Saturday, February 16, 2019

Back to Blackjack--But Did I Martingale?

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 8

And we pick up the saga right after I've checked into my room at Buffalo Bill's, right on the state line between NV and CA.  The previous chapter is here, and remember you can find all the posts in this series by using the label, "Stranded in Vegas," even though at this point in my story I'm actually stranded in Primm.

With all the stuff I thought I needed in my room, I was totally exhausted, both physically and mentally.  I was also starving.  I also had an aching back.  I was so tired I looked longingly at that bed and wanted to just collapse on it.  I might have actually done that but my hunger won out, especially because I knew I had to eat very soon so I could take my meds.

The room, by the way, was fairly nice.  It was surprisingly big, and it had a work desk and a chair to use with it.  And yes, it was, thankfully, non-smoking.  Much later I found out that the worse thing about the room was the choice of stations on the TV.  There were some oddball channels I wouldn't have expected (like National Geographic and the History channel—at least I think) but not a single cable news channel.  Weird that they didn't have CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. I guess they figure if you are there you want to be kept away from the real world.

I limped down to the casino to find some food.  When I checked in, the clerk gave me a map of the property and mentioned some of the food options.  He also mentioned some of the food options at Whiskey Pete's & Primm Valley Resort, all of which sounded a lot better that what I had available to me at Buffalo Bill's.  I can't remember them, but there were real places to eat at those other two hotels.  What did he mention for Buffalo Bill's?  Well, he said there was a 24-hour Denny's.  And a Panda Express in the food court which was also 24-hours (or maybe he just said they were open late, not sure).  And he said something about a McDonald's.

Surely there must be other options, right?  This is a hotel/casino, after all.  I dismissed the idea of checking out the better sounding food options at the other two hotels.  There was no way I was going to drive anywhere that night.  And not just because my car was not trustworthy.  Recall that I had gotten what seemed like the last parking spot at my current location.  No way would I risk giving up that spot and having to return to find nowhere to park.

There's a monorail that connects the properties.  When I asked about it, I was told it was closed that night (not sure if it was closed for more than just that night, I didn't care).  They did have a shuttle. I never asked about the location or the hours, I figured I was enjoying being inside, out of the cold, too much to try and take a damn shuttle. I would just make do with a meal at Buffalo Bill's.

I looked around the place.  There was a food court, but the only place there aside from the McDonald's and the Panda Express was a pizza place.  Well that would do…..except it was closed!  WTF?  Why would a pizza place in a casino be closed on Saturday night (before 7pm) on a big holiday weekend?  Desperate, I checked out the Denny's.  Hadn't eaten at a Denny's in a long, long time.  Well, since it was the only actual sit-down restaurant in the joint, it was crowded as hell. There was a big crowd of people who had already given their names waiting to be called.  I thought about at least asking how long the wait would be, but after 10 minutes of waiting for someone to come to the front, I just gave up.

I guess I had noticed that the McDonald's was not too crowded, surprisingly, so that was it. Why not Panda Express?  As any of you who have ever tried to eat with me in Vegas surely knows, I don't like Chinese food. And there were no other food options at all.  It had been ages since I'd eaten at a Mickey D's, although not as long as it'd been since I'd partaken in a Denny's.  But last I heard, McDonald's had salads, right?  Recall that I had been cheated out of a salad for lunch because the place I went to was out of green stuff. 

However, when I looked at the menu, I didn't see any salads on it.  Ugh.  No healthy food for me this day. So just a burger then.  But you know, after the day I'd had, I decided to treat myself to something I rarely have these days—some fries. I felt I was entitled.  However, I did resist the temptation to get a shake and just had a diet Coke.

I was impressed they got my special order right, and the burger was—adequate.  It was ok I guess, but when your fast food burger of choice is In-N-Out Burger it was a significant step down in quality.  But it was sustenance and it didn't make me sick, so there's that.  The fries, I must admit, were quite good.

While I was eating, I tried to figure out what I was going to do.  I had no place to stay beyond that night.  In theory, I had to be in Vegas Monday morning to get my car fixed (again).  There was certainly no reason to stay another night in Primm if I could help it.  And I figured by now I was stuck in NV through New Years.  It was going to be incredibly pricey, but I had to try to find a place in Vegas to stay for the next few days, through the 1st, at the very least.

So I headed back to my room and booted up the laptop.  I started searching for hotel rooms.  I remembered those Trivago commercials and used them since it would theoretically show me deals from all the other travel sites. 

