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gocekBlogGary - Gary Gocek's blog about his web sites and thoughts on various topics (undated)
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PEDs versus everything else (Sat, 07 Jan 2017 23:56:00 +0000)
Gevalia's just not that great (Wed, 14 Dec 2016 01:55:00 +0000)
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Gary's new blog (Sun, 18 Sep 2016 20:22:00 +0000)
Click here for local hotel info.  In case you're visiting.
Gocek, Lefancheck, Lebkowski genealogy. ... Family photos.

Gary and Sue got married!

Saturday, August 2, 2003
Scroll for photos.
Scroll for our honeymoon diary.
We hope you all had as great a time at the wedding as we did.  You were very generous with your gifts, thanks very much.  (The giver of one gift remains unidentified - a scented candle with a brown wooden 5x7 Potter & Smith picture frame.)
* Click here to see photos from the July 30 bachelor party (thanks, Z!).
* Click here to see photos scanned from our professional photographer's proofs.
Photo by Don Heiler
Since this page was previously used for lodging info, I'll state here that Greg and Dan and Gary stayed at the Budget Inn on Route 31 near Fairport, the night before the wedding.  For $79, it was way overpriced.  It was clean, but in other ways it was a dump.  There, I feel better.
Honeymoon diary links:
Tuesday, September 2, 2003 ... Wednesday, September 3, 2003 ... Thursday, September 4, 2003 ... Friday, September 5, 2003 ... Saturday, September 6, 2003
Restaurant notes
Gambling notes ... Gary has the fever ... Slot machines ... Video poker ... VP odds ... Casino notes ... Glossary

Gary and Susan's Vegas Honeymoon, September 2-6, 2003

Tuesday, September 2, 2003
We flew out of Rochester, NY. Gary's sister had given us rolls of coins, and these confused the security people watching the x-ray of Gary's carry-on bag. Susan's cuticle scissors practically brought in the National Guard, but they ultimately allowed Susan on the plane with them.
We arrived at the Las Vegas (LV) airport (actually in Clark County) and checked in to our hotel (the Flamingo hotel and casino) at the Park Place desk near baggage carousel #1. There was a line of about ten people here, but we would later see a line of many dozens of people at the hotel, so this is definitely the best way to check in. The Park Place corporation owns Flamingo, Paris, Bally's, Caesars, and the LV Hilton. You normally get your keys here, but our room was not ready. Gary asked about a mini-suite, but it would have been $60 extra per night, so we got room 16069, right next to the elevators and with a view of the pool area. Some rooms are a long way from the elevators, so this was quite nice. This room is a renovated room, so it did not have the worn-out look of some rooms.
We arrived at the Flamingo at about noon, but had to wait until 3 pm for our keys. We signed up for the Player's Club, which gives awards for gambling. You get a mag-strip card which is inserted into machines or handed to dealers. There is a wide, mall-like aisle below the registration area that leads to the restaurants. We had salads at the unnamed soup & salad bar next to the Pink Ginger restaurant. We walked farther down the aisle, past the buffet, to the tour desk, and made reservations for a tour of Red Rock Canyon. See Wednesday for a tour description.
We didn't do a whole lot before dinner. We lost about $15 in a $1 slot machine, then won $5.50 in a nickel slot machine. We had dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Paris. This is a very opulent restaurant, where a beautiful hostess in a gown leads you from the elevator to the dining room, and the waiters all wear tuxedos.
Having said this about the restaurant, we had a drink at the bar before being seated, and there was another couple next to us. After a bit, Gary noticed that the man had pulled open his suit jacket and had moved close to his female companion. His jacket then hid her left arm, and only her right arm was visible for a few minutes. You decide...
Although all of our dinners were great, this was the best, with great presentation, great food, and a great view. We were seated at a booth that was situated in such a way that it would have been used by Frank, Jack, and Marilyn, back in the day. We believe that we got the booth because Sue wore her fancy wedding dress (a dress that works in public, not a typical white wedding gown) to dinner that night. $246 including a bottle of wine and a tip. At all our evening meals, we bought a bottle of wine. All dinner prices shown include the wine, taxes, tip, etc.
We played quarter and nickel slots in the Paris casino and lost about $14.
Wednesday, September 3, 2003
We had a light breakfast at Bugsy's Deli. The Flamingo property was originally owned by gangster Bugsy Siegel.  Every transaction we saw at the deli had some sort of goofup, such as incorrect change or incomplete orders. The staff solved the problems, and Sue says they weren't friendly, but Gary thinks they just weren't very bright. There were no muffins, so Gary had a croissant, and the coffee was mediocre.
