Monthly Archives: May 2021

Las Vegas Wrap Up 2021

We’ve finished our Las Vegas adventure for 2021 and have moved on! It’s always surprising how quickly a month can fly by.

Upon arrival from Sedona, we spent a week having fun with our Tucson friends, Johnny and Patti. Shortly after they left, I flew to Indiana for a week to surprise my Mom and Dad for Mother’s day. Toward the end of our stay, our friend Patrick flew out from Tennessee to join our adventures for a bit, and travel with us on the next leg of our journey to Southwest Utah.

We visited Death Valley National Park, and toured / hiked the Red Rock National Conservation Area. While making the Red Rock Scenic drive we encountered a rare and unexpected snowstorm in the desert! I was just glad we had finished our hike by then! We played antique games at the Pinball Hall of Fame. We walked and gawked the Strip, but gambled at locals casinos. Mostly I played blackjack, but we did spend some time dabbling at the craps tables. Club Fortune in Henderson is a great little locals spot that offers $1 craps, which is about my speed! I do feel that I got my gaming fix that will last me a good while.

One thing that we usually enjoy while in Vegas is going to shows. Unfortunately, due to COVID, few shows were running. We are planning to visit again next year, and will hopefully be able to enjoy a variety of shows then.

During our visit, we watched as COVID restrictions shifted considerably. Early on, masking and social distancing were required, and venues were capacity restricted. As the CDC mask guidance changed for vaccinated folks, local requirements changed quickly. Masks flew off, capacity restrictions disappeared, and — for the most part — life appeared to return to pre-COVID norms. It was both exciting and disorienting.

The weather is definitely heating up, so time to move on! Las Vegas — a great place to visit …. but I wouldn’t want to live there …..

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Here’s to a summer of travel adventures!

Best Day Ever

We don’t like to think of our parents getting older. Heck, we don’t like to think of ourselves getting older! But then something happens that drives home the fact that the aging process is inexorable.

My parents are amazing. Both turn 90 this year and still live independently in their own home. My mom has had a few health issues and is a bit more frail, but my dad has remained strong and incredibly capable for his age. Until a few weeks ago, when he suffered a mild stroke. Thankfully, the effects were mild, and he is already improving with therapy. We have every expectation that he will fully recover in fairly short order. But, it reminds us that life is uncertain.

So, my siblings and I plotted together as we are wont to do. We were unable to be all together during the holidays due to COVID, but now we are all vaccinated. It is much safer to travel and to gather. We hatched a plan to surprise our parents for Mother’s Day! Last Saturday, I flew in from Las Vegas and my sister caught a connecting flight from Montana. We met at the airport and drove to our brother’s place for the night.

My in-town sister picked up our parents and brought them to our brother’s house for what was expected to be a routine, low-key Mother’s Day dinner. My sister and I lurked around the family room corner, nonchalantly waiting for them to notice us!

The big reveal was all we had hoped for. We hugged. We cried a little. We giggled about how hard it was to keep the big secret. (They really had no idea!) It was the first time my nuclear family had been physically together since Christmas 2019. What an incredible blessing.

Best. Day. Ever.

Casino Action

If you aren’t into playing casino games, then you can just ignore this entire post! But, if you’ve been following us for very long, you’ll know that I do like a good game of blackjack.

What you may not know is that not all blackjack games (tables) are created equal. There’s a wide variation in table minimum bets, of course, anywhere from $1 to $100 per hand. Whether you are a low roller or a high roller, you pick the table minimum that suits your comfort level and budget. But, even more important than the dollar amount are the table rules. Those rules make an enormous difference in the house edge, that is, the casino’s statistical winning advantage.

First, I look for the cheapest table that offers a 3:2 blackjack win payout. Tables that offer a blackjack 6:5 return or (horrors!) 1:1 return, tip the odds significantly more in the casino’s favor. Other rule variations include the ability (or not) to double down on any two cards, re-split aces, late surrender, and whether the dealer stands on a soft 17. You can play blackjack games with one deck, two decks, up to 8 decks. The dealer may manually shuffle the cards, or use a continuous shuffle machine. All of these factors affect the house edge and your odds of winning — or at least, slowing your losses! The tables I play typically have a house edge of around 0.5%, which means that for every $100 I play, theoretically I would lose only 50 cents. (The house edge for penny slots runs 10-12%, so you see why I don’t play the slot machines.)

The house edge holds true only over very long periods of time. In the short term, anything can happen. I’ve had great winning streaks and I’ve had terrible losing streaks. But, over a long time of playing, I’ve pretty much broken even playing blackjack. Slot machines, on the other hand, are just gadgets that eat my money.

If you are at all interested in learning to play, I highly recommend downloading one or two of the free blackjack trainer apps. They drill on basic strategy, which is really helpful if you ever decide to play at an actual blackjack table. Another resource is the Wizard of Odds website that has more information than you ever wanted/needed to know about the game!

So why do I like playing blackjack? It’s just fun! Unlike playing slots, I have decisions to make and strategy to follow, so it’s not mindless. I enjoy the interaction with the dealer and other players. I just like playing the game. At least, as long as I’m not losing a whole lot! That’s why I only play $5 (or less) tables with really good rules. I can usually play a good long time without losing my shirt in the process.

While in Vegas, our favorite blackjack spot is Ellis Island Casino, just off the strip. It’s a small-ish casino with a locals vibe and free parking. It is smoke-free, which I particularly appreciate. They currently offer one table of $5 blackjack with very good rules. During these COVID times, the seats at the table are limited to 3 (instead of the usual 6), so I usually have to wait a while for a spot. But once at the table, I’ll play a few hours, enjoy some free adult beverages, and usually get comped at the end with a few bucks for the casino’s cafĂ©. So far on this trip I’m up $150. Hopefully I won’t give it all back before I leave.

But even if I do, it’s still all good!