I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A typical trip

When I tell people I am leaving town on a gambling trip they usually imagine something like this.
You need your tuxedo to blend in with all the other tuxedo-wearing high-rollers, and of course your silenced pistol to fend off the evil casino owners who all belong to the mafia and will kill you for counting cards; or at the very least take you to the basement, and beat you to a bloody pulp like in the movie 21. My experiences have been very different than James Bond so I thought I would offer some insight into what a typical gambling trip is like for me.

For me it always starts with a phone call.  Someone calls and says, "I found a game.  When are you free?" When I was young and single it would be nothing to take off for 2 or 3 weeks to Aruba, or Poland, or Korea, but now I have family obligations so I am limiting myself to domestic trips of 3 to 5 days. I check with my boss wife, and X and I pick some dates.  I head to to look for flights and a car, but I like to use to look for hotels. Booked and done.

Travel day - I'm up at 5:30am because I have an early flight.  The number one concern is how much cash to bring, and where to carry it.  Just as in the olden days when travelers had to worry about highway robbers, professional gamblers have the same concern.  Today it is not thieves on horseback with bandannas around their face; now it is TSA, DEA, and State Police who steal your money. When they find someone carrying a large amount of cash their attitude is confiscate it first, and ask questions later.  Anyone who carries cash must be a drug dealer right?  The professional gambler must then spend four or five thousand dollars on a lawyer to get his money back.  Cash will not set off the metal detectors in the airport so I usually carry it in a money belt and in my pockets.  I also have some chips for this casino we are going to, so I also carry those in my pocket.  Chips will show up in the Xray as something unknown.  The TSA will flag a bag that has chips in it so better to carry them on my body, and make sure I have nothing metal to set off the detectors.  If I were carrying a lot of chips, too many for my pockets, then I double bag them in clear Ziploc bags, and put them in the bin with my shoes and cell phone.  Be sure to keep your eye on that bin when it goes through because there have been cases of TSA Agents stealing from those bins. I zip through without problem and wait for my flight.

It's a few hours to Dallas, and now I have a couple hour layover.  Dallas is a great airport, but they don't have free wifi.  What's up with that?  I grab something to eat, and do some practicing.  I'm not going to this casino to count cards so I need some last minute brushing up.  I board one of those little puddle-jumper airplanes they use for regional flights.  I hate these things but I'm headed to the middle of nowhere and don't have a choice.  These planes have a row of single seats on one side, and 2 seats on the other.  Always book the A seat so you don't have to squeeze in next to someone.  The other bad thing about these planes is you can't take a normal size carry on bag onto the plane with you.  They take them when you board and then toss them out on the tarmac when you land, usually in a slush puddle.

By the time I land it is 10pm local time.  I pick up the rental car and now have about a hundred mile drive to the hotel.  The car is some type of new Ford, and it looks like an airplane cockpit.  There are nobs and lights everywhere.  I hit what I think is the cruise control and the car starts talking at me.  I can't figure out how to make it stop but I do find the thermometer.  It says 12.  When I left L.A. it was 80 degrees, and now it is freaking 12.  I don't have clothes for this.  I roll into the Super 8 Motel around midnight, and try not to wake X as I crash into bed.

The next morning X and I are up early.  We head off to the casino and find a disaster.  The game we were planning to play is no good anymore.  It is worthless.  This is a small casino, and there is nothing else here we want to play.  We head back to the hotel to decide what to do next.  I call the airline, and my ticket can not be changed so I am stuck here for 2 more days.  We take the next option, drive 3 hours to the next casino and see if there is anything there for us to play.  3 hours in the car, but at least it has warmed up to a balmy 22 degrees.  We get to Casino 2 and get some good luck - they have a game even better than the one we were hoping to play at Casino 1.  We get in a few hours of play, and book a small win.  We drive a few miles out of town to have some dinner and celebrate our good fortune.  We don't want to be too close since it would not be good for some casino employee to see us eating together. This is the midwest so the restaurant was named something like Deep Fried Lard on a Stick. Yum.

The next morning we get to the casino before the games open.  The tables open, we get to work, and spend 8 hours on the game.  We go up, we go down, we go back up.  I'm pleasantly surprised after 8 hours when X wants to call it a night since he is getting fatigued.  I used to play with a guy called The Vampire.  On my last trip with him we played 8 hours of day shift, then 8 hours of swing shift, and then he said, "I know a really good game on graveyard."  This isn't an Ipad Factory in China.  16 straight hours is about my limit.

The good news, after hitting a disaster at the first casino we have found a great game and scored a 5-figure win.  The bad news, I will have to get up at 3:30am and drive 3 hours to catch my early morning flight.  It's snowing pretty hard when I hit the freeway at 4am.  The freeway has not been plowed yet, and the driving is quite scary, especially when passing trucks.  But I make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

I was gone 4 days.  I spent 20 hours either in airports or on airplanes, 8 hours driving, and maybe 12 hours playing.  We won less than expectation but still good considering it could easily have been a busted trip. It may not be tuxedos and Bond girls, but it sure beats digging ditches.


Alex Morel said...

What would be your trip bankroll and how do you handle TSA as you move through airports?

Richard Munchkin said...

As I mentioned I keep money in my pockets and in a money belt when i go through TSA. If the airport is using a Body Scanner then I put the money in my carry on and send it through the Xray. One good idea is to put money into envelopes that are addressed to someone and stamped. This is now US mail and protected by Federal law. TSA can't open those envelopes.

Colin said...

I love this post so much... I can relate on every single level! I've driven 6 hours to find a casino moved THAT DAY to CSMs. Or dealers have been retrained from what we were previously beating.

We used to trained players to have 2 backup plans so they didn't end up stuck watching movies for 3 days before they could fly home. Still doesn't work when you get flyered, though.

Richard Munchkin said...

The worst for me was getting stuck in Hong Kong during Golden Week and couldn't get a flight out to Korea for 3 days. Lot of expenses flying overseas and then losing 3 days.

suicyco maniac said...

This is so on point of the reality of AP. Nothing like flying to the middle of nowhere in the snow only to have the game die before you can get any real play on it. Been there done that!