Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Last Straw—Literally

Well, not literally literally.  But almost literally.  I mean, literally closer to literally than 95% of the time you see people misuse the word "literally."

What the hell am I babbling about?  Well, I'll get to it, but first I gotta do some lead up to it.  Sorry about that, but I figure if you were the type of person that enjoyed poker blogs where the blogger got immediately to the point in a concise fashion, you'd be reading some other blog, not this one.

Anyway, before I get to the point, I have to warn you that I'm breaking my firm policy about never discussing politics on the blog.  I'm afraid I have to get a bit political with this post.  It seems that the forces of the left and the forces of the right are combining to make Vegas less and less desirable all the time.

This time, there may be no saving the Vegas experience for me.

You will no doubt recall numerous posts where I've complained about how they are ruining Vegas.  Almost everything I loved about Vegas has disappeared.  Gone are the cheap rooms, cheap, quality food, inexpensive shows, low limits (at the pit games),  Now there's ever increasing resort fees, ever increasing parking fees (in the good ol' days you could park everywhere for free), a stunning lack of cheap food and the drinks (unless you're playing a live game) are outrageously priced.  My pal Pete Peters  just returned from Vegas and was reporting they were charging $89 for a Bud Light.  I may have that wrong, perhaps it was a bit less than that.  But it was still expensive.

Vegas had done such a good job of souring me on the whole Vegas experience that my visit there that began in early June was my first time back since my Christmas trip. Yeah, I stayed away for almost half a year.

Returning after such a long time (for me—usually I never go longer than two months without a Vegas visit), I admit it was excited to be back at first, especially with the promise of all that great poker.  But it didn't take long for me to be reminded of all the things that have changed Vegas for the worse.

By the time I sat down to play some poker at the MGM on this particular night, I was already feeling mostly negative towards Vegas.  It didn't help that the poker hadn't exactly been going my way since I'd gotten to town.  And so, as I was playing, I ordered a Diet Coke from the cocktail waitress.  Now, I had played at MGM a number of times on this trip previously, but this was the first time I'd order a Diet Coke.  You see I'm trying to cut out caffeine from my diet, and you can't get a caffeine-free, sugar-free soda in a casino.  So I'm ordering water more and more often.  But this particular time, I really felt like a Diet Coke.  So I ordered one.

When the waitress returned with my drink and handed it to me, I saw that there was no straw in it.  So I asked, "Can I get a straw?"  The waitress surprised me with her response.  "We  don't have straws any more.  We're going green."


I was shocked but I still gave the girl her $1 tip.

While I was thinking about that,  my poker playing neighbor in seat 1 (I was in seat 9 on the other side of the dealer) kind of reached around and offered me a straw!  It was Jan, an MGM reg I've mentioned a few times, the first time was here.  It was a plastic flex straw.  I was almost as surprised by this as I was by being told MGM didn't serve straws any more. "You bring your own straws?" I asked her?  She nodded yes, she has to now that they don't serve them anymore.  I said to her, "Pretty soon they are going to arrest you for that."

Anyway, I hesitated for a second because I didn't see where Jan had pulled the straw from.  Did she just have it lying loose at the bottom of her purse?  I wouldn't want to put that in my drink.  I had to hope she had some kind of plastic baggy she carried them around in.  I mean, Jan always struck me as a hygienic person.  I took the straw, thanked her for it, and stuck it in my Diet Coke.

But I was left to contemplate the significance of this.  A no straw policy?  How is this acceptable?  As it happens, I remembered hearing earlier in the year that the California legislature was considering passing a law that would make it a crime (punishable with imprisonment!) for a waiter in a restaurant to offer customers straws for the drinks if the customer hadn't asked for one.  I never heard if that law passed.  It seems a bit extreme.

But at least you could still get a straw!  This MGM waitress was telling me that I couldn't get a straw no matter what (unless I brought my own, like Jan did!).  Can you believe it?  And this is supposed to be "going green."  Plastic straws are destroying the environment, don't you know.

Those damn liberal tree-huggers!  Environmentalist extremists! They are ruining everything.

(EDITED TO ADD:  When I first posted this, I left out one of the great benefits of straws at the poker table.  Most tables have cup holders right in front of you.  So I can lean over and sip my soda without touching the glass.  This is good because usually the outside of the glass is wet from condensation (or from other drinks on the waitress's tray that spilled on them).  Then you have wet hands and are about to touch the cards and the chips).

But wait.  As I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that MGM Resorts (parent company of MGM Grand Casino) was the entity that started the whole "pay to park on the Strip" thing you've heard me rail about at least a billion times.

They are evil, greedy, bastards, right?  Well, they must be evil, greedy Republicans to be so concerned with profit, right?

