Brad's BIG Race Analysis


Arlington To Vegas

(In Just One Week)


Leg 1 Chicago and Arlington, July 27-30 2000

     Thursday July 27---

      My first time on Southwest Airlines and a pretty decent deal as they fly direct from Ft. Lauderdale to Midway airport in Chicago for $238 r/t. This deal was sweetened on the way up as thunderstorms in the Chicago area grounded all outgoing flights, but our incoming flight was allowed to land some 25 minutes early. My guess is all of the stooges sitting in those 25 or 30 planes on the runway lined up waiting to leave weren't nearly as happy about this development as I was. When was the last time a 1500 mile flight landed 25 minutes early? Never, is the answer I'm looking for.

     In any event, I slip over to the Avis counter to pick up the Buick that I had reserved the day before but am informed that the car is no longer available and they will upgrade me to a Park Avenue for no extra charge. Seeing as how they were ripping me for $58.99/day in the first place, no great deal here. Not only that, but someone had sketched a smiley-face on the left side-view mirror in black sharpie which gave the illusion that no matter what appeared in your mirror, you were going to have a nice day.

    Off to the hotel and relatively simple driving instructions to downtown where I'm staying at the Sheraton Towers on the north bank of the Chicago river. A nice hotel with some spectacular views and average price ($181/day). This may seem high but is average for these hotels in the downtown area. The real ambush comes from the not very reasonable charge of $30/day to park the car. Ouch!

     The only reason for staying downtown is the selection of alternate activities and restaurants. If you're going strictly for Arlington, then I would suggest the Sheraton/Arlington Heights which is a stone's throw from the track.

     Friday July 28---

    Up and ready to go after a non-descript breakfast in one of the downstairs restaurants. I take the better half to the Rosemont convention center where she'll be attending a show and some classes that were of interest to her. I leave the Buick there so she'll have a way back to the hotel later that evening as another couple we traveled with were taking the train out from our hotel and we would be taking it back this evening. Now though, it's taxi-cab time and I take one from the O'Hare Hyatt to Arlington Park ($33.00). Suddenly, that rental price isn't looking quite that bad!

    Finally, I arrive at the track and let me tell you, it is one spectacular facility. Sparkling white structure, floor to ceiling glass, Oak and Walnut paneling in certain areas, escalators and elevators that are unobtrusive, but well mapped. A paddock and walking ring as clean as is humanly possible. The whole place sparkles like it just opened for business minutes before you arrived. Not one mutuel ticket is allowed to hit the ground before being scooped up and placed where it belongs by the dutiful employees. Martha Stewart's pad is a pig-pen compared to this!

    The front side is just as impressive as the turf club features more glass, more white. White so bright that it's hard to believe it isn't painted each and every night. The infield features trees of varying species and although the willows at the left end of the infield are very attractive, they do tend to block the view of a good portion of the backstretch. Not to worry though, because there is a large screen TV sitting between the 1/4 and 1/8 poles. It is built into a housing which matches the rest of the track making it seem more natural, and the resolution is incredible. The best BIG screen I've EVER seen! The statue of The Bart and John Henry is displayed prominently on the 2nd floor. Super!!!

     The clientele here is like none other in the country. Lots of young attractive families with children. Women, at what must be record numbers compared to all of the other tracks I've visited. No expletive- spewing, program-popping, loud-mouthed louts in sight. At least, not in my sight.

    So how did I do? Well, not too good. I had practiced playing Arlington over the last few weekends knowing I'd be making the trip and had fared reasonably well. Not today though. One ticket cashed for the day which was a trifecta ticket so small, I'd rather not even mention it. I might as well have added it to my losses because by comparison, it made no difference. I was getting split out of exactas by horses which didn't seem to figure at all, at least, as far as I could see. Beat out for the win by the same types.

     Total losses: Right at $400, give or take a few bucks. No problem though as I knew they were just holding it for me until I returned on Saturday. I'd get it back--hopefully.

     Turns out the other couple decided to drive out so we were spared the CTA in favor of a relatively, I guess, quick trip back down the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) to downtown. Seeing as how post time was 3:05, it's well after 8:00 before we arrive.

