It was late Saturday night at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and an extremely stoned man was trying to bribe his way into the city’s hottest cryptocurrency party — and it wasn’t working.
To get to that point, he’d have already waited in a line for 30 minutes just to ride the elevator up to room 6116 in the hotel’s Forum Tower. It was clear he was past ready to start celebrating — this was Saturday night at the DEF CON hacker convention, after all — and someone else was footing the bill.
That would be Monero, the popular privacy-focused cryptocurrency that’s been on a wild ride since it was released in 2014. It had skyrocketed in value from around $1 in the summer of 2016 to a high of almost $500 in January of this year, before falling back to about $80 today — making a host of early adopters incredibly wealthy in the process.
And what do the newly crypto-rich do in Vegas if not spend absurd amounts of money? A lavish Monero suite party promoted on Reddit and hyped at DEF CON’s Monero BCOS Village, it would seem, was a no-brainer.
That’s right, cryptocurrency and its disciples had come to Sin City, and by the time I got past the bouncer and down the beer-soaked flight of stairs, one of the latter was shooting fake $100 bills out of a money gun.
Which, frankly, was so on the nose, I was worried about breaking it.
But the night, and the cryptocurrency-fueled excess, was just getting started — a sentiment apparently shared by the person next to me on the dance floor doing key bumps of cocaine.
The well-stocked open bar sat on the first level of the gigantic two-story suite sporting floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Vegas. Nearby, a (at one point) shirtless DJ spun heavy-bass at throngs of crypto diehards and their respective entourages bouncing back and forth on the crowded dance floor.
But a party is so much more than its dance floor, a fact made clear by a visit to the crowded upstairs bathroom located at the end of a wide hallway. There, in addition to an ice-filled bathtub stocked with Red Bull and beer, was a 20-something attendee hopping in the shower, getting naked, and lathering up — all while drinking beer — an act which earned him an over-the-stall cheers from another person waiting to use the private toilet.
The mood was a bit more subdued in the upstairs bedroom — perhaps the crowd had recently checked CoinMarketCap. With the lights out and people splayed across every soft surface, it looked exactly like an ecstasy-fueled cuddle puddle. And, well, that’s because it probably was. (The glow-bracelet headbands only added to my suspicion.)
But I suspected the real action was to be found in the party equivalent of a private cryptocurrency Telegram channel. That would be the rather large hallway closet, which interestingly had people coming and going at a semi-regular clip. After stepping in and a short conversation with some new arrivals, a decent amount of cocaine was poured out by one of the more intoxicated attendees.
He said he’d bought it on the Strip.
It looked like baby powder.
My new friend was sweating profusely, and someone asked if he was high on molly. No, he assured us as he cut lines of the aforementioned coke on a high closet shelf. He was just very hot.
It was a little hard to hear him over the bass vibrating through the closet wall.
Making my way out, the party had picked up speed: The music was faster, the lights were darker, and the crowd was definitely drunker. Monero stickers littered the party, abandoned next to half-finished drinks and Kit Kat wrappers.
Perhaps their perceived value had tanked since the start of the party.
The Monero celebration was one of several happening that night in the same tower — just few flights up in a suite with an identical layout was another gathering hosted by the Salt Lake-based DEF CON group DC801, and, a few floors below, Queercon was throwing its own bash.
Caesars’ security really had their work cut out for them. Work that, according to lead Monero developer Riccardo Spagni, included eventually shutting the Monero party down.
The distributed Monero itself may be resistant to censorship, but the party wasn’t on the blockchain.
But we can’t imagine the attendees were too upset. This was Vegas, after all, and the newly crypto-rich still had plenty of magic internet money to spend. Thankfully for them, World Crypto Con is hitting the Strip this October.