A night, less robe.

A month has passed since I arrived in Las Vegas and I’ve traveled just under 6000kms in that time, or the equivalent of Melbourne to Broom via Perth. Sadly, those 6000kms (3500miles equivalent of New York to San Francisco via Texas for the northern hemisphere-ians) have been driven within a 50km radius of the central the strip (Las Vegas Blvd), on which Vegas was built. I knew I had signed up to be a driver, but the millage I drove was a surprise to me when I read the odometer.

Arriving in the City of Sin, I knew it would be an interesting experience and in no way were my expectations, or lack of them, befouled. I slept on the porch of my friend Tom’s apartment atop some blankets and sheets and woke to the sun blasting in from the east. Around 11am I picked-up a car load of reporters and camera crew and drove them to the Rio casino some 15miles away where they covered the daily play of the World Series of Poker. Repeated generally at 12, 2 and sometimes 5pm. The rest of the day was mine until I’d do the reverse and take people back to their accommodation starting generally with a carload at 10pm with the remainder wrapping up between 2-3am. This was the schedule I played out for the better portion of a month giving me ample time to do what I do best, “Random Cruise”.

Within the first couple of days, I had already nailed multiple shortcuts and back ways. Having little interest with gambling, and lack of money to partake in it, my attention was focused on exploring the unknown areas surrounding this gambling tourist’s mecca.

Las Vegas is a particularly puzzling city, as it appears to have a tremendous disproportion of housing and apartments to population. I kept serving my question to occupants of my car; “What do all these people do here?” Each time seemed to score an ace as no one could give a convincing and definitive answer. Sure the gaming and hospitality industry employ thousands, but my god some developer went nuts with photocopying housing plans, as they all look the same. Beige. Two stories. Unoccupied.Repeat.

Going on a recommendation from a good friend in New York, I rode my bike West from the city one free afternoon. Desperately needing a fix of some natural beauty, as a junky out to score, I hustled towards the setting sun. Traveling through a repetition of Beige. Two stories. Unoccupied. Repeat. I passed the boundary of suburbia and desert. The closest parallel I can describe, is if one were to snap a chilled Redskin lolly. SNAP! a change from urban to quasi lunar landscape. All that divides Husband-Wife-Two-kids-a-dog-green-lawn-and-a-turd from the perils of a harsh arid environment here is a flimsy backyard fence, a tap to the Hoover dam and an air conditioning unit spewing crisp frigid air through to the living room. As I watched the casinos disappear in my rear view mirrors, my eyes quickly fixated on the canyon before me. I was now entering Red Rock Canyon National Park area. Its grand stone cliff faces pushing at me as if they stood tippy-toed, smeared against glass between myself and them. How could it be that something so spectacular with an overwhelmingly powerful natural seniority could be in such proximity to a city as Las Vegas?

Clambering upon the red stained, softly textured rocks, I slowly made my way to the top of an outcrop. As I stopped to catch my breath and choose the best route up the close-to-vertical face, I recalled specific exceptions to my travel insurance policy stating non coverage if injured while partaking in “rock climbing activities”. I wondered how much rock you have to be climbing and if “unaided”, “free climbing” or “scrambling” are umbrellaed under this category? A passing thought, but a thought none the less as I peered around to be rewarded with another stunning view of a plain leading to the foothills some distance away. The sound of a motorcycle humming along route 160 brushed past my ears as I caught sight of a faint black spot, dwarfed by the surrounding peaks slowly traverse the canyon below.

With such amazing natural beauty encompassing Vegas, it’s hard to return to such a city, but in its own strange way, the city itself has a power to reclaim the center of attention.

A couple of weeks into the driving job and I still hadn’t had the opportunity to experience a true night out in the City of Sin. Coming to my rescue, Heath and Kirsty (whom I also shared Tom’s apartment with and worked for PokerNews) invited me to tag along to a party being held at the Palms casino, put on by an online gambling site. Knowing little about the host or the party, I accepted the offer and threw on a shirt and pants for the occasion. Entering the lobby of the “Fantasy Tower” we were greeted by a bubbly hostess who inspected the guest-list for our names. Naturally not finding mine, she kindly added me as “+1″ and proceeded to place wrist bands on each of us. Taking the elevator midway up the tower, we flashed our bands to the security on the door and entered the party held in the “King Pin suite”. To the left was a double lane bowling alley, to the right, a black marble topped bar behind which a view of “The Strip” in all its neon glory. Naturally we veered to the right and grabbed a drink from the barkeep. Swanning around with Heath and Kirsty, I noticed just behind me, rushing balls down the lane, slamming pins, stood Shane Warne (an Australian cricketer). Heath informed that the company sponsor Warny in poker tournaments, thus his presence. He then directed my attention to the gentleman sitting to my right, Mike Tyson and Jeff Fenick (Boxers) who also were sponsored by the site. Taking it in and having a quick moment of “Who am I? Where am I?” I took another sip on my brew and looked out the window to the city lights below.

