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Gary and Sue got married!
Saturday, August 2, 2003
Scroll for photos.
Scroll for our honeymoon diary.
We hope you all had as great a time at the wedding as we did. You were
very generous with your gifts, thanks very much. (The giver of
one gift remains unidentified - a scented candle with a brown wooden 5x7 Potter
& Smith picture frame.)
Since this page was previously used for lodging info, I'll state here that Greg
and Dan and Gary stayed at the Budget Inn on Route 31 near Fairport, the night
before the wedding. For $79, it was way overpriced. It was clean,
but in other ways it was a dump. There, I feel better.
Honeymoon diary links:
Tuesday, September 2, 2003
September 3, 2003
... Thursday, September 4, 2003
... Friday, September 5, 2003
September 6, 2003
Gary and Susan's Vegas Honeymoon, September 2-6, 2003
We flew out of Rochester, NY. Gary's sister had given us rolls of
coins, and these confused the security people watching the x-ray of Gary's
carry-on bag. Susan's cuticle scissors practically brought in the National
Guard, but they ultimately allowed Susan on the plane with them.
We arrived at the Las Vegas (LV) airport (actually in Clark County)
and checked in to our hotel (the Flamingo hotel and casino) at the Park Place
desk near baggage carousel #1. There was a line of about ten people here, but
we would later see a line of many dozens of people at the hotel, so this is
definitely the best way to check in. The Park Place corporation owns Flamingo,
Paris, Bally's, Caesars, and the LV Hilton. You normally get your keys here,
but our room was not ready. Gary asked about a mini-suite, but it would have
been $60 extra per night, so we got room 16069, right next to the elevators and
with a view of the pool area. Some rooms are a long way from the elevators, so
this was quite nice. This room is a renovated room, so it did not have the
worn-out look of some rooms.
We arrived at the Flamingo at about noon, but had to wait until 3 pm
for our keys. We signed up for the Player's Club, which gives awards for
gambling. You get a mag-strip card which is inserted into machines or handed to
dealers. There is a wide, mall-like aisle below the registration area that
leads to the restaurants. We had salads at the unnamed soup & salad bar
next to the Pink Ginger restaurant. We walked farther down the aisle, past the
buffet, to the tour desk, and made reservations for a tour of Red Rock Canyon.
See Wednesday for a tour description.
We didn't do a whole lot before dinner. We lost about $15 in a $1
slot machine, then won $5.50 in a nickel slot machine. We had dinner at the
Eiffel Tower restaurant in Paris. This is a very opulent restaurant, where a
beautiful hostess in a gown leads you from the elevator to the dining room, and
the waiters all wear tuxedos.
Having said this about the restaurant, we had a drink at the bar
before being seated, and there was another couple next to us. After a bit, Gary
noticed that the man had pulled open his suit jacket and had moved close to his
female companion. His jacket then hid her left arm, and only her right arm was
visible for a few minutes. You decide...
Although all of our dinners were great, this was the best, with great
presentation, great food, and a great view. We were seated at a booth that was
situated in such a way that it would have been used by Frank, Jack, and
Marilyn, back in the day. We believe that we got the booth because Sue wore her
fancy wedding dress (a dress that works in public, not a typical white wedding
gown) to dinner that night. $246 including a bottle of wine and a tip. At all
our evening meals, we bought a bottle of wine. All dinner prices shown include
the wine, taxes, tip, etc.
We played quarter and nickel slots in the Paris casino and lost about $14.
We had a light breakfast at Bugsy's Deli. The Flamingo property was
originally owned by gangster Bugsy Siegel. Every transaction we saw at
the deli had some sort of goofup, such as incorrect change or incomplete
orders. The staff solved the problems, and Sue says they weren't friendly, but
Gary thinks they just weren't very bright. There were no muffins, so Gary had a
croissant, and the coffee was mediocre.
We went on a four-hour Pink Jeep tour of Red Rock Canyon. See
. Our guide was Mike Metzger. There were two other
guides with us, in training, and no other customers. The canyon is 16 miles
from the Strip. Of course, it's like a different world out there. Mike was very
knowledgeable about wildlife and fauna, and we saw wild horses and burros and
squirrels and rabbits and birds. Also, Mike pointed out various types of trees,
plants, and cacti. And lots of great scenery.
