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Holiday Guides for North America - United States

Vegas: Vegas Baby!

Vegas! The glitz, the glow and the ruin. When not observing a redundant hotel being blown to pieces, there's always a steak dinner to inspect.

Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of all things fantastic to many people. Conversely, it is also regarded by many as the pit of despair and the centre of everything that's bad about the American dream .You can make or break your life in Vegas and that, fundamentally, is the city's appeal.

I journeyed to Vegas for a short and tame stay, for a friend's final party in a state of pre-wedding bliss. I recall when the whole trip was booked, sitting in the travel agents and flicking through night time picture after night time picture. Bright lights and smiling people, surrounded by the names of various locations: Golden Bridge, Golden Gate Hotel, Golden Arches, Golden Pathway.

There are rarely any day time pictures of Las Vegas and I generally ignored this fact. Obviously it's because the strip and the downtown areas look prettier and more spectacular at night time, but it's also because Vegas during the day feels like a bad dream. For a start there's no one around, it's really quiet and a few stragglers are still sitting around playing slots from the previous night. The food doesn't seem to change either, breakfast joints stills serve lobster and steak from the night before. In short, days are just light and uninteresting extensions of the night.

When I arrived in Vegas my plan was still intact, I hadn't wasted any money. I had no known gambling habit and I wasn't in jeopardy of forgetting my name anytime soon. This certainly wasn't the case for an array of passengers who disembarked in Nevada. Some people just don't know when to start the party; it certainly isn't in the airport's detention hall on a charge of being thoroughly intoxicated.

We stayed at a glamorous hotel located on the strip and on arrival everything was done for us. My bags quickly descended onto a trolley and I noticed them later that day, sitting comfortably in my room. We were given a complimentary drink and a gambling chip, just for a bit of fun. As is the done thing in Las Vegas, we opted to begin our stay by checking out a casino.

I ambled in like most nervous and apprehensive foreigners, eyeing every step as if expecting someone to jump out menacingly at me. Large people who I believe were actually attached to gambling machine chairs poured in coin after coin to the jangling behemoths. Occasionally a whole bunch would fall back out and clatter into some kind or receptacle, one lady simply scooped them up and poured them back in. I never saw the logic in this.

Myself and a friend slowly moved towards a roulette wheel and a member of staff began preparing a table for our imminent arrival. No matter how many people seem to be floating around Las Vegas, there's always a free table to gamble at. Be warned of this scary fact, because you will find yourself at the mercy of a casino staff member at some point and there is no escape. To be honest, I know very little about gambling and what I do know, I learnt in Vegas. This first bash at a roulette wheel resulted in me pocketing a couple of chips which usually means you stay and gamble some more for an hour. I walked off and cashed up my $14 worth of winnings.

Our two full nights in Vegas resulted in me spending that $14, but despite the countless amount of complimentary drinks and large volumes of food, I remained restrained. Hunter S Thompson once said that Vegas preys on drunk people and that they can't wait for you to get through the gate. This is evident everywhere you go and I'm sure some people weren't actually conscious when chips were trawled away from them on blackjack tables. Or perhaps this was the pose for people who'd just lost a fortune. My total winnings for the few days we were there amounted to a gain of $3 dollars. We had a lot of fun in the bars and the restaurants and I learned the odd bit about casinos. The trick is to wander into an establishment with a broad smile and a fake swagger. Casinos will throw cheap meal after cheap meal at you in the hope that you will throw cash at any free game in the house. If you manage not to do this, Vegas becomes a bargain trip less dangerous than Great Yarmouth.