Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Know When To Walk Away And Know When To Run

After a long night of gambling, drinking, and carousing, the morning sun is the Lord's light of righteous justice shining into your guilty, bloodshot eyes. And so it was last Sunday morning, at 8:34 a.m., when I was awakened after a mere four hours' sleep, to see Shamrock's silhouette framed by a brilliant blue sky in the hotel window. What hath my recklessness wrought? I wondered, as quick flashes of the night before -- a few hours before -- ran through my mind.

There we are at the craps table, just three hours after arriving at the casino, and I'm already down to half my loss limit. Plainly it was too meager a sum to play for the entire evening. So with some quick math, I revise my loss buffer and do visit number one to an awaiting ATM. Mere seconds later, a number of crisp $100 bills squeeze out into my hot little hands.

There we are at the 3-Card and 4-Card Poker tables, where Shamrock has done me the dubious favor of teaching me both games. It is here that I hemorrhage most of my money. Fucking Shamrock. Mom, he's really a bad influence. You shouldn't let me play with him anymore.

Gambling Factoid Paragraph: 3-Card and 4-Card Poker are played like regular poker, except you play with only 3 or 4 cards and you only play against the dealer. In 3-Card poker you ante and decide whether to play a "Pair Plus" option before you're allowed to see your cards. Pair Plus offers you very large potential winnings if you get a pair, straight, flush, three of a kind, or a straight flush. But if you don't have a least a pair in your hand, you lose the Pair Plus bet, even if you beat the dealer with your hand. After anteing and betting the Pair Plus, you finally get to look at your cards and decide whether you want to "Play." If you like your cards and want to Play, you put your cards down on the spot marked Play on the table and place a bet on top of them. Your bet cannot be larger than your ante (which again, you have to make before seeing any of your cards). You can't maximize a really good hand by raising your Play bet after you see your cards. Early in the evening, there was a $10 minimum at the 3-Card and 4-Card tables. Later on, they bumped it up to $15. That's $15 for the ante, $15 for the "Pair Plus" bet, and $15 for the "Play" bet. This means before all is said and done, you've got a minimum bet of $45 on the table for a single Play if you're playing the Pair Plus. If you decide to fold because your cards suck ass -- and this happens quite a bit, I'm sorry to report -- you forfeit your $15 ante and the $15 "Pair Plus" bet. If you fold with a pair or greater (which you would never do), you get to keep your Pair Plus bet. So that's a minimum of thirty dollars down the shitter for a fold. For this reason, I hated folding, and I paid the price.

4-Card Poker is the same as 3-Card, except hey, you're dealt five cards instead of three. Wooptee Friggin' Doo. The dealer gets six cards, from which he or she has to choose four. That extra card is a huge advantage for the house. What's nice about 4-Card though, and what keeps you sticking around, is the "Aces Up" bet, which is similar to the "Pair Plus" bet, except you have to have a pair of Aces or better in order not to lose that bet. If you get a pair, straight, flush, three of a kind, four of a kind, or a straight flush, it pays very big, much bigger than in 3-Card. And in 4-Card, unlike 3-Card, you're allowed to play 1 to 3 times your ante after you look at your cards. This allows you to maximize a good hand. You also get to see one of the dealer's cards.

This has been your Gambling Factoid Paragraph. Live long and prosper.

There we are at the 3-Card and 4-Card poker tables, where big damage is being inflicted upon yours truly. Big damage. After a mere four hours, I'm 2/3 of the way through my revised loss limit. Not good. Backup plan? What backup plan? "We're here to gamble," quoth the Shamrock, he of the dual income and fat wallet. Whereupon came visit number two to the ATM, where, after a few key punches more crisp $100 bills spit their way into my hot little hands. Now THAT's a backup plan!

There we are at dinner, taking a break and enjoying our seafood as we watch remarkably plentiful arm candy in tight, colorful dresses stroll by our table. For a brief moment I am happy because I am actually getting something for my money. It's short-lived, however. I see so many couples having dinner and walking around the casino, and I'm a bit surprised. Query: Is a casino a good place for a date? It's definitely an aphrodisiac, particularly if you're winning. But is it romantic? Discuss.

1:30 a.m. - there we are entering the Mur Mur club. I'm sufficiently plastered by this time and have lost enough money that I don't blink at the ridiculous $25 cover. We walk down a Disney Space Mountain flight of stairs to this large dance club, where we hear the DJ music pumping from ten yards away. Been awhile since I've walked through the old fog and strobe lights, so for a few moments, I'm quite disoriented and a little confused. Finally my eyes adjust and I start getting into it, in particular, the kick-ass 80s mix the D.J. plays after we're in there for about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, each song in the montage is played for only a few seconds, which is a huge disappointment. Then again, the short duration of the medley music is consistent with the miniscule attention span of today's youngsters. Can't play "Mickey" too long or they'll wander off. Here's a week's supply of Ritalin, kids. Now calm the fuck down and listen to a whole song.

I begin to feel my groove comin' on. I want to dance like I've never danced, but there's no one to dance wiv. There I am catching the eye of an attractive blue-eyed lass about half my age, who smiles at me unexpectedly. Funny how my inhibitions disappear after five drinks. I walk over through the thumping music and ask her name. It's Karen. Or Sharon. Or Ceren. Or Carrot. Who knows, who cares, I can't hear a fucking thing. We chat for a second and a few moments later, she waves to her boyfriend, a skinny dork with pale skin, preppy short hair, and a large hoop earring in his left ear. At least he was feeling the 80s with me. Fast forward two hours and she's got her tongue in his mouth on the dance floor, while I'm contemplating just how hard I need to whack my forehead against the platform in front of me in order to bring about blissful unconsciousness. My shit gambling luck has translated into shit luck d'amour and I'm mildly ornery. There's Shamrock leaving because he's become a fuddy dud at the age of 36, the fucker. There's me having a couples-a'-more drinks, watchin' the platform dancers gyrate and inexplicably deciding to update my Facebook status at 3:30 in the morning. Moron.

