Win or lose, I have a great time in Las Vegas. It's more fun to win of course, but even when I had my financial butt served to me on a platter during my June Las Vegas trip, I still managed to have a good time. But because of that ass kicking in June, I approached my October trip with trepidation, like a kid stepping on the hot sidewalk for the first time after getting his feet burned the day before. My only gambling goal in October was to come home a winner, which I did.

I had such a great time, with things I did and the winning part, I was really eager to get back again. I almost made plans to go in November or December, which would be a first for me. That is the busiest time of the year for my work, so it would have been a great commitment and burden to go at that time.

Out of the blue, my friend called me and asked if I wanted to go to The Special Event convention January 6-9. "Where is it?" I asked. "Vegas". Sold! Having the trip planned satisfied my urge to go. I could hold off until then, and it would be a good reward to myself after surviving my busy season.

Being really busy kept my mind off the trip, but then January came, and away I went on Southwest Airlines. Security at the Austin airport did not make anyone take off his or her tennis shoes. Last time they made everyone take off every kind of footwear, even making me take off my sandals.

We got into Las Vegas ten minutes early. I used Dollar rent cars again. Their Fast Lane program works really well. The bus driver said that they would be moving into the Thrifty lot soon, as they have bought Thrifty.

I got a mid-sized car this time. I had gotten economy cars before, but they never had trunk-opening buttons. This was very inconvenient when entering The Bellagio's parking lot. I would have to turn off my car and hand the keys to the security people so that they could check my trunk. The Taurus I had also had a remote-locking key that was helpful finding the car in the parking lots a couple of times. It was also fun "honking" at people that were standing in front of the car as we came up to it. I've never done that with my car at home, but for some strange reason I was inspired to do so in Las Vegas.

Here's a car renting Big Tip for you. I had rented my car on line, and was quoted $115 for the four-day rental. I went back two weeks later to change my arrival time. After I changed the time to thirty minutes earlier then the original booking, it lowered my rental price to $85. I'll be trying that trick from now on. Learning stuff like that is one of the reasons you read trip reports, right? Happy to oblige folks!

I head to Mandalay Bay to register for the convention. I had never been in the convention center part of the resort before. That is one big operation. I appreciate that these Las Vegas properties are big, but I never realized how big the convention centers were. The hallway between the function rooms could easily hold my entire restaurant. There were two or three other conventions going on there as well. My convention was expecting 3,000 people, and it was the small one! Really amazing.

On to the Casino Royale after getting signed in at the convention. I thought they were having a garage sale when I pulled into the casino's parking lot. All the slot machines were outside. Turns out they were installing new carpet. The new carpet looks good.

I go to the front desk to check-in. I'm really starting to love this place. This is the sixth time I have stayed here. There is nothing special about it, except that it is small, and in a great location. The smallness of it was illustrated when I was making my reservation. The fellow on the phone said "You know me, I'm the old guy at the front desk", and I DID know him. "You mean the guy with glasses?" "Yup, that's me." Big Tip, the Casino Royale insider, that knows all the employees. It's kind of cool.

I get unpacked and have time to do some gaming before the first party of the conference to be held that night. I sit down at the Spanish 21 table and buy in for $300.

If you remember, I am the Martingale guy. My blackjack method of playing is to make a bet, and if I lose, I will double the bet. If I lose that one, I will double up again. I will endure six losses in a row, losing a total of 63 units, then start over. As long as six losses in a row do not happen, I win at the rate of 30 to 40 units per hour. Got it? A question and answer session will be held at the end of the class for all those that are still confused.

I start to play. One of the things that I was worried about was whether or not I was going to be able to read my strategy card. I had my eyes lazered at the first of December, and I was scared I would not be able to read all the cards that I have made, as I now need reading glasses for small things. In previous trips I have kept the card on the chair between my legs so that I wouldn't look like a newbie at the table, but now I did it so that it would be far enough away to enable me to read it! The floor person saw me doing this and said I could keep it on the table, but I told her, "Thanks, but I enjoy admiring myself each time I look down." I like getting a laugh from the floor folks.

