The shiny city of Las Vegas is one of the most fun vacation spots on the planet if you remember a few very important things:

CARDINAL TIP #1: You are there to SPEND money, not MAKE money. And

CARDINAL TIP #2: If you are unlucky enough to possess a "high moral standard," it must be left at home with the cat. They do things differently in Vegas, so you better just fucking get used to it. They rob poor people, they prostitute women, and they treat every natural resource as if God gave it to them personally to exploit. So the sooner you learn to turn a blind eye--or better yet, throw yourself headlong into this abyss of decadence--the more fun you'll have and the better off you'll be.

What follows are some hints to maximize your fun in Vegas, culled from my varied experiences there. Personally, I could write a very interesting and long book on the subject, but since I only have roughly one page, I've decided to leave a few details out. However, you should definitely send in any tips I missed, since my next trip to Vegas (number 10 in a series) will be the weekend of July 26. Oh, and by the way

CARDINAL TIP # 3: Never go to Vegas in July or August for that matter. What? Are you freaking crazy? It's over 100 degrees that time of year! And while there's the upside of visitors in extremely skimpy clothing, remember that the average age of these visitors reflects whatever it says on the thermostat.


Naturally, you want to give your money to corrupt casinos rather than corrupt airlines. The average cost for a roundtrip ticket is $180-$210, unless of course you're screwing a pilot--and believe me it ain't worth the trouble. Never stay over three days ('cause the incessant slot machine cacophony will drive you INSANE) and if there's any possible way of flying midweek, DO IT, DO IT, DO IT. The hotels are cheaper, the streets aren't so crowded, and it's easier to get on a table. And speaking of your hotel room

CARDINAL TIP #4: Don't pay a lot of money to stay in a room you'll never be in. If you're like me, you just want a place to throw your luggage while you booze, carouse, and do that exploitation thing I was talking about earlier. And always stay on the Strip; the middle of the action is where you want to be, otherwise you'll blow all your money on cabs, or blow all your time on the bus. Here are some of the more famous hotels I've stayed in


CIRCUS CIRCUS (2880 Las Vegas Blvd. South) For the love of God, do not even go NEAR this place--unless you need a good reason to blow your brains out. Once a Las Vegas classic, Circus Circus is now overrun with the lowest common denominator: CHILDREN. Jesus Christ, they're everywhere! And every last one somehow thinks they'll die if they're not spending every waking moment screaming their lungs out. Plus the casino reeks of 40-year-old cigarettes and two-minute-old diapers. Gack!!

MGM GRAND (3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South at Tropicana) There are good things about the MGM--yet I cannot recommend it. 1) It's got a good lower-Strip location and a tram to take you the mile-and-a-half trip to Bally's. And 2) it has a robotic waxen replica of drunken comedian Foster Brooks, who kind of swings back and forth while doing one of his routines from the '60s. It's really cool. What's not cool is that it takes you 45 minutes to get from one end of the MGM Grand to the other. Secondly, I had a really bad experience there while carrying on an illicit affair with a young lady. We stayed in a room that had a Wizard of Oz theme, and every time we fornicated, it seemed like the picture of the Tin Man was glaring at us disapprovingly. Therefore I cannot recommend the MGM Grand.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South at Tropicana) Though the 9/11 disaster has really made people around this casino unnecessarily mopey (remember what I said about tucking away the moral standard?), this hotel has nice, tastefully designed rooms, and an active casino scene. OH! And an AWESOME rollercoaster that whips you around the rooftop and over the casino floor! And though it costs 10 bucks a pop, it's super-duper fun, and totally worth doing more than once. Just don't eat the buffet first. Or if you do, sit behind me.

LUXOR (3900 Las Vegas Blvd. South) Though a little far south on the Strip for my tastes, this pyramid-shaped hotel/casino is ground zero for the horny and the hottie. While their aged counterparts are waddling around the Flamingo looking for a free frozen margarita, these supple-rumped young'uns are shaking their can-cans at the Ra nightclub (dress code enforced, Mr. Baggy Pants) and giving come-hither glances in any of the Luxor's fine lounges. It's enough to make King Tut kick open his catacomb!

MIRAGE/ TREASURE ISLAND (3400 & 3300 Las Vegas Blvd. South) If I were you, I'd go with either of these places. They're side by side and within easy walking distance of the fancier, more expensive hotels. The Mirage is the older of the two, and has the superior casino. However, they like to pull that old gag where you think you're getting a "deluxe" room for a low price until you find out the shittiest rooms are the "deluxe" rooms. Treasure Island's rooms are a bit nicer, but (please refer back to CARDINAL TIP #4). Nevertheless, the best part of staying at either of these places is being able to jog across the street to the Venetian (which has the best lounge acts--don't gamble there, though, it's high-roller territory), or down the street to the Bellagio (an oasis of calm where the slot machine volume is low, and there's not screaming brat in sight).


Well, of course you want to gamble--which brings us to

CARDINAL TIP #5: Set aside a certain amount of money everyday to gamble with, and when you lose it, STOP. Think of your $60 to $150 daily gambling allowance as an "entertainment tax." This is what you will spend to have a good time. And if you play for a long time without losing every last penny? Then that's money well spent. But always, always, always walk away just before your allowance is gone and tip the dealer. And when you do walk away, that's when you follow the advice of

CARDINAL TIP #6: When your friends ask if you won any money, LIE. Tell them you won a rational amount (say, $100-$150), and that you quit while you were ahead. This way they'll think you're really smart, and you won't feel the urge to "keep up" with your more skillful companions. Plus, it's fun to lie. (See CARDINAL TIP #2.)

Another way to impress your friends and make the trip more enjoyable is to learn some new games. On a weekend evening it's virtually impossible to find a $5 blackjack table. If you refuse to play during the day, when it's cheaper and less crowded, take the time to learn the lesser known games (see "The Games People Don't Play," above) where there is always a seat available. And before you bet the farm, don't forget this hard and fast rule

CARDINAL TIP #6: Beware the evil dealer! Okay. Say you've got a pretty good blackjack system (and if you don't, see page 11). Things are going along normally that is, you're winning roughly every other or third hand and a new dealer walks up who seems perfectly lovely. She's really nice and funny, but she's turning over a 19, 20, or 21 every single time, and everyone on the table is losing. Simply smile, toss down a tiny tip, and GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM THAT EVIL, EVIL DEALER!! She's not cheating, she's just evil, and there is no way in hell you will ever win. In fact, just go to a different casino. That dealer has evil germs and she's infected the entire building. Which brings us to the final and most important adage; one that you should repeat as your mantra

CARDINAL TIP #7: "There are no unlucky gamblers; only evil dealers." Las Vegas is a city built on rationalization, so if you can't beat the system (and believe me, you can't) at least come up with a good lie to explain why you lost.

And that, my friends, is advice you can take to the bank.