Rex

Dealertaining

January 24, 2010

The Imperial Palace.  Possibly the most polarizing property on the Las Vegas Strip.

“But Rex, doesn’t that title belong to Circus Circus?”

Maybe not.

You see, with the exception of yours truly, nobody admits to liking Circus Circus.  Thus, it cannot be polarizing because nobody takes the opposite side.

The IP, however, has both a loyal following and a loyal loathing.

Imperial Palace Parking Entrance

Imperial Palace Parking Entrance

Imperial Palace Taxi Cab Stand

Imperial Palace Taxi Cab Stand

Some people love the Harrah’s comps, the Dealertainers, the reasonably low limits, and the cheap rooms.  Other people consider staying in the IP to be two steps below sleeping in their car, and one step below sleeping on the Deuce bus.

Personally, I take an in-between approach.  I used to really like the IP.  I stayed there on one of my first trips to Vegas and I gambled, watched Legends in Concert, ate at a Hawaiian Luau, and generally had a good time.  This was back in the waning days when the customer was still king, silver quarters still played in slot machines, and shortpay Crackjack was still just an evil plot that had not yet been unleashed.

Back then, I was not aware that the IP was on top of a flood control channel nor was I aware that the parking garage was notorious for flooding every time someone spit within a 100 mile radius of the property.  It’s become a constant source of amusement and lore since then.

Imperial Palace Garage - Flood Control Channel

Imperial Palace Garage - Flood Control Channel

Imperial Palace Garage - Flood Control Channel

Imperial Palace Garage - Flood Control Channel

Imperial Palace Garage - Flood Control Channel

Imperial Palace Garage - Flood Control Channel

For the last 5 or so years, the property has been the subject of frequent wrecking ball rumors, but dwindling revenue numbers for Vegas dispelled those plans.  I guess a dismal economy isn’t all bad.  Had they postponed the Stardust demolition a few months, it would no doubt still be standing.

Even though I’ve grown slightly less enthusiastic about the IP over the years, I don’t hate the place for three reasons:

  1. It has a monorail stop
  2. It’s in the middle of everything
  3. Dealtertainers

My primary goal when I head out is to seek things that are fun, unique, interesting, or entertaining.  I typically find these things in places that other people frown upon.  I’m just not terribly obsessed with “class” (as if that needed to be said).  Don’t get me wrong, it has its place and I get down with the high-brow vibe from time to time, but it’s not super-important to me.  I’ve stayed in the Plaza Hotel in New York, the Wilshire Grand, The Four Seasons, and a whole host of upper-end joints from coast-to-coast.  Sometimes it was my choice to stay in these places, and sometimes the decision was made for me, but I can say this with all honesty … I didn’t really care one way or another.  I’m okay in a Holiday Inn so long as there are no giant rats or jizz stains on the sheets.

As a matter of fact, even when money is no object, one of my favorite places to crash in Manhattan is a basic room in the Herald Square Hotel.  It’s a single room with a TV and bathroom, it’s cheap and it has free Wi-Fi.  The location is also unbeatable as it is a mere four block walk to Madison Square Garden, and is two blocks to most major midtown trains.  This is all I want or need.  As long as it is safe and clean, nothing else matters to me.  They can paint the interior purple and hang photos of rotting garbage on the wall for all I care.  The view from the hotel tends to suck, but you can’t have everything for a low price.

The IP is kind of the Las Vegas Herald Square Hotel.  It’s cheap, on the rail, the location is unbeatable, and it’s old and basic.  The view from the rooms tend to suck, and service is nothing to write home about.  Still, if you don’t get mani/pedis, and you concentrate on function over form, the IP is still a reasonable place to patronize.

Over the past couple of months, I have stopped into the IP and played some $5 cards on several occasions.

Why?

Because I’ve had quite a few “noob” visitors over the holidays, and I felt that dealers-impersonating-celebrities was part of the ©”Vegas Experience”.  I’ve given up the point or so of house edge on 6:5 for the privilege of playing with unique card dealers, and watching them periodically take to the stage and break into song and dance.  These people are an institution on the Las Vegas Strip, and the atmosphere they bring to the pit is just “fun”.

Imperial Palace - Dealertainer Pit

Imperial Palace - Dealertainer Pit

Imperial Palace - Dealertainer Pit

Imperial Palace - Dealertainer Pit

Imperial Palace - Dealertainer Pit

Imperial Palace - Dealertainer Pit

Imperial Palace - Elvis Dealertainer

Imperial Palace - Elvis Dealertainer

I played, and gloriously lost in the Dealertainer Pit last Wednesday, but I had a good time doing it.  Fortunately, I did not hit a single blackjack during my session … which means that my losses were wholly a result of bad luck, and not due merely to knuckling under to the man and his shortpay.  I can live with bad luck better than destroyed principles.  Fortunately, my companion in this week’s endeavor went on an opposing winning streak, and the team bankroll was not completely depleted.

