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Common gambling mistakes in Vegas and how to avoid them

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After more than forty years of visiting casinos — and every casino visit has been an adventure — you might ask if I'm ahead of the game. Early on in this series I promised to tell it like it is, and I have kept my word. Frankly, I cringe now when I think of some of my early stupidities in the casinos. The only reason I now dare to bare my shame is to warn you against doing what I did, and encourage you to do what I should have done.

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I'll not dodge the question. The answer isn't a clear-cut yes or no. At first I was a wide-eyed neophyte, overwhelmed by the razzle-dazzle of Las Vegas. My adventures were on a gambler's roller coaster—sometimes I'd come home with a score, too often I'd come back with just enough cash to pay my cab fare from the airport. I never took credit. What I lost, when I lost, was never rent money and definitely not any scared money. My seed money rarely exceeded $4,000—sometimes it was as much as five or six—and once foolishly $10,000 (it was a loser).

I'd cash $2,000 at a table, and keep the other thousands in my pocket. In the event that I hit a dry spell, I had the security of knowing that I had my reserve to fall back on. Occasionally I did win, and every now and then it was a goodie. After making my most memorable score of $31,125, 1 prudently invested most all of it in my mail-order book business,- I made damn sure I didn't take it back with me to Las Vegas!

As I made more trips West I became a more savvy gambler. No longer did I make the usual dumb mistakes. No longer did I depend on the slot machines to make my fortune. Gone was my obsession with beating Keno.

No longer did I make a foolhardy shot for the moon, and I didn't try to make a big score in any one casino. Smaller, more realistic payouts were now my goal, done carefully casino-by-casino.

Blackjack became my game of choice. Sure, baccarat had slightly better odds as did craps, but I found that I was more comfortable at blackjack, and the illusion that I had more control over the action.

And there is yet another dimension to the equation. Outside of the monetary winnings and losings I've experienced in my almost half-century of casino adventuring, there was the flavorsome lifestyle that accompanied it all, this during the most important years of my life. Perhaps I was most influenced by my long-time mentor, friend, and publisher, Lyle Stuart, who had—and still has—a James Bond way-of-life. He was the one who prodded me to fly all the way out to Las Vegas in 1960 for my first brief weekend stay, just to see a casino floor show: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Peter Lawford—the Rat Pack cavorting at the Sands.

The memory of that first trip and that first show is one of the fondest and most cherished of my life. There and then I was introduced to the casino—a fantasy world of glitter and gold. I've now spent almost a half-a-century "commuting" to Pleasure Island and enjoying most of it! (I use the term Pleasure Island as a symbolic name for all the casinos around the world that I have adventured in during a lifetime.)

For me, it has been a lot better than spending almost five decades of my life going fishing and watching TV in East Cupcake, Iowa. (My apologies to everyone living in East Cupcake. I'm sure you're happy there, but it just isn't my idea of fun.)

It's comforting for me to know that if ever I'm in a rut in Manhattan, at loose ends with myself, an adventure surely awaits me only two-hours away in Atlantic City, not to mention all those mouth-watering King Crab claws.

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