Judy Kay-Wolff

DISGUSTING CHANGES …

as seen through the eyes of a longtime tournament bridge player with a good memory.   America is not the same (nor is the rest of the world).  Perhaps the economy and states of mind are similar to that of The Great Depression.  I pity the younger set as they will have to survive all the changes.  The older folks only have to sustain themselves till the time arrives – hopefully later than sooner.   Yes, this is a maudlin subject – but this week at the tournament has brought it to the surface in spades.   Don’t  misunderstand me – I am not pointing the finger to the tournament organizers who have gone above and beyond.   They have done the best they could under the circumstances which were willed to them by the former administrators who are since gone – and sadly the ball rests in their corner.   They are feverishly working on better conditions for the future of our Unit and District.

The hotel itself has undergone immense changes.  The stores on either side of the hallways between wings are history (which is good) and have been replaced with slots, slots and more slots – but better than the pre-existing situation..  Before the change, the passers-by (namely our players) were always being hawked by the sellers, trying to collar them  into their booths to buy products they did not want.  It was downright annoying but you could not avoid it other than by taking the long way around by walking outside in the humidity of the swimming pool area.  That is one positive happening – but they are in the minority.   I understand the hotel staff couldn’t be nicer, but that doesn’t solve any of the other problems.  The wing we are in must be half a century old.   The doors don’t automatically shut and if you don’t remember to bang them tight, there is no telling what will remain when you return.    Because the locks must be so old, the keys don’t always work and this week was not the first time we have gone to the desk for replacements.    The people on the staff are very accommodating.  They are not the problems.  Incidentally, the playing facilities themselves are close to ideal – although separate.  The huge games (KOs, Swiss, etc.) are held in the terrific downstairs humongous area whereas the 10 and 3 Stratified are held in the Monaco Tower Penthouse with a beautiful view of the City.

The casino itself is practically barren with a roulette table, a couple of poker ones and a definite shortage of blackjack tables – an obvious departure from the past.   There were two $25 tables (sure, just what I was looking for!!!), one ten buck one (filled) and one with hoards of people standing in line waiting for a seat, so it must have been the $5.00 one for sensible players who had time between sessions and wanted to lose less money.  Make no mistake.   Regardless of how good you are with cards and numbers, you do not have the edge.  Far from it.  Also the Sports Book is small in comparison to others with a shortage of seats during popular events.

In the old days,  there were at least a dozen gambling tables in action throughout the day and nights were always packed – but always enough seats (and standby dealers) available for willing ‘gofers’ who enjoy the excitement of gambling.   I happened to watch one old dame (who was a decent player) playing for twenty-five and fifty dollars a shot (and doubling down when called for – like money was water) and within fifteen minutes won well over five hundred bucks and cashed in and thanked the dealer — walking away without even leaving her five or ten bucks.   Give the dealer a break.   They depend on tips.  I was told they only make $7.00 an hour.   Winning players (especially with a return of five big ones) not tipping is unheard of where we play – up in Summerlin where there are always plenty of tables of all denominations.   There is a shortage of customers there – not table opportunities.

A significantly disturbing problem to me were the eateries.   Up in our suburban casino, there are eight very reasonably priced marvelous eateries (many are open 24/7).  There is a deli, Friday’s, a terrific and extremely inexpensive coffee shop (Cafe Sienna), The Oyster Bar (delicious!) with a counter and tables, a wonderful Mexican Restaurant open four or five days a week, a desert and ice cream parlor for people who want a quick nosh, a more than adequate reasonably priced buffet where you can pig out to your heart’s content – and the two more expensive ones (one closed on Mondays and the other on Tuesdays).  Those premier ones are SC Prime (steaks, fish, et al.) and Salvatore’s (formerly Fellini’s) – which specializes in Italian food(and I might add their artichokes are to die for).  Obviously, the latter two are more expense but not out of sight!  Which brings us to the present site food situation (or lack of it):

