Thursday, January 16, 2014

Doors Lock at 11:30 PM

New Year's Eve, 2013 (Part 1)

In all the times I’ve been to Vegas, I’ve never been there for New Year’s Eve.  I’ve spent almost every Christmas there for a gazillion years, but always left town at least a day or two before the ball dropped in Times Square.

Until this year. Or last year, I guess.

I decided to be in Vegas when 2013 turned into 2014.

It never made any sense to do so before.  NY’s Eve is a busy time in Vegas, and a busy time means an expensive time.  The room rates go way up for the couple of days leading up to New Years Day.  It would have pretty much blown my yearly Vegas budget to go there for New Years.  Instead, I could make multiple visits there throughout the year.  One of the reasons I always went during Christmas time was that it was pretty much the cheapest time to go.  It’s slow there leading up to Christmas and therefore cheap.

Back in the day, when I was going to Vegas every Christmas with my pal Norm, I was playing table games, not poker.  That was another reason to avoid Vegas on New Years.  For busy weekends, and holiday weekends, they always jack up the minimum bets on the table games.  I started souring on Vegas when they stopped offering $2 blackjack and $2 craps.  Norm and I weren’t willing to play for a $5 minimum bet, and for New Years Eve we were told we’d be lucky to find a $25 minimum table.  Way too rich for our blood.

That’s one of the nice things about poker.  They don’t change the minimum bets on weekends and holidays.  In fact, now that I’m playing poker, I prefer to be in Vegas on busy weekends and holidays—the busier the better.  The stakes are the same and the action is better.

But this year I decided to extend my Christmas visit through New Years.  I figured I had to experience it at least one time, why not now?

I did research and planned my day carefully.  I knew that not only would the Strip be closed to traffic at around 6:30 PM on NYE, but that all streets leading to the Strip (Tropicana, Flamingo, Spring Mountain, etc.) would be closed too.  In a perfect world, I’d have a room at MGM so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting there.  But your humble scribe is not a wealthy man, and the $500 or so a night that would have cost me was way out of my league.  I found accommodations that were considerably cheaper than that, you can be sure.  But this meant I had to drive to and from the MGM if I wanted to celebrate the new year with my friends there. 

I decided to get there early, real early.  At least three hours before they started closing the streets.  So much for doing any work that day!  And I knew I’d be more or less forced to stay there long past midnight.  Yes, there were back ways to escape before they reopened the streets (estimated time of re-opening: between 2-3AM) but if I didn’t want get stuck in major traffic it behooved me to stay there until past 2 AM.

That’s a long day of poker.  I wasn’t sure I really wanted to play poker for 12 hours.  My bankroll might not be able to handle that if I was running bad.

So when I headed towards the MGM, I decided to take my laptop with me. I figured I could maybe do some work there before I started playing.  My first thought was that I could set up my laptop right in the poker room and use the WiFi there.  I thought I could use an empty poker table as a desk. 

But that didn’t work out.  When I got there around 3PM, there was not a single empty table (they only have 11 these days).  I looked at the waiting list and there were only a few names on it, so I didn’t both to put my name in yet.

I went over to the Starbucks (one of three they have there—thank goodness they don’t just two).  I knew Starbucks always offers free WiFi, right?  More importantly, I needed access to a wall outlet as I had conveniently forgotten to take the laptop’s battery.

I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with Starbucks.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never bought anything at one.  You see, I don’t drink coffee or lattes or whatever else they make billions of dollars a year selling.  I assumed that in order to take advantage of their free WiFi, one had to be a paying customer.  And even if it wasn’t actually required that you buy something, it struck me as being rather rude and not at all nice to just take up a seat, a table and their electricity without buying something. So, innocently, I went to the counter and, after not seeing anything like this on the menu, I asked, “Do you have a diet coke or something like that?”

I think they wanted to call the police.  No, no, they told me, they don’t sell any soda.  “We’re coffee snobs, don’t you get it?  It’s Starbucks.  We only sell over-priced coffee drinks. You’ll have to go elsewhere for an overpriced soda.”

No, they didn’t say that.  They just told me they didn’t sell any soda and that if I wanted a diet coke, I could go next door to the Stage Deli.