There's me hitting the wall as the lights start to come up fifteen minutes later and going back upstairs to find Shamrock by, you guessed it, the 3-Card Poker table. There he is sitting next to a woman who looks like Shari Belafonte. He's got $75 on the table. He wins. Up behind us comes a sexy young blonde wearing a form-fitting, lavender dress and smoking a cigarette. Shamrock chats her up. About seven hours before, when I saw her walking by the craps table, I'd pegged her as a pro. Shame too, because she was quite delectable. Shamrock's a curious sort, so he's asking her where she's from, what she does for a living. A drunken cross-examination. She seems a little nervous but answers his questions amiably (and with prepared answers, natch). Before she leaves for greener pastures, she produces a laminated business card with her name on it, the name of her New York company -- World Travel something or other -- and her job description: "Business Developer." I laugh my ass off through my __ vodka soda. Then I try to find her business website on my Blackberry and of course it doesn't come up. Shamrock still thinks she's for real and I'm baffled by his willingness to believe her story. When you want to believe a story bad enough, sometimes even a mediocre beard can fool the most skeptical observer.

There's us finally leaving the casino at 4:30 as we see Lavender Lady two tables away being chatted up by three college-aged dudes. Maybe she'll make some money tonight after all, I think as we trudge to the elevator. I secretly pray for a Crying Game ending for one of them. There's my head hitting the pillow at close to 4:45 a.m. and I'm out.

Thing about casinos is, they're fun as hell. You mix together some alcohol, a few lovelies walking around and hanging out of their clothes, strangers at your table who soon become friends and allies against a common enemy, The House, and the buzz of risking your hard-earned money to win even MORE money, and what you've got there my friends is an intoxicating cocktail. The aphrodisiac to beat all aphrodisiacs.

Thing about casinos is, they're dangerous as hell. You have no clue what time of the day it is because there are no windows (and you don't care anyway); you get free drinks upon request; it's nearly impossible to find your way out, or even the bathroom; and it's easy, oh so easy, to keep taking out more money, so you can keep playing, so you can keep that buzz going. I couldn't find a men's room to save my life, but I had no problem finding an ATM. That's no accident. Casinos are fucking addictive once you learn the rules. And don't they know it. They keep track of how much you're gambling and they give you credits and comps and perks and all sorts of fun things so you'll come back. They want to be your friend so you can be their friend. A patron of the gambling arts. Casinos truly are a test of self control. Every conceivable vice is right there for the picking. What's it gonna be, buddy boy?

I'm just glad I live far away from the A.C.

I think we're going to hit the Mohegan Sun next. LOL


K said...

I say you and I plan a little trip to Vegas... and I will teach you how to play some grown up poker. Now that's MONEY baby!

Oh.. and p.s. don't you love how the casino ATM's only dispense in $100.00 bills so you have no choice but to exchange them for a 100 in chips? The other choice being a field trip/trekking expedition to the cashier to get change... and who has time for that with all those bells ringing and pretty lights flashing?

KatieG said...

There is NOTHING even remotely interesting to me about a casino. And your experience, just reminded me of that. I LIKE my money. And i don't like throwing it away. Its not fun. Also, strobe lights - not my style. Obviously, the "eyecandy" really doesn't appeal to me.

I've been to Reno, NV - and Lake Tahoe - and lovely Detroit, Michigan casinos....granted, none of these have the shine and luster of AC or Vegas, but its still the same....people sitting at tables and slots that can't afford the money they're throwing down. And that makes me ultra ultra depressed for the society we live in.

so while i'm sad for you that you blew it all on a game that sounds far too confusing to start playing on night one of learning it....at least i know you can afford it and you're not feeding your children canned soup and making your wife go wait tables to support your habit. ;-)

Stuart Brooks said...

Great story about A.C. Tim. I'm with your buddy K. Learn how to play poker and you and I can roadtrip it up to Foxwoods for a night at the 1-2 No Limit Hold'em Cash Game. Sadly (or not), if anyone asks me what my greatest achievement of my year here in Serbia was, I will tell them that I learned to play poker pretty well and have been beating the low stakes (.17-.34) No limit cash game at the Belgrade Poker Club and cashing in a couple of small buy-in tournaments. So run out and buy Poker Academy for your Mac, learn to play, and we will roll up some Aces over Kings in Connecticut.

T. said...

@K - Still licking my financial wounds but Vega$ is a lot of fun. And there's more to do out there after you inevitably lose your money. I will keep your suggestion in mind.

@KG - I used to feel that way before I went to Vega$ and learned how to play craps. One of these days, I'm going to write about my first craps experience. I did a total 180. I wouldn't call this a "habit," per se. I go probably once every 18 months, if that. Once in awhile, with a group of friends, it can be fun. And hey, you can even bet on Michigan or the Detroit Tigers in some places. (Not great bets these days, but you get my drift).

@SB - You're hard core, man.... If I start gambling online, somebody better drag me out of my apartment and slap me good. I'd be up for a road trip -- never been to Foxwoods. Glad to hear you are doing your part to repair our relations with Serbia, one poker hand at a time.