Friday, December 20, 2013

What Happens In Vegas

Want some friendly advice? Never split 10s, jacks, queens and kings.

Gambling, TigerBlog knows, is a very, very dangerous thing. He's seen first-hand lives that have been ruined by gambling, which can become as addicting as alcohol and drugs and can have similarly devastating consequences.

He's told his children many times the dangers of gambling, which in many ways is easier to fall into than drugs and alcohol, largely because it seems so innocent at first. Drugs are illegal. Gambling is advertised on TV.

In fact, there have been more and more gambling ads on local TV lately, now that online gambling in the state has become bigger and bigger.

TigerBlog warns anyone who gets involved to be very, very careful.

Having said that, TB also knows that he's had a lot of fun in his life in the casinos of Atlantic City, at least when he was in college.

Atlantic City is little more than an hour from Philadelphia. Or, if TB's friend Charlie was driving, about 45 minutes.

TB remembers many late nights when a trip to AC became a very spur-of-the-moment thing. Over the Walt Whitman Bridge, onto the Atlantic City Expressway, over to AC and then back for cheesesteaks at 3 or 4 am.

Back then, the Atlantic City casinos were relatively new, and table minimums were often as low as $2, though usually $5, which they haven't been in years and years.

TigerBlog learned to play blackjack and shoot craps, the only two games he'd ever try. Not that the odds ever favor the players, but if you know how to play, you help your chances immeasurably.

One night he lost $100, which back then was a lot. Because he had a job as a vendor at Veterans Stadium at the time, he could also work events at JFK Stadium, which was next door. The day after he lost his $100, he worked at JFK at a Journey concert (it was a pretty good show) and made his money back.

TB can't remember losing much more than that. He also remembers winning a little too.

He gets that the adrenaline starts to flow when people gambling. He also gets the idea of trying to get it all back when someone starts to lose, only to dig a deeper and deeper hole. It's not easy to cut one's losses, and it's not easy to walk away when up a little.

His friend Charlie always used to say that the casinos weren't opulently designed on their own money; they were using your money to do that. He also had a rule that nobody could talk to him during a hand, for fear of jinxing him.

TB's friend Corey one time had two face cards showing against a four or five for the dealer at the blackjack table one night, and TB made the mistake of suggesting that he was in good shape for that hand. When the dealer ended up with 21, Corey said something like this in an agitated voice: "Here's $20; go away."

Almost all of TB's gambling experience is in Atlantic City. He's never been the Las Vegas, which he hears is sort of an exciting place. Apparently what happens there stays there, or so the saying goes.

The Princeton men's basketball team has been there before, back in 1990, when it took on UNLV back when the Runnin' Rebels were the biggest show in the sport, and in some ways all sports. That night, UNLV beat Princeton 69-35 on a night that began with indoor fireworks and a celebration of UNLV's 1990 NCAA title, complete with a banner raising.

Princeton is there again this weekend, for games tonight against Pacific and tomorrow against Portland. From the game notes:
Princeton's setting this week is the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic, an event that runs five days in total with 14 games between Thursday and Sunday. A total of 14 programs between Division II men's, Division II women's and Division I men's teams are competing. Princeton by far wins the award for the furthest travel to the event at 2,220 air miles, beating out the University of West Florida men (1,650 miles) as the only programs from the Eastern Time Zone at the event.

The Tigers are about one week and 2,500 miles removed from last Saturday's amazing comeback win over Penn State. In case you forgot, which you haven't, Princeton came from 20 points down with eight minutes to go to win in overtime.

Princeton is now 8-1 and the winner of seven straight, with only a three-point loss at Butler as a negative.

The first game in Vegas is against Pacific, which is 8-1 as well with only a loss to Oregon, ranked 12th or so this week. Pacific, also the Tigers, won the Big West tournament last year to reach the NCAA tournament, where it lost to Miami in the first round (second round, whatever) as a 15th seed.

This year, Pacific is in the West Coast Conference, as is Portland, who comes in at 6-4, with a 69-52 win over Columbia as one its victories.

The other Division I team at the event is Bradley, whose Director of Athletics is Mike Cross, former Princeton No. 2 man. The West Coast Conference commissioner also has Princeton ties, as Jamie Zaninovich used to be a Senior Associate AD here. In addition to being the WCC commissioner, by the way, Zaninovich is also on the NCAA basketball committee.

For Princeton, it's an exciting trip, to Las Vegas for the weekend.

What happens there this time will actually be on WPRB FM 103.3 and


Anonymous said...

Not to get too picky, but the University of West Florida is in Pensacola, FL, which is in the Central time zone.

Anonymous said...

I have a blurry but permanent recollection of the 1990 game at UNLV, though not because of the game itself, which was a blow-out practically from the opening tip. No, the trip to Las Vegas was memorable because of the disturbing revelation I experienced not long after the final horn sounded.

As I relaxed with a cocktail at a blackjack table in The Mirage Hotel with my 18-year-old girlfriend, it dawned upon me that, as Ferris Bueller observed, "Life moves pretty fast."

Just barely 30 myself, it had taken me only eight years since graduation to officially become the kind of man I used to laugh at.