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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Weekend Adventures in Wendover

I went out to Wendover this weekend with Ian and his family. We went firstly to see Ron White, who is apparently one of those blue collar red neck comedians, although the only thing about him that really comes across as redneck is his Texan accent. The rest of his persona, complete with whiskey, cigar, and rich man suit, seems a bit more New York City.

I hadn't heard of Ron when we booked the tickets, but I looked up some of his taped material online, which seemed promising. And the evening was pretty delightful. In spite of touring with a bunch of comedians who either pretend to be or actually are pretty stupid, Ron's humor is generally intelligent. Crass, but intelligent.

Of course, the crass jokes are sticking out in my mind over the intelligent ones. But I'm horrible at retelling jokes. So I won't. But I do recommend checking out Ron White or Blue Collar Comedy from the library so you can get the humor first hand. You could get it from the video store, but why would you pay money when the library gives it to you for free?

The true highlight of my weekend, however, was learning to play Craps. I'm not as big gambler, because I like my hard-earned cash, and I don't like the propensity for that hard-earned cash to flow out of my fingers in casinos. But Ian explained to me that Craps really isn't as difficult as it looks, and it's the only game in a casino in which you can actually have a small chance over the house if you place your bets right. And even if you don't play those bets, there's really no way for the house to control the game, because it's all luck of the dice.

Slots have the appearance of being random, and the mechanical ones might seem to have more credibility at being fair than the electronic ones, but the truth is even the mechanical ones are controlled by a computer, and while the pay outs seem to be random, the casino knows how much money they are making and losing at any given time, and they have the ability to makes adjustments as necessary in order to pay out only the percentage they are required by law to pay out. In the end, they still make a profit, and anyone who thinks they can't control that is kidding themselves.

Speaking of people who kid themselves, I was alarmed to notice three different senior citizens engage in some strange hocus pocus which they probably actually believe will help them win the slots. One woman who was sitting next to me at the hot hot penny slots (which are generally much more fun than other slots) reached her hand forward and wiped it across the glass on the front of the machine. The first time she did this, I thought there might be smudges on the glass which she wanted to clear off so she could view the game better. But then she did it again. And again. And again on each successive spin. I kept glancing at this behavior out of my peripheral vision, thinking she must be some kind of old nutcase, and feeling slightly embarrassed for her that she thought touching the machine might help her win. Her machine didn't pay out very well, though, so maybe she should take this as a sign that her voodoo slot machine magic is bad luck.

Later on, I was again playing the hot hot penny, but this time in a different casino, and an old man fed a whole dollar into the machine next to me (you generally have to deposit at least $5 for those machines to start paying out, I find). With each 20 cent spin he played, he wiggled his fingers in front of the machine as if casting a spell over the rolling wheels. Apparently he forgot that magic is done easier with a wand, because he lost his dollar quickly. Maybe he'll remember his wand next time.

The third old lady I saw only in passing as I walked from the slots toward the craps table for another bout at a game which is actually interactive, and which, in spite of its dependence on chance, you still have some choice over your results. This lady tapped her fingers on the glass of her slot machine, probably with no more success than the other two senile senior citizens and their charms. Or with no better luck than any other schmuck who pulls the lever. You win some, you lose more, and you have no control over it at the slots.

Apparently, though, you have a better chance at the slots than at roulette, which Ian tells me is the game in which the house has the best odds of raping you dry. I don't know anything about that game except that the wheel goes one way, the ball goes the other, and your money goes away. Now that seems like more reliable magic to me.

But craps is a great time, and I think it is beating out Blackjack as my favorite casino game. At least in craps I know that the change of the dealers has no bearing on my luck on the table. The changing of the dice shooter can seem to affect the game, but that can be counterbalanced by the fact that you can either bet against or with the shooter. The players who placed the most diverse sets of bets on the table seemed to clean up better than safe players like me, who played the minimum bet and then maybe an extra bet or two depending on the initial roll of the dice and how that made the odds stack up.

Still, I had a lucky streak as a shooter myself on our second bout of craps (my first bout stunk, with me crapping out on the second throw). With my lucky streak I managed to make back most of the money I had lost, and I ended up leaving Wendover $25 down. And that includes food and everything.

So all in all, it was a bargain for the entertainment value of seeing a redneckish comedian, discovering a new favorite game, and marveling at the gullibility of superstitious old casino folk. Not a bad deal at all.

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