     Back at the hotel we decide to check out Riva on the Navy Pier, which our concierge assures us, is no more than a 15 minute walk. Perfect, since our reservations were for 9 and it was now 8:40. This is so easy!

     The Navy Pier is a cool concrete peninsula full of bars, restaurants, beautiful people, and docks for more bars, restaurants, and beautiful people. It's located east of Illinois street and north of the Chicago river jutting out into Lake Michigan.

     Riva is a restaurant that affords a great view of the skyline, provided you are seated in just the right area, and continental cuisine with some fancy-schmancy presentations thrown in for good measure, probably to inflate that already inflated bill.

     Obviously, our concierge had never walked this distance as it was more like a 35 minute half-run. No problem on that because when I call they inform me that they are WAY behind. Great! We finally get seated around 10pm.

     I'm not too BIG on fancy-schmancy. In fact, a steak, occasionally some seafood, a salad, and potato are usually good enough to satisfy my culinary boundaries. With a restaurant like this though, you are forced to venture into uncharted waters--so to speak. So I started with the lobster bisque which was excellent. Just the right amount of wine in the sauce and chunks of lobster cooked to perfection.

     Next up, the Mediterranean seafood salad. This "mess" had fresh crisp veggies, hunks and chunks of unknown seafood, most of which was good. The price ($10.25) suggested that there was filet of Coelacanth included. I checked the ingredients though and no mention of the long-extinct fish. However, included in this "creation" were portions of baby octopus tentacles. Not testicles--tentacles, complete with a weird purple color and the suction cups! I don't know about you, but I don't need suction cups in a salad. I tried it though just to say I had, and was not at all impressed. Hey Riva, leave the octopi alone and concentrate on something a bit more conventional.

    The main course was grilled salmon over a bed of fresh vegetables which was outstanding. Overall, I'd give Riva two tentac.. er thumbs up. Just steer clear of the octopus if you go, unless of course you like chewy rubbery-like suction cups with your dinner. The price for 3 of us, including drinks, tax, and tip: $160

   By this time it's 11:30 and time to rubber-leg it back to the hotel to rest up for the killing I knew we were going to score back at Arlington on Saturday.

   Saturday July 29---

   My feet still ached from Friday, but that wasn't going to stop me from going back to Arlington to get back the money I had lent them. Up a bit earlier and more breakfast at the Sheraton. Since we didn't check out CTA yesterday, we weren't going to start today so I walked down to Valet and picked up the have-a-nice-day Buick for the drive out Kennedy. A bit of traffic today as the never-ending road construction in Chicago continues. I swear, I've never been to a city where the road construction is constant on all major thoroughfares like it is here. Worst part is, the lanes are closed but no one is working on them! No surprise there.

   We made our way to the track and thanks to Jim D., had excellent seats right on the line with a TV no less! Not only that, but a couple of sets of Ragozin sheets,  and free passes. Very nice and hopefully I'll be able to reciprocate someday.

   Anyway, admission normally is $4.25 which also scores you a program. Valet parking is a tad steep at $8 but we went ahead and did it for the convenience factor. Drinks and food, from what I could tell, were right in line with other tracks. Drink service at our seats, which was there for the non-boxes as well. Also, ladies walking around writing tickets with portable autotote machines. Ours on this day was a nice lady named Phyllis who would come around at least twice before each race. Great service, and of course I tipped accordingly.

    An enjoyable day to be sure, but I wasn't getting any of my cash back, and by the 7th race it was becoming increasingly obvious that these masked bandits were going to pull it off again! Not without the help of Phyllis it turns out. She was coming around taking my money and giving me these worthless tickets. Someone should report her! ;-)

    Northern Quest won the Arlington Handicap on that beautiful lush turf course. I had chosen Chorwon who, though far back early, made a good late run. But it was too late, not enough, and Phyllis nailed me again. It turns out, she had another trick or two up her sleeve!

    Before the last race, which was removed from the turf, Phyllis came to our box with a proclamation that she had indeed spoken with the owner of the 1 horse who had informed her, in not so many words, to "bet the farm on his horse." Now I didn't just tumble off the turnip truck yesterday so I've come to grips with the fact that you can't believe 1% of the so called "insider" tips that you get at a track, especially from an owner who might have stars in their eyes. The rest of my group though was listening intently and had every intention of using the 1 from then on.

