05/08/2009

Things to Do in Vegas When You're Dead (Tired)

Alex Rousso

Goddamn Sonofabitch. I just flew five thousand miles, spent a couple of grand, and flew five thousand miles back again, not to mention spending four hours delayed in McCarran airport (thanks Virgin). What have I got to show for it? Nada.

No, it’s not about making money. I’m past thinking that I’ll pay for my trip to Vegas by playing at the tables. (Although current beau du jour Marty Smith did complain to me last year at the Rio that this was his first Vegas trip ever where he was down.)

What I have to show for it is that I’ve lost my faith in Vegas. Before you call in Max von Sydow (The power of Elvis compels you! The power of Elvis compels you!), let me tell you, an exorcist ain’t gonna heal me, either.

First, the jetlag thing is a bummer. On my first night there – when it was actually 7am for me rather than the 11pm showing on my watch – I was so tired, I almost fell into my French onion soup at Mon Ami Gabi. My friends were telling me to go back to the room, but that’s not very Vegas, is it?

Vegas should be round the corner. Having a long haul flight there really buggers the whole experience up for us Europeans. There’s no spontaneous “Vegas baby!” when you book your flight three months in advance. And you can’t just hop in the car, drive from LA and be there in four hours when it takes that long just to get to Gatwick. Au contraire, if Vegas was as accessible as Soho, I’d be there once a bloody fortnight, and more to the point, I could time my trip to coincide with when my party organs were ovulating.

Another thing is the poker action. Hold ‘em is sooo last season, darling – but that’s all that Vegas seems to have. “Oh look! I completely bluffed you off the pot with my 6-3 offsuit!” Sorry, is there any way I’m supposed to determine what the hell you’ve got? Any skill that might deduce such a thing? Oh, right – tells. Sure mate, sure. “That’s how I roll!” he claims. Indeed it is. And it’s also how you lose your bank . . . roll.

Anyone even vaguely connected with making a living from poker should pray nightly in thanks to the gods who made it such a TV friendly phenomenon. Of course, it’s the accessibility and simplicity of Hold ‘em that has really given everyone the bug. But I’ve been holed up in my Omaha bunker for years now waiting for the hoi polloi to discover what a great game it is. Thinking about it, Stewart Reuben and Bob Ciaffone have been waiting there for decades.

Finding a non-hold ‘em game in Vegas is like looking for some genuine virtue in a strip club waitress’ service provision. (She’ll rip your lungs out, Jim). As I fold my way through my first session, I’m reminded that much as professional online poker player is one of the best jobs I can think of, professional offline poker player is one of the worst. Sod whether it’s hold ‘em or not – it’s bad enough having only 2 cards to look at whenever you’re dealt a hand, but one hand every 2 minutes? Strewth!

I sat down with the old timers at the $10/20 limit Omaha 8 game at the Wynn. My 200 hands an hour online antics would presumably feel like the fast-forward-trippy bit of Koyaanisqatsi to this lot. Some of them recognise me from my last visit here. I avoid questioning them about where the other regulars are through fear that, in the interim, they may have died. For this lot, the Omaha game at the Wynn is their retirement plan, but I’m happy. Without them, I don’t think there would be an Omaha game of any description on the entire Strip.

So what to do in Vegas if you’re not that bothered about the live poker and you’re too tired to party? This trip, I found out. You see, Vegas is actually all things to all men, and at a push, women too. You must treat the place as if it is your own private fantasy machine. Where you want to hang out is there somewhere, you’ve just got to find it. I thought I’d be hiring cars and nipping off to Bryce Canyon, Zion and the rest, but really once I got there, I couldn’t be arsed to move. Thank god for the pool and some sunshine. So it really is true: the USP of Vegas is the fact that anything goes there.

Maybe another time I’ll be up for the kitchen sink cocktails of Kahunaville, but I guess I’ll have to wait a while until I’m back. My conclusion is that we need to move Vegas to somewhere very sunny about two hours drive from London. OK, that’s Bournemouth, but perhaps only for about two days of the year. Yes, I could move to LA, but I’m a fan of fake tans and real cleavage – not the other way around. Anyway, I only want Vegas to be there about twice a year, for about 24 hours; a sort of Brigadoon with big boobs and all you can eat chicken wings.

In the absence of the mountain moving to Mohammed, I guess I’ll settle for “see where the fancy takes you” approach to my Vegas holidays. I do wish I had the LA version of “wait till you’re up for a large one, then jump in the car and go bananas four hours later”. Failing any adult versions of Eurodisney turning up this side of the pond any time soon, I’ll just have to keep my eyes and ears open for developments on teleportation technology.