Archive for December 2006

Episode 163 is up

December 31, 2006

Episode 162 is up

December 30, 2006

As exciting as watching paint dry

December 30, 2006

Episode 161 is up

December 29, 2006

NFL playoff scenarios

December 29, 2006

I didn’t write it, but it’s brought to you by the same person that did the other NFL post that I put up last week.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.

2006 Viewers’ Guide

and 19th Annual Playoff Charts

All Times Eastern

New York Giants at Washington Redskins, Saturday 8:00. In this first year of flexible scheduling,

when the league could cherry-pick a game to conclude the season on Sunday night, this was the one

game most appropriate to be chosen, the one game most likely to have wide-ranging playoff

implications. And it was the one game the league was contractually prohibited from choosing, because

it was scheduled for Saturday. Perhaps this is karmic retribution for putting this game on the NFL

Network and preventing most of America from seeing it.

In any case, the Giants essentially control their own destiny. If they win, they are so close to

making the playoffs, they might as well celebrate. The only way they miss the playoffs with a win is if

the Packers win tomorrow night and beat the Giants in a strength-of-victory tiebreaker. That tiebreaker

would see the Giants with 52 wins, plus the results of Dallas, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Carolina, and

the Packers with 46 wins, plus the results of Miami, Arizona, and San Francisco and double the results

of Detroit and Minnesota (the Packers beat each of them twice). And note that Detroit plays Dallas this

week, so that game essentially counts three times. If Dallas wins or ties, the Packers cannot win this

tiebreaker. If Dallas loses but so does Minnesota, the Packers can’t win either. Even if almost

everything goes right, and the Packers push this tiebreaker and go to overall strength of schedule, the

Packers there would need a whole lot more to go right: wins by all the AFC East teams and losses by

all the AFC South teams would help. So you see they have almost no chance and the Giants can pretty

much celebrate.

One thing that’s clear and simple is that a Giants victory eliminates the Panthers, Falcons, and

Rams all at once. Another thing that’s clear, though more complicated, is that a loss doesn’t eliminate

the Giants, but comes so close that they might as well pack. If the Giants lose and finish 7-9, in their

best-case scenario everyone else loses and they finish in a six-way tie (or optionally a seven-way tie if

the Niners win). The survivor of this scenario – which seems far-fetched but only requires all the home

teams except St. Louis to win – is the Giants.

NBC is rooting hard for a Redskins victory because it’s the best way to assure the network of an

audience for the Sunday night game.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints, Sunday 1:00. The New Orleans Saints, America’s Team,

have clinched a bye week and have nothing to gain today. They earned the America’s Team title like a

championship belt, taking it from the Cowboys mano a mano in a 42-17 drubbing Dec. 10, in Texas

Stadium and on national television. And that game is why the Saints have clinched a bye week. If

Dallas had won, the Cowboys would be holding the 2nd seed today and the Saints could reclaim it only

with help.

But enough of hypothetical playoff scenarios. In the actual standings, Carolina holds

tiebreakers against the Falcons and Rams, but not against the Giants or Packers. Thus, a Giants victory

last night would make this game meaningless for both participating teams. If the Giants lost or tied, the

Panthers can win and knock out the Falcons and Rams, then make the playoffs themselves if the

Packers lose or tie tonight.

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday 1:00. The Cowboys, as a result of losing their America’s

Team crown to New Orleans, are going to play a first-round playoff game. They win the division, and

thereby host one of the 8-8 wild card pretenders, if they finish ahead of the Eagles – basically, if they

win this game and the Eagles lose. Otherwise the Cowboys go to Seattle. As for the Lions, this is a

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


must-win game – for the Packers. If the Giants won last night, then the Lions must win this game or

the Packers are eliminated.

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans, 1:00. One of only two games on the afternoon schedule

that’s meaningful to both teams. In fact, it’s meaningful to two other teams besides. The Titans make

the playoffs if they get to a tiebreaker with only themselves and the Chiefs. This means they’d have to

win, the Bengals would have to lose or tie, and the Chiefs would have to knock out Denver by winning

while the Broncos lose. The Patriots, meanwhile, have already won their division and cannot earn a

bye week. They can move from 4th seed to 3rd, for whatever that’s worth, by finishing ahead of the

Colts. It’s questionable whether that will motivate the Patriots – though if you’ve seen the way Coach

Belichick fills out his injury lists, everything about the Patriots is always “questionable.”

As for the two other teams I mentioned, those are the Jets and Jaguars. Say the Jets lose and the

Jaguars win, and at the same time the Bengals lose or tie. Then a Titans win here puts the Jets into the

playoffs, while a Titans loss or tie lets the Jaguars in. The reasoning is that the Jaguars have a

tiebreaker advantage over the Jets, the Jets have one over the Titans, and the Titans have one over the

Jaguars. In a two-way tie, the Jaguars eliminate the Jets. But in a three-way tie, the Titans-Jaguars

tiebreaker is evaluated first because those teams are in the same division. The Titans eliminate the

Jaguars, then are eliminated in turn by the Jets.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday 1:00. The other early game that’s meaningful

to both teams. Only the winner of this game can make the playoffs – and even then, probably not.

First, the Bengals would have to lose or tie. Then, if the Chiefs win, the Broncos would have to lose.

If the Jaguars win, the Jets would have to lose and the Titans would have to lose or tie. The funny

thing about this game is that it might determine a playoff seed for the Bengals. If the Bengals win and

the Jets win or tie, then the Bengals need the Chiefs’ help to knock Denver out of the tiebreaker. In

this scenario, neither the Jaguars nor the Chiefs can make the playoffs, but if the Chiefs don’t win this

game, then the Bengals are eliminated.

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans, Sunday 1:00. Only for the usual suspects: close friends and

family, and degenerate gamblers. Oh, and Packers fans. This is the doomsday scenario where –

because the Giants beat Houston Nov. 5 – the result of this unseen exhibition between two bad teams

in one conference can determine who makes the playoffs in the other conference. If Houston wins, the

Giants improve their strength of victory. The Packers can’t afford that.

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets, Sunday 1:00. The Jets are in if they win, in if they tie, and

almost in if they lose. They’re eliminated in only two scenarios. One is if they compete with

Cincinnati and Denver at 9-7. This means the Jets lose, Cincinnati wins, and Kansas City fails to

knock off Denver (i.e. Kansas City doesn’t win or Denver doesn’t lose). The Jets have the worst

conference record in this bunch. The other is if Denver wins the 5th seed and the Jets have to compete

with the Jaguars alone for the 6th seed. This means the Jets lose, Cincinnati loses or ties, Jacksonville

wins, and the Titans fail to knock off the Jaguars (i.e. the Titans lose or tie). The Jets lose this

tiebreaker because they lost to the Jaguars head-to-head Oct. 8 (and it wasn’t close). The Raiders,

meanwhile, are out – way, way, way out.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday 1:00. It’s said that there’s a curse on the loser of

the Super Bowl. For some time now, the league runner-up, year after year, has been sinking to the

bottom of the following year’s standings. This year it was the Steelers’ turn to suffer the curse – true,

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


the Steelers won the Super Bowl, technically, but this is more ammunition for Mike Holmgren to argue

that the Steelers should’ve lost and the officials screwed up the game.

The Steelers, wrapping up this disappointing season, are relegated to playing spoiler. The

Bengals cannot make the playoffs unless they win. Then even if they do, either the Jets have to lose, or

both the Jaguars and Broncos have to lose.

Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday 1:00. A pure tune-up for the Seahawks, who

are locked into 4th seed, and a day off for fans of the 4-11 Buccaneers. This is another of those games

that will be monitored by Packers fans if the Giants won; the Packers will be rooting for Seattle.

St. Louis Rams at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday 1:00. The Vikings cannot make the playoffs at 7-9

because – well, first of all, no one should make the playoffs at 7-9. But in this case, it’s because they

were swept head-to-head by the Packers. The Rams have a shot at the playoffs if the Giants lost last

night and the Panthers lose now. They have to win, then sit back and wait for the Falcons to lose to the

Eagles. It’s that simple.

Oh, technically, they can also win if they tie. They would still need the Giants, Panthers, and

Falcons to lose, but it would be okay if the Packers merely tied instead of losing. Incidentally, this is

where I get to brag that my charts are the most complete, comprehensive, and accurate NFL playoff

information available anywhere. For example, take a look at the playoff scenarios officially released

by the league, posted at and printed in newspapers around the country.1 I challenge you to

figure out from those scenarios who makes the playoffs if the Rams and Packers finish 7-8-1 and the

Giants, Panthers, and Falcons are 7-9. It’s not there, is it? Okay, now try if the Rams and Falcons are

7-8-1. Answer: the Falcons, because of a strength-of-victory tiebreaker that’s very close but out of

reach for the Rams – but you’ll only find that out from me.

All right, maybe the guy at the NFL who whips these things out on Christmas Day could’ve

omitted a couple of outlying scenarios inadvertently. It takes me most of the week to get it right

(although in my defense, no one’s paying me to work on it full-time). But what about the guy at CBS

SportsLine who dressed up the scenarios with full sentences and little logos of all the teams – but

posted the wrong scenarios? At the NFL site, it says Green Bay can clinch [a] playoff berth with:

“5) GB tie + NYG loss + STL loss + ATL loss or tie + CAR loss or tie.” Correct, as far as it goes. (It’s

missing the GB tie + STL tie scenario.) But at the CBS site,2 it says Green Bay can clinch a playoffberth with: “ A tie and a N.Y. Giants loss and a St. Louis loss or tie and a Carolina loss or tie.” Now

how’d that happen? It’s not only different but factually incorrect. For Green Bay to make the playoffs

with a tie and a St. Louis tie, either Carolina or Atlanta must also tie. That creates a three-way

tiebreaker, which neutralizes the St. Louis-over-Green Bay head-to-head two-way tiebreaker


Or try this: “NFL tiebreaker expert” Joe Ferreira, a CBS SportsLine executive producer, posts

on his blog that “only DEN or NYJ can be the No. 5 seed.”3 Wrong! If the Bengals win, the Jets lose,

the Chiefs win, and the Broncos lose, then CIN can be the No. 5 seed. He also had before Week 16

that if the Jets won and the Bengals-Broncos game did not end in a tie, the Titans would be eliminated.

Now maybe the Bengals and Broncos would’ve wound up in a tie if the Bengals hadn’t flubbed an

extra point, but we’ll never know, and the point is that Ferreira got it wrong. Anyway, I’ll stop now.

I’ve neglected to let my record speak for itself.


2 (as viewed Dec. 28 – see it before they fix it!)


© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday 4:15. This game has meaning for the Eagles if the

Cowboys won or tied the early game. Then the Eagles have to match or outdo the Cowboys to hold on

to the division title. This would give the Eagles a home game in the first round. If they fall to second

place, they travel to Seattle in the first round. This game has meaning for the Falcons if neither the

Giants nor the Panthers won. Then the Falcons can make the playoffs with a win and a subsequent

Packers loss. (There are tie-game scenarios, too, which I won’t rehash here.) And finally, this game

has meaning for the Packers if the Giants and Panthers lost and the Rams won. (And not pie-in-the-sky

strength-of-victory meaning, either, but actual meaning.) In that scenario, a Falcons loss eliminates the

Packers. The Rams will beat the Packers in a two-way tiebreaker based on a head-to-head result

(“Favre’s Late Fumble Allows Rams to Get Away,” Associated Press, Oct. 8, 2006), but a Falcons win

makes this a three-way tiebreaker, which the Packers win based on conference record.

