Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

Give me an L-O-S-E-R

posted at 12:01 pm
on Apr. 8, 2002

Comments: 1 so far



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Speaking at NAB in Las Vegas

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London Trip

I was in Las Vegas for a day this weekend—see previous journal entry.

Vegas is, as always, the most stressful place I ever travel to. Sure, I’ve been to some places that are dangerous, boring, confusing or expensive. And that’s just the Glendale Galleria (rim shot).

However, those are all legitimate reasons to be stressed. What stresses me even more about Las Vegas is that I get stressed for STUPID reasons. Reasons related to the mob and video cameras everywhere and the presences of too many slutty women—or at least that’s what the ads in every taxi seem to imply—and a host of other reasons, like too many noises and flashing lights and not enough places to sit.

Mostly, though, I’m stressed when I’m there because I’m not WINNING. LOTS. INSTANTLY. I’m not complaining, and I’m not saying that I have actually lost a huge quantity of money. But I’m stating FACT: I do not have the kind of luck needed to win in Vegas.

As I told my friend Yaron, there is no thrill in gambling for me, no open question of whether this roll of the dice will bring me up or take me down. I have never, in all the times I have gambled, ever been “up.” I have occasionally won a hand or a roll or coaxed some money out of a slot machine. But I have never ever managed to be “above water” and hold in my hands even $1 more than I started out with. So the giddy feeling some associate with winning is something I have to get from watching movies about Las Vegas, like “Showgirls”—which could be another reason I’m stressed when I’m there, come to think of it.

I have other kinds of luck; a little known fact (until today) about me is that I have a birthmark in the shape of a horseshoe, mostly right-side up, on my back. So luck I have, I’m not denying. But _VEGAS_ luck, well, I have about as much Vegas luck as Jabba the Hut has hickeys, if you catch my drift.

So I stand behind people who are playing, shifting from foot to foot, getting stressed. Dealers look at me either sympathetically (“Poor shy loser, come join!,” their eyes say), or suspiciously, as if I was the most gawky obvious casino internal affairs guy ever.

I also get stressed because I started getting little hunches, chirpy, cheerful, maniac voices that say things like “You know, 11 is a pretty lucky number, isn’t it, huh, Trav, come on, Trav?” and “Boy, she seems to be winning a lot and she doesn’t know what she’s doing, she seems to be trying to get all hearts and she’s playing 21” and “Come on, if they can do it in Rain Man, you can do it here. This is the Lucky Cowboy Lounge, so let’s stampede to that table!”

So then, when the knot in my stomach finally loops into a noose, and I can’t NOT play any more, I lurch up to a table of blackjack or roulette, and then I’m instantly stressed because I’m losing. It’s like the Bizarro version of the first stress. I worry that the money I’m guaranteed to lose could be spent on orphans or Susie or a cool computer game. Or a cool computer game about orphans I could give to Susie. She loves those.

And if you think I’m just making this up (gasp!), let me tell you specifically what happened yesterday and you can be the judge.

I was at the Hard Rock Cafe, feeling the Holy Trinity Stress of being uncool, overdressed and lopsided due to my heavy bag of conference junk, as well as the usual stress of not being a winner (ching ching ching went the slot machines) and I finally decided that if I didn’t waste some money, the folks back home would mock me cruelly and I’d have to go live in a ditch with a big red “L” hung around my neck.

So I opened up my wallet and walked towards the roulette table holding out $80 in cash and a sign that said “Free $20s! Take One!”

No, I didn’t do that. If I did I would have made the early flight home.

Instead, I sat down and handed the nice lady Beatrice my $40. (The other $40 came (went) later). She gave me 40 chips. I put two of those pretty yellow disks on red 7 and black 11. The ball went around and around and when I looked up, my chips were in front of Beatrice and she was handing a stack of money to the woman next to me. The woman winner was on 32 or something similar that was almost completely unlike 7 or 11.

So I tried again, this time on some pretty, even numbers. Didn’t match. Then I tried doing reds only. Nothing. I stacked ‘em on my anniversary. Nope. I used my birthday. No gift arrived. Susie’s birthday. Forget it. I tried primes. Zero. I tried my phone number. No answer. I tried Fibonacci’s sequence. Zip, though I think Beatrice was impressed. Finally, I tried choosing whatever the number that just hit was, thinking I could throw the wheel into an infinite loop and it would explode and free me from this hell. Didn’t work, but now the pit boss was watching and laughing.

At this point, I ran out of chips. Undaunted and still stressed, I pulled out another $40. Now I was stressed because I was wondering if this was the first sign of addiction. Also, I was worried that people were going start gathering around and watching, perhaps pointing, perhaps throwing cheeseits like they do with the bears at the zoo.

I tried a new strategy. Closing my eyes carefully, I reached forward and knocked over a stack of tokens that someone else had placed on the board, at which point I dropped my chips. I let the chips fall where they may, you see. This turned out to be very successful, in that Beatrice realized I was mentally handicapped and started talking very slowly to me, which was calming. But I didn’t match the number that came up.

As this streak went on, I started to feel another kind of stress—a perverse stress about whether I could actually manage to pull off a perfect loss, and a smaller, niggling stress about how much I’d have to lose before they gave me a free drink. To that last, apparently more than $70.

Finally, I was down to my last 4 chips. Of course! I had forgotten! The hero has to get down to his last bet, and in this case, $4 was the minimum amount of money required to place a bet on the red/black roulette squares.

I’d read the script, I knew how it was supposed to happen. I was going to put all my money on one of the colors, and then let it ride. The big wheel of fortune would keep on turning, turning, turning, there was a time to lose and a time to win, a time to weep and a time to show ‘em and a time to fold ‘em and a time to W-I-N and that was now. I knew exactly what would happen, I just couldn’t seem to recall if it was RED or BLACK that was the anointed color. Beatrice spun the white marble with an electric zing. Around and around it went. My time was short. I just needed to pick properly, and then leave the ever-growing pile of chips there for 4 or 5 or 16 turns and my simple $4 bet would magically become $18,446,744,073,709,550,000. I was _so_ looking forward to it!

Red, black, red, black, red, black. I looked deep into my heart and got a confusing vision—it was bright red, but it was also really dark in there. Finally, I recalled. Always bet on black, advised Wesley Snipes in “Passenger 57,” a great movie for snappy aphorisms.  The ball slowed, Beatrice waved off further bets, the ball fell, bounced, bounced, again, spun, twirled, pirouetted, and landed with a perfect dismount on….....

Green!?! What do you mean! Double zero!!! Get me re-write on the phone!

Yeah, I lost it all, in one long, slow slide. I went through $80 over the course of 50 minutes at the roulette table and while I’m not surprised I lost every cent, I’m a little shocked still that I managed to pitch a perfect game, a gambling no-hitter.  Beatrice went off duty just as I stood up.  I think she was a little shaken and needed to lie down.  I said goodbye to the good friends I’d made at the table and headed out to the taxi line.

At the airport, I walked to the gate, cursing the 86 perky slot machines and the nearby pimp ATMs I passed.  I was glad to be leaving Las Vegas.

Then, on the crowded flight back, I got seated next to this really cute woman, who turned out to be a fashion model named Cassandra and who gave me her phone number and, no, I didn’t ask her for it, she just volunteered it.

OK, fine, in the interests of full disclosure she did say something like “You and Susie should come over for dinner with my husband and two kids because we live in the same neighborhood,” but I think the story still stands, there’s luck and then there’s luck, and I’m not complaining. Also, the airline peanuts really helped settle the knot in my stomach.



Previous entry:
Speaking at NAB in Las Vegas

Next entry:
London Trip


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