Next week will find me in Vegas, playing in a Video Poker tournament!  I have been a video poker player for nearly 30 years, and I play seriously, but I have never been in a tournament.  Well, here is my chance!

I’ve loved poker since I was a child watching the penny ante games my grandparents used to play. My parents were card players as well, and poker was an extended family activity. I grew up playing Euchre, a trump game, at lunch during high school, and with friends.  Cards were a big past time where I grew up (Southern Ohio/Kentucky), but once I moved to Dallas I realized cards aren’t played everywhere.  My husband, Randy, and I found a few couples to play with, but for the most part, we were not surrounded by card players.

Betty loved the slots!

I  learned video poker on my first trip to Vegas in my early twenties.  My mom and dad took my brother and I to Vegas, and at that time, it was the remnant of the old Vegas. The RAT Pack Vegas.  For those who don’t know, the RAT pack consisted of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammie Davis Jr, and Peter Lawford.  I think those are the guys, anyway. These were people that graced the covers of the movie magazines my mother was so fond of.  The legends of Vegas were a large part of those stories. Mom also read a lot of biographies, and the more illicit the better.  I often read these books even when I was little, learning about Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedy’s, Frank Sinatra and Eva Gardner and Mia Farrow….when the book The Godfather came out it included a lot about Vegas and the mob.  I was raised on conspiracy theories about Sam Giancana, the Rat Pack, the Kennedy’s, Marilyn and Judith Campbell.  And of course, the biggest star of all….Jackie O.  My first trip to Vegas was like a trip to Disneyland.

At the most famous show in town….Siegfried and Roy!

Now, even people my age might not remember all of the saga and legend surrounding Vegas, and certainly our kids would have no idea. When I was in my early twenties, Vegas was still a legend….The Sands Hotel and Casino, The Desert Inn, Circus Circus, The Tropicana, The Flamingo which was started by Bugsy Segal the mobster, Caesar’s Palace…..the MGM Grand, The Frontier…..the only ones left are the Flamingo and Caesar’s Palace.  At that time you could walk the strip easily….without all of the stairways and weird entrances and the skyrails….don’t get me wrong, the new Vegas is amazing. The techno and out of this world quality is truly….out of this world.  But it isn’t the old Vegas….it is an entirely new city.

Bathing in the fountains at Caesars?? No, it’s a double exposure. I love this pic of me though!
The Gambling Sisters, my Aunt Nonnie and Mom.

My mom and Aunt Nonie taught me to play video poker at the Imperial Palace. As time went on, a yearly trip formed.  My mother in law, mom, cousin, and I went every year for a girl’s trip.  Others joined us from time to time. Mom and Betty (mother in law) had “comps”…. free rooms, free meals…my cousin Lisa and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Those trips were epic. I began to learn how to play video poker….the statistics of it, the math surrounding the odds.  I still love to play, although there are plenty of losses to offset my winnings.

It is different now. The new Vegas is a huge, sprawling, bizarrely opulent city.  Now it’s me getting comps…and pretty awesome comps at that!  The year before my mother died I took her for what I knew would be her last trip….we had a suite at Paris, and she had a terrific time.  Both mom and Betty are gone now.  Lisa and I took our two girls for their 21st birthdays, but since then, we haven’t been out there together.  I would love to start those girl’s trips back up.

Lisa and I with our daughters at the Voodoo Lounge, 2009

Ah, I love thinking about the old Vegas.  But the new Vegas waits for me….and I cannot wait to play in the tournament!  I’ll blog again from Planet Hollywood!  Til then, wish me luck!

Tam Warner

Award Winning Travel Journalist and Blogger, writing about Eclectic Travels in the Empty Nest! From scuba to luxury cruises to kayaking to expeditions, Tam is ready to go! Contact me at

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