Of course everything was expensive.  Last minute and the holiday weekend.  It was just nasty.  I almost booked a room at Sam's Town but then saw a deal at Gold Coast for a few bucks more.  The convenience and proximity to the Strip—and to TC's shop—made it worth the few extra bucks.  So, through some travel site that Trivago sent me to that I had never heard of—Agoda—I booked three nights at Gold Coast starting Sunday.  For those three nights, I paid $470.72, upfront.  That included taxes but it did not include the resort fee, which I'd owe directly to the Gold Coast.  I think the resort fee was like $20-$22 a night.  So yeah, I was getting hosed again.

Gold Coast is a hotel/casino located right across the street from the Rio.  I was very familiar with it.  Back in my pre-poker days it was one of my favorite places to play because they had low limits on their table games.  In fact, before I started staying where I stay now, it was also my go-to place to stay while in Vegas. 

That done, I could relax a bit.  Nothing more I could do about my accommodations or my car on this night.  I was ready for an exciting night of casino action at Buffalo Bill's!

As I returned to the casino, it suddenly dawned on me.  The absolute worst part of this entire episode was this realization:  I was spending the Saturday night before NY's Eve surrounded by a bunch of people who thought it was a good idea to spend the Saturday night before NY's Eve at Buffalo Bill's.

Of course, there is no poker room in Buffalo Bill's or anywhere in Primm.  There used to be.  I recall setting it up on PokerAtlas not long after I started.  Then they moved it to Whiskey Pete's and closed it down.  Then they reopened it at Buffalo Bill's on weekends only.  But in late 2013, they closed it down for good.

Much earlier in the day, when I thought I was likely going to be staying there one night and then could head home, I was thinking that I could play online at that night.  But by this time that idea had deserted me. I figured if I was gonna be stuck for a night, paying $140 for the room, I needed to have a casino experience.

By now I had realized that Buffalo Bill's was actually a lower quality casino than Whiskey Pete's.  And checking out the game action was further proof.  I looked for some Pai Gow.  That was the game I'd played the most the last few years before I starting playing real poker.  Guess what?  Not a Pai Gow table to be found.  I was shocked.  I assumed they have it at the other two casinos but I wasn't about to check them out.  In fact, they only had three varieties of table games available at all.  Blackjack, Craps and Roulette.  When I first started hitting Vegas I played a lot of Craps & BJ but never acquired a taste for Roulette (the odds were too bad).

I checked out the Craps tables.  There were two of them, but one was like 3/4's size. And it was empty.  The other was less than half full, not exactly appealing.  Unlike almost all of the tables I see in Vegas, it was only a $5 minimum bet. But the way I want to play Craps (keep betting the pass line, the come and always take max odds), I could go through a buy-in ridiculously fast at $5 minimum.  That's why I pretty much stopped playing the game in Vegas when the $2 minimum bet disappeared.  But you know, I was probably too tired and my back was bothering me too much for me to stand at a craps table for very long anyway. 

I figured I might play a little $5 BJ but before I did, I noticed one of those "bubble" Craps machines.  You know, it's circular, can sit about 6-8 players and in the middle are these two huge dice.  The floor under the dice starts to bounce and then the designated shooter pushes a button and the dice pop up and that's your roll.  I've seen them in Vegas all the time, and have always been intrigued by them, never tried it.  I just figured you were much less likely to get a shooter with a hot roll on a machine than in a live game.

But desperate times call for desperate measures.  I figured what the hell, I'd throw a $20 into the craps machine just to see what it was like.  Actually, it wasn't that bad. It took me a while to figure out how to take odds on come bets.  But I got it eventually.  And they even let you take odds that you'd never be allowed to take at a real table because they pay down to the penny.  Like you could take $2 odds behind a $1 pass line or come bet on a 6 or 8 and they would pay you $2.40 if you hit it.

The drawback was it was easy to touch the wrong spot and make a bet you didn't intend.  I did that multiple times.  Of course there's a way to take back the bet if you act fast enough, but you don't really have enough time and then, if you do take back the bet, you'd almost never have enough time to make the bet you actually intended to make. I missed a lot of odds bets that way.

Of course, even though there were often players at the other spots, it certainly lacked the excitement of a live craps game.  I was down below $10 and then I personally had a really nice roll.  When I finally had enough, I cashed out a ticket that was worth over $25.  A nice five-buck profit!

I was tired and was headed back to the room but I passed a BJ table with a couple of open spots.  It was $5 minimum and I figured I really needed to play a little live action to complete the experience.  So I bought in for $50.  It was the first time I'd played blackjack in years. 