We returned to the Flamingo and had lunch at the Flamingo buffet,
which was quite nice. We then went for some gambling at Flamingo, where Gary
had found a 9-7 double-bonus video poker machine. More on gambling later. Gary
fluctuated here a couple hundred dollars and hit four 3s and cashed out with a
profit. Susan had planned to gamble at nickel slots, but the Flamingo wouldn't
exchange her rolls of dimes, so she went shopping. Gary took the dimes to
O'Shea's casino, which is run by Park Place and would accept the dimes. Gary
went back to the room because he was sort of dazed by having won the money.
Gary returned to the machine to get his Player's Club card, which was still in
the machine. Gary returned again to look for one remaining roll of dimes which
he had left in the coin return, but that was gone, so we count that as a $5
gambling loss. Then Gary watched TV until Susan returned.
We figured out how to use the buses. It's $2 per ride, up and down
the strip, or you can pay the driver $5 for a 24 hour pass. We had dinner at
Red Square, inside Mandalay Bay, several blocks from our hotel, which was too
far to walk in the 100 degree heat. We both had beef Stroganoff, which was
great. The service was great, and they have an amazing vodka selection, but we
don't drink vodka. The atmosphere is a bit dark and dingy, as it is themed on
Communist Russia, with pictures of Lenin on the wall. The music was modern, and
we wished they had pushed the Russian theme a bit more. About $200. We bought a
t-shirt here for Gary's son Dan.
We looked around at other casinos, but didn't gamble any more this day.
We had our light breakfast at the coffee counter near the Oktoberfest
beer area. The coffee was great, they had blueberry muffins, and we were able
to eat outside in the shade. The coffee was great here all week.
We headed out to Luxor where we had seen interesting games. We signed
up for their Player's Club. Most of the Player's Club cards are tied to
multiple casinos, depending on which corporation owns the casinos. We started
at a 98.4% slot machine, fluctuated a couple hundred dollars, and cashed out
with a profit.
We had lunch at the Luxor buffet, and Gary was impressed to find
small Polish sausages with sauerkraut. Susan then went shopping while
Gary sat at a full-pay video poker machine. Gary fluctuated here a couple
hundred dollars and cashed out with a four-of-a-kind and a profit. Unlike
most major Strip casino machines which print bar-coded tickets at cash-out
time, this game paid off with $1 tokens. Yeah, lots of them, and it's a
pain in the ass to carry tokens to the redemption counter.
We saw the show "O", by Cirque du Soleil, at Bellagio. There is a
pool of water built into the stage, and you can't see into it, but the show
takes place in and around the water.
We took a cab to the Venetian for dinner at Valentino. This was a
great restaurant as well. The atmosphere is that of a well-lit, modern,
eclectic, high class restaurant, contrasted with the dark, traditional,
high-class atmosphere of Eiffel Tower. Susan left the table for a moment at
Valentino, and the bus-girl re-folded her napkin while she was away. The dining
room is fairly small and quiet. About $230.
We had our light breakfast from the counter with the good coffee. We
went to Paris, a long block away from our hotel. We found the 98% slot
machines, fluctuated a couple hundred dollars, and made another nice profit on
these normally deadly slot machines. Sue went
Gary went to Bellagio for more video poker. Gary put $200 into a
full-pay machine and lost that, and put in another $100, and went down another
$50, so he was down $250. Finally, the machine started giving some hands, and
he worked his way back to even. He went back down $150 and worked his way even.
He went back down $150, got close to even, then hit two full-house hands in a
row. The last full house was dealt (no need to draw cards). He cashed out after
2.5 hours with a $25 profit.
Gary needed a break, so he went to talk to the Player's Club staff.
In the one session of video poker, he earned a free buffet for two, and $20
Gary then sat at a 9-7 double bonus video poker machine. This machine
was super hot and Gary cashed out quickly with a profit.
Gary couldn't lose, baby. So he went back to the 98% machines at
Paris, and quickly lost.
Gary didn't want to finish gambling on a losing note, so he went back
to Bellagio for one more round of double bonus VP. Up and down, then four aces
and a profit. (Ha, and you thought he was going to lose it all, didn't you?