    This "1" horse had a decent record on turf but had lost a recent dirt race by 17 lengths. Since this race was moved to the muddy main track, I tossed him without another thought instead concentrating on the 7-2-5 and 7-5-2 tri, and a heavy 7-2 exacta, with a token 7-5 thrown in for safety.

    Turning for home, the "1" had been near or on the lead most of the way (they don't call the jock "Earlie" for nothing) but was beginning to tire as was my 2 who went with him,  and the 7 was making a rather strong move. The 5 is advancing steadily and though my hopes of the 7-2 were dwindling, the chances of the 7-5 were improving. The "1" surely would back up and finish last--or close to it.

    At the wire, the 7 finishes well ahead, and believe it or not, that blasted "1" hangs on for 2nd, only 4 lengths behind the winner. The 5 never had enough to finish the stretch and ended up third. My 2 finishes 5th, completely fading.

    The rest of my group is ecstatic as apparently, they've all used the "1" with the 7 in a hefty number of exacta boxes. But I smile coyly as I know that Phyllis has let us down. The "1" didn't win as the starry-eyed owner had crowed he would. Anyone who foolishly bet "the farm" on this, lost their livelihood! But not me. No sir.

    A moral victory is worth a lot, I'm just not sure it's worth quite $330 which is what I dumped on this fine day. This, in spite of the nice $49 exacta and $105 trifecta I had scored earlier in the day, which leads me to believe things could have been a lot worse than they were.

    Off to valet parking to pick up the HAND Buick and the short drive over to Delaney & Murphy Steakhouse at the Sheraton/Arlington Heights. Excellent food and service and conversation as Jim and his lovely wife Joan joined the 4 of us for dinner. I had the crab cakes, onion soup, and their special pepperloin which is just as it suggests: Tenderloin, rolled and marinated in cracked pepper, and more, and cooked to order with a special side sauce.  EXCELLENT!!! Total tab for 6, with drinks, tax, and tip: $365, and well worth it.

    After dinner we make our way back downtown where the Venetian festival was underway on the lake and Navy Pier, but it's been a long day and we head off to the room to get ready to come home on Sunday.

    Sunday July 30---

    We're up and out early and after paying the train-robbery car parking fees, and head back toward Midway airport. I'm actually looking forward to flying again since my experience with Southwest on the flight up and hoping to arrive back in Ft. Lauderdale early so I can get a head-start on the next leg of the journey. On the way to the airport it begins to rain. Gloom is setting in. I've got a bad feeling.

    When we get to Midway, some 2 1/2 hours early I'm amazed at what I see. The curbside skycap is snowed under with a line of about 50 waiting to get their bags checked, and traffic is so bad it's not to be believed. This, on a Sunday at about 11:00.

    We decide instead to return the HAND Buick and schlep our bags through the archaic parking garage to avoid an unpleasant scene with Chicago's finest at the curb. Once we get back to the terminal, I decide to peek inside at the counters in hopes of possibly getting a shorter line in which to deposit our luggage. WRONG! The line inside is at least 200 strong and snakes well outside the designated area. In fact, the whole inside of the terminal is awash with more people than I have EVER seen inside an airport. What the hell is going on?

    I never found out, except that this airport is 80 years old and probably 20 years past due for an expansion, which it turns out they'll be getting this year, and next.

     I board and due to heavy storms in South Florida, we're delayed and re-routed around Key West, which the last time I checked, was in South Florida as well. We finally make it back to Ft. Lauderdale about 1:15 later than scheduled. So much for getting a jump on the next leg. As a result of this detour, I was able to view the Orange Bowl from about 10,000 feet. Other than that, nothing good came from the delay, and when I landed, I discovered dry streets surrounding the airport. Maybe the pilots wanted to see the Orange Bowl from 10,000 feet above as well!


                                                             On To Vegas!!!


Leg 2--Las Vegas, August 3-7 2000


    Thursday August 3---

     I had decided a few months ago that a trip to Vegas was in order,  and since I knew my wife and kids would be out of town at this time anyway, it would be a perfect chance to go for a few days of R&R. Yeah, in Vegas, right!

     In any event, a long-time friend accompanied me and since it was to be his 46th birthday on this weekend, and he had never been to Vegas, Rich jumped at the opportunity.

