Day 12 - Las Vegas, Nev.May 22, 2011 -- Las Vegas, Nev.
Miles traveled -- 0
Casinos visited: Terrible's; Silverton; Gold Coast.
Not much happening today. Hanging out at the condo, watching some cooking shows. Left to go check in at Terrible's on a 2-night/ $20 total offer with $10 in free play. I really like Terrible's. When I checked in, I swiped my card in the kiosk and got $50 in free play! Cost of the stay covered already. Plus, I am getting a 3x points multiplier for the length of my trip. Not bad, and they have wireless internet.
On the way, I stopped at Gold Coast and played to earn a free watch. It was the cheapest piece of Chinese crap I've ever seen in my life. I literally destroyed the band with my fingers, and then threw the casing against the parking garage wall.
For dinner, we went to the Silverton buffet, which was decent, with a few good hot items like Pad Thai noodles, and sauerkraut. Silverton has really gone downhill. I remember when they first opened they tried harder than everybody else, but now it is just another grind joint. The M Resort has set the new standard for the South Strip. After dinner, we played some video poker on nickel bonus multi-line, and Mike lost all $69 of freeplay he had earned from craps, while I lost $18.50.
Happily, I have been doing really well at Terrible's so far on the video poker. No royals, but lots of quads and the bankroll is steadily increasing. I'm not in that bad shape; actually only down to a little more than half of my starting BR for the trip.
What kind of VP did you play at Terrible's?
Last year I couldn't find a decent paytable, but I was set on DW multi-hand, which I've learned since it's really rare.
I play $0.25 single-line 9/6 JoB exclusively.
Day 11 - Las Vegas, Nev.May 21, 2011 - Las Vegas, Nev.
Miles travelled: 18
Casinos visited: M Resort; Silverton; Caesars Palace.
M Resort, Las Vegas, Nev.
Greetings from Las Vegas. This is my second day in town. After sleeping in, Mike and I decided to check out the M Resort, which I had never been to before. It is a really nice property -- kind of reminds me of Aria and Red Rock. It was moderately busy for a Saturday. The weather was great. We both signed up for players cards, and I got $5 in free play while Mike opted for drink coasters. They were also running a free buffet promotion for earning a certain number of points on slots or video poker. This is a very good deal, as I hear their buffet is amazing, and they have good video poker games. We went to the 32 degree beer bar, where Mike got a beer cocktail of Young's Chocolate Stout with Framboise Lambic ($7.50), and I got a 16 oz. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier ($5.00). At the very moment we sat down with our beers, they put the Preakness on every TV in the place. It was five minutes to post, and I noticed Shackleford was running, so I ran to the sportsbook and put $2 on him to win. The race was AWESOME. I was screaming at the TV screen for the whole second half of the race. I'm pretty sure I was the only one betting him, since most people were on Dialed In or Animal Kingdom. Thanks to this website, I won $27.20! (Yeah, I should have bet more, I know :))
After leaving the M, we drove up to the Silverton, and signed up for players cards, which netted us 1 free buffet and $5 in slot play each. After wandering through the Bass Pro Shops and the aquarium, we decided to play some craps. The action was HORRIBLE. Mike went through his buy-in in about 30 minutes, and I lost $185. The dealers weren't particularly good, either. Oh well, guess I'll have to eat $185 worth of food at the free buffet...
For dinner we went to Nero's at Caesars Palace. Mike is Seven Stars, so we got pretty fawning treatment. The seafood appetizers there are amazing; the meat was pretty good, but not up to the level of the seafood. I would say it is worth going to just for the seafood. The oysters, scallops and crab cakes were outstanding especially. I often find that steakhouses do some of the best seafood; even better than so-called "seafood specific" restaurants. (The inverse is also true; McCormick and Schmicks has some of the best steaks I've ever had). After dinner, we went past the long line for Pure and went home and entered a food coma.
Fun day; only way it could have been better is if the variance had cooperated.
Out of curiousity, what does one have to do to become Seven Star? I know gamble *a lot*, but in what range?
A whole two-dollars... if you had really put some big money on it that one bet could have paid for all your losses and all your gasoline consumed in driving through those great cities you hit.
Flea--if ifs and buts were candy and nuts . . . I should have had more faith in Shackleford, though.
Gambler -- he has a Seven Stars companion card from his parents. I have no idea how much you need to gamble to get one, but it's a lot.
7 stars is 100,000 points in 1 year. I've played about 100 hours of pai gow poker this year with a $200 average bet, as well as some table minimum BJ and UTH. That play was good for about 10,500 points. So, at least on tables, it's a whole lot of play.
