Category Archives: Las Vegas

Did you win in Las Vegas …?

Did you win? That’s always the question people ask when I mention having gone to Las Vegas. Please consider this a companion piece to what I posted May 12 –The agony and ecstasy of video poker.

Back 20 years ago when I was married, my wife and I had a subscription to Chicago’s famed Lyric Opera. A night at the opera would easily run in the neighborhood of $500, considering the ticket prices, well north of $100 each, cabs to and from, dinner out and a baby sitter. No one ever asked – Did you win? upon hearing that we went to the opera. How was the performance? What did you see? How was the production? Those were the kind of questions asked.

The fact is that my girlfriend and I played a lot of video poker on the trip. BUT, that wasn’t all we did.

Here is a shot of the beautiful fountain at Bellagio out the window of our room.

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You can see the dancing waters of the fountains. At night the view was more spectacular.

Like any trip there were lovely meals out. Here are pics from a few of ours.

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These were delicious baked clams at Rao’s on our first night there. New York readers are familiar with Rao’s.

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Off to Las Vegas … the agony and ecstasy of video poker

I am off to Las Vegas this weekend for four nights and five days at Caesars Palace. Regular readers know that I play there regularly and have written a number of posts on my trips – primarily on the health aspects of dining out for several days and nights. This time I am writing about playing there. You won’t find much in this post about healthy eating, just what I do that passes for fun in my life.

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The upper left hand in this pic qualifies as the ecstasy of VP. For anyone interested, the chances of holding an ace and drawing a Royal Flush are one in 178,365.

At 78 years old, I have been playing gambling games for most of my life. I grew up on the west side of Chicago. My father owned a pool room with a poker game in back. So my earliest recollections were playing cards. To this day the only thing I do left handed is deal cards because I was so little when I started that I couldn’t hold the cards in my left hand. I had to hold them in my right and peel them off with my left. My family always played games together, including Monopoly and all the card games. So, I grew up experiencing the vicissitudes of probabilities in cards and dice.

Growing up in the ’40’s my friends all gambled. I remember pitching pennies in grade school. We would stand behind a line on the sidewalk and try to pitch our pennies closest to the line two sidewalk squares (about 10 feet) away. Although we were pretty much uniformly poor we always ‘played for keeps.’ Continue reading

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One of my pet peeves – Bad Dice

pet peeve
noun informal
something that a particular person finds especially annoying.
“one of my biggest pet peeves is poor customer service”

Do you have any pet peeves? You know, those actions or situations that just make you crazy. Why can’t they get it right? Of course, possibly the most frustrating aspect of the pet peeve is that very few other folks share your feeling. At least, that seems to be my experience.

This is one of my pet peeves. It may seem very insignificant to you and maybe it is, but I find this really bothersome. You can be the judge. Is this totally neurotic of me, or does it indicate something that just isn’t right with the world?

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My pet peeve is the graphic depiction of dice – done incorrectly. I don’t know when I realized that there are correct dice and incorrect pictures of dice, but ever since I noticed it, incorrect depictions of dice make me crazy. Following are two examples:

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This is in the McCarran airport in Las Vegas.

I bought the shirt below at the theater in New York where I saw Guys and Dolls, Damon Runyon’s classic story about gamblers who get involved in a giant dice game. I couldn’t believe the dice.

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The truth of it is utterly simple.

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This is an accurate die. Notice that on the sides exposed you can not add up to a total of seven.

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As you can see: They continued on the soundtrack album

When a die is constructed correctly whatever number is on the top has a corresponding number on the bottom that adds up to seven. So, if there is one on top, the bottom number is six. Two on top, five on the bottom. So simple. But apparently not easy for some artists.

The ad agency that created the sign in the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas couldn’t take the time – to get a pair of real dice – in Las Vegas. They screwed up their illustration.

Likewise, the company that produced the Guys and Dolls shirt – about gambling – couldn’t be bothered with getting a pair of real dice to reproduce on its product. Also, while I don’t have a photo, they used the same shot on the marquee outside the theater where it was performed.

Sorry, but I find this kind of carelessness intolerable.

There, I got it off my chest. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comment section below.

For the record: Yes, I gamble. Regular readers know that I go to Las Vegas around four times a year. Have been playing there since the late 60’s. When I first went there, all I played was craps, betting against the dice and laying the odds. I don’t any longer. Video poker is my game now.

Tony

 

 

 

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I battle a head cold …

SPOILER ALERT! I lose.

