December 18, 2007

How Vegas Reached Into My Wallet and Made a Withdrawal

So, I spent a few days in Las Vegas last week on vacation. I'd been to Las Vegas before, so it wasn't as if I was unfamiliar with the energy and excitement of the place. I was also aware that gambling has traditionally played a significant role in the city's unfolding history and ongoing prosperity.

Until my most recent trip, however, I had been of the conviction the ongoing prosperity of Vegas would not consist of my hard-earned dollars. If I gambled at all I'd lose, at a max, maybe $20. Even that mild sum seemed like an unfortunate loss.

Well, for whatever reason, my most recent Vegas experience also coincided with what I can only call a monumental lack of financial control and judgement. I found myself sitting in front of slot machines, seemingly unaware of the money flowing from my bank account to the Vegas vaults.

The gambling fever hit its peak when I ventured on over to the Luxor. For those unfamiliar with Vegas, the Luxor is the Egyptian-themed resort and casino that also happens to be in the shape of a pyramid. There's some superstition surrounding pyramids and their shape, so I have no problem chalking up my own personal financial malfeasance to the wondrous powers of the pyramid. After all, it's better than blaming myself.

At any rate, while at the Luxor, I found myself requiring cash. Thankfully, in Vegas, the second most omnipresent machines (the #1 being slots) are ATMs. You're never 100 yards away from the nearest ATM. In fact, I think I saw an ATM move closer to me at one point, like a tiger croucing towards its prey.

And the thing about Vegas ATMs is--in addition to RIDICULOUS service charges of $3 or more--if you try to withdraw $100, you'll be given a $100 bill. Now, I don't normally deal in $100 bills. Such a denomination is a rarity in my wallet, so when the Vegas ATM churned out a Franklin, I immediately put it into a slot machine for safe keeping.

Slot machines are curious inventions. For example, when you put $100 into a slot machine, the slot machine converts the bill into "credits," which don't really seem that much like money. Oh, sure, I was briefly aware of the existence of a $100 bill that wafted from the ATM into the slot machine, but now I was looking at a bunch of credits. And, since I was at a "penny" slot machine, I was looking at A LOT credits.

"Penny" slot machines are a bit misleading, however. "Penny" indicates the minimum bet you can make, and you'll probably never ever in a million years win betting just a penny. No, to increase your odds, you need to bet on a multitude of pay lines, which can range from nine to 25 or more, depending on the machine. What's more, if you actually want to win anything of substance, you have to bet multiple "pennies" on all those pay lines. The point is, if you bet the maximum on a "penny" machine, each pull of the arm (or push of the "Max Bet" button) can mean a bet of $2 or more, which really drains your "credits" faster than you can believe.

Under the influence of the pyramid mind control of the Luxor, I found myself back at the exact same ATM less than half an hour after my previous withdrawal, and it wasn't until I was halfway through my second $100 bill that I looked at the slot machine screen and thought "What the heck am I DOING?!"

I hurried my way out of the Luxor, only to find myself a couple hours later doing the exact same thing at the Bellagio which, loosely translated, means "Thanks for the $100, Ryan."

After the Bellagio, I did manage to snap back to reality, and any losses after that were minimal by comparison, but for awhile there I think I genuinely lost my mind.

And I can't wait for next year.

Posted by Ryan at December 18, 2007 01:51 PM | TrackBack

You are, no doubt, aware that Las Vegas is built to extract money from wallets and bank accounts at each and every turn. After a few hours of blinking lights, bells and whistles you enter a delirious state where they prey on your lack of thought. The safest thing to do is take cash, leave cards at home and gamble until your cash is gone (and do NOT trade your return ticket home in for cash to "get even"). I like Vegas but it gets pretty tiresome after a day or two.

Posted by: Erik at December 18, 2007 02:38 PM

I was aware of all that going in, Erik. I'm not sure why it had such an alluring effect on me this time around. Thankfully, although it was definitely expensive, it didn't break me or anything dire like that.

Posted by: Ryan at December 18, 2007 02:42 PM

When I went to Vegas earlier this year I budgeted $20 per day for slots. I went through my $20 in about five minutes. Slot machines just suck up your money.

I'd already decided I wanted to learn how to play the table games, and all of the hotels have those free classes at like 10am (when the night-owls have gone home and the families are going out to do tourist shit so the casinos are mostly empty anyway). I took the Blackjack, Roulette, and Craps classes.

I spent the next couple days playing craps here and there for usually an hour or two at a time, and actually won $200+ over the course of the time there. Which, granted, barely paid for dinner and a show for my wife and I, but still.

The point is, stay away from slots and play craps. Its more social and fun and you don't lose your money as fast.

Posted by: David Grenier at December 18, 2007 06:16 PM

Believe me, David, I'll be reading up on Craps before I go to Vegas next time.

Posted by: Ryan at December 19, 2007 11:32 AM

And stay away from the blackjack tables, its too easy to blow a hundred bucks in ten minutes. Nice to know you escaped with an expensive lesson and your credit intact!

Posted by: Erik at December 24, 2007 11:58 PM
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