100,000 points at $5/point on slots would require a $500,000 handle. That seems more attainable - at the very least, I doubt it'd take 1000 hours of play (though, I'd expect it to result in a bigger loss than going the table games method).
Liking the Nero's review. It's on my list of places to visit during WovCon.
Holy crap, it sounds like variance is killing Teddys on this trip. Hopefully that'll turn around soon.
Day 10: Lake Tahoe, NV - Las Vegas, NVMay 21, 2011 -- Lake Tahoe, Nev. to Las Vegas, Nev.
Miles traveled: 487
Casinos visited: Carson Valley Inn, Minden; Sharkey's Nugget, Gardnerville; Topaz Lake Lodge, Topaz Lake; Casino West, Yerington; El Capitan, Hawthorne; Tonopah Station, Tonopah; Stagecoach Hotel and Casino, Beatty; Pahrump Nugget; Terrible's Town, Parumph; Saddle West, Pahrump; Dotty's #21, Las Vegas; T-Bird Lounge, Las Vegas.
Casino West, Yerington, Nev.
Greetings from Las Vegas, Nevada. Finally, we've arrived at the capstone of my cross-country trip. Vegas, baby! Or, rather, the underdeveloped gated communities of the southwest Valley, where I'm staying with my friend, Mike.
I drove down from Lake Tahoe early in the morning, taking the state route from Stateline to Minden. What a cool drive. Really dramatic mountain views, especially in the clear early morning light. Dipping down into the Carson Valley, my first stop was the Carson Valley Inn in Minden. Minden is a very prosperous agricultural community that seemed to be experiencing some suburbunization as well. The casino was very nice. I played blackjack for a bit, losing $25, and then tried video poker, and lost some more.
Further down the road was Sharkey's Nugget in Gardnerville, which is kind of the poorer cousin to Minden. It was a hole. Was in and out in five minutes. About 15 miles further, right on the California border, was the Topaz Lake Lodge and Casino. This is a nice property with an attached Super 8 right next to a small lake. It had great views of the Sweetwater Mountains, which I thought were part of Yosemite until the front desk clerk corrected me. I had two tacos with rice and beans for $2 here. I didn't play any casino games.
I turned back up towards Yerington, driving through another agricultural area in the Smith/Mason valley. Yerington is a cool farming town. The casino, Casino West, was right downtown, with the angled parking you sometimes see in small town main streets. I parked out front and walked inside. Unfortunately, the table games were closed, and I couldn't find any good video poker. I helped myself to some iced tea from a a self-serve pitcher, and left.
Once I hit US-95, the landscape changed dramatically to desert vistas. I happened upon a very cool evaporation lake called Walker Lake, which was really gorgeous. It was almost as striking as Lake Tahoe, to be honest. It was just so cool to see this large, natural pool of water in the middle of the desert, and it was so clear and blue. I walked down to the rocky shoreline to taste the water, and it was pretty pure. (I later learned there is a nuclear waste disposal site neaby, so that may not have been the best idea. If I start growing extra limbs, now you know why.)
I pulled into Hawthorne, where there is a large U.S. Army ammunition depot, and there was hum of acitivity. They were having a festival for Armed Forces Day. Hawthorne claims it is "the most patriotic town in America," and I saw no reason to doubt that. There were flags everywhere. I stopped into the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum, and looked around at some bullets. The owner of the museum fired off a large ground rifle (with a blank ... I hope). It made a big boom. Cool. At the El Capitan casino, I bought a roll of old $5 bills to play their ancient video poker machines. Unfortunately, by the time I got back, somebody had taken my seat at the progessive Bonus Poker bank, so I didn't gamble in Hawthorne.
After some more desert driving, the next town down was Tonopah. Tonopah and the next town, Goldfield, were both old mining towns with a lot of cool old buildings like Victorian-era hotels that had been abandoned. The Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah advertised a casino, but it was empty inside. On the south end of town, Tonopah Station had a come-on for a free room if you rolled triples on their dice machine. I rolled the dice and got two fives and a four. I said, "ooh, so close." The front desk lady gave my the greatest "I don't care" look I've ever seen in my life. Hahaha. I saw a good 8/5 bonus poker machine with a $1,400 progressive, but unfortunately it was a coin dropper, so after playing for a bit and breaking even, I had to cash out $100 in quarters and get a hopper fill. The poor slot attendants had to do a handpay for EVERY machine in the casino by filling out a form, since there were no TITO machines. They used something that looked like a large version of those old credit card imprinters to create the carbons of the tickets. Wow.