I flew back from Las Vegas about two weeks ago. As a Chicagoan, that means I had about a four hour flight. Because of the atmospheric change between Chicago and Las Vegas, ie., the increase in humidity and the fact that Las Vegas is about a half mile above sea level, I usually ease into my bike riding exercise upon return. So, the first day back I rode 10 miles and the second 15. During the rides and afterwards, I was vaguely aware of a tickle in my throat and my nose got kind of sniffle-y. I didn’t pay much attention to it. So, the first round went to the cold. I should have started eating 500 MG Vitamin C tablets at the first sign. You can blast a cold out of your system if you catch it early enough.  I foolishly attributed the sniffles and sore throat to jet lag, etc. I was wrong.

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By the fourth day, I was coughing, sneezing and my throat was killing me. I had a hard time sleeping. The cold flourished like this for several days. Continue reading

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Good Eating Habits Die Hard in Las Vegas

I have said elsewhere and written here time and again that I feel I have total confidence in my ability to maintain my current weight of 155 pounds, having done that for the last five years.

HOWEVER, that statement is based on the assumption that I am home and in total control of what I eat, preparing most of my own meals. Also, it assumes that I am able to ride my bike an average of about 20 miles a day. Clearly, that much exercise covers a multitude of sins.

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At the end of February I went with my girlfriend to Las Vegas to celebrate our second anniversary together. In this case, what happened in Las Vegas isn’t going to stay there.

First of all, I realized that I was going to be eating a lot of wonderfully prepared foods. That fact could be a big potential stumbling block for my weight control program. Secondly, no way was I going to be pedaling 20 miles a day on a bike. There are health clubs in the big hotels, HOWEVER, again, I am leery about exercising in Las Vegas. The altitude is 2500 feet above sea level and my body reacts poorly to that. I almost fell off an exercise bike a few years back after just 20 minutes of riding as a result of this altitude. The bottom line is that I limit my exercise to walking around casinos and sight seeing. Not a lot of calories burned that way.

So, I made a policy decision about eating. I was definitely going to enjoy indulging in the culinary fare available. After all, we were there to celebrate. I didn’t want to spoil it being a calorie cop. If I gained a pound or two in the five days we were there, so be it. I felt sure that I could burn them off once I got back home.

I am not going to bore you with pictures from the dozen or so meals
that we ate there. But, I have selected some dishes that I think represented our dining experiences over the period.

This was a pasta dinner at Rao's in Caesars Palace. Delicious meal on our first night.

This was a pasta dinner at Rao’s in Caesars Palace. Delicious meal.

The next day we ate at a little French cafe in Paris, our hotel. This sandwich is bacon and cheddar cheese melted on a croissant.

This was mouth watering and I have to believe it ran close to 1000 calories.

This was mouth wateringly delicious and I have to believe it ran close to 1000 calories.

We would have desserts at dinners, but split them rather than each go crazy with one.

I think this chocolate and whipped cream covered crepe came from another of the French restaurants in Paris.

I think this chocolate and whipped cream covered crepe came from another of the French restaurants in Paris.

Although we don’t usually do the buffets in Las Vegas because there is so much food on them, we did one on this trip. One of the entrees was crab legs.

Bucket of crab legs from the buffet.

Bucket of crab legs from the buffet.

Our anniversary was February 28 and we celebrated at Nobu in Caesars Palace. I have been eating sushi since I was first introduced to it in the mid-1970’s at a press party. I love it and eat it often. I can honestly say that in close to 40 years of eating sushi I have never experienced anything like the dishes at Nobu. I believe there are 35 of them in a number of cities all over the country. If you have a chance and a few extra dollars, I recommend a celebration dinner at one.

Beside being gorgeously laid out, this was literally melt in your mouth delicious.

Besides being gorgeously presented, this black cod was literally melt in your mouth delicious.

The final dish was our dessert at Nobu. I was so impressed with the way they decorated the plate.

This was some kind of melted chocolate pastry that simply exceeded my descriptive powers.

This was some kind of melted chocolate pastry that simply exceeded my descriptive powers.

Again, we split the dessert.

Just to fill in some details, we did go back to the little diner at Paris and I had their ham and gruyere croissant sandwich which was equally delicious and caloric.

This was another food court meal, a strawberry crepe with whipped cream. Again, we split it.

This was another food court meal, a strawberry crepe with whipped cream. Again, we split it.

 

The final night we went downtown to the Chicago Brewery and Pizza parlor in the Four Queens Hotel and Casino. We split a couple of pizzas and wrapped up the remainder to eat on the plane going home.

Okay, that should give you a pretty good idea of the kind of eating we did in four nights over five days in Las Vegas. Put your hand over the next paragraphs and guess – How much weight do you think I gained?

