MY FIRST SHOT
In September of 1982 I moved onto campus to begin my college education. School was the only way I could get a job working for my father in his shoe importing business. There was only one hindrance; I loved to party.
Living so close to Atlantic City brought on a novelty effect for me. When you grew up in a small, boring, humdrum town, such a city will do that to you.
Guido was our floor manager and was a member of the Playboy Club. He always talked about what it meant to be a member. One benefit was that he could go to any Playboy property and receive a free magazine upon showing his membership card.
We started to talk about the casinos. Guido was thinking of going to Playboy to pick up the new issue of Playboy Magazine and take a shot at the dice table. He told me how his friend made a lot of money playing craps and taught him how to play. He asked if I wanted to go. It sounded great to me. I had just turned eighteen a few weeks earlier and was finally legal to gamble. The two of us, along with another guy who lived on another floor, went later that night.
Guido drove. It was a Saturday night two weeks after the Labor Day weekend. We came into the city via Route 30. Traffic was a little heavy with tourists headed there for the same reasons as us. As we rounded the bay in Absecon, I could sense the excitement as the casino skyline stood brightly lit. I couldn't wait; gambling, free drinks and big-breasted Playboy bunnies walking all over the place.
We parked the car and first went for a walk on the boardwalk. It was crowded with people dressed to the till. As we came upon the Convention Center we found out that the 50th annual Miss. America Pageant was being held there that night.
It was being aired live. We knew there would be celebrities at such an event, so in the hopes of seeing some we walked into the lobby.
We looked around but couldn't find anyone we recognized. Guido found out that general admission to the show was only four dollars and were still on sale.
"The show starts in a half hour. You guys want to go in?" Guido asked with a smirk on his face.
We didn't have to think too long, "Four bucks? Sure. Why not?" It seemed like another novel idea.
After the show we walked down to the stage to catch a glimpse at the celebrities. The trip was worth it too because we saw Foster Brooks signing autographs. He was acting drunk as he always did. But we couldn't tell if it was an act or not. After grabbing some pageant signs we went to gamble.
We entered the Playboy Casino through the Convention Center. There was a door that connected the two. How convenient. I was proofed for I.D. the moment I walked through the doors but was quick to show I was eighteen.
I could not get over what I saw. It was my first time inside a casino and a feeling overcame me that was like a five-year-old let loose in a chocolate factory. All I could do at first was walk around and take it all in.
While walking I came across some cousins of mine from Carbondale, who took a bus trip there. They were playing the slots and I was with my friends, so I just said hello and kept walking.
The only game I had any clue as to how to play was blackjack. We walked around and looked for a five dollar table. There were only a few and none had any room for additional players. We realized if we wanted to play it would have to be on a ten dollar table. We looked for one being dealt by a bunny but all those games were crowded as well. We walked a little more and found a game with no one playing. The dealer was standing there with his hands crossed in front of him. The cards were spread, face down, on the table below his waist. I didn't know what to do. I sat down and pulled the twenty dollar bill I was willing to lose out of my wallet.
Guido could see the confused look on my face. "If you want to play just put the money on the table." Tink and I did like he said.
The dealer gave us a look like he would rather not be working and begun to shuffle the cards. When he got them all together he slid a yellow card to me.
"What is this for," I asked.
"It's to cut the cards with," Guido replied. "Just stick it anywhere in the deck."
I played three hands. After losing the first hand, I won the next two. I was so glad to win the ten dollars I lost in the first hand, plus win ten dollars, that I quit right there. I was a wimp when it came to betting money.
Guido walked around and I stayed at the table to watch Tink play. Seconds later, we heard a cheer come from the slot area. Guido came over to us and informed me that my cousins had just won a small jackpot. I took a walk to see them and found out they won a couple hundred dollars. You would think it was thousands from the screams. It just goes to show how excited people can get. When I returned to the table where Tink was playing, I learned he was up eighty dollars.
"Come on dude, quit while you're ahead," I told him.
Tink would not hear of it. He waved his left arm to signal me to leave him alone. After some more hands of going down and then back up again, he finally walked away with the eighty dollars he was up.
We said good-bye to the dealer and all he did was give a wave while showing us a look of disgust. Guido told us that dealers hated to start working if they were just standing around and he was probably mad that we made him work.