After passing through Goldfield and by the Yucca Mounatin nuclear waste site info center (closed), I arrived in Beatty, another crap town iwth a crap casino attached to a motel. I didn't play here, but used the bathroom. The other casino in town, the Lucky Club, had been converted into a hardware store. Now that is good repurposing.
In Pahrump, the Pahrump Nugget and Terrible's Town are right next to each other. Pahrump Nugget was suprisingly classy, with a large table games pit. I played $1 craps (3x4x5x odds) for a bit and made $55. I then played Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em for $2 minimum + $2 on Trips and hit some straights and flushed for a small $15 win. Next door at Terrible's Town, I played the same UTH game but for $2 ante + $1 trips, and lost about $25 when the dealer kept turing up hands. I saw a blackboard behind the bar advertising Lillet Vermouth, which I've always wanted to try since I heard it mentioned in James Bond movies, so I asked the waitress if she could come back with a drink made with it. She came back and said, "The bartender said we haven't had Lillet in ten years."
"So you haven't had that spirit here since 1999?," I said. (Okay, I didn't say that, but it would have been a clever reference).
I eventually arrived at my friend Mike's house late a night (before stopping at Saddle West in Pahrump and seeing nothing of interest there), where after dropping off some stuff, we decided to go out to In-n-out burger (mmm...animal style), and then a Dotty's. The only question was which of the five or so Dotty's by his house to choose. We finally went to one near an Albertson's supermarket. I counted exactly 13 slot machines in there, which is the legal limit. They had very comfortable chairs, kind of like the captain's chairs on the bridge of the Enterprise, and a counter with a lineup of various snacks like cheez-it, Hersshey's kisses, and other things. There was also a full bar behind the counter with premium liquors like Macallan 12, Gentleman Jack, et. al. They had fridges full of soda and little bottles of Kahlua mudslides and other fun drinks. They also sold smokes. I have to say I really enjoyed the atmosphere in there. I can see why Dotty's is so successful.
I sat down at a video poker machine next to a friendly older woman, and I asekd her why she gambled here rather than the casinos. She said she likes that she can avoid the smoke (the slots are set up in groups of two pretty far apart from each other, and there are a lot of plants), and she likes the player rewards they give her. I put $20 in a Deuces Wild game, decent paytable but not great (15/9, 98.8% payback), and busted out fairly quickly. I put in another $20, went up and down with a couple straight flushed and five of a kinds, and then finally got three deuces on the deal. I tapped the deal button gently, and up popped the fourth deuce. Major score at Dottys! I cashed out for $267 with the counter clerk, and got a free Hansen's Natural soda.
After Albertson's, we stopped at T-bird lounge, which offered "24 hour gaming, food and drink." They allowed smoking in there, since the bar was actually not part of the "restaurant", which was enclosed behind a glass wall. When my friend ordered some food, the bartneder had to carry it in from next door. We ordered two drinks, and got them comped with a $40 buy-in on video poker (bad paytable; 8/5 JoB). Fortunately, I hit a four of a kind, and got to spin the "wheel", which gave me a 15 credit bonus. I broke even after about 20 minutes of playing, drinking and eating. (The burgers werent' comped). Not a bad deal.
Dotty's: so one cluster for smokers and one for non-smokers. I guess that's a sign of a true "locals" casino ... oops, slot parlor ... oops tavern. 13 machines, one attendant per shift, an occasional can of soda, no wonder its profitable and Dotty is suing to stay in business.
Did you form any general impression as to why these real dumpy casinos in small towns do not try to do anything to become a less crappy place? Do they seem to think they are getting their full market share as a crappy place and won't do any more business if they spruce the place up a bit?
Day 9 - Reno, Nev. - Lake Tahoe, Nev.Day X -- Reno, Nev. to South Lake Tahoe, Nev.
Miles travelled: 80
Casinos visited: Tamarack Junction, Reno; Virginia City casinos; Carson Nugget, Carson City; Casino Fandango, Carson City; Tahoe Biltmore, Crystal Bay; Crystal Bay Club; Hyatt Regency, Incline Village; Montbleu, Stateline; Lakeside Inn, Stateline; Horizon, Stateline; Harrah’s Lake Tahoe; Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.
Harrah's/Harveys Lake Tahoe.
Greetings from beautiful South Lake Tahoe and Harveys (no apostrophe) casino hotel. It is truly beautiful here. What a contrast from dirty old Reno. The lake is unbelievably clear and picturesque, and the mountains aren’t too shabby either. There is even still some snow on the ground. Everybody who said this is a must-see was right.
