As I drove home, I wondered how it all had happened. I had a plan when I left early Tuesday morning. Swirl was in a kennel, I didn't have to think about work for two days, and my $500 already felt like it wanted to be $1000. The best laid plans...?
I didn't watch much of the news. In fact, I watched more ESPN than anything else. I was restless. I kept going over in my head how I had lost $100 without even trying. I started gambling at about 12:30 and after just 2 1/2 hours, I was wondering if I should turn around and go home.
Then my stomach growled and I remembered I had a free dinner at 7pm. I had about an hour to kill and took the long walk back to the casino.
First stop, the Slot Machines.
I once saw my Mom hit a jackpot on a "Wheel of Fortune" machine, and my brother's favorite casino sound is when that particluar slot spins the big wheel. I sat down and slid a $20 bill into the slot. I had 80 credits and a pocket full of hope.
Have I ever told you I don't like slots? I just don't get them. What's the appeal? I kept betting 3 credits and watched my total quickly diminish. I was barely catching anything to keep me alive. Then it happened...
A smile crept slowly across my face. My first smile of the trip, I think. I slowly pushed the "Spin" button and watched the wheel go round and round. Hmmm... looks like it's headed right for that 1000 credit spot. That would sure help the bankroll! Click... click... click... stop. Hmmm... right beside that 1000 credit spot, for a measly 25 credits. That's $6.25. I was rich.
It didn't take long for it all to disappear. I think I'll leave Wheel of Fortune to the rest of the family.
I checked my pockets to see if there were any holes. As quickly as I showed my $20 bill to the casino, it disappeared into their ever-growing coffers.
I figured the nickel slots might at least slow the pace. I picked one with mummies and pyramids all over it. I'm not sure what it was called, and frankly, I'm not sure what I needed to get to win. At this point, none of that mattered.
I pumped in another 20 bucks and played 5 of the 10 lines at 3 credits each (you could play up to 10 credits). After a few spins, I was actually up a hundred or so credits. Then I hit some kind of special spin. Weird sounds and funky animation led to 18 free spins. And anything I won on this spins was multiplied by 10. I don't know what came up, but suddently, my 400 credits zoomed past 2400.
I played a little while longer until I got back down to 2000 and cashed out my $100.
I was back close to even, and feeling pretty good about that. It pained me that the only thing I could win on so far was the nickel slots, but a win's a win, I guess.
It was getting close to my 7pm dinner reservation, but on the way to the steak house, I noticed the Pai Gow Poker table had finally opened up. I have many, many, many fine memories from the Pai Gow tables at the Barbary Coast, and just couldn't pass this up.
Even with Dott dealing, I plunked down $60. I didn't have time to spend $60 before dinner, but it feels good to have that many chips in my hand. 15 minutes later, I was still even and it was dinner time. I told Dott I'd be back. She didn't laugh maniacally this time.
Dinner was comped, and it was spectacular. Lobster tail and filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and bread pudding for dessert. Two complimentary drinks from the bar were just icing on the cake. It's the first time I've ever had lobster, and it was great. When they brought the $50 check, I handed over a litle "free dinner" ticket and left a tip.
With my stomach full, I made my way back to the Pai Gow table to find my favorite dealer slinging cards.
I pulled out five $20 bills, "You gonna treat me right again?" I asked Natasha.
"I'll do my best," she responded with a smile. I don't think she actually remembered me, but that's okay.
I was soon joined at the table by three women (two of whom had never played before) and a chubby man with thinning white hair. Chubby was accompanied by a man we'll call "The Cooler."
Things were going as poorly here as they had gone everywhere else so I decided to change my luck by being the "Bank." That meant everyone else at the table was playing against me. The hand ended up being a wash (I paid 50 cents commission), but it worked.
The run had started and I was suddenly up. It's the first time I topped $500 since the gambling began. I felt bad for Chubby, however, because his stack was quickly disappearing. It's remarkable, really, because Pai Gow is a game in which it usually takes awhile to lose money.
Chubby finally convinced his friend to take a walk around the casino to see if that would change his luck. He promptly won the next 10 hands. It's one of the most amazing things I've seen. "The Cooler" should offer his services to the casino because he's just bad luck.
It was approaching midnight and I had to be at a "media celebration" event at 9 the next morning. I wanted to keep gambling, but I also needed some sleep (am I getting old?).
I was sitting at $110 in chips with a couple of quarters in front of me. I decided to play one more hand and make a bet for Natasha.
"Do you want me to bet it on my hand or bet on this empty hand," I asked her.
She paused, "Well, if you bet the extra hand, you'll have to pay the commission on it. For a dealer bet, there's no commission."
So I put both bets on my hand. That was a bad idea. I got Pai Gow and the empty hand was dealt three pairs (Natasha peeked). Thankfully, a straight in the dealer's hand forced her to put 10-3 in her second hand and I pushed.
"Okay, Natasha, one more try. My hand or the empty hand?"
She paused again, "Well... it's your decision," she said coyly, then added, "But I'm feeling that empty hand."
That was good news for her, because I got dealt another terrible hand, and she got Aces and Jacks. The dealer hand couldn't match that so Natasha pulled in her 10$ tip and I tossed in the quarter commission. She smiled and thanked me and I wished the rest of the table luck and headed to bed.
The next morning featured team competitions for the media members in attendance. There was a three hole mini-putt competition set up on the practice green at the casino's gorgeous golf course (I got a 12, it was ugly).
Next was a slots tournament. We got 7 minutes to hit that spin button as many times as we could. My arm quickly tired, but at the end my 4810 credits were enough to win a nice Paragon Casino golf shirt.
Finally, we had a five hand blackjack tournament. We started with 100T and could bet a maximum of 20T per hand. I finished with 60T. The three other players at my table finished at 100T, 80T and 0T. The other table fared much better with two players topping 200T.
I was hoping that was it so I could get back to real gambling, but there was a tour of the reservation and RV park that just about put me to sleep and then the "awards" ceremony. When it was all mercifully over, I headed to the buffet for my complimentary lunch.
Then it was back to the tables with my $480 just waiting to turn into hundreds more!