In the last year (since we were here last), they have done away with Katy’s (a huge 24-7 coffee shop with good food and more than affordable prices).   It is no longer there (but converted to something else – for poolside use it was rumored – but I don’t know for sure).   At the entrance to Katy’s there were some merchant booths, but they have been replaced by slots, slots and more slots (as above).  What does that leave for the bridge players who eat at all times of day and night depending upon their game schedules??  The best (and only) fine restaurant is the lovely R Steak House (for fine cuisine) which is open until 10 (so if you are playing in a session that begins at 7:00, you are barred from a leisurely late dinner in the hotel).  By then, players are too exhausted to leave the hotel.  They have some oriental place called The Banana Leaf which, for lunch or a light dinner is fine – but professes to be open at 5:00 a.m. for breakfast.   Bobby who couldn’t sleep, went down early 5:45 and as he was leaving, kindly awakened me to advise of his plans.  I agreed to meet him at 6:15.   When I (surprisingly) arrived on time, only he and another man were on the scene and his order had not been taken as yet.  Knowing me, I stormed into the kitchen where they had one non-English speaking attendant who had no clue what I was saying when I asked for a waiter – but he only smiled.   One hour after they featured their designated “doors open” sign (which should have added – but without service), a waiter appeared.   The omelet prices were high and any kind of bread (even plain toast) was $1.95 extra.  The food was mediocre at best.   Then, when I wanted to charge it to my room, he asked for identification.   I gave him my driver’s license, my credit card which had the name of Wolff, my check in slip with room number and when he said they would not accept it, I jumped up and said “I am not paying” and started to head for the exit.  With his tail between his legs, he returned and accepted the credentials.   It was an early morning nightmare.  Nice way to start the day. 

Hey, I am not done.   The day before, we wanted to grab a quick bite.   The Banana Leaf was already crowded for lunch (and by then they had one or two more in help, thank heavens), so we dashed into what is now known as The Victorian Pub.  It was 12:15 by then with 1:00 starting game time.  There was a crowd but as we started to leave, one of the players from our duplicate whom I recognized, asked us to join us as he was alone.  How nice!   Then he added he had been waiting 40 minutes for his sandwich.  I stood up and counted about twenty tables and a bar – with one bartender and one visible waitress.  I accosted someone to bring me an iced tea which I got ten minutes later.  By 12:40 no one came to take our order, so I thanked our host, left three bucks on the table for my drink and departed for the game – but if you know me – though starving — I won’t shrivel up.  The day before we went to the Buffet upstairs for something like twelve bucks (and you get what you pay for).  Long wait and cold food, so we checked that place off the list also.  That left a counter near the downstairs playing site which offered drinks, pre-made sandwiches, croissants and other bakery products – and we have been relying on it to sustain us.   You take what you can get – and believe it or not – the sandwich we shared in the room was marvelous.  So much for dining at the playing site.

From what I understand – other sites have been pre-arranged for future tournaments, so we will not be faced with the same problems.  But please understand, the bridge organization has been treated like royally.   The room rates are super, there is a huge choice of events to select from, the playing rooms couldn’t be better and the bridge staff (directors and caddies) have been well chosen.   I am not blaming our Unit.   Believe me, they are making the best of it but, I (like many) look forward to better gambling and eating facilities for the future.  After all, this is Sin City – a major attraction even for dyed in the wool bridge players (many of whom enjoy the table action) –  but let us make everything appealing to our guests.  (By the way attendance is terrific –especially with the newbies)!

I believe all of the above is attributable to the State of the Union, the political unrest and the horrific times we are being forced to endure.  We all pray things will have a turnabout – but no assurances in the near future. 

What a cry from the old days!


8 Comments

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJune 21st, 2013 at 10:30 am

HBj : Sadly, as more and more power is exercised by large ever-growing international corporations the idea that governments are the servants of the people is a myth. Politicians are the puppets of their corporate pay-masters.
I have always subscribed to the belief that small is beautiful and money is the root of all evil. In the old days many politicians were statesmen of integrity, but they have since departed, along with the times when people were content with a gentler pace of life and simple pleasures.
So I too cry for the old days !

bobby wolffJune 21st, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hi HBJ,

What you have expressed is nothing short of eloquent and sadly, I think it, if anything, is understated.