Gary is convinced that if everyone would learn to play VP correctly, we would
bury Las Vegas in one day.) So there he was, walking around Vegas with
money in his pockets!
Gary bought a Harley t-shirt for his son Greg ($20). He returned to
the Flamingo to look for Sue at the pool, but she wasn't there. She was in the
room, and Gary told her about his five hours of gambling. Sue had been worried
that Gary had either been mugged, or was running wild around Vegas with a
showgirl on each arm, or had lost everything and was feverishly trying to win
We went to dinner at Elements in Aladdin, another modern-ish,
eclectic restaurant. Charles the waiter was a big, jolly guy, and we had a
great time and a great meal. About $200.
We then took a cab to New York, New York to see Rita Rudner (a
comedienne). We were in the second row of this small cabaret theater. It
appeared that they had both overbooked the front row, and had a couple of
no-shows, so there was lots of activity up front involving young women with
low-cut dresses. Rita's joke about expensive restaurants is that they no longer
show prices on menus, just faces with expressions of varying degrees of horror.
The show was great, and Rita told Gary (during her Q&A session) to quit
gambling while he was ahead. That must be a girl thing.
We took the bus to the Venetian to exchange some Rockport sandals
that Susan had bought Gary, for a different size. Then we took the bus back to
Gary got the good coffee from the counter and brought it back to the
room, and we packed. We got our shuttle to the airport. Gary swears there was a
slot machine there that would take your plane ticket and give you machine
credit. But Susan made him come home with her.
All four restaurants were 10 out of 10 for food and service. But
Eiffel Tower was truly world class, with great servers who were very friendly
and willing to chat. Our cool booth made for an unforgettable experience. It
was the most expensive, but not by a lot. Our main waiter Christophe was a
native Parisian (the real Paris).
Elements came in second place, again with a friendly staff. The
waiter Charles was wonderful, and the general manager stopped by the table for
a chat. We couldn't linger due to our show schedule, but it was a fun place.
Valentino was just slightly more reserved, so we didn't leave with
such an excited feeling, although they did serve a killer lasagna. The
sommelier poured the 1992 wine into a decanter in order to separate as much
wine as possible from the sediment, which impressed Gary.
Red Square's food and service were great, and the waitress said we
had the special lovers' booth, the booth in the back in the corner in the dark.
But if you're not a vodka drinker, Red Square's strangely dark atmosphere and
non-Russian background music make for an experience that was half a notch below
the others. Gary wished they had more Eastern European food, such as anything
Originally, I had planned to play video poker (VP) and craps. Susan
wanted to play slot machines and roulette. Ultimately, we never played any
table games, due to our sleeping late, dinner and show schedules, crowds, etc.
Surviving the casinos requires a bankroll that you can afford to
lose, and a goal that you can stop at when you're winning. Also consider
a time limit, and wear a watch because you won't find any wall clocks.
You need to read a basic book on the types of games that you want to
play. There is a Waldenbooks store on the Strip at the Fashion Mall, and
they sell gambling books. You won't find gambling books at the hotel gift
shops. Some games provide better odds than others. For each game,
there are conservative and risky strategies. It's unclear that any sort
of gambling is ever "smart", but some strategies are dumber than others,
including the lack of a strategy.
Your bankroll needs to be realistic. You will always lose a $25
bankroll; that's just not enough money to provide enough plays to get a winning
hit. Well, maybe on a nickel machine, but you'll only win a few dollars
on a nickel machine.
Gary likes to play with Susan's head
a bit by
pretending he "has the fever", but honestly, he stopped gambling when the money
became unreal. We got really lucky and won at least a little, all the
time. When the amount started fluctuating up and down hundreds of dollars
at a time, it was time to get out.
The gambling books often make vague statements about abandoning
machines that don't seem to be paying off. This makes sense for
slots, where the payoff percentage is unknown. But for a VP machine
with a good pay table, you know what the long term payoff is. In my
opinion, you need a sufficient bankroll to allow the odds to work
themselves out. The gambling books recommend a 200-400 credit
bankroll for a full-pay VP machine. In my (limited) experience, I
believe it would be hard to recover from a 400 credit deficit,
although I did recover from a 250 credit deficit and profited 25
credits after almost 2.5 hours of play. Your bankroll may be limited
by the amount of money you can afford to lose, so if you can't
afford to lose 200-400 credits, then you'll reduce your
short-term chances of making a profit at VP.
