Dealt a Hand of Reality
I received an email from my father today that concluded with the line, "You are a terrible gambler." My father knows me well.
As promised, I took yesterday's bingo winnings to the casino last night with the hopes of increasing my net worth even more. In a span of thirteen minutes, the afternoon's bingo jackpot of $140 had been reduced to $100 and I was so pained by my reversal in fortune that I refrained from another, no doubt equally calamitous, buy-in.
Why was I so successful in Wendover and such a dismal failure here on the cruise? Last night, I actually tried to play blackjack. This was all at the insistence of the dealer, who noticed my inexperience and took pity on me. I'd be dealt, say, a seven and an eight and the dealer would be showing a six. I'd ask for a hit, and he would say, "You don't want to hit. Six is one of the worst cards the dealer can have. You have to assume I have a 10 or face card underneath, in which case I'll hit and bust. Hold on to 15."
Which I did, and the dealer flipped his hidden card over to reveal that it was a two, so he hit with a five and then a seven to wind up with 20, then plucked my bet off the felt and dealt again. I busted in this fashion several more times. The dealer would console me by saying I'd played the hand right, but that I was just unlucky.
I wasn't unlucky. The odds were stacked against me, that's all. I played the odds, and I lost. This is how gambling works. I am terrible insofar as I am honest.
The reason it was all so acutely pathetic, however, is because I bought in with only $40. Everyone else at the table had a grander stack of chips and, consequently, lasted much longer. Some of them had romantic blackjack rituals. One man refused to use green chips. A graceful elderly woman insisted on sitting at the far edge of the half-moon-shaped table--she called it third base. All of this, it was understood, had a beneficial effect on the order that the cards were dealt. When the dealer would get 21, people would say things like, "Well that wasn't very nice" with an exaggerated, almost sarcastic politeness. And the dealer would agree, saying, "No, that wasn't very nice at all," as he gathered up all the chips.
And yet, I will play again, despite the fact that I agree with my father's assessment of my gambling skill. (His criticisms of my driving, however, are baseless.)
The reason that I will play again is that the casino is one of the few places on board this vessel that caries the whiff of reality. Stuff happens in the casino. There is uncertainty in the casino. Everywhere else onboard--the spa, the dining room, the gym, the many lounges--is pleasant and safe, but entirely predictable.