The blistering Las Vegas morning sun pierces through the curtains of our hotel room like heat-lasers pointing at my face. I wake up in a sweat, hung-over, with a throbbing headache. “Huy, you’re up! Let’s go hit the tables!” exclaims Aziz while in his bath towel and smothering himself with deodorant, lotion, and more cologne. The bathroom still steaming from Aziz’s shower, I brush my teeth and splash some water on my face and head out the room down to the casino floor. “You didn’t take a shower, and isn’t that the same clothes you wore last night?” Aziz asks. “Don’t worry. I think you put on enough deodorant and scent-smelling body lotion for both of us.” I reply.
The casino floor is busy with people swarming out and about through the slot machines and gambling tables. This time the usual casino noise all seem to be mushed together into one big hum combined with the ringing in my ear from the dance club last night. “What are we playing?!” I cry out compensating for the acute hearing loss. “Crabs!” Aziz responds as he hurries over to a specific spot. Crabs? I thought, I didn’t understand. I’ve never heard of it. We head to a crowded table and squeez into a spot. The table is bustling with people throwing their chips on the table and talking to the dealers in a in cryptic-jargon like a quarterback calling out his plays. A person at the table picks up a set of dice and throws them to the opposite side of the table, it lands and the other people around the table cheered, and the dealers began paying them out, and the people continue to put more chips on the table. Then the cycle begins again with the dice throwing.
I finally understood what Aziz had said earlier. He meant ‘craps’, not the marine crustacean. Craps looks very difficult to play. There are so many diagrams on the table and understanding them is going to take some time. I decide to be a spectator and watch Aziz play while asking him questions about the game. After 45 minutes, a husky old lady standing next to me with a Southern accent says, “Boy, are you gonna bet, or you gonna just stand here till the cows come home?” She’s right. I’ve been here long enough to at least know something about this game. To prevent her from pestering me with her cigarette breath, I throw down 40 dollars.
I follow Aziz placing the same bets as him. The player throwing the dice is on a good roll, and I quickly triple my money. I keep my single-dollar and my five-dollar chips out, and pocket the larger denomination chips as I win. Suddenly, it’s my turn. The dealer slides the dice in front of me on the table . “Just throw it!” Aziz cries. I grab the dice and threw it. “Four!” the dealer shouts. A large white button is placed on the “4” listed on the table, and people begin placing bets on the other numbers. “Okay Huy, now just roll any number except seven.” Aziz explains. Simple enough, I thought. I pick up the dice and threw it again. “Six!” the dealer shouts. Whew! I thought. That wasn’t too bad. Again, I pick up the dice and threw it. “Six!” the dealer shouts again. I can see the other people around me getting excited. They begin to place their bets on six. “Boy, you think you can do another six?” the husky cigarette-lady next to me asks. “Sure, why not?” I respond. I pick up the dice and threw it again. “Six!” the dealer shouts. The table literally erupts with cheering and clapping.
Aziz is excited and jittery as a school girl. He takes a large chunk of his chips and bets on six, and everyone else around the table seem to follow suit. Oh geez, I thought. Don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up. I nervously pick up the dice and threw it again. “Six!” the dealer shouts with amazement. Again the table erupts with cheers, clapping, and laughter. A young man across the table walks over to me, and raises his hand up in the air. With my hand, I give him a high-five. “Yeah baby! Keep it going six-shooter!” he shouts. Aziz screams at the top of his lungs, “Huy’s my boy!” Aziz had pressed his six, doubling-up his bet for the win. My hands are sweaty, and I couldn’t believe this is my first time playing. I can see my chip stack increase with every roll. I already calculated in my head that I have increased my winnings eight folds. Don’t fuck up, don’ fuck up. I thought as I pick up the dice and I threw them. “Six again!” the dealer shouts. A large crowd begins to form near the table. People are curious. They’re asking questions and trying to get in on the action. The table is already full. No new players can come in unless someone leaves. I stare at the dice and position it on the table in front of me. My heart races knowing that everyone’s money is hanging on to my every roll. The suffocating cigarette air masked with Aziz’s deoderant didn’t seem bother me anymore. Before I rolled, I look up to see three pit-bosses from other areas of the casino floor standing beside the table. They didn’t come to check out the action, but to make sure I wasn’t cheating somehow. I threw the dice. “It’s six again!” the dealer shouts. I continue to throw for another half hour hitting sixes several times and a few eights and fives. My arm is getting tired, not from rolling the dice, but from all the high-fives with all the people around the table. My reign ends when I carelessly roll a seven. Everyone who has chips on the table lost them to the house. Strangely, all the people around the table gives me an applause. Aziz points to his watch. We need to meet up with the rest of the guys soon. I stack my chips and put it on the table to ‘color it up” (exchange my small denomination chips for larger ones). I lost track of how much I had won, but the dealer hands me four chips; one 500 dollar chip, one 100 dollar chip, and two 25 dollar chips.
We are in a hurry and Aziz didn’t ‘color out’ his chips, Aziz is counting them like a stingy homeless man as we walk across the casino. When we arrive, the guys are already there waiting by the elevators. “So how was gambling?” Vitaly asks. With a smirk, I respond, “Eh, it was okay.”
[To be continued…]