First thing the next morning (okay, 11 am) we had a blackjack lesson, supplied free of charge by the casino. The croupier was entertaining, although by the end of it I was more bemused than I was at the beginning: blackjack is entirely a game of predictable chance, and I couldn’t quite grasp why anyone would want to play it. Learn the percentages and away you go; if you play long enough you’ll make your money back, minus some for the casino and a tip for the croupier.

In the afternoon, we jumped in the car to see the Strip in air conditioned comfort, with the daytime temperature outside still at 39°C. Driving slowly along Las Vegas Boulevard, watching through the windscreen glass as masses of tourists filed into and out of replicas of the Parisian and New York skylines, an Egyptian pyramid and Caesar’s imperial palace, felt oddly like a theme park ride. The tourists were the exhibit, and we were the real tourists. I think it might have had as much to do with a reluctance to get too involved in the whole Vegas experience just yet: the visual, aural and financial assault of the interior of a casino, the heat and the crowds meant that diving in with abandon wasn’t really on the cards just yet, at least in my mind.

We headed perpendicularly away from the Strip on West Flamingo Road to check out the Palms, a self-consciously hip and more restrained (at least architecturally) casino that had been recommended to us by all of the cool young things we’d asked about Vegas. Inside it was far more what you might imagine as a traditional casino: tables for roulette, blackjack, craps and poker dominated, with the slots off to one side. Ringed around one edge were entrances to various bars and clubs (most of which looked to be beyond our dressing-up capabilities, but what the hell: you only live once, and we’d already used up our getting-thrown-out-of-bars bad karma in New Orleans) and we decided to come back later that night.

It was a dark and stormy night when we did head out, with lightning flashes every few minutes. We got a cab (no walking tonight – we’d ironed our T-shirts this time) and sauntered in through the main doors, looking as nonchalant as we could muster. We’d decided to pool $60 for gambling – about £11 each, so not exactly extravangant, but $60 sounds better, right? – and wandered among the tables, looking for somewhere less intimidating than the scrums around the craps and blackjack tables.

We chose roulette. We chose poorly.

The one other guy at the table had a stack of a few hundred dollars’ worth of chips, and he placed group bets on maybe nine numbers at a time. We changed our $60 into chips, and the dealer was merciful enough to give us six $10’s instead of a two-chip Swingers-style stack of $50 and $10.

We put a whopping $10 down on ‘Even’ and watched the ball fall into number 27.

“Evens again,” I said.

Odd came up.

“Evens again,” I said. The power of science was on our side.


“Screw it,” said Josh and threw down the remaining $30 on ‘Even’.


$20 per minute burn rate. We left the table. Gambling is for mugs, kids.

Humbled by roulette and anxious to spend our money on something tangible, we stumped up $10 each to get into ghostbar, a venue so trendy it didn’t need capital letters. We were herded into an elevator with three numbered buttons – 1, 2 and 55 – where the bouncer pressed 55. Stepping out into the bar, it looked like we’d picked the right place:

Vegas Strip from the Palms

That, supposedly, is the most powerful man-made beam of light shining from the top of the Luxor casino on the Strip.

We bought a round of Coronas and squeezed a slice of lime down the neck of each bottle then were made to immediately decant the beer, sans lime, into plastic cups as we walked onto the balcony. The view was good, and the clientele were remarkably chatty. This seemed to be a constant throughout the trip: whether Americans are genuinely friendly, or whether it was intrigue at our trip or nationality I’m not sure, but it did make for a good night, and it was a lot easier to strike up a random conversation that it seems to be in an equivalently hip place in Edinburgh.

This openness of the crowd made me suspect that the cooler than thou, imperiously stylish attitude of ghostbar was just a helpful veneer to generate interest. Just like everything else in Vegas, it’s there to make as much money as possible. If that means admitting three dubiously dressed, patchily sunburnt guys without a mitigating entourage of women on a quiet Wednesday night, that’s what they’d do. This seems to be in contrast to some of Edinburgh’s trendier spots, where the prejudicial entry policies are always in effect. More power to Vegas in that case: I had more fun in ghostbar than I’ve ever had in the Opal Lounge, for example.

We got another taxi home, this being our one and only night of luxury, and crashed.