It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving and I can hardly believe that I got an entire table to myself at the ultra popular Taps Sports Bar. Normally the wait is over an hour, but on this day when PG County regressed to Phase 2 with only 25 percent occupancy allowed, the Taps was thinly attended, and I was treated like a sports star.
And for the first time, the whole 2020 season, I had multiple screens in front of me allowing me to remain entranced at all six games at once. Multiple streams of football for my exclusive delirious enjoyment.
Games were tense especially since I had wagered a whole grand, money line on the Steelers – a team I actually cared very little about. Yeah Big Ben was having the season of his career and the Steelers were looking to go 10-0
Sure enough the men of steel dominated the Jags. And I was happy and relieved not to lose a grand.
Since fortune was on my side today, I decided to press Lady Luck with the slots. They’re an adult game that requires virtually no gambling skills. I found a penny slot not too far from the entrance where payouts are better to create an exciting atmosphere for passerbys.
MGM wants you to insert your M Life card to get points and discounts, but doing so would allow the casino to track how much I’m winning, and perhaps control the payout for each machine. I inserted cash into the machine and almost immediately, I started winning. So I decided to leave when I was ahead, retrieving my cash-out voucher.
A player at the James Bond 007 Thunderball had just won massively with a big win payout of over $1,250. I watched him as all the characters lined up with the nice Thunderball theme playing.
After winning my Big money line and fairing well with the slots, with an air of confidence, I headed over to the Blackjack tables feeling like Achilles the warrior.
I found a spot behind a boisterous crowd playing Blackjack. There were a couple of friends and other strangers converged around the table that they had just met. Either way, there was light conversation which made Blackjack quite a social game.
I was cheering on some newbies and applauded when they actually beat the House. On the other side of the table, I was watching the guy lose hand after hand. Every hand he would go into a large hissy fit and complain about how unfair it was.
At another table a couple of guys dressed casually, one clean shaven another wear a scruffy beard playing the $25 minimum tables. They tried their best to fit in and not look too suspicious. But they tended to change the amount of their bet depending on the count.
Counting cards changes your play style – you assign each card a value when counting and then add to the running “count” as you play. You will tend to bet high when the “count” is high, and bet lower when the “count” is lower.
Blackjack has the best odds in gambling and very little skill is required. Beginners stand the same chance of winning as experts. They just have to know a few basic rules and adopt a good strategy to beat the House.
And if someone is constantly doing that, it is a sure sign that that player is counting. Casinos are really cracking down on card counters. Dealers and pit bosses look for these extreme betting swings and then politely ask them to leave. If they enjoy too much success, they can be banned from the casino and facial recognition will prevent them from returning.
I then visited the new live dealer electronic Casino War machines. Casino War was probably the first card game you played as a kid.
The dealer deals cards (with eight 52-card decks) to one to seven players. There’s only one hand and the highest card wins. Royalty outranks number cards and ace outranks royalty. The fun begins when there’s a tie between the dealer and the player. You can choose to surrender, in which case you lose half of your bet, or go to war. But nobody comes here to surrender. So in choosing to challenge the dealer, you place a second wager equal to your original bet. The dealer then burns three cards before dealing out the final card for you and the dealer. The higher card wins. To the victor goes the spoils!!
I know what you’re thinking – this is a mindless kid’s game. You didn’t come to the casino to play a mindless game with little strategy and just pure luck. But this is not the case with the live dealer/machine hybrid – the strategy is choosing which hand to jump in and which hand to opt out. And with seven players you can choose just one or all seven as well as decide how much to wager.
It was then that three pretty young things strolled right in front of me, one girl smiling and maintaining eye contact, another winking and the third waving.
I was shocked. Girls don’t normally approach me especially at the stylish MGM.
“Hi Sweetie, are you having fun tonight?” One asked, surprising me even further.
“Yeah certainly, I’m riding with Lady Luck. Where are you gals from?”
“From California, Sacramento exactly. We’re here to visit relatives for Thanksgiving.”
“Cool, well I’m from here. If you ladies need some recommendations for places to go, just let me know.”
“Oh yeah, do you know any good bars open this time of night. Due to the pandemic, all the bars at the MGM are closing at 10pm”
“Sure, just visit my website: RUNINOut.“
“Oh cool, we’re going to Flirt Lounge in Arlington. Wanna come?”
“That’s a hookah bar – not exactly the safest with COVID-19,” I replied.
The whole vibe is really chill. Outside, they have tables and a patio where you can sit and enjoy the outdoors when the weather is nice enough. Inside, there is a bar and plenty of tables for you to sit at while enjoying a fun evening with friends. And they have a large variety of hookah flavors.
When I arrived, the girls waved at me to come over.
“Did you park at the lot across the street?” one asked.
“Nope, I was lucky to get a spot right on the street.”
We ordered their specialty: Watermelon Al Father Hookah Shisha tobacco with titanium coals.
“So are you working tomorrow?” asked Mia.
“Well I work for myself, so I guess so,” I said hoping that the staff had cleaned the pipes and mouth piece well after each customer.
“Well do you want to hang out with us in Linthicum Heights?”
“Would love to, but I wanna stay in DC. I have things to do tomorrow,” I replied as I inhaled long, steady tokes of the watermelon mint tobacco. The flavor was sweet and excellent and the smoke was very smooth.
“Well we need some money since we don’t fly back to Sacramento until Friday.”
“How much do you need?” I asked perplexed, as I handed the mouthpiece back to Mia.
“$600,” Michelle requested.
“I don’t have that kind of cash on me.”
“Then how much can you afford?” Shelly pressed.
“Well I can give $100 to each of you, if that would help. I had a lucky day on the sports book so I just happened to have the cash handy.”
I paid the tab and we took off. They followed me to Lebaum Street and Shelly got into my truck while the other two waited in the car.
As soon as she entered, she asked to use the bathroom.
“Well no bathroom in here, you gotta go into the house.”
She went inside and 5 minutes later I heard her scream.
I rushed downstairs to see vomit all over the bathroom floor.
I immediately grabbed my mop and clorox and assumed the role of a Navy swabby.
Shelly sat down to rest. She was either sick or pregnant and I wanted to see what I can do to help.
“Are you ok, do you need something to drink?”
“Yes, ginger ale please.”
I ran to the kitchen and poured her a cup to the rim. Then I looked around and she had already rushed out the door.
Shelly had left with her friends, their rental car was already parked down the street.
Ok, Good riddance. Then I went to sleep.