They arrived early Wednesday morning, before 8:30, lined up at the M Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard, a 15-minute ride from the Strip. The M is a gleaming hotel with a sleek, modern design and a chic sushi restaurant that opens up to a roof deck. It is what new millennium hotels in Vegas -- such as the Aria or the Cosmopolitan -- look like these days, casually cool and understated, more international interchangeable than classic Vegas opulence.
But unlike the newbies fighting for attention in the heart of the action, the M's location means it's as much a dressed-up local joint as a tourist destination. I was once playing blackjack there during Super Bowl weekend when the Indianapolis Colts played the New Orleans Saints. The guy sitting next to me was older and gray, and his hands shook every time he made a bet. Eventually he ran out of money and the table emptied out. The only people left were me and my buddy Matt. He likes to talk to the dealers. It drives me nuts. He asked her if she liked working at the casino, which was relatively new. She said, "I do. The only thing I don't like is that it gets too many locals who might be playing for their gas bill. Like that old guy. Why do you think his hands kept shaking whenever he made a bet?"