One of the special treasures of living in Los Angeles or San Diego is knowing that the adult amusement park of Las Vegas is only a brief road trip away. While I’m waiting with bated breath for them to build a high-speed train through the desert, the trip up I-15 and over the mountains is still decidedly bearable, considering the array of illusionary delights that waits on the other side.

I don’t make it up there too often these days, but when I do I generally limit my debauchery to the cheapest craps table I can find. I used to play blackjack with a simple high-low counting system, but after I had a magical night and won enough to pay off a good chunk of my student loans, the game lost its appeal. I’ve always been a terrible poker player because I have a tendency to fall in love with any good hands I get and completely discount that it’s possible other players have even better hands. Last year was a great one for sports gambling, so good in fact that this fall my computer (I call him Gamblor) and I will be hosting a weekly column of football picks. Stay tuned!

With my condolences, this week’s Song-Off is dedicated to a couple of card sharps I shared a dorm with ages ago who just this week tested their mettle at the World Series of Poker Main Event: Joe Pelton and Frank Grigsby. I was hoping I’d be able to trumpet their success, but unfortunately they’ve both gone bust and are out of the tournament. Frank flamed out in pretty spectacular fashion: after starting the day fourth in overall chip count he was gone by the end of the afternoon; Joe held on a little longer, but it looks like he just barely missed the money bubble. Sorry, guys. Better luck next year.

Electric Light Orchestra, “Poker”

Ray Charles, “Blackjack”

Edwin Starr, “War”

Rush, “Roll the Bones”

Burt Bacharach, “Casino Royale”

Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Spinning Wheel”

Superdrag, “Slot Machine”



Last week voters chose the combination of Michael McDonald’s music and McDonald’s hamburgers as their favorites, beating out Concrete Blonde and Wendy’s by a single vote. Stay tuned for next week’s battle of true heavyweights, as we tackle the subject of magical modes of transportation.