Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

$500 on black

There are no mulligans when gambling. There’s no 30 day return policy like Nordstrom’s has. (Actually Nordstroms has a forever return policy, so that’s a bad example, you can buy an outfit, wear it 26 times and still return it to Nordy’s)  What I mean is, you cannot put $1000 dollars down on red, watch the little ball stop on black, and then say “whoops, I didn’t mean that, can I have my money back?”

I bought Sam 30 scratcher tickets for his 30th birthday and we scratched them on the flight to Vegas, they were all duds. In hindsight, maybe those scratchers were an ominous warning.  

Albert Einstein believed it was mathematically impossible to win at roulette. He knew, although you may win in the short term, there was no possible way of winning in the long term.  He actually spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out if there was a way to beat the roulette wheel and was unable to do so. I swear, google it, fact check it, arguably the most brilliant mathematician took time out of his busy days solving the theory of relativity and coming up with e=mc2 to try to figure out how to beat the house in roulette.  Some people believe if you study a specific wheel for long enough you will see that it favors certain numbers and then you can place your bets on those numbers, but if this were so, you would literally have to stare at the wheel for hundreds, maybe thousands of spins until you found what numbers were favored.  Some people watch the board and see how many reds or blacks have come up, to judge where to place their bets.  I don’t watch the board, I try not to look at the board no matter what, because it throws me off. The little ball doesn’t care about what’s on the board, it’s going where it’s going. Good ol’ Al knew that too. All I can do is try to get in touch with the little balls feelings and use my telepathic powers to try to figure out where it wants to land.  

I recently finished a statistics class, so I do understand the law of large numbers.  The law of large numbers, in simple terms, is this; if you flip a fair coin ten times it may come up with 8 tails and 2 heads.  If you flip a fair coin a hundred times it may come up with 40 tails and 60 heads.  If you flip a fair coin a thousand times it will probably get closer to 500 tails, 500 heads.  The higher the amount of flips you do, the more likely it is to be 50% heads, 50% tails. So here’s the thing, statistically, there is a 50/50 chance of the ball landing on black or red.  Actually, between 47% and 48% when you account for the either one or two green spots, or zero and double zero.  But that’s a lie.  If you sat and watched the wheel for 1000 spins then probably about 500 would be black and around 500 would be red. But the little ball has no flipping clue what color it landed on last, and wasn’t in Professor Jiashen You’s stats class, and does not give a flying fuck about the law of large numbers.  

Mom, if you’re reading this, and judging me for being so frivolous, then I want you to remember one thing.  Until the day I die, I will never understand how you order one glass of wine at dinner and sip on it for a whole entire meal, and then leave the restaurant with a half an inch of wine left.  It drives me crazy, it’s such a waste! I don’t even see why you ordered the glass of wine in the first place, you might as well have just ordered a water, or some other tasteless beverage.  If you’re ordering wine you should drink the whole glass, I’d feel more at ease if you’d drink the whole bottle.  Even now, with seven years sober, I will never understand why you do it, and when I go to dinner with you, I am tortured watching you nurse your wine, and when we leave the restaurant, I think about the wine sitting there long, looooonnnng after we are gone and think about what a shame it is that it probably got thrown down the drain.  So either stop reading now, or else remember the wine story when you’re finished reading.  Just like you will never understand how I can’t quit when I’m ahead, and why I have to be so greedy, I will never fathom why you let perfectly good alcohol go to waste.  I also will never understand why you get so much joy from the penny slots in Vegas, but that’s a separate issue. I love you mom.

One more disclaimer, this story contains drug use, which may be inappropriate for children. I don’t do drugs anymore, and that’s a really good thing. If drugs make you uncomfortable then stop reading and click on this link, i promise, you won’t be sorry, if you click the link. If you hate the link then you have only wasted 2 minutes and 30 seconds of your life and I’m sure you have done more idiotic things with 2 minutes and 30 seconds of your life in the past. Click here for Awesomeness

Anyways, I digress.

My boyfriend wanted to go to Vegas to celebrate his 30th birthday. A week before we were going, my boss told me he’d like to give me $500 to place on black at the roulette table and if I won we could split the winnings.  I had never played roulette before but it seemed like a fair enough deal and so I promised I would. On Friday my boss called me into his office and showed me a picture of a roulette table on the internet and how it worked and where to place my money and so on and so forth, and gave me 500 bucks. I thought the demonstration of the table on the internet was a bit excessive, since a child can figure out the ins and outs of roulette, it’s not like poker where you actually have to have a bit of a brain. But anyone who gives their employee $500 to put on one bet is a bit excessive to begin with, I never even considered there was a chance I’d win.  

