Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Vegas Trip From Hell

My most recent trip to Vegas was cursed.  It was cursed from the outset.  Even before I left L.A. for Vegas.  And even after I returned to L.A.

I’m not talking about the poker.  The poker was ok.  In fact, if you ignore the WSOP bracelet event I played in, (see here), the poker was pretty good.  It was just everything else—all the peripheral stuff— that went wrong.

Two days before I was scheduled to drive up to Vegas, I had a dentist appointment.  I am in the process of getting a dental implant—a lengthy process that takes many months.  I was sure all the hard—i.e, painful—stuff was over.  My understanding was this was going to be a brief visit, no muss, no fuss.

Wrong!  There was Novocain.  And stitches.  Stiches?  When he was done, my dentist asked if I wanted to a prescription for painkillers.  WTF?  This wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

And he also gave me an anti-biotic—just in case.  And he told me to stick to a soft diet for a week or so.

None of that was good for someone about to go out of town for 10 days.  You mean I can’t eat what I want to in Vegas?  Seriously?  Also, you know anti-biotics can wreck havoc with your stomach.  Not the most pleasant thought when you’re planning a 4-1/2 hour car ride.

Another issue—what if something goes wrong when I’m in Vegas—300 miles away from my dentist?  It’s been known to happen.

I can assure you, had I known the nature of the dental work I was in for, I would never have scheduled this appointment for two days before my trip.  I could have easily scheduled it for after my return home.  My fault I guess for not asking more questions.

By the time Friday rolled around, the day I was to drive to Vegas, I was not in good shape.  The pain was manageable with Advil, except for one thing.  As had happened when he did the initial work, I had developed a painful canker sore.  This time it was in the worst place possible, on the side of my tongue.  And it was rubbing up against the stitches (which were not the dissolvable kind).  I couldn’t chew on that side anyway, but chewing on the other side was just as bad, because moving my mouth meant the canker sore on my tongue was rubbing against the exposed stitches.  It was really uncomfortable, to say the least.

Actually, even just talking bothered me a little.  Only by keeping my mouth totally shut and unmoving was I able to avoid the discomfort. 

It was about 2/3’s of the way through my stay that the canker sore finally started fading away and I could eat without the discomfort. 

I didn’t get much work done the day I went to the dentist.  The pain from the work made it hard to work, and I had wasted a good many hours that day trying to get my computer working right.  My damn ant-virus program just totally disappeared off my computer that morning.  I had to call up the anti-virus folks and have them walk me through manually uninstalling and re-installing the program.  That was a couple of hours wasted right there.

Then, the day before I was to leave, I got an email indicating the deadline for my next Ante Up column was moved up a week.  With eight days notice.  (It had to do with trying to get the next issue out in time for the end of the WSOP).

Now, it’s true, it doesn’t take me eight days to write a column.  But it sometimes takes me a lot longer than that to figure out what to write about.  And at that point, I had nothing in mind, not a thing.

But the other thing with the deadline moving up is that it meant that I would have to write the column in Vegas.  Originally, I was expecting to be able to write it after I got back home. 

This meant I’d be spending more time writing about poker and less time playing poker (or socializing in general).  It meant I might have to spend an evening in my hotel room writing the column instead of playing. 

I figured my luck would change soon.  Hopefully in Vegas.  Wrong.

There was a problem with my hotel.  Or was there?

I was staying at the same place I had in April, one of those places that has a full kitchen, a few miles away from the Strip.  You know, the same place where this story took place, right on my birthday.

What I haven’t reported yet—until now—is that on my previous visit, I had checked out of that hotel a day early due to a plumbing problem.  I alluded to that in the post here.  The night before my last full scheduled day in town, I noticed that the toilet wasn’t flushing properly.  Then I noticed it was actually leaking onto the floor (not overflowing—the water was coming from underneath).  The floor got flooded a bit even when I took a shower. 

So I had no toilet when I woke up for my last full day in town.  It is the nature of hotels like this that they don’t have maintenance people working 24/7.  Or any time during a Sunday, when this was.  I called the front desk and was told that the only thing they could do was move me to another room.  Ugh.  But there was a problem.  The place was booked solid and I’d have to wait—hours perhaps, if not half a day—until someone checked out and they could clean a room for me.

Well that sucked.  To make a long story short (something I’m really good at, as you are all aware), I decided that, if I had to move everything, I’d go to a “real” hotel” for my last night in town and perhaps have access to a bathroom sooner than if I waited at the place I was staying. 

