May 30
by Don

I have read a ton of poker books over the years and I have to say that Barry Greenstein’s Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide (Amazon) is one of my favorites. Barry is a top pro and is respected the world over. He has a very inviting and easy style about his writing that I really enjoy.

The photography throughout the book is vivid, appropriate and engaging; which I find refreshing as compared to the norm for this type of book. I think that I enjoy it more than most because it assumes that you understand the basic premise of no limit and it truly gives you some insight to a higher level of play. He uses real hands that he has played and tournament scenarios that help visualize the points that he makes.

There is a small amount of poker theory, but again it’s well illustrated and thought provoking. There is also a forward by Doyle Brunson that is very good, but that’s just icing on this already great cake.

This won’t be the first book in your collection, but it’s one that you most certainly should have if you are serious about playing at the next level. It’s also nice enough to be on your coffee table and your folks won’t even know the difference.

May 29
by Don

Getting around in Vegas can be an adventure.  The lights and the allure is certainly inviting and you find yourself wanting to take it all in.  Well my friend; that is no small task when you consider that the Strip itself is over 4 miles long.  Throw in the fact that you could walk for days just inside some of these behemoths, and your dogs will start to bark.


So aside from the constant walking, you have a couple of options.  Taking a cab is your first introduction to Vegas.  Here is a cab line on a typical Friday night at the airport; umm not so nice.  However, the line moves fairly quickly and they have it down to a science so you will spend 30-45 mins max, unless we are talking New Years or something when the crush of people it tremendous.  The cost is about $23-25 to get you to the heart of the strip and is shorter if they take Tropicana to get there, but they almost never do.  So enjoy the tunnel and highway and hold on because I have yet to get in a cab that isn’t doing 90-100 on that interstate stretch to the strip.


Once you are there you can take cabs from one end of the strip to the other, but depending on the time of day and if the cabbie knows any side streets, this can add up.  Especially when you consider the time you will wait in a cab line, you could be talking a serious commitment.


One alternative is the Monorail.  Now I would only recommend that you buy the 10 rides for $35 ticket.  It’s the best value and you can use it for multiple people.  Plus it’s good for a year from when you buy it so you can use it when you come back (and you will come back).  This is a good alternative if you are on the east side of the strip and need to go a stop of two.  One ride is one ride so if you are at the MGM and you are going to the Strat, then this is definitely a deal.  The Monorail is fast and runs on time so it’s a pretty quick alternative at 10 pm on when Vegas really picks up.


So with a good mix of walking, cabs, and the monorail you should be able to get around in Vegas no problem.  I have left out Limos because they are just not a cost effective way to get around, no matter how hard they try to sell you when you are standing in line.  Don’t fall for it!

May 25
by Don

So now you are a Blackjack expert.  You have taken what I talked about in the first part of this strategy and now are looking for the payoff, right?


Great, so let’s get into it and talk about getting rated.


One of the main reasons why I love Blackjack is it’s a game that involves people.  As you know from a previous post on tipping, having people involved when you are gambling is always a good thing.   When you are doing well, having a good time and generally in good spirits good things are going to happen.  This is where getting rated comes in.


Your Gateway To All Things Comp'edEvery time you sit down you need to put your player’s card on top of the money you are changing for chips.  Now if you are not playing @ $25 per hand then this really doesn’t matter as your play will not be rated highly in a lot of places, or not at all in others.  But if you are; then now you are in business.


So now you are getting your money “washed” and the dealer is calling over the pit boss to get your play in the system.  This is where the amount that you buy in at plays a roll in the calculations.  Getting rated early and often is the key to elevating your status and ultimately getting your piece of the RFB (Room, Food and Beverage) pie. The formula is a rough one, but basically it boils down to the amount that you sit down with, what your average bet is, how long you play, and what you leave with.  


Since you are going to be gambling anyways, you might as well start getting some of the comps along the way.  Those start with small discounts on food and better room rates.  As you move up the ladder, you will get free nights and they will even start giving you money to play with.  It’s a beautiful thing.


You should use your card every time you do anything, but when you are playing at the tables there is more opportunities for good things to happen because it’s the pit bosses who are actually determining what kind of player you are.  I have had pit bosses in the past put in larger starting amounts, long play times and just generally helping the players like me out.  This is not going to happen every time you sit down of course, but if you are practicing Good Karma, then good things will happen for you too! Yummy!


So saddle up pards and let’s get that cocktail waitress over, I need a drink!






May 25
by Don

On this year’s March Madness trip we had an interesting cast of characters.  Myself, “44”, and Hollywood are the core members of this annual trip.  We really enjoy analyzing the teams, watching all of the games and betting too many of them.  It’s a trip that we really immerse ourselves into the action.


