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Monday, September 27, 2004

Trip Report: Odogg's Bachelor Party in Las Vegas, Part I
Last Thursday I left for Las Vegas, for the second time in 2 months. The occasion: My good buddy Odogg's bachelor party. What follows is a long, rambling write-up of our escapades. I wasn't going to break this post into multiple parts, as I did with my previous Vegas trip report, but w.bloggar is giving me a stack overflow error, presumably because this post is causing it memory issues (?), so two parts it is. Also, while I played a lot of poker last weekend, this post also covers a lot of drinking and non-poker gambling. Make use of the nifty subheads to jump from a part that doesn't interest you to one that hopefully does.

I got back last Sunday night at 10pm, feeling the effects of far too much alcohol and far too little sleep. Danny Glover was very much on my mind -- "I'm getting too old for this shit." I was a zombie til about Wednesday morning, and on top of that B had an awful cough. So the Cheap Thrills household was kind of a mess this week. Fortunately we both started feeling better about Wednesday night, and Thursday night we actually hosted a home poker game, which I hope will become a weekly thing. But that's a topic for another post. On to the bachelor party.

On Bachelor Parties

Well, actually, before that, a word on bachelor parties. They're kind of a funny tradition. The idea is "one last night of bachelorhood," but it's unclear exactly what this means or how it should be achieved. At none of the bachelor parties I have been to has there actually been any sex for the bachelor in question, so (for my circle of friends, anyway) the bachelor party is certainly not "one last night of non-monogamy." There have been strip clubs, to be sure, but the entire strip club culture seems designed to make men feel like they're doing something really wild and naughty, when really you're just sitting there watching naked women dance, which in the grand scheme of things is a little naughty but just not that wild. No, the bachelor parties I've been to have been more like "one last night of drunken rowdiness," which is fine by me, but I just don't see drunken rowdiness and marriage as being mutually exclusive. As I say, a funny tradition.

My own bachelor party, held almost exactly a year ago, was: A poker tournament at Foxwoods in the morning, followed by beer, BBQ, and low-stakes poker all day, and then a trip the Foxy Lady, which by longstanding southern New England tradition is where all Rhode Island bachelor parties must end up. All in all it was a great day of excess, and just about as much fun as I can imagine having with the guys on a Saturday in September in Providence. On the dreaded morning after, however, I couldn't help but ask myself: Was that the wildest night I've had, or ever will have, in my life? And if not, had we failed in our duty as bachelor partiers?

My point is that there's quite an aura, quite a bit of cultural baggage and expectation surrounding the bachelor party tradition. No one wants to look back as say "That was a pretty tame bachelor party." Every red-blooded American male wants to have the craziest bachelor party ever for himself (short of cheating on his fiance, which to be honest, is a big short), and to throw the craziest bachelor party ever for his friends. What's more, Odogg, myself, and our 4 comrades-in-arms went in to the weekend knowing that were not embarking on the average, hometown night of debauchery, but were instead going for the ultimate BP experience: The Bachelor Party in Las Vegas. One of my comrades has already written (while stuck in Pittsburgh Sunday night on the way back home) about the feeling that this was Big:

Vegas doesn't conform to restrictions and doesn't lend itself to logical definition. Its decadent and rank, wholesome and raunchy, uplifting and degrading, straight and double dealing all at the same time. The result? Unmitigated fun. Consequently, any man in the world - well, any sane, honest man would like nothing better than to get together with some buds and take Sin City head on. We did just that. . . . Can I get a Boo Yah??
Flight and Check In (Kinda boring stuff, feel free to skip. I did win $50 at poker before checking in, though :-)

First off, the flight out. I suffer from a common malady, which is that I love traveling but hate flying. I know most people don't like flying, but a long flight just really drains the heck out of me. On top of this, I love Las Vegas but live on the east coast. Well, most of the bachelor party (6 of us total) was arriving Friday night and leaving Sunday. This didn't seem like nearly enough time in Las Vegas to justify all that time in the air, so I decided to head out early, on Thursday. On top of that, I took a really early flight that arrived in Las Vegas at 11:30am. Perfect, I thought, I'll have a whole day to recover from the flight, and play some poker, before everyone arrives and the craziness begins. As it turned out, O and a third member of our group, Derek, decided to join me on Thursday night. But that still left me Thursday afternoon for a little recovery time. Cool.

Anyway, I got up at 4:15am last Thursday morning to catch a 6:20am flight. The flight was uneventful (which is the best you can hope for).

