BSiegs returns with part one of a two-part trip report filled with booze, fun, gambling, friends, and good times.
Day One – Friday, October 20
After a long, Vegas-less summer, fall had arrived in Chicago. And more importantly, my first Vegas trip in *gasp* five months had also arrived. With two of my best friends and favorite Vegas wingmen, Kubs and Matt by my side, I knew this trip was poised to be a special one.
And for the first time in a while, I arrived without any flight delays. A welcomed relief, I grabbed an Uber and made my way to The D. Check in was fast and reliable as always, and after a quick stop in the room, I was on the casino floor.
This is a moment I always eagerly anticipate. The countdown, the planning, and the budget immediately melt away. It’s suddenly you and Vegas.
Kubs and Matt were going to be later arrivals, so I let the music of The D wash over me. I grabbed a seat at Longbar and slid a couple quick $20s into the VP machine. A beer was ordered.
As a group, we have long gotten used to brutal gambling beginnings. For some reason, winning or losing trip, there is always a quick sacrifice to the Gambling Gods. I had accepted that on this trip, as the first arriver, that responsibility fell on me.
So imagine my surprise when this showed up in front of me: J 4 4 4 4
On .50 Double Bonus, that meant a quick $200 in my pocket. A clap, a fist pump, and another celebratory beer. And maybe a bigger shocker?
I didn’t dump the money back. I hit cash out at $240 ($200 up) and made my way to Pizza Rock. I wasn’t about to make that rookie mistake…at least not this early in a trip.
What else needs to be said about Pizza Rock? It’s superb. I sat at the bar and got great service. I had a Pizza Port Chronic, which is about as perfect a pizza beer as there is. And a massive New Yorker Pizza, which has sliced sausage, pepperoni, and ricotta.
Up $200, sipping a beer, and indulging in a New Yorker. Vegas, you win. You always do.
Full and feeling good, I wanted to roll some dice. As I took stock of The D tables, I saw two longtime favorite dealers, Iva and Herman. That made for an easy choice.
And while I do love them as dealers, I have to give an honest assessment. Even if it pains me. Their tables have not been profitable for me. Not even close. It’s almost like with fast, efficient dealers, the game is meant for the house to win a little over half the time. But nah. That can’t be it.
Whatever the cause, my $200 went to the house in short order. I was back to even.
A change of scenery felt like the right move. And my favorite casino in Vegas, the Golden Gate, had unveiled their expansion since my last visit. So once again, a no-brainer. I had to go check it out.
As for the expansion, it is…fine. The entrance is pretty grand. The TV tower and mirrors surrounding the centerpiece are impressive. And within that area, there are a ton of new slot machines that look fun.
But I don’t come to the Golden Gate for slots. It is the land of table games. So for me? Golden Gate is exactly the same. Except for a new partition around the men’s restroom. I can’t say that is a particularly exciting addition. Luckily, Golden Gate, you are beautiful just the way you are.
I grabbed a seat at Table 1, my go-to blackjack table. There was a delightful couple from Texas and we fell into an immediate rhythm. Joking, laughing, and winning. Just how you draw it up.
Our dealer was probably fun, but apparently, not memorable. I do remember that I learned this couple was in town for their son’s 21st birthday. Shortly thereafter, he stopped over, showing them his modest winnings from the other table.
And I couldn’t help myself. He had just turned 21 the day before. He was up nicely. I had to gently start chiding him to join us. Call it a character flaw.
First, I’m an enabler. My friends can confirm this.
Second, I wanted to keep his run going.
And lastly, I can’t lie, I wanted some of that luck.
It came. In spades.
Blackjacks. Miracle 21’s. Dealer busts. Everything you could want. Me, Cody, and his parents were having a fantastic time.
And much like I did after the VP run, I played it smart. Matty was in transit from the airport and I decided that I didn’t have to press this luck. At the end of the shoe, I pushed my chips in to color up. $200 into $413. Not a bad hour’s work.
