Coping: A Couple of Fine Gambling Stories

image(Las Vegas, NV)  While you were working on useful things in life this weekend, Elaine and I were driving out to Las Vegas where my youngest daughter is tying the knot later this morning.

I was going to suggest an early ceremony (so I could be done for the day) but since my column will be wrapped up by 6 AM no one else seemed to be interested in a 7 AM knot tying. So much for kids and respect.

On the way out, we have had three nice things happen to us.

First was a Saturday stop at an Indian casino west of Grants, NM.  We were driving along, happily minding out own business while snooze-control held us at one mile-per-hour under five-over, when suddenly nature called to Elaine.

Since a casino was at the next exit, that was a simple-enough decision.

While Elaine was doing [whatever] Ures truly stuck a $10-bill in a penny slot and on his third spin run $10 up to $20.

Being no fool (having trained myself on money management which is the most important part of slot play) I quickly cashed out and ran to the teller cage and still got back to meet Elaine who looked…uh….relieved to see me.

This was going to be a great trip.

Second story:  Sunday,  at the MGM,  we decided to live thrifty and do the buffet for lunch.  After an all-you-can-eat (and drink)  (two glasses of bubbly) I was $60-bucks lighter…but we wouldn’t need to eat for several weeks, if you know what I mean.

As we came out of the casino, Elaine came to an unexpected stop.

That one,” she said, pointing to a one-armed bandit.

In went a $20-bill and in ONE pull (I kid you not) I hit for $65…and as soon as the total $85.00 was displayed, I was hitting “Collect.”

Third story:  After dinner with the kids last night, I took the winnings and went for a walk – following behind Elaine who (it turns out) was experiencing a rising awareness of “hot machine awareness” which was incredible.

About 20-minutes of play later, we were up to a family fortune of $130 and change.

The key thing about slots (and options, too, but that would be a much longer column) is that you need to be able to recognize when you get to the top of a two-standard deviation trend channel.

If you can do that – and back it up with the discipline to actually collect your winnings and walk out of the casino – then you will have a bright future as a gambler.

It won’t let you quit your day job, but it will mean you’ll be able to afford a cup of coffee now and then, which gets me to the second lesson in money management of the day…

Travel Notes –Las Vegas/  A Tale of Two Casinos

I would like to do a quick little comparison between the two hotel-casinos that we have stayed at the past couple of nights.

In the one corner, we have the casino which is about 25-miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The other is the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, on the strip and in the middle of all the action.

The rooms are nearly comparable.  Although in fairness, the MGM room is a little bigger and has one additional chair.  But the Twin Arrows casino had a work table in addition to a computer spot.  They also had a night/closet light that would go on while toddling to the sitting room, if you know what I mean.  Not destroying the night vision, but enough light to keep a person from walking into a wall.

As for machines, yes, they have slightly different machines and the MGM has many more dining choices – it’s a bigger place.

The MGM has a bathtub with a shower curtain.  The Twin Arrows casino offers a large tile shower with glass walls.

The Twin Arrows casino was completed in 2013 at a cost of $225-million and has about 267,000 square feet of space, overall.

All of which makes it a tiny spot, compared to the MGM which, according to Wikipedia:

“ [is…] owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, the 30-floor main building is 293 ft (89 m) high. The property includes five outdoor pools, rivers, and waterfalls that cover 6.6 acres (2.7 ha),[1] a 380,000 sq ft (35,000 m2) convention center, the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and the Grand Spa. It also houses numerous shops, night clubs, restaurants and the largest casino in Clark County, which occupies 171,500 sq ft (15,930 m2).”

Now let’s talk about room costs.

The price paid at the Twin Arrows was $109.00 for the night – which is close to being in keeping with my $100-$150 per night (if you twist my arm) rate.

The cost of two nights at the MGM-Grand, even with senior, AARP, and M-Life membership, was $564 after a good bit of shopping about.  Other dates would have been cheaper on both, but the wedding later today was not of my choosing. 

Why Monday?  Well, an old joke in my family is “Get married on a Monday.  If it doesn’t work out, you won’t screw up the weekend.”

But to the point, since there is one here:

The room at $109 came with a Keurig coffee machine.  And six little cup-whizzies of  George’s column-writing juice.

Here at the MGM?  There is no coffee machine in the room. 

Thinking there was some mistake, I called to inquire about the missing coffee.

“No sir, we don’t have coffee-makers in the room.  But we do have 24-hour room services.  Would you like me to connect you, Mr. Ure?”

Ah…let me get back to you on that.

I never go into a purchase of anything – let alone something as important as coffee – without doing a little due diligence.