     Rich flew down a few days early to enjoy the beach before we left and was to meet me at the Palm Beach airport for our 4:45 flight to Atlanta for the connection to Vegas. Last time I flew through Atlanta on the way to Vegas (and eventually the 97 Breeders' Cup at Hollywood) it took 16 hours! Dread was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

    But this time Delta behaved like a real airline and we arrived right on schedule at 9:25pm Pacific. 

    Off we went to the car-rental counter where after a few days of finagling, we picked up a silver Chrysler PT Cruiser . Thanks to Barb at who worked feverishly to arrange for this car, which apparently is as hot as the sidewalk in front of the volcano at The Mirage on an average August afternoon. I know this because as we're driving to The Venetian , it seems that an inordinate amount of folks are pointing and staring at this car. (Local South Florida Chrysler dealers claiming 6-8 month wait on orders at this point) It's pretty cool though and as small as it is, it has a great deal of interior room. Definitely worth the $69.98/day rate.

    By the time we check in at the Venetian, it is around 11:30 and I can tell I'm not going to get a ton of sleep.

    Fri day August 4---

    I must have been psychic because I finally made it up to the room at about 4 after trading a couple of hundred back and forth on various video poker machines, slot machines, and table games.

    Before I went upstairs though, I strolled over to the race book to check it out. Not all that impressive desk-wise as they have only 1 row in the back. But the rest of the room is outfitted with some comfy high-back chairs that would look right at home in any formal living room, except for the small side tables attached with the always-needed drink holder.

    Three huge BIG screens in the center which have the major tracks and others during their races. Several smaller televisions to the left with all available track's full-feeds. Message boards posted further to the left quoting sports future bets. Over to the right of the BIG screens, smaller televisions carrying sports, and still further right, more future sports quotes. More on this later, but overall, a decent book.

    I had planned on waking in time to make it downstairs for first-post at Saratoga but staying up all night (basically 7am eastern) led me to sleep in longer than I had wanted. Well, that and those few Jack Daniels' I had sipped on last night.

    In any event, I made it down about 16 minutes before the 3rd and commenced the ritual. Since I had handicapped a bit on the flight out I had a reasonably successful day (+$200) which helped ease the pain of Trippi's 3rd place finish in the Amsterdam. It seems he bruised his foot at some point during the race, likely entering the stretch in quite an awkward looking move. I knew there had to be an excuse for a performance this poor from a horse that has blitzed every other opponent, except in the Derby.

    As for the book, it is functional, but not nearly as spectacular as the rest of the hotel. A sign of the times I guess, as horseplayers are hardly as revered in Vegas as the mindless masses who accept awful house advantages to pour their money into the machines. Cocktail service is still free in this book though. I had heard of others where there was no drink service, period. The service was excellent and Maeghan kept the cold Bud Light flowing as long as there was a buck or two in it for her. Very friendly as well.

    After the races at Saratoga, Rich and I picked up the Cruiser in valet and headed for downtown. When we stepped outside I noticed it was quite warm. In fact, it was damned hot! I meant to keep telling myself it was a dry heat, but my voice was cracking from the parchment that had covered my throat. My nose was whistling when I attempted to breathe. It didn't matter to me though because this is VEGAS! So what if you are dying like a flipped over box turtle in the sun, at least you'll go down having fun--and ahead, so far. 

    After passing the pirate battle at Treasure Island, we Cruised downtown where we headed to the Main Street Station Buffet which I had heard was one of the best in the city. I'm not a BIG fan of buffets, but as this one goes it was quite good. It included seafood, Mexican, Chinese, and more from all over. Roast beef carved to order and quite a selection of desserts (which I didn't try).  $13.95 for everything is not bad at all.

    After stuffing ourselves we decided to check out the Fremont Street experience where they have closed off said street which runs through the heart of downtown. Over the street, they have erected a curved canopy which runs the entire length of Glitter Gulch. On the underside of this canopy, every 1/2 hour or so, they run a sort of cheesy light show which lasts a few minutes. Inexplicably, a good deal of the hardcore downtown gamblers come out of their trances to venture outside into the 149 degree heat to see this spectacle.

