February 22, 2012

Bodyguards, Boobs and a Pocket Full of Cash

There I was, walking down Fremont St. in downtown Las Vegas.  My pocket was stuffed with $100 bills.  My bodyguards were excited at the prospect of entering our next destination.  The sign out front read, “World Class Topless Girls.”  I had already taken the casinos for thousands of dollars.  The beers had been flowing smoothly all night, as the half dressed casino waitresses made sure I never had an empty bottle in front of me.  Nothing could go wrong on this particular trip to Las Vegas.  Everything was happening exactly the way people imagine it should on a trip to Las Vegas.  No losing, only winning.  Topless girls.  Free drinks and great food.  What more could a single guy ask for?

A Few Minor Details
That is pretty much how my second trip to Las Vegas went.  I really did have a never-ending supply of money, compliments of the casinos.  My bodyguards were really just two of my friends who weren’t having as much luck as I was with the gambling.  They decided to entertain themselves by pretending that I was a high roller and making it their role to protect me and my money.  The girls in the nudey bar downtown were anything but “world class.”  We stayed for the three drink minimum then got out of there.  Didn’t waste even a single dollar on a lap dance or table dance.  I knew the return on investment would not be good for this type of transaction.

Oh, did I mention that the main purpose of this trip to Las Vegas was to attend my brothers wedding?  Yeah, that was fun too.  For anybody thinking of getting married in Vegas, I would definitely recommend it.  The ceremony was very well done and quite nice.  I was pleasantly surprised that the religious aspect of the service shined more brightly than I had anticipated for a Las Vegas wedding.

The time frame for this trip was the year after 9/11.  I remember clearly because the terror level for the United States was downgraded from yellow to orange shortly before we were scheduled to fly out.  I actually missed my flight, despite getting to the airport about 2 hours early.  This was my first experience flying with the tightened security procedures.  I was very annoyed that I had to fly stand-by which resulted in my arrival to Las Vegas being about 12 hours later than planned.  I was only going to be there for a short four day weekend, and this cut seriously into my gambling time.

Borrowing and Winning
Since this is a money blog, I should probably point the direction of this post to the money aspect of this trip.  If you’ve read my post about my first trip to Las Vegas, you saw the lesson that I learned about not borrowing money from friends or family.  Apparently I didn’t learn that lesson well enough.  At the time, my career was just transitioning from factory worker to truck driver and I still wasn’t earning a very good income.  I was able to pay for my travel and accommodations this time, but had to borrow $800 from my sister for spending money.

Nearly all of the money I won on this trip came from playing table games.  I prefer games that involve at least a little bit of talent or skill.  I’ve never had much luck with slot machines.  I’m not going to lie and tell you that I went to Las Vegas with some sort of system for winning at blackjack.  I did have a plan though.  My plan was simply to have the strength and determination to be able to walk away from a table while I was ahead.  The plan worked beautifully for the entire weekend.

I recall my very first attempt that weekend at blackjack.  I sat down at a $5 table and bought $100 in chips.  It didn’t take very long to double up my money at which point I got up and walked away.  Most people get greedy if they find a hot streak like I did and will sit at the table for longer thinking that they can win even more.  This is part of the psychological advantage that the house has.  If a player sits at one table for long enough, eventually the house is going to get all of their money.

My biggest winnings of the weekend came courtesy of the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas.  I wanted to learn a game I had never played before.  I found a 3-card poker table with a very friendly and helpful dealer who agreed to show me the ins and outs of that game.  It was a $10 minimum bet table and I bought in for $100.  I didn’t do very well at first, getting my chip stack down to my very last $10.  I had one bet left.  I hit a pretty good hand and was able to keep playing.  I hit a few more good hands, and my chips had multiplied their $100 value several times over.  My friends were hanging out at the bar which was close to the table I was playing at.  It was getting late and they were hinting that they wanted to leave.  I was satisfied with my winnings, and decided to play just a few more hands before I cashed out.  I will never forget that last hand I played there.  I had a green $25 chip on the pairs plus betting circle and was dealt three kings!  Three of a kind pays 30 to 1 for that bet in that game.  I was ecstatic as I had just more than doubled my chip stack with $750 in winnings on a single bet.  I ended up cashing out of the Golden Nugget with $1300 in winnings.

Another one of my bigger winnings came during dinner after my brothers wedding.  We ate at the buffet inside The Rio (a very good one by the way).  Most dining establishments in Las Vegas offer a keno game that you can play while eating.  They have what they call “keno runners,” which are basically servers who come to your table and take your bets.  You then watch a big screen to see if your numbers come up.  I did not have a secret keno winning strategy.  I literally won $450 at this game while I was taking a leak!  I was trying to look at the screen while I was returning to our table from the restroom, and noticed that 5 of my 6 numbers had come up.  Like I said, nothing could go wrong for me on that trip.  I even won money while peeing!

Spending, Paying and More Winning
I started spending money like it was going out of style.  If my friends weren’t gambling and getting free drinks, I would pay for their drinks.  I paid for all of our cab rides, even if there was a large group of us and needed more than one cab.  There was no cover charge at that nudey bar I mentioned, but they had a three drink minimum.  At $6 per beer for all three of us, I paid that $54 plus tip.  No problem.

By the second to last day, I was down to $1300 in my pocket.  I paid my sister back the $800 I borrowed from her, which left me only $500.  After some sight-seeing, meals and drinks, my funds had dwindled to a little over $300.  I had to get back to gambling.  We walked around from casino to casino.  At each stop, I played either blackjack or 3-card poker.  I continued to utilize my strategy of walking away from tables after getting ahead just a little.  Combining that with a ton of luck and good fortune, I was able to build my stash back up to $1800.  That is the amount I ended up bringing home.

My total winnings for the short four day weekend were somewhere between three and four thousand dollars.  The $1800 I brought home plus the $800 I had paid back to my sister plus all of the money that I spent.  I have no way of knowing how much that actually was, but it was probably close to $1000.

This is my recommended way to travel to Las Vegas.  In my experience, it is a lot more fun if you actually win money.  $3000+ in winnings may not sound like a lot of money by Las Vegas standards.  It was a lot of money to me at the time though.  I sure felt like a Vegas high roller, complete with bodyguards, boobs and a pocket full of cash!

Readers:  Do you have any winning stories from Las Vegas or other casinos?  Do you know of a successful “system” for beating the house?


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