I had the experience of witnessing just how bad a true gambler gets.
The Turning Stone Casino had been a place thrown around from the people of Upstate New York. Many had been there. Many had only hoped to go there. A few found minor success. While quite a few cursed it into the pit of Hell. The latter is the only attitude that matters of feelings expelled by the great residents of the heart of New York. You may even want to call them The Thugs of Losing. They enter believing they will strike it rich. They return looking like a rejected Crackhead zombie. Just one sound of a tiny win, and euphoria sets in. Until, it wears off.
Deciding to put myself in harm’s way, the drive to Turning Stone was short. Even as anticipation loomed over me, the noise, the smell, the unfamiliar faces called me to hurry. Was I hooked even before I placed my first bet? Would my faith be strong enough to pull me away before I lost myself? Could I lose myself? Would I meet a friend? If I believed I would win, then I would win. Was I a winner? How does my calendar look? What do I do first? Do I just keep to myself and not ask for help? Am I dressed right? Do I look like a tourist? Can I tell who’s on drugs and who’s been drinking? Does the five o’clock shadow really exist? I have to be home by 3. It’s 11 now. I’ll just withdraw money there. I have a limit. I have to be home by 3.
Parking spaces galore. Such a breeze to get there. This is so easy. It’s 11:27 and I’m going in there. All the lights! The cleanliness! Let the handicap door open for me. As I proceed into Sodom and Gomorrah, the sound is stifling. The caffeine has set in before I’ve had any. Then, it happened.
I smelled the Crack. I inhaled.
I wanted to find a slot machine that didn’t look too complicated. A machine that would do all the work for me as long as I paid it to do so. But, there’s was no way to get started. It seems I would break down. I did have to talk to someone, somebody to explain this bloody place to me in simple terms. Don’t look too vulnerable. Don’t look too eager. Find Customer Service. They would help me. They would be the ones who would change my life. Just be nice, polite, and just maybe the people in the camera room upstairs would bestow upon me instant luck. After watching the tv show “Las Vegas,” I thought it could be possible.
The casino even gave me free money to play with on a membership care. I was told that the facility was cashless, meaning all transactions are done through the machines. To play, you stick your card in a slot machine and add money into the machine. At any time, you could use your free money as long as you first insert the minimum of one dollar. So simple! I was on my way!
I rested at a cute machine. Followed the rules. Placed my bet. Pennies for credits – which really converted into dollars later. Winner’s Luck! I won 105 credits. I thought it was one hundred and five dollars, only to be shattered when I matched that to what I started with. One dollar and five cents! Then, four dollars and thirty-five cents! And eleven dollars and eighty cents! A couple Free Games had me clapping my hands in bliss! Little did I know, some around me refused to join my party. Did my scheme work? Does kindness really pay off? I thought that was the case until I had lost twenty-two dollars of the one hundred and fifteen dollars I had had on my card. It was time to go. I could prove my point to everyone who told me to stay away and not throw away my money. Cashing out was easy. I knew how to actually collect my winnings without asking anybody for help. “I was on that machine all day and never won a dime,” was what I heard before rising. Winner’s Luck?
It only took roughly thirty minutes tops to get back home. I had a little time to kill. I walked around and watched people. There seemed to be more table-games than slot machines. Blackjack, Roulette, Three Card Stud, Texas Hold-Em. Huge bets placed by people who weren’t in suits or didn’t sport any precious jewelry. I heard shots of glee in the distance. At times, it sounded like I was at a Holy Ghost church service. All this, in a matter of minutes. It didn’t take long before they were pulling back out their wallets and opening purses to pay for the dealer’s attention. Did they even know the dealers? Did the dealers care about them? Maybe they weren’t nice when they came to the casino. Maybe they forgot their lucky rabbit’s foot. Maybe, they were part of the “Thugs of Losing” club. I never wanted to look like that. I never wanted to feel like that. I don’t want to keep running to the ATM machine like that.
A spot opened up at a table I was eyeing. This ninety-three dollars was struggling to get bigger in my pocket. Ten dollar match bet, ten dollar game bet. First bet, I won one hundred and twenty dollars. I lost the hand because I didn’t take the right hit card. Twice in a row I won the match. Then, two other times. My first time playing this game! It was so easy! Even the dealer congratulated me! Just not the guy who I was at the table with. How was I to know that he had already lost five thousand dollars at that game? How was I to know that he had been there for two days? I tried focusing on making small-talk with the dealer. All totaled, I had roughly five-hundred and twenty dollars in chips. How was this guy pulling out so many crisp one hundred dollar bills? He had already lost five thousand. As the dealer laughed, I won. The other guy kept losing. His boiling point came when I double-matched the dealer. On a ten dollar bet, the fruit was two-hundred and forty dollars. The guy had had enough! That was when I was reminded that I was causing him to lose. And lose big. My success had brought his failure. Silly me! I chimed in to him by exclaiming that when I went against my better judgment, he won. I wasn’t the reason he lost five thousand dollars that day. Though, I’m sure the grand total was well over that amount then. Our spat drew the attention of others, dealers and patrons. Yes. I began to feel bad for him. Could I help when the dealer wouldn’t. Did the dealer care?
He kept talking. He kept losing. Did I purposely lose back money I deserved? I could walk away with five hundred dollars. Would my absence help him win his money back? How long did I have to stay to help him? It was now 5:15 and I was still up five hundred dollars. The guy increased his bets. He took out more money. He still cursed the day I was born. I had to leave. I had to leave him. The dealer offered to cash-in my chips for larger ones. I tipped him for his services and painfully rose to go. Did that guy just say, “And don’t come back until you learn how to play!”? Did I know how to play? Winner’s Luck? Why did I have to respond the way I did to that guy? He was having a hard day. Five thousand dollars! That seemed a lot to lose from somebody who didn’t look like he even had a hundred. He got it from somewhere. He had dreams of becoming a star at the casino. Would he ever realize he really was a star there?
The cashier asked me if I had any other chips to give her. “I don’t think so. Hang on,” Now, how did this one hundred dollar chip get in my pocket? Just then, I wondered if the guy had stored away any chips. Why would he keep pulling out so many hundreds, if he had? Overhead, I heard: “…our latest jackpot was one thousand three hundred and forty dollars…” I didn’t want to become that guy. I would never become that guy. “…The jackpots are rising…!” 5:35 and I’m a Winner! I still have time for a nap. Through the crowd, he was still sitting there. A new dealer. I could see the dealer swiping his chips away. Was that his wallet on the table? Keep walking. Walk faster! Don’t trip! “Man! These cards are just not good tonight!” I was just so glad that I was not that guy. Relentless, Determined, Angry, Jealous, Compulsive. I think I was all those things until I got tired of the stale air inside the building.
Overall, I was nice, polite. People were waiting in line at the ATM. No one looked fancy. There was the typical lone exceptionally good-looking person in the line. How long had they been there? Nobody was smiling. Nobody was talking. The walk back to the parking lot was long. The sound, the smell had me walking slower. I was a Winner, yet I felt so weighed down. I do not want to become that guy or those people waiting to withdraw from their life. But I know I was hooked. I am hooked. Even if I don’t go back to that place in the next three months, will I still have the strength to leave when I’m supposed to? Or, will I leave because I have no other choice but to? I am hooked because I want to feel this high again! Just like a Crackhead.