Arizona Cardinals at San Diego Chargers, Sunday 4:15. Bill Simmons, chafing at the

bit, made a recent crack involving Matt Vasgersian and J.C. Pearson, who inhabit a low rung of the

Fox broadcasting ladder. If Fox is contractually obligated to broadcast a game, but is only planning to

show it to the two TV markets involved, those are the guys they send. The joke wasn’t at their

expense: it was merely a surmise that they could’ve made their reservations for Cleveland six weeks in

advance to broadcast the Tampa Bay game there. To me, that’s one way to know you live in Arizona:

you not only recognize the names of Matt Vasgersian and J.C. Pearson, you have an opinion of the

quality of their work. (A positive one, by the way.)

The Cardinals, who are only dangerous when they have nothing to play for, have nothing to

play for. Therefore, they are dangerous. The Chargers, though, have their bye week wrapped up. They

will have home-field advantage, too, unless they lose and the Ravens win. The game will be broadcast

only in Arizona and southern California.4

San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos, Sunday 4:15. If the Chiefs lost or tied the early game, then

the Broncos can and will take this game off. If the Chiefs won, though, then the Broncos must win or

they will be eliminated. This reminds me of a few years ago when I was in Vegas and the way the early

games shook out, the Broncos could take their late game off. They were playing the Packers, who still

needed very much to win. In the minutes before game time, the line shifted tectonically and the

Broncos were suddenly getting +800 (bet $10 and if the Broncos win, you win $80). I thought, “No

matter how much the Broncos aren’t trying, they have better than an 8 to 1 shot at winning,” and bet on

them. Needless to say, the Packers rolled over them. The lesson, as always: I hate the Broncos.

Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts, Sunday 4:15. If the Patriots won or tied the early game, then

the Colts need to match or outdo them in order to hold on to the 3rd seed. That admittedly isn’t much

of an incentive. But the Colts can also grab a bye week if they win and the Ravens lose. The Dolphins

don’t have much to play for except pride, but neither have a lot of the teams that have been beating the

Colts lately.

Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens, Sunday 4:15. The Ravens have a bye week unless they lose and

the Colts win. The Ravens get home-field advantage in the playoffs if they win and the Chargers lose.

All three of the relevant games are scheduled at the same time. I think that’s on purpose. Under flex

scheduling, the league had the ability to move some games from 1:00 to 4:15, and the Colts and Ravens

are the AFC games the league chose.


© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


Did you notice, by the way, that all the late games are at 4:15, with none at 4:05? (Or did you

notice in the first place that some late games used to be at 4:05?) The reason for this is that both

networks have doubleheaders this week. Yes, that’s right, if you’re not in the TV market of a home

game on Sunday, you get to watch five games. This is just one of the improvements in the new TV

contract this year.

Another little-noted but major improvement is that one network can now show highlights of a

game in progress on the other network. The old rule was that they’d have to wait for the game to be

over. This means there can be “game breaks” showing any game in the league and there can be more

highlight videos on halftime shows. This is a major improvement over last year, when a Fox halftime

show would go something like this: “Here’s a field goal in St. Louis … here’s a one-yard slant pass for

a touchdown in Green Bay … and whoa, there have been all kinds of spectacular plays in this

barnburner in Cincinnati, 28-24 at halftime – take our word for it.”

The jury is out on whether Monday night games on cable are an improvement. More people

overall watch TV on Sunday than on any other night, so for ratings’ sake, it made sense to move the

over-the-air broadcast to Sunday and the cable game to Monday. The swap was also a necessary part

of the agreement wherein CBS and Fox would let their games be yanked off their networks for “flex

scheduling.” But fans have been trained – for their entire lifetimes, if they’re any younger than I am –

to expect the best game of the week on Monday night. Or at least the league’s best attempt to schedule

the best game of the week (that’s where flex scheduling comes in). Sundays on ESPN were always

designed to give the bad and mediocre teams a shot at the spotlight. A culture grew up around the

Monday Night Football experience. The league wants to have its cake and eat it too: a bigger TV

audience on Sunday night, where the viewers are, and the sports-bar crowd on Monday night not caring

if their games are second-best. This will probably work. It might help if someone educated the fans to

expect less on Monday – not only lesser games, but because of cable-size salaries, lesser announcers.

But eventually people will get used to the new regime. I think it’s a net positive for the league.

The NFL Network, not so much. Taking your fans hostage in a firefight between yourself and

some billion-dollar cable companies is, at best, counterproductive. This is greedy and harms the

public. The same can be said of DirecTV’s exclusive grasp on the Sunday Ticket package, a monopoly

which has drawn the basilisk gaze of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The league is on thin ice

here and, if wisdom prevails, will soon grab a rope.5

The one change I’d like to see in the league is the adoption of the college overtime system.

That’s not because the current system is unfair. I am unable to develop a full mathematical argument

involving field position, and how it differs on kickoffs versus punts, without completely making up my

figures and forgoing all credibility. However, it’s an empirical fact that the team winning the overtime

coin flip wins the game only half the time. Ergo, the current system is fair. No, I want the college

system because (a.) it’s compelling entertainment, and (b.) it eliminates ties. In a season like this,

when practically the entire league is within half a game of .500, the tiebreaker charts are inordinately

difficult. I’ve spent way too much time on this. But if tie-game scenarios didn’t exist, then the whole

league could be 8-8 and I could still knock this out in three hours.

Oh, and I have one game to go.

5 After unveiling the sterling prose of “basilisk gaze,” I had to jeté back to clichésville. (Apologies to Dennis Miller, the

Tony Kornheiser of six years ago.)

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, Sunday 8:15. This is the game the league hand-picked to

broadcast in prime time as the last game of the regular season. If the Giants lost last night, then this

was a great choice because it’s almost guaranteed to decide whether the Packers or some other team

makes the playoffs. If the Giants won, though (or if the Panthers and Falcons lost and the Rams won),

then this is a mere exhibition, wherein Brett Favre tries to pad his statistics one last time against the

Bears’ second string. I’m assuming, of course, that the Packers lose the strength of victory tiebreaker;

by game time, we’ll know for sure, but it’s a pretty safe assumption. (I’m also making the wildly

unsupported assumption that this game will mark “one last time” for Brett Favre.) The Bears, for their

part, have clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs and will be resting their starters.

And now that I’m done, I too will be resting … uh, for starters. Tonight I’ll be proofreading

while watching the Holiday Bowl. Tomorrow night I’ll be taking questions while watching Texas

Tech at the Insight Bowl – which would mean I’d have to be at the Insight Bowl (which I haven’t ruled

out) because the game is broadcast on the NFL Network. Yes, they have their tentacles everywhere.

And nothing says “NFL” like a college team from Lubbock.

The playoff analysis you are reading is, as far as I know, the best in the world. (If it’s not, I

want to know about it, so let me know.) Pass it on. Have fun and drive safely. Tip your waitress.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


2006 Playoff Charts


Sun Sun Sun Sun

1:00 4:15 4:15 4:15

NE Buf Mia Phx

@Ten @Bal @Ind @SD #1 #2 #3 #4


NE Buf Mia* — SD Bal NE Ind

NE Buf Ind — SD Ind Bal NE

NE Bal Mia* Phx Bal SD NE Ind

NE Bal Mia* SD* SD Bal NE Ind

NE Bal Ind Phx Bal SD Ind NE

NE Bal Ind SD* SD Bal Ind NE

NE tie Mia* — SD Bal NE Ind

NE tie Ind — SD Bal Ind NE

Ten Buf Mia* — SD Bal Ind NE

Ten Buf Ind — SD Ind Bal NE

Ten Bal — Phx Bal SD Ind NE

Ten Bal — SD* SD Bal Ind NE

Ten tie — — SD Bal Ind NE

tie Buf Mia — SD Bal NE Ind

tie Buf Ind — SD Ind Bal NE

tie Buf tie — SD Bal Ind NE

tie Bal Mia Phx Bal SD NE Ind

tie Bal Mia SD* SD Bal NE Ind

tie Bal Ind* Phx Bal SD Ind NE

tie Bal Ind* SD* SD Bal Ind NE

tie tie Mia — SD Bal NE Ind

tie tie Ind* — SD Bal Ind NE

Sun Sun Sun Sun Sun

1:00 1:00 1:00 1:00 4:15

Oak Pit Jax NE SF

@NYJ @Cin @KC @Ten @Den #5 #6


Oak Pit* Jax NE* — Den Jax

Oak Pit* Jax Ten — Den NYJ


Oak Pit* KC NE* Den* Den NYJ

Oak Pit* KC Ten SF NYJ Ten

Oak Pit* KC Ten Den* Den NYJ

Oak Pit* tie — — Den NYJ

Oak Cin Jax* — — Den Cin

Oak Cin KC — SF Cin NYJ

Oak Cin KC — Den* Den Cin

NYJ Pit* Jax* — SF* NYJ Den

NYJ Pit* Jax* — Den Den NYJ


NYJ Pit* KC NE* Den Den NYJ

NYJ Pit* KC NE* tie NYJ Den

NYJ Pit* KC Ten SF NYJ Ten

NYJ Pit* KC Ten Den Den NYJ

NYJ Pit* KC Ten tie NYJ Den

NYJ Cin Jax* — SF* NYJ Den

NYJ Cin Jax* — Den Den NYJ


NYJ Cin KC — Den Den NYJ

NYJ Cin KC — tie NYJ Den

tie Pit* Jax* — SF NYJ Den

tie Pit* Jax* — Den* Den NYJ

tie Pit* KC NE* SF NYJ KC

tie Pit* KC NE* Den* Den NYJ

tie Pit* KC Ten SF NYJ Ten

tie Pit* KC Ten Den* Den NYJ

tie Cin Jax* — SF NYJ Den

tie Cin Jax* — Den* Den NYJ

tie Cin KC — SF NYJ Cin

tie Cin KC — Den* Den NYJ


In case of tie, read this row.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


NFC (Simplified)

This chart assumes there are no ties.

#1=Chi #2=NO #4=Sea

Sat Sun Sun Sun Sun Sun

8:00 1:00 1:00 1:00 4:15 8:30

NYG Car StL Det Atl GB

@Was @NO @Min @Dal @Phi @Chi #3 #5 #6


NYG — — Det — GB Phi Dal NYG***

NYG — — Det — Chi Phi Dal NYG

NYG — — Dal Atl — Dal Phi NYG

NYG — — Dal Phi — Phi Dal NYG

Was Car — Det — GB Phi Dal GB

Was Car — Det — Chi Phi Dal Car

Was Car — Dal Atl GB Dal Phi GB

Was Car — Dal Atl Chi Dal Phi Car

Was Car — Dal Phi GB Phi Dal GB

Was Car — Dal Phi Chi Phi Dal Car

Was NO StL Det Atl GB Phi Dal GB

Was NO StL Det Atl Chi Phi Dal Atl

Was NO StL Det Phi — Phi Dal StL

Was NO StL Dal Atl GB Dal Phi GB

Was NO StL Dal Atl Chi Dal Phi Atl

Was NO StL Dal Phi — Phi Dal StL

Was NO Min Det Atl GB Phi Dal GB

Was NO Min Det Atl Chi Phi Dal Atl

Was NO Min Det Phi GB Phi Dal GB

Was NO Min Det Phi Chi Phi Dal NYG

Was NO Min Dal Atl GB Dal Phi GB

Was NO Min Dal Atl Chi Dal Phi Atl

Was NO Min Dal Phi GB Phi Dal GB

Was NO Min Dal Phi Chi Phi Dal NYG

*** GB overtakes NYG in a tiebreaker based on strength of victory only in the

following limited scenario: First, Det must win. Second, either (a.) every one

of these seven teams wins: Cle, Min, NO, Sea, Mia, Phx, and SF, or (b.) six of

the listed teams win and one of them (except Min) ties. If (a.) or (b.) happens,

then GB is #6 and NYG is eliminated. If (c.) six of the listed teams win and one

of them (except Min) loses, (d.) five of the listed teams win and two of them

(other than Min) tie, or (e.) six of the listed teams win and Min ties, then GB

and NYG proceed to the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker. In all other cases,

including any case where Min loses, NYG is #6 and GB is eliminated.