As soon as we landed in Vegas I wanted to get that 500 bucks out of my wallet and onto the table.  The anxiety over placing such a big bet was weighing heavily on me and I couldn’t shake the nervous feeling.  Win or lose I just wanted to do it and stop thinking about it. So I walked up to the very first table I saw and placed my $500 down.  The dealer at the table looked like some kind of Japanese animation evil character. She reminded me of a dragon, I wondered if that was a bad omen.  Dragon lady gave me 5 black chips and I placed them on black.  Dragon lady leaned over the wheel with her long dragon like talons and flicked the ball.  I leaned over the glass partition watching the ball as it spun around and then slowly started bouncing in and out of  the colors as it did it’s final turn thru the wheel. And then it stopped. On black.  I couldn’t contain my excitement at winning such a big bet and was jumping all over the place, much to dragon lady’s chagrin.  

Vegas is a surreal place.  A sick, crazy, unrealistic, confusing, debaucherous place. Some people call it the grown ups Disneyland, I don’t know about all that. I happen to like Disneyland.  I never get  crazy uncomfortable at Disneyland.  The most anxiety I ever get at Disneyland is over the line at Peter Pan, and whether it’s too long for the rest of my party to wait in or not, because Peter Pan is my most favorite ride at Disneyland and generally the other people I’m with could care less if they get to go on a flying boat through Neverland, so we never can go if the lines too long.  I think a much more appropriate metaphor for Vegas might be something like, the armpit of America. A place where money is not money, but the possibility of things I might have, $400 is not $400, but two pairs of designer jeans, $1000 is not $1000, but a plane ticket somewhere.  $2000 is not $2000 but a coveted year long gym membership at the swanky and prestigious Equinox, which I have been dying to be a member of for so long because the machines aren’t covered in sweat and grossness which is par for the course with a 24 hour fitness membership.   Time and sleep are not necessary anymore, but something I will have plenty of when I am dead. A cup of coffee costs 2 bucks while a bottle of water is 7 bucks, how does that even make sense!  There are no clocks. The casinos are pumped with oxygen (and I think probably trace amphetamines) to keep me awake at hours when normal people are sleeping.  There are no windows, the only glass is the door coming in and they are tinted so it never is day time in Vegas, but permanently night.  The hotel rooms have blackout curtains so when I wake up in the middle of the night I guess it must be around 5AM and I decide to check my clock and am surprised to find it’s noon.  All casinos are set up in a way that is labyrinth like, and I get lost every time I try to find my way back to the room, until eventually I just plop down in desperation and start gambling again.  

After my big win, I played blackjack with my friends and lost all my end of the winnings in less than an hour.  Sam decided to play craps, and having no money left and refusing to use the good old ATM, I decided to watch him.  Craps makes no sense to me at all.  It is incredibly boring to watch people roll dice over and over again and move chips around places that have no rhyme or reason as far as I can tell, and watch them shout at the table and the dice and the chips when you have no clue what’s going on. I got bored after about two minutes of watching the game and got drawn to a roulette table I heard whispering my name behind the table we were at. I told Sam I’d be right back, I had to use the little girls room. I gave 100 bucks of my bosses portion of winnings to the dealer and asked for one chip. This dealer too, was like something out of a cartoon, blonde and very Swedish looking, and angry too. He looked like the bad guy in a lot of movies I’ve seen. The angry swede spun the wheel and it landed on black, I doubled down and it landed on black again. I kept putting 100 down and it just kept landing on black. When I was up to $700 and it finally landed on red, I walked away with my $600 and decided to cash in.  On the way to the cashier I stopped at Sam’s table and said, “hey, you know how I left here with all my money gone,” and I flashed out my hand with all my pretty black chips as he stared at me in shock. 

I cashed out but on the way back to find Sam, wandering through that  maze, I decided to put another $100 on black, because what’s better than $600 but $700. And I won.  It was like I couldn’t lose, I was on a streak and I was going to walk out with enough money to be a member of Equinox for a year, I could feel it in my bones. But what’s better than $700 but $800. And I lost.  And I kept on losing. And by the time I found Sam, approximately five minutes after cashing out, I had nothing left again.  

Here’s some insight into how my messed up brain ticks; I always wished I could just drink one drink. One glass of wine, like a lady, like my mom.  But to me, in my mind, what’s better than one drink? Two drinks. And what’s better than two drinks? Two drinks and an eight ball of cocaine. And what’s better than two drinks and an eight ball of cocaine? Two drinks, an eight ball of cocaine, a ton of pills, a mountain of crack, and to top it off, it’s all magically free! And that’s how my brain processes things. It’s never going to be enough.  Someone could give me a trailer truck full of free drugs and the very first thought that would run through my mind would be, “what will I do when I finish this?” That’s why I never ever will be able to drink just one drink. Because I’ll have one drink, steal your wallet, call the dealer, do all the drugs he brings me, then steal your drugs and help you look for them for a few hours, and then probably go out and drive somewhere, wake up in the morning and have no idea how I arrived there, walk outside and find my car on the curb, because of course, I drove there in a blackout.  So that is pretty rational reasoning on why I don’t just have one drink at a  party, when someone asks me, “can’t you just have one drink?”  Maybe  hard for a normal person to understand why I would do those horrendous things, but I just can’t stop, and if you don’t know, then you won’t get it either. And it’s the same with the money. $600 is nice, $700 is better. It’s a mix of greed, delusion, total addiction to the thrill, and the idea that I am the one lucky moron that’s going to beat the odds and make a small fortune. 

