Sean Beckwith: Welcome to the monastery
Certain places bring or, in some cases, force people to participate in activities they wouldn’t normally do. A friend recently told me the only reason he’s ever rode a gondola was to go skiing. Someone who doesn’t actively watch sunsets might do so when visiting Dead Horse Point in Utah (guilty). But when you go to Las Vegas, you have to gamble.
If this sacred sanctuary, built off the cratered bank accounts of so many eager patrons, doesn’t get you to at least bet $10 on black then you’re missing out. You can play penny slots for hours or a stupid mechanical horse-racing game long enough to realize it’s a waste of time, which is one time. You can go on a heater and hit some roulette numbers or repeatedly not get past your second throw at the craps table.
However, my recent trip to America’s gambling mecca had me playing more games at the rental house than against the actual house. The best man lined up a property off the strip for a large portion of the party that featured a tennis court, pool table, chipping green and basketball hoops. In addition to that, he scheduled outings to paintball and Top Golf, and someone might have packed an Xbox with Fifa and four controllers.
Of the 15 guys who convened for a bachelor party, I didn’t see anyone win more than $100 in a sitting at any casino. Apparently one gentleman won some cash Thursday night but I watched him lose most of it back on craps Friday on Fremont Street, which had the kind of upscale crowd usually reserved for a Wednesday night at Harrah’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Everyone tried their luck against the almighty on the strip, but I heard more profanity-laced groans than celebratory shouts.
Those kinds of eruptions did happen, though, because when you put a bunch of degenerates in a house with activities that lend themselves to gambling, the bets start flying like European kisses. (To be fair, the in-group wagers started before people touched down with Andrew taking $25 for picking Connor on the “drunkest person upon arrival” prop bet.)
Can I interest you in a game of hit the backboard and/or rim with a football from 40 yards out? How about Argentina versus India in a game of two-versus-two Fifa? Don’t play video games? There’s always doubles tennis or horse. If not, you can showcase your short game at the pitching green or play a classy game of nine ball on the billiards table.
Out of money? Would you like to wager embarrassment on a game of rock, paper, scissors with the loser forced to retrieve the golf balls from the trash-infested course water feature? Nate G would. (Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop.)
It’s demoralizing to continually get poisoned by the faceless god at the tables like an unknowing Frey dining with Aria Stark, but it’s thrilling and rewarding to take $200 from a friend. Any time you can force a lifelong buddy to spike his beer into the grass with a single stroke of a golf club is better than taking a couple hundred from a blackjack dealer with the personality of a nameless henchman from a James Bond movie.
It’s also impossible to keep track of 15 people at any casino because some people are more distracted by the bright lights and exposed flesh than by the allure of the dollar. There should be soundproof glass rooms on every casino floor because sensory overload makes texting and calling impossible.
“We’re playing roulette at the Fremont casino near the entrance marked by the girls with the whips,” is an actual message I sent that went unheeded. I spread out to look for some friends only to end up paying for my own taxi 20 minutes later. At one point, Kelly kept asking me to “Drop a pin,” which I didn’t do because I don’t know what that means.
Ideally, when you get a bunch of friends together you’d like to hang out as a group but it’s hard to make that work in a place like Vegas. Had we stayed in a block of hotel rooms, Kyle wouldn’t have chipped in on the final hole of the Sorrel Street Open to force a playoff that he eventually won. I wouldn’t have evoked the skill of Scott Frost and dropped a football through the hoop for $50. (If only I had put $1 on the 50-to-1 side action for “Make the shot.”)
In theory, Top Golf should have been the culmination of in-group gambling, but letting 15 guys loose on the tee pad without detailing the rules leads to confusion. That wasn’t the case for the pre-Top Golf golf because we even considered a group referee before settling on crowd sourcing for multiple rulings.
In a place punctuated by blackouts and debauchery, we stayed clear of it — for the most part. I’m not saying there wasn’t madness at the monastery but there were certainly far more monetary exchanges.
Would I opt to stay off the strip given the choice again? As Nate G put it when asked to run back a doubles loss to Joe F and Big Putz, “That’s a f—ing bet.”
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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