Side note: I read Bob Ciaffone's Improve Your Poker on the plane. A fine book, though not nearly as "game-improving" as his Middle Limit Holdem Poker. Improve Your Poker is really just a compilation of Ciaffone's magazine articles, so it was kind of like having a lot of back issues of Card Player with me on the plane. /end side note

However, I am not a morning person. When the plane landed I felt not so good. Normally the adrenalin starts flowing when I walk though McCarran airport, but instead I was feeling a bit shaky and nauseous. So, note to self: Early morning flights perhaps not the best idea.

I got to the hotel--the Luxor--by noon. However, they wouldn't let anybody check in til 1:30. This irked me a bit--since the front desk was relatively empty, I figured why not just let me give my name and credit card, get the paperwork out of the way, and then they could give me an estimate of when my room might be ready. But no, they have a policy. OK, so I check my bags in with the bell desk, grab a bit to eat, and head over to the poker room. They had $2/$4 and $4/$8. Feeling better for the food but still kinda weak, I opt for $2/$4 -- and happily pick up $50 in the next hour or so.

1:30 rolls around, so I leave the table and head to the front desk--which is now a freakin' mob scene. Lines a dozen people deep, and none of them are moving. Now, last month when B and I were at the Flamingo, we waited about 45 minutes at the front desk. I glossed over that in my blog post on that trip because I didn't want to dwell on the worst part of the trip, but here it was happening again.

Think about it: You're psyched as hell for your trip to Las Vegas. You get through the 8 hours of flight/airport time, and begin to feel good once you hear the ringing of the slots in McCarran. You get your bags and wait in line for a cab at the airport--not the most fun thing to do, but at the cab lines are well-organized, and the cabbies are almost always polite, and usually downright friendly. Then you arrive at your airport, thrilled to be finally at your destination. And then you wait in line for almost an hour at the front desk, while Vegas beckons all around you. And really the worst part is how much the front desk experience stands in contrast to everything else in Las Vegas. Everything, I mean everything on the Strip--from bell desk to the cocktail service to the buffets and more--runs like a well-oiled machine. But for some reason the check-in process moves at a crawl and everyone involved with it seems just miserable. I don't get it, but it's starting to really bother me.

The only reason my check-in process didn't take more than an hour was because two couples in front of me left. I totally admire these people. They seemed like very average people in their 50s, not particularly high-rolling or glamorous or anything. But the one guy was just disgusted at the check-in lines and so he just says "This is why I hate the Strip," then pulls out a cell phone, books two rooms at the Golden Nugget, and they leave. Nice.

Arrived, Finally

Okay, moving on. I finally get my room. I do the Die Hard (making fists with my toes in the carpet), I shower, I iron my Hawaiian shirts (this has become a pleasant arrived-in-Vegas ritual for me), and I even manage an hour nap. Then I head back down to the poker room.

$4/$8 this time. It's about 5pm at this point, and O's arriving at 7pm, so I'm just kinda hanging out, trying to get a feel for the higher-limit game. There's one great drunk at my table, very friendly. He's been up for something like 24 hours, and his friends keep dropping by, telling him to at least get his bags from the bell desk and put them in the room! He's from Minnesota, and he insists that I must bet the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers against Colorado State University. I assure him that I will. He speaks highly of the Canterbury, as, evidently, do all poker-playing Minnesotans. Then he insists I look just like Hannity from Hannity & Colmes. Hmmmm. Then he brings up Iraq, and despite protests from the entire table, led by yours truly, that politics and poker don't mix, he babbles on about weapons of mass destruction for another 20 minutes. Finally O arrives to save me. I was up $80 at one point, but left up only $11. Dang.

Shortly after that, Derek arrives. We grab dinner at La Salsa, and discuss our plans for the evening. I had suggested showing O Downtown, as he had been to Las Vega twice before but had never been Downtown. It was Derek's first time in Las Vegas, though -- I was worried that he would be drawn to the bright lights of the Strip, and that I was in for a foot-aching night of walking the Strip and paying $6 a drink. To my happy surprise, Derek was all over the Downtown idea, so off we went.

Hammered on Fremont Street, Winning at the Mirage

I do love Downtown. I hadn't been there since about 2001. We toured Binion's and the Plaza. At the Plaza O and I played about 8 hands of $5 mini-baccarat, simply because it is one of the dumbest games I know of besides Casino War, and was trying to get into that wild and crazy spirit :-) I won $35, O broke even. We came out in time to catch a Fremont Experience Show, which is now at a higher resolution. Immediately after it was over, a band that was already set up in the middle of the "experience" struck up "Sweet Child O' Mine," which appealed to O's Jersey, hair-band rocker roots.

