Tangoing with Lady Luck: My Night in the Casino
The first time I gambled with real money was on a boat from Maine to Nova Scotia. I popped in a few coins, pulled the lever, and followed the spinning cherries of the slot machine with my eyes. It was stressful and exciting. It was also illegal. Being about eight at the time, I was promptly escorted from the small casino and returned to my parents.
Since then I’ve continued to respect the glamour, exhilaration, and fickleness of Lady Luck from afar. That is until I made a trip to Lumière Place Casino in St. Louis. I unloaded my wallet until it contained only what I was willing to lose. Then with jackpot bells ringing in my ears, I climbed into a car with my roommate and three of his friends. It was all of ours first trip, which became painfully honest when entered the casino and our jaws hit the floor.
The place was massive
Row after row of different types of machines and tables of card games I’d never heard of before. There were high stakes tables behind a low barrier with seriously quiet faces betting serious money. Honestly, a little intimidated, we made our first stop the bar. After a few sips of a reasonably priced drink (cheap drinks=more drinks=less rational gambling) we went and sat down at a row of video poker machines. And then I moved over to the machine to my left. The superstitious side of me said the first seat didn’t feel right.
After about fifteen minutes we moved on and walked along the yards and yards of carpet with swirls of mustard and red velvet colors. We weaved in and out of the slot machines trying to pick the good ones. However despite individuated light schemes and different pitched bells, they were all essentially the same. However thanks to evolving technology they no longer have levers and print out paper vouchers instead of spewing out coins. In my opinion, downgrade.
Next we started circling the tables. I didn’t understand craps and didn’t like my odds for roulette. Me and my roommate found seats at the cheapest available blackjack table. It was a ten-dollar minimum, but the others at the table were laying down around fifty a hand. We took deep breaths, locked eyes, nodded in readiness, and laid ten-dollar bills in front of us. But the dealer didn’t give us cards that hand. Or the next. Or the next five. We chatted with the other players trying not to let on we had no idea why we weren’t allowed to play. Then, while most of the male eyes were distracted by a short skirt taking drink orders, I realized we needed to move our money about 2 inches forward into a designated circle to officially play. I took a deep breath and pushed my money forward.
I looked at my cards and made my moves, both of which I’ve forgotten. I might have held my breath until the dealer flipped her card. My roommate, two or three others, and myself won. Another man began cursing his loss and calling the dealer his ex-wife. Officially up for the night, my roommate and I took our gleaming red chips and walked away. I decided to quit while I was ahead. I watched as the guys played a few more hands of blackjack and a round of roulette. The other stacks on the table dwarfed ours, but we took the wins and losses the same as anyone else.
My friend Colin said it best when his pumping adrenaline told him to sit for one more hand, but his head told him to walk: “This is so intense.” You wanted to keep playing and winning, but you had a perpetual feeling in your stomach like you’re peering off the edge of the high board. Those ten dollars had been the easiest I’d ever made, but also the most nerve wrecking.
Pretty soon we called it a night and took our tokens and vouchers to the cash-out counter. All but one of us left with winnings. For me Lady Luck ended up being a cheap date, but a good time. After the few drinks I’d bought I walked out of there with seventy-five cents weighing proudly in my pocket and thoughts of what type of gum it could buy filling my head.
By Kristen Klempert