Sure enough, the coffee here is $23.96 for a carafe.  $19 for the coffee plus a $4.50 “service fee.” And that’s if I stiff the staff on their tip – which I don’t, so $27.00  at 10%  tip for decaf for one column.  See why I don’t do this all the time?

Did I mention the 45-minute delivery time?

The good news”  Actual delivery time was about 15-minutes and it was acceptable but not inspired decaf.  And it was two bucks less than $30.

Elaine suggested we get in the car and go buy some Folger’s singles for tomorrow morning.  Right fine idea, that.  Except that getting the car out of hock (valet fees) would eat up any savings.  And my time is worth something.  (A lot of readers would debate that point.)

Oh…and I was informed when I asked for freshly brewed, that the coffee is made from a syrup at the hotel.  Yee gads, man!

That, in a nutshell, explains why Elaine and I like to stay at places like Twin Arrows when we are “on our own clock” – and not underwriting a new marriage.

Another useful “old family saying” about hotels:  “Once you close your eyes, they’re all pretty much the same…”


I think a lot of chit-chat about the dangers of deflation could be laid to rest easily as follows:

We simply move Federal Reserve meetings out of Jackson Hole and move them to the Strip here in Las Vegas.

Oh…and the Twin Arrows windows were spotlessly clean.  We could see for miles.  Here, the windows (on the outside) are dirty – not that it matters but what IF I wasn’t to take in the view of the air handling system on the roof?

Yeah getting a sense of how Mr. Ure’s trip is going?

Big Picture Views:  The Message is in the Artwork

The upside of staying at the MGM has been the artwork because – after watching the people here, all of whom have phones in their hands – I am finally getting the “New Vision of America.”

It is reflected in the hotel art.

The art here is all…gosh, how to describe it? 

Modern, large swirls of color, with what seems like no particular point to it.

There’s one painting, off to the side of our bed in the room, that almost (but not quite) looks like someone was trying to portray and impressionist view of looking out through a window at something.

That is, however, to note it was an attempt, only.  And by someone in desperate need of a cornea transplant or retinal work.

As I wandered around the hotel,  it became clear to me that the artwork selected really is a commentary on our times.

It is not recognizable.  It is unfocused.  It is generalist.  It is designed to allow projection of self into the artwork…color for its own sake, not with a message.  Remind you of any protest groups?

Now, I’ll admit that my own choices in art run to either a) real scenes of real places or b) photography.

In my photo-stage, I owned a 2 1/4 X 3 1/4 Speed Graphic and yes, I could load sheet film “in the bag..”  Give me enough food and water, free range of the countryside, and my 85 mm portrait lens, and I could spend a lifetime.

Our big mural at home was done by a famous cartoonist (who worked on the Scooby-Doo crew at Hanna-Barbera.     I like those posters of 747 cockpits or various aircraft controls.  Ansel Adams photography and National Geographic quality stuff.

imageSpeaking of Adams, his “Leaves at Glacier National Park” is a good example of how a good piece of work will capture not just the precise moment, or instant of the shutter snap; or roll in the case of the Speed Graphic, which had a roller-shutter (the fabulous Graflex focal plane shutter)  which can give pictures enduring clarity and composition.

Not that I hold any of this against the MGM Grand.  We are now the CCD camera world, but it comes at a terrible print seen best in our “art.”

Resorts Int’l is a very well-optimized company and I am sure if I asked, there would be all kinds of  data and research – perhaps even focus groups – that would explain why this piece of abstract color scheme was place hither instead of thither.

Art is a fine metaphor for what America has become. No one leading, everyone just trying to get along.

Out of focus, largely blah, decidedly lacking in focus, meaning, or direction.

But, my God, do we ever have out of focus, out of direction, and seemingly without purpose down pat!

Next time you’re in a well-corporatized setting (Big Bank, NYSE listed company, or a major name-brand hotel) as yourself this simple question:

Does the artwork here reflect a specific focus, attention to detail?  Does it  leave you with an obvious impression to be considered?  Does it take you (as a good impressionist will) in a general direction or toward a given place?

Or, is it splotches of color just all going along to get along with no particular theme, other than to make a color pallet work?

If your coffee has kicked in, you may be having one of those “Gee, now that you mention it…” moments.

It’s just another fine example of “as above, so below” that leaks through.

As above, at the group spiritual level, we are out of focus, lacking purpose,  and all trying to get along.  Below?  That’s what the artwork is doing, too, near as I can figure.

Do try to remember, color splotches does not art make.  And to the aware observer, it belies much of the mental state of unquestioning zombies.

