- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2020

LAS VEGAS (AP) - On this court, the butler keeps score.

This is the Hardwood Suite in Fantasy Tower of The Palms, a $20,000-per-night hotel stay that comes with full butler service - and a regulation basketball court.

It’s a spot reserved for high-net-worth casino players, celebrities and professional athletes with a penchant for shooting hoops.

The Reno Gazette Journal took a look at the kind of sporty suite you’ll only find in Las Vegas: A 10,000-square-foot (929-square-meter) pad with two bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms.

The two-story suite includes a hidden whiskey room, a game room equipped with pool and poker tables, many big-screen TVs, a fully-stocked 16-seat bar and a dining table for 10 guests.

An urban vibe dominates the décor, anchored with street art from artists Joshua Vides, Patrick Martinex, Cryptik and MADSTEEZ.

But the most interesting part of the Hardwood Suite is the regulation-sized half basketball court. Vides’ name is on the backboard.

Here, the padded gym walls fold down into Murphy beds, allowing guests to turn the court into the sportiest bedroom imaginable.

After a game, guests have a short trip to freshen up. The suite’s very own locker room is steps away, with a towel and robe in each locker.

Joe Yalda is head of butler operations at The Palms. He’s usually in a room near the suite, at the ready 24/7 to address the needs of guests.

When it comes to describing the Hardwood Suite’s common clientele, Yalda must practice discretion. It’s part of the butler’s job to protect the privacy of their clients.

But in general, he said, the cast of a typical stay at the Hardwood Suite includes guests with kids - or rabid sports fans turned casino high-rollers and their buddies.

“The Hardwood Suite offers so much for their kids,” Yalda said. “We can do tournaments with the kids. There’s a game room upstairs. There’s so much activity for kids that it allows the parents to do whatever they’d like - whether that’s a night on the casino floor or a date night or a little peace time.”

On the adult side of things, the action looks a little different - especially when the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament rolls around.

“We did a March Madness party last year,” Yalda said. “A venue like that with a group of 12 guys having a great time and watching every game in between playing games of basketball. I don’t think you can get that experience in any hotel room anywhere else.”

There’s plenty of TVs in the suite, but come March Madness, the hotel fits the room with enough screens to show every game that’s available, Yalda said: “It’s the best place to watch March Madness in the whole city. Privately, that is.”

At an additional cost, Yalda said, butlers can make custom team jerseys for guests.

Professional basketball players have paid to stay in the Hardwood Suite.

“It makes them feel like they’re at home,” Yalda said.

Celebrities have also put in court time playing pickup games in the suite, Yalda said.

“Some crazy basketball games go down in that room,” he said.

The job of a butler in Las Vegas isn’t limited to serving dinner and drinks.

Yalda has delivered the puppies of a guest’s dog and tracked down two sets of the most collectible - and crispy - Air Jordan sneakers, precisely sized and ready for the high-roller “whale” staying in a nearby suite.

Sometimes, that job includes tallying points of pickup ballgames on the court.

“My butlers will tell you so many stories, especially from back in the day, of having to go down there and ref stuff - whether it’s a simple game of horse or it’s a game of two on two with professional athletes,” Yalda said. “They’ll always call the butler up there to be the scorekeeper.”

Yalda collects sneakers, but that’s no indication of his game in the paint.

“Unfortunately, my athletic skills are very poor,” he said. “Every once in a while a guest will ask me to take a shot. I’m not the best at it, and it definitely shows in that moment - especially with the suit on.”

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