The gambling books remind us that gambling is first done for fun,
then for money. I agree that you don't want to set out for a casino
because you need to find a way to pay your bills. On the other hand,
losing sucks. When I walk into a casino and see all those blank
faces staring at the slots, I don't see anyone having fun, except
for maybe the one or two people actively getting a big
payoff. I just can't imagine anyone telling me that he or
she enjoys losing 15% of her money because the slots are so much fun to
play. My 2.5 hour marathon VP session
was fun, but it's easy to say that now, after having
cashed out with a small profit, rather than having surrendered
to the machine with a loss.
Slot machines usually have 3-5 reels, each displaying 1-5 lines of
symbols. You can bet varying numbers of credits on each play, where the credits
cost 1 cent to 5 dollars or more, depending on the machine. Modern video slots
don't always simulate the old mechanical reels, but today, the most common
machines still have reels, or simulated video reels. Sometimes, the extra lines
of symbols can be diagonal, e.g., a machine with three reels might display
three horizontal lines of symbols, and it might pay on five lines including the
diagonals. But you need to bet at least five credits to put all five lines into
Some machines offer a large number of payoffs on various combinations
of symbols, from 1 credit to thousands. Other machines offer a small number of
unique payoffs. Usually, machines that offer the highest jackpot payoffs offer
fewer low-end payoffs. And vice-versa; machines that offer many low-end payoffs
tend to offer smaller jackpots.
The machines are set at the factory to return a percentage of the
played credits as payoffs. Most machines do not display their payoff
percentages, but some of the Strip casinos that we visited had small groups of
machines that were marked as "97%" or more. At Luxor, we saw machines marked at
98.4%. In a casino with hundreds of slot machines, there might be a 10-20 high
On Tuesday, the Flamingo had eight 98% slots, but these were removed
on Wednesday. New machines were up and running by the end of Friday, but they
were not marked with a payoff percentage.
Although there is no law governing the minimum payoff of a slot, the
rumor is that competition for gamblers keeps the slot payoff percentages in the
high 80s to low 90s, except for the few machines offering 97% or 98%. I have no
idea why anyone would play a lower percentage machine, although the high
percentage machines tended to have smaller jackpots.
Nevada law does require that any advertised payoffs must be payable.
In other words, if a machine says that 3 cherries will pay 500 credits, then it
must be possible to get three cherries, and it must then pay 500 credits. But
the odds of getting three cherries is not governed, other than that they must
be greater than zero. If a machine offers a large number of credits as a
jackpot, it offers smaller low-end payoffs in order to maintain the long-term
The machines cannot easily be reset at the casino. The payoff
percentage is set at the factory, and the casinos install whatever they want to
The slots do not track payoffs in order to adjust the next payoff.
They are random devices, but the reels are manufactured to produce predictable
results over many plays. A long losing streak does not mean that you are about
to hit a winner. All you know is that the machine is set to pay off a
percentage, and that percentage is less than 100%. You don't know the
percentage, and you don't know when the machine will pay the next jackpot. The
chance of any particular outcome is exactly the same, every time.
Progressive machines offer a jackpot that increases over time until
someone wins. But note that the total payoff is counted toward the percentage.
Again, low-end payoffs have to be reduced in order to increase the high-end
My personal preference is for a non-progressive machine with lots of
low-end payoffs. I don't mind machines with more than three reels as long as
they offer lots of paying combinations. I feel that the low-end payoffs keep me
alive with a given bankroll, until I finally hit the big payoff that allows me
to cash out with a profit. Sometimes.
Sue and I played three 98% machines with a large ($200-$300)
bankroll. We won and lost those amounts.. I think we got really lucky and
really unlucky. We verified, to some extent, that a large initial bankroll can
survive for a moderate profit.
Most machines allow the player to bet more than one credit per play.
Usually, there are bonuses or extra winning combinations when playing the max
number of credits, so this is always the best choice.
Overall, I think slots are fair but deadly, and even with the 98%
machines, you'll lose in the long run (by definition). There are lots of
gamblers just dying to find an illegally unfair machine at a major casino, but
the casinos won't cheat you. There is too much money to be made legally.