Guido was headed to the dice table. I wanted to watch. Tink wanted to walk around some more, so he left us. Guido and I looked for a table until we came upon one he liked.
He began to play, placing chips all over the board. I couldn't figure out what was going on.
There was one other man playing. Guido told me the man at the other end of the table was betting against him. "He is playing opposite of what I am," he said. "Every time I win, he will lose. And every time I lose he will win." 'What ever', I thought to myself.
Every time Guido shot the dice he yelled out, "dollar yo!"
"What does that mean," I asked.
"The yo is the eleven. It pays fifteen to one if I roll it."
"Yo eleven," the dealer standing next to Guido blared out. Another dealer gave him fifteen dollars.
Guido picked up the money and put a dollar chip next to his chip on the table. "This is for the dealers," he announced.
"What does that mean," I asked again.
"The dealers work for tips," he explained. "If I win, the dealers win and they get to keep the money. It's a way of getting them to root for me."
But steadily, he kept losing. Every time he would lose the dealer would offer the other gentleman the dice, but he would refuse them and let Guido keep shooting.
Guido bet for the dealers and himself almost every roll. After losing all his money he finally walked away. The other player was offered to shoot the dice but he refused and also walked away. The dealers got to take a break.
"You sure bet a lot of money for the dealers," I commented.
"Well, it is supposed to be good luck."
"Yeah, well, it didn't seem to help you."
"I know. My friend told me that the dealers have a button they push to help you win and if you bet for them you will."
"Do you believe that?"
"Well, it didn't help me any. Besides, how could they do that. And not only that, but it would be highly illegal."
We walked around looking for Tink. While searching, I came across my cousins and said good-bye to them. After a while we found him.
"How did you do," we asked.
"I'm down forty for the night."
"You lost the eighty you won plus another forty," I asked.
"You schmuck," was all we could say to him.
So I was the only winner of the night--a big ten dollars. We left Atlantic City headed for the school to tell everyone on the floor of our big adventure of the night.
About one week later Guido came up with a sure fire system for winning at roulette. He called me in his room to tell me about it and to see if I wanted in.
Guido came up with the idea from the Playboy magazine he had just picked up. In it was an article on the top ten best and worst partying colleges in America. We sat on the boardwalk after getting it and laughed at the categories and answers to the different colleges. One school to make the top ten best partying schools to attend was the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, UNLV. There were many categories for all the schools; one was "Favorite Past-time". The favorite past-time for UNLV was "betting tuition on red". The three of us got a big kick out of that. We could identify with it since we were the local Atlantic City state college.
He explained the game to me. "There are thirty-six numbers plus two zeros on the wheel. The two zeros are green. The other thirty-six numbers are divided equally between red and black. It is almost a fifty-fifty shot and pays even money if you win. What we do is start out betting one color. If we lose, we double our bet. We keep doing that until we win, then we start over with our original bet. The only way we could lose is if the color we are betting on doesn't come up for seven or eight rolls in a row and that seems highly unlikely."
I thought about it for a while. It began to make sense to me. We would start out betting five dollars. If we lost that, the second bet would be ten dollars. If we won that, we would have back the five dollars we lost on the first spin, plus we would be up five dollars. If we lost the second spin we would bet twenty dollars on the third. If we won that, we would have the fifteen dollars we lost on the first two spins back and a five-dollar profit. And so on and so on. We couldn't lose.
I got excited, "Why start with five dollars? It seems to me the more we start out with, the more we will win each time we win."
"No, we can't do that. Each table has a maximum that you can bet. On roulette it is usually five hundred dollars. By starting with five dollars, that will give us seven spins before we could no longer make any money. If we bet more, that would give us less spins before we lost it all. If we bet five dollars on the second spin instead of ten, then we could get eight spins without losing, but if we did it that way, we could only win on the first spin."
It sounded logical to me. "Ok, how much will we each need?"
"I'm not sure yet. I think the first thing we should do is go check out a game to see how many times in a row one color might roll. If it is under seven, than we're in."
A few days later we got some time during the afternoon in which we could go into the city to check out his theory. We decided on Harrah's Marina Hotel/Casino since they were the only casino in town which offered free parking without validation and wasn't too difficult to get in and out of.