Today I started out driving south out of Reno, first stopping at Atlantis to pick up my free buffet at Toucan Charlie’s Buffet. This buffet is outstanding. The highlight was their selection of very authentic Mexican food. Here’s a sampling of what they had: Beef Birria, Pork Pozole, Tacos Adobados, Pork Chile Verde, Carnitas, and Chicken Mole. They also had fresh cilantro and limes, and tortillas. I ended up eating a lot of tacos. Burp.
Further down Virginia Street was Tamarack Junction casino, a slots only joint. Why do I always feel like I’m walking into a place where the power has shut down in these locals casinos? Can anybody build a casino that doesn’t look like a dungeon? Anyway, I played Deuces Wild video poker for about five minutes until the guy next to me lit up a cigarette. Bye-bye. Lost $4.
On OneAngryDwarf’s recommendation, I turned off up a twisty mountain road to visit Virginia City. The road was a highlight; lots of switchbacks and turnouts. Fun to drive, and great views. Virginia City is an old mining town that for all intents and purposes should be a crumbling ruiin. Somehow, they’ve managed to tourify it, and a lot of the old saloons and hotels have been converted to restaurants and gift shops. I was happy to see a large selection of vintage slots inside some of the saloons. In the Delta Saloon, I found a “Blackjack Blitz” machine – basically, an older, Atari-type version of the Shufflemaster blackjack machines. I bought a roll of 10 dollar tokens and played for a bit, breaking even. I am the greatest breakeven gambler ever! On my way out, I noticed they had coupons for $4 for $2 in tokens. I wondered how many times I could keep coming back for a coupon. Maybe if I had some disguises …
The Delta saloon also had a display about Faro, and the story of the “Suicide Table” – apparently a table so unlucky (for the house), that it caused at least three owners to commit suicide. Probably an apocryphal story, but it hits all the right notes J I wish they dealt the game there. It would be a fun addition to Virginia City to have a “vintage table games” parlor. Too bad Faro has no house advantage. I would like to see a craps tub with just the pass line, though.
I wanted to use the internet, so I visited the Virginia City/Storey County public library, which was in the high school. I happened to get there when school was letting out, so I saw about all 30 students leave at the same time. The librarian was very nice, and they had nice computers. I love good public libraries. Finally, I visited the post office to mail something, hoping for some kind of commemorative stamp or postmark, but they just gave me the regular label. Oh, well.
The road down the mountain from Virginia City led to Carson City, but first it passed more than a few Bunny/Starlite/Shari’s ranches. You can’t see any of them from the road; you have to turn down a side street and make your way to the trailer park. I thought making a report for this blog, but I decided that wouldn’t really be appropriate. Maybe when the Wizard gets wizardofmongering.com up and running :P
Carson City seemed to be an otherwise unremarkable state capitol. It is a really small town. I passed another Gold Dust West casino (didn’t go in; figured the one in Elko was the same), but downtown I stopped in the Carson Nugget. Now, this place has character. They have some of the oldest slot machines I’ve seen anywhere, including coin droppers. I even found my favorite game, full-pay pick ‘em, in nickels. I played that for a while, winning $5, and then played craps on their game with $1 min./2x odds (with $.50 chips!) for a bit and made $8. For some reason they were setting up a lighting rig for a camera shoot. I didn’t want to be in their publicity photos, so I colored up and left. On my way out, I noticed a new group of people posing for the photo playing fake craps. Now, I’m no judge of talent, but if these were the best-looking people Carson City has to offer – well, I won’t be moving to Carson City anytime soon.
I passed the Nevada State Capitol (ugly), the Nevada State Museum (ho-hum), and the Nevada State Assembly (pretty nice), and then hit Casino Fandango on the southern edge of town. This is a nice property in the Peppermill empire, but seemed a little more tasteful (but not by much). They have the best bartop video poker I’ve seen in my life: Full-pay Deuces Wild for $1.00 a spin, at a really nice bar with very comfortable chairs. If I hadn’t been itching to get to Tahoe, I would have stayed for hours. As it is, I lost $20 and had a fruity tropical drink. Damnit, I should have been making $6.25 an hour :(
By now it was 4 P.M. and I wanted to get to Tahoe before the light fell too much. US-50 is a light, slow grade up the mountains to the lake. I was waiting for the dramatic vista that never came, but once the lake came into sight, I was breathless. It is simply tremendous. I pulled off the road near a scenic overlook and walked down to the shoreline, and clambered over some boulders to touch the water. You could see clear to the bottom of the lake. I sat for a while taking in the good weather and the view. Then I got back into my car and drove to a casino.
