Thursday, August 23, 2018

There's Gotta Be a Better Waze to Get There

Back to my June Vegas trip.  The night after the story I told here, Lightning and I planned to play in a Tag Team Tournament at Golden Nugget.  It was an idea that would have never occurred to me—I always think of poker as an individual game—but Lightning noticed the tournament a few weeks before he headed to Vegas and asked me if I would be interested in being his partner.  Sure, why not?  Sounded like fun. I had nothing else planned for that evening. I'd have probably played somewhere with him that night anyway. Why not team up?

I worked from my hotel room that day, while he played poker on the Strip.  At the designated time, I picked him up and we headed downtown.  It turned out that the drive to the Nugget was the most exciting part of the evening.

You see, they are currently doing road construction on virtually every street and every freeway in Clark County.  That's not news.  In the umpteen years I've been going to Vegas (almost always by car), I'm used to driving on streets that are being torn up for roadwork.  The most predictable thing in Vegas is not me losing with pocket Kings, but that 95% of the streets I drive on will be in some state of repair (or disrepair).  It's something my buddy Norm and I observed from the start of our Vegas trips many years ago.  They are constantly working on the streets.  Every street.

I've often said that I am certain that every single resident of Las Vegas must work for the Nevada Dept of Transportation, otherwise there's no way they could be tearing up so many streets at once.  I've also said that if anyone can tell me of a street in Vegas that is currently not undergoing roadwork, let me know, and I'll go drive on it even though it won't get me where I'm going, just so I can experience what it's like to drive on a non-torn up street.

Anyway, I'd heard that they were in the middle of a massive redesign of the I-15, the main freeway that goes North/South thru Vegas, that is just a mile or so west of the Strip.  I think it was underway when I was there last, back in December, but since I never went downtown that trip, and the fun didn't start until you got close to downtown, I didn't really have to deal with it.

But this time I had planned on hitting the Nugget multiple times, and I knew I'd encounter this roadwork.  The first time I went there, it was daytime, and of course I used Google Maps to guide me there. Google Maps is a godsend in L.A. traffic. Sometimes I use it to just go a few miles in case it can give me an alternate route that avoids traffic jams.  I was kind of expecting it to tell me to take surface streets, but no, it told me to take the normal route on the 15.  And so I did and boy, what a mess.  The traffic mid-day wasn't too bad, but the freeway was just a massive fustercluck.  There were construction vehicles everywhere, closed lanes, and traffic cones everywhere to guide you through the temporary lanes they had set up.  Those traffic cones are always fun because Vegas can be windy as hell and they tend to get blown all over the place, like into your lane of traffic.

And since the whole freeway near downtown was being redesigned and the traffic had been rerouted into these temporary lanes, Google sometimes lost me.  Ever have the experience of Google Maps telling you to turn on a street to get on the freeway when you're already on the freeway?  Well that happened to me several times.  "Turn left on Charleston for the onramp to I-15."  I was driving past the Charleston exit on the 15 at the time.  It didn't give me confidence that it was giving me the best route. Or that it would know if a road it wanted me to take was actually closed due to construction.

But I made it to the Golden Nugget and I made it back to my hotel.  My next trip downtown was a couple of days later. This time I insisted that Google give me a route avoiding the freeway.  Actually I think it would have anyway—it was later in the day, during rush hour, and even without road construction the 15 likely would have been too jammed to drive on.  But I had decided after my first trip downtown that I was going to use surface streets from then on to get to the Nugget. But I was in for a surprise.  Because every single street I was directed to drive on was being worked on.  In most cases, every side street was reduced to one lane in either direction with traffic cones rerouting traffic worse than the freeway was rerouted.  I swear I didn't drive on a single street that didn't have traffic cones, not to mention construction rigs halfway blocking traffic.

