minutia press.
Las Vegas

Betsy surprised me with a trip to Las Vegas last weekend. She had me thinking there would be some kind of surprise party for my birthday, but then the week before told me the surpise was a trip to LV sans children.

I'm not really a LV person, primarily because of the city's and state's weak stance against smoking. I don't like the smell of smoke: it stinks and makes it hard for me to breathe. I could just stay out of the casinos but even the restaurants seem to have little to say against smoking whlie people are eating.

In spite of the above, I managed to have a great time. We stayed at the Mirage but spent most of our time outside that property. Considerable time was spent at the Venitian, because it is just so cool and has great, affordable restaurants.

OK I gambled a little. I like to play black jack and I understand math to the point where I'm not going to lose unless luck is really against me. I like to play at a "live" table with a real dealer and people, but I can only do this if there is scant smoke about. The Excaliber hotel was my favorite, because it had a (relatively) huge nonsmoking section. Other places might have one table designated smoke-free but surrounded by tables with smoking. What a joke.

We were walking along the strip when it started to rain (unlucky) so we ran into the nearest hotel, the "Paris" hotel, and there was a good band playing (lucky). Betsy suggested we play some video poker while we waited, and I agreed even though I don't like machine gambling. The truth is I just don't trust the machines to be programmed fairly. How do you know that it's really dealing a fairly shuffled deck? Well, I put $20 into the machine so I could play a while, and I bet the max each time figuring I would either just get this over with or else win as much as I could if I hit something. About halfway through my $20, I hit 2 aces and held them so that on the draw I got 2 more aces and a 2. The macihne went nuts, and gave me $500 (on a $1.25 bet). I stared at the machine for a bit and then Betsy looked over and she went nuts.

The good thing about winning early is then you can say "We're up so we can play blackjack without worrying too much about losing". The problem with blackjack is that it's hard to find a table that is both nonsmoking and has a $5 minimum bet. Most of the tables, especially at the fancier places, have $10 or even $15 minima, especially at night or at times when business is strong.

My understanding of blackjack at casinos is that they abide it unwillingly. It's the game in which the player has the best odds against the house -- almost even. Some casinos tried getting rid of blackjack but then customers went elsewhere, and the casinos found out that a significant number of blackjack players will be glad to lose money playing machines if they've won.

Well I did amazingly well at blackjack too, but Betsy did not. She knows how to play but just had really bad luck so we nearly offset each other in terms of win/lose.

We spent some time watching the Bellagio fountains and also saw the Cirque du Soleil show "O". It was incredible. What a great trip.


I've actually heard that you have better odds in Craps than blackjack, but you have to have a larger bankroll to take advantage of it. As for machine shuffling, you don't think they used Perfect Shuffle?

Posted by: Chris Hill Festival at September 11, 2004 9:47 AM

I agree with you regarding casinos and smoking. I really just don't understand why casinos don't embrace the fact that these days there are more non-smokers in America than smokers. I too tend to avoid casinos because of the smoke and would probably go more often if there was a truly smoke-free environment to go to.

Along those lines the most ridiculous thing I've seen at a casino with regard to a smoking policy is at the riverboat casino where my parents live. It has a non-smoking floor, which on its face seems like a good thing. However, it is only non-smoking if you're sitting at the tables. You can wander around the floor and even partake of the table games as long as you don't sit down. So the non-smoking floor -- while less smoky than the other floors -- is still unbearably smoky.

Posted by: david at September 11, 2004 2:18 PM

Imagine, i don't read this blog often, and it comes up with blackjack! Blackjack and craps are the games that make a casino different than a slot machine at the 7-11 ---- even people that don't play these table games seem to prefer to play slots/video poker in establishments with them. Wierd.

I'm also a big fan of the fountain at the local casino (Ameristar). I find it as compelling as Bellagio's --- with that down home midwestern flair of being smaller, where you can touch it, and indoors. Speaking of which, it seems that the link to Bellagio Fountains in the original post, goes back to the blog page.

Posted by: robert at September 11, 2004 11:34 PM

I fixed the Bellagio fountain link, sorry about that. I agree blackjack makes gambling a lot more fun than just pushing a button on a machine. If you know the odds and don't have intuition, you might as well just throw a (weighted) coin up and decide whether you win or lose that way as play video gambling games.

The machines are supposedely inspected but how do you know that the things aren't programmed so you lose more often than you should?

At least with blackjack, there's a deck and you can see it's shuffled and the dealer gets cards from the same shoe as you.

I forgot to write something else: they'll bring you as much alchohol as you want while you're gambling. I don't drink much, but the guy sitting next to me drank like a fish, to the point where he doubled-down with 17 points in his cards.

The dealers are nice enough to question such things, and he was asked if he was sure. The alchohol spoke for him, and of course he lost.

Posted by: rkc at September 12, 2004 7:58 AM

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