I went down to Atlantic City on Saturday to meet up with my parents who were there for a business function. Hey, free hotel, a couple of free meals, how can you go wrong? But I was mostly going to play blackjack - it had been awhile, and I was jonesing.
I ended up playing a variation of blackjack called Spanish 21 which I am familiar with. It's different from blackjack because there are no tens in the deck. There are jacks and queens and kings, and they all count as ten - but there are no actual tens. And in a five or six deck shoot, it makes a difference when you're counting on a dealer to bust. There are people that don't like Spanish 21 for this reason, but it doesn't bother me so much. I still play by the regular rules and I was doing okay. On Saturday afternoon I pretty much broke even, up only $10.
Saturday night I had sauntered down the lit up boardwalk - which is quite enjoyable in the spring, by the way, and had ended up at the Bally's Wild West casino. Spanish 21 again - it was the only table that actually had a $15 minimum - everything else had already gone to $25. And I had table karma, dealer karma, card karma, whatever you want to call it. I sat there for two hours, joking with my fellow patrons - and made myself a nice $300. For me, gambling is so much fun that it's worth it if I can just sit at a table for a couple of hours and play with $100. But when I hit $300 - I knew it was time to head for the hills.
I walked back down the boardwalk towards my hotel, and even though it's not quite the season yet, the boardwalk was pretty alive. The usual food joints were open and playing music, selling pizza, hot dogs, french fries, funnel cake, pretzels, lemonade, ice cream. Souvenir shops selling cheesy shot glasses and seashell paperweights. Cages full of hermit crabs. Tattoo and piercing parlors next to massage places and psychics. 99 cent stores selling everything from dishwashing liquid to shoes to makeup. The Ripley's Believe It or Not museum, playing the scary music from "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" when he has the scary dream. And down at the Taj Mahal - the pier, complete with rides and games of chance - water race games and basketball and such. I know this is strange, but I feel oddly at home in Atlantic City. I mean, I wouldn't want to live there or anything (God help me, I'd be pawning gold fillings) but I really do enjoy being there, even when I'm off the blackjack table. There's something nice about the lively boardwalk, the ocean crashing on the beach a few feet away, and the way the sun sets pink over the glinting skyline.
The next morning I played regular blackjack, and almost lost $100 of my winnings. I was down to my last $10 - then built it all the way back up to $100 when the dealer changed and the karma returned. So I happily quit when I was up $310 - not a bad net for a weekend that was free to begin with.