Getting there was bad enough, but coming back was a nightmare.  I was directed to streets I'd never been on before and they were all being worked on.  It was dark and hard to see the traffic cones and temporary road signs.  And then….well I was driving on what should have at least been a four lane street and half the lanes were closed, being worked on.  I came out of a tunnel to a traffic light and it sure looked I could just keep going in the lane I was in, which was obviously normally the left lane of traffic going in the other direction.  The light turned green, and I started driving straight ahead.  And out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign way, way over to the right that said, "Thru traffic keep right."  I hesitated and guessed that I had to go that way….way to the right of where I was going….to drive on the correct side of the road.  As I did, so, I realized I was correct and if I hadn't moved over at the last minute I would have been driving on the wrong side of the street!  Scary.  Later, because of the temporary signs and such I missed my turn and ended up getting lost in a part of town where you really don't want to get lost in late at night.

I was pissed.  So I did what you would expect me to do.  I went on Twitter the next morning and tweeted a few choice, semi-nasty comments to the Nevada Dept of Transportation.  I said:  "So I tried getting to Downtown Vegas via surface streets yesterday. Driving conditions were every bit as horrific as on the I-15, perhaps even worse. Way to go, @nevadadot , way to go."

They actually responded and advised that traffic will only get worse without these "much needed improvements."  I felt like telling them that I don't live in Vegas and will be long gone by the time they are finished—and I know that as soon as they are finished, they'll be starting some new project that will be even worse. They suggested I download the Waze app which has up-to-date traffic conditions.  I told them I was using Google Maps.  And they said that Waze was much better for navigating the Vegas streets during this project, it has more current info.

BTW, I did try to research what exactly this work on the 15 was going to accomplish. It was such a mess I was hoping that they were at least adding two lanes in both directions.  But no.  I may have missed something but as best I can tell, all they are doing is adding a single High Occupancy Vehicle lane in each direction.  I will stay off my soap box and let the reader decide if the havoc they are wreaking is worth that "improvement."

I guess I got off on a little tangent there.  Sorry, that is so unlike me.  Anyway, that whole story is explain that when I drove Lightning to Golden Nugget that Monday night, I was using Waze for the first time.  Since it had been endorsed by NDOT, I was sure that it would give me the perfect route and that there would be no issues.

Heh heh.  Now, we were playing a 7pm tournament so once again I was driving in rush hour traffic.  And therefore Waze told me to take surface streets—the 15 was a parking lot.  At first it guided me to the same torn up streets that Google Maps had directed me to a few days earlier.  But then, it did something brilliant.  It had me drive north on Las Vegas Blvd.  Guess what?  Las Vegas Blvd was the only street in the entire county that didn't have any road construction.  It was perfect.

I should mention Las Vegas Blvd is actually the Strip, except once you get north of Sahara, it's not the Strip any more, it's just LV Blvd.  Ordinarily I avoid driving on the Strip at all costs, but once you get to where it's no longer the Strip, there's no inherent reason to avoid driving on it.  In this case, it was great.  Now since it was rush hour there was still a lot of traffic on it, but the absence of traffic cones was a a relief.

So I was driving north on LV Blvd, as per Waze.  And I know that I am a few blocks east of the downtown casinos, at some point I am going to have turn left and go west to get where I'm going.  And sure enough, at some point, Waze tells me to turn left at the next street.  So far, so good.  I oblige, and after a block it tells me to turn right.  So soon?  I wasn't that close to downtown.  But I follow orders and then it tells me to turn right.  Huh?  Not only that, it says after I turn right, I should turn right on LV Blvd.  What?  That would send me in exactly the opposite direction of where I was headed, and right back to where I came from.

I knew that couldn't be right so I kept going north on this street I was on.  And it kept telling me to turn right at every street, just so I could turn right again at LV Blvd.  I started arguing with the damn Waze lady. I'm sure my dear, late mother would not have approved of the language I used talking back to the Waze lady. This was certainly amusing Lightning, who also realized that what it was telling me was nonsense. In fact, he said he thought I was about to throw my phone out the window out of frustration with the stupid app (see here). Now, I suppose, under different circumstances, if we hadn't had a specific time deadline, I might have considered following the Waze app's nutty instructions just to see if somehow they really had a great way to go where I was going that was totally counterintuitive to everything I knew about the layout of Vegas.  But not this time. I ignored the bitch, finally shut the app down, and found the Golden Nugget on my own.

