The first time was when my girlfriend tried to teach me the game of craps. She was using one of those at-home craps boards as we stood in my kitchen and I sipped a Saturday night cocktail. My girlfriend’s mother was a blackjack dealer for many years and by osmosis the knowledge of all kinds of gaming was passed from parent to child. This transfer was not so smooth from girlfriend to boyfriend, however, and after 45 or so minutes of blank stares, she gave up trying to explain it to me.
It was a bit of a blow to my ego and ever since then I have felt like I should pack my bags and go back to California where I came from. It was like I had somehow failed the test required to become a true Nevadan. And even though I think she spends too much on slot machines, I am a little bit in awe of my girlfriend’s ability to play the video machines and actually understand why she is losing all her money.
So in a second attempt to achieve true Silver State citizenship, I decided to take some serious action. I had played some blackjack and a little bit of roulette, but one area from which I had shied away was the sports book. On occasion I will stop to watch a game there, but despite my respectable knowledge of several major sports I had never put my money where my brain is and placed a wager. But on Friday, with a little help from an experienced sports bettor, I put some money down on the Super Bowl.
And here’s where my second brain-frying moment occurred. This co-worker, our circulation manager Dave, walked with me to the sports book at John Ascuaga’s Nugget and sat me down with 12 pages — double sided! — of possible wagers on the big game. The only words I understood on the first page were Saints and Colts. They didn’t even use the words “Super Bowl”; they called it “Pro Football Championship Game.” Speak English! He started to explain to me about point spreads and the money line and the pluses and minuses and what they mean when I found my mind wandering, desperately seeking something comprehensible.
“Table, chair, napkin, ketchup packet, fat old guy,” I thought to myself. Those words made sense to me but they were being drowned out by this incomprehensible speak of overs and unders and favorites, oh my!
But I regained my composure, shook off my befuddlement, slapped myself in the face and told myself, “You can do this! Viva Nevada!”
I furrowed my brow, concentrated hard and asked Dave to repeat himself about 400 times before I finally started to get it. When I say “it” I mean the first page of the wagering menu, as it was labeled. I am not sure if I will be eating at this particular establishment very often, it all depends on how this first meal goes. In my simplistic terms, here is what I ordered:
1. Colts to win by six or more points.
2. Saints to win, regardless of the score.
3. Saints running back Reggie Bush to score the first touchdown. I hated the USC Trojans, but you gotta give props to Reggie's skills.
4. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne to score the first touchdown.
5. Peyton Manning will throw no interceptions.
6. The first turnover will be an interception (hopefully by Saints QB Drew Brees so I win this bet and the previous).
7. The Colts will score more points in the Super Bowl than Kobe Bryant scores for the Los Angeles Lakers in their game the previous night. What sense does it make to a bet on two completely unrelated events? None, but it might be kinda fun.
There were billions of possible other bets, but I figured I had better keep it simple — and cheap. I spent a total of $56 on bets (including the $4 ATM fee to draw out my cash). I will be impressed if I win more than one bet and I will be thrilled if I win one that actually gets all my money back. I have no ethical problems with gambling, but I do have problems losing money. I figure if I can only lose an amount proportional to the amount of time I was entertained, then I did OK. If I lose, hey, at least I did my little part to help Nevada’s economy.
Since I don’t have an emotional investment in who wins, at least now I have a financial investment in what happens. And since I will watch the game regardless, I might as well have a potential payoff instead of just wasting three hours of my life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stare at video slots for a while.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.