Yeah, right.  I think they charge about four bucks for a diet coke at the Stage Deli and I didn’t really want a diet coke.  I just thought it would be polite to actually give them some business if I was gonna take up their space.  I would have paid $4 (or more) for a diet coke at Starbucks because I would have felt like I was paying for the use of their facilities in addition to the refreshment.  But it didn’t make any sense to go to the deli to get an overpriced drink I didn’t really want and bring it back to Starbucks!

Well, I had tried.  I found a table near an outlet and set up my PC.  I was curious to see if they would say anything to me about using their facilities without being a customer.  The place wasn’t especially crowded, there were empty seats, but it wasn’t dead either.  And after I got set up, they started rearranging furniture, replace tables and chairs with barstools and whatever it is you call a table that you need a barstool to sit at.  But at no time did they question my presence there.  If they had said to me that what I was doing was for customers only, I would have told them I tried to buy something but they didn’t sell soda.  But they never said anything to me.

It turned out they didn’t really have free WiFi.  I mean, not their own WiFi.  The only WiFi was the MGM’s own WiFi, which you can access anywhere on the property.  It’s free but slow speed.  Now, if I had been able to set up in the poker room, I could have accessed the VIP WiFi they have, but as soon as you leave the poker room, you’re out of their range.  The VIP WiFi is fast, but the regular WiFi is basic and really only good for getting email.

So, I logged into the MGM WiFi.  At that speed, I felt I really couldn’t do any actual work, so instead, I typed up a blog post (which I didn’t really need WiFi for at all, since I wasn’t planning on posting it yet).  So now it can be revealed, the blog post here was written on New Year’s Eve at a Starbucks in MGM.  I wrote that particular post because I knew I could write it quickly and without referring to my voice notes (hard to do at a Starbucks) since the story was still very fresh in my mind.

Despite the fact that no one was hassling me, all the rearranging of the furniture was making me uncomfortable.  I finished up the blog post and packed up my computer.  Now it was a bit after 4PM and I didn’t want to be lugging around my laptop all evening.  So I schlepped all the way back to the parking structure and put it in the trunk of my car.  That’s only about a 3 mile round trip walk (just a slight exaggeration).  I walked past the poker room on the way to my car and saw that there was now an unused poker table (too late) but there were still only a couple of names on the list.  Again, knowing I was in for a long night of poker, I opted not to put my name on the list just then.  Big mistake.

It couldn’t have been that long by the time I got back to the poker room from the parking, but  things had changed a bit in that time.  There was still an open poker table (maybe two) but there were now rather long waiting lists for the games.  There were about 4-5 names on the 1/2 NL list, and about half a dozen on the 2/6 spread limit game list.  And that was the game I wanted.

I’ve described that game in the post here.  Since that time, I’ve played the 2/6 a few more times but haven’t enjoyed it at all.  Unless you have an entertaining group of players, or at least one fun person like the lady I described in that post, it’s just too boring for me now that I’m used to NL.  However, knowing I was going to be playing poker all night and into the morning, I figured it would be “safer” to start out playing the 2/6 game for a couple of hours before moving over to the 1/2 game.  Safer for my bankroll, that is.  I didn’t want to lose a couple of buy-ins before it even got close to midnight. 

But as I said, in the time it had taken me to drop my laptop off, the waitlist for the 2/6 game had grown from one to six.  Still, I decided to get on that list only.  I figured I was in no rush.  I could just sit in the poker room and wait it out.  I had a nice time talking to various dealers and floor people who knew me (even though I don’t often play there during this particular shift). 

After about an hour though, I was still stuck on that list.  I was the first name, and any minute now I’d get called.  But since there was only one 2/6 game going, the list hadn’t moved very fast and there was no telling when the next person would leave.

Meanwhile, the list for the 1/2 game was empty, they had open seats.  Finally, finally, I just gave up and said the hell with it, I’d killed enough time, it was time to play some poker.  So I told them I’d take one of the empty 1/2 seats. 

