One of my favorite hangouts in Phoenix is a cowboy steak house at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. It's managed by a former Brahma bull rider named Del. Not only is the coffee strong enough to make a spoon stand up straight all by itself, the deep dish apple pie will make you come back for seconds.
Another reason I like the place is that I can rent a horse at a nearby stable and spend a couple of hours on horseback with a member of my family or a friend. Del has a hitching rack next to a wooden sidewalk where you can hitch your horse while you watch the sun set behind Weaver's Needle.
The bus boys and the waitresses all know that I am a social gambler who specializes in poker. While I was having lunch there the other day, Denny, one of the bus boys, approached my table. He was followed by Pam, a waitress, and Curly, a construction worker who is looking for a job.
'We been following your stories on that gamblin' website you write for,' Denny said. 'Pam and I sometimes gamble for fun on the Internet. I want to give a try at the casino, but Pam says no way. She's afraid I'll lose all my money.'
Curly interjected, 'What Denny is trying to say is we're scared spitless of going into a casino and losing our shirt. Is there any thing to that beginner's luck business? 'Cause we're sure beginners and we sure need a lot of luck.'
Denny, Pam and Curly are in their early 20s. While I don't make a practice of encouraging young people to gamble, I don't see anything wrong in doing it as a social exercise from time to time.
As for this beginner's luck business, I think there's a lot to say for it. I once watched two flight attendants from American Airlines get on an incredible streak at a dice table at The Orleans in Las Vegas. They had just been transferred from Ft. Lauderdale to Las Vegas and it was their first time in a casino. They ran $20 up to $1,600 by holding the dice for just under 50 minutes. If you don't think that's an accomplishment worth talking about, just ask a dice dealer or croupier what the odds are against throwing the dice that long without crapping out on a seven.
For a beginning player, I would not recommend bringing a credit card along with me. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and while you may feel you are strong enough to resist hitting an ATM machine to make up for your losses, I would not count on it. The excitement in a casino is well constructed by casino management to get people to do foolish things with their money. Set a limit on what you can afford to lose, and stick to it.
For Dennis, Pam and Curly, I recommend strolling through the casino of their choice until they find a slot machine that smiles back at them.
Excuse me, I hear you saying. Smiles back?
Yep, that's what I said. If you try hard enough, you can find a slot machine that feels friendly and that even makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Set a limit on what you are willing to invest and then have fun trying to hit the jackpot. If you pile up a win, don't give it all back. You'll want to go home and tell your friends you went to the casino and came home a winner.
Swing by a blackjack table. Joke with the dealer, tell him or her it's your first time to gamble in a casino. That will put the dealer on your side, at least for the moment, and who knows what luck might have in store for you? Just remember to always split 8's, go down for double on any ace and another card when the dealer is showing a 'bust' card up (2-6), and hit all soft A-8's. When you pick up a profit, don't forget to tip the dealer.
Before you leave the casino, you'll want to try the dice table. If you don't know what a controlled roll is, just stand at the dice table until you see a shooter set the dice before throwing them. Anyone doing that is a person who understands the controlled roll and is worth a bet. I generally bet the come and then cover all the numbers except 4 and 10 -- and sometimes I wager on them as well. If you're going to win, go for broke and win big.
I left Dennis, Pam and Curly with that advice. I don't know if they took it or not, but I'm planning a drive to the Superstitions Saturday and I'll find out. Who knows -- maybe I have a free deep dish apple pie with ice cream waiting for me. Until then, good luck. Let the games begin.