    With a pretty strong breeze blowing through this chamber, it feels as though you are trapped at the business end of a blow-dryer. With this, and after venturing into the Golden Nugget (pretty nice), and Binions (old, but still okay), we decided to grab the Cruiser and head back to the Venetian. Sadly, Binions used to have $1,000,000 in $10,000 bills pressed between two sheets of thick glass hanging in the casino, but they sold it. Greedy bums!

     By the time we get back to the Venetian it's approaching 11 so we venture into the casino for a couple of hours of trying to separate them from some money. This approach lasts for awhile, and my first venture into the craps tables ensues. I might have come out $100 or $200 ahead. I'm determined to hit the first at Saratoga though and head off to bed--somewhere around 2am.

    Saturday August 5---

     Pshawww! I wake up at about post time for the 2nd and though I did have a form, I had not been able to squeeze in any super duper quick capping the day earlier. By the time I shower and make it down to the book, the 3rd has just been run.

     This day is pretty much a haze, thanks to Maeghan and the Bud Light parade. I do know that I hit a couple of exactas at Saratoga and Calder, but neglected to put Graeme Hall on top in the Jim Dandy which was a pretty sizeable error. Still, for the day, I was up about $200 again. This looks so easy and without any proper, prior capping!

     It's about 2:30 now and the Dolphins are playing the Steelers at 3pm. The Steelers were favored by 3 1/2 which had drifted up from 3 since the day before. Cads! What did they know about the Dolphins that I didn't? I placed a $50 win bet on the fins, but if I had any guts at all, I would have parlayed the day's winnings. Pre-season football makes me a bit jittery though so $50 was plenty.

     Rich and I have tickets for Damon Wayans at the Flamingo for 9pm so we decide to hit Caesars buffet (okay, but not worth $30), after which we head across the street to the Barbary Coast which I had heard had some decent gambling. Since this is right next door to the Flamingo, our walk will be short over to the show. By the way Caesars is okay, but just too dark for my taste. I feel like putting on my pj's and getting a warm glass of milk in there.

    As we walk in the Barbary, there is a BIG projection screen erected over a makeshift dance floor where the remnants of the Dolphins-Steelers game is being played out. The Steelers are leading by 3 with about 3 minutes to go. It never ceases to amaze me how close the books get to the actual spread in these games.

    I sweat out the last few minutes (well, not actually sweat since it's just $50) and the Dolphins don't allow another score so I win by half a freakin' point! By the way, as we had walked over earlier, we passed through the Flamingo pool area. Let me tell you, this is one great pool. If you're going to Vegas, and a pool is an integral part of your plans, you'll want to give the Flamingo serious consideration.

    After that huge score, I wander off to the craps tables while Rich searches for some video poker. He finds one and is ready to start playing and asks for a Corona. The bartender is happy to oblige, but wants $3.50. Rich says he's getting ready to play and aren't the drinks free? "Not unless you're already playing", retorts the bartender. Rich walks out in a huff, and crosses the street to the Flamingo.

    Thirty to forty minutes pass while I play footsie with $50 or so at the craps tables when Rich appears next to me. He looks about to explode. "C'mon, lets go", he beams. I wasn't making any headway so I had no problem with this.

    As we walk up to the cashiers cage at Barbary he whispers, "What do you think the odds of hitting a royal flush on video poker are?" I told him I didn't know, but imagined it would be mighty high. With that, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of $100's and says, "I don't know either, but I just won $4000 on one!!!!" Holy Shit!!!!!

    Vegas first-timer luck! Is there anything like it?

    Damon Wayans was fantastic. I highly recommend it if you get the chance. I don't recall the name of the opener, but he was excellent as well.

    After the show, I tell Rich about the Mirage and we decide to cross the street to check it out.

     Man, do I love this place! I haven't been in all of the hotels in Vegas, but of the 8-10 I have been in, it is absolutely my favorite.

    As you walk in the front, to the right is the registration desk, backed by a 70 foot long aquarium, complete with sharks. Further in, you walk through a  tropical rain forest. Not a fake one, a real one, complete with exotic plants, flowers, trees, and waterfalls. On the other side is the casino, with a sort of faux Polynesian village effect. Bamboo, palm trees, canopies over the gaming tables, you name it, it's here! Over through the casino and to the right is the tiger habitat. Two large white tigers are housed in this area (behind glass) for the entertainment and amusement of guests. Simply awesome!