The north shore of Tahoe is pretty unremarkable. There are two casinos hugging the California-Nevada border in Crystal Bay: the Tahoe Biltmore and the Crystal Bay Club. Both are not worth going to. Why would you make your casino a dark pit when you have the world’s natural wonder right outside? Hasn’t any casino designer heard of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural precepts? How about some integration with the natural world (or at least a window?) I played shufflemaster blackjack at both places and made a few bucks.
Closer to the lake in Incline Village is the Hyatt Regency. This is actually a nice place, but the casino was dead. BJ minimums were $10, so I played Shufflemaster for $3, and won again. There was a fireplace by the table games pit.
I drove back to South Lake Tahoe along the Nevada side of the border (I refuse to go into California). This is a very scenic drive, and the landscape is extraordinary. If you ever watched the opening credits of Bonanza where they show the map, this is where the Ponderosa Ranch was supposedly located. I didn’t see Hoss or Little Joe though. I wonder how they would deal with the Forest Service and BLM nowadays – the new villains. They would probably shoot them.
US-50 widens into a four-lane road closer to Stateline, where the four mega-casinos are lined up like sentinels over the California border: Horizon, Montbleu, Harveys, and Harrah’s. Whoo, boy, was the Horizon creepy. First of all, their driveway had a huge pothole along the whole length of the apron. How do they except anybody to drive in there? There were no cars in the parking lot, and I walked in seeing no other soul besides the front desk clerk. The casino was almost empty, and no table games. It reminded me of the Vegas Club. Just completely let to go to pot. I played Shufflemaster blackjack for a bit for $1, and the double down button stuck and I had to call a slot tech, who I think was also the casino manager. He and myself were two of maybe five people in the whole casino. I won my double down, and left with a $1.50 profit.
The Lakeside Inn and Casino is a small, lodge-y type place before the big four. It seemed very good-timey, with a lot of young ski-bum types sucking down beers in the sportsbook or at the video poker bar. The tables were pretty full, too. I asked about a room for the night, and the front desk clerk quoted my a price of $50, “but you get two free t-shirts and a pitcher of beer.” Hmm … I see what they are going for here. Seemed like a well-run place, but I don’t relate well to people – I just want to get degenerate with some gambling, not make friends over a pitcher of beer J
The Montbleu is a Tropicana corporate property, with a posh/hip theme. They quoted me a room rate of $79/night. I played Jacks or Better video poker for a bit, and hit a quad, so cashed out ahead for the fifth casino in a row. First winning streak, baby! Too bad it was only $40.
Finally, I arrived at the Harveys/Harrah’s duolith, which literally inch up right to the “Welcome to California” sign. For some reason Harveys appealed to me more (maybe it was their font), so I went there first. I thought I’d give a shot at seeing what I could get, so I showed the front desk clerk my diamond card and asked about a room. He said, “I can get you a comped rate.” Ding ding ding! Ring up another freebie courtesy of Harrah’s. Once in my room, I saw a voicemail message waiting for me, which I was sure was the manager calling to boot me out for using too many free rooms, but it was just him calling to make sure everything was okay with my room. Whew.
Harveys is a nice casino that is pretty much indistinguishable from Harrah’s across the street. Their Diamond Lounge, however, is extraordinary. To get there, you have to pick up a phone on the wall, and call up to the lounge, who will send an elevator operator down to get you. It is like "Get Smart." The elevator ride is probably the coolest I’ve ever been on. You go up the outside of the building, with three exposed glass walls and a view of the lake. It was like Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. The lounge is on the 14th floor, and has a bar, some hot soup and sandwiches, and couple TV’s. It is very nice with a lake and mountain view. The lounge at Harrah’s is very different; just a small, wood-paneled room at the back of the high-limit area, but very tastefully done with only two small TV’s recessed in a wall of bookshelves, and no bar, just a counter to get drinks, a cappuccino machine, and some snacks and cookies. Really chill place to hang out.
For gambling, I played Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em for one hour at Harrah’s with perhaps the friendliest dealers of the trip. The first dealer was very nice, and got to know me and the other player by name, and when the relief dealer came in, she told her, “this is Tim, and Dave.” Oops, maybe she didn’t know my name. Thankfully, the second dealer learned my name correctly, and was very nice. It didn’t hurt that she reminded me of one of my old girlfriends. J I tipped her more than I usually do, and won $50.
General northern Nevada thoughts:
-N. NV just doens't have the same magnetism as Las Vegas. Las Vegas seems more let-loose, while Reno/et al. is a world of work.
-Tahoe is an exception. But it would be great even if there weren't casinos there.
-Harrah's/Harveys are the best run properties at the Lake by far.