I play for awhile at $5. The dreaded and accursed six losses in a row occur. I am now down about $250. I am hoping that this is not the start of another trend. When this method goes bad, it can go REALLY bad. See my June trip for proof. I rebuy in for $600, to start playing at $10. I lose another five hands in a row. That is eleven losses in a row. It's looking like the June massacre all over again. I push out the $320 bet, the sixth bet in the $10 base unit progression. I win. Things go better this time. I battle back to even, and quit. I ask the floor gal what she rated me at. "$50/hand." Okay.

My friend and his girlfriend are staying at Harrah's. They come over to meet me, and I drive us to The Thomas and Mack center for the "Welcoming Party" of the convention.

The convention is for event planners, and all those involved in the events. So there are rental people, flower people, caterers (my friend and I), decorating people, as well as the event planners who hire all of us to put on functions. Each of the social functions the convention had was designed to showcase how things could be done. All trying to be top-notch. They were.

There were all sorts of food stations set up and open bars. It was enjoyable critiquing each thing with my friend, as well as catching up with him. He lives in a different city then I do, so each time we see each other, we have to tell each other what's going on. He owns a catering company too, so we also get to talk shop.

They also had different things for entertainment mixed in with the food stations. One of these was a poker table (fake chips) manned by two guys that were the authors of a "How to Play Poker" book. One of two said that he had won the 1992 (I think that was the year he said) WSOP. I don't recall his name, or the name of the book. But it was fun sitting down and playing a few hands with them, even more fun pushing my entire stack of chips into the middle and saying "All in" after we decided to move on.

The party then moves into the big function room, where "The Showgirls of the Rio" entertain us. Following that, Frank Marino and the acts from La Cage perform. I was glad to see the La Cage acts. I wouldn't want to pay to see it, even though they were very entertaining, but I had wanted to see them just because they have become a Vegas institution. In my book, anybody that has run as long as they have, are in institution.

Dolly Parton was standing next to us as we watched the show. At least she looked a LOT like Dolly. I asked her if she knew who she looked like. She said, "Reba?" She was joking. I guess she was hired by the party planners to walk around the party.

The party was over, so my friend came back to Casino Royale to shoot some craps. His girlfriend was tired, so she went back to their room.

My friend had never shot craps before. It was fun teaching him how to play. His first lesson only cost ME $200! I never really expect to win at craps though. I don't play big at it. I play $2 pass line, 10X odds, making two or three come bets, dependant on who is shooting. Every now and then I will try to load up the numbers, usually when I am shooting.

I lose my $200, and he loses his $20, and he is done. Done from being tired, not from losing $20, he had fun. So I quit for a little bit, but still feel like I have a little steam left, and hey!, it's only 1:45 am, can't quit yet, right?

I buy back in for $200, and managed to walk away $66 ahead this time. That would be my only craps win. I finally go to bed at 3 am (5 am Austin time), feeling good about being in Las Vegas again.

Wednesday:

I wake up Wednesday feeling good. Head right down to the crap table. Takes me an hour and a half to lose $200 this time. At one point there is this one jerk-off playing the don't. I have the dice, and I have a line bet and three come bets all at 10x odds. I seven out. This nimrod says, "Yes!" I couldn't believe it. I gave him the look, and he knew he did a bad thing, so he says he's sorry. Unbelievable. Anyway, I had all the diet cokes I needed to get me going, I am now down $334 for the trip, so it is time for some golf.

I drive up North to Angel park. I have been reading about this place for a long time. Two eighteen hole layouts, a Par Three course, and an eighteen hole natural golf putting course, all in the same complex. "The total golf experience". I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I walked up to the counter. Mostly I just wanted to see everything. I had just checked the green fees before I came, and they were in the $150-$175 range. I asked the fellow behind the counter what green fee would he charge me if I told him I was from Las Vegas, and would he ask me to show a driver's license to prove it. He laughed and said he would have to see it, but if I wasn't a resident, it would be $70 since it was 12:45 pm and into to their twilight rate. It would get dark at 4:30 pm, so it was dicey whether or not you could finish 18 starting at that time. I hemmed and hawed a little bit, then he said, "Tell you what, give me $45, and you can go off." Cool, decision made.