We went on a four-hour Pink Jeep tour of Red Rock Canyon. See www.pinkjeep.com. Our guide was Mike Metzger. There were two other guides with us, in training, and no other customers. The canyon is 16 miles from the Strip. Of course, it's like a different world out there. Mike was very knowledgeable about wildlife and fauna, and we saw wild horses and burros and squirrels and rabbits and birds. Also, Mike pointed out various types of trees, plants, and cacti. And lots of great scenery.
We returned to the Flamingo and had lunch at the Flamingo buffet, which was quite nice. We then went for some gambling at Flamingo, where Gary had found a 9-7 double-bonus video poker machine. More on gambling later. Gary fluctuated here a couple hundred dollars and hit four 3s and cashed out with a profit. Susan had planned to gamble at nickel slots, but the Flamingo wouldn't exchange her rolls of dimes, so she went shopping. Gary took the dimes to O'Shea's casino, which is run by Park Place and would accept the dimes. Gary went back to the room because he was sort of dazed by having won the money. Gary returned to the machine to get his Player's Club card, which was still in the machine. Gary returned again to look for one remaining roll of dimes which he had left in the coin return, but that was gone, so we count that as a $5 gambling loss. Then Gary watched TV until Susan returned.
We figured out how to use the buses. It's $2 per ride, up and down the strip, or you can pay the driver $5 for a 24 hour pass. We had dinner at Red Square, inside Mandalay Bay, several blocks from our hotel, which was too far to walk in the 100 degree heat. We both had beef Stroganoff, which was great. The service was great, and they have an amazing vodka selection, but we don't drink vodka. The atmosphere is a bit dark and dingy, as it is themed on Communist Russia, with pictures of Lenin on the wall. The music was modern, and we wished they had pushed the Russian theme a bit more. About $200. We bought a t-shirt here for Gary's son Dan.
We looked around at other casinos, but didn't gamble any more this day.
Thursday, September 4, 2003
We had our light breakfast at the coffee counter near the Oktoberfest beer area. The coffee was great, they had blueberry muffins, and we were able to eat outside in the shade. The coffee was great here all week.
We headed out to Luxor where we had seen interesting games. We signed up for their Player's Club. Most of the Player's Club cards are tied to multiple casinos, depending on which corporation owns the casinos. We started at a 98.4% slot machine, fluctuated a couple hundred dollars, and cashed out with a profit.
We had lunch at the Luxor buffet, and Gary was impressed to find small Polish sausages with sauerkraut.  Susan then went shopping while Gary sat at a full-pay video poker machine. Gary fluctuated here a couple hundred dollars and cashed out with a four-of-a-kind and a profit.  Unlike most major Strip casino machines which print bar-coded tickets at cash-out time, this game paid off with $1 tokens.  Yeah, lots of them, and it's a pain in the ass to carry tokens to the redemption counter.
We saw the show "O", by Cirque du Soleil, at Bellagio. There is a pool of water built into the stage, and you can't see into it, but the show takes place in and around the water.
We took a cab to the Venetian for dinner at Valentino. This was a great restaurant as well. The atmosphere is that of a well-lit, modern, eclectic, high class restaurant, contrasted with the dark, traditional, high-class atmosphere of Eiffel Tower. Susan left the table for a moment at Valentino, and the bus-girl re-folded her napkin while she was away. The dining room is fairly small and quiet. About $230.
Friday, September 5, 2003
We had our light breakfast from the counter with the good coffee. We went to Paris, a long block away from our hotel. We found the 98% slot machines, fluctuated a couple hundred dollars, and made another nice profit on these normally deadly slot machines. Sue went shopping!
Gary went to Bellagio for more video poker. Gary put $200 into a full-pay machine and lost that, and put in another $100, and went down another $50, so he was down $250. Finally, the machine started giving some hands, and he worked his way back to even. He went back down $150 and worked his way even. He went back down $150, got close to even, then hit two full-house hands in a row. The last full house was dealt (no need to draw cards). He cashed out after 2.5 hours with a $25 profit.
Gary needed a break, so he went to talk to the Player's Club staff. In the one session of video poker, he earned a free buffet for two, and $20 cash back.
Gary then sat at a 9-7 double bonus video poker machine. This machine was super hot and Gary cashed out quickly with a profit.
