As I left the casino, I took a deep breath. It felt like I had just gotten there, yet I was exhuasted. And if I waited any longer to leave, I'm sure I would fall asleep at the wheel... and it's a drive you don't want to fall asleep on...
The drive was relatively short, just over an hour, but it winded through some small Louisiana towns I've never seen before and wouldn't be comfortable stopping in. Soon enough, the flashing sign welcomed me to the Paragon Casino.
It was my "free" casino holiday visit, and I was planning to make the most of it. I had a $500 bankroll in my pocket and visions of check-raises dancing in my head.
I checked into my complimentary hotel room (remember, it was Media Celebration time), and found it to be a little too far from the elevator. Of course, I wouldn't be spending much time in the room unless things went very poorly.
There was a press conference at 2:00 and a quick check of the cell phone told me I had an hour and a half to gamble before then. I took a quick tour of the casino floor and caught a glimpse of the poker room, the modest table games section and countless slot machines ranging from $.02 to $5.
I sat down at the first $5 Blackjack table I could find and laid out five crisp $20 bills. With a stack of red chips in my hand, I was ready to make a quick profit.
It was a blur. I can't really remember what happened, but minutes later, I was already down $100.
I stood up from the table and staggered. I was wounded. There was probably a cut above my left eye because my vision was blurry. I wasn't sure if I needed a stiff drink or an ice pack.
I still had plenty of time until the press conference and 20 more $20 bills that obviously wanted to be with their recently departed friends. This led me to the Three Card Poker table. I know, "Three Card Poker!?!?!?!?!?" you ask. I'm sorry, but I didn't have complete control of my faculties at this point.
I laid out another five $20 bills and got my second stack of red chips. I opened my betting by playing like it was Let It Ride, laying out three chips.
"You wanna play blind," the pretty young dealer asked.
"Um..." I looked at her name tag, "Natasha, I don't think I want to play blind."
"Then save that third bet until you see your hand."
Ah... it was starting to come back to me. Now that I was sitting, the blood was flowing back to my brain... or maybe it was just my face due to the embarrassment.
"That's okay," the cowboy two seats to my left said, "it don't matter how you play, she's killer with the cards." It was just Tex and I at the table, and I thanked him for the warning.
The first hand was bad, maybe a 10 high, and I just threw it away. In Three Card Poker, you bet an optional "Pair Plus" and the "Ante." If you want to play against the dealer after seeing your hand, you bet the "Play."
The second hand, I decided not to bet "Pair Plus," figuring I was just throwing money away at this table anyway.
"You sure you don't wanna bet that, hun?" Natasha asked.
Hmmmm, I love being called "hun." But I still couldn't quite remember this game, "Nah, I think I'll ease into it."
The three cards were just as bad and I threw them away again. Tex caught a three card flush, however, and I realized why you bet that "Pair Plus," it's the only way to make real money. The flush paid off 4-1.
Soon I caught a pair, then a flush a few hands later. I decided to press the "Pair Plus" bet up to $10 and I caught a straight (paying off 6-1). Things were suddenly looking up, and I found myself back to even. When things turned cold again I decided it was time to take a break. I was still smarting from that Blackjack run, so I tossed Natasha a $5 chip and a "Thanks," and found myself down just $20 overall.
Then I began the long trip back to the hotel room. Something didn't fell right, and I didn't want to lose my stash before I even had a chance to settle in. I watched a little French Open coverage and then headed to the news conference.
Long story short, the Paragon wants to build a water park, blah, blah, blah.
One hour later, I wanted to gamble again. I did just enough glad-handing that I can probably stay free there anytime I want (sometimes it's good to be a news director).
I thought, "How 'bout that Three Card Poker?" When I got back to the table, Tex and Natasha were both gone (I doubt they left together), and a stout woman named Dott was dealing to a few men worn with time.
I pulled out the $80 in chips from my pocket and got back to work.
It was a blur. I vaguely remember saying, "Shouldn't I at least get a pair just once?" To which Dott laughed... slightly maniacally and I, for a moment, imagined her with green skin and a big wart on her nose... "I'll get you my pretty and your little chips, too!"
I couldn't take it on the floor anymore. As I got up, I asked Dott when the poker room opens. Her answer tore my heart out. Then she stepped on my heart and poured some acid over it for good measure. "It's closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because those are our slowest days," she said.
Great. I'm here for two days, and those are the only two days the poker room is closed. I remembered I'm a really bad gambler when the house has the edge, and that's every game in the house.
I limped back to my hotel room. Literally. It was a long walk, and my shoes were digging into my right heel. This was the second walk. [Flashback: I wrote, "I checked into my complimentary hotel room, and found it to be a little too far from the elevator. Of course, I wouldn't be spending much time in the room unless things went very poorly.]
I decided I'd catch the news and lick my wounds before trying a little more gambling before dinner. My only comfort to this point is the fact my room was free ($75 value) and I had a free dinner ahead of me. But why couldn't the poker room be open?!?
Stay tuned for Pt. 2 of Cold Cards, Hot Dice and Mrs. Beautiful