In the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker, GB overtakes NYG only if the number

of wins by NE, NYJ, StL, and Buf exceeds by more than 2 the number of wins byJax, Ten, and Ind. If the excess is exactly 2, then the teams proceed to “best

combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.”

NYG has a reasonably safe lead in this category.

For the purpose of calculating the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker, ties

count as half a win. For the tiebreaker to have reached this stage, StL cannot

have won, but may have tied.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


NFC (Traditional)

#1=Chi #2=NO #4=Sea

Chart 1: Giants win

Sun Sun Sun

1:00 4:15 8:30

Det Atl GB

@Dal @Phi @Chi #3 #5 #6


Det — GB Phi Dal NYG***

Det — Chi* Phi Dal NYG

Dal Atl* — Dal Phi NYG

Dal Phi — Phi Dal NYG

tie Atl — Dal Phi NYG

tie Phi* — Phi Dal NYG

Chart 2: Giants lose or tie

Sun Sun Sun Sun Sun

1:00 1:00 1:00 4:15 8:30

Car StL Det Atl GB

@NO @Min @Dal @Phi @Chi #3 #5 #6


Car — Det — GB Phi Dal GB

Car — Det — Chi* Phi Dal Car

Car — Dal Atl* GB Dal Phi GB

Car — Dal Atl* Chi* Dal Phi Car

Car — Dal Phi GB Phi Dal GB

Car — Dal Phi Chi* Phi Dal Car

Car — tie Atl GB Dal Phi GB

Car — tie Atl Chi* Dal Phi Car

Car — tie Phi* GB Phi Dal GB

Car — tie Phi* Chi* Phi Dal Car

NO* StL Det Atl GB Phi Dal GB

NO* StL Det Atl Chi* Phi Dal Atl

NO* StL Det Phi* — Phi Dal StL

NO* StL Dal Atl GB Dal Phi GB

NO* StL Dal Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

NO* StL Dal Phi — Phi Dal StL

NO* StL Dal tie — Dal Phi StL

NO* StL tie Atl GB Dal Phi GB

NO* StL tie Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

NO* StL tie Phi* — Phi Dal StL

NO Min Det Atl GB Phi Dal GB

NO Min Det Atl Chi* Phi Dal Atl

NO Min Det Phi GB Phi Dal GB

NO Min Det Phi Chi Phi Dal NYG

NO Min Det Phi tie Phi Dal GB**

NO Min Det tie GB Phi Dal GB

NO Min Det tie Chi Phi Dal Atl**

NO Min Det tie tie Phi Dal GB**

NO Min Dal Atl GB Dal Phi GB

NO Min Dal Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

NO Min Dal Phi GB Phi Dal GB

NO Min Dal Phi Chi Phi Dal NYG

NO Min Dal Phi tie Phi Dal GB**

NO Min Dal tie GB Dal Phi GB

NO Min Dal tie Chi Dal Phi Atl**

NO Min Dal tie tie Dal Phi GB**

NO Min tie Atl GB Dal Phi GB

NO Min tie Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

NO Min tie Phi GB Phi Dal GB

NO Min tie Phi Chi Phi Dal NYG

NO Min tie Phi tie Phi Dal GB**

NO Min tie tie GB Phi Dal GB

NO Min tie tie Chi Phi Dal Atl**

NO Min tie tie tie Phi Dal GB**

Sun Sun Sun Sun Sun

1:00 1:00 1:00 4:15 8:30

Car StL Det Atl GB

@NO @Min @Dal @Phi @Chi #3 #5 #6


NO tie Det Atl GB Phi Dal GB

NO tie Det Atl Chi* Phi Dal Atl

NO tie Det Phi GB Phi Dal GB

NO tie Det Phi Chi* Phi Dal StL**

NO tie Det tie GB Phi Dal GB

NO tie Det tie Chi Phi Dal Atl**

NO tie Det tie tie Phi Dal GB**

NO tie Dal Atl GB Dal Phi GB

NO tie Dal Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

NO tie Dal Phi GB Phi Dal GB

NO tie Dal Phi Chi* Phi Dal StL**

NO tie Dal tie GB Dal Phi GB

NO tie Dal tie Chi Dal Phi Atl**

NO tie Dal tie tie Dal Phi GB**

NO tie tie Atl GB Dal Phi GB

NO tie tie Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

NO tie tie Phi GB Phi Dal GB

NO tie tie Phi Chi* Phi Dal StL**

NO tie tie tie GB Phi Dal GB

NO tie tie tie Chi Phi Dal Atl**

NO tie tie tie tie Phi Dal GB**

tie Min* Det Atl GB Phi Dal GB

tie Min* Det Atl Chi* Phi Dal Atl

tie Min* Det Phi* GB Phi Dal GB

tie Min* Det Phi* Chi Phi Dal Car**

tie Min* Det Phi* tie Phi Dal GB**

tie Min* Dal Atl GB Dal Phi GB

tie Min* Dal Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

tie Min* Dal Phi GB Phi Dal GB

tie Min* Dal Phi Chi Phi Dal Car**

tie Min* Dal Phi tie Phi Dal GB**

tie Min* Dal tie GB Dal Phi GB

tie Min* Dal tie Chi Dal Phi Car**

tie Min* Dal tie tie Dal Phi GB**

tie Min* tie Atl GB Dal Phi GB

tie Min* tie Atl Chi* Dal Phi Atl

tie Min* tie Phi* GB Phi Dal GB

tie Min* tie Phi* Chi Phi Dal Car**

tie Min* tie Phi* tie Phi Dal GB**

* In case of tie, read this row.

** In case of NYG tie, NYG is #6, replacing the team listed here.

*** See footnote to NFC Simplified chart.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


2006 AFC Team-By-Team

San Diego Chargers (13-2) are West Division champions, have clinched a bye week, and control their

own destiny for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will be 1st seed if they win or tie

at home against Arizona, or if the Ravens lose or tie at home against Buffalo. They will be 2nd seed if

they lose and the Ravens win.

Baltimore Ravens (12-3) are North Division champions and control their own destiny for a bye week.

They will have a bye week if they win or tie at home against Buffalo, or the Colts lose or tie at home

against Miami. In addition, they will be 1st seed if they win and the Chargers lose at home against

Arizona. They will be 3rd seed, and host a first-round game, if they lose and the Colts win.

Indianapolis Colts (11-4) are South Division champions. They will have a bye week, as 2nd seed, if

they win at home against Miami and the Ravens lose at home against Buffalo. Otherwise they will host

a first-round game. They will be 3rd seed if they win and the Ravens win or tie, if they lose and the

Patriots lose at Tennessee, or if they tie and the Patriots lose or tie. They will be 4th seed if they lose

and the Patriots win or tie, or if they tie and the Patriots win.

New England Patriots (11-4) are East Division champions and will host a first-round game. They

will be 3rd seed if they win at Tennessee and the Colts lose or tie at home against Miami, or if they tie

and the Colts lose. Otherwise they will be 4th seed.

Denver Broncos (9-6) control their own destiny for a wild-card berth. They will be 5th seed if they

win at home against San Francisco; or if they lose, the Jets lose at home against Oakland, and the

Chiefs lose or tie at home against Jacksonville. They will also be 5th seed if they tie and the Jets lose

or tie. They will be 6th seed if they lose, the Jets win or tie, and the Chiefs lose or tie; or if they tie and

the Jets win. They will be eliminated if they lose and the Chiefs win.

New York Jets (9-6) control their own destiny for a wild-card berth. If they win at home against

Oakland, they make the playoffs. They will then be 5th seed if the Broncos lose or tie at home against

San Francisco, or 6th seed if the Broncos win.

If they tie, they also make the playoffs. They will be 5th seed if the Broncos lose, or 6th seed if

the Broncos win or tie.

If they lose, they can be eliminated. The rest of this paragraph assumes that the Jets lose: They

will be 5th seed if (a.) the Bengals lose or tie at home against Pittsburgh and (b.) the Jaguars lose at

Kansas City and the Broncos lose. They will be 6th seed if (a.) the Bengals win and (b.) the Jaguars

and Broncos lose. They will also be 6th seed if (a.) the Bengals lose or tie and (b.) either (i.) the

Jaguars lose and the Broncos win or tie, (ii.) the Jaguars tie, or (iii.) the Jaguars win and the Titans win

at home against New England. They will be eliminated if (a.) the Bengals win and (b.) either the

Jaguars or Broncos, or both, win or tie. They will also be eliminated if (a.) the Bengals lose or tie and

(b.) the Jaguars win and the Titans lose or tie.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


Cincinnati Bengals (8-7) must win and have help to earn a wild-card berth. If they win at home

against Pittsburgh and either (a.) the Jets lose at home against Oakland or (b.) the Broncos lose at home

against San Francisco and the Jaguars lose at Kansas City, then they make the playoffs. If both (a.) and

(b.) happen, they will be 5th seed. If only one happens, they will be 6th seed. If neither one happens,

they will be eliminated.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) must win and have significant help to earn a wild-card berth. If they win at

home against Jacksonville, the Bengals lose or tie at home against Pittsburgh, and the Broncos lose at

home against San Francisco, then they will be 6th seed. Otherwise they will be eliminated.

Tennessee Titans (8-7) must win and have lots of help to earn a wild-card berth. If they win at home

against New England, the Bengals lose or tie at home against Pittsburgh, the Jaguars lose at Kansas

City, and the Broncos lose at home against San Francisco, then they will be 6th seed. Otherwise they

will be eliminated.

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7) must win and have lots of help to earn a wild-card berth. If they win at

Kansas City, the Jets lose at home against Oakland, the Bengals lose or tie at home against Pittsburgh,

and the Titans lose or tie at home against New England, then they will be 6th seed. Otherwise they will

be eliminated.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


2006 NFC Team-By-Team

Chicago Bears (13-2) are North Division champions and have clinched home-field advantage

throughout the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints (10-5) are South Division champions and have clinched a bye week.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) have clinched a playoff berth and control their own destiny to win the East

Division. They will win the division, and host a first-round game, if they win at home against Atlanta,

if they lose and the Cowboys lose at home against Detroit, or if they tie and the Cowboys lose or tie.

Otherwise they will be a wild card. If they are division champions, they will be 3rd seed; if they are a

wild card, they will be 5th seed.

Dallas Cowboys (9-6) have clinched a playoff berth. They will win the East Division, and host a firstround

game, if they win at home against Detroit and the Eagles lose or tie at home against Atlanta, or if

they tie and the Eagles lose. Otherwise they will be a wild card. If they are division champions, they

will be 3rd seed; if they are a wild card, they will be 5th seed.

Seattle Seahawks (8-7) are West Division champions and will host a first-round game. They are

locked into the 4th seed and will play the Cowboys or Eagles.

New York Giants (7-8) are almost definitely in the playoffs if they win and almost definitely out of the

playoffs if they lose. They cannot win the division and can only be the 6th seed wild card.

The Giants make the playoffs if they win at Washington and the Packers lose or tie at Chicago.

