I need more chips please!
By John Gray
I’m a superstitious person. For example, if I was on the way to the store to buy a lottery ticket and accidentally stepped in dog doo-doo and then won $10,000, every time I was going to buy a lottery ticket in the future I would go to the same store, park in the same exact spot and before I went in to buy my ticket I would deliberately look for Fido’s calling card. This may explain why people insist I take my shoes off whenever I enter their homes.
Anyway, superstitious—that’s me. I believe in good karma and bad, I believe in lucky streaks and I absolutely believe if you pay attention there are signs all around you to tell you what kind of day you are going to have. Which leads me to this month’s column and the topic of gambling, casinos and luck.
Once, while I was on the way to Atlantic City I was feeling extra lucky. As my car made its way down the Garden State Parkway I had that extra little bounce in my step, or should I say tires. I was visualizing myself at the black jack table doubling down on an 8 and 3 and catching the queen of hearts giving me 21. I then moved to the roulette wheel where every number I chose came up. Then to the slots where I won so many quarters Donald Trump himself came over to shake my hand and congratulate me. Positive visualization! If you can see it in your head and believe it, it will happen. I took a break from all this positive thinking to hit the rest stop and use the bathroom. That’s when my day changed.
That’s when I saw the dead guy. Now I know this is the point of the column where you say to yourself, “Oh stop it John, you’re making up stories now. There’s no dead guy.”Oh, but there was. There I was using the men’s room when I noticed two cops standing outside a bathroom stall. At first I thought they were waiting in line, then I noticed the two feet sticking out from under the door. Not vertical like feet are supposed to look when someone is standing tall, but horizontal like when someone is taking a nap. A permanent nap. Oh yes, it was true. Some poor guy stopped at the rest stop and right there, in stall number two, he went to that big casino in the sky. And before you ask, no, it was not Elvis.
As I left the bathroom and got back on the parkway I thought to myself, “Well that can’t be good luck, seeing a dead guy.” I was right. When I got to the casino the check-in line was unusually long; my room wasn’t ready, and every slot machine I cozied up to seemed to be mocking me. The money that was supposed to last me two days was gone in two hours. They say, “Dead men tell no tales,” but apparently they can put a jinx on you.
Despite that one bad trip, I do like casinos. Notice I said casinos, not gambling. To be honest with you, I get bored sitting at a slot machine or craps table for hours. Maybe it’s because I’m usually losing. I imagine if I was like James Bond in a tuxedo with a pile of chips in front and a beautiful woman looking over my shoulder I’d like it more. Some people can’t get enough of it. I’ve known people who will toss and turn in bed at 4am and then just get up, get dressed and hit the casino floor with their slippers still on. That’s dedication.
My favorite thing to do at a casino is ‘people watch’. It’s wild to stand at a high stakes table and watch someone bet what you spend on your mortgage on one hand of poker. Don’t you just want to say to them, “Hey buddy, can you just skip this next hand and give me the two thousand dollars?”
You do see your share of rude people at casinos as well. Ever run into someone who is sitting in front of one slot machine, but they are playing the machines on both sides so they won’t let you sit down in any chair? I had an old lady who looked like she couldn’t even walk suddenly throw her leg up on a seat to block me. I thought about taking her leg out with a karate chop, but they have those security cameras everywhere and well, I did have about 200 pounds on her, not to mention my youth.
Another problem at the casino is leaving a machine that’s ‘cold’. I am always convinced that the minute I walk away the slot machine that I just pumped $50 bucks into is going to give a jackpot to the next person on the very first pull. Then I’d be forced to go back to them and say, “Excuse me, but that bucket of quarters and the free car you just won are really mine.”
Eating at the casino is also a spectator sport. People who drop a thousand dollars gambling will search far and wide for the cheapest buffet. Hmm…$4.95 for all I can eat. No way! Caesar’s Palace has the same spread for $3.95. I remember watching a woman who just ate enough food to feed a small village stuff about 10 brownies into her purse. She tried to take 20, but the thing wouldn’t close.
I’ve only been to Las Vegas once, for my honeymoon. That didn’t work out—the trip or the marriage. I did enjoy the big water show at the Bellagio, though, and I was fascinated by the hedges. Did you know during the summer when it’s like 112 degrees the hedges spray a cool mist? No kidding. I asked the people at Hewitt’s if they sold any of those kind of hedges (you know, to make the neighbors jealous) and they suggested I lower the dosage on my daily medication. Feeling sorry for me, they did give me a great deal on a rose bush so I guess you could say I was lucky.
Which leads us back to the beginning, luck, karma and dog doo doo. If you want to stay out of the doo doo and not lose all your money, I suggest the next time you go to the casino that you spend an hour or two at the spa. Sure it’s expensive, but dropping $100 on a massage sure beats losing $200 on blackjack. Your wallet and your back will both thank you. I’d like to close this month’s column with a gambling riddle: What do poker and a toilet have in common? A straight flush always beats a full house.I’m very proud of that joke. Feel free to steal it. I know I did.
John Gray is a Fox23 News anchor and contributing writing at the Troy Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org