Unfortunately this year we added some different guys to the mix and the results were mixed at best.  The group was all over the map with one of the guys coming off of a divorce and looking to make up for lost time.  Don't Be Deceived, Danny Is The Only One SmilingWe had another guy who just wanted to golf and really nothing else.  And then we had this guy Mike (Moose) who fancied himself as a Vegas pro since he had been a couple of times before.  Now normally this would have been a great thing.  44 and I welcome the opportunity to have someone added to the mix that can fill in the gaps in the itinerary.  The problem is that there were none.  We had the rooms and meals more than covered so there was really no need to do anything else.  But that’s not what happened.


So Moose had his heart set on seeing Danny Gans.  He was told by a good buddy that this guy was amazing.  He basically browbeat the group into seeing the “Entertainer of the Year”, but what year or even what decade no one knows.  Well we headed over to the Mirage and decided to give it a shot since Moose already plunked down the money for the show on his Visa.


Now I have to say, Danny has talent.  He can do a lot of impersonations and his show basically is one long impersonation.  George Burns, Really Is That Still Funny?The only issue is that his entire set is geared toward the blue-hair crowd.  When you are still doing George Burns and Joan Rivers bits, then you know you are anything but contemporary.  It is a variety show so there is some singing (Simon Cowell would kick this guy’s ass not only for his terrible singing but for stealing his tight black t-shirt look!), some ventriloquism, and of course impersonations.  The show just didn’t have any flow and the transitions between bits were just not there.


Basically this is an “old” Vegas style show, much in the same vain as Wayne Newton (note: We have seen him too and it was just sad.  Please don’t spend that money either!).  Thankfully Moose sat on the end of our row and couldn’t hear or see anything that was being said by us.  We were dying.  I actually left to go to the bathroom about halfway through and I debated even coming back.  Well I did come back, but I stood in the entryway with the usher who was in love with Danny.  It was a little eerie.


The One Finger ReviewSo there you have it.  A show with no real flow with a guy who has some talent but is far from the most entertaining show you could see on any given night on the strip.  Personally I would recommend any Cirque du Soleil show over this one in a heartbeat, but you might want to have subject matter for constant jokes over the course of your trip.  If that’s the case than it’s Dan-tastic!

May 22
by Don

I am not a very spiritual guy by any means; however I am a big believer in Karma.


There are so many things that happen in Vegas that simply can not be explained in any other way than Karma.  There is almost always a guy who has a completely negative attitude at the Blackjack table and just loses constantly.  He is cursing and generally unhappy.  Then the bubbly Coed sits down at the table and proceeds to win 5 in a row and she is stoked.  He is still sour, rude, and generally unpleasant yet she is having the time of her life.  Karma.


So I have a philosophy that even old “44” has picked up on; and that’s tipping.  I mean tipping everyone who does anything for you while you are in Vegas.


I know that there will be some resistance to this, because why in the world is the cab stand guy deserving of anything when he just whistles for a cab and throws you in?  Well I don’t know other than it’s a dollar, and you will get great service.  $1 goes so far that you will be amazed at how people’s faces light up when you tip and thank them for providing you with a drink; some change; or even a pay out.


Here is a quick run down of who and what you should be tipping while you are in Vegas (not a definitive list by any means, feel free to expand when necessary):


Cab Driver – $2 per trip

Taxi Stand Guy – $1 again it doesn’t feel right at first, but do it

Bell Stand Guy – $1 per bag

Waiter –  20-30%, depending on your level of service

BJ Dealer –  $1 tips on your bet when you can, varies with play

Cocktail Server – $1 per drink, if you don’t you will go thirsty!

Maid – $2 per night/person, they clean your toilet, `nuff said

Casino Cashier – $1 when you are cashing your winnings, why not?

Front Desk – $20 if they upgrade you, but probably won’t take it.

Casino Host – $50-? if you have one then you’re a balla; tip like one.


I will leave you with a nugget that actually convinced “44” that this is the way.  Every year a couple of us go out to bet college basketball during March Madness.  We are betting a ton of games and I am winning more than I am losing at this point.  We are at the MGM sportsbook and I am cashing my tickets in with the same two ladies all day.  I tip every time I cash in a winner and chat them up all the while.  Well on 3 different occasions over the course of the day I was overpaid by $50, $100, and then $50 again.  They were honest mistakes I think, but every time I was at the window they would scan the tickets, be happy for me winning, we would chit chat, I would get my tip out for them, and then collect the money.   Only one of them would count my money back to me, and she just counted it out incorrectly.  The other just game me my winnings and that was that.  There is so much money going in and out during that first weekend of games that I am sure it’s hard to keep up with all of the small timers like me, but it’s nice when people make “mistakes” in your favor.  True Story.


Like I have been told by countless dealers, “this is not my money and I would rather see you take it then the house.”  Don’t even get me started about what goes on at the Blackjack tables. 


So do the right thing every time and good things will happen to you too!

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