This is the first of three pieces I’m posting this week about experiences I had while in Las Vegas over the weekend.

Between extended poker sessions during my four-day jaunt to Sin City, I took the opportunity to visit some places I’d either never been to or hadn’t seen for a very long time.

One is Circa, located on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. I wanted to see it because I’d heard about Stadium Swim, the huge outdoor pool complex on its second floor, with multiple giant TV screens showing sports — and places for you to bet on the games, too.

Before I could even walk through the front door of Circa, a security guard demanded to see my ID. At 65 years old, this is not a request I was expecting and was sure I’d misheard. Nope, not only did I have to show my driver’s license, but the guard then scanned it before allowing me to proceed.  So much for being able to maintain one’s anonymity in Las Vegas.

That was not my only shock of the day. When I worked my way through Circa’s maze of slot machines and escalators and found the entrance to Stadium Swim, I was stopped in my tracks again. This time, the culprit was a sign saying Circa charges — get this — sixty dollars for general admission to the pools!

Notice I did not refer to these as “swimming pools.” No one’s doing laps in them. They are exclusively a place to stand or dance in waist-deep chlorinated water while a DJ pounds nonstop music as you consume as much alcohol as your credit limit can handle. This so-called DayClub concept launched about 15 years ago at the old Hard Rock hotel and has since spread all over town (Tao at Venetian, Encore Beach Club, Marquee at Cosmopolitan, etc.).

Oh well, I thought, if I’m not going out there, Circa also has an indoor sportsbook (!), so let’s see what that’s like. It, too, had massive screens and plenty of seats, but you can’t just plop yourself down in there, either. First you have to commit to spending at least $200-400 per person on food and beverages. That’s the same pricing I’ve found at Aria, Bellagio, and The Wynn, all of whom want you to bet on sports at their books, as long as you don’t stick around to watch the games while nursing a single beer for three hours.

In contrast, the Westgate (home of a vast enterprise called The Superbook) charges nothing for its plentiful seats, which go to whoever gets there first. I know this from personal experience, because my brother-in-law and I got up early on our trip last October to ensure we’d get comfy chairs to watch a full slate of NFL games.

After leaving Circa (which was packed), I found my way back onto Fremont Street, which remains a Total Tourist Trap. It is home to some very old hotel/casinos, including Binion’s, a place I wrote about here in a piece remembering my first Vegas trip. When it was known as Binion’s Horseshoe in the 20th century, it was the original home of the World Series Of Poker, but now that event and the Horseshoe name belong to a different property in the middle of The Strip.

Still, I wanted to see what the inside of Binion’s looks like today. The physical manifestation of sadness. Nothing but row after row of slot machines with really old people in front of them. The low ceilings looked like they hadn’t been cleaned since I was last there and smelled as if they retained the aroma of cigarettes smoked by gamblers from that era who are now long gone.

I couldn’t remember where the poker room was, so I asked a security guard who looked as if he’d been there forever. He informed me with a sad face that Binion’s had closed its poker room years ago. In fact, he said, the only downtown casino that still has one is the Golden Nugget.

Back outside, I strolled down Fremont Street, which is still covered by an electronic canopy showing CGI animated scenes. Under that were several ziplines, including one offering an “all you can fly” price on weekdays before 5pm. You won’t be shocked to learn I didn’t take even a single ride.

I couldn’t go three steps on Fremont Street without smelling the foul odor of skunk weed, which is not only legal in Vegas, but prevalent, and almost as offensive to my nostrils as tobacco smoke. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by the cacophony of several bands playing on different stages, but not far enough apart to keep the audio of one from bleeding into the audio of another.

As in Times Square, on Hollywood Boulevard, and other places frequented by tourists, Fremont Street has a wide variety of characters who will pose for a photo with you —- for a price. The most numerous are the phony showgirls in skimpy outfits and fake-feather wings. Also available for your selfie pleasure are several other women (and one man) in police hats and uniforms on top but thongs on the bottom, complete with a pair of handcuffs that probably stay on you until you accede to their demands for more cash.

The menagerie of desperate and unhappy-looking people trying to get your money included at least five really bad Michael Jackson imitators, a pair of Dolly Parton lookalikes, and whoever is stuffed into the Spider-Man, Elmo, and Chewbacca outfits — the sweat-soaked insides of which probably smell worse than the skunk weed!

Despite looking around while making my way all the way down Fremont Street, I did not spot the neon Steamed Meat sign that I wrote about twenty years ago in one of the most-viewed posts on this website. If you haven’t read it, click here.

Tomorrow: In part two, I visit another new resort on The Strip, offer a cautionary tale of counterfeit money, and decide not to go inside The Sphere.