Saturday, 25 June 2011

How to beat the Casinos.

The air in the car was one of excitement as we started seeing the first Casinos in Nevada, big, tacky overlit Bastions, declaring Cabaret and all you can eat buffets started to appear on the horizon once we passed the Hoover Dam, the enormous feat of human engineering that marked the boundary between Arizona and Nevada. We also gained an hour, as the time zone shifted from Mountain to Western time. We came into Vegas at dusk, the lights were coming on just as we arrived onto the strip and tried to locate our respective hotels, Pat and Judge in the old school Circus Circus Casino, made famous by Jonny Depp hallucinating out of his tits in the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was about a mile and a half away from the main strip and Emma and I in the Imperial Palace, no less old school but right in the thick of the action, our balcony overlooked the Bellagio fountains and was closer still to some kind of outdoor club which played obscenely loud music until 4am every morning. No matter, we thought, we are in Vegas after all.
We met Pat and Judge, still sweating from their trek from Circus Circus and immediately embarked on a $1 frozen Margerita binge. This was to set the tone of our Vegas experience, the cheaper the better. The first night was a quiet affair and we split up at about midnight, Pat and Judge, after making sure they had enough water and hiring a guide so as not to get lost on the impressively long walk back to their hotel said goodbye and we got some beers in and went back to the room to watch how to play all the different variations of Poker and listen to the thumping Usher medley being played in the tent club just outside our balcony.
The next morning Emma and I awoke to the eerie quiet of no Usher and left our room to go out and try to find some natural light. As we made our way through the casino it was remarkably similar to when we had previously walked through it at midnight the evening before. A Tina Turner lookalike belted out Simply the Best before climbing off the stage and taking over from Lady Gaga on a blackjack table and dealing to the vacant eyed patrons who looked like they may not have seen their rooms that night. All the tables were full and almost everyone had a drink in front of them. Welcome to Vegas.
We went outside, blinking in the sunlight and got ourselves a beer, crossing the road we were just about to enter the Bellagio when I spotted Dog the Bounty Hunter chatting to someone at the entrance. If you’re not familiar with him then that’s your loss, the guy is a HERO. His golden mullet spilling onto his well muscled shoulders was just as I remembered it from the Bravo marathons I used to do as an unemployed gentleman. Best day of my life. I didn’t have the balls to go and speak to him so we went into the Casino and had a wander. The place is incredible, we walked past the $200 tables with little Chinese guys in suits betting more in one hand than we spent on a month’s accommodation in Bolivia, people playing that dice rolling game the rules of which may as well have been written in Hindi for al I understood them, but people seemed to be having a lovely time nonetheless. Eventually we entered the famous Bellagio buffet, the biggest all you can eat buffet in the world. We had many a discussion on how they could possibly run it at a profit and came to the conclusion that it was impossible. A sushi chef hand rolling sushi to order, Fillet steak, Pork Belly and gourmet Pizza sat side by side with Mountains of king prawn and lobster with about a hundred other things for you to eat in between. It was impossible not to feel guilty at the unashamed excess on display. I’m writing this in India and having seen full families sleeping on a blanket next to some of the busiest roads on the planet I can’t help but feel ashamed to the core of my being. Luckily, I’d never been to India at the time and I gorged myself with the other pigs blissfully unaware of what a horrible person I’d inadvertently become. It got to the stage, and I’m not proud of this, where I was filling a plate with steak among other things and eating only the pink bit of the medium rare cut of meat before discarding the ‘wastage’ and going up for yet another plate. After the first I wasn’t even hungry, any more, after the second dish piled high with all sorts of delicious stuff it was actually painful to eat and after the third, well I was actually worried about what was going to happen to me when I finally attacked the desert shelves. I stumbled out of there clutching my stomach and groaning in very real pain. Emma looked at me in disgust, shaking her head and scolding me like she’d caught me stealing 2 quid out of her purse, not angry, just disappointed.  And all this cost was 20 of your American dollars. Once I’d regained the ability to walk we carried on into the casino and going  entirely against the spirit of Vegas parked ourselves on the penny slots and did not leave until we were niiiice and toasty, me on free coronas, her on free double cosmopolitans. If you’re interested, we ended up about $16 dollars up with these pathetic, frugal bets so in your enormous bloated face Vegas, we took on your casinos and WON!
The next day, by way of an activity, we made our way down the strip to Glitter Gulch in downtown Vegas, this is where the glory days of Vegas took place, the Vegas of legend and folklore where the gangsters ruled with impunity. It’s obviously not like that anymore, but still definitely worth a visit, the main strip where the battered old casinos, very obviously from the 70’s, scream at you for your business like tired 65 year old whores. The ceiling of the whole complex, lights up all day, trying it’s hardest not to look like the Rock’s skinny, balding cousin in comparison to the recent billion dollar refurbs that the strip has had in the past 5 years.

On our penultimate day, we had to up and leave the gloriously decrepit  Imperial Palace and carry our enormous rucksacks over the road into Caesers Palace, where due to the fact that people at Emma’s work actually valued her contribution, they had bought her a night in one of the major casinos of my choice. We went in early to leave our bags with the bellhop and see whether or not we could check in. We couldn’t so we went to try and find a waitress on the penny slots. We returned to reception, dragging our rucksacks past the tanned, fit and above all, rich clientele that usually frequents the lobby of such an establishment and, half cut from yet more free, penny slot beers, started trying to lay our ‘free upgrade’ spiel on Jason, who looked like a cage fighter in a suit. He was having absolutely none of it and Emma and I looked at each other with a disappointed face. Once the check-in was complete, Jason placed the key on the counter in front of us and said ‘So, I’ve given you guys a sweet upgrade’ He really did emphasise the ‘sweet’ like that. And he wasn’t lying. We arrived at the door and put the key in the lock. The door opened into a corridor which as we alked down it, opened out into a fucking SWEET room indeed. A Jacuzzi in the bathroom facing a flatscreen TV, a huge double bed in a room bigger the than the entire ground floor of my house with the window on one side facing out to the pools and the window on the other facing out onto the strip. I’m not lying when I say it was much better than an ETAP.
We really didn’t make the most of that room, apart from a Jacuzzi at 4am we just went out and found the most hospitable waitress, by that I mean one who didn’t get pissed off when she realised that we had blatantly not put another dollar into the bandit since the last beer we had about 7 minutes ago.
All in all Vegas was amazing, but I have to say, I’d love to go for two weeks with 3 grand to waste. Then I might have something else to feel bad about apart from gorging myself on fatty foods. Next stop, Californ I A.

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