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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Memories of the California Casino and Hotel

I've had an ongoing love affair with Las Vegas for some three decades.

It seems strange to say that, because it's gone by in a flash.

My Vegas obsession lies not just with the city itself, but with the special places that I've developed a bond with. And those places have changed and morphed over the years.

At first it was Luxor, but after years of loyal visits, I cried when I saw the de-theming going on, and although it's still special to me, the magic is long gone as the property goes further and further into the rhubarb from the golden wonder it once was.

As the MGM/Caesars oligopoly grew on the strip, conditions changed (both gambling and theming) and we found ourselves new properties with which to have a fling.

Downtown began to be more our speed in the 2000s and we found a new home with the Cal and Main Street Station.

Jean Scott advised never to marry a casino, but to expect things to eventually change, and to move on when it no longer paid to patronize them. Other flirtations and love affairs have gone on, with the likes of the Tropicana, Mandalay Bay, Treasure Island (T.I.), Wynn/Encore, Golden Nugget, the Four Queens, and the El Cortez.

But my heart's strongest connection is with the Cal (and Main Street), and that's the place I feel the most 'at home'. For the moment.

Boyd's ongoing strategy to tighten comps and rewards, and cut good VP games from the three downtown properties is taking a toll, and I do wonder what I'll find.

I know that Main Street Station has gutted most of the games I loved the most - many of the coindroppers that remind me of my greasy-fingered beginnings as a gambling, forcing nickels into machines and listening to them clatter into the coin tray on a win.

And I know that the reliable Hawaiian contingent of customers is still sidelined by COVID.

Some of the things I love about the Cal are (and I do hope not too many of them have changed):

  • the meal books they give out with certain bookings
  • having breakfast at the counter in the coffee shop, skipping the long line for tables
  • certain dishes at the coffee shop - Korean short rib appetizer, Hawaiian Hamburger Steak, the soups, the cucumbers at the salad bar
  • Redwood Grill
  • the Keno lounge and staff
  • lots of cool machines in the alcoves
  • coin dropper 9/6 Jacks dollar machines
  • the Buddha
  • the craps tables
  • the laid back atmosphere and relative quiet
  • slant top video poker, including some great progressives
  • coin dropper Treasure Chest machines
  • cocktail service
  • $5 3:2 hand-held double deck blackjack
  • all the familiar sight and sounds of the casino and rooms that bring back so many great memories
Max, taking care of business at the Keno desk.

Maybe I said it best in a 2016 letter I wrote to one of the management staff. It reads:

People ask us why we go to Vegas so often. I have come to answer them that it's like them going to the cottage every weekend all summer. They do it over and over again. In many respects, the Cal is our home away from home - it is our cottage, the place we come to where things are relaxed. I think this is trip number 60 for the Quad Queen and I and we are mostly over the Strip. We much prefer to stay and play downtown. It has a small town feel that you don't get anywhere else.

The other great thing that makes us enjoy the Cal and MSS so much (beyond just the great video poker and scratch cards and solid blackjack... etc) is the people. We have come to know many of the staff at your properties and they treat us like returning family. I don't know all of them by name, but I know a lot of them by sight.

Like Dorothy, with whom who we swap doggy updates and who always takes care of us with huge smiles, and also Grace, and Maria on the Cal serving staff, who greet us with hugs and know what we like to drink, Carolyn, Anne and Max at the Keno lounge... Henry, the chef at Redwood who often stops by our table to ask how things are, not to mention Hilario, who we always ask for. He gives us amazing service and always remembers my wife's tastes and allergies.

And Beatrix of the late Pasta Pirate, and now the Noodle House, she always has a hug for me too. 

There's a woman at the desk (her name escapes me just now) but she's French, and being Canadian, I speak a little of it. So we always greet each other en Francais. Fairly rare in Las Vegas.

Then there's Dave on security who once picked us up at Luxor in a security SUV when the limo broke down and couldn't be started. We didn't mind, we thought it was home-town great. He always recognizes me and says hello.

And there's another fellow on Cal security who had my back one night. I'd won a $1000 jackpot and kept the cash on me. I moved to a slot machine and was approached by a fellow who had 9 kinds of story to tell me. (Not a problem, it's part of the landscape.) This security fellow was right there and 86d the guy. He'd been keeping an eye on me, knowing I'd won a jackpot and wanted to be sure I didn't get hustled. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that.

Then there's the staff at MSS, Kelly at the bar, who we miss, Jose, Manny the egg chef at the buffet (HELLO ROCK STAR!), the incredible floor staff who are so quick with scratch cards. One time my wife forgot to cash out her ticket and left it in a machine. The floor man came and found me as I waited for her outside the buffet. You're the Quad Queen's husband, right? Here's her ticket, she forgot it. Wow. I can tell you some green stuff went into the little box on the wall for the crew that day.

Then there's Ray Bell at the cage who worked so hard to get our line of credit working right. And the cocktail staff of course. And the host crew, Brenda, Gloria and Ipo. And of course Chona at the Cal who always takes care of us.

There's the sparkling woman in housekeeping who has an indomitable spirit that rises above everything, erupting in big smiles and thankful, thoughtful greetings. She snagged a vital power supply I left behind in my room and made sure it got to Chona, and then back to me.

People ask me why I keep going back to the Cal and Main Street... this should give you a good idea of what makes your wonderful properties stand out. It's the people, hands down. (And that includes the Hawaiian customers as well, I always feel like I am part of a big family reunion when I am shoulder to shoulder with them at the craps table.)

I guess it should be mentioned that we love the great video poker paytables on your games, and 3:2 blackjack and that also keep us happy and coming back.

We are very happy to stay with you and give you our action.

All the best, and thanks once again,

Royal Flusher

How much of the Main Street / Cal hospitality, and the people, remain? I hope it's enough for me to feel at home. I hope it's enough for me not to file for casino divorce.

The plan is to find out... today!


    1. Manny's still at MSS.

    2. they ruined Boar's Head Bar, Flusher. Sad!

    3. You're going to be disappointed, I'm afraid. I still love the properties but...

    4. No mention of oxtails at the Cal??? I forgive you...

    5. Bet she's retired during covid, but there was a BJ dealer at MSS that I remember being a MILF when she worked the Stardust. I'm pretty sure you know her, think I commented about her years ago on your RF blog. Either from your comments or from a conversation I had at the table with her, she was first hired as a at Golden Nugget. I swear she said it was run by the mob at the time.

      1. I knew a dealer named Carol at MSS that might be the one. Very, very experienced.


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