Staying at the party for an hour or two, we soon caught word that there was another poker related party in the Palms up top in the Hugh Hefner Penthouse suite. Knowing full well none of us where on that guest list, six PokerNews (PN) staff and myself went back down to the lobby to see what our chances of getting up there were. Our first point of contact with the hostess for the penthouse party was Lynn, a reporter for PN. Lynn tried to pull the old “Where covering the party”, which the hostess bought none of. A verbal tug-of-war ensued as myself along with Tom (PN staff) and his girlfriend, Erin, stood sheepishly off to the side. As Lynn showed the hostess her media accreditation pass, along with Heath and Kirsty, (of which I had, NONE), by coincidence, two guys carrying an array of camera and lighting equipment started to queue up right behind us. From the perspective of the two hostess girls working the table, it looked like the said “camera guys” where part of our “party of 7″ which was not on the guest list. Another girl working the door saw this as Lynn simultaneously received a call on her phone. As Lynn walked to the side and put the phone to her head to take the call, the girl who spotted the two guys behind us pointed as she leaned to inform the first door girl “Oh My God. They’ve got a full camera crew. We need to let them in” she said. The first girl tried to confirm this with Lynn. Lynn gestured with her hand in a circular motion and pointed in my general direction “This is our group. Here!” and returned to the call. She had unknowingly also included the “camera crew” behind me with her vague pointing. The door girl in a frustrated tone asked who didn’t have media accreditation as “they’ll need a wrist band, you guys will be fine with your media passes just show them at door”. I quickly thrust my hand in front of her along with Tom and Erin. We all quickly dispersed from the table and entered the elevator, leaving behind our “camera crew”, The others of our party had not been had not yet realised the absolute brilliance of chance and miscommunication which had just occurred.

Taking the lift this time to the penthouse of the Fantasy tower, we exited to hear thumping tunes escaping down the hall. As our group of seven approached the door, we were greeted by security in dark suites. As they didn’t see some of us were wearing two wrist bands, they quickly tried to block the door. “That wrist band is for another party” one of them referring to the band not covered by my shirt sleeve. I rolled my cuff back to reveal the prized band. “Ah, no worries” he said. “And you guys” speaking to Lynn, Heath and Kirsty. “Your wrist bands?”. Lynn, Heath and Kirsty quickly flashed their media passes and explained what the door girl had told them. The security explained to them, “…we’ve been told, anybody without a wrist band is not allowed into this suite. You’d better go down and get one”. I offered to go back down with the rejected few, but was told to go in and grab a drink, “we’ll be right back up here in a minute”.

Brushing aside security, I entered the party along with Erin and Tom. First port of call was the open bar. Heading left from the front of the glass elevator, we edge our way closer to the bar. Playboy bunnies roamed freely amongst the guests. Out on the balcony a hot-tub pool, the end of which protruded out from the Fantasy tower with nothing more than a piece of glass holding the water in. As the three of us scouted the suite, I noted a number of ladies on the second floor and suggested we go investigate. As we wandered around, I kept thinking what was taking the others so long to get in. Unbeknown to me, the door girl down in the lobby wasn’t too happy when she realised she’d let seven people in, who didn’t have a camera crew with them at all! Somehow the others managed to talk themselves into receiving wristbands, if nothing more than just being persistent as it took about 45min of verbal banter (as I was told) before the door hostess girl gave in. As the night went on, I managed to find myself surrounded by gorgeous women on Hugh’s rotating bed in the Penthouse suite of the Palms. Once again I was overcome with the internal thought of “Who am I? Where am I again?!”. Then I quickly transfered my thoughts to “There’s plenty of time to think philosophy and being in Hugh’s Penthouse with bunnies roaming is definitely not the place to do so. Quickly a wave of thirst blew over as my thoughts changed to drink preference at the bar.

Through exploring the suite, I had managed to find a robe in one of the upstairs closet with bunny insignia and thought it more than appropriate to put it to use. Despite the party being in a sweet crib, it was mostly filled with online poker players, which aren’t the most fun to party with. Robe in hand, I gathered Tom and Erin and headed for the balcony. Standing off to the side, I asked Erin to hold the robe for me as I proceeded to strip down to my boxers and jump in the pool. Splashing about I glanced out over the Vegas skyline as I dunked my head under the water and had a moment to myself. Before long, a number of other people followed into the pool, at which point I exited and donned the robe. Walking to the bar, robe flowing either side I ordered another drink and returned to Tom and Erin. The robe wearing continued as did the mingling. Before I knew it we were headed for the door and on our way home. Naturally I chucked my clothes on and threw the robe under my arm. Passing the two security at the door, we smiled and headed for the lift. As we stood there waiting for the lift, I chuckled at the score I had just managed. As the lift doors opened, a security guard just cottoned on to my heist, and rounded the corner. “Excuse me Sir, that belongs back in the suite”. “Oh no, I’m a guest in the hotel, I’m just taking it back to my room” I stated. We left the palms, having had a great night, robe-less.

**Some more pictures to come soon.** Computer about to die. Heading to the Grand Canyon…