Ever since my brain could make the connections, I’ve loved games. Card games, board games, trivia games. Games, games, games. I blame my mom. She taught us every game she could. Pinochle (single deck and double deck), canasta, hand and foot, blackjack, Kings Corner (actually I think her mom taught us that one), concentration, and on and on. Board games like Yahtzee, Life, Sorry, and Parcheesi were regular participants in my childhood. It’s what we did. We played outside, we read, and we played games. That’s what happens when you’re not allowed to watch television during the day and only an hour or two at night. You actually do things. Fun things.
I learned the thrill of playing games for money in the 8th grade. For some period of time, a group of boys and I played blackjack every chance we got. Michael Ford, David Metcalfe, and who knows who else. Nickels, dimes and quarters. On the bus to and from school, during lunch, and best of all, in the back of our English class. Taught by Ms. Loving, her first year at Kit Carson Middle School. She lasted a semester. I think it’s what happened in her class that made me realize, if I were to ever teach, it would never be at the middle school level. Seriously, a bunch of hormonal, out of control, stupid 13-year-old boys with a teacher whose last name was Loving.
I don’t remember who we had the second semester but I think our in-class blackjack game ended with Ms. Loving’s departure.
We joked during those blackjack-playing days that I had the fever. I was hooked. I had to play. As much as I possibly could. There’s something about playing for money that jacks up the adrenaline, which I already have just by playing a game.
Once I turned twenty-one, I made the occasional trip up to Tahoe. Pretty quickly, I settled on blackjack as my game of choice. It’s simple, but also you need to understand the odds and the strategy. It’s not mindless like slot machines. (Side note: Yesterday’s trip was our first to Red Hawk Casino. We got rewards cards which gave us a chance at $10-500 in free play. I got $20 in free slot play. It was gone in less than two minutes. I will never, ever understand the allure of slot machines.)
Blackjack also isn’t complicated like craps. Roulette is just a game of playing the odds. No, playing a card game allows you to at least have some impact on the outcome. Dealer has a seven showing, I’ve got a face card and a five. Hit or stay.
Also, when I started going to casinos was before Texas Hold ‘Em became popular. Although I play poker at a friend’s home every now and then, my comfort zone in casinos is with blackjack.
My rules were simple. I always went with $60 in my pocket and looked for a $5 table. I started with $40. Every time, that $40 would disappear rather quickly. I’d pull out the last $20 and then play for an hour or two before losing it as well. And, I was OK with that. I viewed the $60 as the cost of playing blackjack for a couple of hours. As long as I got to play for awhile, I was happy.
Let’s compare — going to a baseball game. Three hours. After parking, ticket, and food — well over $60. A movie. Two or three hours. After tickets and popcorn and the 72 ounce Coke (because it’s only 25 cents more) and, generally, paying for the Missus Midget and maybe a kid or two. Well, you know we’re far beyond $60. You see what I’m getting at.
The only time I walked away with more money than I started with was when we went on a cruise and I played one night on the ship. I did the same thing then. $40 gone. Final $20. I started winning and winning. Kept giving chips to the wifey to keep away from me so I wouldn’t lose my winnings. I think I walked away with more than $200 that night.
But, in the ten years since, I think I’ve played blackjack one time. Until yesterday.
After four hours of blackjack, interrupted by a trip to the buffet, I had lost $40. By the way, I hate buffets. I’ll never understand the allure to them. I suppose if I was the type of person who liked to pile food on a plate and gorge myself, I might get it. But, I’m not. Never have been. Again, I blame my mother. As a child, we were served our food, with appropriate portions for each of us. My mom didn’t make heaps of food. She made enough food to feed her family of six. Without leftovers. Even on the holidays, there weren’t mountains of food.
Back to the gambling. I started with $60. At one point, I had more than doubled it and had given Missus Midget $75 in chips to keep away from me. I then started losing my stack. Good news arrived, however. Missus Midget approached the table with a smile. “How much did you win?” I asked. The news? From a penny slot machine, she had won $178. That’s the equivalent of $17,800 on a dollar slot. Too bad it wasn’t on a dollar slot.
That she won that freed me up a little bit at the blackjack table. Which meant, of course, that I started losing. I lost my $60 (although that $75 was still safely put away). I pulled another $80 out of my pocket. And, yes, I lost that.
We ate. You know the other thing about buffets is this … the food is generally crap. We were told to go to Red Hawk because they had the best buffet of the casinos in the area. If that’s the best, I hate to imagine what the others are like.
I asked for the $75 back. “I want to play some more.” I built the $75 up to about $160 and texted the Missus Midget that she needed to come back from her slot machine and get some chips back from me. She didn’t. I had a stack of $100 to the side. I was not going to touch them. I didn’t. I walked away from the table with $100, meaning I lost $40.
Overall, we gambled for four hours, I had a few beers, we had dinner, and we walked away with about $50 less than we walked in with. Works for me.
I’m going again. I mean I have a rewards card now. How can I not? 🙂
Seriously, I shouldn’t. Right?