Gary couldn't lose, baby. So he went back to the 98% machines at Paris, and quickly lost.
Gary didn't want to finish gambling on a losing note, so he went back to Bellagio for one more round of double bonus VP. Up and down, then four aces and a profit. (Ha, and you thought he was going to lose it all, didn't you? Gary is convinced that if everyone would learn to play VP correctly, we would bury Las Vegas in one day.)  So there he was, walking around Vegas with money in his pockets!
Gary bought a Harley t-shirt for his son Greg ($20). He returned to the Flamingo to look for Sue at the pool, but she wasn't there. She was in the room, and Gary told her about his five hours of gambling. Sue had been worried that Gary had either been mugged, or was running wild around Vegas with a showgirl on each arm, or had lost everything and was feverishly trying to win it back.
We went to dinner at Elements in Aladdin, another modern-ish, eclectic restaurant. Charles the waiter was a big, jolly guy, and we had a great time and a great meal. About $200.
We then took a cab to New York, New York to see Rita Rudner (a comedienne). We were in the second row of this small cabaret theater. It appeared that they had both overbooked the front row, and had a couple of no-shows, so there was lots of activity up front involving young women with low-cut dresses. Rita's joke about expensive restaurants is that they no longer show prices on menus, just faces with expressions of varying degrees of horror. The show was great, and Rita told Gary (during her Q&A session) to quit gambling while he was ahead. That must be a girl thing.
We took the bus to the Venetian to exchange some Rockport sandals that Susan had bought Gary, for a different size. Then we took the bus back to the Flamingo.
Saturday, September 6, 2003
Gary got the good coffee from the counter and brought it back to the room, and we packed. We got our shuttle to the airport. Gary swears there was a slot machine there that would take your plane ticket and give you machine credit. But Susan made him come home with her.
Restaurant Notes by Susan
All four restaurants were 10 out of 10 for food and service. But Eiffel Tower was truly world class, with great servers who were very friendly and willing to chat. Our cool booth made for an unforgettable experience. It was the most expensive, but not by a lot. Our main waiter Christophe was a native Parisian (the real Paris).
Elements came in second place, again with a friendly staff. The waiter Charles was wonderful, and the general manager stopped by the table for a chat. We couldn't linger due to our show schedule, but it was a fun place.
Valentino was just slightly more reserved, so we didn't leave with such an excited feeling, although they did serve a killer lasagna. The sommelier poured the 1992 wine into a decanter in order to separate as much wine as possible from the sediment, which impressed Gary.
Red Square's food and service were great, and the waitress said we had the special lovers' booth, the booth in the back in the corner in the dark. But if you're not a vodka drinker, Red Square's strangely dark atmosphere and non-Russian background music make for an experience that was half a notch below the others. Gary wished they had more Eastern European food, such as anything with cabbage.
Gaming Notes
Originally, I had planned to play video poker (VP) and craps. Susan wanted to play slot machines and roulette. Ultimately, we never played any table games, due to our sleeping late, dinner and show schedules, crowds, etc.
Surviving the casinos requires a bankroll that you can afford to lose, and a goal that you can stop at when you're winning.  Also consider a time limit, and wear a watch because you won't find any wall clocks.  You need to read a basic book on the types of games that you want to play.  There is a Waldenbooks store on the Strip at the Fashion Mall, and they sell gambling books.  You won't find gambling books at the hotel gift shops.  Some games provide better odds than others.  For each game, there are conservative and risky strategies.  It's unclear that any sort of gambling is ever "smart", but some strategies are dumber than others, including the lack of a strategy.
Your bankroll needs to be realistic.  You will always lose a $25 bankroll; that's just not enough money to provide enough plays to get a winning hit.  Well, maybe on a nickel machine, but you'll only win a few dollars on a nickel machine.
Gary likes to play with Susan's head a bit by pretending he "has the fever", but honestly, he stopped gambling when the money became unreal.  We got really lucky and won at least a little, all the time.  When the amount started fluctuating up and down hundreds of dollars at a time, it was time to get out.
The gambling books often make vague statements about abandoning machines that don't seem to be paying off. This makes sense for slots, where the payoff percentage is unknown. But for a VP machine with a good pay table, you know what the long term payoff is. In my opinion, you need a sufficient bankroll to allow the odds to work themselves out. The gambling books recommend a 200-400 credit bankroll for a full-pay VP machine. In my (limited) experience, I believe it would be hard to recover from a 400 credit deficit, although I did recover from a 250 credit deficit and profited 25 credits after almost 2.5 hours of play. Your bankroll may be limited by the amount of money you can afford to lose, so if you can't afford to lose 200-400 credits, then you'll reduce your short-term chances of making a profit at VP.
