Well, relatively big.
In a moment that perhaps sealed my entrance into true adulthood, I gambled for the first time this past week. By now all of my close friends from home are now 21, so society therefore has given us all permission to be reckless with our money. We decided to do it together and took a road trip down to the East Coast Las Vegas: Atlantic City.
We secured a room at one of the larger hotel/casino resorts on the strip, the Tropicana, for much cheaper than I had expected. (Check online for A.C. hotel rates in January; it’s super cheap to get a room for the night!) The ride also was much shorter than I had thought it would be — only 1.5 hours from our town in Central New Jersey. So far this quick one-night trip was turning out pretty good! We didn’t spend any time really outside of our resort, because when you have multiple restaurants, clubs, shops, and IMAX theater and a casino under one roof, why would one need to go anywhere? Also, while the Trumps and Caesars of Atlantic City shine bright in their glitz and glamour, it’s a stark contrast to the streets and life of the city itself, which could really use the revitalization the casinos were supposed to bring.
After settling in, we headed down to the casino. We knew we were walking dollar signs for these casino operators, so we all tried to keep each other in check when gambling. I, one of only a few first-time gamblers, decided to bring only $20 cash (no credit cards) downstairs. My friend and I plopped down in front of two slot machines to try a few bucks. Maybe I’m disillusioned, but I had romantic visions of level pulling and coins spilling out, of which there was none. All slot machines nowadays operate on a bunch of buttons you push, and they only take paper money. From there you can play smaller denominations, but still! Tricky tricky. The other sneaky part of the slots I discovered was that you don’t really know when you’ve won, and you never know how much. After spinning a couple sets of sevens in a row and seeing some lights blink, I decided to cash out to see how I had done. The receipt the machine printed read $53.And I had only played $2!
As I headed over to the cashier station, I was thinking that had been my big win for the night. I took my cash and went to rejoin more of my friends. I soon realized less than an hour had passed, the night was young and friends were still at tables and machines. How could I be done gambling already? I couldn’t just sit and watch all night! Peer (and environmental) pressure won out and some of us decided to claim spots at a roulette table. I wasn’t familiar with the game, but a friend gave me a quick breakdown and deciding it was an objective game that didn’t require much thinking, I placed my $25 minimum down on the table to play. Sure, $25 is a lot, but I didn’t come to A.C. expecting to win, so if I lost $25 I was still up a nice little $25. Plus, there were cute guys at this table!
I arbitrarily placed my chips on the board and somehow maintained enough winnings to play a few times. Then after one round in which I continued my joke of a strategy (there really was none except spreading my chips out somewhat evenly and choosing a few favorite numbers), the dealer looked at me, laughed and said, “You just won big.” Then he pushed stacks of $25 and $5 chips at me. I was elated. I have no idea how much I had at that point, but I stashed most of the chips in purse to become untouchables and left out enough for another round or two. In the end I lost the chips that remained on the table and was able to pull myself away when that happened. I walked upstairs that night with a net gain of $150 and feeling like a pro.
My night in Atlantic City was a fun foray into the gambling world, but not one I’m allowing myself to think my winnings could become regular. Because as hard as it is to walk away when you’re winning, it’s even worse to walk away realizing you just lost a lot.
–Karina for TKGO
I apologize for the lack of multimedia on this post, but for obvious reasons cameras are not allowed in casinos.