But it's the same company!  Are they evil greedy Republicans just trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the poor working schlub, or are they liberal Democrat tree-huggers trying to cripple corporate America with their radical environmentalist policies?

I'm so confused.

All I know is this:  It seems that now the left and the right are teaming up to completely ruin my Vegas experience. 

A pox on all their houses!

My assumption at the time was that this policy applied to all MGM properties (ie, Aria, Mirage, Excalibur, etc).  However, I subsequently played at both Aria and Mirage, and they were both offering straws (without asking) in their soft drinks.  Hmm…..so is it just some renegade tree-hugger at MGM Grand that instituted this?  Do his or her greedy Republican bosses know about this?

Well…..I dunno.  But I can see which way the wind is blowing and I am expecting this policy will spread to the other corporate properties sooner rather than later.  And remember, MGM was the one that started the pay for parking thing, and that spread to almost all the other casinos on the Strip, including CET properties, Wynn and Cosmo.  So it's only a matter of time before the rarest thing in Vegas is no longer a free parking spot, but a damn straw.

Sooner or later, without ceremony, there will be the last straw on the Strip!

Anyway, a few days later, back at the MGM. I saw the full consequences of this new, horrific policy.  Temporarily forgetting about the no-straw policy, I innocently ordered a Diet Coke. When my drink was delivered, I remembered the policy as soon as I saw it did not contain a straw.  And Jan was nowhere to be found.  Oh well.

But there was something in my drink other than the Diet Coke and the ice.  It was a lemon wedge.  I hadn't asked for a lemon wedge in my Diet Coke.  But I made an assumption as to why it was in there.  You see, I know that waitresses will use straws to help them identify the Diet Cokes from the regular Cokes.  Each has her own system but let's say they will put one straw in a drink if it's regular and two straws in if it's Diet.

Of course, now they can no longer do that.  So I also know that some waitresses will use a lemon wedge for this purpose.  No lemon wedge means a regular Coke. A lemon wedge means Diet.  BTW, this was a different waitress from the one who told me about the new policy a few days earlier.

I am not a normally fussy about the lemon wedge in the Diet Coke thing.  It usually doesn’t make a difference to me.  I can notice the ever so faint taste/scent of lemon and it's no big deal.

Now my pal Norm, the one I used to go to Vegas with multiple times a year back in the day, is a different story.  He hates lemons and especially hates them in his Diet Cokes (although he prefers Diet Pepsi).  If he was ever served a Diet Coke with a lemon wedge (or a lime wedge, or an orange wedge, whatever), he'd immediately hand the drink back to the waitress and insist on a "pure" Diet Coke, no fruit.  Sometimes the waitress would offer to take the lemon out of the drink (presumably with a spoon, not her fingers).  Not good enough.  Once that lemon had been in the glass of soda it was polluted beyond all redemption to Norm's taste buds.

We had a third friend who would say to Norm, "You have to tell them when you order you don't want any fruit in it." Norm's response was that he shouldn't have to.  "I don't want an onion in my drink either, I don't have to tell them that!"  But eventually, in self-defense, he started asking for nothing in the drink but the soda he ordered. 

Again, that's not me.  I was never bothered by the lemon.  Until this night at the MGM.  Because you see the lemon was floating at the top of my soda.  And there was no friggin' straw to drink the soda out of.  So every time I sipped the drink, my lips hit that demon lemon wedge.  And worse, the taste of the lemon was also floating at the top of the drink.  So this time I really, really tasted the lemon!  When you have a straw, you're drinking from the bottom of the glass, and the lemon taste hasn't really reached there yet.  Instead of tasting my Diet Coke, it was like I was sucking on a damn lemon!

When the waitress took my next order, I specifically said to her, "….and please don't put any lemon slice in it."

But when it came back, there was a lemon wedge in it!  This is one of the best waitresses they have, so I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that because the room was so noisy she just didn't hear me.

Whatever, I was pissed.  Now the lemon wedge was floating at the very top, and I could have easily just grabbed it out of there.  As I started to do that, I realized then I'd be stuck there at the poker table with a wet lemon wedge in my hand—what was I supposed to do with that?

So I didn't grab it.  As soon as I could, I walked over to the nearest trash can with drink in hand to dump the lemon wedge (which was still in my drink).  But in carrying my glass over there, the wedge had settled down a bit into my drink.  And without thinking, I stuck my fingers into the drink, got them wet with Diet Coke, and then really had to dig deep to get that damn lemon wedge and fish it out of there.  It was actually a bit of a challenge.

Finally rid of the damn lemon, I rewarded myself with a big gulp of my Diet Coke.  Fortunately I tasted only the faintest taint of lemon, I had saved my drink!

But then I realized that I had stuck my fingers, which had been touching both cards and extremely dirty, disease-ridden poker chips, directly into my drink!

"I'm going to die," I thought to myself.

