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A Champagne Christmas in Casino

Learning to watch your step

by Bob Dancer


One of the casinos Shirley and I play at is the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. Their best game offering slot club points, higher than the quarter level, is 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.17%), and the 0.5% cash back available in their High Limit Slot room still gives you a losing play. But they have great monthly mailers (sometimes up to $2,000 a month), so everything considered it’s an excellent play. Unfortunately, the monthly mailers change from month to month so it’s not predictable what you will get, but Shirley and I each play $30,000-$50,000 a month on their $5 machines (1.5 to 2.5 hours) and we’re very satisfied with the mailings.

Champagne Christmas in Casino

For Christmas 2005 they gave us coupons for a free bottle of Sharffenberger Brut Champagne if we came in on December 20, and the right to earn up to 10 more bottles at $500 coin-in per bottle. Shirley and I aren’t drinkers, and there are only so many gift bottles we can give away, so we were going to let this promotion go. On December 19, though, someone posted on the Internet that they were willing to buy the bottles of Champagne for $5 each. This was a one percent premium for my play, which was decent enough without the premium. Plus I had free play cash to pick up for both Shirley and me on the 20th anyway, so this was a good deal. I fired off an email quickly accepting the offer. Turns out that “Ned” and “Nell” only lived a half-mile from me, so delivering the wine would be no problem.

When I got to the Hard Rock, I played my $5,000 before going to the booth, as I figured that there would be lines of people picking up their wine and I didn’t want to deal with the booth lines twice. I broke even (fortunately), earned $25 in cash back, and went to the booth to collect my 11 bottles—the free one plus the maximum of 10 for the play.

On my way to the booth, I ran into “Sally,” a friend of Shirley’s and mine. To understand Sally, picture a jolly grandmother with a bawdy sense of humor! Sally was wondering whether or not to get the Champagne because she didn’t drink either. So I told her, “A friend of mine is paying me $4 per bottle. Do you want me to check if he wants more?” (Come on, you wouldn’t respect me if I told her $5, would you?) Yes, she wanted.

So I called up Ned and told him I had 11 and could get 11 more. Was he interested? Yes, he was. I found out later that the bottles sold for $15.99 at the local store, Nell was throwing a big party, so Ned thought he was getting a great deal. So did I. So did Sally.

Now the problem comes with getting the bottles to my car. A case of Champagne is pretty heavy, even when it only contains 11 bottles. Since I’m a math major, I know that two cases are twice as heavy. Sally tried and decided she couldn’t even lift one case, and the slot club booth is a long way from any exit.

Looking back, the smart play would have been to walk to the bell desk and toke one of the guys $5 to put the two cases onto a cart and wheel the wine to the front door. But I didn’t think of that at the time. I hefted one of the cases and decided I could probably take both of them.

“Are you sure?” Sally asked. “We’re the same age and even one is too heavy for me.”

“Well, maybe I’m 20 percent more masculine than you.”

“That’s insulting!”

“Okay. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m 10 percent more masculine than you.”

Sally laughed so hard at this she forgot to be insulted again.

So I picked up both cases, and started duck-waddling toward the front door. The Hard Rock is a circular casino, and we were walking around the outside edge toward the front door which was directly across from the slot club booth. It would have been shorter to go straight across through the casino, but there were steps to navigate and people to dodge, so I figured the roundabout way was better.

About a third of the way around, I stopped for a break. I found a slant-top machine next to the aisle way and placed the cases on the corner. No problem. “I’m not quite in the shape I thought I was,” I puffingly told Sally, my voice having risen about an octave.

“Listening to your voice, I bet I’m 20 percent more masculine than you now,” she quipped.

“Shut up or I’ll hit you with my purse,” I rejoined. “Anyway, I’m ready for the next leg.”

So off I waddled again, going a little more than another third of the way before I set the cases down again on the corner of another machine. Fortunately no one was playing that machine. I might have had to tell them to move!

“Instead of receiving the entire $44,” Sally told me, “I’m only going to charge you $40. The extra $4 is for the delivery.”

“Thank you, I’ll take it. And by the way, you’re a cheap tipper for it being Christmas and all.”

Before starting out on the last leg, I sent Sally ahead so that she could open the front doors as I got there. The doors are quite heavy and I didn’t want to deal with that too.

Right outside the front doors is a planter box with a two-foot high, eight-inch thick concrete wall surrounding it. Perfect! All I had to do now is to squat down and put the cases down on the corner of the planter box. Sally could keep watch over the boxes until I got my car. Almost home!

Unfortunately, I miscalculated. The front of the Hard Rock entryway is slanted downward, much like the entrance to a driveway. The purpose of this, I figured out after-the-fact, is so people bringing in luggage with wheels on it can easily negotiate the eight-inch height differential between the street level and the casino level.

At the time, though, I didn’t notice the slant. I couldn’t really see the ground because I was looking at the top of a case of Champagne, which was almost at chin level. Squatting to put the Champagne down, I didn’t allow for the slanted ground, and also didn’t allow for how carrying 120 pounds in front of me changes my center of gravity. So I toppled, fanny first, Champagne on top of me. My bottom was only a few feet off the ground when I started to fall, so it didn’t cause any damage to either butt or bottles.

Well, almost no damage. Sally complained that she was laughing so hard she almost peed her pants!

When I brought my car up, two valets had the cases in hand before I even got to my trunk. They didn’t want to see the “old man” fall down again, I suppose. I discovered that I was only half as generous a toker as Sally! The difference, I rationalized, was that I didn’t ask them to help.

This column doesn’t have much to do with video poker directly, but there are frequently these kinds of things you need to deal with. I’ve had to do many things through the years to keep ahead of the game; not all of them ending in such an undignified way.

Anyway, enjoy your holidays and go out and hit a royal flush!

A Champagne Christmas in Casino.

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