So where was I... oh yeah - I'd just finished describing the greatest human evolutionary theory of the 21st century - the March of the Penguins, in Part II. Part I is here too, if you missed that one.
So, after lunch on Saturday, Big Show and his wife left to go get massages, while the other metro-sexuals went to the spa to enjoy a steam and sauna. I know - that's funny - hahaha Kid Dynamite, good one - but I'm serious - they did, while the football game was starting, no less! This left me alone to venture to Lagasse's Stadium at the Palazzo, aka "Kitchen Stadium" to watch the Arizona - New Orleans playoff game. Kitchen Stadium used to be Jay Z's 40-40 club, but they redid it into a big time luxury sports bar. There are hundreds of tv's and you can reserve a seating area, which range from outdoor cabana types to tiered sofa seating to private rooms. Of course, for Divisional Weekend, these reservations have to be made well in advance, and I managed to find a place to stand and watch the game, where I'd bet UNDER 56 points for the total score. When Arizona took the first play from scrimmage more than 70 yards for a touchdown, it didn't bode well for my bet, which ended up going down in flames, yet somehow coming so close with a final score of 45-14. It was never really that close, however, as the two teams almost put up my number by halftime.
Big Show joined me, freshly massaged, and he was toting the Venetian's latest technological development - a handheld device slightly larger than an Iphone which enables one to make real time proposition bets on the outcome of the game. Big Show had pre-loaded his account with money, and we checked out the constantly changing props offered by the Venetian. For example, the total for the game was 56, but after the first play touchdown, we could now wager on a new total of 62. Similarly, the game line moved throughout the game, from Saints - 7, to Saints - 3, to Saints - 11 and so on. In addition, we could wager on things like "will there be another first down on the current drive: Yes - 280, No + 220" For those unfamiliar with gambling parlance, you'd have to bet $280 to win $100 if you took "yes" and $100 to win $220 if you took "no." The lines would move depending on down and distance, depending on which team had the ball, and depending on where the drive started. We could also wager on "this drive will end in a : TD: +180 FG Attempt: +120 Punt: -190 Turnover: +450" - with those odds constantly changing. There were tons of prop bets, always changing rapidly, and always with a massive vig built in for the house. Big Show asked me "how much of the money that customers deposit on these accounts do you think the Venetian ends up keeping?" "80%," I answered quickly. "I think it's more like 100%," he theorized, and he could well be right. You're guaranteed to lose when facing these vigs if you bet long enough. In case anyone had doubts as to the legitimacy of my previous analogies to Wall Street Trading as a casino, look no further than the company that runs the software for the Venetian's handhelds: Cantor Gaming: from their website: "Cantor Gaming is an affiliate of the pre-eminent global financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald. Cantor and its affiliates conduct over $140 trillion in financial transactions worldwide per year. Founded over 60 years ago, Cantor is one of 18 Primary Dealers authorized to trade US government securities with the Federal Reserve. Known globally for superior financial technology and real-time and secure execution of financial transactions, Cantor’s clients include the world’s leading banks and trading firms. Cantor’s technology drives over $500 billion in transactions for the world’s capital markets every day. At Cantor Gaming, we have built upon Cantor’s legacy of integrity and excellence and its unmatched financial technology to create an innovative and unique gaming system that we believe will revolutionize the gaming experience in Las Vegas."
Making bets on the handheld device was, quite literally, no different from trading.
Knowing the UNDER bet was dead, I headed to the Venetian to grind out some 2-5NL while waiting for the Indy-Baltimore game to start. I played one noteworthy hand (sorry for actual poker content, but this blog was once about poker!) where I found KK in late position. An early position player who seemed solid made it $15 to go, and I made a little raise to $40. The small blind woke up and cold called, as did the initial raiser. On a rainbow flop of Q-8-4 they both checked to me. I had about $450 left, and bet $105. The small blind called. The turn brought a 2 and a flush draw, and he checked to me again. I was deciding if I should bet my remaining stack, which was roughly a pot sized bet, or make a smaller bet, when suddenly the small blind said something to me. "What's that?" I asked him - I'd only taken 15 seconds to think. "Check-CALL - I said, Check, CALL." He exclaimed confidently. I pursed my lips, took a second and a half, and said "Ok, I'm all in." He snap called me. I began counting down my chips, and a king peeled off on the river. My opponent triumphantly slammed his KQ two pair on the felt, as I was simultaneously turning over the nuts, explaining "no good." Ship it.