In addition, if the Giants and Packers both win, then the Giants make the playoffs as long as they beat

the Packers in a strength of victory tiebreaker. The Packers cannot win this tiebreaker if the Cowboys

win at home against Detroit, and are unlikely to win it even if the Cowboys lose.*

The Giants make the playoffs if they lose, as long as the Panthers lose at New Orleans, the

Rams lose at Minnesota, the Falcons lose at Philadelphia, and the Packers lose at Chicago. They make

the playoffs if they tie as long as all four of those opponents lose or tie.

Green Bay Packers (7-8) can make the playoffs, as the 6th seed wild card, if they win, and are

eliminated if they lose.

The Packers make the playoffs if they win at Chicago, the Giants lose or tie at Washington, and

the Rams lose or tie at Minnesota. The Packers also make the playoffs if they win, the Giants lose or

tie, and the Rams win, as long as either the Panthers win at New Orleans or the Falcons win at

Philadelphia, or both the Panthers and Falcons win.

In addition, the Packers make the playoffs if they win and the Giants win, but only if they beat

the Giants in a strength of victory tiebreaker. The Packers cannot win this tiebreaker if the Cowboys

win at home against Detroit, and are unlikely to win it even if the Cowboys lose.

The Packers make the playoffs if they tie, as long as the Giants lose, the Rams lose, the

Panthers lose or tie, and the Falcons lose or tie. The Packers also make the playoffs if they tie, the

Giants lose, and the Rams tie, as long as either the Panthers or Falcons tie, or both do.

* See footnotes to the NFC Chart for details of the strength of victory tiebreaker.

© 2006 Jonathan Elgart. May be freely distributed if copyright notice is preserved.


Carolina Panthers (7-8) need help to make the playoffs, as the 6th seed wild card, and are eliminated

if they lose. The Panthers make the playoffs if they win at New Orleans, the Giants lose or tie at

Washington, and the Packers lose or tie at Chicago. The Panthers also make the playoffs if they tie, as

long as the Giants and Packers lose, the Rams lose or tie at Minnesota, and the Falcons lose or tie at


Atlanta Falcons (7-8) need significant help to make the playoffs, as the 6th seed wild card, and are

eliminated if they lose. The Falcons make the playoffs if they win at Philadelphia, the Giants lose or

tie at Washington, the Panthers lose or tie at New Orleans, and the Packers lose or tie at Chicago. The

Falcons also make the playoffs if they tie, the Giants, Panthers, and Packers all lose, and the Rams lose

or tie at Minnesota.

St. Louis Rams (7-8) need significant help to make the playoffs, as the 6th seed wild card, and are

eliminated if they lose. The Rams make the playoffs if they win at Minnesota, the Giants lose or tie at

Washington, the Panthers lose or tie at New Orleans, and the Falcons lose or tie at Philadelphia. The

Rams also make the playoffs if they tie, the Giants, Panthers, and Falcons all lose, and the Packers lose

or tie at Chicago.

Minnesota Vikings (6-9) are eliminated from the playoffs. In their best-case scenario, they finish in

either a six-way tie for the 6th seed with the Giants, Packers, Panthers, Falcons, and Rams or a sevenway

tie with those teams plus the 49ers. In either case, the Packers eliminate the Vikings on account of

a head-to-head sweep.

San Francisco 49ers (6-9) are eliminated from the playoffs. In their best-case scenario, they finish in a

seven-way tie for the 6th seed with the Giants, Packers, Panthers, Falcons, Rams, and Vikings. In that

case, the 49ers eliminate the Rams by superior division record, but after the Packers eliminate the

Vikings by head-to-head tiebreaker, the Giants and Packers eliminate all their other opponents,

including the 49ers, by superior conference record.

Found on a CafePress shirt

December 28, 2006

Being born in the south doesn’t make one a Southerner. A cat may have kittens in an oven, but that doesn’t make them biscuits.

Episode 160 is up

December 28, 2006

Episode 159 is up

December 27, 2006

Las Vegas trip report

December 26, 2006

I posted this on, but I know some of you are not members there, and I am sick of answering “how was Vegas?” so this will take care of that. The lingo is all designed for the Las Vegas Advisor crowd, so if you have questions about anything, just e-mail me.


I have heard enough stories about the war, and now that Grandma is safely watching figure skating that Grandpa taped for her earlier today, it’s time to tie up some loose ends, of which some include writing this here trip report.


So hello from Napa. I will be typing away for a bit, and perhaps you’ll read it all. We’ll see. I am really beat, so there is no checks and balances system for my rambling this time. You’ve been warned.


So I got everything packed on the 11th except for my cell phone charger (forgot) and left San Jose at 10 a.m. It was just one thing after another that morning, and despite waking up at 6:30, it took forever to get going.


I stopped off at the credit union and took some money out. I told the gal I would be back in a week and a half to return it, along with some new friends, but like most 20-year-old blond tellers with low-cut shirts, she had no sense of humor and must have thought I was using it to loan a friend so he could stock up on Sudafed for his newest meth lab. (I don’t know when financial institutions decided to start hiring nubile chicks as tellers, but quite frankly I’d prefer my eye candy to be in a less-professional setting than my credit union. They understand what’s going on about as well as your standard slot club boothling and are about as attentive and polite. If you’re going to spend your life not using your brain while at work, that’s fine, but please be my server, bartender or hooker. I don’t want you to ever be my primary source of important information if you’re not going to use your two remaining brain cells — one is lost and the other is looking for it.)


Then again, asking for a bunch of ones for tips likely got me categorized as just another strip club visitor by her anyway. I need them for the cocktail servers when I play video poker, honest!


So I got back on the freeway. Things were pretty nondescript for a few hours. But I do weird things when I drive, and sometimes these things can get me in trouble.


I love cruise control. I think it is the greatest invention since sliced ham. And when I am on the freeway, I play “How Far to the Right Can I Be on the Freeway While Leaving Cruise Control On?” In other words, maintain speed, but don’t block passing lanes unless you’re passing someone.


I need to take 46 to get from I-5 to 99. However, an 18-wheeler is, unbeknown to its driver, in my way, but because I am so stubborn, I neither speed up nor slow down. I miss my exit. I can’t even do some weird maneuver to sneak in at the last minute. The truck was positioned perfectly and going the perfect speed so that I was passing him as we passed the exit. Oops. Well, what’s the next crossroad to 99?


That would be 58. 58 is normally what I take from 99 to I-15 anyway, so it just means I won’t have to take 99 anymore. I get onto 58, and there is no traffic. I am thinking, “Why didn’t I go this way before?” Once I enter Bakersfield city limits I quickly understand why.


It’s only 2:30 p.m., but traffic is awful. And there are a million lights. And they aren’t synchronized. And they are all red. At this point of course, I just need to deal with it, because I don’t know the side streets and don’t want to make things even worse.


I don’t remember much else after that. There’s road construction on I-15, but that’s no surprise. So then around 6:30 I pull into the Aladdin parking lot. Of course the whole way here I am thinking of the thread I made about the best way to get to Aladdin from the freeway. Well, because my Audrie issues were unresolved, I found out the hard way that the Bally buildings block a bon voyage to Audrie. Fine. I make a right at the next street and go through some weird kung fu hideout before ending up on the other side of Audrie. So I make a right onto Audrie and a left into the parking garage. I accidentally figured it out.


There is no one in line at check-in, and she gives me room 3687, which is the street number of my grandparents’ house, which is where I am right now. This is just a coincidence. It’s not even irony.


Aladdin is slowly becoming Planet Hollywood. Slowly. I think it is taking so long because all the construction workers have to traverse the Dessert Passage shops before reaching the construction site. Some days, they reach the site just in time to go home. Dessert Passage execs don’t mind this, however, because the extra foot traffic makes them appear to actually be selling things in the shops.


Back to 3687. It has a purple door. All purple-doored hotel rooms have some sort of theme, meaning an outfit of an actor from a movie is on a wall, and there are lithographs or photographs or cels or something from said movie on the walls as well.


In my case, the movie was Get Shorty. Bette Midler’s outfit is on a wall, behind what likely was some sort of thick glass protection. A mannequin is wearing it, and I do not know enough about Bette Midler to make jokes about her or the mannequin here. On the wall near the window is a framed whatever of John Travolta, and in the bathroom is another framed whatever of Travolta and three other stars of the film (not Midler).


Speaking of the window, I had a view of everything on the strip, including the Bellagio Fountains. I didn’t ask for all this fancy stuff, but I sure got it. Those who appreciate these things should ask for 3687, or at least an odd-numbered room on a high floor.


Aladdin has lousy video poker. I found 8/5 BP in single-line, 3P and 5P dollars. Hmm.


I should explain how I gamble. I call it the Rainman method. I run $100 through a machine every day that I stay somewhere. However, I am not Rainman. If I get the meter up to $1,000, I cash out. I just don’t have the attention span to lose that much money at once, so I say, “Fine. Give me your money. See if I care.”


So I played five-play 8/5 bonus poker dollars for about three minutes, and I had fulfilled my obligation for the day. Now it was time to play poker.


Aladdin’s poker room is in a different place every time I visit. Right now it is upstairs, near the aforementioned VP machines. All in all, quite convenient. I bought in for $120 and played the 3-6 game for four hours and made $20.


At the end of the 11th, +$20 for poker and -$100 for VP. -$80 overall.


I woke up on the 12th, ready for my first full day of action. First stop, the $15 Spice Market Breakfast Buffet. It opens at 7, and I am one of the first people there, right next to all the senior citizens that no doubt have been awake for two hours already. The buffet is fine, but it wasn’t breathtaking. At least they have chocolate milk. This is a big deal to me. And no, I don’t want to add chocolate syrup to white milk. That’s cheating. If you do it for me, Mr. Server, don’t tell me! Let me pretend not to notice that the second one you brought out is a slightly different shade of brown and that there is a big brown smudge on the side of the glass that you missed when you were stirring.


On my first day, I like to use whatever I’ve received in the mail and get them out of the way. That consisted of one thing: Get 300 base credits at Caesars and get a free collared denim shirt, which I could use at work, because it is business casual, which means “wear any damn thing you want to cover your upper body, so long as it has a collar.” However, there were coupons in the in-room magazines for a coupon sheet at Tropicana and a funbook at the New Frontier. (Actually, the Trop’s is for a deck of cards, and the New Frontier’s is for a $5 match play, but that’s not what you actually get. You still get those things, of course. The coupon sheet accompanies the deck of cards and includes a match play. The New Frontier funbook has a $5 MP as one of the coupons in it.)


The astute reader will notice that those three casinos are on the strip. Splendid. So I walked from Aladdin to Tropicana. As I passed the M&M place, someone asked me where the MGM was. I told her I was going that way so she could follow me, and this turned into an opportunity for her to ask me my life story while we were walking. Luckily, my phone then rang.


I refuse to check e-mail when I am on vacation. That is because when I am not on vacation, all I do is check e-mail. However, I always have my phone with me. You never know when someone is going to need you, and as a seller on eBay, it is important for me to be there for my suckers, er, customers. Such was the case here.


Someone paid for something with a money order, and I never received it, so she was calling to see where the item was. She needed it for a Christmas present. I told her that it had not arrived, and because of the situation, I would return it to her when I got home, because I would not get back in time to send her the item before Christmas. I don’t think people realize that when you live in Ohio and it’s 9:45 a.m. that it is 7:45 a.m. in California (let alone Vegas). Luckily, I had gone to bed early the night before and gotten up early on the 12th.


By now, I have passed the entrance to the MGM, and this stranger had left my life (ostensibly) forever. I was off to the Trop.


I got my coupon sheet. All I could find that was playable was $1 8/5 bonus VP, so I gave them $100. I know when I was a member before I received stuff in the mail from them, so maybe I will again. I gave them and the New Frontier a lot of action this trip, which is sort of stupid because they both will not be around much longer. Then again, my play at Stardust did get me $10 in freeplay for staying at Orleans.