I could tell you the story about how I couldn’t sleep all night that  night after losing that money and was just waiting for Sam to fall asleep so I could sneak back down and try to win it back, but it’s kind of a boring stream of consciousness rendition of what already was described in the previous paragraphs and I don’t want you to fall asleep. I also won’t bore you with the fact that I woke up the next morning and went straight down and got back up to over $1000.  I was on such a roll that when Sam was down he gave me 100 bucks and asked me to win him back some money and I walked back with $500 for him five minutes later.  We were all up and all back on top. A few hours later up in our room Sam and I decided to go downstairs for a snack.  All I wanted was a snack to hold me over until dinner. Here’s another good rule of thumb in Vegas, don’t carry around more money than you want to spend at any time, and don’t carry around your ATM card at all. Ever. Here’s one thing you should always carry around, if you’re a smoker, always carry around your lighter. I opened my bag to light up a cigarette and realized I didn’t have a lighter, so I stopped at a table and asked the man there for one, and while I was at it, I may as well drop $100 down on black. And lose. And the guy didn’t even have a lighter, so I went to the next table and asked the next guy for a lighter, and I may as well drop $100 here too, and lose. Sam reminded me that we were only just getting a snack, so we went in the snack area direction, but I was surrounded by tables, screaming my name, to come back and win it back and I couldn’t stop. I didn’t stop until it was all gone, and then I did the final thing that you are never supposed to do in Vegas, I went to the ATM, and lost that too. And I walked right back to that stupid ATM and pulled out the rest of my daily withdrawal limit, I could almost hear the ATM yelling at me, “you stupid moron, that’s part of your rent money.” I lost that too.

I decided to call my boss in the morning on the day we were leaving and let him know that all I had left to bring home to him was $250.  “We are going to win all our money back, take the $250 and put it on black, you’ll see, in a few minutes, you’ll have thousands,” he said.  I quietly and completely defeated told him that all my luck was gone and I couldn’t stand to lose any more money and didn’t want to do it. But he insisted.  It was his money. Go put it on black and call him right after. So I did.  I walked up to the very first table that I saw, and the dealer there was the funny English guy that told me every time he saw me that he wanted to lick my bag which was covered in beads, usually I’d think finding the one dealer that I liked at the first table was lucky but I knew all my luck was gone.  I put my money down on black and watched the little ball spin around and land on black.  My luck had returned!!! I called my boss, put 500 on black again he said. So I did. And I won again. I had 1000 bucks, what I originally had won, and I called my boss and told him I would be happy to walk right now.  He told me to put the $1000 on red.  The whole time I was in Vegas, I didn’t place one bet on red.  Red was a bad angry color. I wasn’t feeling red. I definitely wasn’t feeling red when he told me to do it and I told him that. But he again insisted. I reluctantly moved my pile of chips to red. I thought for a moment about keeping them on black and then if I won I’d tell my boss the truth and if I lost he never had to know what happened, but my gambles hadn’t gone particularly well so far, so I ignored the feeling. I put all the chips on red and watched the little ball spin round and round and slow down and do the final bounce around the table. It stopped on red, or started to stop on red, and bounced, and landed...on black.

When I was 21 years old, my parents and sister busted me out of rehab for the weekend and we went on a snowboarding trip to Tahoe. (They didn’t really bust me out, the rehab gave me a weekend pass, but it sounds more romantic to say that) We went into one of the casinos on the strip and I gambled for the first time ever.  The first slot machine I ran into I put a quarter in, and I won $120.  And I walked away. Mostly because my mom was sitting with me and she said, “now this is when you walk away Gayle.” To me, at the time, I had made a small fortune. Ever since then, for the last ten years, I have believed that I have incredible luck at gambling. I’m not very good at many things, I don’t excel in too many areas, but I’ve always known, I’m blessed with a gift, I’m an excellent gambler.  I mean, I’ve been in casinos since that trip, and the house wins every time, I literally have never won since. But my head has still for the last ten years, believed, known that I am a lucky person and that one of these times it will pay off, and I probably will win enough that I’ll never have to work another day in my life. I’m definitely sure that that lucky trip is going to be my next trip to Vegas, I can feel it in my bones.  

“No one can possibly win at roulette unless he steals money from the table while the croupier isn’t looking.”  -Albert Einstein

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