Chilly Vegas Trip

We’re back from a long weekend in Las Vegas. While we didn’t get the snow that the city got last month, it was surprisingly chilly all week, with lows below 40. We don’t often have to wear jackets when we go to Vegas, but this time…

Saturday night we went to see Le Rêve, the show at the upscale Wynn hotel. It’s not actually a Cirque du Soleil show, but it was created by a former Cirque choreographer. Apparently it wasn’t a big hit when it debuted, and has undergone quite a few changes since, but overall it’s quite good. For those who have been to Vegas, it’s a water-based show like “O”, but has many of the feats of strength and agility of Mystere. The music is somewhere in between, with several songs with English lyrics. The story – such as it is – doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as a framework for the sights and sounds it works well enough. Overall I still think Ka is the strongest show of this sort in Vegas, and it actually does have a story that makes sense! But Le Rêve is worth seeing, and I could see going back to see it, too.

We bookended our trip with our usual outing to the steakhouse at Bally’s, which was excellent as always. We never regret going there. If anything, we only regret being too full to eat everything on the menu.

Chinese New Year fell on Monday, so many hotels had decorations up for the event, such as the Venetian:

Venetian tower decked out for Chinese New Year 2009
(click for larger image)

…and, as always, the Bellagio conservatory:

Bellagio conservatory decorated for Chinese New Year

Panda plant sculptures at the Bellagio conservatory

We didn’t try many new restaurants this time; the only new one was BLT Burger at the Mirage, which was quite good. The Mirage is reconfiguring things since Siegfried and Roy are no longer there, and BLT replaced the white tiger habitat, which is too bad, but that’s the way it goes I guess. Otherwise we hit our usual haunts, which were good as usual, save that we had really bad service at the Studio Cafe at the MGM: Slow service, and Debbi’s eggs benedict were cooked wrong and we sent it back. We were very grumpy about this, especially because we’ve always liked them in the past, but now we’re not sure we’ll go back. We probably will eventually, once we get over this experience.

Debbi played a bunch of Pai Gow poker and I joined her for much of it. We had a few interesting hands, as every so often you have several choices of directions to go and one is clearly better than another. The most interesting was a hand Debbi had where she had both a straight and a flush, but playing the straight gave her a pair in the low hand, which was better overall. I played two hands at once for a little while, on the theory that it would lower my variance, which seems like a good idea in games played against the house.

We had some really nice dealers, especially one woman at the MGM. We also watched the other players, who can be fascinating: A lot of high rollers play pai gow, and bet $100 and up on each hand, which is a good way to win or lose really quickly. That’s an order of magnitude higher than we feel comfortable with, but it’s interesting to see. Some of them are perfectly friendly and others seem to want to just play their game and not be bothered.

I also played some poker, mixing in limit games with some 1-2 no limit. I was pretty lucky all around, and had a few memorable hands:

  • Picked up Aces in the big blind. Before the action came to me there was a raise, two calls, and a reraise. I reraised, the first raiser and callers folded, and the other player reraised me all in. I called. Someone asked, “Who has Aces and who has Kings?” A King came on the board, which worried me, but he had Queens, and I won the pot (and his whole stack, since I had him covered). I wonder what he thought when the other played wondered who had Aces and who had Kings?
  • A young woman sat down at the table and gave the impression of knowing the basics of the game, but none of the nuance. A few hands later I hit my set of 8s on the flop, and rivered a full house, and put her all in, winning her stack. The other players ragged on me for dampening the mood at the table (many of them were flirting with her). She re-bought and started winning many hands, including a huge one just after I left the table.
  • In my last session I got stacked myself: The under-the-gun player called the blind, the next player called, and I raised with Ace-Jack. UTG reraised and everyone else folded. UTG was an aggressive player who had won many pots at the table (which had just been formed when I joined) without showing down any hands, so I thought there was a good chance he had a worse Ace or even King-Queen or something like that. But he had Ace-King, and I didn’t catch a Jack and got stacked. Bummer. I did consider folding rather than going all-in, but it seemed like a borderline situation, where I could go either way.

Limit poker went well too, although the hands were less memorable.

We also always enjoy seeing the lion habitat at the MGM:

Lazy lion at the MGM Grand's lion habitat

One thing we noticed was how quiet things were the whole time. It even started in San Jose airport when we got there on Saturday, and there were maybe a couple dozen people in Terminal A when we got through security. Las Vegas was relatively quiet, too; Debbi says one dealer said the whole city is like that, but that the MGM Grand’s casino is doing better than most. The recession is hitting Vegas pretty hard.

On the other hand, we did have to wait to get seated at a couple of restaurants, and the poker rooms seemed as busy as usual when I played. So it’s not completely dead.

All-in-all, another pleasant getaway. Going back to work was a bit of a shock!