Once again up, I made the Fremont strut, drink in hand, with a smile on my face. And on the other end of the rainbow? My buddy Matt. Also with a smile on his face. It was officially time for this Vegas trip to begin.
After a room pit stop and bite of cold pizza (Do this. You will be pleased with yourself.), we hit the floor.
Craps. Craps was the move.
The usual D evening crew was on, including our main man Doug. He, unfortunately, wasn’t on our side of the table, but his aura still surrounded us. Everything felt right.
Matt (Or Matty, or Marty, or Dale, or any other ridiculous name I decide to refer to him as) and I rolled well. Others rolled well. Table cheers and high fives were had. The jams were rocking. The cocktails were coming at a furious pace. Like I said, everything felt right.
And it was. We were soon up a hundred or two each.
Once again, we made the wise choice. Shove in and color up. Besides, Kubs was on his way.
As we slowly bled a little of the winnings back on a blackjack table, he made his approach. We gave the traditional hugs hello and gave him a key for a quick pitstop/pizza-stop.
Full Vegas. That’s the only way to describe it. We made the peak Fremont walk, with bands playing, crowds dancing, and the energy inescapable. What else do you need?
OK, I can’t speak for you. But WE need one more thing. It’s why we were making the walk.
The Golden Gate.
No casino in Vegas makes the transition that Golden Gate does. The D always feels incredibly upbeat. The Strip casinos, while they have their strengths, never meet the nighttime vibe of Stevens’ joints. And while I thoroughly enjoyed my daytime trip to the GG, the winnings didn’t hurt that, it didn’t compare to this scene.
We walked into the music rocking and atmosphere at full 10. A survey of the pit and we knew it was blackjack time. After all, this is our smaller group trip, which I have affectionately coined our “Blackjack Trips”. Unlike our full group trips, these just skew blackjack. It isn’t that we don’t love craps…we obviously do. But with three guys, a blackjack table at Golden Gate is perfection. There just isn’t a reason to move.
So we don’t.
As the cards started coming, so did our go-to cocktail waitress, Sonya. She gave us the knowing hellos and the knowing vodka red bulls. They tasted vodka-y.
Uh oh. It was on.
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t part of our allure to the Golden Gate. We’ve come to know cocktail waitresses, pit bosses, and dealers. It is truly a home away from home. And maybe that is just good business on their part. But you know what? I’m fine with that. We never felt that on our numerous Strip trips earlier in our Vegas “careers”. We’ve settled in beautifully at the GG and phenomenal customer service has plenty to do with it.
As for the cards, they were fully average…for Matty and Kubs. They were around even. I was getting shellacked. But I had some winnings to play with, was feeling good, and had my buddies to keep the conversation fun. I couldn’t have been happier.
Shortly after our evening run began, Natalia joined the table. She has been a group favorite dealer over the last few trips and for good reason. She’s sweet, fun, and has an infectious smile. We like to mess with her and vice versa, which Kubs took immediate advantage of.
“Natalia, I saw you giving us the look over there. Were you jealous that we weren’t playing with you?” he asked with a smirk.
Her glare back said it all. This night was going to be fun.
Here, I have to admit something troubling. I wish it wasn’t true.
This trip is a haze. We had more fun than I can recall…literally. Drinks were pouring strong and fast. And while I know that I had an amazing time every night, so much has been lost to the ether.
And that’s where your trip report name comes in. I wish I had more stories, more memories, and more ridiculousness to share. But all I can say is that this is the most Vegas of trip reports I have ever written. Everything feels like a blur and vaguely like I’m watching someone else in a movie about Vegas. At least they are having a good time?
As I said, I do remember having a great time with Natalia. She was throwing us numbers, keeping the conversation going, and ensuring that our Vegas trip started off right. She’s just a genuinely nice person. Financially, we were probably even or better at her table…but it doesn’t particularly matter.
