Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Try the Cheesecake"

Well, I just drove home from Vegas yesterday (Tuesday).  I have a few stories to tell (though not as many as I’d hoped for), but it will be awhile until I can get a chance to write any of them up for you.  I have a column for Ante Up due before the week is out, and not only haven’t I written any of it yet, I don’t even have a clue about what to write about.  I have to say, trying to get three blog posts a week up is getting to me.  I’m probably going to cut back on the time I spend writing posts.  I may be making other changes as well.

Anyway, this is a story from my pre-poker days, when my pal Norm and I visited Vegas a few times a year.  We played table games and ate at buffets.  I may have the order reversed.

One trip we decided to try the buffet at the Desert Inn.  The Desert Inn was one of the higher end properties on the Strip back in the day.  If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll tell you that a fellow by the name of Steve Wynn bought the property some time ago and tore it down, and replaced it with a resort called The Wynn.  How he came up with that name I’ll never know.

The D.I. was a place that Norm and I could never play at.  There were two reasons.  One, it had higher limits than we wanted to play—we were the textbook definition of low-rollers.  The other reason was that there was almost never any action in the place.  I think they made their money off their golf course and not their casino.  This was back in the day when Vegas casinos actually made almost all their money from gambling.  I guess D.I. was the model for the current Vegas blueprint, where gambling revenue is just an afterthought.  All they really want today is the parking revenue.

We decided to try their buffet because it was one of the few we hadn’t tried, and we heard it was good, and back in those days even the buffet at a fancy schmancy place like the D.I. was cheap.

And it was good, as best as I can recall.  But our server was a hoot.  He was an older gentleman with an attitude.  The attitude was that of a New York mobster. And so when he could see that we had stuffed ourselves enough with the entrees, he gave us some advice as to what we should have for dessert.

He leaned into us and said, “Try the cheesecake.” It sounded like he was giving us a hot, hush-hush tip on a horse.  It was like he was giving us secret information.  It sounded like, “Put a bundle on Epitaph in the fourth.” And it sounded like he knew Epitaph would win because he’d personally poisoned all the other horses.

Now, surprisingly enough, even though Norm and I were both generally huge fans of high-caloric food, neither one of us actually like cheesecake.  So Norm said to him, “I don’t like cheesecake.”

The waiter wasn’t listening.  He just said the same three words again.  “Try the cheesecake.”

But this time, it didn’t sound so much like a tip on a horse.  With the New York accent, the attitude, and his general persona, it didn’t really sound like a suggestion, either.  It was more like an order.  Or a demand.  It was like he said, “Try the cheesecake if you know what’s good for you.”  Or, “You will have the cheesecake.”

We again expressed our preference for not-cheesecake. So he said it again.  “Try the cheesecake.”  Each time he said it, it sounded more and more ominous.  He left, and we went to get non-cheesecake desserts.  He saw we hadn’t gotten any cheesecake and he again said, “Try the cheesecake.”  I’m pretty sure it sounded like, “Hand over you wallets.”

Finally we were ready to leave and I believe he said to us, “You should have tried the cheesecake.”  We decided he must have somehow gotten a commission on the cheesecake.

I believe we were somewhat relieved that we left the buffet without being shot, and also without having been forced to eat any cheesecake.  But the line “Try the cheesecake,” became a running gag between the two of us for years.

(Edited to Add:  Please be sure to read Norm's very different version of the incident (the first comment below). I'm sure Norm's version is the correct one, although I still think it took place at the D.I., not the Sands. Norm's always had a better memory for this sort of useless information than me).

And  speaking of cheesecake….


  1. I thought it was The Sands, where they would turn their showroom into a buffet.

    This waiter looked and acted like a mobbed-up Mr. Hooper. The first time we noticed he was strange was right after a VERY pregnant woman stopped at our table on her way back to hers in order put ketchup on her scrambled eggs. The waiter looked at her leaving and said "See. That's what happens when you fuck around." Wisely, we said nothing.

    When I was ready to tackle the dessert bar, he made that order that I "Try the cheesecake." I remember the conversation as follows:

    Me: I'm of to the dessert bar.
    Waiter: Try the cheesecake.
    Me: Excuse me?
    W: Try the cheesecake.
    Me: No, thanks, I don't want any cheesecake
    W: Try the cheesecake
    Me: I don't like cheesecake
    W: Tell you what: you get a piece of cheesecake, try it, and if you don't like it, I'll finish it for you.
    Me: That's okay. I figure I'll just get a chocolate brownie.
    W: Meh. I don't like brownies.
    Me: Tell YOU what: I'll get an extra brownie for you, and if YOU don't like it I'll finish IT for YOU.
    W: Just try the cheesecake.

