Monday, December 8, 2008

Gambler Fool
Shane Stay
c 2008

When the average gambler goes to a casino it is reasonable to assume they are seasoned in the art of cards or table games. When I go it is fair to say that I look like a blindfolded student learning Japanese trigonometry. I’ve been told the rules of Black Jack plenty of times. Yet, “doubling down” requires the green light from my friend and still there are some times when it is “illegal” to double down and the same friend “doesn’t have time” to explain it as we are three hands down the line and I’m “giving him bad luck.”

I’ve been told that I will kill other players’ hands in Black Jack. They often get very mad at my presence. These are the same “experts” who are “risking it all” on a five dollar table. Yeah, I’m really interfering with their children’s college fund.

I don’t hide my naivety. I am eager to ask questions of the dealers and even take advice from complete strangers sitting next to me. Often they are large, robust black men with multiple gold teeth shining from their mouth and they might say things like, “Yeah, if the dealer’s showin’ a six and you have a fifteen you might not wanna hit.” Through a flurry of many small cards, the first of which being a six, the dealer gets Black Jack. “Well, you usually all-ight with fifteen.”

Each Black Jack table I walk away from I am certain those I’ve left behind are gossiping and giggling at me. They’re echoing such comments I’ve made like, “I didn’t know the dealer has to stop their hand after seventeen.”

I understand that the roulette table gives me the simple option of two colors: red and black. This makes me happy. What makes me unhappy are the many numbers, the double zeros, people putting their chips on two spaces at once, the green spaces – what in the world are those for?! (I haven’t yet been risky enough to find out. That would mean sacrificing a dollar.)

The dealer looks at me crazy when I put a single one dollar chip on red and a single one dollar chip on black. What they don’t know is that I haven’t mathematically prepared ahead of time – as many scour over how-to gambling manuals – and I am experimenting with the structured, tactical strategy of trial and error on the move, so to speak. Choosing red or black I sometimes win and for some reason the dealer always has to hastily remind me to leave my chips on the table until the glass weight thing – which is a tool used by the dealer to control his or her little universe – is lifted up and off the table.

The professional, savvy gambler loathes my presence in his arena of dreams. To him, I’m as annoying or amusing as a dishwasher giving stock option advice to a CEO. They glare at me with disdain and pity. These are the type of guys who have been taught that speaking little gets you farther in life. They seem puzzled by my presence.

Some things I’ll be overheard saying are:
“When do I give you my money, to start playing with chips?
I have a hundred dollar bill – can I get one dollar chips for that?
What in the world is three card poker and why are you sitting here all by yourself?
I think I’m going to put my dollar chip on black.
What’s the three for on that chip – are there three dollar chips?!
Are all you waitresses Double D’s?
I’ve proudly lost seven hundred dollars in twenty minutes at this table!
How many times can I double down?
Can I triple or quadruple down?
If I show a Black Jack can I double, triple or quadruple down at that point? Why not?
Sodas are free, right?
What would Descartes do with this hand?
Hey, I just found out there are three dollar chips!”

If you see me at a casino please don’t pity me. Rather, I encourage you to envy me. It is I who has put aside the robust macho façade that most male gamblers carry cumbersomely on their shoulders as they sit at a table dictating the result they are sure they can control with others like them at the table.

Envy me because I embrace a more feminine attitude towards gambling. I’m there to have fun. I’d like to make some money. When I win I’ll screech in delight and clap my hands in front of my chest. When I lose I’ll ask superfluous questions about what I did wrong and what I could have done better. If there’s a friend with me I consult their advice before every move with a neurotic whisper.

If I’m alone I might try the same thing with the dealer, or I’ll look my best to appear as though I’ve done this before. Choosing the latter concerns me, because I look all the same as the stoic male “experts” with the macho façade that I notice to be so different from me in the first place. In this character I’ll squint my eyes, push my lower lip up and say, “Hey, what the fuck. You win some, you lose some.” When I get up from the table to try my luck elsewhere I assume a more bowl-legged strut, keeping my back firm and straight, and my gaze straight ahead. My pace is stiff and robotic, letting everyone know I’m no one to befool. All the gamblers and dealers pass by my peripheral. I pay them no mind. I am destined on greatness with a calm coolness in my brow that only Steve McQueen can exude. Then one of the dealers spots me and whispers to their manager, “Psgh, isn’t that the clueless idiot that tried to bet his socks and underwear last week?”

The manager acknowledges that to be correct as I stub the toe of my new tennis shoe into the freshly vacuumed, Velcro-like carpet and stumble into the large fifty-year-old woman in front of me, bracing my fall with her long, experienced, cushiony breasts. She lets out a screech. I let out a screech. My hands are still attached to her heaving breasts as though I were rock climbing for the first time. We make awkward eye contact. I release my hands. I silently offer her a one dollar chip. She declines. I shrug. She shrugs. I nod my way out of her site and walk away, but not before I fastidiously scan the room over with my nervous, jittery eyes, certain that someone witnessed my folly. It appears clear, so I think. Fastening my shoulders into position, as though I’d fallen off a horse, I attempt to regain the stiff, robotic stride of manliness that I hitherto mustered into fruition. Now I’m walking back the same direction I had come from, trying to get my bearings and hoping to look as though I know what I’m doing.