The gambling books remind us that gambling is first done for fun, then for money. I agree that you don't want to set out for a casino because you need to find a way to pay your bills. On the other hand, losing sucks. When I walk into a casino and see all those blank faces staring at the slots, I don't see anyone having fun, except for maybe the one or two people actively getting a big payoff. I just can't imagine anyone telling me that he or she enjoys losing 15% of her money because the slots are so much fun to play.  My 2.5 hour marathon VP session was fun, but it's easy to say that now, after having cashed out with a small profit, rather than having surrendered to the machine with a loss.
Slot Machines
Slot machines usually have 3-5 reels, each displaying 1-5 lines of symbols. You can bet varying numbers of credits on each play, where the credits cost 1 cent to 5 dollars or more, depending on the machine. Modern video slots don't always simulate the old mechanical reels, but today, the most common machines still have reels, or simulated video reels. Sometimes, the extra lines of symbols can be diagonal, e.g., a machine with three reels might display three horizontal lines of symbols, and it might pay on five lines including the diagonals. But you need to bet at least five credits to put all five lines into play.
Some machines offer a large number of payoffs on various combinations of symbols, from 1 credit to thousands. Other machines offer a small number of unique payoffs. Usually, machines that offer the highest jackpot payoffs offer fewer low-end payoffs. And vice-versa; machines that offer many low-end payoffs tend to offer smaller jackpots.
The machines are set at the factory to return a percentage of the played credits as payoffs. Most machines do not display their payoff percentages, but some of the Strip casinos that we visited had small groups of machines that were marked as "97%" or more. At Luxor, we saw machines marked at 98.4%. In a casino with hundreds of slot machines, there might be a 10-20 high payoff machines.
On Tuesday, the Flamingo had eight 98% slots, but these were removed on Wednesday. New machines were up and running by the end of Friday, but they were not marked with a payoff percentage.
Although there is no law governing the minimum payoff of a slot, the rumor is that competition for gamblers keeps the slot payoff percentages in the high 80s to low 90s, except for the few machines offering 97% or 98%. I have no idea why anyone would play a lower percentage machine, although the high percentage machines tended to have smaller jackpots.
Nevada law does require that any advertised payoffs must be payable. In other words, if a machine says that 3 cherries will pay 500 credits, then it must be possible to get three cherries, and it must then pay 500 credits. But the odds of getting three cherries is not governed, other than that they must be greater than zero. If a machine offers a large number of credits as a jackpot, it offers smaller low-end payoffs in order to maintain the long-term payoff percentage.
The machines cannot easily be reset at the casino. The payoff percentage is set at the factory, and the casinos install whatever they want to install.
The slots do not track payoffs in order to adjust the next payoff. They are random devices, but the reels are manufactured to produce predictable results over many plays. A long losing streak does not mean that you are about to hit a winner. All you know is that the machine is set to pay off a percentage, and that percentage is less than 100%. You don't know the percentage, and you don't know when the machine will pay the next jackpot. The chance of any particular outcome is exactly the same, every time.
Progressive machines offer a jackpot that increases over time until someone wins. But note that the total payoff is counted toward the percentage. Again, low-end payoffs have to be reduced in order to increase the high-end payoffs.
My personal preference is for a non-progressive machine with lots of low-end payoffs. I don't mind machines with more than three reels as long as they offer lots of paying combinations. I feel that the low-end payoffs keep me alive with a given bankroll, until I finally hit the big payoff that allows me to cash out with a profit. Sometimes.
Sue and I played three 98% machines with a large ($200-$300) bankroll. We won and lost those amounts.. I think we got really lucky and really unlucky. We verified, to some extent, that a large initial bankroll can survive for a moderate profit.
Most machines allow the player to bet more than one credit per play. Usually, there are bonuses or extra winning combinations when playing the max number of credits, so this is always the best choice.
Overall, I think slots are fair but deadly, and even with the 98% machines, you'll lose in the long run (by definition). There are lots of gamblers just dying to find an illegally unfair machine at a major casino, but the casinos won't cheat you. There is too much money to be made legally.
