You?ve seen them tearassing out of the planes at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas and pumping their pocketful of coins into the first slot machines they see just to get into the action as quickly as they can. Pumped-up players embarking on their casino vacations.
Come on, you?ve seen them walking the dusty Strip of Las Vegas or battling the winds on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, or wiping the sweat from their faces on a humid mid-morning in Mississippi -- the disgruntled, the disgusted, the despairing. Players in the midst of casino sojourn gone wrong.
Come on, you?ve seen them walking the decks of the riverboats disheveled and disheartened; and you?ve heard them cursing and mumbling under their breath in all the Indian casinos all across this great and glorious gambling nation of ours. Players who have lost their decorum along with their money.
You?ve seen them staggering down the Strip at 5 AM, arguing with the statues outside of Caesar?s Palace...and losing those arguments, too.
Admit it, you?ve seen them bleary-eyed and bloated at 6 AM finishing up their last cocktails and losing their last chips at blackjack or craps or roulette or whatever, before staggering off to their rooms to sleep uncomfortably and wake uneasily.
In fact, you may have looked through the flash and pound of an approaching headache into the mirror of your mind and seen reflected there a harried, haggard, sunken-eyed self staring right back at you.
I certainly have.
After one particularly gruesome nine-day losing streak in Atlantic City in 1989, when I averaged about 10 mind-numbing hours a day of casino play, I walked along the Boardwalk in a vicious, cold and wet February dusk wondering: ?What the hell am I doing here? Is this really fun??
Strangely enough, some months later, after a wonderful three-day winning stint at this same ?queen of resorts? -- also playing a mind-numbing 10 hours a day -- I again asked myself: ?What the hell am I doing here? Is this really fun??
In truth, whether I had won or lost, my answer both times was: ?No, this is not fun. It is far from fun.? I was tired, I was cranky, I was... off. I wasn?t myself. Gambling for prolonged periods of time felt like work and work isn?t fun because, well, because it?s work!
Therein lies the key to maximizing the pleasure of casino visits and minimizing any pain.
And going to casinos should be fun -- fun with a capital ?F.? Yet, look around you on your next trip -- for all the people who are legitimately having fun, there?s an equal or greater number who are miserable and not just because they are losing money at the tables or in those infernal machines. They are miserable because they are - for lack of a better word - off.
Going to the casinos is the ultimate leisure-time activity and should be approached as such. In fact, casino vacations (and even day trips) should be considered a concentrated leisure-time activity. What do I mean by concentrated? Follow me:
In a given month of nonconcentrated leisure time, in-between work days or after work hours, a person might enjoy a weekly poker or bingo game; maybe go to the movies several times, perhaps go out to dinner a few times, maybe even attend a play or concert; or, in mellow moods, a person might spend some relaxing times at the beach or on the bench of his/her favorite park, maybe even read a book or two (preferably mine). In between these nonconcentrated leisure-time activities, work dominates life with its very real and often harsh demands. In real life, to keep our balance and to stop work from upending us completely, we establish a nonconcentrated leisure-time rhythm, which consists of a little of this, a little of that, and not too much of anything; that is, not too much of anything except, unfortunately, work. That?s the cycle of mundane life for most citizens.
However, on vacations, especially on vacations to casino towns, we tend to forego our usual nonconcentrated rhythms and ?concentrate? our time and energies on one or, at best, a few things to the exclusion of just about everything else. When we vacation at an historical town or county, for example, we can burn ourselves out by too much sight-seeing and too little ?other? activities.
I have two good friends, Annette and Dave, who can go from eight in the morning until 10 in the evening visiting museums and historical houses and digs and churches and you-name-it when on vacation. After five hours of going around with them, I?m ready for a nap, or a workout, or anything but looking at another old house that some obscure guy from some obscure time did some obscure activity in.
In casino-hotels and casino towns, the gambling can tend to get in the way of a full, rich vacation experience for many people and they return from their trips more exhausted than when they left. I heard one man say as he left the Mirage in Las Vegas: ?I need a vacation from my vacation!?
Next issue: How to Enjoy the Casino Experience
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