(Editor’s note: Feel free to skip if you: A) hate my gambling stories, B) have tired of my broke-ass whining (as opposed to wining), C) experience frustration at my apparent inability to notice the connection between brokeassedness and gambling stories. Despite the incredibly clever title, this saga is about rolling dice, not dwarves and dragons and such. Also, let me know if you think that my recent mastery of normal image insertion takes too much away from the “1993 Compuserve dial-up” vibe I had cultivated around here.)
The Chillster has been taking it on the chin recently in financial matters, as I’ve mentioned on here a time or two. In my chosen profession of trogger, there is a two-pronged approach to making money: websiting and option betting. This site makes money from folks clicking on advertisements and from buying stuff from the Amazon via the link over there – I am not at liberty to discuss the exact magnitude of coin we are talking about, but let’s just say that my monthly income from here would’ve made a pretty shitty weekly allowance for a six year old during the Great Depression. The other prong in the metaphorical antler of trogging, trading, has managed to be even less fruitful recently, somehow managing to make the monthly $1.37 or so from this site look like a windfall. It’s disappointing since one of the main tenants of my trading “strategy” is selling time premium, and – to my knowledge, at least – time has continued to pass.
Anyway, ever since I got laid off I’ve had a figure in the back of my head that, when my could-get-my-hands-on-quickly liquidity got to that level, I would have to strongly consider throwing in the towel and consider re-entering the real world work force. Given that I’ve been out of the job market for three and a half years, I would probably struggle to land an internship to be a barista’s apprentice – there’s not much out there for people who have been looking, much less people who have been happy doing (relatively) nothing for a long time. I don’t think it’s actually laziness, either – though there is evidence that might support that accusastion – I just don’t want to get back out there and pursue somebody else’s dream. Ugh. Dammit.
So on Saturday I found myself still in my country retreat, trying to pull myself together after too much exposure to parental types. My sister who I was staying with had taken her grandkids (yeah, Chilly is f*cking old and my sisters and their kids like to fire out some little ones, but at least I am officially Great at something) to a camp retreat thing overnight, and came back to her place to change and stuff before driving them the hour and a half back to Tunica (for those new to this site, the place in Mississippississippissippi about thirty miles south of Memphis that has casinos). Turns out that supervising an overnight thing with a bunch of kids involved her not sleeping for more than 13 straight minutes, she looked like she might drop any second.
Being a considerate brother, I offered to drive these little bast angels (and one random friend who came along; great, I’m also responsible for some little f*cker I don’t even know) home so as to avoid the whole horrific car accident thing. She did not even hesitate for a nanosecond before taking me up on that offer. I also figured since I was gonna be in Tunica, and was already broke, why not just make things even worse by playing a few hundred bucks worth of craps? So I was off, Leaving Las Tunica style. I delivered the kids home safely – words spoken during the trip, due to the presence of a Nintendo DS: less than 7 – and headed to the Horseshoe.
For those of you unfamiliar with the marker system in casinos – it’s a convenient way for you to take money out of your checking account in the future, without the fees of an ATM, or the risk that sound judgment will counter impulsive recklessness. All you have to do is say “give me a marker for $1,000” and – voila, a post-dated check with all your account info appears for you to sign in exchange for a pile of chips (you have to get your credit approved in advance, which is definitely a greasy experience. “I’d like to apply for a loan to buy a few hours of losing money in this establishment.”) If you win, you buy back your marker and the check never gets deposited. If you lose, at some random time in a few weeks – most likely when you have as little money as possible – they deposit the checks (that have invariably been signed during what your signature would suggest was a heroin binge).
The last time I was in Tunica in March, I narrowly averted disaster. I planned to while away an hour in the afternoon playing the $5 craps table, risking no more than a couple hundred bucks. Five markers later, I have to give up on craps and head to play the Devil’s Game – blackjack – with only about $300 left. Down $2200, I had a one-shoe heater, pressed my bet until I had a $500 bet, got 11 against a dealer 6, doubled and lost. Counted my stack, had $2520 left – paid off all markers and left with a free $20 and significantly higher blood pressure. The problem with degenerate gambling is that you have a nice score and think “despite what I know about math, and how the universe operates, I think I can beat the odds even more substantially next time, I cannot wait to game again.” I must be maturing, since, instead I thought “f*ck was that lucky, I’m getting the f*ck out of here and never playing that sh*t again.”
