A Brief Update

Just thought I’d post a quick (yet very much belated) update to confirm that I did make it back to Ontario from Las Vegas. I think I may been a bit tired (or delirious) when I booked my flight as I ended up having a seven hour layover in Charlotte. How did I not notice that?! Not surprisingly, that made for a VERY long travel day.

Anyway, I’m feeling better than I was in Las Vegas and significantly better than I was in Utah. Now that I’m back in Ontario, I’m still going through some tests for a full diagnosis so we’ll see what happens.

Thanks for all the kind comments. Greatly appreciated.

For what it’s worth, I’m slowly getting caught up with the much overdue India posts. I’ve posted a couple updates so far. More to come.

Random Rant, Again

Clearly it should read “Blackjack” (i.e, with quotes)

My apologies in advance for troubling you with another rant. I’m still mostly just hanging out in my room and the boredom is resulting in rants. I promise, this will be the last one. And it’ll be MUCH shorter than the last one – I know, I know … how could it NOT be!?

As I wandered the area of the strip in close proximity to my home at The Excalibur Hotel and Casino, I saw several signs advertising $5 Blackjack. This was notable because the last time I was in Las Vegas (several years ago), one was hard-pressed to find such a game. At that time, typical minimums were $10 or even $25 during the busier hours. The problem with these seemingly abundant $5 Blackjack tables was the notable rule change whereby a Blackjack payout was 6:5 instead of 3:2. Herein starts the rant. 6:5 Blackjack is not Blackjack. It’s not even blackjack with a lower case “b”. At best, it’s 21. At worst, it’s a shameless cash grab in a game where the house already has a significant edge. Yes, you can argue that the edge isn’t “significant” but that’s only if perfect mathematical strategy is employed – something that isn’t generally the case. In the long run, the house wins. If you disagree, well … look around a casino. They’re pretty big and fancy. And they’re not paid for by winners. (Although resort fees probably help!)

The sad thing is, I’m not sure how many people sitting at these “blackjack” tables even know how badly they’re being swindled. I suspect most are just there to play, have some fun, drink a bit and pretty much expect to lose eventually. Been there, done that. And I’m perfectly ok with that. That’s the entertainment service that Las Vegas provides. And that’s what makes the 6:5 aspect even more offensive. I mean, no one is getting rich playing at a $5 table (or a $10 table). Optimistically, they’ll play until they lose the money they came to gamble with and move on. The 6:5 payouts simply means they’re likely going to lose faster. Call me crazy (I’ve been called worse), but that’s not fun for me. Did I want to play? Yup. Did I? Well, ok … technically yes. But only because I THOUGHT I had found an actual Blackjack table (you know, one that pays 3:2).

In keeping with my usual “luck” at such tables I quickly found myself down $110. Almost as quickly though, things took a turn for the better and a series of good (or at least decent) cards combined with a somewhat aggressive (yet strategic) increase in wagers, followed. During this series of good/decent cards and aggressive-ish (I know, not a word) wagers I discovered I was at a 6:5 table when my $40 wager hit Blackjack. As I waited for my $60 payout, I was brought back to reality as the dealer proceeded to push a mere $48 in chips in my direction. I was a bit confused and in that confusion found myself caught up in the action and placing another bet. This time a strategically-based $10 wager (I wasn’t so confused as to lose track of the strategy). Uncharacteristically, I hit another Blackjack. And I was paid a mere $12. This time, before the dealer started her next round, I apologized to Kenny Rogers and did a quick chip count. Said count revealed I was up $10. I love it when the strategy works.

Despite the 30% reduced Blackjack payouts, I had recouped my quick, early losses and was back in the black. Was it a big victory? Clearly not. But a moral victory? Indeed.

Not willing to partake any further in this skewed version of “Blackjack”, I cashed in my chips to seek out a REAL Blackjack table. Sadly, that search failed – as did my energy level. Quickly. As such, I returned to my room to rest – and take some solace in beating (even if only minimally) the 6:5 game.

Random (And Long-winded) Rant

The Excalibur (aka. my home for three nights)

My big plan upon departing the hospital in Nephi, UT was to make the most of a less than an ideal situation. As such, I figured I’d take a few days before officially (and prematurely) ending my trip and enjoy some of the features Las Vegas has to offer. Sure, I have little-to-NO luck when it comes to cards but I was in more than a bit of bummed out mood and needed a distraction or 21. Plus, there are other things to do in Vegas. In hindsight, had I known I was going to feel so lethargic pretty much the entire time, I would’ve booked an earlier flight. But I didn’t. It continues to be unseasonably hot outside (i.e. it was 36°C at 10:30 last night) and I find myself spending the bulk of my time hanging out in my room in The Excalibur Hotel and Casino. I MAY be more than a bit bored. As such, my mind is stewing. About what you may ask? (Yes, I know … you probably didn’t ask because you know I’ll answer! Well, I’m answering regardless.)