I was given a choice of tables, and looking at the players, there didn’t seem to be much to choose from that way.  So I decided to take the seat that offered me the best view of the New Year’s Eve Slut Parade.  Having thoroughly enjoyed the Halloween Slut Parade and been totally denied any Christmas Slut Parade, you could be sure that I wanted to see what kind of crowd New Year’s Eve would attract.  I had a front row center seat to all the people that would walk by the poker room on this night.  Many of those people were heading to and from the nightclub for its New Year’s Eve party.  Some of those people were young, hot girls who were barely dressed. And some of those girls had apparently forgotten what I’m sure their mothers had told them years ago—“Always put on clean underwear when you go out, in case you get into an accident.”  Much later in the evening, I did notice a couple of young ladies who hadn’t remembered to put on clean underwear.  Or any other kind.  But more on that later.

I should describe what you can expect should you decide to spend a future New Year’s Eve on the Vegas Strip.  I already mentioned that they close the Strip to traffic.  At midnight, they have a huge fireworks show on the Strip.  You have to be outside, on the Strip, to see it.  I’ve seen my fair share of fireworks so I wasn’t all that interested, I didn’t feel the need to join the mob outside to witness it.  Especially when I saw the signs as I walked in the MGM this night.  See below.

Yes, they claimed that they would actually lock the doors of the hotel at 11:30 PM and keep you locked out until 12:30 AM.  Hours later, I mentioned this to my pal Abe, who didn’t see the sign and didn’t believe me. He actually mocked me for saying they would lock the doors.  Look, I don’t think they ended up doing that, but that’s what the sign said.  On my way out, I noticed the sign, over to the side and took the picture to show Abe.  But I forgot to show it to him before leaving town.  So here it is, Abe!  I wasn’t making it up.

Another sign I noticed starting a few days before the big night was that starting from 6PM on NYE until 6AM NY’s Day no beverage could be served in a glass container anywhere on the Strip.  They listed a Vegas city ordinance restricting this.  All the drinks—alcoholic or otherwise—served in all the casinos that night were served in plastic cups.  If you wanted a bottle of Corona with a lime, well, tough luck.  Even the sundries stores that normal sell bottles of beer, wine and the hard stuff couldn’t sell them during this period.

I knew the reason.  Years ago I heard from some people who were in Vegas for the celebration.  They told me that on both the Strip and on Fremont Street, at the crack of the New Year, people would toast and then smash their glasses into the street.  This was not only a mess to clean up but a safety hazard as well. One of my then co-workers reported getting cut on the foot by the broken glass.

So some time ago, they just banned glass from the area for the 12 hour period.  I assume it’s the same way on Fremont. 

I mentioned the Strip being closed to vehicular traffic.  It is opened—supposedly—to pedestrian traffic.  I say supposedly because at one point, taking a break from the poker, I went outside to check it out.  This was around 7PM or so when the Strip was completely closed.  I expected to see people walking in the middle of the Strip.  I expected to be one of those persons.  But at least at this hour, that wasn’t the case at all.  Getting off the sidewalk was a challenge (since its blocked off at the corner of Tropicana because they have overhead walkways) and when I did find a way to get on the Strip….well, it was only the right most two lanes that were available for walking.  In the middle of the Strip there were no pedestrians, just a bunch of police cars.  It appeared to be that way on the other side as well.  Furthermore, there didn’t appear to be a way to walk from, say, the MGM to the New York New York.  I suppose there must have been, but I didn’t see how.  I meant to have investigated further later but never got around to it.

Also, those overhead walkways were all closed during the celebration.  I assume the reason for that is two-fold.  One, it’s a great place for cops to be situated to see if anything nefarious is going on.  And two, they don’t want drunks either throwing things off the bridges—or worse, falling off—during the celebration.     

(OK, I'm gonna end part 1 there.  Part 2 heats up as we bring in the New Year and discuss everyone's favorite genres.  Are we discussing movies?  Hardly.  Will there be any discussion of poker?  Don't bet on it.  The next chapter is up and can be found here.)


  1. The Starbucks in the Strip casinos are not real Starbucks, and those aren't Starbucks employees, hence the absence of wifi and presence of extra snark at the counter. Its a Culinary Union thing.

    1. Thanks for the info, L.R. I didn't know that.

      So they're like Faux Starbucks, huh? Is the coffee the same?

  2. In theory, it is supposed to be. But my experience is, um, mixed. IMO some of the Starbucks themed Culinary Union folk can get a little lackadaisical with some of the fou-fou designer coffee stuff that involves more than one ingredient. But probably only a fou-fou coffee snob like me would notice.