We also played with Aaricka, who was new to us. She was fun and for me, the luckiest dealer of the night. My stack grew under her watch and many fist bumps we shared. As one does.
The last dealer to make an impression? Vanessa. And please do not misunderstand, I liked Vanessa. She was fun, nice, and all that jazz.
But she destroyed me. And despite the other gentlemen having a much better overall night, she wasn’t kind to them either. She soon had a theme.
Ay. Ay. Ay.
It didn’t matter what she had showing. It turned into a nineteen, twenty, or twenty-one. After many of these, vanquishing us all yet again, she’d let out that call.
Ay. Ay. Ay.
We did let out muted laughs. After all, she clearly cared and was rooting for us. Which we appreciated. But it wasn’t happening. As the clock was hitting 3 AM, we knew we had to ring the bell.
Night One in Vegas was over. But this trip was just getting started.
Day Two – Saturday, October 21
7:30 AM. That was enough sleep. I had a full Vegas day in front of me and knew my body wouldn’t cooperate with any attempt at rolling back over.
So I headed down to Longbar, where I sipped my usual AM coffee and screwdriver. The perfect teammates.
Part of the reason for being up so early was a desire to get a little VP in before our Wisconsin Badgers played at 9 AM local time. They were playing Maryland, which was an easy game on paper, but I wanted to ensure that my focus would be on that and not curing my Early Morning Vegas Shakes ™.
Soon thereafter, Kubs joined me and we quickly agreed. The Cal, where we found a surprisingly great sportsbook on our last trip, was where we’d watch the game. We were pleased to find three comfortable seats together, saving one for Matt, and soon had beers in hand as the game started. While we were rooting for the Badgers, we couldn’t resist dropping a few dollars on Maryland +24. We can separate emotion from the right bet.
As the game progressed, we gained two friends. The first was obvious. Matty soon made his appearance and was hoping to bring some Badger luck with him, as they started slow. Second was a nice gentleman named Jim (or was it Pat?). He was a middle aged Badger fan, and soon enough, we were casually talking Badger sports and rooting Bucky on. He was staying at the Golden Nugget and even had a bird’s eye view of the Downtown Watch Zone, where we’d be watching the NFL the next day.
The game was enjoyable. The Kilt Lifters (an Arizona scotch ale) were going down like water and the Badgers began pulling away. Soon, they were up 22 with under a minute to go.
Sure, Bucky was in field goal range. But luckily, we have a conservative head coach who would NEVER run it up.
He kicked the field goal. Ugh. Badgers win by 25.
Which was great, but c’mon Coach Chryst. We were really hoping that plus 24 would cash.
Wallets a bit lighter, we grabbed an Uber and headed off to Yard House in the Linq Promenade for lunch. This was my pick for several reasons.
One, I love a good beer list. They have one. Two, the food looked solid.
And three? It was near O’Sheas and Cromwell, two places I was hoping to gamble at. O’Sheas because despite being regulars of the REAL O’Sheas, we still haven’t played at the new venue. Cromwell because I want to support Caesars offering some good gambling rules on the Strip.
But three wasn’t to be. Remember, this is the Lost in the Ether trip. We had some good beers and some good food. I had the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich and remember being happy with it. The other gentlemen were satisfied as well, Kubs in particular.
By the time we finished, we decided that some rest was in order. We wanted to ensure we’d be fully rested and ready for the Saturday night ahead.
Fast forward a couple boring, old man hours.
We actually had this conversation on the trip. Was this just an anomaly? Did we drink too heavily? Or are we just getting old? I guess time will tell, but the afternoon nap, always an option for those not feeling up to par, was a full-scale feature on this trip. Drunk happens, I suppose.
I do know that we aren’t TOO old yet though. After waking up and gearing up, we decided that some cocktails at Park on Fremont was Stop #1. It’s a cool spot that we’ve hit before and was a good way to get our energy level back up.
