Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Las Vegas Quintet: Part III

23 OF US

After the Las Vegas trip with Mandy, the manager of the Caesars office in Chicago called. "They loved your action. I'm sending your airfare check to you. Any time you want to go out there, just let us know. It doesn't have to be a junket - you can just go whenever you want to."

Free room? Free meals and drinks? Airfare reimbursed? "Donnie, fly first class. It'll be taken care of. Just call us." Cool.

Mandy and I split. I went to Las Vegas a couple more times that year and perhaps once every two or three months for the next couple years, taking a girlfriend when I had one, going alone when I didn't.

One day someone started a movement in the junk mail company I worked for - "Let's get a bunch of people to go to Las Vegas together." In the end, twenty-three of us went, mostly employees and spouses or SO's, and in a couple of cases friends or relatives. I was fairly certain that none of them knew much about gambling, and I invited all of them to come to my house one night, as I could at least teach them about casino craps. I purchased a ten or fifteen dollar set that included a craps layout and chips, and in the event all but one of the group showed up for the lesson.

For many of them this would be their first time in Las Vegas and the first time in any casino. In case you're interested, here are some of the things I told them about gambling in general:
  • Don't start gambling right away. Walk around the casino, observe some of the games and players, ask questions of the casino employees when there is anything you don't understand.

  • It's an exciting atmosphere and everything is calculated to entrance you and to keep you gambling. There are no clocks. There are no windows - you can't look outside and see whether it's day or night. Get used to the atmosphere before you gamble.

  • Drinks are free to gamblers. Don't overuse this perk. If you start feeling a buzz, you've probably had too much and you've certainly had enough. It's one thing to feel bulletproof and invisible when the dice or cards or slots or roulette wheel or whatever are going your way and you're winning, but it's entirely another thing to feel bulletproof and invisible because you're drinking too much. Your judgment disappears and is soon joined by your money.

  • You know how much money you're taking. Decide how much is for eating, drinking, shopping, shows, and so forth, and how much is for gambling. Divide the gambling amount by two - that's the maximum you should allow yourself to lose in one day on this trip. If you're going to have two gambling sessions on each of the two days, divide the gambling money by four. Do not exceed that amount in one session for any reason. In particular, if you're losing don't tell yourself "My luck's bound to change." It isn't. There is no "maturity of chance." Whether you've won or lost on the last play, the odds are the same as always for the next play. If you're flipping an unbiased coin and you throw heads ten times in a row, the odds for heads and tails on the next throw are fifty-fifty.
Interestingly, only the one person who did not attend that night lost all her money in her first gambling session. She spent the next two days following friends around, unable to gamble, unable to shop.

I taught them too much about craps to repeat here, but here's what was by far the most important:
  • Bet "Pass" and/or "Come," or bet "Don't Pass" and/or "Don't Come." The come and don't come bets are exactly the same as the pass and don't pass bets, but they are made when there's already a point.

  • Don't Pass is better by a minuscule amount - tenths of a percent. However, you have to have the right temperament to be a "wrong way" bettor. Most people bet pass, and the last thing they want to hear when they lose is "Yeah!" from someone who won five dollars while they lost. But if you can stand being surrounded by hostility - and I'm not exaggerating - then the "Don't" bets are for you.

  • Betting pass and come, don't pass and don't come, getting or giving the odds, you can reduce the house percentage against you to less than one percent. All other bets are sucker bets. Remember it - All other bets are sucker bets, no matter what your friends tell you, no matter how much money they won betting "Any Craps," or placing numbers, All other bets are sucker bets. It's not as if you can't win with other bets, and it's not even as if you can't have a winning streak with other bets. It's just that you will win less money when you win - more precisely, your profit percentage will be smaller - and the house percentages on those bets will grind you down faster and more often than the percentages on the good bets.
I had imposed my wicked will on the group and got everyone to promise to gather for dinner the first night at Spanish Steppes in Caesar's, where I would buy. A little to my surprise, everyone showed up and I bought dinner for 23. With the tip and group photo - a copy for everyone - it came to about $3,000. I was already $4,000 ahead and didn't worry about it.

When I checked out a couple of days later, I went downstairs to see "the man with the pen," the casino employee who decided what would be comped and what wouldn't. He called up my action history for the weekend on a monitor, whistled, and asked, "Did you ever see your room?" We chuckled about the amount of gambling I had done, and I then said, "There's a dinner bill on there that I don't expect you to pick up. It's not really mine."

"Did you sign for it?"


"That makes it yours."

"Yes, but what I mean is that I bought dinner for 22 other people. We all came out here at the same time - not really organized, different hotels, different planes."

He looked at the monitor for a few seconds and said, "We can pick that up."

Most (all?) of us still have the group photo. I've seen them on office desks, and living room walls.


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