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Casino Self Defense, The REAL Way

8 November 1999

Those of you who have read my book, Casino Gambling the Smart Way, probably came across a section in the introduction where I related the story of how the book's name got changed by the publisher. I'd wanted "Casino Self Defense" for the title, the publisher wanted something that emphasized winning, and CGTSW was the compromise at which we arrived.

Wouldn't you know it, on my very next trip to Las Vegas, to cover and play in the Rio Carnivale of Poker II, it turned out that my vision of Casino Self Defense had a lot more practical application than I'd ever imagined.

I arrived in town on Sunday, January 17, the day of the NFL title games (Atlanta-Minnesota and Denver-NY Jets), and decided I would watch them in the Sports Book at Caesars Palace. Caesars is one of several absolutely marvelous Vegas sports books, offering the sportsaholic every game imaginable on countless large and small screens. It's a real treat to watch an event like the NCAA basketball tournament in a sports book like Caesars' providing you don't suffer whiplash from trying to follow so many games simultaneously.

I didn't fade any betting action on the games, because I didn't have a strong opinion on the Denver game, and I was biased in the other, having lived in Atlanta for 18 years (although I'm a Californian now), and one of the best sports betting rules I ever learned is "stay away from games where you have an emotional attachment." It's just too hard to separate your heart from your head, and that can lead to several problems:

First, you'll bet on what you want to have happen, rather than on what you think will happen, and that means you're swimming upstream.

Second, the point spread can mean you get the result your heart wants but you lose money, ruining an otherwise great afternoon. For example, as a loyal Michigan grad, I attended the 1998 Rose Bowl, and watched my Wolverines grab a share of the National Championship. But had I been betting, I'd have been in agony during the game's final moments.

Michigan, favored by 6 points, was leading by 5 with less than a minute left, and had the ball at Washington State's 33 yard line, when a 4 th down situation came up. A field goal would put Michigan up by 8, covering the spread and setting up overtime even if WSU could score a touchdown and make the two-point conversion.

Nonetheless, as a non-bettor, I saw plenty of risk in the field goal attempt Michigan lined up for. It was long, so if it missed, WSU would get decent field position. Long field goals also get blocked more easily. I found myself hoping that Michigan would use its fake field goal play and punt the ball deep…and that's exactly what happened! The ball bounced deep into WSU territory, additional time ran off the clock, and thanks to that time and yardage, Michigan survived WSU's late drive—barely.

I was THRILLED, because the play helped my team win the game, but if I'd been betting, I'd have had conflicting goals. My Michigan loyalty would have won out, of course, but having to pay off a bet would have soured the result a little.

There's less potential for self-conflict when the team you love is GETTING points, because then a winning pointspread bet can help take some of the sting out of the loss. But I wonder just how consoled the WSU fans were by their winning bets. They wanted the game, not a pointspread win.

Getting back to Caesars' Sports Book, I wanted to watch there because I take a perverse pleasure in watching games where everyone else has a lot of money on the line, and NFL playoff games are especially sweet, because there are so many unusual bets offered. Bets such as quarter and half over-under, quarter-by-quarter pointspread action, and other proposition bets mean that money is changing hands constantly. If you love to watch the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat on someone else's face, a sports book's the place.

Sadly, a few hundred other folks had had exactly the same idea, and I couldn't get a good seat. The best I could do was a spot in the Keno Lounge. Fortunately I was forced to make only one Keno bet during the afternoon, a reasonable rental price for my chair.

Caesars' Keno Lounge isn't ideally situated for watching sporting events, because people who wander through can stand right in front of you. My fellow Loungers and I took turns asking these folks to move, and we had no problems until the middle of the second game.

A well-dressed, well-built young guy wandered in front of us, and it was my turn to ask the next intruder to move, so I went up to him, and VERY politely (I'd had plenty of practice by now) I said, "Excuse me sir, could you possibly shift a little to one side or the other, you're standing right in front of where we are sitting."

From his reaction, you'd have thought I'd said, "Hey, you butt-faced moron, can't you see you're standing in front of us."

With a very exaggerated motion, he moved a little to the side, and said, as if he were addressing a king, "Is THAT ok? You're sure this is alright? I wouldn't want to cause any trouble." The words dripped with sarcasm.

I was already sitting down when he responded, and I nodded at the first question, not realizing immediately where he was heading. As it continued, I said quietly to my fellow watchers, "Wow, quite a reaction."

"What was that?" he asked, flexing his biceps (and a few muscles in his head) for emphasis.

Now, I'm 6'3, about 220 pounds, and not in such bad shape myself. This guy looked a little stronger, but it wouldn't have been a mismatch. Except I'm also 43 years old and am smart enough not to get into pointless fights with pointy-headed morons, not unless I really need to, so I did the next best thing. I laughed at him.

"Oh yeah?" he said (thank goodness we didn't agree to a battle of wits—how could I have stood up under such a withering display?), "I didn't think so." Meaning he didn't think I was brave enough to fight him. I laughed again, the other folks in my section laughed with me, and Musclehead decided to move on.

What the heck happened here? Can you figure it out? It's pretty easy, actually. Most of the people who go to Vegas are losing, and given the high IQ that Musclehead was displaying, it's obvious he wasn't a card counter or poker pro. He was probably in the middle of losing a small fortune, in a mean mood, and since his efforts at taking it out on the casino weren't working, he was looking for another target.

So there's the lesson. When you're in Vegas, there are all sorts of things you need to be careful about, and now we have another one: losing players. With the exception of inner-city ghettos, I doubt you'll ever find a place with a higher percentage of angry, upset people walking around than Las Vegas. The simplest thing can set them off, because the casino has been kicking them around, and they're looking for someone to kick back. Don't give them a reason, and if you do, make sure you do it in a secure area.

Musclehead wasn't going to try anything in the middle of Caesars, with a ton of witnesses and all sorts of security just seconds away. In a parking lot, in the middle of a street, it almost certainly would have been a different story. And while part of me would have enjoyed stuffing his feet even further into his mouth than he already had them, who's to say he wasn't carrying a knife, a gun, or had two nasty friends lurking nearby. That kind of trouble you don't need on your gambling vacation. Feel sorry for them, laugh at them (out loud if the area is secure), but don't sink to their level. Save your teeth and your pretty smile for your arrival back home, when you tell people about your winning trip.

©1999 by Andrew N. S. Glazer & Casino Conquests International, LLC
All Rights Reserved

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer:

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer: