With this year's FICP conference taking place in Las Vegas, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the new and improved Vegas. If you haven't been there for a while, you are in for some startling changes.

Vegas began in the 1940s as a small mob hangout started by Bugsy Siegel. Soon it blossomed into a really big mob hangout complete with cement shoes. It was a fun town. The Rat Pack hung out here, as did Liberace and Wayne Newton.

In the 1980s, Las Vegas tried to transform itself from a Mob family town to an Osmond family town. They encouraged gamblers to bring their kids to town and this worked about as well as Tony Orlando singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Highway to Hell.”

Today, Las Vegas is once again a swingin' place where anything goes. The town has very few rules, including the way visitors dress. In the old days, people dressed up, by which I mean they wore clothes that matched. Nowadays you might see people walking the streets who look like refugees from a yard sale. The only reason I can see for this display of haphazard haberdashery is that people have heard that you can lose your shirt in Las Vegas so they don't bring any good ones with them.

A big reason people come to Las Vegas is to gamble in one of the luxurious casinos. Actually, they no longer call it “gambling” here. Instead, they call it “gaming,” which sounds much friendlier, but still takes all of your money.

If you are a person who is going to gamble come hell or high water (take high water with 3:1 odds), you can make yourself more savvy with the following tips: Gaming can take many forms, most of which revolve around an exchange of money between you and the person taking your money. Casinos offer a variety of games to achieve this. Take blackjack, for instance. Blackjack is a card game where the object is to amass 21 points. This is difficult for some people, who can only count up to 20 if they use their fingers and toes. God only knows what appendage they would use to reach 21.

Craps is a nice game with a terrible name. Think about it. Who in their right mind would name a game craps? They should have given it a more European name like Visiting The Loo.

Slot machines are also known as one-armed bandits. This is deemed politically incorrect by people who have only one arm and by people who are professional bandits. The average person you see at the slots has a cigarette dangling from his or her lips, a complimentary glass of bourbon in one hand, and is pushing buttons with the other.

At some casinos you can find more exotic games like Baccarat, Pai Gow, and roulette. James Bond was particularly fond of Pai Gow, which he always ordered with crispy noodles. He said it tasted just like chicken.

However you choose to gamble in Vegas, remember these three rules: 1) You cannot win. You will never win and even if you come out ahead on one trip, you will be back to lose it all. 2) Do not eat the 99¢ shrimp cocktail. Those aren't real shrimp. 3) The in-room movie titles may not show up on your bill, but all the people at the front desk know what you've been watching.

Dale Irvin is The Professional Summarizer. To liven up your next event, contact Dale at Speak Inc. (858) 457-9880 or visit www.daleirvin.com.