I know why I had not been gambling. I don’t know why someone else thought it would be a great idea to bring a competitive, addictive and stubborn person gambling, but as chance would have it, I found myself walking into Foxwoods giving myself all sorts of boundaries for the night ahead. Or the remaining hours of the night ahead.
We walked past the pits of slot machines to get to the tables. Mesmerized people sitting with huge bags of change just pulling on levers over. And over. And over. The flashing lights and dizzying sound standing out in stark contrast and almost mocking the actual lack of activity going on.
The first span of gambling was spent looking over shoulders at the black jack table and studying this handy piece of information. My goal was to memorize it because I felt like it would be cheating to have it at the table while I was playing. And I was terrified of coming off like I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. Which of course, made it all the more evident that I had no idea what I was doing.
Let me take a minute to delve into my experience with blackjack. I love cards and have spent long hours playing hearts, canasta, bridge, pinochle, solitaire (all variations), asshole, spit, go fish, poker, spades, rummy (and gin rummy), war, cray eights and even some low moments that included indian poker. I have not spent much time playing blackjack and whenever I did play it was usually because someone was peeing and we were waiting for them to commence playing whatever real game we were playing. My experience with blackjack was a couple of hands and the one rule I had been told was, don’t hit when you have over 15. Which made it all the more fascinating to me that people were betting large amounts of money on such a lame, luck centered game.
I realized I may have been too quick to judge when I saw how elaborate the “cheat sheet” was. And after watching hands that included such snazzy sounding phrases like “double down”, I settled in for a long night of learning.
Fast forward a few hours, and I’m sitting with the big kids at the table, trying to reclaim my original chips and resisting the urge to treat my chips like Monopoly money while the eighteen year old to my right is playing with $100 chips bemoaning the eight grand he’s already down, the guy on my left is deciding to hit or stay while his very pregnant wife whispers over his shoulder, “stay, just stay” as she has been for the last few hours, and the nervous looking slight woman in the corner surrenders almost every hand. It’s intense, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s awesome. How it is depends on if you’re winning or losing.
I love gambling. The utter disappointment, the unrestrained fist pump, the wordless focus, the general sense of unease exuding even from those that are most comfortable, the love affair between excitement and fear, the occasional addiction that is excruciatingly unbearable to witness. But these are also the reasons why I don’t like gambling.
I find the whole scene fascinating. I love how your mind can convince you that you are going to win, that those last chips will come back to you, that chance is on your side. That you aren’t one of those pathetic losers, unable to walk away, mindlessly frittering your money away. That you’re in control.
I walked away with $50 in winnings. Which made me pretty happy since I was expecting to lose more than I had intended. Thankfully, I was with someone who kept an eye out on me and made sure I wasn’t banging on the table at the end of the night yelling “HIT ME” in between running back and forth to the conveniently located ATM’s. Because that could have so easily happened. Only later, I totally would have won it all back.