Folding Green

Las Vegas casinos catering to residents push some of the most effective advertising I’ve ever seen.

Both nation and world always learn when someone, without fail a tourist, hits a six-figure slot machine jackpot. Ignore how rare that is. Such a result is the kind that grabs attention, produces astonishment and envy, as well as whets appetites nationwide and globally.

The wide-awake among Las Vegans know the chances of walking away with that kind of loot is remote. Nonetheless given the devices’ randomness who’s to say your number won’t be the one that comes up soon or next?

Which is just what casino management hopes you’ll think. Your big win will arrive after a few rolls or hands or pokes of the button. Or maybe it’ll be on the one after innumerable bets.

Locals know better. A resident would have improved chances of winning Midas-sized jackpots if he or she moved out of town temporarily then came back as a visitor who then tried his or her luck.

No. Residents are likelier and do frequently collect sums of several thousand dollars. Princely? No. Very decent wads of folding green? Yes.

Video poker seems the consistent cash horn while all kinds of shining, ringing, tootling, flashing slot machines are good to dispense hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to patient praying players. As far as table games … good luck with that.

I say that because in nearly eight years of residing in Las Vegas, I’ve noticed a disturbing constant. Table games appear to have stronger traction than slots. Players up big against human contestants or live dealers somehow believe wagering against real people can increase winning probabilities.

These games seemingly psychically adhere players to their seats.

Here’s a story I’ve heard countless times: a poker player or someone playing roulette up by, say, 3-5K, knows he or she ought to ease his or her chair away from the table, tip the dealer (Hey! Toss some to the waitress, too!), rise, call it a night, and walk towards the cashier to cash out. Enjoy the happy result.

Instead, the player will feel some sense of not invulnerability, or infallibility, but simply that it’s his or her night. Rather than bag the cash before them, they will tempt Fate.

And Fate dislikes being teased.

Fate, friends, is vindictive. Fate is often unkind. Didn’t Sinatra sing about this? If Ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t, he should’ve, koo-koo-ka-choo.

Rather than pocket their winnings, they’ll remain adhered to the seat. The belief is more can be won. More “may” be won, but that’s unlikely. What’s likelier is this: recklessness and clouded wagering reduce the pile won faster than it took to amass it. Then, desperate, the gambler will chase what he or she has returned to the casino with his or her own money. If they’re lucky, if the fever breaks quickly enough, bettors ultimately realize what had been their night has turned into a pumpkin. They’re only a few hundred dollars out of pocket.

Of course, the instances of denying what’s transpiring, of heedlessly shoveling dollars into a steadily losing proposition is a Las Vegas staple. It continues to produce plenty of easily grasped laments for our modern times.

Ran into a guy who once lost $38,000 in a single night. Clearly, he had it to lose. Nonetheless I nearly had to bite my tongue from asking him wasn’t there a moment – A single moment!? – when his better sense didn’t tell him to quit playing and forsake the table until next time?

Again, with some people it’ll always be “the next hand” or “the next roll” or “the next pull.”

Locals will not drop such excruciating sums. Rent, mortgage, bill-paying money? Yes. A year’s salary at one sitting? No.

Yet there’s no shortage of payday lenders in the Big Mayberry. Those opportunists are just here to let unfortunate bettors who’ve blown their paychecks bridge the financial obligations they’ve deepened with astronomic interest loans. (These sanctioned loan sharks along with Nevada car insurance premiums aptly define what is legal extortion, Alex.)

Between insurers, tax preparers, and bail bondsmen payday lenders occupy almost as many storefronts as convenience store franchises here. So, yes, in Las Vegas being a shylock is a lucrative occupation.

For the most part locals are aware enough to realize nothing will brake steep losses other than folding and skedaddling. They’ll save the next hand, roll, or pull for another day or night. Times when the cards, the wheel, and machine will surely be hot in their favor.

What casinos won’t show are patrons who crowd the cashiers’ booths on paydays. These establishments make it so inviting to cash checks. Human nature being what it is, meaning predictable, an indecent percentage of those who’ve cashed their checks in such establishments will look kindly upon means decidedly intended to separate them from those hard-earned dollars.

For some reason, money in hand inside a casino often means detouring to a friendly looking table or machine. Initially a few dollars dropped on behalf of “a little fun” quickly becomes a near crusade to double or treble that week’s earnings.

Word to the wary: the casinos calculate in subtraction, not addition or multiplication. The above scenes that lead to despair won’t be widely disbursed. It’d be bad for business if prospective bettors thought of possible consequences before wagering.

What will circulate on billboards or TV ads are portraits of winners. Not those who’ve won staggering sums, but everyday people, perhaps one’s neighbors, fellow residents who’ve collected several thousands of dollars. How is immaterial. Only that they’ve won nice pieces of change is meaningful.

Happily, winners mirror the mosaic Las Vegas has become. Best of all each looks ordinary. Seen in public, say, at the supermarket, they wouldn’t be noticed. Beside you at a table, at a wheel, or along a row of machines you’d cast them cursory glances at most.

And were you seated beside them, they’d barely turn eyes on you, too.

As I said, they don’t win big jackpots. They win manageable, believable, possible sums. If they can, you can. That dream populates casinos targeting locals. A good lure, it fuels the taps for video poker royal flushes and fills chairs at the Texas Hold-‘Em tables. It leads to the warehouseman, custodian, the hotel housekeeper shucking their uniforms for the sloppiest glad rags that exult bad taste in attire to seriously consider chancing craps tables before rollin’ dem bones!

Attaining these meager thousands of dollars necessary to be featured on an off-Strip casino sponsored billboard is quite within reach. And the probability remains far greater than capturing any six-figure jackpot at a swank Strip property’s baccarat table or airport slot machine while killing time before visitors’ return flights to North Dakota or Hawaii.