The second worst poker player in Vegas that night

The actual tournament went about as well as using the Waze app.  It was a $200 buy-in ($100 each), 20-minute levels and an unusual format.  The teams had to switch players every 20-minutes.  Well the first player started with 5K chips, and when the players switched at level 2, each team got an additional 5K stack.  The reason for that format was so that each player on the team would be ensured of playing some.  There was no chance of the first player busting the team out in the first level before the second teammate would get a chance to play.

The Worst Poker Player in Vegas

 The problem with the tournament was the logistics of it.  The 20-minute levels were very quick and at the end of each level, every single player at every table had to get up, to be replaced by his or her partner.  That actually took a minute or two (or more) away from actual playing time.  It was sort of a mess changing partners, the partners had to hang close to the table but the set up of the tournament area in the ballroom was designed for normal tournaments, not tournaments with twice as many players as seats.  The tournament set up was actually quite comfortable for normal tournaments.  But it was highly congested for the tag team event. Players moving into and out of their seats were constantly bumping into each other.  It was a real Chinese fire drill.

I had spoken to Andy, the manager of the poker room, before the tourney started.  He told me the logic behind the separate starting stacks.  I also asked him if it was ok for partners to hang around when they weren't playing and watch the action. He assured me that it was ok, even expected.  That didn't stop the person actually running the tournament from announcing at every break that players not playing had to clear the area.  Fortunately, no one paid attention to this and they did nothing to enforce it.

With the levels effectively like 15-minutes, it was really important to score early and we couldn't do that.  Lightning wanted me to play level 1 (because I am the more experienced live tournament player).  I managed to win one small pot.  Lightning ran well on level 2 and got our stack up to $12,300.  But I didn't catch a single hand on level 3 and then Lightning donked off a ton of chips on level 4. 

I moved into level 5 left with a stack of only $5,900, pretty much shove or fold mode.  I shoved pocket 6's and didn't get a call.  But when I shoved King-Jack off I ran into pocket Jacks and didn't hit my three-outer.  We were done.

Fool that I am, I used Waze to get back to the Strip.  It told me to take the 15 and I was glad to do it….as messed up as it is, I learned the hard way the surface streets were even worse. I think NDOT's actual goal is to make Vegas traffic worse than L.A. traffic and they are well on their way to succeeding. 

It was a fun night, worth taking a shot with a different type of tourney.  Wish we'd lasted longer though.


  1. I thought you were going to have a stroke when you kept being advised to "turn right on Las Vegas Blvd!"

    We always second guess things. I had some great draws in the tournament and didn't want to pass up the chance with such short levels. In retrospect, I probably should have played a little tighter. You might recall that I was tempted to monkey-shove after someone bet when I had A-K, but I swear I could smell those Aces. I called, but it's a good thing there wasn't an Ace or a King on the flop.

    All we need was one hand to work out differently and we likely would have been playing for much longer. Coulda, woulda shoulda, I guess. It was fun while it lasted.

    1. Yeah, that damn Waze app was driving me to insanity. Can't believe I still use it. Sometimes.

      I didn't have any tough decisions when I was cards.

  2. That traffic lady is pretty hot!

  3. I use Waze when in unfamiliar areas, which is often. Around familiar places it directs me to go the way I would never go.

    1. As I said, I use either Google Maps or Waze to get me around traffic jams mostly. I know my way around L.A. and Vegas, but I've avoided a lot of traffic by using the apps. More often than not,the oddball routes they give me help a lot. Sometimes it gets a little insane however.

      I mean, there are at least four different ways to get me to the poker room in Ventura. The most obvious way is usually too jammed up when I go there and I have to take one of the alternates. And going to the Bike one time it took me on a real crazy route but I avoided a lot of terrible traffic.

  4. If you have to use any kind of map app to go from the strip to downtown, then you really should not be driving in Vegas. Gone are the days where people relied on a sense of direction with common sense and now just follow a stupid app to get around.

    1. Well, crazybitch, I don't HAVE to rely on an app to get from the Strip and downtown. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen ways to get there. I've only been doing it for 30+ years. As I said in the post, I use the apps in L.A. to avoid traffic f-ups, same thing in Vegas.

      But now with all the road work being done on this I-15 "improvement" project, all the roads realigned or closed, you would have to be crazy NOT to use an app to help you get around all that shit.

      The last thing I'd want is to find out too late the road I was intending to use to get there was actually closed.