I go down to the starter and asked him which course would a 10 handicap enjoy. He said try the Mountain course, so I headed on over. There was nobody on the front nine. I blew through the front in about an hour, but then on the 11th hole I ran into the pack. There were two groups of five waiting there. The marshal came by just then. I asked if this was how it was for the rest of the way, he said it was, then suggested that I play the front again. Sounded great to me, so he escorted me back over there. Played it again in just over an hour, playing through only one twosome.

I didn't feel cheated about not playing the entire course. I could see the whole thing from the front nine. There was nothing really special about the layout. Lots of adjacent fairways, no elevation changes (The "Mountain" Course is a huge misnomer), a couple of water features. If I would have brought my golf group here and they paid $175, they would have been pissed. For $45 it was great, for $70, it would have been okay. That is only the third course I've played in Las Vegas, so I don?t have a lot to judge it against.

It is now 3:30 pm, with an hour of daylight left. I go back to the desk and ask how much to play the Cloud Nine par three course. The same guy says, "just go on", instead of "$40" like he said earlier. Thanks buddy, you're swell!

The first hole of the thing was the least spectacular, so it was a pleasant surprise, as the holes became more fun and attractive as I went along. I played two balls on most holes, having a great time. The weather was great. Sunny and 60º, I played in my shirtsleeves the whole day.

Didn't take long to finish that. On the last hole I had a birdie, and my birdie putt on my second ball lipped out. Not a bad way to finish. I drove past the putting course on the way to the cart barn, thinking "should I?" but decided that I had looked at it, and that was enough golf for the day. Usually that phrase is not in my vocabulary, but there was a Spanish 21 table calling my name.

Back to Casino Royale and I buy in at the Spanish 21 table for $300 and start to play at a $5 base unit. About an hour later, I am up $200. Even in that short amount of time, several people come and go. I am amazed that people will sit down to play something that they have no idea how to play. I take my winnings and go up to the room to get ready for the night's convention related festivities.

My friend and his girlfriend come over and we drive to The MGM. Tonight's party is in "The Park", formerly the theme park, but now just used for big parties. It was pretty spectacular. The food offerings were very eclectic and included cracked lobster tail, carved filet mignon, popcorn, corny dogs, fried fish, char siu pork, Kummomoto oysters, and more. Open bars again, and non-stop entertainment.

They had ice skaters under a tent. There was the real Robin Leach sitting in one place where you could have your picture taken with him. They had a risqué underwear show, with a guy and a girl completely naked, painted, and standing in one of the windows. You heard me right, there was the wiener, and there was the muffin. Pretty daring stuff we thought. There were some "nasty entertainment ahead" warning signs as you approached the building. I guess that might have shocked some people if they looked in a window and that was in their face!

There was also a haunted house that had one of the coolest things I've seen. At the beginning, as we waited in line, there was a big TV screen that had a cartoon devil pictured on it. This devil would interact with the people in line as they came in front of the TV. Everyone was buzzing about how cool the technology was. We could not figure out how this cartoon character could talk to us, his mouth moving in sequence to his speech, and pointing to different people at appropriate times. It was something from The Jim Hensen company, available for hire for your party too. It was really amazing.

So eventually it was our time to be in front of him (the talking devil). He was asking everyone their name, then saying funny things about them. I was ready. You see, the Adult Entertainment Industry convention, better known as the porn convention, was in town this week too. This fact gave me lots of humor fodder all trip long. When he asked me what my name was I told him "Dick Magnum." This made Mr. Devil quite for just a second, but then he started in. "Here for the convention, are you Dick?" "Yes" I said. We went back and forth for a long time, with the devil, the crowd, and myself having some pretty hearty laughs.

