Wednesday, January 10, 2007

$10,000 Wedding Gift

I am not a heavy gambler, not even a moderate gambler. I have never taken a trip with buddies specifically to blow money at a casino, and I think the grand total number of times I have played poker for anything other than peanuts or valueless cheap plastic chips is 2 or 3 times in my life.

I do, however, enjoy a night at the casino every other year or so when I am in Las Vegas or New Orleans on business. When I have gone, I am always the quiet and careful guy at the $5 blackjack table whiling away the hours with a business associate or two while they bet and lose insane amounts of money. The people watching and light banter with table mates is really what I enjoy about it. Not to mention the occasional cigar.

A couple years ago on one such trip I found myself getting bored with the only casino game I know (I despise slot machines), and decided to tour the casino floor observing some of the more exciting games that elicited great shouts and applause from the other parts of the room.

As I wandered around I found myself attracted to the roulette tables. Craps seemed interesting, but too chaotic for me. I walked up to one table to observe how it was played. I really had no sense of the game other than what almost everyone knows about it- you put chips on a number and see if the little ball lands on it. That’s it.

I watched for a few minutes and thought I had a rough idea of how to play based on seeing players spread chips on different numbers, and reading the little plastic sign that gave a rough outline of rules and limits. I noticed that new players put cash on the table, and the guy that worked the table asked what value of chip was desired, and he exchanged the real money for the rubber/plastic disc shaped kind. I noticed that the table I was standing at had attracted a large number of observers, but I didn’t know why.

I pulled out my $100 bill. On occasions I do gamble, I take a $100 bill with me, and no other money. That’s the limit- if I lose it, its over. I placed it on the table, and the roulette table thingy was spun (not sure what that thing is called- a wheel?). I waited patiently for the guy to ask me what kind of chips I wanted ($1 chips of course), but nothing happened. I waited. The wheel starting slowing. I waited a bit longer. Something was amiss.

It turns out you can bet on other things than just numbers, and you can bet cash in addition to chips. For example, you can bet on sets of numbers (odd, even, 1st set of 12, 2nd set of 12, etc), and you can also bet on colors- Red or Black. The reason the table had attracted so many people is because the last 10 spins had resulted in black numbers, and a bunch of onlookers had been placing bets on red in hopes of doubling their money. I had placed my $100 bill right on top of the empty black space (the red space was piled high with various chips, cash and other valuables) and the roulette guy had assumed I was trying to double my money on black. I was horrified as I realized this moments before the little ball settled into its new home. My plan for a couple hours of once-every-few-years gambling was about to turn into 5 minutes.

It hit black. I doubled my money, and walked away. The next day I decided to give roulette one more try, but this time do it a bit more carefully. I found a table, and after some trial and error settled on a little system that seemed to work for me. There are 38 numbers on the wheel- 1 through 36, and then 0 and 00. I placed $18 in chips with each bet, $2 per number over 9 numbers laid out in blocks that covered roughly ¼ of the numbers at any one time. I reasoned that I would cover almost ¼ of the possible numbers, and each win would get me $72 providing me 4 more bets. It worked. Over the next few hours I won $800 and walked away. Not bad.

The last time I was at a roulette table, in Las Vegas last year, I watched an amazing thing happen. A wedding party had come to the casino floor from wherever people actually get married at a casino, and walked up to a roulette table. The lady who was working my table explained to the group that it was a tradition at some Las Vegas weddings to take a portion of the money received as wedding gifts and place it on a roulette table on the number corresponding to the date, today, of the special event. It was the 11th of the month, so there on number 11 went $300 of the wedding money. From the look of the wedding party, that was about all the money there was.

The group numbered around fifty guests, a rather large wedding party for a Las Vegas wedding I suspected. Our table stopped the action to watch the new couple lose their first $300 together. The thingy was spun, everyone held their breath, and sure enough 11 was hit. The couple turned their $300 into $10,000 in a few seconds. The place erupted in laughing, screaming, jumping and crying. It was amazing to behold. The couple grabbed their chips, and with wedding party in tow, went to the exchange desk, got their cash, and headed out the door.

My system, however, failed that night. I lost my $100.

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Liza on Maui said...

That was a fun story to read

DigitalRich said...

Just don't try to mimic my gambling system. It has not been very reliable :)