Perhaps it is possible that a person can get high off of a smoky, spicy barbeque sauce that’s glazed over tender beef ribs. It just has to be. Why else would I, along with my housemate, Khoa, decide to venture out to Jackson Rancheria Casino? It couldn’t have just been the allure of “easy” money.
The moment we got back to our apartment after the barbeque lunch in Vacaville, we Googled the shit out of the casino, got directions and mentally readied ourselves for the evening. We figured that we may as well look the part, too, so we dressed like middle-aged goofs – not so much Khoa, but I sure did. I wore an old striped dress shirt tucked into worn khaki pants, beat-up loafers and even a watch to match. Khoa looked more hip with his dark blue shirt hanging untucked.
I’d never been to a casino before, so naturally I was like, “Fuck yeah. I’ll win big and buy dinner for everyone! I’ve played blackjack before! I used to play Texas hold ’em every weekend!” I thought maybe I’d come out big and have a cool story for everyone.
Yes, I’d heard many tales of failed gambling escapades – some from my friends. “Hey, Khoa. Could I borrow your car keys to head to the casino?” asked Richard one slow morning in Las Vegas last autumn. “I’m telling you, man. The odds in blackjack are the best, man.”
Richard would later come back and report losses in the hundreds. “Well, I got free drinks at least,” he said, trying to make it sound better for himself.
But, something told me that my little adventure would unfold differently. It sure as hell did not.
We drove out to Jackson Rancheria Casino just before sunset through the green, hilly countryside out east. Day turned to night, and after about an hour’s worth of driving through windy roads, the Casino came into sight. Parking was tight, but we managed a spot near the top of the parking structure. On our way in, we walked among people who shared our fervor and others who looked absolutely miserable. “That won’t be me,” I thought.
Inside, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly heavy with all sorts of bad. I just wanted to get out of there immediately. Khoa and I went up a flight of stairs to the Texas hold ’em area and discovered that the minimum price to play was $40. Discouraged, I found my way to the blackjack table and cashed in for $20 worth of chips – four five-dollar chips.
Blackjack is simple, right? It sure was. I pushed in a lone chip toward the dealer. “Minimum is $10,” said the dealer cooly.
“Oh my goodness,” I thought to myself and slid another chip in. I’m pretty sure I turned some shade of red. Khoa headed back up to play some poker.
And, just like that, I won my first blackjack hand in a casino. Then, I did it again immediately afterward. I made $40 in the span of less than two minutes.
Now I was playing with gusto. I threw in my two chips like a boss.
“Don’t splash the chips,” said the dealer.
“Fuck you. I’ll splash these TWO damn chips whenever I want,” I thought.
Before I knew it, I lost more than the $40 I had won. Each trip back to the cashier was sadder than the last. The cashier would count out the chips with shaky hands (she’s under surveillance) and smile as though she enjoyed doing what she does (she doesn’t, I’m sure of it). In the end, I lost a total of $60. Luckily, I wasn’t in the mood for losing too much, so I stopped. You win, dealer. You win.
I stopped just in time, too. Khoa came down from the poker tables just as I racked my final loss. He, too, was defeated and lost a bit more than me. “I had to go all in, man,” he said, but I wouldn’t hear it anymore. We left in a jiffy with our tails between our legs.
The conversations during the ride home were laced with F-bombs and “never again”s. How much time did we spend in there? We spent 2 hours of driving for 20 minutes of NO FUN AT ALL.
Back home, I washed my face and lied on the ground in Khoa’s room. “Larry, you look like you just got molested,” Khoa said.
I stayed silent for a little while. Later, I’d be found preaching to my friends, “Casinos are evil! Earn your money honestly!”
This happened in April, and I’m still a bit sore. Losing is never fun and losing happens more often than you think at casinos. Strangely enough, I still get that itch to head back into one and rob it blind. Fat chance.
LARRY HINH thanks you for lending your eyes and reading the gibberish he puts out every week. Want more gibberish? Get some at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s been a pleasant quarter, folks.