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By Ted Salveson


Ted Salveson is an experienced blackjack player and a scratch golfer. He gets Ďweakí when his casino host uses the words "Las Vegas" and "golf tournament" in the same sentence. He is a dice controller "in training" and uses Speed Count when playing blackjack.

Editorís Note: The visit to Luxor Casino in Las Vegas occurred May 14-22. As you probably know by now, Salveson is a skilled player who loves to play golf. His trip reports show how golfers can be treated very well in Vegas, while beating them at their own games.

Casinos mentioned in this report include:


Mandalay Bay

Bellagio (craps)

Michael Holland, who is my host at the Luxor, called me and said my favorite two words: "casino" and "golf." So off I went to join up with several other players in Las Vegas.

It was a little disconcerting during this visit because so much of Luxor is being renovated. But from the looks of what has been finished so far, the final product will be modernized and outstanding.

The new nightclubs (LAX and Cathouse) are already open. Ditto for Liquidity, a modernistic bar with a waterfall in the center of the casino. The Steakhouse is still being upgraded, and a new Mexican restaurant is being built on the second level. They are also preparing the theater for the opening of the new spectacular Cirque du Soleil "Believe" show, featuring the illusionist Criss Angel. All should be finished by September. (If you are interested, there is an interview with Felix Rappaport, President and COO of Luxor Hotel Casino, in the June issue of Casino Player magazine.) In the meantime, there were several other interesting revelations on this trip.

For starters, I got to meet the new Vice President of Casino Operations, Arnie Cope, an outgoing and gregarious fellow who hails from the U.K. I spoke with him briefly, and his accent immediately tells you he is from the UK. But what sets Arnie apart from many bosses Iíve known, is that he will indeed stop and talk to you. It is refreshing that a VP of Casino Operations will take the time to converse with his customers, the players. And, his new Director of Table Games, Paul Garcia, is equally accessible.

CHEERS! One of Paulís first orders of business when he took over was to eliminate almost all of the dreaded single deck, 6:5 blackjack games. There are still a couple, but none of these tables were open the entire week I was there.

While I was at the Luxor, I decided to take a walk next door to Mandalay Bay. I saw that they also had some single deck games that paid 6:5, but alas, nobody was playing them. Then I saw one great new wrinkle. They have installed some shoe games, with all of the classic rules we look for, AND the dealer STANDS on soft 17. We know that games like this can usually be found in the High Limit areas, but these new ones are on the main floor! And for lower minimums, I sat down and played for an hour or so, eventually winning $250 for the effort.

After walking back to Luxor, I asked Paul Garcia about this set up and he said there were some $25 minimum tables already open in Luxor where the dealer stands on 17. (I found them.) He is considering opening more tables with the s17 rule after all the pits are refurbished and reopened. Itís nice that they seem to be advancing some "old school" ideas, back to when the games were deemed more player-friendly. Perhaps this is a trend we can look forward to seeing more of in the future.

On Friday morning I drove up to Bellagio since it had been quite a while since I had been there. There wasnít much happening, but a certain craps table was calling to me. As I have said before, I understand and aspire to dice control. But, like golf, understanding and execution are often at odds with each other. However, this was a different story. You see, Bellagio has recently brought in some brand new tables, with new felt and new cushions. It was like throwing into a pillow. The dice didnít bounce all over the place. There was no loud "crack" when the dice hit the slate and landed. In the hour I was there, I only saw one shooter bounce a die off the table. I had roughly $400 in the rack when the dice were pushed to me. When shooting, I play $25 pass, with full odds on the point, and $60 on the 6 and 8, pressing every other time. (Thanks Scobe for teaching me that.) I rolled ONE seven (the final roll) in my entire turn. Twenty two minutes and seven points later (plus sixes and eights) I colored up with $3,280 and headed for home.

On Saturday night at Luxor, our host Michael joined eight of us for dinner, upstairs at Fusia. Afterwards, they had a section of the new Liquidity bar reserved for all the golf tournament players that was hosted by Arnie and Paul. We stayed about an hour and then went to the craps pit, where they had reserved a table for us. As twelve of us surrounded the table and prepared to play, Arnie took off his jacket, grabbed the stick, and for the next twenty minutes dealt the game. With his enthusiasm and personality, he got the excitement level of the game up in a hurry. Iíd never known a Casino Manager who would interact with the players like that. It made for a truly unique experience.

The golf tournament was a scramble format on Sunday at the Primm resort. A heat wave had appeared out of nowhere during the week, and it hit 104 degrees in Vegas. Primm, in fact, was about five degrees warmer. We couldnít drink enough water. But at least we didnít have to deal with the humidity that I have to endure in Florida. And as before, Arnie and Paul and Michael were right there playing with us in the tournament. With an odd number in the field, two teams were relegated to threesomes. As the lone scratch player, I was tapped for one of them. My team didnít have a great deal of luck, but a pitching wedge to within two feet on 18 allowed us to finish third.

As much as I enjoy Vegas, it is really too hot to think about going there in the summer. One of my best friends in the tournament and I had asked Michael about tickets to a fall concert at MGM. ("Our wives would really like to see Jimmy Buffett.") He got us the tickets, so weíll definitely be heading back to Vegas in October. In the meantime, anyone who is visiting might want to check out those crap tables, and the s17 blackjack games at Luxor and Mandalay Bay.

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