Off the mountain, back on the Vegas Strip and feeling peckish, I return to Mandalay Bay for what gets touted as the FleurBurger 5000. An off-menu item for lunch at chef Hubert Keller’s Fleur, it can be ordered as a $70 super burger — made with Kobe beef, topped with foie gras and truffles — or a $5,000 extravaganza, souped up with a 1995 bottle of Petrus. I ask restaurant manager Michael Kaplan (no relation), if his pricey vintage qualifies as good hamburger wine and he nods assuredly. The burger itself is a tasty beast and one of the best in Vegas.
It may not be the perfect thing to eat prior to doffing one’s shirt and putting on a swimsuit, but Daylight, also in the Mandalay, beckons. This is the newest pool club in Vegas — where that generally means big-name DJs, cabanas, day-beds, bottle service, and, basically, the equivalent of a nightclub under the sun — and draws a good-looking crowd of bronzed music lovers who turn the pool into a de facto dance floor. Best advice for enjoying an afternoon at Daylight: Corral 20 of your closest friends and rent one of two oversize cabanas, situated near the bandstand-style stage and decked out with private swimming pools.
With so much going on, it’s easy to forget that the main reason for coming to Las Vegas is to gamble. So I make my way to the poker room at Aria, the plushest and most comfortable card spot in Las Vegas. It also boasts the highest-stakes action, usually perpetrated in The Ivey Room, a sequestered space (a poker room within the poker room, if you will) named for the legendary pro Phil Ivey. There is just a single table in there, five flat-screen TVs, a Lalique chandelier, and a secret space for cashing in chips after the game is over. The last of these is a necessity when you figure that the no-limit stakes start at $100/$200 here and the least you’d want to buy in for is $20,000. When playing for that kind of money, inevitably against seasoned pros, Aria’s director of poker operations Adam Altweis advises keeping cool and not getting intimidated by the well-known players you’ll be confronting. “For guys who have accomplished a lot in their lives,” he says, “poker at its highest level provides the purest competition against another human — without anyone needing to get into Olympic shape.”
Following a bit of Texas hold ’em at the lower-stakes tables — if you want to know how I did: Um, broke even — it’s time for dinner at Guy Savoy in Caesars Palace. This two-Michelin-starred Vegas outpost is minimally decorated (food is the raison d’être here) and features a private dining room known as the Krug Chef’s Table, which looks out onto the kitchen from behind a glass wall; it’s best suited for parties of six. Standout dishes, wherever you eat, include sweet sea urchin with black rice, duck breast crusted in almonds, and Savoy’s famous artichoke soup with black truffles. It tastes insanely rich despite being made without cream. Following dinner, we repair to the adjacent Cognac Lounge, a comfortable, sleekly furnished room stocked with bottles of rare French digestifs. One inside tip: If you take the last shot from a bottle there, you get to keep the bottle, and the more ornate ones — even empty — have value on eBay. We go with the advice of the dapper general manager Alain Alpe and wrap things up with snifters of Tour du Monde, which, according to lore, received its name because bottles matured in the bellies of boats on cross-Atlantic journeys.