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Viva Las Vegas

What’s the collective noun for Elvises? A hunk?

Here’s me and my new best friends, who I spotted a couple of Saturday nights ago at the Bellagio.

This all goes back to my uni friend, dear old, much-missed Mel Smith (see photo in last month’s blog). Mel once told me, “If you want to make money gambling, Richard, own a casino.” Mel’s dad was a successful London bookmaker, so he knew what he was talking about.

I remembered those words when I first met Michael “Scooter” Johnson. Scooter was manager of The Crown and Anchor on Spring Mountain Road in Las Vegas. I had won a seat in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker and had dropped in there for a beer on my day off (it’s a very long tournament*).

Scooter was the manager, and the only other person in the place. We played darts (he didn’t know the excellent game Over-and-Under—which Mel had taught me years before). Scooter explained that the slots are where the money comes in. (A Nevada Tavern is licensed to have up to fifteen slot machines, which must be set into the surface of the bar itself, not free-standing.  Each machine offers dozens of different games). Food and drink are free if you’re playing. His great ambition was one day to be an owner, not just a manager working for someone else.

Long story short : he now is.  

Scooter and I put together a business plan (concept: great draft beers, great food, all the sports channels, friendly local vibe: a nice neighborhood bar for a nice neighborhood). We signed for the property in 2012, and, after extensive refurbishment (kudos to our architect, John Ford— we opened in April 2014.  Sporting Life Bar has been voted Sports Bar of the Year more than once—most recently this last December in Desert Companion, the leading Vegas magazine.

And last month Scooter—along with Allen “Doogie” Weimer, his assistant manager and right-hand man—threw a Tenth Birthday party for the neighborhood. I wasn’t going to miss that. We all had ten happy and successful years to celebrate.

The place was packed. It’s a very popular spot in the area. Locals don’t want to go into town to eat and drink and play. Why would they, with Sporting Life Bar right on their doorstep? Many of them work in the hospitality business, so avoid The Strip when off duty. A lot of cooks and chefs from the gourmet restaurants in the big hotels are among our regular guests. They know they will get award-winning food (“best chicken wings in the Vegas Valley”) 24/7/365.

I’m very proud of the place**, and very appreciative of all the work that Scooter, Doogie and their team put in to keep up the high standard. Many of our staff have been with the three of us since we opened.

Scooter is also, like me, a gamer (the online, Role-Playing kind). We have teamed up occasionally in MMORPG’s—but it’s actually more fun when we’re on opposing factions in PvP (player versus player) and attempt to obliterate each other.

Here’s us at the party:

Viva Las Vegas indeed.

[*I’d won a seat from a $1k satellite to play in the $10,000 Main Event of the WSOP—the World Championship of Poker ($6million-plus for the winner). $10k is too rich for my blood. I’d never put that much money down for a tournament. Especially not one with so many opponents–far too many of  them the best players in the world. The top 10% of places got paid that year. I busted out inside the top 10.5%. So close, but not quite close enough to cash. All-in with Pocket Queens versus Pocket Sevens. Seven on the flop…>sigh<. Oh well. These things happen. At least I can pretend that I won Sporting Life Bar in a poker game.]

[**If you’re ever in Vegas: hit me up and I’ll have you comped at SLB. You’ll like the place. Email Scrob, my trusty scribegoblin,, she’ll sort you out.]

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