’s edition that Wynn has lured a top Broadway marketing executive in hopes he can revive the Tony Award-winning show.

The unidentified executive was part of the team that helped propel “Chicago” to its long run on Broadway.

The 1,200-seat theater at the Wynn is half-filled, and the balcony has yet to open, Riedel wrote, citing “theater people in Las Vegas and New York.”

Wynn “thinks he made a mistake,” a Broadway producer told the Post.

Kevin McCollum, who co-produced “Avenue Q” on Broadway, “is also going to take a more active role in the Vegas production,” Riedel wrote.

&#185 – It’s true – he’s known simply as Norm. He also wears a patch over his right eye, making him seem more pirate than columnist.

Avenue Q in Las Vegas

I’m going to stop writing about poker for a while until it’s nicer to me! After a big win early in our stay I have been slowly bleeding at the tables.

Dinner Wednesday night was at Cravings, he buffet at Mirage. It’s an amazing buffet, though that doesn’t leave it alone. There are lots of very good buffets here.

We are pleased at how easy it’s been to sit all of us when we came as 8.

Helaine had arranged to buy tickets for Avenue Q. That’s the Off-Broadway show that became a Broadway Show and now, instead of touring nationally, set up shop at Wynn Las Vegas.

Actually, the Playbill says the first performance was in Waterford, CT. Go figure?

I consider myself knowledgeable about Broadway, but here’s how foolish I was. Until we went to see this show, I had no idea it was lampooning Jim Henson’s Muppets and Sesame Street!

In fact, the Playbill specifically says, “”Avenue Q has not been authorized or approved in any manner by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop, which have no responsibility for its content.” So there!

The show is performed by puppets. The puppeteers are on stage, in sight, operating the puppets and providing their speaking and singing voices.

It was really very good and quite enjoyable.

The Wynn Las Vegas version has two companies, so they can perform every day. I’ll call them the A and B casts (only because there is one name, followed by the alternate, for each character). We saw the B cast. They were very talented.

I especially enjoyed Kelli Sawyer (I met her college roommate’s mother during intermission), playing most of the female principals, and David Benoit who played a bunch of characters including Nicky and Trekkie Monster.

Avenue Q is about coping as a young adult as Sesame Street is about fitting in as a kid. And, Avenue Q has taken great liberties to appropriate the Sesame Street style to make their points.

We were surprised, the theater was half full – if that. Granted it was a late show midweek. Still, this is supposed to be a hot ticket show.

All of this was going on at Wynn Las Vegas. Steve Wynn built this hotel, the Mirage, along with Treasure Island and Bellagio. Wynn Las Vegas is supposed to be one step up from that, but it is reminiscent of Bellagio in nearly every way.

Make no mistake, it’s an upscale, stunningly beautiful hotel. As it stands now, it’s too far down the Strip – well past the other nicer hotels. Las Vegas will surely grow nicer down there.

Back on Slashdot With A Small Problem

I read an interesting story on about a plan for Steve Wynn’s new casino in Las Vegas. The gambling chips will each contain an RFID chip.

RFID or radio frequency identification is the technology that allows E-ZPass customers to drive through tollbooths without stopping and enables Mobil’s Speedpass. A sensor ‘polls’ the RFID chip which responds with its serial number, vouching for its authenticity.

Putting RFID casino chips is an interesting concept since it allows the casino to watch for fraud much more easily. It also lets casinos do a much better job of tracking players.

I’m not sure I like this much scrutiny of my actions. I’m not sure I like carrying something in my pocket that could very well broadcast who I am, where I am and what I did.

It is not a simple black and white proposition. There are both good and bad points to be made.

I thought this would be an interesting topic for Slashdot: “News for Nerds.

I emailed a little write-up and it was quickly accepted for posting. There was only one problem. The editor added his own comments after mine, and to me, they looked las if I was still speaking. They were words and thoughts I didn’t feel and wouldn’t wouldn’t say.

from the hey-steve-comp-me-a-suite dept.

ctwxman writes “As Steve Wynn gets set to open his new Las Vegas casino, something new hits the tables: RFID encoded chips they report that “The fancy new chips look just like regular ones, only they contain radio devices that signal secret serial numbers. Special equipment linked to the casino’s computer systems and placed throughout the property will identify legitimate chips and detect fakes” ” “ Having stayed pretty much everywhere else cool on the strip, I’m sure I’ll try the Wynn out soon after it opens, but I think I’ll be cashing out my chips before I leave the casino. It makes me nervous knowing I could be unwittingly scanned by others after I leave the floor. Of course, this added inconvenience may save me a fortune in blackjack losses!

Starting with the word “Having,” it’s the editor and not me speaking. On the Slashdot entry my words are in italics, his are not. Regular Slashdot readers might see that distinction. I did not – and I go to Slashdot everyday.

It’s an interesting concept, and I’m glad to get the story on. I just hope no one is confused.