After we went through the haunted house, I spotted what was Mr. Devil's command center. I stepped in to the tent to see how it was done. As I stepped into the tent, one of the technicians turned to me and said, "Look, it's Dick Magnum!" It was cool seeing how it was done. I cannot reveal that information here though. Well, I could, but I don't want to go into it. They also had it displayed on the expo floor of the convention during the days. As I was walking past their booth the next day, one of the other guys calls out loud "Hey, it's Dick Magnum!" It was funny.

The big party also had a comedy club set up in one of the buildings. We watched one funny comedian, Jeff Nease, and then we watched a funny Barbara Streisand impersonator, Helene Weinberg. We were sitting close to the stage, so of course she comes by and asks our names. Dick Magnum makes another appearance! We had fun.

There was a large stage in the center of the park. There was a fake cirque d' soleil act, which was pretty good, also a big band. As a finale, Penn and Teller came out and did a couple of tricks. Then the "Rocket Man" ignited his real jetpack and flew over the crowd. That added a big "Wow" for us. It was really loud, and I think that added to the excitement. As we were leaving the park, there was a fireworks display. All and all, a pretty awesome party, kudos to the event organizers.

We went back to the hotel. My friends were finished for the evening. It was only 1:00 am though. So I wandered over to Harrah's to play at their new real/video hybrid roulette game. I have never seen this before. There is a real roulette wheel, a dealer, and a floor guy in a suit. You put your money on top of your console and they enter the amount so that your total shows on your screen. You make all the bets you want, they spin the wheel, and the pay-offs are calculated automatically. Repeat. I'm not a roulette player, but I played and had a good time for an hour. There were 12 stations, and they were all full, so it was pretty lively. Managed to win $10, betting mostly $2.50/spin. Whee, high roller! When you are finished, you punch "Close out" and they come and give you your total in chips. It is NOT a video game. Different regulations the pit guy was saying. Interesting set-up.

I wander over to The Mirage, just to see what is going on. Noticed CSMs on $25 tables. That's not good. They did have a double deck game that stood on S17, but it was a $100 table. Watched one guy at a reserved roulette table. Looked like he was betting pretty big, so I counted what he is throwing down. I saw him lose $19,000 on one spin, then $32,000 the next spin. He quits and walks away, as does the semi-interested pit person who was watching the action.

That was enough fun for the day, so off to bed. I am $114 down for the trip.

Thursday.

Got up at nine when my friend called and said he was ready for some more crap action. He came over and we played for awhile. He lost his $20 and went back to get his girlfriend. I ended up playing for 2 ½ hours, but managed to lose only $100. That would be my last losing gambling session of the trip (sorry to take future suspense out of the story). I am down $214.

They come back over with their luggage. They would be staying the next two nights at a Day's Inn, because Harrah's wanted $375/night for Thursday and Friday. Did not blame him a bit. I drive them over to the motel to see if they could check-in early. The girlfriend said she would just wait in the car. There were a few people waiting outside, so as I was closing the car door I said in a loud voice "Bitch, just shut up and stay in the car, I paid for a whole hour, and it is not up yet!" Then we walked inside, leaving her in the car.

The room wasn't ready yet, so we drive off, both my friend and I laughing out loud as she is beating me on the back of the head saying "Did you see how those guys were looking at me?!"

We remembered we had to get something to eat as we were approaching Mandalay Bay, so we drove past it. I showed them the "Las Vegas" sign, and then we did a U-turn and turned into The Klondike's parking lot. Time for a little local's color. Colorful it was.

The restaurant was straight from the 50's, and dark. As the hostess was taking us to our table that we could barely see, I asked if we could have a darker booth. She said that's as dark as it gets, but then saw that I was kidding and laughed.

After we ordered (turns out I ordered the "not heated all the way through rib platter") I went into the casino to check it out. They had four blackjack tables, a $2 minimum one being open. I bought in for $20, and immediately lost eight hands in a row. Good thing I was not using my system, or that would have been a $126 loss. Anyway, I fought back to $2 ahead, then quit. Gave the $2 to the dealer, went to the cage and got my $20 bill back. I have now eaten and gambled at The Klondike. Once is enough.

