'Dear Geno,' a member writes. 'My girl friend and I are planning to spend a weekend at a casino in upstate New York. She has never been to a gambling casino before and I have only been to one twice while I was in the Army and stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Is beginner's luck real and what do you think of it?' Joe E., Valley Forge, PA.'
What do I think of beginner's luck? What a great question.
I'll give you my opinion on beginner's luck. But first, let me commend you on your decision to spend some time in upstate New York. Some time ago I visited Niagara Falls and played poker at a casino near the falls. I don't recall the name of the casino, but I do remember the beauty of the falls and the friendliness of the people. I also had a winning session at the poker and blackjack tables, so I was left with fond memories of my New York experience.
I do believe in beginner's luck.
My younger brother John amd O were just 21 and 20 when we left our home in Western Pennsylvania and drove out West to Tucson, AZ. We found lodging at a boarding house on River Road. There we met the owner, a pleasant woman in her 60s who cooked a mean breakfast. One of the roomers was a young truck driver named Sheldon who played the greyhound dogs.
There was a dog track just a few miles from where we lived and Sheldon talked us into spending a day at the race track. My brother and I had never bet on racing greyhounds before, but that day, we went for broke. Sheldon would box three dogs in a quinella and from the very first race, we were lucky. In fact, we hit an incredible 14 out of 15 quinellas. When we left the track, we had money in every pocket. That was beginner's luck. Come to think of it, I don't think I have ever had such a lucky day since.
On another occasion, I was in Las Vegas for the weekend and decided to try my luck at dice. Like most dice players, I like to be the shooter. However, as I stood at the craps table waiting for my turn, two attractive girls who tuned out to be flight attendants for American Airlines approached the table. They got in line in front of me and one said, 'We just got hired. We're from Des Moines and this is our first time in a casino.'
'Really?,' I said, suddenly interested. She asked me what she should do and I explained the rules of dice. Gingerly, she placed a $5 bet on the pass line. Then she picked up the dice, blew on them, and rolled a seven.
From that point on, she couldn't miss.
She threw point after point, making money for everyone at the table. I don't know how long she held the dice but it was close to an hour before she threw a losing seven and left the table with a couple of hundred dollars in winnings.
I don't know what games Joe and his girl friend are going to play, but I would recommend to them that they follow their instincts and have fun.
Beginner's luck is a phenomenom that seems to strike...well, beginners. I know I will always back someone at a dice table who has never shot dice before. Sure, they might crap out on the second or third throw, but until they do that, I will believe the possibility that they will experience beginner's luck. And when they do, I want to be part of it.
Beginner's luck also struck me at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, PA. and Talking Stick Casino near Scottsdale, AZ. When I first begin playing poker at the Rivers Casino, I literally could not lose.
I had 10 winning sessions at poker. A couple of other players knew my brother John and they complained about my luck, with one saying bitterly, 'He only plays the nut hands.' What he didn't add was that Lady Luck was favoring me by providing those 'nut' hands that the other players could not beat.
When I moved to Phoenix and began playing the mixed $8-16 Omaha High-Low and seven-card high-low game, luck came with me. I had 13 straight winning sessions before I started losing. Since then, I have had my ups and downs at Talking Stick but those early sessions sstill bring a smile to my face. And I recall an incredible winning session with a dollar slot machine at Downstream Casino in Quapaw, OK. just outside Joplin, MO.
There was a shuttle bus operating out of Springfield, MO. that made the 70-mile trip to Downstream several times a week. For $15, I received a round-trip, a free buffet -- and $15 in cash to play the slots! It was an incredible bargain. There was a big dollar machine where I would invest that $15, plus another $85, and play the slots at $5 a handle pull. For weeks I could not lose at that machine. I won anywhere from $200 to $800 each time I played it. I told my brother John who is a slot player, and he couldn't believe me. Then one day the magic stopped. I started losing and did not win at that machine again. The beginner's luck had vanished as mysteriously as it had come.
As for Sheldon, my Tucson friend, he wasn't always lucky. In fact, he used to ask his boss at the bakery to hold back his salary so he could pay his rent at the boarding house on River Road. When my brother and I moved to Phoenix, he was still there boxing three greyhounds and hoping Lady Luck would smile on him. Good luck, Sheldon, wherever you are. And thanks for the memories.