-Table games, especially Roulette and Craps, are dying in N. NV I hardly ever saw more than one craps table open (only at Harrah's Tahoe), and there were very few tables. The table games pit was often only 1/10 of the casino floor or less (e.g. at Peppermill/Atlantis).
"I sat for a while taking in the good weather and the view. Then I got back into my car and drove to a casino."
Glad to see you recovered your wits! Loving the trip report(s).
Whatever else there is in norhtern Nevada, there seems to be an abundant supply of good VP machines.
how do you find time to travel and gamble, with all this blog writing ? [g]
Yup, Reno is not really for gamblers any more...
Glad you enjoyed the Lake!
>BJ minimums were $10, so I played Shufflemaster for $3 ...
Wow. Refusing to play at a ten dollar table? Maybe in some of those small towns you've been driving through things are really different, but 20 is about the lowest I see here in my local Indian casino, except for that one five dollar table that is always full of all-day hoggers at 6:5.
The old U.S. mint in Carson City has an interesting museum. You can even take a walk through the old silver mine that it is built over. Not recommended for the claustrophobic.
Day 8 - Reno, Nev.May 18, 2011 -- Reno, Nev.
Miles Traveled: 0
Casinos visited: Bonanza; Atlantis; Peppermill; Boomtown (why?).
Greetings from the Starbucks in the lobby of Harrah's Reno. Today is my last day in town, and frankly, it couldn't come soon enough. This town is crazy! I had a "consensual encounter" with some of Nevada's finest law enforcement. More later...
Today, after my morning coffee I went over to the Silver Legacy to pick up my free buffet and attack the Deuces Wild machine again. I stopped by Eldorado and unwisely decided to throw a couple bucks at the Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em progressive, with the DEQ digital credits. I bought $10 in credits, and lost my $100 stake on the regular game before I even had a chance to use them all. Cashed out $17. Ugh. I played 9/6 JOB at Circus Circus, won a bit back, and then lost more on the DW at Silver Legacy. Time to get the buffet. It was pretty good, with a good Chinese selection including steamed pork buns, gyoza (dumplings), and braised bok choy. Yummy. Feeling Asian-inspired, I decided to play Pai Gow tiles for an hour. Minimum was $10, yeah. It is interesting how every market does tiles different. They let me bank every other hand, but I had to indicate by pushing out a stack of tiles how I wanted the dealer to deal. Also, you set them as two stacks next to each other, instead of perpendicular like Atlantic City. I screwed up setting only one hand, but otherwise couldn't lose, and cashed out $160 on an $80 buy-in minus dealer tokes. Good times.
After a small $12 win on the DW machine (so much for positive expectation), I felt the need to move on, so drove up to Bonanza on North Virginia St. This is a small locals' casino near the University of Nevada, Reno. Ironically, I played with a recent graduate in Finance who kept giving out stock tips and saying his brain was "hard wired" for this math stuff which is why he was good at blackjack. That must have been why he always stood on most stiff hands. There was also a guy who I swear was a dead ringer for Bill Gates, who kept asking how he should play his hands. It was a very "mathy" table -- what an intellectual experience in Reno! I cashed out down about $30 on the $3 game, and made $6.20 on a $5 freeplay promotion.
(By the way, I saw another bar offering the awful-awful burger on N. Virginia. How many places can you get this? I'm starting to think it's not so great if it's so ubiquitous).
I got on 395 and headed south to Atlantis. Whoa, was this place packed. They must have been having 50 conventions at once. The theme, coincidentally enough, is aquatic, which is pretty cool. They also had really good video poker. I played blackjack with a friendly Hawaiian dealer (-$3 incl. tokes), and then flitted around to various 100% VP games, about breaking even and earning a free buffet, which I will use for brunch tomorrow.
Further up the street was Peppermill. Also packed, and also that same stupid theme. Enough already! Who is Peppermill's design consultant, Liberace? The worst was all the new additions were Tuscan themed, which clashed horribly with the purple neon throw-up of the rest of the place. I wandered around looking at aquarium bars and such, and apparently went someplace I wasn't supposed to be, since an employee passive-aggressively directed at me: "Do you work here?" and I had to explain, no, and sorry, I didn't see the sign saying this was super high-risk restricted area. (There were slot machines, but I guess they were taking them out or something. This is also where vpfree says the good video poker is. Hmm...) Lord, if I never see purple and blue underlighting in my life I will be happy. Played Pai Gow tiles for about 10 minutes, standing up and feeling the tiles with my fingers a la Wizard of Macau. Think I freaked out the dealers. Won $8.
