The Gambler (by Treva Perkins)

Last Spring I emailed my daughters suggesting that when Deanna came home for her summer vacation from Poland, the three of us should rent a house in South Lake Tahoe for a couple of days. We could celebrate our upcoming birthdays: Stephanie’s birthday in August, my birthday in September, and Deanna’s birthday in October. What I really wanted was time with my girls away from telephones, schedules, and friends. Just the three of us.

Stephanie immediately said, “That’s great! I’ll finally get to see you play 21 at Harrah’s.” Ever since I told her about the summer of my 21st birthday, during which I dealt 21 at Harrah’s, she had wanted to see her mom play the game. I had never gambled when I worked there or ever, for that matter, so this was going to be a quick sit down just for Stephanie’s benefit.

The two of us walked through Harrah’s and started to sit at a 21 table when we noticed that the minimum bet was ten dollars per hand. Too rich for us! We walked across the street to Harvey’s, where the minimum was five dollars. We sat down and played a few hands of 21 and basically came out even.

Then Stephanie said, “Let’s go play craps.”

My reply: “I don’t know how to play craps.”

This was a Tuesday afternoon. The craps table was almost empty, with only about five people around it. I quickly learned that ‘crapping out’ is when a person rolls a seven, which is the most readily available combination of dice. It didn’t take long for these gamblers to ‘crap out’, so the play quickly went around the table two times, with each person throwing the dice two, three or four times before losing their turn. Once Stephanie lost her turn a second time, she declared to me, “The next time the dice comes around, you are going to take your turn.” There was a married man, about my age, on my right who looked like he knew what he was doing. I asked for instructions on dice throwing. He showed me how to flick my wrists with the dice, keeping them low so they wouldn’t bounce out of the table at the other end onto the floor. Apparently that is a no no. Also, the dice need to hit the back lip of the table so there has to be enough force to get them there, but not too much force or over the table they fly. The ‘lip’ on the side of the table was about armpit high, so just getting my arm over and then not too far down near the table top—another no no—was awkward. I felt like I should be standing on a booster block.

When it was my turn to roll, Stephanie pointed to the top of my head and yelled to our table mates, “First time roller, she’s a first time roller, she’s good luck!”

I started rolling. Stephanie started putting down five-dollar bets, while getting some finer points on betting from nearby players. I rolled and I rolled. Every once in a while I would hear a roar from my fellow gamblers. The table started filling in and then people were two deep watching, feeling and contributing to the excitement. Hands flew up while yells of ‘Yay’ came from the crowd. “What happened, what happened?” I asked. “What did I roll?” I hit my number, which I was beginning to understand was a good thing. I think everyone won when I did this. At least everyone was excited, so I assumed that they all won. Stephanie told me that the married man who taught me how to roll was betting against me. I decided not to let that bother me. There was a twenty-something year old Asian man to the left of us who was betting larger twenty-five-dollar chips, betting with me. At one point he said, “If you roll a five right now, I’ll give you $250. Didn’t happen, but at least I didn’t roll a seven, so I was still in the game. Eventually a casino employee showed up with a large tray of chips to replenish the table. “Look, the table has run out of chips,” I said. I was told that it was more likely that the pit boss was trying to change the rhythm of play and hopefully break my streak.

Stephanie started the mantra, “Go mom, go mom!” Everyone at the table started yelling, “Go mom, go mom!”

At one point I quietly whispered to Stephanie, “I’m tired of rolling.”

“Shhhh, be quiet, keep rolling!” We had had a nice lunch with a beer and I was feeling the late afternoon affects. It felt like nap time, but I kept rolling.

Once again the young Asian man to our left said, “If you roll a four right now, I’ll give you $300.00.” I didn’t roll that four, but I did hit my number three more times, which made the crowd very happy. I am sure you could hear the boisterous yelling all over the first floor of Harvey’s. Stephanie kept betting conservatively, while the young man’s chip pile got bigger and bigger.

Finally, I crapped out!

Stephanie, ever the cheerleader, started clapping and yelling, “Yay for mom! Yay for mom!” Everyone at the table joined in clapping and yelling and mouthing their thank yous. They had all been winners; even the guy who had been betting against me had finally started betting with me and won.

The next roller was Stephanie. She rolled twice before crapping out. At that point we had been at the club much longer than we had told Deanna that we’d be gone. Stephanie pushed our chips toward the dealer to indicate that we were done. “Ahh, come on, give us a chance to get even,” he said.

Stephanie looked at him and said, “Are you kidding me?” Off we went to cash in our chips, which turned out to be worth over four hundred dollars. Not bad.

When we turned around from cashing in, the young Asian better was behind us. He asked, “Do you know how rare it is to hit four of your numbers?” We had no idea. He excitedly exclaimed, “One in a million!” His winnings? Fourteen hundred dollars! And no, he did not share any of his good fortune with us.

As we were leaving Stephanie told me that she had never been at a crap table for longer than twenty minutes let alone rolled for twenty minutes. I had rolled the dice for forty minutes!

And that was the end of my crap playing. I just can’t imagine that playing craps could ever be that exciting and fun again.

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