The waitress was fun though. I'm no VP expert, but I think I saw a 9/6 pay out on JOB game, so maybe it's worth a visit by you VP players.

We went on to Mandalay Bay to walk through the convention trade show. It was good and I got several ideas for my business. I did not see Gary the Mime, who I have since found out was working at the show. Too bad. I had my picture taken with "Britney Spears", a cute look-a-like, "but I sing too" gal. They had a cocktail party to end the day's show. Polyester Express was the band playing and there was another open bar. There is a lot of that in our industry! We hung out for a bit, then went back to the hotels to get cleaned up. I dropped them off and had 40 minutes of Spanish 21 play. Came out $130 ahead. I am still down $84 for the trip. Went back to get them, and we headed out for The Bellagio. Thank heavens for my remote trunk-opening device on this car!

I make it a point to visit the buffet at The Bellagio every trip. I think it is the best bargain in Las Vegas. My friend had been to it once before, and he too thinks that it is a great bargain. That's a ringing endorsement from two long time food professionals, folks.

When we walked up to the buffet, the line was longer then I had ever seen. Not only was the part under the canopy full, but it stretched way past the bathroom doors. Not a surprise, as the lobby and the casino was more crowded then I have ever seen it. Lots of conventions in town. Anyway, I was once again able to use my favorite Vegas insider trick. "You guys stand here in the entrance and keep an eye on me. If I wave you up, come on." Sure enough there were three seats at the bar. They were never more thankful for my knowledge of things Las Vegas then they were at that point. Me too!

We had a relaxed, fantastic, dining experience. I managed to not stuff myself, of which I am very proud.

We then went to the Laugh Stop at The Tropicana. I think it was $18/person, but I had a 2 for 1 coupon from one of the magazines that was only good on Thursdays. The show was well worth it for $18, but a great bargain for $12/person. Even though they only gave us one included drink with each of the two discounted tickets, not the two included in the regular price.

The headliner was a comedian that had toured with Julio Iglesias for several years. He was really funny.

Another thing on my "to do this time" list was to see "Purple Reign", the Prince tribute show at The Boardwalk. I knew it started at 11:30 pm, but I didn't know how long it went. We called them and they said it went until 1:00 am. So we headed over to see it after we got out of the comedy show.

We got good seats in the lounge, actually all the seats are good, and then I walked around the casino. Every blackjack table was paying 6/5, with some other goofy side bet thing too. They had one crap table, a little bitty one, that looked like the tub at Casino Royale, but it was still a stand up one that had two dealers working it. There is always something new to see in Las Vegas. The Boardwalk was not as seedy as a remembered it.

I went back to sit down just as the show started up again. I am not a Prince fan. I only like two of his songs, but I had wanted to see this show because people on the boards have commented that it was good. It is. The star is really, really, great. He works HARD! The entire time. It's just fun to see somebody work so hard at entertaining you. Mind you, there was only about forty people in the lounge, but by the end, after he sang "Purple Rain", everyone was on their feet. If I had had a lighter, I would have lit it and held it over my head! Go see it, it is really worth every penny of the admission price, free!

We then went to The Mirage, parking in the Casino Royale parking lot, because it is closer to the casino then The Mirage parking lot is. I wanted to show them the hooker bar, I mean Baccarat Bar. It was interesting as always. They had something to eat at the coffee shop, and I just walked around a little bit.

That was it for us that night. I would have played more Spanish 21 at Casino Royale, but they had the table closed because somebody spilled a beer on the table.

Friday:

I got up Friday still feeling good. An amazing fact, since I have had only 13 hours sleep over the course of three nights. Ahhh, the power of Vegas. I go down to the Spanish 21 table, which is now dry. I buy in for $600 and start to play my system at $10. High risk, high reward. I tend to be conservative at the beginning of my trips, then start to hit it a little harder. Things are going well. Mae is my dealer. She hustles for tokes a little, but in a cute, non-offensive way. She keeps telling me that I am lucky, and I was. I never did lose a tip bet with her.