    Not that it would have made a difference, but when I got to the dessert table, there was no cheesecake. So I choose the deserts I wanted, go back to my table, sit down to enjoy, and

    W: You didn't try the cheesecake?
    Me: They were out.
    W: Wait there, I'll go get you some.
    Me: NO-O-O!
    W: Well, if you didn't want the cheesecake, why didn't you say so? You didn't have to lie to me (This last part while playfully tugging on my beard)

    And we never ate there again.

    1. Thanks, Norm. I knew I should have just asked you to write it up in the first place, but I was trying to get something post fast while I was totally exhausted from my Vegas trip.

      Still think it was D.I., but it if it was the Sands I could have just replaced Wynn with Adelson--but then I wouldn't have been able to use the joke about the name of it.

      And yes, we never ate at that buffet again, and I believe we considered it but decided we didn't want to run into that waiter again!

    2. Also, by making it Desert Inn, it gave me a challenge cuz I was also mentioning "dessert." Had to keep the extra "s" only in the right word.

  2. I want cheesecake...

    and some dessert would be nice too.


  3. "We played table games and ate at buffets. I may have the order reversed."


  4. Not that this is part of the story, but did you and Norm stay at the Maxim, the RIO or the Imperial Palace on that trip?

    1. Oh Geez. I can't possibly remember that detail. But it was almost definitely NOT the Rio. In fact, I'm sure it wasn't the Rio. It was so long ago I would say it was most likely the Maxim. But it's possible it was Imperial Palace....or Bourbon Street....or even Union Plaza.

  5. If six players make up a volleyball team please let me know where they are playing...

    1. Now that's a pleasant visual. Thanks man!

  6. Terrific post Rob. Enjoy all your anecdotes as well as Norm's contribution. The waiter sounded like someone out The Godfather! But apparently he made an offer you could refuse...I am trying to remember if I knew you guys at that time. I don't think so. Although I do go pretty far back!

    Hey, I prefer beefcake myself!!! But, you seem to never need a connection to display cheesecake, much to the satisfaction of your multitude of readers.

    1. Thanks, LM. Actually this was one of my better connections to posting the typical "robvegaspoker" type pics. I was just going to post some cheesecake photos to keep the blog active while I recovered from my latest Vegas trip. But then I remembered the "Try the Cheesecake" story and by telling it quickly (and incompletely, as it turned out), it totally justified the cheesecake pics!

      And...this story goes back to so far it very well might have taken place before we met!

  7. Rob - loved your post, as usual. Skip and I stayed at the Desert Inn in the mid 90s, when it was owned by Sheraton. It was unlike any other casino we'd tried in Vegas, either before or after. We were in our late 30s and everyone else in the casino was a senior citizen, seemingly from Texas or the Southwest. The cocktail waitresses were eligible for Medicare. One thing I liked about it was that it was easy to get to things inside. The front desk was right there when you walked in. The elevators were close by. The casino was just inside the front door. The polar opposite of a place like the Mirage, where it's a tenth of a mile to the guess elevators from the front doors.

    I'm glad your friend Norm said you were at the Sands, not the DI, because it didn't have a buffet. If it had, we certainly would have tried it out. We did try the coffee shop a few times, nothing memorable.

    1. Thanks Very much, Cranky. Very interesting about the D.I.---we weren't in it often enough to notice any of that. The few times we went in there, there was virtually no one in the casino except a few dealers. It was depressing.

      But it's funny, I know Norm has a much better memory for this type of trivia, but for as long as I can remember, I always felt this incident took place at D.I. No buffet, huh? You sure they didn't try one for a little while, maybe when you weren't there, and that's when we caught it?

      I guess not. I guess it was the Sands. As I recall, we didn't play much at the Sands either...also too rich for our blood. But I don't recall it being as dead as the D.I.

      Oh well, thanks again to Norm for straightening me out!

  8. The Wynn was named as a hipster (and trademarkable) version of "The Win", to make players think they could win. Though we know the casino should honestly be named "Imperial Palace" (hipster for "The Loser").