Typically when I hit the casino, I’m brimming with optimism. This trip, I was overstuffed with pessimism, like some new product from Pizza Hut that finds a creative place to insert additional cheese. I did not intend to bet much because a traditional loss of impulse control – combined with my option trading losses – would likely be the final impetus to having to seek salvation in what is apparently a very sad job market. I took out a $500 marker, put down a few bets and watched the shooter immediately 7 out. This continued for about an hour, with eventually everyone leaving the table. By that time I had taken out $1,500 and things were looking decidely unrosy.
One thing about Harrah’s casinos (I was at the Horseshoe, which has about the best rules for craps in the country), they are always looking for ways to get a couple extra bucks out of the players’ pockets, coming up with some crazy side bets (like the three card poker bet in blackjack and the soon-to-be-discussed Fire Bet in craps). The dealers at Harrah’s joints are kind of bitter about this as they think players are more likely to make these very -EV bets for a buck or two rather than tip the dealers. (Click on this link if you are unfamiliar with craps and want to get all wiki-ed up.) The Fire Bet is a bet that you make before you roll – maximum of $5 – and is based on how many different points you hit during your roll. The reason the bet is limited to $5 is because if you hit all six points, the payout is a thousand to one. (What are the odds of doing this? One in over 6,000; however, the shooter makes a lesser payout if he hits 4 or 5 points, but it’s still a silly bet that’s heavily in the casino’s favor.)
It’s widely considered terrible luck to play craps at a table by yourself; since my luck had been terrible anyway, I said “f*ck it” and stayed right there in the land of icy coldness. I shot a couple of times and made a point or two, basically breaking even, no momentum to speak of. On about the third time, I pushed my sacrificial $5 onto the Fire Bet circle and prepared to squander the rest of my meager stack in the near term. Coming out, I rolled a nine and then immediately rolled a nine, winner. Next roll, ten – the roll after that, also ten, winner. Next roll, four is the point. Hit a four within two rolls. Now, 10 and 4 are the hardest points to hit in craps, and I notched them almost immediately. I had only been rolling for like a minute – at an empty table sh*t moves lightning fast – I wasn’t even thinking of the fire bet at that point, I was just happy that I had hit some points and made back some coin on the odds bets. At this point I had place/buy bets for every number and had $10-15 on all the hard ways (I know those are terrible bets, but when you are destined to lose anyway it just don’t matter. I often favor superstition on the dice table, despite knowing that the middle of the table bets are terrible.)
Coming out again, I rolled a 6. Within 2-3 rolls I banged out another 6, and had hit the first rung of Fire Bet payout (hitting 4 points pays 24:1, but at that point $120 was looking pretty sweet). I’ve played a bunch of craps, and I hadn’t ever even seen someone hit five points on a Fire Bet before – it’s just too damn hard to get the points you need established even (hitting a 9 four times doesn’t count, has to be four different points). On my next come out roll, I needed to roll either a 5 or an 8. Clack, clack: 5. I brought it back immediately with another 5 and things were getting interesting; I was up to the 100:1 payout on the Fire Bet. Too bad there were no other players around to celebrate with or I almost certainly would have offered up a signature bicep kiss. $500 was gonna get me back into the game here. Next come out roll I’m cheering for an 8. Rolled a 5 instead. No big deal, I can bang out a 5 in no time. And I did. Coming out again.
On the next come out roll I was super-pumped with adrenaline, but still missing two key elements of my craps-celebrating arsenal: other players and a substantial consumption of alcohol. I had only had about a beer and a half. I needed to roll an 8 and then another 8. Coming out, clack, clack, clatter: 8. At this point, if I was thinking clearly, I would have hedged the f*ck out of that 8 – you can play the don’t side in craps, so I could have put a couple grand on laying an 8 and then I make a couple grand no matter what. Instead, I pressed my hard 8 and then ROLLED A F*CKING HARD EIGHT. At this point I’m yelling a screaming and sh*t, taking the casino on a 1,000:1 shot is definitely a nice feeling. The dudes at the table next to me were mega-bummed that they hadn’t been in on it. I had to keep rolling and rolled another 8 and then finally 7-ed out at which point they have to shut down the table for a bit and I got my first W-2 in a few years.
A guy at the table next to me offered some sage advice: “If I was you, I’d leave behind that bullsh*t.” It was weird, the whole thing only lasted like ten minutes, and my profit other than on the fire bet was pretty meager, all things considered (although, to be honest, I’m not even sure they paid me for the hard 8 or whatnot, might’ve gotten lost in the pandemonium.) After the table re-opened, a crowd of people joined, and I waited to roll again – at which point I hit another four point Fire Bet. Then I GTFO.
So instead of going out Nic Cage style, a silly side bet paid my credit card bill. Thanks, Fire Bet.