Full disclosure, I figured I had added about two pounds on the trip and I was committed to some serious biking and exercise upon return.

I hope you did as I did and made some kind of a guess about my weight. The following morning, I tipped the scale at … 155 pounds. Incredibly, I didn’t add a pound.

I can’t explain that. My girlfriend said it was because we walked so much, but at my weight walking a mile only burns around 90 calories. I don’t think we walked that many miles. But, the scale doesn’t lie.

The only thing I can think of is that I didn’t snack much between meals and we stuck to a regular schedule of meals. As I said at the top, “Good eating habits die hard.” I think I have become hard-wired to balance my intake and output. I didn’t get silly at a bunch of buffets and I didn’t fret at any point in the trip about what I was eating.

If you have any observations, I would be pleased to hear them.

Tony

I have written about trips to Las Vegas previously: Is it Possible to Enjoy Las Vegas and Control Your Weight? Thoughts on Aging in Las Vegas, What Happens in Las Vegas …”

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Is it Possible to Enjoy Las Vegas and Control Your Weight?

First of all you have to decide on your fun factor. Part of the fun of visiting Las Vegas is the chance to eat a lot of wonderful foods. So, if you are going to sweat your weight, you might not have nearly as much fun. My decision was to have a good time and worry about the food when I got back home. I didn’t go crazy stuffing myself with bad food, but I also didn’t listen to the food cop inside me.

We stayed at the Paris Hotel and Casino on the strip. Here is a shot of the view from our window.

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Another aspect of weight control at home or in Las Vegas is exercise. The hotel where we stayed had a health club as most do. I am not much on health clubs. They make me feel like I am in prison. In addition, as I wrote in a previous post on a Las Vegas visit, “Although there are no signs posted anywhere in the health club, or in the city for that matter, no one mentions the fact that Las Vegas is 2000 feet above sea level. The air is thinner. Air compresses under pressure. At sea level there is greater pressure than there is 2000 feet above, so while there is the same amount of oxygen in the air, the molecules are farther apart and you get less oxygen when you breathe.” I really don’t like working out there because I get strange feedback from my body. The bottom line is that I decided to skip exercise for the four day trip.

In the course of four days we had a lot of meals. I am going to pick out a few that I can illustrate and share them with you.

One of my healthiest breakfasts was a bowl of granola with yogurt and berries at Bally’s I am guessing it come in around 700 calories. Very tasty and held my appetite in check very well. granola

Below is a picture of a bacon, cheese and egg croissant sandwich. Paris has a lot of little eating places on a little street on the ground floor. I am putting the calorie count close to 1000 I know that croissants have at least 250 calories and that doesn’t count the eggs, bacon and cheese. By the way, this is a wonderfully tasty sandwich.egg and bacon

 

Another treat I look forward to on every trip is a visit to the Lobster Chowder Company in the Caesars Palace food court. As you can see from the photo they will serve their lobster chowder in a bread bowl if you want. This adds calories, but also adds a lot of fun cutting up and eating the bread soaked in chowder. I like this so much I wrote it up for Yelp. I am guessing this would run 100 or so under 1000 calories. Again a lovely meal. One observation here about eating at these fast food type places. I bring a bottle of water. I don’t order sugary soda or is chemical substitute diet soda. This eliminates at the least a bunch of calories and at worst throwing damaging chemicals into my system. Check out my Page What’s Wrong With Soft Drinks? for more details.

Lobster chowder in a bread bowl.

Lobster chowder in a bread bowl.

For our big meal we dined at Mon Ami Gabi, also in Paris. This is a very popular restaurant frequented by the locals. It also happens to originate in Chicago, so we knew about the quality of its food. mon-ami-gabi-patio

One of their specialties is Steak Frites which as you can see from the photo, I ordered. I guesstimated this entree at 1000 calories minimum. Yes, it was very large and I ate it all. steak frites

Another of my favorites is the pizza they serve at the Chicago Brewing Company in the Four Queens downtown. I know – why travel to Las Vegas for Chicago style pizza? The fact is it is excellent pizza and not like any of the pizza places I frequent back home. As you can see from the photo we had two good-sized pizzas on the final night. Our plan was to eat half of them and wrap the rest for the plane ride home. Cold pizza to an Italian guy beats the life out of anything they serve on an airplane.

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So, as you can see, I was pretty lax about my eating there. Take a guess at how much weight I put on with these meals and no bike rides from Monday through Friday. Spoiler alert, I gained a pound. That was all.

I was very pleased that I did not pack on more pounds on the trip. However, to put this in perspective, to eat like this regularly and not exercise would gain at least a pound a week, or 52 pounds in a year. Clearly, it is a one off experience.

