With the exception of a brief foray to an Indian Casino in July, and a few hours in Atlantic City ... last week was the first time I have gambled outside of Las Vegas.
For most of my life, I was never really interested in gambling. Money was always pretty tight growing up, and I had always assumed that gambling was the domain of the wealthy, the wannabe-wealthy, or the incredibly stupid.
In my early 30's I made my first trip to Las Vegas, discovered $1 Blackjack at the Sahara, $3 Blackjack at the Cal, and the rest as they say ... is history.
With a modest $50, I was able to play for hours, gulp down free drinks all night, and awaken the next day neither addicted nor destitute. It was during those first few trips that I realized a "regular person" with a general anti-consumerist, anti-corporate mentality could indeed gamble without overly-enriching the greedy bastards who owned the building.
Of course, since it posed a threat to port security, I still felt a little guilty when I gambled, but I would like to thank both Congress and God (in that order) for helping to reduce this threat by making it more difficult for those not actually in Las Vegas to gamble remotely. If there is one thing that keeps me up at night, it is the prospect of gamblers throwing grenades at passing ships.
The reason I came to like gambling as a source of entertainment is the same reason that I came to dislike television.
In general, I do not like passive entertainment. I like interactivity. I like to participate.
I often have trouble watching TV or movies because the pure consumption nature of the medium bores me. The outcome of the show is pre-determined, and there is nothing that I can do to alter it. The same goes for some kinds of literature. I have never voluntarily read a fiction book, not only is the outcome generally known beforehand, but the entire story in-between is bullshit.
This lack of engagement is the primary reason that I long ago gave up TV for the Internet. Whether it's arguing about the Las Vegas Police Department on a message board or altering a picture of Sherman Frederick to look like Satan, I'm able to do something. I'm part of the show and I affect the outcome. This is more satisfying to me than watching Snooki do, well, whatever she does on the Jersey Shore (I've yet to see an entire episode of the show).
It is also for this reason that I found gambling to be an interesting form of entertainment. Instead of mindlessly staring at a screen, what I do at the table or machine makes an impact on the outcome of the evening. Perhaps not a large impact, but an impact nonetheless.
After leaving Las Vegas, I assumed that my cheap, in-person gambling opportunities would dwindle, but this is not the case.
I'm literally surrounded by casinos up here in the Puget Sound area, and for the first time last week, I visited one of them. Well two of them, to be more accurate.
Now, for some reason, I had always assumed that small casinos not located in Las Vegas were all dumps filled with angry degenerates, hookers, and the pimps who love them. I envisioned a brawl between dealers and smelly truckers after every losing hand, and I imagined that the outcome of most disputes were settled by who could reach the pistol in their waistband first.
I am happy to report that this is not the case.
The two casinos I visited last week, "The Great American Casino" and somewhat ironically ... "Macau Casino", were clean, professional, and above all else, friendly.
Of course, being used to roaming the world's largest casinos on a daily basis, I did find them to be almost comically small, but like your mother always says ... "size doesn't matter, it's how Rex uses it that counts."
Square footage was not the only thing that set these gambling parlors apart from typical Las Vegas casinos, however.
Another thing that surprised me was the security in these casinos, or lack thereof. I saw only one guard in each, and if there were security cameras in these card rooms, they were so discrete as to be nearly invisible. I kept looking at the ceiling for the eye in the sky, but I couldn't make one out. I'm not sure if this is good or bad.
Yet another thing that caught me off-guard in these rooms were the odds.
When I entered the Great American Casino, I walked over to the first Blackjack table I could find, and what I found astounded me.
The per-hand limit at the table was only $5, yet if a player drew a Blackjack, the casino paid the player $3 for every $2 bet.
Frankly, I have no idea how this is possible. I mean, how in the hell do these guys expect to stay in business?
One thing is certain, they are not going to be around for long if they continue offering such monstrous payouts. I'm not even sure why they bother. If Las Vegas has taught us anything, it is that gamblers love their 6:5. After all, bigger numbers are always better than smaller numbers.
Anyway, I burned a little money at a "real" Blackjack table (try doing that in Las Vegas), then walked around and looked at the other felt games.
It wasn't a busy day, but the game getting the most action was something called "Spanish 21". I had no idea how to play said game, so I wandered toward the back to see what I could find, and I stumbled upon a game called "Strip Club".
Having no idea what it was, but figuring I had found the holy grail of video machines, I plugged a bill into it and began scrolling through the menus.
As it turns out, the basic gist of "Strip Club" is that you can play a variety of video games (similar to a Game King machine), but instead of winning cash, a digital lady removes an article of clothing with each of your wins, and she puts on an article of clothing with each of your losses.
Interesting, but a bit dated in the age of Internet porn. At this point anyone can cut right to the money shot with a click of their mouse, so my guess is that this machine is a relic from days gone by.
Nevertheless, I played through a fiver, and just when the lady was about to give me a peek at her leave-it-to-beav, an "insert coin to keep playing" sign splashed across the screen.
Heh, what do you know, this game is EXACTLY like a real strip club.
After getting digitally cockblocked, I returned to the felt tables, dispensed of a few more bucks, and then hit the Macau Casino.
When all was said and done, I had a pretty hideous run. I think I won 1 in every 5 hands, and I never hit a natural (not that I would have wanted to with their shitty 3:2 payouts), but the staff at both venues were very friendly and competent.
Anyway, thus begins my post-Vegas gambling career. It has been a bit of a culture shock, but I can appreciate these types of tiny venues that would be considered "boutique" back in Nevada.
Sure, the casinos in this area are not quite Vegas-quality when it comes to size, action, and entertainment options, but I've got to be honest with you ... for quick weekend excursions, I think they'll do just fine.
Now if you will excuse me, I have some business to attend to.
What Strip Club started, Google Images shall finish.
Time to find the money shot.
Insert coin my ass.
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