So I packed up all my stuff, packed up my car and drove over to an off-strip hotel/casino, where I got a room for less than I was paying where I was (because it was a Sunday nite, not a Friday/Saturday nite).  I might have considered just driving home but you don’t want to drive from Vegas to L.A. on a Sunday—trust me.  Anyway, I had to wait a few hours for a room at the new place, and basically I had wasted most of the day moving.  When I finally got into a room, I took a nap, further taking time out of my last day in town.

But while I was napping, they slipped a note under my door and offered me a deal I couldn’t pass up.  For just $15 total, tax and resort fee included, they’d let me stay one more night.  And that explains why I was in town instead of back in L.A. when the three-part post that continued here took place (I already linked to the first part, that’s why I’m linking to the second part now).

Despite that, I went back to the same place for this trip.  I figured that had been such a fluke thing, nothing like that could happen again.  Besides, they had been real nice about it, and had given me essentially two free nights for my troubles.

Well, on this trip, I had no plumbing problems, fortunately.  But after I brought all my stuff in from the car (and I take a lot of stuff, since I’m basically setting up house for 10 days), I turned on my laptop and tried to log into the free internet the hotel offers. 

It took a long time, and I actually had to call the internet provider.  But my assumption was that the issue was with the logging-in process, not the actual internet service itself.

I soon left for an evening of poker.  Upon returning to my room late at night (or actually, early the next morning), I had all kinds of internet connectivity issues. When I did have a connection, it was horrifically slow.  And frequently it would drop the connection altogether.  I called the ISP again (unlike the front desk, the internet provider is available 24/7) and after a hour or so, I was told that there was nothing wrong with their internet service, and that the problem must be with my laptop.  My wireless adapter must be broken.

I thought this was bullshit.  My laptop had been fine the day before, when I made sure everything was up-to-date on it.  But they insisted they couldn’t help me.

Well, you know I can’t survive 10 days without the internet.  Weekdays I’m working and of course can’t do one thing without the internet.  I couldn’t file my column without the internet.  I couldn’t update the blog without the internet.  You get the idea.

The next day was Saturday and I started out trying to solve this internet issue. I complained to the front desk and after throwing enough of a fit, they actually had the regional manager of the chain call me.  He was nice enough, and I explained how it was essential I had internet connectivity or I couldn’t stay there.  He said the internet works fine whenever he uses it from that very location.

Now, this chain offers free internet, as I said, but that’s for “basic” service.  They also offer “enhanced” internet for a price.  The only thing we could come up with was for me to try the “enhanced” service and see if it worked better.  After a bit of arm-twisting, he agreed to reimburse for the cost of the enhanced internet if it solved my problem.

I didn’t have time to check it then, by this time I had to get going if I wanted to play in the 2PM tournament at Binion’s that day.  I didn’t really need the internet for work on this day.

But I had time to check something.  Ever since a computer disaster several months back, I always remember to throw my old laptop in the trunk of my car whenever I go to Vegas.  I can’t afford to be without a working computer up there.  So I hauled it into the room from my car and tried it.  And during this brief test, the internet worked fine!  Holy shit, was it possible that tech guy was right and I needed to have my laptop fixed?  I began to think that my Sunday was going to be sent bringing my laptop back to the place I brought it (with an extended warranty).

Late that night, I tried my new laptop and—even without the enhanced service—it was perfectly fine for the few hours I needed it.  WTF?  Had they somehow fixed it, even while telling me there was nothing wrong with it?

I went to bed happy that night.  But in the morning, the internet was unusable again, and so I tried the enhanced service.  It still sucked.  And when I tried my old laptop, it still seemed unacceptably slow to me..  The amount of time I was wasting with this was getting to be ridiculous.

I realized I would likely have to find new accommodations.  Fortunately, because I spotted the problem early, I hadn’t bought any food yet, which I might now have to transfer to a new place.

Actually, the place I was staying had offered to move me to a new room to see if that made a difference.  Except, this being Memorial Day Weekend, they were booked solid and wouldn’t have another room I could try until sometime Monday, I had another idea.  The same chain has another location not that far from where I was staying.  In fact, I had already booked that location for my next trip (this location was booked). Since I had never stayed there before, I had always planned to visit there this trip just to make sure I was satisfied with the location and the property.

So I decided to take my laptop over to the other location and ask if I could test it with their wi-fi.

And that’s what I did.  And I sat in the lobby there and tried the internet for about 15 minutes and I had no issues whatsoever.  The speed was fine and it never dropped off. I ran the speed tests the tech guy had had me run (which he admitted proved that my connection was unacceptably slow) and had much better results. 

They had rooms available at the same rate I was paying.  I asked to see a room to make sure it was acceptable, and it was.