Things were going well. I never lost more then three in a row. This keeps my heart rate down. My heart rate is at the max when I am on the potentially sixth losing bet in a row. Didn?t happen though.

Casino Royale has a great cocktail waitress that looks like Helen Hunt. I call her Helen. She remembered this time, what I was drinking, from last time. I appreciate that level of professionalism. I also enjoy messing with her. On my third round of two diet cokes, one with ice, one without (I do this because the glasses are so small), I take a sip of it and go "Wow". It had rum in it! I called her over to say "whad up wid dis?" She says, "whoops, try the other one too." It had rum in it too. This allows me to make a big deal of it for a good long time. "Man, ten years of sobriety down the drain!" She's laughing and saying, "Sure, sure, like those Killian's you were drinking yesterday didn't count huh? Would you like me to bring you more diet cokes?" I said, "Screw it, just bring me the bottle now!". That one got the bartender that made the mistake laughing.

The best thing that happened during that session was when I asked Mae when the cut card was coming. I don't like to endure my losses from one shoe into the next shoe. Bad mojo. When I asked, she said two more hands, so I quit my system. As soon as I quit the system, I lost eight hands in a row. This happened to me before at that very same table. She could not figure out why I was giggling like a goof as I lost eight hands in a row. It was at that point that I started to get that dangerous "bullet proof" feeling. Do you know what I mean? That feeling that you are going to be able to do anything, and not lose. It never came back to bite me on the butt like it has in the past.

I flat bet for awhile, happy to be up. I then go back on the system, confident that the six lose run is now "out" of the deck. I end up playing for 2 hours, walking with a $500 profit. I am now $416 in the black, and I never looked back.

I head for The Monte Carlo. I want to play regular blackjack there, as it has surrender and stands on S17, plus you can drink the brew pub beers at the tables. The best shoe blackjack game in town. As it was almost noon, it was almost beer time too.

Before I start playing though, I go to New York New York. I wanted to see The ESPN Zone. I looked at the menu and saw a hamburger for $10. It was not that cool of a place to justify a $10 burger, so I went on down to Nine Fine Irishman. It WAS cool enough to pay $10 for fish and chips. It looks just like the Fado Irish Pubs. There was a couple sitting at the bar with me that was from my convention, so we had a good conversation discussing the conference.

I stole someone's comedy material from here on the board as I walked back to Monte Carlo. This was the only time I encountered any porn slappers during the trip. I used the opportunity to take out my pen and take a piece of literature from one of them and "autographed" it, then handed it back saying, "No autographs please, I'm very important." I didn't know anyone was around until I heard the couple behind me laughing.

I get back to Monte Carlo and sat down at a $5 table and bought in for $1,600. I started playing at $25. There were three other guys playing too. They were playing bigger then I was. There was one guy that sat down and lost $200 in pretty short order. He said, "I'm in trouble now. I have to go back and tell my wife I lied to her. Before I came over here I said she was a bitch and that I was going to go win some money. I didn't win any money." He was laughing at his joke. We all had a good time. Especially because I walked away $900 richer after a little over an hours worth of play! I never got up to the $800 bet and I only got up to the $400 bet one time. They were not so lucky, but they were having a good time nonetheless.

I would have stayed longer, but I had another thing to do from my "things to do list". On to the Porn Convention!

Everyone in town knew that this convention was going on. There was a lot of joking and tittering about it everywhere I went.

I parked at Casino Royale, then jumped the little wall between there and The Venetian. That put me right into the lobby. It was a long haul back to the Sands Convention Center though. Once again I marveled at how huge the convention facilities are. I think The Sands is the biggest one.

I had read on their web site that "Fan tickets" would cost $40. I saw the booth that was selling them. I also saw the door to the exhibit floor. I presumed that their convention was organized about as well as mine was, so I walked in through the out door. Call me crazy, but I snuck into the Porn Convention. I felt less dirty that way! Lol.