    So after all of the amazement, Rich wanders off to look for his next fortune and I plant myself at one of the craps tables. An hour or so of give and take and I move to a new table. The dice makes a couple of rounds and I'm up about $100. The dice come to me. So I commence "the roll". If you've ever been in a casino and hear loud shouting and cheering, that is what the next 30 minutes are like at this table. Total strangers are slapping me on the back, tipping for my drinks, throwing me $25 chips, the works. Trust me, there is no feeling like it in the world.

    When I finally 7-out, I play another couple of shooters, then ask to be cashed out. The boxman counts all of my chips and announces, "Nine-O-Seven!" Woo-hoo!!!! That's $700 plus for the couple of hours at the Mirage. I play very conservatively too, making only place bets on the 6 and 8 (lowest house advantage) and playing the pass line. Man, do I love this place!

     I stand around enjoying the sights, checking out the band that's playing next to the rain forest, finishing off a beer. After about 20 minutes, I decide it's time to head over to the Venetian and into bed. It's around 3am.

     Sunday August 6---

     Do you think I made first post at Saratoga? Hell no! I got there for the 3rd, which seems to be a recurring pattern--no matter what time I turn in.

     Today is Rich's birthday so I ask Maeghan to be sure she wishes him a happy birthday when/if he ever decides to stumble down to the race book. He wastes no time in getting to the pool every morning. She arranges to have it plastered all over the scrolling message board when he arrives.

     As for this day, well, I mingled in a few future bets on the South Florida teams and also the Colts. I don't know why, but at the time I was there I had it in my mind that the Colts were a lock to win the Super Bowl. This, from the same guy that said The Deputy would win the Derby and Unshaded would win the Belmont. No, I'm no better at football. But at least it will take about 23 weeks to be proven wrong, instead of just over 2 minutes. Value!

     So I put down $20 on the Dolphins at 35-1. There's a donation! $50 on the Panthers at 25-1. I'm ambivalent about this one. $100 on the Colts at 6-1. And, the best bet of all, $5 on the Marlins at 2000-1. Hey, they won't win, but I'll get the most bang for my buck at those prices. The weird thing is, they were, and still are, eligible for the wild-card berth. I don't know if it's all together wise to have a team that is still in the hunt at 2000-1. Someone could come in, lay down $200 and put a BIG sting on you. I'm sure the Venetian could afford a $400,000 hit, but chances are their odds-maker wouldn't.

    Totals for the day: Sports-$175 Racing-$285  So minus $460 for the day after being up, mildly, both of the previous days. You have to consider those future bets losses because basically, even though they aren't lost yet, they will be.

    No luck on the ponies this day as I was still in the "trying to beat Lemon Drop Kid in the slop" mode. And the Haskell, what a dog of a race that was!

    By the time Rich makes it  from the pool down to the book, Maeghan has been relieved and there is another waitress who conveys birthday wishes. We ask the concierge where the best steakhouse in town would be located. Of course, he tells us the Delmonico, which just happens to be Emeril Lagasse's restaurant conveniently located inside the Venetian. He also recommends The Range at Harrah's , which is where we set out for.

    This place is swank, especially for Harrah's which basically is a remodeled Holiday Inn. It even used to be dressed up as a Mississippi paddleboat, but someone apparently came to their senses since the last time I was in town. Anyway, The Range is fabulous, and fabulously expensive. But hey, it's Rich's birthday and what kind of friend would I be if I didn't at least buy him a nice dinner for the occasion.

    It was great, I highly recommend it if you want to spend the dough. I had 3 or 4 drinks plus dinner and our tab came to $140 + tip for the two of us. Yikes!

    During dinner, we somehow decided to take the Cruiser out one last time and head down to the Stratosphere to check out the roller-coaster. Actually, just Rich was gonna check that out. I decided to keep my feet firmly planted on the observation deck.

    The strip was jam-packed with cars, even on a Sunday. The town that never sleeps! We made our way up the strip to valet parking. Inside, it looked just like any other generic casino. Not too big, or small. Kind of non-descript. We found elevators to the top and were on our way.