By now, it was late in the afternoon and I knew I wasn’t going to be changing hotels this day.  I figured I might do that the next day. I wasn’t going to be working this day anyway. But first, I would see if I could try another room where I was staying. Relocating in the same hotel would be less of a chore than packing and unpacking the car.

When I finally got back to my room that night (or the next morning), the internet was ok again.  But when I woke up in the morning, it was unusable.  I had an idea.  I took my laptop to the lobby and tried it there.  It was fine.  I mean actually, it was great.  So I figured, there must be a room somewhere where I was staying that would have acceptable internet. 

I asked to try a new room and they said they would call me when they had a room for me to check.  They had to wait for all the folks there for the Memorial Day Weekend to check out.  In the meantime, since it was clear I was moving somewhere, I started packing up all my stuff, not a lot of fun.  Imagine taking 10 days worth of stuff and having to pack all of it up after only three days?  At least I didn’t have anything perishable in the fridge—but that meant one more thing to do (buy food) when I finally got settled.

It took a long time for a room to be readied.  I had requested a first floor, and the only room available was the one directly across the hall.  I assumed that would be no better, being so close to where I was.

The day was wasting away, and still they didn’t have a room for me to check.  The only other one was on the second floor, about as far away from the lone elevator as possible.  I decided to try it and the internet worked flawlessly.  All I had to do was borrow a luggage cart and start packing (hint on how much stuff I had….I have to make two trips with a luggage cart).  Then, I had a hunch.  My room wasn’t really that far from the lobby, and yet the internet was much better in the lobby.  I might as well try that room across the hall. Maybe just moving across the hall would get me on a different node—or whatever you geeks call it.  If it was ok, it would be a heck of a lot easier moving to it than the one on the second floor.

I tried that and the internet worked.  It was a little slower than the 2nd floor room but it held the connection and was more than acceptable.  I decided to go with it.  It would save time and a lot of strain on my back.

So….I moved all my shit into the room across the hall.  Before unpacking, I had to stop for lunch—I had to walk across the street to a restaurant since I had no food—and then hit the supermarket to stock up.

By the time I was all set up, the entire day had been wasted with this move.  This was Memorial Day, but I hadn’t planned on having fun.  I actually planned on working, since I would be taking off the very next day to play in the WSOP event.  But instead, I wasted the entire day moving.  I swear, if I had just driven up from L.A. that day, I would have had more time for fun and/or work.

And of course, when I finished and was ready to log onto the internet, it didn’t work.

I have readers in Australia and I’d be surprised if they didn’t hear my scream.

I went out to the lobby—they actually have an area with desks and chairs—and I was able to access the internet without a problem.  WTF?  OK, I guess I’d have to work in the lobby during my stay.

I had barely usable internet later that evening and in the morning before the WSOP event.  Or maybe I had given up and was already using my cell phone as a mobile hotspot. I can’t recall.  But I had decided that I wasn’t going to waste any more time moving or calling the ISP or any of that.  As long as I could use the hotspot, I’d live with that, and if I had to pay for extra data above my plan, which was the reason I didn’t want to use my phone to connect, I’d just live with it.  Surely it would cost me less money than if I wasted any more time trying to relocate to find a place where the internet was reliable. 

Well, the disaster of the next day has already been reported, here.  Another part of the explanation of why I am calling this the trip from hell.

When I finally returned to the hotel late that afternoon, the internet was of course not working.  I went to the lobby and worked a few hours there, and it was fine.

When I returned to my room, I noticed the internet was still working, which gave me an idea.  Next day, I went to the lobby, accessed the internet from there, and then moved back to the room with the same internet connection. Was it possible was that just by logging in from the lobby and keeping the connection I obtained there, I had solved my internet problem?

No.  I soon lost the connection.  I went to the lobby and couldn’t get on the internet from there either.  I had no choice but to use my phone.

I used my phone the next few days.  I would always try the hotel’s internet first and use it for as long as it lasted—which usually wasn’t very long.

Before the weekend arrived, I found time to knock out a column for Ante Up.  Fortunately, I’d been in Vegas long enough to get some ideas for it.  I finished it Friday, and since I had until Monday to file it, I was going to wait till Sunday to proof read it and send it in to the editor.

When I got back to my room Friday nite, the internet didn’t work. I didn’t scream, I just used my phone as a hotspot.

Or tried to.

Suddenly, the laptop refused to connect to the mobile hotspot.  I rebooted the laptop.  I rebooted the phone.  Nope. My laptop kept giving me the error message that it couldn’t access the hotspot and that I should contact my network administrator.  Who, I believe, was me.