It was interesting. It would have been worth $40 to see it. Even though it was for the X rated industry, the exhibit floor was only R rated. No completely naked people and no hard core porn on the video monitors. Here I was thinking I was being all wild and all, and yet this was sort of tame. Sort of tame. I guess the three girls in the thong bikinis that were rolling around on top of each other, actually swapping spit (it's just suppose to be an expression ladies!), on top of their booth sort of appealed to my prurient interests, or the six girls at the Shari's Ranch booth jumping up and down throwing mints to the crowd might have been a little above tame, but all in all, it was not what I was expecting.

There were porn stars galore signing autographs. The only name that I recognized was Ginger Lynn, as I am not "hip" to the porn scene. She had a long line for an autograph, so I didn?t wait. I did get an autograph from Vixen LaMoore and Minka, two gals from the Scoreland.com booth. I don?t know if they are anybody or not. The only reason I wanted an autograph was so I could tell them my name. When Vixen asked my name, I very calmly said "Dick Magnum". She starts to write, then looks up and says "Are you f--king with me?" I very innocently said "Why, no." She continues to write and chuckles saying, "That's pretty good.? So if any of you ever see that name in a movie, you reMEMBER where you heard it first!

A guy at one booth handed me a small sample of "Stroker" cream as I walked by. I thought it was some sort of blow on it and it gets hot stuff, but then I read the side of it. It was a self-help aid! Now why in the world did that guy hand it to ME! I'm laughing as I write this. Of course he was handing it to everyone that walked by.

After I saw the two guys in leather masks flogging the girl in the corset stretched out on some sort of device, I think I had enough. There was just a huge crowd, so I was ready to go. Now I can say "Been there, done that." There really were some interesting characters there though, both in the booths, and guests walking around.

Stopped at The Venetian's sports book to make some futures bets on the NCAA basketball tournament. Asked for some drink tickets, and the guy at the window said just sit down, they would serve you drinks. Every place is different it seems.

Back to the hotel to get showered (I felt so dirty!) and dressed for the big end of the conference banquet that night. Got my tuxedo on and picked up my friends. Back to Mandalay Bay. The first part of the evening was an awards presentation. It was set up like the Academy awards, with presenters, screaming and yelling when the winners were announced, crying recipients, the whole thing. It went on for about two hours. That was about 1 ½ hours too long for me. This was not fun like the other parties were. This is wasted gambling time.

They then led us into the banquet room. Very nice. I have never seen tables decorated this way. It was cool. More open bars too (of course!). One of the bars had ice sculptures with curly tube openings through them. The bartender would shake a drink, then pour it into the top of the ice. You would watch the drink loop around, then come out the hole at the bottom of the ice block into your cocktail glass. It was a nice presentation.

The dinner was coursed out. Very nice. All the while there is entertainment on the stage. Then the dancing started. It was a pretty good time.

It was over at 1:00 am. I took my friends back to their hotel and said our good byes. It had been good to see him, and we had had a good time. His girlfriend said that we got into too much trouble being together, that we were too much a like. She also commented on my smart-ass ways, how I play with people. "If you weren't as big as you were, you probably would have had your ass kicked at least four times this week!" She was laughing when she said it, but she might be right. It's just my way of trying to bring a little humor into people's lives.

So now that I had gotten rid of the dead wood, (just kidding buddy! He'll read this) it was time to get serious.

I have always wanted to play baccarat at a big table. I have never even played mini baccarat, but I like to experience new things, and since I now looked like James Bond, I was ready to act like him too.

So I went into the baccarat room and sat down at the table with all the Asians playing. I wanted to witness their rituals up close. Bought in for $1000, got my ten black chips, and put one out on banker, all the time trying to look as smooth as possible. The dealer looks at me for a second, and then motions to the minimum bet sign. "$300" it says. Oops. So much for my smooth moment! So I gather my chips up and slink over to the measly $100 minimum table, regulated to sitting with the Americans at the "back" table.

It was fun. I was by far the smallest better at the table. The minimum anybody else pushed out was $500 each hand. There I was, just one of the guys.

After my run at Monte Carlo, I was now $1,316 ahead for the trip. I realized that a $1000 investment was sizable, but I had wanted to do it for several trips, and I was going to be okay losing all of it. From practicing on the internet, I knew that ten units could last a long time. I was all set to enjoy it as long as it lasted.

