Luck Be a Jersey Girl Tonight


Not long after my 21st birthday, my buddies and I piled into the car for our first weekend of (legal) gambling in Atlantic City. Our goal was a modest one: To walk in with $200 apiece and then, through a combination of safe betting and good judgment, drink as much free booze as possible.

     Nobody took down the house that trip, but we did okay; beating the odds at games of chance really boils down to just playing within your means or having an autistic brother who counts cards while teaching you the true meaning of family. Yeah. Definitely. Yeah.

Since none of us had such a person in our lives, we needed a strategy that would prevent us from getting in too deep. The best idea, we decided, was to stick with the game we each felt most comfortable playing. For me, that meant blackjack.

Of all the games in a casino, it’s widely believed that blackjack offers a person the best odds for success while slot machines offer the worst. Of course, that’s like saying somebody wearing their seatbelt has better odds of surviving a plane crash than somebody who’s already dead, but who was I to quibble with statistics?

     I’d played the game for years, beating my kid brother on a consistent basis. I knew I’d have to change my style to play with the big boys—The New Jersey Gaming Commission considers it “wrong” to beat the dealer over the head with a shoe until he gives you money--but I felt confident in my abilities. So much so, in fact, that on my first hand of the night I was dealt a fifteen--a tricky number--and told the dealer to “hit me” with no hesitation at all. Had I been seated at a blackjack table instead of one for poker, I believe he would have been very impressed.

      Later on, I bumped into my friend Tony while he played roulette (or as the French call it, “roulette.”) I was up a few bucks, so I decided to try my luck. 

In design, roulette’s not that complicated. You simply place your chips on whatever color, number, or combination of both that you think will hit. Then the guy spins the wheel, drops in a marble, the marble bounces around for a while, and when it stops, the guy takes your money.

At least, that’s how it worked for me. Tony swears he has success at it, but I found I won as much money betting on the roulette wheel as I did standing outside, throwing my chips at the tires of passing cars.

     In the end, though, my friends and I realized that it isn’t about how much you win or lose. We took more than money with us when we left our hotel that weekend. We took memories. We took a shared bond. And most importantly, we took a Japanese tattoo on our butt cheeks that none of us can explain to this day.