Big Show and I snagged seats in the Venetian sports book and watched the first 3 quarters of the Colts-Ravens game, where I was on the right side for what would prove to be the only time that weekend - I had the Colts, and also bet the second half under, both of which worked. Big Show got bored and left to go play some double deck blackjack, spotting Phil Ivey playing Baccarat in the Salon in the meantime. By the time I found Big Show, Ivey was gone, but our poker sightings were not finished - we'd later spot Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari walking between the Palazzo and Venetian (to which Big Show reacted with "ROCKS-N-RINGS BAYBEE!" a bit too late, and Paul X-22 Magriel at Aria. (sorry - the Rocks and Rings webpage appears to be gone, so I can't link it up)
Junior and The Professor had set up the rare off-strip dinner at Raku, which they claimed had the best Japanese food in the country. It wasn't a sushi joint, but the journey to Vegas Chinatown/KoreaTown/JapanTown (our cabbie actually had to plug the address into his GPS!) was well worth the trip, as we feasted on a multi-course meal of small plates including salmon steamed rice, chicken skewers, kobe beef tendon, pork cheek, spinach salad, tofu with tomato, grilled steak and warm tofu.
After dinner, we sojourned to CityCenter, to check out the crown jewel of the real estate bubble. The flagship Aria is a beautiful place - there's no doubt about that - but it reminds one of an airport, with massive ceilings, modern shapes, and polished floors. In contrast to the brightness found in casinos like Palazzo or Paris, Aria is very dark, like Planet Hollywood right across the street. It seemed to want to convey a Saturday night buzzing vibe at all times with its decor - which was fine for us on Saturday night, but it's not the kind of place I'd want to hang out and play blackjack at on Sunday morning. It's a beautiful building, but I couldn't help but hear Vegas Rex's analogy ringing in my ears. Aria's casino floor is mammouth - MGM-esque, and we walked around in circles until we found our way to the shopping mall, Crystals. Right inside Crystals there is a club called Eve, where we were offered free entry, which we declined. The club is Eva Longoria Parker's project. Yeah - I don't get it either. I am guessing it will go down in flames faster than Jay Z's 40-40 club. Aria has its own top tier club, Haze, managed by LightGroup - why do they need another club in the shopping mall with Eva Longoria Parker's name on it? Bubblelicious!
Crystals is, of course, another beautiful building, but as we walked through the mall, Big Show had an epiphany as we stared at the vast expanses of white walls. "WHERE ARE ALL THE STORES?" I just smiled and said, "I think I'm gonna short more stock on Tuesday" (I'm short LVS and WYNN, but not MGM) To say that Crystals is under-represented on the retail front is a massive understatement.
Big Show, Mrs. Big Show, and I walked across the street, stopping so I could drop a deuce at Planet Hollywood, before wandering through Paris and grabbing a cab back to Palazzo to attack some double deck action. It was 1:30 on Saturday night, and our favorite pit at Palazzo had 5 empty blackjack tables with dealers standing there twiddling their thumbs and $200 or $300 table minimums. We asked a pit boss to roll one of the tables back to $50 for us, and she said sure, but when she asked the head guy, he said no! I know it's prime time on Saturday, but the place was deserted, and we were surprised that they didn't want to take our money. "Fine - I'll exercise my rights as a consumer and go give to to the VENETIAN!" I hissed under my breath to Big Show, joking, as the Venetian and Palazzo are owned by the same company, of course. Perhaps now I know why the pit boss on Friday night had told me that business at Palazzo was "slow." "Slow except on weekends, and slow after the big convention week?" I probed. "No - slow from holiday to holiday!" She elaborated. Yikes!
We found a suitable blackjack game at Venetian, and took our usual positions with Big Show in first base, and me at third base. Mrs. Big Show and a random guy were in between us. There was a guy at a table across the pit who would occasionally go absolutely ballistic, screaming "YEAH!!!! ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!" which resulted in Big Show implementing the exact same chant when he successfully won a $75 double down bet and yelled loud enough to get me to jump in my chair. All weekend, I was implementing another Vegas Rex invention, shouting "THAT"s what you get for waking up in Vegas," at all sorts of times at the blackjack table. It proved to be extremely funny - in a slol kind of way (that's SELF lol - when you do something that makes YOU laugh, even if others don't).
At one point, after painting a smooth 7 on a 14 against a dealer 9, I stood up, fist pumped, and shouted "THAT'S what I get for waking up in Vegas," which prompted the mysterious man between Big Show and me to inquire as to what I did for a living. "I'm an ice fisherman," I told him, and made a motion of drilling through the ice with a hand crank drill. "No kidding - that's a crazy coincidence - I'm the captain of the U.S. National Fly Fishing Team!" He retorted, but this guy wasn't kidding! Of course, this prompted a barrage of questions from me, and lengthy explanations from him about the travel and skills his position entailed, and how he was trying to raise awareness of their mere existence.
"Come on man, you're bullshitting me - that's the kind of made up job you tell a stripper when she asks you what you do!" I pleaded, which made Big Show spit out his beer, but this guy was serious. He was a great guy, and a skilled blackjack player as well.
At 3am I stepped into a black hole and blew up in short order, crushing a few buy-ins in a matter of minutes, which prompted me to steam off and go to bed on bajungi tilt.
next up - Part IV - KD goes downtown for the first time!