    Congrats on apparently surviving the event. No small thing, that. I generally take NYE as a good opportunity to go to LA, because it seems to be a lot less crowded with crazed Californians. And those that are there mostly have a place to sleep, sumpin' which doesn't seem to be true of about half of them in LV at that time.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, this was definitely something I figured I had to experience at least once. It worked out pretty well, as you'll see. If I had been home, I would have been in bed before midnight, only to be awakened by my neighbors firing guns in the air. So I was actually safer in Vegas.

    2. not everyone who travels to cali has a place to sleep (which Rob knows if he still reads my blog) and the goldstrike in Jean is always a cheap option for NYE, if u are using comp dollars. i thought only the stratosphere starbucks dont have the free wifi, and to get wifi around here u must walk up to paradise and sahara during daytime hours and use that starbucks instead. didnt realize that for all the starbucks and didnt know about the union either. we all know how much i hate unions, this is just another good reason why. and i never want to be anywhere near crowds on NYE, alot of the time i was on boulder hwy

    3. Thanks, Tony. NYE in Vegas was something I definitely wanted to try, it was very different for me.

  3. Sounds like your poker confidence is running a tad low. Back story?

    1. Why do you say that? Because I waited so long to play?

      Actually, I had a very nice, profitable trip this time and was running pretty well at the time. I just knew I was sort of being held hostage by the road closures and wanted to give myself the best possible chance to be playing poker into the new year without losing too many buy ins.

  4. Rob...I think it is kinda funny that you think 5-6 names on a waiting list is a lot. Since they opened the poker room at Maryland Live, I have seen the wait list over 100 multiple times, and I consistently have at least 30-45 minute wait. Granted, there are 52 tables there (many held for the daily/nightly tournaments) but rarely do I get to the poker room and there are fewer than 30-40 names on the $1-2NL list (the $2-5NL list is sometimes pretty long too). Last night was the first time I did not have a wait when I arrived at the poker room...maybe the cold weather, maybe new years resolutions not to "lose" too much money, or maybe the newness of the room has passed peak interest. I am going to Vegas at the end of the month and am looking forward to being able to walk into any poker room and either being able to sit right down or having a short wait to play. -Joe M.

    1. Thanks Joe. Well, Maryland Live pretty much has the field to itself, right? There's over 40 poker rooms in Vegas. So it's a bit different. There are times when the lists in Vegas get REALLY long. Try getting a seat at the MGM around 11PM the night of a big fight. But yeah, it's nice not to have to wait too long for a seat, I agree.

      Good luck in Vegas.

  5. Its incredibly judgemental,among other things and to say the least, that you call these young partygoers sluts. Not to mention creepy

    1. Since you are anonymous, I doubt you're read this so I'm not sure why I'm bothering.

      But in case you do, I feel that I more than satisfactorily addressed your concerns in my original Slut Parade post, which you can find here

  6. You have got to be fucken kidding me. I just reread it. My name is Kevin. I will introduce myself to you next time we play together/see you while wait for a seat, and personally tell you what a fucken creep you are

    1. Really, Kevin? I can't wait.

    2. Kevin,

      No one is forcing you to be here. If you don't like it here, I'm sure the cost of your reading this blog can be refunded.

      In other news, Poker can be a card game in addition to a suppository.

    3. Kevin, you may describe Rob as a "Fucken creep" if you wish, since you've never met him. Those of us who are his long-term friends (decades, in my case) know he is as nice a person as you will ever meet, and a perfect gentleman.

    4. @Norm: Lol. Thanks.

      @DW, Thanks very much. However, I believe the implication of Kevin's comment is that he has met me in a poker room before. I'm not perfect but I do try to be a gentleman even tho I may occasionally fail.

    5. Local Rock (aka Sugar, Honey, or more formally Mr. Slut)January 23, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      According to page 136 of the LV Convention and Visitor Authority publication “Official Guide to the Culture, History, Etiquette and Linguistic Eccentricities of Las Vegas” the term “slut” is considered a term of endearment in Southern Nevada.

      However, to the best of my knowledge I have never met Mr. R.V. Poker, so I will not accuse him of being any sort of gentleman, whether intentionally or otherwise.

    6. Thanks, LR.

      Damn, I forgot to use the OGCHELELV as my source. Appreciate the reminder.