We started with a drink at the front outside bar, which is a nice spot. Only three seats wide, it fit us perfectly. You can see the Vegas action passing by and it set the tone perfectly for an evening in Vegas.
Shortly thereafter, we started chatting up some locals and they showed us the real Park gem.
Not the back patio, which is solid. Probably a nice place to have a meal.
But keep going further back. No, further. Through a little opening on the left side, you emerge into the hidden part of Park.
And it’s glorious.
A quiet, secluded area with some seating and a bona fide teeter-totter. Oh, and an amazing sign above said teeter-totter. It reads:
Teeter Totter at your own risk.
Don’t be a fuck head.
Let’s be honest. This is Grade A life advice. We enjoyed the sign, some mild teeter tottering, more cocktails, and chatting with the aforementioned locals.
I’ll be honest, for this trip, this is the memory that sticks in my head the most. Just a completely distinct Vegas moment. That’s right, for me, a Vegas trip is ultimately encapsulated by a teeter-totter.
And I’m fine with that.
In the end, isn’t that what gambling is? A glorified teeter-totter? Ups and downs. And it was now pushing 7 PM. Which meant the Golden Gate was in our sights.
Once in the new doors of the Golden Gate, we made an interesting…and fun choice. Free Bet Blackjack. It had been a while, we were ready to play, and a seemingly nice dealer named Amber was ready to deal.
Free bet was a common choice for a two or three trip run a few years ago, but on recent trips, it has struggled to make even a cameo appearance. On this night, we would rectify that.
This table was superb. Amber was friendly and fun. The banter was flying. Sonya was doing Sonya things, and for us, that, unfortunately, meant an absurd number of vodka red bulls.
But most importantly? I was red hot. My stack quickly became a mountain of greens. After buying in for $200, I was definitely over $600 at one point.
At one point.
Remember earlier when I said I wouldn’t make that rookie mistake? Well, you may or may not have noticed, but I hedged with a “…at least not this early in a trip.” It’s no longer early. After getting a good day drunk base, indulging in cocktails at Park, forgetting to eat dinner (a tragic mistake), and the flurry of vodka red bulls? My decision making faculties were not operating at peak performance.
My aggressiveness spiked. We soon found ourselves at a standard blackjack table with my new just-turned-21 friend Cody playing alongside us and a new-to-us dealer, Brenda, at the controls.
This is one of my few cogent memories from the evening. Brenda began mimicking Vanessa from the night before, at least with the cards, issuing dealer pull after dealer pull.
The funniest part though? She’d “flop” out her…ummm…winning unit afterwards. Imagine placing your hand on the underside of your elbow and flopping the backside of your hand on the table.
Yeah, that. That was Brenda’s move.
We laughed and she took our money, after her the flop of course. She was particularly rough on Cody, but he seemed to be enjoying the punishment. Hopefully, he learns that lesson, but as I’ve learned many times, it can be tough to leave a fun table in Vegas.
But soon I had to. Why? Well, for one, I was too drunk. A rare Vegas occasion for me, but forgetting to eat dinner will do that.
Second? I was out of money. And with another 1.5 days in Vegas, I couldn’t dig deeper just yet. I made the extremely rare call to be the first back to the room…at just after midnight.
I can’t help but shake my head. I’m ALWAYS the last one out. It’s a point of pride for me. The only real question is who my partner in crime will be. But on this night, my only partners in crime were a McDouble and Spicy McChicken in my comfy bed at The D.
Marty and Kubs on the other hand? They battled. Kubs was flying out in the morning, so was destined to take Saturday night to the limit. Matt battled with him. They reported more fun times with Free Bet, learning that our dealer Amber was an ex of Eddie Lacy, Cody being infatuated with taking a beating from Brenda, and many, many, many more vodka red bulls.
And I missed it all. Not my best night…which would lead to not my best morning…
[Photo Cred. BSiegs & LasVegasJunkie]