Incidentally, I had been away from the Trop for so long that I was considered new again. With 100 points I would get a T-shirt. I didn’t get enough points on my $100, but I have so many T-shirts, I decided to let it go.


The Trop has that $20 gets you $50 in the gaffed machines promotion. Years ago, I did it to get the stuffed Siberian tiger, which made an excellent gift for my mother. Surveying the consolation prizes, I saw the same tiger. Nothing else was catlike enough for Mom, so I decided I would have to find a gift for someone else. The dice clock will do nicely, I thought. And a few minutes later my $20 turned into one. I gave it to my friend that visited for the weekend. She didn’t want it but knew who would. That’s good enough for me.


While I was there, someone won $50, which was Ned Flanders’ favorite kind of surprise: mild. The way this promo works is that you must use your 50 credits (three at a time) on these gaffed machines, and each spin results in nothing, 15 credits, 30 credits, $50, $100 and $500.


You’ll notice that 50 is not divisible by three. I guess it would be more accurate to say you get 51 credits, because the last two are good enough for a spin.


So I got the dice clock and now had to carry that around with me. I forget about these things. If you obtain something, then you have to carry it with you.


Time to use the $5 MP that came with the coupon sheet. It requires a $10 bet. All they have are shuffling machines and shoes. I use a shoe.


Similar Rainman tactics are used for blackjack. Buy in for $100, but now the goal is to either double the money or lose it all. I am not going to turn it into $1,000. That would get me kicked out before I got that high. I use a simple hi/lo count and a 1-6 spread, although when the count is zero, I bet two units, not one. This makes it easier in my mind to get to six units when it’s to my advantage. I’ve never seen anyone do this, nor have I read of it, but I think it helps. At any rate, I lost my $100.


I check the poker room. They only have a $1/$2 No Limit game. No thanks. It’s too early for anything else, I guess. I would make a lot of money playing in these types of games. It’s early in the morning. Everyone is tired. I am not. I just don’t like No Limit cash games. Tournaments are fine. Similarly I don’t like fixed limit tournaments. I think it is important to stick with one or two things, and then if you improve, you can focus on other types of poker.


Trop: -$100 VP, -$100 BJ, -$20 slots. +1 dice clock.

Aladdin is on the way to Caesars, so I drop off the dice clock. It’s a nice day in LV, and walking to Caesars is quite comfortable and easy, and because it is December, I needn’t fear a sunburn.


I find the few remaining 9/6 $1 JOB machines. There are eight, with two 3P/5P machines near them. Sometimes they are all full, which is awful. I find a seat at a single-liner and get 220 of the base credits I need on my $100. I know I am returning for a couple of LVA meets, so I will take care of it then.


I visit the poker room. There is a wait list, and a tournament is starting in 20 minutes, so I decide to do the tournament. It was $80 with a $50 rebuy, which I used. Out of 107 people, I finished 38th. I played well. That’s all you can really hope for. My table never broke, and it had a lot of good players. The dealers were competent and friendly enough. I recommend this poker room.


Caesars: -$100 VP, -$130 poker.


Now it is time to walk to New Frontier. It is about 3:20, so it is about as warm as it will get. The sun sets before 4:30 in Las Vegas in December.


I get my funbook and see the usual assortment of coupons for the restaurants and bingo. I use the match play at a double-deck table and make $130 pretty quick. I cash out and leave a $5 tip. It’s time for FPDW.


New Frontier has a 25-cent FPDW with a progressive on the royal. It’s one of the better percentage plays out there, especially when the progressive is up there. This time it wasn’t ($1040), but so what? It’s still an opportunity to get points at a strip property, closing down that it may be.


I don’t know what strategy to use when playing quarters, because it requires a royal, generally, to turn $100 into $1000. And losing 400 credits can take forever. I generally can only play single-line VP for a couple hours before my attention span starts doing other things, and then I make mistakes. I used to be able to play for eight hours straight. I blame turning 30.


So I get 4 deuces, and 1000 quarters come spilling out. Hmm, okay. I guess I will play off the 400 credits and keep the $250, meaning a $150 profit. And that’s what I did.


The machine ran out of quarters during that 1000-coin auto-spill. So I got a hopper fill. I don’t tip involuntary hopper fills. (If I cash out and empty the hopper, then I do.) I’d appreciate opinions of this. I tip hopper fills when I do it on purpose because I created the work. I don’t understand why I should tip for involuntary ones. I know it’s the same job either way, but I don’t tip for that reason. I tip people for doing something for me that I requested. Otherwise I’d give the cocktail server money when I decline an invitation for a beverage.


I got several natural four of a kinds and three natural straight flushes on this machine. Oh well.


I was hungry. I used the $1 off a rack of ribs and beer coupon at Gilley’s. I generally don’t eat meat, but I figured I would never get another chance to eat at Gilley’s, and as someone who doesn’t really like country music AT ALL, I figured I should try something new and make myself more well-rounded.


So if RAMPER has never been here, he should go. Methinks he’s been here by now, but just in case, get your SoCal ass in there. Having said that, you can imagine how my server was dressed. I wouldn’t say she was dressed to the nines. Maybe the sixty-nines. Fake Southern accent and all, she got me my order. Food was above average (not that ribs are an area of expertise for me), but maybe not worth $19.99. I watched a bunch of country music videos on the screen while I was there. A lot of people lost their jobs, girlfriends and horses.


New Frontier: BJ +$125, VP +$150


It was 9. It was dark. Time to go back to Aladdin. I thought the walk would do me good. But then I saw a Deuce pulling up. (That is what they call the bus on the strip now.) I still hadn’t taken one, and I love mass transit. Fine. I pull $2 out and take that back. The driver must have been an ex-security guard. He kept ordering people around the bus, including telling people not to stand in the stairwell between the decks. (It is a double-decker bus.) Great entertainment. So when someone asked me whether I saw a show and I said no, I lied. I saw the Deuce.


I got back to the Aladdin and lost $120 playing 3-6 and $100 playing bonus poker, and it was time for bed.


Aladdin: VP -$100, poker -$120


12th total: poker -$250, VP -$150, BJ +$25 and other -$20 for a total of -$395. For the trip I was at -$475.


I got up on the 13th, ready to use my POV. I never used my POV in April, so I had some catching up to do. First stop Arizona Charlie’s Boulder.


This place was called Arizona Charlie’s East for years. They’ve changed their name, but many of the machines inside still have the old logo on them. It’s as if they started to rebrand everything in the casino, ran out of money and scrapped the project.


They have Kings or Better Joker’s Wild in quarters there (100.6%). This underrated game provided some enjoyment before my $100 went away. My $5 MP paved the way to a $140 BJ win, less $5 for tipping. I also had the $2.79 ham and eggs special at the Sourdough Café or whatever it’s called. Sorry. I’m a cheap bastard. I am not going to spend more money to not eat meat. It’s not about principal or the animals. It’s about the bottom line. I can spend $7 for an omelet or $3 for ham. I am taking the ham.


Arizona Charlie’s Boulder: VP -$100, BJ +135


There was an outside shot at a 3 p.m. meet at Ellis Island. Nothing had been decided when I left, so I figured I would risk it. Meet or no, egg nog was on my agenda. Granted, the signs all say “holiday nog.” My guess is that there are no eggs in this concoction. Rum must be cheaper than eggs. That’s why farmers don’t get their hens drunk. It is not cost-effective. The roosters must get their action on skill alone with this valuable weapon missing from their arsenal.

I arrived around 20 minutes early and played the 5P NSUD quarter machines. I had a holiday nog and a root beer. The root beer was sort of flat, almost like Kool-Aid. I will try it again some other time, but this time I was not impressed.

I got 4 deuces again. I cashed out $300. It was 3:15, and my guess was that no one was going to show. I had on my jersey with my name so I would be easy to spot, but no harm, no foul. And plus I put about 5,000 points on my card, so maybe I will start getting offers from the neighboring Super 8.

Ellis Island: VP +$200

With this aborted meet behind me, it was back to the POV and Arizona Charlie’s Decatur. They have 5P 10/7 DB in quarters, which is my favorite game in the world to play. I used to play this at the Club Cal-Neva in Reno when I lived in South Lake Tahoe in 1999-2000. A dealt four aces still doesn’t give a W-2G, so you can get a lot of 4OAKs because it’s 5P without worrying about tax issues.

$100 turned into $0 pretty quickly. Oh well. Then I had the POV’s $5 MP. That $100 also disappeared fairly quick. At the table was a leftover Texan from the rodeo, who was betting $100-$200/hand and some woman who believed in every kind of BJ voodoo you could imagine. She, like everyone in Vegas, just wanted to get even. The Texan left, and it was just the two of us vs. the dealer.

She was betting quarters two hands at a time. One of them involved a double down, but it was the third-base hand, and she “created” a situation in which she claimed she stood on 15 vs. an eight before doubling the last hand, but the dealer hit her 18 and busted her with the 10 that would have won the double down. And also the dealer would have busted instead of making a hand that beat her out of both hands. So all this woulda, coulda, shoulda cost her $75. The dealer said she motioned for a hit with her hand, and she said she did not. (I believe this was a double-deck face-up game.) Of course she waited till after the hand was over, so the floor was called, and they called upstairs to the eye in the sky to determine whether she inadvertently had been given another card or whether she legitimately tapped the felt for a card. I of course kept my mouth shut. What’s in it for me? The camera will show what happened, and because it’s not the NFL, they’ll get the call right.

I busted out soon after so I never found out what happened. At least I don’t have to worry about being caught for counting, because I didn’t win! Counting cards is not a guarantee, you know. It only puts the odds in your favor.

I went to the poker room, and the game had JUST broken up. Oh well.

Arizona Charlie’s Decatur: BJ -$100, VP -$100

The next coupon was for Big Dogs. There were three locations that were good, but the nearest one was on Sahara, west of Decatur. I figured, at 5 p.m., how hard could it be to go south on Decatur and make a right onto Sahara? Moron.

The light at Decatur and Sahara is a mess at rush hour. I really don’t see how they can make it any better. It was backed up in all directions, plus you have pedestrians. Stay away from this intersection during rush hour! It took three cycles for me to make my right turn.

Big Dogs has the Gamblers Bonus slot club, which I’d never signed up for before. Halfway through my session, I asked about it, and I should have done so right away. Every full house with 5s or 6s in it that night got 5000 bonus points ($5). Despite playing 6/5 BP for quarters, it’s not as bad when you are getting a bonus for some of your FHs. Of course because I was new I could not cash out my points. Next time. I ended up with more than 20,000 points on my card. The coupon is a $10 bonus for 4OAK, and I fondly remembered the last time I used it in 2003, when I got it on my second hand. Not this time. It took over an hour and cost me $60 to get it. However, the beer there is very good. The food seemed good too. Maybe next time.

I had a great view of the Phoenix Suns game. All in all, a nice place for locals, and if Question 5 goes a certain way, it will be smoke free. By now this may have been decided. I have no idea, and I am not going to check. Insert your own retorts here. I would play here because of the FH bonuses and the good eats.

Big Dogs: VP -$50

Time to head downtown. Binion’s is next, and I’ve never had so little fun winning money before. Please allow me to explain.

First I went to the slot club to get one of their player cards and use my POV coupon for $10 in free play. Turns out it takes 24-72 hours to get put on the card. This was an unsettling surprise. I wish that the POV coupon had said this. Lame. But it would get lamer.