Shit.  Well, fortunately I still had my old laptop handy.  That accessed the hotspot fine.  To me, that was kind of proof that the ISP had been right all along, that the problem was my laptop, not the ISP.

But my old laptop had problems keeping a decent connection with the ISP, and I had no choice but to use the phone’s hotspot.  Every time I tried accessing the hotspot with my new laptop, I got the same message.  Once it stopped working, it never worked again.

I limped across the finish line, as it were, using my old laptop and my cell phone to access the internet. That’s how I filed my column on Sunday. I really couldn’t be certain the issue was with the hotel’s internet or not.  I had conflicting evidence.

For once, I almost couldn’t wait to leave Vegas.  It was so good to get back to my desktop PC and a good, dependable internet connection.

Of course, one of the first things I did when I got home was test my laptop.  And you know what… was definitely problematic.  I did the speed tests and it was very slow.  I noticed that it would sometimes fail to load pages and would give me the “unable to access” message.  So I tried my old laptop and that worked fine.  Speed tests were noticeable better.  Like 6X’s faster on downloads (no difference on uploads).  I plugged my new laptop into my router (so, a wired connection) and I got the same speeds as my desktop, tho I have no idea what, if anything, that proved.

But….even at home, I could not get my laptop to connect to my cell phone’s hotspot.  And again, I had no problem getting the old laptop to connect.

Conclusion:  There was indeed a problem with the laptop itself.  It wasn’t the hotel’s internet.  The problem was on my end.

I took my laptop into the local branch of where I bought it and told them that it was having internet connectivity problems.  They said they would check it—under the extended warranty that I had purchased.

As I was initially finishing up writing this post, I got a call from them telling me that they could find absolutely nothing wrong with the laptop, and that they were able to get consistently the same internet speed—without interruption—with it as with the other machines they had there.

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

But, it turns out there's an interesting twist.

Between the time I finished writing this and the time I am getting around to posting it, I received further news on my laptop.  After telling me there was nothing wrong with the laptop, they did volunteer--at my insistence--to keep it on overnite, with a constant ping test to see if there were any dropped packets.

Guess what?  They called me in the morning and said that it did indeed lose packets overnite, and they were conceding that the wireless adapter was bad and should be replaced.

Then the guy said, "You have two options.  You can replace the built-in adapter, but it would be cheaper to just buy an external adapter."

To which I replied, "I purchased the three year extended warranty, that's got to be covered, right?"

The guy said that when it was checked in, that was not noted.  He double-checked and agreed that they would have to replace the built-in adapter at no cost to me.


Now, am I cynical enough to think that if the guy had realized all along they would have to fix it at their expense, he somehow would not have discovered the adapter was bad?

Well, I'm not sure.  But I wouldn't be surprised.

Now for the bad news.  After checking into it, they called me back and said they couldn't replace the adapter in their shop.  They have to send the laptop back to the manufacturer to have it repaired.  That will take an estimated 6 to 8 weeks!

I'll be to Vegas at least once, maybe twice, before I get it back.


Anyway, since this was such a bummer of a post to write--nothing funny or enjoyable at all for me--and because I couldn't think of any kind of an especially appropriate picture to even search for, I decided to post a pic that would put a smile on my face. This pic is it:  (Edited to add, I've edited my previous post (here) with an animated gif of the lady directly below, turns out she fits perfectly with the theme of my previous post, be sure to check it out))

Ah hell, this was such a miserable tale of woe, I'll post another pic for good measure.


  1. Yikes. Well, I'm glad you were able to at least file your column Rob. But I can understand how having costly (and potentially even more expensive) problems both with your dental and technology, can cast a huge cloud over trying to have a good time on vacation.

    Just out of curiosity, would you mind semi-sharing the name brands of your new and old laptops for future shoppers like me? Does your new model's brand name begin with an H and end with a P, by any chance? I've heard both very good and bad things about that company.

    Anyway, thanks for the piece. It sounds as if you were *this* close to tracking down our good friend TBC and paying him to borrow his laptop, which appears to be able to connect to anything from anywhere. :-)

    1. Thanks.

      As a matter of fact, the new laptop does indeed have the initials HP.

      I had some major issues with an HP printer years ago and vowed never to touch another one of their products. But many months ago, in a story I wrote in my head but never put to paper, I had an issue with another brand new laptop I bought that was less than 90 days old. Let's call that brand Acer. I was in Vegas and they told me that I had to ship the thing to Texas to repair....and no loaner was offered as part of the deal. Fortunately, I could return it for full refund so I had to buy a new laptop FAST because I hadn't thought to bring my old laptop with me. I wanted a Windows 7 machine because Win 8 had just come out and everyone hated it. The HP was the best bad option.

