Peel back the layers and expose Las Vegas for what it is; a playground for the filthy rich amidst a cesspool of hopelessly addicted souls representing the decay of modern society. Just when I thought I knew a town like the back of my hand, I got shamefully slapped upside the head by a dose of poignant reality.
I spent the last four summers in Las Vegas. The first year it felt like a journey to Fantasy Island. The second year was as joyous as a sojourn to summer camp. The third year was a brutal prison sentence and the fourth was a pivotal self-imposed exile.
The bean counters used to say that gambling towns are impervious to recessions because at the core root, humans will resort to drastic measures during desperate times. Gambling your last $500 on black seems like a more logical choice than jeopardizing your money in risky situations like signing away your pension money to the shysters on Wall Street, who have about as much credibility these days as a drunken used car salesman. Credit default swaps turned our most prestigious financial institutions into blathering crack whores.
I caught a glimpse of the economic crunch on the streets of Las Vegas. Construction projects halted. Rusted steel beams shot out of concrete blocks on unfinished architectural superstructures. The vertical ghost towns cluttered the Las Vegas skyline. The illumination of Sin City, once glorious and majestic as the morning light at the dawn of the new day, has been dulled by a morass of financial gloom, so much so that even the languorous hookers were bitching. Shit, everyone was bitching. Cocktail waitresses. Poker dealers. Cab drivers. Valets. And even the crackling snaps of pamphlets from the porn slappers seem a little sullen these days.
Seasons change. The winter of discontent is on the horizon and the vast gaming floors were no longer packed with small town tourists on summer vacation in the big city. And all those casual weekend warriors were opting to skip a trip to Vegas for a cheaper alternative.
The uber-rich folks stuck out in the sparse crowds. They were bored to the tits and had pockets stuffed with money to burn on extravagant meals, unsentimental strippers, and slippery dice. They splurged when everyone else tightened their belts. Their decadent binges were the primary reason why most casinos were breaking even. The high rollers from Europe and Asia along with the whales from Dubai will always play astronomical Baccarat limits, but gaming conglomerates that feasted off of the middle-ranged players like you and me were screwed since those were the exact gamblers who have been absent from Las Vegas.
All those bags of money that flew in town every few minutes? There's less and less of that arriving at McCarran.
During tough times when the steady flow of casual gamblers dries up, the skeletal remains of Las Vegas are comprised of the retardedly wealthy and utterly perverted miscreants that scurry around the gaming floors like cockroaches; grandmas pecking away at the slot machines while waiting to expire, blackjack junkies doubling down in desperation, and the spiritually starved looking for answers at the roulette tables. Ah, and don't forget about the life-long losing sports bettors chomping on the last bits of their fingertips since there's no more nails and cuticles left to chew out after being gnawed away. Their entire life flashes before their eyes during a last second field goal attempt because they bet everything they had on a sure thing.
Yeah, you hear a lot about a sure thing in Las Vegas. Almost too good to be true, because they are. Illusions. Mirages. Hallucinations. Everyone has gotten properly fucked in the ass on a sure thing and the only certainty of the situation is that you wished you had KY jelly.
The broke dicks always succumb to the allure of Las Vegas, addicted to maintaining their own broken dreams instead of escaping the capitalistic mutation of Pai Gow poker.
Some people firmly believe in good luck charms despite the known fact that they have zero scientific value. Rocks. Coins. Hats. Watches. Or whatever the superstitious ones decide will bring them a wave of good fortune. Personally, I think that people create their own luck because in the end, you are only as lucky (or unlucky) as you think you are. We tend to ignore all the bad mojo when things go right and conversely, we forget about all those positive things when the shit hits the fan. But let's save that discussion for a later date.
Coolers. Not those styrofoam pieces of shit you can buy at the gas station, but an actual living and breathing humanoid that is a magnet for all things bad. Some folks believe that coolers attract all of the negative forces in the universe and anyone within a five foot radius of a cooler will all of a sudden get swept up in a tornado of misfortune and bad luck.
The paranoid gamblers fear the coolers. I'm not a superstitious person (with the exception of US $50 bills) but from time to time my usually calm demeanor gets disturbed when I think there is a cooler nearby. I honestly don't believe in those sorts of things, but sometimes peace of mind is worth the extra effort to ward off a potential cooler. It's like wearing a belt with suspenders or wearing a condom after you had a vasectomy. Sometimes, you just want extra assurance.
Last Tuesday night. Change100 was on a heater at the Pai Gow tables at the Gold Coast. She's one of those people who firmly believe she's shrouded in bad luck. I sat with her and Otis at the same Pai Gow table. We stood out in a sea of crazy Asian gamblers who were bussed in from Southern California to the off the Strip property located in the shadows of the Rio and the Palms.
Michalski arrived a little late. Otis and I made a prop bet on his outfit. Otis suggested t-shirt and I had the field. Yep, I lost and tossed Otis a red chip. Michalski stood around since there were no available seats at our Pai Gow table. He flagged down a harried cocktail waitress and smoked a cigarette. Within a couple of minutes of his arrival, Change100 lost several ugly hands. So much so, that she asked him to move.
Michalski stood behind me and I was immediately dealt a Jack-high Pai Gow. I flashed Michalski the evil eye and he retreated behind Otis. After a few losing hands, Otis turned around and said, "Go stand behind the dealer."
Michalski got the hint. He wandered over to the craps table and cooled that sonofabitch down. We started to wonder if he was on the Gold Coast's payroll? Even if we had a glimmer of doubt that Michalski was indeed a cooler or a government informant, that was all put to rest when we each started winning hands. I walked away a winner, as did Otis and Change100. Usually Pai Gow is a bleeder. It's my biggest leak in Sin City, more so than sports betting and strippers.
And don't forget about my deviant weakness for prop bets. I had a bit of a setback in lime tossing and at bowling. Otis also smoked me in our Peter Eastgate vs. Ivan Demidov heads up prop bets. I lost 11-3 and the last hand saved me otherwise I would have won only one wager.
It just wasn't my night. Shoddy luck. Mishaps all around. If I had won, I would have talked a ton of smack because the outcome would have been all based on skill. My deft skills. And if I lose, I shy away from taking responsibility for my own actions. I always tend to project blame upon the unknown... such as those damn inner demons who are always fucking with me. My dilapidated fortunes haunt me to no end due to my willingness to indulge every single craving for action.
Or maybe I'll just blame Michalski aka the professional cooler. It's so much easier that way.
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