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October 22nd, 2019 at 6:54:49 PM permalink
I recently returned from my first trip to Las Vegas in 35 years. Needless to say, things had changed a bit. The plan was to fly in from NY for a few days and meet up with a couple friends/colleagues coming in from Oakland. The wives were staying home but my daughter, who lives in Boston, was also joining us. The main goal was to have fun but we also planned on hitting G2E, in part because it provided an excuse for writing the trip off as a business expense.

I flew in Sunday. Sitting next to me on the plane was a guy in the casino business heading to G2E. Since he knew the town well, I asked for suggestions and he recommended visiting the Mob Museum. My daughter's flight arrived 30 minutes before mine (very convenient). We were staying at MGM Grand since we both had M-Life cards and could each get two free nights. Her check-in was quick since she had used to M-Life app to pre-checkin. I forgot to do that so had to stand in-line for about 15 minutes. Both of us were pretty tired from the plane so after dropping the bags in the rooms, we had drinks at Whiskey Down, dinner at Pub 1842, then crashed for the night.

Monday after a late breakfast, we wandered around the Grand checking it out but neither of us were impressed. The place is big and really spread out with a very confusing floor plan. Getting from A to B always seemed to require a long hike. Even worse, the minimum at the craps tables was $15. We therefore decided to take a stroll down the Strip to see if the grass was greener elsewhere. We got as far as the Park MGM where we had an excellent lunch at Eataly. After lunch we checked out the Park's casino which we liked much better then the Grand's. Nice compact floor plan with everything easy to find. Even better, the min at the craps tables was $10. Since we had a couple hours to kill before the guys from Oakland arrived in town, we played some craps. No luck there... I lost about $260 while my daughter lost $100. [side note: I just checked the win/loss numbers for my M-Life accnt and it shows a $325 loss even though I only bought in for $300]

At this point it was time to head back to the Grand and meet up with my two friends flying in from Oakland, Mike and RF. We tickets for the 7PM showing of Ka. I had seen Cirque du Soleil shows before but this was truly awesome. Aside from the acrobats and costumes, the rotating/tilting stage is an engineering marvel. After the show we grabbed a late dinner at Ambra which was pretty good.

Next morning we met up for breakfast, then took the monorail to G2E. This turned out to be a big mistake. For one thing, given that there were four of us, an Uber would have been cheaper. The main headache, however, was that after we got off the monorail we got crappy directions from a security guard at Harrah's on how to get to the Sands Expo Center. We finally made it after a 20 minute walk that looped us around the back of the Expo building.

G2E itself was interesting. All four of us work in the tech sector so our primary interest was seeing how the gaming industry was adopting (or ignoring) new tech trends. This included checking out a "VR health chair" that was simply a massage chair like the one Sharper Image used to sell but with VR googles included. However the VR display (shown in the monitor in the left of the photo) had no relationship to what the chair was doing so none of us were very impressed. I was told that I could buy one for home use for just $6k but decided to pass. .

Also on the topic of VR, we spent some time talking with the folks from Unity who make one of the more popular 3D graphics engines. They said they had some customers who are using their product to do slot graphics but so far nothing truly immersive.

Several vendors had smart table on display. One was a craps table, shown here.

No chips are used. Instead, each player has their own betting console (one can be seen at the bottom of the photo). When you place a bet, a beam of light, sort if like a lighting bolt, shoots across the table to the place where the chips would be placed. An image of the appropriate number of chips then appears there. Normal dice are used. As far as I could see, the bounce seems pretty similar to what you would get on a regular table. The appeal to the casinos is obvious: they would only need one minimally trained dealer per table instead of the four highly trained ones currently needed.

SG also had some sort of smart table. I didn't see it myself but I heard about it from RF. Apparently the table comes with sensors that can detect the location and amount of any chips placed on it. Now my friend RF, who works for Amazon, just happens to specialize in all things relating to IOT and sensor tech. He really pissed of the SG salesman demoing the table by quickly identifying multiple glitches in their product, eventually managing to "crash" the table.

I also had a very enlightening conversation with the Gamblit folks about their approach to skill-based games. Since I covered that in a post in another thread I won't go into any details here.

After about 5 hours walking around we were all getting a bit burned out so we left the show and got margaritas at Canonita, on the Grand Canal in the Venitian. The drinks were good but the singing gondolier was kind of irritating. After that we headed back to MGM Grand to veg out for a while, then had dinner (Eataly again). Everybody was pretty tired so we called it a night at that point.

Next morning my daughter had to fly back to Boston. The rest of us headed over to the Mob Museum which turned out to be pretty neat. Best part was the speakeasy in the basement and the distillery where make their own moonshine. If you take the distillery tour you get to taste samples of three types of moonshine (FYI the one seasoned with jalapenos is extremely hot... approach with caution).

After that we walked over to the Four Queens and had lunch. While there we noticed another one of these interactive slot machines. I didn't get a chance to play it as both machines were in constant use and I don't recall the name but this one had a tree on the front panel. As you played, apples appeared on the tree. At some point you could shake the tree by rubbing it rapidly (the front panel was a touch screen). The faster you shook it, the more apples fell off it which resulted in some sort of bonus.

At this point my buddies had to leave for the airport but I wasn't flying back home until the next morning so I headed over to Binion's to play some craps. The table I was at was the front one closest to the street and about 5 minutes after I started playing a jazz musician showed up out on the street and started playing the sax. He was pretty good and it made for a more enjoyable game. I played until he finished his set about 45 minutes latter, then left $60 poorer. I wandered over to the Golden Nugget, played for 1/2 hour, and lost another $10.

At this point I decided to head back to the Strip so I caught a cab to Aria. Nice place and, like Park MGM, the minimum at the craps table was $10 when I came in at about 6 PM although a little while after I arrived it got bumped to $15. Seems like only the MGM Grand had the higher min all day long. I didn't play very long and eventually left down another $30. I walked back to the MGM Grand, stopping along the way to eat dinner at Tom Urbans. When I got back to the Grand I called it a night since I had an early flight back to NY the next day.

So in the end I lost $360 which wasn't too bad for four days. As to my take on Vegas after a 35 year absence, I think it's worth an occasional trip (e.g., once every couple of years) if you focus on non-gambling activities. If I just want to gamble I would rather go to AC or Mohegan. Vegas is clearly now about a lot more than gaming. The Strip at night is like Times Square only stretched out for 4 miles (or maybe Times Sq is a tightly packed Strip). Fremont St was a great block party that somehow reminded me of New Orleans and Bourbon Street. Not everything, however, was that appealing. For example, the pool scene at the Grand had a frat party vibe which I am way too old to appreciate. And next time I go, whenever that is, I'll stay elsewhere, probably Park. But overall it was fun and my friends suggested making this an annual event.
My goal of being well informed conflicts with my goal of remaining sane.

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