Las Vegas and the fine line between hope and despair
I just spent 10 days in Las Vegas, longer than any sane person should spend in that town. Back when I planned the trip, it sounded like a good idea. My wife and I would fly into Las Vegas on Dec. 28 and celebrate New Year’s Eve there. She would fly home on Jan. 1 and I would stay for the New Media Expo (NMX), which started on the 4th. That would leave me a couple days in between to do nothing but play poker.
However, when you add in the week I spent in San Francisco before Las Vegas, by the time the NMX conference started, I had been living out of a suitcase for 15 days. I’m not really sure how people like Gary Arndt, who has spent the last 7 years wandering the world, do it. Arndt was one of the speakers I caught at NMX.
Anyways, here are some random thoughts about Las Vegas:
- Only at a poker table can you leave hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on a table with 10 complete strangers, while you go off to eat dinner and come back and find all of your money still there. However, those same strangers will do everything they can to try and take your money from you while you’re sitting there in front of them.
- Buffets, which every casino has, are nothing less than killing machines. They entice diners to try combinations of foods that should never be eaten together in the same meal. One night I had peel and eat shrimp, smoked salmon, sweet and sour chicken, prime rib, brisket, loaded mash potatoes, cauliflower and peach cobbler with ice cream. My stomach and I are no longer on speaking terms.
- One day while I was trying to nap, someone started yelling something and banging on my door, despite the “do not disturb” sign. I opened the door and came face-to-face with a huge, tatted up guy holding a wad of bills the size of a baseball. He says, “I’m supposed to deliver this to Carlo. And then he squints at me like he’s doing all sorts of mental gymnastics. “Are you Carlo?” My instinct is to reach out and take the cash but in a flash, I see how that will play out. We lock eyes and both agree that, indeed, I am not Carlo. True story.
- Each night at the MGM, hundreds of young people in their finest club clothes lined up to get into the Hakkasan nightclub, each of them willing to pony up the $125 cover charge. If you figure 10,000 people a night pass through the velvet ropes, that comes out to $1.25 million a night in cover charges, alone. Wow. Just wow.
- Looking over the wine list at the American Fish House, we noticed there was a $15,000 bottle of wine on the menu. We briefly considered it before opting for the $80 rosé.
- Don’t pass up a chance to check out “One,” the Michael Jackson tribute performed by Cirque du Soleil at Mandalay Bay. The best Cirque show I’ve seen in years.
- Vegas truly epitomizes the fine line between hope and despair. A guy at the Venetian was holding a betting stub on Auburn to win the national championship. He placed the bet in January 2013 when the odds were 500-1. If Auburn had won, and it looked like they would until about a minute left in the game, it would have paid him $50,000 on his $100 bet. His was the agony of Vegas. Then there’s the ecstasy. What had everyone in town buzzing was what happened earlier in the day — a guy at the Aria turned $200 on the blackjack table into nearly $1 million! Crazy. Only in Vegas.
Image by Joe Newman.