Hash House a Go-Go opened inside of the IP last month, and I am scheduled to meet someone at the location soon, so I will check out the latest and greatest version of this institution shortly.

Even though I sort of like the place, I still feel guilty playing at the IP at times.

Harrah’s is the evil empire.  I think Harrah’s is bad for Las Vegas locals, and bad for Las Vegas visitors.  I think they are going to gobble up as many properties as possible, milk the city for everything they can, and leave the city in de-facto ruins as the executives golden parachute into greener pastures.

Corporations just don’t run vice very well.

If Harrah’s sold pot, it would be 90% stems and seeds, and you would need 8 ounces to get the same effect from a West Las Vegas dime bag.  They would save the choice buds for Diamond Members … all who eventually go into rehab, and the most steady customers (lower middle-class daily smokers) would just start drinking more beer at the local bar.

If Harrah’s ran a brothel, instead of hiring women out of lingerie ads, they would hire cheap Thai Transvestites and charge the customer $20 for a Viagra to help get it up … not unlike handing out cheap rooms to make the crap gaming odds more palatable.

Our corporate overlords just don’t “get it”, and I don’t believe they ever will.

In any event, short tirade about the evils of Harrah’s aside, I still enjoy the Dealertainer aspect of the Imperial Palace, and I will probably still stop by from time to time to avail myself of this fun and unique aspect of Las Vegas entertainment for as long as it lasts, and at this point in Vegas history, we really have no idea how long that will be.

My guess is that it’s only a matter of time before the “Dealertainer Pit” is replaced with the “Cheap Imported Labor Pit”.

When it happens, remember … you heard it here first.

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19 Comments

  1. Written by Disco Stu on January 24, 2010 at 1:44 am

    You say “Thai Transvestite” as if that’s a bad thing. Those ladyboys work hard for their money.

  2. Written by haxtr on January 24, 2010 at 2:52 am

    What??? I’m surprised that you could write a piece about the IP and not mention the ties the original owner–a South Dakota developer, had with the Nazi party. He was quite a Hitler fan and used to host parties on Hitler’s birthday at the IP

    Check this out. http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20100272,00.html
    There are many more articles as well. Heck even the name “Imperial Palace” is named after Hitler’s Imperial Palace.
    Creepy
    –haxt0r,

  3. Written by haxtr on January 24, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Oops! That’s North Dakota, not SD. #above

  4. Written by slotabuser on January 24, 2010 at 3:50 am

    Love the IP in June 09. Didn’t like it in December 09. Dealertainers were a hoot at 10:30am on a Monday. Hash House a Go-Go was great, bring your camera because the eggs benedict was HUGE! People were scared to order because portions were so big. Good place and great for the price of 10-15 a dish.

  5. Written by Michael on January 24, 2010 at 4:03 am

    haxtr: I was kinda surprised that it wasn’t mentioned either, but since VegasRex isn’t a Vegas native, maybe he didn’t know this rather dodgy side of IP’s history. Also, to be honest, it’s rather irrelevant since the guy’s dead and the place is owned by Harrah’s now.

  6. Written by haxtr on January 24, 2010 at 4:11 am

    True, Ralph Engelstad died around 2004 (I think), but the property is still called the Imperial Palace, which he named after Hitler’s. Still a creepy place with a creepy past. I believe that his widow still owns the IP in Mississippi. Old Ralph Engelstad also caused trouble in North Dakota–pissing off the Native Americans with his building of a multi million dollar hockey rink for the local university that is filled with racial stereotypes.

    Just needed to get that off my chest.

  7. Written by Michael on January 24, 2010 at 4:13 am

    Yeah, I definitely agree that it’s creepy as hell and is part of the reason why I stay away from the place.

  8. Written by Ron from MI on January 24, 2010 at 4:32 am

    “My primary goal when I head out is to seek things that are fun, unique, interesting, or entertaining.”

    “I’m okay in a Holiday Inn so long as there are no giant rats or jizz stains on the sheets.”

    ” As long as it is safe and clean, nothing else matters to me. They can paint the interior purple and hang photos of rotting garbage on the wall for all I care. The view from the hotel tends to suck, but you can’t have everything for a low price.”