Well, I was already there, so I had to do my obligatory video poker and poker room visits. They have FPDW in quarters, and with it being a double-points day, I figured why not. Well, I got four deuces for the third time this trip. I’d only gotten deuces once in my life before this trip, although I honestly don’t usually play deuces wild games. It spit out most of my thousand quarters and then required a hopper fill, so I waited for that. I had 160 credits left on my machine from my original hundred, and I was tired of playing, so I figured I’d go to the poker room for a bit and then play off the $40 afterward.

They are spreading a 4-8 game, so I buy in for $160 and get ready to sit down. As I am taking the chips out of my tray and setting up, the dealer suddenly looks at me and says I need to take “that” off the table. Whatever is he talking about?

Time for yet another sidebar to this story. When you play poker in a card room, you need to protect your hand. If something happens to your hand and it’s unprotected, it can be called dead, and you lose your hand (the cards, not your actual hand). Most people just use a chip. Greg Raymer is called “Fossilman” because he uses a fossil. Johnny Chan uses an orange. You get the idea. So what?

Well, the dealer keeps motioning at me without saying anything, and then he says, “you can’t have a condom at the table.”

I use a wrapped condom as a card cover. There are so many great lines you can use for this. “I like to protect my hand.” “I like lots of action at the poker table.” You get the idea. I’ve been doing this for years, and despite ripping off most of my material from other people, I am proud to say that I came up with this idea 100%.

I politely asked whether he was kidding, and he flatly said no, so I said fine, I’ll play somewhere else. I am not interested in making a scene. Despite my flowery writing and social skills, I am not compensating for anything and do not explicitly seek undue attention. I can respect a private operation to have its own rules of operating.

So I go back to the brush to cash out, and he says, “that was fast.” I briefly explain (accurately!) what transpired, and he seemed a bit perplexed. He said he thought it was creative and wanted to talk to the floor about it, but she was not there at the moment. I said I would wait for a bit for him to get her, although I really didn’t want to. Undue attention, etc.

The floor arrives, and he accurately restates the situation to her and asks her opinion, and she agreed with the dealer! Makes sense, I suppose. What dealer is going to voluntarily tell someone at a seven-handed table that he can’t do something? A seven-handed table is at risk of breaking up because many people do not like to play short-handed.

To be clear, I was not kicked out. But because I refused to not use a condom as a card protector I was not allowed to play. I could have stayed if I used something else.

The floor gave me a keychain for my trouble, which I found odd. The whole thing was quite cordial, I must say. But I refuse to go to Binion’s again, POV coupon or no. It’s an easy choice to make, given the competition out there.

Needless to say, I didn’t play the last $40 at FPDW.

Binion’s: VP +$190

I drove back to Aladdin around 10 p.m. and did the usual video poker/poker combo to “earn my keep.” I lost the $100 pretty quick at VP, and things weren’t looking good at the 2-4 game, either. Why isn’t there a 3-6 game? Well, they started one, and I moved. The game wasn’t full for long, though, and it got short-handed, and this one guy was a maniac, and after two hours of playing virtually nothing because of crap cards, I was able to take advantage of this tight image when I got a run of cards at a four-handed table. I made $103 before realizing I could barely stay awake. It was a great opportunity to make more money, but I knew I could easily give a lot back because of my tired state.

Aladdin: VP -$100, poker +$103

13th total: poker +$103, VP +$40, BJ +$35 for a total of +$178. For the trip I was -$297.

The 14th turned out to be a fun social day. I started with a drive to Boulder Station. I used some accrued points to have the Feast Buffet for breakfast. I love Stations. I can play an hour of dollar positive VP (900 hands, or 2250 points) and eat their buffet for free ($4.99, or 3000 points, but it is 25% off if you are gold, which I think involves leaving just 500 points on your card). I think just being gold gives you that 25% discount, even if you pay cash. After molesting their omelet station, I was good to go.

I used their 3X points coupon to play $1 10/6 DDB. It didn’t last long, but it was the attempt that was brave. My results sure looked as if I were in the Special Olympics, anyway. I would have had better results if I had wildly flailed at the buttons, I am sure. (And for the record I covered Special Olympics for high school yearbook and my best friend as a child had cerebral palsy, so although that doesn’t make it OK to mock the disabled, it *does* make it funnier.)

I went to the poker room and sat in on a 4-8 game. Boulder Station is one of the last smoking poker rooms in LV, although I was at a nonsmoking table. I had nothing but hot cards for the first 20 minutes. Talk about a way to build your table image. I felt sort of bad, because the table was full of sheriffs wanting to call down this arrogant brash kid, except I was polite and actually had the hands I was representing! It was a shame to leave after two hours up $57, but I had to go to an LVA meet.

An aside about the poker room here. I told them the story of Binion’s and the condom, and the dealer said, “Binion’s will do anything to drive business away.”

Boulder Station: VP -$100, poker +$57

I took Boulder Highway to Tropicana to get to Orleans. I’d never been before, but the following day I would be there again to check in, so it was nice to get a good look at the place. Brendan’s was closed, so we went to some bar to hang out. There were eight of us. I really think that this is the ideal number for a meet. In many ways this was my favorite meet because we could all sit together.

I generally won’t even try with names. There was a fellow Bay Area native that was there who was a lot of fun. He will also be there when I am next month for business, so hopefully we will be able to get together, although it’s hard to tell at this point. I’ve never gone to Vegas on business before, so I don’t know what to make of it all.

I also met Catherine (bigfus), who has similar goals as me in the gambling department. She also takes mass transit everywhere in LV, for which I have tremendous respect. I take mass transit all the time at home, but in LV, I tend to drive.

Everyone at the meet was a lot of fun, and I apologize for not remembering the names. I honestly don’t even try anymore because I just forget them anyway (plus I hate misspelling names, and when I only hear and never see the names, it becomes to easy to do this). That’s enough disclaimers for today.

After the meet, some of us tried our luck at the 3P nickel progressive. They had 9/7 DB, and after the recent gutting of their VP, this was about as good as it was going to get. One of the royals was over $600, and considering nickel royals are $200 without a progressive, this was amazing. None of us hit it, but we did help get it over $700. One of the smaller royals hit, which was nice.

My $100 lasted five hours. 3P is exciting enough that I can play it for that long, but even after five hours, I was really fried. Catherine stuck around, and I offered her a ride back to Main Street Station, where she was staying. Coin-in is coin-in (except at Coast casinos, which uses a coin-out system), so I figured I could play anywhere. Besides MSS does send good offers out, I have heard.

Orleans: VP -$100

We stopped at Gold Coast on the way to use a 2-for-1 buffet coupon. It was much better than my last experience there (see April trip report). I raided the Mongolian grill and desserts. It’s what I do. If my pants fit, I need to eat more.

So off we were to MSS. With the FPDW gone, I decided to play some 10/7 DB. These machines had the double up feature. I like it. The hell with you. I know everyone hates it. I like it. Double up? You bet.

I lost $50 in eight minutes. I still like double up. Then someone tells me about More for 4. This promotion gives you a scratch card for every hand four of a kind and higher. Well, if I don’t play double up, then I can get more scratch cards because I am not wasting time playing Card Sharks.

I lose the other $50. Normally I’d leave, but I am here hanging out with Catherine, so I don’t want to just leave. I figure okay I will just play another $100. It’s quarters. How bad can it hurt?

I get a straight flush and a 4OAK. Both scratch cards are $2. I manage to get the second $100 back to $100 again and decide my original $100 loss is sufficient, but at least now I have 1000 points on the card. I go back to Aladdin. It’s the last night before I have to check out.

MSS: VP -$100

By now it is after 2 a.m. I sit at a 2-4 table because that is all they have. Stupid Aladdin. Why can’t they keep a 3-6 game open? Well, after nearly four hours of playing, I have made $4 and decide to go to bed. Wait, I forgot to blow $100 playing VP. OK, done.

Aladdin: VP -$100, poker +$4

14th: poker +$61, VP -$400 for a total of -$339. For the trip I am -$636.

I call for a late checkout and get a whole hour. I actually use an alarm and set it for 11. (I never use alarms, even at home. I love flextime.)

I get up on the 15th, load up the car and check out. One last shot at VP and the poker room, and I am down with the Aladdin a la Dean (Martin).

The poker room is full, so I get on the list and head to the VP. My $100 on the 5P machine works its way down to $5, and I cash out and head to the single-line machine. I build it back up to $30 and head back to the 5P machine. Down to $10, I head back to the single-line machine. And again, I get to $25, so I go back to the 5P machine.

Several 4OAKs later (including 4 aces twice), I cash out $1070. My $8k coin-in helps get my trip coin-in to $11k. I doubt it’s enough for a four night stay to keep getting casino rate postcards, but I guess time will tell. I get my .25% cashback and head to the poker room. They still don’t have a seat for me, but five minutes later they do. Another 2-4 game. Jeez.

Well, I won $53, and I guess that’s all that matters. Two-third of the table is part of a wedding, and it makes for easy pickings. They all left at 3, and so did I. I wasn’t part of the wedding, no. (How could I be, having never read Neon Nuptials?) But I did have to check in at Orleans.

Audrie/Harmon/LV Blvd/Tropicana wasn’t too bad, despite it being Friday, and I was off to check in. I had a little time to kill, needing to pick up Sasha at 7 at the airport, so I combed the floor for better VP than what I had played before. I did find 25-cent spin poker in 8/5 bonus, so if you need to rack up the coin-out points in a hurry, nothing will beat this $11.25/spin option that I could find.

That $100 didn’t last long. I watched a little TV. I wanted to nap but was afraid I would sleep through an alarm. Oh, and the bottom nickel 3P royal had hit and was back to $300 again. That bank of machines seems to always be popular.

I picked up Sasha, whose flight was on time. I decided I would break with alphabetical POV tradition and go somewhere new for dinner. So for the first time in my life I went to Wynn for the 100-point two buffet promo.

Parking was easy. There was one person in line at the slot club. This is a Friday night? Well, it has to do with it being the slowest weekend of the year.

I went to the 100-play 9/6 JOB $1 machine. You can play any number of lines on this machine, so I figured I would just put $100 in and max-line it until I got 100 points ($900 coin-in, I believe).

Wynn: VP -$400

Ahem. But we got the $81 comp, and it was the best $400 meal I’d ever had. I have no regrets. I won $2250 on a 50-play $1 JOB machine at Caesars in 2001 when I was dealt a full house with max coin in. What goes around, comes around.

Only two people ahead of us at the buffet to get in, as well, so indeed, a slow Friday night.

Wynn has a lot of people there just checking out the place. We even had the “guy in a stained sweatshirt, short pants and fanny pack” walking around. And in the buffet we had more than our share of people dressed to the nines (just the nines).

Overall, mildly trashy. Bellagio is much more dignified by comparison. Personally, it’s all a big whatever, but it is noticeable.

We went back to Orleans, and I lost $200 playing random slots. My notes aren’t clear, but my end-of-day stats are. There must have been slots involved.

15th: poker +53, VP +$470, other -$200.

Thankfully, Sasha is using my player cards while visiting. My Orleans trip as a whole ended up with something like $15,000 coin out, and she lost over a grand, so I expect good offers from them.

Ahh, the 16th. I We took the shuttle to Barbary Coast to get to Caesars for a member meet at the Diamond Lounge (ooh la la). I decided not to eat because the DL would have food. We got there around 2:40, so I tried another 100 to get my shirt, and I barely got any points at all. Then Sasha had the genius idea of getting me points by playing slots. Then it was 3.

I called Mare, who was supposed to get us in, and she led us to the DL. The DL had a line of people waiting to get in, and I found several LVAers waiting among them. It quickly became apparent that we would have to go somewhere else. Fine. So we went to the Seahorse bar. Funny. That’s where the following day’s meet would be.

