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Best of Vin Narayanan
Poker parties rival Vegas heat for sizzle2 July 2009
LAS VEGAS – Oppressive is the only word to describe the Las Vegas heat. The super-heated air can cling to you as you walk the streets and make it so difficult to breathe that a smoke-filled bar feels like an acceptable alternative. Even at night, pedestrians try to walk as close to the entrances of casinos and shops as possible in the hopes of being cooled by a blast of air conditioning. Such is life in a city where the nighttime temperature doesn't dip below the 100-degree mark.
But there's one force in Sin City more powerful than heat – nightlife. On Monday night, I decided to walk from the Imperial Palace to the MGM Grand to take in the UltimateBet 10th anniversary party at Studio 54. And the sidewalks were filled with people dressed up for a night on the town. Nothing was going to stop these people from having a good time.
On Wednesday night, I cabbed it to the Palms for the PKR.com party where, despite the heat, everyone was dressed up and lined up to party at the Hugh Hefner Suite.
And after taking in the two parties, I can understand why. Nothing beats a party in Vegas.
When fellow Casino City reporter Gary Trask and I arrived at the Palms around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the scene outside the Fantasy Tower, which houses the Hefner suite, was crazy.
Apparently, the party was so full that only PKR.com players were being admitted, regardless of whether you were on the guest list or not (we were). That didn't stop the assembled masses from trying to talk their way into the party. But the attendant at the gate held firm. "Try back at 1 a.m.," she suggested after Gary and I politely tried to gain entrance. "I'll try and let you in then."
After milling about the Palms for a while, Gary and I returned at 1 a.m. to see if we could gain a entrance to the party. When we arrived, poker player Dave Saab was arguing with the woman in charge in an effort to get in.
"I'm sorry I don't know who all the poker pros are," she said. "But all you have to do is be nice and I'll try to get you in," A chastened Saab, who finished 46th in last year's WSOP Main Event, apologized and was granted admission.
She then gave Gary and I the bracelets we needed to get in as well. "See, you guys are getting in because you were nice and friendly."
Gary and I thanked her and headed for the elevators, where we punched the button for the 35th floor. After all, the Hugh Hefner penthouse suite had to be on the top floor, right?
Not quite. It turns out that the suite is a two-floor affair and you can only enter from the 34th floor. So we went back down a floor and entered what can only be described as nirvana.
This two-floor suite can safely be described as the only way to live. The first floor was divided into three parts. The first section, closest to the entrance, was a combination lounge/dance floor, complete with two raised platforms for professional dancers, plenty of room for 20-30 people to comfortably dance, a full bar and luxurious couches and chairs.
Beyond the dance floor was a balcony complete with a sizable pool that overlooked a panoramic vista of Las Vegas. From one spot, you could easily take in the entire Strip, from the Stratosphere all the way north to Mandalay Bay.
Tucked out of the way near the staircase to second floor is an incredible media room. It had three or four flat-screen televisions and the most comfortable couches and chairs know to man.
The second floor was made up of a balcony overlooking the dance floor, and a bedroom with a rotating circular bed and a discrete, but fully functioning hot tub. There was also a massage-table room and two bathrooms, complete with stand-up showers and hot tubs. Just outside the bedroom hangs a blown up version of Marilyn Monroe's original centerfold for Playboy magazine.
And did I mention there were Playboy bunnies running around?
That's right, as a treat to its players, PKR.com rented out this suite, complete with open bar, music, professional dancers and Playboy bunnies.
The music had a real '90s feel to it as party goers grooved the night away. The balcony was full of people checking out the view. Partygoers took turns trying out the rotating bed Cameras were flashing everywhere. And a few players even dropped their pants and tested out the pool while wearing just their boxer-briefs.
And when everyone left at the end of the night PKR.com was the big winner. Their players loved the party. Their guests loved the party. And nobody could stop talking about it as they exited the Palms.
Like the PKR.com party, the UltimateBet event was a highly sought after ticket. Studio 54 had shut down for the big party, so it was invite-only to get in. Our friends at Chipleader, the affiliate program for UltimateBet, helped get Casino City access to the party. All we had to do is ask for Pablo at the door and he would let us in.
And sure enough, Pablo let us in. Gary had beaten me there by 30 minutes and had no problems finding Pablo. But for me there was a dicey moment when the bouncers appeared not to know Pablo. But as he swung by and told them I was "OK," and the gates to Studio 54 opened for me.
UltimateBet girls were waiting to greet guests as they made their way inside the club. And more UltimateBet girls were inside the club dancing and making people feel at home.
The club itself looks like a post-industrial warehouse, with a giant dance floor flanked by a bar. And the ceiling looks like it is sky high. On either end of the dance floor are metal staircases that lead up to a second floor that rings the dance floor, allowing patrons to look down on the dance floor. And it looked like there might be an ultra-exclusive third floor.
UltimateBet pros Adam "Roothlus" Levy, Tiffany Michelle, Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth were all in attendance, along with players who had won spots in the World Series of Poker through UB. But as usual, it was Hellmuth who stole the show.
Sitting in a ring that many dancers use a prop, Hellmuth was lowered from the ceiling until he hovered above dance floor. Hellmuth then congratulated UltimateBet for its 10th anniversary, conducted a raffle for a seat in the 2009 Aruba Poker Classic and invited everyone in attendance to join him for a rooftop party at his place in Aruba in October.
After Hellmuth's star turn, real dancers and acrobats took the stage, performing mid-air stunts that dazzled crowd. And in between acts, party goers danced the night away.
All in all, a good couple of nights in Las Vegas.
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