Any time you enter a casino, danger exists.
I am not inferring you are in danger of being hit over the head and robbed. Not at all. Casinos have security personnel and cameras in places you would not dream. It's for your protection as well as theirs, and everyone who wagers should be aware and thankful for that fact.
No, the dangers I refer to are much more subtle than that. When I lived in Los Angeles, I came across some of the dangers I am referring to. Let's start with a new casino or card room that you have never played in before.
As a writer for a news service in northern California just outside of San Francisco, I discovered there were many card rooms in places like Emeryville, Santa Rosa, or Oakland where you could play various types of poker or pan. Being new to the area, I enjoyed visiting those card rooms. I made friends, ate some great dinners in their 24-hour restaurants, sipped a cocktail or two and played poker into the wee hours of the morning.
One day a friend named Dick who worked at the same news service told me about a card room in the area that he wanted to visit.
'I hear it's a pretty wild place,' he said. 'They have gorgeous waitresses and the games are loose. We'll have fun there.'
That was how we ended up at a casino I will only refer to as Pirate Pete's. I am using that fictitious name because things may have changed from the conditions that existed in the 1970s.
The casino was darker inside than I liked. Almost musky. The waitresses were indeed attractive. The drinks they served were plentiful and powerful. Dick was a rum drinker and he quickly got 'into his cups' as they say.
Now I have been known to enjoy a drink or two, but I try not to go overboard when I am gambling. Poker is like driving a car. You need to use all the facilities and brain-power that God gave you in order to succeed at the task.
Dick and I had a passable steak dinner complete with free cocktails because we were new customers. That wasn't bad. I thanked the pretty waitress with the Georgia accent who served them to us. Dick gulped his rum and Coke down like it was lemonade and ordered another. Then another. By the time we went to the poker room, my friend was feeling no pain.
He sat down at one table, I sat down at another. The same red-haired waitress who had been his server in the restaurant followed him to the poker room and kept the free drinks coming. I stuck to Perrier and coffee.
Time passed. Around 10 p.m. I was about $300 ahead. I looked over at Dick's table. He was accepting a glass of rum-Coke from the girl, whom I will call Dina, and reaching into his pocket for another re-buy. I walked over to his table.
'How are you doing, Partner?,' I inquired casually.
Dina said, 'He's doing just fine. Having a great time, aren't you, Dick?'
'Sure am,' said Dick. His tongue was thick and slurred his words. 'Yep. Sure am. Me and Dina are gonna get married soon as I hit the bad beat jackpot. It's up to ... how much is it? About $60,000.'
The dealer was a balding man with tattoos on his powerful biceps. He shuffled the cards, cut the deck and dealt to the players.
I inched closer to Dick.
'It's probably none of my business, but how much are you down?'
'He's doing just fine,' said the dealer in a flat tone. 'Last time I looked he was free and over the age of 21. Stop harassing the customers. Right, Dick?'
'Right-o, Speed-o,' laughed Dick, giving the dealer a high-five.
I went back to my table. I was troubled over Dick's condition. Poor guy, I thought. They're hitting him over the head with a velvet blackjack and he doesn't even know he's being hit.
During the next two hours, I watched as Dick staggered to the ATM machine, not once, but three times. Once Dina had to escort him there, making sure he didn't stumble. She smiled at him as he removed money from the machine. Then she walked him back to the table, like a female butcher leading the lamb to the slaughter.
Dick and I had driven there in our own cars. It was past midnight when I decided to leave. I walked over to my friend's table and asked if he was ready to go.
'It's beddy-time, Pardner,' I said, squeezing his shoulder. 'I think we ought to call it an evening.'
Well, Dick was beyond reasoning. With beautiful Dina standing next to him holding her empty tray, he waved me away.
'Friday night,' he mumbled, totally out of it. 'No work tomorrow. You go home. I'll see you Monday morning if me and Dina don't go to Las Vegas to get married.' He hiccupped. Dina grinned and massaged his back with one hand.
Well, I just shook my head and walked through the card room. Two burly security guards were at the door.
'You're a teetotaler, huh?,' one said. 'Your friend sure ain't. Have a nice night.' He and the other guard grinned as I left.
Monday morning Dick walked through the door. He was still unsteady and nursing a hangover. I noticed he kept visiting the water cooler. He drank an awful lot of water. I found out later that he had tapped into his bank account for more than $1,000 while at Pirate Pete's. The velvet blackjack can do that to a person.