There were actually nametags. Awesome. I’d never been to an LVA meet with nametags before. This meet was super. I didn’t have enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to, because we had to head to the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey game, and of course, we needed to eat first too. Sasha is quite patient with my idiosyncratic quirks and was fine with having waited this long without eating.

I have leftover RCs on my Harrah’s card, so we ate in the food court after leaving the meet. I am a sucker for soup in a bread bowl, so I had the lobster chowder. They had vegetarian options, but none involved soup in a bread bowl! I am such a poseur vegetarian. Don’t you ever tell someone you know a vegetarian that eats meat. I will not be responsible for the downfall of an entire group of people. I am just a poseur.

Caesars: VP -$100

We went to Bellagio to meet my friends Joby and Tracy. This is how I know Bellagio is still dignified (see above). We met at valet, and they drove us back to Orleans. I showed them the room, and then we went to get tickets to the hockey game. We got eighth-row tickets (Row H) for $20 each. Not bad.

The Wranglers are funny. Their mascot stands in front of a giant wall with a slot machine arm on the right side of it. They superimpose three reels on the wall, and then he pulls the handle. The reels line up with the symbol “#” and the two numbers of a player, and then the player skates through the wall onto the ice.

This is about as clever as it got. I used a coupon for a free hot dog, popcorn and soda. (It’s free!) TOO MUCH POPCORN. Ugh. I could not eat it all, which is hard to believe, I know. It was soo freakin’ salty. After eating about half, I needed help. Well the people in front of us were sort of dumb. Not loud, like the people behind us, but dumb. I decided it would be funny, if the Wranglers scored, to jump up, cheer and accidentally throw my popcorn bucket in the air. There really wasn’t a lot of people around us, so there weren’t going to be innocent bystanders.

Well, it took so long for the Wranglers to score that I had hardly any popcorn left, and I totally botched it when I jumped up, so the only place the popcorn went was at my feet. Oh well.

The Fresno Falcons (San Jose Sharks minor league club) beat the Wranglers (Calgary Flames) 4-2. The Wranglers looked like crap.

One more thing: The backs of the tickets had coupons for a free a drink. And when we walked in, we were given 2-for-1s for the Orleans buffet, which were printed on the same stock as our actual tickets, so they also had free drinks on the back. Decisions, decisions.

The four of us had some drinks, and then the women stereotypically went off to play slots (both with my card – yes!), and Joby and I went to play blackjack. He is smart enough to count cards, so together we could have been a gruesome twosome. However, we ended up at a shoe, and the game just never got that good. I did win $65 though (and he $50). A new shoe started, and every player but one was dealt a 20, and the dealer also had a 10 showing, so we decided to reverse wong our way out of there.

They went off to bed (Fitzgerald’s), and so did Sasha and I. It had been a long day.

Orleans: BJ +$65

16th: VP -$100, BJ +$65 for a total of -$35. For the trip I am -$348.

Got up on the 17th and had no obligations until the evening. I found a Spam slot machine and wanted to get the bonus round to show Sasha how cool it was. I spent $60, and she spent $40, and it never happened. Bah.

I wanted to show her downtown, so we drove to El Cortez. I got her a Jackie’s Club player card. (It has Jackie right on it. How cool is that?) While she checked out the slots, I played a little BJ. I knew they had single decks that paid 3:2 for BJs, but I couldn’t catch a break. My $100 didn’t last long.

EC used to be a nice hole in the wall. It is so clean in there, and although they haven’t gotten rid of the smoky smell, they have covered it up with standard room freshener. The result is a unique aroma. That’s one way of putting it.

El Cortez: BJ -$100

I found Sasha, and we walked to the Western. God, I love that place. Wood-paneled floors, and the only machines that take actual pennies in Las Vegas. The six-coin progressive was up to $613, by the way. We did not play. All six machines were in use. Remember when they said they were going to fix up the jernt? Not yet anyway.

Oh, and their pit games made me smile. The table betting limits were not on plastic like they are at every other casino. They are printed out on paper! Classic. The way Las Vegas was meant to be. Take that, Tropicana!

We then walked down Fremont to La Bayou, so she could try all the frozen drinks. Those fartknockers no longer have the $1 small ones, but they do give free samples. We did eventually get a half brain freeze/half mudslide in the really tall plastic container. Other changes: they now say 21 different flavors, not 26, and the drawings are every 30 minutes, not every 20. However, all the signage does not reflect these three changes.

The place was nearly empty, which was sad, although it could just be the season. Because of this, I won the drawing and got to use the slot machine. I got the bottom prize: $2 or any of the fancy beads on the back wall. I took the ones with the Japanese good luck kitties on them. They became part of my grandma’s Christmas present. (She is Japanese.) She loved them, by the way.

We played the Wild Cherry Bonus Pie slots while we were there. The pie was almost full. I ended up winning $5. This is the one place that really needs my money. After all, they can’t even stay open 24 hours! (They close from 2-6 a.m.)

La Bayou: other $5

We needed to get to New Frontier because Sasha likes Bingo, and I had $1 off coupons! We did not win, but it was nice being the two youngest people in there by at least 20 years. Bingo really is a trip. Sasha is a San Jose Sharks fan, and they had a teal dauber for sale, so you know she had to get that one for her eventually losing bingo cards. I am sure she still has the dauber as a souvenir.

New Frontier: other -$13

Sasha likes steak, so I took her to Ellis Island so she could have the $4.95 special. I figured we could use the 2-for-1 in the POV. It can’t be said enough. YOU CAN’T! I don’t know why I thought I could. Maybe because I read here that you could? I dunno.

I ordered mine medium well; she ordered hers medium rare. They both were rare. I refuse to complain about food in a restaurant unless it’s some sort of code violation. Rare meat isn’t going to kill me. Our server, Suzi, had a bad New York accent. It was entertaining enough to leave a $10 tip.

I was going to use the match play from our placemat. I could not use hers too, and they insisted she have a player card. (Yes, there is a space on the MP to write the name and card number on it, but I have read that no one ever asks for it.) And then (also in a bad NY accent) he asks whether I am going to use mine because the game is about to close. I said, “Well, you can’t close it if I play for a while,” and he said he could because he has to go home. I have never heard of a pit game closing while people were playing at it. I remember secondary pits staying open all night because one player at one table wanted to keep playing. Shows what I know.

I didn’t want to deal with the situation because I needed to get to the airport to drop Sasha off, so I just said, “Not tonight Howie, but thank you.” This is funny for two reasons. It was Sunday, and he had on a Howie Long Raiders jersey. Also, when I lived in Tahoe, I worked with a bartender from New York named Howie, and he had the accent, believe you me. At any rate, I knew I would be back because EI is in the POV, so I would just take care of it then.

While we were waiting to be seated at the restaurant, incidentally, I played more 5P 25 cent NSUD and lost $13.75. Sasha put $100 in a penny Star Wars machines and, on her second spin, got four Han Solos and a Wild for $100 and cashed out $207 total.

EI: VP -$13.75

So I took Sasha to the airport and headed to the 9 p.m. member meet at Caesars. This time the Seahorse Bar was the correct destination!

I got to Caesars a bit early and decided to get the rest of the points I needed. I left my card at Orleans and needed a new one. I decided to inquire about the shirt while I was there. She said I had been away for too many days from my first play (the 200 or so tier credits day), but if I promised to play more, then she’d just give it to me now. So with shirt in hand, I played a bit. The guy next to me hit a royal and was answering all the questions that go along with it. Then I got 4OAK. It was getting near 9, and I cashed out $200.

The meet was fun, although much smaller than the previous afternoon’s. I received wonderful Cayman Islands propaganda. I used to know a cocktail server from the Caymans. She was originally from Ireland and had the accent and everything, but I digress.

Catherine was also at this one. Now she was staying at El Cortez, so I offered to take her back again. I cashed in my $200 instead of playing it off. Like Caesars is going to send me anything anyway.

Caesars: VP +100

There are two slant-top TITO 25-cent machines with 20/7 KBJW and 10/7 DB, and we finally, finally found them. They are on the same row but not adjacent. Not as much fun as playing neighboring machines. I got another straight flush and several 4OAKs. I ended up $80 ahead and decided to call it a night.

EC: VP +80

17th: VP +166.25, BJ -$100, other -$68 for a total of -$1.75. For the trip I am -$349.75.

When I checked into Orleans, they had the same Vegas mags that were at Aladdin, so I had another Trop and New Frontier coupon to use, so it was déjà vu all over again.

First stop on the 18th was the Trop, and it was all bad. I thought I had found the 8/5 BP $1 machine I had used earlier, but actually it was a 9/6 $1 machine. They also have 3P/5P in dollars, but the machine is not TITO. My $100 quickly became $20 on 5P, and when I cashed out, 20 tokens fell from above.

I dumped them into the $1 single-line machine, and they didn’t last long. Neither did the $100 at the shoe game, as the $5 MP didn’t do a damn thing for me. The $20 for $50 ($51) promo netted a tote bag that Mom would get for Christmas, and then it was time for a trip to the poker room.

Their poker room manager was a character. I swear he was fulfilling every Asian stereotype he could come up with. He said a $60 tournament had just started, so he sat me down at what was essentially a winner-take-all single-table tournament. I finished seventh. I just wasn’t getting any cards.

I checked to see whether I got 100 points so I could get my shirt. Well, I shouldn’t have gotten it, because I had waited too long to get all the points, and I was not considered “new” anymore (story of my life). However, he decided to give it to me anyway. I wore it yesterday. I still have my Trop shirt from when I was new years ago. In a few years maybe I will do it again.

Trop: VP -$100, BJ -$100, poker -$60, other -$20

I drove to the New Frontier, thank you. The following stop was going to be the Cannery, which was even further north, so walking did not make sense.

It was really windy when I got to NF, and it was hard to find close parking. I stubbornly wore just a T-shirt as I made my way inside.

The match play was bad news. Some old guy saw someone split and double down and win all his bets, and the old guy said, “That guy’s luckier than a two-peckered goat.” If you say so. I was as lucky as a zero-peckered goat, losing my $100 rather quickly.

It was time to take one last shot at the FPDW progressive, which was up to $1,070. Well, I got four deuces again. Other than that, my $100 didn’t do a thing, so I only kept my two buckets of 500 quarters each.

New Frontier: VP +$150, BJ -$100

My phone rang. A friend from back home called to tell me how our fantasy football teams were doing. Long story short, I could not change my lineup because I did not have Internet access, so he was going to beat me in the playoffs because of it. I never do well in fantasy sports leagues because I do things like go on vacation during key pivotal times of the season. Whatever was I thinking?

I got off the phone and realized I had just taken the Craig exit off of 15. That was a nice way to pass the time. I figured the Cannery would take up the rest of my day, and I was right. It was already 5, and the Cannery had a MP in the POV, plus a poker room, and none of their positive VP was in dollars.

It turns out the Cannery was giving away a jacket for people that got 1000 points ($1,000 coin-in) in one day (M and W only). So not only can I play FPDW and get .17% cashback, but I can also get a jacket? Nice.

I got deuces again. Five times in one trip. Who needs a royal when you can get deuces five times? Also this machine was turned all the way up. Despite it being an upright, I was cranking out the hands. It took 800 hands to get 1000 points, and it took me 45 minutes. So I was playing over 1,000 hands per hour. Go me. I only saw two mistakes, and luckily neither affected the outcome. I actually hit 1000 points with less than $250 left, the amount of my deuces, so I decided to play till I got to $250 so I could “pretend” I wasn’t playing for the jacket. Four hands later I ended up with $250, so I put 1005 points on the card. Nice coincidence.