For some reason I decided it would be a good idea to go to Boomtown in Verdi. I got lost on the way, and ended up in the town of Verdi itself, which is a crappy little mountain town where Boomtown is itself not situated. Had to drive about 5 miles through town, and saw a new restaurant establishment called a "Pizzaria." Guess Italian spelling isn't Verdi's strong suit, despite their namesake being the best Italian operatic composer of all time. Finally found Boomtown, and it was dead, dead, dead. I played $5 blackjack for a bit, losing $33, and then found Revenge From Mars pinball (yeah!), and played that for a quarter. What does it say about me that I enjoy a $.25 pinball game inordinately more than any kind of slot machine or gambling game? (Don't answer that...)
I would regret going to Boomtown, not the least because it had started raining and the temperature had dropped to about the high 30s. On the way back, I dropped the speedometer down to 50 because it was downhill and I like to save gas. There were very few other cars on the road. At the Virginia Street exit, I slowed to a stop at the top of the ramp, looked left down Sierra (a one-way street), saw an opening, and turned right on red. All of a sudden a Nevada Highway Patrol SUV starts blinking its lights behind me. I pull over onto 6th, and the cop comes up and asks me for identification. He explains he pulled me over for going 50 (which he admits is not illegal, but is suspicious), and for not making a full stop behind the line before turning right (though he later explains turning right on red is illegal in Nevada regardless. Whaat?) He asks me to step out of the car, which I do, and he continues interrogating me. I can get kind of evasive when people are questioning me, since I don't like giving out personal information -- I am pretty guarded. He starts asking what I'm doing, where I get my money for gambling, etc. I finally cut him off and say, "If I am not being detained, sir, I'd like to be on my way." This rubs him the wrong way, apparently, and he says, "Well, you are being detained, and I'm having a drug dog come over to sniff your car. If he alerts, I am going to search it." At this point, I had refused to consent to a search of my vehicle or my person.
So, I wait outside with him. I am wearing a t-shirt, pants, and nylon rafting sandals. It is probably about 38 degrees. He lets me wait in the backseat of his rig, and continues questioning me about how much weed I smoke, what packages I am carrying for my frineds, etc. I look him in the eye and say I have honestly never smoked weed in my life. He doesn't seem to believe this, and starts poking holes in my 'alibi' by saying, "You just told me you smoked weed, man." Uh, no I didn't. Nice try, though. Finally, the K9 unit and its handler arrive, and to my suprise, the dog "alerts" by sitting down. I always though they barked or something. So the first cop asks me for consent to search the car again. I say, "Get a warrant." First cop says okay, and drives off to talk to the D.A. and the magistrate. Meanwhile, a third cop has arrived who I guess is the "searcher." They stand and watch me as I stand on the sidewalk. I am wearing a thin suit jacket that is the only outerwear I have on me (I'm going to Phoenix!), and at this point I am shivering. Third cop offers to let me into the back seat of his truck, but first asks if he can frisk me. I say no. He says, "I don't let anybody into my car who I don't search. You could have a switchblade ready to stick me." I say, "Do I really look like I am armed and dangerous?"
Guess so. So I remain on the sidewalk making strained small talk with the K9 handler and Tough Cop #3. This is so bizarre. Finally, Tough Cop gets a call on his cell saying the warrant is good, and tells me he is going to begin his search. He lets me get a blanket out of my car, which I wrap around myself, looking even goofier than before. Meanwhile, some joker across the street by Circus Circus is videotaping the whole thing. (Or is it binoculars, I can't tell.) First cop gets back with a copy of the warrant, which he hands to me. Looks legit, and I put it in my pocket. They do an extremely thorough, careful search, stacking all my bags on the roof, then the sidewalk, and finally letting the dog crawl up, under, around, and inside my car and trunk. K9 cop says dog is "all over the car," but I just see it running off to piss on a lightpole. I tell ya', you can't trust these animals.
The NHP continue to rummage through my crap, finding my player card collection, and ironically, a law review article about search and seizure that I had been reading for class ;) I also had a duty belt holster in the back seat (long story). That must have really thrown them for a loop. Who knows what they were thinking at this point. (Who the h--l is this weirdo?) Finally, they put everything back and let me go. They were very polite about it, although Cop #1 said he still didn't "buy" my story. Not much I can do about that, besides making up a false confession: "Yes, I am running drugs for a gambling ring of Hmong mobsters in Alameda. I have $20,000 in cash that they told me to launder at the Pai Gow Tiles table at the Silver Legacy. Lock me up, boys!"
It was actually a pretty chill, dare I say fun, encounter. I told the guys that they were a lot better than that Reno 911 show on Comedy Central, which they seemed to find funny. I understand the need to investigate any hunch, but I am not a criminal, I'm just weird :) Still, I can't get out of Washoe County soon enough!