Write when you break-even,


12 thoughts on “Coping: A Couple of Fine Gambling Stories”

  1. George,

    Your comments regarding the MGM Grand struck a nerve with me, since I recently watched an episode of Undercover Boss on YouTube that featured Scott Sibella,the COO of the billion-dollar MGM monster. My first impression? He’s one cheap bastard and his family has an elitist attitude. The man couldn’t even deal a hand of cards and was obviously ticked off when anyone criticized his performance. And, his rewards to dedicated employees averaged $5,000 whereas the CEO’s of much smaller companies have honored their workers with as much as $100,000 in cash, a new house, full tuitions, etc.! It was actually a BIG deal to him to donate wilted MGM flower arrangements to retirement communities instead of tossing them out.

    Oh, he put on a good front for the cameras but it was clear that the bottomline for him is all about profit and image. And his family? Mr. MGM thought is was special that he stayed in a cheap motel during his mission to see how the other half lives. And when his family visited him there at the end he told them that henceforth -when travelling- they would be staying in similar accomodations. His wifey quickly stated emphatically, “Oh, no we WON’T!”

    Speaks volumes to me about the entire MGM operation.

  2. Where I’ve noticed the lack of focus is in modern architecture and interior design. ‘Boxy thinking’ is what I’ve been calling it. In times past, architects and designers started with a ‘white box’ and worked from that base. Now, the ‘white box’ is the beginning and end of their work. Add the artwork you’ve noticed and we have something to work w/ regarding an objective assessment of contemporary society.

    I’ve also noticed a tendency towards neoteny in the color choices of many architects and designers. It’s as if they’ve used a 24 count box of crayola crayons. e.g. ‘splashes of color’. imo, if they need to add bright reds, greens, yellows, to make the design ‘interesting’, they’re doing it wrong. Remove the bright, eye-searing colors, however, and the designs are bland, at best. In perfectly good designs, they add ‘splashes of color’ to interiors that are otherwise perfectly fine and well balanced.

    So, imo, there is a neotenous trend in design, as well.

  3. “Some 2.4 billion people around the world don’t have access to decent sanitation and more than a billion are forced to defecate in the open, risking disease and other dangers, according to the United Nations.”

    Aren’t WE blessed in spite of all the complains?

  4. god I loved the old speed graphic.. super camera.. definitely not a pocket camera and you did loose weight dragging it around..

  5. “Gee, now that you mention it…”
    I think I’ll go make me a fresh cup, by the way it’s raining (down here in S. AZ.) hope it’s not up there.

    wouldn’t want to spoil a good wedding……

  6. from Robert Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long:

    “All cats are not the same after midnight. Infinite variety…”

  7. I was in Las Vegas, staying at Bally’s for a business trip last month (e.g., the room was prepaid). When I inquired about an in-room coffee machine as perhaps being part of the outrageous “resort fee,” I was told the resort fee only covered 24-hour access to the gym, but for a mere $40 more per night, they would be happy to upgrade me to a higher level room, with a coffee maker. When the clerk got tired of me staring at her without saying anything, she demurred I was welcome to come down to the lobby and purchase coffee from the 24-hour kiosk. Since the point of coffee in the morning is to have it while getting ready for the day, not getting ready to get coffee while I’m on my way to my breakfast meeting, I silently collected my key and navigated to my room. They lost a lot of points on customer service, but maybe Las Vegas has gotten to so big, they no longer care about the little guy.

  8. Congratulations on your daughter getting hitched ! The in room artwork would be kind of cool if you could upload your own artwork / pictures have a great time in vegas !

  9. Noticing the artwork places you up there with philosophers like Francis Schaeffer who sometime in the 70’s wrote a trilogy on culture and philosophy and in one of them he talks about how you can look at art and see where society is going

  10. Yes, I have noticed over the last 40 years, that art is not art. It is crap. It is pushed on us everywhere; In the sculptures, in the twisted metal scrapheaps that they put forth as ‘art’. In the hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, colleges, offices, all the cookie cutter crapola serenading as art. I think this has been proven to be a collective ‘mind crap’ done purposefully to confuse, disarm, dumb down, and disenfranchise natural abilities, instincts, and sensibilities. I don’t buy the crap art. I make my own art whenever possible, and as you, find the beauty everywhere and when I come across any ‘starving artists’ that can still actually create something of worth, I buy it. Mindless, senseless, crude cruddy crap is what is being foisted on us disguised as art. It is time to reject it as often as possible, and call it what it is, crap.

    • Miles W. Mathis has a whole website devoted to ranting against crappy art, and the entire Modernist movement in general.

      Go to

      Yeah, according to Mathis the industrialists deliberately messed up art. Oh, and all those pricey art auctions are, in his opinion, just money laundering operations.

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