Speaking of one off situations. Here is a picture of a Royal Flush I caught at Paris. I am a video poker player. Man does not live by bread alone.paris royal 7:22:2014

Tony

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Thoughts on Aging in Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas  ….

This time it isn’t staying in Vegas. I just returned home to icy (9F) Chicago from Las Vegas where temps ranged as high as 70F on the three days I was there.

My girlfriend and I decided to celebrate our one year anniversary (Feb 28) with the trip.

Nice place to stay.

Nice place to stay.

We indulged ourselves at Caesars Palace.

Sumptuous seafood salad at Rao's Restaurant

Sumptuous seafood salad at Rao’s Restaurant

I took my first trip to Las Vegas back in the 60’s when there was still desert between strip casinos so I have seen some amazing changes in the past 50 years. I used to go on junkets where junketeers would round up players and fly them out free. The stipulation was that the player had to gamble a certain amount of money. If you could play, you didn’t need to pay … except at the tables. Those stopped when the city went corporate, but there are still lots of comps to be had.

This seemed an appropriate sign at the Starbuck's shop in Caesar's.

This seemed an appropriate sign at the Starbucks shop in Caesars.

If you haven’t experienced one, casino buffets are really a special experience. I was reminded of the sumptuous feasts at Hogwarts dining room in the Harry Potter movies. You can be sorely tempted by the offerings. We watched people carrying plates with mounds of food on them. I know that when I came here in my youth I was one of them. It is no surprise that 60 percent of us are overweight and 30 percent outright obese. My girlfriend and I were able to enjoy our meals without having to push ourselves away from the table, or loosen our belts afterwards.

We saw Lainie Kazan in her Cabaret Show on the night of the 28th. Kazan is 74 years old, the same age I am. It was sad to see her have to be helped up on the stage. She is very overweight. Her voice isn’t what it used to be, but she still has plenty left. She can certainly deliver a song. The audience totally loved her. One thing she did that I never saw a singer do before was use a music stand with pages of lyrics on it. She turned each page as she finished the song. At one point she said she is getting old and has ‘trouble remembering’ these days. I hope it is just a matter of aging and not anything more ominous. As a person with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the family, this resonated powerfully with me. Check out Exercise, Aging and the Brain for some positive info on aging and memory.

It was a great trip for the two of us, a different setting from what I experienced going there as a youth in my 20’s. The town has matured since then and so have I, … somewhat. I am now a lot older and a little bit smarter.

When I weighed myself this morning, I had not gained any pounds. Back in my 20’s I had always packed on a few.

For important info on exercising in Las Vegas check out my What Happens in Las Vegas post from last September.

Tony

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Las Vegas Return Plus One Day

As I wrote upon my return from three nights in Las Vegas, I was very happy to see that I hadn’t gained any weight despite minimal exercise and partaking of some wonderful meals.

On the first full day back, I took it relatively easy.

I was surprised to see waitresses selling cigars and cigarettes in the casino.

I was surprised to see waitresses selling cigars and cigarettes in the casino.

For context, I hadn’t been to Las Vegas or any place on an airplane for three years. So, I was not accustomed to the bottlenecks and delays of air travel. We left our hotel at 10:30 AM for a 12:15 PM flight. Once we got through security, we sat around for about an hour. Then the flight back to Chicago took 3 hours and 25 minutes. Another 40 minutes for the ride home through rush hour traffic. So, we got home at 6:30 PM. Don’t forget Chicago is two hours later than Las Vegas, so we, in effect, spent half a day crossing the country. Although the majority of the time was spent sitting, it was emotionally draining on me.

On Saturday, the first day back, I ‘slept in’ for me and rose at 6:00 AM. Normally, I wake between 4:15 AM and 4:45 AM. I am usually out on the bicycle at 5:00 AM on most mornings. Because I slept in, I did not go out first thing, but walked the dog after she woke up and we had both breakfasted.

I took out the bike around 9:30 Saturday morning with the dog in the basket. I only put in 18 miles as I didn’t want to overdo it the first day back. Usually, I start with a 20 mile ride and then have a second ride later. Also, on the first ride, I don’t take the dog which is an easier ride. Instead of riding, in the early afternoon, I napped for an hour and ended up going to bed at my usual time.

I conclude from that experience that my body still needed rest from the trip, or the flight, or the waiting.

On Sunday, we had wretched weather in Chicago with rain, wind and a Bears game which meant a lot of folks on the bike path. I got in 20 miles of riding and came home to watch football.

I am hoping to be back in perfect shape on Monday.

Tony

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