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since this happened, and I am relieved to report that I haven't contracted any disease as of yet.  I may be ok.

But maybe I've been infected with some kind of rare disease with a really long incubation period.  If this is the last post I ever do, you'll know why.  Death by lemon wedge due to MGM's "going green" policy.

Anyway, the new "no straw" policy may just be the last straw for me.  I'm afraid to go back to Vegas now to see the next latest thing they will have done to make the place worse—and less like the place I fell in love with many years ago.

Damn those evil liberal greedy tree-hugging environmental extremist Republicans!


  1. These days, I don't go to Vegas. On rare occasions I play some non-Poker table games in Reno, where they DO have resort fees (that don't actually get you anything for the money), but have yet to start charging for parking.

    I also have given up on sodas (on doctor's orders; it was a condition of having bariatric surgery). I make up for it by bringing my own bottles of water that have already been flavored to my taste.

    If I still ordered diet cola from the drinks server, it would definitely have been a pain to have to say that I wanted it without lemon, lime, onion, coconut, saliva or PeeWee Herman. "OK. Who wanted the drink without PeeWee Herman jizz?"

    From what you went through, it's just as well that I have; if I had ordered a diet cola with no foreign objects in it, and they had brought it back as contaminated as they did for you, I would have sent it back.

    1. Yep, I remember seeing you send back many a diet Pepsi over the years.

      Nice to know Reno doesn't charge for parking. I dare say tho.....it's only a matter of time.

  2. Straws. Is why Trump will win again.

    1. Haha....thanks Rick.

      I don't think they'll ask about straws in the exit polls....but you may be right.

  3. I remember that MGM was the place, years ago, where a cocktail waitress told me they weren't allowed to serve Jaegerbombs with no ice, apparently because it was costing them too much in Red Bull. As for sticking your fingers in the soda ... I have seen way too many poker players take a leak and not wash their hands. Eeeewwweew!

    1. George Carlin had a bit where he said he never washed his hands after taking a leak....he said he could accomplish the mission without peeing on his hands and that his dick was in his pants all day and was clean.

      But worse is the guys you see coming out of the stalls, and you know what they've done....and they don't wash their hands!

      Re: Red Bull: The Monte Carlo poker room, now long gone, would not serve Red Bull to poker players. Never could figure out why.

  4. I would be super pissed at Vegas also if I wasn't lucky enough to be Diamond at Caesars and comped at Palazzo where I completely miss any fees for parking or resort.

    I was really happy these past 3 visits in June because the poker was super hot all over town.

    I understand your last straw and when my free rides ware off I will start to get to my last straw. Vegas has changed a lot.

    1. Yep. When I have to start paying for parking, I'm done.

  5. You can thank the Facebook Rob. Some pictures of sea turtles with plastic straws shown lodged into nostrils and coming out the corner of the eye socket or something like that. One bar in my small town recently announced no more plastic straws and somehow never ran out of their inventory of plastic straws. A different bar had a bartender tell me to keep my straw because my next whiskey sour wouldn't have a straw in it and sure enough I keep my straw and my next drink still got another straw. I was careful not to kill any sea turtles on my way home....

  6. http://reason.com/reasontv/2018/07/17/plastic-straw-myths


    1. Very interesting links, thanks Bob.

      I note the video was posted the same day as my post. Coincidence? I think not. Even used the line "The Last Straw." Hmmmm.....

  7. Any waitress can tell diet from regular coke. The diets are darker.

    1. Perhaps, but I've had at least two waitresses tell me that they use the straw or the lemon method of telling them apart.

  8. Harveys Lake Tahoe has put in parking gate and payment center by the door. The parking pox is ruining the pristine views of Lake Tahoe as well

    1. Ugh.

      But not surprising. Harvey's is owned by CET, so of course they are doing it.

  9. Hi Rob I agree with your post 1000%. The only problem is being right just means I can not bring my self to go to Vegas anymore. Now I am punishing myself and it means no more flights, or food, or gambling trips. It seems a guy just can not win anymore. If you give up Vegas than your blogs will be about local card rooms only. What to do What to do

    1. Yeah, we'll see. It's getting pretty bad.

      But the straws thing is probably a losing battle, and won't be just contained to Vegas casinos. Someone tweeted at me an article that all Marriots are going strawless soon. In a couple of years all straws will be outlawed in the US.

  10. i think i would rather hear about california rooms than vegas rooms.

    1. If you want to pay me to travel around California to play poker in various rooms, I'll consider it.

  11. sad and sick I still go but its the Orleans for me I seldom leave it anymore........in the 90's i thought Tunica was poker nirvana but I suppose they've ruined that too

    1. With all due respect to Orleans, if I were to go to Vegas and and spend all of my time at the Orleans, there'd be zero reason for me to go to Vegas.