Returning to Las Vegas for the first time in 4 years brings back some interesting old memories...
Vegas and I have an interesting history. I grew up in Southern California and I’ve always been a gambler. When I was 6 years old my father introduced me to NFL parlays and ever since then gambling has been in my blood. As a kid growing up in the shadow of Las Vegas, the idea of being old enough to gamble there seemed like an impossible dream.
So as you can imagine, when I was old enough to make that dream a reality I took every chance to do so. I lived just 3.5 hours away by car, so in my early twenties it was quite common for my friends and I to head to Vegas on a whim if we had nothing else to do on a Friday evening (full disclosure: we never had anything else to do). As the gambler of the bunch, I was always the one to foot the bill for gas and/or the hotel in order to convince my non-gambling friends to tag along.
When I recently reconnected with one of my buddies from that era after losing touch for several years, he instantly laughed at the revelation that I now live in Central Europe.
“Ha! You had to put two continents and an ocean between you and Vegas just to stay away!” was his immediate conclusion.
While not exactly the reason for my move out of the USA, his observation is not without relevance. I was a pretty bad gambler in my younger days before I discovered poker, and he was the prime witness.
Story time, if you’ll indulge me.
Back in 2005 we went to Vegas for a weekend for his grandfather’s 80th birthday. I was in college at the time and had basically no money. Somehow, I managed to scrape together $200 (which I definitely couldn’t afford to lose) and tagged along, mentally shunning the truth of my degeneracy in favor of the more palatable narrative of doing a nice thing for an old man on his birthday.
Anyway, things escalated quickly, as they say, and my $200 became close to $500 after a seemingly impossible run of $5 black jack wins. With my newfound breathing room, I of course started betting more. Bumped it up to $25 a hand and just kept winning. Before I knew it, I had $1,000, which is an absolutely ungodly sum of money for a broke college student just hoping to survive the weekend without skipping a meal. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that that $1,000 meant more to me than any $1 million has ever meant to anyone. It meant survival, safety, sustenance and most importantly, it meant I had more ammunition to keep gambling. And that’s just what I did.
As the night went on my $25 bets became $100 bets and my $1,000 became $2,000 and then $3,000. The details are still a blur, but the main theme is easy to describe: I couldn’t fucking lose.
When I finally made it back to the hotel room around 5:30 AM my buddy immediately sat up in bed as I entered. I was so exhausted, I couldn’t muster anything more than the bare minimum answer. I knew what he wanted to know.
“Fifty-four hundred” I said as I collapsed into a gambler’s coma.
The next two days provided more of the same. I just kept winning. I know it sounds impossible, I know that most of you won’t even believe me, but it’s all true. I turned $200 into more than $14,000 over one weekend playing blackjack.
And then, of course, I lost it.
When I reached $14,000, an idea popped into my head. I would play a $1k hand of blackjack to get to an even $15k. If I won that, I was going to put $5k on one hand and go home with the result, either way. After all, there’s not much difference between winning $10k and $20k when all you really care about is beer money for the next weekend.
My plan was upended when I lost the first hand for $1k. Then the second, then the third.
Fast forward 90 minutes and I’ve just undone the greatest weekend of pure luck I’ll ever experience by losing more than $11,000 of my $14,000 dreamroll.
I’ll never forget my friend laughing uncontrollably and falling out of his chair in shock as I lost all that money and stumbled out of the Wynn casino to take a seat in the flower bed near the valet. It’s a strange reaction, but I take no offense. He knew he couldn’t stop me and simply didn’t know what else to do.
After all these years, I still can’t think of a better alternative.
Psssst! We’re on YouTube – see, what we do there.