Thursday, September 16, 2004


We ended up breaking even for the weekend. I don't have the stomach for gambling. Sure I'll go cruising on motorcycles through the Philippines, and try scuba diving, and sailing. But when I see my stack of chips dwindling, my stomach gets queasy.

But we had a budget. $200. We had been prepping by playing our casino computer game, learning the rules of craps, baccarat, pai gow poker. The night we arrived, we headed for Green Valley casino which is a neighborhood casino so the locals don't have to go all the way to the strip and deal with the tourists. My uncle and aunt gamble there on a regular basis and got us free passes to the buffet there.

The buffet was actually quite good. Food was tasty, but not the generically salty and sweet of most buffets, which a good range of vegetable dishes as well. Thumbs up! Plus, you can't beat free. We watched this older guy, pile up 2 plates of seafood: mussels, clams, crabs, shrimp, then wash it down with a light salad. He was a pro.

Gambling for me is about feeling the vibe and picking the right table at the right price. I tried the craps table and rode my 10 bucks on the pass line as I watched the more experienced players bet with ease on the various spots. I enjoyed watching each shooter's "technique." Those that shook the dice. Others that wanted specific numbers on top before giving them a light tap before tossing. Another that stacked them before sending them down. Each trying to create consistent outcomes in a game of chance. I wasn't much of a shooter. In the end down $70.

As the shooters around the table dried up, we moved onto mini-baccarat. It's an easy enough game. Guess whether the Player or the Banker gets closest to 9. It's like tracking the toss of a coin. The hard part about it is that you need a few people playing so you can guess at possible patterns. I ended up breaking a bit above even when we finally went home.

The next night we ended up there again. Played a few hands of Blackjack, with a dealer who asked us to sit down, was hitting double downs and splits before the house quickly took its money back. I should have quit when I was ahead. Tried craps again. Then waited patiently for a Pai Gow Poker chair to open up. Seats are hard to come by because you can milk this game for hours. When a chair opened up, the dealer told us that they were closing the table, no new players. Dejected we walked to the other Pai Gow Poker table which had been full for hours. One of the managers saw us and brought us to the original table, told the manager there that I was his "cousin" and it was ok. I have alot of cousins, but we certainly wouldn't have been confused for being relations.

Two hands: 5 card and 2 card hands depending on their outcome to the dealer's hand can "push" your bet to the next round. Apparently, I did something wrong on the first hand and got scolded by the dealer. In this game, it's fine for you to show your cards to everyone else because all the cards are dealt. The nature of the bonus also makes other players encourage your win streak because they stand a chance of winning when you win. I was losing fast, getting nothing, when the dealer switch happened and managed to build it back up to break even.

Our last night after the wedding, at the Venetian, we didn't have time to gamble. But I kept thinking all night, wondering what it was like to walk up to a roulette table and put it all on red, then walk away either way. At first I thought maybe not, roulette is like giving your money away, horrible odds. But a detour to the bathroom brought us back to the casino floor, I figure it must be a sign. The fiance emptied his wallet of the $80, which the dealer exchanged for $5 chips. I put the stack on the red diamond. I was feeling nervous already, I don't like losing money, I can't imagine what that guy who liquidated all his assets to ride it on red, must have felt.

The dealer waves her hand across the table signalling no more bets. The white balls starts to bounce along the black and red pockets. Bounce, bounce, tumble, 32! SWEET!!! Double our money! Of course after immediately winning, a greedy thought of letting it ride went into my head. And that's the trap of gambling, thinking the good times will last just a little longer. I manage to push that thought out of my head telling myself to "stick to the plan: ride it on red and walk away." I ask the dealer to exchange the chips. The other trap of casinos is that in order to exchange the chips you have to walk clear across the casino pass the temptation of various tables and slot machines to get it back into cash, then find a way out of the casino before it leaves your wallet again. Mission accomplished.

Maybe next time, we might actually come out ahead.

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