Video poker machines differ from slots in that the odds are
indirectly stated on the pay table. We assume that VP machines deal randomly
from a 52 card deck, and we assume that an unfair machine will be removed or
caught by the Gaming Commission cops. So, we know the winning hands and the
odds of getting any one.
A VP machine displays the payoff for each type of winning hand. Like
slots, the progressive and bonus machines that offer high payoffs for some
hands also offer no payoffs for other hands, when compared to the non-bonus
A full-pay, 9-6, non-bonus, non-progressive video poker machine
offers 9 credits for a full house and 6 credits for a flush. Other hands pay
other amounts. Typically, players bet 5 credits per hand, because there is a
bonus payoff for a royal flush. Royals are rare, but
the bonus is there, so it's the best choice.
In the major Strip casinos, I found lots of VP games (spread
throughout each casino), but only a few full-pay games. The other non-bonus
machines were set at 8-5, 7-5, or 6-5. The only reason to play those lower
paying machines is for a large progressive payoff, or because you are stupid.
The odds of getting the royal flush required for the progressive payoff are
Most VP machines were of the double-bonus or double-double-bonus
variety. These bonus machines pay higher amounts for four-of-a-kind, at the
expense of the lower end payoffs. On the DDB machines, there were no payoffs
for low hands; you need at least a flush. I played 9-7 DB machines
(not DDB) and won lots of money with those.
The full-pay machines pay moderately, and can be played for over a
99% payoff rate. This is a game of skill as well as luck, and you need to learn
the correct plays when drawing cards. In my opinion, you bankroll these
machines with 300 credits and play for a small, 60 credit profit. Streaks (good
and bad) will be short. The payoffs are very predictable. If you just can't get
ahead and finally give up, you will likely lose only a small amount. With a
99%+ payoff percentage, you'll go up and down, and you play until a good streak
gets you a small profit.
Because the 9-7 DB machines offer smaller payoffs for low-end hands,
they can present longer bad streaks, but this machine still pays off at over
99%. You need to bankroll at least 300 credits, maybe 400, and play for
the 4-of-a-kind. I got lucky and hit four aces in one of my
The Flamingo had one $1 9-7 DB machine, and one $5 full-pay machine.
The $5 credit value is too rich for my blood. I would have to risk a $1500
Luxor had $1 full-pay machines. Bellagio was my favorite Strip casino
for VP, with both $1 full-pay, and $1 9-7 DB machines. I profited from VP at
Bellagio and earned a free buffet.
It is very easy to enter any casino and play. You don't need a
Player's Club card, but if you think you'll visit LV more than once, it's
probably worth it to give up the personal information. (In fact, many players
consider comps and cash-back awards to be part of the expected return.)
It might seem easiest just to play at your hotel's casino, but I had better
luck and a better experience at other casinos. Decide on your goals, and look
for machines that meet your goals. It might take a half hour of searching to
find the right machine. My preference is for low-payoff, $1 per credit,
non-progressive machines on which I can grind out moderate profits.
We stayed at the Flamingo, but that was a tough casino. I really had
to study the machines there, and there were very few that attracted me. There
was, in my opinion, only one playable VP machine, and I won. The 98% slots were
removed while we were at the hotel.
Paris was OK, and we hit a 98% slot there for a profit. I also lost
some money in a 98% slot at Paris. I didn't see any full-pay or 9-7
DB VP machines, but I didn't look hard.
I really liked the atmosphere at Luxor, and we won at the 98.4% slot
and the full-pay VP machine. I didn't see any 9-7 DB machines here.
I cleaned up at Bellagio with full-pay and 9-7 DB VP. I didn't see
any 98% slots. This casino gets very crowded and rowdy when "O" is playing.
LV = Las Vegas
VP = video poker
DB = double bonus
DDB = double-double-bonus
full-pay = a non-bonus VP machine with a decent 9-6 payoff percentage
9-6 = video poker, 9 credits for full house, 6 credits for flush
9-7 = video poker, 9 credits for full house, 7 credits for flush
O = the show at Bellagio
payoff percentage = percentage of played credits that a machine eventually pays