The first enjoyable part was when the cocktail waitress asked for a drink order. I was very tempted to ask for a martini, shaken, not stirred, but I had a pretty good buzz going from all the different "through the ice" drinks that I had tried at the party (Gee, doesn't the green one look cool going through the ice!). So I got a bottle of water instead.

I knew from the Wizard of Odds that the best thing to do at baccarat is to bet banker all the time. That is pretty much what I did. But you don?t have to bet every hand when you are at the table, as I noticed from observing two guys at the other end of the table. So I bet with the guys on my end of the table when they were on banker, then didn't bet when they were on player. That way I could be on the "team", but still stick to my strategy.

The funniest thing was when one of my "teammates" asked why I was dressed up. I said that I received an award tonight at the banquet. I'm sure, at least I hoped, that they immediately thought about the Porn convention. One of the other ones said, "what did you win?" I said I won for "Most Dependable Stunt C-ck". One of them started to nod his head like, "oh, that's cool" and the other one started to chuckle. Then I said, "but it's not so special, this is the third year in row that I've won." And then I couldn't hold it any longer and started to laugh. Everyone thought that was pretty funny.

I have decided that baccarat is an easy game. I played just short of an hour, and won $1000. I was glad when the "team" quit, because that gave me an out to quit too. Before I started, I was good with the thought of losing my buy-in, the price I was willing to pay for the experience. But now that I was so far ahead, I didn't want to give any of it back! I said I was finished, and they gave me my two yellow chips. I walked around a bit then went to the main cage to cash them in. Another faux paux. "Sir, you can only cash these in the baccarat room." You live and you learn.

I think I will take my tuxedo on more trips. There was some entertainment value that I grasped too late to have fun with. When you are standing in a casino with a tuxedo shirt and bow tie, people assume you work there. I didn't get that when one person asked me were the bathroom was, nor when someone asked me where the buffet was. Only when the guy came up to me and said "Can you help me? I'm having trouble with my casino credit and?" "I don't work here." I had to say to cut him off. If it hadn't been three in the morning, and me chugging along on an average of fours sleep a night, and for the fact of the several mixed drinks I had consumed earlier, I would have had the presence of mind to mess with the poor fellow by saying "Don't tell me your problems, you big fat loser, I'm punched out". It would be worth carrying a tuxedo shirt from home for the looks I could get out of people. But I'm not really that way. Maybe.

I walked out of The Mirage feeling pretty good. I felt so good that I didn't want to quit yet. I walked over to the Spanish 21 table at Casino Royale, but it was closed. I asked when it was to open, and he said in ten minutes. I told him I would change, then come back down. A tuxedo is a bit of a stretch for The Mirage, but in the confines of Casino Royale, it is otherworldly!

I went to my room to change. It was now after 3 am. I calculated that I had to leave the hotel at 6 am to make my 8 am flight. "I guess I should just stay up".

I bought in for $600 at the Spanish 21 table. Played for an hour and a half. Hit blackjacks on my $80 bet twice, and once on my $160 bet. Pretty fun stuff. Won $325. Man, this is just getting boring. NOT! But I was really starting to drag, and there were three guys at the table that were smoking and blowing it at the dealer. She was getting mad, and I didn't want to put up with any of it. My gambling was now over. I was $2,600 up for the trip. This pushes my long term to date results back into the black. Very nice.

So I went to my room. Set my alarm, got into bed, but I couldn't go to sleep. Unbelievably, I just laid there, thinking about everything. Finally I gave up and just packed up, and checked out. I had two free nights from their mailer (I get it ever month), so I ended up having to pay $40 after my comps were deducted from the other two, not included in the offer, nights. Not bad at all.

Dropped off the rent car, and got to the gate an hour after leaving the room. I am writing this in my report so that maybe I will remember that for next time. Of course I didn't have any waiting for anything at 6:30 am.

Got on the plane, closed my eyes, and an instant later, I was in Austin.

All and all another great trip.