Dear Diary: Poker, Seinfeld and Big Elvis!


The scene at a Harrahs’ gift shop

The sign may welcome visitors to “fabulous” Las Vegas, but the town isn’t quite fabulous yet. Yes, slot machines and table games are available as are the sports books, selected restaurants and a few poker and bingo rooms.

However, without lots of tourists to people-watch and being depressed with TV news, local Las Vegans have to keep busy with other activities.

I spent one great evening last week playing home poker. The hosts were on-leave professional poker dealers. What a pleasure not to have non-pros, like me and my very senior friends, in charge. The game proceeded quickly and no one forgot where the deal belonged or whose hand had won the pot. I was a winner of sorts, coming home with my $10 buy-in PLUS $2. During one of the lulls in the game, I noted that the other players (most of them over 50 with grown children) spent a good deal of time talking about their dogs. The kids were grown and mostly gone, but the dogs remained. Loved this.

I finally caught up with my ironing one evening and had a great time ironing and listening to a Jerry Seinfeld comedy special. Jerry says he’s 65 in the piece, but he is one nimble comedian, moving, kicking and stretching and making me laugh over and over.

As for gambling, I am not an overall winner, but I have had some fun. At the M Resort one night, I played one of those big Buffalo machines and hit a bonus that gave me 60 spins (the normal number is 8, so this was a bonanza). I left with a profit and as the machine was clinking in my favor, another gambler came up to give me the thumbs up. I don’t know if I had ever seen this gambler before; she was hidden behind a huge mask that looked like something issued by the army to prevent a soldier from inhaling gas. I was fascinated.

Las Vegas is open, but note the lack of crowds crossing the street on a Thursday.
Photo by Diane Taylor

The week also brought me another charley horse in my left leg. I had not been drinking water that day, so I immediately started drinking volumes which usually does the trick. Funny how lots of water can be a good thing, but too much use of water (in Las Vegas) can be expensive and even a bad thing. And by the way, I wondered where the name “charley horse” came from. The rumor is that the name came from an old horse, Charley, who used to haul equipment in the days of the Chicago White Stockings. When athletes developed a leg cramp, they were said to limp the way Charlie walked, hence, they had a “charley horse”.

I’ve spent a couple evenings or parts of evenings at Tuscany’s Piazza Lounge. A week ago, two friends and I loved listening to Naomi Mauro. This week, I peeked in to see Laura Shaffer (Monday) and Kelly Clinton (Wednesday), both great entertainers. Among the men in my life is Frankie Scinta whose Saturday night online broadcasts are typically warm, funny and musical. A friend has purchased tickets to see Frankie doing his show live in August.

And speaking of live shows, I had read that the Strip now has only one “regular performer,” Big Elvis (Pete Vallee) at Harrahs. I am a fan, so parked (free) and walked to the lounge where Big Elvis performs on weekends. The crowd for Big Elvis was modest, due to distancing requirements and the large casino crowd that is typically on the outside looking in was gone. However, Big Elvis sounded great and he seemed a bit thinner than I remember. He was also quite lively, leaving his chair to perform a wiggle or two and waving his arms in the air as if to welcome incoming aircraft. A friend, “Wild Bill” Ervin, works with Big Elvis, and he was excited to tell me Big Elvis was being interviewed by “Kats!” (entertainment reporter for the local newspaper) the next day. I guess great minds think alike.

For those readers who need a dose of Big Elvis, I present the attached video. It includes Las Vegas photos taken by me last Friday.

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