The down turning figures to get much worse before it gets better, since the “ever-growing international corporations”, as you call them represent the “tips” given the current politicians which will keep them reelected and in business for the future to ply their self-serving personalities.

Socialism, while possibly valuable for the time being to the have-nots and recent immigrants, will inevitably take all incentive away from humans who are required to be productive for any democracy to operate successfully and the not so secret reason the USA has enjoyed unequaled prosperity in the past.

We see this fact in NT almost every day in our non descript hum drum lives with service down, prices up and a general indifference by former worker bees, including personal services like accounting, medicine, and legal matters, to their customers and clients.

I continue to hope that my fears are exaggerated and that time will soon solve the problems, but unless that happens, playing bridge may continue to be the best and least stressful exercise we can choose.

Maybe my age has taken a toll on my optimism, but in any event, Judy and I will continue to give our best to keeping spirits up.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 21st, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Hello HBJ:

It is comforting to have an ally who fears not to speak up with your fearless protection and honor of the game which you obviously hold near and dear — despite the jovial, sarcastic and entertaining presentations on your own site. One must maintain his or her sense of humor — and you sure live up to that expectation. Without that approach — one might as well pack it up.

Cheers,

Judy

RENEJune 21st, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Hi Judy:

Took your advice and my husband and I enjoyed the dinner at The Steakhouse. We arrived early and it was not crowded (either because the games were still in session or the price was a deterrent) It was a terrific recommendation and we loved our meal.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 21st, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Rene:

My daughter came down to see us at the hotel and the three of us had dinner there as well — and a great one at that. We got there closer to eight (and could even see the end of the NBA finals which was on the screen at the bar). You must have been there earlier. By the way, although the menu was small and limited, there was enough of a choice to cater to all tastes. I have been alternating between the filet and lamp chops.

As we were leaving, we overheard two women commenting that it was their first visit there during the tournament and they will return before the end of the week. I laughed when one admitted her annoyance that the basic prices were o.k. but everything was ala carte. You got what you paid for — and the bearnaise sauce was three bucks extra. However, we had a decent game in the afternoon and I was in a good mood — so I splurged for the sauce. It’s only money!

PAULJune 23rd, 2013 at 3:10 am

Yes, I was there when it was called Kristopher’s. I think they changed management and/or ownership last year, but the food remains excellent. I’m in the suburbs and wouldn’t make a special trip down there, but if I did, it’s as good as the other casino restaurants easily.

Steven GaynorJune 24th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Everything you describe are reasons we did not attend this year’s regional. It is too bad because the Riviera was a good place for a bridge tournament. The playing area is still OK, but the amenities are almost all gone!

Vegas is so much more! Sure, we’ll play plenty of bridge, but we also love to get around and drink in the glitz on the strip. The Riviera is now lonely as most of the other close casino’s are gone (Stardust, Frontier, Sahara, Westward Ho), and if you do not stay at the playing site it is a long walk in the summer heat to get to the LVH or any other property.

We have plans to attend two Vegas events next year (Regional and NABC). We get cheap housing at a Total Rewards casino (usually The Quad) which is close to the action at Bally’s and has easy monorail access to LVH. Plus we can walk up and down the Strip and duck into a casino to cool down if needed. There is a LOT of action in that area.

As Billy Joel sung in his song, ‘Keeping The Faith’,
“The good old days weren’t always good,
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

Judy Kay-WolffJune 24th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Hi Steven and Billy Joel:

Great advice!

The tournament itself was well attended and people enjoyed themselves in spite of the venue. But I think you made a great decision. Believe me, if we weren’t so close, I would not have attended. Hopefully, next year sounds more promising and we’ll see you then!

Cheers,

Judy

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