Aside:  I just realized that in telling this story over the many chapters, I've mentioned the need to do laundry, problems with Uber/Lyft/Rideshare, and now I'm playing Blackjack.  I fear my blog is turning into a poor man's version of Tony's.

Almost immediately after I sat down, a waitress came around. If ever I needed  a drink, this was the time.  I ordered a Corona.  Truth be told, a fifth of Jack Daniels was what was really called for after the day I had.  But the Corona would do.  Then I noticed she had a tray full of Coronas and just gave me one, even though I hadn't previously ordered it.  I guess maybe she just walks around with a tray full of them?  Perhaps Corona is the drink of choice at Buffalo Bill's.  Maybe it's the only beer they have?

I wasn't playing for very long when I started to wonder if this was a 3-2 BJ table or a 6-5 table. I hadn't even thought about it before sitting down. Was I stupid enough to have sat down at a table that only paid 6-5 on blackjack?  I looked at the felt and it didn't say "Blackjack pays 3-2" like they always used to.  Of course, it didn't say "Blackjack pays 6-5" either.  But then I figured they likely wouldn't put that on the felt.

I assumed I'd find out eventually.  Sure enough, I saw someone get a BJ and they were paid 6-5.  Yeesh.  Even out here, 40 miles from Vegas, the evil corporations have ruined the great game of blackjack.  I didn't bother to check, I just assumed that all the tables—or certainly all the $5 tables—were 6-5.  In the end, it didn't make a difference for me, as I never got a blackjack.

Oh and by the way, I should have realized it was a 6-5 table before that because I saw no 50¢ pieces in the dealer's rack.  You would need those if they were paying 3-2 to pay off a $5 bet that hit a blackjack.

But one of the first hands I was dealt I did get two Aces.  It was weird seeing them, too.  As a poker player, my first reaction was "alright, Aces!" But then I realized that it wasn't the best hand in this game.  Of course I split them and immediately got another Ace. I asked and was allowed to split again. I don't remember the full results but I won two out of the three hands.

I wanted to text Woody & LM that I was playing BJ and having a beer.  They certainly deserved to know this vital information.  As I took my phone out, I suddenly remembered that the last time I played BJ, you weren't allowed to use your cell phone at the table (that used to be the rule when I started playing poker too, but that rule has gone the way of 3-2 blackjack).  Before my phone reached the table I asked the dealer about it.  "Am I allowed to use my cell phone?"  She shook her head no.  OK, no biggie.

But when she shuffled the 8 or 10 deck shoe, I stepped away to text my pals.  And when I came back, I innocently put my phone down on the rail instead of in my holster.  It wasn't there for more than a minute when a floorman came by and said, "No cell phones at the table, boss."  Hey, if I was his boss, I'd make the rules and allow them.  I didn't argue that the cell phone technically wasn't on the table, it was on the rail.  I just put the damn phone away.

I played less than half an hour and actually had a decent little run.  I ended up winning $30, which was nice.  I wasn't even really trying that hard, and I think I remembered the basic BJ strategy.  And no, I didn't Martingale. 

I headed back up to the room and called it a night, hoping the worst was over but not sure what to expect the next day.  And we'll pick up that next day next time. Stay tuned. Or you can just go straight to the next chapter which you can find here.


  1. So it was going to be a “ surprise big slot win “ story after all. Ha.

    1. You got it, Sethanon. That $5 I made on the craps bubble machine turned my trip around!

  2. I like Corona beer and motorboating

    1. Who doesn't? But sadly there was no motorboating in this story. I can't imagine what made you think of that.

  3. "I fear my blog is turning into a poor man's version of Tony's."

    Hmmm ... from now on you should be known as RBC? 😁

    1. No, I don't think so. I wouldn't want Tony to sue me.

  4. I hope you've replaced your car by now.

    1. Why would I replace my beautiful Lexus, MOJO? Spoiler warning: There was basically one relatively minor issue with the car, and the bigger problem was the mechanic.

      HOWEVER, if I were to open a Go Fund Me for a new car, how much would you contribute to my brand new $80K Lexus?

  5. Replies
    1. Reminds me of when I first started going to Vegas. Places were advertising their big payoff slot machines and had signs that said, "One pull can change your life."

  6. Very entertaining read...this will be a true Tony-like story if you end up stuck in Jean, NV.

    1. Thanks, Ace.

      Well (spoiler alert) in the next chapter I will be making it back to Vegas....but not the way I wanted to.