Video Poker
Video poker machines differ from slots in that the odds are indirectly stated on the pay table. We assume that VP machines deal randomly from a 52 card deck, and we assume that an unfair machine will be removed or caught by the Gaming Commission cops. So, we know the winning hands and the odds of getting any one.
A VP machine displays the payoff for each type of winning hand. Like slots, the progressive and bonus machines that offer high payoffs for some hands also offer no payoffs for other hands, when compared to the non-bonus machines.
A full-pay, 9-6, non-bonus, non-progressive video poker machine offers 9 credits for a full house and 6 credits for a flush. Other hands pay other amounts. Typically, players bet 5 credits per hand, because there is a bonus payoff for a royal flush. Royals are rare, but the bonus is there, so it's the best choice.
In the major Strip casinos, I found lots of VP games (spread throughout each casino), but only a few full-pay games. The other non-bonus machines were set at 8-5, 7-5, or 6-5. The only reason to play those lower paying machines is for a large progressive payoff, or because you are stupid. The odds of getting the royal flush required for the progressive payoff are very low.
Most VP machines were of the double-bonus or double-double-bonus variety. These bonus machines pay higher amounts for four-of-a-kind, at the expense of the lower end payoffs. On the DDB machines, there were no payoffs for low hands; you need at least a flush. I played 9-7 DB machines (not DDB) and won lots of money with those.
The full-pay machines pay moderately, and can be played for over a 99% payoff rate. This is a game of skill as well as luck, and you need to learn the correct plays when drawing cards. In my opinion, you bankroll these machines with 300 credits and play for a small, 60 credit profit. Streaks (good and bad) will be short. The payoffs are very predictable. If you just can't get ahead and finally give up, you will likely lose only a small amount. With a 99%+ payoff percentage, you'll go up and down, and you play until a good streak gets you a small profit.
Because the 9-7 DB machines offer smaller payoffs for low-end hands, they can present longer bad streaks, but this machine still pays off at over 99%. You need to bankroll at least 300 credits, maybe 400, and play for the 4-of-a-kind. I got lucky and hit four aces in one of my sessions.
The Flamingo had one $1 9-7 DB machine, and one $5 full-pay machine. The $5 credit value is too rich for my blood. I would have to risk a $1500 bankroll.
Luxor had $1 full-pay machines. Bellagio was my favorite Strip casino for VP, with both $1 full-pay, and $1 9-7 DB machines. I profited from VP at Bellagio and earned a free buffet.
After the trip, I found the Wizard of Odds' page describing the odds of video poker machines.  Also see Jeff Lotspiech's "risk of ruin" calculator for video poker.  A bankroll amount and goal amount can be plugged in, and the chance of bankruptcy is shown versus the number of hands played.  These web sites point out that there are 10-7 double bonus machines, but I didn't see any on the Strip.
Which casino to play?
It is very easy to enter any casino and play. You don't need a Player's Club card, but if you think you'll visit LV more than once, it's probably worth it to give up the personal information. (In fact, many players consider comps and cash-back awards to be part of the expected return.)  It might seem easiest just to play at your hotel's casino, but I had better luck and a better experience at other casinos. Decide on your goals, and look for machines that meet your goals. It might take a half hour of searching to find the right machine. My preference is for low-payoff, $1 per credit, non-progressive machines on which I can grind out moderate profits.
We stayed at the Flamingo, but that was a tough casino. I really had to study the machines there, and there were very few that attracted me. There was, in my opinion, only one playable VP machine, and I won. The 98% slots were removed while we were at the hotel.
Paris was OK, and we hit a 98% slot there for a profit. I also lost some money in a 98% slot at Paris. I didn't see any full-pay or 9-7 DB VP machines, but I didn't look hard.
I really liked the atmosphere at Luxor, and we won at the 98.4% slot and the full-pay VP machine. I didn't see any 9-7 DB machines here.
I cleaned up at Bellagio with full-pay and 9-7 DB VP. I didn't see any 98% slots. This casino gets very crowded and rowdy when "O" is playing.
Glossary
LV = Las Vegas
VP = video poker
DB = double bonus
DDB = double-double-bonus
full-pay = a non-bonus VP machine with a decent 9-6 payoff percentage
9-6 = video poker, 9 credits for full house, 6 credits for flush
9-7 = video poker, 9 credits for full house, 7 credits for flush
O = the show at Bellagio
payoff percentage = percentage of played credits that a machine eventually pays off