The first time I hit roulette on the nose — red 23 — I hadn’t even been looking at the wheel or where the ball landed. I never assumed I’d win. And most times, I was right. But then I hit it. Then a few minutes later, I hit it again — this time having hedged my bets between 16 and 17. I knew I wasn’t trying, didn’t even realize I had won at all until the dealer swept a stack of chips toward me. I was on a winning streak and it was creating a dangerous, hapless kind of confidence.
“Oh my gosh. You’re — how are you doing that?” my boyfriend laughed in disbelief. He had played out the cash he had allotted and exhibited considerable control by not playing again. I didn’t have quite that much control, especially when, at this point, I was up.
I’m not an entirely risk-averse person. I know that risk is a muscle that, when used wisely, can yield amazing things and get you further than if you took none. I took a calculated professional risk when I went out on my own instead of filling another full-time seat. I’ve risked rejection by asking men out (including the man I was with) and come out on the other end better off.
But risking my money on the roulette wheel seemed laughable — before I actually did it. After all, how could anyone be so stupid as to think that you could make money in Vegas? It’s a losing proposition. Even the optimists among us know that the game of chance is stacked against you, and that Vegas wouldn’t be Vegas if it gave away more money than it kept. Anyone who thinks otherwise must be a damn fool, as my mother says.
The only time I’d mixed games with real money was when I played cards as a kid with my sisters and great aunt Helen in her summer home in the Poconos. We played “21,” which is essentially blackjack without a dealer. The painted green table was sticky with humidity and the crickets whistled and whirred outside the screened-in porch as Helen counted out change for each of us to play with. We dropped the coins into a wooden bowl, winner takes all. I remember the night I won the jackpot, the weight of all those coins in my hands.