    The view from the top is stunning, especially just after sunset. You can see the entire length of the south strip and the 3,965,477 cars that have somehow mistaken it for a street on which traffic actually moves. On the other side, I could swear that I saw people being fried alive down on the Fremont street hair dryer, but it might have been the maragritas I had consumed at Harrahs.

    Rich rode the BIG shot, not the coaster that circles the top, but the one that shoots straight up. I was content to stand inside peering out through the glass. Not that I'm afraid of heights, it's just my concerns about Stupak's insurance.

    We walked around and looked at the semi-cheesy shops that were adjacent to the observation deck. The Forum at Caesars, and the shops at The Venetian will never be mistaken for this place, which looks oddly like a cross of a 15 year-old suburban mall, and the concourse level of a high school gymnasium. Time to Cruise!

    Since this was our last night, we had to choose a place where we felt comfortable for the last few hours. Someplace where we wouldn't mind losing! Our plane would be leaving at 7am so we decided to stay up all night and sleep on the plane. (yeah--right!)

    The Mirage wins again as Rich had been mildly successful, but really loves the place as a whole. Me? Well, you know how I feel!

    It's close to 11pm by the time we make it back in and once again, I head for the craps tables. Things were a tad quieter, it being Sunday and all, but still plenty of action.

    Things aren't flowing quite as easily as on Saturday, but I do manage to push away a couple of hundred ahead after an hour or so. I wanted to sit down so I sit at a $25/hand blackjack table which I am admittedly very poor at playing. Desperate to either lose, or win a lot I guess.

     I'm getting the hang of it though and am sitting directly to the dealer's left which means I am the first one dealt, and able to screw up everyone else's hand while selfishly hitting on hands I should be standing on, and standing on hands I should be hitting. This cockeyed strategy seems to work because in the span of about 45 minutes I am up $250.

    Time is growing short and I decide to start betting $50 and up a hand. After a give and take for about 60 minutes I'm now up almost $500! Damn this place! Can't anybody lose here? The two ladies from Indiana that are at the table with me are in awe, mostly I think, because they can't believe that:    a.) my stupid strategy is costing them money, b.) the same strategy is making me money, (and)  c.) I'm betting $50+ a hand employing my stupid strategy.

     I decide to get up (Now $700 ahead for the night) and take one more swing at the craps tables before I go. At this point I'm playing $60 on the 6 and 8 and $20 on the pass line so I basically have $150 at risk with each shooter. After about an hour of give and take I'm still up over $700 for the night and it's time to head over to the Venetian and stuff everything into my suitcase and hanging bag for the trip back. I hate to leave the Mirage as it has been very, very good to me. I don't know if I mentioned it yet, but man, do I love this place!

     A quick trip to the Mirage gift shop for a few trinkets I should have bought at the Venetian since that's where I stayed and off to shower and pack.

     Only one regret from this trip. Didn't get to the Bellagio, or anywhere else north of Caesars for that matter.

     Monday August 7---

     Whosever idea it was to stay up all night and sleep on the plane should get their ass kicked! I've never been able to sleep on a plane and didn't know why I thought I'd be able to this time. The only saving grace was the fact that somehow, Delta didn't botch one single detail of our trip. Not one! But that doesn't stop me from admitting that I enjoy flying a lot less these days than I used to. Having made three trips since mid-June, I've just about used up my allotment of flying time for quite some time--at least until the Breeders' Cup!

     All in all, an enjoyable 10 days. Arlington was super, and the Million telecast this past weekend re-affirmed that it is the best modern facility in racing. Chicago--extremely clean downtown and full of life.

    Vegas--well, it's Vegas after all. A great city in which everything is an illusion. How appropriate that it is smack in the middle of the desert. I did much more on this trip than I ever have before, but still felt like I didn't do anything. Time doesn't exist in Las Vegas. It's like you are in a ghost-town vacuum. No one you meet here is real. Rod Serling owns a house here. Night is day, and day is night. The only slice of real life here is at the airport, where you realize you are about to hurtle head-first at 600mph BACK to real life. Not an easy assignment on zero sleep for the previous 24 hours. But I'll be back. I have to. I've got $1400 of the Mirage's money and I'm assuming they are going to want that back--someday.