Inside the casino we watched a game. We counted no more than five of one color coming out in a row and never saw the green. After watching one game for a while we moved on and watched others. At every one we stopped at we found the same. Four was usually the maximum a color came out in a row, but we saw five once or twice in the time we were there. Pleased with our findings, we decided to put our plan into action as soon as we could come up with the money.
For a week or two we talked about how to go about it. We finally came up with a method. We never saw a color hit more than five times in a row. Seeing that, we figured that we would give ourselves six times just to play it safe. For that we would both need to chip in $160. That would enable us to lose the first five spins and give us six. If we lost the sixth, we could lose it all.
The day had come. We both had the money and were ready to take our shot. We knew it would take some time to win enough money. The casinos were open until six in the morning, so we had plenty of time to do it. Around eight or nine o'clock, we showered, got neatly dressed, and then left for Harrah's. Figuring we could do this every week, we felt anticipation.
Upon arrival, we walked around looking for a table to play on. There was a good size crowd there. We found a cute female dealer with room at her game.
I looked at Guido, "What do you think about this one?"
"Looks good to me," he said as he pulled out a chair to sit on.
Guido was holding the money. He took it out and told the dealer to give us regular chips. (A player could also get colored chips that would represent a dollar amount.) After receiving the money we began to wager.
It started out good as we won our first bet. Excitement overcame the both of us. We looked at each other with a grin and moved our eyebrows up and down with that, oh yeah, easy money, look on our faces. The second bet took us two spins to win. The third bet took us five and we didn't like how nerve-racking things were getting.
Our fifth bet lost on the first spin. Guido looked at me and asked, "Do you want to make the next bet five dollars so that way we can get seven spins instead of six?"
"But then we could only win on the first spin."
"Yeah, but it will be safer."
I thought about it for a second and agreed, "Ok, let's do it."
We couldn't win a first spin bet. The situation got nervy as we would bet eighty dollars on the sixth spin. On the third or fourth original bet, betting like that, we lost six spins in a row. It was now the seventh and final spin we would have at getting our money back.
Guido had doubts, "Should we keep with the system or bet the other color?"
"We got to keep with the system," I answered. "Besides, what are the odds of black hitting seven times in a row?"
"Yeah, good point." He placed $160 on red, looked at the dealer, and said, "Got to stay with the system." She just smiled at him.
The ball was released. Guido had his right hand in a fist and began tapping the table with it, "Come on red," he rooted, "come on."
It landed. Black again. I watched as the dealer took the money away.
Guido smiled and said to her, "Oh well, what can you do? Easy come, easy go."
I, on the other hand, was in disbelief and could not accept the fact that one color could come up so many times in a row. With anger, I yelled, "This game is fixed! I can't believe what just happened. It has to be rigged!" The dealer just looked at me with a somber face and I walked away in disgust.
There was fifteen dollars left over. Guido grabbed it and came after me. "You want to cash this in?"
Yeah, why not?" I got fired up, turned to Guido and said, "I can't believe that shit. Man, that game has to be rigged."
"You can't get mad, Lou. That's gambling. We lost fair and square. There is nothing you can do about it."
He was right. The only person I could be mad at was myself for being so greedy to begin with. But there was something I could do about it; never go back. As long as I didn't gamble I could not lose. I learned my lesson and would never go back.
But I tried going back in the spring. However, before the next semester began the state drinking age went up from 19 to 21. They let the people who turned nineteen before January 1, 1983 still be legal due to an ex-post-facto law. But at the same time, they raised the gambling law to 21 as well. Yet, the people who were eighteen before the new law could no longer enjoy the right to gamble as they once had. I found this out when I tried to get into Harrah's to get back the money I lost there the previous semester. The guard wouldn't let me in unless I was born in 1963 or earlier. I noted that I was legal last year and that the casino had almost two hundred of my dollars and I wanted a chance at getting it back. I mentioned the grandfather clause but the guard just said it was only for nineteen and twenty year olds and I was not allowed in. (But I still had to register for the draft and could be pulled to kill people at any time if Ray-gun wanted it.) I was fuming, but it was just as well. It gave me two years to get over the gambling addiction I was beginning to feel after playing poker with the floor each night.