    I think that’s why we come to places like these. Big hotels are nice, but no one can really afford them. In return, we take the best bargains we can get (such as Downtown, the Strat and the IP.) From that point on, we do some “exploring,” and make our choices from that point on. The old Westward Ho was a good example in its day: nothing home to write about, but at least you have a room to sleep in and you got it right away. We miss those times; I miss those times.

    Form haxtr: “What??? I’m surprised that you could write a piece about the IP and not mention the ties the original owner–a South Dakota developer, had with the Nazi party. He was quite a Hitler fan and used to host parties on Hitler’s birthday at the IP”

    As far as the IP being Nazi-related: give kudos to the late Ralph Englestad, who also owned the now demolished Klondike. (Personally, I don’t know HOW the Jewish people living/working/doing business in Vegas EVER got along with this guy. I wonder though..)

  9. Written by Ron from MI on January 24, 2010 at 4:34 am

    P.S.: It’s like some casino celebrating parties commemorating Charles Manson. (And by the way, he had a swastika on HIS forehead.)

    People are weird sometimes.

  10. Written by keith on January 24, 2010 at 5:03 am

    ” I’m surprised that you could write a piece about the IP and not mention the ties the original owner–a South Dakota developer, had with the Nazi party. He was quite a Hitler fan and used to host parties on Hitler’s birthday at the IP ”

    say what you want about the nazis, they were quite the snazzy dressers. probably the best dressed army ever… -Anthony Cumia

  11. Written by briguyx on January 24, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Funny how this comes out right when the winners of the Trippies are revealed and the IP is listed as the worst in many, many categories! And I would listen to the Trippies… after all, the readers named this here blog as the best! Congratulations, Rex!

  12. Written by JLC21 on January 24, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    The IP died for me the moment they eliminated the Champagne Pit. We used to go at least once a trip and we’d spend hours upon hours at the Champagne Pit (where a couple tables still paid 3:2 and you could double-fist cocktails/beer with cheap champagne all night long).

    We won’t be going back.

  13. Written by Jow Blow on January 24, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I used to enjoy IP immensely before Harrah’s took it over. It was the only place on that part of the strip with $5, and often even $3 blackjack tables and they were all paying 3:2 until that fateful day that Harrahs took over and the table limits were no different from those at The Bellagio. The gambling odds were always the best in that portion of the strip, but we all know that’s not how Harrahs rolls.

    The casino always had a fun, energetic vibe that is simply lacking in the “tasteful” but sedate McCasinos that have sprung up recently.

    I did always note an odor of 30 years accumulation of stale cigarette smoke in IP, though. But enough alcohol helps block that out.

    Now that Harrahs has implemented their Machiavellian approach to table games, it’s tough to find a reason to go in there.

  14. Written by blueboar on January 24, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    …so long as there are no giant rats or jizz stains on the sheets

    Aw man, rat jizz on the sheets is the worst!!

  15. Written by JKwon on January 25, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I miss the old Kimonos the waitresses used to wear.

  16. Written by Limey on January 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I think you know by now I’m one of those who like the Imperial Palace, as you said It has a monorail stop; it’s in the middle of everything has Dealtertainers and is cheap. I’ve slept in my car a few times so I don’t mind the rooms and as for the view from my room, if I don’t see any birds getting their kit off I’m not really interested. As for the Circus Circus, it always seems to be full of little Asians with tiny kids who are like rats getting under your feet and forever stepping on them…… Limey

  17. Written by VegasSam on January 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Stayed at Imperial Palace 14 days the past two years. I am a Marriott Platinum member so I am use to a reasonable room and amenities. For the price and the location the IP is tolerable. The rooms are ok and I never gamble or eat at a Harrah’s property (may now do so that the Planet Ho has fallen into their hands) so it works for me.

  18. Written by Shonda on February 4, 2010 at 4:42 am

    I have stayed at IP twice; can’t complain about it. Sure it’s not the Bellagio but seriously how much are you staying inside your room while in Vegas? Not with all the good postcards to get from the slappers!!! We went shortly after MJ’s death last year and the MJ dealertainer had the pit packed. We saw him later in the hotel giving directions to some lost tourists. I really love the IP. Just don’t eat at the buffet. Trust.

  19. Written by J. Louise on March 2, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    I always enjoyed going to Circus Circus and the IP when I lived in Vegas because I have a wierd appreciation for things that are so bad, they’re good! Many of those “charming” places I remember aren’t around anymore–the Klondike, Lady Luck, the Gold Spike BEFORE the remodel, and–lest we forget–the Holiday Inn Boardwalk! I was also sorry to see the Stardust go.

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