When I booked my accommodation here in Vegas I was introduced to the (Sarcasm Alert) wonderful world of resort fees. It’s been a while since my last trip to Vegas so I don’t know if I had forgotten about them or never been faced with them before. I can’t help but think I’d remember such a thing.

NOT my home for three nights

Either way, for those that don’t know, resort fees are an added fee over and above the room charge. And they aren’t included (and are frequently hidden) when you book through many online channels. What do these fees cover? Well, in the case of The Excalibur (and most other casinos seem to follow the same template), resort fees include “Property-wide high speed internet access (public spaces and in-room), unlimited local and toll free calls, airline boarding pass printing and fitness center access for guests 18+.” All for just $35/night. There is SO much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. Well, let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

1. Property-wide high speed internet access: I haven’t done a speed test to see what they consider “high speed” because, well … I suspect I’ll be sorely disappointed. Ok, fine … I’ll do a speed test. Standby … Ok, test complete. Upload and download speeds clocked in at about 9.5 Mbps each. Certainly not lightning fast but more than adequate – especially on the upload side. So, as part of my $35/night I’m getting “high speed” internet. There’s just one problem. Once I got to my room to connect to said WiFi source I discovered that it’s an open network. No password required. Meaning anyone (guest or not) can use this internet access. For free. Hmmmmm.

2. Unlimited local and toll free calls: Admittedly, it’s pretty ballsy to offer free “toll-free” calls. And in a world where the vast majority of people have a cell phone, well … this isn’t much of a perk. And certainly can’t possibly make up much of the $35/night. Then again, maybe they recently had a bunch of new landlines installed (Sarcasm Alert redux).

3. Airline boarding pass printing: This one I find particularly amusing because it can only be taken advantage of once since boarding passes are only available 24 hours before a flight. And yet it’s part of the $35/night fee. Part of me wants to print my boarding pass 1,000 times just to get my money’s worth. Of course, that’s not environmentally friendly. Oh, this would probably be a good time to remind the inventor of resort fees that many boarding passes are now available through cell phones – you know, the devices people use to make local and toll-free calls.

4. Fitness Centre Access: Ok, this is the only “feature” that actually offers something. Of course, it’s not something I WANT or will actually use. And I suspect that’s the case with a vast majority of their clientele.

Bottom line, I really believe the resort fees are a shameless and cowardly cash grab. I say “cowardly” because of the lack of transparency that is often found with them. When I was scouring the internet for a place to stay, I would say about half the places I looked at made no mention of said fees. Or did so in small print. When I was checking in, I overheard the conversation of the people checking in beside me as they were being made aware of this “unexpected” balance owing they were facing. They didn’t seem pleased.

Not that anyone cares, but I really think it should be illegal to price things in such a way. I mean, when you advertise a room at $WHATEVER/night but to actually stay in that room REALLY costs an additional $30+/night, well … I think that’s criminal. Airlines used to play that game for the longest time with $20 flights that would cost $250 after fees. Fortunately, those days are over. Of course, they’ve since found other ways to add other fees but that’s a rant for another day.

For what it’s worth, I think there COULD be some useful things that could be included in resort fees – not that these things would actually justify the fees or how they’re added after the fact but at least they’d be useful things (to me, anyway):

  • Power bars: No, not the food. But in today’s world of increased personal electronics, I find the lack of available power outlets in hotels to be lacking. This isn’t really any fault of the hotel as most were built long before people needed to charge 27 devices every day. However, those days are long gone. So, why not have power bars available in the room. Now you may be thinking, “But Mark, people would steal them!” Yes, I’m sure people could. And some would. But probably not very many. Oh, and isn’t that the very reason my credit card was charged a security deposit of an extra $150? Problem solved.
  • Sunscreen: I mean, they’re quick to provide soaps and other lotions. Why not sunscreen? Las Vegas IS in a desert after all.
  • Coffee Maker: I don’t drink (or remotely like) coffee but how is it that the cheapest of motels (of which I’ve stayed in a few) typically have these conveniences but the pricier places don’t? I know, I know … as my former employer would frequently remind me, “It’s a profit thing.”

I’m sure there are other even MORE useful things that could be included in resort fees … actually, I’m not sure of that at all. And the suggestions above are really just me grasping for ideas. Just add the $30+/night to the price of the room and be done with it.

Or not.

Ok, thus ends the rant. My apologies for the outburst – it’s been a long couple of days. Maybe I’ll go play some Blackjack to take my mind off unimportant rantable (not a word) things.

© 2019: Mark's Midlife Crisis