Next up was the MP. My $100 became $240 in about 20 minutes, so I tipped the guy $5 and got out of there.

Last up was the poker room. It was about 7, and they have tournaments that start then. $35 buy-in, with a $20 rebuy and a $10 add-on, I figured I would have a little harmless fun. There were 20 entrants, and it paid three places.

The blinds nearly doubled every 20 minutes, which meant aggressive play was necessary, and to make matters worse, I was not getting any cards. Shortly after the first break (and hence after the rebuy and add-on), I was in trouble. I limped with JTo after four people limped in front of me. The button raised, and everybody called, so I did too. The only problem is that I had very few chips left. I was pretty much pot committed, although I had enough left for 15 or so hands if I had folded after the flop.

The flop was T-high, but the texture of the flop and the betting in front of me indicated I was beat. However, there was so much money in the pot that I had to stick the rest of my chips in. When the guy to my left raised, I knew I was in trouble. When the guy to his left called all-in, I was convinced that I was dead.

Everyone else folded, leaving just the three of us in the pot. We turned our hands over. The guy to my left had ATo, typical of the trash he had been playing that night, and the guy to his left also had JT. We needed a jack, and obviously there were only two left because we each had one. The guy with ATo was ready to knock out two players at once.

Even nice guys get miracles. The jack hit on the turn. My stack was huge. I was a commanding chip leader at the final table, but the guy to my left knocked out five people in a row, and when it went to heads up, we were about even.

I was able to outplay him, but I was not patient enough, and I put him all in on a draw, and he called with top pair. A few hands later, I went all in with middle pair, and he called with top pair and a flush draw. Still, second place was not bad, and I learned a lot en route to my $327 prize. I tipped $37 (in a row) and went on my way.

The poker room at the Cannery is nice, but their dealers are a mixed bag. I think Gary was his name: He was obviously on something. He could not do the arithmetic necessary in a NLHE tournament. We had to tell him how much to put in side pots and how much change to give back to players. And everyone knew each other. It was like it was some big joke. There were several pots that were not configured correctly, but I was not in the hand, so I said nothing. There is no benefit for someone not in the hand to point something out, especially in a locals joint in which everyone knows each other. You can only make it worse for yourself.

The competition was generally easy enough that it justified going. (I mean, obviously. I won, after all.) And I love the Cannery because I always win there, regardless of the game, and they always try to dress me in shirts and jackets. I swear, if you are a local, you would never need clothing. You could just go to the Cannery every day and add to your wardrobe.

Cannery: BJ +$135, VP +$150, poker +$225

On the way home, I took side streets. It was too late to go somewhere else, and it was too early to go to bed, so I figured I would kill some time by taking the scenic route. I was on Rancho, south of Palace Station, when these white flaky things started hitting my windshield. It was snowing!

I wish I had known to drive to Henderson. Maybe I could have totaled my car! Instead I settled for a tour of Summerlin, where it was snowing somewhat steadily, although it wasn’t sticking. After about an hour of this, I was tired enough to sleep, so I went to Orleans, found my room on the first try, and passed out.

18th: poker +$165, VP +$200, BJ -$65, other -$20, for a total of +$280. For the trip I am -69.75

The 19th was the observed 10th anniversary of The Orleans. I had to be back by 6 p.m. for the big drawing. Throughout the week they were supposed to be giving out tickets for said drawing to all players on the floor, although I never received any after the member meet on the 14th. (Thank you to everyone who gave me your drawing tickets!) I have no idea what the deal was, but I am sure it was disorganized. But the drawing was not for hours, so I had to go off and use more POV coupons!

Finally, my official visit to Ellis Island! I used my placemat $5 MP and my POV $5 MP. I asked whether I could use both, and the dealer said yes. He didn’t have a New York accent, but he did have a convincing Indian one. It might have to do with the fact that his name was Ravinder.

EI has $1 BJ from 10 to 2, and I got there right at 10. I was the high roller with my $5-$30 spread. I dominated that six-deck shoe. At the end of it, I had $295. The pit boss said “wow the dealer really took care of you,” and I said, “and I will take care of him,” tossing him $10. I always wonder whether they think I am counting or just lucky.

I ran $100 through the NSUD 5P quarter machine, but nothing doing. I cashed out my cashback and got out.

EI: BJ +$185, VP -$100

Time for Fiesta Rancho. I don’t know why I took 95 to get here. I must have thought I was going to Santa Fe Station. Just take Rancho north out of downtown, geniuses.

Fiesta Rancho has the $25 MP. My dealer was a temp. She normally works at the Trop, coincidentally enough. She was not very good at dealing, either, but sadly it was not exposing hole cards that characterized her poor skills. She just couldn’t add. Maybe she should date Gary the poker dealer at Cannery.

I never benefited from an arithmetic error, but I almost did. It didn’t matter. I made $105 on the double deck game after about 15 minutes and tipped her a nickel of it.

Fiesta Rancho has $1 10/7 DB with a five-way progressive. If I had an unlimited bankroll, I would play this all day. These machines are sort of hard to find and a pain in the ass to get in and out of. If you don’t want to have them, then don’t have them. Making people suffer just to play them just alienates them. Maybe that’s what they want, though.

Fiesta Rancho also had a promotion. With 1200 points, get a fleece. That’s $2,400 coin-in on these machines, so that’s 480 hands, or about a half hour of work. No problem. My $100 lasted for more than 2700 points, because I got four 4OAKs for $251 each. (Because of the progressive, that is the lowest they could be.) I did give it all back eventually. My highest credit total was $402. No problem. That kind of coin-in should generate an offer or two.

It was time to go. I had to get to the 777 Brewpub at MSS at 2 for the last member meet.

Fiesta Rancho: BJ +$100, VP -$100

I played a few hands of $1 10/7 DB because I was early and broke even. I went to 777 at 2 sharp and reserved the long table that we always seem to use for this sort of thing. I ordered 23 oz. of Blackchip Porter and watched the WSOP on ESPN.

Twenty minutes went by. Nothing. Oh well. Might as well get out.

I drove to the Hard Rock. I don’t know the best way to get there from downtown, but I took Fremont to Maryland Parkway. I made a right on something and a left on Paradise. That seemed to take care of it.

The $10 MP was interesting. I started a six-deck shoe with this younger-than-me guy, who was one of the most social dealers I had ever seen. We were talking about hockey most of the time. (I had my hockey jersey on.) The count got pretty good, and I was up about $60, and then the bottom fell out. Despite good counts, he just completely crushed me, and my $100 was gone. Time for the $10 slot play.

I found the well-hidden 9/6 25-cent JOB. Why not play the FPDW, you ask? Because the POV also has a 2X points coupon. The FPDW doesn’t give points. I know that JOB + 2X points is still a lower EV than FPDW by itself, but I like using coupons. You can’t put a price on that. I just ate a pizza two hours ago that was $19, but normally it would have been $20. Coupons cause me to do all kinds of strange things.

So I wanted to just blow through the $100. 400 credits on quarter JOB will take forever. No such luck.

Two 4OAKs helped me get up to $200, and I realized that I was not going to get through 800 credits, nor could I expect to raise the credit meter to 4000. My $100 à $1000 concept was not going to work with quarter JOB. Well, it was getting late, so I decided to cash out my $100 profit and get to Orleans for the drawing.

HRH: VP +$100, BJ -$100

The Orleans was giving out tons of cake and champagne. I bet they went through 400 bottles of champagne. Talk about a thankless job. I decided to play some BJ while waiting for the names to be drawn. I found out that they were going to broadcast the names of the winners over the intercom, so I just needed to be somewhere on the casino floor.

All the dealers of the double deck BJ games have one thing in common: lousy penetration. They were all between 45% and 55%. Yes, I said 45%. When you feel happy because you see a dealer cutting the cards at 55%, you know you’re in a bad place.

Between the 6 and 9 p.m. draws, I played $5-$30 BJ. I managed to lose $110. This wasn’t what I had in mind, but oh well. The play was tracked. Who knows? Maybe I will get stuff in the mail because of it.

No, they did not call my name, although they were having so much trouble pronouncing some of them that maybe I just misheard them and did not realize that they were calling my name.

I noticed the 25-cent WOF progressive went from $350,000 to $5,350,000. I wonder what happened. I decided to throw $10 in because although I am sure it wasn’t positive, it was likely as close to positive as it would ever get. I spun for 100 and cashed out $33. Fine.

I had $10 in freeplay that I got in the mail, and I also threw $40 into that triple play nickel 9/7 DB again. Two of the royals were over $300. One of them hit next to me. In my $50 I didn’t hit a single 4OAK. However, I really don’t get to complain about VP on this trip after getting deuces five times.

Because it was the 10th anniversary, they had a special $10 buffet. Despite Coast having comps and cashback redeemable at the same rate, I used my points for this buffet, because that way I did not need to pay tax. I guess there is something to be said for not automatically taking the cash back. The buffet there is always good, but there was nothing special about it because it was the 10th anniversary. It was just a promotional price.

Orleans: VP -$40, BJ -$110, other +$23

19th: VP -$240, BJ +175, other +23 for a total of -$42. For the trip I am -$111.75

The 20th was my last full day. I just wanted to spend the whole day at the Pinball Hall of Fame on Tropicana and Pecos, but it didn’t open till 11. So I could use one more casino’s worth of coupons. Next up was Imperial Palace, the last “Oriental” thing on earth. (Everything else has since become “Asian.”)

Their computers had also forgotten me, so I was new for them as well. They let me use both $5 MPs in the POV, despite them saying on the coupons themselves that I could only use one per day. It didn’t matter. My $100 was gone in a hurry. Their dealers were on fire. I played an eight-deck shoe and did what I could, but it was not enough.

IP has no good VP. The best I could find was 7/5 bonus. However, I just wanted to be done with my $100, so I put it in a 100-play nickel machine. The best games were 7/5 JOB and 6/5 bonus, so I took 6/5 bonus. So of course I was dealt a full house. Well, short-term swings got me to $240.50, and I said, “fine!” I decided I would end on this note and not think about what should have happened. And I earned 67 points. Maybe they will send me something in the mail.

I went to the poker room, but they only had 1-2 No Limit. Everyone looked tired and easy, but like I said, I’m not interested in NL cash games.

IP: VP +$140.50, BJ -$100

So I went to the Pinball Hall of Fame. There is no admission, so you can go just to check out the machines, or you can pay money to play them. That’s what I did. I was there from 11 till 10, less time to take a break to eat. I spent about $25 in quarters while I was there and still didn’t have time to play everything I wanted to, but I do enjoy pinball more than the average person. I got the high score on Funhouse, High Speed and Surf N Safari. I also am the loop champion on Popeye. My friend’s high score is still on Pirates of the Caribbean. POTC is the only new machine they have. Everything else is from the ’90s or early. I think the oldest machine I saw was from ’48.

I went back to Orleans and fell asleep. That’s what happens when you go to bed.

20th: VP +$140.50, BJ -$100 for a total of +$40.50. For the trip I am -$71.25.

And that’s all I remember at this time. I woke up on the 21st, got my $30 cash back from Club Coast, filled up at the Chevron at Tropicana and 15, bought a quart of egg nog (the kind I can drink while driving), and hit the road.

The radio game ended in a tie. Snoop Dogg and Red Hot Chili Peppers both had seven, although Snoop Dogg won later that night in overtime with eight. Evanescence had six, and tons had five.

Breakdown by game: poker +$152, VP +$26.75, BJ +$35, other -$285

Let me know of any spelling or grammar errors, and I’ll fix ’em. I am not about to reread 12,000+ words of this crap. I know some of y’all like to read this stuff so bully for you!

Episode 158 is up

December 26, 2006