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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal



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Back to Las Vegas

Debbi and I went back to Las Vegas for the first time in a year as a sort-of birthday trip for me, but mostly just because we wanted to go back.

We did a little preparation this time, buying some books on various sorts of gambling. For instance, toward the end of last year's vacation I was moving away from playing slot machines towards video poker, mainly because you can often play video poker for a lot longer for the same initial investment, and run a lot more money through the system towards comps on your clot club card. There are a few video games we still enjoy playing - Debbi more so than me (I still like Hexbreaker, though) - but they're basically just total chance games with no skill involved. How enjoyable they are to me basically depends on how clever the presentation is.

I also decided I wanted to try blackjack and/or poker in the casino, and I'll write about that in my next entry.


We flew out on Saturday early in the afternoon, and checked in to our hotel, the Excalibur, which we'd passed through last year (usually on the way to the Luxor) but didn't spend much time in. The casino isn't very well laid-out to my mind, being rather chaotic and confusing. Eventually I realized that the only way to truly navigate it way to walk to the center of the casino and turn around until you saw the sign for what you wanted. But it worked out.

We had dinner at Regale, the Italian restaurant we'd enjoyed last year.

Then we walked across the street to the MGM Grand hotel to see the Cirque Du Soleil show Ka. This is an excellent show, on par with "O", which we saw last year. The main thing which baffled us was the supposed premise of fire and duality in the story, which seemed mostly absent to me - in particular, there was very little fire in evidence once the show began. However, the music was superb and the acrobatic feats were excellent. Some of the less-flashy feats, such as one fellow juggling a variety of books in the midst of a larger milieu, were among the most impressive. The "stage" played extensively with space and with vertical arrangements, with some very inventive tableaus. We were fortunate to get 8th row center seats and had a great view of everything. A recommended show.

Aside: Sitting next to me for the show was an elderly gentleman who seemed to be visiting Vegas by himself, at the age of 91, and was full of stories about skydiving in his late 80s and all the other things he's been doing in his later years. I hope I'm half that active, assuming I live to be anywhere near his age.


Sunday was spent mostly walking all over the Strip. We consumed many daiquiris during the weekend (well, maybe five), played the slots at Bally's, walked around the Venetian, and then went to Treasure Island to see another Cirque show, Mystere.

I understand Mystere is the first of the Vegas Cirque shows. Certainly by contrast with "O" and Ka it seems rather simplistic, although it does have more clowning around than the other two. The acrobatics are not up to the same level of excitement, although I did very much enjoy the extended trampoline sequence, and also the aerial cube. The theater is much smaller than that of Ka or "O", and although our seats were not near the front, it didn't really matter; we still had a good view. Overall I'd say this is my least favorite of the three Cirque shows I've seen (perhaps tellingly, it was also the cheapest). Debbi suggests that has we seen it on its own, rather than back-to-back with Ka, then we'd probably have enjoyed it more.

(To be fair, we had originally hoped to see Mystere and Penn & Teller, but the latter were not playing this weekend.)


Monday we spent the morning and early afternoon kicking around the hotels near the Excalibur, playing some video poker and riding the roller coaster at New York New York (which was okay, but a very bumpy ride; we got a 2-for-1 coupon and would probably not have gone at full price).

Then we attended the 2 pm Excalibur poker lessons, which I wanted to try to familiarize myself with playing the game in the casino. The lesson was half an hour long and included both game rules for Texas Hold 'Em and etiquette and a few tips on, say, viewing your hole cards. Then there was a low-stakes ($1-3) game afterwards for the newbies, which I stayed in for 45 minutes (breaking even) while Debbi went off to the slots. It was quite educational, really.

We did have some more things we wanted to see, though. I had decided I wanted to go on one of the two rides at the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton, but they've changed their pricing structure since last year and you can now only buy tickets for the whole Experience package for $36, which was quite a bit more than we wanted to pay for just the one ride, so we passed and headed on back.

So we walked around some more, dropping in on the new Wynn hotel (gaudy, but far from where we were staying and with nothing to interest us to keep us there), and then heading back to Bally's where we had dinner at the steak house, which was very yummy. I can happily recommend the New York sirloin and the asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

We eventually ended up back at the Excalibur, where I headed to the poker room while Debbi played the video poker and slots. I played for nearly four hours, staying up until 1:30 when I finally cashed out as I was getting zonked out and wasn't focusing very well. I'll write about that in more detail in the next couple of days. It's worth (to me) committing the details for future reference.


It seemed like the trip was all-too-short, as we flew home early this afternoon. However, the cats were very happy to see us (as they usually are), and we were pretty well tired at the end (Debbi more so than me, actually). We're contemplating going back a little more often, even for overnight weekend trips. January is such a good time to go because it's warm and dry and comfortable in Las Vegas (between our two trips, I don't remember getting any precipitation), and going in - say - July seems like it would have its obvious downsides.

Still, it might be worth it, at that.

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