Best casino in downtown Reno: Silver Legacy.
Best casino in Northern Nevada: JA's Nugget.
Great story! Personally, I wouldn't waste my day to prove a point with the local police, but it sounds like you enjoyed yourself. I am a little surprised that the dog alerted to nothing. Most of those drug dogs are excellent at their job. I also wonder if you can request a copy of their dash board camera footage. That would be funny to replay.
I 110% agree with you about NHP...they are some of the dumbest fuckers I've ever met! I once got a speeding ticket for doing 30 in a 25! (It was a setup too; speed went from 45 -> 35 -> 25 all within three blocks...so if you had been traveling 45, you'd basically have to press the brakes HARD to get it to get down to 25 within 3 blocks.
Thanks for standing up for my and every citizen's rights. WELL DONE, SIR !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reno is apparently a major bypass for drug couriers (smuggled in from Asia, likely via San Francisco or Vancouver, and driven across the country). So they are very uptight about such things. Thankfully I never had an encounter like yours in my visits there. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they train their dogs to "alert" on just about anything (or at least any car with out-of-state plates) in order to create a nice little end-run around the 4th Amendment.
Also, I'm sure you know this--being a law student and all--but you are NEVER under any obligation to answer any questions or say anything to the police. Anything you say can only hurt you. The best response to anything a cop asks you is "Am I being detained?" or "Am I free to go?"
I could go on a further tirade about the continuing erosion of our constitutional rights in this country...but it's not that kind of blog.
On a more positive note, great trip reports so far. I had always been curious about all those little casinos in NV that weren't in major cities...guess there's really no reason to bother going out of my way, though.
Right turn on red is allowed in every state unless otherwise posted. The one exception I can think of is NYC. There was no probable cause and the cop lied about the law. It sounds like you did everything right in what could have been a very dangerous situation. You could have been physically harmed and your property could have been vandalized or stolen.
Did the dog do any damage to your vehicle and were you given a ticket?
On further reading..you were actually FINE..you made a right turn from a 1-way ONTO a 1-way (Virginia offramp to Sierra Street). If it's where I'm thinking you'd be between the Shell Station and the little Mom/Pop Station (Closed I think), either that or CC Parking garage and CC Parking Lot...
Look at the warrant and the supporting affidavit: is there a mere conclusionary statement such as "my dog alerted" or is there a specific fact set forth so the magistrate could make an independent determination of the facts. Without a description of where the officer was standing, where the dog was standing, what the dog did, how the officer knew this was an "alert" signal rather than just a posture that dogs adopt from time to time, there is no way a magistrate can make an independent determination of the facts.
Ofcourse if the dash cameras show no such alert, there is a question of unlawful detention.
No real damages but if you are in law school ( I just assumed you worked for a casino company or something) it might be an interesting exercise for you.
>> What does it say about me that I enjoy a $.25 pinball game inordinately more than any kind of slot machine or gambling game? (Don't answer that...)
Sorry. Gotta answer...
I think it means you should probably stop by the Pinball Museum when in Vegas. It's far more fun that dealing with Reno's Finest...
Thanks for the advice, folks, but I'm not going to pursue it. I didn't get a ticket, which I am happy about. The officer didn't give me a copy of the supporting affadavit, so I don't know how the magistrate made his determination, but he was a county judge so I guess he knows what he is doing. I might do some research for case law on drugs dogs and how reliable they are for probable cause determinations. Other than that, I don't think there's much here.
By the way, Sam, here is an interesting article about those northern Nevada towns ("the armpit of America"): http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A31628-2001Nov28
>but he was a county judge so I guess he knows what he is doing.
>drug dogs and how reliable they are
Minimal claim that he is trained. No need to show who trained him or demonstrate his track record or false positive rate.
Considered minimally invasive for officer to use a sense enhancement device. If cop smells nothing but dog does, cop is relying on a minimally offensive enhanced perception device. If cop is 6'6" and hedge is 6'0", its in plain view. If cop has to use binoculars to peer into home, considered invasive search. Same thing with helicopters, if above five hundred feet, its a legal flyover (usually). If below five hundred feet, get a warrant (usually). However pro forma recitation that he observed pot during the legal flyover is usually accepted. Cops not always sensible about things. The much-hated Mendocino, California eradication cops once took several dozen plants from an amateur horticulturist who told the cops, count the number of leaves on the pot on your tee-shirts then count the number of leaves on these plants that you think are pot instead of two-thousand dollar ornamental plants.