And then we headed in to the "The Girls of Glitter Gulch" strip club. I'll spare you the details and just say that it was like every strip club you've seen on TV since Beverly Hills Cop and Miami Vice made the "strip club scene" such a staple of crime shows and action movies. The really notable thing, though, is that there is no cover, but there is a 2-drink minimum. I ordered 2 Captain and Cokes and my ogling, momentarily-unable-to-think-for-themselves friends ordered the same. The Captain and Cokes came in tall glasses, with very little Coke. We left Glitter Gulch quite hammered, and this is where the night starts to get fuzzy.

I was unsure of how much poker we would get to play before the rest of our party arrived on Friday night. I had told O all about how much I loved the Mirage poker room, so we decided to hop a cab there. We played $3/$6 and were all seated at the same table. I don't remember much, but I do know that I ran over this table more than I have ever have in any game, online or in the casino. I caught a string of hot cards early and from there on when I raised, people got out of my way. The player to my left, a fellow in a wheelchair who I gather had been dominating the table before I arrived, left, making it pretty obvious that he was leaving because of me. It got to the point where I would raise from early position and everyone would fold. This is pretty unusual at $3/$6, and it happened like 2 or 3 times. Finally I started raising with real crap and then showing once my opponents' folded, just to try and generate future action. This was not such a great idea; I have never tried to establish a loose/maniacal image in that way, and I doubt I ever will again. Of course I lost some money doing it, and from a high of about $150 I ended the evening (at 3am) up only about $65.

Unfortunately O lost. I'm not sure how Derek did, but I do know that he had a good enough time that he was hooked on poker for the rest of the weekend. O and I stopped playing at about 3am, but Derek kept on playing til almost 4, and we had to drag him away.

Pride Goeth Before the Drunken Losses

Okay, so at this point, I have yet to lose at poker--or to lose any money at gambling at all--and I'm even pushing people around at the table a bit. In retrospect, it's easy to see that my game was slipping: I was getting looser and more aggressive than I ever have, thrilled that it was working. I was playing kind of recklessly, but in my defense it fit with the rowdy weekend I had envisioned.

On the cab ride home I notice that I don't have my cell phone. Gone. Only question was whether I dropped it or it was picked out of my pocket. I think the latter, but O and Derek, and my darling B when I talked to her on the phone, all suspect I dropped it, because I was just that drunk. Oh well, I think to myself, I can't let these little mistakes get me down.

We all pass out around 5am. Derek got points in my book for taking the floor; but he lost them for waking us up at 8am. We got breakfast, signed up for the noon tournament, and tried to grab a bit more shuteye.

Walking across the casino floor on the way to the tournament, I put a quarter in one of those Stampede slot machines (I love the noise they make when they cows stampede) and won $31. So I arrived at the tournament with a bucket of quarters. There's an intimidating image :-)

I had read that the Luxor tournaments were more or less crapshoots. Boy is that true. For a $25 buy-in (which is admittedly very cheap) you get $250 in chips; for $3, you can purchase T$50 more before the tournament starts. The initial blind level is $15/$30 -- so you've only got 10 big bets! The blinds doubled every 10 minutes (maybe it was 15, not sure), and the game is limit for the first 10 levels of so, then it goes to no-limit. I knew I'd have to accumulate some chips if I wanted to survive. On the very first hand -- not my first hand, but the very first hand -- I got AQ and flopped top pair Queen. I bet the heck out of it, and lost half my stack to an opponent who had QJ and 2 pair on the flop. So I was beat most of the way, but I don't know how I could get away from that hand given that structure. Then again, I suck at tournaments! I then lost with QJ, and finally busted out with a pair of fives -- the second person to bust out in a field of 30.

This was just as well because at this point I was feeling really hung over -- "I hope I don't puke at the table" hung over. Ugh. I managed to get another hour or so of sleep before O and Derek woke me up.


Here endeth Part I of the Odogg Vegas Bachelor Party Trip Report. Tune into tomorrow for Part 2, in which I play poker with Alan Schoonmaker, win more at blackjack, and continue to eschew sleep.

When my friend got married we took a little excursion to Harrah's in New Orleans. Free drinks and a little Blackjack play, it was fun :)
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