The Heart of a Gambler

I hope that everyone had a wonderful, relaxing Holiday weekend! I’ll admit, after many years in a restaurant, and some retail, being off work during a Holiday is still a novel idea. I love finally being able to participate in things with family and friends.

The BF and I spent the first half of our mini-vacay at a lovely resort a few hours away from home. The resort happens to be connected to a casino, which is part of the reason we chose to stay there. I’m not much of a gambler myself, but the BF is. Seriously, I think the man could spend days playing Black Jack and never tire of the game. He is a responsible gambler though, always setting aside a certain amount to play with as “fun money”. He’s actually pretty good at it; When all was said and done, our trip was essentially free!

This was our second visit to this resort. Last time we spent a few hours in the casino together, with me watching him play, and then he spent a few more hours down by himself while I did one of my favorite things: Sleep. It’s one of the biggest sticking points in our relationship; He feels that 4-5 hours of sleep is perfectly adequate, whereas I function better these days on 7-8 hours. He plays Black Jack, I sleep, it’s a win-win!

I was perfectly fine to go our separate ways for a few hours, but it worried the BF that I would feel neglected. So this time, I was determined to spend some time actually playing at the casino. My Dad always taught us that gambling should be seen as entertainment, and nothing more. On the very rare occasions he’d go to the casino (every couple of years, maybe), he’d talk of taking a few hundred dollars with the idea that he was buying hours worth of entertainment, and the expectation that you walk away with nothing more. So I brought a couple of hundred dollars with me as spending money for the trip. Shopping, gambling, I could spend the money on whatever. It was my entertainment money.

So, we went down to the casino one night, and after a few minutes of watching Black Jack, I wondered off on my own. Cards seemed a little out of my realm, and I have to admit, the idea of plunking down $10+ per hand seemed a bit more than I could stomach. After making the rounds of the floor, I settled on the 25-50 cent machines. Honestly, they had the fewest buttons, so I figured they’d be easiest to figure out.

The machines are all electronic now, and accept cash or tickets. You no longer hit the “jackpot” and have coins rushing out at you; The machine accumulates your money, and when you’re done playing it prints a ticket that you can either take to another machine and play, or cash out at the cash machines. The psychology of gambling fascinates me, and I figured out the pull of this system before I ever sat down: If you never see the cash, it doesn’t seem real. You can feel the rush of the win, without the downfall of watching your bucket of coins empty down again. So I set guidelines for myself to play. I’d start with $20. I’d lose no more than $5 at a machine to start, $10 if I’d been playing a while on that machine and was enjoying the game. This way I was up and moving around more.

There are no clocks anywhere in a casino, and I didn’t want to bring my purse, so my phone was back in my room. I have no idea how much time had passed, but it wasn’t long until $20 was turned into $90. Knowing how easy it would be to lose all of the money that was in the machine, I ended the game, took my ticket and cashed out. But I knew not much time had passed, and I didn’t want the BF feeling like I was just waiting around on him. I reminded myself that the $20 I originally had was for “entertainment”, and by my Dad’s standards, that extra $70 was too. Back to the machines I went. I played several more machines, and lost $40.

I checked in on the BF, who was still engrossed in his game, and headed back to the machines with my $50 to play again. I put $20 into the machine, and played for another half an hour or so. Before I knew it, I was up another $70. Entertainment money be damned, $100 is $100! I just didn’t have the heart to lose it again. I cashed out, and headed back to the Black Jack table with a total of $120 (my original $20, plus the $100 I’d won).

The next night we headed back down to the casino again. I had my $20 in tow, and decided to try my hand at the penny machines. Well, they say 1 cent, but the minimum bet was 32 cents on each machine. Actually, 32 “credits”. The machine never actually referenced money, each penny was called a credit. I started off with 2000 credits! Sounds so much bigger than $20. And that’s where they try to get you. The most I won was 500 credits ($5), and from start to finish never got back to my original $20. Funny though, 50% of the time the machine dinged that I was a WINNER! And showed coins showering across the screen. Yep, bet 32 credits, “win” 5. Um… Doesn’t that mean I just lost 27 cents? Nope, the machine said I was a WINNER! Woo Hoo! I won negative 27 cents!

I played for an hour or more, between the penny machines and the machines I’d played before. When my $20 was gone, I headed back to the Black Jack table to watch the boyfriend. Just as I approached the table, two gentlemen sat down. The older gentleman was obviously new to the game, and seemed to know less than I did. The younger gentleman was trying to help his friend, while doing everything he could to draw attention to his stacks of $100+ chips. The table had a $10 minimum, and most of the guys were playing $10-20 hands, sometime as much as $40-60 on a good hand. This guy was betting $500 at a time. A good hand would see as much as $1,000. Apparently he’d won big playing craps the night before, and was trying to blow some time until the high rollers tables opened again for the night. He wasn’t bad, but he seemed somewhat determined to blow through as much money as quickly as possible. Over the course of maybe an hour I watched him blow through probably $2,000 worth of chips, and then pull out another $2,000 in cash to continue playing. Like water slipping through his hands, with absolutely no concern in watching it go. 

Finally I took my $100 in winnings (okay, $80 if you take out the $20 I’d just lost), kissed the BF, and told him I’d see him later. I obviously don’t have the heart of a gambler. Or the stomach, for that matter. And I’m perfectly okay with that! I started my vacation with $200 in spending money, and came home with $280. How awesome is that?

 

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