Sunday, October 05, 2008

New Mexico: Not Quite Minimum Wage

Lawmakers want to pass a law allowing slot machines in the state of Maryland. To do so, they're trying to get people to vote on changing the state's constitution. All of that because they can't control their spending.

I'm not a fan of slots. It's too slow. There's no action going on. I want to seize the moment and live, not just sit there pushing buttons like some automaton. For that, give me table games. Give me craps.

One of my greatest fears is that I have an addictive personality. I worry that I'm just a hedonist who enjoys pleasures. And I find craps to be immensely pleasurable. Living in Maryland means that I am limited from indulging myself in gambling and that I must resort to long trips to Las Vegas (where the odds are better than Atlantic City).

Ever since our trip to Sandia Peak on Friday, I've been noticing the signs for the Sandia Resort and Casino located on Native American Reservation lands. Just a few minutes from downtown Albuquerque and a stone's throw from Balloon Fiesta Park and I can be throwing dice, rolling numbers and making big money while the casino comps me with meals, hotel rooms and fast women. It's the American Dream.

I arrive at the casino around 10pm and I smell the scent of a bygone era. Cigarette smoke. How odd and how anti-American it seems nowadays. While I detest cigarettes, their smell reminds me of a bygone era when Americans were once free to choose how they lived and enjoyed an existence away from the police state that is America today. I inhale deeply, filling my lungs with secondhand smoke just because I can.

As I approach the craps table I notice the table is hot and maneuver myself into position. The Shooter is rolling numbers and everyone is making money. I'm a big time gambler, so I lay my forty dollars on the table and start betting. There's five dollars on the pass line and ten dollars on the odds bet. The point is five. After a couple of rolls, a five comes up and we all make money. It's happy-happy, joy-joy all around.

After a little while, I'm up by one hundred dollars and that's when the shooter sevens out. All is lost and we start again. Not wanting to walk away from the action of the table, I ride out the next couple of shooters and take a bath. After the fourth shooter, I walk away from the table with $44. I've just made four dollars in one hour.

I cash in my chips and walk around the casino to check it out. After learning craps several years ago, nothing appeals to me. Poker requires too much concentration. There's too many variables in blackjack. Roulette is just a big crap shoot. But craps is all action. You can win fast and you can lose fast. Time your free drink orders correctly because you might be wiped out by the time the cocktail waitress comes back.

My stroll takes me back to the same craps table where the dice have just been passed back to Jose, the original shooter. And Jose has his magic back. He starts hitting numbers. My five dollar world bet hits and money rains down on me. The shooter is making point and we're winning money again.

Truth be told, in spite of that odd five dollar world bet, I'm playing it very conservatively. Five dollar pass line with the maximum five times odds bet of $25. After reading the statistics, the pass line bet and odds bets are the safest bets on the table. The rest are just sucker bets that increase the house margin against you. That said, it is those sucker bets that make craps so darn exciting. Placing money on the numbers, pressing your winnings, bringing your bets back when the hards roll soft, C&E bets - all of these allow you to win big money, but they also allow you to lose big money.

After a little while, I'm up another hundred bucks. I'm making money. And once again, the seven comes up and we lose it all. But I'm still a hundred ahead...

"In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose and in the end, we get it all."
- Robert DeNiro as Ace Rothstein in Casino

And like a fool, I keep playing. I know this quote. It's in my head. I know that casinos are built because of people like me winning. They're built because people like me lose all their money. But I keep going because I'm lured by the action - even when the dice have turned cold and the shooters keep rolling sevens.

In the end, I walked away from the table with forty-nine dollars. In just under two hours, I had made about $4.50 per hour. I had made less than minimum wage.

But I had a great time doing it.

Next time, I just know I'm gonna hit it big...

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