      This is the SECOND time that HP will be in the shop for 2 months....the first time a cooling fan died.

      Ask me what I think of HP?

      TBC was safely ensconced in northern NV and unavailable. :)

  2. A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++. the post was OK too

    1. Thanks, anger. I was surprised you didn't comment on my previous post. You didn't like the pic? I was thinking of you when I found it.

  3. Ironically, it takes me eight days to read the posts here at Rob's Tech Blog... ;) Sounds absolutely miserable - sorry you had to deal with that...

    1. Thanks Coach. Should I turn this into a tech blog?

  4. buy a broadband modem, then u never need the wifi to connect to anything. if i had to depend on the wifi here at lake tahoe id be screwed, as usual it wont connect

    1. Thanks, Tony.

      But what would I plug the broadband modem into in order to actually access the internet?

    2. a broadband modem is a little stick u buy that u plug directly into ur laptop

    3. No, Tony, I get that. But you still need it to connect to some source of the ISP. How does that work? Where do you get the actual internet from?

  5. that is y i stick with my old commodore 64 computer with dial up service.

    1. Yeah, good idea.

      Or maybe just go with a manual typewriter and a mimeograph machine.

  6. More pictures of that first chick, please

    1. Yeah, I agree. But that's the only I could find.

    2. Actually, Pete, forget what I said above. Your request pricked my interest. You can actually find more pics of her in that very dress here:

      What I didn't realize was that she is Korean. Therefore, I could have used her in my previous post, where I was trying to find a "cross-genre" woman---Asian & boobs.

  7. As this my area of expertise, i'll chip in. For the wi fi module replacement 8 weeks is a joke. I would of got the part number of the wifi module, bought one, got them to reimburse and got them to fix it. Chances are if its intermittent then its not the issue at all, but that's a whole different story. These days they are normally part of the main chip set and therefore not a serviceable part. A HP warranty should be 2 weeks turnaround tops. You can also buy an "on site warranty" where they will come to you. As it is effectively a work machine, i would do that as standard next time.
    a broadband modem is essentially the same as tethering to your phone, as its a stick with a SIM in.
    Acer's have always been shoddy. Normally Dells or HP are usually good workhorses. I have spent millions (of others money) on them in the past with little issues. I would estimate a 2% failure rate over 3 years (in construction, so not in nice offices !) Personally I would go with HP over Dell, but with both stick to their professional ranges. The build quality under the bonnet is far and away better. The home ranges are not suitable to be humped and bumped around the country. I use Mac's at home (and have dragged the current one to Vegas from the UK for the last 3 years, 8 trips) but realize they are not for everyone, and tend to start a whole other religious debate. That said i'm typing this on a top of range Sony running Windows 8.1, that if I hadn't of got it for nothing I wouldn't bother with at all.

    1. Thanks Ben.

      So, for the broadband modem, I get that, but the question still is, where do you get the internet from? Just your cell phone provider? I know I can get something like that from Verizon, but the data charges will break me.

      Well, part of the problem is the time it takes to ship it back and forth. NOW....the last time I took my HP in for the broken cooling fan, it was supposed to be a week, they could fix it locally but had to order the part from HP....and then the part was on back order with HP! So it took almost 2 months for a damn cooling fan.

      The thing I didn't mention is that, as part of the extended warranty, I am entitled to a loaner laptop and I have picked that up. Perhaps unnecessary since I have my old laptop except that was on its last legs when I replaced it and considering my bad luck with laptops, I can't afford to travel with less than two computers, right?

      It will be interesting to see if and when I get the damn thing back if it works ok or not.

      OH, also, they did insist that they couldn't fix it locally and it HAD to be sent back to HP, so I don't see how your suggestion of making them fix it (even if I could have found the right part) would have worked. But again, they knew I could always pick up a loaner at no charge.

      Next time it breaks, I'm just gonna wait for your next Vegas visit and have you take a look at it.

  8. Chances are the Wi-Fi is on the main board (they used to be separate, hence they could just swap out that module). Hence they need to replace the main guts of the laptop. Not an easy job these days, but 2 months, eek. Are they an accredited HP service centre? If they are I would speak to HP. The takeaway from this is next time you buy some kit I would look at some sort of on-site repair option. That way , wherever you are they will come to you. And next time we are over, maybe we should talk about cloud services and how that will help you not having to lug 2 machines around everywhere. Although with a car, its just as easy !

    1. Yes, they are an accredited HP service center.

      As for cloud service....I have that. Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud. But at some point you need actual physical hardware to connect to at all. Hence, two machines from now on. As long as I'm not flying, it's not that big a deal.